Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Links: A Bit of Politics

Since the anniversary of Roe v Wade is upon us, some appropriate links:

= Christianity Today's "Choosing Life at the Movies" discusses the recent surge in pro-life films out of Hollywood and asks,
Does this all add up to a Hollywood "trend"? Have Tinseltown's filmmakers, oft regarded as liberals and frequently blasted as purveyors of immorality, gone pro-life?
I'm not ready to call this a trend. Hollywood is generally happy to do anything that goes against the grain just for the shock value. In our culture, that's the pro-life choice. But there is certainly grounds to hope that this is more than just a stunt – that it might be a real change in the way they think about the issue.

The article also describes many of these recent movies. You might find a couple that will interest you.

= According to the Feminst Women's Health Center,
In small and large towns throughout the United States (and all over the Internet), anti-abortion groups have set up "crisis pregnancy centers"...deliberately designed to misinform and mislead young women... these groups want to be the first contact a woman makes when she thinks she might be pregnant, so they can talk her out of considering abortion. (emphasis in original)
That sounds like as good a reason as any to find your nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center (or similar organization) and ask them how you can help. Besides needing volunteer councilors, they can generally use money, clothes, food, and general baby items (e.g, diapers, formula, cribs) which will go toward helping women (and men) who choose life to take care of their children.

= This image gives a powerful visual representation of the number of children aborted just in the US. (HT: Justin Taylor)

= A friend sent me a link to the Candidate Calculator – a tool to help you determine which candidate best agrees with you (or vice versa) on abortion and many other issues.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Experience vs Evidence

When should we share our personal experiences in evangelism or apologetics as opposed to offering evidence (i.e., facts or arguments)?

Dealing with the Lost Tomb
During the “lost tomb of Jesus” debacle in the spring of ’07, I tuned into my local Christian radio station and heard them discussing the issue and the drama surrounding it. The DJs then asked people to call in and tell them “when Jesus first became real to you.”

I thought this was a poor way to approach that topic, and I told them so. I objected to dealing with it by discussing subjective issues (i.e., “when Jesus first became real to you”) when the documentary (and anyone talking about it with a Christian) was discussing very objective issues (i.e., whether or not this tomb had ever contained the remains of Jesus and His family).

The Problem with Experience
When we meet objective claims (e.g., Jesus never rose from the dead; we have his body to prove it) with subjective claims (e.g., Jesus is real to me), we do two unfortunate things:

1) We perpetuate the stereotype of Christians as brain dead fanatics who follow blind faith in spite of contrary facts.

2) We perpetuate the anti-intellectual bias in the modern church by teaching the next generation that feelings trump facts.

Objective statements have to be met with objective statements. When someone brings up, for example, the “tomb of Jesus,” we should launch into the weaknesses of this so-called documentary (and they are legion) as well as offering the evidence for the historical reliability of the resurrection story and the NT as a whole first.

The Place for Experience
Voddie Baucham, in The Ever-Loving Truth, asks why we believe the Bible. He argues that if we say we believe it because “it works,” we have to deal with people who say the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and the Tao Te Ching work.

If we say we believe the Bible because “it is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eye-witnesses to supernatural events that took place in accordance with specific prophecies demonstrating that the Bible is divine in origin, oh, and it works,” we have given the other solid, objective reasons to trust the Bible supplemented by our subjective experience that it works.

When defending the resurrection of Christ, we should give the evidence for the empty tomb, the appearances to the apostles and other disciples, the transformation of the apostles, and the appearance of the early church. And then we tell them how we’ve encountered a very much alive Christ who fills our hearts and our lives with joy and meaning.

Christianity is an experiential religion. Our feelings are important to us and to those we want to share the gospel with. Raw data alone will not do. But sharing mere feelings without some of that data will not do either.

Your testimony is the icing on the cake, the gravy on the steak, the boat on the lake, but if you don’t have something underneath it, all you have is an unwholesome, unfulfilling emotional experience.

Combined with solid evidence and sound arguments, though, your experience can make facts accessible and attractive to the thinking, feeling human beings around us.


Do You Know Why You Don't Believe?

"Fact, Faith, Feeling" as Ancient Wisdom @ Scriptorium Daily

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another Problem with Naturalism

Might makes right government

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

The United States was founded upon the notion that certain things were right and certain things were wrong. The founders said that, according to this objective standard, they were being treated unfairly and had a right to leave and create a new government that would rule in line with the principles of the Creator.

