Saturday, November 28, 2009

Calvary Chapel vs. Calvinism

For a number of years growing up I have attend various Calvary Chapel churches. I have enjoyed the pastors, the congregation, and the ministry outreach. I have even been blessed with the opportunity to speak at a Calvary Chapel on several occasions. I also have great respect for the Calvary Chapel movement in general. God has used the preaching and teaching of Calvary Chapel pastors and their ministry on KWAVE to bring many individuals into a relationship with Him.

Growing up with an interest in apologetics, I have very fond memories of listening to the radio program "To Every Man An Answer" (which is now called Pastor's Perspective). It was a routine of mine to listen to the show after school every day. I learned a great deal over the years and am very grateful for the host, Don Stewart.

I say all this so my critique below is not taken as an angry or bitter resentment toward the Calvary Chapel movement. Ordinarily I wouldn't feel the need to comment but I think the audio clip below deserves a response.

As you will hear, a caller on the show asks about Calvinism (often used synonymously with Reformed theology) and is wondering how to respond to someone very close to her who has just become a very vocal five-point Calvinist.

Listen to the audio clip from the show:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Science Doesn't Say Anything - Scientists Do

(Townhall.com) by Frank Turek

You can’t put honesty in a test tube. 

“Science” doesn’t say anything—scientists do.

Those are a couple of the illuminating conclusions we can draw from the global warming e-mail scandal.

“You mean science is not objective?”  No, unless the scientists are, and too often they are not.   I don’t want to impugn all scientists, but it is true that some of them are less than honest.  Sometimes they lie to get or keep their jobs.  Sometimes they lie to get grant money.  Sometimes they lie to further their political beliefs.   Sometimes they don’t intentionally lie, but they draw bad scientific conclusions because they only look for what they hope to find.

Misbehavior by scientists is more prevalent than you might think.  A survey conducted by University of Minnesota researchers found that 33% of scientists admitted to engaging in some kind of research misbehavior, including more than 20% of mid-career scientists who admitted to “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.”  Think of how many more have done this but refuse to admit it!   (The researchers said as much in their findings.)

Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climategate.”  The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion.   Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”

I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious.  In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions.  Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms.  Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity?   Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?

Dr. Stephen Meyer has written a fabulous new best-selling book addressing those questions called Signature in the Cell Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science, Dr. Meyer is at the top of the science food chain.  In our August 8th radio interview, he told me he’s been working on his 600+ page book—which isn’t short of technical detail—for more than a decade.

What qualifies a man who has a Ph. D. in the “philosophy of science” to write on the origin of life or macroevolution?  Everything.  What some scientists, and many in the general public fail to understand is that science cannot be done without philosophy.  All data must be interpreted.  And much of the debate between Intelligent Design proponents (like Dr. Meyer) and the Darwinists (like Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins) is not a debate over evidence—everyone is looking at the same evidence.  It’s a debate over philosophy.   It’s a debate over what causes will be considered possible before we look at the evidence.

Scientists look for causes, and logically, there are only two possible types of causes—intelligent causes or non-intelligent causes (i.e. natural causes).   A natural cause can explain a geologic wonder like the Grand Canyon, but only an intelligent cause can explain a geologic wonder like the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.  Likewise, natural laws can explain why ink adheres to the paper in Dr. Meyer’s book, but only an intelligent cause can explain the information in that book (i.e. Dr. Meyer!).

How does this apply to the question of the origin of life?  Long after Darwin, we discovered that “simple” single-celled life is comprised of massive volumes of DNA information called specified complexity—in everyday terms, a complicated software program or a really long message.  Richard Dawkins admits that the information content of the “unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoeba” would fill 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia!

What’s the cause of this?  Here’s where the philosophy comes in.  Dr. Meyer is open to both types of causes.  Richard Dawkins is not.  Dr. Meyer’s book explains why natural forces do not appear to have the capacity to do the job, only intelligence does.  However, Dawkins and his Darwinist cohorts philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence.  So no matter how much the evidence they discover points to intelligence (as a long message surely does), they will always conclude it had to be some kind of natural cause.   In other words, their conclusion is the result of their philosophical presupposition.

