Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pedophiles have now become “Minor-Attracted People”

Everyone has a sexual orientation. Why then should one sexual orientation be favored over others? Doesn’t this constitute a violation of our unalienable human rights as Hilary Clinton had argued? B4U-ACT.Org also argues that pedophiles, “minor-attracted people,” have been given a bad rap and that their orientation also has to be respected as are other orientations:

  • Stigmatizing and stereotyping minor-attracted people inflames the fears of minor-attracted people, mental health professionals…
But perhaps it might be best to leave the stigma in place in view of the horrific damage done to minors by pedophiles. However, this stigma is gradually dissolving through the acid of political correctness. The Diagnostic Manuel (V) of the American Psychological Association has gone a long way to soften the stigma.

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) drew a very distinct line between pedophilia and pedophilic disorder. Pedophilia refers to a sexual orientation or profession of sexual preference devoid of consummation, whereas pedophilic disorder is defined as a compulsion and is used in reference to individuals who act on their sexuality.

In other words, pedophilia is no longer classified as a mental illness, just the criminal act. If it doesn’t lead to a crime, then it’s perfectly okay! A safe but superficial and misleading definition! To demonstrate just how problematic this definition is, take the homicidal maniac. Would the APA say that all of his murderous and sadistic ideation is okay as long as he doesn’t act it out? Certainly not! Behavior can no more be divorced from mental life than can sexual acting-out be divorced from its motivators – pornography, for example.

However, B4U-ACT insists that this is the very thing that pedophiles should do – fantasize without acting-out:

  • [Paul] Christiano [its spokesman] answered that while B4U-ACT encouraged minor-attracted persons within the organization to openly acknowledge their feelings and desires, such sexual preferences must remain purely a mental exercise and therefore entirely unconsummated. In other words, pedophiles must be allowed to fantasize about minors, as long as such acts are never consummated.
Is Christiano serious or is this just a political ploy? In a grad school paper, he wrote in favor of the “sexual autonomy” of children, adding that children “should not be left in the dark about their own sexuality.”

Clearly, he is not in favor of parents depriving their children of their “sexual autonomy.”

  • According to Christiano, people must be allowed to celebrate sex and sexuality, “one of the few freely-given pleasures in life.”
However, does pedophilia represent the healthy celebration of sex or a destructive perversion? Also, let’s make no mistake about “sexual autonomy!” A child is not autonomous! That’s why they have a family. However, these two little words are used as a crowbar to wrench the child away from the protection of his/her parents and cast into the permissive State cauldron.

Historically, State-raised children do not fare any better than factory-raised chickens. All of the State utopian schemes – Hitler Youth, communist-indoctrinated youth – have had an attenuated run, where the cost has been borne by both children and parents.

Our children have become the new laboratory monkeys. While the media has protested the cruelty to monkeys, our children’s sexual experimentation might prove to be an acceptable narrative.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Unifying Theory of Everything

Where did the universe come from? Some cosmologists want to hypothesize that it sprang into existence from “nothing.” However, their “nothing” is something. Alexander Vilenkin believes that “something is in place beforehand – namely the laws of physics.” However, he admits:

  • It’s a great mystery as to where the laws of physics come from. We don’t even know how to approach it. (Steve Nadis, “Starting Point,” Discover [Sept. 2013])

Perhaps Vilenkin doesn’t know how to “approach it,” because he is starting with the wrong paradigm. Certainly, from a naturalistic, atheistic perspective, this question is a “great mystery.” However, this might be more than a mystery but a veritable impossibility:

  1. The laws of physics are elegant, universal, and immutable. Only a cause of equal or greater magnitude could explain their existence and uniform functioning. This consideration alone should eliminate naturalism.

  1. A natural explanation is impossible because the natural is not yet in existence to cause the natural laws. Nothing is in existence!

  1. Invoking any natural cause would also suffer from the problem of infinite regress – What causes the cause, and then, what causes the cause of the cause, ad infinitum! The only way to avoid this conundrum is to invoke the transcendent – an eternal Causer who doesn’t require a cause!

  1. It is also hard to understand how the unchanging laws of physics could arise from what is always changing. It is equally hard to envision how they can remain unchanging in our ever-expanding universe of molecules in motion.

The naturalistic paradigm clearly does not prove fruitful here. However, there is one other paradigm that does offer a cogent explanation:

    • In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth!

