googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Micah 5:2

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God sent a Lamb

When Jesus came to earth, His people were already longing for the Messiah. Israel was in the grip of Roman occupation and they earnestly desired a King who would deliver them. They were expecting a lion, but God sent a lamb. Their King was born in the most humble of circumstances. While the world lay sleeping, the host of angels praised God singing, “Glory to God in the highest!” What a difference there was between what the world wanted and what God delivered.

When Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people waved palm branches and shouted, “Save us, Son of David.” They were still looking for their deliverer. They still were looking for the lion. What those people couldn't see is that Jesus was their deliverer. He didn't come to free them from Rome tyranny but to free them from their bondage of sin. He didn't come as the lion to conquer their enemies but as the sacrificial lamb who would remove their sins.

I sometimes hear people ask why God allows bad things to happen. I guess even now people are still looking for a lion. They want God to charge in and fix everything else but these same critics won't ask God to change them. They want the lion but reject the lamb.

God's ways are not our ways. Someday, Jesus will return as the Lion. God has promised to restore His creation but first, it was necessary for Him to come as the Lamb.

I like God's way better.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food for thought

I thought this was funny. If we let science be our guide in interpreting Scripture, God seems a lot less miraculous.

Some Churches Just Don't Get It

Christmas is usually the time I restock my library. When friends and family ask me for gift ideas, I often suggest books I'd like to read. At least part of any cash I get is also spent on books. The other day, I was browsing for some book ideas and was reading the reviews of the book, Already Gone. By the way, it bugs me that sometimes people use Amazon book reviews like a debate forum but that's not my point now. The premise of the book is that nearly 2/3 of teens and young people who attend church now will likely not continue to attend church after they leave home. One reason for this mass exodus is that they don't see the Bible as being relevant to the “real world” and a lot of the reason revolves around the creation/evolution issue.

One critic of the book, who claims to be a former youth leader took exception with the book's premise and said, “[K]ids aren't stupid, and know a specious argument when they hear it. If (in essence) they're being told that "The Flintstones" represents real and true history,... and that all they are watching on the History or Discovery channels is a sinister secular conspiracy to do away with God, then it's no wonder they fall away from the faith.”

No where in his criticism did he actually claim to have read the book. He merely takes exception with the premise. His solution is to engage in the very practice that the book identifies as the problem. He says, “I see (and have involved myself in) a Church and a Christian School which take a line which would be anathema to Ken Ham, freely endorsing a harmony between modern Science and a grounded Christian faith.”

I guess some churches just don't get it. There is no “harmony” between a belief in evolution and the Bible. The only way the two beliefs can be reconciled is to believe the Bible doesn't mean what it says. People who claim to believe both the Bible and evolution either pigeon hole the differences and not think about them or they ascribe to the Bible the genre of allegory/parable/myth. Thus they create the contradiction in kids' minds: the Bible isn't the “real world.”

Jesus made it very clear that people who reject the Old Testament also tend to reject Him. Consider just the following three verses:

John 3:12, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”

John 5:46-47, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

Luke 16:31, “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

All of these were spoken by Jesus. They demonstrate clearly how there is a causal link, an “if-then” condition, that if someone rejects what the Bible says about worldly things (which must include the creation) then he will also reject Jesus. It's expected really. If the Bible is wrong about one thing, then how can it be trusted about anything? Even more so if the Bible is wrong at the very first verse!

The sad fact is that many churches have compromised on this fundamental point. Some see it as a divisive issue and therefore avoid discussing it. They might give lip service to defending the Genesis account of creation but won't proclaim it too loudly lest they offend some evolution-believing members of their church.

Other churches, like the one represented by the critic above, openly proclaim that evolution is true and they use science as their paradigm to interpret Scripture. To them, Genesis can't mean what it says because science says otherwise. Obviously, their opinion of science is higher than their opinion of the Bible. This is a dangerous path to trod. Science also says that virgin women cannot conceive children. Science also says that dead men don't come back to life. Do these events in the Bible belong in the same “non-literal” genre as the creation? If we don't trust the plain meaning of the words of Scripture, then in what part of the Bible can we ever have confidence?

Read the critic's quote again. Note carefully how he condemns young-earth creationists for saying that, “"The Flintstones" represents real and true history.” Should I remind him that I believe the plain meaning of the words of the Bible? He is essentially saying that the Bible presents a Flintstones-like representation of history and creationists are stupid for believing it.

It's no wonder that many churches fail to reach the lost. What is their gospel? That it's OK to not believe the Bible – just believe in Jesus? What kind of gospel is that? Though these churches may claim to follow Christ, their attitude lies in direct opposition to what Christ taught. He said that if someone doesn't believe the Bible then neither will he believe in Him. They just don't get it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why Don't Rich People Stimulate the Economy?

I first heard the lie from Nancy Pelosi: unemployment compensation gives the best stimulus bang for the buck. If you give an unemployed person a check, he will spend it which will create jobs. The logic is an obvious failure though because with all the people currently receiving unemployment, we should be growing the economy like crazy! As a matter of fact, unemployment just went from 9.7% to 9.8% so we now have MORE people out of work even though we pay unemployment benefits for 99 weeks.

The current debate over extending the Bush tax rates leads me to question the sincerity of liberals who think unemployment compensation is truly stimulative. Suddenly, they're concerned with the deficit. Their tact now seems to be that rich people paying less taxes doesn't stimulate the economy and actually raises the deficit. Are they serious?

First, let's be clear about something: no one is receiving a tax cut. The current debate is only about a tax increase. If nothing is done about the expiring tax rates, everyone's taxes will be going up starting January 1. If the tax rates are extended, then everyone's taxes will merely continue at the current rate. No one's taxes are going down no matter what happens. The debt problem we have is due to the reckless spending that's been going on. If tax rates continue at the same rate as now, it has ZERO impact on the deficit. I wish the alternative news outlets like CBS, NBC, MSNBC, etc, would get that right.

But even if this were a tax cut, there's a question I'd like to ask liberals: What do you think rich people do with their money? Seriously, what do you think? Do they invest it in stock? Do they take vacations? Do they start businesses? Do they buy fancy cars? Do they buy fancy homes, nice clothes, or eat at expensive restaurants? The obvious answer is that they do all of these things. So under what premise is it that liberals claim this doesn't stimulate the economy? Who do you think works in the hotels where the rich people vacation? Who builds the cars that rich people buy? Who builds the homes or makes the clothes or serves the food where rich people spend their money? Who works in the businesses that rich people start?

People spending money is what makes an economy – and rich people have the most money! The impact of the dollars they spend is significant. It creates jobs.

Now, don't get me wrong, poor and middle class people who spend money create jobs as well but their impact isn't the same. Many people who are out of work will try to “tighten their belts.” They try to save their money and pinch their pennies. They might not buy a new car, for example, but may buy a used one instead. When someone buys a used car, nothing new has been manufactured. Also, an unemployed person might not take the vacation he had planned. He might put off the home remodel or even the home repairs. Unemployed people tend to only spend their money on the necessities. It is because of these things that the economic impact of their spending is much more narrow.

I once heard a liberal say in an online debate that the rich only get their money by taking it from the poor. Can they not see the lunacy in such a statement? If I have a product to sell, I don't even try to sell it to people who don't have money to buy it. How can I get rich off people who have no money? In order for me to make money, I have to offer some good or service that someone else who has money wants to buy. It's a win-win proposition: they get a good or service and I get money. It's the American way!

