May 2007


Introduction

What is God’s relationship to time? Is He timeless or temporal? Does He remain untouched the by the temporality of His creation, or has He entered into the flow of time with His creation? Does He exist in an “eternal now” outside of time, or does He experience chronology and succession? Does He transcend time so that He has His whole life before Him all at once without the ordering of temporal relations such as earlier than/later than, or does He experience His life moment by moment? Is it the case that from God’s perspective “the entire series of temporal events is real…and thus available for his causal influence at any point in history through a single timeless act,”1 or does God experience and act within the entire series of temporal events successively over time?

I am persuaded that it both Biblically sound and philosophically preferable that we understand God to be timeless without creation, and temporal subsequent to creation. With the act of creation God has entered into the flow of time, experiences chronology and succession, experiences His life moment by moment, and acts within the entire series of temporal events successfully over time. Before I argue for this conclusion, however, let’s consider the nature of time itself. (more…)

A United Methodist pastor has undergone a sex-change surgery from female to male. The ruling body does not see a problem with this. I bet the Presbyterian Church USA is mad that the Methodists beat them to this! These two organizations seem to be in a competition of whose ministers can be more sexually deviant. John Wesley is probably turning in his grave right now.Update: Arthur uncovered a news article indicating that the Presbyterians did beat the Methodists to it. See the comments section.

Philosopher Jerry Fodor made the following remarks in his review of Galen Strawon’s Consciousness and Its Place in Nature, on why materialist explanations for consciousness (particularly Strawson’s) do not work:

So, then, if everything is made of the same sort of stuff as tables and chairs (as per monism), and if at least some of the things made of that sort of stuff are conscious (there is no doubt that we are), and if there is no way of assembling stuff that isn’t conscious that produces stuff that is (there’s no emergence), it follows that the stuff that tables, chairs and the bodies of animals (and, indeed, everything else) is made of must itself be conscious. Strawson, having wrestled his angel to a draw, stands revealed as a panpsychist: basic things (protons, for example) are loci of conscious experience. You don’t find that plausible? Well, I warned you.

Nor, having swallowed this really enormous camel, does Strawson propose to strain at the gnats. Consider, for example: he thinks (quite rightly) that there are no experiences without subjects of experience; if there’s a pain, it must be somebody or something’s pain; somebody or something must be in it. What, then, could it be that has the experiences that panpsychists attribute to ultimate things? Nothing purely material, surely, since that would just raise the hard problem all over again. So maybe something immaterial? But monism is in force; since the constituents of
tables and chairs are made of matter, so too is everything else. So, Strawson is strongly inclined to conclude, the subjects of the experiences that basic things have must be the experiences themselves. Part of the surcharge that we pay for panpsychism (not, after all, itself an immediately plausible ontology) is that we must give up on the commonsense distinction between the experience and the experiencer. At the basic level, headaches have themselves.

I find amazing the lengths to which materialists will go to avoid a non-materialistic perspective of consciousness. They would rather confess that tables and chairs experience consciousness than admit that consciousness is an immaterial phenomenon that cannot be explained in terms of philosophical naturalism, and the sciences. In light of their belief that science can explain everything without an appeal to the immaterial, they spew forth nonsense such as this.

HT: Denise O’Leary at

 

Mindful Hack

Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason has another terrific post, this time on the topic of the appropriateness of God’s claim to worship and obedience. She writes:

A common objection has been raised by a number of the “new atheists.” In the ABC News debate, Kelly’s remark express it well: Even if there is a God, she “would rather go to hell than go to heaven and worship a megalomaniacal tyrant.” It comes up on Hitchens new book.

It’s one way of interpreting the God of the Bible who expects worship and
obedience. I don’t think it’s the accurate interpretation, and I don’t think it’s how we normally respond to appropriate authority in our lives and society. The expectation of respect, obedience is a very familiar one to us.

Do parents expect to be obeyed and respected by their children? Of course, because there is a certain relationship in place. Do we tend to show respect to a boss? Of course. Don’t we naturally show respect, and even awe, when we meet someone for whom we have tremendous respect because of their achievements? Yes. We experience relationships all the time where a certain deference is due the person in the higher station. That’s the case with God. It’s not at all outrageous.

