Friday, December 31, 2010

Experiencing God

One Christian lamented, “I would much rather experience God and feel Him close to me than to have a systematic theological exposition in an area of Biblical truth. In other words, I’d rather know God than to know about Him.”

Many of us feel this way, but few articulate our feelings in this manner. However, I don’t think that we can separate our experience of God from our knowledge of God. Let me try to illustrate. Before I came to know Jesus, I had a horrible and bloody chain saw injury. The chainsaw struck me in the head. When I raised my hands to my head to ascertain the damage and to see if I would have to push my brains back into my skull, I also found that my wrist was hanging half off, with the blood squiring out like an open spigot.

Laying in a pool of my own blood and thinking that any moment will be my last, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone. God was with me, and I was filled with such a love, joy and peace that nothing mattered, apart from the fact that He was with me and loved me. I was ecstatic. Even if I did die, having been filled with a sense of His sovereignty, I knew that He would be there with me!

While I convalesced four days in the hospital, my surgeon warned me that I would have to exercise my hand or loose its mobility, but I wouldn’t. I was still overwhelmed by the sense of His presence and majesty and knew that it wasn’t about me and my exercising, but about Him alone.

My knowledge of God was somewhat accurate but inadequate. I didn’t exercise my hand and therefore never regained mobility. I hadn’t been ready for such an infusion of His presence, and it proved harmful, at least in that one way. Reflecting back on that experience, I realized that if I were to always live with such a sense of intimacy, it would interfere with my living a constructive life. We first need the knowledge of God before we can adequately process the presence of God.

Besides, by acquiring a confidence in a Biblical understanding of God and His ways, we acquire a spiritual treasure of surpassing value:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:2-3)

Wisdom and a knowledge of God are truly “treasures.” In fact, Peter taught that God imparts all His blessings to us as we grow in this assured understanding:

• Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
(2 Peter 1:2-3)

The way we know God is the way we experience Him. If we believe that He will condemn us if we don’t attain moral perfection, we will hate Him. Martin Luther had previously understood God in this manner and confessed that he hated Him. I think that it was in his Commentary of the Book of Galatians that he wrote:

“My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would satisfy Him. Therefore, I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him.”

However, after Luther came to a Biblical understanding of his Savior – he came to understand “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) – his feelings about Him were radically altered:

“Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which, through grace and sheer mercy, God justifies us through faith. Therefore, I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

As his knowledge of God changed, his experience of God changed. No wonder the Prophet Jeremiah claimed that if we have anything to boast about, it is in our knowledge and understanding of God (Jer. 9:23-24).

I still think back longingly to my encounter with Christ 34 years ago. This is because it had been the last one. I used to wonder whether I was now doing something to block this experience, but now I know better. I know God, and that He gives us what we need and when we need it, although it might not feel that way.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dying to Self: The Way of Life

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Cor. 4:10-11)

Stephen was filled with the truths of his God. However, it was this that attracted persecution. Because his oppressors weren’t able to stand against his wisdom, they brought him before the highest Jewish court on trumped-up charges. However, in accord with their own jurisprudence, they gave Stephen an opportunity to defend himself. Instead, he masterfully helped them understand their present behavior in the larger context of Israelite history.

Stephen illustrated how they had rejected their first “savior,” Joseph, selling him as a slave into Egypt. He then showed them how they rejected their next “savior,” Moses, on numerous occasions. Once again, the Israelites had acted unfaithfully by killing God’s ultimate and promised Savior, the Messiah Himself!

Just in case they failed to get the point, Stephen compared their killing of Jesus with their treatment of Israel’s Prophets:

• "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him”
(Acts 7:51-52).

If we want to follow Jesus, we have to be willing to suffer as Jesus and His Prophets had done. This was true for the Apostle Paul. God had informed the skeptical Ananias that He had a plan for Paul, but that he’d have to suffer greatly in the course of fulfilling this plan (Acts 9:16). He learned this lesson well:

• “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”
(Philip. 1:29).

Job, who had lost everything, also had to learn this lesson. God taught Jeremiah the pain of affliction (Lam. 1:5); He directed the Prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute who broke his heart; He taught King David the value of tears (Psalm 13); He required the Prophet Isaiah to go naked and the Prophet Ezekiel to cook with manure.

No pain, no gain! In light of this, our afflictions and rejections shouldn’t be seen as tokens of God’s displeasure or failure to protect us, but as signs of His love. He’s promised that He disciplines those He loves, and that those who go without this discipline aren’t His children (Hebrews 12:5-11).

We therefore must not balk at our disappointments and afflictions but regard them as part of God’s grace-package. If we persist in grumbling about our fate, how can we counsel others to accept their fate! We have to be willing to accept hardship for the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2-3):

• “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”
(2 Tim. 4:5).

Hardship and Christian service are inseparably married. We can not have one without the other. Why not? Only the continual death of our self-esteem, self-righteousness, self-trust and arrogance can provide the soil for the fruits that our Lord wants to grow, as Paul learned the hard way:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Learning to “not rely on ourselves” can come in many different forms – insecurities, inadequacies, fears, addictions, and even “mental illness” – but it must come through self-despair.

Farmers look forward to the deep winter freeze to break up the heavy clay soil into crumbly bits so that the roots can penetrate. Without this, the soil remains too compacted for the plants to develop any depth. If we are to develop any depth in the relationship with our Savior, we too must endure the deep freezes. It’s only as our hardness is broken up that we can learn to trust in God, from whom all true virtue must arise.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freedom, Democracy, Secularism and Christianity

One skeptic wrote, “The only responsible way to make law is to ignore religion, because it would be impossible to please everyone.”

Well, it is impossible to “please everyone,” no matter what law we pass. However, our laws and values cannot be religion-free; they cannot be based on scientifically proven facts. This notion is entirely mistaken. Science can only tell us what is, not what should be! Therefore, our laws can never be free from our values/religious beliefs.

Here is another equally erroneous assumption – that the First Amendment to our Constitution, church/state separation, prohibits public religious reasoning or expression. A mere look at the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776; beginning of the second paragraph) should dispel this notion:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our Founding Fathers recognized that our “unalienable Rights” did not originate from the passing fads and whims of governments, which could easily take back the “rights” they had granted, but upon our unchanging and merciful God who created us in His image. He therefore retains a loving interest in our welfare, punishing anyone who violates it.

Not surprisingly, these same sentiments are reflected in the speeches and writings of our Founding Fathers. For most of them, Christianity wasn’t an optional appendage. It had to be part of the solid foundation of the new republic. In “God of Liberty,” historian Thomas S. Kidd writes:

• “Whether evangelical or rationalist, most Patriots assumed that Christianity would, in some sense, be the cornerstone for the preservation of the new American Republic.”

In his 1796 Farewell Address, the beloved George Washington reiterated these broadly accepted sentiments:

• “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars…The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

These sentiments were broadly held. Kidd writes,

• “Through the era of the Civil War most Americans would continue to believe that the Christian religion should assist government in lifting people’s moral dispositions, so that they might contribute positively to the freedom of the Republic. Even the skeptical Thomas Jefferson believed that Christianity, in it original purity, ‘is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty.’”

What a contrast to the assertions of the New Atheists that Christianity destroys everything it touches! Our second president, John Adams, who became a Unitarian, expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to his cousin Samuel: “All projects of government, founded in the supposition or expectation of extraordinary degrees of virtue [apart from Christianity], are evidently chimerical.”

