February 2012


Chad Thompson makes an interesting point about using social statistics to argue against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  Even if it is true that the average homosexual only lives to age 43, or that homosexuals are much more likely to be highly promiscuous than heterosexuals, this may not be true of the homosexual you are speaking to.  They may be age 65 and engaged in long-term, monogamous same-sex relationships their whole life.

Additionally, such statistics do not necessarily show that homosexuality is bad or immoral.  What if homosexuals argued against the validity of heterosexual relationships and opposite-sex marriage on the basis that 43% of marriages end in divorce, and 3/10 women killed in this country die at the hands of their husband or boyfriend?  Would you be prepared to conclude that heterosexuality or marriage is immoral, or ought to be avoided?  Surely not![1]  So why think someone who believes homosexuality is morally and socially benign will be convinced by statistics showing the dark side of homosexuality?  They could always argue, as heterosexuals do, that while these statistics are alarming and cause for concern, the solution is not to condemn homosex but to encourage homosexuals to behave better.

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I’ve been sitting on this report for several months now….

The Merneptah Stele, dated to between 1210 – 1205 BC, has long been thought to contain the earliest extra-biblical reference to “Israel.”  However, there may be a reference to Israel in an artifact that is ~200 years older than Pharaoh Merneptah’s stele, but has been lying unnoticed in a museum storeroom for nearly 100 years.

University of Munich Hebrew scholar and Egyptologist, Manfred Görg, recently discovered a small granite slab in the storeroom of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin that he and a couple of colleagues argue contains a reference to Israel that predates the Merneptah Stele by ~200 years.[1]

The 18” x 15.5” fragment is believed to have been part of a pedestal for a statue. It contains two wholly preserved and one partially preserved Egyptian “name rings.”  Pharaohs would often record their exploits by listing in rows the names of all the cities or peoples they conquered. The name of the city was written in a round-edged rectangle, and above this name ring was a pictorial representation of the people of that city – consisting of a head and upper torso.

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I am known for posting regularly and responding to comments, but over the past two weeks I have only posted one new post and have not been able to respond to the many comments that have been coming in on the various posts. Where have I been? Working. Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t pay the bills, and my work schedule has been hectic. And when I say hectic, I mean the working-through-the-night kind of hectic. I’ve been living off of 3-4 hours of sleep for the past three weeks. Things have let up a little bit, so I’ll begin posting more regularly again, but I can’t guarantee I’ll always be able to respond to comments (and I won’t even attempt to catch up on the old ones).

After the failure of the logical problem of evil (deductive argument) to demonstrate the impossibility of God’s existence given the presence of evil in the world, atheists have largely turned to the evidential problem of evil (inductive argument) to provide a probabilistic argument against the existence of God.  Whereas the logical problem of evil argued that the mere existence of evil in the world proves God cannot exist, the evidential problem of evil argues that the amount of evil in the world is so great that it is highly improbable that a good God exists.  Those who advance the evidential form of the argument claim that if the amount of evil in the world reaches some threshold, then it is no longer reasonable to believe that a good God exists—and of course, they believe the amount of evil in the world has reached this threshold.  The argument could be stated as follows:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is commensurate to the amount of evil in the world.
(2) The probability of God’s existence declines as the amount of evil increases
(3) There is much more evil in the world than we would expect there to be if a good and all-powerful God existed
(4) Therefore, it is improbable that God exists.

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Have you ever questioned God’s existence or some point of Christian theology, and when you reached out to someone for help you were greeted with, “You just need to pray about it”?  Is this the proper response?  No, and again I say no!  This sort of response is typically not helpful, and leads many sincere people to eventually abandon the faith.

What if you said “I am hungry” and someone responded by saying “Go pray about it.”  Would you be satisfied with that?  No, because it is eating, not prayer, that is the proper solution to the problem at hand.  So why is it that when someone says “I am doubting my faith” that we think “Go pray about it” is a sufficient response?  Prayer is not the kind of thing to adequately address the problem at hand.  The problem is an intellectual one, and thus it requires an intellectual solution.[1]  Christian theology and apologetics provide an intellectual account and justification for the Christian faith.  While prayer should always be encouraged and never be discouraged, in this case prayer is not the meat and potatoes of the solution.

