Visual Aids

https://books.google.com/books?id=Q05GAAAAYAAJ

Dispensationalist pastor Clarence Larkin illustrated his books with intricate charts interpreting prophecy and explaining God’s action in history.

“[T]he charts had to be thought out and developed under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit,” he wrote in Dispensational Truth (1920). “In this the Holy Spirit did not confuse the Author by suggesting all the charts at one time. When one was completed another was suggested. And upon more than one occasion when a problem arose the answer was given in the night or at awakening in the morning.”

The Dilemma of Timeless Knowledge

  1. God timelessly believes K and is infallible.
  2. Nobody now can do anything about the fact that God timelessly believes K and is infallible.
  3. Nobody can do anything about the fact that if God timelessly believes K and is infallible, then A will kill B on Saturday (what is next Saturday to us).
  4. So nobody now can do anything about the fact that A will kill B on Saturday (what is next Saturday to us).
  5. So A will not kill B freely.

From Linda Zagzebski, Philosophy of Religion, quoted in W. Jay Wood, God, 2011.

Express

Politician and amateur theologian John Asgill raised some eyebrows in 1700 — he claimed that Christians needn’t die to enter heaven. In his resurrection, Christ had broken the Law of Death, and God had sent a chariot of heaven to collect him directly. The faithful could simply follow him — dying was no longer necessary:

I shall not go hence by returning unto the Dust … But that I shall make my Exit by way of Translation, which I claim as a dignity belonging to that Degree in the Science of Eternal Life, of which I profess my self a graduat, according to the true intent and meaning of the covenant of Eternal Life revealed in the Scriptures. And if after this, I die like other Men, I declare my self to die of no religion.

The Irish House of Commons expelled him for blasphemy, and he died, distinctly earthbound, in a debtors’ prison in 1738. Daniel Defoe wrote, “When Men Pore upon the Sacred Mysteries of Religion with the Mathematical Engines of Reason, they make such incoherent stuff of it, as would make one pity them.”

(From Philip C. Almond, Afterlife: A History of Life After Death, 2016.)

Miracles and Agents

Jones tells a mountain to hop into the sea and it does so. Has he performed a miracle?

Well, no, writes University of Birmingham philosopher George Chryssides. If Jones repeats his feat, then he’s revealed an underlying causal principle that’s amenable to study just like the rest of the natural world. If he doesn’t repeat the feat, then there’s no support for the idea of a link between his command and the mountain’s movement — we know only that the two events coincided, not that one caused the other.

“In order … to determine the answer to the question, ‘Did Jones move the mountain?’ … we must ascertain whether similar effects would follow similar putative causes,” Chryssides writes. “Either an allegedly miraculous event is a violation of scientific law, in which case it could not be performed by an agent, or else it is performed by an agent, in which case it could not be a violation of scientific law.”

(George D. Chryssides, “Miracles and Agents,” Religious Studies 11:3 [September 1975], 319-327.)

Creed

In 1903, the Lexington, Ky., Blue-Grass Blade invited its readers to contribute to a feature titled “Why I Am an Atheist.” Twenty-three-year-old Minnie Parrish of Leonard, Texas, sent this response:

Why Am I an Atheist

Because it has dawned upon me that it is right to be so, and upon investigation I find no real evidence of the divine origin of the scriptures. And because I cannot, as a refined and respectable woman, take to my bosom as a daily guide a book of such low morals and degrading influences. Written by a lot of priests, I cannot accept a salvation that is based wholly upon the dreams of an ancient and superstitious people, with no proof save blind faith.

Everything that so many people think transpires from the supernatural, and many things that would really perplex the average mind, have a natural and material foundation in the workings of the human mind; that is, things that are not connected with our solar system.

It is ignorance of the scientific working of their own natures and mind that keep so much ‘mystery’ in the air; and as long as there is a mystery afloat the people will ascribe it to the supernatural.

I am an Atheist because I know the Bible will not do to depend upon. I have tried it, and found it wanting.

In fact, I found in the scriptures the origin of woman’s slayer, and that it was one of God’s main points to oppress women and keep them in the realms of ignorance.

I am in the ranks of Liberalism because of its elevating principles, its broad road to freedom of thought, speech, and investigation.

MINNIE O. PARRISH

She went on to become the first female doctor to practice in North Texas.

(From Letters of Note.)