These weren’t just the sentiments of American patriots. The Frenchman, deist and lapsed Catholic, Alexis de Tocqueville, extensively traveled the States, starting in 1831, endeavoring to investigate the stability and monumental success of this new republic. In Democracy in America, he wrote, “The religious atmosphere was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States.” While the French Revolution had taken out its vengeance on the clergy, killing more than a hundred priests, the American Revolution embraced the Christian faith. According to Kidd, Tocqueville observed,

“The partnership of religion and liberty lay at the heart of America’s political success. To Tocqueville, the American’s Christian ethos kept democracy’s worst features in check…Freedom by itself would inexorably degenerate into rabid selfishness, but religion nurtured the purposefulness of freedom. In the American model, according to Tocqueville, ‘freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights.’” (246)

This position is diametrically opposed to today’s secularists who want to silence and marginalize religious expressions and symbols and to reserve the public sphere for their stealth religion of secularism – moral relativism, multiculturalism, and religious pluralism. In contrast to this,

• “Tocqueville asserted that more than any other political systems, egalitarian democracies needed the ballast of religion. Equality of condition and opportunity, which was more evident in America than anywhere else in the world tended ‘to isolate men from each other so that each thinks only of himself.’ People in an egalitarian democracy naturally become consumed with selfish lusts and desires, exhibiting a greater willingness to harm those who stood in the way of their advancement. Religion, teaching the obligation of love toward God and man, created motivations essential to healthy democracy.”

Why is religion viewed oppositely today? Perhaps, as Tocqueville had suggested, we have become so “consumed with selfish lusts and desires” that the teachings of the Bible are now viewed with contempt and as an impediment to our immediate self-satisfaction? Although among the Founding Fathers, there were many who were either rationalists or deists, they were positively disposed to the Christian faith:

• “Tocqueville manifested a view of religion not unlike that of several prominent founding fathers, including Jefferson…maintaining that it was essential for the masses to keep believing in Christianity—or at least in good and evil—and in the eternal rewards in the afterlife.”

It would be wrong to assume that the separation of church and state reflected any disdain towards religion. Instead, it had been advanced by the majority of evangelicals who had been marginalized and even imprisoned by a state-supported religion. They wanted, above all else, the freedom to practice their religion without any interference from the state. Disestablishment of religion from the state would ensure this:

“Disestablishment hardly reflected government hostility to religion, however. Under the canopy of disestablishment and religious freedom, the churches in America flourished in astounding ways. Whatever Jefferson meant by his ‘wall of separation,’ hardly anyone across the religious spectrum in America believed that separation should entail government antagonism toward religion or the elimination of religious rhetoric or symbols from the political sphere. Whatever their personal convictions about religion, Patriots typically believed that virtue sustained a republic and that religion was the most common resource that trained people in virtue.” (249)

While the secularism of yesterday endeavored to ensure the vitality of religion and its continual impact upon the public domain, the “secularism” of today is the very opposite. It robustly exercises religious viewpoint discrimination in favor of protecting its own politically correct orthodoxy.

This is a secularism that seems to want to protect our “selfish lusts and desires,” at the expense of religious freedom. Tocqueville and the Founding Fathers saw in Christianity the necessary counter-balance to this self-centered freedom. We will see how it all plays out.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Evolution and Religion

A Response to a Lawyer defending the Dover decision to censure any mention of ID (intelligent design) within the science classroom:

You wrote, “Judge Jones should have focused primarily on the purposes of the Dover school board, which clearly were to proselytize for a particular kind of creationism, rather than to explore interdisciplinary approaches to science and religion generally.”

Censuring the Dover board because it was religiously motivated represents an unacceptable bias. Let’s face it – everyone is in the proselytizing business. Everyone has a worldview they’re trying to push, as George Bernard Shaw had correctly observed, “All good art is propaganda!” Atheists boast that evolution is their primary evangelistic tool. Darwinian naturalism is a religion, as evolutionist Michael Ruse observed:

“Evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity…an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality... Evolution is a religion.”

In light of this, the Dover decision was highly prejudicial. It censured one group as religiously motivated, but gave a free-ride to the other. Furthermore, it granted a virtual and repressive monopoly to Darwinian naturalism, sidelining its only opposition – ID. And what horrible infraction had the Dover school board committed? They didn’t even impose ID teachings on the science classroom! They merely required that a statement be read by the biology teachers prior to teaching evolution – that it’s a theory and that there is another theory of origins.

This decision will have a stifling effect upon discussion and the free exchange of ideas. It will silence any criticism of Darwinian naturalism, enthroning one particular religion in the science classroom. It will also embolden the evol.-establishment to act punitively against any who might challenge their hegemony.

It also encourages religious discrimination against potential academic staff, as demonstrated in the recent rejection the imminently qualified Martin Gaskell. It was suspected that he might be an “evangelical,” according to an email from a member of the search committee.

All Religions are Basically the Same, or are They?

“All religions are the same, and therefore, you can’t say that yours is the true religion,” according to postmodern religious pluralists. However, this statement doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Let’s just take one instance – the marital relationship. The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America ( seeks to give authoritative explanations and judgments on shariah law to Muslims living in North America. One Muslim inquired,

“Is a man permitted to FORCE his wife to have sexual intercourse with him? This is obviously when she is naashiz and unwilling to have coitus.”

Here is AMJA’s fatwa on the subject:

• “For a wife to abandon the bed of her husband without excuse is haram. It is one of the major sins and the angels curse her until the morning as we have been informed by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). She is considered nashiz (rebellious) under these circumstances. As for the issue of forcing a wife to have sex, if she refuses, this would not be called rape, even though it goes against natural instincts and destroys love and mercy, and there is a great sin upon the wife who refuses; and Allah Almighty is more exalted and more knowledgeable.”

In contrast to this, any form of violence against the wife is never permitted by the Bible. Instead, the Christian husbands are required to love their “wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephes. 5:25), “giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

While both Koran and Bible recognize that it is wrong for either party to withhold sex, the Bible (1 Cor. 7:1-5), never gives any sanction to the husband to force himself upon his wife.

I mention this distinction because it’s reflective of the distinction between the two religions on many levels. If we fail to acknowledge this, we might be tempted to allow the Islamic community to impose shariah on their own people for the sake of peace. However, there are many problems with this strategy:

1. This indulgence will not produce peace any more than giving Hitler Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) placated him. Faithful Muslims are required to impose shariah on everyone. This was the example of Mohammed, which they are mandated to uphold. Consequently, allowing them their own shariah courts merely represents a beachhead within a much greater conflict strategy.

2. Shariah de-criminalizes many things that the Christian West regards as criminal. It allows Islamic authorities to deprive human rights from those who are guaranteed them by their Western host nations. For instance, shariah sanctions honor killings and punishment (and sometimes death) for anyone choosing to leave Islam.

I write this way because we are not far from opening the door to shariah courts. Britain already has them, and this concession hasn’t shown any signs of moderating Islamic radicalism. The Independent (UK) reports;

“A senior Muslim cleric who runs the country's largest network of sharia courts has sparked controversy by claiming that there is no such thing as rape within marriage. Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, president of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, said that men who rape their wives should not be prosecuted because "sex is part of marriage". And he claimed that many married women who alleged rape were lying.”

Are all religions the same? Only when you close your eyes!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sexualization of Teen Girls

Sex sells, but the price is high, at least in the long run. On December 17, 2010, reported,

Television’s portrayal of teen girls is becoming increasingly sexualized, and places underage girls in physically sexual situations far more than adult women, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council (PTC).

• According to the study, “Not only are we observing women becoming more frequently sexualized, the data show a troubling trend in which teen girls are becoming the prime target of the sexualized content,” states the PTC report’s authors.