Allowing tax rates to go up in a tough economy like this is insane. Don't let the liberals' attempt at class warfare fool you. Even if only the rates on the “rich” are raised, the poor people – the ones who need jobs the most – will suffer as well.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And You Think We're Embarrassing?

I've said many times in the past that I can't figure out the left. In fact, I've said it so many times that I'm starting to feel a little silly. Surely I can come up with something a little more original, can't I? Honestly I can't. I just cannot understand how liberals think. Oh sure, I always know what they're going to think; they're always going to hate Christians and conservatives. It's their reasoning that I can't figure out. They are able to simultaneously hold completely contradictory views and still be totally oblivious to their hypocrisy. How does a mind work like that?

OK, here's the most recent example. Liberals are all about diversity, right? I mean, they're for equality, tolerance, fairness, yadda, yadda, yadda. Take something like homosexuality. If my city ever hosted an event like a Gay Pride parade, I'd be embarrassed. Yet not the liberals. They're proud of their gay pride. To them, being gay is like a virtue and the more outrageous a gay person is, the more tolerant they are. If I don't “tolerate” their embarrassing antics, then I'm the one who has the problem. I'm called a homophobe.

Now let's compare that to the recent announcement to build an Ark-based tourist attraction in Kentucky. It seems that Courier Journal columnist, Pam Platt, is really embarrassed by it. In her editorial, A Whirlwind of Ignorance, (a reference to the movie, Inherit the Wind, based loosely on the Scopes trial), Ms. Platt said, “the proposed creationism park reinforces unfortunate stereotypes about Kentucky and Kentuckians.” In other words, she believes if we build such an attraction, it would only prove we're all just backward hicks.

Ms. Platt, where's some of that liberal tolerance now? Why is it that cities like San Francisco are called progressive and enlightened because of their tolerant attitude toward flaming homosexuals while KY embarrasses you because people here actually believe the Bible? I guess some beliefs are more equal than others. I wonder what liberals would be saying if there were a Gay Pride museum being built instead. No doubt we'd be hearing pleas for tolerance.

Can you imagine the outrage I would hear if I said I would be embarrassed if a Mosque was built in my neighborhood? Yet liberals see no hypocrisy when they feel embarrassed by Bible believing Christians. Liberals' hearts don't bleed for us.

It's clear to see who is the bigot here. Ms. Platt is a bigot of the most blatant sort. The Courier Journal should be embarrassed by her.  There's a term for Ms. Platt and those like her – they're called “theophobes.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jesus Before the Bema Seat

I very occasionally teach an adult Sunday school class. Recently, I taught a lesson on the Judgment of Believers – often called the “Bema Seat Judgment.” This is when believers stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and have their works judged. The term “judgment seat” comes from the Greek word, “βήμα” (bēma). While I was preparing for the lesson, I did a search to see how many times the word βήμα is used in the Bible. It is used 10 times (in various forms): 8 times in the epistles and twice in the gospels. The two times it is used in the gospels (Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13), it refers to the same event which is the judgment of Jesus before Pilate.

Here is the account from Matthew in context (Matthew 27:19-24):

When he [Pilate] was set down on the judgment seat [βήμα], his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

I thought it was interesting that Jesus Himself was once judged before the Bema seat. We know the outcome, of course; He was ultimately sentenced to be crucified. However, note carefully what Pilate said about Him. He said that Jesus was a “just person” who had done no evil. In John 19:6, Pilate is quoted as saying, “I find no fault in him at all.” The accusation board Pilate wrote to be placed over Jesus said only that He was “King of the Jews.” Was that the worst that could be said about Him? Pilate might as well have written, “Savior of the world.”

It's significant that Jesus was found to be without guilt. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If Jesus had been guilty of any sin, He would have been deserving of death. If He had been deserving of death, He could not have given His life as the payment for our sins since He would have had to die for His own sins. But He was innocent. He was the lamb without blemish – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Before we stand before the Judgment Seat, it was necessary for Him to stand before the judgment seat. It is by His obedience that we are made righteous (Romans 5:19). Praise God!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Merry Christmas!

You might have already been wished a “Happy Holiday” already but just in case you haven't heard it, I wanted to be the first to wish everyone a merry Christmas! To kick off the season, I thought I'd post some more music.

It's a great medley: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and The Chorus of the Bells.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Hypocrisy of "Separation of Church and State" Advocates

In my last post, I talked a little about the antics of that wolf in sheep's clothing, Barry Lynn. The controversy around the new Ark Encounter reminded me of some of the similar controversy that surrounded the Creation Museum when it opened. I think some people need a lesson in the idea of “separation of church and state.” I wrote this a while back but this might be a good time to revisit it.

In May, 2007, I was fortunate enough to visit Answers in Genesis’s new Creation Museum the week that it opened. For those who might not be familiar with it, the Creation Museum presents the Biblical history of the world rather than the evolutionary theory. It’s a great museum that rivals any secular museum I’ve been in. It was built entirely with private donations and is overtly religious in nature.

Anyway, about the time the museum opened, there was this tiny, wanna-be-grass-roots group called DefCon who was circulating a petition protesting the museum. DefCon is an abbreviation for “Defense of the Constitution” - you’ll see in a moment how ironic that is. Now, DefCon has the right to protest anything they want. They can picket, circulate petitions, tell lies (actually they shouldn’t tell lies but they still do), and try to discourage support for the museum in any way they see fit. However, everything was not as it seemed.

There were actually 2 petitions being circulated - one for educators to sign and the other for everyone else. The wording in each was nearly identical except the first began, “As educators..."; So, the people who signed this petition were specifically evoking their positions as educators when they signed it.

I first became alarmed when I read a little blurb about a DefCon board member, Sam Schloemer, who happens to be an elected school board official. The article referred to him by his elected title of Representative. In his quotes, he openly condemned the museum and encouraged teachers to do the same. Of course, many of these teachers who signed the petition were PUBLIC school teachers - i.e. representatives of the state.

So let’s see here, we have an elected official encouraging other public officials to condemn a private, religious organization. Then we have public employees, acting within their capacity “as educators” actually doing it. Doesn’t anyone see a problem with this? It would be akin to a group of history teacher banding together and signing a petition saying, “As educators, we condemn the outrageous belief that Jesus was an historical person.”

Now, being the concerned, Christian voter that I am, and (at that time) a resident of OH where Rep. Schloemer serves, I wrote letters to the Governor, Rep. Schloemer, the state’s Secretary of Education. I also engaged in much online debate about the blatant infringement on the First Amendment that was occurring. The silence from the elected officials was deafening. In all fairness, the Governor’s office replied with a non-committing response but he mistakenly seemed to think the museum was in OH. The Secretary of Education said that there is no official position of the DOE but did not comment on the teachers’ actions. I never heard back from Rep. Schloemer.

The response from cyberspace was confusing. I was constantly told, over and over, that these educators had the right to sign the petition because, even though they were teachers and elected officials, they were also private citizens and had their First Amendment right free speech. They also said that AIG is trying to effect public school curriculum by telling kids God created us so it was AIG who was violating the first amendment. If these people had their way, there would be a padlock on the museum right now.

