Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Popular Disbelief - Pt 1 - Introduction

Welcome to the introduction of a new series of articles entitled "Popular Disbelief." Right now this is intended to be a brief review of Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary by Kenneth W. Daniels. However, I like the title "Popular Disbelief" and perhaps it may be expanded to deal with other atheistic arguments as well. So who knows? I could be back to writing consistently again.

Please Note: You'll find an index of each of the articles in this multi-article review linked at the bottom of this article. They'll be added here as they are published.

As per normal with my reviews, answerers, or generic articles I want to offer some disclosures so you know where I am, and where I am not, coming from.

  1. I have not read the entire book. I will explain this later in this article.
  2. I have skipped over parts to get to more important parts.
  3. I have gone back and read parts that the people who suggested the book to me thought were of particular importance and/or were particularly convincing to them.
  4. If there is something in the book which I do not cover in this series and you want me to look at it because you believe it is of particular importance or convincing then I will go back and look at it. I won't necessarily answer all suggestions with my own writing. I will most likely link to other resources which already offer information on the subjects of interest to you. If you want me to comment on everything in the book I will simply ignore you because after a few light meals I get tired of feeding the trolls.
  5. I believe the Bible in full. I am not an expert on every part of it, but I have critically examined enough of it over the years in order to be completely comfortable with trusting what it says everywhere about everything, as it says it not how I would like to read it. I was an Avionics Technician in the Canadian Forces for 20 years.  I am a subject matter expert in air deployed SONAR and RADAR systems including system diagnostics and component level repair and design. I also have extensive experience diagnosing and maintaining communications, navigation, and sensor systems. During my years in the military I served on land, in the air, and at sea on two different naval vessels with Helicopter Air Detachments embarked. I'm telling you this so you know that I am used to people's lives hanging in the balance on my interpretation of and attention to detail. I don't believe the Bible because someone told me to, or because it was comfortable; I believe the Bible because the Bible is true.

If you think that anything disclosed above means that I am incapable of reviewing and answering this work and intend on ignoring what I do answer with criticisms related to the things disclosed then I suggest you do one of two things: either follow what I suggest in disclosure 4, or just ignore this series of articles.

Oh one more disclosure before we get started: I love you in Christ. I really do. This doesn't mean I'm going to be all soft and cuddly making sure not to offend you. It does mean I'm not going to try to offend you, and I'm going to try my very best to offer you truth. I will do my very best to respect you, and Mr. Daniels while being honest about what is in the book, what isn't in the book, and what I believe the implications of these things are. So if you troll me, I'm going to call you a troll but I'm not going to call you a troll just to avoid a point you want to make. Fair? I think so. If you do too then let's get started.

2Cor 4:3-3  
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

Why I Believed is a tale of a man who went from suffering under the unwise practices of those he allowed to lead him unto the madness of the popular blind disbelief (Atheism) as he submitted to other men to suffer under their unwise practices.

In this introduction to the series we will look at the goal he had for the book, his path to missions, and if he was saved or not.

The Goal of Why I Believed

We can sum up the goal of his book with two quotes. 

"Most believers are not prepared to travel as far as I have from my former position as a fundamentalist believer. I implore such readers to consider a middle ground, one that acknowledges both the virtues and the vices of the scriptures, as millions of moderate and liberal believers already do." 

He then goes on to discuss the evils practiced by some of the Muslim religion implying how they are a point of agreement for us all about fundamentalism and are as such a reason to reject belief in the Bible.

Again equating Christianity with the evil practiced by some people of Islam he writes: 

"Likewise, the world would be a better place if fundamentalist Christians could frankly acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly in their own scriptural tradition, whether or not they end up abandoning the faith outright." 
He also notes that one of his primary reasons for writing the book is that he doesn't want people to think he is "on the road to eternal damnation" if he doesn't repent. Almost every complaint in the book is just short of an argument. Instead of arguing points completely he attempts to sow seeds of doubt by presenting ideas instead of actual evidence. 
Ecc 1:9  
That which has been is what will be,That which is done is what will be done,And there is nothing new under the sun.
The Father of Lies once appealed to our flesh with the words "Has God indeed said..." Gen 3:1 and in response we surrendered to our desire to please ourselves and disbelieve God. Our imagination took over and filled in the blanks and we acted as though the story we made up in our minds was true and we have suffered the consequences ever since. Some 6,000 years later the Enemy of Our Souls is still playing the same game and we still willingly fall for it.

