Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Letter to Atheists who Demand Proof

You ask for proof of God’s existence. I’ve answered that the proof is all around us – in the stars, the trees, the laws of nature, our bodies and feelings - available for the seeing. However, I prefer contextualized proof – the proof that arises by itself in the very midst of our conversation. Let me take an example.

You vilify Christians. I’m not talking about you specifically but about the treatment that Christians uniformly receive in the blog-Facebook world. How do we understand such behavior among people who strenuously insist that they are good without God? These are also people who boast of being tolerant and open-minded – people who pride themselves on being open to all forms of lifestyles! Why then the disconnect? The hypocrisy?

Let’s add to this another observation – the need to prove or justify ourselves, often by putting others down. Is there a simple and parsimonious way to explain these observations? Our awareness of our guilt, shame, and sense that we deserve judgment – the very things that the Bible claims we know! These are our underlying motivators – the causes of our inconsistencies – and also those things that serve to justify the biblical worldview.

We Christians serve as reminders of this reality. You project your guilt and shame on us as if we are the cause of them.  This is what happened to our Lord Jesus. He explained that He was hated because He revealed the truth to people about themselves, and He was crucified for this. Jesus warned that this would also become our fate.

But I say this, not to condemn you, but to shed some light upon your plight and the remedy we all have through our Savior who died for us, paying the price for our sins.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ducks who Hold the Line against Cowardice and Compromise

I have played the coward, and, to my chagrin, I will probably play this role again. However, this doesn’t mean I’m about to make peace with cowardice. It’s shameful and represents the triumph of compromise over character and integrity. It’s also provides only a short-lived triumph.

After the media began to trumpet Phil Robertson’s “homophobic” remarks, Cracker Barrel played the coward and pulled Duck Dynasty’s products:

·         One company, Cracker Barrel had dropped the Louisiana family. But after threats of a boycott, they almost immediately reversed their decision, releasing a statement, saying:

·         “You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores. And, we apologize for offending you.”
Offending Duck Dynasty is only a secondary issue. The real issue is the underlying principle – free speech and the protection of our 1st Amendment rights. A&E and Cracker have proved themselves unwilling to protect these and instead cut the Duck’s throat for having the courage to express his sincere beliefs, even when offered in a context of love. In essence, they have warned:

  • You do not have the right to express your convictions, even off the job. If your opinions do not conform to ours, we will punish you.

It is bad enough to play the coward. However, it is even more contemptible to dress cowardice with a cloak of social concern and sensitivity, as if Cracker’s prime concern was for its clientele, instead of its own welfare, as if to say:

  • We were just trying to serve you, our valued clients, by not offending you with Duck products. Please understand that we made this move on your behalf, but now that you have expressed yourselves otherwise, we want to show you how responsive we are to your concerns!

In contrast to Cracker’s cowardice and compromise, Phil Robertson has stood firm in his convictions, even when faced with the prospect of loosing millions. In a recent magazine interview, he affirmed: “I will not give or back off from my path.” In this Sunday’s Bible class, he restated his stance:

  • I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater

  • I have been immoral, drunk, high. I ran with the wicked people for 28 years and I have run with the Jesus people since and the contrast is astounding.

  • I tell people, "You are a sinner, we all are. Do you want to hear my story before I give you the bottom line on your story?"

  • We murder each other and we steal from one another, sex and immorality goes ballistic. All the diseases that just so happen to follow sexual mischief… boy there are some microbes running around now.

  • Sexual sins are numerous and many, I have a few myself. So what is your safest course of action? If you’re a man, find yourself a woman, marry them and keep your sex right there.

  • When you look back at the human race, the sins have always been the same: We get high, we get drunk, we get laid, we steal and kill.

  • Has this changed at all from the time God burnt up whole cities because their every thought was evil?’

You might disagree with Phil’s remarks. You might think him crude. However, if he does not have the right to express such sentiments without fear of loosing job and reputation, then none of us are safe. At some point, most of us will run afoul of the thought police and the cowards who support them. Besides, the elimination of free speech becomes an invitation to any bully to take control and enforce his own totalitarian scheme.

We are all responsible to defend the liberties that have made this nation what it is. If we are willing to deny rights when their expression runs counter to our inclinations, then these rights will eventually disappear, and we will all suffer. The temptation to be a Cracker is within all of us and must be resisted. No society can long endure if focused only on self-interest at the expense of the higher principles.