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Yesterday, the 9th circuit federal court of appeals upheld District Judge Vaughn Walker’s August 2010 decision that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote.  Prop 8 was a voter referendum to amend the CA constitution to declare that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman.  While the CA Supreme Court ruled that the amendment is constitutional (when judged against the California Constitution), their decision was appealed and Judge Walker ruled that it violates the U.S. Constitution.  The 9th circuit court agrees.

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That’s the claim Daniel Wallace made during his most recent debate with Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill.  In his summary of the debate at Parchment and Pen, Wallace writes:

We have as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts (six of which were recently discovered and not yet catalogued) and a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel! … Bart had explicitly said that our earliest copy of Mark was from c. 200 CE, but this is now incorrect. It’s from the first century. I mentioned these new manuscript finds and told the audience that a book will be published by E. J. Brill in about a year that gives all the data. … I noted that a world-class paleographer, whose qualifications are unimpeachable, was my source.”

Later he described the newly discovered manuscript as “just a small fragment.”  Nevertheless, if this is a manuscript copy of Mark’s gospel, and if it can be reliably dated to the 1st century AD, this would be the greatest NT manuscript find to date, surpassing even p52 (a small portion of John’s Gospel, dated to ~125 AD)!  We’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE 2/16: Dr. Wallace has written specifically on this issue on the Dallas Theological Seminary website and added a tiny bit more information by saying “it was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century.” In the comments I have also quoted Dr. Ben Witherington III regarding the owner of the fragment, and a bit more detail about it.  Witherington made it sound as if it is much more than a “small fragment.” I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see how small is small.

There are many illegitimate critiques of Intelligent Design (the hypothesis that some features of the world are best explained in terms of an intelligent cause rather than undirected natural processes).  One example is the charge often leveled against ID that it improperly uses probability statistics to infer design. For example, in a BBC documentary titled The War on Science, Ken Miller accused IDers of making the mistake of calculating probabilities after-the-fact, making the unlikely seem impossible:

One of the mathematical tricks employed by intelligent design involves taking the present day situation and calculating probabilities that the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past. And the best example I can give is to sit down with four friends, shuffle a deck of 52 cards, and deal them out and keep an exact record of the order in which the cards were dealt. We can then look back and say ‘my goodness, how improbable this is. We can play cards for the rest of our lives and we would never ever deal the cards out in this exact same fashion.’ You know what; that’s absolutely correct. Nonetheless, you dealt them out and nonetheless you got the hand that you did.

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Scott Klusendorf is the best pro-life apologist out there.  No one can say as much as Scott can say in as little space and as eloquently as he can.  He wrote an essay for the Christian Research Journal addressing five questions often asked of pro-life advocates and the pro-life movement:

  1. Are pro-life advocates focused too narrowly on abortion? After all, informed voters consider many issues, not just one.
  2. Why don’t pro-life advocates care about social justice both here and in developing countries?
  3. Why don’t pro-lifers oppose war like they do abortion?
  4. Instead of passing laws against abortion, shouldn’t pro-life Christians focus on reducing its underlying causes?
  5. Should pastors challenge church members who support a political party sworn to protect elective abortion?

It’s worth checking out his answers.  It is not a long piece, and he provides some great answers to ponder.

When President George W. Bush cited his religion as influencing his political decisions the Left cried foul.  The Left is eerily silent, however, to President Obama’s admission of the same.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

The problem is not with the idea that one is influenced by their religious convictions, but rather with the idea that religious convictions should not influence a president’s policies and decisions.  Given the fact that moral values are highly influenced by religion, and that policies usually involve a moral dimension, it is to be expected that a president’s policies would be influenced by his religious convictions.

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