How To Avoid Indoctrinating Children With Mathematics And Christianity

The term indoctrination has a very negative stigma. When people hear that phrase, they will think of parents telling their children what to believe and how to think. They think of religious zealots who are just creating more clones of themselves to perpetuate their religion for generations. When those children get older, they will teach their children how to be clones as well. But the problem will have more latitude than mere cloning (as disturbing as that seems to be). They will suggest that providing children with a religious education will onset severe psychological difficulties throughout the course of their adult life. Among these will be a deep-seated fear of Hell after they apostatize. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins even recounted the sad story of an apostate who sought therapy to help her to overcome the fear of Hell. With these dire consequences in mind, there are some measures regarding how to avoid indoctrinating children with mathematics and Christianity.

The keen observer will notice a bit of sarcasm in that title. If you read my opening paragraph thinking that I was actually suggesting that a Christian education would be indoctrination, then I think that I have done my job. I am simply trying to accurately represent the position outlined specifically in chapter nine of The God Delusion. Throughout this article, I will be addressing some of the arguments mounted by Dawkins and several other critics of religion. Religious education is not indoctrination in the sense that all of these negative connotations should be warranted. Religious education is comparable to education in mathematics.

We Should Teach Children What Is True

People often make the unfortunate mistake of distinguishing religion from other disciplines. They treat it as though it is something like an opinion or a personal point of view that should not be imposed onto others. Many people take a relativistic position when it comes to religion exclusively, but are more firm about other positions. For example, if somebody wanted the Cowboys to defeat the Packers, that does not mean that they should behave as though they won the Super Bowl. Some teams win and others lose. Some views are right and others are wrong. In the case of religious beliefs, some are right and others are wrong. It is not a matter of personal taste or opinion. We are discerning what is true and relaying those truths to other people, especially our children.

Nobody objects to educating children about what is true. Indoctrination is simply defined as “to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments,” or “to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.” The word ‘teach’ is actually a synonym with indoctrinate. The word simply has negative connotations, often referring to uncritical acceptance of a certain set of beliefs or principles. But most good parents believe that it is important to teach their children that which is true. They will teach them the rudiments of mathematics and science. These are often partisan points of view that prevailed over rivaling theories in history.

Something similar can be said of Christianity. The reason that parents will teach children about Christianity is the same reason that they have for teaching their children mathematics. It is true. It is not akin to teaching their children to like one flavor of ice cream over another. It is more akin to teaching children ethical positions, such as, “Do not bully other kids,” “Kill them with kindness,” or even the dreaded, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Teaching children mathematics, ethical principles and Christian theology is not a matter of indoctrination. It is simply relaying true claims.

Is Christianity Always Accepted Uncritically?

One of the hallmarks of indoctrination in a more negative sense will be that it is accepted uncritically. Yet that could be said of legitimate disciplines. When children are taught mathematics, they scarcely ask the second-order philosophical question of whether it is true. They might question whether it is truly practical for them to have that knowledge, but they do not question if it is true. Of course, one could provide evidence that a simple algorithm is really true, but children are generally expected to just accept it. The same could be said of properly basic beliefs, such as the existence of the external world and the fact that there are minds other than their own. By the very nature of the case, these would have to be accepted uncritically and indeed, to even raise such questions would be a cause for concern.

However, one might rejoin that if the child were to ask these philosophical questions and pry into mathematics, they would find that the simple algorithm is true. Yet this is exactly the point that I am raising. Children might be taught that Christianity is true, but as they grow in wisdom, they might begin to ask deeper questions and learn why they should believe that it is true. Christianity does not have to be accepted uncritically. Claims such as “God exists,” will be very evident. When they begin to think about specific Christian claims such as the resurrection or the Bible, they will find evidence there as well.

The idea that Christianity has to be accepted uncritically is based on a caricature or on an atheist’s own personal experience with Christianity. It ignores the rich intellectual tradition of the Christian church that actually launched modern science. But as the experience of the apostate will indicate, it is certainly possible to teach Christianity without encouraging the children to think critically about their faith. But that will be more of a problem with the method rather than with Christian theology. An atheist could be guilty of the same sort of methodology, as we often see from atheists on social media.

The Doctrine of Hell Gives Children Nightmares

Mathematics does not give children nightmares. Adults do not stay awake at fearing that they might have to solve an equation as they recount the days struggling through them as children. Well, I should not say that. But those nightmares and fears would be mild compared to the fear that one has of Hell. Adults who have apostatized often live with a lasting fear of going to Hell. As children, their preacher will present vivid imagery of the terrors of Hell and that imagery stays with them even as adults. Young children might stay awake at night fearing for their souls, thinking about the horrible fate of the damned. On page 317, Dawkins cited an example of a young child who believed that her friend was in Hell because she was a Protestant. He cited a few other examples of adults who still feared that they might go to Hell.

There are a few aspects of this that will need to be considered. First, there is a way to preach about the reality of Hell without using it as a mechanism to frighten parishioners. Sometimes preachers will appeal to their audience’s desire to live to keep them from falling away or to scare them into the faith. A more appropriate way to consider the doctrine of Hell would be to preach about God’s judgment as a consequence of sin. But the doctrine of Hell will need to be preached in conjunction with the redemption offered by trusting in God’s promises made on the basis of the cross of Jesus. It is not a message of terror but one of hope. Second, there are other doctrines related to the eternal destiny of the soul that are perfectly acceptable for evangelical Christians to accept, such as annihilationism. The doctrine of annihilation states that the soul is not immortal and that immortality is a gift given to those who are saved. Those who die in their sins would be annihilated, destroyed forever.

Second, concerns about whether teaching the doctrine of Hell is a bad parenting choice will essentially come down to what is true. Actions have consequences. A criminal might not like that he will one day have to face justice and he may live in fear that the law will eventually catch up to him. When Dawkins relays these stories of people who fear Hell, it seems like they are convicted over their actions. Justice will eventually catch up to them. Somebody might not like being told a hard truth. But if a bus is going to run someone over, you would tell them even if it means that they would live in fear until the second that the bus collides with them.

Is Religion Worse For Children Than Pedophilia?

In a chapter devoted to the religious indoctrination of children and the lasting effects wrought by religion, you would expect that Dawkins would outline some sexual scandals and systematic coverups. But it is a little odd that Dawkins has harsher words for the creation scientist than he does for the pedophile. In fact, when he raises the issue of pedophilia on page 315, he refers to opposition as “hysteria” a “mob psychology” and an “epidemic.” He went on to say that sometimes, pedophilia can be a “harmless experience.” He writes, “If… they [pedophiles] had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defense.” While he did (in passing) refer to pedophilia as “reprehensible,” it is still nonetheless disturbing that Dawkins would become an apologist for pedophiles.

In fact, when Dawkins was asked at a lecture in Dublin about the lasting consequences of pedophiles who use their position in the church to victimize children, Dawkins said that it is no worse than having been brought up Catholic in the first place (page 317). I suspect that audience in Dublin thought that this was nothing more than a slight against a religious upbringing. But I think there is a little more than that. In his answer to that question, Dawkins is expressing [1] the horror of being raised religious and [2] what he perceives as the very mild effect of pedophilia.

Of course, the reasons that Dawkins had for making the point that religion is worse for children than pedophilia will touch on issues that I am assessing in this article, so there is no reason to rehash them here. But I did think it would be worthy to point out Dawkins’ bizarre position on pedophilia. Without having your partisan atheist glasses on for a moment, think about whether you really think that teaching children about Christianity is as bad as molesting a child. If you found out that your child was going to church, would you really be more outraged than if you found out that he or she had been molested? Really?

Does Christianity Limit The Minds of Children?

Since Dawkins critique makes no effort to engage with the long intellectual history of the Christian church, many of his objections are based on a caricature. They are based not so much on Christianity itself but on how Christianity can sometimes be practiced. He objected that religious thinking limits the horizon and education of the child. Their mind is shackled by biblical precepts about science. After all, if you think that God created everything, then there is really no need for any explanations beyond that.

Yet this old ‘God of the gaps’ objection fundamentally misunderstands how and why Christians practice science. Explanations often have different levels. If a king sent a courier to deliver a message, both the king and the courier will be explanations for the arrival of the letter. If Michelangelo carves the Statue of David, both he and the marble will be different types of causes. There is both God and science. God is the efficient cause while science is the material cause. To say that you do not need God because you have science, or vice versa, would be as silly as saying that you do not need Henry Ford because you have thermodynamics. Religion does not limit the scope of knowledge. The religious person should be perfectly open to accepting scientific explanations.

Second, Dawkins principle does not really stand up to historical scrutiny. Historically, Christians have pioneered the great disciplines of science. Even the so-called Dark Ages was an era of scientific achievement. The reason that Christians expect to find law in nature is that they believe that there was a lawgiver. The rationality of the universe flows far more naturally when you believe that there is a rational mind behind it. One might argue that therefore Christianity will expand the mind while atheism will limit it.

The Distinction Between What To Think And How To Think

Of course, parents need to educate their children. Even Professor Dawkins acknowledges that. But he suggested that there is a superior method of education. Rather than teaching the children what to think, you should teach them how to think. That is to say that rather than giving them precepts and telling them to believe them, you should teach them how to analyze information and allow them to come to their own conclusions. Rather than teaching them about religion, you would teach them to examine evidence. Since you are instilling them with rationality, they will come to a correct view of the world. This might make sense on the surface, but there are serious problems with this distinction. Primarily, there is no way to teach a child how to think without teaching them what to think.

Every principle that you could teach regarding how to think will still be telling them what to think. You are telling them to use that principle. If you were to tell a child that she should examine evidence before coming to a conclusion, you would be telling them both [1] how to think (by using that principle and [2] what to think (namely, that principle is valid). If you teach them to use the laws of logic, you will be implicitly teaching them that the laws of logic are valid and binding. Every how will have an underlying what.

Second, there are some disciplines in which it is impossible to avoid telling children what to think. History will be one of them. The history teacher (at least an early level) might not be teaching his students so much about how to examine historical documents but more about what happened in the past and how it impacts us today. That is essentially what Christian theology teaches. Of course, as one grows in their faith, they will begin to learn more about methodology (the same as when one grows in their knowledge of history), but in the infancy stages, it will mostly be a matter of relaying historical information and telling the children how it impacts us today.

Should Children Have A Say In The Matter?

On page 330, Professor Dawkins raised the bizarre issue of personal autonomy. The reason that I refer to it as bizarre is that he said that children should have a say in the matter. They should get to decide what they are being taught. Well, there are plenty of children who would like to forego an education in mathematics. There is a pretty simple reason that you do not allow children to decide what they are going to learn. They are children. They do not understand the long-term implications of not knowing mathematics. They only know that they hate it. If you ask a child, “Which religion would you like to choose?” they are likely to choose the one that offers candy. It is the responsibility of the parent to teach their child that which is true.

A Christian Child Or A Child of Christian Parents?

Continuing in the theme that children should have a say in the matter, Dawkins expressed disdain at the term “Christian child” because the child is not old enough to make a decision about her religious beliefs. He said on pages 339-340 that instead, parents should choose to refer to their children as “children of Christian parents,” which will leave the option open for children to assess their religious beliefs. Again, though, this strips parents of the responsibility and the right to teach their children that which is true. Further, depending on the sect, some Christians might not identify their children as Christians. Baptists might be a notable example who would adhere to what is commonly referred to as the ‘age of accountability.’

Second, this will essentially, once again, come back to the fundamental question of what is true. While a child may not have developed the cognitive faculties to assess her beliefs, she could still rightly be referred to as a Christian. She could similarly be referred to as a “lover of mother.” Most people cannot tell you when they began to love their mother. They can only tell you that they do and basically always have. A Christian might not be able to tell you when she started to love Christ and basically knows that she always had. They are children of the covenant. That is what infant baptism will signify.

However, Professor Dawkins has no sympathy for this theological construction. When speaking of parents who indoctrinate their children, he writes on page 338, “Mightn’t the parents actually be investigated to see if they were fit to bring up children?” The implication is obvious. If you teach your children that which is true, then you might not be fit to raise them and perhaps they should be taken away from you. I suppose Dawkins will rejoice to learn of children being seized over Christian indoctrination.

Dawkins Encouraged Atheistic Indoctrination

The reader might be surprised to learn that Dawkins actually does think that children should learn about the Bible, Christian theology and various traditions. But, in a stroke of irony, he thinks that children should be indoctrinated to believe that it is not true. Of course, he did not use those words. He argued on pages 340-344 that children should be taught about Christianity alongside all of the other religious views throughout history. The story of Jesus and the letters of the apostles should be read in conjunction with Aesop’s Fables and Pagan mythology of old. “You see, children, just as people once believed these stories were true, they also believe that the story of Jesus is true today.” If you do not think that is the height of indoctrination and guaranteed to lead children to think that they are all myths, then you are probably an overzealous Dawkins supporter.

That is not to say that the literary quality of the Bible cannot be examined or even used in a secular classroom alongside other ancient religious documents. But the kind of presentation that Dawkins has in mind is one that is designed specifically to lead people away from the faith. After all, one of Dawkins chief arguments is the old, “Had you been born in India, you would be a Hindu.” He thinks that by teaching children that there is a cacophony of false religions that are believed fervently, that they will become more skeptical of their own faith. The last sentence in the chapter is telling. He writes, “We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage.” In a book centralized by the profoundly clever one-liner, “who created God?” we can hardly be surprised at the hypocrisy of endorsing atheistic indoctrination just after howling against a Christian education.

How To Avoid Indoctrinating Children With Mathematics And Christianity

Professor Dawkins has an agenda in writing this book and in this chapter. The God Delusion is designed to glamorize atheism and make religion look foolish, wielding caricatures and misinformation. His chapter on indoctrination is part of his apologetic against religion. It is an argument about why you should not be religious and why your children should be religious either. But as we have seen, most of these arguments are either attacking a caricature or a method that is sometimes applied by Christians rather than a critique of Christian education itself.

To summarize the points that I have made:
‌• We should teach children that which is true
‌• Saying that Christianity is indoctrination is like saying that mathematics is indoctrination
‌• Children are often encouraged to accept truths uncritically in education, such as in mathematics
‌• Christianity does not require that you accept truths uncritically
‌• Dawkins ignores the rich intellectual tradition of the Christian church
‌• The fact that Hell gives people nightmares is comparable to a criminal fearing that justice will catch up with him
‌• Richard Dawkins would prefer that a child be exposed to pedophilia than to religion
‌• You cannot teach a child how to think without teaching her what to think
‌• God and science can both be an explanation of some phenomenon, therefore knowing about God does not limit one’s ability to learn science
‌• Loving Christ as a child is similar to loving mom as a child
‌• Dawkins advocated for atheistic indoctrination

Recommended Reading:
5 Mistakes Richard Dawkins Has Made
The Debate That Never Was: William Lane Craig Vs Richard Dawkins

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Developing A Strong Family Bond When Granny Wants You Dead

When a parent sees that her daughter is pregnant, they might start to panic. Unwed pregnancy can often lead to poverty, as the child has to forego an education and work a minimum wage job to feed the baby. If a teenager is pregnant, she will have to make sacrifices that will very much impact the rest of her life. When she tells her life story, it will begin with a teenaged pregnancy. So, in all of her wisdom, her mother might suggest that the teenager simply avert these sacrifices by making another: her child. Parents will allow, encourage, or pressure their child to get an abortion. But suppose the teenaged daughter ignores her mothers advice and has the baby. What sort of relationship will she have with her mother? How will that baby relate to its’ grandmother? Are there any tips on developing a strong family bond when granny wants you dead?

This is not to make light of the legitimate struggles of the pregnant woman. Pro-life apologetics and pro-abortion rhetoric tend to overlook the central arguments that their opponents will raise. A pro-choice apologist might understand and even empathize with the points that the pro-lifer is making, but he prioritizes choice. So the arguments for the life of the fetus are really not his concern. Similarly, the pro-life apologist will focus on the life and humanity of the fetus, but the concerns about the struggle of the mother might not be her main priority. Life is more important than choice. Let me state at the outset that there are no conditions under which it would be appropriate for a mother to kill her young. But that reality should not cause us to downplay the legitimate struggles of the mother. Nonetheless, there is a sense in which preventing the slaughter of another human being should take priority, especially if that human being is a family member. How will the grandmother and grandchild see one another throughout the course of their lives?

You Were Still “You,” Even In The Womb

If I were to ask you to define yourself, you might list a few of your hobbies, your personal and career history and tell me some of the things that make you a unique and separate individual. You might list a few cliches or one-liners that provide a glimpse into who you are. But while those things certainly define your personality, you would still be “you” without them. If you did not grow up in your small town, if you were adopted, if you were overweight, you would still be the same essential person. If I were to point to a picture of you when you were a teenager and asked, “Who is that?” you would reply, “It’s me.” If I asked the same of a picture of you when you were a child or an infant, you would inevitably tell me, “It’s me.” If I were to point to an ultrasound of you in your mother’s womb, and asked, “Who is that?” what would you say?

It would seem difficult to say that it was somebody else. Could you say, “That’s my mother” because you are dependent upon her body? For birth to define the “youness” of you would seem a little arbitrary. Imagine a possible world in which science has advanced so far that the fetus could survive outside of the womb at the moment of conception. If I pointed to a picture of that fetus outside of the womb and asked, “Who is that?” you would rightly be able to say “It is me.” Similarly, imagine that I have a picture of an ultrasound that was taken two weeks before you were born. I ask, “Who is that?” Yet imagine a possible world in which you were born two weeks early. I point to a picture of you right after you were born and ask, “Who is that?” and you reply, “It is me.” All of this is to say that there is some possible world in which your “youness” persists from conception to birth. With an embryo that can survive outside of the womb, you could rightly say that it is you.

But if the embryo would be you outside of the womb, then it would also be you inside of the womb. This is known as the law of identity. The law of identity states that A is always equal to A. If you can identify the embryo as you instantly after conception in any possible world, then it will follow that in fact, the embryo is you in every possible world. Therefore, if your grandmother encouraged your mother to have an abortion, you would be correct in saying, “Granny tried to kill me.” Building off that premise, we may begin to explore what kind of relationship can emerge when granny tries to kill her grandchild.

Is The Sperm Cell “You?” – Anticipated Objection

I anticipate that some may raise the objection, “Was the sperm cell ‘you’?” in an attempt to reduce this argument to absurdity. But the answer is no. A sperm cell is not a biological human being, while an unborn embryo is. As the former President of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Alan Guttmacher wrote in his 1933 publication Life in the Making, of the zygote being the beginning of human life, “This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” The biological debate has been over for a very, very long time. The only legitimate debate that persists is whether it is appropriate to take the life of a biological human being. In summary, the sperm is not “you.” The unborn fetus is.

“Mommy, Is Granny Still Going To Try To Kill Me?”

There are some abortionists who repudiate the label “pro-abortion” and argue that while they personally oppose abortion, they think that it should be legal. (I wrote a refutation of this position.) However, there are others who would say that abortion is morally neutral. It is not a necessary evil because it is not an evil at all. With this sort of person, there should be no reason that they cannot tell their child about the virtues of abortion or even that they once considered having one. However, the young mind may struggle to grasp the pro-choice rhetoric and be afraid for her life. She may ask, “Is granny still going to try to kill me?”

Let’s put aside for a moment the question of whether this conversation would actually happen, because I am sure that there are some intellectuals out there who might want to remind me of how impractical and implausible that would be. While the conversation itself may be impractical, the conditions for that conversation seem to be present. All of the reasons that granny wanted to murder her grandchild are still there. They may even be magnified as the child gets older. The mother is struggling. She will have to make sacrifices. She may be threatened with a life of poverty. She has no help with her child. These are precisely the reasons that granny wanted to kill her in the first place. Nothing has really changed. The only difference is that now, granny is (hopefully) more compelled by the case for life because she can actually see the child. When the child is inside the mother, all that she can see is a lump in the stomach. There just does not seem to be any rule of logic that would make granny’s concerns applicable before birth and inapplicable after birth.

In fact, we may even posit that the child will realize that. She may be a bright five-year-old and hear her mother and grandmother talking about the decision to have the baby as opposed to getting an abortion. If she understood what an abortion is and understood her mother’s reasons for getting it, I do not see any reason to think that she might come out and ask if granny is still going to try to kill her. Just imagine a little girl emptying her piggy bank onto the kitchen table. Her mother asks, “What are you doing?” The girl replies, “I thought that if I gave you my money, you wouldn’t still want to have an abortion.”

Hated From Conception

Essential to pro-abortion rhetoric is the idea that pregnancy is a threat or a burden. It is something to be feared. It is not a gift. Think for a moment about what that mentality does to a child. Throughout her entire life, she is a burden and something that needs to be managed. She is a stress-factor and another mouth to feed. She did not ask to be conceived, and yet from the moment of her conception, her grandmother was plotting her death, talking about all of the problems that she is going to bring into their lives. She is the bane of her family. Hated from conception, having to earn the love of her own mother and grandmother.

What Is Granny’s View of Human Value?

It can be difficult to develop a relationship with somebody when they have deplorable values. It can be difficult to be friends with a White Supremacist (though notably, as Christians, we are called to preach the gospel to all people, knowing that we would be them without grace). But what about somebody who has such a low view of human life that human beings are just means to another end? This is essentially what abortionist philosophy reduces mankind to. Human beings can be killed if the circumstances are correct. There are some circumstances in which human beings do not have any value. This is known as extrinsic value. Extrinsic value is the relative value given by other people. Cash has extrinsic, relative value. It is really just paper, but not intrinsically worth anything. On abortionist philosophy, human beings are like that. (It is important to note that this is essentially how abortionist philosophy is ultimately self-defeating. If women have the right to choose, that assumes that human beings have intrinsic value. But if they can kill their young, that assumes that human beings have extrinsic value. It is internally inconsistent and self-defeating.)

If granny has such a low view of human beings that she is willing to kill her own grandchild, what sort of person is she? Could you have a relationship with her beyond the one that you would have with a slave-trader? You might be able to befriend a slave-trader and try to persuade him to change his ways. But I do not know that it would be a deep, unconditional friendship. An unconditional friendship is one in which you accept your friend for whom he is no matter her choices. In your friendship with the slave-trader, it could really only go so far and have a certain depth. How close can you really be? If you knew that your slave-trading friend would never abandon his beliefs and behavior, that friendship might fall apart. Similarly, if granny tried to kill you and still openly has this low view of human beings, there would always be that barrier there. You would always think, “Granny tried to kill me and she would again today, if she could make the decision over again.”