• The report found that, while older women were “more likely to have sexual dialogue,” a younger girl was “more likely portrayed in sexual behaviors onscreen.” Underage female characters are shown in sexual situations 47 percent of the time, while adult women were in a similar situation 29 percent of the time, the study found.

• Only 5 percent of underage female characters communicated dislike of the sexualizing, and 98 percent of sexual incidents were outside the bounds of any form of committed relationship, the group reported.

The study concludes,

“Past and present research continues to demonstrate the power of media as a highly persuasive device for delivering images and messages into our homes. Unfortunately, television often presents teens with new models of bad behavior, frequently within a framework that is void of consequences,” stated the study’s authors. “The result is that today’s youth are growing up with a media-market version of sexuality.”

What’s wrong with that? Well, here are several possibilities:

1. The positive, no-fault portrayals encourage ex-marital sexual behavior with its many downsides – unwanted pregnancy, VD, depression, loss of fertility and eventual jadedness.

2. Personal value is reduced to a social construct – what others think of you. When value is socially based rather than God-centered, it heightens the likelihood of manipulation and abuse.

3. When value is equated with sex-appeal, this becomes a prescription for insecurity. Those who don’t have it are marginalized. Even the guy who doesn’t date the “class queen” might feel insecure that he is dating an “inferior” brand.

4. Those who “fail” the sex-appeal test will either force themselves to try to “rise” to the modern standards of sexuality or experience insecurity and loneliness.

5. This undermines things that are far more important – character and integrity, the substance of enduring relationships. Society will eventually become what it esteems, pedaling image and superficiality at the expense of substance.

6. In long term relationships, sex-appeal is found to be more associated with esteem for the character or person of the other, rather than superficial factors. Therefore, our preoccupation with the superficial doesn’t bode well for meaningful relationships, and the gulf between our expectations and relational reality will widen. Ironically, as society has become increasingly more sexualized, it has also become more dehumanized:

• “McPherson found that between 1985 and 2004, the number of people with whom the average American discussed ‘important matters’ dropped from three to two. Even more stunning, the number of people who said that there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled: in 2004, individuals without a single confidant now made up nearly a quarter of those surveyed.” (The Lonely American, 2)

7. This preoccupation does not favor faithfulness in marriage, but rather a sense that we have to have it all, even if it means having affairs in order to find it.

8. By placing the highest value on the bud of external beauty, which fades with age, we set ourselves up for future disappointment.

9. Today’s media sex-portrayals will have the tendency of making us dissatisfied with our own non-glorious sex lives.

• “Coleman [a San Francisco psychologist] says that the constant cultural pressure to have it all—a great sex life, a wonderful family—has made people ashamed of their less-than-perfect relationships and question whether such unions are worth hanging on to. Feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment are natural but they can seem intolerable when standards are sky-high.” (Psychology Today, March/April2004, 38)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Disdain for Certainty

Admittedly, we place a lot of weight upon the safety-net of our faith. It illuminates the darkness, comforts, chases away confusion and aimlessness, and invites the blessings of God, that is, when we believe and stand upon it. However, there are many voices claiming that we can’t have any certainty. Adam Gopnik takes it a step further. He also claims that, in the absence of certainty, the church has resorted to suppression of the uncomfortable questions in order to enforce “unity”:

• “The impulse of orthodoxy has always been to suppress the wrangling [doubts and challenges] as a sign of weakness; the impulse of more modern theology is to embrace it as it as a sign of life. The deeper question is whether the uncertainty at the center mimics the plurality of possibilities essential to liberal debate, as the more open-minded theologians like to believe.”

Although it is true that orthodoxy has suppressed troubling questions, it is also true that, out of their confidence regarding Christianity, many have welcomed the questions, knowing that there are answers. Gopnik cites the example of the promises of Jesus, which are anything but certain:

“The Jesus faith begins with a failure of faith. His father let him down, and the promise wasn’t kept: ‘Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God [Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27],’ Jesus announced, but none of them did.” (“What Did Jesus Do?” The New Yorker, 6/29/2010)

Had Gopnik read these three parallel verses in context, he wouldn’t be able to cite them as evidence for uncertainty. In each one of these instances, this verse directly preceded the account of the “Mount of Transfiguration,” where the Apostles did glimpse “the kingdom of God” in its glory.

Gopnik also suggests that certainty represents an impediment to being “open-minded.” Rather, according to him, it is in the context of uncertainty that we can have true inquiry. However, this notion, although broadly accepted, is deeply flawed.

Inquiry demands certain presuppositions – that there are answers and that these answer will not impede further investigation, but will serve as a foundation for further knowledge. In light of this observation, certainty about things worthy of certainty is an aid, not a hindrance. For example, we need to first be certain that what we are viewing through a microscope truly reflects reality before we can meaningfully investigate a virus or the operation of the cell.

It is our certainty about certain true presuppositions that begets true answers. Of course, if we begin with the wrong idea, we will derive wrong conclusions, as when we start buttoning our shirt with the wrong button. Every subsequent button will have been misplaced. Does the Christian faith misplace the buttons, or does it enable truth to fall into its proper holes? C.S. Lewis stated something like this:

“I believe in the sun, not simply because I see it, but by it, I can see everything else.”

Lewis found that Biblical truth enabled him to make sense out of the rest of the world of knowledge, bringing it harmony. Similarly, our Messiah promised that if we continue to follow Him, we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free (John 8:31-32). This is exactly what has happened to me and to so many others.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why I Feel that I don’t Need to Sit under Darwin

Below is a response I wrote to a theistic evolutionist who insisted that I had to be more acquainted with the arguments of the evolutionists before I could reject evolution:

Since you’ve mentioned the 9/11 conspiracy theory, let me mention to you my friend Bob, who is a strong believer in this. Upon his strenuous insistence, I watched a DVD laying out the conspiracy case. I found that there were many things that I couldn’t answer—how the buildings came straight down, the presence of molten metal that could only result from implanted explosives….. Bob might think me close-minded, but despite all of the “evidences,” I must reject this theory. There are just too many over-riding considerations against the notion that “Bush did it!”

Thank you for your generous offer to re-consider the evidences, and under other circumstances, I’d be inclined to take you up on it. I’m intensely interested in science, but also intensely uneducated in it. As with the above conspiracy theory, I trust that there would be many details that I would be unable to answer. Nevertheless, there are so many other over-reaching considerations that make it totally implausible to me—as implausible as spontaneous generation—even though I had once believed it in.

This brings us to your challenge regarding “belief”:

“…it's clear that in every age and in every culture, nothing causes people to shut down their rational faculties more quickly than the sincere belief that God endorses their interpretation of his revelation.”

We all have our interpretations, whether regarding a holy book, spirituality, or even science. All facts require interpretation, and all interpretations are subject to our culture and our heart’s commitments. You seem to be suggesting that because of my Biblical commitments, I am more inclined to “shut down rational faculties more quickly.” Are you leaving yourself out of this equation? Are the evolutionists also above this warning? Are you suggesting that people who believe in God are more narrow-minded?

Some of us have come to a faith in Christ after years of struggling with doubts and adopting all forms of philosophical or therapeutic systems. I had come from a Jewish background and had been highly dysfunctional, so wracked by various life-controlling emotions that I couldn’t think straight. I was left back in school and had dropped out of college three times, unable to cope. I was a walking time-bomb, but Jesus has become my Savior. He promised,

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)

Among other things, he has set me free from my driving psychological needs—free to think, to enjoy, to weigh evidences. He has also given me confidence in who He is. This has meant that I no longer have the over-riding need to prove myself or to retaliate or become defensive when confronted with oppositional ideas. I am confident that it’s no longer about me and my righteousness or performance, but His alone (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, I can now see as I never have been able to before. C.S.Lewis had said something like this:

"If don't believe in the sun simply because I see, but by it, I can see everything else!"

