Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Did Jesus Say Nothing About Homosexuality?

I'm loathe to get onto this topic again, but in the wake of the Duck Dynasty/homosexuality controversy, I feel like we need to look at an objection that so frequently appears in these discussions.

The pro-same-sex marriage crowd, whether Christian or not, likes to say that Jesus never condemned homosexuality — therefore it isn't a sin. And there is no record of Jesus ever explicitly mentioning homosexuality.

He did one better.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person" (Matt 15:19-20a).

What did Jesus mean by "sexual immorality?" He was pointing the Mosaic Law, to Leviticus 18. Your Bible probably has a heading for the section like "unlawful sexual relations." That is sexual immorality. The chapter covers incest (in some detail), adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality. Jesus condemned all of those sins in one fell swoop.

I can hear the objections already: "But that's the Old Testament. If you're going to apply those rules, you have to apply the ones about eating shellfish and mixing fabrics. Jesus said, 'not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law.'"

I love it when y'all quote the Bible, and I'm glad you brought up that passage. It actually explains why we don't have to worry about shellfish and polyester. The entire verse says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18 emphasis added).

The Law will not pass away, but most of it has been fulfilled.

Jesus himself, in the first passage I quoted, threw out the dietary rules, and probably the whole "holiness code." The parallel passage in Mark explicitly says, "Thus he declared all foods clean" (7:19). Simply touching something or eating something doesn't defile you, he says; it's what you decide to do.

The rest of the New Testament takes that view of the Law. Hebrews describes it as an illustration that was put in place until a "new order" was established by Christ (9:8-10, 10:1-12). Paul said it was given to teach us about sin until Christ (Rom 7:7-13, Gal 3:19). When the apostles had to determine what part of the Old Testament applied to Christians, they said, "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:24-29). There's that word again.

There are different parts of the Law of Moses. Some of it was supposed to tell them how to run a country; it gave them their legal system. Some of it was to make them realize how hard it is to come to God and how dirty we are just because we're human. Those parts don't apply anymore. They've served their purpose. The moral instructions — the ten commandments, the rules about sexual immorality, the rules about mistreating the poor and your neighbor, etc. — still apply.

So to sum up, Jesus condemned "sexual immorality," which includes homosexuality, in a way that lets us off the hook for shellfish and polyester.

I can hear the next objection: "But when he said that, he did also mentioned 'evil thoughts, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, slander.'"

Yes, that's a great point. All of those thing defile us.

But there's only one thing in that list people are trying to make into a good thing. There's one thing people are trying to tell us we can't call sin. It's not murder. It's not slander. It's not adultery (though that's probably coming soon).

The truth is, homosexual relations are only one sin out of many that defile people. We should want to stamp out greed and theft and covetousness. Homosexual relations are not a special sin. But it's one that is hateful to God and destructive to the sinner, and yet we're being told we can't call it a sin.

I was a child during the "greed is good" era. I don't know how the Church responded to it. I hope there were many voices crying out that greed is not only not good, it is evil and toxic.

You know what else greed is? It's natural. Humans, in their natural state, are greedy. Humans are also lustful — where do you think adultery comes from? They're selfish and petty and violent.

There are a lot of things that come naturally to human beings that are wrong. Jesus died to put them all to death. But he requires us to call them sin and then to repent.

Hate the Sin ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Should I Give?

Christianity Today asks "Should I Give a Cow or Cash for Christmas?" They look at giving to the poor in the world via animals, cash (whether as gifts or loans), and digging water wells. It's well worth reading.

If you want to give an animal, cash, or water, I'd like to commend World Vision to you out of the many good options. That's where our family gives.

For your convenience, Heifer International is another popular place to give.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Devoting Your Mind in 2014

It's that time of year again. Not for Christmas shopping — for picking out a daily devotional for next year. If that is something you tend to do, and even if it's not, I'd like to recommend a different approach this year.

Instead of spending the next year reading someone commenting on one Bible verse taken out of context (I'm not a big fan of the daily devotional books, I admit), take the time and learn a little about God, Jesus, Bibliology, world views, the resurrection, and church history.

