Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Power of Chance

According to the Darwinist, design just happens! It starts simple and then it becomes more complex. However, life can’t be too simple. Even the simplest forms of life require many different systems: reproductive, respiratory, digestive, reparatory, immunological, transportation and elimination system, to name just a few of the essentials. Regarding this, Bruce Malone writes,

• “The tiniest single cell bacterium is made from the specific arrangement of 100 billion atoms and is as complex as a city. It has a central memory bank, assembly/processing units, and packing/shipping centers. It has an elaborate communication system with quality control procedures and repair mechanisms and can produce its own army to attack invaders. Its protective wall allows waste products out while preventing unwanted substances from entering. The cell is filled with thousands of ‘robot-like’ machines designed to perform specific functions due to their three-dimensional structure. There is a master library, power plants, and trash disposal centers. If the DNA in a single bacterial cell were the thickness of fishing line, it would be 125 miles long…The entire string can be unwound and copied at three times the speed of a spinning airplane propeller without tangling the line…” (“Censored Science: The Suppressed Evidence,” 38)

Can chance circumstances produce such a creature from non-life, especially in light of the fact that there is no evidence that it even produced a single protein? What does chance produce? Can it produce a paper clip, a staple, or a toothpick? Can it produce anything I’d use on my kitchen table – a fork, knife, or even a spoon? Can it cook an egg, clean my table, or boil a cup of water? Have we ever seen chance put together another that we associate with intelligence? Can it write a line of poetry? Can it paint my portrait or sing me a lullaby?

How then can we believe that chance is responsible for life, consciousness, reason, and the laws of nature – things that are even beyond our intelligence? How is it that others can believe in chance? Intelligent and highly educated people?

Can they explain the origins of the single cell bacterium, life, or even DNA? Can they explain why it is that this universe is fine-tuned so precisely for life? Can they account for freewill, consciousness, or even our conscience that informs us about justice and injustice? They can’t explain any of these things, and yet they are convinced that it all arose by chance from an explosion that is known as the “big bang.” Now that’s faith!

TV Evangelists’ “Good News”

I have a lot of trouble watching the TV “prosperity” evangelists. Their “Christianity” is hard to recognize, and their Good News is personal success.

Recently, I saw evangelist Mike Murdock on TV. I was intrigued and wanted to watch further. His sayings were certainly catchy: “The Bible is not about destiny but about decisions.” He wasn’t taking about God’s decisions, but ours! We’re the captain of our ship! Instead, I like to think that God is running my life and guiding me down paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3) and sculpting me into His art form (Eph. 2:10). I began to think about it a little more, and concluded that our God does destine our lives:

• “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
(Psalm 139:16)

• “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases”
(Proverbs 21:1).

He even directs our footsteps! Strange that Murdock should get it so wrong. I listened further: “God will not give you anything you haven’t pursued.” But isn’t this teaching crediting us with too much? Paul claimed that we don’t even know what to pray for, and so the Holy Spirit has to intervene for us (Romans 8:26).

Does my life in Christ rest upon my pursuits? I hope not! I hope that He is applying a corrective hand over my pursuits, replacing my foolishness for His plan. James claims that we don’t receive what we pursue because we are pursuing the wrong things (James 4:2-3). However, Murdock never made such a distinction.

If it was up to me to chose the right pursuits, I’d have no peace at all. However, I recalled that it doesn’t always depend upon me or what I might pursue:

• “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephes. 3:20-21).

This truth does so much to remove all of our self-concern – wondering whether we are asking for the right thing or pursuing what God wants us to pursue. Then Murdock made another provocative pronouncement: “God never uses disease to teach!”

My gosh, I had thought that God had been teaching me through my diseases and infirmities! Could I have been deceived? I had thought that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28), even our diseases! And Paul seemed to have the same assessment:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

It seems that Paul had learned a lot through his “thorn in my flesh!” But perhaps this “thorn” hadn’t been a disease? However, it was clear that Job had been physically afflicted and it turned out to be a real learning experience for him (Job 42:6-8). David was also afflicted and thanked God because it enabled him to learn God’s Word (Psalm 119:67). He had also been prompted to cry out to God from his sickbed (Psalm 41:3). Hezekiah had been humbled in the midst of his disease and had found healing in God (2 Kings 20:1-3). Sounds like God taught him something! The blind man that Jesus healed learned that Jesus was the Messiah through his disease and healing (John 9).

Listening to Murdock, it was hard not to think that I was carrying the weight of my life upon my own shoulders. It was all about me and my choices, and so they better be the correct ones! I knew that this was leading somewhere. Finally he made his pitch. We had to send him $1000. I couldn’t listen any further, but I knew what would follow. I had heard him and other prosperity preachers before. We are required to prove our faith before God by stepping out in faith with big bucks.

In order to lubricate the process, Murdock let loose with another catchy phrase: “Obedience delayed is obedience denied.” This meant that we had to write out the check without any delay. The catch had to be reeled in before he could escape. But isn’t there a place for prayer or reflective consideration before making such an “investment?” Not according to Murdock! The check had to be sent immediately and not to one’s home church either. It had to go directly to him, as if he and the other prosperity preachers are the only authorized channels through which to receive God’s blessings.

Instead, the Bible gives us a lot of reasons to delay making hasty commitments (Proverbs 19:2; 21:5; 29:20). I was reminded of Jephthah’s hasty and costly vow (Judges 11:31-39). Jesus also taught thoughtful restraint:

• "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him”
(Luke 14:28-29).

Wouldn’t we too become the object of ridicule if it was known that we had just sent our last $1000 to Murdock to finance his fifth mansion? (I don’t know how many he does have, but prosperity preachers have a reputation for high living.) I think so, but this isn’t my main concern. I am concerned about those who associate this type of preaching with the real Good News and will become hardened against this News after they wake up - $1000 poorer – and find that they’ve been duped.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bible had it Right Scientifically!

My Response to a Christian Evolutionist (CE):

I’ll respond to one of your points that I think is central to your position and that of the CEs: “The science of the Bible is obviously the ‘science’ of the ancient near east, and is antiquated and therefore wrong. Instead, the Bible is about salvation and a relationship with Christ.”

With this bold statement, you dismiss whatever the Bible has to say about the physical world, including history, geography, psychology and biology. Why then not also dismiss what the Bible has to say about our feelings, thought life and spiritual growth? These are not independent of our biology, and according to you, the biology of the Bible is clearly a reflection of ancient “science.” I don’t see how you can trust in the Bible’s spiritual message after denying its message about our physical world.

Your distinction between the Bible’s teachings about the physical world and the spiritual cannot hold up under scrutiny. The Bible states that Lazarus rose from the dead, but all miracles impinge on the physical world. Will you then rule them out and declare the Bible errant in its account of miracles? Will you also deny the resurrection of Jesus? According to your distinctions, you must. However, Biblically, there can be no hard distinction between physical and spiritual truth. They cling together as sodium does to chloride to produce salt.

Will you also deny prophecy? This too deals with phenomena within the physical world. However, Jesus taught that He performed both miracles and prophecies to promote faith(John 14:28-29). If you deny the former, the latter (faith) is left without a solid foundation. If you dismiss the Biblical affirmation that God has historically fulfilled prophecy, then you deprive the church of important reasons to believe in the Christian faith.

Instead, I’d like to cite Biblical evidence that the Bible wasn’t corrupted by ancient “science” but instead foresaw the findings of modern science:

1. TIME IS NOT ETERNAL AS BIG BANG COSMOLOGY ASSERTS: 2 Tim. 1:9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

2. THE UNIVERSE HAD A BEGINNING: Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Contra the steady-state theory that had ruled science).

3. THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF THE PHYSICAL WORD AREN’T VISIBLE: Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4. LAWS: Jeremiah 33:25 This is what the LORD says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, (Also Job 38:33)

5. WATER CYCLE: Job 36:27 "He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams.” (Also Amos 9:6)

6. DINOSAURS?? Psalm 74:14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert. (Isa 27:1; 51:9; Jer. 51:34; Eze 29:3)

7. INNUMERABLE STARS: Jeremiah 33:22 I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.' "

8. COSMIC EXPANSION, ROUND EARTH: Isaiah 40:22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. (Scripture claims that the universe was created, rather than having existed eternally, as the atheist had supposed.) (42:5)

9. STARS AS GUIDES TO SEASONS AND GEOGRAPHIC POSITIONS: Genesis 1:14 lights in the expanse of the sky… [would] serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.”

10. COUNTLESS STARS: Jeremiah 33:22 states, “I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore. " (Also Job 11:7-8; 22:12)

11. THE EARTH DOES NOT SIT ON A PEDESTAL AS ANCIENT COSMOLOGY HAS IT: Job 26:7 He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

12. STRESS NEGATIVELY IMPACTS HEALTH: Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

13. UNHEALTHY QUALITY OF EXCREMENT: Deut. 23:12-13 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.

14. FOSSIL FINDS IN THE MOUNTAINS: Psalm 104:6 …the waters stood above the mountains.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Media and the Mosque

Why has Western civilization turned so viciously against its own Christian roots? Why do our institutions that started as Bible schools – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth – now mock the mother that gave birth to them? The latest manifestation of Western self-contempt is the embrace of Imam Rauf who is now a USA paid emissary.

In regards to Rauf, the president of ACT for and Lebanese immigrant to the USA, Brigitte Gabriel, writes,

“More Americans now know that Rauf, as recently as March, said in Arabic that he opposes interfaith dialogue. They know he is a vocal supporter of sharia law, that he says governments which do not employ sharia law are ‘unjust’ and that he has refused to label Hamas a terrorist organization. They know he has refused to sign the ‘Freedom Pledge,’ issued by Former Muslims United, which pledges to oppose retaliation and punishment toward Muslims who leave Islam. The more Americans learn, the more concerned they become.”

It wasn’t our mainstream media that has disclosed these unsettling but important facts. Gabriel explains that instead it was “investigative reporters, bloggers and watchdog organizations.”

Meanwhile, the mainstream media largely paints those who raise questions about Rauf and his mosque as simply fearful or, even worse, as instruments of hate. They are also referred to as “extremist elements” or just “ignorant.”

However, is it hate that causes us to question Rauf’s rationale for rejecting Donald Trump’s generous offer to buy their property so they can relocate the mosque at a less contentious site? Rauf explained that this option couldn’t be considered because it would anger Muslims! Is it extremism that causes us to be concerned about what else might anger Muslims? Wouldn’t transparent dialogue about the real nature of Islam also anger Muslims? And what does this say for the future of interfaith dialogue? Is it ignorance that would lead us question moderate Muslims about their understanding of certain Koranic verses like:

• [3:27] “Let not the believers take the disbelievers for friends rather than believers. And whoever does this has no connection with Allah…

• [5:54] O ye who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other.

Or is it extremism that would lead us to inquire about the Islamic doctrine of “Taqiyya,” which authorizes lying to the infidel in order to promote Islam? Perhaps it is a legitimate fear that would engender concerns about other verses impacting our 1st amendment rights:

• [33:59-61] Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and women believers to make their outer garment hang low over them, so as to be recognized and not insulted: God is most forgiving, most merciful. 60 If the hypocrites, the sick of heart, and those who spread lies in the city [Medina] do not desist, We shall arouse you [the Prophet] against them, and then they will only be your neighbors in this city for a short while. 61 They will be rejected wherever they are found, and then seized and killed.

Should we be concerned about how such a teaching might impact free speech? Why are we so willing to gloss over these verses and the potential threat of these teachings to Western civilization, while our Bible is customarily torn to shreds in the very academic halls it had once founded? One Nigerian woman privately lamented, “The media is crazy. They just don’t know Islam. They have no idea what it’s like living under Sharia law.” I think she’s wrong. The media does know, but their lens prevents them from clearly seeing what seems to be alarmingly ubiquitous – the intolerant Jihadist core of Islam.

Imam Rauf comes across as grandfatherly and reasonable, but as Gabriel points out, this seems to be no more than a neatly cultivated veneer for his naïve multi-cultural, religiously-pluralistic Western audience. Indeed, he endorses Sharia law, which reduces non-Muslims to a tertiary status and relegates Muslims who deny their faith to the sword. Gabriel concludes:

“Terrorists are only one manifestation of radical Islam. As Americans look even closer they will come to realize that the same ideology that produces a terrorist also produces a seemingly moderate Muslim who is dedicated to the advancement and imposition of Sharia law. They will learn that the Islamist in a suit and tie, who wants to replace the Constitution with Sharia law, differs from the terrorist only in the means to the end, not the end itself.”

Why aren’t we coming to terms with what has already become so obvious around the world? I don’t understand much about the European Union. However, no one seems to dispute the fact that they have criteria for membership. The Union just doesn’t receive every nation into membership. Instead, there has to be a fit. Is it therefore unreasonable to examine the fitness of Islam?

However, when Islam’s fitness is called into question, those who do so are dismissively labeled “Islamophobes.” Meanwhile, the media is happy to give time to any radical who has a new angle on how to deconstruct the Christian faith. Why this discrepancy? Is it a matter of crucifying Christ all over again? The Christ Himself might agree:

• "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
(John 15:18-20)

Ironically, it is the Biblical revelation alone that provides the indispensible foundation for the freedoms that secularism values. It is only the revelation that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and therefore have certain unalienable rights that can provide an adequate philosophical foundation for the Bill of Rights. Even the skeptic, Thomas Jefferson, confessed:

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” (Notes on the State of Virginia)

Can secularism also insist on these liberties? Well, it can, but not in a way consistent with its anti-theistic position. If all it has is a materialistic orientation, then we coerced into regarding one another materialistically! Consequently, all aren’t equally deserving of society’s freedoms and protections. Some of us are a credit to society, while some are a financial drain on society. Some are deserving; some aren’t! On the basis of what should each have an equal vote or protection? There is no secular basis! So it must secretly borrow from its hated parent.

As secularism continues to wage its auto-immune war against itself – Christianity – it fails to see that it consumes itself in the process. Welcome Islam!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bullfighting and Abortion

What can they possibly have in common? Not much, but the September 23, 2010 reports that they have more in common than we might suspect:

• “The socialist dominated legislature of the Spanish region of Catalonia was blasted by a member yesterday for caring more about animals than human beings, in response to legislation outlawing the practice of bullfighting. Juan Bertomeu, a deputy elected from the more conservative People's Party, observed that while one bull dies every three days in a bullfight, 57 children are killed by abortion in the region daily, a practice that is legal and supported by the ruling socialists. ‘You want to tell me that you have feelings over the death of a bull every three days, and there's no problem with taking the life of 57 children every day?’ said Bertomeu.”

I’m not particularly interested in Spanish politics and even less in bullfighting, but I think that this is particularly illuminating of our age. I too was touched by the reports of gulf-spill animal rescues. I’m also moved by all the efforts made to rescue a stranded whale, but I’m puzzled by the callousness of our educated elites towards abortion, adultery, pornography and the accompanying destruction of the family?

Does it represent a rebellion against Christian or traditional values or the assertion that “I’m numero uno, and nobody is going to interfere with my freedoms and pleasures?” What are your thoughts?

