Tag Archives: Science

Theology with a 6-Year old!

Every night after dinner, my family and I read a passage of Scripture and then go through a devotion that is based on the Westminster Confession of Faith. Tonight, our passage was from Exodus 34 and the topic of discussion was the character of God.  Let me just say that there is nothing more fulfilling, even amidst your 2-year old son wreaking havoc and being a perpetual source of sound effects and noise, than being a part of your 6-year old daughter engaging with real theological concepts.  Each lesson ends with a series of questions.  Ava, my 6-year old looks forward to this portion.  It warms my heart.

Exodus 34 picks up with Moses getting the second copy of the 10 Commandments.  He was on the mountain for the second time, you remember, because he smashed the original copy at the sight of the idolatrous outrage that was taking place at the feet of a golden calf.

The devotion very quickly moved to its main point:  Moses prayed that God would have mercy on them.  God is fully merciful yet fully just.  We often read that with little regard for what it actually means.  This is a difficult concept to comprehend.  Imagine for a moment,  Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being found guilty of something horrific:  In Hillary’s case, exposing top secret info that was shown to have directly caused the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi.  In Trump’s case, evidence showing his willful colluding with the Russians in order to help them hack the DNC so he could win the election.  Imagine they went to court and were found guilty.  Instead of imposing a sentence, the judge says, “You are free to go.  Forget it even happened”  How would you feel about that?

When justice collapses in a society, hope collapses with it.

Total mercy comes as the expense of total justice.  Total justice comes at the expense of total mercy.  If someone was fully just they could not be fully merciful.  If one were fully merciful they could not be fully just.  Unless…well, we will get there in a moment.

Surpassingly enough, my 6-year old daughter, Ava, was able to grasp this paradox.  I believe I put to her a hypothetical situation in which she did something wrong, and rather than punishing her, I told her it was ok–that she could forget that it even happened.  Initially, she was ok with that.  Who wouldn’t be?  You could take something that isn’t yours, and then get no punishment.  But then it became more real:  I asked her, “What if someone did something very wrong to you; perhaps they stole your favorite toy, and I told their parents, ‘its ok, don’t worry about it–let your kid keep the toy?'”  She understood that my being overly kind would mean that she would not be getting a fair shake.

For her, justice would have been denied.  Complete mercy necessarily denies complete justice.

On the other hand, if I were fully just–If I called the police and reported the child for theft–what would that teach my daughter?  My lack of mercy would in the long run damage not only the kid who stole Ava’s stuff, but also Ava!  Would that be right?

No.  At times, justice must be bore by someone not involved.

This concept was strange to her.  It is strange to all of us.

One of the things we have been talking about lately in our home is the nature of sin.  Many Christians wrongly believe sin to be merely the wrong things that we do.  I remember hearing this as a child.  I was more concerned with whether I was doing the right or wrong things, that I defined sin as some sort of barometer for bad behavior.  There is perhaps nothing more absurd in all of Christendom than to believe that.  It took me a long time to be delivered from that way of thinking!  Heck, I am still being delivered from it.   While behavior is a part of sin, it is not sin in its fullest and most sordid sense.  Sin is more than just bad behavior.  Bad behavior is a symptom of something else–something more sinister.

In fact, if Jesus’ death on the cross only cured our sinful behavior, we would still go to hell. Yeah, read that again:

“If Jesus’ death on the cross only cured our sinful behavior, we would still go to hell.”

As I described to Ava, sin is like a perpetual cancer.  When we get the sniffles or the couch, it isn’t the sniffles or the cough that is making us sick. As Ava described it to me, “Its the germs that make us sick.”  Absolutely right.  Sin is like a disease that controls our being and dictates how we live. It is our moral compass.  Unfortunately, the byproducts of sin run the gamut from speeding to lying to rape to murder.   The New Testament refers to sin as a power that controls us.  Paul talks about knowing what he ought to do, but instead doing the opposite. If Paul had to struggle with sin, what does that say about you or me?  It is a power that influences us.  It can enslave us.

I asked Ava, “If sin separates us from God, and our sinful behavior was instantly cured, would we still go to hell?”  She thought about this for a few moments, and answered “Yes.”  I think she understood that sin is more than just bad behavior. If Jesus death on the cross was simply done in order to make us do good deeds, would that really be worth His death on the cross?  Isn’t that just some sort of moralism?

Jesus has brought us something more wonderful than just some sort of pragmatism.

I agree with Ravi Zacharias, “Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good.  He came into the world to make dead men live.”  That, my friend, is worth shouting about.

We talked about that cosmic courtroom that is in session not because of our bad deeds, but because of our cancer–our sinful nature–the nature that caused human beings to crucify the Son of God.  The cancer that caused human beings to wonder, “Did God really say…?”

Because of our cancer–our sin–we deserve to go to hell.

Fortunately, God is fully just.  He is also fully merciful.  What is He to do with us?  We deserve death, but His character grants mercy, right?

This is where I was able to share with Ava the most incredible news of all:  Yes, we deserve hell, but instead of God banging down the gavel and sentencing us to death, Jesus entered the courtroom and volunteered to pay the price for our sin.   He intermediated on our behalf.  He had a direct influence on God’s wrath.

He went to hell in our place.

God was fully merciful:  he let us go free.  Yet, he was fully just:  Our sin was punished.  Jesus took our punishment.  He lived so that He could die.  He died so we could live.

Without Jesus Christ, none of us could escape hell.  We would all be there eventually.

God’s being fully just and fully merciful would be a paradox…unless…Jesus hadn’t come to be our propitiation.

I pray my sweet 6-year old can grasp that.  Full disclaimer:

I pray I can grasp that.

 

 

 

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GK Chesterton, TRUMP, CLINTON, the 2016 election, and the Medical Fallacy

TRUMP and CLINTON (hey, it was in the title).

Throughout the presidential campaign of 2016 we have heard a recurring theme:

“Our country is sick.  It needs to be made well.  Vote for me and I will provide the remedy it needs.  I will bring the healing that our country needs.”

There has been no shortage of rhetoric like this on either side of the political divide.

According to the inimitable G.K. Chesterton, however, this is a fallacy.  He terms this the Medical Fallacy.  How can politicians pontificate about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is of the most disputed issues in all of academia?  One side of the ideological divide defines well in one way, while the other defines it differently.

What is seen as a remedy by one side of the political spectrum will be seen as an exasperation of the original problem to the other.  This whole business of talking about “well” and “sick” is patently absurd.  It is play on emotions.  It is like invoking balls and strikes when talking about football.  Only in medicine and science can this terminology be used.

Why you might ask?  In medicine, we agree on what a well body looks like.  We agree on what good is.  The disagreement comes when it concerns malady.  In politics and social science, we agree on what bad looks like—we disagree on what constitutes the good.

That is a profound problem.

To give you an analogy, Chesterton makes this grand point:   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less.

BUT HERE IS THE CLINCHER

Never will that man find himself under the scalpel of a doctor, and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Don’t fall for fallacies.  Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense just because it is uttered by an “intellect” or a “smart” politician.

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Some thoughts on Adoption and Identity

Our beautiful son, John Will is turning one this week. I wanted to share with you a few thoughts as his birthday approaches.

I always viewed adoption as a good thing, but I have to be honest: For many years, I saw it like many people do—as a sort a predicament of permanent estrangement.  I mean, consider the reality:  The child will not grow up with his real parents.  He will never know his real siblings.  He and the adoptive parents will never have that real biological bond.  Then there is the most unfortunate part of all—He will always be the token adopted kid.

I know what you are thinking:  What do you mean by the word real?  Well, what does society say about it?  What is real to most people is what they see on TV or the internet.  If you listen to the armchair philosophers in the media, the above realities are real.  They are real in a ubiquitous sense.  Everywhere.  Case closed.  Settled science.  Hashtag it.

Let us be honest:  If the adopted baby happens to be of color, he could be looked at by his white parents and predominantly white peers as the definitive voice for the whole of the black race.  What he says about social justice will be accepted as gospel for many whites.  Can you hear it?  “My son is black, and he isn’t offended by that flag,” or, “My son is black—I couldn’t possibly be a racist!”  Because they have a black kid in the family, they think they are somehow experienced in the black experience.  He is their calling card in a sense.  Unfortunately, if he takes on the traits and speech patterns of his white adoptive family, he may run the risk of being an outsider when it comes to his black peers.  What if he grows up to be a political conservative in the vein of Clarence Thomas?  In this case, he will be cast out of the black community.  He will be in a sense living in no mans land.  A man with no country.  They may call him things like, “Uncle Tom.”  If he is nominated to the Supreme Court, men who are lifelong Lotharios (Ted Kennedy) may actually ask him during his confirmation process about his private entertainment habits.  This is just the truth.