OK, let’s get this straight: A private, religious organization exercising its belief is violating the first amendment. And ELECTED officials and PUBLIC employees openly condemning a religious institution and petitioning against it is free speech? It’s Bizzaro world.

There are a few people out there who believe the first amendment says something like, “there will be a separation of church and state.” Well, the amendment does not use the word “separation” or “church” or “state” so it’s about a bad a summary as one could make. For those who are confused, let me point out what the first amendment actually says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. "

Here’s a little reading exercise. In the above quote, who is being bound or restricted by this amendment? Is it the religious person? No!! It’s CONGRESS (i.e. the state)! Religious people have the right to say, do, or believe anything they want. They can speak out and proselytize to their hearts content. They can publish newsletters and blog about how bad they think the government is. They can even build a museum and peacefully assemble there. They can do all these things and the STATE can do nothing about it. The state should do NOTHING to infringe upon the rights of Christians to exercise their faith, which includes signing a petition against them.

Perhaps there are a few teachers who signed the petition not realizing their actions were a violation of the free exercise clause. If you care to rescind your petition then you are forgiven. For all the rest - shame on you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Ark Encounter

I happened to visit Answers in Genesis' website a couple of days ago and noticed a banner saying there was going to be a big announcement today. Frankly, I had forgotten about it because a lot of times people will tease a big announcement for something that turns out to be not so big after all. Today, while my wife and I were pulling into the parking lot of a local, Chinese buffet, the noon news report on the radio announced that AiG was planning to build a “theme park.” The alleged park was reported to include a full-scale ark the size of Noah's and cost a projected $150 million! Wow!

During lunch, I had mixed feelings about the report. Was this truly going to be a “theme park”? Visions of something like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World were running through my mind. One criticism often leveled against the Creation Museum is that it's more like a “theme park” and not a serious museum. To bolster the point, I've seen critics post the photo of PZ Myers sitting astride the saddled dinosaur the museum has set up for a photo op. The critics refer to the saddled dino as an “exhibit.” It's certainly not an accurate criticism. However, if AiG truly built some kind of Noah's Ark theme park, it would likely validate the critics and seriously undermine their own credibility.

After lunch, I had to go into work and didn't get home until late. When I got home, I immediately went to AiG's website to learn more about the announcement. Much to my relief, it isn't really a “theme park” in the sense the radio report had implied. It is described as a “tourist attraction” and while the attraction will be themed, it isn't rides and games. The Ark Encounter website describes it as, “a one-of-a-kind facility that presents the full-size Ark and its historical background and times.” Besides a full-sized replica of the Ark (what it might have looked like), the attraction will also include a 100-foot “Tower of Babel” (what it might have looked like) with a 500 seat theater, a petting zoo billed as “Noah's Animals”, and several other themed attractions. Like the Creation Museum, it seems the Ark Project seeks to educate visitors in the historical reality of the Bible. It's purpose is to both educate and evangelize. Unlike the Museum, however, the new attraction will be “for profit.”

The radio spot also included a sound bite from Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This man purports to be a Christian but since the Bible says we can know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16), I have my suspicions about him. One thing that helped seal the deal for the project is that Kentucky has special tax incentives in place to lure outside, tourist interests to KY. Barry Lynn feels that since the Ark attraction is overtly religious, it should not receive any kind of tax subsidy. I guess Mr. Lynn feels it's OK to subsidize a NASCAR Sprint Cup Race (which also received the subsidy) but not a group like AiG for an attraction like the Ark Encounter. Is he serious? I'm sure he is. Liberals think they're being “fair” when they exclude Christians from enjoying the same benefits available to everyone else.

There are still a lot of hurdles to jump before ribbon is cut at the new attraction's opening. All in all, I'm excited about it. When the Creation Museum opened, I was able to attend it the first week. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to visit the Ark Encounter in the Spring of 2014. Good luck to AiG.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Malachi 3:10
"Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How the Bible Says to End Unemployment

One of the debates going on in Washington is over extending unemployment. Part of the debate revolves around how to pay for it. Unfortunately, there's not enough debate among legislators concerning the wisdom behind giving money to people who aren't working. Nancy Pelosi made the insane comment that unemployment income gives us the best bang for our buck in stimulating the economy. If that were true, why isn't the economy growing at a blistering pace now? With an unemployment rate of 9.6%, we're paying millions of people not to work. We should be stimulating the economy like crazy!

Liberals tend to deny that unemployed people sometimes milk the system. If someone is out of work, yet is still making $400/week (or whatever) from unemployment insurance, what incentive is there for him to take a job that only pays $400/week? I mean, if someone could choose between working 40 hours or enjoying 40 hours of leisure – and still get paid the same – which is the more appealing choice? And let's face it, if someone could make $400/week for not working, he might even choose that over working for $500/week. What's more, he certainly wouldn't consider working for anything less than $400/week. Why in the world should I give up staying home and making $400/week in order to go to work for only $350/week?

The Bible recognizes this dilemma and has a simple solution. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Do you think that might work? I mean, if someone could choose between working or not working – but made the same money either way – he might choose not working. But if he had to choose between working and not eating, which do you think he'll choose?

Perhaps I should point out that this passage specifically identifies these as people who are not willing to work. The sick, widowed, orphaned, etc, certainly deserve our charity. It may sound hardhearted, but this is what some people might call, “tough love.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 goes on to say, “have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” The principle is simple: don't let someone become comfortable in a bad situation. To help the person, you need to make him miserable about his circumstances.

Now, critics of my theory might argue that there are simply no jobs out there to be had so it's just cruel not to help people who want to work but can't. This notion is easily refuted by looking in your local classifieds. No matter where you live, I guarantee you the your newspaper has a “help wanted” section with jobs waiting to be filled. Even if there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs, people will still find a way to make money if the alternative is starving. Why, he might even start his own business!! Don't you think creating jobs would grow the economy faster than paying out unemployment insurance?

Our federal government's approach to the problem seems to be the exact opposite of the wise approach. They seem determined to allow a person to continue not working indefinitely. As it stands now, a person can draw unemployment insurance for nearly 2 years (99 weeks). Not everyone who draws unemployment stays unemployed for 99 weeks (though some do) but ask yourself honestly, would anyone stay unemployed for 99 weeks if he had NO income? Any income is better than no income and anyone who once raised their nose at a minimum wage job might now jump at the chance if the alternative is starving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's in a Name?

I first published this about three years ago. Recently, I was looking over some of my older blogs and came across it again. I think it's a wonderful message if I may say so and decided to republish it.

The gospels tell of the man named Barabbas (Matthew 27:16, Mark 15:7, John 18:40, Luke 23:18). He is described as a “notable prisoner” who committed insurrection, murder, and robbery. Here was as guilty a man as you’ll ever find and he was sentenced to be crucified for his crimes. However, it was the custom of the Romans to release a prisoner to the Jews at the time of the Passover (John 18:39). Now, Pilate wanted to release Jesus because he felt Jesus was not guilty of any crime but the crowd cried out for the release of Barabbas (Matthew 27:24). Therefore, Jesus (the innocent man) was sentenced to die and Barabbas (the guilty man) was set free. Jesus literally died in his place.

I’ve often wondered how Barabbas might have felt about this. Certainly he would have been relieved he did not have to die. I wonder if he felt thankful to Jesus who bore the cross for his sake? I wonder if he might have accepted Christ because of it. What a wretched man Barabbas would have been if he watched an innocent man die for the sake of his sins and did not even care.

