Marriage Has Now Been Redefined to Mean Nothing

We now see that people are marrying themselves. The latest is a woman in Italy, although it seems to be increasingly common. See the news story here.

We now see that marriage has come to mean nothing. This woman has married herself….I suppose she gave vows to herself, and promised to not cheat on herself. The advocates of plural marriage are across town telling us that any combination of sexes and quantities can come together and call themselves a marriage. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus is still screaming about “marriage equality” at her concerts…..between curse words, that is.

While our culture has worked itself down to a new low, it has managed to redefine marriage to include everything, in which case it means nothing. This is precisely what traditional marriage advocates were warning about.

It was just the other day I heard someone in the news seriously advocating that a legal parent now be defined as “anyone who intends to raise the child.” When we lose the definition of marriage, and lose the definition of parent, what is left to hold together?

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Posted in Culture | 3 Comments

Did Monotheism Evolve from Primitive Religions?

When studying the history of religion, the question sometimes arises whether religion has evolved over time. Did religions start out as primitive, then slowly develop into more complex beliefs? Did religion start out as animism or polytheism, then change to monotheism? Did primitive peoples start with beliefs that had mysterious spiritual forces acting like people, such as Greek gods, then slowly develop, along with society, toward a complex monotheistic god?  The general accusation is that religions such as Christianity grew over time out of more simple, early religious beliefs, as sort of social Darwinism in the religious realm.

The solution, of course, is to studying the beliefs of indigenous  peoples.  In The Religions of the American Indians (A. Hultkrantz; M. Setterwall, trans., Los Angeles; University of California Press, 1979) the author surveys the beliefs of native tribes before westerners influenced them. A couple of significant findings are worth noting.

First, the tribes had some significant variation in their beliefs.  Therefore we must be very cautious when trying to make statements that apply to every single one of these people groups. This alone will sink the questions at hand, for with a variation of beliefs comes a great hindrance to the idea that they all evolved in the same direction toward one type of religion.

Second, and more importantly, some of the so-called “primitive” religions are quite complex and similar to how the Bible presents God. As Hultkrantz puts it, “Characteristic of the Fuegian religion is the position of the Supreme Being, which is in many respects a central one.”(p.18) The author goes on to list the characteristics of how this people group viewed the Supreme Being, who had the following characteristics:

  • the old, eternal one
  • unchangeable
  • invisible
  • ruler of the world
  • grantor of life and death
  • provides food for man’s sustenance
  • not present in mythology
  • establisher of ethics
  • presides over rituals in the tribe
  • ruler of all existence
  • receiver of prayers
  • able to respond to tribal needs, such as food, weather, and health
  • owner of all that exists
    (p.18)

Granted, there are differences in Christianity and what this particular group believed about the Supreme Being, such as whether God created the world. But the list above is sufficient to support that early peoples were sometimes complex monotheists. It is also sufficient to prove the point made in Romans 1:20:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and divine nature, so that they are without excuse.

The divine attributes in the list above reads surprisingly similar to that found in many Christian theology texts. The Christian texts go much further in defining God, of course, but that the list parallels Christian theology is undeniable.

The support for the Biblical view is further supported in Hultkrantz’ work. The author states that a single supreme God is “a well-known theme” in the history of the religions that were studied (p.22). The Algonkin tribes even list the Supreme Being as “He who created us through his thought.” (p.23).

A wise person would do well to believe what Romans 1 has already told us, that by nature mankind knows that there is a ruler of the world, He gives us ethical laws, and that violating these laws is a crime against Him.

 

 

Posted in Theology, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Some Works on Evolution Worth Reading

Evolutionary biologists have, since Darwin, held that random mutations are filtered by natural selection to produce the biological life that we now see. Since Darwin they have spoken in generalities, assuming that the mutations at the sub-cell level are actually happening across almost innumerable generations. In modern times, the sciences have not only begun to be able to measure such changes, but more profoundly, the mathematicians have begun to apply standard modeling to biology. Philosophers are also not playing friendly to the evolutionists. The result is somewhat troubling for the Neo-Darwinist. Several writers have gotten quite a bit of attention.

