Let’s start with this series of short, 5-minute videos from Prager University. 21 videos total are available in Prager’s Religion/Philosophy section. Consider subscribing to this YouTube channel.
Dennis Mark Prager is an American conservative and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, and public speaker.
He’s also a believing Jew. Of course, LDS people don’t share all specific beliefs with Dennis. However, we do have much in common. Including most of the following beliefs about God, evil, morality, free will, etc.
Blake Ostler, an LDS attorney and philosopher, shares many of his insights relative to the nature of God in over 20 podcasts found here at “Exploring Mormon Thought”.
One is linked below. Please review all his others. They’re awesome and insightful!
Ostler explains how one can know truth from spiritual experiences:
Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the world’s leading religious philosopher, discusses the position that all religions can’t logically be simultaneously true. Alvin is not LDS.
John Lennox articulates the differences between faiths, especially between the 3 major monotheistic religions.
Judaism believes Jesus died, but didn’t rise. Islam believes Jesus didn’t die. And Christianity believes Jesus both died and rose. 1 of these 3 (or none) is correct. All 3 are not correct.
Thoughtful Ravi discusses why he believes Christianity is the true faith.
Ravi is great in a question-and-answer format:
In my experience, the climate today with strident new atheists makes people who leave faith feel more supported, trendy, and smarter. It’s ridiculous, but seems to be the case.
The atheists arguments are no different (and in many cases worse) than in C.S. Lewis’ day. Yet, most people have no idea.
They usually haven’t gotten to the bottom of things till years into their journey at which time things look pretty bleak.
Classical atheists were sad that God didn’t exist and owned that the outlook was completely miserable. New atheists are strangely glib and sometimes ecstatic in their claim that there’s no God. They seem to forget that — according to all previous atheists — life is bleak and meaningless in the absence of God.
No ultimate meaning, despite finding meaning week to week in subjective and personal choices month to month. New atheism is a pop-cultural phenomenon.
Richard Dawkins (perhaps the most famous atheist in the world today), outside the pop culture, is ridiculed by academics for his poor arguments and avoidance of past obstacles. But your cousin who left faith doesn’t understand any of this. He thinks he’s smarter than you, you dummie!
I have an atheist/agnostic friend who used to be a full-on LDS-hating atheist. Now, after a few years of cooling down, kinda hopes for God, but still rails against the Church. He just can’t let go of his critical interpretations. Most (85%) of our doubts are emotional doubts.
This fellow, William Lane Craig, is a wonderful creedal Christian defender comments on new atheism:
Discussing the most significant cultural challenges to belief in our society:
Science doesn’t answer big questions. The why questions.
However, Science does demonstrate very long odds that all this “just happened by chance.”
Life on this planet in a rare event. That the universe to exist at all is amazing. The four forces. These issues of fine tuning of all variables in our universe — varying any one of which would throw life and the Universe out of existence — provides credibility that God exists in and created the Universe.
Two points from scientific naturalism (atheism):
1. The natural world is all there is.
This claim is consistent logically equivalent to atheism. One can’t logically prove atheism or that the natural world is all there is. How could one prove that there is nothing beyond the natural world, when all they can study is the natural world (and nothing more)?
The only way the naturalists could hold this claim #1 is by faith. But then the naturalists would contradict claim #2. Indeed, claim #1 is internally incoherent.
2. We should only believe what can be scientifically proven.
This second point is far too narrow. In fact, we accept many intuitive truths that can’t be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unproveable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Even statement #2 itself can’t be proven scientifically. Statement #2 is an opinion or statement of philosophy. #2 is self-refuting and cannot be true.
William Lane Craig at his best in under 3 minutes:
Great points in 1.5 minutes:
Less than 2.5 minutes:
Awesome demolition in a little over 5 minutes:
Elder Holland, attending the 50th anniversary celebration of discovering chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, gave this talk on evidence:
John Lennox (see video below) has debated the biggest names among today’s atheists.
