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 conditionns 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 bea 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?



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?



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?



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?



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



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



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?



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.



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



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



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?



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



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)



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



A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Watching NFL Football

revisFootball has become more than just a game for many Americans. It is essential to the atmosphere. When the summer dwindles to a close, cool winds blow and leaves start falling, we will know that NFL football is on the horizon. Holidays and weekends are very much defined by enjoying the games. There are parties replete with food, friends, laughter, shouting, alcohol, and a big screen television to complement your Sunday experience so that you can get the most out of the game. Watching your favorite team develop over the years, acquire new players and strive for excellence has always been one of the highlights of your life. As the new season begins, hopes of the fans of even the worst teams will soar as they think that perhaps this will be the year. With all of that excitement flaring, I would like to humbly point out a few things to keep in mind when watching NFL football.

Before beginning, I recognize that many bloggers will attempt to expand their audience by inflaming emotion, especially anger. Attacking football and telling people that they are wrong for enjoying one of their favorite past times is one way that I could achieve that. But that is not what I am doing. I am not saying that it is wrong. I am a fan as well, and I am speaking to my fellow fans, especially to my brothers in Christ, that we should reflect upon everything that we do and comport ourselves to the mind of Christ.

Is Football Exempt From Scrutiny?

manningI recognize that there is an impulsive reflex to this sort of reflection. Since football is something that you have always enjoyed, and your Sunday is very much dedicated to it, it can be difficult to reflect upon the moral qualities of watching the NFL. There is an impulse to just deny it. If you begin to reflect upon it, then you may come to the unsavory conclusion that you need to surrender your favorite hobby. So you might be inclined to comment on this article in all capital letters about how ridiculous it is and there is nothing wrong with watching football.

If you are that person, then I urge you to remember that this is not a treatise against football. It is merely a few considerations to make. Football may be your favorite sport, but it is not infallible. It did not fall down from Heaven. There is no reason that it should be exempt from scrutiny. If it is somehow exempt in your mind, such that you cannot even think about it or analyze it, then perhaps you should do some self-reflection.

Football Dulls The Mind

madden-25-nfl-week-11-predictionsWhen you step outside, you can feel a light breeze of the cool Autumn air, see the clouds hovering overhead and the sun tucked neatly behind. You can go to work, enjoy the day and be at peace. You can go out with friends, eat dinner and laugh until your sides hurt. With the semblance of peace, it can be easy to forget about the injustices in the world. Many of us want to forget about it because we do not want to think about it. People will intentionally avoid the news and difficult topics. Many Christians have consigned themselves to acceptance. The world is full of evil and there is nothing that we can do about it. We willfully forget that babies are being ripped from their mother’s womb, limb by limb, and then their carcasses are sold on the black market.

The reason that this can happen is that there are so few Christians who are willing to stand up to social injustice. All of the propaganda makes them fearful and even lazy. There are several ways to drown in laziness, to forget about social injustices and look the other way as the doctrine that all are created equal slowly fades into irrelevancy. If you want to look the other way, to forget about the things in the world that matter, sports provides a very powerful outlet. You can consume yourself in the hope that the men bearing your favorite logo will prevail over the men bearing the other logo.

I want to be the first to point out that this is not to say that watching sports automatically means that you are apathetic about social issues. Again, this is not a treatise against football. It is a consideration. I am pointing out one of the traps that people often fall into. It can be very easy to consume yourself in football (Or any hobby, really. Stephen King novels could have the same effect) and forget about the injustices of the world. Do not be so focused on football that you forget that we are living in a culture of death, and your absent-mindedness is allowing it to happen. Do not be a devotee. Football should not be your first love. It should be a hobby, if anything at all.

Football Does Not Really Matter

Tim TebowI appreciate what Tim Tebow said many years ago when he was the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and they actually made the playoffs and made a run for the Super Bowl. He said that he was grateful to God for the platform that he has received the glorify Christ. When he bowed in prayer on the field (later referred to as “Tebowing”), he was signifying to the people that all glory is ultimately due to Christ. I appreciated that. However, I do not appreciate the way that many people regard football, as though it were some precious thing, and the fate of a team impacted the fate of the universe.

Players and teams will pray for victory, all of their fans enjoining them. Thoughtful people begin to reflect on this practice, wondering if it is not arbitrary and almost disrespectful to pray about a football team. Why are you so concerned if the men bearing one logo prevail over the men bearing another logo? What is it about that victory that will affect anything at all? Why should you care who will win anymore than you would care if I defeated somebody in a game of air hockey? You could arbitrarily root for me, but whether I won or lost, it would not really matter.

Similarly, think for a moment about what the ultimate purpose of watching football is. Why are you rooting for a team? What is it that you want to happen? You are hoping that this team will have a favorable record, be counted among the top teams in the league and then compete to win the Super Bowl. But suppose they did. Suppose they made it all the way to the top. What, then? What happens next? Is there really anything at the top? What happens next, anyway? The next cycle will begin, and you will hope that they win the big game again. But why does winning the Super Bowl even matter? Further, why do you care if one particular team wins the Super Bowl over another?

Think for a moment about what you are devoting yourself to and why you care about your team. Is it the players? The coach? So if the players and the coach leave, you will no longer be a fan? For most fans (aside from front-runners) the answer is no. Is it the logo, the uniform? So if they change the logo, then you will no longer be a fan? What is it, exactly? Being a fan of one team is as arbitrary as choosing to root for one stranger over another stranger in a game of air hockey. Fanship and devotion to a football team is arbitrary. In summary, you are holding out for hope that an arbitrarily selected team will win the Super Bowl, which does not matter anyway.

Time Is Too Valuable

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England PatriotsThe NFL has a few television networks. One of them is called NFL Redzone, in which live highlights from all of the games are broadcasted for over seven hours. After you finish watching Redzone, you might want to watch a couple of the Primetime games. If there are two games on (one at 7 PM ET and the other at 10 PM ET), you can look back on your Sunday and say that you spent a productive 13 hours in front of the television watching the games.

Think for a moment about time throughout the week. You go to work in the morning, then you come home to have dinner, and maybe put the children to bed. You probably have just an hour or two to be productive or to do what you need. There are not many hours in the day, and they are wasted easily on television. When you reflect upon your week or your year, you can say that you never got around to reading that book because you did not have the time. You did not build that shed, do home repairs, or do any number of things that you wanted to because you did not have time.

However, proper time management can help productivity. Just as people manage money so that it does not go to waste, they also manage their time. If you actually spend thirteen hours on Sunday watching football, then you are wasting a lot of time. It seems difficult to allow you to complain that you do not have enough time. All of the time that is wasted on football could have been used in more practical endeavors. It could also have been used in more intellectual endeavors. Read a book on Sunday. Study the Bible. Do something productive. Time is too valuable to waste 13 hours every Sunday.

It Is Really Just About Money

Devotees might be inspired by the love for the game of football espoused by players and coaches. They want to win because they love the game. They strive for excellence because they love to play football. You love football as well. So, why not kick back on Sunday and take in a few games? Well, it should be obvious that there is far more to the NFL than merely a love for the game. Football really comes down to making money. That far exceeds the price that it costs to broadcast the games to billions of people across the world. Roger Goodell’s net worth is 75 million dollars.

Of course, we all know that immense wealth and decadence does not extend only to the top executives of the NFL. It extends to the players, too. Many of these players receive outrageous, multi-million dollar contracts. They often refuse to sign one multi-million dollar contract and hold out for a better one. While football players may work hard and exercise a lot and find themselves under a lot of pressure, do they really need to receive millions of dollars to play a game? Do 20 year old kids really need to be paid millions of dollars? Is that really a pure “love for the game”? Or is it a love of wealth?

