January 2010


Here is a funny video mocking the new iPad.

HT: Between Two Worlds

This makes my blood boil.  In the past two years, Nancy Pelosi has cost us taxpayers $2.1 million dollars so she can fly around in Air Force planes.  What’s even worse is that her in-flight food and alcohol expenses are $101,000!  Whatever your party affiliation, I think we can all agree that this is utter waste.

Al Mohler has written a good piece on the doctrine of hell.  He details the steps by which the doctrine has become liberalized in many churches:

  1. It ceases to be discussed
  2. It is revised and retained in a reduced form
  3. It is subject to ridicule
  4. The doctrine is reformulated (annihilationism, etc.)

I would add a possible fifth step as well: The doctrine is denied.

This same pattern can be applied to the liberalization of any Biblical doctrine.  We must be on guard so as not to follow this pattern.  The best way to guard against it is to preach and teach on the full spectrum of Biblical doctrines, rather than focusing on a handful and ignoring others.  In general, what ceases to be taught ceases to be believed.

Mohler also had some challenging words on the tendency to lament, or apologize for the doctrine of hell.  As Mohler describes it, there are Bible believing Christians who will affirm that the Bible teaches the doctrine of hell, but admit they do not like the doctrine and wish it were not true.  I think we’ve all been there, and understandably so.  But Mohler raises some good points against this disposition:

What does this say about God? What does this imply about God’s truth? Can a truth clearly revealed in the Bible be anything less than good for us? … Apologizing for a doctrine is tantamount to impugning the character of God.  Do we believe that hell is a part of the perfection of God’s justice? If not, we have far greater theological problems than those localized to hell.

Indeed.  As Dennis Prager once noted, it would be the epitome of injustice if the evil had the same fate as the righteous.  If we love God, then we will love righteousness and justice.  And if we love righteousness and justice, then the existence of hell is not something we should lament.

Back in Marcy 2009 I reported on the fact that teen pregnancy rates were on the rise again.  The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) just released a report providing some details on this.  According to the AGI:

The teen pregnancy rate declined 41% between its peak, in 1990 (116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–19), and 2005 (69.5 per 1,000). Teen birth and abortion rates also declined, with births dropping 35% between 1991 and 2005 and teen abortion declining 56% between its peak, in 1988, and 2005. But all three trends reversed in 2006. In that year, there were 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–19. Put another way, about 7% of teen girls became pregnant in 2006.

Among black teens, the pregnancy rate declined by 45% (from 223.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to 122.7 in 2005), before increasing to 126.3 in 2006. Among Hispanic teens, the pregnancy rate decreased by 26% (from 169.7 per 1,000 in 1992 to 124.9 in 2005), before rising to 126.6 in 2006. Among non-Hispanic white teens, the pregnancy rate declined 50% (from 86.6 per 1,000 in 1990 to 43.3 per 1,000 in 2005), before increasing to 44.0 in 2006.

They also report that teen abortion rates rose 1% in 2006 as well.

William Lane Craig and Chad Meister are the editors of and contributors to the new book God is Great, God is Good, which is a response to the New Atheists.  I have not read the book yet, but I have read a review of its contents that makes me think this is one of the best books to-date on this subject.  Not only can it boast of the contributions of top-notch scholars such as J.P. Moreland, Alister McGrath, Scot McKnight,  and Gary Habermas, but it covers a breadth of issues raised by the New Atheists.  If you are looking for a concise introduction and response to the new atheism, I would recommend this book.  It was also named best apologetics book by Christianity Today.

Theists often offer the moral argument in support of God’s existence.  While the argument can take many forms, the essence of the argument is that objective moral values exist, and are best explained by the existence of a transcendent, personal being whose very nature is good.  The common response offered by atheists is that one need not believe in God to be moral and loving.  “After all,” they say, “I am a moral person and I don’t believe in God.  Surely, then, belief in God is not necessary for morality.”

