Interacting with Bertrand Russell’s Critiques of the Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence

I was recently invited to come in and give a short presentation on the cosmological argument for God’s existence to a college apologetics class and I wanted to try it out first here and to share it with a broader audience as well. In the presentation (where I am joined by my lovely wife, Raven, who keeps me from getting too jargon-y), I discuss how 20th century influential atheist Bertrand Russell attempted to refute the argument and some of the reasons why his refutation falls short. To see the slides along with the audio, check out the presentation on Youtube via www.cantus-firmus.com

Awakening the Gnostic Redeemer – Decoding Twin Peaks The Return w/ Dr. Robert M. Price

I was excited to have Dr. Robert M. Price back on as a guest to discuss Gnostic themes in last year’s hit television series Twin Peaks: The Return. Fans of the show may find this discussion helpful to understanding the show’s more obscure plot points while students of ancient and church history will find the show’s application of Gnostic ideas to be fascinating and perhaps clarifying.

Dr. Robert Price has received doctorates in both systematic theology and New Testament from Drew University and a former fellow of the Jesus Seminar. He is also a scholar at the forefront of the Christ myth movement which denies the existence of a historical Jesus, having written books on the subject such as The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. You can find a number of his books related to biblical studies on Amazon and even hear him as the host of The Bible Geek podcast. He’s also written extensively in the field of H.P. Lovecraft studies and co-wrote a book about the rock band Rush with his wife Carol entitled Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush. He can be found at http://robertmprice.mindvendor.com

A quick thank you and an announcement about getting my books for free on Kindle!

Transcript:
Greetings, everyone. This is Cody from Cantus Firmus. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to listen to the podcast. I love dealing with the kinds of topics that I get to discuss here, particularly with the fascinating and engaging guests who have been so gracious to take time out of their schedules to talk with me.

I also want to let everyone know that I have a new book out on Amazon called Post-Enlightened: Reflections on Two Hundred Years of Anti-Christian Writing from Thomas Paine to Richard Dawkins. It’s in paperback and Kindle and I’ve kept the price pretty low on it. Apologist Tom Gilson was kind enough to write the foreword.

Apart from that book, all of my other books are currently free on Kindle until January 17th. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read all of my books for free as part of your subscription. I’ve got a book on systematic theology and recapitulation called A Second Adam, a book on the open source software movement’s parallels with the church called Open Source Jesus, a book on the resurrection called The Gospel of the Resurrection, and a couple more related to apologetics issues. You can find them by searching my name–Cody Cook–on Amazon, or by checking the top post at www.cantus-firmus.com

I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas and I’m looking forward to having some excellent conversations on the podcast in 2018. I hope you’ll stay with me and invite anyone else along who you think might enjoy what I’m doing here. If you do, please write a review on iTunes or drop me a line at cody@cantus-firmus.com

Thanks!

Cantus Firmus At the Movies Ep. 9 – The Matrix (w/ Dr. Robert M. Price)

I invited atheist New Testament scholar and all-around fascinating person Dr. Robert M. Price to discuss the 1999 film The Matrix. We highlighted its Gnostic influences, questions about epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge), and its New Testament connections. A deep and provocative conversation!

Dr. Robert Price has received doctorates in both systematic theology and New Testament from Drew University and a former fellow of the Jesus Seminar. He is also a scholar at the forefront of the Christ myth movement which denies the existence of a historical Jesus, having written books on the subject such as The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. You can find a number of his books related to biblical studies on Amazon and even hear him as the host of The Bible Geek podcast. He’s also written extensively in the field of H.P. Lovecraft studies and co-wrote a book about the rock band Rush with his wife Carol entitled Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush. He can be found at http://robertmprice.mindvendor.com/

The Incarnation Is Redemptive (a special Christmas episode w/ Dr. Myk Habets)

For this special Christmas episode, I asked Dr. Myk Habets on to discuss how God taking on flesh in Jesus Christ (also known as the incarnation) was in and of itself a “redemptive act.”

Dr. Myk Habets is the Dean of Faculty at Carey Baptist College in Auckland, New Zealand. He’s also lecturer in systematic theology and the author of a number of books. Dr. Habets’ book that formed the backdrop of our conversation is Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance, and can be purchased here:
https://www.amazon.com/Theology-Torrance-Routledge-Critical-Thinking-ebook/dp/B01BWNXG4A/

The music in this episode was performed by Kyle Cogburn and Matt Marnocha, whom I borrowed from the worship team of The Village Church in South Lebanon, Ohio.