Developing A Strong Family Bond When Granny Wants You Dead

Perhaps it could be argued that granny is not the type of person who should have children. Perhaps those who allow, encourage or pressure their children to have an abortion should have their children taken away from them. There will always be a fractured relationship between parents and child when the parent tried to take her life – at least until repentance. If you are going to glean anything from this article, keep in mind the following truths:
• You were still “you” in the womb
• Therefore, if granny wanted your mother to have an abortion, then granny tried to kill you
• The reasons for wanting to kill your young still persist when she is outside of the womb
• A smart child might pick up on that and come to fear her grandmother
• The child is hated from conception, always a burden to others
• Abortionist philosophy has a low view of human value
• Abortionist philosophy requires a high view of human value and is therefore self-defeating
• It is difficult to develop a strong bond with someone who wanted to kill you
• It is difficult to develop a strong bond with someone who treats human beings as means to an end

Recommended Reading:
Is The Unborn A Biological Human Being?
How Our View of Sexuality Creates An Abortion Culture

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Saving Christmas From Christological Contradictions

Thieves love Christmas. We sometimes hear stories about a green man who lives in the mountains and steals all of the Christmas presents just to take all of the joy out of this special holiday. Yet even if all of the Christmas presents are gone, Christians testify that there is a greater meaning. Christmas marks the anniversary of the day of the incarnation, when God became man to set the world right and call his people into himself. He promised that this world will be made new, that the lion will lie down with the lamb. God’s people will inherit a world with no more death, suffering, anguish, sickness, or tears. This promise was born into the world on that special day, more than 2000 years ago. Yet the grinches out there are not satisfied to steal only our presents from under the tree. They want all of our gifts, even those given to us by God. Consequently, they will ask if God has truly become a man, citing a host of internal contradictions in the theology of incarnation. While the elves are not saving Christmas from Christological contradictions, the apologists are.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ was more than the Savior of the world, the King of the Jews and even the Messiah. He was God himself. But he was also a human being. Christians typically refer to this mystery as the hypostatic union. As the Nicene Creed says, Jesus is “the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.” The apostle John wrote in inspired Scripture, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” God became a man. The author wrote himself into his own story to be the sacrifice for our sins. But the professor of philosophy, Dr. Grinch, has made no small effort to undermine the Christmas story, arguing that it is not logically possible for God to be born into the world.

God Is Necessary And Man Is Contingent

As we think about whether God could become a man, we must define who God is and who man is. If one is to criticize the Christmas story, then he will have to work with the Christian conception of God, which is to say that God is necessary in his existence. This is where Professor Grinch mounts his argument against the incarnation. God is necessary and man is contingent. There could therefore never be a God-man or a hypostatic union because there are contradictory attributes. In other words, the argument is that God is too great to become a human being. Human beings are frail and weak, while God is all-powerful.

In his book The Logic of God Incarnate, Thomas Morris takes on this and several other challenges. He pointed out that while contingency is a common property among mankind, it does not have to be a universal property. There is no reason to think that just because all of the human beings that we perceive are contingent, that therefore all human beings are contingent. In fact, on Christian theology, many believe that the first man and woman – Adam and Eve – did not possess certain properties that are universal. Adam was not a mortal when God created him. The rest are mortals as a consequences of Adam’s sin. Comparably, Jesus Christ was not contingent despite that contingency is a common property among mankind.

How Could An Impeccable Man Be Tempted?

This is an alleged contradiction that is unique to Christian theology. If it were not for the sacred Scripture, this argument might not emerge. In Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew tells us that Jesus was tempted to sin. Satan offered him bread to break his fast and the riches of the world, and Jesus was truly tempted. Professor Grinch argues that if Jesus was truly tempted, it would follow that he was not actually impeccable. Impeccability means not only that you never sin, but that sin is an impossibility. If Jesus was impeccable, that will mean that the temptations were not genuine, hence he was not truly a man, and the incarnation was false. However, if Jesus was not impeccable, then he was not truly God, and the temptation was false. Some open theists, such as Dr. Bob Enyart, in his debate with James White actually think that is the case, that Christ could possibly have sinned.

There are a few points that we may make in an effort to save Christmas. First, the temptation of Christ was not a sin in itself. It did not come from within, because on Christian theology, he did not have a sinful nature. It came from an external force. In the case of the rest of us, sin often comes from within as we fantasize about the pursuit of our unbridled lusts. In that case, temptation would be sin. So long as we remember that temptation is not inherently sinful, I do not know that it compromises impeccability. Second, the question seems to be whether it is possible to attempt the impossible. If Jesus had attempted to draw a square circle, we would not say that this compromised his omnipotence. Temptation does not necessarily imply that he was vulnerable to sin. If he had an infinite treasury of power to resist sin, then temptation and impeccability would seem to be compatible.

The Death of God

I am not referring to a Nietzchean ‘Death of God’ scenario in which we live in a purposeless universe. I am referring to Christian theology, in which God literally died. Some Christians are uncomfortable with that concept. Their minds may boggle because God cannot die. If God truly died, then he would pass out of existence. It would a Nietzchean Death of God. Instead, some Christians will say that the man died. The human nature died, but the spirit lived on. There is some truth to that. But it must also be affirmed that God himself died on the cross. Jesus was God in every moment. He was God when he was tempted. He was God when he was born. He was God when he was hungry, and he was God when he died. There is not a single moment of the humiliation of Christ in which he was not truly God. If there was, it would not really be a humiliation, and the incarnation would be false. This will summon back the larger question of how God could die.

Think of a funeral that you have been to. Your loved one died. God also died. Many people overthink this concept and then equate death with ‘passing out of existence,’ which is not necessarily what death is. Death is a function of biological organisms. God became a biological organism and died as a biological organism. It is not as though the trinity was in disunity or that God ceased to exist. It means that God became a man and died as a man. It is incorrect to picture some sort of cosmic death. It was a normal death just as people die today. God died the death of a man.

Mary Taught God To Speak

Another essential feature of Christian theology is the doctrine that God knows all things. As Peter said in John 21:17, “Lord, you know all things.” Peter recognized that Jesus possessed the attribute known as omniscience. Yet in Luke 2:52, the text says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. This would seem unavoidable on any model of an incarnation, whether Christian or not. You simply cannot have a baby who is contemplating quantum physics. Babies have to learn to speak. Young men have to grow in wisdom and stature. Dr. Grinch may tell us that this is a significant problem for the doctrine of the incarnation. After all, how is it that God could learn?

Dr. William Lane Craig pointed out during his Doctrine of Christ series that Jesus might have had what is known as subliminal knowledge. Subliminal knowledge is a psychological term that refers to knowledge that you possess, but that you cannot recall at that particular moment. You might know the name of your third grade teacher, but you just cannot remember it. A few moments later, it will just come to you. Jesus does know all things, but most of that knowledge is subliminal during his humiliation. While it protected him from making any errors, he could not always reach in and grab hold of it. That is why Jesus had to learn, to grow in wisdom and stature, and why he said that he did not know the day of his Second Coming.

How Big Was Jesus? On Omnipresence

While most of Dr. Grinch’s contradictions on Strong Atheism’s blogpost about this topic can be resolved by making the distinction between universal and common properties, there is one that might be a little more confusing, namely, the doctrine of omnipresence. Omnipresence is typically defined as the view that God is everywhere, all of the time. Yet when Jesus became a man, he did not appear to be omnipresent. You could see his physical body, including where it ended. That is why we sing the hymn with the words “The Little Lord Jesus.” He was physically little. But how could someone who was physically little be God?

Appealing again to Dr. Craig, I think that this objection oversimplified the concept of omnipresence. Omnipresence does not necessarily mean that God is diffused through the universe, like a gas. If that were the case, then the concept of God being present in the Temple or speaking to one of the prophets would have no meaning. God was more present in these locations? If he is not fully present, then that means that parts of God are scattered around the universes? This concept of omnipresence is very easy to reduce to absurdity. Dr. Craig pointed out that omnipresence is a little more subtle. The doctrine of omnipresence means that God is causally active, everywhere in the universe. We can develop a possible model in which Jesus was, but had subliminal knowledge of it. I think that will diffuse the objection that Jesus was not truly omnipresent.

Saving Christmas From Christological Contradictions

Typically, in responding this sort of argument, people will appeal to a cheap “in his humanity he was X, but in his deity, he was Y.” I hope the grinches reading this have appreciated that I am not taking that approach. Generally, it is too easy and can sometimes be intellectually lazy. It might be true in some cases, and sometimes it might be a good response. But other times, a more robust answer is warranted. In summary, these are the main points that we have covered in this article:
‌• There are some common but not universal properties
‌• Saying that Jesus was tempted is not to say that Jesus sinned
‌• Saying that Jesus tempted is almost like saying that he “attempted the impossible”
‌• The death of God does not mean that God passes out of existence
‌• Jesus had subliminal knowledge
‌• Omnipresence means that God is causally active throughout the universe

Recommended Reading:
The Impeccability of Christ – Bible.org
The Birth of God – Reasonable Faith

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Is Molinism Here, There, Or Anywhere In The Bible?

There is supposed to be a coherence between philosophical theology and exegetical theology. While exegetical theology is the practice of discerning truths from the text of Scripture, philosophical theology is the practice of thinking about the doctrines that are established by the text of Scripture and forming a cohesive model. The philosophical theologian will conduct his work within the framework of exegetical theology. When the theologian argues for Limited Atonement based on the efficacy of the cross, he will in effect be conducting philosophical theology. When the theologian argues for Limited Atonement based on the text of Scripture, he will be conducting exegetical theology. Sometimes, the philosophical theologian can overstep his bounds, traversing the limits that are set by Scripture and even violating it. This is particularly true in the case of Molinism. So is Molinism here, there, or anywhere in the Bible?

Typically, to the frustration of Molinists, Calvinists will argue that Molinism is nothing more than a philosophical construction. They will suggest that they are doing theology, devoting themselves to God’s word, while the Molinist is conducting man’s philosophy. In this case, philosophy will be a dirty word, defined as something like, “Man’s evil reasoning divorced from the power of the gospel.” I understand why Molinists will be frustrated by this line of argumentation and recognize that many Calvinists really do not have an interest in understanding. Even so, I still do not think that the doctrine of Molinism is in the Bible. When I refer to the doctrine of Molinism, I mean the doctrine that God used his middle knowledge to put men in situations in which they would freely choose to do his will.

Where Does The Text Say It?

The Muslim might raise a similar objection to the doctrine of the trinity. Where does the text of the Bible tell us specifically, “There is one God who is eternally present in three persons”? There is no such text that will establish that premise. The task of the systematic theologian is to compile all of the relevant texts and develop a cohesive model. It establishes that there is one God and that each of the persons of the trinity are God, and that they are distinct from one another. Therefore, we have the doctrine of the trinity. The Molinist will argue that their theology was developed in a similar way. While the text never explicitly says that God used his middle knowledge to put men into situations in which they would freely choose to do his will, it does provide enough components of that doctrine that we can establish it as a biblical fact.

Upon reading the title of this subsection, many Molinists may begin to think that I am misunderstanding or misrepresenting them. After all, there are a host of texts that they will use to establish certain components of Molinist theology. One will be the story of David at Keliah in 1 Samuel 23, in which God clearly expressed knowledge of what would happen given different conditions. Further, God’s knowledge of what would happen seems to be common sense. After all, there are true propositions, such as “If I drove out into traffic, I would crash,” that do not reflect the real world. With that in mind, the Molinist may think it odd that I ask where the relevant texts are. Well, the point I am raising is not that “Middle knowledge is nowhere to be found in the text.” Rather, it is that “the doctrine that God used his middle knowledge to arrange the world so that men would freely choose to do his will” is nowhere to be found in the text.

You might be able to mount an argument that there are some components, but not that the doctrine itself is there. In the case of the trinity, we can actually establish that every necessary component is there. We can establish that each of the persons of the trinity are God, that they are distinct from one another, and that there is only one God. However, even if you establish that God knows counterfactual and that man possesses libertarian free will (the two twin pillars of Molinism), that is still not sufficient to establish Molinism. You would have to say that God used his middle knowledge to put men situations in which they would freely choose to do his will. In response to this point, Zach Lawson of Think Theism said that this was something like saying that God has a hammer and he built a structure – isn’t it just common sense to say that he used that tool to build that structure? Well, I do not know that it is. God has more than one tool. He could have used a different one. Therefore, even if you establish the twin pillars of Molinism, they are still not sufficient to hold the house.

The Law of Sola Scriptura And The Violations of Molinism

Sola scriptura is the doctrine that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the Christian church. Only those doctrines that the exegete can specifically and clearly derive from Scripture are to be thought of as infallible. Since the deity of Christ, the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrines of grace, et cetera, are clearly derived from Scripture, one may appropriately say that they have been revealed by God and as such are infallible. However, doctrines that have emerged as a product of tradition or philosophical theology alone are not members of the same class. For example, a philosopher might develop a coherent method of explaining God’s relationship with time. But that model would not be as firmly established as those doctrines that have been established by Scripture. The philosophical theologian will need to exert vigilance in keeping these doctrines separate in his mind and his theology.

When I was a Molinist, I frequently violated this principle. Like many of my comrades, I argued that the debate between determinism and Molinism could not be settled by Scripture because both perspectives are consistent with the text. If a determinist were to point to a text such as Isaiah 10 or Genesis 50:20, I would eagerly and quickly point out that these texts are consistent with both Molinistic and deterministic perspectives. From a textual point of view, therefore, they would be a draw. It could go either way. However, in mounting this argument, I was violating the law of sola scriptura, allowing a philosophical construction that is developed wholly apart from the text of Scripture to interpret and even override the scriptural data. When an individual uses Molinism to interpret a passage about predestination or soteriology, he is violating sola scriptura, allowing the fallible to trespass on the infallible. At best, Molinism serves as a useful construction in warding off attacks on theism (such as in the problem of evil, for example), but cannot be applied to interpret Scripture.

Appealing To The Best Explanation

The Molinist may well be willing to concede these arguments, agreeing that Molinism is not actually found in the Bible. But, they will argue, neither is determinism. We are just stuck with probabilistic models, and there is nothing that we can really do about it. From there, the Molinist will suggest that the issue must be resolved by appealing to the best explanation. The blogger Evan Minton of CerebralFaith did precisely that in his blogpost titled Is Molinism Eisegesis?. He argued that determinism is not the better explanation because it has a smaller explanatory scope. It cannot explain passages in which God becomes angry in response to sin. After all, God predestined them to sin, so why would he become angry?

But to suggest that determinism has no accounting for these facts might not be reflective of a full survey of the relevant literature, because determinism does have salient interpretations of these passages. From the Bible, we learn that God has what theologians refer to as a “secret will” and a “revealed will.” The secret will is what God predestined to happen, and we do not know about it until it actually happens. But the revealed will is what God has revealed in his word, namely, his law and moral decrees Sometimes, the secret will may conflict with the revealed will. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is in the cross of Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). Yet men actually killed him, and they were sinning against God’s revealed will. The secret will was that the Son of God would be murdered by sinful men, while the revealed will was, “You shall not murder.” In the case of God becoming angry with sin, he is angry because they violated his revealed will, even if his secret will was that they would sin. This answer does seem cogent, being directly revealed from the text of Scripture. Therefore, it would seem that determinism does have the explanatory scope to account for these passages.

This Is Not How Exegesis Is Done

I was hesitant to write an explanation of these passages precisely because this is not how exegesis is conducted. In performing exegesis, one does not conjure up models apart from Scripture and then try to use them to explain Scripture. Appealing to the best explanation when the explanations are not found in Scripture is not how to do exegesis. The way that one resolves these problems is to look to the text and to see what it reveals. If one does not like the answer or if the answer is unclear, that does not permit you to venture outside of the text to find a resolution. Sometimes it is better to not have any answer if the only answer that you have traverses the boundaries that are set by Scripture.

Where To Draw The Line; When It Matters

There is a sense in which the theology of ‘Mere Molinism’ does not even matter to me. For true Molinists, it is an intriguing concept that is worth pursuing in and of itself. These Molinists are sometimes also Calvinists. On the other hand, some Molinists will just use it as a tool to deflect the critiques of Calvinism. Some may disagree with this, but in the case of the former, it does not really matter and it might not even be worth debating. But in the case of the latter, the individual does not seem to care about what Scripture is teaching. For them, Molinism is a resource to make Scripture teach what they want it to teach. In that case, God’s word is not what is being revered. I recognize that a lot of Molinists will read this post and ignore much of what I am saying because I am just Calvi-splaining. But really, I do not care about criticizing Molinism or if somebody believes it. In fact, I would be more excited to find a Christian who believed in Molinism than one who did not think about these things. I only care when it is being used to uproot the authority of Scripture or deflect soteriological arguments. If you are a Molinist just because it helps you to ward off Calvinist soteriology, then there is a serious problem. You would be wise to consider what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 13:5. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!

Is Molinism Here, There, Or Anywhere In The Bible?

I do not know that there is any legitimate way to derive Molinism from the text. It may be consistent in some cases, but that is not really an argument that it is true or a good model. As a Protestant, I take seriously the doctrine of sola scriptura. If something is not found in Scripture, then it should not be intermingled with issues of faith without caveat. In summary, you may keep these considerations in mind as you ponder this issue:

• Philosophical theology is conducted within the bounds of Scripture
• Molinism is never spelled out in Scripture
• It is therefore distinct from the trinity
• It is an illegitimate exercise of philosophical theology
• Molinism violates the law of sola scriptura
• Using extra-biblical models to account for Scripture is inappropriate
• Even if it were appropriate, Molinism offers no significant advancement over determinism
• Using Molinism as a resource to deflect Calvinism should be a cause for concern

If you must be a Molinist, then fine. But consider making an amendment such that you avoid mingling it with God’s word. Keep them separate.

Recommended Reading:
Can Man Be Free If Determinism Is True?
Is God The Author of Sin On Divine Determinism?

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In Defense of The Babylon Bee

“Wipe that smile off your stupid face. Stop laughing, right now. It is not funny. This is serious.” Sometimes people take themselves far too seriously. Every issue that arises has to be alarming and enraging. There is no subtly or room for questions. We are in a cultural war and you are either with us or against us. That is the mindset that some people are in. In a day in which everybody is taking themselves and everything around them so seriously, a Christian satire website such as the Babylon Bee offers bit of comic relief. During a tumultuous election cycle when people are staring at the television, fearing for their lives and their safety, the Bee might pop up on their newsfeed with an article titled Trump Reveals Plan To Be Sworn In On Copy of Playboy Magazine. However, since the Bee was founded by the Calvinist author Adam Ford of Adam4d, the articles are written from a Christian perspective, sometimes criticizing other points of view. It has therefore been the recipient of criticism from those who were offended by their posts. In responding to these critics, there is much that can be said in defense of the Babylon Bee.

It seems that one of the primary criticisms is that the Babylon Bee provides a cheap laugh at the expense of others, never looking inwardly and only critiquing and caricaturing those with whom they disagree. They mock and ridicule other points of view and reaffirm their own. People will read their posts and be reminded that they were right all along, sneering at those silly non-believers down below. As Tyler Standley said in his article, What Would Jesus Parody? “…Like a sword in the hands of a lunatic, Adam’s technique is to thrash without precision, to mock without understanding.” Or in Jonathan Hollingsworth article, The Babylon Bee, Transphobia, And Why Christian Satire Still Misses The Mark, “Satire that punches down, rather than up, is not only ignorant — it’s oppressive.” The criticism is simple. The Babylon Bee targets those who are down, stomps their boot into their back and howls in laughter, providing an invitation to all to join in ridicule, and they gladly oblige. However, there are good reasons that these criticisms of the Bee do not stand up to scrutiny.

Does The Babylon Bee Look Inwardly?

Introspection is one of the signs of a good comic. People love Jerry Seinfeld because he points out minute details of society and mocks it. He is looking at his own world and criticizing it. Similarly, a good satire website will be able to laugh at its’ own point of view and the behavior of its’ adherents. Hollingsworth argues that in this respect, the Babylon Been has missed the mark. He writes, “What’s becoming increasingly apparent, however, is that The Babylon Bee isn’t challenging Christian cultural norms as much as it’s reinforcing them.” Those aspects of evangelicalism or Calvinism that could be critiqued are apparenty untouched by the Bee.

However, for readers of the Bee, this critique may come as something of a surprise. After all, in Hollingsworth’s own article, he cited a few articles that very much challenged Christian cultural norms, one of them being Holy Spirit Unable To Move Through Congregation As Fog Machine Breaks. The norm is that Christians tend to manufacture an environment in which they feel like they are being spiritual. The Bee is replete with articles just like that which challenge Christian norms.

Of course, Hollingsworth may object that these are not good enough. It is easy enough for a Calvinist to challenge the norms of mainline evangelicalism. That is not really looking inwardly. Well, first, the Bee’s audience will primarily be mainline evangelicals. There is no reason to think that a Christian who attended that sort of church could not read it and laugh at themselves. Second, the Bee does critique Calvinist norms. Articles such as
MacArthur To Build Wall To Keep Out Charismatics
Unconfirmed: Calvinist Laughs At Joke
Animal Control Corrals Cage Stage Calvinist After Biting Incident
Local Calvinists Sense of Superiority Visible From Space

They do challenge the norms and behavior of Calvinism. In fact, if these posts were replaced with terms such as “liberal” or “Obama” Hollingsworth might write about how offensive they were.

An Outlet For Transphobic Rhetoric

However, Hollingsworth is not concerned with the Bee’s critique of Calvinistic norms. These white, male Calvinists are among the privileged class and they are pushing around the little guy. In this case, even referring to them as the little guy might be offensive because it comes with the gender-binary presuppositions. The Babylon Bee and in the comics of Adam4D have used humor to provide critiques of the culture. Hollingsworth is particularly concerned with their pieces about transgenderism. So the narrative goes: members of the LGBT movement have been pushed around by Christians for far too long. The Babylon Bee is providing an outlet for bullying, and people think it is okay, because it is in the form of comedy. “It is just a joke,” so Hollingsworth has been told. He objects to this because it apparently wards off criticism.

While it is a joke, it is more than a joke. It is a serious commentary about the state of our culture and how it is negatively impacting the minds of the masses. People think that it is acceptable to identify as something that is clearly false. Any dissident voice is seen as preventing people from being who they truly are. But if somebody has a mental disorder such that a biological man thinks he is a woman, the best recourse is not to encourage him by calling those who want to help bigots. The best recourse is to actually provide help. Instead, our culture has raised an affirmative voice, encouraging men to dress as women and to say that they truly are women, all in the name of sexual freedom. In their satire, the Babylon Bee is shining a light on the absurdity and helping people to think rationally about difficult, emotional issues. The Bee is not just making fun of this demographic. It is making a saliant point. The fact that Hollingsworth disagrees with that point does not mean that there is any bigotry.

Bigotry occurs when somebody refuses to tolerate people who hold a particular point of view or fall into a particular demographic. It does not occur when you express dissidence toward that point of view. People can disagree with one another and still tolerate one another. The entire theme behind critiques such as the Bee’s is that human beings are made in the image of God and they possess intrinsic moral worth. They are degrading themselves, pursuing things that will never fulfill them. Rather than offering a helping hand, society offers fake compassion by encouraging them to pursue the fruit of a mental disorder. That is what the Bee is highlighting.

Is The Bee Close-Minded?

In What Would Jesus Parody? Standley argued that the founder of the Bee and its’ authors are close-minded and encourage others to behave likewise. He writes, “By portraying his “enemies” as the kind of people who do not listen or understand, Adam sets the standard for his own interaction with them.” In many of Adam4D’s cartoons, he portrays hypothetical conversations with people who hold a different point of view. The people who read his website are not scholars. Relativists with whom we typically engage will not have interacted with an abundance of literature. Similarly, a site dedicated to creating webcomics cannot be expected to thoroughly engage with every argument. It is a brief representation of a possible or popular point of view. To say that he is creating caricatures because his portrayals do not represent the height scholarly relativism is too heavy of a demand to make of a webcomic.

