Friday, October 29, 2010
“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 (amjaonline.com) 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.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rape-impossible-in-marriage-says-muslim-cleric-2106161.html
Are all religions the same? Only when you close your eyes!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Does Genesis 1:26 envision the Trinity: "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground?"
According to “Christian” evolutionist and Biologos Foundation fellow Peter Enns, it doesn’t. Here’s his one reason against this traditional Christian interpretation:
• “The problem with this is that a three-in-one God would have meant nothing to ancient Israelites…” http://biologos.org/blog/genesis-creation-and-ancient-interpreters-who-is-us/
In other words, Scripture couldn’t have intended a Trinitarian understanding of this verse because the Israelites would not have understood this verse in this manner. Instead, Enns argues that they would have understood it in terms of a “heavenly court” that God had convened in Job 1.
While I can’t say with certainty what the ancients would have understood – and they might have understood many different things – I can say that Enns is using a biased test, and by using biased tests, we derive biased conclusions.
Determining what the original audience understood, we can often get a good handle on the intended meaning of a passage, but not all the time, especially in the case of the Bible. The Bible tells us that there are many hidden meanings in Scripture (Proverbs 25:2; Psalm 25:14), and therefore, the present audience or even the writer of Scripture, will not get it:
• 1 Peter 1:10-12 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Not only was the writer himself hard-pressed to understand what he had written, but even the angels were struggling with it! This means that when the skeptics throw out the hidden messages because the ancient audience wouldn’t have understood it, they are disregarding what Scripture says about itself.
Scripture is cryptic. God promised a Savior – a Seed of the woman – to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). However, it seems that Eve failed to understand the prophecy. Instead, she believed that she would be bearing the God-appointed infant:
• Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." Genesis 4:1
• Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." Genesis 4:25
Mystery is a powerful theme in the Bible. God concealed certain things (Deut. 29:29). This is symbolized by the Cherubim spread above and concealing the mercy-seat (Exodus 37:9). The smoke of the incense also served to “conceal the atonement cover” (Lev. 16:12-14).
God also concealed His Messiah:
• He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. (Isaiah 49:2; 51:16; 52:10; 53:1-3)
The New Testament confirms this Divine strategy:
• No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:7-9).
In light of the above, by simply attempting to understand Scripture from a human point of view -- the point of view of the original audience – produces some severely skewed conclusions.
Encouraged by Enns’ skepticism, one respondent wrote that the Old Testament doesn’t teach the Trinity at all! However, there are an overwhelming number of verses – perhaps hundreds – that point in the direction of Trinity. However, first I must confess that, as is the case in the New Testament, the Old makes no mention of “Trinity” or that there are “three persons” in the Godhead. However, as in the New, there are many strands of evidence in the Old. It’s impossible to catalogue all of the evidence here – and I’m sure that a lot of it entirely escapes me – so I’ll restrict myself to those several verses regarded as Messianic by at least one Rabbinic source, verses which also indicate that Messiah is God.
• Psalm 2:7 "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You…Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” [Scripture tells us to place our trust in God only. The “Son” therefore must be God! NKJV]
• Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
• Jeremiah 23:5-6 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD [YAHWEH] Our Righteousness.’”
• Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." [Only God is “everlasting,” NKJV]
In addition to these, there are numerous OT verses referring to “Yahweh” that the NT cites as referring to Jesus:
• Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD [“Yahweh”]; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. [See Matthew 3:3 where Jesus is referred to in place of “Yahweh!”]
• Isaiah 44:6 "This is what the LORD says--Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. [See Rev. 1:17 where this is applied to Jesus!]
Jesus went on the offensive using another Psalm widely regarded as Messianic. Psalm 110 envisions God addressing His Messiah, King David’s Son. Jesus therefore asked His tormentors, who believed that the Messiah will arise from David’s lineage, how Messiah could both be David’s son and the pre-existent “Lord” at the same time. Of course, they couldn’t answer. Their silence indicated that both were true, and that Messiah must be God (Matthew 22:41-46).
The above represents only a scratching of the surface – I hope enough scratching to demonstrate that the allegation that the Old Testament doesn’t point to the Trinity (in regards to the Son as God) is unfounded.
Monday, October 25, 2010
One blogger accused me of “fundamentalist Bible idolatry” because I would quote Scripture and reason according to it. In contrast, he claimed to be “Christ-centered” instead of “Bible-centered.” He then asked me to delineate the difference between the two positions. Here’s how I answered:
Bible-centrism is Christ-centrism!!! This is because God has always insisted that His people relate to Him through His Word, as Jesus summed it up:
• “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him….If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:21-24)
You might ask, “Why is God so insistent about His Word?” This is because Jesus insisted that we had to worship God in spirit (in the depth of our being) and in truth (according to His revelation) (John 4:20-24).
Truth is the only foundation for a meaningful relationship. It is so critical to any relationship that we love/appreciate the other according to who they really are. For instance, if your wife adores you simply because you remind her of her first lover, such a relationship is built on smoke and deceit, and its fraudulent nature will inevitably surface with disastrous results.
This is why we are not free to mentally construct God in any we way please, but according to His own self-revelation. Anything short of this is idolatry – creating God and relationship according to our own tastes. As such, it isn’t truly relationship but egoistic self-stimulation.
Besides, the Spirit uses God’s Word to effect spiritual transformation:
• “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
How do we “behold…the glory of God?” Through Scripture! Paul contrasts the church with Israel who also had the Scriptures but not the Spirit. As a consequence, they still had a veil separating their hearts from the Word, a veil that had to be removed by the Spirit. A few verses later, Paul makes it even clearer that it is the Gospel’s revelation of God that is critical:
• “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:4-6)
The truth of the Gospel transforms our hearts, but it can’t penetrate the heart until it’s understood by the mind. Therefore, Jesus prayed to the Father,
• “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:26)
According to Jesus, having God’s love in us depended upon His teachings about God. It’s Biblically impossible to separate God from His Word. Therefore, Jesus also prayed:
• “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Sanctification is so central to our relationship with God and it too depends on His truth. And this isn’t simply an experiential truth, something that we merely feel and experience. It’s something that should also impact our thinking. Therefore Jesus taught:
• “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
The idea that we can know or have a saving relationship with God apart from His Word – His Gospel – is foreign to the Scriptures. Therefore, Paul insisted that a saving connection with Christ depended upon faith, and faith depended upon the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15). Jesus also demanded that anyone who came to God had to do so by believing a certain message (John 6:29; 5:24; 3:36; 3:17-18; 8:24), without which there couldn’t be hope of salvation (John 14:6; 1 John 5:10-12).