Bootstraps

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cima_da_Conegliano,_God_the_Father.jpg

However, there is one thing that cannot be the result of God’s will: the fact that his will is effective. For if God’s will is not effective, then nothing he wills could come about. It would follow that he could not will that his will become effective and, as a result, have it become effective. Unless God’s will is already effective, he could not will it to become effective and have it in fact become effective. If God’s will is not effective, God could not make it effective. Thus, if God’s will is effective, God did not make it effective. So there is at least one state of affairs that cannot be dependent on God’s will: namely, that his will is effective.

— B.C. Johnson, The Atheist Debater’s Handbook, 1983

Saved at Last

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Lastman_-_Jonah_and_the_Whale_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Early Christian theologians had to contend with an awkward question: On Resurrection Day, what happens to people who have been devoured by birds, beasts, and fish? If the substance of my body has been assimilated by another creature, how can I reclaim it in eternity?

The answer came from Athenagoras in the second century. He declared that human flesh was “non-natural” and could not be absorbed by other creatures:

What is against nature can never pass into nourishment for the limbs and parts requiring it, and what does not pass into nourishment can never become united with that which it is not adapted to nourish. Then can human bodies never combine with bodies like themselves, to which this nourishment would be against nature, even though it were to pass many times through their stomach, owing to some most bitter accident.

Jonah, after all, had not been digested by the great fish that had swallowed him. So there was hope for those who had been devoured: They would be vomited or excreted, and God could then reassemble what he had once made.

This resolved the question, but it made for an unpleasant motif in Christian iconography in which beasts, birds, and fish vomit up feet, hands, limbs, and heads — the latter bearing happy faces.

(D. Endsjø, Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity, 2009.)

Short Work

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_001.png

Then God said, Let there be light! And the light came. And God saw the light, and it pleased him, and he gave it the name of Day. And when the day was gone, and the dark came back to stay for a while, he gave the dark spell the name of Night. And God did these things on the first day.

— Josephine Pollard, History of the Old Testament in Words of One Syllable, 1888

04/20/2018 UPDATE: Much later, in 1994, MIT logician George Boolos summarized Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem in words of one syllable. (Thanks, Ethan.)

Confession

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sir_Isaac_Newton._Stipple_engraving_by_S._Freeman_after_Sir_Wellcome_V0004257ER.jpg

In 1662, while a student at Cambridge, 19-year-old Isaac Newton made a list of 57 sins he’d committed:

Before Whitsunday 1662

Using the word (God) openly
Eating an apple at Thy house
Making a feather while on Thy day
Denying that I made it.
Making a mousetrap on Thy day
Contriving of the chimes on Thy day
Squirting water on Thy day
Making pies on Sunday night
Swimming in a kimnel on Thy day
Putting a pin in Iohn Keys hat on Thy day to pick him.
Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons
Refusing to go to the close at my mothers command.
Threatning my father and mother Smith to burne them and the house over them
Wishing death and hoping it to some
Striking many
Having uncleane thoughts words and actions and dreamese.
Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer
Denying that I did so
Denying a crossbow to my mother and grandmother though I knew of it
Setting my heart on money learning pleasure more than Thee
A relapse
A relapse
A breaking again of my covenant renued in the Lords Supper.
Punching my sister
Robbing my mothers box of plums and sugar
Calling Dorothy Rose a jade
Glutiny in my sickness.
Peevishness with my mother.
With my sister.
Falling out with the servants
Divers commissions of alle my duties
Idle discourse on Thy day and at other times
Not turning nearer to Thee for my affections
Not living according to my belief
Not loving Thee for Thy self
Not loving Thee for Thy goodness to us
Not desiring Thy ordinances
Not [longing] for Thee in [illegible]
Fearing man above Thee
Using unlawful means to bring us out of distresses
Caring for worldly things more than God
Not craving a blessing from God on our honest endeavors.
Missing chapel.
Beating Arthur Storer.
Peevishness at Master Clarks for a piece of bread and butter.
Striving to cheat with a brass halfe crowne.
Twisting a cord on Sunday morning
Reading the history of the Christian champions on Sunday

Since Whitsunday 1662

Glutony
Glutony
Using Wilfords towel to spare my own
Negligence at the chapel.
Sermons at Saint Marys (4)
Lying about a louse
Denying my chamberfellow of the knowledge of him that took him for a [illegible] sot.
Neglecting to pray 3
Helping Pettit to make his water watch at 12 of the clock on Saturday night

“We aren’t sure what prompted this confession,” writes Mitch Stokes in his 2010 biography of the physicist. “Some biographers think that it was in response to an inner crisis. Perhaps it was the occasion of his conversion, or at least of his ‘owning his faith.’ We simply don’t know.”