Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Testimonial


My Response to a Skeptic who had Rejected my Objective Arguments for the Existence of God:


Perhaps you might be more responsive to my more personal and subjective reasons to believe in Christ. However, I usually don’t lead with these evidences because the skeptic can always retort, “Well, that’s your experience. There is no reason to regard it as any more valid than anyone else’s experience.” However, in the hope that you might be somewhat responsive, I’ll relate some events to you.


We still had prayer in the public school system when I was in 1st and 2nd grades. I learned the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer, which I took to bed with me at night. I would clasp my hands together and repeat what I had learned, sealing it off in “Jesus’ Name!” I had some wonderful answers to prayer, which I kept to myself.

When I was eight, the understanding that I was Jewish and that Jews didn’t do this type of thing intruded into my thinking. Consequently, I placed my ethnicity above the fact that I had experienced a number of miraculously answered prayers, and rejected Jesus, thereby condemning myself to a lonely life of depression, shame and anxiety.

This began to change after I incurred a serious chainsaw injury, which left me in a pool of blood, thinking that the next breath would be my last. Suddenly, I knew that someone else was with me! I was so overcome with joy, peace and love that I laughed at the prospect of death. I knew that God was there, that He loved me, and that I was totally under His protection. This joy was so intense that I cried out, “God, I don’t care if I loose both arms and legs as long as I can have You!”

This wasn’t the first time that I had been visited by such a profound love, joy, and peace. As a college student, I lifted my head from study and marveled to find myself overcome by this same experience. It lasted until the next morning and banished the interest I had had in the occult. I didn’t know what it was. The only thing that I knew was that I had nothing to do with it, in contrast to the occult rituals and incantations.

I was visited one other time after a Christian had prayed for me. Although I had regarded myself as a “seeker,” I was so closed that I couldn’t even begin to consider the connection between his prayer and the divine visitation. Instead, I thought that it was a matter of mind-over-matter, but as hard as I’d try, I was unable to conjure up that experience.

Four days later upon leaving the hospital, the joy had almost come to an end. Desperately, I vowed, “God, I just want You, and I’ll leave no stone unturned until I find you.” The one stone I had always avoided was Christianity.

However, the neighbors who had miraculously rescued me brought me some Christian books to read. They talked about a God of love who had died for us while we were His enemies, a God who would never leave nor forsake us, a God who completely forgave our sins. This sounded like the God I had encountered, but I didn’t want to make any hasty moves, least of all towards Christianity.

It required months of divine guidance through Scripture and His response to my prayers before I could even come to a fledgling faith.

I’m reluctant to say more, lest you might think that you need to have the same experiences that I had in order to enter into a relationship with Christ. Perhaps I needed these more than others because I had been so hostile to Christianity and the idea of faith?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Fine-Tuning Argument for the Existence of God




This argument affirms that this universe must have been designed by a supreme Intelligence. Everything is just too elegant, harmonious, and life-supporting! It’s just tailor-made for us! However, one atheist informed me, “The fine-tuning argument is insufficient to require a supernatural force at the onset of the universe. The physical laws of the universe are what they are.”

On the contrary, it appears that our physical laws are all calibrated in just the right way to support the very existence of the universe, let alone life. In this regard, the atheist astronomer Martin Rees writes,

“These six numbers [physical constants] constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?” (“Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe,” (Basic Books: 2001)

For instance, according to Walter L. Bradley, Professor of Engineering at Baylor University, “The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

If the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!

• If the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.…So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings.”

All astro-physicists seem to agree that our fine-tuned physical laws are necessary for life. John Wheeler, formerly Professor of Physics at Princeton, writes,

“Is man an unimportant bit of dust on an unimportant planet in an unimportant galaxy somewhere in the vastness of space? No! The necessity to produce life lies at the center of the universe's whole machinery and design.....Slight variations in physical laws such as gravity or electromagnetism would make life impossible.”

Bradley concludes, “When cosmological models were first developed in the mid-twentieth century, cosmologists naively assumed that the selection of a given set of constants was not critical to the formation of a suitable habitat for life. Through subsequent parametric studies that varied those constants, scientists now know that relatively small changes in any of the constants produce a dramatically different universe and one that is not hospitable to life of any imaginable type.”

Where does this leave atheism and naturalism? It seems that they have only one recourse – the existence of an infinite number of universes! I think that Tim Folger, writing for “Discover Magazine,” sums it up nicely:

“Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life….The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non¬religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life. (“The Multiverse Theory,” Dec. 2008)

However, even if there were an infinite number of universes, thereby making it reasonable that our own fortuitous one could just happen, many problems are created by such a solution – What generates all of these universes with their laws? What keeps them separated so that they don’t collides and self-destruct? What maintains the constants in the midst of all the molecules-in-motion? Besides, there’s no scientific evidence for even a second universe, let alone millions of them. In view of all the evidence of fine-tuning, Wheeler concludes,

• “The design requirements for our universe are like a chain of 1000 links. If any link breaks, we do not have a less optimal universe for life -- we have a universe incapable of sustaining life! …I must conclude that it takes a great deal more faith to believe in an accidental universe than to believe in an intelligent creator, or God who crafted such a marvelous universe and beautiful place of habitation in planet Earth, and then created life (including human beings) to occupy it.”


Perhaps, therefore, the Biblical assertion that God made everything is not unreasonable – far more reasonable than the bland assertion that the laws just “are what they are!”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Messiah of Israel


Regarding the Talmud’s references to Jesus, one respondent to David Klinghoffer’s blog wrote:

“Why is it important whether Jesus is mentioned in a few places in the Talmud…Judaism has a long history of men who were considered Messiahs by some of their followers.”

Yes, Israel has had its false Messiahs. However, the reason that the question of Jesus should be of paramount interest to the “Children of Abraham” is that he might have been our promised Messiah. One thing that should give us some concern are the prophecies that point to this tragedy – that we would reject our Messiah:

• Zech. 12:10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they [Israel] have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”

• Isaiah 53:3-6 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

• Psalm 118:22-24 The stone [the Messiah] the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

• Isaiah 8:14 and he [the Messiah] will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.

• Isaiah 49:6-7 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." This is what the LORD says--the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel--to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation [of Israel], to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

However, I feel that I need to place these verses within the context of the entire revelation of God, lest anti-Semites manipulate these verses for the purpose of hate and the denigration of Israel. God’s rejection of Israel is only temporary:

 Hosea 1:9-11 Then the LORD said, "Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God." Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.' The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited...

 Isaiah 49:14-17 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.

 Romans 11:25-29 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they [Israel] are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Monday, December 14, 2009

God and the Problem of “Infinite Regress”




My Response to an Atheist: God’s existence makes more sense than other explanations for the universe: http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2009/12/massimos-picks_13.html

I’m sorry if I wasn’t very clear (or if I wrongly charged you). I certainly wasn't suggesting that God doesn’t need an explanation or that we must just accept God as a premise. Instead, acknowledging that we can’t get our minds around how things came to be – either things sprang into existence without cause or something or Someone had to be eternal and not requiring a cause – I tried to argue that the Supernaturalistic explanation was more tenable than the naturalistic one.

Regarding the solution for the problem of “infinite regress,” the Someone or something has to be:

1. ETERNAL AND UNCAUSED: This would relieve us of the problem of explaining the Someone’s or something’s (the universe in this case) existence.

2. A SUFFICIENT FIRST CAUSE: This cause would have to be sufficient enough to explain everything else (the effects) that follows. If it is insufficient, then the effects would, to some extent, be uncaused – an unacceptable conclusion. Furthermore, intelligent causes are more sufficient than causes that are restricted to working according to one particular formula.

3. SINGULAR: It’s much easier to accept a single Person or thing that is uncaused and eternal than a collection of things.

4. UNIFIED: The best scientific theory is the one most parsimonious.

5. TRANSCENDENT: All of the things that we have experience with aren’t eternal. All material things seem to require causes. Therefore, it makes more sense that this Person is Other and transcendent. This Person must also transcend time, because it’s logically impossible to cross an infinite number of years – and this is what the notion of eternity would require -- to arrive at the present. Even when we try to formulate a naturalistic explanation, we have a tendency to conceive of these natural laws as always existing, outside of time – transcendent. We invest them with God-like qualities. Might as well just go for the real God!