It’s not megalomaniacal for someone to expect the kind of deference due his accomplishments and station. The expectation isn’t arbitrary; it’s appropriate given accomplishments and position.

Now grant for a moment that God is the person who created the universe, created each one of us, sustains us and provides for all of our needs and well-being, if He
is perfect, holy and good, then wouldn’t it be reasonable that respect, obedience, and even worship are due Him? We don’t worship other human beings, but if God is the being the Bible describes, then worship seems like an appropriate expectation, and it’s not a strange, outrageous expectation given familiar human relationships.

Well said.

“Prior” to the creation of the material universe ex nihilo there was no space or time. Because there was no time we conclude that God existed atemporally (timelessly). What about the absence of space? Would this not mean God existed non-spatially without creation? Yes it would. How does that conclusion square with the Biblical teaching that God is omnipresent? How can a being that is spaceless in nature be omnipresent? Is the Bible contradicting itself in its description of God’s nature? What exactly is the nature of God’s omnipresence? Has He always been omnipresent? These questions ought to cause us to think more clearly about what it means to say God is “omnipresent.”

 

To be all-present requires that there be a “here” and a “there” to be present at. Without the existence of spatial location the notion of omnipresence is meaningless. Seeing that there was no space “prior” to creation it follows that God was not omnipresent prior to creation.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> Omnipresence, then, is not an essential attribute of God’s nature; spacelessness is essential to God’s nature. “God existing alone without creation is spaceless.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–> God became omnipresent concurrent with creation in virtue of the creation of space.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–> Omnipresence emerged as a contingent relation between God and the spatial universe.

 

What is the Nature of God’s Omnipresence?

 

While we have determined that God is spaceless without creation and omnipresent subsequent to creation, this does not tell us anything about the nature of His omnipresence. What does it mean to say God is omnipresent? Does it mean He is spatially located within and extended throughout the universe such that He is present at every point, or does it mean He is cognizant of and causally active at every point in the universe though He is neither spatially located in, nor spatially extended throughout it?<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–> While we have typically conceived of omnipresence in the first sense I would argue that God’s omnipresence is more aptly described by the second.

 

At a minimum God’s omnipresence means He is not localized anywhere within space, and that He lacks both shape and size. But if omnipresence refers to God’s extension through space He would have both shape and size because the universe has both shape and size. God is not extended through space so that He fills it like air fills a container. God is not a physical substance that can fill anything. God’s omnipresence in the universe is more comparable to the way in which our minds are “filled” with thoughts. Our thoughts are not spatially extended throughout our minds, and neither is God spatially extended throughout the universe.

 

If God were spatially present at every point in the universe He could not distinguish “here” from “there.” For a being that is spatially present at every point in the universe everywhere is here; everything is ever-present before Him. There is no “there” for such a being. If God were spatially extended through space He must believe that two points, separated by millions of light years, are both “here.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–> That would mean God could not know the Statue of Liberty is separated from the Eiffel Tower by thousands of miles. That is patently absurd, and impugns God’s omniscience! There must be a better way of understanding God’s omnipresence.

 

Has God Changed?

 

Earlier I argued that spacelessness, rather than omnipresence, is essential to God’s nature. Those properties that are essential to a substance cannot be changed without causing the substance to cease to exist. Only accidental properties can be changed if the substance is to retain its essence. If spacelessness is essential to God’s nature, then, how could God become omnipresent at creation without giving up the property of spacelessness and ceasing to be who He was? If God’s omnipresence is understood as a spatial location extended through space this is unavoidable, for He would be required to relinquish the property of spacelessness in order to assume the property of spatiality, and thus He would cease to exist as the divine essence He once was. If, however, God’s omnipresence is understood as God’s immediate mental cognizance of, and causal activity at every point in the universe then God’s omnipresence would not encroach on His essential spaceless nature. Mental cognizance and causal activity do not require spatial presence.