While Dawkins has no viable natural explanation for life or the message contained therein, he says he knows it cannot be intelligence.  That philosophical presupposition leads to what appears to be an unbelievable conclusion:  To believe that 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia resulted from blind natural forces is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop.  I don’t have enough faith to believe that.

“This is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument!”  Dawkins might protest.  No it isn’t.  We don’t just lack a natural explanation for “simple” life—1,000 encyclopedias worth of information is positive empirically verifiable evidence for an intelligence cause.  Consider the cause of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, for example.  It’s not merely that we lack a natural explanation for the book (of course we know that the laws of ink and paper couldn’t have written the book).  It’s also the fact that we know that messages only come from minds.   Therefore, we rightly posit an intelligent author, not a blind natural process.

Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this?  Maybe they refuse to see it.  Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious.  Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy.  As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.”   And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions.  That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

(Acton.org) posted by John Couretas

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Response To 2012 Prophecies


(Reasons.org) by Hugh Ross

Multiple sources, both books and web sites, have stirred people’s fear that the world (or life as we know it) will end on December 21, 2012. This date is cited as the end of the Mayan calendar and is said to align with a number of potential causes, such as the solar maximum, Venus’s transit of the Sun, Planet X’s approach, and a possible asteroid or comet impact. (See http://www.raidersnewsnetwork.com and http://www.2012warning.com/planet-X.htm, for example.)

The Mayan “end” date is also said to align with Incan and Egyptian calendars, as well as with the prophecies of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and I Ching.

Perhaps few people realize that doomsayers for over a hundred years have been alleging that the Mayan, Incan, and Egyptian calendars predict a specific, imminent date for the end of the world. In my lifetime, over half dozen such dates have come and gone without incident.  A closer look explains why: these calendars and prophecies are so esoteric, so vague, that one can pull almost any doomsday date from them.

Sooner or later, however, the wolf will be at the door. Major natural disasters have occurred in the past, and they are bound to happen in the future. World Wars have occurred in the past, and with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of tyrants and terrorists, Armageddon is hardly in doubt. So if doomsayers keep on predicting dates for the world’s end, they will be right eventually.

From an astronomical perspective, however, no one should be particularly concerned about December 21, 2012. Venetian gravity is much too weak to significantly impact Earth’s stability during a transit event. One such transit occurred in 2004 without any measureable effect on Earth. (It should also be noted that the date for the next transit is June 5-6, not December 21.)

In 1983 two astronomers encountered an infrared source they were unable to identify, initially. Some reporters speculated that the unidentified source might be a tenth planet (at the time Pluto was still considered a planet). A frightening rumor developed that Planet X had traveled from 50 billion miles away to less than 7 billion miles away in less than two decades. However, thanks to extensive research on the Kuiper Belt* during the 1990s and early 2000s, astronomers have determined with considerable confidence that Planet X does not exist.

While it’s true that the Sun will be at sunspot and flaring maximum in 2012, such a solar event occurs every eleven years. The worst case scenario for a solar maximum is that a few giant solar flares could temporarily disrupt satellite and radio communications. Some GPS satellites could possibly be knocked out, but certainly life on Earth would not be threatened. So far, sunspot monitoring indicates that the 2012 solar maximum will likely be moderate to minimal.

As for the coming Armageddon, a consistent (and literal) biblical interpretation embraced by some (though not all) Christians indicates that certain events must occur first. A sampling of such events includes these:
•    a dictator takes control of a confederation that includes all the world’s nations1
•    the nation of Israel agrees to disarm, 2
•    all adherents of Judaism reside in Israel, 3
•    Israel achieves economic prosperity, 4
•    Israel gains some degree of political control over the lands known in the ancient world as Edom, Moab, and Ammon, 5 and
•    the “Great Commission” reaches completion, as Christ’s followers raise up disciples in every ethnicity, kith, or people group throughout the world. 6

Whatever a person believes about “end times,” we all would do well to heed the words of Jesus: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”7

In other words, energy focused in “divining” the date of the world’s end is wasted energy. God calls each person to live each day fully engaged in fulfilling His stated purposes for humanity so that whenever He comes for us, individually or collectively, we’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”8

* The Kuiper Belt is a huge cloud of asteroids and comets that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Since 1985 more than a thousand Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered. Though a few rival Pluto in size, none are larger than the Moon. Accurate measures of the orbits of Neptune and the larger Kuiper Belt objects definitively rule out the possible existence of a planet the size of Mars or larger within the vicinity of the solar system.
 