Being fans makes us complicit in this system. People who do not deserve and have not earned extreme wealth are given it. This very much reminds me of the so-called dancing man, wherein people across the country donated a total of over $34,000 for a single party. We are very wasteful with our money, and when we support these networks and sponsors, we are only contributing to the waste. Money that could have gone to something productive is instead donated to some 20 year old kid, which he will use to spend on strippers and decadence for a few months until he realizes that he spent all of it.

Is this to advocate for some form of socialism wherein the rich are obligated to share their money with the poor? Not at all. I am not saying that capitalism is a bad system. I am saying that it is being taken advantage of. I am pointing out that the NFL is all about money. It is not about a love for football or something pure and righteous. It is about greed. And by indulging, you are complicit.

Long-Term Brain Damage

“Injuries are just part of the game,” we will tell ourselves. We will see players who hurt their leg or arm and later have trouble walking. Many will play through an injury. Perhaps after they retire, they do not have any cartilage in their knees. These long-term injuries are probably not too severe, and it is the price that players are willing to pay. They are aware that they will probably hurt their leg at some point in their career, and that might even affect them for the rest of their lives. But that does not really matter too much. However, there are other injuries that are far more concerning.

Many of us are already aware as a result of the 2015 film titled Concussion, which narrated the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu as he discovered the brain injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Despite that the NFL attempted to systematically cover it up and deny the allegations, the evidence persisted. Repeated blows to the head, as occurring in the NFL, often lead to brain damage. In fact, 40% of former NFL players suffer from brain damage. This often leads to depression, suicidal behavior, drug addiction, dementia, and many more disturbing symptoms.

The injuries that players suffer on the field extend far beyond a sprained ankle or even a torn ACL. Players are at risk for suffering from severe brain damage that will ultimately ruin their lives. Of course, one could suggest that with this new research, players can make an informed decision before signing the contract. It is their choice. But if you offer a 20-year-old millions of dollars and the opportunity to attain celebrity status, he is not going to think about much else. Most young men are not wise enough to weigh the alternatives. Second, there are many cases in which it is appropriate to take the choice away from people, such as the use of narcotics or prostitution. We recognize the damaging impact that it has and therefore have made it illegal. Now, that is not to say that football should be outlawed. It is just to respond to the idea that players are making a choice. Sometimes they should not have that option.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Watching NFL Football

I want to emphasize again that this is not a treatment against the NFL. I am not saying that football is evil or even that you ought not watch it. I am saying that it is not as simple as sitting down and enjoying a game. There are many considerations and angles to consider. There is the problem of overconsumption, dulling your mind, forgetting about the outside world and the injustices out there, giving money to an unworthy cause and being complicit in the long-term brain damage of NFL players. Football is certainly entertaining and has firmly established itself as a western tradition and icon. But we should not be naive. We should not allow ourselves to be blissfully ignorant of the different factors.



Why Does My Life Sometimes Seem So Pointless?

8d9801a176cdb6f39a22279f5f0ebf63You woke up this morning to the sound of your alarm clock. After turning it off, you went to the bathroom to take a shower. Then you went to work, came home, went to sleep, and the next day, you did the same thing. Eat, drink, sleep, work. That is your life, and it repeats itself over and over again. As you cycle through this seemingly endless pattern, you will begin to reflect on it. Why are you even bothering? You tell yourself that if you received that promotion at work, then the pattern would be broken and life would no longer be pointless. Then you receive that promotion and it feels good for a passing moment until the next pattern ensues and you begin looking for the next promotion or major life change. Every time you attain one, you are faced more thoroughly with the futility of it all. No matter what you do, everything just seems vain. You may be asking yourself, “Why does my life sometimes seem so pointless?”

I want to begin by pointing out that anybody can have this sort of existential crisis. Anybody can feel as though their existence does not matter. I am not saying this to make you feel better, as if to say, “We are all hopeless together,” because I suspect that this would only make the situation worse. I am pointing this out because this article is not meant to say something to the effect of, “Become religious and this problem will go away. You will always feel that your life has meaning.” Faithful Christians can have an existential crisis. I am not writing this to offer some sort of cheap solution to your feelings. But there are many relevant factors to consider.

Your Philosophy of Life And Value

While I am not trying to offer a cheap solution to the problem of the existential crisis, the way that you view the world will still very much impact how you are feeling about your current situation. Everybody has a worldview, philosophy, and a way that they look at human beings and their place in the world. This is one reason that I cringe when people think that philosophy is relevant only for scholars who are locked away in an Ivory Tower. Your philosophy impacts how you live. One’s personal philosophy can change how they look at the world. That is why secularists and Christians are often on opposite ends of the spectrum of social issues.

Think about it for a moment. If you believe that mankind is made in the image of God, imbued with intrinsic moral worth, that everything that we do is governed by the sovereign hand of God, that there is a purpose for your life, that life does not end at the grave and that when you have an positive impact on your humanity, you are doing a true good, then you will be more inclined to feel like your life has meaning (though, again, not all Christians have that feeling, because feelings are transitory). If you deny all of this, though, then you will be more inclined to feel like everything is hopeless.

Now, this is not an apologetic for Christianity. I am not saying, “Therefore, you should believe that which is more hopeful.” But the way that you look at the world matters. I am sure that very different people are reading this post and I do not know how you look at the world or if you even think about that sort of thing. If you do not contemplate the deep questions of life, then you probably are more prone to feel like everything is meaningless, because there are no answers as to why you are doing anything. Having no position functions as a position. If you are someone who thinks that human beings arose by purely natural processes, that there is no overriding standard of morality, that human beings have the same value as goat, sheep, or chicken, then to ask the question is to answer it. You have feelings of meaninglessness because, in your view, life truly is meaningless.

The life that you are living.

“Ah,” the atheist replies, “But if your life feels meaningless, then you need to do something about it.” There is a sense in which that is true and a sense in which it is not true. Let us first consider the sense in which it is true. Right now, we are talking about the way you feel during an existential crisis. Do you feel as though you are making a difference, and do you feel as though your actions matter? For many (most) people, the answer is that it does not. Perhaps you went to college to get a job so that you could pay the bills and now you are caring for your family. Of course, caring for your family and paying your bills is a good thing. But the deeper question that we are asking is one of meaning and purpose.

If you spend 8-12 hours every day working just for the sake of survival, then you are probably somebody who typed “Why does my life feel so meaningless?” into Google and came across this article. Everything that you do is just an attempt to survive, to continue the endless pattern that you desperately want to escape from. Every moment is an attempt to ensure that you will make it to the next moment. Then, if you succeed as a parent, your children will find their own pattern, be able to pay the bills, survive, and do exactly what you are doing.

This is where the wisdom of the atheist’s reply will be relevant. If you feel as though your life is meaningless, then you should do something about it. Invest your time in something that is worthwhile, that you care about. If you are not sure what you are passionate about, then you should think about that. Consider what is a cause that should be pursued and pursue it. When you have free time, do not just watch television or do something mindless. Read a good book. Start a blog. Do something that makes you feel as though you are making a difference in society. If that seems overwhelming, then start small. Commit to spending an extra hour once a week on a project. That is my initial assessment of the atheist’s reply. There is some wisdom to be gleaned. But there is also a sense in which it is foolish.

The Foolishness of The Reply

We are addressing an existential crisis. You are asking yourself why you exist, what purpose your life has, and how you can escape this dreadful pattern of futility. The advice that you receive is to do something that makes you feel better about your life. But the truth is that this is just an exercise in self-delusion. You are intentionally pretending that your life has meaning, when in fact, it does not. You are intentionally fooling yourself to help you to overcome the emotional feeling of futility. It may help, but it would be something like a quick-fix, an aid that helps you to overcome the symptoms without addressing the disease.

