googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

Breaking News: Charles Darwin was an evolutionist!

In the years I've spent engaged in apologetics, one of the most frustrating things I've had to put up with are the word games employed by unbelievers. “Evolution” doesn't mean humans are descended from apes. An “atheist” doesn't deny there's a God. What most people call a “theory” isn't really a theory. You see, militant unbelievers who might use these words have a different meaning for them than the general public has. As a result, much of any debate between believers and unbelievers is spent haggling over terminology. See red herring.

One of the most contended words is, “evolutionist.” In heated “creation v. evolution” debates, using the terms “creationist” and “evolutionist” helps everyone know who is being discussed. It's a term of convenience because it's easier to say “evolutionist” than to say “a person who subscribes to the theory of evolution.” Though some evolutionists might have contempt for creationists (and vice versa), the terms creationist and evolutionist are rather benign.

Let me give a brief grammar lesson. Words that end in “ism” describe a belief or philosophy (atheism, socialism, fundamentalism, etc). People who subscribe to those beliefs are identified with the suffix, “ist” (atheist, socialist, fundamentalist, etc). Capitalism, for example, is the belief that property (and labor) is owned by individuals. Proponents of capitalism are called capitalists. See? It's easy.

The belief that God created the world as described in Genesis is called, creationism. People who believe God created the world as described in Genesis are called, creationists. By the way, it does make me laugh to see people say things like, “there is no evidence for creationism.” Isn't that funny? They're saying there is no evidence that people believe in creation. //RKBentley chuckles// Creationist and creationism are fine words (when used correctly) and I welcome them. I even use them myself.

The fuss is over the term, evolutionist. For some reason, many evolutionists despise the term. I'm not sure why. I suspect it's because they usually mean “creationist” to be a pejorative term and, so, think creationists are using the term evolutionist the same way. It could be too that they feel “ism/ist” are terms used to describe belief systems and they don't like the “fact” of evolution being described with similar terms.

Just yesterday, for example, a person I was debating on FaceBook (I don't link to FaceBook on my blog because people use their real names and I don't intend to dox anyone) took exception to my use of the term, evolutionist. He said, Evolutionists aren’t a thing any more than gravitationalists or blue skyists.What these people don't seem to understand is that the word “evolutionist” is probably as old as the theory itself.

After having been called, “Mr. Darwin, an Atheist,” Charles Darwin wrote the following to the Grimsby News (bold added):

Dear Sir,

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.... What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to anyone except myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates.... In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

Dear sir, yours faithfully,
Ch. Darwin

There you have it. The man who literally invented the theory of evolution called proponents of his theory, evolutionists. It's probably older than the term, creationists. I know this is news to many of you but you just need to chill and not go into full defense mode whenever you hear the word.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Proof for Evolution? Part 2

In my introduction to this series, I pointed out the casual use of the word “prove” in the article, Three Pieces of Evidence That Prove Evolution is a Fact. People who claim to respect science are usually quick to point out that science never proves anything so, if anything, this evidence only proves evolution is dogma to some people. Generally, theories are falsified rather than proven. Think about this:

If I ate an entire pizza, I'd be full.
I'm full.
Therefore, I must have eaten an entire pizza.

Of course, I could be full if I'd eaten an entire pizza but being full by itself doesn't prove my theory. I could be full for some other reason, like eating a pound of bacon. Likewise, the three evidences presented in the article could be explained by evolution but they still don't prove evolution because some other explanation – the correct explanation – might exist for the same evidence. In the case of these three, I would say they can all be explained by supernatural creation but even if I had no other explanation whatsoever, I would still say they don't prove evolution because there could still be some unknown explanation waiting to be discovered.

So let's look at these three “proofs.”

Common Traits. Common Ancestor.

Think about your family. You and your closest relatives look more alike than you and your cousins. Likewise, you look more like your cousins than you do more distant relatives, and more like distant relatives that people on the other side of the globe. The closer you are related, by-and-large, the more similarities you share.... This patterning, like in your family, extends throughout all life on Earth.

It's true that evolution could explain similar features in closely related species. Of course, created things can also have common traits. Consider this illustration. The tricycle and the cart obviously have features in common but the cart certainly hasn't evolved from the tricycle. Their only relationship is that they were designed to perform similar functions. Some of their similarities, the blue frame, the black tires with heavy tread, the black seats and steering, etc, are merely the preferences of the designers. Likewise, similar features among different creatures could be evidence they were designed by a Creator and reflect his purpose and preferences.

What evolution fails to explain well are similar features in creatures that aren't considered closely related by their theory. Humans and chimps both have an appendix. If they are both descended from a common ancestor that also had an appendix, it would make sense we both have one. However, possums also have an appendix. Possums are marsupial mammals which supposedly split from placental mammals 65 million years ago so they cannot have a recent ancestor. If evolution were true, we should be able to trace the appendix along the so called, “tree of life,” and see that all species with an appendix also have a common ancestor. Instead, it appears randomly across the tree of life while being absent in species that supposedly link them.

