Dennis Mangan inaugurates new blog: Why Christianity Isn’t True
I sometimes go over to Mangan’s site out of sheer curiosity. I really should know better because these naive young guys seem like the blind leading the blind. Considering that you were skewered for criticizing HBD science while not being a scientist, it follows that Mangan, a self-professed non-Christian, should probably not try to explain Christianity. The following betrays an ignorance of the theological concepts of original sin, free will and Christ’s divinity.
At 9/04/2009 08:54:00 AM, Dennis Mangan said…
The idea of the atonement, for which Christ allegedly died for our sins, is deeply problematic. Can one person atone for the sins of another? If I commit a felony, and the state decides that punishing someone else is not only acceptable, but also means that justice has been served, how does that make sense? In fact, some Christians have been well aware of this; the Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne wrote a book called Responsibility and Atonement in which he tried to reconcile the notion that punishing an innocent man serves justice, as well as the idea that atonement is necessary for justice.
Furthermore, God is allegedly omnibenevelont and omnipotent, therefore no atonement is necessary; He can arrange things as He wants. Yet the Bible and Christian theology present (vicarious) atonement as a necessary prelude to forgiveness as if this was built into the moral structure of the universe. If true, this means that God is not the author of morality, if false, then God requires a ritual which He could just as easily not require, making Him appear whimsical or arbitrary and/or cruel.
Mangan’s puerile arguments do not put him quite at the level of a village atheist (as I have described Heather Mac Donald), but he’s not that far from there either. Let’s call him a town atheist.
- end of initial entry -
Kathlene M. writes (9/4 evening):
Since Dennis Mangan didn’t like my post, I decided to respond to him. One thing I do give Mr. Mangan credit for is that is he at least fairly cordial when he argues. In the end, I pointed him toward one of your excellent articles on Heather MacDonald, since I’m really not interested in reinventing the wheel and I’m not a theologian.
Here is Mangan’s comment and my reply:
“At 9/04/2009 02:01:00 PM, Dennis Mangan said…
Auster and company are at it again with a post called “Dennis Mangan inaugurates new blog: Why Christianity isn’t true”.
“A village atheist, eh? How original. Unfortunately for KM and LA their entire post consists of a sneer—and as someone said, you can’t refute a sneer. KM says that what I wrote “betrays an ignorance of the theological concepts of original sin, free will and Christ’s divinity.” Riiight. No, I understand the concepts of free will, original sin, and Christ’s divinity all too well, which is why I say that they make no sense. What do you think, Kathlene, what are your objections? Something tells me that you haven’t the first clue, and in any case you have demonstrated nothing.
I really wonder what LA hopes to accomplish with a post like that; it’s just one big extended sneer, contains no reasoning or facts, and will convince no one but the convinced. The plain fact is that Christian theology is indisputably confused, which is why armies of theologians have been debating it for the past 2000 years, and why so many schisms and heresies have arisen. The question of Christ’s divinity and it’s possible nature has been probably the most disputed theological question in history—but Kathlene undoubtedly knows nothing of this.
At 9/04/2009 04:26:00 PM, Kathlene said…
Perhaps what I wrote seems sneering, but so is the attitude here about Christians and Christianity. It appears that you have Christianity all figured out and that Christians must be irrational and unintelligent to believe what they believe since none of it makes sense to scientific minds. If you really grasped the concepts of original sin, free will and Christ’s divinity as you say, you would be able to answer the questions relating to atonement and why God, if omnibenevolent and omnipotent, would create man with the ability to reject or embrace God. The fact that you wrote “can one person atone for the sins of another?” shows you don’t really know the Christian faith. Put simply, yes one person can atone for the sins of another when that person (Christ) is God himself who atones for all of humankind’s sin, even when man seeks to kill God. Christ’s sacrifice shows God’s act of love for his creation.
Many Christians, including myself, have come to their faith through extensive reading and questions much like yours over many years. To say that Christians understand and know nothing shows how little you know about Christianity. Heather MacDonald exemplifies this attitude well, which is why her name came up. That was the point of what I wrote.
Dennis Mangan said…
Kathlene: You say that I appear to have Christianity all figured out, but isn’t that the situation with Christians? That they have it figured out? In other words, at least with the concepts in question, viz. free will, atonement, and original sin, you say that you have a better understanding of it than I do. In fact, what typically happens is that the faith comes first, then explanations are sought, so that these ideas *must* make sense, because that’s what Christianity teaches. Fide quaerens intellectum: faith seeks understanding, i.e., first one believes, then one seeks reasons. I can assure you that to non-Christians, whether Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, or atheists, the Atonement, original sin, and Christ’s divinity will not compel assent, nor will any of these find the logic compelling.