Christ opens the eyes of the blind!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


For the vast majority, religion or spirituality equals self-improvement, an extension of our own ambitions to write the iconic novel, achieve the PH’D or to own a house with a swimming pool and a three-car garage. However, spirituality merely flips our horizontal, materialist aspirations vertically to the heavenlies. It adopts the idea that we can climb the “ladder of success” in a spiritual sense through our good deeds, our loving relationships, enlightenment, or just simply by learning how to be in-touch, whether with ourselves, others or with a universal consciousness.

I had tried to climb this ladder with a series of highly recommended psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists, each leaving me worse off than I had been before. Finally, I adopted a new faith – I would move to Israel and find the meaning I so desperately desired through my identification with my ancestral people. However, after this failed, I moved in with an ultra—orthodox Hasidic sect, the Lubavitchers, for a week, verticalizing my quest.

I asked many questions about this road and its promise of meaning and peace, but received few tangible answers. One evening, a young American approached me:

“Danny, I know exactly what you are experiencing. Last year, I felt the same way as you do now. However, there is a Tzadik (holy man) in Tel Aviv who can open up for you the Hebrew Scriptures and prove to you, beyond any doubt, that it is truly the Word of God!”

My heart leap! I needed to know that this – the way of fulfilling Torah – was the right path. By knowing that it came from God seemed like a big first step. Ben arranged a private audience for me with the Tzadik, and off we went. I found myself sitting opposite the holy man at a small table, as he studied me carefully and as his followers waited expectantly for him. They regarded their Tzadik as the ladder, the intermediary between God and their hopes and desires.

The Tzadik began to shake his head gently, almost apologetically, and it wasn’t in the vertical direction.

“You are not ready to study Torah. There is too much confusion in your life. You need to first find a measure of peace. Go live in a good observant Jewish community, and then come back to me in a few months, and we’ll talk again.”

“Talk again?” I hadn’t uttered a syllable! But what hurt most was what was implied. God couldn’t help me until I improved myself, and I knew that I couldn’t. Everything in my life had communicated this disheartening measure to me. I had tried for years, in many different ways, to climb out of my malaise, and nothing worked. My one hope was that, perhaps, there was a God who could do it for me, but the Tzadik had indicated that God wouldn’t climb down the ladder. Instead, I would have to climb it myself.

In desperation and also out of a sense of divine rejection, I screamed at the stunned holy man. However, in my heart-of-hearts, I believed that he was right, and that I was a flawed individual, beyond remediation, and I too was right.

Only much later did I come to see that this was true for all of us members of the human race. The only difference is that most people believe that they can climb the ladder to freedom, merit, self-worth, the divine, or enlightenment. However, this trek requires a trunk-load of denial. In order to believe that we can ascend, we have to deny the fact that we don’t have spiritual wings. It’s also to deny what should be so obvious to all of us – our self-righteousness, bitterness, jealousy, lovelessness, self-centeredness, and selfishness, often masked by our self-exalting identity as a good person, or a loyal friend, or any number of other veneers.

However, in the Messiah Jesus, I found a God who has descended the ladder for the helpless, even for His enemies. He promises that it’s no longer about us and our supposed abilities, insights, spirituality or virtues, but about His alone (Gal. 2:20; Romans 8:31-32)! Consequently, I’ve ascended the vertical, but it wasn’t alone; He carried me!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Should Sexuality be a Matter of Choice?

A Liberal MP of Canada, Charles Hubbard, warned that there is no logical reason for restrictions against incestuous marriages if same-sex marriage is permitted.

Well, Hubbard’s warning wasn’t fanciful. On December 17, 2010, reported,

• The attorney for David Epstein, a Colombia university professor charged with incest with his adult daughter, is defending sex between family members by appealing to homosexual “rights” as a precedent…Epstein’s lawyer, Matthew Galluzzo, told ABC News that “It’s OK for homosexuals to do whatever they want in their own home. How is this so different? We have to figure out why some behavior is tolerated and some is not…If we assume for a moment that both parties are consenting, then why are we prosecuting this?”

Same-sex marriage is a triumph of choice over principle – the consideration of right and wrong regarding sexual behaviors. If sexuality is simply a matter of choice between consenting adults – like choosing between spaghetti or ziti – then Epstein has every “right” in the world to have sex with his daughter and to even marry her.

However, in a world where “choice” determines sexual norms, the doors will swing open to more than just incest. As far as I can tell, during this entire sex-sex marriage debate, the Islamic community has remained silent. Perhaps they perceive acceptance of same-sex marriage as the removal of any possible argument against polygamy, which has been a major vehicle in Muslim evangelism. According to Shariah law, Muslim children must remain Muslim, and children born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father must be Muslim.

Therefore, we have heard that in Malaysia, a “moderate” Islamic nation, there is a saying among Muslims: “This first wife is for dachwa [evangelism – bringing more Muslims into the world]; the second is for love.”

The supremacy of “choice” opens the doors to other problems. By virtue of what, can there be a law that prohibits a man from marrying multiple, poor, third-world women in order to secure for them USA citizenship with all its benefits? By virtue of what, can society prevent humans from marrying their animals to get them health benefits?

And then there is the question of the age-of-consent! Why must it remain at 18 years? Why shouldn’t pubescent children also have the right to choose? Why should their families be allowed to exercise control over their decision making? In most places, the family has already been marginalized when it comes to school sex education and even decisions about abortion.

Should society leaving sexual choice up to the individual, like choosing the color of your shirt? There seem to be far greater implications to our sexual conduct than to our fashions. As adults, sexualized children have reported the disastrous impact that an early seduction has had on their lives. Clearly, sex impacts lives far more profoundly than eating a hamburger! In this regard, John J. Davis (Evangelical Ethics) writes of the work of British Anthropologist, J.D. Unwin:

• After a comprehensive study of both Western and non-Western cultures throughout human history, Unwin concluded that the record of mankind “does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” Unwin observed that a society’s adoption and maintenance of heterosexual monogamy as a social standard “has preceded all manifestations of social energy, whether that energy be reflected in conquest, in art and sciences, in extension of the social vision, or in the substitution of monotheism for polytheism.” (p. 116)

Sexual experimentation degrades its pioneers. No wonder, we universally find taboos against it:

• “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”
(1 Cor. 6:18-19)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Marriage, Yuk?

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that,

• about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete. And that sentiment follows U.S. census data released in September that showed marriages hit an all-time low of 52 percent for adults 18 and over. In 1978, just 28 percent believed marriage was becoming obsolete.

This growing skepticism about the marriage institution is associated with changing attitudes and beliefs about the definition of “family”:

• About 34 percent of Americans called the growing variety of family living arrangements good for society, while 32 percent said it didn't make a difference and 29 percent said it was troubling.