There are also fingerprints. Humans and chimps have fingerprints but so do koalas. According to LiveScience, “[K]oalas, doll-sized marsupials that climb trees with babies on their backs, have fingerprints that are almost identical to human ones. Not even careful analysis under a microscope can easily distinguish the loopy, whirling ridges on koalas' fingers from our own.... The remarkable thing about koala prints is that they seem to have evolved independently. On the evolutionary tree of life, primates and modern koalas' marsupial ancestors branched apart 70 million years ago.” So common features are not “proof” of common ancestry, even according to evolution!

We See Species Changing Over Time

One of the most important discoveries that lead to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was extinct animals found as fossils. Early paleontologists, like Charles Lyell and George Cuvier, noticed a very simple fact: Species that lived in the past are very often drastically, wildly different from anything alive today. Trilobites, dinosaurs, giant sloths, baculites, etc., they all suggest that life on Earth has changed quite a bit.

I like to use dogs as examples of change in populations because most people are familiar with dogs and know they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The problem with evolution is that dogs never come in new shapes, sizes, and colors. Take color, for example. Dogs can be white, brown, black, blonde, and red. However, they aren't green or blue. Why not? It's because the “change” we observe in species are merely rearrangements of traits already present in the population.

Natural selection can only ever select from traits that already exist – hence, we call it, “selection.” For evolution to be possible, creatures have to acquire new traits. For a dinosaur to become a bird, you would have to add feathers. For a fish to become a frog, you would have to add legs. To turn a bacterium into a basset hound would require a millions of years long parade of new traits being added generation after generation. We don't see any new traits. We see changes among animal populations. We don't see evolution!

I noticed something very interesting about the illustration of human evolution used in the article. If you look carefully, you'll notice the only direct ancestor shown for Homo sapiens is Homo erectus. All other species are linked by some unnamed, imagined common ancestor. Isn't that interesting? Finding a human ancestor is the life dream of any paleontologist but after more than a century of looking, no “clear progression” from ape to human has been found.

The Remnants of Past Generations

Turn over a manufactured product today, and you are likely to see a small sticker or tag that says what country it was made in. Like those tags, species bear the marks of where they came from. These signs of origin might come in the form of repurposed traits, traits that hurt a species chances of surviving or reproducing.

The author appears to be talking about vestigial organs. The champion of all vestigial organs ever touted by evolutionists is the appendix. I've discussed above how the appendix being present in some mammals but absent in the species that are supposed to link them is evidence against common ancestry. What I didn't mention above is, if the appendix is vestigial, it's even more difficult for evolution to explain how it would evolve independently in different species. Put another way, why should I believe the appendix served some function so well that “nature” created it in several different species of mammal but now it's nothing more than a useless leftover?

Some people say human facial hair is vestigial, left over from a time we had a heavy coat of fur. However, have you every noticed how men have hair on their lips, chin, jaw, and brown while chimps (supposedly our closest cousins) have virtually no hair around their mouths nor on their brow? Did we evolve this since human/chimps split from their alleged ancestor? If so, how is it vestigial?

Even defining an organ as vestigial is problematic because there is no, simple, rigorous definition of the word, “vestigial.” Just as above, some people claim it is a useless leftover. In a article dealing with vestigial organs, LiveScience said this about the appendix: Any secondary function that the appendix might perform certainly is not missed in those who had it removed before it might have ruptured.This definition fails because I could live a long, normal life even if I cut the little finger off my left hand. That certainly doesn't prove my finger is vestigial. Furthermore, sometimes a structure might have a purpose that hasn't been identified. We have found, for example, that the appendix does help our immune system. But even if an organ can be found to truly have no function, it can still be explained by the creation model. God could have created an animal with a functioning structure but over time, through mutation and degradation, the structure has become functionless.

In conclusion, these three evidences are not only fail as proof of evolution, I believe they are weak at explaining anything. The same things are explained as well, or maybe better, by creation.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Proof for Evolution? Part 1

I came across an article recently on titled, “Three Pieces of Evidence That Prove Evolution is a Fact.” You'll notice the article is over 3 years old but I'm sorry – it's a big world wide web and I haven't gotten to all of it yet. Even so, the “proof” presented in the article is the same stuff I continue to hear so I thought I'd write a post discussing it. At first I thought about making this a 3 part series but I've done a couple of series recently and didn't want to start another. Even so, if I tried to address everything in a single post, it would be a very long post. Therefore, I've decided to make this a very short series: an introduction and a rebuttal.

I'll address the three evidences in my next post. For now, there's a lot I could say about the article just from its opening paragraphs. I think they shed a lot of light on the attitude of its author. First, there's the title: “prove evolution is a fact.” Really? Prove? I thought science doesn't ever prove anything. Actually, let me quote another article from, Don’t ever say around me that science has “proven” something unless you want an ear full. Understanding why that phrase is problematic is essential to understanding the most important tool humans have ever devised to understand reality – science. Isn't that a hoot? The same website that warns us to never say science “proves” anything turns right around and says the evidence has proven evolution!

The first paragraph starts saying,For over 150 years—since the time of Charles Darwin—the Theory of Evolution has been through more scrutiny and rigorous investigation than just about any other scientific claim.Hmm. “Investigation”? Maybe. “Scrutiny”? Please! I've said many times before that most scientists proudly boast that they only ever consider natural explanations. Regarding our origins, evolution is the only natural explanation so they don't scrutinize it. No matter how weakly it might explain some phenomenon, no matter how little evidence there is for some point of the theory, no matter how absurd some of its explanations are, they will never question the theory itself because the only alternative is supernatural creation which they've disqualified in advance.

The article continues, And the theory has only been strengthened as more evidence has been accrued. I wouldn't say the theory has been strengthened but, rather, it has been fleshed out as more evidence is found. It's a case of having a theory and then seeking out evidence for it. You see, every time they think they have some part of evolution figured out, some new discovery is made that forces them to rethink everything. I've asked before, how many times are they allowed to redraw the tree? How many times does will different points of the theory be proven wrong before people begin questioning the theory itself?

Next, the article says, While there are many that people who, for ideological reasons, want to make it seem like evolution is not widely accepted within the scientific community, this is not actually the case. Of course that's not the case and no one says it is. Creationists might sometimes point out a contention in the scientific community about some point of evolution but that's only to show that evolution is not the neat package that's being presented to the lay public. However, we completely understand that, even though scientists might disagree on different points of evolution, they don't question the theory itself. Where creationists disagree with evolutionists is over whether evolution is true, not whether evolutionists really believe it!

Across universities, research institutions, and scientific organizations, evolution is not only nearly universally accepted,...” Yes, “the science is settled” and most scientists do not question the theory of evolution. By the way, there is an oft quoted statistic that 99.9% of all scientists accept evolution but I've never seen a scientific survey to support that. Regardless, how many scientists believe evolution isn't evidence for evolution. Scientists – even the majority of scientists – can be wrong. Before Galileo, for example, the majority of people believed the sun orbited the earth. Anyway, back to the point, “... [evolution] is also the basis upon which active, exciting, and important research is being done. Indeed, the scientific fact that is evolution is the basis of most of biology. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Evolution is the basis only for research into evolution; it's completely irrelevant to any other field of science.

If you were to google, “how evolution helps research,” you'll find plenty of articles by people trying to convince you that understanding evolution is critical to scientific research. Here's another exercise to try: see if you can find any invention, scientific advancement, or life improving technology whose discovery hinged upon evolution being true. From a survey into the relevance of evolution to academia, we have this quote:

The message that Darwinists convey to the public is often very different than what they recognize as true among themselves. Although they state to the public that, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” most scientists can “conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas”.... One “notable aspect of natural scientists in assembly is how little they focus on evolution. It’s day-to-day irrelevance is a great ‘paradox’ in biology”.

There you have it, folks. Scientists say evolution is important but it's seldom referenced in their research. This is why I call evolution the trivial pursuit branch of science.

I'll discuss the three evidences in my next post. We can see from just the opening paragraphs, though, we shouldn't expect too much. Please check back soon!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How many jellybeans are in this jar?

I was watching Michael Shermer on YouTube the other day. He was using an argument that I've written about before, where he basically says Christians are mostly atheists. We reject a myriad of gods – there's just one more God over which atheists and Christians disagree. He puts a little twist on the argument, though, suggesting that since there are so many religions out there, no one can possibly know which of them is true.

I've always found this argument to be curious. What is he really trying to say? That since we can't know which religion is true then none of them are true? That's what he'd like you to believe but he knows he can't say it in those words because it sounds absurd.

I love using analogies and sometimes try to use analogies to show the weaknesses of certain arguments. In this case, I'm going to use a jar of jellybeans to demonstrate why I think Shermer's argument fails.

Imagine there's a jar of jellybeans and we're given the task of guessing how many there are. The rules are pretty liberal; the only restriction is that we're not allowed to open the jar. If everybody made a guess, I'm sure you'd have a very wide range of answers. Of course, they can't all be right.

Just by looking at the glass, I could come up with a guess that might be reasonable. But if I were really determined to know how many jellybeans there are, I could go to greater lengths:

  • I could count how many jellybeans were visible at the very bottom, count the number along a straight line up the side, and multiply the two together. This could get me pretty close.
  • I could find an identical jar and count how many jellybeans it would take to fill it. That would be a very close estimate too.
  • I could weigh the full jar, weigh the empty jar, then weigh an individual jellybean. The difference in weight between the full jar and empty jar, divided by the weight of an individual bean should tell me about how many jellybeans are in the full jar.
  • I could compare all these different methods and see if any or all of them arrived at the same number or a very narrow range of numbers.

Consider, too, that as I narrow down my estimate, I could also rule out other people's bad guesses. I know the guy who guesses there's only 1 bean in the jar is wrong because I can see more than one through the glass. I know the guy who guesses a million jellybeans is wrong because a million wouldn't fit inside. Furthermore, I could focus on those guesses that are close to mine and ask those people how they arrived at their number. Based on what they say, I might think of other experiments which might give me even more confidence in my estimate.

My point is this: there is a correct answer. There is an objective answer that could be known if I were allowed to open the jar and count the jellybeans. There is only one correct number and every other guess is wrong. Even if I can never know the exact number, I know that by determination and investigation, I can have confidence that my estimate could be the correct number or, at the very least, be very, very close.