Rick Cornish wrote a little series of books: 5-Minute Theologian, 5-Minute Apologist, and 5-Minute Church Historian. Each has 100 chapters of 2-3 pages apiece. Five minutes on a theology or apologetic topic will not give you a seminary level understanding of that truth, but it will give you a better understanding. And that is a good thing for you and for the Church corporately.

(Theology: I don't agree with everything he says, but he's fair and thoughtful about everything. Apologetics: He's a typical evangelical, even when that's not always a good thing, but I think you'll be OK. Historian: I haven't read it yet, but it's harder to screw that up, so I'm comfortable saying "let's read it".)

Reading one chapter a day will take up 300 days. Double up here and there and you can be done by the fall. After that, I suggest a different kind of daily devotional. (I know what I said above, but this one's better. A lot.)

John Stott's Through the Bible, Through the Year is designed to start in September following the church year. It starts in the Old Testament, builds to Advent, goes into the life of Christ and Easter, then finishes out the New Testament. Being Stott, each entry is well-written, insightful, and based in a solid understanding of the passage of the day.

If you don't want to read the 5-Minute books, you can pick this one up and just start a quarter of the way through it (week 18).

I know I'm asking you to buy four books instead of one, but it won't be so bad if you space the purchases out. And I think you'll read these books again or loan them out. In short, you'll get your money's worth, and you'll get an solid couple of years of learning to better love the Lord with your mind.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Homosexuality a Birth Defect?

It's time we change the way we think and talk about homosexuality.

The other side says homosexuals are "born that way." Even if they're not entirely right, it's unlikely they're entirely wrong. Living the lifestyle certainly requires a choice, but I don't think many would choose the burden of same-sex attraction (SSA) if they had a choice.

So let's just give the other side the "born that way." What then?

In biology, what do you call a genetic trait (or congenital condition) that makes a person less likely to successfully pass on their genes? A negative mutation. In layman's terms, a birth defect.

Whether SSA turns out to be the result of a gene that people inherit, of a faulty genetic process, or of hormones/chemicals gone wrong the result is a person with tendencies that deviate from the biological (never mind the social) norm.

What would it mean if we chose to think of SSA as a birth defect? I think there are two potential benefits. First, it changes the debate from "how do we stop these people from doing these things" (however you may feel about the things — the right and left have very different views) to "what should we do about this condition these people have." It makes the conversation less confrontational and also less about "rights" and more about healthy and normal.

Second, it could make us change how we approach these people and the whole topic. If homosexuals are simply people who make (to the rest of us) completely inexplicable choices, they are treated the same way we would treat a compulsive liar. They choose to do wrong, and they need to stop it right now.

If they are the victim of their circumstances, they are to be pitied and helped and understood. It makes us realize that being "normal" is impossible for them and acting normal is a huge uphill battle. Even those who, by the grace of God, find an opposite sex mate and build a normal life will always be plagued by this bug in their programming.

The obvious objection from the right is "Wouldn't this make homosexuality OK?" No, I don't think it would. Think about some of the other problems people can have. People with Tourette syndrome are still expected to learn to control their impulses. Kids with various mental problems are still expected to learn to sit quietly and not hit or bite. We don't decide something is fine because their birth defect causes it. But we are more patient with them.

The obvious objection from the left is "It's mean." But it's neither unkind nor small minded. It's accurate. It may not seem nice, but it's the best explanation for their situation. It's also a way to make the right more understanding which you have to agree is a good thing.

One Among Many

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It's one of those passages I have a love-hate relationship with:
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" (2Pet 3:9-11a)
The author's emphasis is clearly on holy living, but this passage always forces me to think about something else, too — namely, since everything will be destroyed, what should I spend my time on?

There are so many things that need to be done. Not just dishes and laundry. There are big things that need to be done. Someone needs to fix this mess! I want to take over or supplant my field's professional organization, get on the city council, school board, and maybe Congress. That's on top of things I think I need to learn, books I want to read, and books I want to write. There's not only not enough time in a day; there's not enough time in a life.

So how do we thin out the list? Ask, "What's going to last?"

When everything burns up, what will be left? What will really matter in the grand scheme of things?

You can certainly take this too far — someone's got to run the country, and I think it's good if as many of those people as possible are Christians. And Jesus went to weddings and parties. Life's not all about work, even kingdom work.

But it's also possible to cop out too easy. There are "important" things that aren't, really. Even if they are really important, are they important enough to distract us from the work of the kingdom? Are we building things that will burn at the expense of the things that would last?

People spend their time on what moves them. It's normal to find yourself caught up in the things of this world. How much time are we spending on trivial things? How much do we live like everyone else? Do we blend in with the "normal" people around us?

We're not supposed to be normal. We're supposed to be weird in the right ways, to look at life differently, to live life differently. To have Christ's priorities.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fearing God

Would you be nervous if you met the president? Would you be a little scared? You probably should be. Every president, regardless of party, has been the subject of stories about people who weren't quite deferential enough and got "detained." Most of those are nothing more than an inconvenience, but don't you think if the president wanted you disappear, someone would make it happen? It doesn't usually happen. It doesn't even happen often. The president (every president) appears to be a basically good man who just wants what's best for everyone. The president wants your life to be better than it is. But he can make you go away. Permanently.

In the same way, God is good. He loves you, and he wants what is best for you. But he can make you go away permanently. And unlike a president, who would be at best bending if not breaking the law, God has every right to do it. And unlike a president, who would be doing this out of sinful pride or arrogance, God would be doing it in perfect holiness.

To borrow from Martin Luther, if the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then the greatest transgression is to not love the Lord properly — something we're all guilty of continually. And that's not all. We're selfish, prideful, and lustful. We've lied, stolen, and hated. We hurt people we love and ignore people who need our help all the time.

So it's no exaggeration to say we're wicked, filthy, shameful creatures who deserve any punishment our creator chooses to mete out. You might not deserve the mistreatment a president can heap on you, but anything God might inflict on you is totally just. In fact, anything short of total annihilation is mercy.

So should we be nervous to meet God? When desperately wicked creatures like ourselves come into contact with a holy and just God, shouldn't we be terrified that he might just wipe us out?

And then shouldn't we be amazed that, instead of eradicating us, he chose to die for us? Instead of pouring the just penalty for our sins on our heads, he poured his blood out to cover those sins. Instead of annihilating us, he liberated us. Then he went a step farther. He changed us from slaves of sin into children of God. We are no longer partakers of his wrath but heirs with Christ.

When we stand before God we should be terrified. And then we should be amazed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fixing a Pro-Life Comeback

The American political left (and the media, to the extent there's a difference) lose their minds at the slightest hint of any abortion restrictions, and conservatively governed states have been making them crazy lately. The most recent offense comes from my own state of Texas where someone said, "If you can't figure out you want an abortion within five months, you're just going to have to give birth" or something to that effect. (Yeah, there was other stuff in the bill, but that's not what this is about.)

Whenever the topic comes up, someone helpfully suggests that you shouldn't say anything about abortion unless you're a woman. Yes, we all know it's stupid, but what to do about it?

A common rejoinder is "that's like saying 'you can't oppose slavery unless you're black.'"

But that's not anywhere near correct. That's equivalent to saying "you can't say anything about abortion unless you're a fetus." While that might make for a good policy, it's not going to allow for much conversation.

When pro-aborts say "you can't say anything about abortion unless you're a woman," the true abolition-equivalent is:

You can't say anything about slavery unless you're white.
Perhaps that'll make them pause long enough for a conversation to occur.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Abortion Forever?

One of the few things we heard out of the mainstream media during the Gosnell hearing is "this is what happens when abortions are hard to get."

The argument must be aimed at bolstering their own supporters, because it's not an argument that will convince many pro-lifers. My brain always interprets this kind of logic as "if abortion isn't legal, people might die when they try to murder their children." Less than compelling.

The other argument I've heard a lot lately is "we've always had abortion and we always will."