At Gettysburg, Pa, Abraham Lincoln spoke out against physical slavery. We are confronted with another form of slavery – the slavery of thought and words. Although this latter form makes no use of iron chains, its chains are equally threatening to freedom and integrity.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Swaddling Cloths, a Child Born to Die, and Christmas

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus surprisingly preached:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5)
This message is perplexing. Instead, we would suppose, “Blessed are the rich in spirit, the non-mourners, and the proud.” How instead can it be that the humble mourners will be blessed?

Humble shepherds had been selected to be blessed by a glorious announcement:

  • And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8:12)
What a strange and surprising message. The promised Messiah – the hope of Israel – would be born in a filthy, smelly, fly-infested animal stall. No humbler circumstances could be envisioned! But there was another feature of this announcement that would have been even more startling. He would be “wrapped in swaddling cloths” as a “sign” to them. How would this constitute a sign? Babies have to be clothed in something, don’t they? Why not swaddling cloths? This would constitute a powerful and unimaginable sign that he was born to die:

  • The swaddling clothes were typically used on new-born lambs that were bred for sacrifice. The shepherd would swaddle the lamb and place it in a manger until it settled down from the birth. This would protect it from possible injury that would disqualify it as a sacrificial lamb. 
The sacrificial lamb had to be perfect, without blemish. The swaddling cloths were used to protect the lamb against possible injury or blemish. No one but the utterly destitute would ever conceive of wrapping their newborn in cloths kept in the manger for the sacrificial lambs. To cloth your baby this way would represent a foreboding of his imminent death, a sign` that parents would utterly reject.

These were also special shepherds preparing special lambs for the Temple sacrifice. Therefore, it would have been these shepherds, above any others, who would have been particularly struck by the sight of a child, especially the Savior of Israel, wrapped in the garments of sacrifice.

While the angel disclosed the divine identity of this Newborn, he did not disclose where to find Him, other than in “the town of David” – Bethlehem. No address was given, but perhaps none was needed. The renowned Jewish Christian theologian, Alfred Edersheim suggests that they would have known the address:

  • That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction [among the Jews – see Micah 5:2]. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, the “tower of the flock.” [Targum Pseudo-Jon. On Gen. xxxv. 21 – see also the prophecy of Micah 4:8] This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem [perhaps four miles away]. A passage in the Mishnah [Shek. vii. 4] leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds.
It has been said that this lookout “tower of the flock” also housed the shepherds’ sheepfold for the sacrificial lambs in the bottom floor. Because these lambs were so valued, the sheepfold was kept especially clean. Perhaps because of this, the uninvited couple from Nazareth sought refuge in this stable, knowing that, meanwhile, the shepherds were residing in the “field” with their flocks.

In any event, the shepherds didn’t ask the angel for traveling instructions. They knew the prophecy from Micah 4:8 ["And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come,   the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem."] and exactly where to go and “hurried off” to the sheepfold (Luke 2:16). Afterwards, they spread the Good News abroad:
  • When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. (Luke 2:17).
What was so special about this “word” and the confirmation they found in this Newborn? The heavenly host of angels had proclaimed that the advent of this Child meant the long-awaited peace and reconciliation between God and humanity:

  • “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
Those shepherds who really understood the Law knew that there had been no real and enduring peace between Israel and her God. The Temple signified the fact that Israel could not enter the presence of God; nor did they have the courage or desire to do so. The endless sacrifices signified that they were never truly freed from their sins (Hebrews 9 -10). If they were truly God-fearers, they were humbled and grieved by their sins. Mourning clung to them as a ball and chain, relieved by one thought only – the promised advent of a Messiah who would utterly take away their sins and grant them peace!

It is the fulfillment of this incredible promise – the Messiah died for my sins – that sustains me. It is only this that gives me the courage to face my ugly sins and to laugh in their face.

The more I have come to know my Messiah and my own unworthiness, the more I adore and esteem Him. Oddly, the more my own self-esteem dies, the more my esteem of this Child who came to die, lives. In my poorness of spirit, I have been blessed, and in my mourning, I have found His liberation.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Contextualized Proof of God’s Existence

Many atheists challenge me, “Prove your god exists!” I’ve been through this so often! No proof or evidence is ever enough. This coincides with the Bible’s teaching that they already have the evidence but reject it:

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

The evidence is right under their nose and in their eyes. Whatever they see points back to its Creator! Therefore, the battle for men’s hearts is primarily spiritual not evidential. Nevertheless, I continue to ask God to use our presentations of evidence and reason, and sometimes He does, as reflected in many testimonies.