When we apply Shermer's argument to the jellybeans, he seems to suggest that any guess is as good as another but because we don't have the actual number, then all guesses must be equally wrong. It's like he's saying that, since I can't ever be sure of the exact number, my guess can't be correct nor even close. In the case of beliefs, Shermer is literally saying that, because there are so many beliefs, mine cannot possible be true. How does that follow? At best, Shermer might say we should all be agnostic but he isn't arguing for agnosticism – he's making a case for atheism. That would be like saying since we can't know how many jellybeans are in the jar, then there aren't any! You can see how that doesn't work.

There are lots of religions in the world. There are a lot of ideas about God. I admit, they can't all be right but that alone doesn't prove they're all wrong. Reasonable arguments can be made that God must exist. Reasonable arguments can be made that the Bible is His revealed word. Reasonable arguments can be made that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Even if I'm wrong on some minor detail here or there, I am confident that I am very, very close to the Truth. What is not reasonable is to say that, because other people have different beliefs, then we shouldn't believe any of them.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Conclusion

When I started answering Hemant Mehta's questions for Christians, I knew I wouldn't get to all of them. This is my last post in this series and I have managed to answer more than I thought I would. These last few questions kind of deal with general theology but they're a little more random than the questions included in each previous post so this will seem to jump around a little.

51) What are the minimum requirements for being a Christian?
52) And who falls under that definition?

If I had to strip away everything but the bare minimum, I would say there are 2 non-negotiable items that identify someone as a Christians:

First, he must understand who Jesus is. Jesus is the eternal Son, the second Person of the Trinity, the God who became flesh, who lived, died, and rose again. Next, a person must repent of his sins and accept Jesus as his Lord. Either one of these alone is not sufficient; a person must believe both to be saved.

The Bible attests in many places that demons understand who Jesus is. James 2:19 says, Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. The demons, of course, do not worship Jesus as their Lord. There are also certain cults, like Jehovah's Witnesses that say Jesus is their Lord, but they have a wrong understanding of who Jesus is. To them, He is a created being not equal to the Father. So anyone who believes one or the other cannot be saved unless he believes both.

Who is a Christian, then? Only God knows for certain. Jesus did tell us many times that we can identify them by their fruit. Just like in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the workers did not know that some of the plants were tares until the wheat began to show its fruit (v. 26). We can ask a person what he believes about Jesus. We can examine his life for fruits. But Jesus knows for certain and at the end of this age, when the harvest comes, the wheat will be gathered into barns and the tares will be burned.

60) If you could go back into time to when Jesus was being crucified, would you try to save Him or would you stand back and do nothing since your entire faith depends on Him being crucified?

Let's be clear about something: Jesus didn't need to be “saved.” At His arrest, when Peter tried to fight off the guards, Jesus said to him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:52-53). Nobody took Jesus' life from Him. He laid it down willingly and nothing I might have done could have stopped Him.

My question to Mehta is, will you admit your part in Jesus' crucifixion? Is there any guilt, regret, or remorse for any of the sins you committed for which He died to atone?

70) Can you pause the video right now and tell me what the 10 Commandments are?
71) And if you know them, and good for you if you do, why do so many Christians believe that the first four of them belong on government property and in the classrooms?

Hosea 4:6 says, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It has always been a pet peeve of mine that too many Christians will not invest the time nor effort into learning God's word. Having said that, I'm not sure what the point of this question is except to embarrass Christians for not knowing the commandments given by the God they claim to worship. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us we should, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. I suppose the opposite is also true – if we don't study, God doesn't approve and we should be ashamed!

Richard Dawkins tried to make this same point. When self-identified Christians couldn't answer basic questions about the Bible, he doubted their Christianity. One radio host turned the tables on him by asking if Dawkins knew the full title of Darwin's book. Dawkins hemmed and hawed. So do I conclude that anyone who doesn't know the full title of Darwin's book really doesn't believe in evolution? What does this say about the truth of the theory? So you can see that questions like this really don't prove atheism is correct or that Christianity is false. It's nothing more than a gotcha!

Mehta asked if the first four commandments “belong on government property and in the classrooms?” I'm a big proponent of the First Amendment and I hate the popular paraphrase: the separation of church and state. The 10 Commandments belong anywhere people want to exercise their religion. In other words, people do not give up their rights when they step onto government owned property. I'm reminded of Brittany McComb, the valedictorian at Foothill High School who had her mic turned off during her speech because she was talking about the influence God had in her life. I guess if she had thanked Oprah or Tony Robbins, that would have been OK.

I can agree that the state should not display the 10 Commandments and exclude any other view. I cannot agree that anything religious should be banned from government property. That type of “neutrality” actually makes the state hostile toward religion.

57) Do you really believe Mary was impregnated without having sex?
58) If someone came up to you and said she was pregnant but she was totally a virgin, would you believe her?