All that I’m trying to demonstrate here is that believing in God doesn’t require that we shut down our minds. Instead, it seems that the most reasonable thing that we can do is to either believe in God or to explore this question with renewed gusto.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Skeptical of Atheism


My Response to an Atheist Skeptic who Believes that Believing in God is Foolishness:

While I share your high estimation of skepticism – It was skepticism that brought me from agnosticism to Christianity – you provocatively stated: “The important point is that there are plenty of notions, such as that of gods, that cannot be rejected in the same way (pace both Coyne and Dawkins), and yet can be rejected on reasonable grounds for the simple fact that they are extraordinary claims without the support of extraordinary evidence (to paraphrase Carl Sagan paraphrasing David Hume).”

While I agree with you about the “extraordinary claims” and the “extraordinary evidence,” I must point out that we all must grapple with the same two “extraordinary” choices: Either Naturalism or Supernaturalism is the origin/explanation of the universe. Let me now set forth some arguments for Supernaturalism in favor of Naturalism.

1. Our experience uniformly demonstrates that the cause must be greater than the effect. Intelligent causation is greater than non-intelligent causation. Therefore, supernaturalism must be the preferred hypothesis.

2. Supernaturalism (transcendence) is a better explanation than Naturalism (materialism) for the immutability of the physical laws. Something must transcend our expanding universe of molecules-in-motion. (Where do the “natural” laws come from?)

3. Supernatural Transcendence is also a better explanation than localized materialism for the uniform operation of these laws throughout the universe.

4. Supernatural Oneness is more parsimonious than the idea of myriads of independently operating natural laws. It better accounts for the stability and regularity of the physical world.

5. Although we all agree that phenomena occur formulaically and predictably, there is absolutely no evidence that the laws that govern are natural as opposed to their being part of a Super-Intelligence.

6. Naturalism is utterly inadequate to account for many phenomena – life, DNA, consciousness, freewill, the fine-tuning of the universe, reason and logic – while Supernaturalism is adequate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Honor and Respect: A Matter of Making-Believe?

An atheist blogger wrote: “What if we could explain love scientifically [exclusively in terms of biology] — would that change our attitude towards it? Would the knowledge that this transcendent feeling is generated by the presence of a particular chemical in our brain detract from the transcendence? And if we were forced to admit that the concepts of ‘soulmates’ or ‘true’ love are nonsensical, would we love less deeply? http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2009/12/podcast-teaser-love-skeptical-inquiry.html


If love is just a matter of bio-chemical reactions, what then is the basis for speaking truth in love, faithfulness in love, integrity and honesty in love, honoring and respecting the other in love – the grit of relationship? Sometimes we have to act out love, even when we don’t feel love, because there are considerations higher than our bio-chemistry or even pragmatic considerations.

In fact, leading marriage counselors have gravitated away from the emphasis upon fulfilling one’s own needs to the necessity of putting the other’s needs and respect first. For instance, marriage therapist John Gottman writes:

“Without the fundamental belief that your spouse is worthy of honor and respect, where is the basis for any kind of rewarding relationship?” (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 65)

However, it’s hard to derive these concepts of “honor and respect” from naturalism and materialism alone. Pragmatism will just not take us there! We can always make-believe that we “honor and respect,” but if we are doing this just because of the benefits we will derive, eventually our hypocritical ruse will be exposed.


Materialism/naturalism isn’t adequate to support truly and persistently loving relationships. We all want to believe in things like the “Bill of Rights” or even respect and equality. Psycho-therapists have also learned that they must treat their clients with respect and dignity if the therapeutic relationship is going to go anywhere. However, if we regard one another in a materialistic and superficial way, we should grant some respect and some disrespect, according to their contributions. Materialism can’t support concepts of essential equality and dignity of humanity. It can support only distinctions according to the way we see things.

After all, some people contribute greatly to society and our own lives, while others represent a tremendous expense. Therefore, if we regard the latter from a strictly materialistic perspective, its “truth” would require that we treat them with disdain and disrespect. This conclusion is inevitable, although it might seem strange. However, society takes something like “equal rights for all” for granted because our thinking is still largely conditioned by our Christian heritage – however bad we might be, we are still created in the image of God, and must be treated accordingly.

However, as we continue to loose this understanding, society will unveil horrors of which we’ve seen only a foretaste in communist/atheist nations.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God


“Religious faith is simply foolish!” Bill insisted.


“By what standard of rationality can you make such a judgment,
” I responded.


I was leading Bill into a discussion of the Transcendental Argument for God’s existence. It goes like this:

1. Logic and reason exist.
2. Logic and reason can’t exist without God.

Conclusion: God must exist!

Premise #1 doesn’t require any proof. It is self -evident. We all agree that reason and logic exist. In order to deny them, we must use reason and logic, the very things we are denying!

Premise #2 involves only two possible choices: logic and reason are either the result of natural, unintelligent force(s) or an intelligent, transcendent Being. If we can rule out the first possibility, we are left with God.Here are some considerations that would tend to rule out the first option:

1. There is no evidence that natural, unintelligent forces exist. Although we all agree that objects are subject to laws and respond in formulaic and predictable ways, there is no evidence whatsoever that these laws are natural, unintelligent and independent of one another. It is more likely that they find their origin and unity in the single Mind of God.

2. Reason and logic are unchanging. In an ever expanding universe of molecules-in-motion, naturalism can’t account for unchanging laws or principles.

3. Reason and logic are uniform, wherever we look and in whatever historical period. However, for a force or law to be natural, it must have a location from which it exerts its influence. (At least, that’s our experience with the “natural.”) The sun attracts the earth because it is in proximity to the earth. We find that this gravitational influence diminishes as the distance increases. Likewise, I’ve found that I can’t pick up the WQXR radio signals, which beam from a station in NYC, when I’m in Pennsylvania. However, the laws of physics (and reason and logic) seem to operate uniformly and universally, transcending the material considerations of location, matter and energy. Naturalism can’t seem to make such a leap.

4. Reason and logic require an adequate cause. There are so many other things that naturalism can’t adequately explain (life, DNA, fine-tuning of the universe, freewill, consciousness, moral absolutes, the unchanging physical laws). Therefore, there is no reason to believe that naturalism is adequate to account for reason and logic.

5. Our experience with causal agents informs us that the cause is always greater than the effect. If the effect was greater than the cause, it would suggest that some part of the effect is uncaused - a scientific impossibility!

If we can't account for reason and logic naturally, then we are only left with a super-natural explanation! God must exist!

Bill retorted, “Reason tells us that the Garden of Eden and talking snakes couldn’t exist!”

“But how can you put any trust in your reason in a world of molecules-in-motion?”
Bill was stuck. He could only account for his use of unchanging reason by appealing to an unchanging, transcendent God, the very God he was denying.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Atheist Subway Slogans

I haven’t seen the subway poster, but I heard that it reads, “One million New Yorkers can be good without God!” Of course, atheists, like anyone else, can be good without God. We all possess that uncomfortable conscience which raises a fuss whenever we do something wrong. The conscience is so persuasive that it usually keeps us within certain limits, at least superficially. However, the real question is whether or not the atheist has an adequate rationale to do good.

Despite the poster’s bold claim, there are several warning signs to the contrary. The atheist must first believe that there is such a thing as “goodness,” rather than a useful idea that we create in order to make society work. If there is no reality of “goodness” and “evil,” then we can’t even begin to talk coherently about being good without God.

The other warning alarm begins to sound when the atheist unfurls his rationale for doing good. This rationale generally consists of a combination of factors such as “enlightened” selfishness and pragmatism. As one atheist explained enlightened selfishness:

“This principle transforms itself into a rational desire for community. We cherish and enjoy this life for others as well as ourselves; we care for each other as parts of infinite nature; we become persons and lovers of nature; and we endeavor not only to preserve each other in being but also to promote a shared happiness through acts of kindness, through friendliness, and also through laws [call them laws of nature] and institutions that foster and promote life.”

However, selfishness and pragmatism can just as easily promote some pretty ugly behaviors, as we have often seen. Sometimes, we find that our best interests are served by using others. Such is the fabric of human history!

I don’t think that this latest atheist initiative – subway-sloganeering – will be able to address these deficiencies any more than their “Blasphemy Contest,” but we can’t blame them for trying.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Way We Do Science


I’m not a big fan of hackers. However, one recent hack-job has given us an insider’s view of how science is done and how a scientific consensus is achieved and maintained. It has also proved that God can bring good out of evil.