Arguably the most profound was Thomas Nagel’s landmark work, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong.  What makes Nagel’s work so important is that Nagel is a committed atheist and cannot be accused of bringing religion into the discussion. “I believe true appreciation for the difficulty of the problem must eventually change our conception of the place of the physical sciences in describing the natural order.”(p.3) “The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes.” (p.5)

David Berlinski, with a PhD from Princeton and having done good academic work in molecular biology, is a secular Jew. He cannot be explained away as a raving lunatic creationist. Berlinski states:

Why should a limited and finite organ such as the human brain have the power to see into the heart of matter or mathematics? These are subjects that have nothing to do with the Darwinian business of scrabbling up the greasy pole of life. It is as if the liver, in addition to producing bile, were to demonstrate a unexpected ability to play the violin. This is a question that Darwinian biology has not yet answered.

On the mathematical side, two dozen papers presented at a Cornell symposium were published in Biological Information: New Perspectives (World Scientific, 2013). One of them was titled Limits of Chaos and Progress in Evolutionary Dynamics by William F. Basener. In it, the author claims “The mathematics is basic topology and the theorems we prove are quite simple; they could be basic homework exercises in an upper level undergraduate course in dynamical systems. However, the insights resulting from the application do not seem to be generally known or understood in the study of evolutionary dynamics, either in theory or application.”(p.91) His paper shows:

Our first conclusion is that chaos and nonlinear dynamical system contribute nothing to the ongoing increase in complexity of evolutionary fitness of biological systems. . . . Second, the evolutionary process driven by mutation-selection, in both mathematical models and directly observed behavior, is that of a system going to an equilibrium and staying there. . . There is nothing inherent in the fitness-driven mathematical system that leads to ongoing progress . . .” (p.101)

A new work by mathematicians has laid a significant challenge at the feet of the evolutionist. Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics by Marks, Dembski, Ewart, explores the field of possible mathematical explanations for biological evolution, and claims there are no viable mathematical explanations.

For years evolutionists could speak in generalities about mutations happening, and could do so without much question as long as they stayed on the level of species. But once the DNA started being actually measured, the theories began to have trouble. Biologists predicted that billions of mutations would leave an animal’s DNA with a good deal of “junk DNA” But the ENCODE project mapped a large portion of human DNA and proved just the opposite. What was previously held to be useless, trash DNA turned out to be complex  biological code that has a purpose.

Michael Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, is interesting in that Behe has claimed at times to be a theistic evolutionist. Nevertheless, in this book he explores a biological system that is wide and deep: how malaria has responded against vaccines. The study is interesting in that it can be done on huge populations over a very long period of time and mathematically measured. Behe’s case is that the math shows that standard evolution can accomplish quite little.

These authors, plus those of noted academics like Alvin Plantinga, Stephen Meyer, and John Lennox, have made a significant challenge to the wall that biologists have erected. Those of us that study the logic of arguments can go all the way back to law professor Phillip E. Johnson’s 1991 book Darwin on Trial to find that when the curtain of scientism is pulled back, the evolutionists resort to leaps of logic and ad hominem arguments. Even better, get Johnson’s work Reason in the Balance where he systematically dismantles the flawed conclusions of the evolutionists as only a tenured law professor could.

Any fair-minded student of science would be wise to recognize that their are emotional biases on all sides that shape the conclusions. Any fair-minded student would also be wise to read some of the authors presented here and weigh their arguments with an open mind.

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution | 1 Comment

In the Flood of Noah, Did God Fail to Eliminate Evil?

This is another in a series of questions on the Bible.

Question: The Bible says that God flooded the earth to remove evil. If this is true, He failed, for evil is still here. In fact, evil never went away, for immediately after the flood, Noah got drunk.

In response, we must first realize that even if the account of the flood is as this question suggests, it does not argue against whether God exists or whether the Bible is true. Just because we might not understand why God does things, we still have good evidence that He exists and that the Bible is trustworthy.

Second, this falls into “why?” questions, and we will never know exactly why God does anything. We often do not know why we do things ourselves, so we, as finite minds, will not know the exact purposes of an infinite mind. God still has a rational, reasonable purpose for what He does, even if we do not understand it. A child does not understand why the parents do things, even though the parents have good, logical purposes for what they do.