 

Additionally, there is nothing intrinsic to the act of creation that would require God to be drawn into space (spatialized). Creation was not a spatial act, therefore, we have no compelling reason to believe God surrendered His divine spacelessness and began to exist spatially subsequent to the act of creation. It stands to reason that God remained spaceless even subsequent to creation. If God remained spaceless His omnipresence must mean He is simply “cognizant of and causally active at every point of space”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[6]<!–[endif]–>.

 

Conclusion

 

God’s omnipresence is an example of analogous language in which those incomprehensible aspects of God’s nature are described in terms finite humans can comprehend. We run into problems, however, when we take this use of language and apply it to God in literal terms. God is not spatially extended throughout the finite universe, but is cognizant of and causally active in each and every part of it as a non-spatial being. Because God is mentally cognizant of, rather than personally located at every point in the universe He can be both here and there, and know the difference between the two.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>


<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>To speak of that which was prior to creation is a figure of speech, similar to the way scientists speak of temperatures “lower than” absolute zero. It is a mental construct only, having no ontological basis in reality. The beginning of time is a boundary beyond which only our imagination can travel. Trying to find time before the beginning is like trying to cross the boundary of space into spacelessness. There is no space on the other side of space in which to cross over into, and likewise there is no time on the other side of the beginning to go back to.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–>William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 510.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–>Space was created by God, but that does not mean it was manufactured as if it were some physical substance. To say God “created” space merely expresses the fact that (1) space had a temporal beginning, and that (2) God is its causal agent. Space is not a physical substance, but a relation that obtains in virtue of the presence of finite and material objects. Just as time keeps every event from happening at once, space keeps everything from being located at the same point. In the utter absence of finite and material objects space would not obtain. God no more created something called space than we create the relation “next to” when we place two books side-by-side. Apart from the creation of matter there would be no space (or time for that matter), for it is only the creation of material substance that necessitates there be space in which the matter can exist, and time in which the matter can move. Space and time “came along for the ride” in virtue of the creation of matter, but they were not the objects of creation itself. The relations of space and time emerged with the existence of matter. Space is a contingent relation emerging concomitantly with the presence of material substance.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–>William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 510.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–>William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 510.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[6]<!–[endif]–>William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 510.

I don’t know about you, but I have always been somewhat bothered by how the apostles interpreted the OT at times. While we are taught (rightly so for the most part) that meaning is to be found in the author’s intention, the apostles seemed to find meaning in the OT that the author could not have possibly intended. At times they seem to throw context and the whole historico-grammatical approach to hermeneutics out the door.

For example, in Hosea God says, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Matthew says this was prophetic of Jesus’ sojourn and departure from Egypt as a child. Nothing in the original context indicates the passage to be prophetic in nature, or have any Messianic application. It was a mere historical statement about what God did in the Exodus.

Or consider Paul’s use of Genesis 12 and 15. God told Abraham his “seed” would possess the land of Canaan forever. While the word “seed” in Hebrew (zera) is singular, the context makes it clear that God was speaking about all of Abraham’s physical descendents. In Galatians 3, however, Paul interpreted the singular “seed” to be a reference to a single person: Jesus Christ. He is said to be seed to whom the covenant promises applied. From this, Paul made a theological claim that by being united to Christ through faith we too become the seed of Abraham, partaking of the promises God made to Him. A very strange use of Scripture indeed. I can guarantee you that if Matthew or Paul was enrolled in a hermeneutics course today, and interpreted the Scripture the way they did under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the NT, the professor would give them a failing grade.

So how do we make sense of this? Peter Enns, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, offers some help. He authored an article titled “Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture: Moving beyond a Modernist Impasse,” which appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. While this is a complicated and vast topic that cannot be adequately tackled in a short paper, Enns did a good job of making some inroads. The paper can be downloaded here. While I would highly recommend that you read it for yourself, I will summarize and reproduce relevant points.

Enns begins by acknowledging a genuine conflict between the hermeneutic of the apostles and the hermeneutic of modern Evangelicalism. Whereas many Evangelicals try explaining away the apostles’ regular departure from a historico-grammatical (HG) approach to hermeneutics, Enns admits that the apostles’ hermeneutic is markedly different from the HG method. While at times they used the HG method, at other times they didn’t.