Interview with an Exorcist (w/ guest Scott Johnson)

My guest was Scott Johnson, a demonologist, exorcist, and minister. We talked about his experiences with the demonic, the danger of mistaking mental illness for possession, and his view of the relationship between demons and political power.

If you want to learn more about Scott, you can find him at https://oldesoultheology.com and on Twitter via @scottjohnson015

Music:
“The Itis” by Polyrhythmics. Licensed under CC BY 3.0
http://www.needledrop.co/wp/artists/polyrhythmics/

Cantus Firmus at the Movies Ep. 8 – Arrival (w/ Joseph Cox)

My special guest was director and producer Joseph Cox. We talked about 2016’s Arrival, a science fiction film which explores issues of time and determinism.

Joseph Cox can be found at http://www.averagejoefilms.com and at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGzBB-rY8QkWiMwm18zjZhA

Music:
“Octagon Pt 2” by Polyrhythmics. Licensed under CC BY 3.0
http://www.needledrop.co/wp/artists/polyrhythmics/

Cantus Firmus at the Movies Ep. 7 – Crimes and Misdemeanors (w/ Bridget Nelson)

My special guest was Bridget Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax fame. The film we discussed was Woody Allen’s 1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors, a film that asks difficult questions about morality and integrity in a godless universe.

Bridget can be found at www.rifftrax.com, on Twitter at @bridgetjnelson, and her podcast Instead of Tweeting can be found on iTunes.

Cantus Firmus Book Club Ep. 2 – Movies Are Prayers (w/ the author Josh Larsen)

I had the opportunity to speak with Josh Larsen about his thought-provoking new book Movies Are Prayers. Josh’s career began in the newspaper business, where he started out as a beat reporter for a weekly community newspaper and went on to become the film critic for the Chicago-based Sun-Times Media for more than 10 years.  In 2011, he joined the Christian media landscape as editor of Think Christian, and in 2012 he joined the long-running weekly podcast Filmspotting, aired on WBEZ in Chicago.

Music:
“Liam Rides a Pony” by Polyrhythmics. Licensed under CC BY 3.0
http://www.needledrop.co/wp/artists/polyrhythmics/

Fight the Powers – What the Bible Says About the Relationship Between Demonic and Political Power

Music:
“The Itis” by Polyrhythmics. Licensed under CC BY 3.0
http://www.needledrop.co/wp/artists/polyrhythmics/

Notes:

In a recent podcast which I titled “Make Christianity Weak Again,” I talked about the approaches which the church in the United States has used in interacting with the political realm. The place where I landed is that the church should look at the state with suspicion, view its relationship to it as an uneasy one, and not seek to consolidate political power but to emphasize its spiritual power.

In this podcast, I want to give the biblical theory behind my practical application. Why should the church not seek to align itself with the state?

The biblical answer, in short, is that the world is in the hands of demonic forces and God’s kingdom is a spiritual one–not a physical one. In other words, there is a fundamental incompatibility between church and state. It is God’s will that both exist in this age, and both serve a divine purpose, but they are two very different kinds of things. We are called to pray for the peace of the state where we find ourselves and for its leaders–particularly that they would be persuaded to leave us alone–but not to conquer it for Christ.

Deuteronomy 32 provides the most basic outline of the notion that the nations are under the control of demonic forces. Verses 8-9 inform us that, “when the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage” (ESV).

The term “sons of God,” in Old Testament usage, refers to angels. In other words, God has placed spiritual forces over nations. The passage goes on to speak about God’s sovereignty to judge Israel and the nations, even those nations whom God’s angels have authority over, so this notion is not a challenge to God’s sovereignty.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, we have more explicit testimony that the angels placed over the nations are corrupted beings which mislead the people under their authority. For instance, in Psalm 82. Asaph describes the scene. It is one of judgment over these corrupted angels:
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? . . . You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations” (Ps. 82:1-8 ESV)!