Monday, October 28, 2013

What the Fossils Say about Darwin

If common descent has taken place, it should most directly be demonstrated in the fossil record, as one paleontology textbook asserts:

  • Fossils are the only direct record of the history of life.
However, the fossil record refuses to conform to evolutionary orthodoxy. Darwin even admitted his uneasiness about this evidence. However, he expected that future finds would eventually fill in the gaps by unearthing transitional forms, but these hopes have never been realized. Instead, the gaps have been further highlighted, as the finds have consistently lined up on only one side of the gap. One evolutionist acknowledged:

  • Most of the animal phyla that are represented in the fossil record first appear “fully formed”…The fossil record is therefore of no help with respect to understanding the origin and early diversification of the animal phyla. (Barnes, et al., The Invertebrates: A New Synthesis, 3rd Edition, 9-10)
Darwin had thought that the absence of predecessors – ancestral forms – was due to their not being fossilized because, being softer, they couldn’t be fossilized as easily. However, since Darwin, many tiny soft-bodied fossils have been unearthed below the “fully formed” phyla. Stephen C. Meyer explains the devastating implications of these finds for the theory of evolution:

  • If paleontologists can find tiny fossilized cells in these far older and rarer formations, shouldn’t they also be able to find some ancestral forms of the Cambrian animals in younger and more abundant sedimentary rocks. (Darwin’s Doubts)
The late Stephen Jay Gould refers to this absence as “the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution.” Casey Luskin points out that this same absence of predecessors is also found among flowering plants…:

  • As one paper states, “Angiosperms appear rather suddenly in the fossil record…with no obvious ancestors”…Many mammals orders appear in a similarly explosive way. Paleontologist Niles Eldredge explains that “there are all sorts of gaps: absence of gradationally intermediate ‘transitional’ forms between species, but also between larger groups – between, say, families of carnivores, or the orders of mammals.” A prominent ornithology textbook observes the “explosive evolution” of major living bird groups.
Luskin summarizes the findings:

  • A straightforward reading of the fossil record consistently shows a pattern of abrupt explosions of new types of organisms. (Salvo, Fall 2013, 51)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

“Who am I?” and why this Question Matters

Who am I? We want to be authentic and self-accepting, so we ask this question. Too often, we find that we have become so addicted to trying to be the person who others will love and respect, that we have lost track of ourselves.

Building self-esteem is just another attempt of trying to be what we think others want us to be. However, this endeavor takes us even further away from ourselves, in an attempt to be something other – something that will earn the esteem of others.

Instead, we want to return to ourselves, no matter what others might think. However, in our vain attempt to find authenticity, we identify ourselves with our desires, those that yell the loudest. Food yells loudly to me. However, does my love to stuff myself define who I am? Am I no more than a collection of my desires and needs?

Many erroneously define themselves in terms of their sexual desires. However, CNN reports:

  • “More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships,” said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment.

  • "Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it's still a distraction from dealing with each other," said Ruskin, author of "Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual."

  • "It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled."

According to Ruskin, non-monogamy (polyamory), rather than reflecting who we are at our most basic level, represents an escape from ourselves.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t seem to be much help. Psychologist Miriam Grossman writes:

  • “According to the AAP, a teen boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants his genitalia removed is ‘normal,’ just different.” But, Grossman asks, what if an African American teen is convinced she’s really Caucasian? “Should her pediatrician affirm her belief, and support her wish for facial surgery and skin bleaching?” The AAP also supports finding an affirming therapist for a boy who believes he is a girl. Grossman notes. “But if my son is attracted to boys, and his urges feel foreign and distressing, you [AAP] advise me to find a therapist who will tell him ‘This is who you are, accept it.’ However, does that make sense?” (Salvo, Fall 2013, 32)

It only makes sense in terms of politics and political correctness, but are our identities no more than socio-political constructs? Is there any real answer to the question, “Who am I?” Is there a truth that transcends the changing political currents? Is “pathology” no more than being something that contradicts the prevailing culture?

How might we answer these questions? Well, how might we know whether we have put our jigsaw puzzle together correctly? If the pieces and the patterns all fit together! After following Jesus for 36 years, I find that the puzzle of my life has been harmonized. With the assurance of His love and forgiveness, I have been enabled to accept myself, and that hasn’t been easy. For years, I had fled from the ugly things I had seen in myself. Instead, I built my self-esteem, convincing myself that I was a good person, denying the bad. Consequently, I was never able to resolve conflicts with others. My puzzle remained fractured. After all, I was right and therefore could no longer see my own culpability.

