August 2012


While dialoguing with a friend on the topic of abortion, I was asked how I define abortion.  After communicating my own definition of abortion, I thought it would be interesting to see how various dictionaries define it.  Needless to say, I was amazed at how inaccurate and politically correct the definitions were.  Here are a few: 

Dictionary.com
Abortion:

  1. The removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.
  2. Any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.

Interestingly, there is no mention of the fate of the unborn baby.  Instead, the focus is on the “pregnancy” and terminating that pregnancy.  

The first six months?  How is that relevant to the definition?  If a child is killed in utero at seven months, that is also called an abortion.  

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I am an Arminian, but much of my theological training has been received from the hands of Reformed theologians.  Indeed, many of the thinkers I read/follow are Reformed in their theology.  My exposure to Reformed thinkers has broadened my understanding of Calvinism, corrected many of my misconceptions about Calvinism, and produced in me a real sense of appreciation for its exegetical basis.  Indeed, sometimes I jokingly refer to myself as a “Calminian.”  And yet, for all its strengths, I think there are fatal flaws in Calvinistic theology (which is part of the reason I remain relatively Arminian—I also see some real strengths in the Molinist explanation, so perhaps I am an “Cal-mol-inian”).  In this post I will present what I believe to be one of the most fundamental challenges to Calvinistic theology.  

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Tim Keller on why apologetics is essential:

Apologetics is an answer to the “why” question after you’ve already answered the “what” question. The what question, of course, is, “What is the gospel?” But when you call people to believe in the gospel and they ask, “Why should I believe that?”—then you need apologetics.

I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time when you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.

One of the arguments Arminians level against Calvinism is that it makes evangelism superfluous.  After all, if your neighbor is part of the elect God will ensure that he comes to faith whether you preach the Gospel to him or not.  As part of God’s elect, it would be impossible for him not to come to faith.  Likewise, if your neighbor is not part of the elect, no amount of evangelism will be effective for his conversion.  So why evangelize if Calvinism is true?  What’s the point? 

Calvinists typically respond by saying God doesn’t just predestine the ends, but also the means.  While God may have predestined your neighbor’s salvation (the ends), He also predestined that your neighbor would receive that salvation in response to your evangelism (the means).  

While I can appreciate this response in principle, how exactly is God using your evangelism to bring about your neighbor’s salvation?  To speak of God using evangelism to bring about salvation implies that evangelism contributes to the desired end in some way.  I fail to see how this is so, given the strict monergism of Calvinism.  Let me explain. 

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One of the hot button issues in our culture is homosexuality and the related issue of same-sex marriage.  I have offered a non-religious argument against both (here and here).  As I have continued to reflect on these issues, however, I am persuaded that a non-religious case against homosexuality is much more difficult to make than the case against same-sex marriage.  One reason for this is the fact that the case against same-sex marriage can be made purely on policy grounds without any recourse to moral judgments.  One could believe homosex is morally irrelevant and still be opposed to the government regulating same-sex relationships.  Moral judgments, however, are not so easily divorced from one’s view on homosex.

Take for example the argument from natural law.  We argue that the natural purpose of our sexual organs requires heterosexual sex.  To use our sex organs in such a way that their natural purpose cannot be realized is morally wrong.  There are a few reasons why this will not be convincing to many who think homosex should not be opposed.

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Tim Keller had this to say about the relationship between immorality and irrationality:

Every one of our sinful actions has a suicidal power on the faculties that put that action forth. When you sin with the mind, that sin shrivels the rationality. When you sin with the heart or the emotions, that sin shrivels the emotions. When you sin with the will, that sin destroys and dissolves your willpower and your self-control. Sin is the suicidal action of the self against itself. Sin destroys freedom because sin is an enslaving power.

In other words, sin has a powerful effect in which your own freedom, your freedom to want the good, to will the good, and to think or understand the good, is all being undermined. By sin, you are more and more losing your freedom. Sin undermines your mind, it undermines your emotions, and it undermines your will.[1]

See also What I’ve Been Reading: The Making of an Atheist, Part I

HT: STR


Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” [26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 ESV) 

This passage of Scripture is often appealed to by those who see Christian apologetics as irrelevant to evangelism, or even contrary to Scripture.  On its face, it does seem to present an anti-evidence, anti-rational approach to the Christian faith: Jesus appears to berate Thomas for requiring evidence of His resurrection while pronouncing a blessing on those who believe without the need for evidence.  A closer examination of the passage in its context, however, reveals this reading of the text to be mistaken. 

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