But there’s something very interesting about the name, “Barabbas”:

“Bar” is a Hebrew word meaning, “son of.” In Matthew 16:17, Jesus calls Peter, “Simon Barjona.” This means, “Simon, son of Jonas.” See also John 21:15-17, where Jesus refers to Peter as, “Simon, son of Jonas.”

“Abba” is a Hebrew word meaning, “Father” or “Daddy” (Mark 14:36, et al).

So, “Bar-abbas” literally means, “a son of a father.” When you think about it, every man is “a son of a father.” Indeed every one of us is a child of a father. So Barabbas could have been anyone – he is a “generic man.”

This paints a wonderful picture of the substitutionary death of Jesus. Each one of us is a Barabbas: all guilty of many sins and all sentenced to die. But we don’t have to die. Jesus – the innocent man who knew no sin – has died in our place. He went to the cross and we were set free.

As you read the account of Barabbas, think about his name. He’s the “anyone” man. Try reading it again and inserting your own name instead of Barabbas’. Now, how do you feel about it? Have you accepted Jesus’ death as the payment of your sins? Are you grateful to Jesus because of it? Or do you not even care?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not So Similar

To those of you who watched Sesame Street when you were young – like I did – do you remember the part of the show when they sang, “One of these things is not like the others...”? It was a little exercise where they would show 4 objects: 3 of them were similar and 1 was different. It wasn't a hard game, not even for a 5-year-old. Usually the difference was very obvious. They might show 3 squares and 1 circle, for example. In those games, the most obvious answer was always the correct one.

As adults, we might have a tendency to over think the game. If you think about it, there are a number of ways we could compare the shapes. If 2 squares and the circle were blue, we could correctly say the red square was different. Perhaps I might compare the area of the different shapes and see that 3 are more similar in size than the other. If I examined them microscopically, I might discover that 3 were drawn clockwise and 1 was drawn counterclockwise. The more minutia I examine, the more ways I might find to compare and contrast the different shapes. At the same time, though, the more I might loose sight of the most glaring difference: 3 are still squares and 1 is a circle!

A few posts back, I mentioned that chimps are similar to humans. Evolutionists claim that the similarities are due to relatedness between humans and chimps. As we study chimps, we might write a long list of things we have in common. But I think that, in their zeal to see the similarities between humans and chimps, scientists have lost sight of the glaring differences between the two.

I took my son to the zoo recently. In the gorilla area, there was actually an exhibit that encouraged kids to compare themselves to gorillas. As far as I'm concerned, the more we compare humans and apes, the greater the differences that we can see. Human feet do not even remotely resemble apes' feet. Even our hands are dissimilar. The proportion of our limbs to our bodies is different than in gorillas. Our hips, our knees, our faces, our skulls, etc. - they're all different. Do I really need to list all the differences? This is a game played by first graders, after all, and the differences are just as easy to spot now as they were on Sesame Street.

And what about intelligence? I have to laugh when I see scientists marvel at a chimp using a stick as a tool – all they while they are recording the event in high-def video! It's easy to see who is the greater master of tools. Remind me again what scientists hope to learn from studying chimps.

Are there any similarities at all between humans and apes? Of course there are. I think in some cases the similarities are exaggerated. In the case of human/chimp DNA, for example, scientists have long claimed that human and chimp DNA are 98% similar. In more recent years, though, many have backed off that claim. It's more like 95%. But even if the 98% is accurate, the human genome is so enormous that even a 2% difference represents tens of millions of different base pairs. The enormous difference 2% makes in the host organisms is plain to see. If not exaggerated, the similarity in DNA is, at the very least, overrated.

And besides the obvious anatomical differences between apes an humans, there is also a spiritual difference. Of the various creatures in all the creation, only man is made in the image of God. On the day Adam was created, God gave him the task of naming certain animals (Genesis 2:19). The Bible makes it clear that Adam was not like any of the animals.

So the next time you hear an evolutionist calling chimps our closest cousin, remind yourself that chimps and humans are not really that similar. You can see the differences for yourself. Remember that simple little exercise you learned all the way back in the first grade and say to yourself, “One of these things is not like the others.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Nation of Wimps!

Last night, on Face Book, my former pastor and Face Book friend posted a video of Gianna Jessen, a woman whose mother attempted to abort her but she survived the abortion and was born alive. It was a touching video of her giving a pro-life speech in Melbourne Australia (you can watch it here). It prompted me to look for similar stories on YouTube. Apparently this has happened on other occasions as well. A woman named Melissa Ohden posted a short video describing a similar experience (here). Their testimonies are moving and rebut the lie that abortion advocates are “pro-choice.” Certainly the babies in these abortions are not given a choice and it's wonderful to hear these intended abortion victims give a voice to the millions more who have been killed.

Abortion is a plague that haunts America. It is our holocaust. A majority of people identify themselves as “Pro-life” and overwhelmingly believe that abortion should be illegal or legal in only certain circumstances. Yet we either lack the will, the political courage, or the political savvy to do anything about it. We have let the fringe minority set the agenda and now have abortion on demand. If a woman wishes, she can, for any reason, have an abortion at any time during her pregnancy.

But my main point of this post isn't to talk about abortion.

I also came a across a video series (parts 1, 2, and 3) about a woman named Carly who had an abortion and regretted it. Near the beginning of the first video, she talks about how she and her boyfriend became sexually active at the very beginning of their relationship. Certainly one component in a woman's decision to have an abortion is the relationship with the father. Many women having abortions aren't married to the father. But then again, many women having babies aren't married to the father. The logical conclusion is that many women are having sex with men they aren't married to. Our society glorifies sex and ignores consequence.

But neither is my main point about out of wedlock sex or illegitimate births.

The main point of my post is the role of men in the above examples. In the cases of the abortion survivors, what were the fathers doing while the mothers were trying to abort their children? In the case of Carla, we know what the father was doing: he was being a selfish jerk pressuring Carla into having an abortion while he himself was too scared to walk into the abortion clinic with her. And what were they thinking while they were having sex with these girls? Did it not occur to them that they might make these women pregnant?

I read a book a few years ago called, The Power of Myth. Even though the author, Joseph Campbell, was an atheist, he did raise a least one good point. In many cultures around the world, boys of certain ages are subjected to a rite of passage where, afterward, they are treated as men. Among Jews, for example, there is a bar mitzvah. It is a defining moment in their lives – a clear distinction where they understand they need to stop acting like boys and start acting like men. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Here in the US, we have no formal tradition where this occurs. This is why we have adult men who still act like teenagers. There are certain milestones in our lives that would be good candidates for a rite of passage (turning 18, graduating from high school, etc) but in many of these cases, the older generation continues to treat the man like a boy. If an 18 year old man were to talk to his parents about marriage, they would likely tell him he is still too young. They might tell him to wait, go to college, save his money, and then get married at some unidentified moment in the future when he is “ready.” In my opinion, this only perpetuates adolescence. Instead of getting married, the 18-year-old will heed his parents advice about marriage and simply continue having sex with his girlfriend-of-the-moment. And what is the parents' advice about having sex? Probably something like, “Well, you know how kids are. They're going to have sex.” What a cop out! Instead of telling them it's OK to act like kids, why don't we tell them to grow up and start acting like adults?!