It's true we've always had abortion. For centuries people have dealt with unwanted children by killing them — either before they were born or after. Does that make it OK? Of course not. Does that mean it will always be with us? Not necessarily.

There's something else we can say we've pretty much always had: slavery. It's existed in some form or another for thousands of years. It still exists, even in the United States.

But it's not what it once was. Once, slavery was normal. People thought nothing of it. It was a fact of life.

Today, it's recognized by 99% of the human race as a horror and a crime. We may never stamp it out, but we've relegated it to the shadows, and there's a good chance we can make it too risky, too dangerous to practice if we keep the pressure on. There may soon come a day when there is no slavery on this planet.

Abortion has always existed because there were people who said "my needs are more important than the life of this child." There is a chance that we can change things so that 99% of the human race will say "nothing is more important that the life of a child." That's a dream worth fighting for.

Friday, March 22, 2013


I think these will be helpful sites for you to visit:

Do "contradictions" discredit the Gospels?
(This is part of a series of videos that, frankly, try to sell a DVD set, but the short video is still a useful piece.)

Forget About Evolution and Inerrancy (for a Minute)
"The issue of origins and inspiration and inerrancy are very important. We eventually need to discuss them. But they arenot 'make or break issues.' And they can be used to sidetrack the Gospel into endless and fruitless debate."
Raising Daughters in a World That Devalues Them: 7 Things We Must Tell Them
Like this author, I have two little girls, and I'm appalled at what our culture wants to teach them about themselves, men, God, and life in general. There are a lot of good thoughts here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Slaying Giants

"How do we know there were giants?" my eldest daughter asked, out of the blue.

"Are we talking Jack and Beanstalk or the Bible?"

"The Bible."

The other one chimed in, "Because the Bible's God's word."

"I think what she's really asking is, 'Why do we believe the Bible is God's word?'

"We verify the things that we can. If those things stand up to scrutiny, we can trust the things we can't verify."

My youngest's approach is unfortunately common. She seemed scandalized the older one even asked such a question and wanted to take the "God said it, I believe it" approach.

I want them to know, though, that we don't take the Bible on blind faith. It's a reasoned faith, a trust in a trustworthy source.

We will never be able to verify every line of the Bible. But every year or so we find more reason to trust it. "The Hittites didn't exist." Oh, wait, yes they did. "There was no written language in Canaan during the bronze age." Yes, there very much was. "There was no King David." "Solomon didn't rule as much as the Bible claims." "Israel wasn't a powerful kingdom." The objections keep getting knocked down. And that's just the Old Testament. The NT case is much tighter.

Does this prove there were people two or three feet taller than what would consider "tall?" No. But if the records are reliable everywhere else, we have no good reason to doubt and every reason to accept the account.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent Losers

The Lenten season is upon us. I'm not part of a tradition that observes Lent and have no desire to do so, but I can respect the concept.

So I have trouble respecting those who do it half-heartedly.

Lent isn't a weight loss regimen. Most people I know who observe Lent give up things like bread or caffeine — things Jesus doesn't care about. Yes, it's a season for self-denial, but make it meaningful.

I encourage these people to give up favorite sins like cussing, gossip, or extramarital sex (the last making me less than popular). If you can give up cussing for 40 days, odds are pretty good you'll be able to give it up altogether. Isn't that better than losing five pounds?

If you don't have a habitual sin you can give up (it's hard to give up pride for Lent), try adding a meaningful activity. Pray, read the Bible, or actually fast Fridays and give the money for those meals to the poor.

Make Lent less about Biggest Loser and more about being like Jesus.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Life Links

Sadly, it doesn't look like we're going to be able to spend time considering and discussing the arguments made in favor of the pro-choice position. If anyone ever makes one, I'll let you know.

Instead, here are a few pieces of pro-life goodness.

* Pro-choicers often say you shouldn't ask a woman not to kill her child unless you are willing to take responsibility for it for the rest of your life. Scott Klusendorf wrote a short piece highlighting the insanity of that complaint.

* Trevin Wax lists 10 questions the media (and we) should ask the pro-choice — questions far more meaningful than the inane ones they pose us.