Spiritual Insecurity

We all want to be part of a group in which we’re liked and affirmed. We also want to be appreciated and loved for who we are — validated for our beliefs, attitudes, habits, tastes, politics, and even for our worldviews. Consequently, we usually choose people who share our views and lifestyles and tend to feel uncomfortable and insecure when others don’t share them. We either leave the group or learn to conform to group “expectations,” even down to dress and appearance.

Our sense of insecurity is often magnified when it comes to finding a church “family.” Not only do we want to find a worldview/lifestyle fit – a fitting in with the people – we also need to feel that we’re fitting in with God. More than anything else, we seek to find a community that will validate our spirituality, our relationship with God, with all its uncertainties and feelings of insecurity about our adequacies.

Nobody wants to walk into a church where everyone is speaking in tongues and where you too are “required” to do the same. To many of us, being part of such a community is a prescription for feelings of alienation and inadequacy. Others have fled from churches where everyone was saying, “The Lord told me…” Well, if the Lord wasn’t “telling” you anything, you begin to feel worse than a freak – a second-rate spiritual entity!

For a number of years, I attended a church that had regular “testimonial” services. People would testify of the goodness of God that they were experiencing. I found these gatherings particularly painful and often wanted to run out, but lacked the courage to do so. I had been experiencing intense depression and hearing these testimonials made me feel like a spiritual “reject,” a divine discard, or even worse, someone God had scorned!

These tortuous experiences have somewhat opened my eyes to the extent of spiritual insecurity (SI). Many churches have learned to capitalize on rampant uncertainly, confusion and SI. Instead of directly challenging these three viruses, they have taken the opposite strategy. They reassure the insecure that SI is natural, normal, and inescapable.

Instead of doctrine – it can create an intense sense of alienation from both man and God if you feel that you can’t believe in the same way that others believe – these churches emphasize friendship and acceptance of whatever beliefs, religions or lifestyles that you might bring to the table. Their sermons emphasize inclusiveness and disdain any mention of a “we and them” divide. Consequently, even though they might preach salvation through the grace of Christ, they are loathe to pass judgment on any of the other supposed roads to God or on any divergent teachings. Instead, everything and everyone is OK! It’s about feeling accepted and exploring together and not about arriving at the truth.

Instead of a dogmatic confidence in certain theological propositions – Jesus died on the Cross for my sins – these “emerging” churches assert, equally dogmatically, that we really can’t be certain about any theological constructs. Then, they baptize their conclusion with the assertion that thoughtful and intelligent people know that certainty is a myth. Well, if you can’t be certain about anything, then you can’t judge and offend anyone. (Besides, if you can’t be certain, then you can’t make the assertions that certainty isn’t possible.) However, this type of church makes many insecure Christians feel comfortable. Uncertainty and confusion are no longer threats to our spirituality. Instead, they have become our final resting place – “If nothing is possible beyond uncertainty, then I don’t have to feel bad, insecure, or alienated from God. I fit right in, and I can feel comfortable right where I’m at!

Uncertainty has been turned into a virtue. 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.”

Well, if there’s no certainty to be found, then the quest for it is ultimately grounded in our psychological needs rather than in a search for or defense of the truth. We can also argue that when people defend uncertainty, they are likewise defending their own fragile sense of security. Where then is truth? Is it no more than a figment of our insecurities? Is it just a matter of the way we feel? An Emergent church guru, Tony Jones, claims that,

“The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures [theological teachings] is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.” (The New Christians, 234)

Ironically, Jones is equally dogmatic and certain about our inability to be certain about God. God is merely someone to be pursued but never found. However, this is a comforting message for those who are confused about God. It tells them, “It’s OK. Actually, you are a more thoughtful and sensitive person than those who claim to be certain!”

What then is the answer for those who struggle with uncertainty and SI? It’s not the easy way of comfortable resignation. Instead, it’s a matter of pursuing the God who promises that He is able to make us stand firm (Romans 14:4). It’s a matter of asking Him to provide (James 4:2-3). It’s a matter of meditating on His Word day and night (Psalm 1:1-3). It’s a matter of entrusting Him with all of our concerns (Phil. 4:6-7) and then waiting patiently (Psalm 27:14). If God is God, then He is able to provide certainty.

Christ has expanded the boundaries of my spiritual comfort zone. I no longer feel that I need to flee from church, when I feel that the fit is lacking. I know who God is (Jer. 9:23-24) and therefore feel safe and secure. However, I must admit that this understanding came very slowly and painfully. But confidence about God is the most precious jewel:

• “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)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do We Need God to be Good?

My Response to an Atheist who tried to argue that the “happiness” principle is just as good a basis for morality as is God:

I will try to list several reasons why God is a superior basis for morality than your notion of “happiness”:

1. AUTHORITATIVE: For morality to function as morality, it has to be authoritative. There is nothing authoritative about “happiness.” Regarding this, the secular humanist, Max Hocutt, stated, “To me {the non-existence of God} means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their needs…If there were a morality written up in the sky somewhere but no God to enforce it, I see no good reason why anyone should pay it any heed.” (Understanding the Times)

2. PERFECTION IN WISDOM AND LOVE: There is little reason to follow moral dictates if we’re not convinced that they represent the highest form of wisdom and love. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to follow a morality based upon someone else’s conception of “happiness.” However, if we are convinced that the omniscient God loves us, we gratefully want to follow the dictates He’s placed on our heart.

3. IMMUTABILITY: If morality is always changing, there’s no reason to adhere to it. It might just be different tomorrow? “Happiness” depends upon our moods and culture, which are always in flux.

4. UNIVERSALITY: Morality needs to be applied consistently and uniformly. “Happiness” does not provide an adequate basis. It is capricious and differs from person to person. Besides, doing the things that make us happy isn’t always the same thing as doing the moral thing. “Happiness” can be appealed to to justify racial cleansing and sadism, depending upon whose “happiness” we’re referring to. “Happiness” is also myopic. It inevitably looks for immediate payoffs.

5. TRANSCENDENCE: Morality must be able to transcend our individual whims, wills and cultures and provide a standard by which we can assess all conduct and a standard for our legal codes. If it fails to transcend all of these claims and concerns, then each one of us represents our own ultimate supreme court – hardly any basis for morality. This will leave us with no basis to adjudicate disputes and to promote justice. It will fracture whatever cohesiveness a society might have had.

6. EXPLANATORY POWER: God can not only explain and provide a rational basis for morality, but He can also account for the balance of reality – consciousness, freewill, meaning/purpose, the origins of life, DNA, the cell, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the physical laws. “Happiness” lacks explanatory power.

I think that a powerful historical case can be made that when morality lacks an adequate rational basis, it’s inevitable that the ruling powers resort to physical coercion. Just look at the experience of communistic/atheistic nations!

Meanwhile, you have elected to choose the moral basis of “happiness” over God. However, there’s no escaping God. Even your paradigm points unmistakably back to Him:

1. The very fact that there is such a strong correspondence between what satisfies (happiness) us and what is virtuous points to an Intelligent Designer. I thank God that he didn’t design virtue as something painful (although sometimes it does require sacrifice.)

2. If “happiness” is your governing principle, then you must believe in Christ to maximize your happiness!

Even when atheism tries to flee God into the darkness of its mental contrivances, it inevitably runs into Him. There is no escape! This is because He is the creator of not only the physical world, but also all truth, wisdom, and morality. But why does atheism hide from God? Here’s Jesus’ answer:

• “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
(John 3:19-20)

I wish I could show you how Christ has unified my life and has given me such intellectual satisfaction. The way I treat my neighbor, the awesome sunset, the touching play, the edifying concert, and even raising children all fit together into a harmonious mosaic, a completed puzzle. I rise to serve my Savior. I shed tears, knowing He’s with me. I go to sleep singing His praises.