1 Daniel 7:7-8, 23-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
2 Ezekiel 38:3-11.
3 Ezekiel 34:6-16, 36:8-12, 24, 37:20-21, 38:8, 39:25-28.
4 Ezekiel 36:8-12, 33-36, 38:12-13.
5 Isaiah 11:14; Ezekiel 38:3-8, Daniel 11:36-45; Amos 9:11-12; Obadiah 19-21; Zephaniah 2:8-11; Zechariah 10:10.
6 Matthew 28:8-20.
7 Matthew 24:42-44.
8 Matthew 25:21 and 23.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Personhood' Movement - 32 States and Counting


(Onenewsnow.com) by Charlie Butts

Personhood USA has celebrated its first year of operation nationwide.

The organization was set up to push for constitutional amendments declaring that a person is a human at the point of his or her biological origin. Spokesman Keith Mason brings us up to date.

"Now, a year later after we launched, 32 states have...picked up the mantle and are working to affirm personhood rights for preborn children in their communities and in their states," says Mason. "It's continuing to grow, and I have a stack of phone calls to get today with four or five more states that want to get started."

The goal for 2010 is to have campaigns working in all 50 states, says Mason.

"The goal is to really end the dehumanization of little preborn babies in our country, and we do that by saying that all humans are people," he explains. "We shouldn't say that some humans have rights and some don't. Currently we view the preborn child as property in this nation -- and we say that they should be viewed as persons."

Signatures are being gathered in nine states so far to either take the issue to the voters or put personhood laws before legislatures.

2012


(Scriptoriumdaily.com) by John Mark Reynolds

When I was a kid, I used to root for people to pick the next year as the date of Christ’s return. Since I really wanted to get married, I did not want the Day of Doom to come too soon. Using my childish reasoning, I figured that since the Savior had said no man knew the day or hour of His coming this meant that any date picked must surely be wrong. If you picked it, He would not come.

That makes as much sense as basing a belief in the end of the world on a misreading of the Mayan calendar and much more sense than the movie 2012.

The world will not end in 2012, but creativity in Hollywood died around the time of the filming of Klute . . . 1971.

As a result jillions of us rushed to the theater to watch a long movie full of sound and noise signifying destruction. Evidently all the hope and change of the last election have some people hoping that God or nature will hit the reset button and allow them to start again.

Of course, the fact that most of us will be dead does not deter anyone since the characters that survive in this movie are so brain-dead that any of us can reason we can do as well. Religion, of course especially the Christian religion, is useless at the end of the world . . . at least in this kind of film, but since reason, republican values, and storytelling are also useless my faith was in good company.

Perhaps President Obama will nationalize Hollywood soon and fix the creativity gulf that threatens to swallow California. If I were to make a disaster movie for this new government agency, I would promise to include the ten essential elements for any disaster movie.

First, a misunderstood husband with skills useless in our present world, but valuable for a doomed planet.

Second, an ex-wife or girlfriend with a boyfriend or new husband totally cool in this age, but doomed in the age to come.

Third, a cute kid who is plucky and full of quips will be saved by his dad who will have no effective way to shave. There will be a second cute teen daughter in the movie who says little but will find water in which to fall.

Fourth, shots of the end of monuments including some in New York, Rome, and Washington.

Fifth, an African-American or other “minority” president since in the weird racism of Hollywood only a minority President can preside over the end of the nation.