Having a relationship with God without His Word is like separating the head from the body, in which case neither can live.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The October 22, 2010 LifeSiteNews.com reports,
• “President Barack Obama has issued a message exhorting young people who consider themselves homosexual to ‘be true to’ themselves and recognize their sexual tendencies as ‘a source of pride, and a source of strength.’”
This started me to think about how I might be true to myself, but I immediately encountered many perplexing questions. If I feel a strong urge to take revenge, should I act upon it? Would I not be true to myself if I didn’t? If I feel that it might be a lot of fun to ridicule or bully another, would that make it “right” for me? Perhaps closer to home, should I consume unlimited amounts of chocolate whenever the urge presents itself? Would I then be true to myself?
Even when I tried to apply this principle to sexual matters, I found that it still didn’t sit right. If my sexual appetite paralleled my insatiable chocolate appetite, should I sample every woman in the workplace? And does acting upon my urges become a “source of pride” or a “source of strength?” Would my wife and children also agree about such a new-found “pride” and “strength?” Should I even be concerned about what they think? After all, don’t I need to “be true to” myself?
But does being “true to” myself require me to pursue my feelings? Does this truth require self-expression or self-reflection? In this regard, Thomas A Kempis stated, “We must not trust every word of others or feeling within ourselves, but cautiously and patiently try the matter, whether it be of God.”
This raises the question, “Who am I? Am I the sum total of my desires, or should I be defined by other things – choices, commitments, and principles?” What will provide for me an enduring “source of pride?” I can think of nothing that edifies me more than knowing that,
• “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
What can give me more pride than knowing that the God of all creation and truth loves me with a love that is indestructible and goes beyond all understanding (Eph. 3:17-19). Instead, being true to myself is being first true to my Savior (Matthew 6:33).
Friday, October 22, 2010
On October 21, 2010, LifeSiteNews.com reported:
• “The social networking site Facebook has teamed up with a who’s who list of homosexual advocacy groups to set up a Network of Support for homosexuals, part of an effort to remove “hateful” speech and bullying from the social network site. But pro-family groups are expressing serious concern about the arrangement, as some of the homosexualist organizations call not only for the removal of legitimately hateful or violent speech, but also censorship of statements that are merely critical of homosexuality."
The distinction between destructive, hateful speech and responsible speech should be maintained. We shouldn’t libel others; nor should we scream “fire” in a crowded theater. Some speech might merely provoke bullying. But other forms of speech – forms of moral censure – are necessary for society. This is the legitimate concern of Family Research Council President Tony Perkins:
• “Perkins had made clear…that Christians condemn bullying and violence against homosexuals, and said Christian compassion motivates them to seek to turn homosexuals away from ‘self-destructive’ behavior.”
Is his speech irresponsible? On the contrary, he is arguing against “bullying!” Instead, should we not talk about AIDs because those who have contracted this disease might be stigmatized by such attention? Should we not also talk about the other inherent dangers of the gay lifestyle? Perkins is understandably concerned that political pressure will dissolve such critical free speech distinctions:
• “It may happen slowly, but I guarantee that Facebook will begin to broaden its definition of what's ‘hateful’ based on GLAAD's prior actions,” said Perkins.
However, Facebook maintains that it will honor the underlying free speech concerns:
• “However, groups that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs — even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some — do not by themselves violate our policies. When a group created to express an opinion devolves into hate speech, we will remove the hateful comments and may even remove the group itself.”
We shall see, but if the past is any indication of the future, there is a concern that homosexual groups might want to eliminate any speech that calls into question the moral rectitude of the gay sex or any extra-marital sex, for that matter.
• Perkins “referred to GLAAD’s campaign to get him banned from the Washington Post’s editorial page after he penned a column where he said the blame for bullying should rest at the feet of bullies themselves and not at church-going Christians, who believe homosexual behavior is wrong, but affirm the goodness of the person.”
This doesn’t speak highly of GLAAD’s respect for the right of free speech and democratic processes.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
After the death of his leader, Moses, Joshua needed an infusion of courage. He was about to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land, and he had to live up to the example of Moses. How would he do this? His Lord provided him with the answer:
• Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8)
This counsel would not only serve Joshua as his roadmap, it also became the prescription for all Israel:
• Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
The remedy for the “counsel of the wicked” is to “delight is in the law of the LORD” and to meditate upon it “day and night.” However, this isn’t happening. According to the recent Pew “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey”:
• “Atheists know more about religion…followed by Jews Mormons, and then evangelical Protestants…In some areas, Americans are startlingly ignorant about their own religions. Fewer than half of Catholics are able to name Genesis as the first book of the Bible. Only 28 percent of white evangelicals Protestants know that Protestantism teaches salvation through faith alone, and only a slim majority of Catholics can identity their church’s doctrine on communion. Seventy percent of Jews know that Martin Luther inspired the Reformation, but less than half of Protestants do.” (World, 10/23/2010, 10)
What are the consequences of this appalling deficit? Many! If we don’t know enough to talk intelligently and confidently about our faith, we won’t talk. Jesus instructed His disciples that they had to be a light (Matthew 5:13-16), but how can we be a light if we have no light ourselves? We are instructed to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3), but how can we do this if we don’t know what the faith is? We are supposed to be able to make a defense for our hope (1 Peter 3:15), but we can’t even begin to do this if we fail to understand what our hope is all about.
According to some studies, the university has become so corrosive towards the Christian faith that 80-90% of the regularly church-going youth cease going by the end of their senior year in college. Clearly, we have thrown them into the front lines of battle against an unseen enemy without any armor. And those few who are able to survive the onslaught, limp back on crutches with a severely compromised faith.
The atheist and the evolutionist know that this is their mission field where they have been able to harvest tender minds almost at will. And it’s not only in the colleges; it’s also in grade schools. I’ve heard atheists boast that – and I do a lot of blogging, so I am in earshot – the church may have the youth for one hour a week, but we have them for 30 hours. And this is not to mention the powerful effect of the secular media!
While the schools say that it is only a matter of imparting impartial facts, others realize that the indoctrination process goes far beyond mere “facts.” Evolutionist and philosopher Michael Ruse is refreshingly candid about this:
• “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.”
Indeed, Darwin is highly corrosive towards the Biblical faith. Christian and scientist Karl Giberson writes about how Darwin impacted his own faith:
• “Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science….[Darwin’s] acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (Saving Darwin, 9-10)
Nevertheless, Giberson confidently writes that this doctrinal amputation is thoroughly OK, and that he still retains the “essentials” of the faith. I have blogged against many evolutionists who identify themselves as “Christian.” Although they claim that there is no problem in wearing both hats, once I scratch the surface just a bit, it becomes apparent that considerable damage has been done. It’s not just a matter of relegating the first three chapters of Genesis to the figurative and non-historical. Theistic evolution also requires that all of the New Testament quotations of Genesis 1-3 have to also be reinterpreted in a non-historical sense. At best, they are in utter confusion about the Bible and what it teaches.