However, before we allow the vast array of alternative “family” groupings to prejudice us against the surpassing viability of the traditional marriage, I think we need to take a look at some statistics. In The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite & Maggie Gallagher assemble some impressive figures:

• HEALTH: “Both married men and married women feel healthier that those who are divorced, separated, or widowed, according to research. In their study of the health of men and women nearing retirement age, Waite and Hughes found that wives were about 30% more likely to rate their health excellent or very good than the same-aged single women were and 40% less likely to say their health is only fair or poor. Husbands showed similar advantages over unmarried men. Married men and women are also less likely than singles to suffer from long-term chronic illnesses or disabilities.” (49)

• SUICIDE: “Married men are only half as likely as bachelors, and about one-third as likely as divorced guys, to take their own life. Widowers face about the same suicide risk as divorced men do, except for younger widowers who are up to nine times more likely than married men to commit suicide.” (52)

• MH: “40% of the married said they are very happy with their life in general, compared to just under a quarter of those who were single or were co-habiting. The separated (15% very happy) and the divorced (18% very happy) were the least happy groups. The widowed were, perhaps surprisingly, just about as likely to say they are very happy as singles or as co-habitors—22%.” (67)

• SEX: “Married people have both more and better sex than singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more…Only cohabitors have more sex than married couples, but they don’t necessarily enjoy it as much.” (79)

• DV: “A large body of research shows that marriage is much less dangerous for women than cohabitors…1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households: married people are much less likely than cohabiting couples to say that arguments between them and their partners had become physical in the past year (4% of married people compared to 13% of the cohabiting).” (155) “Cohabiting women are 8 times as likely as to be unfaithful than married women.” (157)

• CHILD ABUSE: “A preschooler living with one biological parent and one step-parent was forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with two natural parents.” (159).

• IMPROVEMENT: “86% of those who rated their marriage as unhappy in the late eighties and who were still married five years later said their marriages had become happier.” (75)

• “COHABITATION [trial marriage] provides some but not all of the same emotional benefits of marriage, yet only for a short time and at a high price. Breaking up with a live-in lover carries many of the same emotional costs as divorce but happens far more frequently. People who are cohabiting are less happy generally than the married and are less satisfied with their sex lives. In America, long-term cohabiting relationships are far rarer than successful marriages.” (74)

Interestingly, many talk approvingly of the “wisdom” of cohabitation as a means to test future compatibility. The New Oxford Review also reports that,

• “One in ten survives five or more years…The divorce rate among those who cohabit prior to marriage is nearly double (39% vs. 21%) that of couples who marry without prior cohabitation.”

• “Men in cohabiting relationships are four times more likely to be unfaithful…Depression is three times more likely…The poverty rate among children of cohabiting couples is five-fold greater…and 90% more likely to have a low GPA…Abuse of children is 20 times higher in cohabiting biological-parent families; and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend.”

• “Cohabitation is bad for men, worse for women, and horrible for children. It is a deadly toxin to marriage, family, and culture.” ()

It seems that the Bible might have a point:

And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Genesis 2:18)

Unsurprisingly, Jesus endorsed the Bible’s teaching to retain the marriage union at all costs, acknowledging that marriage is part of God’s wise and gracious design.

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' (Genesis 1:26), and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' (2:24)? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)

Darwin: The Evidence

In response to my recent essay on Evolution and the Fate of the Church, one Christian friend responded, “Asking intelligent people to ignore sound evidence of [evolution] is nonsense and damaging.”

I’m not ignoring the evidence, and just to prove it, I’m citing below the testimony from leading evolutionists regarding just one problem of evolution – the fossil record:

• “The impression that microevolution is limited in its scope is confirmed by the comments of Wesson and others to the effect that the fossil record gives no good examples of macroevolution.”
(Lennox, 110).

“The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [should] be enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain.” (Darwin, The Origin of Species)

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as a trade secret of palaeontology…The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with the idea that they gradually evolved:

1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear…
2. Sudden appearance. In any local area a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and “fully formed.”
(Stephen Jay Gould, 111)”

• Palaeontologist David Raup, Field Museum of Natural History: “We are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species, but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time.”
(Lennox, 111)

• Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History: “We palaeontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change] knowing all the while it does not.” (111)

• Eldredge: ”I tried in vain to document examples of the kind of slow directional change we all thought ought to be there every since Darwin told us that natural selection should leave precisely such a tell-tale signal…I found instead that once species appear in the fossil record they tend not to change very much at all. Species remain imperturbably, implacably resistant to change as a matter of course – often for millions of years.” (113)

“All Paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.” S.J.Gould

• “No real evolutionist…uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.”
Mark Ridley

• Dr. Colin Patterson, British Museum of Natural History: “I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.” His response when asked why he didn’t include anything about transitional forms in his book, Evolution: “If I knew any, I certainly would have included them.”

• Dr. Gareth J. Nelson, American Museum of Natural History: “It is a mistake to believe that even one fossil species… can be demonstrated to have been ancestral to another.”

If the evolutionists themselves are skeptical of the evidence, why should not the Christian also be skeptical?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Experiencing Meaning without Knowing Meaning?

What is the substance of the meaning of our lives? Sean D. Kelly, chair of the department of philosophy at Harvard University, thinks that we can find it in the “small-scale commitments”:

• “…to find happiness and meaning, in other words, not in some universal religious account of the order of the universe that holds for everyone at all times, but rather in the local and small-scale commitments that animate a life well-lived. The meaning that one finds in a life dedicated to “the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country,” these are genuine meanings. They are, in other words, completely sufficient to hold off the threat of nihilism, the threat that life will dissolve into a sequence of meaningless events.”

Kelly feels that life can be lived meaningfully by virtue of our day-to-day experiences without a contextualizing, unifying belief system. It’s like living in two-dimensional space – enjoying a sunset apart from seeing its relationship to purpose, truth, and the fullness of our relationships. It’s being left alone with feelings, which sometimes might raise us to lofty places, but more often confront us with fears, failures, and disappointments. From where do we derive a philosophy that can ennoble and meaningfully contextualize life’s downside? How can we find hope in the midst of brokenness and our inadequacies? How can we love our spouse, after we come to realize that he/she isn’t the answer we had envisioned?

There are certain higher truths that we need to know – God is our answer (Romans 8:31-32); He works all things for good, even our failures (Romans 8:28); We’ll be blissfully with Him forever (Psalm 73). Despite his many unanswered questions, King Solomon also came to a different conclusion than did Kelly:

• Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
(Eccles. 12:13)

We were made for this ultimate relationship. Rejecting it is to reject all hope of meaning.

We can’t Logically Deny God’s Existence

The vast majority of atheists acknowledge that science can’t disprove God, but they’ll add that science can’t prove God either. Theistic evolutionists also join in on this chorus. However, some atheists do believe that they can prove that the God of the Bible – all-good and omnipotent – can’t exist.

They reason like this: The creation is sub-substandard (characterized by evil and suffering), therefore its creator must also be sub-standard (weak or sadistic).

However, this argument suffers from a fatal logical flaw. In order to say that God has failed the test – that He hasn’t measured up to certain standards of creation – their standards have to be more than just a matter of feelings or chemical-electrical reactions. Instead, the standards must be objective, based upon certain higher and unchanging truths. However, such standards are only possible if there is a higher Being – transcendent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

In other words, the atheist uses the absolute God to disprove the absolute God. If such a God doesn’t exist, then we can’t make use of His “non-existent standard” to disprove Him! To use His standard is to acknowledge His existence!

Instead, the Bible insures us that we can know God through the things that He has made:

• The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
(Romans 1:18-20)

There are also other things, like sub-atomic particles, that we can know based on their effects or “footprints.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It’s not enough to Merely State “I don’t Like Hitler!”

What happens when we reject the possibility that there are moral absolutes? I posed the question, “If you deny that genocide is absolutely wrong, on the basis of what would you resist a Hitler?” One moral relativist responded, “It doesn't matter whether or not Hitler objectively wrong, I would still defy him because I don't like him.” Here’s my response:

In taking this position, you are reducing morality to a visceral reaction. This is inadequate for a number of reasons:

1. Reducing morality to a visceral reaction deprives you of any objective basis by which you can work out interpersonal differences. To what higher, more sure principle can you appeal?