Sixth, if it is a Christian movie a swing will blow back and forth in the wind following the disappearance of a child. If it is not a Christian movie, some person will die while praying ineffectively. Bonus for a rosary in the shot.

Seventh, waves will crash over some city proving Plato still controls our icons. Some stupid media types will die trying to get the shot to audience cheers.

Eighth, some scene of doom will be shown to us on a television screen, usually in a store window.

Ninth, the government and all qualified people will have no clue, but loners will know exactly what to do.

Tenth, the movie will end with some “subtle” sign of hope such as a flower blooming or a shot of a pregnant woman.

I am ready for my disaster movie stimulus check.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Application Without Exegesis: A Destructive Trend


(Christiantheology.wordpress.com) by Doug Eaton

Exegesis is foundational to understand scripture’s application to our lives. The problem is that many in the church want to hear the application without doing the work of the exegete. In many cases this has also been translated into the way many preachers preach. In order to keep congregants happy, they are given large amounts of life application with little if any scriptural content. This puts both the preacher and the congregant in a dangerous position, because now neither the preacher nor the churchgoer is tethered to the text. Two major problems can arise in the life of the church member because of this. First, even if the application of scripture is correct, when it is challenged by those who disagree, the church member is left defenseless when it comes to defending this truth biblically. And second, if the application is not truly derived from scripture, then the church member has been sold some kind self-help scheme as if were a “biblical principle.” And when this self help scheme eventually lets them down, not only will they be disappointed in the church, but they may even start to believe scripture is no longer trustworthy. This is indeed a destructive trend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Answering a Middle School Student's Questions about Global Warming

(Cornwallalliance.org)

When a middle schooler asks common questions about global warming, what do you say?

by E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.

National Spokesman, The Cornwall Alliance

Occasionally I receive emails from school children with questions about global warming. A particularly thoughtful one came recently from a student in Georgia, acting apparently on a teacher's assignment. Because the questions are so typical, I thought I'd share them my answers here.

1. Is global warming real and as large of a problem as some web sites tell the people?

This is an example of what logicians call the "fallacy of complex question." A "complex question" comes in the form of one that requires a "Yes" or "No" answer but that actually includes some parts that might be answered "Yes" and others that might be answered "No," or that asks only one thing, but answering either "Yes" or "No" implies something false. An example of the latter sort is the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" If you answer "No," you imply that you're still beating her; if you answer "Yes," you imply that you used to beat her. There is no way to give the grammatically required answer without condemning yourself. Similarly, the question above suggests that you want a "Yes" or "No" answer, but its first part ("Is global warming real" might receive a "Yes" answer without implying a "Yes" to the second part ("and as large of a problem as some web sites tell the people"). Further, the second part of the question almost necessitates a "No" answer, because some web sites make truly outrageous claims--e.g., that greenhouse warming might turn the Earth into a fiery ball. Absolutely no scientist I know of has suggested such a thing, but some laymen have. (Physicist Stephen Hawking came close when he suggested that runaway global warming could make Earth as hot as Venus, but Hawking was speaking off the cuff and hadn't really studied the particular physics of Earth's climate system. Probably it's not fair to take him seriously on the point.) To be sensibly answerable, your question needed to quantify what you meant by "as large of a problem as some web sites tell the people"--i.e., so large as to make life extinct on Earth, so large as to cause 20 degrees Centigrade increase in global average temperature, so large as to melt the Greenland or Antarctic ice cap, so large as to raise sea level by 1 foot, or 2 feet, or 3 feet, or 20 feet, or 60 feet, or so large as to cause massive deaths from heat stroke, etc. (The answer to all of those, by the way, is "No"--except to 1-foot to 2-foot sea level rise, and then the answer is "Maybe we'll see that much SLR (1 foot much more likely than 2), and maybe global warming will contribute partly to that (though it might be mostly just continued response of Earth's ice and oceans to warming that has already occurred).) Now, to the two parts of your question.

