Monday, September 26, 2005

Mazel Responds:

The following are responses to critical letters that Dr. Mazel received regarding his column which I reproduced on my blog over the weekend.

My column of two weeks ago showed how you can’t get even two paragraphs into Campus Crusade for Christ International's official Statement of Faith without finding it nonsensical. Its claim to being based on the Bible alone is false. Its description of the teachings it accepts is tautological. And, rather amazingly, it denies “freedom of conviction” for beliefs that are in the Bible.

In sum, as I wrote back then, the Statement of Faith is “a farrago of self-contradiction and absurdity.”

Last week Kari Christoferson, a former student of mine (a smart one, too), wrote in response about how wonderful it makes her feel to be loved by Jesus. I have no problem with that. On the other hand, her personal feelings do nothing to untangle the defective logic of CCCI’s Statement of Faith.

I imagine the residents of Jonestown felt loved, too, but that didn’t make it a good idea to drink the Kool Aid.

Corbin Lambeth also wrote in to respond. (If memory serves me right, I once spent a pleasant day with Corbin hiking up to Willow Lake.) Corbin told us that atheism and Christianity “are mutually exclusive philosophies/religions” and that, because “they cannot both be true at the same time,” we therefore “must choose” between them.

That, however, is false.

After all, the spiritual landscape extends beyond just atheism and Christianity. One can also choose to be a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, or (like so many of America’s Founding Fathers) a Deist. One can even decide simply to enjoy life and not worry about the Big Questions.

Corbin’s claim is a bit like this one: “Flying and driving are mutually exclusive ways of getting from Denver to San Francisco. Therefore one must choose between them.” But obviously one could also take the train, or go to New York instead, or just stay home.

This particular logical fallacy is called false dilemma.

There’s another problem with Crobin’s letter, namely, that its logic can be used to justify any religious belief and therefore serves to justify no one belief in particular.

He tells us that whether we consciously reject Christ or simply “choose not to decide,” we still have made a choice. “There are consequences for each choice,” he adds, “some of which are potentially eternal, so choose carefully.”

Exactly the same argument might as easily be made by a Mormon, by a Hindu—or by Osama bin Laden.

Corbin has himself made an almost infinite number of choices of this sort, and the consequences of many of them are “potentially eternal.” For example, by choosing the God of the New Testament over the God of bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he has foregone an eternity of bliss in the company of 72 nubile virgins.

Crobin has also decided not to be a Mormon. He has thus lost his chance of being exalted into a God and presiding for eternity over his own planet in the company of his plural wives.

But that’s still not all. By rejecting certain Eastern religions, he has condemned himself to being reborn as a dung beetle.

And by “choosing not to decide” to join the Heaven’s Gate sect, he has entailed the terrible consequence of not being transported to the next dimension aboard the starship lurking behind the comet Hale-Bopp.

So many religions, and such fatal consequences!

What is the poor lost searcher to do?

Far be it from me to tell anyone what to believe. But is it too much for me to ask of college students that they think these things through as clearly as possible?


Anonymous said...

I didn't know Mazel was attempting to debunk Campus Crusade for Christ, I thought he was trying to examine the Christian orthodoxy underlying creationism. To do this he should get to the philosophy which girds this orthodoxy. If he did/does that, he'll find the heart of the debate over the origin of life is the concept of the soul. This is a fundamental pillar of the Christian orthodoxy underlying creationism.

Anonymous said...

If the International Campus Crusade for Christ team has offended professor Mazel with their charter, and apparently they have, then maybe he could take it up with them in lieu of merely having an aside with the audience? I would be curious as to how they would respond to the concerns previously raised. It might make for an interesting read.

I recognize that there are many religions to choose from. I think that is rather obvious since I cited some of them in my last submission. Nonetheless, for those who understand the message of the Bible (Protestant or Catholic), it is an either/or proposition: Either one accepts Jesus as the unconditional savior or he or she does not. The dichotomy is quite valid. Whether the alternative to Christianity is Atheism, Hinduism or any other “-ism” is somewhat irrelevant.
Besides, when discussing God’s existence, I have yet to encounter a person who claims to be an Atheist, Mormon, Hinduist or Bin-Ladenist all at the same time. When the topic comes up, there are usually only two worldviews involved, and when they are complete opposites on essential issues, then they cannot both be right (although they could both be wrong). I simply selected Christianity and Atheism because they seemed to be appropriate for those engaged in the immediate dialogue. And I apologize if I have mischaracterized anyone.

Religion and philosophy (and I am not sure if they are different) are ways of describing reality, and there is indeed a multiplex of options. But whether there are two options or two-hundred options, if only one accurately describes reality, then all of the others must be wrong on at least one level. Hence, where Judaism, Islam and Christianity may agree on many moral issues, they drastically differ when it comes to the important topic of Jesus. Since they have contradictory ideas on that subject they cannot all be equally correct.

Faiths that proclaim no god, one God, many gods or any other derivation thereof simply cannot all be right in the same way at the same time. So when I only put Christianity and Atheism in the ring, I merely meant that one negates the other. I would argue that Christianity is true and that Atheism is false (I know, quite the shocker), but I would also argue that Christianity is true over any other philosophy that says there are many gods or that denies Jesus Christ.
I know that any claim to all inclusive truth, especially when asserted by Christians, is extremely unpopular. Admittedly, we have a rather sordid history that we sometimes feel compelled to apologize for. In the short run, it would be far easier for us to affirm mutually contradictory belief systems and pretend that there are no tensions between them. It is also quite tempting to roll over, play dead and declare that we can’t really know anything or ask why we should bother at all. But those aren’t roulette games that we can play. I believe that we can know things and that there is such thing as absolute truth. Christians did not invent paradigm; we just respond to it. That we screw it up sometimes is not a valid reason for others to reject the one we follow.

I also understand the criticism that this same argument could be used in favor of any religion claiming absolute truth, but my point in writing in was not to provide a comprehensive treatise on why Christianity is true. Indeed, my objective was merely to demonstrate that the previous criticisms offered against Christianity were quite impotent. It seemed that alleged problems with an organization’s statements and the theory of evolution were being used to discredit Christianity as a whole. I hope that the error of such a conclusion has been made obvious.

Lastly, as our paper’s editor has made clear by previously inserting a “no arguing” icon, perhaps we could take a more diplomatic and friendly approach to the discussion. I think it has been enjoyable so far, and I would like to see that perpetuated (if the paper will continue to print our tripe). After all, I don’t think that either one of us is merely interested in trading witty insults, although some have been quite amusing.
Nonetheless, I would like to note that if I am wrong about Christianity, and I do come back as a dung beetle, make no mistake, I will be the best dang dung beetle I can be. Besides, I can’t imagine how one could be a bad beetle and get demoted any further, so it seems like the sky would be the limit. Huzah for ambition!
Just don’t ask how to be a really good dung beetle!

Sincerely and in smiles,
-Corbin Lambeth

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C. Lambeth said...

If you'd like to keep up with Corbin, you can do so at his blog:


C. Lambeth said...

And if you'd like to keep with Corbin's ACTIVE blog, you can do so here: