February 2013


WaldoMany atheists employ the concept of divine hiddenness to argue against God’s existence.  If God exists, they argue, why is His existence not more obvious?

I have blogged on this issue previously (here and here), so I won’t rehearse the arguments again.  Instead, I’ll simply assert that I do not accept the claim that God’s’ existence is not obvious enough.  I think there is good evidence for God’s existence, and that God only appears to be hidden because we have not looked for Him with an open mind and heart.

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Burden of ProofIn philosophy, a burden of proof refers to one’s epistemic duty to provide reasons in support his assertion/claim/position.  While listening to a debate recently, I noticed that one of the participants spoke of a “burden of justification” rather than “burden of proof.”  I thought this terminological shift was helpful since when most people hear the word “proof” they think “certainty.”  Clearly, no one has the burden to demonstrate their position with apodictic certainty.  “Justification,” on the other hand, makes it clear that one only has a burden to back up their claims with good reasons.  I am going to be intentional about adopting this terminology in the future.

excitementIf there is any word that is overused and overemphasized in Pentecostal circles, it is “excited.”  All my Pentecostal life I have heard ministers, worship leaders, and prayer leaders talking about their personal excitement, and our need to be excited for Jesus.  This message has never sat well with a melancholy person like myself.  But it’s not just me.  This sort of message is absent from the Bible as well.  While the Bible does say we should be joyful, joy is not the same as excitement.  Even if it were, the Bible clearly describes other not-so-exciting emotions that Christians will experience as well.  It not only tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but also to weep with those who weep.

There are definitely times that we should experience excitement as a follower of Jesus.  There is, after all, much to be excited about: forgiveness, eternal life, seeing Jesus, etc.  But excitement will not be characteristic of our entire Christian life, and neither should it be characteristic of every church service.  I’ve seen many excitable Christians who eventually fall by the wayside.  Excitement is never enough to carry a Christian to eternity.  While not ignoring excitement, we need to focus our attention on commitment, faithfulness, and perseverance.  Excitement waxes and wanes, but a commitment characterized by faithful endurance will pass the test of time.

J. P. MorelandAlmost everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, knows of Jesus’ teaching, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Mt 7:1).  I have addresses the proper interpretation of this passage elsewhere in my treatment of judgmentalism, but I recently read some brief comments by J. P. Moreland on the matter that I found  helpful as well.  Moreland writes:

[W]e need to distinguish two senses of judging:  condemning and evaluating.  The former is wrong and is in view in Matthew 7.  When Jesus says not to judge, he means it in the sense that the Pharisees judged others:  their purpose was to condemn the person judged and to elevate themselves above that person.  Now this is a form of self-righteous blindness that vv. 2-4 explicitly forbid.  Such judgment is an expression of a habitual approach to life of avoiding self-examination and repentance and, instead, propping oneself up by putting others down.[1]

The distinction between moral condemnation and moral evaluation is an important one.  We cannot and must not avoid moral evaluations.  Such are necessary and good.  What we must avoid are moral condemnations of people that elevate our own sense of moral superiority and blind us to our own moral inadequacies.


[1]J. P. Moreland, “On Judging Others: Is There a Right Way?”; available fromhttp://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/12/19/on-judging-others-is-there-a-right-way/; Internet; accessed 31 January 2013.

QuoteStarting the week on the lighter side.  Here are some famous misquotes and misattributions (from Wikiquote):

  • “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”, Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (played by Judy Garland)
    • This phrase was never uttered by the character. What she really said was Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.
  • “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” — Voltaire
  • Just the facts, ma’am.
    • This, the best known quote from the Jack Webb series Dragnet, was never said by Sgt. Friday in any of the Dragnet radio or television series. The quote was, however, adopted in the 1987 Dragnet pseudo-parody film starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks in which Aykroyd played Sgt. Joe Friday.
    • Correct versions:

“All we want are the facts, ma’am.”
“All we know are the facts, ma’am.”

  • Elementary, my dear Watson” – Sherlock Holmes

STIsFrom the Huffington Post:

According to new government reports, there are nearly 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year in this country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly half of these new infections occur in people between ages 15 and 24.

Researchers also found that there are 110,197,000 cases of STIs in total in the United States right now, including those occurring in people who newly contracted an infection and those who have been living with an infection. Young people between ages 15 and 24 make up more than 20 percent of the overall cases of both new and established infections.

Let me get this straight:

  • There is one sexually transmitted infection for every three people in the United States.
  • There are 20 million new infections each year
  • This costs us $15,600,000,000 annually

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Herod's SarcophagusKing Herod reigned for 33 years.  He is most famous for his building projects, including the glorious expansion of the temple in Jerusalem.  Christians know of him from the New Testament as the king who reigned at the time of Jesus’ birth, and who attempted to kill the newborn king.  Herod died shortly thereafter in 4 B.C.

Archaeologists have been excavating King Herod’s summer home at Herodium (near Bethlehem) for 40 years.  Approximately 250 artifacts, including his bathtub, statues, palatial columns, sarcophagus, and a replica of his mausoleum, went on display today at a special exhibit at the Israel Museum titled “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey.”

The best pictures are available at the Pinterest, Mail Online, and The Times of Israel.