Think about it for a moment. If the entire universe is meaningless, if mankind is just another animal here on earth, lost in cosmos, then for you to feel as though your life has meaning would amount to nothing more than delusion. Even if your good work impacts history or civilization, it does not really matter. Eventually, in the heat death of the universe, the Earth will look something like Mars. All of the campaigns of human history, the pursuits of the intellect, the drive of the activist and the triumphs over evil will be buried deep within the earth amidst the ruins of dead civilizations, on a death planet, floating in a dead universe. That is, without a doubt, truly, a scientifically accurate picture of the world to come.

It does not really matter how you feel. If you feel like your life has meaning, you will still be caught in the same pattern of futility that has plagued you. Taking steps to do something meaningful, to get yourself out of a rut all ultimately end in nothing. That is the foolishness of the atheistic reply. Even if you feel as though your life has meaning, that still does not mitigate the fact that your life truly has no meaning. If there is no meaning in the universe, then where will you go to find it?

Is There Any Hope At All? What Am I Supposed To Do?

There is no hope anywhere in the universe. You would have to transcend the bounds of the universe, to traverse the outer echelons of space, hit the edge of the universe and then plunge a little further to find some hope and then voyage back to earth. Although, the careful reader will note that in the above subsection, I was addressing the atheist’s reply. The atheist who says that we can create meaning for our lives has become an apologist for delusion. In that worldview, there truly is no meaning to life. But that is not the view that I ascribe to. Nonetheless, it is true that all life is doomed to end in the heat death of the universe and there is no hope anywhere in the physical world. You would need to leave the physical world to find hope.

But suppose for a moment that there is something beyond the physical world. Suppose even that there is Someone beyond the physical world. This Someone could see that we are hopeless, and while we cannot transcend the physical to acquire hope, this Someone could enter into the physical and bring it to us. This is what we mean when we say that God became a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). In his life, he demonstrated that it is possible to live a fulfilled life by loving your friends and your enemies, by living without sin, in perfect righteousness and obedience, but never in anger toward the Law, as though it were a legalistic cage, but rather out of love for the Father. In his death, he took our sins upon himself, as it is written, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In his resurrection from the death, he provided a model for our resurrection, a true hope of what will come in the future, for his is the first fruit of the resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

You may ask, “But how is that any different from the atheist who is an apologist for delusion?” It is different because I am not saying that your feelings will change. I am not saying that you should do something to forget about reality. I am saying that you should meditate upon reality. We are made in the image of God, and his resurrection is our resurrection. That is a true hope for the future. It means that your life is truly significant, that the love that you have for others will not end at the grave, and that the achievements of righteousness will persist after grave. Christ promised to raise those who trust in him to everlasting life (John 6:40) and to make this world new, with no death, disease, sin, suffering, children dying, loved ones leaving – all things will be made new and be given to Christ’s people.

The Pursuit of Happiness

What does it mean to pursue happiness? Everything in this world leaves us feeling empty, cold, and bitter. Every time we tell ourselves that something will make us happy, we realize how empty it was when we finally find it. Whether it was a new job, that big promotion, wealth, fame, losing weight, power, winning the Super Bowl, it all amounts to nothing. When you get to the top, you realize that there is nothing there. We have an immense capacity for joy and we are always looking for things in this world that can fill it and are constantly disappointed when we find that they do not satisfy us. Those who immerse themselves in carnality are often trying to dull the pain of existence. They do not fulfill them. They worsen their condition. There is a sense in which we are each, individually, the bane of our own individual existence, because we try to fill our capacity for joy in sexuality, money, food, relationships, traveling, always sinking deeper and deeper because we realize that nothing can satisfy us in this world. That is why your life feels so meaningless.

What am I saying, then? Give up the pursuit of happiness? Stop trying to be happy? Stop trying to fill this capacity for joy? That is not what I am saying. I am saying that if you want true satisfaction, then you need to yield yourself to the one who created you. Surrender everything, all of your life’s pursuits, to the will of the Creator. There is a reason that Job said “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15). As it is written, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10:11).

But telling you to lay yourself down is not about telling you that you cannot dance. It is not about saying that you have to put yourself in a cage. It is about following Christ. In his book Desiring God (which I recommend to anyone reading this), Dr. John Piper recounted a conversation with a woman who posed a challenge. She said, “Sir, don’t you believe that a lady can get to Heaven if he she dances?” Piper replied, “A lady cannot get to Heaven unless she dances.” Life in Christ is about joy, about your cup overflowing. There will be struggles, and as I said, sometimes you might even feel meaninglessness, but for those in Christ, we may meditate upon reality and do something in life that truly matters.

If you would like to read more, check out John Piper’s book Desiring God.



Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments

abortion-1For people such as myself, abortion represents the depravity of the human heart. It represents the devaluation of human beings. Bioethicists and philosophers will publish rigorous material concluding that human beings really do not have any intrinsic moral worth, that it would be acceptable to slaughter infants. It is quite common in the animal kingdom for mothers to kill their infants, and sometimes killing an infant can be a sacred duty, a moral good, because it increases one’s ability to propagate their DNA. A woman may have maternal and caring instincts for one child, but for another, she will be instinctually driven to slaughter it, and we should just accept this because it is part of nature. As a Christian, I believe that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-7) and therefore possess intrinsic moral value. Killing human beings is wrong. So in this article, I will be answering a few popular pro-choice arguments.

abortion-2Before beginning, I should point out the fundamental difference between the way that a pro-lifer will argue this case as opposed to how a pro-choicer will. Since I am pro-life, I am concerned with the intrinsic moral worth of the unborn. Everything that compromises that seems to be secondary because it [1] actually kills human beings and [2] radically degrades the value of human beings, such that it is based on our special circumstances rather than being an inherent feature of who we are. A pro-choicer will often argue that the circumstances that a pregnant woman find herself in will override the need to preserve the life of the unborn. What arguments do they employ to reach that conclusion, and what circumstances do women find themselves in that a pro-choicer believes would warrant an abortion?

abortion-3If we don’t share your religion, why would you impose it on us?
Introducing the case for life, I pointed out that I believe that human beings are made in the image of God. Consequently, I also maintain that we have intrinsic moral worth and that it would be wrong to kill another person. Since the pro-life community is typically composed of Christians, pro-choicers tend to have the impression that this is a debate over religion. We have this religious value and we are insisting that they adopt it. There is some sense in which I understand that objection, because part of the reason that we are motivated to be pro-life is our belief in God’s inerrant word.

abortion-4However, the pro-life argument is not necessarily a religious argument. It may have theological connotations, but one could be pro-life without necessarily being religious. One of the so-called New Atheists, the late Christopher Hitchens, confessed in his debate with Dr. Frank Turek that he was pro-life. So it is true that the Bible informs us that human beings have intrinsic moral worth. But one could arrive at that conclusion apart from the Bible. One could believe that it is wrong to kill another person even if they have never read the Bible. You do not really need to appeal to the Bible to make the case for life. You only need to appeal to the reality of our value as human beings. Therefore this is not a case of imposing religion upon secularists. A secularist could be pro-life, as demonstrated by the Secular Pro-Life blog.

If we don’t share your morals, why would you impose them on us?
This question seems to be a bit ironic. Suppose I do not share the ethical obligation that “I ought not impose my morals onto others.” Are you going to impose that ethical obligation onto me? The only way that this could be a consistent ethical belief is if it were never voiced or argued for. You could personally believe that it is wrong to impose your ethics onto others. But you could never make that argument. So the only way that this argument would be a good one is if I had never heard about it. If you start telling me that it is wrong to impose my morals onto you, then you are imposing your morals onto me. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating because it cannot bear its’ own weight.