Then, some will use him as certificate of absolution for white guilt.  By adopting a black child, they are absolving themselves of the great sin of the past:  Slavery.  They are enlightened now.  They are a part of the black experience.  They have evolved.

He will be seen as a racial bargaining chip in many instances.

If, on the other hand, he is adopted into a wealthy home, he could be seen as a status symbol.  Some people buy expensive rugs and pets from exotic places.  Today, the collector item that is style in some circles is the adoption of babies from exotic locations.  It is kind of like the cult of being a vegan, using a Mac, driving a Tesla, or choosing to obey the gluten free diet.  “Mine is from Nepal,” or “I got mine from Uganda.”  Two international adoptive mothers come into a coffee shop.  How do I know this?  They announced it loudly.

Then again, he might be seen as a leverage tool for advancing the pro-life agenda.  Heck, he may even be used just so that the parents feel good about themselves.

So, as for me, though I saw adoption as a positive, I saw it as the “last resort” option.

Because all the horrible things above exist, and I had just heard horror stories about them…I determined that adoption was better than abortion, but least the least preferable alternative.

This isn’t the first thing I have been wrong about.

The first thing that I failed to notice about my observations above is that they all presuppose that adoptive parents necessarily see their adopted kids as objects used for consumption rather than persons meant for relationships. In this thinking I was no different than the person who saw a black man as a piece of property.  I was no different in thinking that all whites think all blacks should be slaves.  My point is—though the above realities do exist—it doesn’t have to be that way.  The fact that those realities exist shouldn’t stop me from adopting a baby.  Why do I have to live like that?

I also failed to see that many of my objections came from an elitist progressive white Eurocentric worldview. Now, before you think I am some indoctrinated leftist who gets his news from the Daily Kos, hear me out.  I was Eurocentric.  Trust me:  The children in Mexico, war torn Africa, the slums of India, Thailand, or Vietnam—they would give anything to be adopted into a white family in the United States.  I am not even talking about a rich one.  Poverty in the United States is a lifestyle of luxury to the poor people in Laos.  I once heard a guy tell me about his ordeal in trying to gain citizenship into the United States.  I asked him why he wanted to come here so bad.  His answer blew me away:  “I want to live in a country where the poor people are fat.”

It isn’t insensitive or against multiculturalism or diversity to realize that compared to the rest of the world, the United States is the land of luxury.  This is the most exceptional place on the planet.  You want proof?  Go to the slums of India.  Check out the way people live in Cuba.  Go look at Kandahar.  Go see what they do to disobedient little girls in Saudi Arabia.  To presume that because I am from the West, that I couldn’t not contribute to the lives of people from the East is just absurd.

But then there is the unconditional love aspect—or sacrifice:  Many of the children adopted internationally have biological parents who love them so much, they would do anything for them to be adopted—just to escape real poverty.  The fact that I was unwilling to imagine such a reality shows how narrow minded I actually was.

But, then I also made the mistake of thinking that I wasn’t qualified to adopt. Sure, I had a biological child already—but adopt?  I don’t look like the adoption type, do I?  I have never contributed to any adoption agency.  I have never been a foster parent.  I have never sent money to one of those sad “Feed the Children” TV ads.  I am not an activist.  The only thing I know about kids is that I spoil my daughter.  How could I adopt?

Then I learned the reality:

Had we not adopted…our child—John William would have been aborted.

But my last objection was perhaps the most insidious of all: He will not share my genes!  He will never fit in at family reunions!  How will he carry on our family name—really?  He may have our name, but he isn’t one of us.  It could cause problems later on!  There might be challenges.  Oh No!

I can say it: What a bunch of narcissistic and selfish petulant idiocy. 

It is actually possible to adopt a child and love them for who they are—a distinct, unique, beautiful person—of infinite value.

Oh I forgot the other one:  We cannot afford it.  Ok.  My goodness…where is the faith?

Well, on a Wednesday in September of 2014, my wife got a phone call. It was through a convoluted maze of connections; but, there was a woman giving birth the NEXT day that wanted to give her baby for adoption.  Could we be at the hospital for the “C-section?”

After picking my wife up off the floor, we rushed to get ready for the birth of our…son.  We actually went that day and met the mother.  My son was in her belly sitting across the room from me.  She told us that she was at Planned Parenthood ready to abort the child–but something stopped her.  What?  Really?

Well, it happened.  He is our son.

Can I tell you that I have never viewed John William as adopted? I mean, I know he is, but—other than people bringing it up, or the doctor asking about his family medical history—I never think about it.  There has never been a moment in time that I knew about him that I didn’t think of him as my son.  What else could he be?  Who else could he be?  When he had trouble taking his first breaths, I felt pain.  When he had to have the chest tube and stay in the NICU for over a week—I felt the stress—and worried.  Me.  Not someone else.  I felt innate pain.

It may sound strange to you, but I see him in exactly the same way that I see our biological daughter, Ava. Even in the hospital, once he was born—with the birth mother just down the hall—he was my son.  Even as we waited the mandatory 72 hours for the birth mother to change her mind, I saw it as 72 hours for her to dispute the truth:  that I was the father of this baby!  When I first touched him, I didn’t feel that I was touching some child that we were going to take home—and learn to love.  I felt I was touching my son.  What womb he was carried in was the last thing on my mind.  I couldn’t have cared less.  When we went to visit him in the NICU, and had to use the name “Baby Boy White” to gain access, because they weren’t legally allowed to accept the name we had given him yet, we called him John Will.   You think that’s strange?  Can I tell you that when I look at him, I find myself involuntarily comparing his appearance to us?  “Oh, he looks like Ava when he does that.”  “Andrea, he has your smile.” “I think he has my…well, hopefully nothing.”  Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but I identify him as ours.

Identity. What a word.  I don’t think I can remember hearing the word identity growing up.  Today, you cannot turn on a television set without hearing some blowhard pontificating about identity.  We live in a day and age where a man can use a woman’s restroom, so long as he self identifies as a woman.  If a woman in that restroom is offended by the presence of this man who identifies as a woman—it is HER problem.  She is the bigot.  His identity cannot be challenged.

Can I just say, our idea of identity is wrong? Our identity isn’t wrapped up in our sexual proclivity, our color, our intelligence, or our size.  Our identity is wrapped up in the idea of who we are.  Let me ask you a question:  Who are you…really?  How would you describe, you?  Most people would respond with a name and their occupation.  That isn’t what I asked.  I asked who you are?  There is more to who you are than what you do, your skin color, or what your name is.  If what you do is what defines you—then we have a pretty sad world.

Many today see themselves as objects to be consumed. They desire to be used as a commodity.  Just look at the clothing that many young people wear—or the outspoken statements on shirts that read, “I am a porn star.”  Even the LGBT movement—they will identify by their sex.  Ask them who they are and they will respond with their name and at some point their sexual proclivity.  If I were to walk into a room and say, “Hey, I am John and I am straight,” how would that be received?  It’s odd isn’t it?  So many of us place our identity in what we do, that we have no clue what a real person is.  If you think like that—that people are just objects, it will not only affect you:  It will affect how you treat those around you.  If we are nothing but the product of a mindless unguided process (Darwinian evolution), why would we treat each other as if we were more than just a bunch of matter?  What is the point?  But that question turns around:  If I am nothing but the product of evolution, why should anyone treat me as more than a heap of dirt?  There is no purpose.  The universe just is.  It’s all blind pitiless indifference.

Pathetic.  If you want to expose the malarkey in that, just walk up to the person that thinks that way—reach into their pocket—and take out their wallet.  Their real presuppositions about how they should be treated will emerge.

Why do I believe that people have worth? Well, quite frankly, it is because I believe that God created us in His image.

But, let us look at it a bit more philosophically:  If you take any philosophy in the world, you will find that it is based or grounded in one of three systems of thought.  They are epistemological, existential, and pragmatic.  Or quite simply, right thinking, right feeling, or right doing.  If you think the right things or acquire the right knowledge, or feel a certain set of feelings or have the right intentions or motives, or if you do the right things—you will have achieved what is ‘the good.’