Christians should have an evidence base for belief in Christ. John told us of Jesus’ actions so that we might believe.
John 20 : 30-31
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Lennox makes several points from atheist debates:
1) Belief in Christianity is based in evidence — not blind faith. Review John 20: 30-31 again.
2) Atheists claim to not have faith, but Lennox has challenged many atheists this way: “I’m sorry, but I thought you believed your atheism.”
3) Dawkins believes in or has faith in stuff, including his wife. Evidence-based faith is still faith.
4) Traditional Christians don’t believe God was created (Mormons theology involves progression). Dawkins constantly teases, “Who created your Creator?” Lennox says nobody. Dawkins believes the Universe created him. So, Lennox asked Dawkins, “Who created your (Dawkins’) creator?” Still waiting for an answer.
1) We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps.
2) Science and God are compatible and complimentary:
To say you don’t believe in God, but rather you believe in Science is analogous to saying you don’t believe in Henry Ford, but instead you believe in the laws of internal combustion. The God explanation is not the same as the Science explanation. You, obviously, should believe in both.
Why is the kettle boiling? There are 2 explanations: a scientific one about molecules. And a personal agent explanation: it’s boiling because I want a cup of tea.
3) The Law of Gravity describes gravity, but descriptive laws do not create anything. Ever. We don’t even know what what gravity is. However, Steven Hawking and other secular scientists would have you believe laws daily create matter and the entire Universe. Not true.
4) God created the world good. God could have created a perfect world, but none of us would have been in it. A world without hate will have no love. Robotic worlds lack sin and many other problems, but they have no humans. Bringing humans into the world is a risky business. God’s children can grow up and say no. Just like our kids.
Another discussion with John Lennox on faith and reason. Faith of believers. Faith of atheists. What is the evidence? What of blind faith?
Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan (Christian, former Jew) discuss the limits of Science and atheism.
At the 5:10 mark in the video below, Bill says when someone says “I believe in Science” you immediately know they don’t know what they’re talking about. Science is a tool. Like a hammer. So, when they exclaim, “I believe in Science,” they’re really saying, “I believe in a hammer.”
Science is not a philosophy. It’s not a world view. It’s a method. It’s a series of questions, processes, and procedures to isolate variables and extract something out of nature.
Scientism or Trans-science: popularized by the new atheists, such as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett. An arrogant belief in objectivism — won’t believe anything other than Science — that itself becomes a religion.
What of Philosophy, Art, Ethics, and other obvious truths we can’t prove?
We can’t understand infinity or eternity. We simply lack the neurons.
Worth 12 minutes of your time.
More from William Lane Craig:
Scientism is not Science. It’s a theory. It’s a philosophy.
The statement itself — one should only believe in what can be scientifically proven — is self-refuting. One can’t prove one should believe this. It’s a philosophy statement or belief — not something that itself can be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unprovable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Fun interchange. William Lane Craig (on the left) is a skilled debater. Too bad he’s not LDS.
Another gem by WLC on God. Now, I don’t agree with all of Craig’s arguments, but the discussion is wonderful.
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You might want to tune in weekly.
On Sunday, 3/11/18, they talked about the CES Letter and compared this to the anti-Mormons in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
The new format of the CES Letter with a huge laundry list has affected some people, unfortunately.
This video shows how many people feel during their first brush with anti-Mormon material:
Growing up in the 1980s and graduating from high school in the early 90s, I rmeember hearing about Ed Decker’s production, “The God Makers.”
More than a few times I visited Christian bookstores and read their book chapters on Mormons, usually in the “CULT” section. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I didn’t know what they were talking about.
In the early 2000s, during a break in school — about 1/4 mile from the Mormon Handcart Park in Iowa City, IA — I decided to see what “The Godmakers” was all about.
Our hometeacher had many books on the topic, including “The Truth About the Godmakers”, published in 1986. He gave me a stack of books and I dove right in.