Further, while this line may sound compelling at first blush, there are always situations in which we think that it is correct to impose our morals onto other people. We believe in the moral prohibition, “You ought not rape,” and we will impose that ethic onto other people. We share the ethic prohibiting kidnapping, sexual slavery, and much more, and we all recognize that it would be appropriate to impose those morals onto individuals who disagreed. Ethics are more than a matter of opinion or feelings. They are something that can be investigated. We can reason about ethics and come to rational conclusions. Sometimes ethics can be complicated or even unclear, but that does not mean that we cannot reason about it. It is more than an opinion.

If it is in my body, I make the choices.
This is probably one of the most common arguments for the pro-choice position. If the fetus is inside somebody’s body, then it is thought that they can decide whether the fetus lives or dies. They can decide to kill it if they think that is appropriate. First, I want to point out that this position can be reduced to absurdity. There are many times in which the “My body, my choice” principle would not be upheld. If the mother realized that the fetus was a female, but wanted a male, most of us recognize that it would be immoral (and unlawful) for her to get an abortion. If she realized that the fetus was going to be of a particular ethnic group that she found unsavory, it would be both immoral and unlawful for her to have an abortion. Further, many of us recognize that it would be wrong for her to get an abortion the day before she was due. Both of these counter-examples seem to undermine the “My body, my choice” principle.

Second, this principle assumes a model of human value that undermines the principle itself. What do I mean? If the fetus is human, then it does not matter if it is in her body. Human beings have intrinsic moral value (inherent to the individual that stands independently of circumstances or perception). This means that no matter where it is geographically located, it would be wrong to take its’ life. The only recourse would be to deny that human beings truly have intrinsic value. They must have extrinsic value, which is value that is based on circumstances and perception. But the “My body, my choice” principle assumes that human beings have rights extending from their value. But if they have only extrinsic value, which is not inherent, then the foundation for their rights are wholly undermined. Perhaps someone could disagree that they have or are worthy of rights. In short, while the “My body, my choice” principle requires a model of intrinsic human value, it logically entails extrinsic moral value. It is literally self-defeating.

Legalized abortion reduces crime and provides a safe outlet for women who need an abortion.
Women will get an abortion even if the law prohibits it. So unless we want to find newborn babies thrown in the trash or see women getting an abortion with a hanger or hard drugs, then we need to allow for abortion as a necessary legal measure. Advocates of this argument will suggest that they do not really like abortion. They are against abortion, but pro-choice. (In my article Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion? I replied to this distinction). Some might even call it a necessary evil. There are a few reasons that I do not think that this line of reasoning is compelling.

Legalizing a crime is not a solution to reducing crime. Imagine that a prison was having a drug problem. Some inmates were smuggling drugs into the prison and distributing them. One of the security officers burst into the Warden’s office one morning, offering a brilliant solution, telling him that he knows how to solve all of the drug problems. “We legalize it,” he says. “They won’t be able to spike the drugs anymore. We can give it to them safely. And the crime will go down.” For those of you who actually find the officer’s reasoning compelling, I hastily remind you that we could apply this tactic to any crime. Whether theft, murder, rape – we could drastically reduce the crime by legalizing all of it and finding ways for murderers and rapists to safely carry out their deed.

Somebody might be thinking that this would be a non-solution in the case of murder or rape. You cannot safely murder or rape. It would be inconsiderate the victims. If you are thinking that, then I welcome you to the pro-life cause. That is precisely why we do not think it is compelling to say that one could reduce crime by providing safe and legal abortions. Legalizing murder does not reduce crime.

The Bible never even mentions abortion.
Since most pro-lifers who adamantly oppose abortion and argue for their case are Christians, pro-choicers will often feel compelled to point out that the Bible is silent about the issue of abortion. They will suggest that it actually leaves the issue open, so that even a confessing Christian could decide to be pro-choice. This objection would seem to cut to the core of the pro-life case, because pro-lifers are primarily motivated by their faith in Christ and his word. Well, I would first hark back to my point that the pro-life case is based on the intrinsic moral worth of human beings. As Christians, our foundation for believing that is God’s word. So the fact that the Bible does not explicitly mention abortion is not relevant.

However, the Bible actually does mention abortion. The sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13). Now, I know that you might be thinking that this is just too broad. When objectors argue that the Bible never mentions abortion, they mean that it never explicitly mentions abortion. But so what? If we believe in the sanctity of life, then we believe that abortion is murder, which is forbidden by Exodus 20:13.

Exodus 21:22-25 vindicates that pro-choice position.
In Exodus 21:22-25, the punishment for killing an unborn baby is death. Life for life. If the baby is born prematurely, then you will merely have to pay a fine. But if you kill the baby, then you will have to pay with your life. However, some have argued that this Law actually supports abortion. Some older translations render verse 22 as, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage… they will be fined.” The translated word is not “prematurely” but “miscarriage.” In this rendering, it would appear to be a vindication of the pro-choice position.

In fact, blogs such as Reverb Press have seized upon this alternate translation to mount this argument without even mentioning the tension. They do not mention that the NIV, NASB, NET, ISV, HCSB, ESV, NLT, and many more popular and scholarly translations all render this “prematurely.” They use a translation that is convenient to make their case. I find it highly implausible that they did not know about about the mainstream rendering. So, why is it that it is the mainstream rendering?

The Hebrew word translated into “miscarry” or “prematurely” does not carry the meaning of a miscarriage as we understand it today. In most Hebrew lexicons, the translated word literally means “to go forth, to come out, to be born.” If you consult the concordance, you will find that this is exactly how it is rendered in the other verses in which it appears, the first being in Genesis 1:12, which says that the earth “brought forth” vegetation. In fact, in no cases will you find that it used to say that a woman miscarried.

But, one might argue, by the same token, it is never used to say “premature.” So why do the mainstream renderings hold this position? The duty of a translator is to accurately represent the propositional content by transmitting the literal words that were communicated. Some translations will say that the baby was “brought forth” and that would be a literal, rough rendering of this word. However, if you want to plainly communicate the propositional content of the word, you would say that the baby was born prematurely. Therefore, this would not be a vindication of the pro-choice position. It is a vindication of the pro-life position. If you would like to read further about this topic, see Stand To Reason’s Article, What Exodus 21:22 Says About Abortion.

Pro-Life ethics are inconsistent with political and social conservatism.
People will say that the pro-life case taken on its’ own may be compelling. But it is part of a larger narrative. It is given within the framework of social conservatism, which comes with elements that seem to compromise the pro-life position. These are stances such as the death penalty for capital offenders, stand your ground laws, gun rights, and more. If you are pro-life about one issue, why would you not be pro-life about all of these other issues? The first response worth noting immediately is that this argument is guilty of the tu quoque fallacy, which is to attempt to vindicate your position by pointing to an inconsistency in your opponent. If a smoker told you about the dangers of cigarettes, and you replied, “You have that problem, too!” you would be guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

One could technically be pro-life without committing themselves to social conservatism. It could certainly impact how you vote. But compromises have to be made all of the time. But being pro-life is about more than how you vote and the stances that you hold in the privacy of your mind. It is about your action. If you are pro-life, you will support pro-life pregnancy centers such as CareNet by donating to them or volunteering for them. Standing for life is a worthy cause even if it goes against the grain of liberal principles and common opinions.

