We’re living in a time when people tend to isolate themselves intellectually. Not only do they not take it upon themselves to search out viewpoints that differ from their own, but they actually shun people who do not agree with them. We see this all the time on social media. You post something that person X does not agree with. Rather than reading what you have to say and starting a dialogue regarding your differences in hopes of helping each other discover the truth, person X ignores the post, or worse yet, unfriends you.

This sort of behavior is consistent with our cancel culture, but frankly, it is childish and foolish. I use these words advisedly, not as a smear. This is childish because only children plug their ears when they don’t want to hear what you have to say, not sensible adults, and thus when adults engage in this kind of behavior they are literally acting childish. This is foolish because this sort of behavior makes it impossible for one to grow intellectually. Everyone has false beliefs. The only way to discover which of our beliefs are false and correct those beliefs is to be open to listening to alternative viewpoints. If we ignore alternative viewpoints and shun those who hold to them, we stunt this process, guaranteeing that we will not grow in our knowledge of truth and wisdom.

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If you listen to the media, you would think that Republican states are experiencing the highest percentage of Covid-19 deaths, and that this is because Republican governors were not severe enough in their lockdowns or because they lifted lockdown restrictions too early. States like Georgia, Florida, and Texas have routinely been accused of botching the handling of the pandemic and causing unnecessary death.

Based on my limited knowledge of some stats, this narrative caused my bologna detector to go off, so I decided to do a little research. I wanted to see if there is any correlation between the severity of a state’s lockdown, political parties, and the number of Covid-19 deaths. Given the media narrative, I expected to find Republican states with non-severe lockdowns topping the list, such as Florida, Texas, and Georgia. What I found is that the truth is quite the opposite. Democratic-run states with more severe lockdown restrictions top the list of Covid-19 deaths per capita.

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Many people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, define God in terms of just one attribute – love – to the neglect of all other attributes. And even then, they misunderstand love to mean unqualified acceptance and approval of our behaviors rather than God’s unqualified desire for our good as a person. As a result of this misunderstanding of God’s nature and His love, people question the existence of hell, the legitimacy of moral judgments, etc. Yes, God is love, but He is so much more. He is also just and holy.

Personal experience is valuable and powerful, but it is of little value for determining the truth or what reality is like for other people. Personal experience is anecdotal in nature. We may know what we experienced, but how could we know that others have experienced the same? Even if we found three people who shared our experience, at best, we could conclude that four people have experienced what we have. We can’t simply extrapolate from our experience that everyone else has the same experience/perspective as we do. We can’t just assume that our experience is representative of other people’s experiences.

To know how widespread and representative our experience/perspective is, we need more than anecdotal data – we need hard data. Polling and statistics serve this purpose. They seek to determine how common certain experiences and perspectives are in the general population. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that my experience was common, only to find out from polling data that it isn’t; or how many times I have believed some X to be uncommon in society, only to find out that it was quite common (or vice-versa).

We should not place our personal experience above the facts when determining the truth. Personal experience is a factor, but it’s just one factor. If my personal experience leads me to believe that X is true, but the data shows that X is not true, then I need to correct my perception. My experience is still my experience, but I need to recognize that my experience is not necessarily the norm and should not be used to color my perception of reality. Perceptions should be based on facts, not anecdotal experiences.

P.S. As a public service announcement, for the sake of all mankind, please don’t use the phrase “lived experience.” Adding “lived” before “experience” adds no additional meaningful. It’s like saying “sufficient enough.” Every experience is a lived experience because the dead do not have experiences. ‘Nuf said.

Some claim that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure – just the removal of some tissue from a woman’s uterus – and thus no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. However, I’ve never known anyone who experienced angst when contemplating the decision to remove a tooth. They’ve never talked about how difficult the decision was for them, or wondered whether it was the morally right thing to do. They never experience depression after the procedure, and none of them have ever claimed that it was their biggest regret.

Clearly, there is a moral difference between abortion and other medical procedures, and everyone knows it. Abortion doesn’t remove tissue from a woman’s body – it kills an innocent human being who is developing in a woman’s body. That’s why people struggle with the decision. They understand the moral weight involved.

Abortion is a very simple issue, morally speaking. We should not kill innocent human beings. Abortion kills innocent human beings. Therefore, abortion is wrong. We can do better. Let’s protect the most vulnerable human beings among us. Let’s be pro-life.