I would start by pointing out that Joseph did not believe Mary, either, and sought to divorce her (make a legal ending to their formal engagement). Sometimes, people of ancient cultures are maligned with the accusation that they were unlearned and unscientific. In this case, Joseph understood how women become pregnant and so assumed Mary had been with another man. You could also say even Mary didn't believe at first. She too understood how women become pregnant and asked the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (Luke 1:34). My incredulity at the claim of a virgin being pregnant would likely have been the same as Mary, Joseph, and Mehta. Perhaps it would take an angel appearing to me before I believed.

What was truly of the virgin birth is also true of every miracle. Even ancient people understood certain things about the world and when Jesus performed a miracle, they knew it had to be a miracle because the world doesn't operate that way. It is by performing miracles, we know Jesus has the ability to keep His promises. Jesus told Martha, Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25). He then raised Lazarus who had been dead 4 days.

Jesus spoke the universe in existence. He walked on water, calmed the storm, healed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, turned water into wine, and performed a host of other miracles. Do you really think He couldn't split an egg in a virgin?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 5

We're nearing the end of this series. The remaining questions are a little more random and not as easily grouped to create a theme for my post but some of them need to be addressed. Like I said in the introduction, I knew I wouldn't get to every single question, but I think I'll get to more than I thought I would when I started. I will probably have only one more post after this one.

46) Why is God playing hide-and-seek with all of humanity?

I've written about this before. I would say that God has and does reveal Himself. First, He is clearly seen in His creation (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20). He gave His word to the prophets and apostles. His voice was heard audibly at Mt. Sinai and at Jesus' baptism. Most importantly, there is the incarnation – the birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel (“God with us'), where He dwelt among us and we beheld His glory. Today, we have the canon of Scripture to attest to these things and Christians are commanded to go into all the world to make Him known to all the nations. God certainly doesn't hide from humanity.

It's my opinion, though, that even if God appeared to this generation, people who refuse to believe will still refuse to believe. Jesus told the Pharisees that His resurrection would be the sign of His authority yet, after He raised from dead, the Pharisees still refused to believe and even bribed the guards at the tomb to say His disciples stole His body.

The evidence for God is overwhelming and people who refuse to believe will still refuse to believe regardless of how God makes Himself known.

29) Does God speak to you personally?
30) If God spoke to you and told you to kill your child, would you do it?
31) If God told you to kill me, would you do it?
32) Is God always watching over you?
33) How 'bout when you're on the toilet?

I don't believe God ordinarily speaks to people in the same way He spoke to the prophets. If He did, we might ask why we would even need a prophet? God could have just spoken to every person in Israel and given His message rather than having one person say, “Thus saith the LORD...” Now that we have the Scriptures, I don't believe there is any more needs for prophets or apostles at all so I'm even less likely to believe anyone who claims to have heard God speak. Those times in the Bible where He did speak to people are the exceptions, just like the miracles recorded in the Bible are exceptions.

Of course, there are people who are “called.” Some people become preachers, missionaries, or have some other ministry God has “called” them to. Yet even in these instances, the people don't claim that God spoke audibly to them. It is usually through prayer, study, fasting, and seeking God that He has made His will known to them.

I don't claim to understand exactly why God has chosen to speak only through the prophets or through the Scriptures but it's clear that He does.

76) Do you believe childbirth is an example of a miracle?
77) Does that mean Hitler was once a miracle baby?
78) And if childbirth is a miracle, how come that miracle happens thousands and thousands of times every week?

I believe life is a miracle. I believe the human body is a marvelous machine that virtually screams of design. I believe the DNA molecule is the fingerprint of God's hand in the creation. I believe the “scientific” term, abiogenesis, is merely a rehashed version of spontaneous generation which was tossed into the trash bin of bad scientific theories along with bloodletting.

What I can't understand is how people can look at the wonder, the complexity, and the design that is present everywhere in the universe and sit, cross-armed and shaking their heads saying it's still not enough evidence for God. Like I said, they refuse to believe!

47) Do you believe that Jesus is coming back to earth during your lifetime?
48) If you do, what do you say to all those people who have been saying the same thing for centuries and are no longer with us?

Matthew 24:36 says that only the Father knows the day and hour Christ will return. Jesus did give us signs to look for that would precede His return. Obviously, we're closer to His return than any generation before us which is perhaps why we see these things happening with more and more frequency.

Maybe Jesus will come in my lifetime. Maybe not. How am I supposed to know? I do know that it's going to happen, though, and Matthew says it will be like it was in the days of Noah. Genesis tells us that God proclaimed His Spirit will not always strive with men. For 120 years, people continued as they always had – eating, drinking, marrying – then the Flood came!

2 Peter 3:3-4 talks about this attitude: Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. We should not interpret Christ's delay to mean He's not coming.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 4

Several of the questions Hemant Mehta asked in his video, 78 Questions for Christians, have to do with homosexuality. In this short video, Mehta never explains his point in asking any particular question but, rather, lets the question speak for itself. In many cases, the viewer can see how a question is provocative. In the cases of these questions, though, I'm not sure what Mehta is getting at. I do have some ideas, of course, which I'll expound upon in my answers.

39) Is acting on one's homosexuality a sin?
40) Is homosexuality itself a sin?