Enns points out that to understand the way the apostles interpreted the OT, we have to understand the hermeneutical principles being used by their contemporaries. Their hermeneutic was culturally informed. Looking at contemporaneous writings it becomes clear that the way the apostles interpreted the OT is consistent with the rabbis of the Second Temple era.

Not only was the apostles’ hermeneutic culturally informed, but more importantly it was eschatologically informed. Enns writes:

The Apostles had their own reasons for engaging the OT, their Scripture. How they engaged the OT (interpretive methods) and even their own understanding of certain OT passages (transmission of pre-existing interpretive traditions) were a function of their cultural moment. But why they engaged the OT was driven by their eschatological moment, their belief that Jesus of Nazareth was God with us and that he had been raised from the dead. True to their Second Temple setting, the Apostles did not arrive at the conclusion that Jesus is Lord from a dispassionate, objective reading of the OT. Rather, they began with what they knew to be true—the historical fact of the death and resurrection of the Son of God—and on the basis of that fact re-read their Scripture in a fresh way. There is no question that such a thing can be counter-intuitive for a more traditional evangelical doctrine of Scripture. It is precisely a dispassionate, unbiased, objective reading that is normally considered to constitute valid reading. But again, what may be considered valid today cannot be the determining factor for understanding what the Apostles did.

For example, it is difficult indeed to read Matt 2:15 as an objective reading of Hos 11:1, likewise, Paul’s use of Isa 49:8 in 2 Cor 6:2. Neither Matthew nor Paul arrived at his conclusions from reading the OT. Rather, they began with the event from which all else is now to be understood. In other words, it is the death and resurrection of Christ that was central to the Apostles’ hermeneutical task.
To put it another way, it is the conviction of the Apostles that the eschaton had come in Christ that drove them back to see where and how their Scripture spoke of him. And this was not a matter of grammatical-historical exegesis but of a Christ-driven hermeneutic. The term I prefer to use to describe this hermeneutic is Christotelic. … To see Christ as the driving force behind apostolic hermeneutics is not to flatten out what the OT says on its own. Rather, it is to see that, for the church, the OT does not exist on its own, in isolation from the completion of the OT story in the death and resurrection of Christ. The OT is a story that is going somewhere, which is what the Apostles are at great pains to show. It is the OT as a whole, particularly in its grand themes, that finds its telos, its completion, in Christ. This is not to say that the vibrancy of the OT witness now comes to an end, but that—on the basis of apostolic authority—it finds its proper goal, purpose, telos, in that event by which God himself determined to punctuate his covenant: Christ.

The big question is Can we do what the apostles did? Can we re-read the OT in light of the eschatological Christ event and find Christ where Christ would not be found using the normal HG method of interpretation? Most would say no. Why is it that the apostles could do it, but we can’t? The usual response is that the apostles could do it because they were inspired to do so, whereas we are not; they had apostolic authority to do so, whereas we do not. Enns destroys that argument on several counts. First, it would be all the more reason for us to employ their methods of interpretation. If God inspired them to interpret Scripture in such a fashion, the method must be valid. While we may not be certain that Christ is found in the OT where we think we see Him (since there would be no inspired Scripture to verify that we are right), looking for Him in passages not speaking of Him in their original context could not be condemned as illegitimate. Secondly, if we are to follow the apostles’ teaching, why should we not follow their hermeneutics? Thirdly, rooting the apostles’ ability to handle the Scripture in the manner they did because of their office could actually argue against the legitimacy of their claims to apostolicity. If the H-G method of interpretation is the only valid method, and the apostles did not consistently use it, then they were mishandling the Word of God. That’s hardly befitting of an apostle; hence, they are not apostles. If we reject the conclusions of these three arguments, then we must reject the traditional argument for why we can’t interpret the Bible the way the apostles did.