There are two things amiss about this response.  First, it misconstrues the theist’s argument.  He is not arguing that one must believe in God to recognize moral truths (a claim about moral epistemology) or to behave morally, but rather that God must exist for there to even be such a thing as morality (a claim about moral ontology).  God’s existence is necessary to ground moral values in objective reality.  If there is no God, there can be no such thing as objective moral values.  We might choose to call certain behaviors “good” and certain behaviors “evil,” but such ascriptions are subjective determinations by human communities; i.e. they merely describe the beliefs and preferences of human subjects, not some object that exists transcendent to them.

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Brett Kunkle, the student impact speaker from Stand to Reason, relates a story that typifies the point I was making in Getting to our Kids First:

After my final teaching session, the son approached me, quickly launching into a laundry list of objections to Christianity.  A lengthy conversation ensued, covering topics like objective moral truths, utilitarian ethical theory, Kant’s categorical imperative, retributive justice, divine hiddenness, intelligent design, and the experience of the Holy Spirit.  From the conversation, I guessed he was a graduate student in philosophy.  Wrong.  He was a high school senior.

His objections boiled down to this:  “I’ve been taught that Christianity’s truthfulness is confirmed by my experience.  I am no longer having powerful Christian experiences.  In addition, I’m reading arguments against Christianity.  I now wonder if it’s rational for me to remain a Christian.” 

Let’s hope this kid can be persuaded out of his doubts by the evidence, and let his story serve as a lesson for all of us parents and leaders.  We’ve got to get to our kids before the enemies of the faith do.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released its latest report on media consumption in America.  Here are some interesting highlights as reported by Al Mohler:

  • Kid’s spend 7 ½ hours per day consuming media.  But because they multi-task their media, their consumption is actually closer to 11 hours per day.
  • 66% of kids have a cell phone, but only use it for talking 30 minutes per day.  Usually it is used for texting or accessing the internet for media
  • 76% of kids have an mp3 player
  • The average American home now contains 3.8 TVs, 2.8 DVD/VCR players, at least one DVR, 2 computers, 2.3 video game consoles
  • 71% of kids aged 8-18 have a TV in their room.  Half have a video game console and/or access to cable.  1 out of 3 have their own computer.

In September I wrote about our tendency to justify the religious traditions and belief system we find ourselves in.  Things we would not believe, and evidence we would not be persuaded by if we were on the outside looking in, somehow seem so believable and persuasive when we are on the inside looking out.  As someone once said, the easiest person to deceive is yourself.  I think all of us are guilty of doing so in one matter or another.  There are strong social and emotional motivations for justifying the beliefs we were raised with, or the beliefs those in our social community collectively hold.  The cost of denying them is often too high to assess them as objectively as we should, and might otherwise do if we belonged to a different tradition.

I was reflecting further on this today as I was reading the attempts of a New Testament scholar to justify monism (the belief that man is only physical—he has no soul) from the Bible.  Such a position is so evidently contradicted by Scripture as to be near-laughable.  “How could anyone believe such a thing?,” I thought to myself.  Then I began to reflect on other attempts to justify positions that so manifestly contradict Biblical teaching.  There are those who attempt to argue that the Bible is neutral toward, or even positive about homosexuality.  Others argue that Jesus is a created deity.  The list could go on.

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Some theists and religious pluralists claim that God is wholly other; so transcendent as to be incomprehensible to finite minds.  They assert that nothing can be known about God – He is ineffable.  No propositions we humans can formulate about Him can be true.  

This perspective is fundamentally flawed.  Not only is it self-refuting and contradictory, to say no human concept of God can be true of God (since the concept of ineffability is a human concept), it also results in absurdities.  For example, if there can be no true propositions about God, then the proposition “God exists” cannot be a true proposition.  But surely this is absurd.  The ineffability of a being, X, depends on the existence of X.  If God is a real entity, then at the very least the proposition “God exists” must be a true proposition about God.  