As a consequence of the hack-job, the email exchanges of several British and American scientists in the forefront of climate-change research have been made public. Regarding this revealing exchange, John Tierney writes,

“When a journal publishes a skeptic’s paper, the scientists e-mail one another to ignore it. They focus instead on retaliation against the journal and the editor…These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public relations war that they exaggerate their certitude.”

“Contempt for critics is evident over and over again in the hacked e-mail messages, as if the scientists were a priesthood protecting the temple from barbarians” (Science Times
(NYT) Dec. 1 2009, 1-2).

It’s this kind of group-think, exaggeration and dirty tactics that makes me wonder about how extensive this kind of problem is in the halls of academia. Last year, the documentary, Expelled, revealed that several academicians have been fired, denied tenure or simply harassed because of their sympathies for “intelligent design” (ID). In such a repressive climate, I think we have to be somewhat skeptical regarding the resulting scientific “consensus.”

Meanwhile, evolutionists promote the establishment position, that we, the public, can trust the findings of science because all of their findings and publications are carefully scrutinized by their peers. However, if their peers are no more than “a priesthood protecting the temple from barbarians,” we might have to question whether the foxes have been left in charge of the chicken coop.

Last month I heard David Berlinski, an agnostic who respects ID, relate a story about a publisher who apologized to a scientist because he had been forbidden to publish any paper sympathetic to ID. Berlinski suggested that this type of thing wasn’t unusual.

This raises the question, “What kind of trust should we place in the evol.-establishment?” However, according to the militant evolutionist, Richard Dawkins,

“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in the findings of Science that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

Ironically, it has taken a criminal-hacker to demonstrate that our trust is more “safely” placed elsewhere.

Reasons-to-Believe


Here’s my response to the winning blurb of the atheist blasphemy contest:



As a Christian, I’d just like to simply affirm the winning blasphemy-blurb: “Faith is no reason!” Faith certainly isn’t a REASON, but who says we invest ourselves in Christ without rationale? If it’s just a matter of believing, then why not Buddha or Mohammed?

Instead, there are many compelling reasons to embrace Christ. It may start with a subjective, life-changing encounter, but it doesn’t stop there. Christ provided many solid reasons-to-believe. He performed miracles before multitudes, which even Jewish sources confirm. He prophesied so that His followers would believe after the events took place. And then He capped it all off with a grand finale – He willingly went to the Cross to affirm everything He did and said. Even His resurrection is surrounded by sound historical evidence – so sound that even the atheist historian Gerd Ludemann confesses:

“It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience


When an invading enemy threatens to breach the defensive lines at a particular weak point, it must be reinforced lest the line is penetrated and the entire defense collapses. In 1934, at the advent of the Nazi usurpation of power, concerned and courageous Christian theologians met at Barmen, Germany to identify the breach and to stand against it.

The Nazis had been trying to promote the doctrine that Christians owed a double allegiance to both State and Christ. In their public life, they had to honor the State, while in their private life, they could honor Christ.

Recognizing that this stance represented the demise of the entire Church of Christ, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and other Christians stood in the gap and drafted the following words:

“We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him…

The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and Sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.”


They affirmed the fact that Christ had to stand supreme over all areas of life. The Barmen Declaration was consequently able to identify the breach and to enable what was then left of the Church to stand in unison against Hitler. Today, we have other serious breaches in our lines. We have capitulated to the false doctrines of our own society. We have compromised and hidden our light so as not to give offense or simply to “fit in.” In many cases, we have disdained doctrine, mimicking our culture’s disdain of doctrine. In other cases, we have simply discarded the requirement to be a light, in word and in deed, to our communities and have instead chosen conformity.

The Manhattan Declaration has done an excellent job in identifying some serious breaches that the churches are increasingly disregarding. It has done this with sensitivity, intelligence and doctrinal soundness, sounding the trumpet blast in hope of rallying us together in unity, readiness and in consideration of a great and common threat against the integrity of our Church and the future welfare of society in which we serve as watchmen and agents of peace.
It concludes this way:

“Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.” (http://manhattandeclaration.org/)

Please read this Declaration in its entirety and consider signing it. It entails a cost, but that’s what following Christ is about. And do not dismiss its plea because it’s political and we will be disdained for our political involvement! If we do, we might as well pass Lazarus by at his beggar’s-gate (Luke 16) or the bleeding, unconscious victim who the Good Samaritan brought to the inn (Luke 10). To pass by our responsibility to raise our voice is to allow the gas chambers, the abortions, and death by Aids. As James warned: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Certainty isn’t Unrealistic or even Optional




My response to a postmodern Christian who doubts that we can have certainty:

Although postmodernism has some valid things to say about the way we’ve done theology and legitimately warn us to be more self-critical, I think it has gone too far. There are many things that I can be quite certain about, including things about our faith. For instance, it is historically certain that Jesus died on the cross. Lee Strobel wrote, “Both Gerd Ludemann, who is an atheistic NT critic, and Bart Ehrman, who is an agnostic, call the crucifixion an indisputable fact.” And for good reason! There are just too many incontestable historical accounts verifying this fact.

In fact, so much of the Bible is about the need for certainty. Moses doubted that Israel would believe him that God had sent him back to Egypt to get them out. Therefore, God sent him back with miraculous signs so that Israel could be SURE that God was with them (Exodus 4:1-9). We too need certainty. I had been shriveling up without the certainty of Christ’s love for me!

Even logically, we can’t doubt that we can have certainty. When someone says, “You can’t be certain about these things!” I merely reply, “Are you CERTAIN that I can’t be certain?” If he claims that he is certain about uncertainty, then he contradicts himself. If instead he is not certain about his claim, then he has to be more tentative about his dismissal of certainty.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Science and Christianity

One Darwinist railed at me, “Christianity has nothing to do with science. In fact, it has inhibited research!” Here’s how I responded:

The historical testimony in favor of the Christian role in the development of science is overwhelming. British scientist Robert Clark sums it up this way:

“However we may interpret the fact, scientific development has only occurred in Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations—Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on—science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that, perhaps, science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non-Christian world believed that there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire-bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven, thus incurring the wrath of the gods.” ("Christian Belief and Science," quoted by Henry F. Schaefer, 14)

Even the arch-enemy of religion, Richard Dawkins, has acknowledged that “science grew out of a religious tradition.”

There are several aspects of Christianity that I think have made it amenable to the progress in science:

1. The assurance of our relationship in the Lord gives us courage to ask questions and to receive answers. I never had the wherewithal to examine the world because I had been too involved in myself and my own insecurities before Christ had established me.

2. Some faith systems are fearful of antagonizing the gods by examining too closely. However, the Biblical faith is about seeking truth and wisdom and understanding the ways of God.

3. Some faith systems just believe that the gods did it. This belief also stifles inquiry. However, the Bible makes it clear that God largely rules through the laws He has established (Jeremiah 33:25). Therefore, it is possible to discover those laws.

4. Order is only possible given an omnipotent monotheistic God. Polytheistic systems can’t account for orderliness, but rather the competition among the gods.

5. The Biblical faith encourages us to use our minds (Matthew 22:37).

6. The Biblical faith regards the creation as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Therefore, it’s something worth examining. For some religions, the created order is always in flux and not worth examining, but rather transcending as quickly as possible.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Emergent Church Confusion

My response to the Baptist Standard which ran an article in favor of Emergent theology:

Although we have to regard our theological formulations with humility and some degree of skepticism, it seems like the Emergent Church has made skepticism into a doctrine. Reflecting this fact, Loyd Allen wrote,

“Postmoderns have abandoned big-picture reality. Either it does not exist, or it cannot be proven by a logical system of propositions—known as a ‘meta-narrative.’ Postmoderns’ reality is more like a set of children’s building blocks than a jigsaw puzzle. The blocks have meaning according to their context in a particular construct. Truth is established through local relationship more than rational, universal application.”

However, the meaning of any one “building block” (or even word) is somewhat determined by its relationship to the whole jigsaw puzzle. If I want a fuller sense of how Jesus used language so that I can interpret a particular passage, I want to see the “big-picture” range of His usages. If I want to know what He meant by “unless you drink my blood and eat my body, you have no life within you (John 6),” I have to look at what He taught about “salvation” and “life” in general.