The Economic Crash: More than just Money

I don’t understand much about the economy, but I do understand the words of Proverbs:

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

We have been disgraced and degraded by the ongoing mortgage crisis of 2008. However, it was thoroughly avoidable, caused from beginning to end by a little three letter word – “sin!” According to The Jewish Voice and Opinion’s summary of former NYU Professor of Economics Aaron Levine’s thesis,

“The entire chain of actors in the mortgage crisis were guilty: customers who entered into loans knowing – or at least questioning – whether they would be able to fulfill their obligations; predatory brokers for not alerting their working-class borrowers to the fine print and teaching their clients to lie; middlemen who sold mortgage debt to investment banks and failed to warn them about the risks; securitizers who aggregated and then sliced and diced the mortgages into tranches that obscured their risky natures; and then bankers who employed hard-to-fathom financial instruments that left ultimate responsibility for loan repayment a mystery, even to experts.”

“The credit rating agencies gave triple-A ratings to the majority of tranches…despite the fact that the underlying mortgage pools had been made to borrowers with impaired (sub-prime) credit.” (July 2010, 6)

Perhaps we need to wake up and smell the coffee? Perhaps our God-less civil religion of Secularism needs to be reevaluated? Perhaps, as a car requires an engine, morality and material progress require a faith in God? In this regard, Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times writes about the conversion to Christianity of Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher, the radical atheist:

“Having noticed that the secularization of England seems to have coincided with its decline, he becomes alive to serious flaws in the reasoning of atheists, like his brother. He notices that post-Christian societies, like Russia, where he lived for two years as a correspondent, are coarse and brutal.”

We all want to be good, even those who don’t believe in a God. We get psychological kudos from being good! However, when the carrot of a shady deal is dangled in front of our eyes, we tend to forget about the kudos and feed ourselves with many convincing reasons how the carrot will serve up more kudos. One businessman recently remarked that he no longer wants to do business. It’s become too difficult. No one wants to pay their bills, and it’s always a fight to try to obtain the money owed to him.

Righteousness truly exalts a nation. Pollster George Barna ( found that among those who believed six basic essentials of the Christian faith, there were profound ethical distinctions that set them apart from unbelievers. They were less likely to engage in gambling and substance abuse. Even more profoundly, they were 12 times less likely to have an extramarital affair! This says a lot about honesty. It is also likely that if we are faithful to our spouses, we will also be faithful in our dealings with others.

Our modern flirtation with Secularism may prove our undoing. No matter how many additional of armies of regulators we throw at the economic crisis and its institutions, they are only as reliable as their moral convictions. Some leaky boats can no longer be patched. Instead, they need to be replaced.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Finding God in a Bar

Can we find God in a bar? According to Erika Eichelberger, we can. She relates her own experience at Revolution church. It’s the church of Jay Bakker – the hipster son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker – in young, trendy, and artistic Williamsburg Brooklyn:

“I haven’t met Jesus, as they say. But hearing Reverend Vince [Jay’s partner in ministry] was a religious experience for me. I laughed, I danced, I sang along. Gin and tonic in hand, tears streaming down my face, I felt pure.” (All quotes are taken from her article in the Brooklyn Rail, Sept, 2010, 7)

Why in a bar? Bakker explains:

• “Meeting in a bar is the greatest neutral ground in the world because you’re not on the street corner preaching at people and also people don’t feel like they have to come into a church, which might seem threatening.”

Sounds reasonable! Meeting at a bar might represent the “appearance of evil” to some. However, to the church-rejecting youth of Williamsburg, the organized church sadly represents “the appearance of evil.”

But is Bakker’s enterprise truly a church? A guest preacher there explained that,

• “…the pursuit of the God question has to be reconciled in each of us. And that may take the form of Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu or all the other religions that we think aren’t important to us.”

How can someone preach both the grace of the Cross and the needless-ness of the Cross at the same time? If we can access God’s grace through other religions, then Christ died in vain! Granted, any mention of the fact that Christ is the only way or that gay marriage is wrong will erect almost insurmountable barriers among Williamsburg’s educated youth. However, preaching the adequacy of other faiths is pointless. If people can be saved through Mohammed or Buddha, why not also through their own worldviews and lifestyles? Why does it have to be through one of the ancient and socially “approved” religions? Why can’t their consumerism, materialism, postmodernism, moral relativism or pop culture equally serve as a vehicle to God? If any of these worldviews can deliver, why then preach any of them? It would seem entirely unnecessary. Instead, just allow the youth find salvation on their own!

However, there are other reasons that this new breed of seeker-sensitive, emergent churches pursues this politically correct course:

• “…The more honest we are about the problems we have with other Christians, with faith, with religion, the less easy it is to demonize people who don’t believe in the same things we do.”

The less easy it also is to take a stand for what we believe, whether its for love or speaking out against injustice. Nevertheless, it’s true that we often use our beliefs in an insensitive way that might cause needless hurt. However, a more realistic goal might be to try to love others despite the differences. After all, this is the challenge we have to surmount in regards to our own wives and children. They don’t always agree with us! Maturity demands that we have to learn to navigate the rough waters stirred up by the differences, rather than trying to make believe that they don’t exist.

Bakker calls his approach “Christian agnosticism,” and it fits in perfectly with our postmodern culture. Basically, this approach affirms the experience of Christ but stops short of an understanding of Christ. If you cannot be sure of anything doctrinally, then you won’t judge or offend anyone. At least, that’s the reasoning. (But if you can’t be sure of anything, what then is there to preach about?)

However, these postmodern churches are teaching a schizophrenic-producing message – yes, they too have their theology and doctrines, although they are loath to admit it. You can know Christ in your heart, but not in your head through understanding. You can experience Him, but you can’t believe Him or talk and live like Him.

This creates insurmountable problems. While the heart loves Christ, the mind denies Him and remains filled with many contrary thoughts. Consequently, while they believe that they can experience the same grace through Buddha or Muhammed, they are rejoicing in the One who needlessly died for their sins.

This state of affairs creates cognitive dissonance, a condition where dysfunction is master. If we are a Christian agnostic (CA) and therefore can’t be sure what to believe, then we also remain unsure how to live. Do we cheat on our wives when our feelings tell us “go for it?” Do we lay down our lives for others? Do we turn our backs when we see someone getting mugged? In order to live heroically, we have to think heroically – clearly and confidently.

To be fair to Bakker, he does acknowledge some areas where he isn’t agnostic: “We have to make and manifest the very heart of grace.” For him, this means that we have to love others. However, this assertion is inconsistent with his agnosticism. How is it that he knows to love but fails to know much else? Besides, how do we love without the teachings of the Bible explaining the nature of love? And doesn’t loving God require that we abide in His Word (John 14:21-24)?

Consequently for the CA, love tends to be a very limited thing. It means that we mustn’t judge others, even when they need correction. Instead, it means that we must indulge their feelings and “needs.” The person with same-sex attraction is therefore counseled to follow his inclinations. After all, this is who he is! However, would they also counsel the pedophile and the adulterer this way? Perhaps not, but this would open them up for a charge of having a “double-standard.”

I’m glad Erika has had what seems to be a taste of Christ. I pray that she and her church will find that living without objective Biblical truth is like trying to operate a one-winged plane. I also pray that when they crash, they will begin to seek His truth, not just experiential “truth.”

Euthyphro’s Dilemma: My Response to an Atheist

You responded that there are two options: “a) either an intelligent agent (gods or humans) arbitrarily decides what is right or wrong; or b) all intelligent agents recognize that something is good or wrong, which means they turn to some other source of moral knowledge outside of themselves.”