I suspect Mehta doesn't think homosexuality is a sin. Just to be clear, though, according to atheists, there is no such thing as sin at all. Let me ask Mehta a question: is it morally wrong for an adult man to lust after a 6 year old girl, even if he doesn't act on it? Why? A sin is usually defined as a transgression against a divine law. So, if there is no divine law, how can there be any sin? Even though Mehta doesn't believe in sin, he still wants his Christian viewers to take a stand on this point. I'll explain why I think he's doing this.

Homosexuality and transgender issues are hot buttons in social and political dialogues. For Christians to say homosexuality is a sin is to invite the label of “bigot” and “homophobe.” If Christians answer, yes, to these questions, Mehta believes he exposes Christians as being intolerant. If we answer, no, then we are casting doubt on the authority of God's word. It's sort of like that loaded question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Mehta has no moral standard by which he can judge anything as wrong. He asks these questions rhetorically – not sincerely. Even so, I'll still answer him. We are all sinners. The things we do aren't the sins, they're the symptoms of our sin. Think about it: it's not telling a lie that makes you a liar. You were a liar before you spoke the lie, when you decided in your heart that you would lie. When you finally spoke the lie, you were just doing what liars do. So, yes, homosexuality is a sin – even before a person acts on it. You can call me intolerant if you want but the truth is intolerant.

41) Do you believe gays and lesbians should have the right to legally get married?
42) Would your church ever marry a gay or lesbian couple?
43) If not, and you believe that they should have the right to marry, why do you remain in that church?

Mehta posted this video 3 years ago, before the Supreme Court issued its decision that made gay marriage “legal.” I put legal in quotes because gay marriage was already legal, even prior to the decision. Two men could go to a church, have a ceremony, exchange vows, exchange rings, open joint checking accounts, buy a house, and live happily ever after. There was never any chance they would be be arrested and sent to prison because of it. The difference was that I didn't have to consider them to be married. The Court's decision didn't affect them – it affected me.

In Matthew 19:4-5, when asked about marriage, Jesus answered, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female... For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? It's clear from this passage that Jesus defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Liberal churches that perform gay “marriages” are clearly at odds with God's word and His plan for marriage. I would ask why any Christians would remain at those churches?

44) Why would God create people who are gay and then punish them for being gay?

First, there is no definitive study to show that people are born gay so there are no grounds to say, God created them that way. But even if people are born gay, being born with a condition doesn't automatically make that condition normal and good. There are plenty of congenital disorders that we treat people for. If we someday discover a “gay gene,” homosexuality will still be a sin.

Regardless, God doesn't punish people just for being gay. Gay people are also liars and thieves and murderers. They are just like every other person – sinners in need of repentance. We are all guilty of sin and are all condemned. However, the Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

45) If God is already sending gay people who act on their homosexuality to hell, why do so many Christians fell the need to persecute them here on earth?

There is so much here that I'm not sure where to start. What does Mehta mean by, “so many”? Is he talking about groups like the Westboro Baptists? Besides them, I don't know of any self-identified Christians who persecute gays. When I think of people who actually assault gays, I think of rowdy men, maybe drunk, maybe being egged on by their buddies, acting out on effeminate men much like a bully on the playground picks on the smallest kid. They're not sincere Christians engaged in some holy crusade to rid the world gays through violence.

I would also ask what does Mehta mean by persecution? Does he consider Christians just calling gays, sinners, to be persecution? In that case, Christians are at war with all the lost people of the world – only not to harm them, but to save them! I guess some people, though, don't like being told they're sinners and so they feel like we're “persecuting” them.

Christians are commanded to love our neighbor. Part of loving them is telling them they're wrong. It doesn't help a drug addict, for example, to say, “God loves you just the way you are.” That message actually hurts him. What we say instead is, “Dude, you're out of control. Drugs are ruining you life. If you don't stop, you're going to die!” We don't say these things because we are judging the drug addict but because we are trying to help him. Likewise, we tell sinners about their sins – not because we are judging them but because we want them to see their need for a Savior.

The old saying is that ignorance is bliss. It's hard for some people to hear the truth. If a gay person is told that homosexuality is a sin, it upsets his fantasy that he can live however he wants and there will be no consequence. They become angry at the Christian who tells him the word, like a dog in a pit tries to bite the person who reaches in to help him.

Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Some people think it's OK to be gay. They're wrong.  When we tell them they're wrong, we're not persecuting them – we're trying to rescue them!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 3

In Hemant Mehta's video, 78 Questions for Christians, he asked several questions concerning the truth of Christianity – especially when compared to other religions. We'll discuss these in this post.

28) If a group of people came from, say, Africa, came to your community with the intent to convert you to their tribal faith, would you listen to them and take them seriously or would you just dismiss them because they don't believe what you already believe?
34) What do you say to Muslims who believe the Quran is the Holy Book?
35) Are they wrong?
36) Have you read the Quran?
37) And why do you so easily dismiss their Holy Book?
38) And then why do you get upset at atheists who dismiss yours?

I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, and I believe the Bible. I believe these things for the same reasons I believe anything – I think they're real, true, and correct. Of course, I wasn't always a Christian and I didn't always believe the Bible. From a starting point of doubt and skepticism, I sought answers and became convinced that God is real and the Bible is true.