If God’s transcendence means there is no congruence between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of man, so that whatever we know God does not know and vice versa, that would mean if we know the proposition “God exists,” God Himself cannot know it.  But surely any conscious being must be aware of its own existence, and thus it is false that our thoughts can never match God’s thoughts.  Indeed, as Christopher Neiswonger once noted, if we can’t know God’s thoughts, then we can’t know anything at all because God knows everything!

While humans cannot know every truth about God, this does not mean we cannot know any truths about God.  Indeed, on the Christian worldview, God is not wholly other, purely transcendent, and absolutely silent.  We are made in His image, He is immanent, and He has revealed Himself to mankind, communicating to us many truths about Him.  While we cannot comprehend the depths of these truths, they can be known and apprehended.

Updated 1/19/10

Greg Koukl has a really good response to those who say “Who are you to say?” in response to our disapproval of same-sex marriage:

Who are you to say?”  That challenge works both ways.  First, if my disapproval isn’t legitimate, then why is my approval legitimate?  If I don’t have the right to judge something wrong…, I certainly don’t have the right to judge it right….  Second, why is it that I can’t make a moral judgment here, but apparently you can?

The appeal for a change in marriage laws is an attempt to change the moral consensus about homosexuality.  You invite me to make a moral judgment, then you challenge my right to make a judgment when I don’t give the answer you want.

Building on Greg’s thoughts, I think the most concise, tactical response to the “Who are you to say it’s wrong?” challenge is simply to ask in return, “And who are you to say it’s acceptable?”  This response makes it clear that both parties are making claims, and those claims need to be justified.  The burden of proof is not just on the person in favor of prohibition, but is also on the person in favor of permission.

Wesley Smith drew my attention to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education making the case that environmentalism has become a quasi-religion.  It is worth quoting at length:

There are indeed environmental challenges, and steps must be taken to ameliorate them. But there is another way to understand the unique passion surrounding our need to go green.

Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to notice that religious emotions, like guilt and indignation, are still with us, even if we’re not religious. … Now the secular world still has to make sense out of its own invisible, psychological drama—in particular, its feelings of guilt and indignation. Environmentalism, as a substitute for religion, has come to the rescue. Nietzsche’s argument about an ideal God and guilt can be replicated in a new form: We need a belief in a pristine environment because we need to be cruel to ourselves as inferior beings, and we need that because we have these aggressive instincts that cannot be let out.

Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have the transgressions of leaving the water running, leaving the lights on, failing to recycle, and using plastic grocery bags instead of paper. In addition, the righteous pleasures of being more orthodox than your neighbor (in this case being more (more…)

This is a great quote:

“Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.  Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.” – R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 139.

HT: Justin Taylor

I just finished reading an interesting account of how The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts was called in to investigate a newly discovered Biblical manuscript.  If you have ever wondered how scholars go about determining the authenticity of manuscripts, this is a good read.  It’s like a detective story.  In the end, their detective work (along with the help of Google) revealed that it was a modern day forgery.

Exodus 21:22 has been used by many pro-abortion advocates, Christian and non-Christian alike, to prove that the Bible is not opposed to abortion.  The passage reads, “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” (KJV)

Greg Koukl has written a wonderful article demonstrating not only that this verse does not support such a conclusion, but that the pro-choice interpretation is based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew as found in some English translations (such as the one above). 

A free registration at www.str.org may be required to view the article.

Unless you have been vacationing in a cave somewhere in the nether regions of the Congo, you’ve probably heard of the brouhaha that has developed over Brit Hume’s advice to Tiger Woods:

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation with him. I think he’s lost his family. It’s not clear to me that — whether he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children.

But the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.

So my message to Tiger would be, “Tiger, turn your faith — turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

Many liberals are furious that Brit Hume would make such comments, for a variety of reasons.  The primary reason appears to be that he is claiming Christianity is true over and against Buddhism.  That is a politically correct no-no, labeled “intolerant.”  We’re supposed to act like our religious beliefs are no more true than the next religion’s.  How tolerant is that requirement?!  The fact of the matter is that religious claims are usually exclusive and contradict competing religious claims.  Given this fact, if one really believes the tenets of their religion, they cannot help but to think their religion is true and others’ false.