Darwin and Jesus are utterly irreconcilable, and the vast majority of atheists know this and delight in this fact. It means that one must atrophy. Atheist and evolutionist Jerry A. Coyne and I have little in common, except for one thing. We both respect the power of the theory of evolution to undermine the Biblical faith:
• “Among countries of the world, there is a strong negative relationship between their religiosity and their acceptance of evolution. Countries like Denmark and Sweden, with low belief in God, have high acceptance of evolution, while religious countries are evolution-intolerant.” (USA Today, 10/11/2010)
Where Darwin reigns, the Bible cowers in its presence. This is exactly the correlation we find in Western Europe. Darwin, therefore, has become the pride of atheism. He is their bunker-penetrating nuclear warhead. According to Richard Dawkins, Darwin made atheism respectable.
Some Christians walk around shell-shocked, not knowing what has hit them. They might defiantly assert that, “I just know that I believe in God’s Word, and I don’t care what they have to say.” However, they fail to understand that to “protect” their faith, they had to reject their God-given mind and the painful doubts it is now thrusting at them. Consequently, they have sacrificed a robust and confident Christianity for defensiveness.
However, Darwin isn’t the only religion to which our unprepared youth have become imprisoned. Many churches have lapsed into a postmodern “faith” which says, “We thinking people can’t really know for certain. Therefore, we can’t judge the beliefs of others!” However, these “thinking people” fail to see that they are judging! They judge anyone who claims certainty.
Weeds inevitably grow in the absence of an able gardener. In the absence of meditating on the Word “day and night,” many false religions have popped up in the church, undetectable to the untrained eye.
I used to have a dug-well from which we’d draw our drinking water. We’d cover it with a lid in order to keep out the rodents. However, in the darkness germs and decay would proliferate. We subsequently found that it was preferable to risk the occasional rodent than to deprive our well of the sanitizing rays of the sun. Likewise, our church needs the light of the Word, regardless of the possible costs.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The “new atheists” don’t have much good to say about religion. In fact, they’d love to see it all disappear! Jerry A. Coyne, Professor of Evolution at the University of Chicago, is no exception:
• “Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with one only, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims…” (All quotes taken from USA Today, Oct. 11, 2010, 11A).
According to Coyne, there is nothing to prove in favor of religion. Therefore, the one contribution of science is its disproof! Why does Coyne take such a one-sided stance? While he is correct that “irrationality and rationality are incompatible,” he associates religion entirely with irrationality and blind faith:
• “Note that almost all religions make specific claims about the world involving matters such as the existence of miracles, answered prayers, wonder-working saints and divine cures, virgin births, annunciations and resurrections. These factual claims, whose truth is the bedrock of belief, bring religion within the realm of scientific study. But rather than relying on reason and evidence to support them, faith relies on revelation, dogma and authority.”
How can Coyne make such a demeaning claim? He calls Hebrews 11:1 to his defense: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
While it is true that the Christian ultimately walks by faith – sometimes the darkness of our trials is not penetrable by the light of reason and facts – this doesn’t mean that our faith isn’t undergirded by solid evidential reasons for this faith! Elsewhere, the Book of Hebrews insists that we do have an evidential foundation for our faith:
• “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).
Our Lord never expected us to believe without reasons-to-believe! In so many ways, Jesus taught us to not believe without evidences: “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does” (John 10:37; also John 5:31-38). He also provided the evidences of fulfilled prophecy as a basis for faith:
• "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” (John 14:28-29).
God has always been in the business of providing a basis for faith. This was true also for the Israelites among whom He performed unassailable miracles so that they believe:
• “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire” (Deut. 4:35-37).
In light of this, Coyne is resorting to a straw-man argument – misrepresenting and disparaging Christianity in such a way that he can easily dispose of it. He also misrepresents his own position as scientific and concerned only with the facts. However, it is clear that he too is driven by his own set of values and commitments. While science can establish what is, it can’t establish what should be. It might be able to say that genocide occurred, but it can’t say that it shouldn’t happen. Nor can science direct Coyne diatribe against religion. Instead, it’s his own tastes and values, which activate him. However, Coyne wants to present himself as the quintessence of objectivity:
• “No finding is deemed ‘true’ – a notion that’s always provisional — unless it’s repeated and verified by others.”
This notion is absurd. For one thing, this statement can’t be “repeated and verified by others.” Therefore, it shouldn’t be regarded as “true.” More importantly, if we limit truth to Coyne’s criterion, then we can’t know that genocide is wrong or that sugar is sweet. Nor is there any reason for Coyne not to lie, since he disparages all forms of faith. (Generally, the atheist will swear off immoral behavior because of pragmatic reasons – it pays dividends to act morally! However, it also pays dividends to act immorally!)
While Coyne indicts Christianity for its supernatural and miraculous claims, he has his own unprovable naturalistic claims. As an atheist, he has adopted a God-substitute – the belief that naturalism can account for everything – the universe, the laws of physics, life, DNA, logic, the fine-tuning of the universe, and even consciousness. However, the atheist inevitably resorts to faith: “Naturalism might not be able to explain these things now, but in the future, it will!” as God laughs. If he can embrace a naturalistic faith, how can he deride a supernatural one? Coyne concludes:
• “And any progress – not just scientific progress – is easier when we’re not yoked to religious dogma. Of course, using reason and evidence won’t magically make us all agree, but how much clearer our spectacles would be without the fog of superstition!”
Coyne is unwilling to acknowledge his own religious presuppositions and until he does, he will remain stumbling in his own “fog of superstition!” However, he is correct about one thing. We all have “our spectacles” – our beliefs and presuppositions. If this is the case, then the question becomes, “Which spectacles bring things into focus?” Archeologist John McRay states,
• “Archeology has not produced anything that is unequivocally a contradiction to the Bible. On the contrary, as we’ve seen, there have been many opinions of skeptical scholars that have become codified into ‘fact’ over the years, but that archeology has shown to be wrong.” (The Case for Christ)
In fact, the Bible has proved so useful in archeology, that one archeologist testified that he digs in the Holy Land with Bible in one hand and spade in the other. He is convinced that the Bible provides the right lens to direct his investigations.
The Bible is also the right lens to enable us to navigate life successfully. For instance, the Bible’s teachings about fallen humankind help us to understand what we see and to make the appropriate decisions. It instructed me that I’m not unusual, although sometimes it might feel that way. It informed me that there wasn’t a Mrs. Right out there for me. It enlightened our Founding Fathers that, given human fallenness, a good government required a system of checks and balances and not one “enlightened” guru. Meanwhile, so many educated Westerners are in search of the ultimate Teacher to guide them into the path of enlightenment, blissfully ignorant of the darkness that lurks within each heart.