It's not possible here to cite everything that convinced me to become a Christian. I've written before about five, quick arguments for the existence of God. I believe the crux of those is point 4 – the historical fact of Jesus. The Bible is not like other books of religion. It was written over hundreds of years by dozens of people. Jesus had a very public ministry. He spoke to crowds, performed miracles, died publicly, and appeared alive again to hundreds of people. His words and miracles were recorded by eyewitnesses and the veracity of the New Testament far surpasses any other book of antiquity.

I simply cannot examine every religion in the world. Nevertheless, they all have their chance in the arena of ideas. Anyone who claims to have the truth, I will listen to him. How do his claims compare to the Bible? To whom did his revelation come – to one or to many? Is there archaeological and scientific evidence? Is there historical evidence? What is the provenance of his religious book?

Truth is exclusive. All world religions could be wrong but they can't all be right. Still, there is far more reason to believe the Bible than any other claim to the truth.

23) Is there anything in your life right now that makes you doubt God's existence?
24) If you did doubt God's existence, how would your life change?

This question is vague. Is Mehta asking if I could doubt the existence of Yahweh or of any god? I know Yahweh lives but, if something could ever make me doubt that, I still wouldn't stop believing in an eternal, supernatural, personal creator of the universe. If I believed there was no god, I would be a fool.

61) What would it take to change your mind about God's existence?
62) Do you think it's a little strange when someone says they're going to believe in something no matter what, even when all the evidence seems to point to the other direction?

Atheists play word games. For example, they often say that atheism isn't a belief there's no god but rather a lack of belief in God. It's a subtle difference but they say this to avoid the logical fallacy of asserting a universal negative. But here, Mehta is saying that “all the evidence seems to point to the other direction” of there being a God. Really, Mehta? “All” the evidence? I have yet to hear any evidence for atheism.

I've written before that some atheists proudly boast that their fundamental argument is a lack of the evidence for God. If atheists want to say they aren't convinced by the evidence for God, then that's a different story. But let's be clear here: there is no evidence that God doesn't exist.

65) Why are there so many Christian denominations?
66) And are the people who are in those different denominations bad Christians? Are they wrong?
67) Which denomination is right?
68) Or which group of denominations is right?

We talked about this a little in my community group at Church a few weeks ago. There, I said that Catholics aren't Christians. Baptists aren't Christians. Only Christians are Christians!

Different denominations doesn't always mean different beliefs. Sometimes, denominations simply represent how Christians have chosen to organize and govern themselves. For example, one group of Christians might assemble into one, large, organization where each community is just a local branch of the larger organization. Another denomination might be made up of independent, local churches where each community is autonomous.

Of course, a denomination can sometimes be identified by certain practices in its services. Different people have different views on things like the use of instruments in their music, if they should pay their pastors, do they take up offerings, how to ordain pastors or deacons, how to support missionaries, etc. Many of these different practices have no bearing on the gospel or what is required for salvation. In that case, there are no right or wrong denominations – only differences.

There are some groups, though, that might be called “denominations” but aren't Christian. Jehovah's Witnesses and the LDS are examples. These types of groups claim to believe in Jesus but they have a different understanding of who Jesus is. They believe in some other Jesus, not the Person described in the Bible.

73) Do you think it's just a coincidence that different religions are popular in different parts of the world?
74) Do you believe that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim rather than a Christian?
75) Is it possible that religion has less to do with what's true and more to do with the circumstances of where and when you were born?

I'm not sure how relevant the question is. Of course we're products of our culture. If I were born in Japan, I would probably speak Japanese, right? But how would that make Shinto or Buddhism true and Christianity false? If I were home schooled and only taught creationism, would that make creation true? If I were educated in public schools and only taught evolution, does that make evolution true? The truth exists regardless of what different people in different places believe.

There are different people in different parts of the world that don't have the truth. Jesus has commanded, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). Preach and teach. That's the job of every Christian.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Part 2

Hemant Mehta describes himself as a friendly atheist. In his video, 78 Questions for Christians, he groups the questions according to subject. The first section dealt with heaven and hell. The next section deals with prayer. I've numbered the questions according to how Mehta numbered them but I've rearranged them in my answer.

10) Whose prayers does God answer?
11) And if it's ultimately God's will what happens, why even bother praying?

We can see from the questions that Mehta has a very rudimentary understanding of what prayer is. For example, what does it mean for God to “answer” a prayer? Judging by the Mehta's list of questions about prayer, Mehta certainly believes “prayer” means “asking God for things” and “answered prayer” means “God gives you what you ask.” I could paraphrase the two questions above as:

Who gets what he asks?
If nobody gets what he asks, why even bother praying?

It sounds a little shallow when I phrase it like that, doesn't it? That's because it is shallow. Mehta has caste God as a year 'round Santa Claus and, every day, we get to tell Him what we want in our stocking. Just think about this: what kind of relationship would you have with your child if he only ever talked to you when he wanted something? And if you didn't do everything he asks, he would stop talking to you? If my children were like that, I'd be both very hurt and very angry. Yet this is apparently how Mehta thinks our relationship with God should be. I've written about this before, people have a false idea of who God is, then claim He must not exist because they can't find a god who acts like they imagined.