Jesus even mandates that we look at the “big-picture reality.” He ridiculed a synagogue leader for criticizing Him for healing on the Sabbath. While He never disputed the charge that He had done work on the Sabbath, Jesus did find fault with this leader because He his interpretation was too narrow. Although the leader had gotten the one building block right – don’t work on the Sabbath – his interpretation and charge against Jesus culpably failed to take reality and the rest of revelation into the picture (Luke 13; John 7:23-24).

When our vision narrows to the immediate context, failing to appreciate the broader context of revelation (the “big-picture reality,” the “meta-narrative”), we become myopic, and this will bring many problems upon our heads.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Threats to Freedom of Speech


According to LifeSiteNews.com (11/11/09), “MPs have voted down a proposal that would have ensured that Christians in the UK retained the freedom to criticize homosexual activity in the country under a proposed hate crimes bill. A free speech amendment in the proposed hate crimes legislation was rejected 342 votes to 145 by MPs on Monday night.”

The amendment read, "For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred."

In the proposed bill, hate crimes are not simply a matter of the violence. The nature of the offense is extended to also include speech -- "stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation" – and carries a sentence of up to seven years' imprisonment.

It had been argued that an amendment to this bill was necessary. Without it, the bill might have a "chilling effect on freedom of speech" and that there already is "plenty of evidence" that similar ordinances have already had this effect. According to LSN,

“Citizens expressing religious or other opinions opposing homosexual activity have been ‘interviewed’ by police as possible offenders. Such people, he said, ‘were told by the police that they were very close to the serious offence of homophobia, punishable by seven years' imprisonment.’"

What happens in the UK doesn’t stay in the UK. The USA has just signed into law a similar bill, having rejected an amendment that would have protected our freedom of speech to raise objections of conscience against alternative sexualities and family configurations.

What does this communicate? That freedom of speech and an open society, where all have the freedom to express their views, is no longer tolerated. Ironically, however, it seems like those who need the protection against violence are the very ones being silenced. OneNewsNow reports that the,

FBI is investigating terrorism threats posted on a homosexual blog that appear to be aimed at Christians. Pro-family activists have drawn attention to a disturbing exchange on a homosexual blog run by Joe Jervis of New York. The exchange takes place between individuals named Fritz and Tex in the comment section of a blog discussing the Maine homosexual marriage defeat and pro-family activists Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. LaBarbera says the two commentators discussed carrying out acts of terrorism against Christians.

"One guy [Fritz] sort of raises [the concept] and says, 'well, if Obama doesn't give us what we want, you are going to see a very real potential for violence' -- to quote his words...and then he says, 'well, that is not a good thing,'" LaBarbera reports. "Then another activist comes back and says, 'Well what's wrong with that?'" (See sample of blog comments below)

In this online conversation, Fritz goes on to say, "This happens in all cases where people are oppressed and lack representation. Our President must wake up and prevent this from happening. Otherwise we will end up like Israel and Palestine. We will have gay and lesbian people strapping bombs to their chests and blowing up churches. All it will take is one or two more losses like this. If marriage equality is taken away in one of the landmark states, we will see domestic terrorism arise very quickly....In 1991, I witnessed gay and lesbian activists setting fire to buildings and beating people with baseball bats in Los Angeles."

Tex replies, "Still not seeing this as a bad thing Fritz...[African gay activists] didn't gain their civil rights through being passive…maybe a bit of well organized terrorism is just what we need."


The message to Obama is clear, “If you don’t give us what we want, there’s going to be blood, and you’ll be the cause of it, not me!” And they mean it. They have convinced themselves that they are the victims who have been denied their lawful civil rights, and, of course, the Church is their victimizer, which deserves everything that it might get for denying these “rights.”

In Washington Square Park, a gay male threateningly charged me, “You’ve discriminated against us, denying me my right to marry my lover. What right have you to treat us this way!...I’m here to shut you down!” He had convinced himself that I was no better than an oppressor or a slave-master, and anyone who stopped me, by whatever means, was performing a just service (John 16:2). I tried to reason that we all believe that there should be limits. We don’t approve of an 80 year-old marrying 15 ten-year-olds. Are we therefore illegitimately denying their civil rights? Nevertheless, he monotonously continued to threaten, “I’m going to shut you down!” In fact, the universities and the media have already “shut down” any balanced discussion of alternative sexual lifestyles.

Western Civilization has entered into the business of shutting-down any discussion of moral absolutes in favor of sexual freedoms and pragmatism – what works and is expedient, what brings immediate results. How will this result? Without absolute principles, might-makes-right seems to inevitably fill the vacuum and pragmatism has consistently proved to be too mushy to resist it. It’s therefore not surprising to hear the ever-loudening threats, “If I don’t get what I want, somebody is going to get hurt.”

(On 11/12/09, the House of Lords reinstated the Freedom of speech amendment!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Post-Modern Emergent Church

The Emergent Church (EC) has showered the Evangelical Church with many valid critiques. We need to listen to these and cry out to our Lord for forgiveness and wisdom to proceed. However, we have to also ask what has the EC to offer in its place.


EC guru Tony Jones might be the best one to tell us. About him, Todd Hunter, the national director of Alpha USA writes,

“No one I know is better equipped than Tony Jones to write an insider’s history of emergent churches.”

Nevertheless, it’s hard to pin down what the EC is all about, so let’s take a look at what they and specifically Jones say:

“There’ll be no cutting corners, no easy answers, no magic bullets.” (The New Christians, 111)

Indeed, sometimes we feed our congregants “easy answers,” when it’s time that they should be sharpening their teeth on steak. However, Jones seemingly offers a lot of easy answers, and this statement seems to be an example of one. But perhaps I’m a bit too critical, so let’s look at a few more statements:

“Of course God is hard to grasp. One might even say that God is impossible to grasp.”

While I think that we need to be ever vigilant about our theological formulations, the EC has promoted skepticism as the Queen of virtues. While it is true that God is hard to grasp, the Bible assures us that we can and do have meaningful knowledge of God (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 John 5:20), because He has revealed Himself to us (Romans 1:18-21; Proverbs 1). Nevertheless, Jones seems assured that he knows something about God’s – His unknowability – while the rest of us can’t grasp anything about Him.

While Jones professes a high regard for theology, he also insists that it’s “local” – relative our circumstances and temporary – as opposed to “universal,” absolute, and permanent:

“Theology is not universal, nor is it transcendent. The God about whom we theologize is transcendent, but our human musings about God are not. To think that our theology is not local and specific is a falsity that has been foisted on the church.”

How then can Jones assert that God is “transcendent” if all we have are local, personal “musings?” In addition to this paradox, while it is true that our “musings” are not transcendent, God-breathed Scripture is! This suggests that as far as our teachings reflect Scripture, we are imparting timeless truths. While our personal and cultural circumstances strongly influence what we see, it doesn’t mean that we can’t rise above relativism. However, because of our fallibility, care must always be exercised that we aren’t distorting Scripture with our own agendas.

Can we know when our culture has gotten the best of us? This is like asking the question, “Can I tell the difference between ‘Jesus died for my sins’ and ‘Jesus will return in August of 2010?’” One statement is clearly in accord with the facts of Scripture, while the other isn’t! This kind of discernment isn’t impossible!

Besides, I’d like to ask Tony if his statement that “Theology is not universal, nor is it transcendent” is a “local” and culture-bound assessment. If he admits that it is, then he should also be highly skeptical of all his theological pronouncements and all the books he’s written in which he dogmatically proclaims his “local” and personal beliefs. In other words, Jones has to also be skeptical of his skepticism. Similarly, he asserts,

“To assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless is the deepest arrogance, and it establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress.” (114)

However, what kind of theological “progress” can we make if, at best, it’s all “local” and temporary. Is our understanding that Christ has died for our sins” not a timeless truth? Once again, I’d like to ask Tony, “Aren’t you also “arrogant” in your charge that our “convictions” aren’t timeless? Aren’t you equally dogmatic?” Interestingly, many of his assertions are equally self-contradictory:

“The Kingdom of God is expansive, explosive, and un-pin-downable (to coin a phrase). Consequently, our characterizations of God and God’s Kingdom are necessarily fleeting?”
(114)

I wonder whether he also regards his own proclamations as “fleeting?” Consequently, Jones’ indictments fall prey to his own charge of “un-pin-downable” and “fleeting!” As any lawyer knows, you can’t build a charge upon something that is fleeting.