Second, I am not sure what Standley means when he says that Adam4D “demands that you close your minds to the possibility of being wrong.” He is not citing a particular comic. He is drawing an inference from the overall theme of Adam4D and the Bee. But the fact that somebody defends a particular point of view does not mean that they have closed their mind to being wrong. Further, there are some things are so well-established that the possibility that one could be wrong is minimal. Your mind might be closed to the possibility of the brain-in-a-vat scenario, or to the possibility that 2+2 equals something other than 4, or that the dinosaurs existed. Defending a point of view that is established does not mean that one’s mind is closed. Apart from actually creating a relativistic webcomic, I am not sure what could satisfy the demands of this criticism.

What About Anti-Intellectualism?

In this comic, Adam4d shares a quote from Charles Spurgeon, which says, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” In this case, he is continuing the long intellectual tradition of the Christian church by encouraging his audience to read books and to read the Bible. Yet Standley made the argument that Adam4d has anti-intellectual tendencies because he portrays some of his opponents with shirts that read “wicked smart” or something to that effect. Apparently, the antagonist in this tale is the smart guy, while the hero is the Christian. But the fact that he is wearing a shirt that says “wicked smart” could speak more to the perceived ego of the person to whom he is speaking rather than of Adam4D’s opinion of being intelligent.

Standley made the same mistake by misinterpreting several articles from the Babylon Bee. In Seminarian Unable To Locate Bible Among Towering Stacks Of Theology Books the author was not condemning the use of theology books or education. He was condemning a confused priority, prioritizing those theology books over God’s word. Theologians can easily fall into the trap of focusing more on the academic element of faith than on God himself. Second, in the post Sinister Plot To Expose The Bible Literally Exposed, the Bee was pointing out how scandalous it was becoming to hold a literal interpretation of Scripture. Whether you agree or disagree with that theme, it is still not anti-intellectualism. Third, the post Local Graduate Now Referring To Any Mention of The Bible As Legalism is about how people misuse the word “legalism” rather than about the fact that he was a graduate.

It seems a little ironic that in every case that Standley accused the Bee of anti-intellectualism, he was just misinterpreting them. It is almost as though he was actively looking for examples of anti-intellectualism, and behold, he found them.

Criticizing Evangelicals Is The New Black

Evangelicals are portrayed as malevolent, close-minded oppressors, having a laugh at the expense of the little guy. If you want to gain a lot of traffic, find a popular Christian website and jot down a few criticisms of how they fit those old stereotypes. In this case, the Babylon Bee is anti-intellectual, bigoted, close-minded, transphobic, and does no introspection. If any of that sounds familiar, it is because it is the same stereotype that people hold of Christians. It might be true in some cases, but in many, it is not. It is something like holding the assumption that women are bad drivers. It appears that Standley and Hollingsworth have both made assumptions about what the Babylon Bee must be and looked for validation of those assumptions. Is it any surprise that those assumptions are the very same ones that people always made about Christians?

Recommended Reading:
Report: Satire Is Great, As Long As It Never Targets Any Of My Own Beliefs (The Babylon Bee)

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Why ‘Who Created God?’ Is My Example of A Thoughtless Question

There are some sophisticated atheists out there. Intellectuals with beards who write books, engage with the nuances of the Christian faith, understand Calvinism, trinitarian theology, the gospel and the different interpretations of soteriology. These sophisticated atheists will roll their eyes when hear somebody spouting a one-liner from The God Delusion. They will repudiate the movement that is often referred to as New Atheism. As I pointed out in my article The Case Against New Atheism, the New Atheists are not sophisticated. In their style of argumentation, ignorance and behavior, they resemble some of the worst stereotypes of religious zealots. But how can one distinguish a sophisticated atheist from a New Atheist? There is one tell-tale indicator, namely their usage of the ‘who created God?’ argument. Throughout this article, I will explain why ‘who created God?’ is my example of a thoughtless question.

This may strike many readers as odd. Atheists often champion this question as an impenetrable defeater; the one question that no religious person can answer. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins used this question to form a syllogism reaching the conclusion that God almost certainly does not exist. Yet it is my example of a thoughtless, shallow question. If I had little respect for an argument, I might reply, “What’s next? ‘Who created God?'” Atheist intellectuals such as Dr. Michael Ruse regard this argument as “embarrassing.” He writes, “Thus, like a first-year undergraduate, he can happily go around asking loudly, ‘What caused God?'” This argument, though championed by some, is held in very low repute by others.

It Is Literally An Incoherent Question

For somebody to ask “Who created God?” would be something like asking
who created the number one. They may say that it must have had a creator. That creator must have had a creator and so on to infinity. But since at least one creator presupposes the number one, we are led to a contradiction, and therefore the number one does not exist. Philosophers and mathematicians often regard numbers as immaterial objects rather than constructions of the human mind. On this view, they have always existed. So to ask of one of these philosophers, “who created the number one?” would be to ask an incoherent question. (I am aware that there are alternative explanations of numbers.)

The ‘who created God?’ argument takes the same form. Before you ask who created God, you must discern who God is, just as one would have to discern what the number one is before asking who or what created it. Philosophers typically define God as the greatest conceivable being. Accordingly, he is metaphysically necessary in his existence, meaning that it is impossible for him to not exist. When somebody asks me, “Who created God?” it just sounds like a malformed, incoherent question because it is impossible for God to be created.

In this article, the blogger Bob Seidensticker attempted to defend the ‘who created God?’ objection against this critique. He pointed out that this definition is just arbitrary. Well, it is not as though Christians are just changing their position to dodge the objection. That really is what we believe. If you were going to ask, “Who created the number one?” it would only be applicable if the other party ascribed to certain theories of mathematics. The only real answer is “Nobody.” You cannot ask ‘who created God?’ of somebody who does not believe in created gods.

An Unrealistic Demand For Explanations

Let us explore the implications of the ‘who created God?’ challenge. If it were indeed a valid challenge, there would be an underlying principle that we could isolate. That principle would be something like, “In order to say that A caused B, you must be able to show where A came from.” But if that principle were applied universally, we would never be able to explain anything. The project of science would be fully undermined. We would never be able to test a hypothesis because we would not know the explanation of that hypothesis.

Seidensticker issues two responses to this observation. First, he pointed out that he might hypothesize that a wizard caused some phenomenon, and we must accept it without asking where the wizard came from. After all, is this argument not a concession that we do not know where God came from? The problem is that when we (apologists, philosophers and theologians) say that God created the universe, we are not invoking God as an explanatory hypothesis. We are not saying, “Here is a universe. Perhaps God created it.” Apologists use deductive and inductive arguments leading to the conclusion that God created the universe. If one had something similar for a wizard bringing about some phenomenon, that would be open to assessment.

The second point that Seidensticker raised was that he will accept common explanations of phenomena as opposed to uncommon explanations. If you find ashes in a field, you are likely to conclude that it was caused by fire because fire is common. But this entirely misses my point. I was arguing that if you apply the principle that “In order to say that A caused B, you must be able to show where A came from,” you would not be able to conclude that fire was the explanation of ashes. That principle, isolated from the ‘who created God?’ question leads us to extreme impracticality and the destruction of all scientific pursuits.

The Necessity of A Prime Mover

The incoherence of the question ‘Who created God?’ may not be obvious to some who do not understand or have never heard of attributes such as divine aseity. But perhaps the incoherence will become clearer if we pose the question thusly: who created the Prime Mover? By the nature of the case, the Prime Mover would have to be uncreated. As Aristotle argued in his Metaphysics, the series of temporal past events cannot extend to infinity. There must have been a first cause that brought all things into existence.

This will raise the question of who, or what, this first cause is. As the cause of the universe, the Prime Mover must transcend the universe. This will include the multiverse, the quantum vacuum, all matter, energy, space, time, and nature. Therefore, the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial and supernatural. So, tell me, silly Christians, who created the timeless Prime Mover?

Of course, I anticipate that the atheist may agree that there does exist a Prime Mover who possesses all of these attributes. But it is impersonal. There are several problems with this hypothesis. The main one is that if the cause was eternally present, then the effect would need to be eternally present. If the properties for creating the universe existed forever, and were just part of a mechanical process, the universe should also have existed forever. From this it follows that the cause of the universe must be personal as well, for in free will, this cause chose to bring the universe into being a finite time ago.

Seidensticker’s Response?

In response to the necessity of the Prime Mover, all that Seidensticker had to say was that there is no consensus about the finitude of the past among scientists. I am not sure if he means that there is some rogue scientist hidden away at a community college who believes that the universe is eternal. But even if there are some who believe that, we may say that the majority of scientists believe that the universe is not eternal.

Scientists typically take this position for two reasons. First, the universe is expanding. If you were to rewind the tape of the history of the universe, you would see it contracting until it reached an absolute beginning. Second, the law of entropy indicates that the universe is running out of energy. If the universe was eternal, it would have reached its’ expiration date an infinite time ago. That is why the physicist Dr. Alexander Vilenkin writes, “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men, and a proof is what convinces an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the idea of a past eternal universe. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”

Second, Aristotle did not rely on modern cosmology to establish the necessity of a Prime Mover. He pointed out the impossibility of an eternal past. Think about it for a moment. If the number of past events prior to today were infinite, then today would have never arrived. One cannot traverse an infinite number of events. Therefore, there must be a beginning to the universe and a first cause to break the chain of an infinite number of past events. Therefore, the question ‘who created God?’ is reduced down to ‘what caused the timeless First Cause?’

There Is No Application For ‘Who Created God?’ In The Majority of Arguments

‘Who created God?’ often serves as a reflex to an argument for God’s existence. Oh, you say that God is necessary to explain the universe? Well, who created God, smart guy? However, this reflex often serves as a mechanism for dodging an argument. Asking who created God really has no applicability in many of the arguments for the existence of God. Think for a moment of the Transcendental Argument for God’s existence. In this argument (I treated it here) if a true proposition exists, then God must exist because atheism possesses no ontological resources for true propositions (*Before you assess the argument, please read more than just that line. Read the article.) If you were to respond to that argument by posing the challenge, “But who created God?” it would be a sign of intellectual laziness and a lack of engagement.

Similarly, the modal ontological argument for God moves from the possibility of God’s existence to the necessity of God’s existence. Arguments from consciousness, the resurrection, substance dualism, and the majority of arguments are just invulnerable to the question of who created God. Even if we were to charitably concede that ‘who created God?’ refuted the argument from design, it still would not stand as the bulwark against the most robust arguments. At best, it is irrelevant.

The Design Argument, Simplicity And Complexity

‘Who created God?’ is most prevalently a response to teleological arguments for the existence of God. A teleological argument will suggest that some aspect of the universe exhibits features of intelligence and therefore must have a designer. The atheist will retort, “But God also exhibits features of intelligence and therefore he must also have a designer. If we know that the universe is the product of intelligence because of complexity, then we must also conclude that since God is complex, he must also be a product of intelligence.”

There are three problems with this retort, some of which I have already mentioned. First, to say that a metaphysically necessary being needs to be the product of intelligence is to spout an incoherency. You cannot ask ‘who created God?’ of someone who does not believe in created gods. Second, design arguments do not rely on complexity alone. A license plate code may be complex. But that complexity alone does not lead us to conclude that somebody specifically arranged the letters and numbers in that way. If the license plate code said your name, then we may conclude that it was the product of intelligence. This is typically regarded as specified complexity. This objection conflates complexity with specified complexity.

Finally, a simple explanation is not always a better explanation. A human being is more complex than carvings in a cave, but nonetheless, we will posit human beings as explanations of carvings in a cave. Before Seidensticker tells us again that human beings carving in a cave is common, remember that this misses the point. I am extracting the principle that simplicity is always the better explanation and applying it. This is an example of reductio ad absurdum. Further, what good reasons are there to think that God is complex? A complex idea does not make him complex. In fact, God is a spirit, meaning that he does not have any physical components. Perhaps it could be argued that God is the simplest of explanations.

Based on these three responses, it does not seem that ‘who created God?’ is a robust response to the design argument.

At Most, ‘Who Created God?’ Is A Defensive Measure

While atheists may attempt to mount an affront against theism based on this question, it really only works as a defensive question. Used as an argument against the existence of God, it takes its’ weakest form. Consider Richard Dawkins’ argument leading to the conclusion that God almost certainly does not exist. He argued on pages 157-158 of The God Delusion as follows:

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.
6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.
Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

If all of the premises to this argument were true, the most robust conclusion to draw would be that we cannot infer design in nature. These are defensive premises. Yet he concludes that God almost certainly does not exist. That does not flow from the given premises, even if they are true. Professor Dawkins is simply careless when he reaches that conclusion. Unfortunately, many atheists are as well when they tout this argument. Rather than using this as an affront against theism, my advice to the atheist would be to reserve it for design arguments, where it takes its’ strongest form (though as we have seen, even there it is not impressive).

Atheists Who Use This Argument Are Guilty of Special Pleading

Somebody is guilty of special pleading when they appeal to a certain principle and then ignore it when it is applied to aspects of their position in a way that they find unfavorable. Ironically, atheists often accuse Christians of special pleading for not allowing that God has a cause. However, as the arguments are framed, the theist is not guilty of special pleading. The theist will argue, for example that “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.” If God did not begin to exist, then this principle is not applicable. However, atheists who use ‘who created God?’ as an argument against God’s existence are guilty of special pleading.

The principle that can be extracted from this argument would be ‘If an entity exists, it must have a creator.” But if the universe created you, then who created the universe? If everything needs a creator, then who is the creator of the universe? Of course, if the atheist is using the question as a defensive maneuver (an attempt to ward off apologetic arguments), then they will not be vulnerable to this objection. But if they are mounting it is as an argument against the existence of God, then they are guilty of special pleading. They are saying that the principle applies to God but not to the universe.

Why ‘Who Created God’ Is My Example of A Thoughtless Question

I am grateful that many of the atheists whom I have had the pleasure of knowing repudiate this argument. When I want to roast them, I can accuse them of using ‘Who created God?’ and they will find it amusing precisely because it is such a deplorable argument. Taken as an argument against God’s existence, I can only think that the atheist is not referring to the God of the Bible, because as Christians, we do not believe in created gods. Taken as a defensive measure, it does not do much to ward off the design argument, nor especially other arguments for God’s existence.

Recommended Reading:
If Atheism Is True, It Follows That Atheism Is False
Can A Universe Emerge From Absolutely Nothing?

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Expanding The Abortion Debate To Aliens And Robots

alien-1Choose life. For the stalkers out there, that is what my license plate says. The DMV had a number of options in my state that allowed drivers who are registering their vehicle to advertise a cause that they are passionate about and donate the proceeds to that cause by purchasing a distinct license plate. The proceeds for my license plate went to a pro-life pregnancy center. Life transcends every other social issue in the sense that slavery would transcend social issues. It should not be discussed in passing amongst trade, gun control, and the myriad of other issues. Yet with the advent of modern science, the debate about life could take a turn that has only previously been explored in philosophical thought experiments (such as this one) and science fiction. Expanding the abortion debate to aliens and robots may be something more than an interesting idea. It could be a reality.

alien-2Since my base of readers is composed primarily of Christians, I expect that many people will deny that aliens exist. Aliens would raise too many difficult theological problems. But the fact that the existence of aliens would raise difficult theological problems should not cause us to recoil. Church doctrine is full of the solutions to difficult theological problems. The reason that we do not notice these challenges is that the problems have already been solved, debated for two thousand years and the answers popularized. Perhaps the discovery of aliens would be of spiritual benefit to Christians because it would cause them to seriously reflect upon their faith, to ask and seek the answers to difficult questions. The reason that I framed this question as expanding the abortion debate to aliens and robots is pretty simple. We would have to ask whether these creatures had any intrinsic rights or value, whether we could harvest their planet, and ultimately whether we could end their lives.

The Biblical And Secular Worldviews And Their Implications

Some may think that so many Christians oppose the Theory of Evolution because it upends biblical authority. The Bible says one thing and evolution is saying another. When one chooses evolution, they are exhibiting a lack of trust in God’s word. I think there may be a deeper reason that so many oppose the Theory of Evolution, beyond resisting the long-standing metaphorical interpretations of Genesis. Evolution is not just an abstract scientific theory. It speaks to who we are and where we come from. If human beings are just the result of a long, natural process, emerging from the earth, the sum of matter, time and chance, that would imply that human beings do not truly have intrinsic worth. After all, they emerged from the same conditions as animals. How can one say that the man is of any more value than the dog? The Christian worldview states that the man is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Traditionally, we have interpreted this to mean that we have a sort of divine spark; we know right from wrong, are intelligent and can love. The doctrine of the image dei serves as the foundation for our moral duties. It is wrong to bring harm to an image-bearer.

This will inevitably raise the question of who the image-bearer actually is. Embryology and philosophy tell us that the unborn is an image-bearer. Humans bear the image of God, and if the unborn are humans, then they, too, bear the image of God. Slaying them would be an immorality. But suppose tomorrow, a non-combatant alien craft were to emerge above a major city. We would be left considering our ethical obligations toward them. Perhaps we might consider them a threat and preemptively destroy their ship. Is there any ethical reason that we should not take a preemptive strike against aliens? The biblical ethical system will apply to image-bearers. But just as animals do not have any rights, we might posit that aliens do not have any rights either. Yet suppose they had a similar mindset, believing that human beings did not have any rights. It would seem that hospitality and a resistance toward violence would be the ideal standard. But even that is not a reason for believing that they have rights. It is a measure of self-protection. If we cooperate, they will cooperate.

Yet this is where the debate about life would take a sharp turn. On the secularist worldview, humans are not necessarily made in the image of God. They evolved over a long period of time in a metaphysically unguided process, emerging from the earth in the same manner as animals. On this perspective, animals really do have rights and we really can violate them (Think of the primate Harambe who was gunned down). If animals have rights on a secular worldview, then it would seem that this would easily extend to alien visitors. Especially if they are sentient and seem to exhibit traits only found in other humans. They would be something like a tribe of people in the Brazilian rainforest. In this case, it would seem that the secularist would be the one who was defending life while the Christian would probably be the one defending choice.

How Could We Distinguish Aliens From Animals?

Essential to the discussion among Christians would have to be what it means to be made in the image of God. How can we know that an individual is an image-bearer? Previously, we have used humanity as the standard. If you are human, then, you are made in the image of God. You are human, therefore you are made in the image of God. But that does not imply that if you are not human, then you are not made in the image of God. Being human would seem to be a sufficient condition for recognizing the imago dei, but not a necessary condition. In other words, we might posit that an individual could be made in the image of God even if they are not a human.

Then the question becomes one of qualification. The reason that we tend to settle on “being human” as the standard for the imago dei is that personhood is notoriously difficult to define. Many of our qualifications would exclude those who we recognize as persons. If we say that they must exhibit intelligence beyond that of an animal, we might exclude infants, toddlers, the unborn, the comatose and the decrepit. If we suggest that they need to exhibit some sort of moral behavior, then we would be excluding sociopaths. Are sociopaths not truly people? Sociopaths cannot be redeemed?

Further, the basis for our belief that mankind is made in the image of God and animals are not is that the Bible says that God made man in his image, seeming to exclude the animal kingdom. It does not say that he did not make animals in his image. But if the Bible’s silence about animals being made in the image of God is not grounds for raising questions about that, why should it be grounds for raising questions about aliens? It cannot rest in their intelligence or their moral awareness, because animals exhibit comparable traits as well. A possible resolution could be to develop a threshold. If they meet the threshold, then they are persons. But this seems bizarre and arbitrary. It would also succumb to the problem of the morally or intellectually deficient human (or alien). It would seem that the most practical and logical standard for personhood would be that an individual is a human.

How Could We Distinguish Robots From Humans?

Any species who was capable of traversing galaxies and discovering intelligent lifeforms across the universe would have to be very advanced in technology. But it is the advances of human technology that give rise to our next moral question. Those who find the concept of aliens to be implausible may be a bit more hospitable to the concept of the synthetic human – robots that behave and look like human beings. In a world in which technology is advancing faster than anybody can keep track of it, the concept does not seem out of this world. The fact that we can contain more information in a small chip than could have been contained on a massive console ten years ago seems revealing. In fact, there are currently robots available to perform certain functions. However, this is not so much an apologetic for the possibility of robots as much as it as a thought experiment about the ethical questions that emerge.

The problem of criteria for personhood would expand even further if it were applied to robots. As part of its’ programming, a synthetic human could plausibly, if asked, claim to be a human being, exhibit self-awareness, morality, and everything that it was programmed to do. This is what happened on an episode of Star Trek titled The Measure of A Man. In this episode, the right of the robot to life and the right of the creator to choose to shut it down were debated. If a robot were created with human DNA, what foundation would exist for saying that it did not possess the right to life? Philosophers might even argue for a form of emergentism, which is to say that a mind distinct from the body emerged from the brain despite that it was a created by a man.

Perhaps the most compelling biblical argument against the personhood of the robot would be to say that it was not a child of Adam. The opponent might rejoin, though, that Eve was also not a child of Adam and yet she was a person. Further, there are many Christians who would deny that all human beings are literally children of Adam, but are instead under what is known as the Federal Headship of Adam. The synthetic human would fit neatly into that category. If the abortion debate were extended to aliens and robots, it seems that the question of synthetic humans would be a little more challenging than the question of aliens.

For the secularist, though, it would seem that the life of the robot would likely prevail for the same reasons that the rights of the aliens would prevail. The ruling on Star Trek yielded something like what we might expect in a secularist court of law. Of the robot, it was said, “It sits there looking at me and I don’t know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent nor qualified to answer those. But I’ve got to make a ruling to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have been dancing around the basic issue: Does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lt. Commander Data has the right to choose.” In this case, the right to choose was the right to life.

Expanding The Abortion Debate To Aliens And Robots

If nothing else can be gleaned from this article, it is that ethics can be daunting. The answers are not always neatly wrapped up. Sometimes we have to think hard about difficult questions because we are not standing on the shoulders of giants. We know many things. We know that man is made in the image of God, that he is a sinner and that Jesus died for our sins. We know that even somebody who gets an abortion can be redeemed by the blood of the Son, that if they put their faith in the promises of God, they will rise from the dead, being given the free gift of eternal life, just as the Son of God rose from the dead. We know that Jesus is God. We know that abortion is wrong and life is sacred. But we do not always know the answers. If expanding the abortion debate to aliens and robots is frightening because you do not know the answers, then perhaps that is a reason to think about it. Challenge yourself with these difficult questions. The synthetic human, possessing human DNA, looking and acting like a human, claiming to be a man, claiming to love, does he have any rights? Why? Why not? Explain your answer in the comments.

Recommended Reading:
Is The Unborn Biologically Human?
What Should Christians Think About Aliens?

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Why Is What We Believe In The Privacy of Our Mind So Important?

beliefs-1Christians share the gospel. During Jesus’ public ministry, he told men to repent and believe the gospel, because the Kingdom of God was near. But repentance is about changing your attitude. When somebody repents, she will change her mind about sin and about Christ, submitting herself to the gospel. It is something that happens internally, in the blink of an eye, and it is the free gift of God. When Christians share the gospel, there is a sense in which we want men to change their mind, knowing that if they do change their mind, it will be a work of God moving on their heart. But why is it that changing one’s mind is so important? We are talking about how individuals arrange things in their own mind and how they make sense of the world. Why is what we believe in the privacy of our mind so important?

beliefs-2One might be inclined to think that believing in works-salvation or a gospel of grace and grace alone might make no difference because it is really just a matter of how you arrange things in your mind. It is something like putting the comma in one place instead of another. Whether you are discussing differing religious beliefs, such as Christianity, Islam, atheism, or different denominational perspectives, such as Calvinism or Arminianism, why does it really matter? Beliefs are something that are private and that occur in the privacy of one’s own mind. Yet the central premise of Christianity is precisely that everybody is born depraved, inclined to sin, and in sharing the gospel, we are striving to change their mind, to change their beliefs. Why is Christianity so concerned about how an individual arranges concepts in their own mind?