Jesus gave His disciples a model of prayer, often called the Lord's Prayer. He said, “Pray like this....” If you examine the prayer, you'll see that includes things like acknowledging God as our Father, praising Him, desiring His will to be done, and asking Him to forgive our sins and keep us away from temptations. Of course, we do also ask Him to help meet our needs – our “daily bread” - but Metha seems to think that's all prayer is.

Have you ever heard the child's prayer of grace? “God is great, God is good. Thank you, Lord, for this food.” What a wonderful prayer! Praise – thanksgiving – adoration – all presented in a few simple words. If all Christians prayed like this – praising God, seeking His will, asking for forgiveness and seeking His guidance – then revival would break out in America.

James 4:3 says, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. I know I'm not a model Christian so I can't say my prayer life is where it should be. But if I spent all my prayer time telling God what I want Him to do for me, I would feel more spoiled than edified. Unfortunately, too many Christians spend their prayer time focusing more on themselves than God.

8) If your son or daughter were dying – and I hope that never happens – would you just pray for them or would you take them to a doctor?
9) And if you say you'd do both, which one do you think has more of an impact?

Unfortunately, my son and daughter are dying. My step sons are dying, too. My wife is dying. My mother and siblings are dying. My wife's family is dying. I'm dying. Everyone reading my blog is dying. Romans 5:12 says, Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. It's not a question of if you're dying – it's only a question of when. And, yes, prayer is THE most important thing I can do for my children, my spouse, my family, and my readers – especially if death is imminent. It's my prayer that they will all seek Christ, ask for His forgiveness, accept Him as their Lord, and be saved.

If my child were sick or hurt, yes, I'd take him to the doctor. I would pray that God would help him recover, that He would give the doctors and nurses wisdom, that He would give my son comfort, and give me peace. Above all this, though, I pray that my son comes to Christ. Let's face it, doctors can't stave off death forever. One day death will claim everyone I love and, at that time, all the doctors in the world are useless. But if my prayers have been answered, then they will have had an infinitely greater impact.

12) If you have cancer right now, what's going to help you more: drugs or prayer?
13) Let's say you have an amputated limb. Would prayer ever bring it back?

Several years ago, I wrote a series in response to the video, “Why Won't God Heal Amputees?” Certainly, Jesus is able to heal us. Luke 22:50-51 tells us that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus after Peter had cut it off with a sword so I know that Jesus is able to heal even a severed limb. It's just that I don't expect Him to miraculously heal people today like He did during His ministry.

Jesus overtly said that He did miracles to demonstrate His authority. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus healed a paralyzed man to prove He had the authority to forgive sins. In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. When Jesus appointed His disciples, He gave them the ability to perform miracles including healing the sick and raising the dead (Matthew 10:7-8). This was to show their authority to preach in God's name. But now we have the Scriptures to evidence His authority and the need for miracles has passed.

Jesus has promised us an eternity where there is no more pain or sorrow or death but paradise is not on this earth nor in these bodies. This is a cursed world where there is sickness and disease. Does Metha think we should be able to pray and no one should ever die or even get sick? I guess he does. Like I said, he has a very rudimentary understanding of prayer.

16) If you had an exam coming up, what do you think would help you more: prayer or studying for the test?

Heck, why even bother with school – or even a job? I could just stay home and pray that God mails me a paycheck! Really, Metha? God never commanded us to do nothing. In fact, He condemns laziness. Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. We should strive to be the hardest workers, the best students, the friendliest neighbors, etc. And, yes, we should seek God's help while doing this. There's an old saying that says we should work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on Him!

18) What matters to God more: the quantity of prayers or the quality of prayers?
19) If it's the quantity that matters, how come the most popular team doesn't always win the Super Bowl?
20) And if it's the quality that matters, how come people we really love, people who are close to us, how come they die no matter what we say to God?
21) Is it possible that your prayers have no supernatural effect and only serve to make you feel better?
22) And if that were true, would you ever admit it?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” If you were to walk through the mall with your spouse or drive down the road with your child, wouldn't you talk to them? Well, we're never truly alone because God is always with us so I try to talk to God just like that – like He's sitting there next to me. I tell Him I love Him. I thank Him for all He does for me. I tell Him about things I struggle with and ask for His guidance.

I believe that, as we draw closer to God, His will becomes our will. When that happens, we worry less about how things affect us. When things are going well, some Christians will say, “God is blessing me.” When things aren't going well, some Christians will say, “God is testing me.” I think if we prayed like we should, more Christians would start to say, “It's not about me.”

Lord, help my team win the Super Bowl. Don't let anyone in my family get sick or die. That's how a 5-year-old prays.

O Lord, I come to You with praise. You alone are good. You alone are worthy to be worshiped. Let me know Your will and give me the strength to be obedient. Forgive my sins and let me rest in Your mercies. Let me trust in You for everything I need and let my thanksgiving never end! Amen! These are the kinds of prayers that get answered!