Third, as is often the case, a simple comparing of the question to the passage in the Bible gives us the answer. The question is incorrect, for the Bible does not say that God flooded the earth to remove evil. Rather, Genesis 6:6-8 tell us that God flooded the earth to destroy people because He was grieved at the evil that humans had done. God, who is pure and holy, was repulsed by the evil in the world, and destroyed the people who had done evil. In God’s grace, He found favor with Noah and allowed him to live. The Bible never says that God wanted to destroy all evil in the flood with a goal of removing evil forever. Rather, it says that God judged the people of that day because of the specific evil that they did.

Fourth, the skeptic often puts God into an impossible paradox. If God allows some evil to continue, then questions like this one criticize God for not stopping evil. If God were to stop evil, such as when God commands the death of the Canaanites, the skeptic complains that God is unjust for doing so.

In the end, God is both just in punishing evil and loving for allowing fallible people like Noah to live. God, as the righteous judge, promises to make everything right in the end. He will someday punish all evil completely and reward all righteousness.

Lastly, this question recognizes that evil exists. It then grants the first premise of the moral argument for the existence of God.  The fact that we can call anything in the world evil means that we have a standard of good and evil by which to measure the world. This standard cannot be in the world, but must be outside of the world, for if it were in the world we would not be able to measure the world by it.  If God did not exist, then we are reduced to what atheists like Richard Dawkins claim, namely that there is no evil nor good in the universe. But since there is evil and good in the universe, we have an external standard by which to measure the universe. This we call God.

 

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The Castration of the Western Male

Mike Royko was a newspaper columnist from Chicago. His father was a milkman in that city in the 1930s.  As Royko tells it, someone attempted to rob his father, and here was his response:

“One morning, before dawn, a guy with a knife started to climb into his truck. The old man kicked him in the face. The guy got up and ran. The old man slammed his truck into gear, drove on the sidewalk, floored the gas pedal, and — bump, bump — the world had one less stickup man.”
“In my father’s day, people fought back with ferocity,” Royko said. “In my day, we pay the victim tax and wonder what sociological forces brought the poor lad to a life of crime.
All things considered, running them over is a much better idea.”

In contrast to that, compare the following video from the much more modern and sophisticated Ellen DeGeneres Show:

I fail to see the entertainment value or benefit of effeminate men.

Now switch back to July 1940, when Nazi Germany was rapidly conquering France. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was afraid that the notoriously fickle French would surrender their navy to the Germans, thus giving a formidable weapon to an enemy that was intent on killing the British nation. Churchill was made of stern stuff, and gave clear and unhesitating orders to the British navy. The French fleet was sunk in the Port of Oran, killing 1,297 French sailors. Speaking the next day in the House of Commons, Churchill said “We shall prosecute the war with the utmost vigour by all the means that are open to us.” He received a standing ovation.

A handful of months later, General George Patton gave an inspirational speech to the US Third Army, telling them what he expected them to do to the German soldiers: “We are not just going to shoot the bastards, we’re going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.”

Switch back to modern United States, where this week President Trump revoked Barak Husain Obama’s order to allow men with a cross-dressing fetish to have equal standing in the military. Somehow the military is now held to be a place for correcting social problems. The media barbequed Trump, reminding us why this is not being fair.

Rather, Patton was right. The task for our nation’s military is to disembowel the enemy before they disembowel us. A military, if it does its job, is to vigorously kill enemy soldiers as quickly and efficiently as possible. There is no such thing as equal opportunity war. There is only live winners and dead losers.

My parents told of a time when they were young, and a thief stole one of the ladies’ purses and ran away. My father’s brothers chased down the bad guy and retrieved the purse. How often would this happen today, with the fun, cool guys on the Ellen show?

I fail to grasp the benefit of castrated, effeminate men. Why is our modern culture holding this up as a value? Why have we lost the respect of men, and redefined their role as being weak? Rather, we need men like Patton, Churchill, and Mike Royko, Sr. We need dangerous men, strong men with backbone, men willing to take risks, men willing to step up and kick bad guys in the face with “utmost vigor.” If we do not have such men, some enemy surely will, as it has in every war ever fought.