Now the idea of good needs to be fleshed out. G.K. Chesterton once talked about what is good.  He wrote an essay called The Medical Fallacy in which he lamented the use of medical terminology when talking about social issues.  He noted that many politicians will say, “Our country is sick.  It needs a remedy.  Vote for me and my benevolent policies and we will see true healing begin.”  The problem Chesterton points out, is that social science is not medical science.  In medicine, doctors all agree on what a healthy body looks like.  They disagree on the malady.  In social science, it is the malady that is agreed upon.  We all can agree on what a dysfunctional society looks like.  It is the idea of what is good that we rip each other’s eyes out over.  One person sees this “solution” as a remedy—but the other guy sees the remedy as worse than the original problem.  Chesterton goes on to say, it may be necessary medically speaking, for a man to walk into a hospital and come out with one leg less.  But he quips, you will never see that man go into an operating room, and in a moment of ‘creative rapture,’ come out with one leg more.

The good. Can we find it in right thinking?  Many philosophies say yes.  How about in feeling or experience?  Many say yes.  How about in doing the right things?  Many say yes.  If our philosophy is based in these three areas, there are arguments to be made for which persons should be treated as objects.  Maybe they don’t have the right knowledge—or they are incapable of it.  Are they a drain on the taxpayers?  What is the solution?  Perhaps they haven’t experienced what they ought to—or they have the wrong feelings on a certain issue.  Can these bigoted people live in a tolerant and just society?  Then again, maybe they have done something that isn’t ‘o.k.’ by conventional standards.  Maybe they put up a flag on their flagpole that represents something awful.  Can we tolerate them?

Certainly arguments can be made that would subjugate each of these individuals to a second class.

The reason I believe people are of infinite worth is because I believe in a system that isn’t rooted in any of those three things. I believe in Jesus Christ.  Christianity is a system that is rooted in being—specifically—the being of Christ.  When I became a follower of Christ, my being was conformed to that of his.  I am no longer who I was before.  Now, I am an image of Christ.  This life isn’t rooted in right thinking, although there is no greater knowledge than knowing Christ.  It isn’t about feeling, even though I can think of no greater feeling than experiencing God’s presence.  And it isn’t about doing, even though Jesus said that true Christians will be known by what they do.

It is about being. I see people as beings—not machines.

Back to adoption:

Now, the conventional wisdom says children who are denied their biological parents—despite how wonderful their adoptive situation might be—face more challenges than other children. Those views all presuppose that we are purely biological.  I don’t buy this.  I have seen too much evidence to the contrary.  Plus, the Bible doesn’t teach this.  God told Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him!  How could he know him before he was a living, breathing person?  Well quite simply, there is more to us than our bodies.  There is something to this knowing before forming business.  When I think about my biological daughter…I can safely say I didn’t know her or have any knowledge of her before she existed.  But God did.  There is something to that.

Ephesians says that before the creation of the world God chose us! That has some serious implications.  First of all, to be chosen before the creation of the world, means that before the first act of creation—we had some sort of existence.  We at least existed in the mind of God before “In the beginning.”  Let us put it this way:  The crucifixion of our Lord was foreordained long before the first verse in Genesis.  Why?  Because there would be a need for redemption.  Why?  Because of us.  Second, the Bible says that God chose us.  Out of all the things in His creation that are beautiful—out of all the capable animals—he chose us.  Why us?  There is obviously something different or unique about us.  C.S. Lewis once said that we aren’t bodies with a soul; we are souls with a body.  There is indeed something that I cannot see—or test in a laboratory—that makes my son who he is.  His physical appearance is a joy, but this is not who he is.  He is connected to us, despite what his DNA might say.  You could run a paternity test all day long, and I would fail it every time.  But you could put man after man in the room with my son and I am the only one he knows as “Da da.”  Despite the reality of what his DNA says he is, he is ours.  He is a person created for relationship!  He is a soul created in the image of God.  He has an identity that is beyond his blood and chemical makeup.  He was chosen before time itself.  God knew that this little boy would need a Mom and Dad who were not his biological parents.  A real sacrifice would need to be made for this little boy.  But more importantly, God knew that for this little boy, The ultimate sacrifice would have to be made on Calvary.

“Before” time began, my son and all his needs were known.

Likewise, you and I are connected to Christ despite what our pasts might say.  My spiritual DNA says sinner.  It does not say holy.  I am unworthy of the name Christian.  Despite that, Christ has adopted me as His child. I am connected to Christ despite the sins I will commit today.

Despite the reality of who I am, I am His.

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Kurt Eichenwald and his presuppositions

500-Newsweek-cover

With the coming of Christmas and other Christian-observed holidays often come the obligatory Christianity-bashing articles that seem fit to be printed by publications like Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and Patheos.com.  No one should be surprised that these types of articles are written.  What should be of surprise is the lack of scholarship that is being used in writing these critiques.

I for one long for the days of Bart Ehrman’s informed criticisms (though they are far from right).  You have to hand it to folks like Ehrman who write polemical work aimed at Christianity:  At least the guy knows where the library is.

The article in question appears in the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine.  It is written by Kurt Eichenwald who is very well known inside the readership of the New York Times and the Vanity Fair publications.  He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and it is safe to say that this guy is no slouch.  His area of expertise seems to be in the areas of business or financial topics, and especially covering business scandals.

The cover story here isn’t about a scandal in a Fortune 500 company.  Instead it is titled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” and unfortunately, in this particular instance Eichenwald seems to be far removed from his area of expertise.  I cannot stress that enough.  It is amateur hour at best.  He tries to establish his credibility by claiming to be standing upon the work of mainstream biblical scholarship; however, when one investigates this further, it is clear that he only cites critics of evangelical Christianity–and even in this–he fails to accurately portray some of their views.

This essay doesn’t come across as an objective piece of scholarship.  Instead, it comes across as a hit piece.  When he does cite scholars, it is only those on the critical fringe of Christianity.  I cannot locate a portion of his essay where he cites any scholar who works within the orthodox Christian tradition.  For those who say Fox News is biased, at least they have Juan Williams and Bob Beckel.  Eichenwald doesn’t want a debate.  He wants to remove the need for debate.  Eichenwald doesn’t waste any time getting to the point, either:

 “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”

Now, to be fair:  I do know some folks that fit perhaps most of that description.  They do exist.  I concede this without reservation.  The problem is, they are as far to the fringe of evangelical Christianity as pro-lifers are to the Democrat party.

Why only talk about the thought that is going on at the fringe?  How in the world can surveying the fringe thinking be considered objective journalism or scholarship?  Shouldn’t like Matthew Arnold said, we look at things by examining the best and brightest that has ever been said or thought?  Isn’t it a mistake to judge a worldview by looking at its worst representatives?  Why not cite those who are well respected by both critical and orthodox scholars?

When I think of the greatest thinkers in modern Christianity, I don’t think of the notorious Fred Phelps, or the guy at the breakfast joint who has a Scofield Commentary on the table, a “South Will Rise Again” t-shirt on, and a God made “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” trucker hat on.  I think of men like the late Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul, William Lane Craig, John C. Lennox, Peter Kreeft, Eleanor Stump, Michael Ramsden, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, and Stephen C. Meyer.  None of them are on the fringe, but all of them are respected.  This angry fundamentalist riff that Eichenwald gives us doesn’t seem to reflect reality.  Does Ravi Zacharias sound angry at homosexuals here?  Hardly.  Take William Lane Craig.  Does he sound like he is sympathetic to anti-science views? Not a chance.  What about Alister McGrath?  Does he sound like the fundamentalist anti-evolutionist that the author would make him out to be?  Not even close.  I mean, I can find atheists like Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, or PZ Meyer who say some pretty acerbic things about Christians—does that mean I dismiss them flat out and refuse to take any of their arguments seriously?  Hardly.

What this author is attempting to do is take the whole of evangelical Christianity and lump them into a straw man at whom he can toss fiery darts.  It doesn’t work.

I do however think his criticisms are worth looking at.  Many Christians cannot interact with an essay like this and make a lucid rebuttal.  If it were up to the guy at the breakfast joint, he’d reply with—“Well, my pastor says different.”  This is not the way to “give an apologetic.”  We are commanded to be able to provide answers.  Therefore, we must already in our pre-evangelism begin to look at what the questions are.  There are no new questions, only new people who ask them.  There have been several outstanding rebuttals already made elsewhere on the internet(Michael Kruger, Al Mohler, Daniel B. Wallace), and for those reasons, rather than focus on Eichenwald’s egregious attempts at exegesis, I am only going to focus on a few of his assumptions.