How do we know when our puzzle fits? When our mind is at rest! When we no longer obsess, trying to fit pieces into slots where they don not belong.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Not all Atheists are Moral Relativists

Not all atheists are moral relativists – people who believe that morality just exists in our minds and decisions. The atheist, secular humanist, Max Hocutt provides a good example of moral relativist thinking:

·        To me [the non-existence of God] means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their needs…If there were a morality written up in the sky somewhere but no God to enforce it, I see no good reason why anyone should pay it any heed. (Understanding the Times)

Hocutt understands that without God, there is no possible basis for objective moral law, apart from our subjective thinking. In contrast to this, a small group of atheists are moral realists and believe that there is an objective moral law that pertains to all of us, irrespective of our thinking. In other words, even if every human being thought that it was okay to torture babies, it would still be wrong according to moral law, which transcends human thinking (although humans are generally tapped-into moral law.)

So far, the atheistic moral realist and the Christian agree, at least until we examine further and ask, “Is this moral law personal or impersonal? Is there a God standing behind it or just a natural force such as Karma?” 

This raises several critical problems:

  1. If there is impersonal karmic moral law, how is it enforced? How can impersonal forces ensure that karmic justice is served? How can these forces make the critical assessments required by justice in order to deliver the right verdict and punishment? (It is important to understand that moral realism doesn’t negate relativistic factors such as personal history, culture, intelligence, ability and the various personal situations. Moral realism merely asserts that that there are objective moral principles in addition to the relative circumstances.) Instead, it would seem that only an intelligent Being could do so!

  1. How did these beautifully elegant, immutable and universal laws – both physical and moral – arise and what sustains them? There is absolutely no theory to account for how they might have arisen naturally!

  1. Moral laws are different from physical laws because they carry moral authority. While we can avoid the effects of gravity in a number of ways, like flying in a plane, it does not seem that we can avoid the implications of violating moral laws. There is no pill or scientific breakthrough that will allow us to torture babies without consequence. It’s just plain wrong, whatever the circumstance or innovation! There is no way to avoid the “karma” involved in such an action. Instead, it seems that a moral Being necessarily stands His moral laws to enforce them in a way distinct from His physical laws.

Even Hocutt seems to acknowledge this:

·        If there were a morality written up in the sky somewhere but no God to enforce it, I see no good reason why anyone should pay it any heed.

Hocutt acknowledges that a moral law without a Law-Giver is no law at all. Against this wisdom, some moral realists will claim:

·        I don’t require a Law-Giver or punishment in order to obey moral law. It is enough for me to know that it is objectively wrong to torture babies.

However, by rejecting the Law-Giver from this equation, the moral realist encounters additional problems:

  1. Even if there is an objective moral law, what makes it right to obey it? And why should we obey it? For the Christian, the answer is direct and easy. We love God and want to obey Him because He has earned our love by dying for us on the cross, removing any enmity between us. We are therefore safe and secure in Him. Besides, God is the source of all moral truth, and we are wired with that truth. Consequently, as we follow Him, we find that His judgments accord with what He has placed within our heart. As a result of this, rebellion is futile, because when we rebel against God, we also rebel against the truth He has placed within us. Therefore, there exists no legitimate basis for any moral judgment that would contradict Him.

  1. If we really hear what the moral says, we will hear it saying, “If you violate me, you have transgressed and deserve to be punished.” Guilt and shame reinforce this judgment. Therefore, it is not as simple as the moral realist makes it out to be. Moral law is more than just knowing something to be wrong.

  1. The moral realist also has to grapple with his rationale to follow the law. Why not simply ignore it if it just came about naturally. However, as with all other laws of “nature,” these are necessary gifts for human thriving. If we fail to ask where they came from, we are like the man who receives a gift in the mail and throws away the card, not wanting to know to whom he should now honor for his gift.

The laws cry out “God!” Frank Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics, would agree:

    • When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Malala, Proactive Love, and Burning Coals

I must admit that I’m upset about a lot of things:

  1. Associates who scorn what is most important to me - my faith (and I feel like scorning them!)
  2. The secular media, which also scorns the Christian faith, although often obliquely
  3. Western governments that either remain silent or abet the extermination of Christians in numerous Muslim nations.
However, Scripture does not leave us comfortless, as the Psalms demonstrate:

·        Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good…Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:1-9)

Persecution is inevitable:

·        In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12; John 15:18-20)

But why is it so hard to accept this fact, and why do we allow anger to control our thinking? Why do we continue to be tossed about by the viciousness, lies, and hypocrisy of the world? Perhaps to draw us deeper into His Word and glorious promises! The Apostle Paul has given us precious guidance:

·        Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

We are required to love even those who have mistreated us. And this love has to be proactive. It can take many forms – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and through hundreds of other ways.