Beliefs Impact And Define Behavior

While it may be tempting to think that beliefs are something that stay in the privacy of one’s own mind, that is often not the case. There are very few people who do not act on their beliefs in some way. Beliefs will define who you are and how you interact with the world. What an individual believes will define whether they are a liberal or a conservative, a Christian or an atheist and heretical or orthodox. If somebody holds the belief that human beings are mere animals, not made in the image of God, not intrinsically more valuable than a goat, a sheep, or a chicken, then what sort of behavior would you expect to emerge? Moral behavior such as abortion or euthanasia will inevitably abound because all that really matters is one’s own personal freedom.

Similarly, suppose a man held the belief that he was the Messiah. Most of us will recognize that this belief would impact his behavior in a very negative way. He would attempt to influence people by inspiring devotion to himself, pulling them away from the faith and into idolatry and into heresy. Suppose a man held the belief that it was morally acceptable to lie or to cheat on his spouse. This should not be taken as an abstract figment of the imagination. The infamous atheist biologist Richard Dawkins has made similar proclamations, arguing that sexual jealousy is a primitive vestige of our evolutionary past. If your spouse held that belief, would that be acceptable? Is it not true that the beliefs that we hold truly do matter, and the way that we arrange concepts in the privacy of our own mind really do impact how we behave in the world? The question that you should ask yourself is this: would you ever marry an individual who believed that sexual infidelity was an acceptable practice within a marriage? If you have answered in the negative, then you understand that what you believe really does matter.

Education Is All About What You Believe

People often try to separate beliefs from knowledge. That will raise the question of what these two concepts are. Beliefs are propositions that you ascribe to. Knowledge is a little more nuanced. Many will accept the definition that knowledge is justified, true belief. Some might want to add qualifiers to that definition, and that is fine. That will not blunt the force of the point that I am making. Logically prior to coming to know something, you will have to believe it. Knowledge presupposes belief (though belief does not presuppose knowledge). The educational system is therefore devoted to inspiring students to accept correct beliefs about the world.

Think of a subject such a mathematics. If a student convinces himself that the value of N is always 3, no matter the equation or the given formula, he will hold a false belief and his education will be impaired. A proper education will inform him that N could have different values depending on the formula and the equation. Similarly, in the science classroom, professors will educate their students about the natural world and help them to come to accept true beliefs about things that happened in the past and in the present. Before the chemist mixes two substances, she will have to believe that this procedure will yield a certain result. Belief is a necessary condition to the educational process. Convincing people to change their beliefs when new information arises is essential to education. Therefore, the person who believes that the beliefs one holds in the privacy of their own mind are irrelevant will literally be undermining the educational system.

Are Religious Beliefs In A Different Category?

When people advocate for some form of relativism, they are often not speaking of mathematics, science or history. They are often speaking of one’s theological beliefs. How can the way that we arrange our thoughts of God really affect anything? They are in the privacy of our own minds. There are several points that one may make in response to this. First, all topics are theological topics. Everything that we do and believe occurs within the created order. If you are conducting mathematics, then you are operating within the mathematical structure that God had in mind. If you are plunging into the mysterious quantum vacuum, then you are peeking into an aspect of God’s creation that has never before been known to man. Now, one might think that this is a naive way of looking at the world and will ultimately compromise scientific and intellectual pursuits. If this is your reaction, then you are beginning to understand the efficacy of ascribing to correct theological beliefs.

Incorrect theological positions will impact more than intellectual pursuits. They will impact humanitarian pursuits. When a terrorist commits suicide, he is doing it because he is acting on a certain set of theological beliefs. He believes that his religion prescribes him to make war with those who do not share his religious principles. When an army goes to war for the sake of their shared religion, they believe that they are doing the will of God. Perhaps in a more culturally relevant example, when an ordained minister marries two members of the same sex, he believes that this marriage is holy and sanctified before God. When a minister refuses to marry two individuals, he does not believe that. Our theological beliefs will very much impact our behavior.

It should be clear that there is an indisputable connection between theology and ethics. When we act on our moral intuitions or reasoning, we believe that this action will yield better results than their negation. Many of us will based our moral convictions upon our theological convictions, and indeed we often we see no difference. I am pro-life because I believe that mankind is made in the image of God and it is wrong to take a life. To engage in an argument about the pro-life movement would essentially be to engage in a theological argument (even though one can make the case for the sanctity of life without explicitly appealing to theology). In fact, the ever-fading western conviction that mankind has inalienable rights is based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic emerging from the doctrine of the image of God. It may even be argued that many of us recognize that mankind has these rights precisely because we are made in the image of God. If you think that this is a dangerous belief that could yield destruction consequences, then you have conceded my central thesis. Behold the power of beliefs.

What About Beliefs With Seemingly No Practical Consequences, Like Soteriology?

This would be where denominational disputes, or disputes between orthodoxy and heresy would become relevant. As Christians, we recognize that to be saved, one needs only to put her trust in Christ, believing in God’s promises based on the sacrifice of the perfect substitute. His death becomes our death and his resurrection becomes our resurrection. Our works do not save us and baptism does not save us, but works and baptism do flow from salvation. In this case, a similar argument may be mounted that one’s beliefs really do not matter because the consequences will be identical. If somebody believes that faith plus works save them, the difference would only be in their own mind. We are all going through the same process – faith, baptism, and works. The only real difference is in what we believe saves us. It is a matter to be resolved in the privacy of one’s own mind and has absolutely no practical differences, right?

Well suppose for a moment that your spouse did not trust you, but decided that for the good of your marriage, she would behave as though she did trust you. Suppose she did not love you, but she would behave as though she did for the good of your children. The practical consequences would be the same. But do her beliefs matter? Does it matter that she holds the belief, “My spouse is trustworthy,” if the practical consequences are identical? A similar case can be made in the case of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). It is a matter of where you are placing your trust and whether you believe that God’s promises are true. The reason that we are saved and that it can be said that we share in the faith of Abraham is that we believe that God’s promises are true. Those promises are based on the sacrifice of the cross. If one believes that God’s promise of eternal life based on the merit and worth of the Son are insufficient, and you have to be good enough to atone for your own sin, then you are not trusting in Christ.

Our beliefs matter. They impact who we trust, our moral decisions, our relationships, our education, humanitarian causes, and ultimately our beliefs decide the direction and fate of humanity. That is why John 3:17-18 says, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Recommended Reading:
My Conversion From Oneness Pentecostalism To Biblical Christianity (I changed my beliefs)
Is Justification By Faith Or By Faith Alone?

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A Few of The Worst Arguments In Arminian Theology

arminian-1Secularists are sometimes surprised when they learn about the long-standing intellectual tradition of the Christian church. There are thousands of books that have emerged containing our different philosophies, theological points of view, critical reviews, and rigorous intellectual content. Today, Christians owe much of the way that they think to these great philosophers and theologians. Arguments that were penned thousands of years ago are recited today on blogs, in modern books and on social media. While some of these arguments truly are insightful, others lack the muscle to withstand serious scrutiny. There are good and bad arguments on both sides of every debate, and both are used almost without reservation. Arminians are just as guilty of this as Calvinists. A few of the worst arguments in Arminian theology that oppose Calvinism still circulate and are parroted as though they had the potency to overturn a point of view.

arminian-2Since this article will primarily focus on Arminian objections to Calvinism, it would be prudent for me to summarize what Calvinism is by way of an analogy. Imagine that all of the tenants of a building gambled away their rent money. They all deserved to be evicted. If the landlord evicted everybody, nobody would condemn him. He was perfectly within his rights. However, suppose that the landlord had immeasurable wealth and would not suffer any financial ruin if he were to pay for the debts of all of his tenants. Would he be under any ethical obligation to pay for their debts? Unless you supported the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, then you will probably say that he does not. It is his money to do with as he pleases. But suppose the landlord is also a very merciful man, and he wants to pay for their debt. If he paid for all of their debts, they would think that there were no consequences for their actions. So instead, he chooses to pay for only some of their debts. That is what is stated by the doctrine of unconditional election. God chooses to pay for the debts of some of his people. On the other hand, Arminian theology is the view that God offers to pay the debt to everyone and some freely choose to reject it. Now that we have a very basic understanding of these two points of view, we may consider proceed into a few of the worst arguments in Arminian theology.

God Is Forcing People To Sin

Apart from God himself, anthropology is the centerpiece of Reformed Theology. We believe, like our Arminian brethren, that man is dead in his sin. Sin is so reprehensible to God that he cannot have it in his presence. God is a righteous judge, and he must condemn the wicked. The one who justifies wicked men is an abomination (Proverbs 17:15). This is where the Arminian will mount their attack. For if God is condemning the wicked, the wicked need to truly be morally responsible. If God determines who will go to Hell, then he is forcing people to sin and then condemning them for the sin that he forced them to do. At face value, this may seem like a compelling argument. But that is only when you load Arminian presuppositions into Calvinist theology.

The Arminian is assuming that man has libertarian free will (the freedom to choose something other than what God has ordained). If man has libertarian free will, then God’s election would be a forced election, and sin would be forced, against the will of the transgressor. It is almost as though the wicked desperately want to do what is right, but they are struggling against the will of God who is forcing them into sin. That is not Reformed Theology. On Reformed Theology, man only wants sin. He hates righteousness. To say that God is forcing man to do something implies that man is being carried along against his will.

The second point worth noting is that this is a moral objection to biblical account of God. It presumes to say that God owes some debt to man, and he is not fulfilling that debt. God could only create a world in which everyone had a fair chance. There is no way around denying that this objection assumes that at the very least, God owes a fair chance to everyone. The landlord owes all of the tenants a free choice, that he will pay their debt on their behalf. Think of how much more significant the sacrifice of Christ is than the sacrifice of the landlord. The Son of God was slaughtered. If God owes everyone a fair chance, if he owes us an indeterministic universe, then it would follow that the cross was something owed to us. The Son of God was paying a debt not for mankind, but to mankind. So even if we concede the point (on the basis of my first objection, we ought not), this is still among a few of the worst arguments in Arminian theology.

Whatever It Means, It Cannot Mean That

I do not know how many times that this has happened in church history. An Arminian mounts the moral attack against God in the last section and a Calvinist responds by directing the Arminian to Scripture. They read through some of the seminal texts of the Protestant Reformation, such as John 6, Romans 9, or Ephesians 1, and the Arminian waves dismissively. He redirects you to his moral objection, and around and around you go. He might tell you the old Wesleyan slogan, “Whatever it means, it cannot mean that.” That entails that a passage like Romans 9 absolutely cannot mean that the landlord is choosing to pay the debt of only some tenants because of the moral objection to that premise. The only solution is to reinterpret the text until you come across a viable, Arminian alternative.

The problem with this approach is that it is not honest exegesis. The reader is not asking what the author is saying. He has determined what the author is saying before going to the text. He is like the scientist who assumes scientific conclusions before going to the data. That scientist would not be conducting true science. Similarly, the theologian who starts with the assumption that the Bible can never teach Calvinism is not conducting true exegesis. But isn’t the task of biblical theology to understand what the Bible is actually saying? Isn’t the task of the apologist to understand the Christian faith so that he can relay an accurate presentation to others?

Suppose for a moment that while reading through the Bible, a theologian named Johnson came across challenging texts about God taking the lives of human beings. But Johnson was in denial. He said, “Whatever it means, it cannot mean that.” When Johnson is confronted with an atheist, he recites his favorite slogan and the atheist prevails in the argument. If Johnson were honest in his exegesis, he would have allowed the text to speak for itself and developed a more robust understanding of theodicy. The Arminian who recites this slogan is making precisely the same mistake. If he were honest in his exegesis, he would allow the text to speak for itself. When Calvinism is established, then you develop an understanding of theodicy. This Wesleyan slogan makes my list precisely because it disallows honest exegesis and takes an atheistic methodology to the text of Scripture.

Calvinism Is A Prideful Theology

Ah, so you are the special one. You are your parent’s favorites. The rest of us are on the outside, looking in, unable to come to God, unable to elevate ourselves to the upper echelons of spirituality. God has chosen his favorites and they may lift their heads in pride. That is essentially what Arminians will lodge against Calvinists. It is a prideful theology for people who need to feel like they are better than someone else in the world. Their ego is manifesting itself. While some may use Calvinism as an outlet for their ego, this would be an abuse of the theology. It would be a malfunction, not a function, of proper Reformed Theology.

In fact, Reformed Theology leaves no solace for the man of pride. In addition to outrightly condemning the prideful heart, Reformed Theology teaches that there is nothing in yourself that caused God to move on you. There is no worth, esteem, or merit that beckoned God to you. God did not recognize that you were better than everyone else and therefore elected you. He did not recognize your intellect or performance or zeal and elect you. He only saw a pitiful, worthless, wretched creature whose days are marked by a sinful heart pursuing the lusts of the world. You are saved only by the regenerating grace of God. That is a proper way to view Reformed Theology. It is only in Arminian circles that one will hear Reformed Theology characterized as a manifestation of pride.

In fact, ironically, one could see how Arminian theology could also manifest as a source of pride. If you are going to point out how Reformed Theology is vulnerable to abuse, it is probably appropriate to point out how Arminian theology is vulnerable to abuse. If the landlord offered to pay the debt of all of the tenants and some refused out of pride, but you accepted the gift, that will make a significant statement about you. It will say that you were wise enough to see that accepting the gift was in your best interest. If you are drowning and somebody throws you a rope, to those who refuse to grab the rope, you may say, “What is wrong with those people?” Accepting the free gift of God can be a source of pride if you were wise enough to accept it. If you are going to point out the way that Reformed Theology can be abused and count it as a demerit, then it seems equally valid to point out the way Arminian theology has been abused and count it as a demerit.

You’re Not A Robot, Are You?

Since the free will theodicy has been popularized, many people will use it as sort of a reflex against Calvinist theology. God does not want robots, so he created a world in which there was free choice. When people hear about Calvinism, they will think that it does not contain a model of free will. So, they will suggest that if Calvinism were true, then God must have created a world of robots. In a world of robots, there is no love, moral responsibility, meaning, and the cross would have ultimately been for nothing because everybody just does as they are programmed. Is that the case?

Unfortunately, many Calvinists do not have a thorough understanding of their own theology. They presented an anthropology that only discusses the doctrine of total depravity, wherein we do what is in accord with our greatest desire. While that is certainly the case, it is not broad enough to encompass the entire doctrine of compatibilism. Compatibilism is the doctrine that determinism and free will are compatible with one another. This is the majority view among Reformed thinkers and the prevailing view among the Reformed Confessions of Faith. So, Calvinists do believe in freedom of the will. But we also believe in determinism. We believe that these two concepts can be maintained fully and consistently. So, when an Arminian says that Calvinists believe in a world of robots, they are essentially misunderstanding Reformed theology. They have not apprehended that we do have a doctrine of free will.

Now, before you suggest that there is some problem with the doctrine of compatibilism, I must point out that this is irrelevant to the discussion. The objection that Calvinism creates a world of robots is an objection to what Calvinists believe. It is based on poorly expressed and bastardized versions of compatibilism. But if you assess what Calvinists believe, you cannot say that it entails that we live in a world of robots. You might be able to raise logical problems with the doctrine of compatibilism, but these logical problems would not salvage the robot objection.

God Is Still Sovereign

If you are a Calvinist visiting a strange town and you want to find a suitable church, you could probably find a Reformed church by conducting a Google search for the words “Sovereign church near me.” Calvinist churches often emphasize the concept of sovereignty. That is because sovereignty very much centralizes Calvinism. It emerges in our discussion, piety, and study of the Bible. God is sovereign over all things, from the movement of a quantum particle, to the falling of a leaf from a tree, to the wicked decisions of men, to the salvation of men. One of our major objections to Arminian theology is that it seems to compromise the sovereignty of God. He is not in control of all things. He allows the free will of mankind to even contradict his will and his decree. But, still, Arminians will still say that God is sovereign. This is among the worst arguments that Arminians will apply.

If we were to discuss a text like Genesis 50:20 with Arminians, they will likely propose an alternative view of sovereignty. While the text says, “What man intended for evil, God intended for good,” Arminians will suggest that what man intended for evil, God merely used for his good purposes. He is being reactive rather than active. But to say that this is an act of sovereignty would seem to raise serious questions about what sovereignty is. Arminian theology often focuses on God’s foreknowledge. God knows what men are going to do and he reacts to that, planning to use it for his purposes. But in this case, God would not be sovereign as much as he would be a fortune teller. Just consider the question: is God sovereign over man’s wicked heart? Is he sovereign over sin? If the answer is no, then one must say that God is not sovereign over all things. Therefore, God is not sovereign.

If the answer is yes, then the Arminian probably means to communicate that God knows how to use what man did for his own purposes. With that being the case, then God is not truly sovereign over what man did. It is an old cliche that disaster will serve as an opportunity for growth. If a governmental force exploits that opportunity, generating good out of some evil that occurred, you would not say that they were sovereign over the evil that occurred. You would say that they were shrewd opportunists. To say that God is simply taking advantage of what is happening is to either deny his sovereignty or to redefine it as something that is not even recognizable. To the Arminians reading: keep your theology, but please, do not say that God is sovereign on your theology. Own your theology.

Recommended Reading:
Is Unconditional Election A Random, Arbitrary Election?
Does God Want Every Individual To Be Saved?

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If Science Works And The Universe Is Rational, Then God Probably Exists

science-1In the secular mind, there are two opposing forces in the world. Both have exhibited extreme power, and one is waning. Those powers are science and religion. Science has the power to spring mankind forward out of the clutches of ignorance, into a world of technology, convenience and intellectual wealth. On the other hand, religion stands as a baracade, holding the door to progress, shooting the horse upon which humanity rides. This narrative has unfortunately been embraced by many evangelicals who take a stance against science. While this narrative may seem compelling, it is nothing more than a tall tale. It is pure propaganda. As I try to demonstrate throughout this blog, there is no incompatibility between scientific pursuits and religious pursuits. In fact, many of the great arguments for the existence of God are indebted to science for their invaluable contribution. That is why the evangelical Christian apologist Evan Minton referred to science and the Bible as the two books that God wrote. In fact, one may further argue that science and religion are not only compatible, but that religion is both the historical and philosophical foundation for scientific pursuit. That is because if science works and the universe is rational, then God probably exists.

science-2This goes to say that secularism and science are deeply incompatible. That is why many secularists find themselves going against the grain of modern cosmology, denying the Big Bang, pointing out that there are other, better astronomical theories, because, in the words of the astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow, “Astronomers have now painted themselves into a corner, because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation…” The theological overtones of the yieldings of science could not be more explicit. That is why so many secularists are commiting themselves to absurd philosophical explanations. It is becoming abundantly clear that there is a deep incompatibility between secularism and science. But thus far I have spoken only of some scientific evidence rather than the process of science, what it presupposes and how those presuppositions conflict with atheism. If you require a syllogism, then it can be simply stated. 1 – If science works and the universe is rational, then God probably exists. Science works and the universe is rational. Therefore, God probably exists.

What Sort of Universe Should We Expect?

science-3Richard Dawkins has said that we live in precisely the sort of universe that one would expect to find if God did not exist. But when you are developing a hypothesis, it is not helpful to just look around at the natural world, list the phenomena that you see, and then state that they are predictions yielded by your model. That is not how science is done. Think for a moment about the sort of universe that you would expect given atheism. Let’s ignore for a moment the deeper problem that the universe would not even exist and focus instead on the function of science. Science makes the assumption that the universe is rational and that we can learn something about it. But what good reasons are there to expect that would be the case, given atheism? If there is no mind behind the production of an object such as the universe, then why should we believe that there would be order, that processes such as science would work and that we could interact with the universe?

science-4Think for a moment about the difference between an object that has a mind behind it and a one that does not have a mind behind it. What would you expect of a conglomeration of letters with no mind behind it? Suppose a cat were to walk on the keyboard or hail stones were to fall on it. Given that there is no mind behind the conglomeration of letters form, you would expect that it would be incoherent. But if a person who knows how to write and operate a keyboard were to type a sentence, you would expect that she would yield a coherent sentence (maybe). The universe is like a conglomeration of letters. If you start with the presupposition, “There is no mind behind this conglomeration of letters,” then you will expect that the conglomeration of letters will be incoherent.

Instead, what we find is that the universe is rational. The universe is a coherent sentence. We can learn about it through rigorous investigation, and it always yields accurate results, the only inaccuracies descending from our own personal misinterpretation of the scientific data. This means that the very fact that we can do science presupposes that the universe is coherent. Granted that it is possible that the raindrops could form a coherent sentence, it is also possible that the universe could be rational even if there was no mind behind it. But it is more probable that there is a mind behind the coherent sentence. Therefore, every piece of accurate, scientific data will serve as evidence for the existence of God.

Let’s suppose for a moment that we did live in one of these highly improbable universes that just happen to be rational. You may be rejoicing, as an atheist, because you got very lucky to live in a rational universe. But you may not be as lucky as you think you are. It is true that until now, today, the universe has been rational. But what good reasons are there to believe that the universe will be rational tomorrow? You may say, “Repeated testing and observation.” But those tests and observations occurred in the past. Perhaps tomorrow our luck will run out and wisdom about the universe will no longer be attainable through science. Your loved ones will float away because gravity will become more of a suggestion than a law. Those with a strong immune system will collapse as a result of the common cold. That is not to say that if atheism were true, these things would happen. This is an epistemological thought experiment. What good reasons do we have to believe that they will not happen? If we already defeated the statistical impossibilities, why should we believe that we will defeat them tomorrow? How do you know that the next conglomeration of letters will be coherent?

How Do We Know That God Would Create A Rational Universe?

“So,” the atheist may say, “You have two competing hypotheses. One is that there is a mind behind the universe. The other is that there is no mind behind the universe. You suggest that with no mind behind the universe, there is no reason to believe that it would be coherent. But what good reasons are there to believe that it would be coherent if God exists? God could feasibly create an incoherent universe.” To my atheist friend, I would say that this is certainly the case. As a Calvinist, I believe that God has freedom of the will and that he is not subjected to the whims and desires of the people. He is sovereign and could have created any universe that he would have liked, even universes that are irrational. God could create a world in which science does not work. That does nothing to overturn this argument. Remember again the first premise of the syllogism: If science works and the universe is rational, then God probably exists. There could exist a possible world in which science does not work and that would not serve as evidence for God. But given that we live in a world in which science does work, we are rational to conclude that there is a high probability that there is a mind behind it.

I suspect, though, that the atheist will be inclined to shoot the same question that I posed back to me. How do I know that the universe will continue to be coherent tomorrow? Have I not just posed a problem without providing a solution? Well, I would like to offer a partial concession to this point. It is certainly possible that the universe could cease to be rational tomorrow. God could instantly choose that the laws of nature would cease their operation and that every conglomeration of letters from now until the end of time will be incoherent. But still, the theist finds herself in a significantly different epistemological situation that the atheist. Even if it is possible that the letters could be jumbled tomorrow, we have good reason to expect that they will not be, because there is a mind behind it. If a man sits down at his computer and begins typing, we may reasonably expect that he is typing something coherent. But if the cat walks on the keyboard, we can reasonably expect that the product will be incoherent. I expect that the universe will be rational tomorrow because there is a mind behind the universe. There is a man at the keyboard. If there were a cat on the keyboard, that conclusion would be wholly unjustified.