One of the first of his assumptions that is almost ubiquitous in the writings of the anti-Christian worldview adherants is the univocal contention that if you believe in God, this somewhow means you believe less in science.  I am reminded of C.S. Lewis who noted, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun.  Not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  He also noted more specifically, “Man began science because he expected law in nature.  He expected law in nature because he believed in a lawgiver.

I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion about faith vs. science here, I have done it elsewhere.  What I am going to say is that the conflict doesn’t lie between faith and science.  It lies between two opposing worldviews, theism and naturalism.  Theism on the one hand says that all matter is derived from a purposeful agent; atheism on the other hand says that all matter is the end product of a mindless unguided process.  Let me ask you a question:  If you knew that the computer that aids the flight of a jumbo jet was the product of a mindless unguided process, would you trust it?

Secondly, this assertion that anyone who posits an intelligent agent as the creator of the universe is just absurd.  Let us look at it one way:  If I walk onto the beach and see giant letters that spell the name “Barack Obama,” do I suddenly deduce that this is the result of chance?  No, I posit a person.  Why?  Because words carry semiotic meaning.  Why is it then when the longest word in the history of man (the human genome) is seen, we suddenly posit chance and unguided process?

David Berlinski says it well:

I imagine this story being told to me by Jorge Luis Borges one evening in a Buenos Aires cafe.

His voice dry and infinitely ironic, the aging, nearly blind literary master observes that “the Ulysses,” mistakenly attributed to the Irishman James Joyce, is in fact derived from “the Quixote.”

I raise my eyebrows.

Borges pauses to sip discreetly at the bitter coffee our waiter has placed in front of him, guiding his hands to the saucer.

“The details of the remarkable series of events in question may be found at the University of Leiden,” he says. “They were conveyed to me by the Freemason Alejandro Ferri in Montevideo.”

Borges wipes his thin lips with a linen handkerchief that he has withdrawn from his breast pocket.

“As you know,” he continues, “the original handwritten text of the Quixote was given to an order of French Cistercians in the autumn of 1576.”

I hold up my hand to signify to our waiter that no further service is needed.

“Curiously enough, for none of the brothers could read Spanish, the Order was charged by the Papal Nuncio, Hoyo dos Monterrey (a man of great refinement and implacable will), with the responsibility for copying the Quixote, the printing press having then gained no currency in the wilderness of what is now known as the department of Auvergne. Unable to speak or read Spanish, a language they not unreasonably detested, the brothers copied the Quixote over and over again, re-creating the text but, of course, compromising it as well, and so inadvertently discovering the true nature of authorship. Thus they created Fernando Lor’s Los Hombres d’Estado in 1585 by means of a singular series of copying errors, and then in 1654 Juan Luis Samorza’s remarkable epistolary novel Por Favor by the same means, and then in 1685, the errors having accumulated sufficiently to change Spanish into French, Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, their copying continuous and indefatigable, the work handed down from generation to generation as a sacred but secret trust, so that in time the brothers of the monastery, known only to members of the Bourbon house and, rumor has it, the Englishman and psychic Conan Doyle, copied into creation Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and then as a result of a particularly significant series of errors, in which French changed into Russian, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. Late in the last decade of the 19th century there suddenly emerged, in English, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and then the brothers, their numbers reduced by an infectious disease of mysterious origin, finally copied the Ulysses into creation in 1902, the manuscript lying neglected for almost thirteen years and then mysteriously making its way to Paris in 1915, just months before the British attack on the Somme, a circumstance whose significance remains to be determined.”

I sit there, amazed at what Borges has recounted. “Is it your understanding, then,” I ask, “that every novel in the West was created in this way?”

“Of course,” replies Borges imperturbably. Then he adds: “Although every novel is derived directly from another novel, there is really only one novel, the Quixote.”

All kidding aside, this is where his presumptions begin:

The first is that truth cannot be known.  This is a pervasive view in the academy today.   It used to go something like this:  “Look, What is true for me is true for me, and what is true for you is true for you—let’s all have our own truths and just be happy that way.”  This fell out of fashion a while ago because quite simply its absurd.  If someone were to make that statement, they aren’t only wanting you to believe it, they are wanting you to consider it absolute truth.  What they are saying is, “You should think this way too.  This is how all enlightened people think.”  The problem is, if that is true, then it is not the case that what is true for me is true for me and what is true for you is true for you.  If it is true for everybody, it isn’t just true for me.  This is a problem.

I am reminded of a talk I heard a guy give—he said that after engaging with a group of skeptics at a major university, a professor who was in attendance came up and challenged him to a verbal duel.  They ended up going to lunch the next day, and the professor began to tell this particular guy how he had greatly mistaken what Eastern logic is all about (the speaker happened to be from India though).  The professor had a problem with the idea that something is EITHER true OR it is false.  Something cannot be BOTH true AND false at the same time.  This is the law of the excluded middle or the law of non-contradiction.  So, this professor, in the middle of lunch began to regurgitate all his vast philosophical ideas about the Hegelian and Marxian dialectic down onto the placemats around him.

When he was finished, the professor began to cut into his food.  The man who had sat dumbfounded by all this then said, “So what you are telling me is that something cannot be EITHER true OR false?  It must be BOTH true AND false?”  The professor nodded and answered in the affirmative.  It was here that the professor was trapped.  The other man kindly said, “But if something can only be both true and false, rather than either true or false, aren’t you telling me that when looking at the world, EITHER I use the both/and view OR nothing else?”

At this point, the professor who had just put a piece of congealed halibut into his mouth uttered begrudgingly, “The EITHER/OR does seem to emerge doesn’t it?”  Something is true or it isn’t.  There is no alternative.

This is where things have begun to change in the last 20 years or so.  Now the common line is, “It isn’t that truth is relative to people; on the contrary, truth doesn’t exist.”    The view is that everyone thinks they have truth, and everyone is looking for it—but no one has it—which is good news because it is liberating.  The problem with this view is that when someone says, “There is no truth,” they are telling you that they believe the statement, “There is no truth” to be true.  Here is the rub:  It if were true that there were no such thing as truth, then what they are saying isn’t true.  But if it isn’t true that there is no such thing as truth, then what they have said is false.  But if there is no such thing as truth, then they have said absolutely nothing but in a very complicated way.  This is why British philosopher Roger Scruton says, “When someone tells you there is no such thing as truth, they are asking you not to believe them—so don’t.”

But you see, this presumption is even more sticky.  Today, the view has shifted to this idea that truth can be known, but it can only be known—but it can only be found in science.  Science alone can lay claim to truth.  The problem with this is obviously, it is a self-defeating statement.  If only science can make truth claims, it is false.  That isn’t a scientific statement, and science doesn’t say anything.  It is a method.  Hume said that all truth must be either self-evidently true or empirically verifiable—if it is neither—toss it to the flames.  Well, is his statement self-evident or empirically verifiable?  No. Toss it to the flames!  It was poor logic like this that caused ardent atheists like AJ Ayer and Antony Flew to reconsider their views.

But from this, the view has become that anyone who believes in God believes in something that cant be empirically tested—therefore they are believing in something that isn’t there.  Today, the politeness around this area of conversation has all but disappeared.  I used to hear things like, “John, I am happy that you believe what you believe.”  What they mean by that is “I can see that you are genuinely fulfilled as a Christian, and that your belief excites you, and that it has given you meaning.  I am happy that you believe this, and I wish I could believe it too, but I cant!”  I have heard that almost word for word over the years and I started to think about just what they were saying.  What they are saying is:  “Look John, I am happy that you are happy, but the reason you are happy is because of your faith (which they understand is believing in things that aren’t there). “  Now what do you call people who believe in things that aren’t there?  Crazy People!  What they are saying is, “John you are insane, but the main thing is, that you are happy and insane.  I am happy that you are happy, and I wish I could believe what you do, because I would like to be happy, too…but I simply cannot embrace such insanity and join you!”

The second assumption that Eichenwald holds is that faith is a positively bad thing.  It isn’t good for you and it isn’t good for society.  It is best demonstrated by people who go around blowing things up.  So the above politeness has turned into, “I am not happy for you.  I am against what you believe.  Faith is dangerous.”  I was reading something right after 9/11, and one of these atheist writers basically said, “Do you know what Christianity and the 9/11 hijackers have in common?  They fuel their fanaticism at the same holy gas station.”  The attack is on the idea of faith itself.  The problem is, there is a lack of understanding about what faith is that is prevalent today.