Mr. Daniels tells his story of weak roots being torn out by continual acceptance of every wind of doctrine that came his way and this is exactly what he suggests that you and I do as well. Eph 4:14

I, in opposition to Mr. Daniels' suggestion, encourage you to critically examine all things and hold fast that which is good. 1Thes 5:21 By this I mean whole heartedly test the Scriptures, and everything else you run into. Throw out what is untrue and hold unwaveringly to that which is true. I don't want you to just doubt, or hold things loosely. I want you to know what is true and what isn't - because you can.

His Path to Missions

Ecc 10:16
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child
1st Tim 3
not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.

Mr. Daniels was sent into and decided to go into full time missions work when he was still a child of a man and completely unstable in his faith. Here is a series of quotes that show his path into missions work.
"Like many believers, I was aware of puzzles in the Christian faith even in my youth." 
"Theologically I became inclined to call myself an "evangelical ecumenicist," focusing on what united the evangelical faith and not taking strong stands on points of disagreement." 
"It was during my junior year of college that I began paying attention to difficult passages in the Old Testament in my personal readings, some that troubled me for ethical reasons, and others that seemed to be internally contradictory."  
"I became and avid reader of Christianity Today... the magazine staff accepted the earth's great antiquity while rejecting evolution."  
"My personal study of the Bible again led me to the conclusion that it contained errors and probably not divinely inspired. However I had already signed up for a one-year certificate program a Columbia Biblical Seminary..."  
"The following summer... I visited a Unitarian Universalist church as a seeker. I asked one of the leaders whether he believed God listens to prayer. He said he'd like to think God is out there somewhere listening when we pray but he wasn't sure."  
"About three months into my seminary studies... and having read the no-nonsense nineteenth-century apologetic work An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Haley 1876), my confidence in the reliability of the Bible was restored."  
"Following my year of seminary I moved back to my parents' house... I met my beautiful wife...on June 30, 1991" 
"We began a wonderful romance, helped by the Sunday school superintendent who asked us to teach the junior high Sunday school class together."  
"We married in June of 1992 and lived in northern Minnesota for a year together before joining Wycliffe Bible Translators."  
"The ensuing years involved in retrospective an almost insane flurry of activity. By 1999, seven years into our marriage, we had lived in 18 places for one month or longer in six different countries. In our first eleven years of marriage, the longest we lived in one residence was 18 months." 
What we see here is the story of how a young man who was not grounded in truth but continually rocked one way or the other by argumentation (either for or against the Scriptures) was thrust into marriage and ministry even though he was wholly unprepared. 
John 15:5  
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 
Abiding is restful. The branch does not strain or rush to produce fruit. It grows there, sometimes imperceptibly to the branch, without effort at all; growing solely from that which is supplied by the vine.

I cannot quote his entire testimony but Why I Believed reveals how Mr. Daniels never took the chance to truly evaluate the Scriptures and come to a clear, settled decision. He had, by his own accounts, an unstable faith which he forced himself to hold in spite of what he was becoming convinced of. If one reads the book one will see clearly that Mr. Daniels never based his faith in God on a reasoned examination of the Scriptures, Creation, or anything else; it was always a vacuumous belief that came by proxy not repentance. We will likely look at this further in later articles and we will also discover how his rejection of God is also a vacuumous faith based decision. From his faith in the Bible to his faith in the atheistic arguments he has adopted the final position that was decided upon prior to the investigation being conducted.

Was(Is) Mr. Daniels Saved?