We are a nation of wimps. Our men refuse to act like men. They're old enough to work, drive, have sex, and do all the things a man does but they refuse to take on the responsibility of being a man. They want a life without consequences. The out of wedlock sex, illegitimate births, and abortions are merely symptoms of their childish behavior. “Wimps” is certainly an appropriate description but I guess I could also call them “babies.” Actually, “babies” is a little too tame since babies tend to cry over little things. Here, we are talking about matter of importance.

What else might we call them? “Idiots” works. I mean, even a simpleton can understand that having sex could lead to pregnancy. Obviously some men haven't figured that out. They can't think beyond the 15 minutes in bed. Besides pregnancy, they are also risking contracting and spreading STDs so these men are demonstrably stupid. “Selfish” comes to mind too. I don't care what they say, these men have only one thing on their mind – their own gratification. They don't care one whit about the women they are having sex with and if they claim they do, then I also call them “liars.” If they really cared for the women beyond sex, then why don't they just marry them?

“Cowards” might be the strongest word I could use to describe these men. That Carol's boyfriend wouldn't walk with her into the abortion clinic didn't make him a coward; he was already a coward and that act merely made it evident. These men are only pretending to be men while they abuse women to slake their own lusts. They're afraid to do those things that truly identify someone as a man: things like taking responsibility, making a commitment, providing for a family, raising your children, and being a role model.

Yet even worse than cowards, these men are “sinners.” God made marriage an earthly model of our relationship with Christ. Men are supposed to love their wives like Christ loves His Church and gave His life for it (Ephesians 5:25). Christ endured the cross to redeem His Bride but these men surf the net for porn. They aren't even interested in a “bride.” They aren't the shepherds of their family like Jesus is but they are the thieves and robbers who only come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). They're also “idolaters” who put the needs of their own flesh above obedience to God.

Lest anyone should think I'm just being proud and judgmental, I assure you that I was young and dumb once too. It was only by the grace of God that I grew up before becoming a victim of my own stupidity. Take it from someone who knows. My advice to all of you is repent. Show some responsibility. Stop thinking of yourself and start thinking of others. Be a man!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Revelation 17: Is the Harlot of Babylon the Catholic Church?

My Sunday school class has been reading through the book of Revelation. I was recently asked to teach a lesson and it happened to fall on Revelation 17 which introduces the Harlot of Babylon. I prepared for the lesson by reading through several commentaries on the subject and noticed something they all have in common: they all claim the Harlot is the Roman Catholic Church. Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible says, for example, “The image here is that of papal Rome, represented as an abandoned woman in gorgeous attire, alluring by her arts the nations of the earth, and seducing them into all kinds of pollution and abomination.”

Of those commentaries that hold this opinion, I notice that they become fixated on Catholic Church and see that Church in every detail:

The purple and scarlet... it's the Catholic Church

The pearls and precious stones... it's the Catholic Church.

The golden cup full of abominations... it's the Catholic Church.

There's an old saying that when you're a hammer, everything else looks like a nail. When you allow yourself to become locked into one way of thinking, you suddenly have the same solution for everything. In this case, as these commentaries try to interpret the details of the rest of the chapter, all they can see is the Catholic Church.

Now I concede that a lot of the details seem to fit the Catholic Church but it would be rather pragmatic to insist that it is the Catholic Church just because it fits some of the details. When the Bible is ambiguous, it means to be ambiguous and I think there is great danger in advancing one interpretation of an ambiguous passage as though it is doctrine.

There are a lot of things I disagree with Catholics about but I am not a person who believes that no Catholic is saved. Concerning this passage, I must say one thing in defense of the Catholics. There is a very significant event that will happen between now and the time of Revelation that will fundamentally change the complexion of the Catholic Church. No commentary that I've read has factored this event into their theory. That event is the Rapture!

Think about this for a moment: Presently, in the Catholic Church, we have a world-wide, very affluent, religious organization seated in Rome. After the Rapture, we will have a world-wide, very affluent, religious organization seated in Rome – entirely comprised of people who aren't Christians! The Catholic Church at that time is not the same Catholic Church that exists now. It can't be. So even if the Catholic Church turns out to be the harlot in question, it's not the Catholic Church that the commentaries are attacking now.

Could the Catholic Church be the harlot of Revelation 17? Maybe. It fits the description. But the Bible isn't absolutely clear about it so therefore, I have to remain open minded. Maybe it is or maybe it isn't.

There are some things the Bible is absolutely clear about. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). That's very clear. If someone ever asked me if Muslims can go to heaven, I can say with certainty they cannot. If someone asks me if the Catholic Church is the Harlot of Babylon, I have to answer, “I don't know.”

As you do your own study on the subject, no doubt you will come across the same opinions that I've heard expressed. When you do, ask yourself if they are taking the Rapture into consideration as they point a finger at the Catholic Church. If they don't at least mention that there will be no Christians among the Catholics at that time, they are painting an unfair picture of the Catholic Church.

Remember, only the Bible is infallible. All other opinions are suspect.

Further reading

Revelation 13:18: What is the Number of the Beast?

Revelation 3:11: Taking Our Crown

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Case of Evolutionists Wanting to Have it Both Ways

Similarities between living creatures is often touted as evidence of relatedness between the creatures. The similarities between humans and chimps, for example, are supposed evidence that humans and chimps have a common ancestor. For that matter, all mammals are believed to have a common ancestor and so have certain features in common. One argument creationists use to rebut the “evidence” of similar traits is to point out how non-related objects often possess similar traits. Bicycles and motorcycles have certain things in common. Does that mean that motorcycles evolved from bicycles? Of course it does not. They have features in common because they were designed for similar purpose.

I was browsing Youtube the other day (watching videos posted by evolutionists, by the way!) and came across a video where Kent Hovind (a controversial, young-earth creationist) made this very point during a discussion with a evolution-believing graduate student. The video is 9 minutes long and much of it isn't related to the point at hand so I won't post the whole thing here. You can view it for yourself at this link. The part I'm referring to begins around 55 seconds into the video when Kent offers the analogy of similarities in bridges. The student makes the following comments: “That has nothing to do with evolution... because a bridge is a horrible analogy to a living thing. I mean, it has nothing in common with a living thing.... And they [living things] reproduce which is one of the fundamental tenets of evolution. I mean, a thing can't evolve unless it reproduces. Here, we're talking about reproducing systems. Explain to me what this has to do with a common Designer because I really don't get it.”

Later in the video, Kent uses the analogy of similarities between cars and motorcycles. The student again makes the following comments: “Machinery is a horrible example. This has nothing to do with living things. They're not living things. I don't see why you insist on using machinery as an example.”

I think this student precisely knows why Kent is using it as an example. It's the same reason we often use it as an example – because it makes so obvious that common features are not de facto proof of common ancestry. His response is the usual response I hear from evolutionists when I use similar examples. They don't have a really good rebuttal so they simply ridicule the analogy. They believe that, if they disqualify the analogy as being invalid, then they excuse themselves from having to respond to it. This is a staple in the evolutionists' arsenal of responses and is usually employed as the first resort whenever the “common features are due to common Designer” argument is raised.

As often as I've heard evolutionists denounce machines as bad analogies to living things, you can imagine how amused I was when I came across a video (here) where an evolutionist uses machine design as evidence for evolution. And what errant soul wandered from the evolutionists' playbook and made this outrageous claim? It is none other than that most out-spoken of all atheist-evolutionists, Richard Dawkins! I kid you not – it's Mr. “God is a Delusion” himself.