Second, one could mount a worthy argument that the conservative stances mentioned above are very different situations. Issues such as the death penalty and stand your ground laws are relevant to people who have committed a crime. Even if you would not say that they are worthy of death, you still should recognize that this is a different situation. In fact, that is precisely what you will do when somebody points out the same inconsistency in liberal ethics. If you are pro-life with regard to the death penalty, then why not with regard to abortion? You will say that these are different situations, to which I would respond, “Exactly.”

A man cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman.
Women who are pregnant and in a difficult situation are often overcome with fear of the future, how they will care for their baby, whether it will lead a good life, et cetera, and all of this will contribute to the decision regarding an abortion. But when they are told by a man that abortion is wrong, they are often indignant. This is because men cannot be in that situation. They cannot get pregnant and so it is thought that they cannot sympathize with their struggles. There are a few problems with this argument.

First, even if it were true that a man cannot feel the emotions of a particular situation, that does not affect the logic of the abortionist philosophy. This argument seems to be saying, “If you felt these emotions, you would compromise your logical position and favor your emotions.” That may be the case, because people often let their emotions misguide them into a bad decision. But that is not an argument. It is certainly not a reason that you should not listen to somebody else. Imagine that you were so overcome with emotions that you could not see that your significant other was being unfaithful to you. You would rely on your friends, who can think more objectively and were not overcome with emotions to guide you. Their opinion would not be invalid just because they are not in your situation.

Second, I do not think it is true that men cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman just because they have never been in that situation. Anybody can be afraid of what might happen in the future. Anybody can be overwhelmed. Think for example of a woman who dies during childbirth and the man is left alone. He is afraid of the future and the uncertainty. A pregnant woman’s emotions should not be downplayed or neglected. But men can sympathize with them because we have all had similar emotions. It is comparable to sympathizing with a starving child. I have never starved, but I can sympathize and have my heart broken over it. A man can sympathize with a woman and relay a competent ethic, taking her feelings and her situation into consideration.

Will this baby have to live in poverty?
This is one of the primary concerns that struggling, pregnant women have when they consider an abortion. They will not be able to care for their child. He or she will invariably have a bad life. Further, the pregnant woman might already have another child and she is afraid that she will not be able to care for it. Another baby would compromise the well-being of your family. It would have a bad life. It would live in poverty. The woman would fall into poverty, have little time for anything, and would be unable to care for it. Does this situation warrant an abortion? There are a few reasons that I do not think it does.

First, this argument could also be applied to infanticide or even toddlercide. You might realize that your toddler is going to have a bad life. You cannot finish college because you cannot afford it. You can only work minimum wage for forty hours a week. Your son or daughter will never be able to see their parents and will have to be alone most of the time, never to inherit your values because you are not there to instill them. They are going to be hungry, live in a small house with an absent parent. You might argue that it would be better if they were not alive. So, why not just kill them? This is the same argument that is used for abortion. The only recourse would be to use this argument in tandem with others, such as, “My body, my choice,” which is also inconsistent.

Second, there are other options that you would not force you to plummet into poverty. Many women choose to give their babies up for adoption. There are parents lining up to adopt newborn babies. The process is often very long because there are so few babies. In fact, when you go to Planned Parenthood, you might even find a couple who is standing outside offering to adopt your child. Now, you might reply that they would still have a bad life, could end up in foster care or something like that. But saying that a child might have a bad life is not an excuse to kill it. Suppose you decided to carry your baby full term and gave birth. But the day after you gave birth, something horrible happened and you needed to give the baby up for adoption. The idea that your infant might have a bad life is not a justification for infanticide. Comparably, it is also not a justification for abortion.

Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments
There are many other arguments that I left out of this article that I could have investigated. What about rape or incest? What about the personhood of the unborn? Is the fetus human? What about all of the illustrations and philosophical arguments? I did not dive into those here, but I have elsewhere. I composed this article primarily because pro-choicers and pro-lifers often talk past one another. We emphasize the sanctity of life and they emphasize the sanctity of choice, and we downplay the significance of the arguments that the other side is mounting. In this article, I have strived to represent those arguments as accurately as I can. If you would like to see any other arguments addressed, leave a comment. You can also check out the podcast the pro-life podcast known as The Fetal Position.



Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion?

proabortion 1Discussions about abortion are often reduced down to arbitrarily changing the label of the other side so that their stance seems more defeasible. We are not pro-life, we are anti-woman. In fact, if we are for anything, we are for birth. But after birth, we do not really care about the well-being of that child. Accordingly, they will say that we are pro-birth rather than pro-life. By the same token, we will often designate people who are in favor of the option to get an abortion as pro-abortionists. You may even find my usage of this term a few times on this website (though primarily in the plural form because I do not think that the term “pro-choicers” sounds very good). But is this term legitimate? Can someone be pro-choice without being pro-abortion?

proabortion 2This often comes up because many people who are in favor of the right to get an abortion will say that they are personally opposed to abortion, but that they think people should be able to make that choice. Just because you are against abortion, does not mean that you should impose your morals on other people. You may prefer that others choose life, but it is a choice that they need to make, and we cannot make it for them. I think that there are several reasons to think that we should not be taken in by this line of reasoning, and that to be pro-choice truly is to be pro-abortion.

proabortion 3Should Abortion Be Available In Society?
If you are pro-choice, then that means that you are affirm that abortion should be available in our society. It may be a dark consequence of our freedom, but it should be a freedom nonetheless. When you say that you are personally opposed to abortion, but that it should be available, I take that to simply mean that you would not personally desire an abortion, but that others may want one. If that is the case, then you do agree that abortion should be available in a free society of men and women.

proabortion 4But this leads us to the question of what it means to be pro-abortion. I think that if you affirm the proposition, “Abortion should be legal and available to anyone,” then you are pro-abortion. Now, these words can be difficult to define, because there really is no technical definition of what it means to be pro-abortion. Nonetheless, there really does not seem to be any practical difference between a pro-choice stance and a pro-abortion stance. The difference is merely psychological, that you dislike the practice of abortion, but that you will defend it anyway.

Do You Think That Abortion Is A Noble Act?
Our friends who advocate for the pro-choice movement will often mount arguments leading to the conclusion that abortion is a noble cause. It is not a necessary evil, insofar as evil is concerned. It is not the slaying of an actual baby, for the fetus is sub-human. There are several arguments leading to that conclusion, but to examine those arguments closely would be beyond the scope of this article. The reason that I am pointing that out is that another way in which we could define pro-abortion is that you actually think that abortion is a noble act.

If you identify as pro-choice, but reject the term pro-abortion, then it would have to be the case that you do not think that abortion is a noble act. Abortion is a necessary evil, but it is an evil. If that is the case, then you would have to reject the typical argumentation that one would use in defense of the pro-choice cause. The only way that abortion could be a noble act is if you affirm that the fetus is somehow sub-human and that the rights of the mother supersede the rights of the sub-human fetus. But if you affirm that proposition, then how could abortion not be a noble act? It would be an extension of women’s rights. But if you think that abortion is a noble act, then how could you be anything other than pro-abortion?

On the other hand, if you affirm that the fetus is truly human, and to kill it would be homicide, then it seems that you would be left without a defense or an apologetic for the pro-choice position. You would be dangerously vulnerable to all of the critiques of the pro-life movement regarding the sanctity of life. While this could be a way for you to escape the pro-abortion label, it would be radically inconsistent. You would be saying that abortion was not a noble cause, that it was literally the slaying of a human being with intrinsic moral value, but that you affirm it anyway.