How does Enns answer this question? He argues that we can use the apostles’ hermeneutical goal, but not their exegetical method. Regarding the former Enns writes:

The Apostles’ hermeneutical goal (or agenda), the centrality of the death and resurrection of Christ, must be also ours by virtue of the fact that we share the same eschatological moment. …
A Christian understanding of the OT should begin with what God revealed to the Apostles and what they model for us: the centrality of the death and resurrection of Christ for OT interpretation. We, too, are living at the end of the story; we are engaged in the second reading by virtue of our eschatological moment, which is now as it was for the Apostles the last days, the inauguration of the eschaton. We bring the death and resurrection of Christ to bear on the OT. Again, this is not a call to flatten out the OT, so that every psalm or proverb speaks directly and explicitly of Jesus. It is, however, to ask oneself, “What difference does the death and resurrection of Christ make for how I understand this proverb?” It is the recognition of our privileged status to be living in the post-resurrection cosmos that must be reflected in our understanding of the OT. Therefore, if what claims to be Christian proclamation of the OT simply remains in the pre-eschatological moment—simply reads the OT “on its own terms”—such is not a Christian proclamation in the apostolic sense.


Regarding the latter Enns writes:

What then of the exegetical methods employed by the Apostles? Here I follow Longenecker to a degree in that we do not share the Second Temple cultural milieu of the Apostles. I have no hesitation in saying that I would feel extremely uncomfortable to see our pastors, exegetes, or Bible Study leaders change, omit, or add words and phrases to make their point, even though this is what NT authors do. One very real danger that we are all aware of is how some play fast and loose with Scripture to support their own agenda. The church instinctively wants to guard against such a misuse of Scripture by saying, “Pay attention to the words in front of you in their original context.” What helps prevent (but does not guarantee against) such flights of fancy is grammatical-historical exegesis.

But this does not mean the church should adopt the grammatical-historical method as the default, normative hermeneutic for how it should read the OT today. Why? Because grammatical-historical exegesis simply does not lead to a Christotelic (apostolic) hermeneutic. A grammatical-historical exegesis of Hos 11:1, an exegesis that is anchored by Hosea’s intention, will lead no one to Matt 2:15. The first (grammatical-historical) reading does not lead to the second reading. This is a dilemma. The way I have presented the dilemma may suggest an impasse, but perhaps one way beyond that impasse is to question what we mean by “method.” The word implies, at least to me, a worked out, conscious application of rules and steps to arrive at a proper understanding of a text. But what if “method,” so understood, is not as central a concept as we might think? What if biblical interpretation is not guided so much by method but by an intuitive, Spirit-led engagement of Scripture with the anchor being not what the author intended but by how Christ gives the OT its final coherence?

I’ll leave you hanging with that. Check out the article.

For additional resources, check out this excellent lecture by Matt Harmon, Associate Professor of NT Studies at Grace Theological Seminary, and this article by Glenn Miller (I haven’t finished reading it yet, but Miller is always good).

Anti-war advocates love the slogan, “War is not the answer.” But what is the question? The question is how we stop the X that is causing the conflict. How do the pacifists plan to alleviate that conflict? By talking to the enemy? Do they honestly think that hasn’t been done before declaring war? Do they suggest we simply engage in more talks? How long should ineffective talks go on before some other solution is sought? Do they honestly think Hitler would have stopped killing Jews if only the Allies had talked to him more, or that Osama bin Laden will stop trying to kill Americans if only we sit down and chat with him? Strict pacifism is naïve. We may debate whether this or that war was entered prematurely, but an absolutist “war is not the answer” attitude is untenable. The fact of the matter is that war has been the answer to many otherwise unsolvable conflicts. See my article titled “Pacifism: Well Intentioned, but Ultimately Immoral” for further arguments against pacifism.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated by the fact that you don’t see miracles happening in your local church on the level they did in the NT? Next to knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, my strongest longing in Bible college was to experience, and be used in the supernatural. I wanted to see the same miracles I read about in the NT performed in my midst as well. More specifically, I wanted to be the vessel the Lord used to work those miracles. I prayed every day for this. I believed God would do it. I fasted in faith to see the breakthrough. It never happened.