Now, the person who made this video did not have the “common Designer” subject in mind when he posted it on Youtube. Instead, he made the video in response another claim made by Hovind, namely that evolution hasn't made any contributions to science. In the nine minute video, the last six minutes are devoted to a detailed monologue where Dawkins explains how “evolution” is being simulated in laboratories to help design more efficient machinery.

What can I say about the video? It fails in a couple of ways. Primarily, it doesn't demonstrate evolution at all. Evolution is supposed to be “aimless.” When Dr. Rechenberg (I'm not sure of the spelling) attempted to use artificial “mutation” and “selection” in his experiment, he had a goal in mind – to find an efficient wing. In the real world (or should I say, “the theoretical world of evolution”), evolution doesn't concern itself with some future goal. The only “objective” of natural selection is to remove those traits that don't convey an immediate benefit. In the supposed long transition from an arm to a wing, evolution had no idea it was heading toward a wing. Each generation of limb along the way had to convey a greater benefit to its host than the previous limb. If you start with a fully functioning arm, what benefit is there in a mutation that makes it less then an arm but not yet a wing?

I don't mean to digress into a discussion of transitional forms. My main point is the blatant hypocrisy of suddenly using the analogy of design in machines after having decried the analogy for so long. When it suits them, I guess it's a fine analogy.

Now that it's officially a good analogy after all, I have a suggestion: How about going back and answering the question evolutionists have been dodging for so long? Can't similarities in animals be evidence of design? A bike is similar to a motorcycle. Did the motorcycle evolve from the bike or were they just made that way? It's time to stop attacking the question and start answering it. You can't have it both ways.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Answering the 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer: Conclusion

It's time to wrap up this series. This will be my last post on this video.

After having asked all 10 questions, the video spends a few more minutes exploring how these questions might be answered if God were truly imaginary. It is at this point the video really looses any credibility it might have had remaining. It begins it's closing monologue with perhaps the most egregious example of a No True Scotsman argument that I believe I have ever seen. Here is the text from the video (italicized and blue):

We have looked at 10 fascinating questions.” How self congratulatory.

In order to believe in God, you have had to create all sorts of strange rationalizations and excuses. If you are an intelligent, college-educated person, all of these excuses and rationalizations probably make you feel uncomfortable. If you think about it honestly, using the critical thinking skills that you learned in college, you have to admit that your answers to these questions make no sense at all.” Note the not-so-subtle implication that “If you are an intelligent [person],” you will see that believing in God makes no sense at all. Like I said; it's a textbook No True Scotsman.

Now let me show you something remarkable. What if you instead assume that God is imaginary? A funny thing happens... The answers to every one of these questions make complete sense. Just look at all ten questions as an intelligent person...” My goodness! How more blatant can it be? The video is literally saying, “Stop thinking like a Christian and look at the questions like an intelligent person.” Give me a break! I might have mistook this for parody but I'm sure it's meant to be serious.

After spending so much time positioning the No True Scotsman argument, the video digresses into a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is where someone presents two alternatives as though they are the only options when in reality other options exist. In this case, the false dichotomy is between an irrational belief that God is real and the rational belief that God is imaginary. Another option exists – namely a rational belief that God is real. In fact, for many of the questions, the idea that God is imaginary is possibly the weaker and more irrational option. Let's look at a few:

#1) God doesn't heal amputees because He is imaginary. Is that really the better alternative? Here an analogy: Doctors supposedly heal sick people yet there are still sick people. What if I said, “there are sick people in the world because doctors are imaginary?” Does that make any sense? There are a lot of reasons why there are still sick people. Some may have not gone to the doctor. Some might have been to the doctor and are just not better yet. Some might have a disorder that doctors can't heal. There are a lot of reasons why there are still sick people. If doctors were imaginary it would explain why there are sick people but it is the least attractive explanation. Likewise, saying that God is imaginary might explain why He doesn't heal amputees but that doesn't it make it the best alternative.

#2) There are starving kids in the world because God is imaginary. Like I said in my response to this question, this would be like me saying, “There are starving kids in the US because the President is imaginary.”

To question #3), “Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people?" the video's (supposedly) intelligent response is, “Because God is imaginary, and the Bible was written by ridiculous, ruthless men rather than any sort of a loving being.” When it comes to questions of right and wrong, I don't think the makers of this video realize the extreme consequence of believing God is imaginary. If there is no God, then who decides what is right or wrong? Does society decide? If so, then on what grounds do they call these ancient men “ridiculous [and] ruthless”? What makes us right and them wrong? If there is no absolute standard of right and wrong, then all morality is subjective. Neither would there be anything wrong with owning slaves (question #5) except that we don't do it now. We can't say we are right and they were wrong because, without God, there are no moral absolutes.

Another puzzle is this: if men wrote the Bible, why would they create a moral code that no one is able to keep? I mean, if I were to set myself up as the head of a new religious movement, I wouldn't invent a set of religious instruction that even I couldn't keep. In my opinion, that doesn't make any sense.

#4) The Bible contains so much anti-scientific nonsense because God is imaginary. I believe it makes far more sense to believe that the universe had a Creator rather than to claim there is no Creator. In order to believe God is imaginary, a person must believe that matter has either existed eternally (a divine-like attribute) or that it was created. If it was created, then did it create itself? If not itself, then what created it? Where did that creator come from? Still another creator? You can see the dilemma here. Ultimately, there must have been a first creator. But in any event, matter can be neither eternally old (a violation of the second law of thermodynamics) nor can it be naturally created (a violation of the first law of thermodynamics). To believe there was a Creator makes far more sense, scientifically, than to believe there is no creator.

I could go on but you get the idea. Claiming that God is imaginary isn't the missing piece of some cosmic puzzle that suddenly explains everything.

After going through the 10 questions from the “God is imaginary perspective”, the video once again makes a No True Scotsman claim:

“Our world only makes sense when we imagine that God is imaginary. This is how intelligent, rational people know that God is imaginary. When you use your brain, and when you think logically about your religious faith, you can reach only one possible conclusion... The “god” that you heard about since you were an infant is completely imaginary.”

Excuse me while I have a chuckle. It's like watching a 10-year-old explain the meaning of life. It's nothing but child-like arguments about serious issues. Yet the logical fallacies and sophomoric arguments were merely a crescendo leading to this amazing climax:

Now let me ask you one last question... Why should you care? What difference does it make if people want to believe in a “god”, even if he is imaginary? It matters because people who believe in imaginary beings are delusional. It matters because people who talk to imaginary beings are delusional. It matters because people who believe in imaginary superstitions like prayer are delusional. It's that simple, and that obvious. Your religious beliefs hurt you personally and hurt us as a species because they are delusional. The belief in any “god” is complete nonsense.”

There you have it folks. Christians are delusional! This is another appeal to emotion only now it's appealing to our fears. To say that someone is delusional suggests they are dangerous. Why, we could snap at any moment!! And the video makes the outrageous claim that our religious beliefs actually “hurt us as a species”! What can I say? Newton, Pasteur, Mendel, da Vinci, Kepler, and scores of others were overtly Christian; Exactly how did they hurt us as a species? How about Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln? It seems to me they've made a few contributions to humanity. Of course, there are all those Christian organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Young Men Christian Association, and others; have they also hurt us as a species? But if we're going to play this game, what can be said about the tyrannical regimes of 20th century atheists: Marx, Stalin, Pol Pot, or Zedong? I would say that believing there is no God has done far more harm than good.