I find that my days are often characterized by impatience, irritation, and irritability. However, there is nothing that counteracts my nasty tendencies better than a determination to seek ways to love others, sometimes simply by sincerely smiling at those who have rejected me and seeking their welfare. How liberating this has been!

However, according to Paul (and the Proverbs, from which he quoted), by loving the unlovable, we “heap burning coals on his head.” Burning coals purify, getting his attention and changing his thinking quicker than anything else. And when we do so, we honor and exhibit our Master for all to see.

This doesn’t mean that we remain silent before injustice; nor does it mean that we don’t expose evil (Eph. 5:11) and pursue justice! While, on a personal level, we must overcome “evil with good,” we are instructed to “leave room for God's wrath.” This doesn’t mean that we remain passive in view of God’s final judgment. Instead, “God’s wrath” is also exercised in other ways. In the next chapter Paul wrote about one of them:

·        For he [the criminal justice system – courts, judges, and punishment] is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)

There is nothing wrong with appealing to “God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Our Lord has given us the freedom and privilege to love and not seek revenge, because He has placed “revenge” into the hands of His ordained legal system. The assurance that justice will be done gives my mind rest and allows me to devote myself to loving my enemies.

The law of love is a God-given law that God has placed in the hearts of all of us. It is so powerful that it can even overcome fear. Just ask 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who had nearly been killed by a Taliban gunman:

·        "If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib … You must not treat others with cruelty … You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education."

The world’s reaction to Malala’s testimony is just as remarkable as the testimony itself! Love has awed and silenced the world – burning coals! Perhaps her testimony will not silence everyone. Indeed, the Taliban have vowed to finish their job.

However, love must become the testimony of all of us, as we seek to honor our Lord, who would have us receive others as we have received Him, in love.

Please understand that I am also preaching to myself. Love doesn’t come naturally to me, but it is available to all for the taking and using. May God enable us to take hold!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Was Jesus a Religious Pluralist?

Jesus has been called many things: a communist, revolutionary, iconoclast, Eastern Guru, shaman, and now a religious pluralist – one who believes that all religions are essentially the same, and that there are many roads to salvation.

However, Jesus’ teachings give us no such hope. Instead, He was very exclusivistic. He insisted that salvation could only come through Him. When asked what deeds had to be performed in order to have eternal salvation, He answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29). That’s Jesus! Even more to the point, He informed the leadership:

  • I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)
Not very politically correct, but consistent with everything Jesus taught! He also informed His slow-to-learn disciples that salvation could only come through Him:

  • "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Admittedly, this is a highly offensive message on a number of levels. It communicates that:

  1. We deserve eternal punishment.
  2. We are not good enough – forget self-righteousness - and therefore need to be saved.
  3. Any other means of salvation represents a vain hope.
Consequently, many think that either Jesus or the Gospels must have been a bit deluded, and they insist that it is ludicrous that a set of beliefs can bring about God’s salvation. For example, one Emergent Church guru, Tony Jones, disparages the idea that we can be saved through doctrines and beliefs:

  • This fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction form another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry. (The New Christians, 234)
Jones asserts that the emphasis on “finite propositional structures” (doctrines/beliefs) is nothing more than “linguistic idolatry.”

Today, such views are quite popular, even trendy. In his most recent book, The Future of Faith, liberal professor emeritus of the Harvard Divinity School, Harvey Cox, celebrates the shift in Christianity away from fundamentalism and its emphasis on doctrine to “spirituality” and social activism. He favors a doctrine-less faith – a faith we experience and perform, not something we believe:

  • We have been misled for many centuries by the theologians who taught that “faith” consisted in dutifully believing the articles listed in one of the countless creeds they have spun out. (18)
It’s not just the creeds that trouble Cox; it’s also the exclusivistic teachings of the Bible, which insist on Jesus only!