Nevertheless, Jones asserts that the EC is not without its solid convictions and commitments:

“That theology is local, conversational, and temporary does not mean that we must hold our beliefs without conviction. This is a charge often thrown at emergent Christians, but it’s false. As a society, we’ve been wrong about all sorts of things in the past, like slavery….Our forebears held positions on these issues with deep conviction, but they were wrong. And I can say that unequivocally. At least I can say that from my vantage point – as one who came after them –they were wrong. What I cannot say is which side of those issues I would have been on a century or two ago. Nor can I say which issues I’m mistaken on today.”
(115)

If he can’t say “which issues I’m mistaken on today,” how then can he have any strong convictions? How can he have any confidence in his beliefs? How can he confidently assert that Christ died for his sins or that slavery is wrong? Nevertheless, he does speak with conviction, but it’s clear that his theology doesn’t give him any basis for this. In fact, he’s undermined any basis for confidence by claiming that all beliefs are “local” and impermanent – products of our relative circumstances!

I’m not trying to say that coming to a theologically stable and secure place isn’t difficult. Sometimes it’s accompanied by great turmoil and insecurity, but this isn’t the same thing as what the EC is saying – that it’s impossible and arrogant.

Elsewhere, Jones proclaims, with an air of certainty, that,

“If one has rock-solid certainty, it’s only natural to suppose that all other viewpoints are wrong and therefore impose one’s certainty on others. Proper confidence, by contrast, lends itself to persuasion, not imposition.”

Why wouldn’t Jones’ “proper confidence” also want to “impose?” Ironically, it might prove more likely to impose. As I’ve grown in certainty and assurance of the Christian faith, I’ve found that I’ve become more charitable and less defensive. Security in Christ has bred a greater “other-centeredness” and has relieved me of some of my egotistical self-concern. When I lacked this assurance, I was more prone to over-compensate by being over-assertive, as if this proved my spiritual credentials.

Instead of backing off our assurances, I’ve observed that it’s these assurances that have enabled us to become spiritually secure, personally humble and therefore, non-coercive. The more certain I became of Christ, the less assured I had to be in myself, my own giftedness and accomplishments. Therefore, I was relieved of the pressure of trying to prove myself at every turn. Consequently, I don’t believe that the EC can deliver on the non-impositional goods.

What then does the EC believe? While they are very dogmatic about their critiques and disdain for the Evangelical Church, they seem to adopt the very opposite posture when it comes to postmodern professionals.

What do we do when our brother sins against us? Well, Jones agrees that we should talk to that individual in private, and if he doesn’t listen to bring some others with us the next time. If he still fails to repent, he should then be brought before the church. However, this is only for more of the same discussions. Any form of punishment or church discipline is absent from his equation.

Well, what then of Jesus’ command that the church should then treat the unrepentant one as a “pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17)? According to Jones, Jesus received the unrepentant sinners and tax collectors, and so the church must continue to do the same. This is what is meant to treat them as a “pagan or a tax collector.” There’s no mention of the necessity for repentance (Luke 17:3)! No church discipline! No excommunication! To support his permissive interpretation, Jones cites Eugene Petersen’s The Message:

“If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” (91)

Some years back, I had a contentious student in my Sunday School class. He would repeatedly stand and charge, “Don’t listen to him. He’s a false teacher!” He wasn’t amenable to discussion. He was unwilling or perhaps also unable to show how I was teaching wrongly. After several unpleasant encounters with this student, I went to the elders. Fortunately, the elders hadn’t read Eugene Petersen and didn’t tell me “If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch.”

Church discipline is a very necessary tool to prevent the leaven of sin from leavening and corrupting the entire loaf of the church (1 Cor. 5:5-8; Gal. 5:8-9), a tool the will probably fall into greater disuse through the influence of postmodern permissiveness. It’s also a practice for which God commended the churches (Rev. 2:2) and censured other churches which were too permissive (Rev. 2:14; 20).

Despite his numerous pronouncements about tolerance and the need for conversation, Jones censures The Rhyme Bible Storybook for its “unbiblical” portrayal of the people of Joshua’s Jericho:

“It’s downright dishonest to impugn the morals and motives of the seemingly innocent residents of Jericho. They were, by all accounts, just going about their lives in Jericho when, unbeknownst to them, God promised their acreage to the Israelites. Their own crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time…The biblical God is the instigator of all sorts of nasty incidents, especially in the Old Testament, that don’t make for good children’s stories. It might be easier to swallow if the Jerichoans were indeed ‘wicked’…”

Indeed, God didn’t recite a litany of charges against each city which He had designated for destruction. He didn’t have to! It was enough that He condemned the behaviors of the Canaanite peoples in general (Lev. 18:24-28; 20:22-23; Gen. 15:16; Deut. 9:5). Consequently, we’re left to marvel at the severity of Jones’ attack against the children’s Rhyme Storybook (and even the “biblical God”), referring to its author as “downright dishonest.”

Jones seems to be bewildered that conservative preachers and theologians have taken issue with his theology and the EC. He acts clueless, and carefully paints his critics as small-minded bigots. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped many evangelicals from applauding his book. Go figure!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Criterion of Falsifiability and Proofs for the Existence of God


A Letter to a theistic-evolution blog:

You have mis-applied the criterion of “falsifiability” in order to dismiss ID proofs for the existence of an Intelligent Designer. “Falsifiability” can’t be applied to questions of existence. This is because science can’t deal with questions of non-existence. It is unable to disprove the existence of the sun, moon, the Lock Ness Monster, and even my wife. However, this doesn’t mean that science has nothing positive to say about these entities. In fact, science has a lot to say about the sun and the moon – and potentially, even God.

Ironically, while science can’t disprove naturalism, it has NOTHING to say about it either. There are no positive evidences for it, unlike the case of the sun and God. In fact, there is not a shred of evidence for naturalism. Although we all agree that phenomena act according to laws and formulas in predictable ways, rather than these being the result of natural, unintelligent laws, there is a growing body of evidence that these laws are actually part of the mind of God and derive their continuance through Him.

Nevertheless, “naturalism” has been enthroned as the goddess-gatekeeper over the sciences, preventing access to certain people and ideas.

Here is what is even more astounding – Many who call themselves “Christian” have become the most hostile voices against ID, despite the fact that the essence of ID is Biblical! According to Romans 1, we are without excuse when it comes to the knowledge of God. Why? Because God has made both His existence and character plain to us through the things He created!

It seems to me that TEers loathe themselves and are afflicted with an auto-immune response that deprives them of the very evidential reassurances that they so desperately need in this contentious world. Not only that, but those confused Christians who come to them for guidance are unknowingly also stripped of those very supports (Romans 1:32).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Indoctrination


If you do feel this way, it might not be your imagination. PBS and the evolution establishment have just launched a new series entitled, “Becoming Human.” Predictably, it’s about how we humans emerged from our ape-like relatives over the last millions of years, and you’ve seen it all before – many times!

Don’t expect to hear any counter-evidence or an opposing word . You might ask, “How can they get away with such blatant censorship? How is it they are allowed to exercise such thought control through their dictatorial monopoly?” Rather than trying to explain this puzzling phenomenon, let me just refer you to Ben Stein’s video, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

I’d rather discuss whether or not they make a convincing case with the various skull fragments that they have assembled into a line in an attempt to prove common descent. I have my students place ten random dots on the board and demonstrate that, even though they are random, I can connect them in an infinite number of ways to produce an infinite number of patterns, none of which actually has any reality inherent to those random dots. I created the pattern!

This thought experiment can be expanded by asking the students to place several hundred random dots on the board. If I were an artist, I could draw any image that I so desired by using selected dots and drawing lines through them.

What does this have to do with “common descent?” Everything in the world! If patterns can be created where there were no patterns, then a case for the pattern of “common descent” can easily be created where there is none!

Add to this the fact that masses of money and manpower are being committed for the purpose of proving and expanding the theory of evolution and also for promoting it to a skeptical public. (If you have any doubt about this, just listen to the evolutionists strategizing among themselves!) Consequently, they are unearthing tons of “findings,” many of which can conveniently be overlooked if they don’t fit into the portrait that evolution is trying to draw.

These tons of findings are like thousands of dots on the board which can be connected in an infinite number of ways to produce whatever portrait you so desire, as long as you are selective about the dots you use.