Let me try to restate this: If God DISCOVERS morality, then God is less than God; if God CREATES (or chooses) morality and then imposes it upon us, He is an arbitrary despot. I tried to answer that this isn’t a question of either-or, but both! Morality is not arbitrary or antecedent to God, because it finds its origin within the Being of God. It’s also freely and willfully endorsed by God.

The only objection that you raised against this understanding is that it’s not possible for God to embody both. Ironically, it’s the atheist’s butt that “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” finds particularly succulent. You concluded, “God is still superfluous to make someone a moral individual.” However, according to Euthyphro, the atheist CAN’T be a moral individual. Here’s why. The atheist must also either create or discover his morality. However, the atheist rejects the idea of discovering morality, because this implies that there is a higher moral truth that exists independent of human will. It also implies a moral truth Giver.

However, the atheist also hesitates to create his own morality, knowing that it would be completely arbitrary and therefore meaningless. Where then does this leave the atheist? He must find some middle ground. However, you correctly pointed out that there isn’t any middle ground—morality is either humanly CREATED or DISCOVERED.

What then to do? Create a middle position! Here are several:

1. PRAGMATISM/UTILITARIANISM (The maximum good for the majority of people): However, this solution is disingenuous. It secretly smuggles in a discovered good (that there is something that is good, namely the maximum good for the maximum number of people) and tries to dress it up as the product of intellect.

2. THE ACCUMULATED WISDOM OF EVOLUTION OR CIVILIZATION: However, we must ask, “wisdom regarding what?” Again we must start with a discovered value. (Why even survive? Pass on our genes? Procreate? Love? Why not kill or exert my own dominance?) Even if there is survival wisdom in evolution or civilization, why bother to follow it? Why should their lessons be authoritative for us today? We get on airplanes and overcome gravity. Why not also overcome the archaic “wisdom” of evolution or civilization?

3. ENLIGHTENED SELFISHNESS (If I am selfish in a wise way, I will also be moral.): The first obvious problem is that we can’t always derive moral living through selfishness. Besides, this formulation also is parasitic upon some idea of a discovered morality. How do we know that enlightened selfishness (ES) will produce moral good unless there is first a standard of moral good by which to measure ES?

The Bible talks about the evil who dig a pit for their enemies but inevitably fall into it themselves. Euthyphro is your problem, not mine! This is God’s world. By denying Him, the atheist digs a pit for himself. He denies moral absolutes, but is coerced to sneak an inferior product in through the back door. In doing so, he stumbles into his own pit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Letter to a Faithful Atheist: We are all Men of Faith

In your Faith & Reason essay (; reprinted in PIQUE, June 2009), you wrote:

“Faith means that one believes something regardless or even in spite of the evidence. This, I should think, is so irrational, and potentially so bad for one’s health, that educators and policy makers would be very worried…”

You might be surprised to hear that most Evangelicals would agree with you in this matter. We don’t follow any faith, but a particular revelation supported by a solid evidential and rational foundation. Nor does this position represent a modernization of our faith. Jesus taught that He shouldn’t be believed if His words lacked evidential support. However, He then reasoned that His teachings should be accepted, citing various lines of evidence (John 5:31-38).

This is the uniform testimony of Scripture. Someone was only to be received as a prophet if he prophesied correctly 100% of the time (Deut. 18:19-22). The people of Berea were honored because they didn’t automatically accept everything the Apostle Paul had to say but checked out everything against Scripture (Acts 17:10-11). You might suppose that this form of proof or evidence is circular. However, according to the thinking of the ancients, Scripture had been thoroughly validated by the presence of God as evidenced by His miracles. (Sadly, this misconception about “faith” still reigns in many quarters of the church – so how can I blame the atheist for this misconception.)

But you also dismiss the miraculous. At the end of your essay, you affirmatively cite the Deistic Ethan Allen:

“In those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue.”

I would gladly recite for you my own personal experiences with the supernatural, but you would simply brush them aside. So let me leave you with some questions and observations that I think are better answered by the supernatural than the natural:

1. How do we explain the origin of the universe? Whether it sprang into existence from nothing or else it always existed, it would seem that we have to resort to supernatural explanation.

2. There is no natural explanation for the origin of natural laws, nor can there be. No natural explanation is possible before the “natural” exists.

3. The existence of freewill and consciousness seems to point to the existence of the super-natural.

4. In our world of molecules-in-motion, we find that there are certain unchanging things—laws, logic, reason… How can naturalism account for these? How can it account for itself? It makes more sense to appeal to something Other, Someone beyond the Big Bang?

5. Likewise, naturalism can’t account for DNA, life, and the first cell with all its necessary machinery, nor is there any promise that it ever will. The assertion that someday, it will provide explanations is a religious assertion.

These observations should open the door to the consideration of something above the natural. Furthermore, there is no evidence that we are even dealing with natural, unintelligent, free-standing laws. These laws may simply find their being and operation in the mind of God! The reductionistic thinking that eliminates consideration of miracles and the supernatural is not only needless, but also counter-evidential. Rather than having a basis in science and reason, your position reflects a religious commitment.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Idolatry: The Present Style

Are there such things as natural laws? Not according to Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Vern Poythress, who argues that our laws of physics possess the same qualities as does our God, thereby pointing to their other-world-ness. Here are some of his observations:

1. “The law, if it really is law and is correctly formulated and qualified, holds for all times and all places. The classic terms are omnipresence (all places) and eternity (all times). Law has these two attributes that are classically attributed to God.”

Whenever we move away from a temporal non-transcendent source of energy, like a bonfire, its energy becomes less. Instead, it seems that our laws seamlessly surround us, exercising the same influence in any location. This would argue for transcendence.

2. “The law does not change with time. It is immutable. A supposed ‘law’ that did change with time would not really be ‘the law.’”

This is in contrast to everything within our universe. We are told that every atom is in motion and subject to change. Not so our laws! They act upon the universe, but the universe does not act upon them!

3. “Laws are at bottom ideational in character. We do not literally see a law, but only the effects of the law on the material world…Real laws, as opposed to scientists’ approximation of them, are also absolutely, infallibly true. Truthfulness is also an attribute of God.”

4. “The universe…conforms to laws already there, laws that are discovered rather than invented…If they are truly universal, they are not violated. No event escapes their ‘hold’ or dominion. The power of these real laws is absolute, in fact, infinite. In classical language, the law is omnipotent (‘all-powerful’). If law is omnipotent and universal, there are truly no exceptions.”

How peculiar that our mighty universe does not act upon the laws, but the laws act upon it, without exception. The powerful and uniform exercise of the laws points to a reality beyond this universe.

5. “The law is both transcendent and immanent. It transcends the creatures of the world by exercising power over them, conforming them to its dictates…Transcendence and immanence are characteristics of God.”

If our laws do not show the usual characteristics of our universe and even act independently and authoritatively over it, it seems like they transcend our universe.

6. “Law implies a law-giver. Someone must think the law and enforce it, if it is to be effective….Rationality is a sine qua non for scientific law. But, as we know, rationality belongs to persons, not to rocks, trees, and subpersonal creatures. If the law is rational, which scientists assume it is, then it is also personal.”

There is no evidence that natural un-intelligent forces create order from disorder, functionality from chaos, knowledge from chance, unguided events. Only intelligent persons do that.

7. “Law does not play tricks, deliberately hiding itself and giving anomalous results simply to confound the researcher. ‘Nature’ plays fair. Or, to put it more deeply. God ‘plays fair.’ All scientists, to continue with sanity in their research, must believe that the laws of the universe ‘play fair with them.’”

Our laws seem as if they are begging to be discovered and known, as is our God.

8. “The beauty of God is reflected in what He has made…Beauty is also displayed in the harmony among the different areas of science, and the harmony between mathematics and science that scientists rely on whenever they use a mathematical formula to describe a physical process.”