This idea that faith is blind belief in something absent of evidence, or even contrary to evidence, is a definition that goes against 2,000 years of Christian thought.  Of the hundreds of thousands of books written on the idea of faith, you will not find a definition of faith that sounds like that.  Likewise, faith is not believe in something that makes you happy, or is convenient, or fulfills your wishes.  Faith isn’t fantasy.  The word faith, when used in the bible (pistis), is always used in response to something that us true and real.  In other words, it would be like me saying, “I have faith in the President.”  By my saying this, I am acknowledging that he exists, that he is trustworthy.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I want him to exist—if he exists, he exists whether or not I wish for him to or not.  Secondly, I am acknowledging that he is dependable and keeps his promises (perhaps the current president is a bad example here).

This is the sense that the Bible speaks of faith.  It talks about knowing that he is, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  That is a statement about his truthfulness.  In Hebrews it talks about being “certain (fully persuaded) as to things that are not seen,” or talking about a full and complete assurance that something is real.  Notice, that this use of the word faith is completely different than saying, “I hope the Lakers win tonight,” because this cannot be guaranteed.  Christianity claims to be rooted in reality and truth.

The third assumption that Eichenwald holds is that many Christians are arrogant because they are certain.

Now, to set this up, we have to realize that many people find Christianity to be offensive because it claims to reveal things as they really are.  If I were to say to you that there is a book on the table—and you look and there isn’t—then my statement claims to reveal something that is wrong.  It doesn’t reflect any reality.  Either I was mistaken, or there is moral issue of deception at play.  It is the revelatory nature of truth that makes people uncomfortable.

Aristotle wrote a book titled, Politics which sheds light here.  In the book he asks for you to imagine a perfect society—and in this perfect society, a perfect person suddenly shows up.  They are so perfect that they are considered to be a god amongst men.  Aristotle asks, “What would a society do with such a person?”  He is very clear in the answer:  They would be killed.  Why?  A perfect person, if he ever did show up in our midst; his very presence would reveal our faults and all our imperfect, and even the imperfection of our society.  In other words, would you want it to be openly revealed, who you are?  Who you really are?

This is what Jesus claimed to be—a God amongst men—a being without fault.  Do you see the problem?  When Jesus himself stood before a judge, he proclaimed, “Everyone who is on the side of truth believes in me.” To this, the judge replied, “What is truth?”, and then walked away.

If you knew the moral complications that were happening inside of the man examining Jesus, you would understand—but interestingly enough, the man proclaims to the crowd that he finds no fault in Jesus—that is to say, nothing deceptive or morally wrong.

It is the idea of certainty that makes many of our contemporary friends upset.  In fact, this is what Eichenwald is driving at.  “How can you be so rude as to be so certain?”

I remember talking with a friend who happened to be a Buddhist.  She had a problem with what I was saying about Christianity.   She said to me, “Christianity is so arrogant.  It claims to be the only right way.  How can you hold to such a morally abhorrent view?”  I replied to her, “Do you follow the teachings of the Buddha?”  To this, she replied in the affirmative.  I asked her, “Didn’t the Buddha, after leaving Hinduism to start his own system, say that he rejected the Vedas?  Doesn’t this fly as an insult in the face of millions of Hindus?  How can you believe such an abhorrent view?”  To this, she said, “Uhh, John, I don’t like where this is going.”

Here is the thing, whenever you say that something is true, you are saying that any contrary statement is not true.  Further, when you say that Christianity is true, and that those who follow God are going to heaven, many people take offense to this.  It is as if they think you are saying, “I know I am going to heaven—I am better than you—you aren’t going.”  That isn’t at all what the Christian faith says.  What it says is that those who trust in God will inherit the Kingdom of God.

But this is where the idea of certainty gets uncomfortable to people.  They will say, “Surely being good is all that matters.  If I am good, and God is loving, how could he send me to hell?”  The interesting thing is that in the Bible, Jesus addresses this very question.  A guy asks him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good, but God alone.” (If good people are going to heaven, and only God is good, then who is going to heaven?  We need help.  In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a story that is pertinent to our situation, which shows us that there are only two possibilities as to how a person can become righteous, either (1) we make ourselves righteous or (2) someone else makes us righteous.

So the question persist:  “How can you be so certain, when it all seems so fuzzy?” Now, my first answer would be, “On what grounds am I certain that my wife loves me?”  If I asked this of my Dad, he would reply, “After 30 plus years of marriage, I am absolutely certain that she loves me.”  You know, I think God wants for us to be certain.  It is no mistake that in the Bible we are told, “These things are written so that you may know…”  You see, there is a basic issue with the question itself.  Here it is:  When people ask me, “How can you be so certain,” they are presuming that I am coming to believe in God because of all the reading I have done or all the high power arguments that I can give.  In truth, nothing could be further from reality.  Of course the arguments are important—but, think of my wife again.  I can’t prove to you through mathematics that she loves me.  Even the certainty we get in mathematics cannot be found in science.  We can’t get it in medicine; we can’t get it in biology.  What we can talk about is evidence.  I would say that I am an evidence based Christian.  There is no difference, except that when it comes to eternity, there is more at stake than in science.  My faith in God is based on evidence just as the doctor has faith in medicine.  Neither can be proved in the mathematical sense of proof, but evidence can be given to support the veracity of what we believe.

Many people will follow the Freudian path and say, “You know, you Christians, you have just constructed God.  You need an idea of God in order to be happy.”  The problem with that, besides the fact that if God does exist, this very argument can be turned around at atheism; is that Christianity and its veracity has nothing to do with my intellect or my desires.  Christianity isn’t about man looking for God, it is about God looking for man.  The central claim is that God became a man in Jesus and that through Jesus God was revealed to us.  Let’s supposing I wanted to get to know you.  I could submit you to a PET scan and put all kinds of microbes and wires on your head, and even monitor your heart—It might be true that I could learn a lot about you this way—but I could not know you this way.  To know you, you have to reveal yourself to me.  We have to talk.  I can begin to develop, based on our relationship a high level of confidence in you.  I have a high degree of confidence in my wife because I know her.  What gives me the confidence?  She does.  It isn’t that within myself, I have to come up with all this confidence—no.  The power of my faith lies in the object that I place my faith in.  God gives me the confidence the more I get to know him.  I am confident in Christ, but this confidence has nothing to do with myself.

In fact, only the Christian faith is set up this way.  If you look at every other belief system, you will find that it is either based in knowing, feeling, or doing.  You must master a certain set of thought, experience something specific, or follow a list of rules.  In philosophy we would call this epistemology, existentialism, or pragmatism.  The Christian faith does not rest on any of these three.  The Christian faith isn’t a system of knowing, even though there is no knowledge more important than knowing Jesus as Lord.  It isn’t an existential system where one must engage with feeling—even though, there is no feeling greater than coming to know the Lord.  Finally, it is not a system of pragmatism, even though Jesus said you will know true Christians by what “They do.”

The Christian system is a system of being.  It has to do with Christ’s being in us.  You can take every religious system and remove its founder and it will still stand.  Remove Muhammad, and Islam can still stand.  Someone else could have been the prophet.  You can remove Buddha from Buddhism and it can still stand.  In Christianity, if you remove Jesus you have nothing.  In fact, Michael Ramsden quips, “If you remove Christ from Christian, you are left with Ian and Ian cannot help you.”

When people follow these other systems, it is as if they are basing their faith on a merit system, and ultimately in their abilities.  The question, “How can you be so certain,” then has a more stinging meaning.  It is as if they are saying, “Who are you to be so confident that you will be accepted by God?  You are a human like the rest of us.”  To this I say, “absolutely—I am just like you.”  The secret is, my relationship with God isn’t set up on a merit system.  It isn’t like a university system.  In school, how you do you know you will get a degree?  Well, honestly you don’t.  If you told your professor on the first day, “I am absolutely confident I will ace this degree program,” I am sure he would reply, “Yeah?  We will see.”  You cannot be certain here.  Not only that, but the professor himself cannot guarantee you that you will get a degree.  Why?  It is a merit based system.  Either you meet the requirements or you fall short (there is that either/or again).  The problem with God is that many people think that he works in the same way.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I met my wife, what if I had decided the minute I met her, to propose marriage?  What if I brought her a cookbook, and in the cookbook it stated, “These are the laws for making Cherry Pie.”  The law says, “Thou shalt take 100 grams of flour, and 40 grams of cherries…., and so much sugar and water…and heat it up to such a temperature,” and so on and so forth.  What if I then told her, “Do you understand how to follow these laws?”  She replies in the affirmative.  Then I reply with, “Of course I wouldn’t dream of accepting you now, but if you will keep the rules in this book for the next 30 or 40 years I will think about accepting you—will you marry me?”