But Even If It Is Improbable, Science Does Work!

Based on my interactions with atheists and their responses to other arguments, I anticipate that they will say something like this. “Why should we concerned about improbabilities? Science certainly does work, so it does not matter how improbable it is.” That would serve as a good objection if I were making the argument that science does not work. I am not saying that. I am arguing that if science works, then it is probable that God exists. Since we know that science does, in fact, work, it follows that God probably exists. If you are finding yourself inclined to say that there mustn’t be an incompatibility between atheism and science, because both are true, then know that you are guilty of reasoning in a circle.

Since this point is often made in response to the argument from design, some of the counter-responses will be relevant. While it is certainly possible for you to find yourself in a highly improbable situation, it is not always rational to hold that position. One of the illustrations that has become popular is the illustration of the firing squad. If you were arrested for murder and sentenced to death, some countries would order that your sentence would carried out via a firing squad. But suppose that when you stood waiting for your sentence to be carried out, you heard riflefire to your left and to your right, so much so that you count not even count the shots that are fired. Then you open your eyes again and find that they are all standing there, having exhausted their magazines and having missed every single shot. Would it be rational for you to say, “Ah, well I just happen to find myself in a highly improbable situation”? It seems far more likely that you would conclude that there must be a purpose or a mind behind your survival. Somebody must have told the gunmen to miss the shots. Similarly, while it is possible that you find yourself in a highly improbable situation now (the cat formed a coherent sentence), the better and more probable explanation is that there is a mind behind the universe (a man is typing at the keyboard).

The Roots of Science

Central to the narrative is that the church has always stood opposed to scientific progress. Where good men were hoisting humanity on their back, the church would swing and ax at their kneecaps. Those flat-earthers would torch the boats of Columbus, burn calculators and telescopes, all to stop mankind from learning and accepting the doctrine of the church. Again, this is part of the secularist’s propaganda and not a true reflection of history. According to the historian of science, Dr. James Hannam, even the middle ages, which are often sneered at by secularists as the age of stupidity and piety, were an age of technological and scientific achievement. The Dark Ages even had a few moments of brightness. During the Middle Ages, the church insisted that mathematics and science be taught in the syllabus, and eventually came to teach philosophy (an intellectual pursuit ironically sneered at by the secularists).

In fact, Hannam points out that prior to the 1830’s, religious piety and curiosity were the only real motivating factors for scientific pursuit. The reason for that could not be more obvious. As CS Lewis pointed out on page 110 of his book Miracles, “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared: the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age.”

But what about the Renaissance? Is it not true that men began to free themselves of the shackles of religion and more interested in science? Is it not true that we owe our great scientific progress to the atheist thinkers of the Renaissance, who uttered wisdom like, “Who created God?” Again, that is just propaganda. In his book The Genesis of Science, Hannam pointed out that men became more scientific because they realized the practical effects that science would have. The Renaissance was largely led by Christian thinkers, such as Rene Descartes. Hannam made these and a few other points in his blogpost on Nature.com, Science Owes Much To Christianity And To The Middle Ages.

Nihilism Is The Only Haven For The Atheist

Science can be a dangerous ally. When data is not concealed by propaganda or the preferences of the scientist, the objectivity can be daunting. The church has felt this in its’ struggles with the age of the earth. Secularists have felt this in their struggles with embryology. But with the renewed interest in Christian apologetics during recent decades, science has pushed atheism into a corner, forcing it to conjure up absurd explanations for the existence of the universe, like that ‘nothing’ is a substance, and it possesses causal properties. But now, this old ally, Science, has snuck up on Atheism, who was shoved into the corner, and cut his throat. The only escape from the sharp blade of Science is nihilism: to deny that science is a worthwhile pursuit because the universe truly is not rational. The conglomeration of letters really is incoherent.

But then one is left to explain away the success of national science and modern technology. How is it that atheists can log on to the Internet and type blogposts arguing for nihilism if science does not work? How can governments develop nuclear weapons? Why is it that the apple falls from the tree? Why can we discover what happened in the ancient world, learning about processes such as evolution, or the age of the earth, or the temperature of distant stars? If science does not work, and the universe is not rational, then why is it that by every indication, the exact opposite seems to be the case?

A more significant question arises: what is the intellectual price tag of atheism? If atheism is constantly being pushed into corners, forced to deny the reality of the physical world, that the universe is rational, is that truly a price that we are willing to pay? It seems more likely that the atheist is denying what they can see plainly. The atheist recognizes that creation testifies to the existence of God (Romans 1:20). But the natural man hates the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) because he is clinging to his sin. But Jesus Christ offers mercy. Based on the death, resurrection and imputed righteousness of the Son, all who believe in him will be given the free gift of eternal life. Having an unsustainable worldview has more than an intellectual price tag. It comes with blaspheming the Son of God, refusing his mercy and standing among the condemned.

Recommended Reading:
Science Owes Much To Christianity And The Middle Ages
If Atheism Is True, It Follows That Atheism Is False
How Do You Know That The Bible Is God’s Word?

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Reorienting Yourself After A Tumultuous Election Cycle

election-1According to the latest polls, most Americans are tired of the election process and glad to see the 2016 Presidential Election come to a close. Most showed their disdain in the marked absence at the voting booth, as there was a record low in the voter turnout in the last twenty years. Both of the nominees of the major political parties received remarkably high disapproval ratings. Those who were willing to cast a vote had to plug their nose as they pulled the proverbial lever. Voters of each candidate believed that they were voting for the lesser of two evils. Now that it is over, many of us have issued a collective sigh of relief as we look to the future and get back to our lives. But after people were so thoroughly invested in this election, with cries about how the sky would collapse, cities would be burned to the ground, and slavery would be reinstated, should the other side win, many people are not just moving on to their lives. Many of us are in recovery. Throughout this article, I want to help you in the process of reorienting yourself after a tumultuous election cycle.

election-2Doubtless, many have read the previous paragraph and are already enraged, preparing to write some comment in all capital letters, telling me to “Get over it, it’s over.” I am over it, and this article is not to be considered “Final Reflections On The Election,” though I did think of writing something like that. I am not here to complain about the results of the election or say that the end is near as seems to be trending (and would be no matter what the outcome of the election was). In fact, I can say that I would probably write a very similar, if not identical, article had the outcome of the election been different. This not about the election. It is about you and I. It is about reorienting yourself after a tumultuous election cycle.

Hug A Democrat

There are certain fundamental differences between people of different political backgrounds. We need an enemy. We need somebody to fuel the flames of emotion so that we can feel like we are fighting for a worthy cause. If there is no enemy, then there is no need for change. There is nobody who is holding us back from righteousness. So we tend to view people of opposing political backgrounds as “the other.” Throughout the last year, and especially in the last two months, people were viewed almost exclusively by their political association. Oh, you must be one of those Hillary supporters, or Ah, I see that you are a Trump supporter. That is their identity. They are the bad guy. They are evil liberals who are conned by the media and would slit your throat given half a chance. They are hateful racists who think that some people should not have equal rights. That is why everybody is so terrified after the election was over, and would be no matter who was the victor. Everybody is seen as the other and there is no opportunity for dialogue.

But now that the election is over, it is a good time for self-reflection. Rather than reflexing with something like, “But they…” and then listing the demerits of the collective Hillary supporters, try to think of people as individuals with their own reasons that are very similar to yours. Even the dreaded Hillary supporters have red blood, cry when their loved one passes away, care for their children, drink coffee in the morning, and are concerned about their future. There is a significant difference between a political rival and a political enemy. Both sides are guilty of creating political enemies. It is my hope that in the future, we would be better about understanding other people, their reasons and their desires and adequately explaining our position. When we just shout one-liners at one another, that is really not helping any cause and only furthers the divide and establishes them as the other. There does not need to be an other. Hug a democrat.

Learn To Think Critically

If there is anything to be gleaned from this election about contemporary culture, it is the propaganda and bias of the media. Liberals have won the cultural war precisely through this and other resources. When people turn on the news, they are expecting to see objective coverage of world issues. However, throughout this election cycle, it became abundantly clear that major, national news organizations had a heavy political slant. When we wanted objective coverage of news and events, they were exaggerating or covering up certain facts, telling the world that they can only read Wikileaks when they were there to interpret it for them. On a practical level, this is something that should cause us a bit of introspection. After all, if the media, Hollywood, or even our own government, wants us to believe something, we need to be able to assess the facts critically, without bias. That means that it is not sufficient to just say, “The media is lying,” but to really think about the world around us.

Perhaps the most effective way to improve your critical thinking skills is to read books that cause you to think critically. Like the rest of your body, your brain will adapt to what you train it to do. If you exercise in the morning, your body will adapt. If you only eat junk food, your body will adapt. If you spend all of your hours watching television or playing video games, your brain will adapt to that. You will become lazy in your thinking, more prone to believe what you are being told and less likely to think critically about things that matter. Train your mind by reading good, theological and philosophical books. A few good options to get you started are Metaphysics by William Hasker, Confessions by Saint Augustine, or Everybody’s A Theologian by RC Sproul. If reading is difficult for you, work your way up to it by watching a few challenging lectures about the Bible. Listen to sermons. Train your brain to be disciplined.

Winning The Cultural War Is More Important Than Winning The White House

After the 2016 Presidential Election, young college students took to the streets, claiming that the world was coming to an end, that democracy as we know it would be compromised, that human rights would be a thing of the past. Why? A Republican made his way into the White House. But Democrats have something in their grasp that is perhaps more significant than the White House. They have the culture. If you have not noticed, secularism is winning the cultural war, pushing Christianity to the recesses of society where it has been for two-thousand years in every culture. If you espouse a Christian view of morality on a wide range of topics, you will be shouted down, shunned, abandoned by your friends, called a bigot, and more. That is not to raise some cheap flag of persecution, but to point out that Christianity is losing the cultural war. Secularism is winning the cultural war. That is far more significant.

So, how does one win the cultural war? How can Christianity reemerge as a victor? Perhaps it cannot and perhaps it never will. Christianity, by its’ very nature, is persecuted because the natural man hates the things of God. If we are going to see a cultural shift, it will have to be a work of God who will soften and regenerate the hearts of men. He does that through the preaching of the gospel, which is the power of God (Romans 1:16). The apostle Paul listed as a philosophy of ministry in 1st Corinthians 9:22-23, “…I have become all things to all people so that by all means, I might save some.” In the presence of Jews, he would only eat what they allowed. In the presense of Greeks, he ate anything that they would eat. He used the cultural prescriptions to preach the gospel.

Similarly, people today are children of the Renaissance. They respond to science and evidence. It is more important now, than ever, to have a firm understanding of apologetics and theology so that you can share the evidence for God’s existence. Start a blog. Read I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Dr. Frank Turek. If you want to win the cultural war, you need to contribute to the effort to portray Christianity as a rational alternative. Winning the culture is more important than winning the White House.

Remember That The Issues That Emerged In The Election Cycle Still Exist

In a recent episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, the liberal host lamented that Republicans would probably soon overturn Roe Vs Wade. I am thrilled about that, and excited that Maher is so certain of that truth. Even so, the issues that emerged throughout the election cycle, such as abortion, are real. They still exist today and they will tomorrow. The solution to these problems is not to cast a ballot and wait for the big man in Washington to solve all of your problems. If you voted for Trump with the hope that he would nominate a conservative to the Supreme Court Justice and contribute to the effort against abortion, then you should know that there is a lot of work to be done. We cannot just wait for Trump to save us all. Donate to or volunteer for a pro-life prengancy center, such as Care Net. They do not have federal funding like your local abortion mill.

Similarly, learn to express the case for life beyond a few of your favorite one-liners. I was thoroughly disappointed with Donald Trump’s debate performance when he was asked about abortion. While I was encouraged that he stood against it in the debate without wavering, I was disappointed because that would have been an excellent opportunity to state the case for life. Abortion literally [1] takes the lives of human beings and [2] devalues human beings, regarding them as nothing more than animals. In this way, it is very similar to slave-trading. Read The Case For Life by Scott Klusendorf. Understand what you believe so that you can articulate it. Read Correct, Not Politically Correct: How Same Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone by Dr. Frank Turek. If you understand these issues and get to work, it will make a big impact. If these are truly things that you care about, then you will not just wait for the big man in Washington do something about it.

Remember That The World Is Not Going To End

Throughout the election cycle, and especially toward the end, the propaganda intensified and the rhetoric reached a high-point. President Obama testified that a Trump presidency would have the effect of overturning our democracy. Hillary Clinton said much that was to the same effect. The alarmists in the media were probably worse than both of them. Consequently, people all over the world now seem to believe that Hitler has taken office. While one may be disappointed with the results of the election, one does not have to start packing survival gear just because a Republican won the White House. The world is not coming to an end. God is still on his throne. The promise of the gospel still stands: all who turn away from their sin and put their trust in the promises that God made through the sacrifice of the Son will be instantly forgiven and granted the free gift of eternal life (Romans 4:5; John 3:16).

Recommended Reading:
Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments
How Our View of Sexuality Creates An Abortion Culture

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How Modern Feminism Conflicts With Transgenderism

trans-1Consider those whom you might consider a political or a social ally. In theological discourse, a Calvinist might consider an Arminian an ally if they are debating a unitarian or a Pelagian. The great nation of Israel often thinks of conservative Christians as allies. In political and social issues, though, firm Christians often do not have many allies. They are painted as wacky zealots, on the fringe, causing the downfall of all things. However, amongst liberals, one might expect to find that feminists and transgender advocates are allies. They are generally opposed to conservatism and align themselves with so-called progressive values. The same person who advocates for transgenderism will probably also advocate for abortion, because they are both bearing the mark of the sexual revolution, interlocking hands as they ascend to the heights of sexual freedom. However, in this article I will explain how modern feminism conflicts with transgenderism.

trans-2The reason that I think that this is worth pointing out is that people typically see feminism and LGBT advocates as allies, militarizing with against common enemies with the same goal in mind. They are patriotically and valiantly battling against those who would oppress them based on minor differences. There are many people in the world who cannot tolerate somebody who is a little different, and so the narrative goes, these two groups are standing back-to-back, fighting a common enemy. While they may think that is the case, there are undergirding philosophical conflicts that cannot be ignored. These conflicts will and have manifested themselves in legitimate and practical ways. If you are looking for the bottom line, it is this: one cannot consistently advocate for both transgenderism and feminism.

Before we begin, we should briefly explore the question of what transgenderism is. Throughout history, people have recognized that there are two sexes: male and female. Men have certain anatomical characteristics while women have other anatomical characteristics. But the differences between men and women exceed anatomy. They extend to personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, and much more. Transgenderism calls the entire narrative into question. Gender is not based on one’s anatomy, but on an inner sense of awareness. We may think that one identifies their gender in the same way that they identify their dominant hand or their race, but transgenderism suggests that gender is something that is decided internally. It is largely a cultural construction. One can be a female even if they have male components. It is beyond the scope of this article to evaluate transgenderism (the Lord Jesus did it for us in Mark 10:6). Instead, I am exploring whether transgenderism comports with feminist values.

Can Women’s Rights Exist Without The Female Identity?

Gender discrimination is typically thought to occur when a male asserts dominance over a female in some facet of life. One might think of the alleged wage gap, wherein men are thought to make 25% more money just because of their gender. One might think of the marriage, in which traditionally women will submit to their husband, to allow him to reign over them and make the bulk of the familial decisions. Gender discrimination will occur when a man is asserting intellectual, physical, or psychological dominance over a woman. This could occur in the workplace, in the home, or even in public when relating with strangers. Many men will think of women as being inferior to themselves. Sexism is very much similar to racism. Feminism is the doctrine that all people are created equal, men and women alike. They are intrinsically just as valuable.

But the question that the issue of transgenderism raises is this. What does it mean to discriminate against a woman if we cannot even identify a man or a woman? If man/woman are social constructions that need to be stripped away so that we can see the inner person, then what sense does it make to say that there is a wage gap? A wage gap between whom? A gap between one arbitrarily labeled group of people and another. Have women been silenced by men throughout the generations? Have they been oppressed? It is undoubtedly the case that the history books are primarily composed of the works of men. How can we say that women have been kept from greatness by their male captor? How can we say that women deserve better? If gender is merely a social construction that does not denote anything significant, then the issue of sexism fades instantly into irrelevancy. Feminism is swallowed whole by the underpinnings of transgenderism.

Do Men Who Become Women Have The Same Struggles As Anatomical Women?

The reason that women unite together against sexism and bigotry is that they recognize that they can relate to one another. A man does not have the same struggles as a woman. While they may be able to sympathize, they cannot truly understand because they are not women (again, this concept is engulfed in flames by transgenderism). They do not know what it is like to be treated as nothing more than a sexual object. Every time a woman goes on in public, they might be greeting with leering strangers, staring them down, fantasizing about them, as if they owned them. Lewd comments rush into the airway, and women have to train themselves to ignore them. Women truly have a lot of struggles that the male does not. But the question is, can men who become women, who identify as women, truly relate with the struggles of the woman? They may have struggles of their own (bullying, for example) but they will not be able to sympathize with the feminist cause like an anatomical woman will.

Perhaps there is another way for us to think of this issue. For centuries, the chauvinistic, misogynistic men have labored mightily to keep women down, to ensure that they serve no more function in society than to bear the seeds of men. In western culture, the doctrine that we are all made in the image of God has emerged and women are recognized by society as equals, with the right to vote in elections, protected by the same constitutional rights that men have. But now, that same chauvinistic male is infiltrating the very core of the feminist movement – the identity of the woman. A woman is no longer something significant. Even a man can be recognized as a woman and be deemed a hero by the culture. The female identity is under assault – it is being robbed – by that same chauvinistic male who has kept them in their clutches for centuries.

Title IX – Privacy or Discrimination?

In Dr. Albert Mohler’s excellent analysis of this issue, he pointed out a conflict almost as deadly as the one that undermines the female identity. In the Title IX statute, it is stated that no person can be lawfully discriminated against as the result of their gender. They must receive the same benefits and entitlements (again, this has no meaning if gender is merely a social construction). Dr. Mohler pointed out that one clause of Title IX is the issue of privacy. When using public bathrooms or locker rooms in state-funded schools, students have the right to privacy. Females cannot be forced to de-robe in the presence of males (again, using the language of gender and the classical assumption of the difference between a male and a female).

But by executive action, President Obama declared that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom that they prefer. It is not difficult to identify the inherent legal contradiction within Title IX, and Dr. Mohler is not the only one to notice it. He cited Judith Shulevitz’s article published by the New York Times, which recognizes that there have been lawsuits about both privacy and discrimination. Shulevitz poses the very tangible thought experiment: imagine an anatomical female is in the locker room with a transgender. Which is more significant: privacy or discrimination? This issue should not ring hollow for any feminists. Do women not have the right to privacy? Do they truly have to de-robe in the presence of a transgendered individual? At the same time, the transgendered individual may argue that they are indeed a female and they have every right to use the locker room. Who is right? The answer seems to be (and this may please our relativistic friends) that under Title IX, both are right. Yet this is not just a poorly written law that needs to be reworked. It is a fundamental clash of values between feminism and transgenderism. One will need to be sacrificed.

How Modern Feminism Conflicts With Transgenderism

I would like to emphasize again that in this article, I am not mounting a full critique of transgenderism. I am pointing out that there are irreconcilable differences between transgenderism and feminism. A politician may be able to stand behind a podium and preach powerfully about how she stands behind both movements, but they are fundamentally at odds with one another. This is akin to how abortion is at odds with women’s rights. People may be able to sit them next to one another, but when you stare unflinchingly in the face at what they are, you are led inescapably to the conclusion that they one cannot be rationally sustained with the other. Abortion engulfs women’s rights by undermining the very foundation upon which women’s rights is built. Transgenderism undermines feminism by swallowing the female identity whole.

Why is it that all of these secular philosophies are so radically inconsistent with one another? Why can somebody preach about women’s rights extending to abortion, about how feminism and transgenderism are two sects of the same movement, only to find that they defeat one another? These internal inconsistencies can be traced to the reality that they depart from the truth revealed in Scripture. Feminism only makes sense when it is in alliance with the doctrine that God created mankind in his image (Genesis 1:26-27) and has decreed that we shall not commit murder. A worldview is only as plausible as its’ consistency. These popular values are radically inconsistent with one another. If you want consistency, look to Scripture. Look to the cross, where God sacrificed the Lord Jesus for the sake of his people.

Recommended Reading:
Why My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal
How Our View of Sexuality Creates An Abortion Culture
If Atheism Is True, It Follows That Atheism Is False

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How Books By Old Men Are More Significant Than The 2016 Election

books-1It is October of an election year. This means that millions of people who are not interested in politics suddenly have a vested interest in the outcome of the next several months. After the election, people will either spend the night celebrating or lower their head in defeat, and then they will move on, as if their favorite team just competed in the Super Bowl. But until that time, people will become defensive, divisive, they will unfriend their longtime Facebook acquaintances after they dared to speak a word of criticism of their preferred politician. People will use words like “demon” to describe the other side and everyone on every side of the debate will be slandered. Social media will be overcome with terms such as “supreme court justices,” “religious rights,” “the religious right,” “the liberal media,” and all of the other talking points that emerge during an election season. In this article, I would like to take a different perspective and remind everyone of how books by old men are more significant than the 2016 election.

books-2Before beginning, though, I want to point out that I am not attempting to diminish the significance of the 2016 Presidential Election. Issues such as the Supreme Court Justices surely are significant. Abortion is one of the most powerful threats to peace, because by undermining human value and the doctrine of the image of God, human beings are left vulnerable. Not to mention the fact that it actually takes millions upon millions of lives of innocents for the sake of selfishness. But most of the people who are talking about the election are not even talking about abortion anyway. They are more worried about what offensive remarks one person may or may not have made. Rather than peeking into Hillary Clinton’s emails or posting “Trump may have said X, but Bill actually did X,” read some good, theological and philosophical books that were written by old men.

The Big Man In Washington Won’t Solve Your Problems

For the moment, let’s use “the big man” as a gender neutral phrase because if I said, “the big woman,” people might say that I am calling Hillary Clinton fat, and saying “the big man/woman” makes it sound like we are electing a transvestite. But why do I make this point? Upon reading the first two paragraphs, the overzealous Facebook campaigner may point to some of the great woes of the United States and remind us of how we need the big man in Washington to solve those problems. Recently, somebody pointed me to an column in a local newspaper titled News And Advance. The author explained why he was voting for Donald Trump. He expressed sentiments like, “I am sick and tired of calling customer service and being received by somebody who barely speaks English.” There were many other similar points made. What does he think the big man in Washington is going to do about that? Is he saying that Donald Trump will influence the direction of the country such that corporations will no longer have incentive to outsource customer service to India?

The big man himself has made similar remarks. When he spoke at Liberty University, he said something to the effect of, “We are going to have department stores saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, believe me.” People often have the underlying assumption that a President is something like a Dictator. He will decide the laws of the land for years to come. But the truth is that even if Trump is elected in November, those same department stores will still utter the treacherous words ‘Happy Holidays’ every year between 2016 and 2020. Hollywood will still be liberal and sex-crazed. You will still need to watch your children when you go to the park. There will still be shootings across the country. The President does not have top-down control of the nation.