According to scientist Bruce Malone, this is just what the evolution establishment is doing:

“The strongest evidence that these fossil finds have been misinterpreted is the fact that erectus-type [extinct upright apes] skulls (closely related to modern human skull) have been found in the same rock layers as australopithecines (Lucy) [which are supposed to pre-date erectus-types], while other homo erectus skulls have been found right up to contemporary times, along with modern man.” (Censored Science: The Suppressed Evidence, 27)

If this is the case, Darwinists shouldn’t designate homo-erectus as a missing link between humankind and the proto-apes. It can’t be a link if it had been the same all along. However, if you leave out some of the dots, you can make homo-erectus look like our ancester. Malone continues,

“Whenever human activity, artifacts, or fossils are found deep in rock layers where they shouldn’t be, the evidence is classified as “non-human.” Fully human footprints have been found in the same rock layers as Lucy [the proto-ape, proto-human], as have evidences of fully modern human activities (the use of tools, the burial of the dead, etc.) All of this evidence is simply ignored or attributed to man’s ape-like ancestors.”

If the evidence doesn’t follow the evolutionary pattern of common descent, it’s either coerced into saying something it doesn’t say or simply ignored. The dots that don’t fit neatly into the portrait are discarded. Malone continues:

“In similar fashion, when erectus-like skulls – with ‘low-end’ [ape-like] brain size, eyebrow ridges, or thick jaws – are found in the same rock layers as modern man, they [the ape-like skulls] are explained away as human variation, the result of pathological (disease) or environmental causes. Yet similar skulls found in the sediment layers, which have been assigned old dates are proclaimed pre-human ancestors.”

In other words, with so many “findings” to select from and the freedom to interpret them in such varied and unrestrained ways, the Darwinist can “prove” anything he wants. Dots can be made into anyone’s cheering section.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I’m in Charge Here!

What constitutes adequate reasons to believe? Last week, I had a remarkable conversation. A woman friend informed me, “I’ve seen visions and had the experiences like any Christian!”

Curious about this, I probed, “Well, why then aren’t you a follower of Jesus?” She retorted, “I don’t like the exclusivity of the Christian message. Only those who believe in the Gospel are going to heaven and the rest are condemned. How about those who never heard about Jesus?”

I could have responded Biblically—“We are all guilty before God because we all haven’t been faithful to the truths we already know” (Romans 1:18:32)—but instead, I decided to pursue my probing in a more personal way. “Is it appropriate to reject Christ and His Gospel simply because we don’t like what He said?”

I went on to explain that there are many things in the Bible that I don’t particularly like, but should this be otherwise? If God is truly God and not an idea created by us to satisfy our needs, shouldn’t we expect that such a transcendent Being will say things that offend us? And aren’t we a bit proud to insist that everything He says must sit well with us? Shouldn’t a relationship with such a Being require Him to judge us and not us to judge Him?

Demanding that everything that God says meets our approval is not consistent with our puny status and the character of God. While He is all-knowing, we are petty, selfish, and blind. If I know that I am ignorant of math and have to learn it, I will want to find a teacher who is very knowledgeable and then learn from her. I would be foolish to correct and indict this teacher, knowing that her understanding goes far beyond my own.

Instead, if we know that God exists, we should be willing to come as little children, laying aside our rigid demands that everything meets our approval. If He is God, we must conform to Him, and not the other way around. I might not like everything that gravity does, but it’s greater than I and very demanding. I would be foolish to jump from a building, ignoring gravity, because I don’t approve of all its ways.

I don’t like going to doctors and don’t believe strongly in taking medications, but if I’m desperately ill and all other hope of recovery has vanished, I’ll submit to the doctor. Sadly, over time, our hardness becomes so deeply entrenched that we would gladly place our hope in anyone who isn’t God. I have become acquainted with so many people experiencing life-crushing problems who staunchly continue to refuse to cry out to God. My friend is ready to check herself into a hospital psych-ward even as she valiantly refuses to consider God, despite the many miracles she has seen.

What is even more startling is that we refuse to turn to God even when all other hope has been taken away. Just go to a nursing home or hospice and see how many people are crying out for a hope in the One who can lead them safely beyond death!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Beauty and Simplicity of the ID Hypothesis

A Response to an Atheist:



I am delighted that you seem to indirectly admit that there isn’t any evidence for naturalism. Instead, to fill the evidence void, you argue, “That the laws are natural and unintelligent is the simplest, most parsimonious hypothesis, which science prefers.”

While you are correct that science does prefer the “simplest, most parsimonious hypothesis,” I’m afraid that naturalism can’t deliver in this regard. Let’s just consider some phenomena that any theory must be able to account for and then naturalism’s desperate gyrations:

1. THE ORIGIN OF THE BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE: Naturalism attempts to explain the origin of proteins and DNA in terms of self-organization. However, there is not a shred of evidence for this. These substances are produced in no other place than in living cells.

2. THE ORIGIN OF THE CELL OR OF LIFE: Panspermia (seeded from extra-terrestrial life) is no explanation at all. It just forces the explanation abroad. There seems to be no other “natural” contender.

3. CONSCIOUSNESS: Just a natural outgrowth of matter when it becomes complex enough?? Please notice that there is nothing simple or parsimonious about the desperate contortions of naturalism!”

4. FREEWILL: Naturalism can’t explain it, so naturalists often deny it exists! Now that’s putting one’s head in the sand.

5. THE ORIGIN OF THE LAWS OF NATURE: The Big Bang? Is that really an explanation? Since when do explosions create unchanging laws?

6. THE FINE-TUNIG OF THE UNIVERSE: If there are an infinite number of universes (something logically incoherent!) then it would be likely that one of them is this perfectly tuned universe! However, there is no evidence for even a second universe.

7. MORAL ABSOLUTES: Again, naturalism finds it more convenient to deny that such things exist. Consequently, injustice isn’t ABSOLUTELY wrong!

8. LOGIC AND REASON: Naturalists usually say, “Well, we might not have an explanation, but eventually we’ll have one!” Now that’s faith!

9. IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY: Co-option and faith!

Please notice that in order to explain each phenomena, naturalism must invoke an entirely different mechanism (if they can pull one out of the hat?). In contrast, the ID hypothesis need only posit our One all-powerful God. Now that’s simplicity!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Letter to Theistic Evolutionists


I think that we need to be careful so as not to evaluate our testimonies and new worldview formulations by strictly short-term benefits. Some things that feel right might prove to be entirely wrong in the long-run.


As a high-school moralist, I was quickly converted to moral relativism upon entering college. I then made the logical jump to nihilism – the utter absence of any intrinsic values. It was a heady experience, at least at the beginning. I was now the captain of my own ship. The only standards were the ones I created for myself. Consequently, my feelings of guilt and shame were entirely baseless. And knowing this, I could learn to overcome them! Life stood before me for the taking.

However, I had failed to regard the small print. I subsequently found that my ship was unmanageable and every port-of-call was the same. Instead of freedom, I found that life had become an oppressive burden, but it took years in order to recognize the implications of my philosophical commitments.

There is a lot of small print inherent in the “marriage contract” you’ve transacted. There are hidden costs which you might not have anticipated. Let me point out a few:

1. LACK OF STABILITY IN THE DARWIN/CHRIST MARRIAGE: The Darwinist worldview is entirely different from the Biblical at its most fundamental points. While the Bible insists that God created everything good and that we are the problem (Gen. 3), Darwin is unequivocal that, even at the beginning, life was characterized as a bloody survival-of-the-fittest struggle. All subsequent theology hinges upon this: the Fall and origin of sin (Gen. 3), the Redemption (1 Cor. 15:21-22), the Restoration (Acts 3:21). Hence, you have opened the door to a continual struggle for authority between Darwin and Jesus, as Darwin seeks to erode what you have retained.

2. AN UNDERMINING OF ALL OBJECTIVE REASONS TO BELIEVE IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: Since theistic evolutionists teach that the Bible isn’t about this physical world (in order to make room for Darwinism) but rather the theological world, they have consequently come to disdain any of the classical theistic proofs for God and the Christian faith. Consequently, they have rendered themselves ineffectual in bringing the Gospel to unbelievers and have been relegated to the position of only being able to talk effectively to those who already have a faith in Christ. They have marginalized themselves away from the broader exchange of ideas.