Why are Coyne and the “New Atheists” so vitriolic and arrogant in their denunciations of Christianity? I generally try to stay clear of analyzing the hearts and motivations of others. It often gets me in trouble. However, this vitriol is so pervasive, palpable and dangerous that I’m emboldened to take a stab at it.
Understandably, atheists wanted to find a new designation. “Atheist” represented no more than a denial of God, a negation that failed to affirm anything positive. They therefore came up with the term “Brights” to describe themselves. By their own admission, they saw themselves as the bright ones, the rational intelligentsia, which could save society. This was something that they could affirm with gusto. Meanwhile, the Christians are the idiots, those who endanger society. Coyne therefore insists that faith:
• “…produces things such as the oppression of women and gays…attacks on science, denial of contraception for birth control and AIDs prevention, sexual repression, and of course those wars, suicide bombings and religious persecutions.”
Indeed, Christianity has been misused to justify many atrocities, but how about the religion of atheism? Fortunately, history has kept a scorecard in regards to atheism and its utopian Communist experiments, all of which were hideous abominations. In all cases, these atheistic nations had to erect barriers to prevent escape from their “workers’ paradise,” while exterminating many of their own in order to enforce their “utopia.”
In contrast, Western civilization had been built upon the foundations stones of Christianity. Hospitals, schools – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge – social justice, the Bill of Rights and the protection of the weak and marginalized were nourished by its roots. How then can Coyne make his outrageous claims, when history’s evidence impatiently gestures to an entirely different conclusion? If his claims aren’t based upon the facts, then they must be based upon personal preference.
We are all too familiar with arrogance and its incessant attempts at self-glorification. If we can’t exalt ourselves, we can achieve the same result by degrading others – people of faith in this case. Either way, it puts us at the top. After all, it’s not enough to consider ourselves “Brights” if everyone else is brighter! Instead, we must be among the champions! And the champion needs a vanquished enemy – people of faith – upon which to place his triumphant foot.
However, enduring triumph can only be found in our self-abasement before the truth. We humble ourselves that we might be exalted by the real Champion. Everything else is rubbish, self-deception, and the cause of the diminishing, degrading and silencing of others. Let us pray for the “Brights!”
Friday, October 15, 2010
On Tuesday night, my wife and I went to a Secular Humanist (Atheist) meeting (SHSNY) and saw a Richard Dawkins video. His position is that atheism is about science, facts, and rationality, while religion is about mindless faith. Therefore, religion is out-of-touch with reality.
I responded that while atheism also has their values and faith-commitments, Christianity’s faith is based upon evidence. I cited Jesus: “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does [miracles]” (John 10:37).
Of course, I was beat back with a predictable chorus of, “That’s a lot of myths and old wives tales.” Therefore, I cited the fact that even ancient Jewish sources acknowledge that Jesus performed miracles (although they add that He performed these by the power of Satan or evil magic).
Not to be outdone, they understandably demanded that I provide sources. So here is what I emailed them:
Here are some of the references I found:
"Jesus was a magician and a fool. Mary was an adulteress". (Shabbath 104b, p.504).
Sanhedrin 107B of the Babylonian Talmud: "Jesus... stood up a brick to symbolize an idol and bowed down to it. Jesus performed magic and incited the people of Israel and led them astray."
Sanhedrin 43A: "On Passover Eve they hanged Jesus of Nazareth. He practiced sorcery, incited and led Israel astray...Was Jesus of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an enticer and the Torah says, 'You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him!"
“The Avodat Zerah, however, says that Jesus did miracles as no other rabbi, that his disciples not only healed the sick but even raised the dead in His name, that after He was crucified He rose from the dead, and that He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. All of that is actually in the Talmud – even His enemies acknowledged the truth of what He did. This was written by rabbis who were trying to prevent other Jews from believing in Him; but they had to deal with the historicity of His miracles, of His disciples doing miracles, and not only of His crucifixion but also of His resurrection and ascension into heaven – the Talmud admits He did it!” http://www.moriel.org/articles/sermons/jesus_in_the_talmud.htm
MISHNAH.[104b] If one writes on his flesh, he is culpable; He who scratches a mark on his flesh. He who scratches a mark on his flesh, [etc.] It was taught, R. Eliezar said to the sages: But did not Ben Stada bring forth witchcraft from Egypt by means of scratches [in the form of charms] upon his flesh? He was a fool, answered they, proof cannot be adduced from fools. [Was he then the son of Stada: surely he was the son of Pandira? - Said R. Hisda: The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira. But the husband was Pappos b. Judah? - his mother was Stada. But his mother was Miriam the hairdresser? - It is as we said in Pumbeditha: This is one has been unfaithful to (lit., 'turned away from'- satath da) her husband.] (Shabbath 104b)
Celsus [150-170 AD] confirms that this is about Jesus:
"Let us imagine what a Jew- let alone a philosopher- might say to Jesus: 'Is it not true, good sir, that you fabricated the story of your birth from a virgin to quiet rumors about the true and unsavory circumstances of your origins? Is it not the case that far from being born in the royal David's city of Bethlehem, you were born in a poor country town, and of a woman who earned her living by spinning? Is it not the case that when her deceit was uncovered, to wit, that she was pregnant by a roman soldier called Panthera she was driven away by her husband- the carpenter- and convicted of adultery?" (57).
“It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): 'He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a)
About this time arose Jesus, a wise man, who did good deeds and whose virtues were recognized. And many Jews and people of other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. However, those who became his disciples preached his doctrine. They related that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Perhaps he was the Messiah in connection with whom the prophets foretold wonders. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XVIII 3.2]
According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, Jesus was often accused by the Talmudists of performing magic:
“It is the tendency of all these sources to belittle the person of Jesus by ascribing to him illegitimate birth, magic, and a shameful death …
Magic may have been ascribed him over against the miracles recorded in the Gospels …
The sojourn of Jesus in Egypt is an essential part of the story of his youth. According to the Gospels he was in that country in his early infancy, but Celsus says that he was in service there and learned magic …
According to Celsus (in Origen, “Contra Celsum,” i. 28) and to the Talmud (Shab. 104b), Jesus learned magic in Egypt and performed his miracles by means of it; the latter work, in addition, states that he cut the magic formulas into his skin. It does not mention, however, the nature of his magic performances (Tosef., Shab. xi. 4; Yer. Shab. 18d); but as it states that the disciples of Jesus healed the sick “in the name of Jesus Pandera” (Yer. Shab. 14d; Ab. Zarah 27b; Eccl. R. i. 8) it may be assumed that its author held the miracles of Jesus also to have been miraculous cures. Different in nature is the witchcraft attributed to Jesus in the “Toledot.” When Jesus was expelled from the circle of scholars, he is said to have returned secretly from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he inserted a parchment containing the “declared name of God” (“Shem ha-Meforash”), which was guarded in the Temple, into his skin, carried it away, and then, taking it out of his skin, he performed his miracles by its means. This magic formula then had to be recovered from him, and Judah the Gardener (a personage of the “Toledot” corresponding to Judas Iscariot) offered to do it; he and Jesus then engaged in an aerial battle (borrowed from the legend of SIMON MAGUS), in which Judah remained victor and Jesus fled.