Yeah, there were little things that happened here and there, but nothing major, and nothing consistent. It frustrated me to no end. What was wrong with me? What was wrong with everyone else for that matter? After all, I wasn’t the only one praying in faith to be a vessel of God in this area, and failing to see results. My intellectual and existential struggle with this reached crisis proportions by the end of my junior year, causing me to seriously reconsider the Christian faith. After all, if the God of the Bible is a miracle worker, and the Bible promises that those same miracles will follow those who believe—and yet they weren’t—then maybe there’s something wrong with this whole Christianity thing.

Of course, I understood from passages such as I Cor 12 that while God can work through any believer to perform any miracle at any time, there are some in the body who are specifically gifted in those areas, and thus we should expect to see the miraculous being exhibited more frequently in their lives than in others’. But this did not alleviate my frustration, because other passages in Scripture seemed to indicate that at least some of the miraculous should be exhibited in the lives of all believers.

After several years of frustration and thinking on the topic, I came to the following conclusion: I had false expectations about the miraculous. While defending his apostleship against those who challenged it Paul said, “Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance by signs and wonders and powerful deeds.” According to Paul the signs and wonders he performed proved that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. We tend to read the exploits of Paul in the Book of Acts and come away with the impression that every Christian can do exactly what Paul did, but this fails to take into consideration Paul’s unique office in the body of Christ. If every Christian performed the miraculous just like Paul, how would the miraculous have been a distinct confirmation of his apostleship? Not everyone is an apostle. Apostles have the unique ability to work miracles—many and great miracles—that other believers do not have. This does not mean that non-apostles will not work any miracles, but it does mean that they may be less notable, and clearly not as frequent. We should not expect to be used in the miraculous on the same level as what we read about in Scripture.

We also have to have the proper perspective on the frequency of the miraculous even in Scripture. While a lot of miraculous things are recorded in Acts we have to remember that they were spread out over a period of about 30 years. Now it certainly might be the case that there were a lot more miracles that took place during that period of time that just weren’t recorded, but we should not get the idea that these miracles in Acts were occurring every day.

Do I say all of this to say that we should not be looking for the miraculous? No, God is still in the miracle-working business. We just need to manage our expectations, not expecting that the signs of an apostle be wrought by those who are not apostles.

The New York Post reports

on a new nationwide poll of Muslim beliefs about suicide bombings, Al Qaeda, and the U.S. led wars in the Middle East. The findings may scare you.It’s not a good sign when 26% of American Muslims under the age of 30 believe suicide bombings and other means of violence against innocent civilians can be justified on rare occasions “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” Nor is it a good sign when 5% of American Muslims have a favorable view of Al Queda.

Given the fact that 60% of Muslims either deny or take no position that Arabs were involved in the September 11th attack, 75% oppose the war in Iraq, and 48% oppose the war in Afghanistan, it doesn’t take a leap to think some of these U.S. Muslims see the U.S. as an enemy. And given the fact that 5% of American Muslims (117,500 people) support Al Qaeda, and 1 out of 4 young American Muslims think suicide bombings against innocent civilians is justified to defend Islam from its enemies, we would be stupid beyond pale to close our eyes to the possibility of being attacked at home by U.S. Muslims because we don’t want to be politically incorrect.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Muslims are our enemies. There are many good Muslims who are pro-America, and would never think of doing anything to harm us. But there is obviously a viable minority among us who think otherwise, and we can’t shut our eyes to that fact. To do so would only be to our own peril.

 

The President’s former speech writer, Michael Gerson, wrote an article in the Washington Post on Giuliani’s incoherent position on abortion. He writes:

In early debates and statements, he has set out his views on this topic with all the order and symmetry of a freeway pileup. His argument comes down to this: “I hate abortion,” which is “morally wrong.” But “people ultimately have to make that choice. If a woman chooses that, that’s her choice, not mine. That’s her morality, not mine.” This is a variant of the position developed by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1985. In this view, the Catholic Church’s belief in the immorality of abortion is correct, in the same sense that its belief in the Immaculate Conception is correct. Both beliefs are religious, private and should not be enforced by government.