I know I've used a few pejoratives while discussing this video. I've called it a rant, sophomoric, and worse. But hopefully I've been able to show why all of these descriptions are accurate. After having thought about the questions and more carefully considering the comments made in the video, I might have to lower my grade for the video from a C- to a full blown D.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Answering the 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer: Part 7

#9) Why would Jesus want you to eat his body and drink his blood?

Here we have a blatant appeal to emotion or what might be called an argument of outrage. Note carefully the language the video uses: “It sounds totally grotesque, doesn't it? Why would an all-powerful God want you to do something that, in any other context, sounds like a disgusting, cannibalistic, satanic ritual?” There is absolutely no substance in the question. It's merely an attempt to cast the Lord's Supper in a bad light through the use of loaded words.

Of all the questions asked in the video, this is perhaps the weakest. Actually, I might have said that already about the some other question because several are very weak but this one really is THE weakest. The makers of the video are either completely ignorant of the use of metaphor or they are intentionally invoking the argument of outrage in hopes that the viewer is ignorant of the symbolic nature of the Lord's Supper.

Isn't metaphor taught in middle-school English? When you compare two, unlike objects with the word, “is”, then you have a metaphor: “This car is my baby”; “My kids are my life”; “Love is a rose.” These are all metaphors. The Bible certainly uses metaphor: “I am the vine” (John 15:1); “I am the shepherd (John 10:11); “I am the door” (John 10:7). Likewise, Jesus said (paraphrasing) “This wine is my blood. This bread is my body” (Luke 22:19-20).

In the Bible, having a meal be representative of a historic event is not unique to the Lord's Supper. The Jews at the Passover eat the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread in remembrance of God delivering them from Egypt. Of course, it's hard to make that sound grotesque through loaded words. The Lord's Supper is very much the same thing: when we eat the bread and drink the wine, we do so to remember our Savior's death and look forward to His return (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). The bread and wine are merely symbols.

Metaphor is a common, literary device. It isn't hard to spot. Like I said, most middle-school kids can identify it. Why is it that seemingly bright and otherwise intelligent people suddenly can't read when it comes to the Bible?

#10) Why do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?

The video isn't quite accurate on this fact. The truth is that Christians get divorced at nearly the same rate as the general population. Of course, the general population is overwhelming made up of self-identified Christians (75-80%) so it's no wonder the rates are about the same. In reality, though, many people who identify themselves as Christians are only nominal Christians. Anecdotally speaking, I've been to many weddings where the ceremony itself was the only time I'd ever seen either of the partners in church. Perhaps you've seen that as well. If you break the statistics down by faith groups, the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is noticeably lower than atheists or agnostics. Remember too that the rate of marriage among Christians is far higher than among atheists – the latter being more likely to cohabitate. When unmarried couples break-up, it doesn't count as a divorce thus skewing the statistics against Christians.

Having said all that, I concede that the divorce rate among Christians is too high. It's alarming and sad that God's people do not take marriage more seriously – especially given that marriage is an earthly reflection of Christ's relationship with His church (Ephesians 5:22-28). However, a high divorce rate among Christians is not evidence that God is imaginary. Instead, it attests to the fact that we are sinners. Jesus Himself said that God did not intend there to be divorce but only allowed it because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:8). To imagine that there should be no divorce among Christians because God has joined them together would be like saying that there should be no murders because God has forbid murder. God does not want us to sin but He doesn't stop us.

I am curious what these same skeptics would say if God did indeed keep married couples together against their wills. No doubt they would consider God cruel for forcing couples to stay together in an unhappy marriage. This may not be the weakest question, but it's another obvious fail.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 8

Monday, October 18, 2010

Answering the 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer: Part 6

The next two questions aren't directly related to each other as some of the previous questions but both require relatively short answers so I am including them both in a single post.

#7) Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles in the Bible leave behind any evidence?

I'm not sure of what to think of this question. The video doesn't explain what type of evidence it would expect nor did it even explain the point of asking this question. It merely asks the ambiguous question and follows it with a few loaded words: “It's very strange isn't it? You've created an excuse to rationalize it.” I've never attempted to “rationalize” it because I've never given it a second thought.

A few of the more notable miracles in the Bible are Jesus turning water into wine, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, His walking on water, calming the storm, various acts of healing, raising Lazarus and a few others from the dead, and finally His own resurrection. Of these many miracles what kind of evidence would anyone expect to find? The fish, the loaves, the wine, even the people are all gone now.

Is this truly a serious question? I could ask why George Washington's crossing of the Delaware left no evidence. What evidence would there be of such an event? All the participants are now gone. All we have left is the written record that it happened. Similarly, we have the written record of Jesus' miracles contained in the gospels. John and Matthew were first hand witnesses to many of the events they recorded. Why don't these critics consider the Bible to be evidence of the miracles? Why do they hold the record of events in Jesus' life up to a different standard than the events of Washington's life? I think we all know why.

Indirectly, we do have the testimony of an empty tomb. After His resurrection, the popularity of Christianity exploded. In a few short decades, Christians even caught the notice of the emperor, Nero. The Roman or Jewish authorities could have quickly quashed any false rumors of His resurrection by merely producing His body. Why didn't they? It's because the physical evidence was consistent with the Resurrection: the tomb was empty.

This question is a total fail. For many historical events, the only evidence we have is what has been written down. The miracles of Jesus are just as historical and we have the written evidence that they occurred.

#8) How do you explain the fact that Jesus hasn't appeared to you personally?

While promoting his movie, Religious, irreverent comedian Bill Mahr asked a similar question: “Why doesn't God just show Himself and tell us which is the true religion?” Questions like this have a sort of doubting-Thomas feel to them. Thomas, you will recall, refused to believe in the resurrection of Jesus until he saw the risen Savior for himself. He was fortunate because Jesus did appear to Thomas prompting him to exclaim, “My Lord and my God.” It seems natural to think that if God appeared to anyone then that person would believe. Thomas saw and believed but Jesus said that those who believe without seeing would be even more blessed. I certainly look forward to seeing Jesus but so much evidence exists for His life and resurrection that I don't need to wait until I see Him to believe.

First off, I'm puzzled by the premise of this question. What obligation is there for God (in the Person of the Son) to appear to us? God has already given us His revelation in the form of the Bible. There is nothing else we need in order to know how to be saved. If someone wishes to ignore the written word of God and insist that God appear to him personally, then that is his loss (and a very great loss it is).

However, even though God has no obligation to appear to us, He already has! John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” While on earth, Jesus gave us many signs and miracles as evidence of who He was, He told us He was the only way to the Father, He promised eternal life to everyone who believed in Him, and we have the written record of His words and miracles. What more exactly do these people want? Do they expect Jesus to appear every couple of years just to remind everyone that He is real and meant what He said?