The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus. Jerome mentions it, quoting the Jews: “Magum vocant et Judaei Dominum meum” (“Ep. 1v., ad Ascellam,” i. 196, ed. Vallarsi); Marcus, of the sect of the Valentinians, was, according to Jerome, a native of Egypt, and was accused of being, like Jesus, a magician (Hilgenfeld, “Ketzergesch.” p. 870, Leipsic, 1884). The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus … As Balaam the magician and, according to the derivation of his name, "destroyer of the people", was from both of these points of view a good prototype of Jesus, the latter was also called "Balaam" …
Jesus performed all his miracles by means of magic …”— The Jewish Encyclopedia (26)
It was nice to meet you Tuesday night. I hope I’ll be able to make it again sometime soon.
A Christian professional, with much experience in the art world, observed:
“Christian art is widely regarded as superficial and insipid. This isn’t because Christians are any less talented, but rather because their art fails to reflect their inner core. In contrast to this, worldly artists might be angry, jealous, and avaricious in their pursuit of their dreams. However, their art reflects this and is therefore genuine and gutsy, and we resonate to this.
The Christian, however, is inclined to pursue the world’s standards, to fit in and to speak their language. Although understandable and sometimes even laudable, in doing this, they are not doing art out of who they truly are, and this is at the expense of authenticity.”
How true! We’ve succumbed to following the prevailing culture. We’ve bought our house in the burbs with a two car garage. We’ve sent our children to the best colleges and then were surprised when they returned, smelling like the surrounding world.
Ironically, the Emergent Church (EC), which has dedicated itself to re-formulating the church, minimizing doctrine, has also followed the tastes of the consumer. The consumer has tired of denominationalism, and the EC has promised to tear down these barriers; the consumer has tired of traditional church services, and the EC pastors appear dressed in jeans and a tie-shirt. The consumer fails to understand the culture wars and has lost its taste for such divisions, and so the EC has opined that these are irrelevant to Christ.
This is not to pass judgment on these accommodations, but seeing them should make us suspicious about marching to the rhythms of our culture. Instead, we have a higher calling, one to which we must continually return for guidance.
We have been ennobled with the highest honor imaginable—to serve the Source of all truth, mercy and love. This glorious calling requires that we continually return to this one central question: “Lord Jesus, how can I serve You today?” This is what service and glory requires.
It also requires that we stay in prayer with our Head: “Lord Jesus, You have bought me and own me (Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). It is my greatest privilege to serve You (Psalm 1; John 4:34). Teach me, direct me, correct me (Psalm 139:23-24), if need be—whatever it requires for You to use me for Your glory-sake!”
When does a human embryo truly become human? A little story might help to clarify this question. In 1921, a hard-working, Jewish tailor left his dear wife at the abortionist on the way to work. He worked long hours for little pay, and they already had five additional mouths to feed. At the end of his work day, he returned to the abortionist to pick up his wife. However, the abortionist hadn’t taken her yet. The impatient husband saw this as providential and scooped up his wife and brought her home to eventually have her sixth.
On May 20, 1922, a previously unwanted baby was born was born to Fanny and Joseph. Not only was this embryo human, but on June 15, 1945 this embryo became Milton Mann, my father. In 1945, he married Toby Katz, and two years later in 1947, I was born. That little aggregate of cells, which was my father, in a sense, contained me, and from this same aggregate my daughter, Leora, came forth in 1972, and her three daughters after her. Following me, Gary came forth in 1950 and Richard joined us in 1956. Although we never constituted the “foursome” that Dad had been hoping for; nor did we even become esteemed doctors or lawyers, but instead – and perhaps more importantly – we continue to cherish to memory of the one who beat the odds and survived the abortionist’s scalpel, someone who loved us in his own quiet and determined way.
When does a clump of cells become a human being? When the egg extends an open-door (or membrane) to the sperm? I do not have the wisdom to pick this question apart, but I do know that, even at the beginning, there was something precious in my grandmother’s womb, and I believe that there was something providential in its protection.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
What if it was found that women at a brothel were dying prematurely from a variety of venereal diseases – not such a stretch of the imagination – and the owner responded:
• “This doesn’t concern me. I’ve provided my ladies with health care and prophylactics. What they do with them is their concern, not mine!”
This, of course, is ridiculous. The owner can’t absolve himself of his responsibility. There are many applications of this same principle. The atheist (philosophical naturalist) does the same kind of thing. He too will say, “These question don’t concern me and aren’t the concern of science.” However, they are and must be!
Last week, an atheist challenged me to explain why ID (intelligent design/ supernaturalism) is preferable to the naturalistic understanding of science. I answered this way:
1. ID can explain everything, naturalism nothing. There is not a shred of evidence that anything happens apart from ID. ID is the most parsimonious and therefore elegant explanation. [It’s simple and requires only one directly un-testable hypothesis.]
2. ID is an adequate cause since God is omnipotent. Instead, naturalism claims that everything sprang into existence, uncaused and out of nothing. This is anti-science – causeless phenomena that just happen.
3. Something or Someone has to be eternal to explain the origin of the universe. However, we know that the universe, time and space aren’t eternal. Therefore, the cause must be found in the supernatural.
4. God is the designer of all the incredibly designed artifacts around us – intelligence, consciousness, the laws of physics, the fine-tuning of the universe. The natural doesn’t design anything. In fact, there are no natural laws apart from ID.
5. The immutability of the laws and the fine-tuning argue for something Transcendent, since this universe is just molecules-in-motion.
6. The uniform operation of the laws throughout the universe also argues in favor of the Transcendent. [Forces diminish with distance. Just try sitting around a campfire. For some supernatural reason, the laws work uniformly no matter where we are.]