But the question naturally arises: Why does Giuliani “hate” abortion? No one feels moral outrage about an appendectomy. Clearly he is implying his support for the Catholic belief that an innocent life is being taken. And here the problems begin.

How can the violation of a fundamental human right be viewed as a private matter? Not everything that is viewed as immoral should be illegal…but when morality demands respect for the rights of a human being, those protections become a matter of social justice, not just personal or religious preference.

This view is likely to dog him in the primary process, not only because it is pro-choice but because it is incoherent.

HT:

Between Two Worlds

Part two of the interview with Jacob Needleman (see the previous post on 5/18) contains a perceptive quote about the current imbalance between scientific progress and ethics (embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, etc.):

 

 

One of them [obstacles to being good] is a kind of a belief, not in science so much, but in scientism. That is the religion of science. We know that our scientific progress and our technology [have] gotten way out in front of moral development. We are like little children sitting in a big powerful locomotive playing with the switches — we don’t know what the hell we are doing. I think our moral development, maybe our culture, has in some sense lagged behind our intellectual development.


I just finished reading two papers from two evolutionists who are trying to set the historical record straight when it comes to Charles Darwin. Did you know that Darwin did not even use the word “evolution” until the sixth edition of his The Origin of Species? Did you know Darwin was not the first to come up with the idea of natural selection, or even to coin the phrase “survival of the fittest”? Neither was he the first to propose that man descended from apes. He knew so little about animals that he wasn’t even the one to notice the differences in beak sizes among the finches he collected from the Galapagos Islands, yet alone the significance of the adaptations. While Darwin is hailed as the icon of evolution, he contributed very little to the idea.

Paul A. Rees, senior lecturer in the School of Environment & Life Sciences at the University of Salford (England) wrote an article in the Journal of Biological Education titled “The Evolution of Textbook Misconceptions about Darwin.” He explores how Darwin is portrayed in 12 advanced-level biology textbooks, and discovers seven major historical errors.

Hiram Caton, of Griffith University (Australia), wrote an article in the journal, Evolutionary Psychology, titled “Getting Our History Right: Six Errors About Darwin and His Influence.” Caton identifies six major errors about Darwin and his contribution to evolutionary theory that appear in the Darwin Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. For starters, Caton shows that Darwin did not rock the theological world with his views. Victorian society was already beginning to accept evolutionary ideas prior to Darwin. He only helped popularize evolutionary thought by synthesized existing ideas, and illustrating them in fresh ways through concrete biological examples.

Check out the articles. You’ll never look at Darwin the same again.

Cal Thomas on the Senate immigration bill: “Why do our elected leaders care more for noncitizens than they do citizens? There is no constitutional right to come to America; neither is there a right to become a U.S. citizen. Do we let robbers keep the money if they successfully break into a bank? Isn’t this the message we have been sending to illegals: if you can get here, you can have all sorts of goodies previously reserved for people who abide by the law?”

“Look, I don’t think that it’s useful to bring up Mormonism as a cult in the political discussion. It’s not relevant to Romney’s candidacy and most people misunderstand what we mean by ‘cult.’ There are two definitions – a sociological one that involves brainwashing and coercion, and a theological one that examines doctrine. Average people think of the former and misunderstand the point.”—Melinda Penner

See part 1 and part 2 of an article written by John Snyder, in which he explains why liberal democracy did not come to life until the 16th and 17th centuries. Not only is Christianity in general responsible for this success, but a decidedly Protestant, Calvinistic worldview in particular.

 


The entire article is only four pages, so it’s a quick read.

“Rationality isn’t just what you believe, it’s also why you believe it. I’m quite sure many Christians hold true beliefs for unjustified or even no good reason. A lot of Christians believe in the Trinity but can’t explain it coherently, much less defend it. They don’t really understand it despite believing it to be true. It’s an irrational true belief.” –Melinda Penner

A younger Dawkins is stumped, then ducks the question of where we find new genetic information being produced in the biological world. The video is rather funny. Dawkins replies to the video here. You be the judge of whether his explanation is just a further dodge or not. If you’ll notice…he still doesn’t answer the question!