Unfortunately this is how many people think about God.  We wouldn’t begin to insult a human being with this type of thinking, yet we gladly subject God to it.

The last thing I want to say comes by way of Isaiah Berlin.  Berlin was a 20th century polymath who lived in the United Kingdom.  He was a brilliant thinker and he wrote on a variety of topics.   One of the things he wrote a lot about was the idea of freedom. He asked often, what does it mean to live in a free country?  He talked at length about monism—or the view that there is only one form of truth. He equated this with the despotic regimes of Hitler and Stalin.  Unfortunatly, Berlin saw tyranny first hand and they bothered him.  He began to say that if you want a free society, pluralism must be allowed to live.  Now, keep in mind, his definition of pluralism is different from the way a postmodernist would define it.  What he wanted was a free, loving, and just society.  The essence of this is pluralism.  There are multiple truths.  We are back at where this essay began.  Here is what Berlin said:

“The enemy of pluralism is monism — the ancient belief that there is a single harmony of truths into which everything, if it is genuine, in the end must fit. The consequence of this belief (which is something different from, but akin to, what Karl Popper called essentialism — to him the root of all evil) is that those who know should command those who do not. Those who know the answers to some of the great problems of mankind must be obeyed, for they alone know how society should be organized, how individual lives should be lived, how culture should be developed. This is the old Platonic belief in the philosopher-kings, who were entitled to give orders to others. There have always been thinkers who hold that if only scientists, or scientifically trained persons, could be put in charge of things, the world would be vastly improved. To this I have to say that no better excuse, or even reason, has ever been propounded for unlimited despotism on the part of an elite which robs the majority of its essential liberties.

Someone once remarked that in the old days men and women were brought as sacrifices to a variety of gods; for these, the modern age has substituted the new idols: isms. To cause pain, to kill, to torture are in general rightly condemned; but if these things are done not for my personal benefit but for an ism — socialism, nationalism, fascism, communism, fanatically held religious belief, or progress, or the fulfillment of the laws of history — then they are in order. Most revolutionaries believe, covertly or overtly, that in order to create the ideal world eggs must be broken, otherwise one cannot obtain an omelette. Eggs are certainly broken — never more violently than in our times — but the omelette is far to seek, it recedes into an infinite distance. That is one of the corollaries of unbridled monism, as I call it — some call it fanaticism, but monism is at the root of every extremism.”

This is a sobering thought. After reading this, I found myself struggling with it.  I believe that there is one truth—am I really like that?  I think the answer to this question is answered simply: Can one hold truth and at the same time extend grace?

I think what Eichenwald and Berlin and many who hold this view would say is: How can you dare to know truth—you will judge everyone else with it!  Instead, we need to love.

Here is the problem: Love discriminates, love judges, love fights.  Love does not exist in the absence of judgment, but only in the presence of it.  Have you read the brilliant treatise written by modern day philosophers, “The Black Eyed Peas?  They have a song called, “Where is the Love,” and in the song it says at one point, “If you never know truth then you never know love” I don’t know if they wrote that lyric themselves, but it is exactly right.

Peter Kreeft says it this way,

“Love fights. Love cares. Love discriminates. And therefore there is in Scripture, very clearly, a thing called the ‘wrath of God’. God hates all enemies of love as the doctor hates the cancer that’s killing his beloved patient. If you really love a human being you will hate all the dehumanizing forces that are harmful to that human being.  If on the other hand you don’t really love a human being but just tolerate a human being, then you will hate nothing, so, love and hate go together. Love of a human being, no matter who he is, and hate of a human being, no matter who he is, are exact opposites, they are black and white. But love of all humans and hate of all sins – that goes together.”

Consider for a moment—what is mercy and what is justice?  Well, for humans, we always extend mercy at the expense of justice, and we exercise judgment at the expense of mercy.  If your sister is raped, and the judge lets the offender go free, saying, “we must be merciful and understanding of those who rape,” then where is the justice?  In Christianity alone, do we see a God who exercises mercy not at the expense of justice, but through the exercise of his justice.  This is the justice of the Cross.

A friend once asked me, “Don’t all roads lead up the mountain, to God?”  The issue is this, if you stood at the top of a mountain, could you see all the paths at once?  Where would you have to be to have such a perspective?  Answer:  In multiple places at once—omniscient.  So, when a person says that all paths lead to the top of the mountain, they are saying that they can see all the paths.  If only God has that type of view, who are they claiming to be?  I think Jesus answer to the question, “Don’t all paths lead to God” would be, “There are no paths that lead to God, only the path that God has made in coming to us.”

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The Limits of Science

I was talking with some new friends who are ardent atheists and believers in Darwinian evolutionary theory.  They continuously call my position (I’m a Christian) a faith-based proposition.  Yet, when I pressed them and noted that their very belief in science as a legitimate means to finding truth (can’t be proved in a lab), their assumption that the universe is rational, their assumption that the universe is governed by laws, and the fact that we assume that our minds correspond to reality…are all necessary to even begin to do science—they overwhelmingly accused me of playing tricks and word games. No.  Word games is when I say, “If you like your plan you can keep your plan.”  We all know the truth there.

When I talked with them about evolution and the problems with it, they seemd like I was speaking from some manual of holy dogma.  For example, I asked them:

“Suppose a group of French Cistercian monks began to copy Don Quixote from Spanish to French…keep in mind that they don’t speak Spanish, but only French.  Would it be plausible than in their accidents while copying the manuscript, and through a process of a certain amount of time, that the manuscript would randomly change and become War and Peace?”

I followed that up with this question:

“We know that to turn a Buick into a submarine would be an extraordinarily complex engineering problem.  At my most basic estimates, I would say that such a project would require at least 50,000 changes.  How many intermediate forms of the car/sub would we expect to see?  If i told you that we had in the record, 49,999, that would lead you to one conclusion.  What If I told you we had seven?  What would that do to the theory?  What if instead of a car, we had a cow, and instead of a submarine, we had a whale?  What would have to change?  Well, you would have to add a diving apparatus, a breathing mechanism, change the skin to make it watertight, change the intestinal tract to make it conducive to the sea–and these are just estimates on the surface.  How many changes would you expect?  How many intermediate forms?  49,999?  Maybe so.  Do you know how many intermediate forms we have between the primitive cow-like creature and the whale?  Seven.”

Further, when I asked them how on an evolutionary paradigm, they could believe that truth was worthwhile—they looked confused.  I told them that on an evolutionary view, survival is more important than truth; therefore, one must reject truth outright if it means it will give them a better chance at survival (keep in mind these Darwinists don’t typically believe in absolute truths–well except that one).  Perhaps the most articulate atheist of our time, John Gray (professor emeritus at the London School of Economics) says in his book Straw Dogs, that all that matters is survival.  He goes on to say that morality is only something to be used in times of comfort, and when it comes down to it, morality is a means to being exterminated.

Now—What about the truth of what would happen if I jumped out of a building?  If I were in a 20 story hotel room, and I looked out the window, the truth is—jumping out the window will hurt or kill me.  On the other hand, if a nerve agent were released in my room, or if a man with a gun came in and started shooting—or if by some chance occurrence, the entire building became engulfed in flame; I would have no choice but to go against what I know to be true and jump out of my window in the name of survival.  Survival is more important than truth to the Darwinist—and this is true even if our actions will only ensure a few more moments of survival.  On a Darwinian view, this must happen.  Survival is the predominant ethic.  It just is, and as Dawkins says: “we dance to its music.”

The final straw was when I asked them if they came to believe their views on Darwinian evolutionary theory because they weighed the pros and cons and listened to arguments—or if they were determined to hold these views.  I asked them, “Based on the evidence and the pros and cons, would you say that you hold to smooth evolutionary process or punctuated equilibrium theory?”  One of them replied, “I haven’t looked into Punctuated Eq yet…I have no opinion.”  Wow!  This is stunning.  They are actually asserting that there might be a choice!  When I pressed that point,  they again said that I was engaging in asking trick questions and resorting to metaphysics.

Are their objections true?  Notice that in their replies, they never took my arguments on.  Instead, my arguments are rendered as faith based or illegitimate.  They aren’t interested in debate, they want to remove the possibility of debate.   And I’m the narrow minded one they tell me.