Their elegance is truly profound. A few numbers and letters – E = MC squared or F (force) = ma – are able to capture complex phenomena in a wink. This is an indication of intelligence.

Understandably, Poythress believes that those who refuse to recognize the divine nature of our laws are guilty of a modern variety of idolatry – a willful substitution of the creation (laws of nature) for the Creator:

• “Modern people may no longer make idols in the form of physical images, but their very idea of ‘scientific law’ is an idolatrous twisting of their knowledge of God.” (All the quotations are taken from Redeeming Science, 17-27.)

If he is right – and I think he is – the West has succumbed to a new variety of a very old religion. Philosophical naturalism (PN) has won over the classroom and the media, to the extent that it exercises a virtual monopoly over thought, speech and education. Consequently, anyone who tries to introduce God into a discussion is guilty of trying to impose his faith on others. Ironically, it is this new idolatry that is exercising monopolistic thought-control.

PN usually retorts, “Well, we might not have a natural answer now for the origin and exercise of the natural laws, but we will have one. Just look at all science has accomplished. It’s just a matter of time!”

Blind faith or science? Science and its accomplishments are one thing, but PN is entirely another. While science has done nothing to prove PN, science points ever more strenuously to the Transcendent, as Poythress has pointed out.

This however, is only the beginning of PN’s problems. To be a credible theory, it must also explain the origins of life, DNA, the cell, consciousness, freewill, the fine-tuning of the universe, and logic. It attempts to do this by invoking a different incredible explanation for each. It seems that it might just be easier to give God a second look.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Lives Might Look Bad, But…

This weekend I acted poorly and was distressed because of it. Paul’s words came alive for me with renewed profundity:

• “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:18-24).

How true! “What a wretched man I am!” My only hope is in Christ and His righteousness – in His forgiveness and the free gift of life He bestows on those willing to trust in Him alone! But we get so tired of waiting for Him to do something – to rid us of our embarrassingly sinful impulses.

Some, however, regard these verses as describing Paul’s pre-Christ experience. Well, it does, but it also describes his post-Christ experience! Just look at Paul’s conclusion after his reconciliation to Jesus:

• “Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25).

And this follows right after his praise of Jesus, suggesting that his bodily slavery to sin is a New Testament reality! While our minds have been set free to repent and to call upon the mercies of our Savior, sin’s powerful tentacles continue to so easily wrap around us. Elsewhere, Paul describes this excruciating post-Christ battle against sin, which we must endure:

• “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17).

But why does He make us wait so long? David complained about this very thing:

• “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-6).

However, David also realized that his grief wasn’t the end of the story. He was assured that deliverance would come in God’s time:

• “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

But why wait at all? Jesus waited when He received a report that He had to come quickly because Lazarus was dying. In fact, He waited so long that, when He finally did arrive at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. In the process, many tears had been shed as disbelief set up its reign in the hearts of believers. When Mary saw Jesus, she lamented, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:32).

It was certainly not because of a lack of compassion that Jesus had delayed. In fact, He too wept at the mournful spectacle (11:35). Instead, it was for their benefit that He had delayed. He explained that it was to manifest “the glory of God” (John 11:4) so that His people might truly believe. Jesus therefore prayed:

• “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me" (John 11:42).

In this busy world of ours, it is hard to recognize that Jesus is truly the “resurrection and the life.” We therefore need trials, especially those that refuse to budge, to remind us of our helplessness and His sufficiency (John 15:4-5). We only ask for directions when we know we’re lost. We need to know that we’re lost, helpless, and weak so that we’ll seek His strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10) and fasten our eyes on His glory (Hebrews 6:15; 1 Peter 1:7-8).

But aren’t we supposed to be new creations in Christ? Isn’t the church supposed to show forth His glory? It seems that something is going wrong! Well, there is a lot wrong with our lives, but in God’s eyes – and also in the eyes of those He opens -- there’s also a lot right (1 Cor. 6:11).

Balaam, the prophet-for-hire, was called upon by King Balak to curse Israel. However, God had warned Balaam that he could only pronounce those things that God would show him. What Balaam saw was absolutely incredible – Israel from God’s perspective and not the Israel that we see from the historical narrative. His eyes now open to spiritual realities, Balaam marveled,

• “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel” (Numbers 23:21, NKJV).

This is a blatant contradiction of what other verses reveal about Israel, or is it? If this physical world is the only reality, then this is a contradiction. But if there is another reality, a transcendent one, then both portraits of Israel can be true.

In fact, the Bible is chocked full of these dual messages of our failure and our glory. After Paul criticizes the Corinthian church for their various condemnable sins, he assures them,

• “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

I wasn’t that the Corinthians were sinless or even better people than the surrounding Gentiles – they weren’t (1 Cor. 1:26-29)! However, they had the sanctifying God in their midst, and this made them new creations, even if others didn’t see it.

We are shown the foibles of our Patriarchs and Lot, who had been living a compromised life in Sodom. Afterwards, his daughters got him drunk and had sex with him. But who could blame them after what he had done! He had tried to offer his precious virgin daughters to a ravenous mob (Gen. 19)! Nevertheless, this earthly reality wasn’t what ultimately defined Lot. Instead, God regarded him as “righteous” (2 Peter 2:7).

The examples of this strange and glorious duality cover the pages of Scripture. Just look at the examples of faith that Hebrews 11 highlights. They weren’t very exemplary in human terms, but our mysterious God is evidently thrilled with them. Here’s the lesson that we need to take away from these revelations. There’s more than what meets our eyes! Therefore, we mustn’t despair of ourselves or our church, but we must pry our eyelids open to see the greater reality – the reality that God sees.

But won’t this understanding take away our incentive to change? It didn’t Paul. He clearly saw both realities – his sin-infested flesh and his glorious God-given status – but he was arguably the hardest working missionary (1 Cor. 15:10). He realized that he was fated to be a “winner,” and he lived that way! By mourning over our earthly condition and rejoicing in our heavenly, we have been given a winning combination – in many respects!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Communication Skills don’t Cut through Self-Delusion

I’m not a big believer in communication skills training. I know that for me the problems had been much deeper. We are all in the business of trying to prove ourselves. However, because of intense feelings of shame and inadequacy, I had been working overtime in trying to build my self-esteem and self-trust. However, in order to believe in myself, I had to deny and suppress the counter-evidence, evidences that disqualified my belief in self – my selfishness, self-centeredness, failures and need to always promote myself and to be right.

Just to illustrate this point, one psychological survey – and there are many like this one – interviewed husbands and their wives separately asking, “What percent of the housework do you do.” Husbands would characteristically answer between 30-50%, while their wives would answer 90-95%! Add the totals and we find that probably both parties have an inflated estimation of what they do. If it is the case that we have such distorted perceptions of ourselves and our contributions, no amount of communication skills will be able to compensate for our denials, our refusals to accept ourselves as we truly are. Consequently, such skills are co-opted by our hardened, deceived hearts for manipulative purposes.

We need to convince ourselves that we are significant people. This required me to feed myself on a lot of delusional self-affirmations that tended to alienate me from both life and viable relationships. Relationship depends upon shared truth – the only basis for communication and intimacy. It’s hard to relate to someone who believes that he is Julius Caesar or is in deep denial in some other respect. It requires that we enter into the fantasy world of another. After a while, this will feel burdensome. Instead, we desire to relate freely in an unencumbered way, without compulsion to make-believe and indulge someone else in their fantasies, against our best judgment.

In Euthanasia, the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck commented that the vast number of terminally ill he had worked with were in denial. Sadly, this precluded any possibility of reconciliation with estranged others and meaningful “goodbyes.”