 

All of us would like to have certainty regarding knowledge, and yet, certainty is rarely afforded to us. Most of what we believe to be true, we believe on the basis of probabilities. Unfortunately, many people, being too desirous of certainty, are led in one of two bad directions: skepticism, dogmatism.

An inordinate desire for certainty leads some down the skeptics’ road, always doubting everything and never willing to make a knowledge claim that falls short of certainty (or something very close). For others, their desire for certainty leads them down the road of dogmatism, closed-mindedness, and intellectual dishonesty. In their quest for certainty, they are unwilling to entertain any ideas that would call their current beliefs into question. They respond vehemently against anyone who holds to a view contrary to their own. They argue, not to discover truth, but to defend their dogmatic certainty.

While the desire for certainty is understandable, we cannot allow it to lead us in either of these directions. We must be willing to take a position based on the evidence we have, while recognizing that we could be mistaken. We also need to be willing to consider other evidence and other points of view, and be willing to change our opinions if the evidence warrants it. In many cases, we should be less dogmatic, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our view. For example, I hold to Premillennialism, but I’m not anywhere near certain that it’s true. As a percentage, I’m only ~65% convinced that it is true. That’s enough for me to claim it as my view, but not enough for me to be dogmatic about it. While I would love to have certainty regarding all of my beliefs, certainty is rarely afforded to us. In light of that, we need to do our best to form our opinions based on the evidence available to us, but always be open to revising our opinions if the evidence warrants it.

We detect design in a number of ways: the purposeful arrangement of parts, specified complexity, and irreducible complexity. All of these features are present in the biological world, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that life was designed by some intelligence. The most likely candidate for such an intelligence is God. If you are an atheist, this option is not open to you. So you have to explain how life could arise through purely natural processes without the aid of a mind.

This is a tall order. To see why, just consider what it would take to form just a single, small protein consisting of 150 amino acids by chance alone. The odds of such a protein forming by chance alone is 1 in 10164. That means you would only get one functional protein for every 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion attempts (assuming that each attempt tries a unique combination of amino acids). Written out, that is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 attempts. What are the chances of this happening?

The actual conditions on the early earth make this very unlikely due to the low numbers of amino acids and harmful contaminants. So let’s increase the chances by stocking the oceans to capacity with amino acids (all atoms on earth including carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur so that there is enough materials to form 1041 complete sets of amino acids used to build proteins) and altering the laws of nature to protect these building blocks from harmful ultraviolet light and chemical contamination. And let’s say it only takes 1 second to form each protein chain attempt, resulting in 6,000 million billion trillion trillion combination attempts every minute. After 4.6 billion years (the estimated age of Earth), there would have been 1058 attempts made to build a functional protein. While that’s a lot, it is nowhere near the 10164 needed.

How much time would be needed, then? Imagine an amoeba that travels round trip across the entire length of the universe (90 billion light years in diameter) at a pace of one foot per year. It would take 10 billion billion billion years for him to make the round trip (1,000 million trillion miles), and yet, no functional protein would form by the time he returned. To make things interesting, on the next trip the amoeba transports a single atom to the other side of the universe, drops it off, and returns to his starting point. Would a protein have formed during this second trip? No. So the amoeba transports more atoms, one by one. The amoeba would be able to transport every atom in the entire universe (100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion atoms, and hence, 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trips) – not just once, but 56,000,000 times over the course of 56 million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years before chance would finally produce one small functional protein.[1] And yet, even after all that time and effort, there would still be no life because the simplest life requires at least 1500 proteins (among many other biological parts). The amoeba would have to transport 84 billion universes atom-by-atom before all 1500 proteins would form to create the simplest living organism (84 billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years).

This is why chance cannot explain the origin of life. Life is based on highly specified information. Functional proteins are extremely rare. To create all of the proteins necessary for life requires an intelligence who knows how to arrange the chemicals in a functional manner without having to try every possible combination. It’s similar to writing a book. If we had to rely on chance to create Moby Dick it would take countless eons, but an intelligent mind can arrange the letters in the precise order needed in months or even weeks. Likewise, chance alone cannot account for the origin of life in such a short period of time. The only known cause of information is mind. Only personal, intelligent agents are capable of producing highly specified information such as we find in the biological world, and thus it stands to reason that a personal, intelligent agent created life.