First: "Is global warming real?" Earth is always warming or cooling, in several cycles determined by cycles in solar energy and solar magnetic wind output; by cycles in ocean currents (the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the El Nino/La Nina Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and others); by volcanic activity; by cycles in Earth's orbit and tilt; by cycles in Earth's magnetic field; by cycles in the intensity of cosmic ray influx (which in turn are determined partly by cycles in solar magnetic wind intensity and partly by Earth's position relative to the various arms of the galaxy). The primary driver of changes in Earth's average surface temperature appears to be cloudiness, which in turn is determined mostly by ocean cycles, especially the PDO. From about A.D. 900 to about A.D. 1300 (the Medieval Warm Period), Earth's average temperature appears to have been considerably warmer than it is now. From about 1350 to about 1850 (the Little Ice Age), it was significantly cooler. From about 1850 to now it appears to have warmed by about 1 degree C (1.8 degree F), although there are some very serious problems with the accuracy and comparability of temperature data, and that figure really could range anywhere from 0 to 2 degrees C (0 to 3.6 F). But during that 160-year period, there have been ups and downs. Earth seems to have warmed generally from about 1850 to about 1900 or 1910, cooled from about 1910 to about 1920 or the mid-1920s, warmed from then to about the early 1940s (the 1930s probably being the warmest decade on record for both the Earth and the 48 contiguous United States), cooled somewhat from then to the mid-1970s, warmed from then to 1998 or perhaps 2001 (1998 being the warmest year since 1850 for Earth, but 1936 the warmest for the U.S.), and cooled since then. So: Is global warming real? Yes, of course it is--sometimes. And in between times, global cooling is real. That's no surprise to Earth scientists, or even to historians (who are aware, for instance, that during the Medieval Warm Period the Vikings colonized Greenland and Vinland (now called Newfoundland), naming the first as they did because its coastal regions were green and farmable, and the latter as they did because they found grape vines growing there, but that during the Little Ice Age Greenland's glaciers expanded so much as to destroy the colonies and the Vikings had to withdraw, and Vinland has not continued warm enough for grapes to grow, and that during the Little Ice Age the Thames River in London, which never freezes now, used to freeze over so solidly that Christmas parties were held on the ice, and similarly the Hudson River near what is now New York City).

Just so you can see for yourself how variable Earth's temperature can be even within a time as short as 1979 to the present, here's a graph representing satellite remote temperature sensing data for that period, from www.drroyspencer.com:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_Oct_09.jpg

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Necessity of the Atonement

(Reformation Ink) by Francis Turretin

Warning: This article is not for the theologically faint of heart

The Priesthood of Christ, according to the Apostle Paul and the types of the Jewish ritual, is divided into two parts: the atonement which he made to divine justice, and his intercession in heaven, (1 John 2: 2. Heb. 9: 12). The necessity of such an atonement, which is the foundation of all practical piety and all Christian hopes, must therefore be firmly established, and defended against the fiery darts of Satan, with which it is attacked by innumerable adversaries.

Upon this subject, the opinions of divines may be classed under three heads: 1. That of the Socinians, who I not only deny that an atonement was made, but affirm that it was not at all necessary, since God both could and would pardon sin, without any satisfaction made to his justice. 2. That of those who distinguish between an absolute and a hypothetical necessity; and in opposition to the Socinians maintain the latter, while they deny the former. By a hypothetical necessity they mean that which flows from the divine decree, God has decreed that an atonement is to be made, therefore it is necessary. To this they also add a necessity of fitness; as the commands-of God have 1 been transgressed, it is fit that satisfaction should be made, that the transgressor may not pass with impunity. Yet they deny that it was absolutely necessary, as God, they say, might have devised some other way of pardon than through the medium of an atonement. This is the ground taken by Augustine in his book on the Trinity. Some of the reformers who wrote before the time of Socinus, adopt the opinions of that father. 3. That of those who maintain its absolute necessity; affirming that God neither has willed, nor could have willed to forgive sins, without a satisfaction made to his justice. This, the common opinion of the orthodox, is our opinion.