2. Such an orientation places you at odds with yourself. While your heart tells you that certain things are wrong, your mind and reason aren’t in agreement. They are telling you there are no objective moral absolutes and therefore everything is morally relative. Thus, you are at odds with yourself.

3. Such a schizoid position will render you ineffective in confronting evil. It is inevitable that you will be internally torn in two. Feeling that genocide is wrong, but not having any objective rationale against it. What will you be able to say to the murderer apart from, “I don’t like what you are doing?” He can simply respond, “Well, I do!” Without any objective standards to appeal to, society will not be able to mediate between the two positions, and our legal systems will erode.

4. Without supportive intellectual objective framework for morality (which you reject), your visceral judgments are no more than electro-chemical reactions and/or arbitrary social conventions. (“Murder is wrong because I simply feel that it’s so! Or because society, at least for now, has deemed it so!”)

5. While moral absolutes are unchanging, our feelings about things are in constant flux. You might be repulsed by the Nazis, but the next morning the repulsion will be replaced by fear for you and your family. If subjective feelings exclusively determine our moral responses, what happens to our moral responses when the feelings change? Capitulation to the fear! Courage is not a matter of not experiencing fear. It’s a matter of having something even greater than the fear.

6. How can society punish its miscreants if it’s all just a matter of changing tastes? What can we pass on to our children if everything is subjective? What right do we have to pass on our own subjective tastes to them? Perhaps they are inclined otherwise? What right do we have to impose our tastes on them?

7. If there are no moral absolutes, then there can’t be any meaningful discussion about law, legislation, and morality. It’s all just a matter of taste. We state our tastes and that’s the end of it. Such an intellectual vacuum will inevitably be filled by might-makes-right. This is what happened in communistic/atheistic societies. Lenin was asked, “What is moral under the communist system. He answered, “Whatever promotes the Revolution is good; whatever hinders it is bad!” Consequently, many millions of their own people were slaughtered to promote their revolution.

In contrast to your position, Bible not only states that there are unchanging moral absolutes, but that we all know what they are:

• Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
(Romans 2:14-15)

Indeed, today we know that we are neurologically wired for moral truth and moral judgments. Although we may deny the reality of moral absolutes with our mouth, we violate this denial with the very way we live our lives. Who then can take this denial seriously!

Evolution and the Fate of the Church

I was impressed by Bruce Malone’s DVD, Explosive Geological Evidence for Creation. He starts by citing some statistics about the direction of the church. Sadly, 81% of church youth do not believe in moral absolutes. From 65 to 95% of these youth leave the church entirely by the end of their fourth year at college. Perhaps even worse, 63% of the youth attending Christian schools do not believe that Christ is God; 58% believe that there are many ways to God; 65% don’t believe in Satan! Malone understandably laments:

• “By not emphacizing the creation, the Fall, and the Flood as real historical events; the Bible [and ultimately the Church] has lost all credibility to the world when it relates to anything dealing with the physical world.”

This is exactly what Christian evolutionists (CE) are not doing. However, you might question, “What does this have to do with the falling away of Christian youth from the traditional Christian teachings?” Well, in order to make room for Darwin, CEs have purposely gutted the Bible of what it teaches about the physical world and insist that the Bible doesn’t care about the physical but only the spiritual realm. If Darwin is just about the physical world and the Bible is just about the spiritual, viola!!! They can reside comfortably together without contradiction!

As a result of this retreat, the Bible only concerns the private areas of our lives and therefore can find no support for its beliefs from the physical world. However, our proofs and evidences of the unseen arise from what is seen – what we can see, hear and taste! Proofs for the existence of God based upon His creation or the proofs for the Bible based upon prophecy fulfilled in this physical world or miracles are disdained. Therefore, faith can no longer be supported by tangible reasons to believe but by our personal experiences and intuitions alone! Forget about the confirmatory miracles that God performed in Egypt, manna, etc!

In fact, because of their zeal for Darwin, CEs often advise humility and tentativeness regarding our interpretation of Scripture. I certainly don’t want to minimize the need for humility. However, it is noteworthy that the CEs do not seem to be equally humble about their commitment to Darwin. This imbalance creates nasty fruit. The certain always dictates how we understand the uncertain. Therefore, it’s the uncertain Bible that must suffer compromise.

Ironically, CEs are regarded as “compromised” even among the scientific community and are restrained to peddle their wares among conflicted Christians. I have never heard of a CE speaking in favor of his worldview to a group of non-Christian evolutionists. (Francis Collins is an exception.) Interestingly, the atheistic evolutionists seem to have more contempt for this form of compromised, insipid Christianity than they do for creationists. It's an incoherent Christianity that says, "God is in charge, but He made it all through RANDOM mutation and NATURAL selection! Malone summarizes CE stance very succinctly:

• “When you throw out what the Bible has to say about the physical world, the world will throw out what the Bible has to say about the spiritual world.”

And this is just what the world is doing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

U.S. Federal Hate Crimes Act

The U.S. Federal Hate Crimes Act passed in 2009 not only criminalizes hate crimes but also speech that could be construed to possibly contribute to a hate crime. Some Congressmen had proposed an amendment exempting religious teachings against homosexual acts. However, this amendment had been struck down, allowing passage of the bill without the religious exemption. However, according to (12/10/10),

An appeal was filed [Ann Arbor, Michigan] earlier this week with the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals over a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Federal Hate Crimes Act passed in 2009.

• According to a brief filed by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) “This statute is all about elevating certain persons (homosexuals) to a protected class under federal law based on nothing more than their choice to have sex with persons of the same gender, while marginalizing strong religious opposition to this immoral choice,”

• Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC adds, “Under the guise of enforcing ‘niceness’ and promoting ‘tolerance,’ homosexual advocacy groups have mobilized their financial power to purchase political clout which they now use to shut down any criticism of their deviant lifestyle. The truth is they are one of the most intolerant groups in our society and viciously attack anyone who opposes their point of view.”

Are the concerns of this hate crimes bill misdirected?

“The Thomas More Center says that even statistics compiled by their own “gay rights” advocacy groups show that the greatest threat of violence to homosexuals comes not from Christians, but from other homosexuals. They also show that during the period from 1999 to 2003, a homosexual was 244 percent more likely to commit an act of violence against another homosexual than was a heterosexual.”

Does the social price-tag of the cure (the hate crimes bill criminalizing speech that can be construed to possibly lead to a hate crime) out-weigh the possible benefits? According to Robert Muise, the senior trial counsel for TMLC,

“This new federal law…creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And secondly, it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution.”

This is reminiscent of shariah’s anti-blaspheme laws. Among other things, these laws create social imbalance, empowering one group over another, thereby causing social alienation. However, the intolerance directed against sincerely and traditionally held religious beliefs will only engender social breakdown.

And what is being achieved by this new and radical law? Beyond the immediate protection of the feelings of the LGBT community, it is hard to say. It is even difficult to argue that even the best interests of the LGBTs are being served by it. To demonstrate the absurdity of this contention, a new proposal by IPPF is instructive. On December 9, 2010,, is illuminating:

“A new campaign seeks to eliminate disclosure laws which require HIV positive individuals to inform their sex partners of their potentially deadly infection. The campaign is led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and UNAIDS, an umbrella group of UN agencies. Notably absent from this campaign is any recognition of the danger posed for the possible victims of a willful refusal to disclose HIV status. As part of the campaign, IPPF released a collection of interviews entitled 'Behind Bars', which implies that such criminal laws fuel stigma against HIV persons. Proponents of criminal laws assert, however, they are designed to help protect and prevent sexual partners from contracting a potentially deadly virus.”