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Investors Business Daily has an article on California’s Proposition 71 that passed five years ago, which secured $3,000,000,000 dollars for embryonic stem cell research.  They note how the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which was created by the proposition and oversees the distribution of the research money, has shifted its focus to adult stem cell research.  Why?  Because ESCR is not panning out to be the promising research the supporters of prop 71 promised it would be.  While this is good, they note how it appears to be a bait-and-switch: 

To us, this is a classic bait-and-switch, an attempt to snatch success from the jaws of failure and take credit for discoveries and advances achieved by research Prop. 71 supporters once cavalierly dismissed. We have noted how over the years that when funding was needed, the phrase ‘embryonic stem cells’ was used. When actual progress was discussed, the word ‘embryonic’ was dropped because ESCR never got out of the lab.

They conclude by noting that “it is ESCR researchers who have politicized science and stood in the way of real progress. We are pleased to see California researchers beginning to put science in its rightful place.”

HT: Wesley Smith

In 2004 three fossilized fish were found in the Canadian Arctic that were hailed to be an important missing link in the evolution of fish to tetrapods (vertebrates with four limbs).  The newly discovered specimens, called Tiktaalik, have been touted as one of the best proofs for Darwinian evolution (common descent), providing solid evidence for the transition from water to land animals. 

But now a paper in Nature is reporting that approximately a dozen fossilized tetrapod footprints have been discovered in Poland that date to 397 million years ago, at least 10 million years prior to Tiktaalik, forcing biologists to push the origin of tetrapods back about 20-30 millions years earlier than previously believed.  Tiktaalik cannot be a transitional form between fish and tetrapods if tetrapods existed prior to Tiktaalik!  Like so many other supposed transitional forms touted in scientific circles and the press (think Archaeopteryx and Ida), Tiktaalik is a dead end.

Approximately 18 months ago archaeologists discovered a 3,000 year old pottery shard containing an ink inscription written in proto-Canaanite script.  That script has now been positively identified as Hebrew, making this the oldest extant Hebrew writing ever found.  It is from the 10th century BC, which would be around the time of King David’s reign.  Interestingly, it was discovered 18 miles west of Jerusalem in a building near the city gate at Elah Fortress, in the valley where the Bible describes David’s historic battle with Goliath.

The translation of the text is:

1 you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2 Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3 [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4 the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5 Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

The importance of this discovery is two-fold.  First, it proves that Israelites had the ability to write in the 10th century, silencing critics who claim that certain books of the Bible could not have been written as early as the internal witness suggests because the Israelites lacked the ability to write.  Secondly, it proves that the fortified city in which it was discovered was a city of the Israelites (the most ancient Judean city discovered to-date).  Its massive size indicates the presence of a strong kingdom, and thus this would serve as physical evidence for the existence of an early united monarchial kingdom in Israel (a fact denied by many skeptics).

Well, kind of.  In 2006 the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the state’s legislature had to provide equal benefits to same-sex couples as it did to heterosexual couples seeking legal recognition of their relationship.  The legislature complied, but chose to call same-sex unions “civil unions” rather than “marriage” (which was an upgrade from the “domestic partnerships” they implemented in 2004).  A bill introduced last year sought to make it law that same-sex unions be termed “marriages” rather than “civil unions.”  Today, the NJ Senate voted 20-14 against that bill.  

I say the Senate “kind of” voted against same-sex marriage because same-sex marriage already exists in New Jersey; it’s just called by a different name.  Same-sex couples would not have gained anything material had this bill passed, and they have not been denied anything material with its defeat.  They have merely been denied being able to call their state-recognized relationships “marriage.”  While there is something to be said about the value of a name, the fact of the matter is that the fight over same-sex marriage is not (or at least should not be) over who gets to use the “M” word, but over the legal recognition and sanction of same-sex relationships.  If you give same-sex couples all of the benefits and privileges of opposite-sex couples, you have de facto legalized same-sex marriage, whatever you call it.  Marriage by any other name is still marriage.

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