 

 

Posted in Culture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Aquinas, Free Choice, & Divine Sovereignty, Part 7

This is part seven in an intermittent series on Thomas Aquinas’ view of free choice and divine sovereignty. (To see the first six parts, do a search for “Aquinas, Free Choice” in the search bar.)

In Aquinas’ Summa Theologia, 1.82.1, we find Thomas concludes that it is not a problem to say that the will has a natural necessity toward one goal, yet still be free. He gives the illustration that someone wanting to cross the ocean must necessarily will a vessel to so so, yet the will is still free to will this vessel. He continues: “For as the intellect of necessity adheres to the first principles, the will must of necessity will to the last end, which is happiness . . .” There are some things that the intellect and will are bound to affirm.

In the next question, 1.82.2, Thomas continues this thought. He explains some things the intellect is not bound to, such as contingent propositions. Likewise, there are some things that the will is not necessarily determined to will. Some good things are not necessarily bound to happiness, and therefore a person may will them or not, while other things are necessarily bound to happiness, and the person must necessarily will them.

There are some things which have a necessary connection with happiness, by means of which things man adheres to God, in Whom alone true happiness consists. Nevertheless, until the certitude of the Divine Vision the necessity of such connection be shown, the will does not adhere to God of necessity, nor to those things which are of God. But the will of the man who sees God in His Essence of necessity adheres to God, just as how we desire of necessity to be happy.  Therefore it is clear that the will does not desire of necessity whatever it desires.

Thomas is telling us that the will cannot avoid willing happiness, yet still freely will them. Other objects of the will may or may not bring happiness, and the will is free to will them or not. If a person were to see God, the ultimate object of happiness, then we could not avoid willing God.

We then have an answer to the question of how we can be free in heaven and not choose to sin. We always choose happiness, but here on earth we may not know whether the chicken or the fish might bring us the most happiness. Once we learn the ultimate happiness, we freely choose it, and cannot help but do so.

In objection 2 in this question, Thomas deals with the objection that the will is moved by the object willed. Therefore the will is by necessity moved by the object moving it. In this objection, the human will is necessarily moved by the object of desire.

Thomas replies that the will is only moved when the object moving it is more powerful. Therefore the universal and perfect good is the most powerful, it moves the will necessarily, but any individual good is not powerful enough to move the will of necessity. Further, those who know God in part may turn away from God, but the fault is in the weakness of mankind in perceiving the ultimate good, not in any problem inherent in God.

Thomas is ultimately moving toward his explanation of how God moves the will without doing violence to the will and without changing the nature of how we make free will choices. Aquinas’ view seems to be different than that of those who hold that God merely changes what we desire.

Posted in Aquinas, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Does “Love Thy Neighbor” Require Accepting All Behavior?

Bill Maher, who is a television entertainer, is no friend of religious people. His regular attacks on anything religious are often couched in jokes and ridicule. He has stated in public that:

  • Christians have been twisting the Bible to make “love thy neighbor” mean “hate thy neighbor.”
  • Supporting a strong military violates the command to turn the other cheek.
  • People who practice loving their enemies are true Christians. An example is Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.
  • When Jesus says “do not repay evil for evil” and “do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you,” he precludes anyone from supporting war.
  • Jesus was always non-violent. Therefore all true Christians would be non-violent.
  • If anyone ignores Jesus commands to be non-violent, which includes in all respects, you are hypocritical and not a Christian.

Slightly more serious atheists regularly make claims that opposing pro-LGBTIQP laws is hypocrisy because Christians are to “love thy neighbor.” Opposing these laws is not treating others with kindness, love, and compassion.

Although usually not stated directly, the general idea seems to be that these reasons give atheists a sufficient basis for ignoring Christians and their message. They seem to also be saying that if Christians renounce any people or viewpoint, and do not embrace every type of people in love, then we are bigots and not Christian.

Several responses are in order.

First, Maher, as an atheist entertainer, has the right to say what he pleases. However his claims are couched in jokes which go beyond humor into ridicule. The statements above are couched in language not fit for polite company, yet has his guests and audience snickering and laughing. The claims are apparently to be considered valid, and not merely instruments of a comedy routine, yet when presented without the jokes, they ring hollow. Does he seriously not see the difference between what the Bible passages say to individuals and what a Christian can support for national policy? It seems he is merely using these ideas as a platform for ridicule and exaggerated humor simply because he disagrees.