Think About Why You Are Personally Against Abortion
If you identify as pro-choice, but not pro-abortion, and that you would never personally want an abortion, think for a moment about the reasons that you have for that. You may not be able to afford to care for a baby. You may have to put it up for adoption. But nonetheless, you could never personally get an abortion. You would never do that. Why is that? For most people who claim to be pro-choice, but not pro-abortion, is that they would not want to take the life of their baby. If that describes you, then the question that you need to ask is why anybody should have the option to take the life of their baby.

You may be thinking that it is wrong to impose your morals upon other people. But think about that for a moment. There are at least two reasons that this is flawed. First, all laws reflect moral positions that are being imposed on us. We have laws against murder. That is a moral prohibition that is being imposed upon other people. If I were to punch somebody in the face, you would tell me, “You can’t do that!” and yet you would be imposing your morals on me. There are many cases in which we recognize that it is acceptable to impose your morals on others.

Second, the prohibition, “You ought not impose your morals onto other people,” is a moral prohibition that you are imposing on other people. You are imposing the ethic that it is wrong to impose ethics. So while it may seem convincing and while it may sound good, this ethic is really self-defeating, because it does exactly what it says one ought not do. This means that the reasons that you have for being personally opposed to abortion should beckon you to be part of the pro-life movement, for the same reason that you would be part of a movement that sought to retain the rights of individuals of ethnic diversity who were being persecuted. We would have no problem imposing our ethic upon their persecutors, and neither should you.

But Women Will Get An Abortion Anyway
If we were to outlaw abortion, women would still continue to get an abortion. But they would do it in unsafe and harmful ways that would probably lead to their death or serious injuries. Abortion should continue to be legal because women will have access to safe abortions. First, that term is something of a misnomer. A safe abortion is like a piece of chewing gum that is made out of iron. If a person is being killed in the process, it is not safe by any means.

Second, to say that people will transgress the law if we establish it as a law is not a reason that we should not establish it as a law. It is a reason that we should enforce the law. People are murdered every day. That does not mean that we should introduce a safe way for murderers to execute their victims. People rob houses every day despite that it is against the law. That does not mean that we should legalize robbery and find safe ways for these individuals to procure treasures of another person. Yes, people break the law. A law does not solve all of our problems. But it needs to be enforced.

Third, the person who uses a hanger to inflict a fatal wound on the fetus would be taking a very drastic measure. That is not some sort of safety blanket that individuals have in mind when they are considering sex outside of the context of marriage, when they are living in poverty. The accessibility of on-demand abortion makes people far more likely to get an abortion because they are relying on it. They will not worry so much about sex outside of marriage because they can just go and get an abortion. It provides a sense of security (ironically) that is not available to the women who is thinking of using a hanger.

Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion?
Again, it can be difficult for us to define these words because to be pro-abortion can mean different things to different people. I used two definitions in this article. The first is that they are in favor of abortion being available to society. The second is that they believe that abortion is a noble act. But if you do not think that abortion is a noble act, then you are left vulnerable to the critique of the pro-life cause. Can you really affirm that abortion is murder, but that you are in favor of it anyway? That is what you would be led to say if you reject the pro-abortion label but affirm the pro-choice label.

I recognize that a lot of this comes down to semantics and wordplay, for many people. I am not interested in creating a caricature of anybody’s position. What I am doing is following this to its’ logical conclusion. If you are pro-choice and use the typical pro-choice argumentation, then you are pro-abortion. That is true even if you are pro-choice yet personally opposed to abortion. But if that does describe you, then perhaps you should consider the reasons that you have for being opposed to abortion. If you reflect upon that, it should lead you to the sanctity of human life, which will lead you to the pro-life position.

If you would like to read more, check out my article How Abortion Destroys Women’s Rights



My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal

liberal 1I am not a liberal. In fact, I cannot even consider casting my vote for a liberal candidate for any position of leadership. That is not to say that candidates of the Democratic Party are somehow less competent than those of the Republican National Convention. I am certainly not a loyalist to the GOP. However, my pro-life convictions will always prevent me from being a liberal. That is not to advocate for some sort of one-issue model of voting. Being pro-life does not qualify somebody to take political office. But being pro-choice, in my view, can disqualify somebody from receiving my vote. That is the primary reason that I could never cast a vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

liberal 2I regard the pro-life cause as the most important social issue in the United States. It is not akin to other social issues. It is also frightening and extremely discouraging when people think that they can dismiss the pro-life cause and affirm abortion just by reciting their favorite one-liner. Does it never occur to them, just for a second, that all of the rhetoric and talking points could be affirming the slaughter of actual human beings? Is this something that can really be dismissed by pointing out my gender? Can you wave a dismissive hand, saying, “You’re not pro-life, you’re anti-woman” thinking that providing a new label will change the facts?

I am pro-life, and therefore I cannot be a liberal, because this is more than a social issue. Not only does it involve the slaying of what the science of embryology reveals to be biological human beings, but it also fundamentally changes our view of humanity. Not only am I pro-life, but I am also a Christian, which means that I have a very high view of the intrinsic worth of human beings.

What Are We, Really?

liberal 3There are two aspects of what human beings are that need to be considered. First, there is the scientific and material aspect, and second, there is the philosophical and theological question of what we are. Insofar as that first question is concerned, human beings are chunks of matter, much like a table or rock. However, we have certain other traits that distinguish us from inanimate objects. We possess consciousness and the ability to think deeply and ask difficult questions. These questions come from the interworking of the human brain, specifically relevant to the study of neuroscience. It may be said that human beings are very complex chunks of matter. That is beyond dispute.

liberal 4But suppose we were to give the material realm and the scientist full authority to determine what human beings are. Many scientists would reject that authority, but many would not. If we were to adopt metaphysical naturalism, then human beings would be complex chunks of matter, and nothing more. If that were the case, then it would seem difficult to raise any objections to the practice of abortion on moral grounds. But, that would be a two-edged sword, because it would also make it very difficult to raise objections to any moral practice, including misogyny, bigotry, pedophilia, et cetera. There is a sense in which we recognize that we are something more than chunks of matter.

I have already introduced the philosophical question by pointing out the possibility of metaphysical naturalism. But I think that we can all recognize that we truly are something more than merely chunks of matter. We certainly are that, but there is something more. We recognize that our fellow man has intrinsic moral value that cannot be set aside. It would be wrong to commit a crime against another person because they deserve better. The concept of human rights is grounded upon our intrinsic value. If we did not have any intrinsic value, then human rights would sway to and fro, based on the opinion of the collective bodies. That is why we cry out in rage when we see somebody violated. They possess intrinsic moral value, and they deserve better. As a Christian, I believe that people possess intrinsic moral value based on the fact that they were made in the image of God.

What Is The Fetus?

One may respond that while we recognize that biological human beings possess intrinsic moral value, the fetus is not a biological human being. It is just a little fish thing. It is merely a clump of cells. Well, first, arbitrarily changing the title of the fetus to a “clump of cells” does not change the facts of the situation. As I pointed out, you are also a clump of cells. All human beings are clumps of cells. Some are larger than others. But the identification as a clump of cells does not negate the fact that you are a biological human being.

In fact, the identification as a biological human being is generally something that pro-choice advocates are willing to concede. There is really no debate even among scientists. The debate is over, and it has been over for nearly one hundred years. The fetus is human. In his article, Elijah Thompson made this point, quoting the Former Planned Parenthood President, Dr. Alan Guttmacher. Guttmacher said that the zygote was the beginning of the human life. He wrote, “This all seems so simple and evidence that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” Again, this is simply not a point of contention among scientists in the field. If you would like further support, Life News collected 40 quotes from medical experts, many of whom are not pushing the pro-life agenda, but are just reciting the facts of biology.