7. ID also explains our ability to comprehend the world. After all, we are created in the image of God.
The essence of the response of my atheistic combatant was, “We don’t know; these are not the concerns of science.” Here are his actual responses:
• "Science/Naturalism claims no such thing. We simply don't know, and once again you're shoving your beliefs into the gaps. This isn't an argument…We know no such thing, Daniel…Again, you're making an argument from ignorance…Again, this is an assertion. Why, sans [without] God, would you expect the laws to be chaotic? More ignorance it seems…please tell my why your useless and superfluous so-called explanation, which relies upon your own ignorance, lack of detail, and a lack of supporting evidence, doesn't provide a useful framework for further predictions and research, and is generally based upon the ideology of the proponent rather than external mutually agreed upon evidence for support, should be taken seriously?... Try to detail one of the arguments, how it follows from your concept of God and/or what evidence supports the claim, and why this argument is convincing, rather than simply rehashing the same tired old claims without supporting them.”
The atheist challenged me to give “details” but refused to engage my argumentation. In contrast, it is noteworthy that no atheist has ever been able to provide a natural, evidential explanation for anything. There is simply no evidence that our laws function “naturally,” while there is a lot to suggest that they entail some connection to a Transcendent realm. In essence, the atheist refuses to extend his thinking into those areas of scientific inquiry that upset his apple-cart. “They just don’t concern me or science!” However, placing one’s head in the ground is not fitting for someone who claims to be a rational truth-seeker.
Notice also the common strategy of associating science with the natural, claiming science for themselves! Although we all agree that we can’t place God in a test-tube and that our inferences derive from our investigation of the physical world, this investigation detects the extra-terrestrial fingerprints of our God!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Do the Koran and the Bible both equally teach genocide? According to Friday night’s “20/20 TV Special” devoted to answering American fears about Islam, they do! Their reasoning goes like this:
1. Both books contain bloody genocidal and homicidal verses.
2. Christians have learned to live life graciously despite their genocidal verses.
3. Therefore, we have to also acknowledge that Muslims can and do the same.
There are many problems with this reasoning. For one thing, the “genocidal” Biblical verses – all are contained in the Old Testament – strictly pertain to theocratic state of Israel, and therefore no longer pertain today.
However, in the Koran, we find that the opposite is true. The Koran teaches the principle of abrogation:
• “If We [Allah] abrogate any verse or cause it to be forgotten, We will replace it by a better one or one similar.” (2.106; 13:39)
Sadly, according to most Islamic voices, the “better one(s)” are the later ones – the ones that pertain to genocidal, intolerant Jihad. When Mohammed started to preach, he lacked an army, and so preaching peace and tolerance for other religions was his only expedient. However, once he put together an army, the peaceful teachings were “forgotten.” Let me provide one example of this and then the commentary from Khan’s Noble Koran:
• [47:4] “So when you meet (in fight…Jihad in Allah’s Cause) those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (take them as captives). Thereafter either generosity or ransom until the war lays down its burden. Thus you are ordered by Allah to continue Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam or at least come under your protection. But if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished then (without you). But He lets you fight in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost”
• COMMENTARY: Then Allah revealed…the order to discard (all) the obligations(covenants, etc.) and commanded Muslims to fight against all the Mushrikun [Polytheist and Trinitarians] as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christian) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizya (tax...) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. So they (Muslims) were not permitted to abandon the “fighting” against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while the (Muslims) are able to fight against the (non-Muslims) So at first “ the fighting” was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory against them that start the fighting against you and against all those who worship others [Trinitarians and Polytheists] along with Allah.
Jihad is not only obligatory for purposes of self-defense, it is also a “standing order,” which can be implemented against any infidels at any time. In contrast with this, the Old Testament Biblical mandate specifically directed Israel to bring God’s judgment against particularly sinful nations at a time when their sins had reached intolerable proportions. Over 400 years before the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land, God had explained to Abraham that the time to supplant the Canaanites had not yet arrived. Their sin had not yet reached a level that required God’s ultimate judgment:
• Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years…In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:13-16)
In the Bible, there is no criminal judgment merely against unbelief. In contrast, in the Koran the “sin” of unbelief is enough to warrant extermination, especially for those who turn away from Islam. These are critical distinctions. While punishment is a good and necessary part of maintaining a civilized society, we don’t believe in punishing people merely because of their beliefs or worldviews. We don’t throw people in jail for merely being republicans or democrats. Instead, we regard regimes that do such to be horribly repressive.
However, this is the very conclusion that the Center for Security Policy came to in their 2010 report regarding Islam: “Shariah: The Threat to America” http://tool.donation-net.net/Images/Email/1097/Shariah_The_Threat_to_America_Team_B_Report.pdf
As representative of this “threat to America,” the report cites:
• The Explanatory Memorandum was written in 1991 by Mohamed Akram, a senior Hamas leader in the U.S. and a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America (MB, also known as the Ikhwan). The document makes plain that the Islamic Movement is a MB effort, led by the Ikhwan in America.4 The Explanatory Memorandum goes on to explain that the “Movement” is a “settlement process” to establish itself inside the United States and, once established, to undertake a “grand jihad” characterized as a “civilization jihadist” mission that is likewise led by the Muslim Brotherhood.5 Specifically, the document describes the “settlement process” as a “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated….”6
To put it simply, according to the Muslim Brotherhood, the civilization jihad is the “Settlement Process” and the “Settlement Process” is the mission of the “Islamic Movement.” And that mission entails “eliminating and destroying” our way of life.
The common response is that it’s all a matter of interpretation and, as there are peaceful Christians, there are also peace-loving Muslims. However, according to the Center’s report, the majority Sunnis, constituting approximately 80% of the Islamic world, agree about shariah (Islamic) law:
• …for especially the Sunni and with regard to non-Muslims, there is ultimately but one shariah. It is totalitarian in character, incompatible with our Constitution and a threat to freedom here and around the world. Shariah’s adherents are making a determined, sustained, and well-financed effort to impose it on all Muslims and non-Muslims, alike. (11)
Shariah knows nothing of our separation of church and state and freedoms of speech. On the contrary, anyone who criticizes the Koran or the Prophet must killed – something we see in operation all over the Islamic world. However, there seem to be many peace-loving Muslims who deny that this is the intention of moderate Islam. Therefore, shouldn’t we be strengthening their hand against Jihadist Islam? According to the Center’s report, this might not be a realistic hope:
• By offering little meaningful opposition to the jihadist agenda and by meekly submitting to it, a large number of Muslim communities and nations generally project a tacit agreement with jihadis’ ends, if not with their means. At the very least, they exhibit an unwillingness to face the consequences of standing up to shariah’s enforcers within Islam. Such consequences include the distinct possibility of being denounced as an apostate, a capital offense under shariah.
For whatever reason, the moderates seem to exert little meaningful influence in the Islamic world. There was an informal survey conducted on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. A journalist asked Muslims on the street if they were in favor of the death fatwa issued against Salmon Rushdie several years back. Out of the ten, five answered affirmatively, while the other five refused to answer. This might be reflective of the influence of the moderate voice in general.