I probably read 10-12 books cover to cover. Some of the material was brand new. Other stuff I had heard from my parents. All of the issues were a lot to cover in a few weeks of summer break, but I’m glad I tacked the material then, and have revisited the critical arguments since.
I first heard of the CES Letter in the summer of 2015. I chat with all kinds of people around me. On a plane trip — among lots of other topics — the woman to my left told me her LDS faith had been rocked by the CES Letter. She said she had never heard of any of this stuff before. I told her nothing was new that she was telling me.
It’s true. Those who’ve reviewed the CES Letter, feel free to review “The Truth About the Godmakers.” The author, Gilbert W. Scharffs, responds to each each scene and claim Ed Decker presents in his awful, over-the-top movie.
Sadly, people left in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, in part as a result of the God Makers. Surely, lots of other issues were involved. It’s never 1 single issue. They left in the 60s and 70s, due in part to work by the Tanners and earlier critics.
They’ll, unfortunately, consider leaving today over material found in the CES Letter. Interestingly, however, it’s all the same material with very few exceptions.
Style is different, but the core arguments are almost identical. Ed Decker’s style was inflammatory and sensational. Jeremy presents as a helpless victim. Nobody told him all this stuff. On that topic — nobody told me! — consider listening to this podcast.
Geoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times.
He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”
Topics that “destroyed” Jeremy’s testimony have been debated among this associations members for decades. Nobody hid this material. Some study as they progress through the Gospel. Most people — Mormons, Catholic, or atheist — don’t study very much.
Jeff Lindsay has blogged in defence of the Church since 1994. Jeremy Runnells is a young man who recently left the Church. Jeremy panicked with (to him) alarming, new information.
Why do these two people come to very different conclusions when facing the same issues? Why is one person’s faith so brittle? Context and framing makes all the difference. Listen below:
I argue that many who leave today would not have left over the same material decades earlier. Now Christians of all stripes, including Mormons, have an alternative that they never would have considered till recently: agnosticism and atheism.
These are more acceptable than ever. More popular than ever. More peer pressure to join these groups than ever. Sam Harris, the handsome fellow above — one of the “new” atheists — attracts lots of folks to his flock.
Evangelical Christianity or other sects are usually not attractive to wobbly Latter-day Saints. I’ve seen data showing 9 out of 10 former Mormons don’t believe in God. Decades ago this did not ooccur.
As they weaken in faith, so many members see no credible option for belief. But what many don’t initially realize is they’ve started to follow another faith: the faith of atheism/agnosticism. Indeed, they put their faith in atheist podcasters and thinkers.
John Lennox discusses the faith of atheists:
Lennox schools prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, on the topic of blind faith. Even Dawkins operates on the basis of faith, no different than believers.
Returning to the woman on the airplane in 2015. As I got to know her further, she recently had experienced divorce, had a special relationship with Heavenly Mother, by her own admission didn’t like heirarchies & patriarchial arrangements, and was repulsed by polygamy.
In my experience it’s virtually never about the big lists alone. Other things are inevitably occurring in the lives of those who leave. I’ve talked to many, many folks about their faith crises. Nobody leaves who was yesterday in full faith, working at the veil. It’s always a years-long process. Often involving other life issues.
Many, many people have spent much more time than Jeremy Runnells — the fellow who crowdsourced the CES Letter on the ex-Mormon reddit subgroup — in understanding these issues.
I learned about these issues decades ago and found virtually nothing new in his document. Ed Decker, the Tanners, and a long list of critics before them have thrown lots of charges on the wall hoping that some will stick. Some things we’ll never know. For many things, however, answers exist. Study, prayer, and humility are key.
FAIR Mormon has thousands of pages of answers that can be searched via an internal search engine. I’ll list four other resources that have responded to each and every criticism within the CES Letter:
#1: Jim Bennett. Jim is the son of the late U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett. Jim is entertaining, bright, articulate, and lots of fun to read. Jim wrote for the Deseret News for years. He’s now running to fill an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
#2: Brian Hales. Brian is arguably the single greatest expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Brian spent much time not only answering polygamy-related questions within the CES Letter, but was very efficient in responding to all other claims.