Before that, the kings of England and other powers claimed a right to rule based on the fact that their governments were ordained by God. He had placed them and their ancestors in those positions, and the people were obliged to obey them as they obeyed their Maker.

Before that, kings ruled by virtue of the simple fact that they were, in fact, gods – or so they claimed.

Throughout history, rulers appealed to divine right or divine principle to justify their rule. It was recognized that people needed to know why they should obey – because either the king was a god or was instituted by God. What happens when they can’t do that?

One of the results of naturalism is the loss of the idea of an objective standard for morality or anything else. You don’t just lose God; you lose good. Why is murder wrong? What’s so bad about stealing? Who’s to say we can’t bury inconvenient facts?

In this realm, there is no unalienable right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness because there is no creator to endow us with them. At this point, there is no good reason for anything government wants to do, nor is there anything wrong with anything it wants to do.

There is no obligation to protect the innocent or punish the guilty. There is no fundamental right to what you own and so no reason to justify taking it away from you.

So why does government get to rule? Because it can. Because it is powerful. Government based on objective principles or divine prerogative is replaced by might makes right.

Eventually you get to the point where whatever the leaders want to do is right because they have the might.

Am I exaggerating? Reflect on Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia for a few minutes. Millions were killed because the government deemed it to be in the government’s best interest.

What moral argument could be brought against that policy? “Thou shalt not kill”? Fairy tales and superstition. Men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”? Men are created by undirected biological processes that endow them with nothing.

Naturalism has many problems both philosophical and logical, but the greatest problem is moral. Naturalism is the path to government of the powerful, by the powerful, and for the powerful.

You might also be interested in: What's Wrong with Naturalism?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Prosperity Preachers Consistent

Theology matters

At least they’re consistent. Give a conservative preacher a few million dollars, and he’ll have visions of reaching the lost for Christ. Give it to a liberal, and he’ll picture feeding millions of starving people. Give it to a health & wealth preacher, and he’ll buy a jet.

The luxurious lifestyles of H&W teachers have been in the headlines of late. So has congressional investigation of the same. (Incidentally, I agree that this is an issue in which Congress needs to butt out.)

As we hear the stories of opulent homes and antique-adorned offices, we should remember that this is exactly what they teach. As the cash pours in, they take it as a sign of God’s favor and assume they’re supposed to spend it on themselves.

We should thank these folks for reminding us that your beliefs affect your behavior.

One of the rallying cries of the emerging church guys is orthopraxy (i.e., correct practice, as opposed to orthodoxy, or correct belief). That is important. But practice stems from belief.

Before we looked at how one doctrinal error can spin off into greater errors. Here we see that wrong belief can create wrong behavior. Of course, Jonestown should have taught us that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Happens in Vegas

…does not stay in Vegas. Things done when “no one will know” have a bad habit of carrying serious consequences whether done in Vegas, Cleveland, or Wal-Mart. People are often tempted to do things like cheat on their spouses, watch dirty movies, pad expense reports, or steal when they think no one is watching, but the consequences aren’t dependent on the presence of human eyes.

There are different kinds of repercussions, and any or all may befall the offender.

Temporal Repercussions
Temporal repercussions are easy to identify and easy to predict, but we all too often think they won’t happen to us. Being in Vegas doesn’t protect you from diseases. Pregnancy happens in Vegas too. Can your actions get you in debt…or jail? Just because your spouse or boss doesn’t know doesn’t mean the consequences won’t find you. And then they’ll probably find out too.

Spiritual Repercussions
Part of the insidious nature of sin is that all too often sin begets sin, or, to borrow a phrase, “you can’t eat just one.” Once you break the seal, so to speak, it is very easy to go back down that road.

It can also lead to other sins. Willful sin sears the conscience making other sins easier. Heaven forbid that the sin should provide a thrill of some sort because eventually you will have to look for new ways to get your thrill.

Eternal Repercussions
Finally, there are eternal repercussions to sin – especially willful, intentional sin. The lost and the saved will answer differently for what they did in their lives, but we will all give an account to the Judge.

Not only are there eternal repercussions for you for your actions, but there may be consequences to others as well. If others are involved in your sin they will certainly be held responsible for their part, but your actions can affect those that weren’t involved too. I know people who want nothing to do with Christ because of the actions of some so-called Christians, and you probably do too. There may also be those who are led into sin by your example. They will pay a price for your sin, and you may pay a price for theirs.

Sin that “no one sees” can cause a lot of damage – both to you and to others. The best way to avoid this is to determine now to take whatever measures are necessary to avoid even the temptation. And to remember that eventually someone will know.