Even if Jesus appeared on earth right now, I don't believe that would be enough to convince the skeptic anyway. At His first appearance, many of the people who heard His words and saw His miracles still not believe (John 12:37). I suspect the same would be true today. Additionally, we know that His one death on the cross was sufficient to atone for every sin (Romans 6:10, Romans 7:27). Therefore, there will be no more incarnations of the same kind as the last one. Someday, though, there will be a glorious appearance of Jesus. At that time, every knee will bow to Him and every tongue shall confess to God (Romans 14:11). Unfortunately, it will be too late then for the non-believers. How sad.

So how do I explain the fact that Jesus hasn't appeared to me personally? I wasn't alive during His ministry on earth. It's just that simple. You might as well ask why neither Augusta Caesar nor George Washington has appeared to me. What would be the point? Are Caesar and Washington imaginary? I only know these people existed because of the written evidence we have of them. Again, how can this video justify holding Jesus to a different standard than any other person of antiquity? Am I to believe that these critics do not believe in any person they have not seen personally? Yet incredibly, they claim it makes more sense to believe that Jesus doesn't appear to us because He is imaginary! No wonder they are having trouble with the other questions.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 7

Part 8

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Answering the 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer: Part 5

#4) Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?

In this question, I see the video committing at least three logical fallacies. First, it makes a series of bald assertions. A bald assertion isn't an argument; it's merely a statement presented as fact without any attempt made to support it. A bald assertion isn't automatically wrong but it doesn't go very far to persuade. They also can be rebutted with another assertion:

“God did not make the world in 6 days 6,000 years ago like the Bible says.” Yes He did.

“There was never a worldwide flood that covered Mt. Everest like the Bible says.” Yes there was although Mt. Everest was not at its present height at the time.

“Jonah did not live inside a fish's stomach for three days like the Bible says.” Yes he did.

“God did not create Adam from a handful of dust like the Bible says.” Yes He did.

That was easy. You see, since bald assertions have nothing backing them up, there's nothing to debate. To say Jonah did not live inside a fish is not a scientific statement. What kind of animal was it? How large was it? What experiments have been done to demonstrate how a person might live inside such a creature? The video doesn't address any of these questions – it merely says it didn't happen which leads us to our second logical fallacy: the argument of incredulity.

The argument of incredulity basically asserts that something isn't true on no other grounds but that the person doesn't believe it's true. If I read that 1,000,000 earths could fit inside the sun, I might say, “That's impossible. Nothing is that big.” Now, I've not said anything that disproves what I've read; I've merely said I don't believe because it seems impossible. The video does exactly the same thing. As we've seen, the video provides no details about how the account of Jonah could not be true. It merely asserts it's not true for no other apparent reason than it doesn't believe it.

Finally, the video commits the fallacy of argumentum verbosium (proof by verbosity). Did you notice how the video introduced this question by saying, “You know how science works. You happily use the products of science every day: Your car. Your cell phone. Your microwave oven. Your TV. Your computer. There are all products of the scientific process. You know that science is incredibly important to our economy and to our lives.” Wow! That's a lot of words to say how important science is. So what's the conclusion? “God did not make the world in 6 days...” ??? The details given do nothing to support the points. They are merely words to bulk up the argument. Cell phones, microwaves, and computers do not disprove the Bible. Neither is there anything in the Bible that contradicts the scientific process. Indeed, many scientists are Christians and many scientific disciplines were pioneered by Christians. By the way, did you know that Dr. Raymond Vahan Damadian is the inventor of the MRI and also a young earth creationist?!

Interestingly, much of science contains anti-scientific nonsense. Try reading a science book from 200, 100, or even 50 years or so ago and see what once passed for science. Things many scientists were once certain of are constantly being discarded in light of new findings. Scientists say that is a good thing. Perhaps it is but how can anyone claim the standard of science disproves the Bible when we really can have no confidence in the standard?

If the video had contained anything specific, I would be happy to address it. I've discussed the evolution v. creation issue at length on my blog. I've also addressed such arguments as “The Bible says bats are birds.” To ask, “Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?” is an empty question. Since there are no other specifics, all I can say in answer is – IT DOESN'T!

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Answering the 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer: Part 4

#3) Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?

#5) Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?

Here again we have two questions that seem to make duplicate points. Therefore, as in my last post, I will respond to both in a single post. In a nutshell, the video is attempting to make the point that many Old Testament laws do not reflect how we think a just and loving God should act. The video cites Exodus 35:2, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Leviticus 20:13, and Deuteronomy 22:13-21 as examples of God condemning people to death for “trivial” crimes. Concerning slavery, the video cites Exodus 21:20-21, Colossians 3:22-24, Ephesians 6:5, and 1 Peter 2:18 (interestingly, the latter 3 are from the New Testament).

I'd like to clarify one very fundamental point that the video seems to not be aware of: there is exactly one penalty for sin – death (Romans 6:23). No matter what the crime, ultimately, the punishment is the same. The video seems to want to make hay that the OT condemns to death people who work on the sabbath. However, people who lie are also condemned to death as are people who lust, covet, gossip, and hate. The Bible makes it clear that all men are appointed to die and then they are judged (Hebrews 9:27). Some people die very old and some die very young. Some die peacefully and some die violently. When and how they die might vary but just as all have sinned, so all die (Romans 5:12). The mortality rate among humans is 100%. When you think about it, it's sort of silly to say that there's anyone who doesn't deserve to die. If everyone dies, then how can we say that a rebellious son or an adulterer isn't worthy of death?

I really shouldn't need to give much ink to proving that everyone dies. It's rather obvious. With that understood, one might ask why some OT laws called for immediate death in certain circumstances. A thorough treatment of this is beyond the scope of this post but let me give a thumbnail version. The various laws can be divided into a few categories: there are laws concerning worship, morality, civility, and health. The law governs our relationship with God and our relationship with others. In many cases, our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with others. Marriage, for example, is a picture of Christ's relationship with His church (believers are collectively known as the “bride” of Christ). Sexual sins, therefore, are especially egregious on the same level as idolatry. Our relationship with our parents is a model of our relationship with God. A rebellious child, then, is akin to apostasy.

Furthermore, the Law was given specifically to govern God's people. They were a unique nation in history in that they had no earthly ruler. God was their King and He appointed judges who would interpret the Law whenever a situation arose. Sexual immorality, rebellion, idolatry, and other sins which the video might label as “trivial” were a poison to society. In that place at that time, God did not allow certain sins to continue for His people. We live in a different time now. God's people foolishly demanded a king who could rule over them like other nations and God gave them Saul. Ultimately, God still holds us accountable for our sins but He allows our earthly punishment to be doled out by our earthly rulers.

Which brings us to another point. Many of the laws were not given to reflect God's perfect will but rather to tolerate our own sinful nature. Jesus made this very point to the Pharisees when they asked about divorce (Matthew 19:7-9), “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Divorce, then, wasn't intended as God's perfect will but rather God made provisions that accommodated divorce in a fallen world. Such were the laws concerning slavery. This was not the kind of slavery that existed once in the US, by the way, but God gave laws that covered indentured servants or prisoners of war. This was not because God intended slavery but rather made provisions for it in a fallen world.

No sin is “trivial.” The video might dismiss blasphemy, sexual immorality, and rebellion as harmless but any transgression of the law earns God's judgment and the wages of our sin is death. Nobody is stoned anymore but we all have the same destiny - a grave. We all also have the same opportunity - salvation through His Son. When we stand before God in judgment (and we all will), I'm going to receive mercy because I have believed in His Son. Others are welcome to tell God He's being unfair.

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