In light of the many attacks of the religious pluralists, it is important that we not only know what the Bible says but also the reasons behind its insistence. Truly, it often seems that a mere set of beliefs shouldn’t be the basis of salvation. It might even seem unjust or arbitrary that God and His Word should insist upon these requirements. Therefore, let’s try to reason our way through this matter.

Our beliefs aren’t “linguistic idolatry,” but living and active truths (1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12) that powerfully impact all aspects of our lives. In fact, this is exactly what Peter argues:

  • Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2-3)
All spiritual blessing is given to us as we learn about God. Truly, the knowledge of God is indispensible. I would have disappeared long ago if I hadn’t been given the assurance that He gladly forgives me (1 John 1:9-10). Similarly, I would have continued in my self-destructive sin if I hadn’t learned about His holiness.

However, there is also another rationale for the centrality of our biblical beliefs. They reflect the fact that our heart has now been opened to receive God and to enter into a born-again relationship with Him:

REGENERATED HEART -> Receives the Testimony (Beliefs) of God -> Transformed Life

In light of the above, it is not so much that the beliefs save as it is that the Spirit saves by regenerating us (Titus 3:5), causing us to be born again (John 3:3), through the knowledge of the truth. This enables us to receive the things of God (1 Tim. 2:14) and to love the light (John 3:19-20), the source of our beliefs. Without this change, God’s truths would remain objects of contempt (2 Cor. 2:14-16; John 15:18-20).

Consequently, the doctrines of the Bible are living and transforming, infused by the Spirit who plants them savingly upon our heart:

  • Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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 by the Spirit of the Lord… For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 3:17-18; 4:6; NKJV)
As we “behold” the truths of God, we are “being transformed” by the work of the Spirit. Admittedly, it is not the truths of God themselves, but the truths in conjunction with the work of the Spirit. If the Spirit is at work, we believe that Christ died for our sins. If He is not at work, we do not believe this way. In fact, without the Spirit, such beliefs are offensive to us, and we deny them.

Why then are there “Christian” religious pluralists? Because the truths of God are offensive to them! The light is an offense to them as it is to all unbelievers. Meanwhile, they know that they are sinners who need a Savior, but they cannot bear this offensive but very obvious truth (Rom. 1:18-32; 2:14-15; John 3:19-20). The truth is available for all, but it is distasteful and rejected (Proverbs 1:20-31). It’s free for the taking, but no one takes it (Rom. 3:10-18)! Consequently, it is only because the Spirit draws us that we are enabled to receive it (John 6:44).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Humanity and its Rut

Humanity has always suffered from a broad array of problems – hatred, envy, bitterness, violence, unforgiveness, and denial – and has never been without various “solutions” and their diagnoses of the problems from which to choose. Inevitably, the solutions take either of two forms – changing either the outer environment or the inner one.

Outer change is often associated with revolution. Something has to be radically changed. Communism/atheism had been convinced that changing the means of production would also change everything else, creating a workmen’s paradise. The infamous Joseph Stalin wrote:

  • “Whatever is the mode of production of a society, such in the main is the society itself, its ideas, and theories, its political views and institutions. Or, to put it more crudely, whatever is man’s manner of life, such is his manner of thought.”
Indeed, “man’s manner of life [affects] his manner of thought.” However, there also seem to be deeper determinants of thought – a breeding ground that a change in mere economic superficialities cannot touch.

I had lived on several Israeli Kibbutzim – perhaps the most radical communist experiments. Owning everything in common clearly had failed to touch our most basic problems. Meanwhile, other communist experiments have uniformly proved to be one enormous, unmitigated blight upon humanity.

The Humanist Manifesto II  identifies a quasi-external problem – ignorance – and therefore promotes its opposite, science and technology, as the solutions:

  • “Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.”
While science and technology have enabled us to live more affluent and comfortable lives, they too seem to have stopped short of touching the source of our problems. Consequently, depression and suicide rates have been accelerating.

Some solutions, although blaming society, have taken a more internal focus. David Noebel writes about the confidence that humanist psychology has placed in the self:

  • “Every humanist psychologist believes the secret to better mental health lies in getting in touch with the unspoiled, inner self.  When man strips himself of all the evil forced on him by society, he will become a positive agent with virtually unlimited potential…The three major assumptions of Humanist psychology are: man is good by nature and therefore perfectible; society and its social institutions are responsible for man’s evil acts; and mental health can be restored to everyone who gets in touch with his inner ‘good’ self.”
If we all possess a “good self,” how is it that all societies – and they are made up of many “good selves” – have become so evil? And if they have all become evil, what hope can we have? Perhaps then if we change society into a utopia, the same internal forces that had corrupted society initially will once again corrupt it.