* Finally, Amy Hall of Stand to Reason and Keith Mathison of Ligonier Ministries explain their pro-life reasoning for anyone who is actually willing to listen.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Evidence is There for God?

The case for Christianity consists of different layers. Believing the gospel requires believing miracles can exist. Believing in miracles requires believing in God. The existence of God is the foundation level of the building. How do we get people to believe in God?

Different people will respond to different arguments for the existence of God — that's why there are so many of them. You should have a familiarity with as many as possible, but you may not be able to argue some as convincingly as others. If someone seems inclined toward an argument you're weak on, you can always point them to a book or article, but to be credible, you need to be able to make a case for your own belief.

This is the case I would make:

There are four distinct arguments for the existence of a god I find compelling. While they may resemble each other, they are independent of each other. (Since entire books have been written on this topic, I will offer an abbreviated version of the arguments and point you to more in-depth treatments if you're interested in going further.)

1. The cosmological argument
Every effect must have a cause. The universe began, that is, it is an effect. Therefore it must have a cause. That thing that caused the universe is what we will call God.

Why should we believe the universe began? Physics. Among the reasons are the second law of thermodynamics, general relativity, and Hubble's evidence of an expanding universe. In brief, this universe looks like the remains of an explosion. That explosion occurred at a specific point in time before which our universe did not exist.

Something has to be eternal. The universe isn't it. Whatever ultimately caused our universe is.

Yes, there are cosmologists driving themselves nuts trying to prove the universe didn't get caused or was caused by some natural phenomenon. There are two things to point out about that: 1) They are completely untestable (aka, "not science"). 2) The researchers in question largely admit freely that they are pursuing these things for the sole purpose of getting rid of the moment of creation and therefore the creator. It is not science but philosophy that drives this.

(There are tons of books that cover this. A short, cheap one is the Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics.)

2. The design argument
Our universe, our planet, and life itself show signs of being made very precisely so that life (in fact, intelligent life) can exist. Someone has made all of this possible.

As I posted earlier, before I had ever heard of Intelligent Design, I had been introduced to the concepts via physics professors. Once I came across the totality of the evidence it was pretty stunning. There are dozens of features of the universe that do not have to be any particular value, but for life to exist — any life — they must fall within very tight ranges. Among them: the energy of the big bang, the speed of light, and the ratio of the electromagnetic force to gravity. The last time I checked there were 41 physical constants on the list. Roger Penrose put the odds of the big bang producing a universe fit for life at 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123 (1 in 10^(10^123)). It is impossible, and yet here we are.

The earth itself shows the same kind of design. Lately the news has been full of the discovery of "earth-like" planets, but you have to understand how loosely they use the term. For life to exist you need a planet in the right part of the right kind of galaxy, orbiting the right distance from the right kind of star, and with a satellite of a certain size. Not only are certain chemicals needed (or needed to be absent), those things require the planet to have a certain size and certain physical characteristics. Life is far easier to kill than to sustain, so it takes a very special planet to provide a place where any life — much less intelligent life — can thrive. There really is no reason there had to be even one.

Finally, the very existence of life is a puzzle. Listening to many scientists, you would think life is so easy to build it should be around every corner. It's not. For natural processes to create life, you need a very special group of chemicals kept in a very careful balance. You need these chemicals to create a self-replicating system than allows errors to creep in. You need some of those errors to not be toxic, though most are. You need something to protect that life from the very forces that created it. The truth is the universe is not old enough for natural process alone to have produced microbial life, much less us. If there is no God, our existence is more of a miracle than if he exists.

It was the design argument that convinced Anthony Flew of the existence of God. The cumulative case for design to get us here is so great that the universe has been described as a "put up job" by some scientists.

(Here you really need more depth, so I recommend dedicated books like The Creator and the Cosmos or some of Ross' other works. Destiny or Chance, though not Christian, is a good book on the topic, too, if you don't mind his naturalistic conclusions.)