Second, the Law of Identity seems to support the pro-life notion that the fetus is human even at the earliest stage of development. The Law of Identity states that A is always equal to A. If you were to see an ultrasound of me, Richard, when I was at the earliest stage of development, you would rightly be able to say, “That is Richard.” I could rightly say, “At one point in my past, I was a fetus in the womb.” But if you accept the premise, “It is wrong to end Richard’s life,” then that premise would apply to every stage in my development.

But you are not considering the circumstances.

This is typically where the pro-choice advocate will direct the conversation at this juncture. They will say that under certain circumstances, it will be acceptable to have an abortion, to take the life of a biological human being. If the woman was not ready to have a baby, if she thought it might have a bad life, if she was afraid, alone, or something like that, then she will be justified in getting an abortion. But all that this line of reasoning has done is to remove the intrinsic moral value that human beings possess. Why is that? It is because intrinsic value is value that one possesses in and of oneself rather than based on external conditions.

Cash, for example, has extrinsic value. It is valuable only because we regard it as valuable. But if you brought it to a tribe in the Brazilian rainforest, they would think that it was suitable only for burning to keep them warm by the fire. In and of itself, cash is just paper. Similarly, if human beings do not possess value in certain circumstances, then they do not possess intrinsic moral value. They possess extrinsic value and it can be disposed at your choosing.

One may be willing to bite the bullet and say, “Yes, that is true, and we just have to deal with it.” But before you do that, consider the campaign of women’s rights. It is predicated upon the premise that all people, men and women alike, are equal. But if human beings do not have intrinsic moral value, then the very premise of women’s rights, or anybody’s rights, will have to be discarded. Nobody has any real rights. Nobody can say that they are truly equal with anybody else. The practice of abortion claims to derive from the campaign of women’s rights. At the same time, though, the philosophy of abortion dictates that under certain circumstances, it is acceptable to kill human beings. That is extrinsic value, while the philosophy of women’s rights is intrinsic value. That would just seem to be an example of having your cake, and eating it too. The problem is that the practice of abortion undermines the very foundation of women’s rights.

Freedom Only Extends So Far

Nobody reading this believes in absolute freedom, in which anybody can do anything that they want. Nobody wants absolute bodily autonomy, to do anything they want with their body. The only sustainable model of human rights is one that comes with limitations, that does not allow you to violate the rights of other people. You are free to do anything that you want, so long as it does not violate another human being. A husband is not free to abuse his wife. His rights end where hers begin. A father is not free to abuse his son. His rights end where the child’s begins. Similarly, a woman is not free to kill her baby. Her rights end where the baby’s begins.

That is why when the issue of bodily autonomy comes up in the context of the abortion debate, they misapplying their freedom. When people say that “it is my body and therefore it is my choice,” they are not making a whole lot of sense. Your rights and your choice only extend so far. They end at the rights of another. With the practice of abortion, people violate those rights. They overstep the boundaries that are set for human rights and violate the rights of another.

If you are inclined to say that if the fetus is inside of your body, then it has no rights, then you have committed the same fallacy as the prior subsection. You are creating extrinsic factors that determine the value of a human being. If you want to maintain a consistent philosophy of abortion, you will need to maintain that human beings have intrinsic moral value which allows you to have rights. But by doing that, you will undermine abortion entirely. So, the idea of a consistent philosophy of abortion is really a misnomer. If you think that human beings have extrinsic value, then you have no basis for saying that you have the right to an abortion. If you think that human beings have intrinsic value, then you have conceded the right to an abortion to the right to life.

A Philosophy With Frightening Potential

With so many people howling, “it is not a person” about a biological human being, one can hardly be blamed for harking back to the other times in history in which human beings were designated as non-persons for some extrinsic factors (such as white skin). We can kill these human beings because they lack some extrinsic property. Without the foundation of intrinsic moral value, it becomes very difficult to say what other atrocities this will lead to. Think for a moment of all of the reasons that people get an abortion. They are afraid that the baby will have a bad life. He will live in poverty. She will be a burden. I’m not ready.

I am not trying to downplay the struggles of my fellow man. But I do think that these are important to point out. Many (if not all) of these reasons could apply equally to infanticide. How can you make the argument for the fetus in the womb, but not a couple of months later after the baby emerges from the womb? What basis is there? Similarly, what intellectual resource could you appeal to that would prevent genocide based on some extrinsic factor that a group of people have in common? There just does not seem to be any stopping power to the philosophy of abortion.

This is not to be taken as a slippery-slope argument. I am not saying that this will inevitably happen. I am saying that this is what the philosophy of abortion entails. There is just no resource to prevent other moral atrocities against human beings. The life of a human being is worth less than the external factors that are relevant to the parents. There are no good reasons that we could not disconnect any of the common justifications for abortion from justification for infanticide.

My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal

Why pro-life? Why would that bother you so much that you refuse to vote liberal? It bothers me because it ultimately degrades human beings. It makes us into mere animals with no intrinsic moral value. If that philosophy were truly applied and followed to its’ logical conclusions, then there would be no intellectual guard against devaluing of human beings in other contexts. So when Rachel Held Evans says that she is pro-life but voting for Hillary Clinton, that seems to be the height of inconsistency.

There are, tragically, so many Christians are just apathetic about the pro-life cause. It is just one social issue among many. Gun rights, abortion, immigration. They are all thought to be in the same category. But they are not. The philosophy of abortion undermines the very foundation of human rights. The practice of abortion really does end the life of human beings. I cannot be a liberal because I am adamantly opposed to that practice and that philosophy.



The Case For Animal Death Before The Fall of Man

death 1The creation controversy is very important to people who hold different perspectives for different reasons. As an old earth creationist, I believe that it is important to an effective witness. Young earth creationists believe that it is important because they think that they are the bastion of scriptural authority. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of this debate is the issue of death before the Fall of man. Typically, old earth creationists hold that God created the earth over 4 billion years ago. Before the creation of man, there was dinosaurs, a flourishing ecosystem, and millennia upon millennia of death. Young earth creationists believe that this strongly compromises the biblical narrative. In this article, I will make the case for animal death before the Fall of man.

death 2I should also point out that this is one area that many young earth creationists take very seriously. Death before the fall is not akin to the interpretation of the days of creation. Some will go so far as to say that the view that animals died before the Fall of man is actual heresy. Others will suggest that it portrays God as being evil. This issue of whether there was or could be death before the Fall is probably one of the most inflamed debates within the creation controversy. So, what are the arguments and counterarguments worth considering?

Was God’s Creation Perfect Or Very Good?
After the creation week, God declared that this creation was very good (Genesis 1:31). Young earth creationists will typically interpret that to mean that the creation was perfect. By implication, there was no animal death. If God overlooked a world containing predation, suffering, disease, thorns and thistles, and said that it was very good, he would be, in the words of Ken Ham, an ogre. Christians who have had discussions with atheists will probably have encountered a form of this objection. Atheists will tell us that there is so much evil and suffering in the world that for God to allow it, he would have to be malicious in his intentions.

death 3In responding to the young earth creationists, the first thing that we might point out is that the same theodicy that we apply in debates with atheists can also be applied here. Perhaps one of the most powerful theodicies is the lack of a logical disconnect between the existence of suffering and death and the existence of a good God. It is possible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering. Similarly, it is possible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for creating a world infused with animal death. To say that this makes God into an ogre would logically lead you to concede this theodicy to the force of atheism. Of course, that is unthinkable, because that is precisely the theodicy that God used in the book of Job (chapters 38-41).

death 4But, the response may come, nonetheless, the text says that the creation was perfect. Well, I do not think that there are any good reasons to think that “very good” means that it is “perfect.” I think that it is possible that God established an ecosystem in which life would flourish and be abundant. Predation is central to a flourishing ecosystem. Some breeds of animals cannot even survive if there are no predators in the environment. Overpopulation and disease become prevalent. In some cases, it is necessary to introduce predators into an environment for the sake of the species that they are hunting. So, when God said that the creation was “very good” that could just be a reference to the flourishing ecosystem.