Eph 1:13-14  
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[ is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Let's get down to brass tacks shall we? This is the question on everyone's mind. Was Mr. Daniels the real deal or not? Here are some quotes of his reaction to a form of this question (and related discussion), if not exactly the question of whether he was saved or not. 
"I have been told that if I had embraced a slightly different brand of Christianity, I could have avoided coming down this path." 
"...one whose life was formerly defined for decades by his commitment to Jesus..." 
"If you are convinced your faith is the only thing keeping you from a life of profligacy, murder, rape, and pillaging, then please read no further; the world already has enough of that to go around." 
"I was able to regain what I considered to be a full-fledged, robust biblical faith. Though we dated for ten months, we never kissed, wanting to reserve that privilege for marriage!"  
"I recall a discussion with a Christian friend who expressed doubt that I was ever a true believer to begin with. Though it was apparent neither to me nor to my family, friends, church, or mission organization, it is in theory possible that I was never a true believer."  
"Might you not consider yourself to be a believer and to have a dynamic relationship with God, only to find yourself years later leaving the faith and being told you were never a believer sin the first place?" 
"I was a Christian (rather than, for example, a Muslim or a Hindu) because my family and society had influenced me to accept Christianity(rather than Islam or Hinduism.)"  
"As a believer I was reluctant to admit that my decision to follow Christ was anyone's but my own." 
"I am convinced that the influence of other believers is likely the primary reason for which most Christians are Christians, as opposed to Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims." 
This and other similar statements are Mr. Daniels' confession of his faith. He is called in the introduction of the book, and he calls himself repeatedly a "former Fundamentalist." Yet we are given no definition of what a Fundamentalist is or was. It is suggested that it is part of the foundation on which the Homeschool Movement is built on along with the doctrines of Protestantism, young earth creationism, and biblical inerrancy... but is never defined. With the exception of at one point having rejected Evolution while believing in a young Earth creation model I can find no confessions of the "fundamental" beliefs of biblical Christianity. Perhaps it is intentional to cause argument, but no Fundamentalist would ever seek to convince someone they were a Fundamentalist through the use of the Rosary found on the cover of Mr. Daniels' book.

The two most striking things about his confessions of his former faith is how  he believed because the community he was in believed, and the complete absence of repentance and faith in Christ crucified for Mr. Daniels' own sins, having been buried and risen again the third day all in accordance with the Scriptures. There is no confession that I have found in this book where Mr. Daniels says he repented and believed the Gospel as found in the Scriptures. 1Cor 15:1-11 

Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary isn't an influential dangerous testimony that is any threat to faith in the Bible or Christ, it is a religious tragedy. A young struggling man fell prey to those who loved what he could do for their work more than they loved him. That's all this story is.

I have written at length about salvation at this blog so I will not get into it all here. It is clear from Mr. Daniels' own testimony that he never personally repented and believed the Gospel. If you want to know how I can be so sure, it is based on the clear testimony of Scripture on the subject. Please visit the links on the right of this page under "Salvation" and my full detailed Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation) for a detailed discussion on the topic.

Before you consider accusing me of the No True Scotsman Logical Fallacy because I do not believe that Mr. Daniels has ever been saved you should read how even the Atheism proponents define the fallacy HERE(rational wiki).
"No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing; this fallacy also applies to defining a term or criteria biasedly as to defend it from counterargument which can be identified as a biased, persuasive, or rhetorical definition. "

It is not a fallacy to say that Gold is not Silver. It is not a fallacy to say that someone who has not repented and believed the Gospel (1Cor 15:1-11) for their own reconciliation to God is not, and has never been, a Christian; no matter what they call themselves. I can call myself a Dentist all I want. I may have read lots of books about Dentistry, and I might have even worked in the field but if I am not a Dentist I am not a Dentist.

In Closing to Part 1

I haven't read the whole book, nor will I. It is a work written to those who are "Cultural Christians" that is people who have never really investigated the Scriptures themselves but like to go to Church and love the people they go there with no matter if what they are doing makes sense or is based on truth or not. As such, the work has contempt for the Reader. Sometimes this contempt manifests openly, but more often it manifests in the open assumption that the Reader doesn't have a clue what the Bible says or what the Scientific Method can or has revealed. Lots of books are written by authors who just expect the Reader to go along with them. The author of this book seems assume the Reader is stupid. I didn't find this overly offensive, but I did find it tiresome. Especially when many of the arguments (half) presented were sophomoric at best. 
"That said, all views expressed in this manuscript are my own, and I take responsibility for any errors."
I can only take Mr. Daniels at his word. So, based on the confession in this book I can only discern that he was never a Christian because he never repented for himself. I cannot say outright that he is not saved, because he may have simply left this out of the book (for whatever reason). However, if I take him at his word I have no reason to consider that he is saved, and therefore I have no reason to think he was ever a Christian.

Because of his not being grounded and not being saved his religion was always all over the place. He had no willingness to reject anyone's position on anything because, even though he claimed the title Fundamentalist, he never had a solid, defined, and grounded position on anything. Yet those around him embraced his acceptance of the "Christian" culture and decided this made him "one of us" and put him to work in ministry and immediately into missions work. It was a recipe for disaster and that is exactly what happened.

Thanks for reading this introduction! Next time we'll be discussing the Concerns that Mr. Daniels has which have driven him to write this work. 

Popular Disbelief - Why I Believed - Series Index of Articles

Part 1 - Introduction (Goals of the book, Mr. Daniels' path to missions, Was Mr. Daniels saved?)