 

See also:

Signature in the Cell, Part 4: Assessing the Chance Hypothesis for the Origin of Life

The origin of life is not a lottery

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[1]Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth. Video, Illustra Media, 2016. Excerpted from 21:30 – 28:07. The illustration was adapted from the work of Dr. James F. Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?.

A hypocrite is not one who fails to live up to his own ideals, but one who falsely proclaims to have such ideals in the first place.

 

See also “I’m not a Christian because there are too many hypocrites in the church

As Christians, we want to know and do God’s will, but many Christians struggle to hear God’s voice and know His will. They find the whole process frustrating and vague, and they are left feeling spiritually paralyzed. Could it be that the problem does not lie with God’s silence nor our inability to hear what God is saying, but with our conception of God’s will and the particular methods we use for discerning it? Could it be that our conception of God’s will and hearing His voice is not taught in the Bible? Perhaps we have over-complicated and over-spiritualized the will of God.

Many Christians think God’s will for their life is both extensive and detailed. In addition to God’s general will that we develop our moral character, He also has a more specific will for us concerning our education, our vocation, our residency, our spouse, where we congregate, and other matters big and small. Our job is to (1) discern God’s will in these matters using various methods such as a peace in our heart, open and closed doors, unbidden thoughts, impressions, signs, and fleeces, and then (2) make choices that match God’s will. The process is similar to navigating: God chooses our destination and the route we should take to get there, and our job is merely to discover the map and follow it turn-by-turn.

This sounds reasonable and perhaps even comforting, but is it Biblical? I assumed so, until I was forced to look at Scripture more carefully. Now, I’m convinced that this understanding of the will of God – while well-intentioned – errs in its assumptions about (1) the extent of God’s will and (2) the methods for discerning it. (more…)

Evangelism is one of the most important missions of the church. In evangelism, we are making an appeal to non-Christians to both believe and do something. What we ask them to believe and do ought to pattern what the first disciples asked non-Christians to believe and do. Does it? To answer that question, I recently examined what the early church preached to unbelievers, chronicling every detail of every message found in Acts (2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12,33;  5:29-32,42; 7:2-53; 8:5,12,35; 10:34-43; 11:20; 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 16:30-31; 17:2-3,6-7,18,22-31; 18:5,28; 19:2-4,8; 20:21,25; 22:1-21; 23:6,11; 24:10-21,24-25; 25:19; 26:1-23; 28:17-20,23,30).[1] What follows are my findings and analysis. (more…)

If humans have value, then abortion must be immoral. Here’s why:

Value is either intrinsic (part of the nature of the thing itself) or extrinsic (conferred on a thing by an external source). If value is intrinsic to human beings, then humans are valuable the moment they come into existence. Since it is a scientific fact that human beings come into being at conception, then unborn humans have the same value that you and I have from the moment of their conception. As such, it would be just as immoral to kill an unborn human as it is a born human. So if you believe humans have intrinsic value, then you should be opposed to abortion.

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“Abortion” is a euphemism. “Abort” means to stop. What are we stopping? The life of a human being. If I kill my neighbor, we would say I murdered him. So why do we have a different term to describe the killing of unborn human beings? It’s simply to disguise what we are doing. Abortion could rightly be called preborn murder, fetal murder, embryonic murder, etc., but it is murder and we should call it such.

The euphemisms for preborn murder don’t stop at “abortion.” The list of euphemisms also includes “choice,” “women’s health,” “reproductive freedom,” etc. Abortion is not about choice, health, or reproductive freedom. Abortion is about the killing of a preborn human being because it is convenient for us to do so.

Abortion is the greatest moral atrocity of our day. One day, future generations will be just as shocked to hear that abortion was legal in this country as we are shocked today to hear that slavery was once legal in this country.

In the abortion debate, pro-choice advocates often argue that no one should have the right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. I agree. No one has that right. But this is a red herring because pro-life advocates are not telling women what to do with their own bodies, but rather what to do with someone else’s body.

While an abortion takes place within a woman’s body, the act of abortion is targeted toward the body of a separate human being. The goal of abortion is to end the life of that human being – often by cutting his/her body into pieces. Since it is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being, the act of abortion is morally evil.