You assert that if I “really grasped the concepts of original sin, free will and Christ’s divinity as you say, you would be able to answer the questions relating to atonement and why God, if omnibenevolent and omnipotent, would create man with the ability to reject or embrace God.” Thing is, I can, but you have already ruled any answer that I give out of court, because it doesn’t accord with your faith.
At 9/04/2009 05:31:00 PM, Kathlene said…
Man with his finite and imperfect mind cannot possibly know the infinite and perfect mind of God, but we all do our best to understand considering our minds’ limitations. No one has it all figured out.
Anyway back in Dec. 2008 Mr. Auster wrote a good article at his site called “Mac Donald’s conceit that the good can be known and lived through empirical reason alone” which provides a good summary. It’s here you’re interested.
[End of Kathlene/Mangan exchange; end of Kathlene comment to LA.]
LA replies to Kathlene:
“A village atheist, eh? How original. Unfortunately for KM and LA their entire post consists of a sneer—and as someone said, you can’t refute a sneer…. I really wonder what LA hopes to accomplish with a post like that; it’s just one big extended sneer, contains no reasoning or facts, and will convince no one but the convinced.”
Mangan says this entire post (meaning the initial entry posted at 3:34 p.m., prior to this current exchange) consists of “one big extended sneer.” But the entire post consisted of a comment by you that is 73 words long, a comment of Mangan’s that you quoted that is 154 words long, and a comment by me that is 30 words long. How can a commentary by you and me adding up to 100 words be one big extended anything, let alone one big extended sneer?
As to the “sneer” charge, in your comment you said the discussion at Mangan’s consists of the “blind leading the blind,” and of “ignorance about theology.” That is not a sneer, that is your short, summary opinion. You weren’t making an entire case, you were just giving a quick reply. In any case, there is nothing of a sneering nature about your comment.
As for my comment, I said that Mangan’s arguments were puerile (which is arguably a sneer but I would say it’s not a sneer, it’s an opinion), and that he is not as bad as a village atheist (which is the way I consistently describe Heather Mac Donald), but that he is a “town atheist.” To which Mangan replies: “A village atheist, eh? How original.” First, doesn’t the man have any sense of humor at all? Second, what’s wrong with being a town atheist? I mean, Mangan is an atheist, right? And what’s wrong with being in a town? Does Mangan insist that I call him, say, an urban atheist? Or perhaps, since he is now an ally of John Derbyshire, he wants to be considered a metroconservative atheist?
But let’s say for the sake of argument that “puerile” and “town atheist” are sneers. Who is Mangan to complain about two such mild comments by me about him, considering his outright lies about me, including his saying that I told biocons to “drop dead” and his telling his readers not to answer my request for arguments showing my Darwinian arguments to be wrong, because I didn’t mean it, I was just trying to trick them? He lies about me, he smears me, and then, like a child, he demands to be treated with kid gloves. Maybe that’s the definition of a metroconservative.
But in addition to the weirdness of his calling two comments totaling 100 words an “one big extended sneer,” is the fact that he thought I called him a village atheist when I specifically said that he is not as bad as a village atheist. Meaning that he makes better arguments than Heather Mac Donald. This is further evidence that Mangan since the beginning of his argument with me (which has coincided with his embrace of anti-Christianity) has lost the ability to comprehend what’s in front of his eyes and gets everything wrong. Which, by the way, is a major reason I have not responded in detail to what he’s been saying about me at his site, starting with the lies in his post, “Auster to Biocons: Drop Dead.” It’s simply not worth it to spend serious amounts of time correcting endlessly multiplying off-the-wall comments that have nothing to do with anything.
Murray Love writes:
I’m also done arguing with the HBD kiddies over at Mangan’s; I realized that by attempting to get them to explain themselves, I was just feeding their belief that they’re truly on to something New and Important, rather than a mere fragment of truth. Best to let them build their castles in the air. If they manage to get some HBD findings incorporated into public policy without getting themselves lynched in the process, so much the better.
Having said that, I’m not sure I’d dismiss Dennis’s ponderings on the Atonement so quickly. It is a difficult idea to comprehend, particularly for moderns whose catachesis seems mostly to consist of overheard snippets from television evangelists, and I’d contend that many Christians could not provide a coherent explanation of the doctrine beyond “Jesus died for our sins”, which is indeed an unsatisfactory explanation for the unpersuaded. (The Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on the Atonement runs to over 5,000 words.) But at root, he is asking for a proper explanation. even if he wouldn’t accept it in his current state of agitation.