One militant atheist kept pressing me for proof. I responded:

  • I’ll prove that God exists after you prove that you exist. After all, I do not talk to mere machines.

There is absolutely no way that he can prove that he exists and isn’t just a machine. If this is so, how can the atheist demand that I prove there is a God! However, he accused me of obfuscating and playing with words. I responded that this isn’t a word game but an illustration that absolute proofs do not exist and that it is pointless to try to prove something to someone who has no ears (or willingness) to hear. It’s like trying to prove to the color-blind that the color red exists. However, the problem is more acute with the atheist. While the color-blind can’t see red, the atheist refuses to see red.

However, if you want to go with evidence and proof, there is a better way. Let me lay it out in dialogue form:

Christian: Okay, let me attempt to give you just a bit of proof, but first tell me – How do you intend to evaluate my proof?

Atheist: With reason and logic, of course!

Christian: Evidently, you believe that reason and logic provide you with reliable tools to evaluate. Do you believe that they have to be unchanging and universal – that they work reliably in Shanghai as well as in NYC, today as well as next year?

Atheist: Well, in order to be reliable and useful tools, they must be universal and unchanging!

Christian: True, but how then do you account for the fact that these tools are universal and unchanging? What makes them this way in our universe of change and expansion – molecules-in-motion?

Atheist: Our laws of nature are also universal and unchanging. There’s nothing unusual about reason and logic being this way!

Christian: True, but this just magnifies your problem. How can you account for any of these laws being universal and unchanging?

Atheist: I don’t have to account for these qualities. It’s enough that they are useful.

Christian: I think that you do have to account for them. The viability of your naturalistic worldview depends on this accounting, and I don’t think you can. Meanwhile, I can!

Atheist: Ha, you mean with your imaginary sky friend!

Christian: Your worldview can only account for molecules-in-motion; God can account for the stability, operation, and origin of the laws. Meanwhile, you cannot account for how natural laws were created before there was even a “natural” to create them. Nor can you account for their elegance or usefulness. Only a Transcendent and intelligent Creator can!

Perhaps we can call this a “contextualized proof!”

Hating the Church; Finding the Church

Why do even Christians disdain and reject the church? For one thing, it is hard to esteem what our society consistently castigates or just ignores. In Prodigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media, Marvin Olasky writes:

  • A 1986 study by New York University Professor Paul Vitz found that the vast majority of elementary and high school textbooks go to great lengths to avoid reference to religion. Vitz found American history textbooks defining pilgrims as “people who make long trips” and fundamentalists as rural people who “follow the values and traditions of an earlier period.” One textbook listed three hundred important events in American history, but only three of the three hundred had anything to do with religion. A world history textbook left out any mention of the Protestant Reformation. A literature textbook changed a sentence by Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer from “Thank God” to “Thank goodness.” (3)

And the bias has become far worse since 1986. However, there are other reasons for our disdain for the church. Sometimes, it’s a matter of our self-centered expectations. Ted Kluck bravely confesses:

  • After I co-wrote Why We Love the Church, I embarked on a few of the most challenging and church-hating years of my life. The reasons were myriad, but can be condensed to two: I was jealous of my pastor’s success, and we couldn’t get pregnant but were in a church that we not-so-affectionately labeled “the fertile crescent.” At that moment I wished I “had no religion” and wished I could “love Jesus but not the church.”

We tend to think too highly of ourselves and expect too much from others by way of them stroking our demanding egos. However, the facing the ugliness within can be unbearable. It sometimes takes years for the Spirit to cut through our layers of denial and rationalizations – “The church is at fault, not me!” – before we can see what is truly at stake. And this is made even worse by a culture that willingly reaffirms our assessment – “It’s the fault of the church.”

It is inevitably painful to confront the real me. It requires being stripped of our “protective” covering. It’s like being skinned alive. However Kluck was brought to a more unbiased assessment through this painful “surgery”:

  • The church is the best place to meet God authentically, and ironically we meet Him through imperfect people who are created in His image and who are called to meet together. I’ve seen Him work. He’s shown me my sin and led me to the cross – the only place where I have any comfort or hope in this life or the next. I’ve seen amazing grace in the church. It helped save a wrench like me. (CRJ, Vol. 36, Number 5, 61)

Loving the church requires heroism – facing the truth about ourselves - and seeing how our Lord addresses our brokenness through His church.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Radical Equality vs. Christian Mercy

Radical equality (RE) and Christian mercy (CM) are different, although both recognize our responsibility for the rest of the human race. While RE disdains distinctions based on race, nationality and even family in favor of a radical human collective, emphasizing the oneness of all humanity, CM requires that mercy begins with and radiates outward from personal, faith and familial relationships. A husband’s primary duty is to his wife and then his children. The son’s primary responsibility is to his parents, to honor and care for them. To provide for other senior citizens, at the expense of one’s own ailing parents, is unacceptable.