The Fight For Life Does Not End At The White House

So if you vote for Trump, he will win the election, install pro-life Supreme Court Justices and they will overturn Roe Vs Wade immediately and install a constitutional amendment protecting the lives of the unborn. You have done your part for the fight for life by voting Republican. Right? Well, that seems to be a highly naive and grossly simple view of legislation. The fight for life does not end at the White House. When somebody is running for President, they often have a political history. They were Senators or Governors. The voting turnout for the senate is quite scant compared to the turnout for the presidential elections. But having conservative senators and governors is almost as, if not more important than having a conservative President.

But the fight for life does not even end there. Even if you vote in all of the elections, still you are not contributing to the pro-life cause. That is something that takes time and energy. It is something that you need to be willing to make sacrifices for. Contributing to something is not as simple as casting a vote then going home and crossing your fingers. You would need to do something. Contribute to a pro-life pregnancy center. Give them time or money or both. Help people to understand the sanctity of life. Examine the philosophy of abortion in a compelling blogpost or two. Read books by old men that defend the sanctity of life so that you can understand the issues. Read books by old men who criticize the sanctity of life so that you can understand your opponent. Many of these issues are not as simple as a few one-liners. Use what you learn to persuade people.

Reading Books By Old Men Will Help You To Distinguish Reason From Empty Rhetoric

A reader will shake their head in disbelief when everybody else applauds. A famed politician just recited a powerful one-liner, captured the audience and probably swayed a few voters. But somebody who has become accustomed to assessing information and responding to evidence and sound reasoning will not be so easily persuaded. When somebody stands up and tells you everything that you want to hear, you have to make a choice. You can either believe them or not. Many people choose to believe them because they want to believe them. People train themselves to respond to their desires rather than their reason. But if you spend your spare time reading books by old men, you will be more capable of discerning information from misinformation and logic from error.

This means that if you want to be a competent voter who casts a worthy ballot, then you should immerse yourself in good books that will train your mind to think critically. That is not to say that you are not an intelligent person. People are intelligent in different ways. You might be brilliant in your field, in creativity, in relating to people, but not necessarily in this way. It is very easy to be taken in by a skilled rhetorician. Even a born again Christian might be led astray, doing and saying things that they should not. Turn off CNN and FOX or that unadulterated Trump speech or whatever outlet you are relying upon. Read some Christian philosophers and theologians. Train yourself to think. Reading books by old men will have a far more significant impact upon you and your ability to see through empty rhetoric.

Meditate On The Cross

vickersWhen you cast a ballot for the 2016 Presidential Election, what are you trying to accomplish? If you are a Christian, then hopefully you want the nation to align more closely with Christian principles. But what are Christian principles? What does it mean to live in a Christian nation? Does it mean that we have a President who claims to be a Christian? Does it mean that we have had 43 consecutive Presidents who claim to be Christians? I should not think so. When we say that we want Christian principles to govern the nation, people often subtly shift to conservative principles. Conservative principles may be a good thing, but they are not necessarily Christian principles. The right to bear arms, border control, et cetera, are not necessarily Christian principles. That is not to say that they are un-Christian or evil principles. But it is to say that they are not strictly Christian. They are secular principles that are good for the governing and prosperity of the nation. So what is a Christian principle and how do we discern them?

If you want to answer this question, do not just start prattling off conservative ideals on Facebook in all caps lest you embarrass yourself and diminish the power of the cross. Meditate upon the cross of Jesus Christ. Think about that perfect exchange – the sin of his people nailed to the cross and his righteousness imputed to us (Romans 3:21-25). Consider the life of Christ and the writing of his apostles. If you want to know what Christian principles are, meditate on the cross. Read books written by old men who have dedicated their lives to the services of Christ. Allow yourself to be discipled. I would rather have everybody in the nation sit down and read Jesus’ Blood And Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation By Brian Vickers in their spare time then worrying about the election. In fact, I would prefer that everybody read that rather than casting a vote.

Overzealous Commitment To A Candidate Can Compromise Your Principles

There is no doubt that somebody can become too invested in theological books. Sometimes people are so overcome by the academic element of Christianity that they do not focus on the cross. Yet people often overlook the very same thing when it happens during a presidential election. People are so thoroughly committed to their candidate, or opposing the other candidate, that they put their Christian principles aside. This is probably no more evident than the Christians who are pro-life and yet will cast a vote for Hillary Clinton. It is no more evident than when Ben Carson said that we need to set our Christian principles aside for a brief period and focus on issues such as the national debt. If you are so thoroughly committed to one candidate that you need to set aside your principles, then perhaps you are not voting for a man or woman of principle and you need to assess not only your vote for your own spiritual state.

Set aside the presidential election for awhile. Do not spend all of your spare time watching these interviews, searching for ways to slam Hillary Clinton, conjuring up defenses of Trump, devising new ways to regurgitate the same talking points that we have raised again and again. Set it aside and focus on principles. If Christians had done that, then they would have voted in somebody of principle and would not be telling us to stop worrying about principles. Someone recently said that if you can set your Christian principles aside, they are neither Christian nor principles. Ground yourself by reading good, philosophical and theological books written by old men. Think more about the cross, about Christian principles and about how to live as a disciple of Jesus. Set the election aside for awhile. Turn the caps lock off, turn the computer off, stop worrying about the accent of the customer service representative and strive to live out Christian principles as expressed in God’s inerrant word.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Recommended Reading:
Is Unconditional Election A Random, Arbitrary Election?
Is Justification By Faith Or By Faith Alone?
Is The Gospel of John Reliable?

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How Should Christians React To The Trump Tapes?

trump-1Throughout the 2016 presidential election, we have all taken it as a given that Donald Trump makes offensive remarks. One might even argue that has been the thrust of his campaign. It was how he has controlled the media and how he has won over the majority of GOP voters. People are exhausted with the politically correct twaddle that has become so popular. Trump seemingly provides a refreshing alternative. However, in catering to the desire of the politically incorrect masses, one might go too far. If you compromise core values, such as the doctrine that “All are created equal,” then you are going beyond politically incorrectness. We need to have balance between being politically correct and being demeaning. In the recently released Trump Tapes, Donald Trump boasted about his attempted affair with a married woman and said that as a celebrity, he can grab female strangers between their legs. How should we react to this? How should Christians react to Trump Tapes?

trump-2First, I want to point out that Trump did issue a scripted apology video in which he vowed to be a better man. However, I do not think that should change our perspective. It may have been a sincere apology, but we must recognize the possibility that it was not. Any politician who was in his position would have issued an apology when those remarks when viral. If your name is Bill Clinton, you will apologize when the nation catches you in an affair. Donald Trump apologized because he had to apologize. He also made the stunning remark that it happened when he younger. How old was The Donald in 2005? 15? Or was he a 50 year old man? You do not get to say that you were young and immature when you were 50 years old. With that said, let’s proceed into our analysis.

Recognize That We Cannot Expect Him To Uphold Conservative Principles

When I refer to an “abortion culture,” I mean a culture in which abortion is regulated and normalized. Sex is thoroughly disconnected from having babies because there are many unwanted pregnancies. Those pregnancies are the result of open sexuality and promiscuity among strangers, particularly in the event that a woman has an affair. If a woman has an affair and gets pregnant, the best way to conceal it from her husband would be to have an abortion. In a culture in which sex is just a pleasure that we can enjoy and boast about, babies are not a gift – they are a burden. They are something that we need to guard against. When a baby is conceived, people will kill it. I made this point in my article How Our View of Sex Creates An Abortion Culture. Sexuality, marriage, promiscuity and abortion are tightly interrelated issues and we cannot compartmentalize it. Donald Trump’s comments reflect an attitude that contributes to an abortion culture.

Now, one might object that everybody’s attitude contributes to an abortion culture, and I could make this point about many individuals. That is true. But it is enhanced with the comments that Donald Trump made for two reasons. First, his comments were literally sexist. I will expand on that in the next subsection. Second, Trump seemed to enjoy compromising the sanctity of marriage. He was trying to beguile a woman into having an affair. He bought her furniture and said that he tried “like a b****” to persuade her to sleep with him. (By the way, Donald was married.) What we see in Donald Trump is not a man who will uphold the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of life. We see a man who compromises it and enjoys compromising it. For a conservative to say that they are trusting in the man who made these comments to uphold the virtues that we think are important is literally absurd.

His Comments Were Inherently Sexist

People often say that something is sexist when it is not. If you hold a door open for a woman, that is not sexist. If you say that it is wrong for her to murder her baby, that is not sexist. Sexism occurs when you regard women as lower than men, whether in word or in practice. Many people will not confess to being a sexist, but they will hold to a sexist disposition in the way that they regard and speak about women. Somebody can be a sexist by regarding women as nothing more than objects for their sexual lust. If you look at a woman and immediately begin assessing her, fantasizing about sexual encounters, then you might just be a sexist. If you think that women are just there for you to assess and sleep with, then you might be a sexist. That is what I see reflected in Donald Trump’s remarks.

He did not regard the woman that he tried “like a b****” to sleep with as his equal. He did not think of her intellect or the care that she had for her family. He thought that he would enjoy a sexual encounter with her. Of course, many people may ask what is wrong with that attitude. As long as you do not hurt anyone, then you can do with your eyes what you would like, right? But by talking about and regarding women as though they had no more value than their sexual function, you are inherently degrading human beings. There is really no qualitative difference between that and racism. If you regard people of a different pigmentation as having no more value than how they can serve you, then you are degrading human beings. If you think that women are only there to fulfill your fantasies as Donald’s remarks indicate, then you are degrading human beings. We should not fool ourselves. Do not let the fear of being politically correct sway you. There is real sexism and that is precisely what Trump is guilty of.

Remember That Words Matter

Throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, Trump supporters have said that the only thing that Trump is guilty of is having a big mouth. He has some things that might be offensive, but that is really not a big deal. They might point to the actions of Hillary Clinton, such as what occurred in Benghazi, or her e-mail scandals, or any number of crimes that people will lodge against her, and compare that with the mildly offensive remarks that Trump has made. Trump may say things that seem offensive sometimes, but does that really matter? Well, it does. Jesus told us, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34). James 3 talks about the importance of taming the tongue, and how much more significant is that for those who are world leaders?

We might say that they are only words, and there is a sense in which that is true. But there is a reason that Jesus said, “If you lust after a woman, you commit adultery with her in your heart.” (Matthew 5:28). The things that a person says and thinks reflects what it is in their heart. It reflects what they would do given the opportunity. I seriously doubt that this was the sole conversation like this that Donald Trump had. The fact that he said these words matters. They reflect a lifetime and a history of marital affairs, pursuing married women “like a b****.” In his book The Art of The Deal, he said as much. He wrote, “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” Words matter. They reflect the state of an individual’s heart and his actions. Donald Trump is not a person who respects the sanctity of marriage or of life. We can no longer take refuge in the idea that “He just has a big mouth, it’s not big deal.” It is more than that.

Do Not Try To Defend His Comments

If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, who is being conformed to the image of the Son, sanctified, striving to be holy, then by the authority of Jesus himself, as prescribed in his holy word, you must not defend the lewd and offensive remarks that this man has made. God said in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” You must not defend the remarks that Donald Trump has made. That is not say that you cannot vote for him (I am not writing about that here). But it is to say that if you defend his lewd remarks, then you are not being obedient to Scripture, you are not living a life worth of the calling of the gospel, for you are condoning that which is evil, demeaning, compromising to life and to marriage.

What are some of the things that people say in defense of Trump’s lewd remarks? They might say, “It was ten years ago,” which I already addressed (he was 50). But that is not really a defense so much as it is to say that perhaps he has changed. That is in a different category. That is defending Trump, but not defending his remarks. In defense of his lewd remarks, one might say, “That is just how men talk.” If you think that is how men talk, then you need to find different men to spend your time with. If the men you know regard women as objects and attempt to lure women into an affair, then you should assess your spiritual maturity. Sexism is sexism even if many men are guilty of it. Second, I have heard some say, “We are not electing a pastor.” That is certainly true. But we are electing the leader of the free world, and do we not want a man of principle? Do we want somebody who admits to pursuing a married woman “like a b****” and says that he could use his clout as a celebrity to grope women? What will he do with his clout as President? That leads me to my next point.

If You Defend Him, You Can Never Object To The Actions of Bill Clinton

In a remarkable twist of irony, Donald Trump brought up the history of sexual scandals of Bill and Hillary Clinton during his apology video. He said that Bill was guilty of groping women and that Hillary threatened those same women behind closed doors. But let’s suppose for a moment that tomorrow, Hillary admits to it, goes on national television and says, “I was young and I made a mistake. I vow to be a better woman going forward.” Trump supporters, if they are consistent, would have to accept that. If you find yourself defending the actions of Donald Trump, then you can never raise an objection to the sexual scandals of Bill Clinton. When you reply to the Trump Tapes by pointing to President Clinton’s scandals, that is the height of hypocrisy and is guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

One might be inclined to say that while Trump talks about treating women as objects, Bill Clinton actually did it. But remember that quote from The Art of The Deal. Trump does treat women as objects. Remember my point about words. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Trump said those lewd and disgusting things because that is how he regards women. Those words reflect his behavior and his history. If you find yourself in the vile business of defending the Trump Tapes, you must remain silent in the matter of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals. You cannot just point at the indecencies of the other candidate. You need to stare unflinchingly in the face of the indecencies of Donald Trump.

Maybe We Should Reassess The ‘Greater Evil’ Argument

If we were choosing between John Kasich and Hillary Clinton, then perhaps the ‘greater evil’ argument would be applicable. There are some policies held by Governor Kasich with which we might disagree. There are some policies that he has implemented that might be unsavory. But in general, we can say that he is a conservative politician who will stand for life and for marriage. The ‘greater evil’ argument can only be extended so far. If you were choosing between two men to be a dictator, one would massacre African Americans and the other would massacre Asian Americans, which dictator would you choose? Who is the ‘lesser evil’? Now that is not to say that Trump will massacre anybody. But it is to say that the ‘greater evil’ argument can only be extended so far.

There are certain established facts about both of the presidential nominees this election year. We know that Donald Trump is a sexist, supports a culture of abortion, treats women as though they were of no more value than their sexual function and seems to imbibe sexual gratification from having sex with married women, pursuing them “like a b****.” Is this really the man that we are going to trust to uphold conservative principles? Is it the man who we think will elect pro-life supreme court justices? Is it the man to defend marriage? Donald Trump has outrightly stated his support of pro-abortion philosophy during the election cycle (flopping back and forth between positions, unsure of how to appease his base). The conservative’s worst fear is that he is a liberal running as a conservative. I see no reason to think that is not the case. But his sexist behavior will certainly put him beyond our liberal friends. If we had to assess who the greater evil was in terms of conservatism and liberalism, especially social issues, would Hillary Clinton truly be a greater evil? If not, then should we vote for her? I should not think so. I think it is time that we reassess the argument from the greater evil and recognize that while it has some merit, it can only be extended so far.

Do Not Be A Hypocrite

I am pleased that many of my Christian brethren are not standing in defense of the things that Donald Trump said. Even those who have supported him will use the strongest language to condemn his remarks. So while I have been disappointed to see some saying things like, “All men talk like that,” or “We’re not electing a pastor,” I have been pleased that many Christians, in obedience to the gospel, will hate that which is evil and refuse to condone the things recorded on the Trump Tape. However, condemning those remarks may cause a moment of quiet self-reflection as one considers his or her own behavior toward the opposite sex.

If you condemn the things that Donald Trump says out of one side of your mouth, but say something similar out of the other side of your mouth, then you are a hypocrite. If you are giving yourself over to lust, thinking about women as sexual objects, then it may as well be you who is speaking on that video. The reason that people will say, “All men talk like that,” is that many men do talk and think like that. If you count yourself among their number, then you need to assess your behavior. Examine yourself. Do not be that which you are so fiercely condemning. God will judge the secret lives of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).

Recommended Reading:
How Our View of Sex Creates An Abortion Culture
An Atheist E-mailed Me To Ask About The Christian View of Sex. Here Is My Response.

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Is The Ability To Vote For A Ruler Truly A Virtue?

vote-1As of this writing, it is currently an election year. With an election year comes much rhetoric, including slogans such as, “Don’t waste your vote!” or “Not voting is a vote for (insert the candidate that you do not want).” They will tell us that if you waste your vote, then you have no right to complain about the policies that follow. All of this flows from the fact that one of the central virtues that is ingrained into the American mindset is the ability to vote for candidates who are running for political office. Whether you want to be a judge, the Major of a small town or of New York City, the Governor or even the President of the United States, you need to convince the people that you are qualified to do the job. Many of us just take it as a given that the practice of voting for officials is an inherent virtue. But is that the case? Is the ability to vote for a ruler truly a virtue?

vote-2There are a few reasons that many people feel that it is. People feel that they have the right to vote for rulers. They feel that voting gives them a voice, that the will of the people is being done. They feel as though they are standing as a bulwark against the big government who might impose unsavory policies and restrictions on their freedom. Many feel that voting is an expression of their freedom. Americans often have a romantic perspective of the foundation of our nation, to which voting was ingrained into the core. In this article, I will outline why I think that this perspective has a few challenges. Notice, though, that I am not advocating for some drastic alternative. I am not saying that what we need is a benevolent dictator. I might even vote this year. I am suggesting that the process of voting is subject to reflection, and I have some thoughts that might be worth sharing and considering.

A Successful Brander Can Become A Ruler

What would make a successful ruler? What attributes does a ruler need to possess to keep the peace of the nation, to cooperate with other nations, to contribute to the flourishing of mankind and to go down in history and a greater leader, beloved by all, his or her memory cherished by all? One would think that he would need to be devoted to the concept of servanthood, to regard himself as serving his nation as a ruler, akin to how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He would need an intricate understanding of world affairs, domestic issues, the economy, the military, when to use force, to take the counsel of wise men and women, and he would need to be a person of principle and values. But when the people can vote for their rulers, the ruler does not need to possess all or any one of these attributes. He only needs to convince people that he possesses these attributes.

In fact, the only attribute that a person needs to possess to become a ruler is the ability to sway the masses. He would need to be a master brander, to convince people that he possesses the attributes ideal for ruling. The ability to run a successful political campaign is a far cry from the ability to rule a nation. Yet it seems that this is the only attribute that one needs to possess to become a ruler when the people decide their leaders. This is perhaps no more evident than the presidential campaign of the 2016 Republican nominee Donald Trump. Despite lacking the majority of the attributes listed above, he was able to defeat over a dozen qualified candidates and become the nominee. In a stroke of irony, this life-long liberal stands as the only alternative to another liberal President.

How was he able to do that? He is brander. He knows how to sell himself. Of course, this article is not about Donald Trump. I am not saying that you should join the ever-fading #NeverTrump movement. I am using him as a prime example of one of the detriments of the election process. Sometimes a brander can become a ruler. The only attribute that is required is the ability to sell yourself. Even if you disagree with my brief assessment of Donald Trump, the point that I am making seems to stand.

The People Do Not Know How To Assess The Issues

(I will now abandon the controversial example found in Donald Trump and the contemporary election season, and proceed as more of an abstract thought experiment. However, you may find that there are directly overlapping themes in the points that I make and his and other campaigns.)

How could a master brander persuade the people that he or she has intricate knowledge of the issues at hand? Think for a moment of a motor vehicle. If you are not trained in the intricacies of an engine, the mechanic could charge you more money than he needs to, and you would be none the wiser. In fact, that is a common tactic. Many people search for awhile to find a mechanic of high moral repute, who will not lie and will not try to scam people out of their money. If you do not know anything about an engine, a trained mechanic could just say something and you would not know the difference. A dishonest mechanic may tell you that your transmission needs to be replaced, while the honest one will tell you that there is a frayed external wire. The former will cost you thousands of dollars while the latter will cost under $100. The same sort of scam can be run with complex political issues.

One of the problems is very poor research methods. People tend to think that they understand an issue because they have heard somebody recite a one-liner. They saw a meme on the Internet and the issue is resolved in their mind. A politician can oversimplify an issue by providing a soundbite for the people to cling to, and that method generally prevails. The people do not know anything about foreign affairs. They do not know much beyond that soundbite. If somebody is campaigning, how will the people know the difference between a brander using a soundbite and an informed, experienced politician, possessing intellectual curiosity about the relevant issues? It can be difficult to avoid the conclusion that most people who are casting their vote do not know the difference. In voting for rulers, the people are trying to find somebody who possesses the attributes that are necessary. But the people are not competent enough to assess the issues and cast a vote. They are more likely to be taken in by a soundbite.

The People Are Not Concerned Enough With The Welfare of The Nation

When assessing potential policies, people will generally ask the question, “How will this affect my life?” While that is certainly a worthy consideration, that consideration is often over-extended. A policy may cause an inconvenience to the people, but generally would be good for the overall health and future prosperity of the nation. Think, for example, of abortion. It devalues human beings, drastically and radically compromising the proposition that we are made in the image of God, that human beings have rights, and truly reduces us to animals that can be killed if the circumstances are correct. Yet people stand opposed to any policies that would overturn abortion because it would inconvenience them. Abortion is one of the great evils of our time, yet the people are in favor of it for selfish reasons. Similarly, the people will oppose a policy that does not allow welfare benefits for adults capable of working into the indefinite future. They might oppose a healthcare system because the immediate costs would rise. Now, these are not the only reasons that people oppose or support these policies, but they are definitely prevalent.

So, not only are the people not competent enough to assess the relevant political issues, but they are also too self-centered to assess the political issues. They are not asking whether something will have a positive impact on the future prosperity of the nation. They ask if a policy will cause them an inconvenience. But the point of voting for rulers is to elect somebody who will hoist the nation into greater prosperity in future generations. If the people are not accomplishing that and are not willing to accomplish that, then it seems that they are too selfish to be able to cast a vote.

Voting Does Not Necessarily Guard Against Corruption

One may be inclined to point out that by allowing the people to vote, we will guard against corruption in the government. The government does not have the freedom to just take control, for some nefarious ruler to rise to the top, refusing to cede power. There is a sense in which that is true and another in which that is not. An election process may guard against some attempts of corruption, but it certainly does not guard against corruption. This point can be easily proven by answering one question. Are there any corrupt individuals who have been elected to a seat of governmental power? Most people will say, “Yes, there are.” With that being the case, we recognize that the vote of the people will not guard against corruption.

But why is that? Is it because there are so many evil people in the world and they are actively trying to spread evil? Certainly not. Most people think that they are doing a good thing, that the corrupt ruler is not corrupt. They think that they will bring positive change into the world. Again, an unqualified or even a corrupt individual can achieve political office through branding. When a nation has an election process, rising to political power will have different (not necessarily more or less) complications, but it is still achievable. You might say, “But the people can assess the history and merit of the individual and discern whether he or she is corrupt.” Is that the case? Think of a politician with a corrupt past who has won over a majority of voters. A rhetorician can downplay the significance of their past mistakes or lie about them.