The picture painted for us by scripture so far is of many nations with fallen angelic forces over them. This picture is confirmed in Daniel 10 where an angelic messenger claims to have been held back from reaching Daniel by a contrary angelic figure described as “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”:
“The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (Dan. 10:13-14 ESV)

These themes continue between the time of the Old Testament writings and the time of Jesus. Walter Wink, in the first volume of his book series Naming the Powers, gives a few examples.
“In 3 Enoch, where Sammael, or Satan, is described as the angel of Rome and the head of the seventy princes of the kingdoms of the world. Even here, however, Satan and the angels of the nations remain members in good standing in the heavenly court: “Every day Satan is sitting, together with Sammael, the Prince of Rome, and with Dubbiel, the Prince of Persia, and they write the iniquities of Israel on writing tablets which they hand over to the Seraphim, in order that they may present them before the Holy One, blessed be He, so that He may destroy Israel from the world,” that is, so that they might be permitted, as the rod of God’s judgment, to let their nations devour Israel. But the Seraphim, true to their name, burn (saraph) the accusations before they can reach God’s throne (3 Enoch 26:12)”

“Another thread from I Enoch 89-90 leads to the full identification of the seventy shepherds with the seventy angels of the seventy nations. This identification may have already been intended by I Enoch, since the idea of seventy nations was as old as Genesis 10. The Hebrew Testament of Naphtali 8, whose antiquity has now been confirmed by the discovery of fragments at Qumran, tells of the time when “the Lord … came down from His highest heavens, and brought down with Him seventy ministering angels, Michael at their head. He commanded them to teach the seventy families which sprang from the loins of Noah seventy languages.””

The New Testament confirms the notion of demonic control of the nations in the strongest possible terms. In Luke 4:5-7, Satan himself claims to have been given authority over nations and states with the additional detail that he, the devil, gives it to whomever he pleases. Jesus does not dispute his assertion. Indeed, he affirms it in John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11 where He calls Satan “the ruler of this world.” John affirms this view as well in 1 John 5:19 with his claim that the *whole world* lies under the power of the evil one, as well as in Revelation 13:7 where he tells us that Satan has authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.

Accepting that political power is under the authority of Satan, how are we encouraged to react to it? Are we to seek to conquer it for Christ, as Dominionists and Theonomists argue? Not according to Jesus, who in John 18:36 told Pilate:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Paul also affirms our thesis in Ephesians 6:12 where he informs his Christian readers that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 ESV).
But what did Paul mean when he said we wrestled against rulers and authorities? This combination of words, rulers (arche) and authorities (exousia) are used together a handful of times in the NT:

Of political powers:
Luke 12:11
Luke 20:20
Titus 3:1

Of negative spiritual powers:
Eph 3:10– in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

Possibly both:
1 Cor 15:24– then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
Eph 1:21– He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.
Eph 6:12– For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Col 1:16– all things were created by Him.
Col 2:10– Christ is the head of all arche and exousia.
Col 2:15– When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

When Paul writes that God, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15 ESV), we must understand that he probably included both physical kingdoms and their spiritual authorities. However, he viewed our battle against political powers not as a military one but a spiritual one since governments are under the authority of demons.
Romans 12-13 elaborates on the idea of fighting spiritual, not physical battles. Though Paul argues that magistrates serve a God-ordained purpose in their use of physical punishment, Christians operate at a different frequency:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21 ESV).

It is worth noting that Paul is here quoting Deuteronomy 32:35, the passage I cited earlier which gives us the first glimpse at the angelic power over the nations. In context, God is speaking about punishing the nations for their wickedness. They may be under a different “god,” (so to speak) but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is supreme over all and will judge both angels and men.

Recall that in Deuteronomy 32, God described Israel as His “portion” in a way that the nations, under demonic authority, were not. Similarly, the church is not under the authority of demons, but of Christ alone. We may be encouraged by Paul to, “pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God,” but we are not encouraged to think of ourselves as a people living under two kingdoms. We are guests in a kingdom held by demons, and we should conduct ourselves as respectful guests, but we are also ambassadors of a different kingdom. It will not do to have us declaring allegiance to a kingdom which is opposed to the one we are claiming to represent, particularly when the kingdom of God will smash the kingdoms of men (Daniel 7), God will punish corrupted powers in the heavens as well as rulers on earth (Isaiah 24:21), and since even now Christ’s cross has disarmed the powers (Col 2:15).

What then should our attitude toward the state be? As the 2nd century bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch wrote in his epistle to the Romans:
“All the ends of the earth, all the kingdoms of the world would be of no profit to me; so far as I am concerned, to die in Jesus Christ is better than to be monarch of earth’s widest bounds. He who died for us is all that I seek; He who rose again for us is my whole desire.”