3. The moral argument
We know that some things are morally wrong. How do we know that?

I don't mean that some things are a terrible way to run a society. I mean some things should never happen. We have no problem saying the Holocaust was wrong. We all see hurting children as abhorrent and condemn people like the Indian gang rapists and Adolph Hitler with every bit of righteous indignation we can muster. There are people who don't seem to possess a properly developed moral sense, but, like color-blindness, the defect only serves to highlight the norm.

We all believe that there is an objective standard for right and wrong. Even those who claim they don't can't live like that.

Where would such a thing come from? Valiant attempts at an evolutionary explanation have been made, but they all fall short because the thing we know we should do is often, from a survival of the fittest (or survival of our genes) point of view, the last thing we should do. The simple truth is we all possess knowledge of a moral standard that comes from outside of us. The only explanation is that it is imparted to us by our creator.

CS Lewis made this argument famous in his Mere Christianity.

4. The argument from religious experience
The argument here is not that people's religious experiences are true. It is simply that everyone has them.

This is another argument handled ably by Lewis (again, Mere Christianity), so I will simply borrow from him:

Hunger presupposes the existence of food. Thirst presupposes water. Humans yearn to fulfill a spiritual need that we really can't explain, but its presence points to the existence of Something that can fill it. As Lewis put it, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

The universality of religion points to the existence of God. It doesn't matter that different peoples have gone about it different ways. It is that every people has gone about it. In what other situation do humans feel a deep need for something that doesn't exist?

Of course, all of these arguments are for A god, but not necessarily for the God. Rather than argue directly for God, I would argue for Christianity, with the Christian conception of God included. What follows depends on one of the previous arguments being successful. For someone to take the Bible or Christianity seriously, they have to be open to the possibility of the miraculous. This, then, is the second layer of the argument, depending on the first:

5. The reliability of scripture
If someone automatically discounts the miraculous, the phrase "reliability of scripture" is going to be laughable. But if they are open to the possibility, we can show that where the Bible can be tested, it has been shown to be historically reliable. You can probably get away with just the New Testament, but the Old Testament can be shown to be reliable, too. That doesn't mean there aren't still question marks hanging around, but it has been shown to be correct many times and it has never been shown to be conclusively wrong.

The primary goal is to show that the authors of the New Testament 1) were trying to and 2) were successful at giving an honest account of what they experienced. If they presented what happened as they saw it, we can then talk about what they thought they saw.

(Besides the books linked in the paragraph, The Case for Christ is a good introduction to this topic and the next.)

6. The resurrection
If the gospels are reliable, we can address what they say about Jesus and his death and resurrection. As I have argued before, the gospel is a story no one would make up. But even if they were trying to be honest, they might be mistaken. The question is, what is the best explanation for the resurrection and the birth of the New Testament church — a miraculous or natural explanation?

If someone doesn't believe miracles are at least possible, no naturalistic explanation is more ridiculous than an actual resurrection. But if they are open to the possibility, we can show that a supernatural resurrection is the simplest, sanest explanation.

Hundreds of people saw Jesus die. Hundreds of people saw Jesus alive afterwards. Even some who didn't believe in Jesus before hand saw him. Because of this they overturned their lives — giving up the way they were raised to follow after new teachings (in a culture that distrusted the new), preaching the triumph of an executed criminal, and risking their relationships and even lives. Every natural explanation looks ridiculous in the face of what they did, what they risked. The only reasonable explanation is that they saw what they believed to be the resurrected Jesus — in different times and places and under differing conditions, making their being mistaken ridiculously unlikely. The most reasonable conclusion is that Jesus really did get up and bodily leave his grave.

7. On that basis, we can build the third layer: If the resurrection happened, it's a short trip from there to Christianity. Jesus himself pointed to his resurrection as the vindication of all he taught and claimed about himself. It's hard to disagree — getting raised from the dead is a pretty good sign God is on your side. Even if you have trouble believing in some biblical passage or facet of Christian teaching, the major pieces are pretty well in place, and that includes the Christian conception of God.