Perhaps, instead, our very evident human problems are more resistant to change than the progressives have banked upon. Perhaps each one of us is the problem. This is precisely the substance of the Judeo-Christian revelation. Isaiah indicts the entire human race in this manner:

  • Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. (Isaiah 59:7-8)
Nor can we even correct ourselves. Our problems are intractable:

  • The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Our problems are deeper than we want to acknowledge. As strong as we might be, we cannot lift ourselves out of our rut. Only Another can do that for us.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Prayer that doesn’t seem to Work

Prayer can prove to be a disappointment, especially when we are told that it shouldn’t be so:

·        If we know that he hears us--whatever we ask [in prayer]--we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:15)

However, this hasn’t been our experience. Many of our prayers seem to go unanswered, and this can lead to a faith-avalanche – “Well, if God didn’t answer this prayer, maybe I can’t trust in the other things that the Bible promises? Maybe I can’t trust in God at all?”

The false teachings then come rushing into our wobbling house, claiming that we haven’t received because we have failed to implement the necessary techniques – their techniques. For instance, the mystic, Richard Foster, provides this analysis of the problem:

·        Often we assume we are in contact [with God] when we are not…Often people will pray and pray with all the faith in the world, but nothing happens. Naturally, they are not contacting the channel. We begin praying for others by first centering down and listening to the quiet thunder of the Lord of hosts. Attuning ourselves to divine breathings is spiritual work, but without it our praying is vain repetition. Listening to the Lord is the first thing…(Celebration of Disciplines, 34)

According to Foster, “contacting [God’s] channel” is a matter of approaching God with Foster’s techniques, as if God is telling us:

·        Unless you learn to attune yourself to my “divine breathings,” forget-about-it. I care about techniques, not faith, righteousness, confession and repentance.

But why doesn’t God respond to us in a timely fashion? James offers one reason:

·        You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

Wrong objectives and objects might be the reason that we are not receiving. However, just one verse before John’s troubling promise of receiving “whatever we ask,” he adds an all-important condition:

·        This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

This means that whatever God gives us has to be according to His will, and we can learn a lot about His will from Scripture. He will not grant us anything that does not accord with His love for us.

There are many things that I want that I have not received. Perhaps I am not ready for them, and perhaps they might hurt me and others. I had prayed for years that God would open the door for me to teach, but for many years this door did not open. Now, in retrospect, I can understand why! Had He opened the door for me prematurely, I would have been preaching destructive heresies.

There are other things that I desire that He has not given me. Perhaps, had I received these things, I might have grown arrogant or self-content.

However, we have the hubris to claim that we know what is best for us. Many had been self-assured that if they hit the Lotto, they would then be happy. However, surveys reveal that it has destroyed many lives.

Consequently, I am glad to allow the Spirit to intercede for me:

·        In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

Therefore, prayer is not a blank check, but a beckoning check awaiting our God’s signature.

Responding to Hatred: Loving the Unlovable

Recently, I received these responses to my essay, Homosexuality: The Costs:

  • Oh eat a bag of cock, go devour a pound of shit, you judgmental homophobic redneck cunt. I hope you sit on a cactus.
Here is my response:

I’m truly sorry that you feel this way. I can’t begin to understand the torment you’ve experienced.

Please know that, as a Christian, I don’t look down on you. I have plenty of my own struggles and weaknesses. In fact, just in case we are tempted to cop a self-righteous, haughty attitude, our Scriptures always remind us from where we have come. Morally speaking, many of us had been the worst of the worst (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

Even now, I find that I need to continually confess my sins and my less-than-loving attitudes. In this, I find great comfort and healing. If I care about you, I will also recommend that you too confess your sins, turn from them, and trust in our Savior.

Please don’t think that I mean to minimize the great sacrifice that you will be making. However, it is worth it. There is something far greater to be had. In many ways, our Lord encourages us to simply try Him out:

  • Psalm 34:8-9 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
  • John 7:17 If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
However, we all must make sacrifices for His sake and, ultimately, our own. I find that I have been so liberated and healed by following Him.

I would consider it a great honor to be able to answer any of your questions and even to be your friend.