I occasionally would counsel others. Sometimes, we find this more gratifying than counseling or comforting our own spouses. However, whenever I would counsel, I would almost hear a voice reminding me not to neglect my own wife. To do so would be hypocritical.

Is this chauvinistic and narrow? I don’t think so. Love for those closest to us – parents, spouses, children, and even neighbors – is a measure of the genuineness of our love. This is a saying that merits some attention: “If you want to know about the character of a person, just ask his maid.”

This speaks volumes. It warns us that there are many who speak magnificent words about helping humanity, but their home life reveals something very different about them.

If charity is real, it must begin at home. Charity that is only exercised at a distance - for those who are not our relations - is not charity at all but a self-centered show of piety. If charity and mercy are real, they must be demonstrated where rubber and road make contact – at home.

Love must start at home and with our spouse. If we love our spouse, we are doing the best thing for our children, providing for them a joyful and loving family life. A neglected wife tends to become a clinging or perhaps bitter mother.

Love is meant to radiate out like a warm bonfire. Loving our children is perhaps the best way to love our neighbor’s children. When we bully our children, they will bully other children. Instead, when we love them, they will pass this love on to other children.

Of course, this is an over-simplification, but I think that it does point out that love and mercy are best produced and expressed through relationship and not through social programs promoting RE. If we want to start a charcoal fire, we do not light the edges. Instead, we concentrate in the center, and once the center catches fire, it will spread to the periphery.

It is also the same among Christians. If Christ is the fire, then He will ignite it in the center - among us. It will then spread to the periphery where others will be attracted to its warmth. Christ suggested that the love – our oneness – we share will positively impact others:

  • “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

When I write against the present genocide against Christians, even Christians recoil. They claim that instead, we have to be concerned about the persecution of all people. Although this is true, it must start at home, among us. If it doesn’t, we make any claims of love suspect and vacuous.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stop Massacring our People

For my first number of years as a Christian, I suffered from a lack of sound teaching. It was legalistic – try harder and do better – with just a thin veneer of grace. Consequently, I suffered with the fear that I just wasn’t good enough or likeable enough for God, and however hard I struggled to win His approval, I could never feel confident that I had. I therefore felt alienated from God and also from the church.

The understanding of the grace of God came slowly, but with it came peace and joy – a confidence that it was all about His righteousness and not my own. As I because convinced of His undying love for me, I was set free from so much that had tormented me.

However, we are saved and given this incredible free gift for a reason – to adore and serve Him gladly. We must not only bask in His love, we must also embody His love. As He has loved us, we must love others. As he has forgiven us, we must also forgive others. As He has done for us, we must do for others. Do we discard His commandments? No, we maintain it (Rom. 3:31):

·         “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

Obedience reflects our love. If we refuse to obey, it means that we refuse to love and even to trust Him. If we trust Him, we will do what He commands. If we don’t trust Him, we won’t!
If we do trust Him, we will endeavor to love the brethren, and when we fail – and we will fail – we confess our sins and try again. If we are unwilling to love the brethren, then we are unwilling to love God and to follow Him:
·         We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person… Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:3-4, 9)
Love is both an indication of our salvation and a duty. If we have faith, we will love the brethren. If instead we refuse, we lie and don’t know the Lord. Therefore, we must repent.

How do we love the brethren? First, by recognizing who they are – any who put their trust in Jesus, anywhere in the world!

There are tens of thousands of Christians being routinely slaughtered, especially in Muslim countries, and the Western church remains largely silent:

·         Still, the response [to the genocide] remains muted. President Barack Obama could use U.S. moral authority and foreign aid leverage against countries turning a blind eye to persecution. Time magazine’s man of the year, Pope Francis, could use his Christmas message to highlight the suffering of Christians and make it a recurring theme of his papacy. It would be gratifying if the mainline U.S. Protestant churches that get so worked up every time Israel issues a permit to build a new home in the disputed West Bank could show a similar outrage backed up by a firm commitment to fight oppression of their fellow Christians.