There is no other religion with scriptures of the same character and quality as Christianity. There is no other religion with a huge, public, defensible miraculous foundation. Christianity and it's conception of God win any contest.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Offer for the Pro-Choice

In honor of the anniversary of Roe v Wade, I'd like to present our pro-choice friends an opportunity and an offer.

The pro-life side of the abortion debate has put quite a lot of energy into explaining why we are pro-life. We think unborn human beings (whether zygote, embryo, or fetus), by mere virtue of the fact that they are human beings, have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by born humans, from infant to adult. We think denying these rights, especially life itself, to unborn humans is a terrible evil that harms the society that allows it almost as much as the actual victim. We have explained this and our reasoning for it in great detail in many places and in many ways.

And the pro-choice side responds that we are terrible prudes who just want to control people's sex lives or some other non-sequitur.

So here is the opportunity: This is a place where you can spell out the reason why an unborn human being is not entitled to the same protections you are. Explain why it's ok to kill a human being two months before birth but not two months after.

The offer: Convince me of your position, and I will promise to be a single-issue, pro-choice voter for the next two years. I will not allow tax policy or international issues to influence my vote in any election where there is only one pro-choice candidate. I offer you the prize of a convert. If, that is, you can make a persuasive case.

Ready, set, go!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Miracles and Broccoli

Last time I argued that we should be opened minded about miracles. A natural response is, So what?

If miracles are possible, that doesn't mean they're common. That doesn't mean any of the miracles in the Bible really happened. It doesn't mean the Bible's trustworthy. So what does it matter?

Imagine you're trying to convince your child to eat her broccoli. You begin to try to explain how wholesome and nutritious broccoli is. But your child interrupts: "I'll listen to you, but first we have to agree to assume broccoli is poisonous."

A fair fight? Of course not.

That's how many skeptics want to approach the Bible: "Miracles are impossible. The supernatural doesn't exist. Now give me your evidence for this resurrection thing."

If miracles are off the table, no explanation for the resurrection is more ridiculous than an actual resurrection. However if miracles are possible — not assumed, just possible — naturalistic explanations for the resurrection (and related events) start to seem a bit far fetched. We just have to make sure the person we're talking to isn't starting from the wrong presuppositions.

Because if someone's willing to give the evidence a fair hearing, I think it'll win every time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why are Miracles Impossible?

What's the problem with miracles? Why are so many so sure they can't happen?

I'm not talking about those who say they don't happen. If you haven't seen one, I can understand being doubtful. But some people are so sure miracles can't happen. Why?

Picture a mouse. You put it in terrarium and close the lid. Inside is a platform raised six inches off the floor and at the bottom a large rock, say ten pounds. Getting the rock to the top of the platform would require exerting more than ten pounds of force against the force of gravity. But the terrarium is a closed system, and nothing inside it is capable of generating that kind of force.

There is no way the mouse could get that rock to the top of the raised area. As long as that lid stays closed, that rock isn't moving.

To skeptics, our universe is that closed terrarium. The rock is anything the laws of nature say can't happen — water turning into wine, a donkey talking, the dead rising, whatever. These things simply can't happen because it would violate every rule by which the universe operates. Miracles are impossible because our universe is a closed system. Nothing inside it can do these things, and nothing outside it can affect anything inside it.

Back to the mouse: You come in and find the rock on top of the platform. You know the mouse couldn't have moved the rock. You know the rock didn't move by itself. Therefore, someone opened the lid and moved the rock.

In our world, when something happens (or is reported to have happened) that violates the natural laws, we know it didn't, because we live in a close system and nothing inside it can overcome those natural laws (therefore there must be a natural explanation).

But that assumes, in reference to our analogy, that someone built a terrarium that he couldn't open.

(It also assumes that we know everything about our universe such as who is in it — meaning, not God — and what the rules are — as in, there are no exceptions built into the laws we've observed, but that's really beside the point at the moment.)

I've never seen an out-and-out, no-other-possible-explanation miracle that I know of. But I believe, for many good reasons, that this universe was created. And I believe that anyone capable of building his own universe is probably capable of doing pretty much whatever he wants to in it. So even if miracles aren't common (which they shouldn't be, by definition), they are certainly possible.