Let’s talk about the belief that science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth.  If we only take things to be true based on evidence and proof, what proof is there that the statement, “Science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth” true?  How can this be demonstrated in a laboratory?  It can’t.  It is presumed before science can begin.  What about the assumption that the universe is rational?  Why is it that our universe is governed by an extremely accurate and fine-tuned set of numerical constants?  Why is it that if we changed the expansion rate of the universe by one part in a hundred thousand million million, we would have no universe and no life?  Why?  We assume these things to be true, but can’t even begin to answer the question why.  The truth is, there is no reason for these things to be.  They just are.  We have to assume them to engage in science.

What about proof itself?  Why is it that people who call themselves ‘scientific’ often ask for proof of God?  My dear friends, proof is only found in pure mathematics.  In science we can give explanations.  The problem is, science is not the only means of explanation, and in many ways it falls short.  If I were to ask you to explain the boiling kettle on the stove, science would say:  A heat source warms the container with water to a point where the molecules become agitated and turn to steam.  Another answer would be, “I wanted a cup of tea.”  Both are correct.  Neither is a better explanation.  What explains a Ford car?  Internal combustion, chemistry, and engineering…or Henry Ford?  You tell me.

What about the presumption that the universe is governed by laws?  Joel Primack asked an interesting question. He asked what compels the electron to follows the laws of nature.  What compels it to stay in its orbit? Good question. I don’t know. But Heinrich Himmler, who had presided over the destruction of churches and synagogues throughout Europe and was the mastermind behind the extermination of the Jewish people, asked a very similar question in 1944. When confronted with the onerous treaty obligations the German state had adopted with respect to its own satraps, he asked insouciantly but pregnantly, “After all, what compels us to keep our promises?” Moral relativism is very often derided as an unhappy consequence of atheism. I don’t think moral relativism is a particularly deep issue, but I do think the issue of what compels us to keep our promises is very relevant.  But, in the universe what compels anything to follow laws?  This cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory.  We don’t even know what gravity is.  We don’t know what energy is.  Try this experiment—ask a quantum physicist what energy is.  Then correct them:  “Sir, I didn’t ask you to describe the effect of energy, I asked you to tell me what it is.”  Just because we don’t know what something is doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.  We should be more humble.  The universe abides by laws, and we assume them to be there.

What about the existence of the mind and its ability to adjudicate the world as reality?  How can this be proven?  Many will tell you that our minds are merely grey matter that includes the random firing of neurons and so forth.  Really?  They will tell you that the brain is a product of time plus matter plus chance—and that what we think is hardwired in.  Ok—if I told you that the airplane you were flying on—that the onboard computers were the products of time matter and chance—would you trust the plane enough to fly on it?  Obviously not—survival remember?  Then why would you trust the pilots who have a brain that comes from the same process?  Further, if our brains are really randomly evolved things, why should we trust anything we think is true?  I mean, if I am predetermined to think the things I do (as is the view among Dawkins, Dennett, and their ilk), it follows that I don’t come to know things based on evidence or pros and cons.  I believe it because I am determined to believe it.  But the question is deeper yet.  This view of determinism, and that the brain is hardwired—have I come to know that based on evidence and pros and cons?  Or have I come to believe it because it is hardwired in?  How can one trust this?

Finally, what about the fact that words and semiotics carry meaning?  If matter is all there is, how can ink on a typed page carry information?  Why is it when we go into a cave and see a 30,000 year old marking on the wall, we instantly assume it is an ancient Chinese character rather that the product of time plus matter plus chance?  Further, why is it when we see the letters, “ILOVEYOU” written on the beach, we assume an intelligence?  Why don’t we assume intelligence when we look at the longest word in the world, namely, the human genome?

I love science, but one must have just as much faith to believe in a purely naturalistic view of the universe as the theist does to believe in an all-powerful God.  The conflict isn’t between religion and science; on the contrary.  It is between theism and naturalism.

I am reminded what the Nobel Laureate Peter Medwar said in his book, The Limits of Science:

 “The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike questions having to do with first and last things—questions such as: ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’; ‘What is the point of living?’”

Science leaves too many things unanswered.  If matter and science were all that existed, we might as well tear down the literature, music, art, and history departments.  They can tell us nothing.  As John Gray says, “A purely naturalistic view of the universe leaves no room for secular hope.”  I fully agree.  We can make the moral case for science, but we cannot make the scientific case for morality.

Consider a story:

I have in front of me a rather remarkable button. If you should press it, yours would be untold riches, everlasting life, all the wishes you want, and whatever else you desire. The only consequence to pressing it beyond your happiness is the death of an anonymous Chinese peasant. Who among us would you trust with this button?

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Does Sin Exist?

We live in period of history in which nothing is wrong, well except to claim unequivocally that there is such a thing as wrong.  We live in a society that that feels that nothing is off limits, well except the idea that there are things that are off limits.  We happen to live in a world that dogmatically asserts that what we do is what we are wired to do.  That is, in the words of Richard Dawkins, it is our DNA that dictates what we do, “and we just dance to its music.”  We have moved a long way from Flip Wilson’s, “The devil made me do it.”  Now, we are prisoners of our own material body.  My DNA made me do it!

Before you you go believing this rubbish, let me just plant a word of doubt and skepticism in your mind (and yes you can be skeptical of the self styled freethinking skeptics).  When someone says that you are pre-wired to behave a certain way based on your DNA or molecular makeup, what they are saying is:  You are determined.  Determinism is the view that there is no free will and that we are captive to time, matter, and chance.  In a sense, it is the belief that Darwinian evolution is in business, and it will do what it likes–including controlling your behavior and thoughts.  Here is the problem.  If one holds to determinism, by definition, they did not come to hold this view based on weighing the pro’s and con’s for the argument.  They weren’t persuaded rationally to believe that determinism is true.  Instead, determinism would purport that they just hold the view because they were determined to do so.  If we are determined to do the things we do and believe the things we believe, how can we rationally affirm anything?  How can determinism be rationally affirmed if we are predetermined to believe it?

Don’t buy this stuff. Well, that is, if you are determined not to buy it, don’t buy it.  If you are determined to buy it, you have no choice. (please sense the sarcasm)

 


 

Now, the more interesting question is,does sin exist? Is man by nature good, or is man evil? These are questions that must be answered.  And trust me, regardless what worldview a person holds–whether they are a theist, atheist–whatever–they have a position on these issues.

Consider a story:

“Two brothers were notorious around town for being as crooked in their business dealings as they could possibly be. That notwithstanding, they continued to progress from wealth to greater wealth until suddenly one of the brothers died. The surviving brother found himself in search of a minister who would be willing to put the finishing touches to the funeral. He finally made an offer to a minister that was hard for him to refuse. “I will pay you a great sum, he said, “if you will just do me one favor. In eulogizing my brother, I want you to call him a ‘saint,’ and if you do, I will give you a handsome reward.” The minister, a shrewd pragmatist, agreed to comply. Why not? The money could help put a new roof on the church.

When the funeral service began, the sanctuary was filled by all the important business associates who had been swindled through the years by these two brothers. Unaware of the deal that had been made for the eulogy, they were expecting to be vindicated by the public exposure of the man’s character.

At last the much-awaited moment arrived, and the minister spoke. “The man you see in the coffin was a vile and debauched individual. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did every dirty, rotten, unconscionable thing you can think of. But compared to his brother here, he was a saint.”

Every group of students I tell this joke to laugh out loud.  Why?  What is it about this story that resonates with all who hear it, regardless of cultural background or place of birth? Why can a stadium of people hear this story through their respective linguistic interpreter, and all at once let out a seismic roar of laughter at the punch line? The answer is quite simple. We are all aware of what man can be at his worst. We know the evil that resides within all of us and what it can do if allowed to prevail. If this was not a common understanding, there would be no laughter. Am I wrong?

I am reminded of the great English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote in the first volume of his two-volume biography, a story that dealt with sin.

Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity. He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her.  Muggeridge writes:

“She came to the river and took off her clothes and stood naked, her brown body just caught by the sun.  I suddenly went mad.  There came to me that dryness in the back of my throat; that feeling of cruelty and strength and wild unreasonableness which is called passion.  I darted with all the force of swimming I had to where she was, and then nearly fainted for she was old and hideous and her feet were deformed and turned inwards and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper.  You have never seen a leper I suppose; until you have seen one you do not know the worst that human ugliness can be.  This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask, and the next thing I knew was that I was swimming along in my old way in the middle of the stream—yet trembling…It was the kind of lesson I needed.  When I think of lust now I think of this lecherous woman.” 