(There is truly a great sense of peace and liberation in following our Lord in loving others, even the undeserving. This doesn’t mean that we cease being a light for His truth, but it does mean that any political or public activity that we pursue must not be at the expense of love.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bradley Monton: The Hated Atheist and ID Sympathizer

Many hate atheist professor of philosophy, Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, and even want to see him fired. He explains:

  • The degree to which I have been attacked is actually pretty ludicrous. I gave a public lecture on intelligent design here at the University of Colorado, and a number of the school’s biology professors demanded that I be fired.
Perhaps such intolerance should become grounds for their own firing. However, in this present politically correct climate, this is not likely.  Instead, PC enables intolerance of a different nature. Monton explains that:

  • Some atheists exhibit a fundamentalism that prevents them from even imagining that someone reasonable, rational and intelligent could hold views different from their own.
  • I find the arguments of the opponents of ID too emotionally driven and not as intellectually robust as one would hope. I get upset with my fellow atheists who present bad arguments against intelligent design and then expect everyone to believe that they have somehow resolved the debate with these bad arguments.
No wonder he is hated by the PC crowd! This brings to mind the many dogmatic, atheistic assertions that evolution is a proven fact, beyond discussion, or that the multiverse is an adequate explanation for the fine-tuning of the cosmos. Meanwhile, Monton maintains that the theories of:

  • Infinite universes are insufficient when it comes to explaining away the apparent design of our own universe.
Monton was recently asked, in an interview conducted by Salvo Magazine, what type of evidence would lead him to fully embrace intelligent design. He responded:

  • Now, if it is found that [a non-material] mind plays a role in our brain processes alone, that by itself wouldn’t make me believe in God, though it would certainly make me more open to the idea. But if we were to discover that mind is interviewing in other places in the world besides our brain processes, then that would pretty much be the smoking gun. (Salvo Supplement, Fall 2013, 50)
Monton wants evidence that a non-material mind is interacting with a material, neurally wired brain, and I think that such evidence is available.

The late neuroscientist, Wilder Penfield, was a dualist. He found evidence for the brain-mind distinction. He would electrically stimulate the brain but noted that there were responses that seemed to be extra-physical:

  • Penfield would stimulate electrically the proper motor cortex of the conscious patents and challenge them to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The patient would seize this hand with the other hand and struggle to hold it still. Thus one hand under the control of the electrical current and the other hand under the control of the patient’s mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation that the patient had not only a physical brain that was stimulated to action but also a nonphysical reality that interacted with the brain. (Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence, 108)

Penfield found that his patients could distinguish between responses that had been electrically stimulated from those self-stimulated:

  • Invariably the patient would respond, by saying, “I didn’t do that. You did…No matter how much Penfield probed the cerebral cortex, he said, “There is no place…where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide.” That’s because those functions originate in the conscious self, not the brain. A lot of subsequent research has validated this. When Roger Sperry and his team studied the differences between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, they discovered the mind has a causal power independent of the brain’s activities. This led Sperry to conclude materialism and false. (J.P. Moreland, interviewed by Lee Strobel, Case for the Creator, 258)

If the brain is entirely a physical entity, we should expect that every type of mental activity could be stimulated, but this isn’t the case. While researchers have been able to stimulate a vast array of neural reactions, they haven’t been able to stimulate thoughts or beliefs.

Also, the very notion of freewill contradicts strict materialism. It affirms the fact that our choices aren’t totally determined by chemical-electrical responses, suggesting that there must be another reality present in order to explain it

The freewill problem is so daunting for the materialist - one who believes that everything is matter and energy. His narrow worldview leaves no room for freewill, something self-initiated, and therefore, many opt to deny its reality. Biologist E.O. Wilson writes:

  • The hidden preparation of mental activity gives the illusion of free will.
Illusion? If freewill is an illusion, we are merely dialoguing with sophisticated but morally non-responsible bio-chemical machines. (Jokingly, I tell such people that I don’t talk to machines – a reasonable choice, I think!)

Materialism requires the denial of dualism – the mind-brain distinction. It also requires the denial of near-death-experiences (NDEs), which strongly suggest the existence of a body-independent mind.