This should be an embarrassment to us! When I raise this issue with “progressive Christians,” they shrug off their responsibility, protesting, “We are concerned about all people.” Although this is true, we have a special calling to first love the brethren:

·         “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35; 17:20-24)

If we love the brethren, we also serve others by demonstrating the reality of Jesus. If we don’t love the brethren and ignore this present genocide, then we fail to attest to the reality of Jesus.

Besides, love is meaningless if it doesn’t begin at home. The husband who doesn’t love his wife, doesn’t love his children either. Instead, we best serve our children by loving our mate. We best serve the world by loving the brethren.

How do we love the brethren? By praying for them! By opening our mouths! By crying out on their behalf! By carrying placards at the UN to embarrass the offending nations! By petitioning our pastors and legislators! By flying flags outside of our churches: “Stop massacring our people!”

Can Jews be Anti-Semitic?

There is a strange and commonly observed phenomenon among Jews – a disdain for Israel. We see various indications of this. Here’s one I just read about:

·         Jewish students at Swarthmore College have become the first in the nation to break with the global student association Hillel and agree to open their doors to groups and speakers who do not support Israel. The Swarthmore student board unanimously voted to renounce Hillel International's restrictions, which bar chapters from sponsoring events, hosting speakers, or partnering with groups that oppose Israel's right to exist or support a movement for universities to end investments in Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians.

Interesting, we don’t find this kind of thing among the Muslims. I experience this same phenomenon up close. Just last week, a Jewish woman – and she had visited Israel on numerous occasions but reflected an unbalanced sympathy for the Palestinian cause – expressed this disdain for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

I tried to balance her disdain by presenting other factors – Muslim atrocities, suicide bombings, threats, resolve to exterminate Israel, and their unwillingness, under any terms, to accept Israel’s right to exist. I even pointed out that Arabs live in Israel under more favorable conditions than they do in their own Islamic countries.

However, she would have none of it and fired back, “I hold Israel to a higher standard.” I wanted to point out that her “higher standard” was nothing more than a double-standard – a violation of justice and fair-mindedness – but the words didn’t come to me at that moment. However, it started me thinking about this strange Jewish phenomenon.

Some would ascribe it to Jewish anti-Semitism, explaining that the Jews had absorbed this contempt from the surrounding society. However, this woman didn’t seem to suffer from self-contempt; nor did the many other Jews who have expressed similar opinions.

(I would imagine, perhaps wrongly, that the Jews of Germany could have done much to stop Hitler, but they didn’t. I lean toward this conclusion because I have observed so many Jewish groups in denial about the present threat of Islam and the mass-exodus of Jews from Western Europe because of Islamic violence. Instead, they are content to run programming about the Jews of Eastern Europe and the Holocaust and refuse to see the growing Holocaust in their present midst. I talked to one director of a local NYC Jewish group about this absence among their programs, and she blithely informed me that the Islamic threat just wasn’t part of their vision.)

How then do we account for this obviously self-destructive tendency?  I don’t sense that it is a matter of anti-Semitism but rather of pride – a special Jewish pride. I know something about this, because it had been Jewish pride that enabled me to accept myself in the midst of crippling feelings. When I felt bad, I would remind myself that I belonged to a great race of people – a people that had produced Einstein, Freud and 30% of the Nobel Prize recipients. It was this pride that enabled me to get out of bed in the morning.

However, I didn’t realize that I was paying a great price for this elixir. Pride, as with any psychological dependency, requires continual feeding or fixes. I had to continually remind myself of who I am and who my people are. I had to be superior and so also my people. I was not content that my people be as other people. They had to be superior. My ego and self-image depended on it! Consequently, Israel had to be better than the other nations, and when it was not, Jewish pride required that Israel pay the price of our censure. The Jews now unjustly indict Israel for failing to live up to the inflated standards that we require to maintain our self-esteem.

What then is the answer? Transparency, honesty, and a re-evaluation! We need to recognize our unjust double-standard and why we produced it. However, this is almost impossible. We remain stuck in darkness, our self-constructed prison – a darkness that blinds us to the surrounding dangers. God help us!

Evolution: The Walking Dead?

If macro-evolution is a fact, this should be illustrated by the fossil record and how its patterns of common descent are paralleled by accompanying genetic similarities. In other words, common structures should have common genes if common descent is a reality. We should be able to detect a genetic and morphological pattern of lineal descent, not a hodge-podge of common traits (homologies) or structures found in unrelated species.