Money Is Central To An Election Process

We have probably never heard of the people who have had the most potential to be great world leaders. Somebody could be an ideal candidate but be unable to convince the American people of that. They were unable to brand themselves for a number of different reasons. Perhaps one of the most powerful reasons is that they do not have the funding to run a political campaign. If a politician wants to spread their message, focus on their attributes, show the people who they are, then they will need to have support from well-funded organizations. But if the organizations do not like their message or find something unsavory, then the organizations may pull support. There is a sense in which they will be subjected to the will of donors. In 2016, one might suggest, “Ah, that is why we need very rich people to run for office.” That means that the people who can run for political office without the demerit that I mentioned are those who are very rich. Only the powerful can be elevated to those heights.

Why do I bring this up? Well, many might suggest that we will voting is a virtue because it allows us to vote for who is qualified without any other considerations. That is far from the case. For you to vote for somebody, you have to know who they are. For you to know who they are, they need to make speeches, pay advertisers, hire campaign managers, and have a staff of employees. All of this requires a lot of money, often millions of dollars. Often, qualified candidates will win one or two of the first states in the primary election and collapse shortly after as they the run low on funds. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that the people are deciding the election. The rich are deciding the election, either by running themselves or funding those who they would like to run.

What Is The Solution? Should I Vote Or Not?

I do not want people to misunderstand me. I am not advocating for a benevolent dictator. I just do not want people to have a rosy view of voting as if there are no other considerations. Americans tend to hold firmly to American values as though the Constitution were divinely inspired. It is very easy for us to be conned. A wicked ruler could rise to power with the consent of the people by running a successful campaign, pretending that he or she is not a wicked ruler. We ought not think that just because we are voting, that we are not doing the will of the rich and the powerful. There are two wills at work when a person is being conned. The man who hands his money over to a conman does so freely, thinking that he is making a wise investment. The same can be said of voting.

Yet in the United States, we find ourselves within this system of government, with an election process that we need to work with. What is our duty as citizens? We certainly do not have a duty to vote. Voting for one wicked ruler because he or she is not as wicked as the other is still voting for a wicked ruler. There are a few lines of advice that I will provide before concluding.

1 – Make their values central.
2 – Do research. Read books. Understand the issues. Understand the rebuttals to your favorite one-liner. Do not allow yourself to be conned.
3 – Assess what it means to be a ruler. What attributes does a ruler need to possess?
4 – Do not allow yourself to be blindly devoted to one candidate.

Recommended Reading:
Should Christians Endorse Freedom of Speech?
Does God Expect Christians To Vote? From GotQuestions.Org (Opposing Perspective)
Why My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal

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If Atheism Were True, Would Suicide Be A Vice?

Inspired by this excellent book. Strongly recommend.
Article inspired by this excellent book. Strongly recommend.
When we say that something is a “matter of life and death,” we mean to say that it is something that we need to take very seriously. If we gloss over it, somebody may die, and we may be complicit in their death because we could have taken some action to prevent it. Generally, we recognize that if we can save a life, then we have done something good. If a man is dangling from the edge of a cliff, looking down, desperately trying to climb back up, then to stretch out our hand is to do something good. Similarly, if we convince a suicidal person that they should continue living, then we have done something good for humanity and for that individual. This is generally derived from the Christian ethic that all life is precious. As Marvin Perry and co. pointed out on page 191 of their secular textbook Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, western culture has imbibed from Christian theology and tradition that doctrine of the sanctity of life. But suppose for a moment that atheism were true. If atheism were true, would suicide be a vice?

Notice that in this article, I am not arguing that atheists should commit suicide. Far from it. Just as when I argue that if God does not exist, the universe does not exist, I am not saying that in fact, the universe does not exist. I am saying that atheism is an inconsistent philosophy, because it is predicated upon the presupposition that the universe exists. In this article, I am pointing out that if atheism were true, then suicide would not be a vice. It is about an inconsistency in their philosophy rather than an urging to commit suicide.

The Sanctity of Life

First, I need to begin by pointing out why we recognize that suicide is a vice. As I indicated in my opening paragraph, we believe that it is a vice because we have imbibed the Christian ethic of the sanctity of life. We believe that human beings are made in the image of God. Accordingly, they deserve respect and honor. People have value, are not means to achieve some ends, but are ends in and of themselves. Christianity maintains that we should esteem ourselves less than we esteem others (Philippians 2:13), and that we should sacrifice our pride and position for the sake of another person. We are special creations of God, distinct from the animal kingdom. Consequently, human life is something that is precious. To take a human life is a sin. For a person to take their own life is a sin.

However, if atheism were true, then much, if not all, of what I said in the above paragraph would have to be false. Human beings arose as a product of a long chain of accidents. They are the product of time and chance, and ultimately, their lives have no value (even their most precious pursuits will end in nothing at the heat death of the universe). We are bags of protoplasm. Yet, even most atheists admit that we need to cooperate in society with another, and will suggest that we need to be charitable and kind to each other. That is how a society functions. But even with that being the case, that still does not provide a guard against suicide. If human beings have no intrinsic value (value in and of themselves rather than perceived value that others give them), then what good reasons are there to think that suicide would be a vice? It seems that by adopting atheism, one uproots the doctrine of the sanctity of life at a fundamental level and the mentality of the suicidal man prevails.

Why Not Commit Suicide?

Let us suppose for a moment that an atheist was having a conversation with a suicidal man that he just met. They were talking about life, about how silly Christians were, about how he has brought up the Flying Spaghetti Monster and had started wailing “Who created God?” just before claiming victory. Then one of the men confessed to the other that he just does not see a point in continuing to live. He hopes that he has the courage to commit suicide. Filled with dread, the other atheist tells the suicidal man that he should not do that. He wants to convince him to continue to live. Scouring his mind for a few reasons, he says something like, “What about the people you will leave behind?” The man replies, “I have no children. My wife has passed away. I live alone.” The atheist follows up, “What about the good things you can do for humanity?” The suicidal man nods his head in dismay and says, “It just feels pointless. Besides, I am too old to be any good. And to be quite honest, I do not really want to do that. All I want is to die.” What does that atheist have to say? It seems to me that the silence is deafening. If atheism were true, there really would be no reason for them to abstain from suicide.

This seems to stand in utter contrast with the Christian ethic of the value of human beings. People should not commit suicide because they have intrinsic value and because God commands men everywhere to repent of their sins and believe the gospel. You will notice that the atheist attempted to raise the question of value when he spoke of the people that he would be leaving behind. But his worldview does not permit him to exceed the boundaries of extrinsic value (value that is based on perception, the value that others give him). If there is nobody who values him, then on atheism, he would be truly valueless. Even if there is somebody who values him, his value would be dispensable, much like the value of cash (it is just paper). It seems that within the confines of an atheistic worldview, the question presses hard upon us: why not commit suicide? There are just no reasons to think that it is a vice on atheism.

No Benefit To Society

You will remember that as I briefly expressed typical atheist ethics and the incentive that they have for cooperating and behaving in an acceptable manner, I pointed out that this was typically what atheists will say to the suicidal man. He should not commit suicide because he can be a benefit to society. But there are two problems with this line of reasoning. First, perhaps he would not want to be a benefit to society. Perhaps he does not care about society. Perhaps he is angry at the world and does not want to give it anything. There is just nothing that an atheist could say to such a person. On the other hand, the Christian recognizes that the gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16), that God will make the suicidal man a new creature (1 Corinthians 5:17), that God promises eternal life to those who put their trust in the Son (John 3:16).

The second problem with the “benefit to society” argument was pointed out by David Hume in his essay on suicide, published posthumously in 1777. He suggested that suicide could itself be a benefit to society. There are some people, such as the hypothetical suicidal man that I mentioned above, who either do not want to contribute or cannot contribute. These people are depleting resources. Hume argued that in some cases, suicide is a virtue rather than a rather a vice. The problem with the argument that an individual can be a benefit to society and therefore should not commit suicide is that it cannot be applied universally. For those to whom it cannot be applied, the atheist (such as David Hume), if they follow their philosophy to its’ logical conclusion, would have to say that suicide was a necessary duty. Why stay alive if you are nothing more than a drain on society, after all? This is what atheism entails.

What About Individual Liberty?

In contemporary society, there is a lot of focus on individual liberty. People believe that they should be permitted to do anything that they would like, so long as they do not violate the individual liberties of another person. Questions of ethics are met with disdain, accusations of judgment, and emotional railing. People believe that they should be able to have sex without consequences, marry somebody when the Bible expressly forbids it, and devote themselves entirely to sin. If it is their chosen lifestyle, then they believe that they should be free to do it. It is a right. It would seem that this ethical outlook easily extends to the so-called right to suicide. After all, it is my body. If I am not hurting somebody else, why should I not be able to commit suicide? This is what happens when you develop ethics without the doctrine of the image of God and the sanctity of human life. Developing a system of ethics within the imago dei is like making a sandwich with no bread.

I should point out that this idea of the right to suicide is not something that I have invented to make a strong point. It is a prevalent concept among academic atheists, expressed further as the concept of individual liberty has been hyper-extended. In 1732, Alberto Radicatti published a book titled Philosophical Dissertation upon Death in which he argued that human beings truly do have the right to suicide. If life no longer yields pleasure, then they should be able to assess their circumstances and determine whether suicide is the best course of action. 250 years later, the right to suicide was championed in the Humanist Manifesto II, signed by several esteemed atheist thinkers, such as Francis Crick, Julian Huxley, BF Skinner, Isaac Asimov, and many more.

Is Murder A Vice Or A Virtue?

In an attempt to lighten the implications of the concept, some have referred to it as “involuntary euthanasia.” Think for a moment about what allowing suicide would have to logically entail. You have stripped humanity of the imago dei. People only have value insofar as they benefit society. If they want to die, they should be able to. What would logically prevent you from saying that it is acceptable to murder people if they are no longer a benefit to society? Suppose they want to live, but they are draining resources without contributing anything. What good reasons are there to allow them to continue to live? Is it only their own, personal desires? But if the benefit of society is a greater good, then what good reasons are there to prevent us from murdering people who are a drain on society?

A possible response to this challenge might be to say that it would create a society of fear. People would be afraid that one night, government agents would come to their house and murder them. There are three things that we may say in response to this objection. First, if people believe that they would be murdered for being unproductive, then that would inspire them to be more productive. There could be a system that checks how much they contribute. People will feel secure because the government knows how much they are contributing. The second point that I want to make is that there would be nothing to stop you from killing just one person, because that would not inspire fear into the masses if it were done covertly. Third, notice that this objection is not that “it is wrong to kill people, therefore you ought not.” After all, that comes too dangerously close to the sanctity of life. My point in all of this is that if you follow the pro-suicide philosophy to its’ logical conclusion, there are other places that you could apply it.

But Not All Atheists Think This

I am confident that when you read the comments on Facebook or if you scroll down on this post, you will find many people informing me that not all atheists think that suicide is an acceptable practice. Some even believe, somehow, in objective moral values and duties. That is certainly true. This is not an article about what all atheists believe. It is about what atheism logically entails. I can say, though, that I am confident that many atheists reading this will have agreed with many of the major points that I have raised. Many of the pro-choice ethics could be applied to suicide, so I would not be surprised at all to find that this position has gained popularity. In fact, roughly half of the American population approved of doctor-assisted suicide in 2013.

This is just what happens when you attempt to develop a system of ethics without the doctrine of the image of God. When you forget that human beings truly do have value, then it becomes acceptable to take a life. A “life and death issue” is not something so severe. The idiom is a linguistic leftover from a culture that believed in the Judeo-Christian principle that human beings are made in God’s image, and nothing more. It is akin to an atheist saying, “Thank God!” when something happens. If we were going to use the phrase “life and death issue” and modernize it, it would mean something like, “Ah, so it is your personal choice.” I would ask, “What flavor of ice cream do you want?” to which you would reply, “It’s a life and death issue. I’m not sure. I will have to see the menu.”

Recommended Reading:
My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal
Can Goodness Exist If God Does Not Exist?
Why Does My Life Sometimes Seem So Pointless?
5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Commit Suicide

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How You Might Be Fueling The Flames of Racism

ga3Human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This truth comes without exception or limitation and is the bedrock of our relationships with one another and how we can cooperate and flourish in society. If that truth were compromised, it would be difficult to maintain a rational basis for opposing prejudice, discrimination, devaluing human beings, or the many atrocities throughout history. We oppose race-based discrimination because people of all races are made in the image of God and are our equals. One might even say that there is only one race, the human race. Differences in skin color are akin to differences in eye color. Racism compromises the doctrine of the imago dei by compromising human value. I made this point in my article The Biblical Case Against Racism. However, it seems that many people behave in a way that implicitly enhances racism. Some mean well, and some are actively trying to combat racism, but in doing so, they are fueling the flames. Anybody, even Christians, can be guilty of this. In this article, I will explain how you might be fueling the flames of racism.

Recognize Your Own Personal Prejudices

There is a crucial distinction that needs to be made. A racist is somebody who espouses the doctrine that individuals of a different race are inferior. A racist is confessional and explicit. If somebody has a prejudice, they are not necessarily racist. If you were to ask them, they would tell you that everybody is equal. But if somebody has a prejudice, it can cause them to think and even behave in ways that are racist without even knowing it. An individual who possesses a prejudice might be more suspicious of those of a different ethnicity. They may watch them closely, worrying that they might steal something or do something nefarious. If you see somebody who is of Middle Eastern descent, you will think “possibly a terrorist” or some other negative stereotype about racial groups. However, if I were to ask you, “Do you think that this individual is possibly a terrorist?” You would say, “No.” It is a prejudice in the back of your mind that causes you to act or think in particular way, but not an explicit belief.

But that is not to say that it is not harmful. If you have a prejudice, and you are not aware of it, then you are going to act on it and behave in a certain way. People see that. If every time you see a person of African descent, you protect your wallet or look at them suspiciously, they are going to think that you regard all black people as criminals. People from the Middle East will think that you regard all of them as terrorists. Your prejudices are not merely something lurking in the back of your mind that have no effect on anything. They manifest themselves in a tangible way that people see and respond to. It fuels the flames of racism.

Then the question becomes, how can you combat your own personal prejudices? It does not help to deny it. It does not help to say that you do not have any. Of course, it might be that you do not have any. But it is something that many people struggle with. You need to think of it as though it were any other sinful inclination, such as lust or anger. If you have a prejudice, then you need to strive to overcome it. Do not let yourself give in to temptation. Keep it in the forefront of your mind that everybody is your equal. Remember that you are acting out of prejudice, out of a sinful heart rather than embracing the truth that “We are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Remember also that the Apostle Peter struggled with a prejudice and Paul rebuked him.

Do Not Assume That Others Have Prejudices

This can be a very easy mistake to make. If many people throughout your life really have had a prejudice, then it can be easy to assume that everybody has a prejudice. Every time somebody says something negative to you, you assume that it is related to race. People often think that they are being served an injustice because they are of a particular ethnic group. It may be the case that a few times in your life, that has happened to you. But that does not mean that every time something negative occurs, that you are going suffering from discrimination. Discrimination is real, but it is not universally applied to every circumstance. If a police officer pulls a vehicle over, he may just be conducting a routine car-stop rather than a race-based car stop. Applying assumptions about discrimination does not help anybody.

In fact, it only enhances the racial divide. It creates an “us versus them” mentality. People of different racial groups cannot interact with one another because they are always suspicious of one another. Assuming that one racial group always has a prejudice is just as bad as having a prejudice. It functions in the same way. If an individual always has the words “It’s because I’m black, right?” on their lips, then that will fuel the flames of racism. It degrades interracial relations and makes the divine more obvious and more difficult to overcome. The same could be said of the female who is always assuming that she is suffering from an injustice as a result of her gender.

I recognize that when people say this sort of thing, they are not trying to fuel the flames of racism. They are trying to combat it. They are angry at the real injustice that is in the world. But misdirected anger will only lead to more anger and more racism. It will only make people combative and defensive toward other ethnic groups. It makes minute differences (pigmentation and descent) seem insurmountable. Of course, while some people may be well-meaning, others may be race-baiting. They may be actively trying to start an argument about race, seeking out injustices just so they can lash out about them. While one can be more sympathetic with the former, both of these behaviors are inadvisable. We should strive against them with the same vigilance that we strive against prejudice.

Be Balanced – recognize that black lives matter without supporting the Black Lives Matter group/movement

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of racial injustice is when the life of an individual is taken as a result of a prejudice. This is another reason that it is so important for people to recognize their own prejudices. If you are in a position of authority, if you carry a weapon, if you have the power of life and death, then you need to be assured that you are not acting rashly out of prejudice. If we are going to be true egalitarians, then we need to recognize that black lives matter, and that sometimes, there really are injustices as a result of prejudice. However, there does need to be a balance. While there are injustices, there are also times wherein people will cry foul when there was no injustice.

There is perhaps no better of an example of this than the radical movement/group known as Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is known for race-baiting, for making hasty assumptions, for presupposing that everything that occurs is related to race. They are perhaps one of the greatest propagators of the racist agenda in the United States. This is underlined by the violent riots that occur throughout the country, in cities such as Chicago and Detroit. Police cars are flipped over, the law is disrespected, violence ensues and people cannot feel safe in their communities as a result of the riots of Black Lives Matter. If they were truly motivated by the doctrine that we are all created equal, then they would exercise the right to a peaceful protest, consider the issues rationally, and examine the evidence. If you are committed to improving racial relations, then you should oppose Black Lives Matter while remaining immovably committed to the proposition that black lives matter.

Have Respect For Police Officers

There certainly have been tragic cases in which police officers acted out of their own personal prejudice, gunning down an innocent individual. But that should not be taken as an indictment against the police force. Just as one individual of a particular ethnic group does not stand as the corporate head of that ethnic group, mistaken police officers do not stand as the corporate head for all police officers. In fact, it is that very mentality to which we should be objecting. We do not want people to have a prejudice against everybody who is from the Middle East just because there are a few terrorists. We do not want people to have a prejudice against all black people just because there are a few bad people. We do not want people to have prejudice against Christians just because there are a few hypocrites. There are bad people in every category. There are prejudiced police officers. For somebody to disrespect the police force because there are a few prejudiced police officers is very much akin to disrespecting an ethnic group because there are some bad ones.

It is important to ensure that people have respect for the police force. Communities need to respect law enforcement. This was emphasized even by Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate of 2016. Law enforcement is a necessary function of society. We should not legitimatize the mentality that it is okay to flip off a cop. We cannot have mentors telling young people that it is okay to disrespect the police. This movement and mentality could cause a racial divide that cannot be overcome for generations. People will find themselves in jail sitting beside older men who thought it was cool to disrespect the police. The only difference is that disrespecting the police has become legitimatized by a social movement that is inflaming hatred and racism.

How You Might Be Fueling The Flames of Racism

I recognize that a lot of people who engage in this sort of behavior are not necessarily bad people. They mean well. They are frustrated with social injustice and race-based violence. But sometimes when we do not know the solution to a difficult problem, people are inclined to accept any solution, because they think that any action is better than inaction. But getting together and stewing in anger, starting riots, making assumptions, does not help any cause. Of course, even if you do not do those things, you could still have a prejudice that will inflame racist tendencies. Examine yourself and your motivations. Examine how you behave. Be honest with yourself. If you have a prejudice then you should admit it to yourself so that you may overcome it and recognize when you have those sinful inclinations.

Recommended Reading:
The Biblical Case Against Racism
Does The History of Slavery Prove That Black People Should Not Be Christians?

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The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

From http://becomeablogger.com/
From http://becomeablogger.com/
The printing press revolutionized the way that we transmit texts. There were monasteries full of scribes, diligently copying the text of the New Testament so that word of God would be preserved. Other books were transmitted in the same way. If you want a copy of something, somebody would have to sit down and actually copy the text from somebody else who copied it. Many individuals did not have access to their own copy of the Bible. The printing press changed that. The Internet provided the next revolution in transmitting text. If you want a copy of something, you only need to login to your computer. If you have thoughts to share, if you have insight, then you can start a blog. Throughout this article, I will outline some of the pros and cons of being a Christian blogger.

I should also point out that many of these points are not necessarily unique to being a Christian. Some of the points that I will raise are relevant to anybody who is considering a blog. But as most of the people in my audience are Christians, I am targeting them in this post. Before beginning my assessment, I want to summarize by saying that I believe that having a blog is a good thing. You should start one, even if you are not sure if you are talented or if you will get many readers. In general, the pros outweigh the cons.

The Pros of Being A Christian Blogger

It provides personal, spiritual opportunities.

Many of us are not paid ministers. Christians often work secular jobs, come home, and just get caught in a cycle. If you read books regularly or if you are always learning more about the Bible, you need to have an outlet for your knowledge. I made this point in an article that I wrote titled Why Does My Life Sometimes Seem So Pointless? Christians are not immune to this feeling. While we know that God gives us a real purpose in life, sometimes the cycles of life make everything feel pointless. We feel unproductive, like we are not contributing anything. Having a blog can help you to overcome that feeling, especially considering that the following sections will demonstrate how you really can make a difference as a blogger.

Second, you will have the opportunity to grow spiritually. I have learned a lot doing research for my blogposts and while writing and editing. It causes me to contemplate the things I have learned and to provide my own unique insight. When I am reading a book, I am more careful than I would be if I did not have a blog because I am looking for something that I could share, hone, or critique. Being a blogger can make you more thoughtful and open to correction because you know that you are responsible for what you share with other people. So, in summary, even if you do not have an audience, or if you are unsure about your abilities, you should start a blog anyway because it will help you to grow.

Change The Culture

When somebody leaves the church, they often recall it in a very negative way. They remember people who were mean, small-minded, unwilling to think or listen, who do not understand the long intellectual tradition of Christian theology and philosophy and generally do not represent the height of Christian intellect. This is the caricature of Christianity that is held among many secular individuals. It is usually drawn from their own experiences of the church. After they leave, they assume that all Christians are just as shallow as the church that they left behind. As a blogger, you can help to shape their image.

You might be thinking, “I cannot change the culture. I am just one person, and my blog would only be one.” Well, that is something like thinking, “My vote does not matter. I am just one person.” If everybody thinks that their vote matters, then their vote will matter. If there is a host of Christians who recognize that their voice will be heard, then their voice will, in fact, be heard. If you start a blog and represent the intellectual tradition of Christianity, then you will help to shape the culture. You will be able to show people that not all Christians are mean, stupid, shallow or dim-witted. Show the nuances of Christian theology that many have overlooked. Demonstrate that there really are good answers to difficult questions.

The Opportunity To Reach Individuals

As you are writing, you will find that there are people who are reading your blog. Even if you do not have a thousand or two thousand people per day, you will still be able to reach some. Sometimes it takes awhile to build your audience. When I started this blog in 2011, I rejoiced to have ten views every day (mostly because I was excited that people were going to it). As time passes, you write more and you market your blog, you will see more traffic. But these are more than statistics. They are people who are reading your blog. There are (broadly) two types of people that the Christian blogger hopes to reach.

First, unbelievers, secular individuals, backslidden Christians and those who are not sure what they think will read your blog and they may be moved by it. The gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16) and if you share it, then God could use what you have written. If you answer a difficult question, then God could use what you have written to soften their heart so that they may turn to him in repentance. Second, you will be able to reach other Christians to strengthen their faith. When Christians see that there are good answers to difficult questions, then they will be more bold, less doubtful, and it may even prevent apostasy.

The Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

People Do Not Listen

This is one of the frustrations that I have had as a blogger. If I publish something, many people will skim through it, read the headers, the words in bold, maybe a few words of the first and last paragraph, and leave a comment as if they know what I said. These are very easy to distinguish, as they will typically raise an objection that I rebutted in the article as though I did not raise it. It is fine if people do not read my posts. But if you do not read it, there is not much benefit in trying to rebut what I have written. This frustration has been shared by many bloggers.