The bodily autonomy argument makes as much sense as saying “You don’t have a right to tell me not to murder someone.” All homicide laws aim to take away our right to murder another person. Pro-life advocates are merely applying this same logic to abortion since the object of the abortion is also a human being.

The pro-life argument in a nutshell: It is a scientific fact that a new human being comes into existence at fertilization. It is a moral fact that it is wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. Abortion intentionally takes the life of an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong.

Here’s a question to ponder: How many of the positions that you subscribe to today related to theology, economics, politics, etc., do you subscribe to because you researched the competing perspectives, weighed the merits and demerits of each, and then adopted the best position? If you are a typical human being, chances are that the number is very small. Most of the positions we subscribe to we simply inherit from our family or community, unquestioned. When we do question those positions, we often seek out evidence to shore up what we already believe rather than seeking evidence both for and against our position.  Given this proclivity of human nature, and given the multiplicity of positions, there’s a high probability that we are mistaken in a number of positions we subscribe to.  After all, it would be highly unlikely that one just happened to be born into a family/community who just so happened to subscribe to all of the right positions in theology, politics, economics, and the like.

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Archaeologist Eilat Mazar has made another discovery confirming the Biblical record. A portion of the remnants of ancient walls that once surrounded Jerusalem were previously dated to the Hasmonean period (2nd century B.C.), but new evidence discovered by Dr. Mazar has led her to re-date the wall to the mid 5th century B.C. and identify it as a portion of the wall that Nehemiah built to protect the Jews who returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon.

Would you still be a Christian if there was a heaven, but no hell?

Imagine for a moment that God set up reality differently, such that people could be as bad as they wanted without any risk of eternal punishment.  When you die, you simply cease to exist.  However, if you follow Jesus, heaven still awaits you.  Would you still follow Jesus?  Be honest.  I encourage you to take five minutes to reflect on this question before reading on below.

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Evangelism is scary for many people, including myself.  Many Christians find it difficult to start a discussion on spiritual things.  Others fear that they’ll be pummeled with objections to the faith that they don’t know how to answer.  Many fear rejection.  As a result, we’ve invented new methods of “evangelism” that don’t require us to actually talk to anyone.  I’m thinking of “friendship evangelism” and “love evangelism” in particular.

The premise of friendship evangelism (also known as relationship evangelism or lifestyle evangelism) is that people will be attracted to your way of living (your holy behavior, your happiness, how you treat others, etc.), prompting them to ask you what your secret is, and predisposing them to become a Christian.  At that point, you share the gospel with them.

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Theists argue that God is the best explanation for objective moral truths.  Atheists typically appeal to the Euthyphro Dilemma (ED) to show that God cannot be the foundation for morality.  The ED asks whether something is good only because God wills it as such, or if God wills something because it is good.  If something is good only because God considers it good, then goodness seems arbitrary and relative to God’s desires.  If He had so chosen, murder could have been right and truth-telling could have been wrong. On the other hand, if God wills the good because it is inherently good, then goodness would be a standard that exists outside of God.  He is subject to the moral law just as we are.

So either goodness is arbitrary or it is independent of God.  Either God arbitrarily declares what is good or He recognizes what is good based on some standard outside of Himself.  If the good is an arbitrary expression of God’s will, then the good is subjective rather than objective.  While God may serve as the foundation for His subjective morality, He cannot serve as the foundation for objective moral truths.  On the other hand, if God wills something because He recognizes it is objectively good, then something other than God is the standard of objective moral truths.  He may inform us of those moral truths, but they do not depend on God for their existence.

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When something bad happens, it’s common for people to offer the encouragement that “everything happens for a reason.”  Is it really true, however, that everything that happens, happens for a reason?  To answer that question we need to explore what we mean by “everything,” “for” and “reason.”

Let’s start with “reason.”  What do we mean when we say something happens for a reason?  It means there is some intelligible and discernible relationship between two events, and that this relationship was purposed by an intelligent agent.  For example, the reason I give money to the checker at the grocery store is because I want to buy food.  There is a rationality to my action that links the events of giving money and receiving food.  One is done for the reason of the other.  In a similar manner, there is a discernible and intelligible relationship between bad and good events in our lives that was purposed by God.

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