To be sure, Dennis is performing the typical atheist manoeuver of selecting the most facile formulation of a Christian claim (e.g. “Jesus died for our sins”), and having found that formulation easy to dismiss, pretends that he has thus struck a telling blow against Christian theology. I used to do the same thing; not deliberately in bad faith, but because I couldn’t be bothered to familiarize myself with the complexities of the arguments, having assumed (as Dennis seems to have) that 2000 years of deep philosophical debate among great geniuses could be reduced to mere question-begging rationales for fairytales.
I am no theologian (in fact, as an unbaptized would-be Catholic, I jokingly refer to myself as antepapist), but I hope I can provide an explanation, if very partial and imperfect.
The fundamental (and very common) mistake Dennis is making is to assume that the sacrifice itself is the whole story of the Atonement, rather than the culmination of a series of events that begin with the Fall and continue through a long series of broken covenants, failed earthly kingships and scorned prophets, all of which is finally set to rights by the Incarnation, the announcement of a new Law, an everlasting Covenant and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, founded on divine kingship. You can’t fully understand many of Christ’s teachings or the events in his earthly life—including the Crucifixion—unless you realize that he’s constantly harkening, both in his words and in his actions, to the events and prophecies of the Septuagint and claiming (with great credibility) to be fulfilling them, albeit not in the fashion that most Jews were expecting.
None of this is intended to diminish the paramount importance of those three days in Easter, but to point out that there’s a whole lot more going on than an Incarnate God simply allowing His blood to be spilled to pay a debt. God took on human nature in the humblest of circumstances, dwelt among and befriended ordinary working people, made himself subject to the same emotions and physical hardships as the rest of us, confronted all earthly powers and principalities with his teaching and example, and allowed those powers to put him to death in the most humiliating manner available at the time. Christ’s loving sacrifice redeemed us, not by vicarious punishment on our behalf, but as the final sacrifice for sin, and the only one that could make full satisfaction for all mankind. By his subsequent Resurrection, he defeated earthly power forever and showed us the means by which we may gain entry to his kingdom.
First, I don’t dismiss Mangan’s ponderings. Given that I have written at length about Heather Mac Donald’s “village-atheist” arguments, I certainly don’t reject replying to Mangan’s “town-atheist” arguments. I intend to reply at some point, but other things interest me more at the moment. Also, given Mangan’s behavior and attitude, I have no particular desire to have an exchange with him on any level. But I can get over that.
Also, I have dealt with these issues before and don’t want to repeat myself. I agree with you that “Jesus died for your sins” is problematic. It is a simplistic way of compressing Christian truth into one phrase, and needs to be explained. Also, I believe that it is a Protestant concept much more than a Catholic, Anglo-Catholic or Orthodox concept. The Protestants place all the emphasis on, “Are you saved”? It’s all about you. Traditional Christianity is more about the person’s ongoing relationship with Christ through the sacraments and Christian life. (Obviously my characterization of Protestantism is simplisitic and readers will disagree. But surely the focus on “are you saved?” is the main focus of some Protestant and evangelical denominations)
I have my own explanation of Christ’s mission, which I’ve given several times, including here. There are two stages of God’s relationship with the world; the Father created the world, which is something different from him and therefore turns to its own ways; and Christ then had to enter the world as man and live and die as man in order to harmonize man with God, to show man the way to God. My view may be somewhat idiosyncratic but I think it is in conformity with Chistrian orthodoxy. If Mangan were to read this, he might go beyond his fixation on certain illogical-sounding phrases which seem instantly dismissible to his inner Voltaire, and start to get the bigger picture.
I very much enjoyed reading Murray Love’s post and your reply. You’re right that “Jesus died for your sins” is too simple and needs further explanation. Mangan claimed he is aware of the arguments regarding atonement. If I had gone into a long post, he would have found other illogical points I’m sure.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 04, 2009 03:04 PM | Send
I was raised Catholic and returned to my faith years ago (after a youthful spell with agnosticism) so am rusty. However, I have read the entire Bible in private and in college (for literature courses at my Big 10 alma mater) so I am familiar with the deeper meanings of the books. I’ve also read writers such as C.S. Lewis. You’ve written very well how atheists will pick apart incongruities in the Bible but in so doing don’t see the deeper meaning contained therein.