I was looking through the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle for religious pieces, when I stumbled on an interview with Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University. His emphasis on religious and moral philosophy is reflected in his latest book, Why Can’t We Be Good? (Tarcher, 2007). In the book, Needleman asks why man fails to act according to common sense, and his soul’s deepest desires.

 

Needleman is no Christian, and yet his understanding of why humans act the way they do is strikingly Christian. This is particularly remarkable given the distinct nature of the Christian perspective on our moral nature among the world’s religions. While the entire interview was good reading, these are some of the more notable sections:

 

We have a sense in ourselves of what’s right and wrong and we constantly, or, I should say, often betray it. This disconnect is an intrinsic part of the human condition, one that every religious and spiritual leader has tried to address and in some way repair. It’s as though there’s one part of us that knows one thing, and yet it’s another part of us that acts. And the two parts don’t speak to each other very well. … One part has a tendency toward the good — to what is noble, to what is related to the sacred, to what wishes to love – and the other part is in the service of desires that are socially conditioned into us by the illusion that just getting what we like or want will make us happy.

Personally, I think we do know what is good, but it’s in the deep part of ourselves that’s very deep down in us and is all covered over by self-deceptions. We don’t know it in a way that enables it to touch our feelings, our reactions, our muscles, our nerves. … We say, “I know I shouldn’t smoke, but …” or “I know I shouldn’t eat all this stuff,” or whatever it is. Put the pastry in front of me, put the cigarette in front of me, and there I go.

 

 

This screams out Paul’s teaching on man’s moral condition in Romans. Consider the following Biblical parallels:

 

We Have an Internal Sense of Right and Wrong

For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them. (Romans 2:14-15)


We Suppress What We Know to Be Right So We Can Act Selfishly

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-19)


The Human Struggle: Knowing and Wanting to Do Good, but Consistently Failing to Do So

For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. (Romans 7:14-23).

 

When asked where the universal human sense of right and wrong come from, Needleman explains, “It comes from our essence as human beings, and sometimes it also comes from our influence and environment, from education. And, in a sense, it comes from who knows where. It defines a human being that we have this potential, this power. We don’t have the awareness of it or the ability to articulate what it is, but down in our essential nature there is something called conscience, which is not necessarily just a socially conditioned ego.”

 

When asked if he believed humans are basically good, Needleman responded, “Yes, basically. We are built to be able to care and to love as part of our essential nature.” This was the one seemingly non-Christian statement. Christianity, and Christianity alone teaches that man is basically evil. Given all he had said about man’s deplorable condition previously, I wondered how he could possibly answer the question the way he did. But as I thought about Needleman’s answer, I don’t think what he means by “basically good” is at odds with Biblical teaching, or contradicts his previous assessment of the human condition.

 

The answer to the question if man is essentially good or essentially evil depends on what one means by the question. Are they speaking quantitatively, or qualitatively? Most people perceive the question to be about quantities: Does mankind commit more evils than goods? Understood in that fashion I can see how Needleman might say man is basically good. On average it seems we spend most of our day doing morally good, or at least morally neutral things. Committing moral wrongs are the exception. Of course, it could be argued that this assessment depends on what we define as moral wrongs. If we include the subtle sins of anger, jealousy, covetousness, worldliness, and the like, along with the “big sins,” our bad deeds probably do outweigh our good deeds.

 

If, however, we are speaking of our qualitative sense, then the Christian is right to say man is basically evil. Humankind is bent toward evil, not the good. Our natural propensity is to do what’s wrong, not what’s right. It takes little effort to do something bad, but much effort and discipline to do what is right. This doesn’t mean we are necessarily as evil as we could be. But one thing is for certain, if you put a human being in a difficult circumstance, our true nature usually shows, and it’s not good!

 

“Look, you’re not going to come up with the Nicene Creed by just picking up the Bible. Does the Bible contribute to our understanding? Absolutely it does; the Nicene Creed is consistent with Scripture. But you needed a church that had a self-understanding in order to articulate that in any clear way.”—Frank Beckwith

 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/mayweb-only/119-33.0.html

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