Further, Brian has built and maintained this incredible resource on Joseph Smith’s polygamy (see JSP link below). The critics may disagree with Brian, but they generally respect his research and scholarship.
Brian has shown in the linked site below, and Dan Vogel (one of the most prominent LDS critics alive) agrees, that there is no solid evidence of Joseph’s sexual polyandry. Polygamy? Yes. Polyandry? No.
#4: Brett McDonald. Brett created the “LDS Truth Claims” YouTube channel in the last year. He directly responds to every charge found in the CES Letter.
One of my favorite presentations by Brett:
I recently found this blog — Conflict of Justice — that has many good points about the Book of Abraham and seer stones. Since the Book of Abraham is a topic loved by the critics I thought I’d include this blog in the list.
If one is willing to leave the Church — an institution claiming to be the restored Church of Christ — he/she should consider all the data. Not only the cherrypicked information you’ll find in critical material, such as the CES Letter.
Review the in-depth responses above and within the above links.
It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 60s, due to materials put forward by the Tanners. It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 80s, due to materials put forward by Ed Decker.
It is, likewise, a very poor choice to leave the LDS Church today, given this (hardly new) material copied/pasted by Jeremy Runnells and aggregated into the CES Letter.
Our culture is much more accepting of atheism and is increasingly secular. Folks form agnostic groups and support each other in their doubts and new faith online. Though society welcomes these new trends, the facts of the restoration and the divinity of Christ remain the same.
I urge to review all the data. There are reasons to believe. Study and pray. No blind faith. Inform your faith. The Gospel was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
William Lane Craig (bearded on left), a traditional Christian, is an incredible debater. The fellow in the middle can’t clearly articulate why slavery or abusing a child is evil on an atheistic world view or in a purely objective way. Staggering. But not suprising, given atheism denies objective moral values.
Is anything truly right or wrong? Atheists want to make value judgments: “God was wrong. The Nazis were wrong.” Yet, they also maintain cultural relativism about what is right and wrong.
Can’t have it both ways. If no God, one can’t assert what is right or wrong. Nazis weren’t wrong. They only did socially unacceptable — not wrong — things.
WLC makes his case again. His debate partner, Wolpert, had some embarrassing moments:
WLC discusses the flaws of Sam Harris’ (and other “new” atheists) view of morality, good, and evil:
Next YouTube with Q and A:
First question to questioner from Ravi: “Do you lock your door at night?”
In a perfect world we shouldn’t be afraid. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
If everyone believes morality is subjective, look out! Not everybody wants to be nice. Russia and China killed 60 million each in the 20th Century. Stalin, in his final moments, clenched his fist toward heaven. Worth 5 minutes.
Jonh Lennox explains if we’re no different from mold and there’s no final judgment, there’s no basis for morality.
Evolution, society, and other factors don’t provide a consistent, clear morality. Powerful rulers also typically fail magnificently to project and encourage morality.
Ravi answers a question about morality without God. “Strong” nihilists or atheists, according to the questioner, don’t kill. “Weak” nihilists may be bad, but not all atheists are evil and seek destruction.
Practically, there is no rational basis for good behavior on atheism — even if the “strong” atheist believes this way. And how do you reconcile what is occurring in the Middle East: one side insists it’s right and wants to destroy the other.
It’s not nearly as simple as this questioner initially proposed.
From Prager University:
Ultimate Purpose without God?
Atheist Bertrand Russell: “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation ofunyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Decline in faith and family have severely weakened Europe. The secular revolutions in Europe occurred decades ago. Faith and families were weakened together. No marriage often results in less faith. The broad trends across entire countries have had less-than-ideal societal and social consequences.
We can do better in America. Maintain faith and family.