Various errors are maintained on this point, by our opponents. The removal of the grounds upon which they rest will throw light upon the whole subject. They err in their views of the nature of sin, for which a satisfaction is required; of the satisfaction itself; of the character of God to whom it is to be rendered; and of Christ by whom it is rendered.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Intellectual Neutral

(Reasonablefaith.org) by William Lane Craig

A number of years ago, two books appeared that sent shock waves through the American educational community. The first of these, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, by E.D. Hirsch, documented the fact that large numbers of American college students do not have the basic background knowledge to understand the front page of a newspaper or to act responsibly as a citizen. For example, a quarter of the students in a recent survey thought Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during the Vietnam War. Two-thirds did not know when the Civil War occurred. One-third thought Columbus discovered the New World sometime after 1750. In a recent survey at California State University at Fullerton, over half the students could not identify Chaucer or Dante. Ninety percent did not know who Alexander Hamilton was, despite the fact that his picture is on every ten dollar bill.

These statistics would be funny if they weren't so alarming. What has happened to our schools that they should be producing such dreadfully ignorant people? Alan Bloom, who was an eminent educator at the University of Chicago and the author of the second book I referred to above, argued in his The Closing of the American Mind. that behind the current educational malaise lies the universal conviction of students that all truth is relative and, therefore, that truth is not worth pursuing. Bloom writes,

There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4. These are things you don't think about. . . . That it is a moral issue for students is revealed by the character of their response when challenged—a combination of disbelief and indignation: "Are you an absolutist?," the only alternative they know, uttered in the same tone as . . . "Do you really believe in witches?" This latter leads into the indignation, for someone who believes in witches might well be a witch-hunter or a Salem judge. The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness—and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings—is the great insight of our times. . . . The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.1

Since there is no absolute truth, since everything is relative, the purpose of an education is not to learn truth or master facts—rather it is merely to acquire a skill so that one can go out and obtain wealth, power, and fame. Truth has become irrelevant.

Now, of course, this sort of relativistic attitude toward truth is antithetical to the Christian worldview. For as Christians we believe that all truth is God's truth, that God has revealed to us the truth, both in His Word and in Him who said, "I am the Truth." The Christian, therefore, can never look on the truth with apathy or disdain. Rather, he cherishes and treasures the truth as a reflection of God Himself. Nor does his commitment to truth make the Christian intolerant, as Bloom's students erroneously inferred; on the contrary, the very concept of tolerance entails that one does not agree with that which one tolerates. The Christian is committed to both truth and tolerance, for he believes in Him who said not only, "I am the Truth," but also, "Love your enemies."

Now at the time that these books were released, I was teaching in the Religious Studies department at a Christian liberal arts college. So I began to wonder: how much have Christian students been infected with the attitude that Bloom describes? How would my own students fare on one of E.D. Hirsch's tests? Well, how would they? I thought. Why not give them such a quiz?

So I did.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church

(Modernreformation.org) by R.C. Sproul

Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity. Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen-that it's actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity.

I've often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can't answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church.

Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation-sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia-Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.

In the Fleming Revell edition of The Bondage of the Will, the translators, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, included a somewhat provocative historical and theological introduction to the book itself. This is from the end of that introduction:

These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther's day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters? (1)

Historically, it's a simple matter of fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences. In asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith. A modern editor of Luther's works says this:

Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers' theology but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner's entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration. (2)

That is to say, that the faith that receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Do you hear the difference? Let me put it in simple terms. I heard an evangelist recently say, "If God takes a thousand steps to reach out to you for your redemption, still in the final analysis, you must take the decisive step to be saved." Consider the statement that has been made by America's most beloved and leading evangelical of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who says with great passion, "God does ninety-nine percent of it but you still must do that last one percent."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving

(Stand to Reason) by Greg Koukl

Which president made a proclamation to make this an official holiday?

I thought it would be interesting to read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 3, 1863, in light of the recent understanding of "separation of church and state." Thanksgiving has been celebrated since 1621, but it became a national holiday thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Thanksgiving isn’t just a time to give thanks, because we ought to be giving thanks on a regular basis. It is a time to give thanks corporately, as a community, as a nation. That was Abraham Lincoln’s contribution in 1863.