Even worse, though, many people will only read the title of the post and just respond to that. If I were to title a blogpost something like, “Should Abortion Be Legal?” and then provide a thorough treatise about why I think that abortion is absolutely evil and should be regarded as homicide under the law, people will respond as though I were advocating for abortion. They will read the title, make an assumption, and then respond. When I call them out on it, they will usually not say anything else. Ask any blogger about this. This is one of the main frustrations that we have. People just do not listen.

It Can Become An Excuse For Not Being Evangelistic

If you are a Christian blogger, then the gospel should be central to everything that you write. If you are answering a question about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the gospel should be central. That is not to say that you have to find some way to tie the gospel into every single post that you write. But that should be the purpose of your blog. However, with that being the case, it can become easy for us to make excuses. We think that in writing these posts, we are fulfilling the Great Commission. That is a mistake.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), he told his disciples to go and make more disciples, face to face. That is how the gospel is shared and how you reach people. No matter how much I write or how big of a fan of mine somebody is, it will never be as potent as if I knew them in person. Second, there are other aspects the Great Commission that we just cannot complete with a blog. I can share the gospel, but I cannot disciple somebody. I can share principles about discipleship, but I do not know them as individuals or their personal struggles. I also cannot baptize them. If you have a blog, do not overestimate the value of it. It is not a fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is something good, but it is not that.

Everything Has Been Said Before

If you conduct a Google search of the topic about which you are writing, you are likely to find some other articles on that very topic. People have said it before. If you are writing about the Kalam Cosmological Argument, then you are probably going to begin with, “Everything that beings to exist has a cause…” How original. That is not to say that you need to improve upon it. But it is to say that much of your content is not going to be unique. It really depends on what you are writing. If you focus a lot on apologetics, then you are going to produce something that many others have said. That is why this blog focuses on both apologetics and theology. With that though, we still have the same problem.

You can begin to overcome it when you get into the nuances of apologetics and theology. When you investigate the arguments and the counter-arguments and address them in your post, then you will provide something that everybody else is not saying. There are more than enough “Does God Exist?” posts on the Internet. But that does not mean that you cannot write about it. If you want to publish a surface-level article to begin with, then you should do that. But as your blog progresses, know that you will need to traverse that barrier. Go beyond the surface. Write about the objection, the nuances, and the different ways that the argument has been treated.

Changing Your Position Is Not Always Easy

When I started this blog, I was an Arminian by default. I did not really know much about Calvinism. But somebody presented it to me and I said something like, “That’s not correct.” Now, I am a Calvinist. Prior to my becoming a Calvinist, I had a few arguments for Arminian tenants on my blog. Since I was (and remain) a fan of William Lane Craig, I was also a Molinist. It was more difficult for me to become a Calvinist and a determinist precisely because I was publicly a Molinist and an Arminian. If you have a blog, you have a reputation, a brand, and you cannot just shift between different positions, as though you were being thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine that passes your way.

Think of it like this. If Richard Dawkins were to ever consider becoming a Christian, he would have a significant challenge to overcome. He has spent much of his public career criticizing religion. He wrote a New York Times Best Seller criticizing religion. If he were to become a Christian, he would have to say that he was wrong about almost everything that he has ever said. That is more difficult for people who have an audience. That applies even when you have a small audience. Now, that does not mean that it cannot be done. I wrote a blogpost repudiating my posts about Molinism (letting those older posts stand for research purposes). But it does mean that you have to be more careful. It is not just a matter of how you arrange things in your own mind. It is a matter of what you are teaching people, how you have branded yourself, and whether you want the body of Christ (and secular folks) to think that you are being thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

As I said in the beginning, I think that the pros provide enough incentive for you to become a blogger. There are a lot of considerations, and probably more pros and cons that I did not list here, but this is enough to get you started. I recommend becoming a blogger. The only caveat is the issue of maturity. Some people, especially cage stage Calvinists, should not be bloggers (if you are not sure if you are one, see my post How To Tell If You Are A Cage Stage Calvinist) because they cannot conduct themselves properly. But if you are not hostile or mean-spirited, and you want to share the gospel in charity, to answer difficult questions, to express yourself and what you have learned, then you should be a blogger.

Recommended Reading:
The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Introvert

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How To Tell If You Are A Cage Stage Calvinist

There are times that I am ashamed to refer to myself as a Calvinist. Those who know me may remember that when I initially began to ascribe to the doctrines of grace, I did not even want to use the Calvinist label. I only started using it after I realized how inconvenient it was for me to refuse to use it (as people began calling me a Dortian, after the Synod of Dort). Consequently, I reluctantly began referring to myself as a Calvinist. But, the question is, if I think it is true, why the reluctance? Calvinists have a reputation for poor behavior. They are often regarded as mean-spirited, arrogant, accusing, and generally unpleasant. Many recognize that this perception emanates from a loud minority among what we call cage stage Calvinists. In this article, I will provide a few tips about how to tell if you are a cage stage Calvinist.

maninacageFirst, how does one become a cage stage Calvinist, and why does that category even exist? I think that it could exist for a few different reasons. Many Calvinists are not born into the Reformed tradition. They were raised as Arminians and converted when they were presented with the doctrines of grace. Perhaps they were converted when they became Calvinists. Since their faith prior to Calvinism was shallow, carnal, uncritical, not concerned with scriptural authority, et cetera, they assume that everyone else is like that as well. Beyond that, people tend to became arrogant when they feel as though they have found the truth that so many others have missed. These and other factors lead them to behave poorly and exhibit the traits that I listed above. But it can be difficult to discern if you are in the cage stage. So, how can you tell if you are a cage stage Calvinist?

Your ‘Hard Truth’ Is Indistinguishable From Hostility

ccqukdduuae_tqnThere are times when, as Christians, we really do have hard truths to tell, and people do not want to hear it. It is our duty to ensure that we are not compromising the truth just to appeal to people. If we do that, then we will preach something less than the gospel. People may not want to hear that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. They may not want to hear that God’s wrath abides on the unrighteous. They may not even want to hear that they are sinners. But we still need to be able to tell the hard truth. A cage stage Calvinist will seize upon the concept of a hard truth and justify their behavior based on that concept.

If somebody is guilty of that, then you will find that their hard truths are always indistinguishable from hostility, a lack of charity and a lack of grace. Anybody can say something mean-spirited and then attempt to justify themselves by saying that they are just telling hard truths. I could tell somebody whose loved one died in their sins, “They are in Hell today, burning. Good riddance, that such a sinner has left the earth.” This would be a very mean thing to say. But, when they objected, I could say, “I am just telling you the hard truth.” If your hard truth is indistinguishable from hostility and a lack of love, then you are probably a cage stage Calvinist. Examine yourself.

You Always Have A Hard Truth To Tell

Sometimes there is not a hard truth, and sometimes we do not even need to tell the hard truth. You would not necessarily have to tell somebody that their deceased spouse is in Hell. Similarly, you do not always have to get into arguments. You do not always have to tell people when they are wrong or when their doctrine is in error, especially if they are Arminians and they just say something about free will. You do not always have to engage or tell the “hard truth.” Sometimes it is better to hold back. There can be wisdom in silence (Proverbs 17:27).

But a cage stage Calvinist will always have some hard truth to tell. Christians who are more mature recognize that they do not have to be so aggressive, so defensive, always pounding tables, telling people that they are compromisers or heretics, always telling the hard truth. The hard truth does not always emerge, and it is not always wise to relay it. If you always have a hard truth on your lips, then you are probably a cage stage Calvinist. Take it easy, man.

You Compare Yourself To Jesus Christ To Justify Your Hostility

To be a Christian means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We are disciples of Jesus. Some have said that it is almost like we are little versions of Jesus going out into the world, interacting with people. But sometimes Christians do not really have a proper image of Jesus. We imagine that he was a soft-spoken man, never raised his voice, had hearts in his eyes and never condemned anybody. If that is your image of Jesus, then it must be quite shocking when you find him saying, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). This (and the other verses like it) are seized upon by cage stage Calvinists in an attempt to justify their sin.

What is the difference? How can we distinguish between what Jesus said and the behavior of a cage stage Calvinist? Well, Jesus was the Son of God and we know that his actions emanated from a pure heart. He was telling a hard truth because it was necessary to tell a hard truth and it was the right thing to do. But that does not justify any instance in which somebody is hostile with another individual. Unlike the Messiah, we are sinful creatures, burdened with arrogance, pride, anger, and hatred. Before we go around shouting hard truths, we need to discern our motives. If you come off as being hateful, do not be surprised if people think that your motives are born out of a hateful heart rather than out of pure intentions.

Of course, there will be times when people think that somebody with pure intentions has a hateful heart. I am not saying that we should use other people to measure ourselves. But to use the fact that Jesus delivered hard truths and was not exactly polite about it as a blanket justification for our lack of grace is unwise. We know that Jesus had pure motives. We do not know if you have pure motives. We know that Jesus was telling the truth. We do not know if you are telling the truth. Examine yourself.

You Are Not Under The Authority of The Elders And The Church

In the last section, I mentioned that we should not use the judgment of other people to measure ourselves. While that is true in the sense in which I was speaking, there is another sense in which we should the judgment of others to measure ourselves. Christians are not lone wolves. There are people who are far wiser than we are. There are people who have been Christians for decades, who have gone through many of the struggles with a prideful and angry heart and have been sanctified by the grace of Christ. These are those to whom we should appeal. That is why a church has elders. Christians should be subject to the elders.

This is not just a good piece of advice. It is a command. Peter said in 1 Peter 5:5, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Tell the elders how you are behaving in person and even on the Internet. Tell them what you are doing, the things that you are saying, and how people are responding. Tell them that you are always telling the hard truth. If you think that you are doing the right thing, then why should you keep your interactions a secret? If you are not under the authority of the elders or if you are not a member of a Christian church, and you have become furious at this blogpost, then you are in danger of being a cage stage Calvinist.

You Do Not Know The Difference Between Inconsistency And Heresy

Image from http://adam4d.com/cage-stage/
Image from http://adam4d.com/cage-stage/
To call somebody a heretic is a heavy charge. It is to say that they are not true Christians because they do not believe one of the immovable tenants of Christianity. If you remove the doctrine of the trinity from Christianity, then you have something less than Christianity. If you remove the resurrection, then our faith is in vain. Such people are in their sins. To call somebody a heretic is to say that they are akin to those who deny the trinity, that they have not believed the gospel and that if they died today, they would be under the wrath of God. But a cage stage Calvinist will use this heavy indictment rather flippantly, carelessly, as though it were an insult.

Typically, it emerges from failing to understand the difference between inconsistency and heresy. A particular view could logically entail heresy if it were followed to its’ conclusion. But, fortunately, adherents to that view do not always follow it to its’ logical conclusion. For example (I am intentionally choosing one related to Calvinism), one might argue that the Arminian view of the atonement logically entails universalism. One might argue that an Arminian anthropology logically entails Pelagianism. But to say that a view logically entails heresy does not make the adherent of the view a heretic. Somebody is a heretic only by confession. If somebody confesses Pelagianism, then they are a heretic. If you have not grasped this crucial distinction, then you might just be a cage stage Calvinist. If you regard Arminians as anathema, then you might just be a cage stage Calvinist.

You Became Furious While Reading This Blogpost

cf2ypzww8aafl9kCage stage Calvinists are guilty of giving Calvinism a very bad reputation. People are not even willing to give us a hearing because so many demonstrate such poor behavior. Calvinists are seen as unloving, unkind and unwilling to examine themselves or recognize their error. No fruitful discussion could ensue with such a person and it is very likely that Arminians would become more combative toward Calvinism than they would otherwise. Many Calvinists recognize this problem as well. Calvinists have become frustrated with the behavior of cage stagers. Those Calvinists will say “Amen!” to a blogpost such as this one.

However, a cage stage Calvinist will become furious while reading this blogpost. They will attempt to justify themselves and their behavior. They will say that there is really nothing wrong with being hostile with Arminians or with heretics and that I need to learn to tell the hard truth. Well, I am telling the hard truth, right now. If you are hostile, arrogant, and angry, if you cannot interact with civility and charity even with those with whom you disagree, grow up or stay silent. You are not helping anyone, not promoting the cause of Christ, and creating unnecessary barriers to the gospel. Either get in a cage, stop talking to people, or learn to conduct yourself.

Recommended Reading:
The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert Martin
7 Ways To Tell If An Atheist Is Not Worth Your Time by Richard Bushey (some similar concepts)

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Reflections On NT Wright’s View of Justification

31t1kwmdhzl-_sx333_bo1204203200_Dr. NT Wright is an eminent British theologian and historian, widely renowned for his work on the resurrection of Jesus. Wright has completed a massive volume titled The Resurrection of The Son of God in which he defends the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While Dr. Wright may convoke the applause of evangelicals for this work, there is another area of scholarship that many of us do not find very appealing. Wright has been a critic of the classical Protestant view of justification, suggesting that we have misunderstood what Paul was saying because we have overlooked his main themes. Throughout my reflections on NT Wright’s view of Justification, I will provide a bit of engagement while representing his position as delineated in his book Justification as accurately as I can.

However, I should also note that this is not meant to be a full refutation or “The Case Against Tom Wright.” Dr. Wright is one of the most esteemed New Testament scholars in the world today. For me to think that I could provide a full refutation in a blogpost would be nothing short of delusion of grandeur. Besides that, there is a lot in his book that I agree with. I can say that I, and most Reformed Christians, could probably agree with 70% of what he said. So what are my agreements and disagreements?

Wright’s Use of Terminology

The book Justification was meant to serve as a response to Dr. John Piper, who has been a critic of Wright’s. On page 10, Dr. Wright summarized Piper’s (the Reformed/Protestant) position that justification comes by faith alone. Then he added the commentary, “Absolutely. I agree. There is not a syllable with which I would disagree.” This implies that he would not object even to the use of the word “alone” as many dissidents to Protestant theology do. Wright often declares that he agrees with what the Protestant is saying, but does not think that the standard texts actually support what is being said. In his debate with Dr. James White on Unbelievable, he said something like, “Paul would agree with what you are saying. But he was not saying it there.”

If that is Dr. Wright’s position, then why should I even bother writing a response? He believes the same thing as classical Protestants, but just thinks that passages like Romans 4 do not establish it. So why bother addressing it? While Dr. Wright may say that he believes in justification by faith alone, he really means something different. He can say that he affirms every syllable of that statement, but he does not affirm what Dr. Piper is attempting to relay. I find his use of terminology is be a bit unhelpful. It muddies the water and makes him more difficult to understand (despite all of his effort to be as clear as possible). As an indicator that he is going to take back what he said, he added on page 10 that the Holy Spirit is left out of this formula. That initially tipped me off that he probably does not mean what everyone else means when he says “justification by faith alone” and that inkling was vindicated as I continued reading.

What Is His View of Justification?

So, what may we say in summary of Dr. Wright’s view of justification? If it is not really by faith alone, then what is it? What does he replace justification by faith alone with? Many Reformed thinkers have accused Dr. Wright of replacing soteriology (the study of salvation) with ecclesiology (the study of the church) because his soteriological is essential ecclesiological. Salvation occurs when one becomes a member of the covenant family of God. It is not about the individual coming into a relationship with God. It is about God’s covenantal faithfulness and our entering into it. God made a promise to Abraham and he is faithful to that promise, and we are the fulfillment of it.

Reformed Christians will not find a lot to disagree with here. That is part of what it means to be adopted into God’s family. It is part of the picture, but it is not the entire picture. There is still the issue of our sin, and that is what we really want to talk about. Since God is righteous, he has to deal with sin. That is why Christians believe in imputation and justification by faith alone. So, how does God deal with sin, on Dr. Wright’s model?

I was disappointed to find that Dr. Wright’s so-called New View of Justification is really a model of justification by faithful obedience, or, by works. But it is wrapped in a heavy emphasis on the covenantal element. It is almost as if to say that if you accept his view of the covenant, you are forced to accept his view of how we acquire righteousness, as if they are a package. (Although I should admit that Wright says that he prefers Calvinism to Lutheranism for its’ emphasis on the covenant.) The central prooftext that he appealed to was Romans chapter 2.

Romans 2:1-16

As I alluded to earlier, Dr. Wright spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation and how it is often left out of Reformed thinking. He hinted to that theme a few more times in the following chapters, asking something like, “How can we resolve Paul’s insistence that there will be a judgment according to our works?” In his chapter on the book of Romans, Dr. Wright treats Romans 2:1-16. He pointed out that the “first mention of justification in the letter states openly and cheerfully that it is the ‘doers of the law who will be justified’ (Romans 2:13).”

Now, one might say, “But perhaps Dr. Wright means the same thing that we do. Perhaps he is referring to something like Lordship Salvation.” That is surely not the case. On page 184, he writes that justification by “works of the Law” is typically regarded as “anathema.” His response? He did not write Romans 2. Paul did. Dr. Wright has in mind the specific nuance that Reformed thinkers regard as anathema. There will be a final judgment of believers that is according to works, and if you lived in faithful obedience to the covenant, you will be given eternal life.

What may we say about Romans 2:13? Well, there are two things that we may say in response (which did not go untouched by Wright). First, it may be said that Paul was setting up a category that he knows that nobody could meet only to present the gospel of grace. Dr. Wright refers to this maneuver as a “mirage,” a “desperate exegesis,” and concludes that we are regarding it as “not a particularly serious part of the book.” But I do not see any reason to think that. Only when people know that they are sick will ask for the cure. This seems to gain support from verses 17:24, in which Paul goes on to ask hypothetical question, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal?” He is helping the audience to recognize that everybody falls short.

What about the second objection to Dr. Wright’s interpretation? This is perhaps one that is more crucial. To say that the “doers of the Law will be justified,” is not to say that their doing the Law is the mechanism that will justify them. It is point out a correlation, not a causation. That seems to be a category error. As Protestants, we believe that justification comes by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone. The doers of the Law will be justified precisely because those who are justified by faith alone will do that Law.

Other Texts About The Guidance of The Spirit

After his treatment of Romans 2, Dr. Wright moves on to other passages that suggest that we can be pleasing to God. He refers to passages such as Romans 12:1, or when Jesus says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He is attempting to connect this to the final judgment. If we have done good works, if he have served him faithfully, then we will “bring a smile to the Father’s face” (page 187) and be pleasing to God. This is what Dr. Wright meant on page 10 when he said that the Holy Spirit was missing from the equation of Protestant soteriology.

However, again, the treatment of these passages seems to ignore the careful and critical nuances of Protestant theology. After all, there is a sense in which we believe that we are pleasing to God. But what is the basis and the foundation for our pleasing God? It is the imputed righteousness of the Son of God. It is the fact that God has made us new creatures, and now the Holy Spirit is working through us and in us. The Holy Spirit is not missing from our soteriology. He just has a different role than what Dr. Wright is espousing.

Covenantal Theology – The Basis For Our Exegesis

Dr. Wright has some scathing and yet accurate criticisms of evangelical practice and theology. In evangelism, the question that we often ask is, “How can I be saved? How can I get to Heaven?” Then we will point to passages in the Bible that seem to answer this question. Wright indicts us with asking the wrong question. That is not how we should begin an exegesis. This is one insight with which most Christians should take to heart. Understanding the Jewishness of Paul and his insight is critical to understanding Paul. What was he talking about? Why did he refer to Abraham? Paul was concerned with the covenant that God made with his people and how God will be faithful to that covenant. Salvation is about the restoration of the world, when all things will be made new, and we have the opportunity to enjoy that by entering into the covenant of God.

However, there is a critical point that needs to be made. The fact that Paul was talking about God’s covenant with Israel does not mean that there are not implications for individual salvation. A Protestant Christian could accept covenantal theology and still believe in justification by faith alone on the basis of the common proof-texts. These are not mutually exclusive. Understanding the covenant does not immediately drive you to deny justification by faith alone. It would only lead you to answer a follow-up question, namely, “How can I enter into the covenant?” and I think that the answer is “justification by faith alone.” So my point here is that Dr. Wright has valuable insight regarding the covenant, but I do not think that consideration will overrule our exegesis of central passages such as Romans 4:5.

“To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:5

This text is, as Simon Gathercole pointed out, the smoking gun that seems to establish Paul’s view of justification. It tells us how we can enter into the covenant by appealing to Abraham. Abraham was unrighteous and ungodly, a sinner and an idolater when he entered in the covenant. But it was his faith that was credited as righteousness. What does this mean to Protestants? There are two considerations. [1] Faith is credited as righteousness. [2] The ungodly are those who are justified. This seems to wholly undermine the doctrine of a final justification that is according to our works.

On page 220, Dr. Wright provides some thoughts on Romans 4:5. He writes that the “promise that is given,” was that Abraham would have a family. Paul is harking back to the entire narrative, using a few verses to draw our attention to that passage in Genesis 15. In context, the promise is that Abraham would have a family. Paul did not suddenly stop talking about that and move on to “How can I go to Heaven?” argues Wright. Is that correct? Is Wright right? (To borrow an overwhelmingly clever line from the students of the Twitter user and theology professor, Bible Students Say)

First, I do not think that we can ignore the grammar of what Paul said by harking back to Genesis 15. Paul generalized his statement. He said, “to the one who does not work…” seeming to indicate that he is talking about more than just Abraham. Second, that does not remove the focus from the promise that Abraham received. Abraham having a family is not something so quaint as a 21st century man hoping against hope that he will have children. Those who are in Abraham’s family are members of the covenant. Paul is explaining that God has kept his promises and that we may enter into the covenant by faith.

Is Imputation A Form of Legalism?

Dr. Wright raised several arguments against the doctrine of imputation. Those objections have largely gone unscathed in this blogpost (As they warrant a post of their own. Perhaps in the future I will write more about this topic. For now, you may want to read Dr. Thomas L. Schreiner’s brief blogpost on the topic.) One of the objections that he raised on page 232 is that the doctrine of imputation entail that Jesus must have been the ultimate legalist. Jesus kept the Law in our place and now gives the righteousness that he earned to us. Since we shy away from legalism, we should also shy away from “ultimate legalism.”

But I think that this objection misses the point. The reason that we shy away from legalism is precisely that Christ already kept the Law perfectly and that his righteousness has already been given to us. Legalism would entail that an individual was not trusting in the perfect righteousness of the Son of God that has been imputed to us. They were steering their eyes away from the cross and to their own righteousness. That is the difference. We may accept that Christ was the “ultimate legalist,” but I do not know that this terminology is helpful. What we are trying to express, and what we believe that Paul was expressing is that Christ took our place. Our sins were given to him so that his righteousness could be given to us.

Reflections On NT Wright’s View of Justification

This blogpost was over 2000 words, but still there is much that I did not cover. Dr. Wright mounted a lot of powerful arguments in his 250 page hardcover. Some of them were persuasive and others were not. If you want to understand what he believes, read the book. Let him speak for himself in his own words. He has a lot of helpful insight that can assist us in reading the Bible and thinking about these things. But some of his interpretations do not differ much from what we will commonly find in Roman Catholic circles. Either way, this book warrants careful study.

Recommended Reading:
Is Justification By Faith Or By Faith Alone? by Richard Bushey
Examining The New Perspective On Paul by Phil Johnson
Wright Is Wrong On Imputation by Thomas Schreiner

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