Raymond Moody published Life after Life in 1975 based upon 150 interviews with people who had claimed NDEs. Cardiologist and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Michael Sabom, had been highly skeptical. However,

  • Over a five year period he interviewed and compiled data on 116 persons who had had a close brush with death. Of these, 71 reported one form or another of near-death experience…Sabom conducted extended interviews with the ten who had detailed recollections, either of resuscitations or surgery. The results were astonishing. In every case, the accounts jibed with standard medical procedures; moreover, where medical records were available, the records of the procedures and the accounts of the patients perfectly matched. In all of these cases, [unconscious] patients observed details that they could not possibly have observed from their physical vantage point. (Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence, 103-104)
Materialism also denies the testimonies of many indigenous cultures who have claimed extra-body experiences.

Our sense of having an unchanging personal identity, despite that fact that almost all of our molecules are replaced every several years, and our bodies undergo vast changes over the years, seems to suggest that we also possess something unchanging – a non-material soul. Even if we suddenly loose both of our legs, we still regard ourselves as the same person.

Meanwhile, it seems that a mind-brain distinction would best explain all of the above evidences.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seeking Freedom

What is freedom? We tend to define freedom as the removal of any restrictions in order to pursue our inclinations, our inner self - that necessary ingredient for authenticity and self-fulfillment. New Ager, Shakti Gawain, author of Creative Visualizations, would agree:

·             "When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for external authority, validation, and the approval of others, we give our personal power away…Every time you don’t trust yourself and don’t follow your inner truth, you decreased your aliveness and your body will reflect this with a loss of vitality, numbness, pain, and eventually physical disease."

Truly, dependency upon others and their opinions hands us a life of bondage. Freedom  must be made of a different material. Gawain suggests that this is the self, the source of trust, life and vitality.

Is the self the source of freedom or of bondage? Let me offer a very strange sounding answer. Freedom is living in harmony with reality. It’s like kayaking down a swift river and not against it. It is conforming to the ebbs and flow of the river. It is recognizing the dangers and skillfully avoiding them, as we go with the flow.

When we resist the flow, we foolishly ignore the laws of the river. It’s like ignoring the threat of gravity, as we walk too close to the edge of a precipice.

As strange as it sounds, freedom is conformity to certain laws that can harm us if we violate them. Ironically, we maximize our freedom by staying within our proper confines, like the goldfish in his bowl. If he jumps out to seek more freedom, she will find she has less, as he squirms helplessly on the ground.

We need limits - certain rules or laws. Without them, it is like playing chess where “anything goes.” This might sound like perfect freedom – you can move the pieces wherever and whenever you want – but such a game will very quickly become boring. Instead, it is the rules or limitations that give meaning to the game.

We cannot do without limits. Without the limitations of gravity, we cannot dance. However, according to Gawain, freedom is a matter casting aside all of the rules and laws. Her only reality is our “inner truth” and desires. While these also constitute reality, they aren’t the only reality.

Reality is greater than the self. We weren’t made for a solipsistic existence. We were made for relationship, however messy this might sometimes become. We were made for give and take, to learn the reality of the other and to enter into it.

This requires understanding. Any relationship requires understanding certain human laws. Even keeping a goldfish requires us to understand the needs of the  goldfish.

What represents the greatest threat to freedom? Internal bondage! As a college student, I found Gawain’s ideas appealing. I quickly adopted nihilism (a form of moral relativism – the denial of any “external authority”) as my guiding light. I initially felt the thrill of liberation. I was no longer bound by the ideas and opinions of others. I was free to find my own path and pleasures.

However, I found that bondage wasn’t so much a matter of external pressures and expectations, but rather, internal ones. After I had thrown off my external shackles, I was left with the ball and chain of my own inner requirements!

The self, which was supposed to liberate me, proved to be a vicious jail-keeper. My own standards – Gawain’s “inner truth” - were more demanding and unforgiving that even society’s standards. I was a prisoner to these requirements, and they tightly bound me with guilt and shame when I failed them. What had promised liberation had enslaved me further.

The filmmaker, Martin Scorsese similarly confessed:

  • Some people say it's just a Catholic guilt, that's all. But it's still guilt. I don't mean guilt from being late for Mass or for having sexual thoughts. No, I'm talking about guilt that comes from just being alive.
Guilt is a ubiquitous freedom slayer. It charges that there is something terribly the matter with us. Consequently, we find ourselves coerced to obsessively defend ourselves against its charge. We bath ourselves in denials, rationalizations, and even accomplishments, hoping that these will wash away the indictment, but they never do, no matter how good we act. Instead of freedom, we are embroiled in obsessive inner struggles.

Meanwhile, the Bible lays out a very different path to freedom, not through the “inner self” but through another - a Man who died to make us free:

  • If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)