Western civilization was essentially built upon a Biblical foundation. Consequently, the late theologian B.B. Warfield was motivated to write:
• “Hospitals and asylums and refuges for the sick, the miserable and the afflicted grow like heaven-bedewed blossoms in its path. Woman, whose equality with man Plato considered a sure mark of social disorganization, has been elevated; slavery has been driven from civilized ground; literacy has been given by Christian missionaries, under the influence of the Bible.”
The Islamic world was built upon a foundation of Koran and Shariah. Anyone who travels will see a marked difference. And if you haven’t, just ask non-Muslims what it is like to live under Shariah!
How should a Christian deal with this knowledge? With prayer, knowing that,
• “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephes. 6:12).
My Response to an Atheist:
I am delighted that you seem to indirectly admit that there isn’t any evidence for naturalism – that the laws of physics are just natural, unintelligent, and just happened, and no explanation is necessary to account for what sustains them. Instead, to fill the evidence void, you argue, “That the laws are natural and unintelligent is the simplest, most parsimonious hypothesis, which science prefers.”
While you are correct that science does prefer the “simplest, most parsimonious hypothesis,” I’m afraid that naturalism can’t deliver in this regard. Let’s just consider some phenomena that any theory must be able to account for and then naturalism’s desperate gyrations:
1. THE ORIGIN OF THE BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE: Naturalism attempts to explain the origin of proteins and DNA in terms of self-organization. However, there is not a shred of evidence for this. These substances are produced in no other place than in living cells.
2. THE ORIGIN OF THE CELL AND LIFE: Panspermia (seeded from extra-terrestrial life) is no explanation at all. It just forces the explanation abroad. There seems to be no other “natural” contender.
3. CONSCIOUSNESS: Just a natural outgrowth of matter when it becomes complex enough?? Please notice that there is nothing simple or parsimonious about the desperate contortions of naturalism!”
4. FREEWILL: Naturalism can’t explain it, so naturalists often deny it exists! Now that’s putting one’s head in the sand. By rejecting the Bible’s revelation that we are created in the image of God, the atheist rejects himself and the fullness of his life.
5. THE ORIGIN OF THE LAWS OF NATURE: The Big Bang? Is that really an explanation? Since when do explosions create unchanging laws?
6. THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE: If there are an infinite number of universes (something logically incoherent!) then it would be likely that one of them is this perfectly tuned universe! However, there is no scientific evidence for even a second universe.
7. MORAL ABSOLUTES: Again, naturalism finds it more convenient to deny that such things exist. Consequently, injustice isn’t ABSOLUTELY wrong!
8. LOGIC AND REASON: Naturalists usually say, “Well, we might not have an explanation, but eventually we’ll have one!” Now that’s faith!
9. IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY: Co-option and faith!
Please notice that in order to explain each phenomena, naturalism must invoke an entirely different mechanism (if they can pull one out of the hat?). In contrast, the ID hypothesis need only posit our One all-powerful God. Now that’s simplicity!
Yet I know that this hypothesis will not stand or fall according to its merits. Instead,
• “What may be known about God is plain to them [everyone], 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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)
Sunday, October 10, 2010
In a blog essay entitled, "Are Anti-Gay Christians Responsible for the Suicide Trend?” (http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/10/08/are-anti-gay-christians-responsible-for-the-suicide-trend/#comment-561492) the author, indicted Christian teaching for establishing a climate that bullies and stigmatizes gay. Of course, the conclusion of this reasoning is that the church must be silenced. I felt that I had to respond to these charges:
This is one charge that repeatedly comes up among your respondents: “The Bible (or Christians) stigmatizes homosexual sex (HS).” While I think that there is some merit to this charge, I think it’s important to lay out several caveats:
1. I know of NO Christians who do not deplore what has happened to the gay Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi – not only the suicide but also the filming.
2. The Bible stigmatizes many behaviors – everything regarded as “sin” – many of which I too am guilty. I just thank my Savior that He forgives me and washes away my guilt and shame. However, you’re mistaken that we have a preoccupation for HS. In fact, I haven’t heard any sermonic mention of this particular sin for many years.
3. True Christians don’t look down on gays. We recognize that Christ has had mercy upon us, and so we owe others that same debt of mercy. In fact, gays who know real Christians don’t seem to feel stigmatized by us. Ocean Grove is a good case in point. Traditionally, it has been a Christian community, but over the last 10-12 years LGBTs have been moving in en masse.
4. It is not just the Bible that “stigmatizes” HS, but also all of the traditional religions and societies. Why? Did they all arbitrarily come to the same conclusion or is there something intrinsically problematic and destructive about HS? I am not aware of any long-lasting gay institution. There is no historical continuity. In contrast to this absence, we observe generations bred by the church.
5. The main source of stigmatization seems to be coming from within the conscience of those who practice HS. The university campus is far more accepting of HS than it is of Christianity, but Christians aren’t jumping off bridges! Why not? Because even if we are hated for our faith, we are still convinced that it’s not shameful. Along with this, many gays who have left the HS lifestyle have acknowledged that they knew that what they had been doing was wrong. Consequently, they were often experiencing shame.
6. If you are truly concerned about the victimization of gays, then you should pay more attention to the Islamic world where gays are often put to death. Instead, it’s the Christian who is bullied by the media for our “repressive” attitudes. Why not Islam? Is it because the Christians are a “soft” target, which will not retaliate?
Friday, October 8, 2010
One atheist protested that there is no scientific evidence for intelligent design (ID):
• “What is this evidence for ID? You say organisms and physical laws provide such, but you don't explain how.”
If I were a mathematician, I would show you that mathematical precision can be applied to the specification of ID. However, I’m not a mathematician – far from it – and so let me refer you to the work of William Dembski for that. However, I do have two eyes which enable me to see and recognize ID all around me.
ID is patently obvious. When my wife sends me a loving email, I correctly assume that this communication is not the result of a computer malfunction or the laws of nature conspiring to produce previously un-thought-of effects. In fact, it’s very clear to all of us when we see the products of intelligence. Although gravity can attract, that’s all it can do. It can’t write poems or even scramble my eggs in the morning. Yes, computer can simulate the writing of poetry or music, but they can’t go – nor should they – beyond what they have been intelligently programmed to do.
Even the evolutionist and physics research scientist Randy Isaac admits, “Importantly, the scientific community does embrace the concept of design detection. It is a common practice in many fields of science.” However, he seems to arbitrarily say that ID shouldn’t be applied to the question of God.