Does such a proposal promote the welfare of LGBTs? The diagnosis, treatment, and containment of a contagious disease might bring stigmatization, but what is the price of failing to do so? Why should the legal structure be changed to shield LGBTs from negative comments, while putting their lives in further jeopardy?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Spirit World

How do I know that there’s a God? Well, I know that there are lying spirits (demons). This firsthand knowledge is important, especially for someone like me, a skeptic by nature, imbued with the Western prejudice against the world of spirits in general.

I have two cousins who used to do the Ouija board when they were 10 and 12. It terrified them, but we adults pressured them to do it at a family event. The results were nothing short of amazing. The disk raced around the board, as the girls placed all four hands upon it, spelling out words as fast as we could record them. The words became sentences, and then thoughts and stories, communicating things that the girls were incapable of knowing, even beyond their ability to express them.

We skeptics then blindfolded them. This didn’t impede their performance in the slightest. Even today, my family has no natural explanation for what we saw.

I had been so impressed, that I persuaded my girlfriend into doing the Ouija with me. The spirits that we conjured were very liberal in their use of profanity, but answered all our questions. I had naively assumed that they could be trusted, assuming that these spirits were ascended, enlightened beings who had evolved past any interest in lying. We asked them the big question – “Is there a God?” To this, they answered “Ouija!”

My parents had also been burglarized, and so we asked the spirits to disclose the identity of the perpetrators. They gladly identified neighbors of my parents. Immediately, I decided that I would take revenge upon them, but fortunately, the police apprehended the real perpetrators before I could take action.

I mention these things because many are as naïve as I had been. Young people especially are attracted to spiritism. It offers the quick-road to power and prestige at what seems to be a minimal price. Recently, a student told me of her own experiences:

As a teenager I often hung out with large groups of people varying in age, some my age and some adults and little children. One week, during the winter, we decided to perform séances for 3 nights. Incidences occurred, but for the first 2 days, I was stuck babysitting the little ones, so I couldn’t see what was happening. I was usually told the next day by someone in the group of by a boyfriend of mine at the time. He would tell me that he couldn’t remember because as soon as the praying or chanting started he would fall asleep and when it was over he would wake up to find that his cross hanging around his neck would be broken and on his lap. When the séances were on although I was in a closed room but I could still hear a lot of commotion going on and even some screams. I had to be at one of these things to see what was going on, so the last night of the séances I decided to speak up and say I didn’t want to take care of the kids that night. I sat with my boyfriend and the chanting/praying started. We were all in a circle sitting around the room I don’t remember holding hands. The person who was the medium was the same for all the nights of the séances. It was a woman and she would sit at the head of the circle in a chair and start the chanting and we all listened. Right away my boyfriend fell asleep and I knew something was going to happen. I looked at the woman and her face seemed darker so I left my chair and approached her out of curiosity. Why was it I could see her body but by her head it looks like a dark shadow was there, so when I came close I noticed her eyes seemed crooked and were looking straight ahead as if she didn’t know I was there. I called her name and she didn’t answer. Someone from the group told me to stay seated and they proceeded to talk to this woman but the voice that came out of her was a man’s voice and very deep. I was a little scared and tried to wake up my bf, but he wouldn’t wake up, so I sat next to him. All of a sudden out of nowhere, the woman started screaming and ran toward the kitchen. Some of the men that were there including her husband ran after her to try to calm her down but the voice kept saying he had to throw her out of the window. Finally after she was pulled to the floor and she was restrained one of the other people started praying over her. After that I decided not to partake in any of those things again, it was too scary.

Evil is real. If you haven’t had these types of experiences, don’t simply dismiss it. Its ability to disguise itself as something pleasant, even moral, has duped many people, as the Bible warns: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).

Evil is alluring; it promises quick results. Meanwhile, it asks you to turn off your critical faculties. Sandra Ingerman, a shaman, writes:

• “As you read this book and wonder whether or not what I am talking about is real, I ask you not to enter into a battle between the right brain [reason] and left brain [intuition]. Simply read the material and experience it...Does the information that comes from the shamanic journey work? Does the information make positive changes in a person’s life? If so, who cares if we are making it up?
” (Soul Retrieval, 3)

Immediate results trumps reason or any consideration of the costs further down the road. Nor is education any guarantee against naïveté. In “Mama Lola; A Voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn,” Anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown explains how and why she took a leap into Voodoo”

• “Although the Iwa [spirits] who possess Alourdes [the Voodoo priestess] are often called sen-yo (saints), they are not saintly types in the traditional Christian sense. For example, in stories about the soldier spirit Ogou/Saint James, he not only liberates his people but also betrays them. Ezili Danto/Mater Salvatoris, the mother, cradles and cares for her children but also sometimes lashes out at them in rage. The Voodoo spirits are not models of the well-lived life; rather, they mirror the full range of possibilities inherent in the particular slice of life over which they preside. Failure to understand this has led observers to portray the Voodoo spirits as demonic or even to conclude that Voodoo is a religion without morality—a serious misconception.”

However, McCarthy doesn’t explain why this is a “misconception.” It is amazing that while knowing that these spirits aren’t “saintly types,” she would subject herself to them. Nor does she attempt to think through the philosophical implications of her ill-conceived leap. If the spirits are the highest form of being and they aren’t very moral, then it would be pure hubris to try to be more moral. This might even be offensive to the spirits.

What happens to societies who have made this leap into spiritism? In the short run, they might find some immediate benefits. The spirit world is real and powerful. However, there is the fine print. It is no accident that we have no examples of spiritistic societies that have advanced, having hospitals, justice systems, and charities. Instead, these societies are horribly violent – a testimony to the type of beings that spiritism invokes.

Nevertheless, our mysterious God allows them a degree of sovereignty. Why? Well, for one thing, skeptics like me delight over tangible evidence of the spirit world. And if there are demonic spirits, there certainly must be a benevolent God who keeps them in check.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Have you seen the video of the food court where suddenly people begin to sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with instrumental accompaniment? It transforms the scene from a very earthly mundane portrait of people stuffing down their cokes and burgers, bought from the surrounding fast food stands – a scene as American and secular as you can find – into heavenly worship. The video is so uplifting that already five people have forwarded it to me, and I watch it each time with tear-filled eyes, praising the Lord. It has also gone viral – almost 12 million have already viewed it. Why?

Indeed, it’s surprising to be sitting in a food court, thinking about how much you’ve spent, wondering how much you have left for your next purchase, to find yourself caught by the unexpected. However, surprise isn’t enough to explain our reaction. We’re often surprised – sometimes by very unpleasant changes – and it’s seldom uplifting.

Nor is it merely a matter of hearing the Hallelujah for one more time, however lofty this score might be! There is something more to this experience, something that elicits some of our deepest feelings.

Let me take a stab at it, although it’s not easy to truly identify the logic – the meaning behind our deepest feelings. We were designed with feelings that serve as pointers to the transcendent. However, before you dismiss this idea, let me just point out that our everyday feelings serve us in this way. When we needlessly hurt someone and then feel guilty, our guilt notifies us about a transcendent moral law that has been violated. It serves as a fire alarm to alert us that something is wrong, and a response is required. On the other hand, when we perform a sacrificial act that truly helps someone, once again we experience something that elevates us to a higher plateau and tells us that walking in love is what life should be about.

I think that there are also feelings that bring us even closer to an awareness of the presence of the Divine. Could it be that, in that very ordinary food court, while eating a very ordinary dog with chips, a taste of the Divine was also made available, perhaps even a tangible sense of the glorious return of our Savior Jesus? Could the Father have planted within us emotions that would give substance to Biblical assertions?