Denial costs! Whenever my wife and I got into an argument – and that happened often – I was convinced that I was right and she was wrong, and she was convinced of the opposite. As a result, we could never reconcile our differences, but had to bury them in order to move on. But we didn’t really move on. Our differences just festered, and communication skills couldn’t even begin to touch them. We humans are just highly resistant to the truth, especially the truth about ourselves! Skills training will not penetrate the hardened mantel of our heart’s defenses.

It has only been through Christ – not through my five highly recommended psychologists – that I found liberation (John 8:31-32). Knowing His love, acceptance and forgiveness allowed me to slowly lay down the self-delusions that had taken me captive. If He has accepted me, then I could begin to accept myself and face my failures and misdeeds. As a result, communication is no longer encumbered by these hidden chains. I can now laugh at myself and admit that I am wrong, because it’s no longer about me and my worthiness, but His (Galatians 2:20; Jeremiah 17:5-7; Romans 8:31-32). He loves me and will never tire of it.

Also, I am no longer dependent upon the approval of others, but freed to love them. We can’t truly be other-centered, when we are centered on our need for their approval. Of course, they can hurt me, but I just take my pains to God, knowing that He’ll lift me back up. And He does!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Designer

Aristotle believed “in an intelligent natural world that functions according to some deliberate design.” Likewise, Einstein stated that “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” This is because, as the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking wrote, “Everything in the universe follows laws, without exception” (“The Grand Design,” Hawking and Mlodinow). As a result of these laws, we can understand and even predict future events.

Hawking adds that even the characteristics of the entire universe “appear to have a design that is both tailor–made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration.” This means that all of the physical constants – gravitational, nuclear forces and at least 30 other forces – have been finely calibrated to support existence and even life and can’t be changed without serious consequences. It’s like entering a restaurant and finding balloons, “happy birthday” signs with your name loudly painted on all of them, and your favorite foods and friends – everything designed for your birthday party. You instantly know that someone planned a surprise party for you!

However, not according to Hawking! In this, his latest book, he writes,

• “The discovery recently of so many laws of nature could lead some back to the idea that this grand design is the work of a grand Designer. Yet the latest advances in cosmology explain why the laws of the universe seem tailor-made for humans, without the need for a benevolent creator.”

Therefore, before you thank your wife for your wonderful surprise party, consider the possibility that all of these fortuitous arrangements might have just happened naturally, without anyone planning them. But how could something to intricate and fortuitous have just happened? Hawking explains that,

• “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.”

Well, if entire universes with their laws of physics just appear, don’t be too quick to thankfully hug your wife. You might ask, “Where does his evidence for multiple universes come from?”

Not from science! There’s doesn’t exist the smallest thread of hard, observable evidence that there is even a second universe, let alone an uncountable number as Hawking’s theory requires. He surmises that if there is such a number, then it stands to reason that one of them would be just right for us. It’s merely a matter of the throw-of-the-dice. If you throw ten dies a countless number of times, they should come up as ten “sixes” at least once! In the same way, if you visit enough restaurants, it’s likely that you’ll find one that happens to be celebrating your birthday.

But if you think a little further about what Hawking is saying, you might also ask, “How can Hawking appeal to ‘the laws of gravity and quantum theory’ to justify his strange idea that multiple universes spring into existence uncaused from nothing? There aren’t any ‘the laws of gravity and quantum theory’ in nothingness! Just nothing at all!” That seems reasonable.

Besides, I never see things springing into existence out of nothingness and uncaused, while Hawking is suggesting that entire universes just pop into existence. I would think that such frequent additions could disrupt life in this universe. Even the arrival of a new mouth to feed can disrupt our lives, but not so Hawking’s countless universes! Where is the evidence for spontaneous creation? Hawking insists that,

• “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God.”

Many wish that a few thousand dollars would just spontaneously appear in the palm of their hand, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. OK, I admit that I don’t know everything. Perhaps the “spontaneous creation” of multiple universes is possible even though no one has ever detected them. Indeed, perhaps I don’t exist, and the “I” that I think is me is just an impersonal consciousness that dreams up everything else?

Well, maybe I can’t absolutely disprove this idea, but I’ve got to go with the evidence that I have, and this tells me that I do exist, and this conclusion seems to work for me. It gets me out of bed in the morning. Likewise, it seems more likely that the incredible design – the laws of physics, the universe, and our own existence – requires a Designer rather than nothing at all!

At this point, the evolutionist thunders his indictment:

• “This is just another God-in-the-gaps argument. You assume that there must be a God to explain existence because science hasn’t yet provided a convincing explanation. However, it’s just a matter of time until science does provide that explanation.”

However, there are several unfounded assumptions buried here:

1. Simply because science has provided many explanations doesn’t mean that science can provide all explanations.

2. Scientific explanations fail to supplant God. Rather, they affirm the presence of design wherever we look. This gives us even more reason to invoke a Designer!

3. Scientific explanations fail to support an anti-God hypothesis. Instead, they call into question the idea that things just happen and appear without adequate causation – God. Science also tells us that matter/energy is neither created nor destroyed as anti-God hypotheses would require. Science also proclaims the breakdown of all systems as Creationism would predict.

Besides, birthday parties don’t just appear. They’re planned and engineered by agents who have adequate intelligence and resources to pull them off. If Hawking had claimed that his multiple universes were caused by a turtle, he would be laughed out of the university. However, he is asserting something even more absurd – that the generation of a universe has even a lesser cause than a turtle – nothing at all! I’ll put my money on the turtle! Better yet, I’ll invest it in an omnipotent God who has proved Himself in so many ways.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anger Management

The prevailing wisdom asserts that stuffing anger causes depression. Therefore, most psychotherapists used to recommend venting anger or at least talking about it. However, Martin and Deirdre Bobgan ( argue,

• “When anger is expressed it increases. When children, for instance, are encouraged to act out their anger, they become more aggressive and belligerent in their subsequent behavior. While people may initially feel relieved to ‘get it all out,’ their anger does not go away. It actually continues to grow and cause further problems.”

As a confused college student, I had gone to see two Reichian therapists, called “Organomists.” They compared humanity to onions. The outer corrupted layers had to be pealed away in order to arrive at the healthy inner core. This would be accomplished by breaking through our bodily armoring, which repressed our emotions. Once the emotions could be expressed, they could be released – another layer pealed away!

I would lay down on a mattress in the center of a bare room while the therapist would inflict pain in order to provoke my anger. I was instructed to scream anything I wanted. The more emotionalism, the better! I asked if there was anything else I could do to help the process along. He answered, “Lay back and leave the driving to me!” I never once considered that after the onion layers were removed, there would be nothing left, but I never had to. The layers remained in place, even after hours of crying.

In "Anger Diffused," researcher Dr. Carol Tavris wrote,

“The psychological rationale for ventilating anger does not stand up under experimental scrutiny. The weight of the evidence indicates precisely the opposite: Expressing anger makes you angrier, solidifies an angry attitude, and establishes a hostile habit.”

What then do we do about our feelings? Do we simply stuff them? I think that we need to admit that we have them, at least to ourselves. This isn’t the same thing as repression, which denies the truth about our feelings, and places us in conflict with ourselves in our attempt to keep them suppressed. It sometimes represents mature assessment that, perhaps in this situation, little is to be gained and much might be lost.

But once again, we’re left with our uncomfortable feelings. What’s the answer? Maturity requires perseverance, a willingness to endure painful feelings. As tree tears through its confining bark as it grows, we too cannot grow without some form of tearing. It’s unavoidable, and therefore we have to expect it. When our expectations fail to include this inevitable reality, we will be blind-sided and needlessly disappointed. Psychology Today states,

“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” (March/April 2004, 38).