This assumption is so fundamental to the theory of evolution that Linus Pauling and Emile Zuckerkandl predicted that there would be no difficulty in demonstrating that common structures and their assumed common ancestry – as reflected in the Darwinian tree of life – should coincide with the tree of life generated from molecular (genetic) studies:

  • If the two phylogenic trees [one constructed based on common morphology and the other on common genetics] are mostly in agreement in respect to the topology of branching, the best available single proof of the reality of macro-evolution would be furnished. (Evolutionary Divergence and Convergence of Proteins, 1965, 101)

While the undertaking was reasonable, the results were damning. Biochemist, W. Ford Doolittle confessed:

  • Molecular phylogenists will have failed to find the “true tree,” not because their methods are inadequate or because they have chosen the wrong genes, but because the history of life cannot properly be represented as a “tree.”

  • It is as if we have failed at the task that Darwin set for us: delineating the unique structure of the tree of life.

Doolittle’s conclusions agree with those of many other biochemists. Michael Syvanen had examined 2000 genes across different phyla in an attempt to establish a lineal consistent pattern or tree. However, he found that different genes told “contradictory evolutionary stories”:

  • We just annihilated the tree of life. It’s not a tree any more; it’s a different topology entirely.

Casey Luskin summarizes these dismal findings:

  • Biological similarity is constantly being found in places where it wasn’t predicted by common descent, leading to conflicts between phylogenetic trees. (Salvo, Issue 27, 50. All of these quotations have been taken from Luskin’s article.)

If this is true, this undermines the evolutionist’s claims of common descent based on either common morphology or common molecules. But how extensive is this problem? Luskin cites a 2012 paper that claims that it is truly extensive:

  • Phylogenetic conflict is common and frequently the norm rather than the exception.

Luskin cites another paper from the journal of Biological Theory (2006):

  • Overall similarity reflects degree of relatedness…Review of the history of molecular systematics and its claims in the context of molecular biology reveals that there is no basis for the “molecular assumption.”

“No basis?” However, Darwinism requires a tree – molecular and morphological - that can illustrate some kind – any kind - of lineal descent! No tree, no evidence of common  descent! But the tree seems to be non-existent. Then, perhaps also macro-evolution?

Is the theory of evolution a dead man who is still walking, meanwhile threatening and banishing opposition, in a vain attempt to circumvent its inevitable demise?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Atheists, Billboards and “Hate Speech”

The American Atheists (AA) just erected billboard in Times Square reading, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” with an “X” through “Christ.” While I defend their right to be offensive, I can still take issue with their message.

Even though the West is quickly abandoning their former secular roots and the freedom of speech in favor of repressing what is now deemed “hate speech,” we are on a dangerous trajectory, granting government additional power to suppress speech deemed “offensive.”

Nevertheless, I think that the AA message is needlessly offensive and even hypocritical. It is needlessly offensive because it offends without providing any off-setting content. It represents nothing more than mindless sloganeering. It contributes no substance, edification, inspiration, or illumination, just crass intolerance towards the Christian faith. It offers nothing but offense!

It is also offensive because of what it represents – an attempt to eliminate Christianity! I have dialogued with many militant atheists, and they have made no secret of the fact that they think that the world will be a better place without Christianity, and for this they labor! It is worthy of note that they are little different from their infamous forebears:

  • Karl Marx: "In simple truth, I harbour hate 'gainst all the Gods."

  • Nikolai Lenin: "Every religious idea, every idea of god, even every flirtation with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness."

  • Nikita Khrushchev: "We, Communists ... are atheists ... Public education, the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and the study of the laws of nature, leave no place for belief in God ... We consider that belief in God contradicts our Communist outlook." "We remain the atheists that we have always been; we are doing all we can to liberate those people who are still under the spell of this religious opiate."

These atheistic luminaries were not content to merely speak against the Christian faith. They strenuously  sought to eliminate it along with those who practiced it. Do we have cause to be offended by this modern crop of militant atheists? Without a doubt!

In addition to the offense, the AA billboard also represents hypocrisy. Their website announces their purpose:

  • American Atheists, Inc., is organized

·         to stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices;

·         to encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and the corresponding responsibility of each individual in relation to society;

Although the AAs claim that their purpose is “to stimulate and promote freedom of thought and inquiry,” their billboard is designed to accomplish the very opposite thing - to silence and discredit any real thought or discussion. This parallels my own experience with the militants. I have challenged them to public debates on numerous occasions, but they have always declined.

