Monday, April 28, 2008

Me and Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a full time Christian apologist that runs a ministry called Stand to Reason. Of course I'm a skeptic, but as a skeptic I have a lot more appreciation for Koukl's apologetic ministry than for a lot of others. Christian apologists often take an "us vs them" mentality. Atheists are simply evil people without morals that reject Christianity out of rebellion. This is what many Christian apologists think. Koukl's goal is to develop Christians to have a different attitude. He wants Christians to be intelligent and appealing, and he recognizes that this hostile attitude so common amongst Christians is not appealing to the skeptical world. He wants Christians to be "Ambassadors for Christ" and he understands that an ambassador needs to present a positive portrayal.

I suspect he has a lot of success. His ministry seems on the growth path as far as I can tell. Of course I think it's probably best that people not embrace Christianity, but if they are going to embrace it I say it's better to embrace this style than the hostile, buried in your own fortress unwilling to engage the outside world style.

For the skeptic if you like to engage in debate in discussion forums, try the str blog. Some of us I know leave discussions with a bad taste in our mouths after having been insulted and otherwise treated rudely, though we are trying our best to have friendly dialogue. You are unlikely to be treated rudely at str, because I think Koukl and his staff are having success training Christians to interact in a pleasant and engaging way.

Anyway, Greg has a radio show, and so what the heck. I thought I'd call in. If not me, then who, right? I've called in twice to this point and I'll call in again. It's a lot of fun.

Greg is a little funny on the radio though. He's into microphone dominance. Bill and I call him a steam roller. If he gets it in his mind that he wants to say something, it doesn't matter if you're in the middle of a thought or if you're trying to clarify a misunderstanding he has. He's just going to keep right on talking and you will not be heard. This is especially noticeable in my first call to him. What I try to do when I call in is if I feel like the host has said something that I'd like to respond to I'll just say something quickly, like "but." Then I'll go silent. I do it just to let him know I'm there and let him know I'd like to get a word in. Where James White would finish his thought and yet allow me to come back and respond fully, Greg will just keep on going like nothing has happened.

Not that I'm complaining. It's his radio show and this is just the nature of the beast. But when you call in to these shows your just going to have to be content with the fact that you've got a major disadvantage going in. It's unavoidable.

The first call more is just about my presentation of a question. I was cut off because I ran into the commercial break that comes at the top of the hour. Greg came back at the top of the hour and discussed my call a little further, and I've included that portion as well. During the second call I had a better chance to offer a rejoinder.

Discussion #1
Discussion #2

Friday, April 25, 2008

Me and James White

James White is Reformed Protestant that hosts a live webcast a couple of times a week where he discusses issues related to his ministry. He's a very smart guy that I read a lot of while I was a Christian. I have several of his books. Many of them are thoroughly highlighted. I decided to call in to his webcast a few times and so I'm posting those conversations here.

Conversation #1
Conversation #2
Conversation #3

White is a very interesting character. He's often accused of arrogance and being mean spirited. He's called rude. All that may be true, but I find that I kind of admire him anyway, and here's why. First and foremost, he's smart, and to me that's admirable. Second, he is principled. This is a guy that's not afraid to tell others that they are on their way to hell. I kind of respect that. Many are offended when they are told they are going to hell, and some Christians in an effort to be nice shy away from saying what they really believe. Personally I don't mind being told I'm going to hell. I mean, what if these Baptists are right and all of us skeptics are going to hell? When you're engulfed in flames and molten sulfur in hell, what do you think you might say to those "nice" Baptists that were afraid to tell you what was in store for you? They should be warning us if they really believe what they say.

The other reason I like James White is because he is fair in debate. I've watched many of his professional debates, and though he is sometimes treated unfairly he does not return the favor. He doesn't interrupt his opponents. He lets them make their point clearly. They sometimes refuse to answer his questions and he still remains very professional. He gave me plenty of time (the first call went 40 minutes) and didn't interrupt. This is especially noticeable in Conversation #3, where early on he allowed me to talk and explain a situation that he already understood. He could have cut me off and told me he already knew all about it, but he allowed me to go forward and only informed me that he already knew all this stuff after I took the time to explain it. So he treated me very fairly.

As far as the conversations themselves though, I wasn't real happy with the way I performed (if "performed" is the right word). I think White engaged in some spin, and I didn't call him out on it real well, especially in the first conversation. But he's a professional and I'm not. These guys are good at what they do. I learned from it and applied that lesson to my calls with Bob Dutko.

Dutko however was not as good at allowing me to make my points without interruption, so I view him more as winning debates by simply dominating the microphone.

I might have more to say about these conversations later.

Me and Bob Dutko

Bob Dutko is a Christian apologist and advocate of Republicanism that hosts a 3 hour radio program in Detroit every day on 103.5 WMUZ. I disagree with him most of the time, but it's interesting radio. I've spoken with Bob three times so far. I'm going to try and provide links to each of the conversations for your listening pleasure. Let's see if this works.

Conversation #1
Conversation #2
Conversation #3

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Government is the problem

It's difficult to identify major problems that exist in our country that weren't caused by the government. Resentment in the Middle East is mostly due to U.S. interventionism. The U.S. imposed the Shah on the Iranian people, and he killed many. The U.S. imposed Saddam on the Iraqi people. The U.S. encouraged Saddam to do battle with Iran, and supplied him with weapons. Even chemical weapons, which he used on Iranian civilians. Likewise the U.S. provided weapons to Iran as well to fight against Saddam. The U.S. used the money from the sale of weapons to Iran to fund the Contras, who were busy attacking Nicaragua. Likewise, elsewhere in Latin America U.S. interventionism is largely to blame for resentment there. In Panama the U.S. imposed another CIA operative, Noriega, on the Panamanians. When the U.S. decided Noriega was a problem he was ousted violently, and many civilians in Panama were slaughtered.

The same thing is true with regards to the economic crisis that currently exists. Is capitalism the problem? Do we need more government intervention? In fact what we need is the very opposite, as Ron Paul explains well here. Notice how Ron Paul, speaking in 2002 long before the housing bubble had really burst, explains why a housing bubble is to be expected. The central planners that manipulate the value of money create the mal-investment that leads to the irrational financial decisions that are made. If the market were permitted to function without government regulation, then the true value of money is reflected in the price. When the central planners set the price, the market information is lost, and people make wrong, uninformed decisions.

It is the government involvement that caused the problem in the first place. But what politicians will do is use the current crisis to pile on more regulations that will lead to even greater problems. As Paul writes: "The only decision now before the central planners in Washington is whose special interests will continue to benefit from the coming pretense at reform."

If we don't get government out of the way things could get very bad in the U.S. Unfortunately neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are willing to fix the problem. I'm concerned that this is all going to end at some point in the near future. And it will end badly. Unless people wake up and we get the government out of the way.