Why not? If we can distinguish ID from non-ID, whether the ID is a product of a woman or a man, an Eskimo or a Pigmy, whether present or two thousand years past, why is it that we can’t make a judgment about the heavens, the physical laws, or the various life forms? If we know that non-ID can’t write sonnets, why should we suppose that non-ID can produce the universe with all its fine-tuning – something far more intricate and glorious than a sonnet!
There are some things that are so patently obvious that they don’t require experimentation. It is obvious that I’m sitting at my keyboard now. No scientific experiment or treatise can add anything to this observation. Demanding laboratory evidence would be like demanding that my wife bring to our wedding a notarized statement saying she loves me or demanding a scientist’s statement that she is really human. Such a requirement is absurd to the max!
That the glory of ID surrounds us is also the message of Scripture:
• “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3)
The voice of ID is heard from every direction, wherever our eyes might roam. If this is true – even Richard Dawkins admits that phenomena give the “appearance” of design --why then the argument? Scripture claims that the denial of ID isn’t evidentially based, but is the product of our heart’s commitments:
“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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:19-20)
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
We’ve all heard these indictments against the role of religion:
“Science has achieved so much because it has not been tied down to religious commitments and ideas. Christians approach science with presuppositions that interfere with them dealing impartially with the evidence. Therefore, religion and Christianity should be kept out of science.”
Although this statement seems rational, there are many incorrect assumptions lurking behind these words. I’ll list the assumptions and the counter-arguments:
1. CHRISTIANS (AND OTHER “RELIGIOUS” PEOPLE) ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE PRESUPPOSITIONS THAT MIGHT INTERFERE. We all have our presuppositions, values, philosophical commitments or religious sentiments. Even the secular humanists used to claim to be a religion, until they realized that they had more to gain by denying this fact. The first Humanist (atheist) Manifesto (Paul Kurtz, 1933) reads: “Humanism is a philosophical, religious, and moral point of view.”
2. CHRISTIANS CAN’T DO SCIENCE. This just doesn’t accord with the facts. The historical testimony in favor of the Christian role in the development of science is overwhelming. British scientist Robert Clark sums it up this way:
• “However we may interpret the fact, scientific development has only occurred in Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations—Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on—science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that, perhaps, science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non-Christian world believed that there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire-bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven, thus incurring the wrath of the gods.” (Christian Belief and Science, quoted by Henry F. Schaefer, 14)
3. THE NATURALISTIC EXPLANATIONS EQUATE WITH SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS. These are two very different things – the “what” of science and the “why.” We have the findings and the technical progress of science on the one side. Then we try to understand the underlying causes, mechanisms and laws behind them. Science has recently been hijacked by naturalism – the laws are natural, unintelligent, and just happened their way into existence, as opposed to the theory that they were intelligently designed. While we can’t see either at work – whether natural or supernatural operations – yet there are many reasons to regard the supernatural (ID) paradigm as preferable. http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2010/03/naturalism-vs-supernaturalism.html
4. CHRISTIAN PRESUPPOSITIONS WILL TAKE US IN AN UNSCIENTIFIC DIRECTION. Instead, it was the Christian presuppositions – God rules predictably through laws, the material world is worth understanding, He wants to be known… – that reopened the door to scientific inquiry. http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2009/11/science-and-christianity.html
5. NATURALISTIC (ATHEISTIC) PRESUPPOSITIONS ARE THE MOST SCIENTIFICALLY FRUITFUL. Indeed, we all see through a lens. The question then becomes, “Which lens brings reality into sharp focus; which lens will distort the image? C.S. Lewis wrote:
• “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Journey, Os Guinness, 27)
Let me try to give an example of how the lens of Biblical truth enables us to see clearly. In many ways, the Bible says that we are sin infested, even the best of us (Romans 7:25; Gal. 5:17). This lens has enabled me to fruitfully navigate life’s demands in so many ways. On the surface, people can look darn good, but the Christian lens has alerted me to the fact that there are no ascended gurus out there, just people like me. It has enabled me to accept myself, knowing that the struggles I have are little different from those of others. It has also helped me to accept others, despite how they might have disappointed me. It has also informed me that there is no Mr. or Mrs. right out there. Each one of us comes into a relationship with a load of issues.
But does the Christian lens produce scientific clarity and knowability? In his debate with the ardent atheist Richard Dawkins, John Lennox stated that if the scientific community had taken the Bible’s assertion of a universe-beginning more seriously, it would probably have found evidence to reject the widely accepted Aristotelian idea of an eternal universe much sooner.
I think that there are many examples of this kind of thing. Furthermore, I would predict that much of the atheistically-driven research to find the natural origins of RNA, DNA, the cell, and life itself, in their attempt to get around ID, will merely drain us of a lot of money and waste a lot of time. But, of course, this prediction comes from my presuppositions. Do you have a better one?
Monday, October 4, 2010
Here is my basic response to an atheist who argued that law and government don’t require a belief in God. Instead, government can pass “just” laws just on the basis of pragmatism – what works for the majority of people.
To some extent, I agree with your pragmatic assessment. It does make pragmatic sense to regard people as “equal” and to grant them equal rights. However, here are some reasons why pragmatism can’t take the place of God:
1. Governments and laws based purely of pragmatic concerns are inadequate. People, places and practical concerns are always in flux. It follows that all laws should also be in flux. Many are and should be responsive to pragmatic concerns, but there also needs to be underlying and unchanging principles of justice and truth that pure pragmatism can’t support.
2. Pure pragmatism turns us into hypocrites. We treat people one way but have an entirely different attitude towards them. Just consider the psychotherapist who practices “unconditional positive regard.” On the surface he’s one way, but in his heart he despises the weakness or illness he sees in his client. In contrast to this, the Christian can be genuinely compassionate because they actually believe that this pure individual actually bears the image of God.
3. Pure pragmatism fails to provide an adequate rational basis for real compassion. Although many atheists are compassionate – far more than me – lacking an adequate philosophy to support compassion, compassion will atrophy. In this regard, I like what Dinesh D’Souza said about Aristotle:
• “Aristotle, too, had a job for low men: slavery. Aristotle argued that with low men in servitude, superior men would have leisure to think and participate in governance of the community. Aristotle cherished the ‘great-souled man’ who was proud, honorable, aristocratic, rich.” (“What’s so Great about Christianity”)
4. Pragmatism is myopic. It will inevitably sell-out to immediate needs and lusts. After all, getting that promotion is more pragmatic than living according to the uncertain principles of what society needs to function. Heck with that, if I need to put food on my table!
Just a concluding observation: The fact that what is pragmatic also so well accords with the moral absolutes that we recognize within our hearts, speaks persuasively to a grand harmony and design and a Designer! Besides, if you are truly pragmatic, you should believe in God!