The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, “What a dirty lecherous woman!” But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.  He was the lecher.

Muggeridge himself admitted the real shock that morning was not the leper, as mind-banding as that would be. Rather, it was the condition of his own heart, dark, with appetites overpowering his weak will. He writes,

“If only I could paint, I’d make a wonderful picture of a passionate boy running after that and call it: ‘The lusts of the flesh.’”

Muggeridge, who was himself a latecomer to the faith, would go one to say,

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Are instances like this reserved for the elite caste of the most lecherous and morally repugnant individuals in society? Hardly. Think back to the great figures we know from the Bible. David, a man after God’s own heart. He let sin overcome him and it let to lust, immorality, deceit, murder, prevarication, and dishonor. Why? All because of sin that was not dealt with properly. Think of King Saul. Perhaps Saul is a man who could have been the greatest King to ever live. What was his problem? Pride. He could not stand the fact that David had slain the giant, and as a result the songs were being sung about him, and not himself. This sin led to problems. Remember Jonah? His sin of disobedience didn’t only affect him, it affected all of the other men on board the ship!  If you remember, it took the pagan captain of the ship to get Jonah to pray to God!  You know things are messed up when sin takes control of your life to the point that unbelievers are willing to ask YOU to try God out.

I was once talking to a woman about the Christian view of the world, and she admitted,

“Being a woman about to give birth, I do wonder to myself how anyone could bring a baby into such an evil world.”

I responded to her,

“You are right about the evil out there, but what about the evil in us–in you?”

You know, the Bible refers to sin not only as being something that we do, but also as a power that controls and consumes us.  It isn’t that we do sinful things, but rather, that we are sinful.

Sin is a problem!

 


 

Fast forward to our modern age. Sin has become a problem “no more.” Sin is now seen by the postmodernists, liberals, and relativists as merely a concoction and archaic holdover from fundamental Christian dogmas.  Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucault, and their ilk will tell you there there is no absolute truth (though didn’t they just state an absolute in making their claim?). There is no absolute truth; so, how could there be something called sin?  It was Foucault who noted,

‘To die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?’

and,

‘all the rest of my life I’ve been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys.’

 

Isnt it a shame that a man could admit these things, but his biographer only refer to them as the “passions of Foucault?”  This isn’t passion, this is depravity.

 

This refusal of sin as a reality affects more than just sexual freedom, however.

C.E.M. Joad once noted that

“It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the [political] Left were always being disappointed”

Unfortunately for the Left,  this is right (pun intended).  Why is it that we can erect all-powerful legislation and control the lives of all citizens, yet still stand in complete shock when something tragic happens at the hands of human beings?  I posit that it doesn’t matter how many laws are instituted.  If man doesn’t realize that sin is real, and that evil is a reality, then I agree with Dr. Johnson who lamented:

“All the laws of heaven and earth are insufficient to restrain them from their crimes.”

 

I think G.K. Chesterton can teach us a few things when it comes to this issue of objective sin.  First of all, objective morals do exist.  Chesterton once noted that,

“Though we may differ over whether or not abortion is virtuous, we all agree that they should be performed with sterilized instruments.”

That quote may seem a bit harsh, but think about it.  Two people may disagree over the virtue of abortion–that is to say, whether it is right or wrong.  What they do not disagree over is the medical necessity of universal precautions.  Why are precautions universal if there werent a moral mandate to take care of the patient because–well–life matters?

This is the essence of the medical mistake.

G.K. Chesterton taught us that in medicine we all agree on what a well person is, but disagree on what sick is. In social and political theory however, we agree on what a malady looks like, but tear our eyes out over what a well-functioning society looks like.  The problem is, politicians and social critics continually use medical terminology to talk about social issues–“The health care situation in this country is sick.  It needs to be reformed.”  OR  “The country is sick–vote for my policies, and we can return it to health.”  This is a fallacy says Chesterton.  How can they talk about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is the most disputed issue in all of academia?  Only in medicine can this terminology be used.   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less. Never will that man walk into a hospital and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Absolutes do exit.  Wrong exits.  Good exists.  We just refuse to say what it is.

I believe that Oliver Sacks, an M.D. who is no Christian said it best in his blockbuster book, Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness-and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost; and one day, perhaps, we will suddenly find it. And this will be the miracle, the millennium !”

Did you understand that?  Isn’t that interesting?  Billions of dollars have been spent on research–and here we are–stuck at Genesis 3.

Along those lines, here is an interesting quote from the renowned professor of psychology; and one time president of the American Psychological Association, Hobart Mowrer. This man was also an atheist who took his own life in his seventies:

“For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking, “Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?”

What is the solution?  The modern man has a solution for what the archaic man calls sin. That solution is education.  Notice that the boundaries of this debate are enforced by the self styled intellectual caste.  Is this really the way things should be?  Wasn’t Oliver Wendell Holmes correct when he stated, “The life of the law is logic not experience”?

Contrary to the beliefs of modern utopianists, education does not change the way people behave. This has been exemplified by various instances of white collar crime where ivy league university graduates are the ones committing the crimes. What then is the difference between the common street criminal and the thoroughly educated high class criminal? Method and magnitude! The common street criminal will employ crude weapons to steal a car from the other end of town. The educated criminal will employ his academic degrees to gain prominence and steal millions of dollars from the corporation that he runs. The uneducated criminal will break into a house and rape a woman. The educated criminal will use position and power to rape a nation.

As D.L. Moody put it,

“If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.”

It is a snobbish assumption that the ignorant are the dangerous criminals. The most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. All education does is to make the criminal more sophisticated.

The only solution to sin can be found in the person of Christ. Listen to what an the avowed skeptic, E.H. Lecky had to say on the matter:

“It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has not been only the highest pattern of virtue, but also the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortions of moralists.”

G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is as “practical as potatoes.” We may try to deny it, overlook it, or re-describe it, but the fact remains. We are capable of many kinds of evil. The diseases of the body are not nearly as hideous and grotesque as the diseases of the soul.

It is not merely external behaviors that vex our souls, but our internal intentions as well. Jesus explained this clearly when he said that if we lust after a woman we commit adultery with her in our hearts; that if we are unforgiving of our brother, it is like murdering him. Jesus brings ethics from the social sphere to the personal one by showing how intentions can be just as wicked as actions.

Have we taken stock of our soul recently? Have we sensed the nuances of evil in our own hearts? We need to stand guard today, and every day, with humility that we are capable of terrible evil. And at the same time, we need to avoid those things that draw us into it. Sin starts at the heart level and works its way outward.

Comparatively, leprosy on the body is not nearly as ugly as the pockmarks of sin on the soul. The good news is that Christ has broken the power of both and asks us to begin eternity now by building a soul in this world appropriate for our glorified body in the next.

How do we find the answers?  What worldview gives us a hope? Ravi Zacharias gives us an interesting method:

First, there are 3 tests that a worldview must pass.  It must be:  1)Logically consistent (its teachings cannot be self-contradictory), 2)Empirically Adequate (its teachings must match with what we see in reality, 3) experientially relevant (its teaching must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.

Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:  1)Origin (where do the universe and human beings come from?), 2)Meaning (What is the meaning or purpose of life?), 3) Morality (how do we know what is right and what is wrong?), 4) Destiny (What happens to us after we die?)

Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to comprehensively study a worldview:  1) Theology (the study of God), 2)Metaphysics (the study of what is ultimately real), 3)Epistemology (the study of how we can know things), 4) Ethics (the study of moral right and wrong), 5) Anthropology (the study of what and who humans are).

You will find that only a worldview based upon God and through a relationship with the person of Christ will one view hold up to this test.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Do your own work.  Try it.

Joseph Damien was a missionary in the 19th century who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.  Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived our before them.  But even he did not know the price he would pay.  One morning before he was to lead them in their daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot.  It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation.  Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more boiling water on the same spot.  No feeling whatsoever.

Damien immediately diagnosed the problem.  As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line.  He normally began every sermon with, “my fellow believers.”  But this morning he began with, “My fellow lepers.”

In a greater measure, Jesus came into the world knowing what it would cost Him.  He bore in His pure being the marks of evil, that we might be made pure.  “For this I came into the world,” he said (John 18:37).

The gospel points to the person of Christ who went to the cross, not just to transform the Jeffrey Dahmers and the money-grabbers behind the scenes, but to renew even those whose self-righteousness blinds them to their own need.  It wasn’t just the prodigal who squandered the fathers love, it was also the older brother—for he was so close to the fathers love the whole time.

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