They also claim that they want “to encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people.” However, instead of fostering “mutual sympathy,” their billboard fosters blatant intolerance and an utter lack of “sympathy.” Instead of wanting to work along with us to improve society, the AA clearly wants to eliminate us. What else could “Christ” with an “X” through Him connote!

Meanwhile, the militants have hypocritically accused me of intolerance, when I have simply referenced surveys and studies that have demonstrated the ill effects of the gay lifestyle. They have labeled my “homophobe,” “bigot,” “hate-monger” and even “sexist” – nothing to promote their goal of “freedom of thought and inquiry.”

The AA’s claim that they are trying to work for a “humane ethical system,” while they are exhibiting the height of “Christophobia!” While they bash us for our alleged intolerance, they model the very behavior they claim to reject! However, they are known by the fruits that they bear.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Income Inequality: An Evil?

There has been a lot in print lately about correcting income inequality, as if it’s an established human right for everyone to have identical incomes. However, before we conclude that there is something righteous about establishing income equality, let’s first re-examine a few things, namely Marxism – the proactive attempt to attain this goal and, with it, a “worker’s paradise.”

Marxism has been tried, and it has never produced any semblance of any kind of paradise. Instead, in each place where Marxism has created its “paradise,” it has required walls, threats, work camps, murder and Gulags to convince its populace that they were living in a virtual paradise, despite their strenuous attempts to flee it! One Soviet Christian, Alexandr Ogordinokov, wrote about the “paradise” to which he had been sent:

  • Concentration camps are scattered over the vast expanse of Russia, behind tall fences of barbed wire and high-voltage cables…you are buried in the tomb-like twilight of solitary punishment cells; the oppressive silence of faceless days turns time itself into an instrument of torture…Hunger gnaws at your belly, and cold numbs your flesh and desperation courses through your blood. (Marvin Olasky, Prodigal Press, xxiii)

This description could describe any communist death camp, whether in Cuba, Cambodia, China, or Vietnam. But why? Is there something endemic to income equality that produces horrors? Perhaps – Here are some possibilities:

1.      Income equality requires massive government control to ensure that income is equal – something that requires repression and coercion.

2.      Income equality has never been identified by any of the major world religions as a human right or even a goal. Although the Bible places a lot of emphasis on caring for the poor – a responsibility that many churches gladly undertake – there is no biblical mandate to establish income equality. Instead, all major religions are reluctant to undermine individual initiative in this manner.

3.      If income equality cannot be demonstrated as a right – and it clearly undermines initiative and creates a destructive sense of entitlement – it then becomes difficult to rationally justify it. Therefore, if reason fails to justify income equality, then coercion becomes inevitable with its Gulags and barbed-wire fences.

4.      Moral relativism – and this has been so closely associated with progressive Marxism – also undermines rationality and therefore must rely upon coercion. If all morals are simply relative to the person or culture, there is no objective moral truth or moral good upon which to base income equality. Therefore, such a program is inherently incoherent and indefensible.

5.      Christianity also tries to address the problem of human suffering. However, it identifies sin as the problem – an analysis that goes far deeper and more universally than the Marxist economic analysis. Consequently, the ideal of income equality to produce a better world represents a different, competing, and anti-Christian hope for a better world. Such a hope does not issue forth from the major world religions but from progressive atheism.

6.      In order to promote such a hope, unsupported by reason or history, the “progressives” must defensively damn every other hope as evil and regressive. Therefore, in order to implement their hope for a better world, they must suppress or remove alternative thinking. Here are just several examples of this contempt and intolerance endemic to an insupportable hope:

·         Karl Marx: "In simple truth, I harbour hate 'gainst all the Gods." His dissertation stated that we should "recognize as the highest divinity, the human self-consciousness itself!"

·         Nikolai Lenin: "Every religious idea, every idea of god, even every flirtation with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness."

·         Nikita Khrushchev: "We, Communists ... are atheists ... Public education, the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and the study of the laws of nature, leave no place for belief in God ... We consider that belief in God contradicts our Communist outlook." "We remain the atheists that we have always been; we are doing all we can to liberate those people who are still under the spell of this religious opiate."

For them, capitalism is an evil, an impediment to the attainment of income equality. It therefore must be eliminated.

But is capitalism really an evil? As a farmer, I decided that I had enough tomatoes to sell on the roadside to make a little extra money. Was this an evil? Actually, by providing more tomatoes to the market, my tomato stand would tend to lower the overall price and contribute additional wealth to the community. Nothing evil about that! I didn’t take any food out of anyone’s mouth. Instead, I contributed food.