I think it was C.S.Lewis who had argued that God had implanted deep emotional responses to certain Biblical narratives like “child as Savior,” or “the return of the one everyone thought had been decisively defeated,” or “the unlikely rescuer,” or “the triumph of the underdog.” Perhaps in accord with the implanted narrative, this prosaic food court was suddenly “heavenized” by an “incarnated” hope that we struggle to experience, but too often fail to allow to trump concerns about bills and the ketchup smeared on our mouths – “The glorious return of our long awaited Messiah!”

We leave wondering how we can make this experience real in the various food courts of our lives. How can we joyously see Jesus in all circumstances? Perhaps it exceeds our ability to be able to generate this awe at will, but we can remember and consider. The Book of Hebrews tells us how:

• “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Forming a Workable Worldview

People take strong issue with me, not so much because of my positions – this also is an issue – but because I express a high level of certainty and claim that these issues can be proved. One respondent stated, “I hate it when anyone claims that they can know something for certain!”

Although few will be so transparent about their inclinations, I sense that this cultural bias has been deeply instilled into our corporate Western consciousness. Even Christian scholars will write in very couched and carefully formulated terms to avoid the charge that their faith directs their scholarship and that they are over-stating their case. Others go further and disdain any talk of proofs and certainty. In “The Myth of Certainty,” Daniel Taylor writes,

“When people defend their world view, they are not defending reason, or God, or an abstract system; they are defending their own fragile sense of security and self-respect.” (25)

According to this statement, it’s all about personal mushy stuff, and questions of truth don’t seem to matter very much. Many postmodern philosophers claim that assertions of truth are no more than our own subjective constructions, employed to exert power and influence. This assertion represents a dismissal of any defense of truth, including the defense of the Biblical faith as mandated (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15).

We might conclude that Taylor also wrote his book to support his “own fragile sense of security and self-respect.” However, he explains that the reason is not to convince anyone of the Christian faith, but instead to reassure those who, like himself,

• “Have found in God, and in Jesus Christ, a proposed solution to the human dilemma to which they have made, with varying degrees of confidence, a commitment. At the same time they have been blessed and cursed with minds that never rest. They are dissatisfied with superficial answers to difficult questions, willing to defend faith, but not its misuse…Their relationship to this [church] subculture is complex, and only partly conscious, and they are both indebted to it and victimized by it.”

Is Taylor’s problem the result of “difficult questions” or the wrong presuppositions, the wrong starting point? Has he started buttoning his shirt with the wrong button, finding that every subsequent button is in the wrong hole? Of course, the mind is experienced as a “curse” whenever our worldview fails to congeal, leaving us in confusion and resenting the professed assurance of others. Sometimes the resulting dissonance represents a failure in reconciling the “dissonant” elements of the faith; sometimes it’s a matter of failing to reconcile our faith with the prevailing culture. Which way do we go? Do we reconcile the Bible with itself and then find ourselves even more at odds with the culture? Or do we try to reconcile those most central and important parts of the Gospel with our public lives and leave aside some of the harder edges of Biblical revelation?

A common strategy emphasizes the “spiritual” and personal aspects of the faith, those parts that can be reconciled with our public lives and secular culture. Often, this conceptualization divides life into two non-overlapping or non-competing orbs of influence. The spiritual orb pertains to what I do at home and in church. It’s about faith and worship. The other orb is the public one, which involves science and provable facts. Since the faith isn’t “provable,” it’s to remain private, until someone asks us about it. Then, our defense largely revolves around sharing our own personal experiences, rather than evidences and proofs. It also entails some degree of conformity to secular norms – evolution is a fact, we can marry whomever we want, and Islam doesn’t pose a threat since they will become secularized as the rest of us.

There is going to be cognitive struggle with whatever strategy we adopt. Although the latter solution is culturally more comfortable, it has its own problems. The conceptualization of non-overlapping orbs of life is highly artificial. For one thing, in both orbs, value judgments are part of every decision we make – whether we’re conscious of them or not – and Christian values and beliefs aren’t the same as secular values. When the orbs collide – and they will – this means dissonance. Here are some other costs of this latter option:

1. Peace with the world is enmity with God. By reconciling our faith with the secular world, we heighten the conflicts within our own Christian worldview. This will only cause greater discomfort with the message we hear from our pulpits. Younger Christians are leaving the more traditional churches in hope of finding a message or theology in more seeker-sensitive churches with which they can experience affirmation. This includes finding relationships with more like-minded people.

2. Certainty is undermined. These conflicts aren’t resolved by finding more affirmative churches. They reappear whenever we pick the Bible or even turn to God in prayer.

3. The secular formulation of non-competing orbs marginalizes and silences Christianity. How could it not! If Christianity is no longer about proof and certainty – and these belong only to the orb of science and provable facts – then there isn’t much to say in defense of the faith or even in defense of our Christian values and opinions if they conflict with secular norms. Our tendency will therefore be to adopt values which we can vocalize or else suffer marginalization.

In this postmodern climate, the expression of any certainty about our faith and its rational basis is met with disdain. We have overstepped the accepted boundaries! But how then can we communicate effectively with our culture? Are we relegated to merely a sharing of our feelings and experiences? Although our personal testimonies are important, they can’t be the entire story. Everyone has their own feelings and experiences. What makes ours any more valid than theirs? What then is the answer? It might sound simplistic, but this represents the core of our faith – “Trust in the Lord!”

Paul wrote about the contrary cultural climate of the last days and gave instruction to the church:

• “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.”
(2 Tim. 3:14-15; 4:2)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Persecution Narrative

A UK Christian blog affirmatively quoted a certain Anglican bishop who stated:

I do not believe that Christians are a persecuted group of people in this country today…If you define yourself by your victimhood you’ve got a massive problem…I don’t like it when people moan about being discriminated against…If people feel that the job they’re doing requires them to go against their Christian conscience, it could be in areas of sexuality or the wearing of a cross or whatever it is, then they have a choice to make, and if you feel that what you’re being asked to do is incompatible with your faith then you shouldn’t do it, but that isn’t persecution, you have a choice and you can go and do something else.

Perhaps there are good reasons to resist the Christian “persecution narrative,” but denial isn’t one of them. If you had instead published a study that demonstrated that Christians weren’t being silenced or discriminated against, that would be an appropriate response. Rather, you argued that we should even consider this question, instead of first examining the truthfulness of the charge of discrimination.

If instead he had pointed out that our Lord promised that we would have to go through persecution and that He has a good purpose for it, and so we must face it with joy and confidence, I’d have to say “amen!” But rather, you seem to be preaching that we should either deny or ignore it. Here’s why we shouldn’t:

1. We shouldn’t ignore anyone’s persecution. If Christians are loosing their jobs because of it, don’t we have a responsibility to speak up? Aren’t we being callous when we don’t?

2. If it is becoming illegal to raise our children in accordance with our faith, aren’t we required to speak out against such immoral laws? Don’t we have a responsibility to raise our children according to our faith? Yes, we do have the choice of going to jail, but then who will raise our children?

3. We need to be able to speak the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27-32). If it has become illegal, we can go to jail as you suggest, but who will instruct the church? If we don’t oppose such discrimination now, are we truly walking in faithfulness to our Lord?

Although we must be as gentle as doves, we also need to be as wise as serpents. Wisdom confronts viruses before they become epidemics. Statements like, “If you define yourself by your victimhood you’ve got a massive problem” or “I don’t like it when people moan about being discriminated against” serve no Christian purpose.