News sources:

 

Super ManOrson Scott Card is a famous science fiction writer who has been hired by DC Comics to do some writing for “Adventures of Superman.”  Apparently gay activists are threatening to boycott DC Comics if they do not fire Card because he is morally opposed to homosex, and is an activist for traditional marriage.  Thousands have signed a petition at allout.org for his firing.

So far, DC Comics is defending Card.  They released a statement to Fox News saying, “As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that – personal views – and not those of the company itself.”  Let’s see if they stick to their guns.

Unfortunately, gay activists too often resort to trying to silence all those who disagree with their lifestyle through intimidation.  They want tolerance extended to them.  Perhaps they should try extending it to others.  True acceptance of their lifestyle can only be achieved by the power of persuasion, not intimidation.

Bear in mirrorAll of the scientific evidence points to the temporal finitude of physical reality, even if physical reality extends beyond the Big Bang (see here and here).  And yet, scientists continue to come up with mathematical models that permit an eternal universe/multiverse, and atheists continue to promote them because both are under the mistaken presumption that if physical reality is eternal, then there is no need for a transcendent cause, and thus no need for God.  As David Berlinski observed, “While an eternal universe makes it meaningless to ask when the universe began to exist, since its existence is not necessary it is still meaningful to ask why it exists.”  The fact that physical reality is contingent means that even if the universe/multiverse is eternal, it still needs a cause.

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ASSEMBLYFirst Britain, now France.  France has allowed civil unions that confer many of the benefits of marriage since 1999.  Today, France’s National Assembly – its lower house of parliament – approved a bill (329-229) that would define marriage as contract between two people regardless of their sex, and allow same-sex couples to adopt children.  Now it goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass as well.  If it does, France will become the 12th country to legalize same-sex marriage following:

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9780805447576_cvr_webA while back someone purchased The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes for me from my Ministry Resource List, for which I am always grateful.

I do a lot of reading, and had a number of books to get through before this one.  I had requested the book because it came highly recommended as a great resource on the subject, but to be honest, I was not on-the-edge-of-my-seat-excited to read it.  Like every other theologian, I am not equally interested in every theological topic, and the Lord’s Supper has never ranked too high on my list of theological priorities.

I grew up Catholic.  Communion was something we participated in weekly.  I never understood what it was all about, and didn’t care to.  It was just a ritual I went through (including the ritual of trying to get that sticky wafer off of the roof of my mouth with all sorts of clever tongue contortions).  When I converted to Pentecostal, I went from celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly to bi-annually or annually, so I had even less reason to give the topic much thought.  Sure, I studied the various positions and the historical debates on the nature and purpose of the Supper in seminary.  That piqued my interest a bit, but more from a historical perspective than a personal interest in my own practice of the Supper.  I saw the Supper as a memorial, through that we should do it (and more frequently than we usually do as Protestants), but never got much out of it personally.  Then, I read this book.  It has greatly enhanced my appreciation for the importance and significance of this ordinance instituted by none other than Jesus Himself.  There are many nuances to the Supper that most of us pass over.  This book draws them out.

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The M WordA proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain in 2014 has passed its first major hurdle to becoming law when the lower house of Parliament passed the proposal 400-175 on Tuesday.

British law already allows for civil unions, which offer the exact same rights and privileges of marriage.  Since same-sex marriage is already recognized in England in-all-but-name, the legal ramifications of this law should be negligible.  The real impact of this law will be social.  I’ll explain how, but first let me make the case against calling same-sex unions “marriage” even if they enjoy the exact same rights afforded to married couples.

Treated as equals vs. being thought of as equals

Personally, I oppose any legal recognition and/or regulation of same-sex relationships, including civil unions.  If you are going to create civil unions as an alternative institution to marriage, however, it is foolish to make it identical to marriage in every respect but the name.  It’s like saying “you can work at the same place I work at, make the same money I make, get the same health insurance I have, but you can’t call it a ‘job.’”[1]  Nevertheless, that is what England and other countries (including various states in the U.S.) have done.  They have created two institutions that are identical in all-but-name.

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Russia is experiencing a population problem.  Putin has hired Boyz II Men ahead of Valentine’s Day to get the Russians in the mood for baby-making!  As Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard quipped, he should have hired a pro-life organization instead.  In Russia, for every 10 babies born 13 more are aborted.  That is a staggeringly high abortion rate (for comparison, in the U.S. “only” 2.5 babies are aborted for every 10 babies born).  More babies are killed than born!

Russia will never fix its population problem until it fixes its culture of death that devalues unborn human life.

Steve ChalkeSteve Chalke, a promiment evangelical minister in the UK, has come out in favor of monogamous, same-sex relationships.  He has a written a 5,000 word essay to explain himself.  I have purposely delayed reporting on this issue (which hit the news a few weeks ago) until I could read his essay so as to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the news.  Having read it, I can’t say I am surprised by his arguments.  It’s the same case liberal theologians make time and time again.  He begins by an appeal to emotion (inclusion, justice, reconciliation), and then claims that we have misunderstood the Biblical texts traditionally understood as prohibitions against homosex.

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Good without GodSaying “I can be good without God” is like saying “I can be married without a spouse.”  If God does not exist, then there is no ontological grounding for goodness.  While atheists can surely behave in ways that humans have traditionally called “good,” their acts are without moral significance because morals as such cannot exist in an atheistic world.  They are just socio-cultural preferences.  Only the existence of God can ground objective goodness, and thus one can only be good if God exists.

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