One could take this argument a step further and point out that there are elements of the creation that indicate that it is imperfect, but still very good. First, the serpent in the Garden of Eden was certainly not perfect. The tree of good and evil was something over which God would say, “This is perfect.” Most profoundly, the capacity to sin was not a manifestation of perfection. There are several exegetical reasons to think that the original creation in Genesis 1 was not a perfect creation. This seems to undercut the implication that there could be no animal death before the Fall.

Will Animals Be Redeemed?
Death was introduced into the world as a consequence of sin. Of death, Romans 5:12 tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 3:23 tells us that the wage of sin is death. The reason that people die is because they sin. Since everybody sins, everybody dies. But the death of man is the not the only punishment for sin. After Adam sinned in Genesis 3:17, God said, “The ground is cursed because of you.” Everything around us reminds us that we are fallen creatures in a fallen world. But if that is the case, does that entail that animal death came as a result of sin?

First, I want to indicate that this concept is foreign to the writings of Paul. In both Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, the context is clearly referring to the death of men, not to animals. Of course, that does not prove that animals did not die as a result of the Fall. But exegetically, we can only infer the death of human beings as a result of sin.

Second, some have taken this a step further. Zachary Lawson has argued that if you think that animals died before the Fall (particularly on the basis of this passage), then it would follow that animals are receptive to redemption in Christ. The parallel that this passage presents is that all die in Adam and are made alive in Christ. If the former applies to animals, then the latter would have to apply to animals as well. Animals would have to be receptive to regeneration. Animals would have to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. This reductio ad absurdum seems to suggest that animals did not die as a result of the Fall. (Of course, one may point out that there will be animals in the New Heaven and New Earth, but that is different from saying that they are made alive in Christ in the sense that Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are referring to.)

Perhaps God Created A World That Knew We Were Coming
In the drama of human experience, we have to react to situations and base our decisions on what we think the best course of action will be. In a more ideal scenario, we will be prepared for situations that arise. Unfortunately, that is often not the case and we just have to react. God is in the pleasant situation of knowing what will happen in the future. As Christians, we affirm that God has knowledge of all true propositions. Before Adam sinned, God knew that the proposition “Adam sins” would eventually be true. However, unlike us, God does not need to react to the situations that arise and make some sort of probabilistic decision. Everything that comes to pass is built into his decree. For example, when he created Adam and Eve, he did not say, “Oh, they need sustenance. I had better create some plants.” Rather, the food was already available. It was waiting for them. God knew that they were coming.

Similarly, when the great patriarchs of Israel sinned, they recognized God as their Redeemer. God had mercy on them despite that they were not worthy of mercy. This is because he knew that the cross was imminent, that Jesus would die for the sins of his people (Romans 3:21-25). The cross was retroactively effective, paying for the sin even of those who died long before Christ. I think that you are probably beginning to understand this theme. God knew that he was going to send forth his Son, so he did not just obliterate people when they sinned. He knew that Adam would be hungry, so he created food. (I apologize that this is not technical, reformed, deterministic parlance. I know that.) How does this relate to the issue of the fallen creation?

Well, it may be that God knew that sinners were coming into the world, so he created a world that was already fallen. He created a fallen world that was custom-made for fallen creatures. He would not have to wait until they had actually fallen to reactively curse the ground. Of course, then the question arises: why put creatures who are not fallen (Adam and Eve) into a fallen world? The answer is that God isolated them from the fallen world. He put them in the Garden of Eden. Then when they sinned, they were banned, hence being exposed to the real world. I do not see anything at all implausible about this interpretation.

Were They Vegetarians?
Some young earth creationists argue that if man and animals were both vegetarians, then it would follow that there was no death at all in God’s original creation. From there, they will appeal to texts such as Genesis 1:29-30, in which God gave to Adam and Eve every plant for their consumption. Later, in Genesis 3:17-19, the vegetarian diet is reinforced, until after the great deluge. At that point, Noah and his family were permitted to consume animals. But before that point, all human beings were commanded to be vegetarians, and before the Fall, all animals were vegetarians.

What are the problems with this argument? First, consider the first premise. If man and animals were both vegetarians, then there is no death at all. Well, that would only be the case if predation was the only possible way for animals to die. So, possibly, one could have a model of vegetarian animals who died. Admittedly, though, this is not a model that any old earth creationist would accept. Premise two is far more controversial. Were humans and animals truly vegetarians?

It is undeniable that God gave them plants to eat. But that is not to say that they were not permitted to eat animals. This seems to be little more than an argument from silence. If it is not recorded in the text, then God did not say it. It would only serve as an argument if we had some command that said something like, “I give you plants for your consumption, but anything that moves, you shall not touch.” This is just an argument from silence. Similarly, in Genesis 9:3, God says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” That is not to say that they were not permitted to eat animals prior to Genesis 9:3. Similarly, in the next verse, God commands that they not consume anything that is still alive. That is not to say that it was acceptable prior to Genesis 9:4. In Genesis 9:5-6, God commands that they not commit murder. But that is not to say that murder was acceptable prior to this utterance. The argument from vegetation is really an argument from silence.

The Parallel Between The New Earth And Eden
When Jesus returns, he will make all things new. The narrative of the Bible is not exclusively about individual salvation, (“How can I be saved?”) but about how God loves the world so much that he redeemed his creation (John 3:16). We are certainly objects of God’s affection, and that is because we are part of his world. Young earth creationists will sometimes argue that when God makes all things new, he will restore everything back to its’ original state. We lost paradise and Christ brought us back. Since there will be no animal death in the New Earth, it follows that there was no animal death in the original creation.

I think there are several reasons to think that while this may be a legitimate parallel, that does not mean that it is a precise, line-by-line parallel. There are several aspects of the New Earth that will differ from the original creation. First, we will not have the capacity to sin. In such close proximity with God, we will be so overwhelmed by his presence and his righteousness, that sin will seem unthinkable. Just as abstaining from all sin may seem unthinkable to us today, committing a single sin will seem unthinkable to us then. Consider that while Jesus was the Second Adam, he was also very different from Adam after he rose from the dead. Yet his resurrection is the first fruit of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23). We will all rise and be glorified in the same way that Christ was, and we will inhabit the New Earth. This is one radical difference from the original creation. With this in mind, I do not know that we can make the argument that because the New Earth has a particular attribute, that therefore the original creation had that attribute.

The Case For Animal Death Before The Fall of Man
There are a few things that I want to point out as I draw this article to a close. First, I am not advocating for theistic evolution. I do not think that there were humanoids before the Fall who were biologically identical to homosapiens. I am just pointing out that one of the central arguments that young earth creationists will appeal to does not seem to be as robust as they think. Remember, it applies an atheistic objection to God’s moral duties toward us (suggesting that God would be an ogre). It reads animal death into the text of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, when, as we saw, that interpretation leads to absurdity, and it mounts a host of arguments that I do not think can withstand scrutiny.

Nonetheless, I understand that many people are passionate about this issue. It is something that we should approach with charity and kind-heartedness. If you care to offer a critique, I ask only that you do so by examining what I said and responding to it rather than making accusations of compromise. I could just as easily accuse you of compromising for the sake of traditional values. But I will not do that because that shuts down communication.

If you would like to read more, please see my series The Age of The Earth.