3. AN UNDERMINING OF THEIR OWN CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST: In order to make room for Darwin, the theistic evolutionist (TE) must relegate much of Genesis to the place of myth. However, all of the writers of Scripture, including Jesus, regard these accounts as historical. Therefore, the TE is forced to admit that these authorities are also teaching myth. However, in order to retain some semblance of the Christian faith, they must make the unbiblical distinction between the science and history of the Bible and the theology of the Bible. But we can’t separate the history of the Cross from the theology of the Cross. This inseparable bond also pertains to other doctrines. How then can you trust in the theology of the Bible, when you are unwilling to trust in the history of the Bible?

I think that there are more fruitful ways to resolve the conflict that drove you to marry Darwin to your Jesus. Although I agree with you that the Christian faith shouldn’t be a matter of fear and the denial of opposing voices and evidences, we can still remain authentically Christian without building barriers! There is more responsible and Biblically based way of dealing with the tension between the world of scholarship and the Faith, and I think that it involves the way we prioritize authoritative sources.

The central question is this: “What source of truth or revelation is most authoritative? What source is most reliable? What lens should predominate as we construct our worldviews – a Biblical lens or the prevailing scientific consensus (2 Cor. 10:4-5)? To which “Master” will we submit ourselves (Mat. 6:23-24)? What and who should be compromised if there is a conflict?”

We are highly corruptible beings, easily molded by the overwhelming influences to which we have been subjected. I am not suggesting that holding to a thorough-going Biblical worldview is without its tension or dissonance. While it doesn’t reject looking at the counter-evidence for those who are mature in the faith, it requires exercising a certain degree of appropriate skepticism and detachment regarding it (as contrasted with an open embrace). This can be difficult, but our Lord never promised that it would be easy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oneness Theology


Below is a letter I wrote to a young man who believes that we are all one, and that any of the distinctions we see are illusions:

You argue that the Biblical concept of a thinking, yet omnipresent, transcendent and eternal God is incoherent:

“God is omnipresent, hence immutable and unchanging. Thinking is a process that is transitional, from moment to moment. As thoughts change, the state of the thinker changes: It requires an experience of time which is linear-sequential. Omnipresence is not linear-sequential, but boundless present.”

I must confess that I cannot get my mind around the fact that anything or anyone can live in a timeless, spaceless, and non-sequential existence, let alone to account for God’s thinking. But I don’t want to discount something or Someone simply because it/He transcends my own experience. So too the activity of sub-atomic particles that also transcends my reason! Consequently, when we contemplate other realms, we have to be cautious that we don’t overstep our knowledge. Mathematician-physicist Paul Davies has written:

“In the so-called quantum logic, the rule that something cannot both be and not be such-and-such is dropped”
(“The Mind of God,” 26)

This should give us some cause for hesitation when discussing transcendence. I would also think that this problem – the possibility thought in non-sequential timelessness – would also represent an equal philosophical problem for monistic consciousness – a religion/philosophy that denies that there is anything real outside of the one universal consciousness, which necessarily also must transcend the “illusions” of space-matter-time! Since this consciousness transcends time, wouldn’t thinking also be non-sequential and therefore impossible?

Nevertheless, revelation, science and logic compel me to believe that Someone does necessarily transcend space and time. Consequently, if an omnipotent, transcendent, and infinite God does exist, who am I to impose my finite distinctions and limitations upon Him?

I’m sure that you are willing to believe various “absurdities” – like light is both wave and particle -- based upon expert scientific testimony. How much more then should we be willing to accept imponderables regarding an infinite God!
Meanwhile, I continue to marvel at how a monist, who believes that the only reality is the oneness – the universal consciousness – can believe in justice and science which are necessarily part of the illusion, according to monistic thinking.

It seems that you hold to a compromised form of monism – that there is only one true reality, while the other “reality” is in a state of constant flux, and therefore indefinable and unreal. Therefore, you claim that the self is in constant flux and, consequently, unreal. There are many serious problems with this position.

1. This monism is still life, justice, self and science negating.
2. It also negates all the statements you have made, since they too are in flux and consequently unreal. Its logical conclusion is solipsism.
3. Even if everything you see about yourself is in flux (and consequently unreal), it fails to prove that there aren’t aspects of yourself that aren’t changing, parts that will endure. Science also, amidst all the change and expansion, acknowledges certain unchanging laws.

I don’t think that the monistic paradigm lines up with reality, a reality that you are understandably not ready to deny. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that there is another paradigm that does a far better job in describing reality – a Person who has given me the freedom (John 8:31-32) to endorse and thrive in this world without loosing perspective of a greater world to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

De-Christianizing Society




One newspaper writes of the latest sensation: “Ultimate fighting is incredibly popular all over the world.” It has even become popular with the women, although it is also incredibly brutal, so brutal that it remains banned in many states.

It reminds us of the Roman gladiatorial fights. However, the fans had learned how to distance themselves from the moral implications of what was transpiring in response to their howls for blood and death. In "The Romans," Anthony Kamm wrote,

“Each gladiator was seen as ‘crude, loathsome, doomed, lost…a man utterly debased by fortune, a slave, a man altogether without worth or dignity, almost without humanity.”

It isn’t surprising that those who opposed the games were regarded with contempt. In "Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization," Alvin Schmidt wrote:

“Minicius Felix cites a Roman pagan who strongly criticized Christians for their anti-gladiatorial stance: ‘You do no go to our shows; you take no part in our processions…you shrink in horror from our sacred [gladiatorial] games.’

We have shrunk back in horror for 1600 years since by the Christian emperors Theodosius 1 [378-395 AD] and his son Honorius [404] in the East outlawed them. But as our values change, so too does our sense of horror.

Our values are changing in many ways. Infanticide did not provoke a sense of horror in highly esteemed classical culture. In "What’s so Great about Christianity," Dinesh D’Souza wrote:

“In ancient Rome and Greece, human life had very little value. The Spartans left weak children to die on the hillside. Infanticide was common, as it is even today in many parts of the world. Fathers who wanted sons had few qualms about drowning their newborn daughters. Human beings were routinely bludgeoned to death or mauled by wild animals in the Roman gladiatorial arena. The greatest of the classical thinkers from Seneca to Cicero, saw nothing wrong with these practices.”

I am not a prophet, but I will predict that as Christian influence continues to be extinguished in favor of a short-sighted pragmatism favoring what’s expedient and desirable, there will be more demand to allow the “ultimate” fighters to fight to the death. (And we’ll convince ourselves that they are despicable beings who deserve what they’re getting!) Our liberal abortion practices will extend to infanticide. After all, what difference does a day make? What difference does it make if the fetus takes its trip down through the birth canal into fresh air? Same fetus, same burden.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our Unpopular Deity



An atheist has been very upset with me because I’ve argued that it’s perfectly legitimate for God to do whatever He wishes with his creation, especially if His creation has turned against Him. I used the example of my clay pot, claiming that I have the right to do whatever I wish with my pot, even to destroy it.

The atheist responded, “A clay pot is not a sentient being. No-one can do wrong to a clay pot. [Destroying a human is an entirely different matter!]”

Here’s my response:

“Evidently, you respect my right to destroy my clay pot. Would you still respect my right if my clay pot would continually spill its contents out upon my lap and even spit in my face? Would this not give me even more reason to destroy it? Do you think that I would be charmed by such a clay pot? Would I have a greater responsibility toward it because it treats me so poorly? Certainly not! Should God, therefore, tolerate our disdainful rejection of Him?

I don’t think that my answer will satisfy him. Our preferences and comforts do more to determine what we’ll believe than will reason and logic, especially if that logic points to an uncomfortable, inconvenient truth.

The idea of a God-of-Judgment is out of favor in the West. We tend to see ourselves as good people who deserve to be treated in good ways, although in actuality, we were His “enemies” (Romans 5:8-10). Therefore, the Biblical God is simply not trendy or appetizing, but I don’t think that this means that we ought to apologize for Him or to present Him as a soft and fuzzy God. He is what He is, and we have to accept that about Him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Atheists Enjoying Good Clean Fun



Below is a letter I wrote to the Center for Inquiry, an atheist group, which had been sponsoring a “Blasphemy Contest” in conjunction with other atheist groups. This had followed a first letter in which I had challenged that if they are truly the free-thinkers, who they claim to be, let them sponsor a debate or forum instead of a “blasphemy contest.”

