For those who are reacting so negatively to the Indiana religious freedom law, do you not realize what you are saying (even if not explicitly)? You are saying that people should not have the right to live out their own religious convictions and follow their own conscience. Read that sentence again. Say it out loud. You are saying we should deny these American citizens a Constitutional right that is 200+ years old so that we can uphold these new same-sex marriage rights that are less than 10 years old and nowhere to be found in the Constitution. You would deny American citizens a basic human right (the free exercise of religion and conscience) in favor of a right we just made up a few years ago.

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Some people value Christian ethics, but deny that Christianity itself is true. This makes no sense. The truth of Christian ethics is directly dependent on the truth of Christian metaphysics. If Christian metaphysics are mistaken, then the ethics that flow from those metaphysics have no basis in reality (on the Christian worldview).

Granted, it could still be the case that Christian ethics are still true in toto or in part, even if Christian metaphysics is false. But in that case, they are true in virtue of the truth of some other metaphysical worldview or meta-ethical system. So why continue to embrace these ethics as CHRISTIAN ethics if their truth is grounded in something other than Christianity? It’s one thing to affirm that Christian ethics are true even if Christianity isn’t, but it’s another thing to subscribe to Christian ethics as CHRISTIAN ethics while denying that Christianity is true.

Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, has signed legislation that prevents anyone (individuals, business owners, organizations) from being forced to violate their conscience and religious convictions (what the bill calls “exercise of religion”). One would think the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would be enough to secure these rights, but not these days. While the historical context of the bill is surely recent examples in which business owners have been forced by state governments to offer their services to homosexuals in ways that violate their conscience and religious convictions, the bill does not make any reference to homosexuality in particular. It is a general protection religious freedom.

This bill will prevent Jewish publishers from being forced by law to print anti-Jewish propaganda, gay sign-makers from being forced to make signs that condemn homosex, and Christian business owners from being forced by law to provide services that violate their religious convictions.  Like it or not, agree with it or not – that is true freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

You can read the text of the law here.  An excellent legal analysis can be found here.

Garret Merriam

Professor Garret Merriam argues that if God exists, then we can’t be moral.   In other words, we can only be moral if morality is not grounded in God’s existence.  This is a reversal of the moral argument for God’s existence.  It’s a moral argument against God’s existence.

Like many new atheists, Merriam argues that the Christian God commands and commits evil, so if morality is rooted in God and our moral duties are based on God’s commands, morality is impossible.  I don’t accept the premise that God commands or commits evil, but let’s grant it for the sake of argument.  Does his conclusion follow?  No.

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Bible Homosexual PracticeFor more than three thousand years Jews and Christians have understood the Bible to condemn homosex in no uncertain terms.  Today, however, we are witnessing the rise of a gay hermeneutic that reinterprets the Bible’s teachings on homosex in a way that allows for at least some forms of homosex.  While small in number, this movement has a handful of reputable scholars making their case.  So what does the Bible really say?  Have we misunderstood the Bible on this issue for millennia, or are the Scriptures being twisted by those who want the Scriptures to affirm homosex for various personal or social reasons?

Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics is a must-read for everyone who want to know what the Bible has to say on this topic.  Gagnon examines the relevant OT (creation, cursing of Ham, concubine, Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus, cult prostitutes, David and Jonathan) and NT texts in depth, the cultural background of the Ancient Near East (ANE), and classic arguments offered against homosex (focusing on the argument from anatomical complementarity and natural function).  He finishes the book by interacting with arguments against the Bible’s enduring authority on this issue, showing how none of them are successful.

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SoulUntil relatively recently, most people believed that human beings are constituted of both body and soul.  With the rise of materialism, Darwinism, and neuroscience, however, this notion is under scrutiny and dismissed by most secular thinkers as ridiculous.  The notion that humans have souls is tantamount to a “ghost in the machine,” as British philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it.

The existence of the soul is important to Christianity for a variety of reasons.  First, the Scriptures teach that humans have souls.  If we don’t, then Scripture is wrong.  Second, if humans lack souls, then there is no life beyond the grave (at least prior to the resurrection).  But apart from the Bible or human tradition, why should we think the soul exists?  That is the subject of J.P. Moreland’s newest book, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters.

This is not the first book Moreland has written on the subject, but it is the first book that is easily accessible to a lay audience. In less than 200 pages, Moreland lays out the case for the existence of the soul, the nature of the soul/consciousness, and the afterlife. He manages to examine the Biblical teaching on the topic as well.

While the modern tendency is to reduce the mind to the brain (appealing to neuroscience for empirical evidence), Moreland argues that this is manifestly false because mental properties are not identical to brain properties.  If mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties, then the mind is not a physical thing, but an immaterial substance.

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MoralityThere are two senses in which something can be considered good.  Something can be good in a pragmatic sense: that which is the most effective means for obtaining some desired outcome.  For example, if we desire to eat an ice cream cone without getting ice cream on our clothes, it is “good” to start eating from the top of the cone rather than the bottom.  This kind of goodness is judged by something’s utility.  It is considered good because it works well, and the human subject values the fact that it works well.  We might call this kind of goodness “pragmatic goodness.”

Something can also be good in the sense that it has intrinsic moral virtue/character.  For example, it is “good” to try to save someone who is drowning.  This kind of goodness is judged by the intrinsic moral character of the act itself, rather than its utility.  Indeed, risking one’s life to save a stranger has little utility for the rescuer, but great moral virtue nonetheless.  This sort of goodness is not determined by what we desire or the value we attach to the outcome, but is rooted in the moral character of the act itself, wholly independent of what any human may think about it.[1]  We might call this kind of goodness “moral goodness.”  This is the kind of goodness moral philosophers have in mind when they talk about objective morality. (more…)

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