If I had even more tomatoes to sell to justify hiring a picker, would this have been evil? Certainly, the hired help and his family wouldn’t have thought so, and I can’t think of anyone else who would have objected, apart from a Marxist.

This is not to say that capitalism cannot be used for evil. Any institution can be! The UN and even Congress have been used for evil, but I wouldn’t suggest that we therefore dismantle them! Nor am I advocating for unbridled capitalism. Every institution requires its checks and balances. All are inherently corruptible!

This brings us back to the question of evil and a realistic hope in the face of this evil. The reason that our best-conceived institutions turn evil is because we are evil and require a Savior. Our Bible presents us with the only adequate hope to address the evil:

  • We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:20-21)

How Can “Eternal Hell” Be Consistent with God’s Character?

Renowned atheist, Robert Ingersoll (1833-99), was no friend to the biblical faith. He had attacked it in perhaps its most vulnerable place – the doctrine of eternal damnation:

  • Eternal punishment must be eternal cruelty…and I do not see how any man, unless he has the brain of an idiot, or the heart of a wild beast, can believe in eternal punishment.

Ingersoll had charged that hell was “eternal cruelty,” not eternal justice as we Christians believe. However, it is difficult to launch a defense. Although the doctrine of eternal damnation is scripturally well-established, much about the nature of hell is left uncertain, and perhaps purposely so. Scripture warns us that we are not going to understand everything:

  • The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29)

To illustrate our uncertainty about the nature of hell, let’s take a look at one common revelation about it. According to Jesus, it will be a place of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”:

  • “And will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42)

  • “Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” (Matthew 22:13)

  • "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Luke 13:28)

These verses reveal one consistent problem in our attempt to understand the nature of hell. Much of the language seems to be figurative (poetic). The first verse associates the “wailing” with a “furnace of fire,” while the second with “outer darkness.” Both descriptions – fire and darkness - cannot be literal. Meanwhile, the last verse associates the “weeping” with the regret of missing out eternally on the benefits of the kingdom. While they wanted the benefits, they continued to reject the Benefactor as they had in their first life.

Reject? The consistent absence of any attempt to confess sins and repent makes their rejection of God rather obvious. It was absent from Judas’ thinking. Instead of confession and repentance, he elected to pay for his betrayal of Jesus himself by his suicide. It was absent from Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man, who, upon death, found himself in a place of torment. Instead of confessing his sins asking pleading for forgiveness, he merely requested that his torment be slightly eased (Luke 16).

This leads us to another question about hell – one that opens the window to a possible understanding of divine justice in this matter. What if hell is self-chosen? Jesus gives us a hint of what this might look like:

  • For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict [“condemnation,” NKJV]: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:17-19)

According to Jesus, He need not condemn us. We are self-“condemned already,” because we have rejected the Son, the only way of finding forgiveness. And it seems that the condemnation in the next life will be little different. Because we have chosen the darkness of sin instead of the light of Christ, it is we who have made the choice for our eternal destiny! If we loved darkness here, we will continue to love darkness there and will flee from the now blinding and terrifying Light of the Presence of the Savior.

This is not to deny that there will be a great judgment in the end. However, it does suggest that God might simply approve the very judgment we have chosen for ourselves. Heaven and hell, therefore, might simply be a matter of God giving us what we have chosen for ourselves.

Another illustration of this principle is found in the Garden account. After Adam and Eve had sinned, their orientation towards the Light was radically transformed. While prior to their sin, they enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God in the Garden. They were so comfortable with this arrangement that their nakedness caused no discomfort whatsoever. However, once they sinned, they hid in the darkness from the Light, which had now become distasteful to them, and determined to deal with their guilt and shame in their own way, much as Judas had done. While the first couple attempted to cover their sin with fig leaves, Judas resorted to a hangman’s noose.

Even after God had given them room to confess their sin, they lied and refused to take responsibility for their betrayal. Indeed, God cast them out of the Garden and out of His Presence. However, they never once pleaded for His mercy. Even after they were informed that they would be sent to a place of pain, death and hard work, they never once expressed any objection to this terrible judgment. Instead, it seems that they were more than willing to endure the pain in order to avoid the Light.
Perhaps this is a dim picture of the supreme and terrifying justice of hell? I don’t know. However, I am confident that our God is just and merciful despite our perplexities. He promises as much:

·         “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47-48)