I deeply respect your willingness to discuss and even to debate some of the issues that divide us. This represents a vast improvement over a “blasphemy contest!” You might be pleasantly surprised to find that we share some common concerns and that the exchange of ideas will prove to be a healthy exercise for all of us.

Freedom of thought and of speech is something that Christians greatly cherish. This should be apparent, because our cherished freedom-of-religion rests upon these. Therefore, we take it very seriously when someone’s freedom of speech is circumscribed. Consequently, I think you will agree that those countries that have best protected these liberties are the countries that have emerged from a Christian heritage. Of course, you can point to many abuses and anomalies, but when you compare the Christian West with Islamic nations or even with Communist (atheistic) nations, profound differences emerge.

There are other reasons for this. The Bible is replete with instructions to love our enemies and to show respect to all people. The Bible also has a lot to say about being “light” rather than suppressing light. Consequently, we believe that the light we have is not threatened by those who oppose us. I think that this has often translated into a spirit of graciousness towards the opposition. Of course, there have also been those who have instead appropriated the model of theocratic Israel, where free speech was curtailed. However, we understand that those Biblical instructions pertained only to a particular people, time and place.

On the other hand, Peter (not the true name), you seem to justify denying us a seat at the public conversational table for various pragmatic reasons. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of your convictions, I would encourage you to consider whether this is the best posture to take. Perhaps the best way to insure your own access is to champion access for all?

Meanwhile Christians are discriminated against in many ways. TV and film only present negative portrayals of Christians. We are consistently presented as ignorant, narrow-minded bigots. Universities will not hire anyone who claims to be a creationist. IDers are disdained in the
Sciences, while the disdainers hypocritically preach pluralism and the acceptance of others.

Although I want to address all your challenges, I feel I have space only for one more. One of you charged that Christians are narrow and alienated from reality because we have placed the Bible between ourselves and the rest of the world. Let me therefore resort to the analogy of my eyeglasses. They too are positioned between me and the rest of the world, but it’s these lenses that enable me to see the world clearly. The same is true for the Bible.

Before you all jump on my analogy, I’d like you to consider the fact that we are all products of our social/cultural situation. As such, we are all wearing lenses consisting of language and other conceptual factors. None of us engage reality in an unmediated manner.

If this is the case, the question should not be whether or not we wear a lens, but rather, “Do our lenses distort reality or bring it into focus!”

Friday, October 16, 2009

How Did We Get Our New Testament Canon of Scripture?




In Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church, Stephen K. Ray wrote:

“Protestants must trust the declaration of the infallible Church to know which books make up their infallible New Testament. This is a great irony. It was the tradition and the authority of the Catholic Church that established their canon. However, while rejecting all the other decrees of the councils as nonauthoritative, Protestants arbitrarily accept without question the tradition establishing the canon of the New Testament.” (54-55)

Indeed, we are much indebted to the early church. It was the Apostles who authored Scripture and then died the deaths of martyrs to uphold the truth of what they had written, never once breaking rank to save their lives by denying the Gospel. Their willingness to die for what they had believed and written has profoundly authenticated their accounts. Liars and fabricators are not willing to die for their fabrications!

Likewise, we are grateful to our Lord for also using the early church to identify and preserve the various NT books. We are also grateful for the early church councils, which approved and institutionalized the selection of our 27 books that comprise the NT, along with faithfully promoting what the Bible teaches about Christ and the Trinity.

However, Ray’s statement is problematic in several ways. Although there is good reason to respect the historically authoritative role played by the councils, this authority cannot approach the authority of Scripture, as even the councils and the church Fathers themselves have admitted.

Besides, Jesus drew a sharp line between the teachings of traditions and the teachings of Scripture. He strongly criticized the Pharisees for teaching their traditions as if they were Scripture, declaring their worship to be in vain (Mat. 15:9). They could easily have retorted,

“We were the ones who identified and preserved the Hebrew Scriptures. You therefore rely upon this aspect of Jewish tradition, but then you reject the rest. That’s hypocrisy!”

Clearly, they had as little basis to make the case for an “infallible” Israel as Ray’s case for an “infallible church.” Furthermore, we find that the decisions of later councils didn’t regard the prior councils as infallible, and therefore sought to overthrow their decisions, and sometimes succeeded in this.

This observation calls into question Ray assertion of an “infallible Church.” While we can appreciate the critical role that the early church played, this appreciation doesn’t require that we consider it “infallible.” While God used fallible men to write infallible Scripture, He also used a very fallible church to identify the 27 inspired books.

In fact, it was really a no-brainer. The books that were God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) were very apparent to the early church, especially at the beginning. God made it apparent by miraculously attesting to the Apostolic authors:

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
(Hebrews 2:3-4)

Although we owe a great debt of gratefulness to the early church, we mustn’t minimize God’s role in this. Ultimately, the choice of our 27 books had been God’s sovereign choice. This is illustrated by the supernatural unanimity with which the thousands of churches received the NT books. For example, none of Paul’s 13 letters were ever contested by the early church. Why not? For one thing, Paul claimed that not only was he an Apostle, but he was able to prove it by performing the miraculous works of the Apostles (2 Cor. 12:12). Consequently,

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (Acts 19:11-12)

In light of this, it’s no wonder that the churches had little problem accepting all of Paul’s writings as Scripture. Indeed, there is no evidence that there had been any disagreement whatsoever about accepting any of Paul’s writings—an amazing tribute to the sovereignty of God in making His will known to the various churches.

This was also true for our four NT Gospels. Agreement about their canonicity seems to have been unanimous, even though the names of the Apostolic authors never appear within their Gospels. By virtue of this profound show of unanimity, it seems fair to assume that our Lord by His Spirit had also supernaturally attested to the Gospels. In any event, it is apparent that the status of the canonical Gospels had been so unassailable that even the 2nd century heretics chose these Gospels in favor of their own Gnostic Gospels to canonize and to write commentaries on them.

Ray suggests that without the church councils, there would have been no NT canon. This just isn’t true. The canon had begun to take shape at the advent of Apostolic writing. Paul had unequivocally claimed that what he taught was the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). He therefore, directed his writings to be copied, read in the churches (1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:11-13) and forbade anyone to teach otherwise (1 Tim. 6:3-4).

Clearly, these letters were received as authoritative by the churches. They were so esteemed that there had to be safeguards against forgeries (2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17; 1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18). Likewise, Peter regarded his own teachings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:2) as he also did the writings of Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16). John also regarded his writing as Scripture (Rev. 22:18-19). While Jude quotes Peter (2 Peter 3:2) as Scripture, so too does Paul (1 Tim. 5:18) seem to quote Luke 10:7.

Lists of the canonical writings were beginning to appear in the 2nd century: the Muratorian Canon (170 AD) lists the entire NT with the exception of Hebrews, James and 1st and 2nd Peter; the Codex Barococcio (206 AD) omits only Revelation. However, these omissions do not mean that there wasn’t already a vast number of churches that were convinced of the canonicity of these omitted books.

The church councils -- Hippo (393), Carthage (397), Carthage II (419) -- had merely put their stamp-of-approval on what had already become canonical for the majority of churches. But hadn’t the councils finally settled the question about the contested books? Yes, but even here, we mustn’t exaggerate their role. After all, the contested books (possibly Third John excepted) were all cited or alluded to as authoritative by 2nd century church Fathers. Besides, we have no indication of any controversy regarding their acceptance until about 200 years after the Crucifixion. The fact that such a long time had transpired before questions were raised might suggest that these letters had previously found broad acceptance among the churches which had received with them.

How then do we account for the later controversy regarding their acceptance? The churches had been separated geographically, linguistically and by a multitude of persecutions. It seems likely that these factors had prevented certain segments of Christendom from receiving the disputed, canonical epistles in a timely manner, thereby prompting questions about their Apostolic origins.

Ray argues that Protestantism uses a double-standard when it relies upon church tradition to establish the canon and then rejects church tradition in other matters. However, there is nothing inconsistent about this stance. Fallible Peter wrote infallible Scripture. Likewise, the fallible Jewish nation authored and identified infallible Scripture, but proved themselves unfaithful in other matters. If God had used Israel infallibly in one regards, it doesn’t mean that Israel is infallible in all regards. This is what Ray is trying to prove regarding the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).

Even if the early church had been infallible, Ray must then make another impossible leap to prove that this church was the RCC and that the RCC is still infallible. The Orthodox church might have something to say about this.