Certainly he would not agree that it should be our public policy in the US that if a policeman sees a thug beating a woman, the policeman should stand in line to be beaten also. Certainly he would agree that we should apply the Biblical principles in ways that are balanced with other concerns of life. If not, then I hereby request that Maher send me his entire life’s savings, for the passages he refers to call for just such an action on his part. If he does not, then he is just as guilty as the Christians he criticizes.

It is telling that his comments are bitingly sarcastic and aimed at ridiculing religious people. While hypocritical Christians are not excused, he seems equally guilty as the claims he is making against them. If he were not holding to the Biblical ethics he criticizes, he would not be upset that Christians violated the ethic. It would seem that he does hold to the ethic of loving his neighbor, but his ridicule shows that he is not doing so himself, the same type of hypocritical act that he is railing about.

Second, the simplest answer to his criticism is that Jesus presents an interpersonal moral system, not a mandate for national defense or public social policy. We can be sure of this because the passages he seems to be referring to are as follows:

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:39-42)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19)

Yet the Bible also contains passages such as the following:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:3-5)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor. 5:1-2)

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. (John 2:15)

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Tim. 5:16)

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (1 Thess. 3:10-12)

There are more, but these are ample to prove a point. The main criticism of the atheists here is that Christians should be loving, not judging, giving to all who ask, and not fighting back when attacked. They are not to be disrespectful of people with which they disagree. While the first set of passages do teach these ideas, the second set qualify them. Christ himself took a whip and physically struck the religious leaders. We are not to give money to people who could make their living by working. The government has the authority and responsibility to punish evil, even of “the sword,” which in context includes capital punishment. Churches are commanded to remove sexually immoral people from their midst. God has a wrath and will punish evildoers, and the government is in God’s place on earth for this purpose.

Therefore taking some passages without the balance of others is skewing the truth and mishandling the teachings of the Bible. The passages brought up by Maher and the atheists are clearly for an interpersonal moral system, not one that necessarily must be followed in every single instance by church and national leadership.

Third, even if Christians are hypocritical, it does not disprove the fact that God exits, the truth of the Bible, or the need to trust Jesus. It is a non-sequitur to hold that since Christians do not follow the commands of the Bible, then the entire Christian message can be dismissed. In fact, the Christian message includes that all are sinners and disobey God, including those who attend church. The fact that Christians disobey God merely proves the Bible true when it claims that all are sinners (Romans 3:23).

Fourth, the main part of the passages to which Maher is referring are from the Sermon on the Mount. A careful reading of the entire gospel, not merely a few passages, shows us that the Sermon on the Mount is giving a kingdom ethic, a moral system from a divine perspective. It is impossible for sinful humans to follow it perfectly. As examples, in the same passage Jesus tells us that if we call anyone a fool at any time in our life, then we are guilty enough to go to hell. If we look at someone with a lustful eye, we are guilty of adultery. If that is not enough, Jesus concludes with “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Even the most self-righteous person would have to admit that he is not as perfect as God. Everyone is therefore guilty.

The point of the sermon on the mount is to show us ethics from God’s perspective, demonstrating to us that we are all guilty of disobeying God. It is an ethic so high that no human can keep it. If the atheists are trying to hold Christians to the standard of the Sermon on the Mount, then we admit our guilt. We then ask Maher and his cynical friends “how are you doing at keeping it yourself?” If they are honest, they will admit equal guilt. Their irreverent, impolite ridicule demonstrates their guilt for all to see.

This brings us to our last point. We Christians have the benefit of having our guilt erased and do not stand condemned. This is because Jesus, while showing us our guilt, also paid the price Himself, freeing us from all guilt and shame. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins and trust Him, we are cleansed of all unrighteousness. No one, not Martin Luther King, Jr., nor Gandhi, nor anyone else, is a Christian because of loving his neighbor, or giving money, or any other work. We are all too guilty for that to do any good. Instead, we are Christians because we trust Jesus and ask His forgiveness.

Christians and atheists alike would do better to realize their own guilt and submit to God for mercy. Jesus is the only one who lived a righteous life, and if we want life, we get it through Him.

 

Posted in Atheism, Bible, Bible Questions | Leave a comment