When we’re unprepared for the disappointments, they can be crushing. So how can we accept them without blowing our stack? How can we accept stale bread after we’ve ordered caviar?

We need to be assured of two things – that the stale bread really serves a necessary purpose, and that there’s a future eternal life of bliss with a Savior who loves and forgives us and will make up for all the hurts. With this perspective, we can endure the disappointment, injustice – whatever circumstances that might have provoked our anger! In fact, this is the very promise of our Lord:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away… To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life…I will be his God and he will be my son” (Rev. 21:4-7).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Atheism’s Moral Beef with God

Below is a response to an atheist who claims that God is either evil or non-existent because of all the evil and suffering we find in the world. Previously, I had responded that in order to make this claim, He had to use God’s standard of objective moral goodness in order to discount His existence. However, without His existence, all judgments would be merely personal and subjective, and therefore he couldn’t indict God with merely his own personal judgments. It would be like saying, “I don’t like chocolate. Therefore, it doesn’t exist”:

You argue that you can indict God:

“If we cannot make a moral judgment of God, it is logically incoherent to maintain that he is good! That is a moral judgment. I've already explained numerous times that the idea of an absolute morality is itself logically incoherent: one can always ask ‘Why should we accept that standard?’"

On the one hand, you are claiming that you can bring a MORAL judgment against God, but then, on the other hand, you also claim that “the idea of an absolute moral judgment is itself logically incoherent.” By taking this position, you are admitting that your judgment is subjective – and therefore you admit that you are in no position to judge anything, let alone God – but then you use your subjective standard to bring an OBJECTIVE indictment against God! Hmm?

In contrast to your position, I do believe that we can theoretically bring an indictment against God, because He has imparted to us an absolute moral standard including “Injustice is wrong, and love is right!” You were created to know these things in your heart. Therefore, when you are the victim of injustice, you’re response isn’t, “Oh well, that just life – the survival of the fittest. It’s nothing to take seriously because there’s no truth, and so there’s no violation of non-existent justice.” Instead, you become indignant and want to file legal charges according to laws that you don’t acknowledge as truth.

You ask “Why should we accept that standard [even if it is an objective standard]?" For one thing, you have no viable choice. It’s written on your heart. To deny that standard would be equivalent to deny the reason and logic imprinted in your mind. Without them, you would flounder helplessly as a fish out of water. It would be like expecting a computer to run without any operating instructions.

When you attempt to live morally without believing in moral truth, you become schizoid. While your mind says “no” to moral truth, your conscience says “yes,” and will punish you if you violate it, unless you’re a sociopath.

On the positive side of the ledger, embracing and living in accordance with these moral truths is deeply fulfilling as so many psychologists have affirmed. In addition to this, it’s a joy to know that I am following my Savior!

Indeed you are free to question the existence of moral absolutes and ask as you do, "Why should we accept that standard?" However, your skepticism doesn’t negate moral absolutes any more than questioning if 2 + 2 = 4 negates the truth of this equation. The sun shines whether or not we observe it.

Nevertheless, I can sympathize with the fact that the idea of eternal judgment is a very disturbing idea for you. It would also be for me if I wasn’t assured of Christ’s love. However, more important than its offensiveness to you is the question of whether or not it is true! You can cut through all of this verbiage by simply humbling yourself to ask the Lord to show you the truth. In accordance with the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus made it very simple. He stated:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

As easy as this might sound, I must confess that it is terribly difficult for us. Our own commitments and agendas always tend to trump a sincere questioning and openness to what we might hear. Here’s my suggestion – Pray that God would reveal to you the truth. If you can’t sincerely pray this way, this would suggest that you don’t want the truth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Our State Religion

We drink deeply from our cultural religion without any awareness of this. Recently, a Christian middle school teacher confided that all of her student – about 130 of them – admitted cheating, and they seemed to admit this without any indication of shame. She explained that our culture raises children to expect to be and to have everything. She also praised a program that had been introduced to teach the student basic values, like working for your grade instead of cheating your way through:

“It’s based on William Glasser’s Reality Therapy. It asks the students to indicate what life-goals they have and then to describe how they are achieving them. If they are trying to achieve their diploma based on cheating, it challenges them to recognize that their goals are better achieved by pursuing them by using sound ethical principles like honesty and hard work.”

That makes sense. God established principles and moral laws for our benefit. His teachings are not given to prevent us from having a good time, but as an expression of His love. He wants the best for us, and following His principles serves us best in the long run. However, I was troubled by the implications of this program.

“Aren’t you concerned that this type of program will merely reinforce the very thinking that had caused the breakdown of values? Doesn’t it communicate to the students that it’s all about them and their goals rather than values that are higher than their goals and desires?”

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about!” she retorted. I was afraid that my question might have been too critical, but I thought I had to express it anyway.

“Reality Therapy seems to simply be an extension of the principles of secular humanism, which have got us into this mess by affirming hoards of self-centered people, each demanding that their needs be met.”
I clearly wasn’t winning any points with her.

“In the school system, we are constrained to appeal to values that are common to everyone. We all have goals; we all want to be fulfilled and happy, and you’re no different,” she fired back at me. Things were getting hot. I wanted to change the subject, but felt that I couldn’t.

“That’s true. We do have these things in common, but when we focus on just these things without any mention of God, we are giving the kids the impression that this is all that there is. They need only be concerned about their own fulfillment. This is telling them the wrong thing.”
My friend only became hotter.

“Well, do you expect me to start preaching Christ? You have heard of the separation between church and state, haven’t you? You just can’t bring religion into the classroom!”

She was getting very defensive, but sometimes good medicine can be distasteful, so I persevered. I’m convinced that the separation of church and state has been applied in a very biased way – a way that silences Christianity but allows a host of secular religions to thrive and to even receive state-support. Secular Humanists used to refer to their beliefs as religious until they realized that they could have a much greater impact upon education by disclaiming that they were promoting a religion.

“Well, aren’t secular humanism, religious pluralism, and multiculturalism also systems of belief and therefore religions? And aren’t they dictating the philosophy of education?”

It was difficult for her to answer. She knew that to be a religion didn’t require a belief in God. Buddhism and Confucianism are religions but don’t have a belief in God. I’d also add to this list Existentialism, Communism, Fascism, Naturalism and a host of other philosophies.

“The school system can’t take sides among these various religions,”
she fired back.

Well, it clearly does take sides. Every decision that it makes is value-laden! It dictates what can be said and what can’t be said – what texts are used and who is hired, partly dependent upon their belief system. In fact, schools have a legitimate concern to expose the dangers behind drug cults, Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones, and other lethal religions. It should even be permissible to initiate a conversation examining the flaws and costs of secular humanism and its other religious cronies.

OK, Reality Therapy might not explicitly say it’s a religion or that it is against other religions, but some of the most impactful “communications” are unspoken. The client is profoundly influenced by his un-disclosing psychotherapist but becomes adept at picking up his belief system by merely through their nods of approval. This is how I learned through my years of psychotherapy. I learned that the good life wasn’t a matter of living according to a set of higher principles but about being happy and fulfilled, about expressing ones feelings and going with one’s inclinations. It was this secular philosophy that taught me the religion of self and plunged me into years of darkness. Systematically refusing any mention of the Transcendent is equivalent to preaching that it’s unnecessary, and the students get the message.

There is a need for transparency and an open engagement with ideas, rather than the banishment of certain ideas because they’ve been labeled “religious.” All values, goals, and morals are religious. However, I think we’ve been co-opted – even us Christians – to believe that it’s illegitimate to mention God in the classroom, while operating exclusively out of the framework of secular humanism – a framework that inculcates, “You can do it. It’s all about you and realizing your goals as long as you don’t hurt anyone!” This is the ruling religion – the State religion – and it has banished all others from the public square.