I was trying to remember where this was exactly in the Civil War. In mid-1863 the tide of the war had just turned. Gettysburg was the turning point in early July--the 1st, 2nd , and 3rd of 1963--and on the 4th Vicksburg fell under Grant after a long five or six month siege there. It was a bad week for the South. So there was a big turning point in July and things started going the way of the Union. There was plenty to give thanks for, in a sense. Yet at the same time there was a bloody war continuing, and lives were still being lost. It would two more years of unimaginable carnage before the Civil War would end.

In the midst of this difficult time, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday and he did so with these words. Listen closely, especially in light of the present atmosphere of so-called separation of church and state.

Proclamation of Thanksgiving*
Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,

Secretary of State

And so we have done now for some 131 years. We have set aside the day. On that day all over this country the post offices are closed, banks are closed, people observe the national holiday. But are they observing the holiday that Abraham Lincoln instituted in 1863? No, not quite.

Abraham Lincoln, in his official capacity as president, acknowledged that we owe everything to God. He called on us to humble ourselves in penitence for our disobedience, confess our sins with contrition, ask for God’s mercy and give Him praise for his love, for all of His care for us. This is not the Thanksgiving our country now officially observes, for it is de facto illegal for those under the color of governmental authority to take the initiative to honor God in this way.


You can’t do it in public places

We can’t do that anymore. We can’t do it in schools. We can’t do it on government property. We can’t even put a cross on a hill in San Diego because people are offended by that. Why? Because the government owns the air, I guess.

Now, my point is not to try to get prayer back into schools. I actually don’t think we can turn back the clock on that one. Any prayer we succeeded in having included would have to be too general and "pluralistic" to be acceptable to the God Who demanded we have no false Gods before Him. My point is to show how far removed the present atmosphere of the so-called "separation of church and state" is from what was understood by our forefathers. The current practice is not the original notion of non-establishment that the Bill of Rights mandates, and Lincoln’s comments make this clear

Notice how natural it was for someone like the president of our country--many would say the greatest president our country has ever seen (and probably the saddest)--in the midst of an agonizing trial of national proportions--the civil war--to call the nation to repentance, prayer, and thanksgiving to God.

What a man. And what a change we have gone through since then to now.

*Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.

Monday, November 9, 2009

U.N. Attacks Religion



www.ACLJ.org

This resolution gives these countries the ability to criminally prosecute, in the name of human rights, missionaries because they would be defaming a religion by simply saying “Jesus is the only way”.

There is some good news though, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking a firm stand..read more here

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Can Yahweh Be Perfectly Good and Just and Yet Command Extermination?

(Reasons.org) by Kenneth Samples

Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, asserts that the God of the Old Testament is “a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.”1

Yahweh
, the Hebrew name of the personal God of Israel in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, reveals himself to be the Creator of heaven and earth. As the one true Lord, he is an infinite, eternal, and morally perfect personal deity. Historic Christianity identifies Yahweh as none other than the Triune God who is more specifically unveiled in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tension arises when examining the Scriptures. The Bible reveals God to be perfectly good (Psalm 145:8-9) and perfectly just (Deuteronomy 32:4) in the very nature of his being. However, the Old Testament states that God personally commanded the army of the Hebrews to destroy the Canaanite nations.

During the conquest of Canaan, God commanded the following to the Hebrews:

“When the LORD [Yahweh] your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2).

“However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:16).

In response to this frightening divine command, the Hebrew army carried out the following:

“They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys” (Joshua 6:21).

How can this seemingly brutal genocidal command be reconciled with God’s perfect goodness and justice?


Moral Justification for God’s Command


The following seven points help provide the moral context and justification for Yahweh’s command to destroy the Canaanites:

1. While God doesn’t always reveal all the details concerning his sovereign decisions, Scripture indicates that God’s moral will flows from his perfectly good and just nature. Therefore God has morally sufficient grounds for his commands even if those reasons are not fully revealed to humankind. However, in this specific case some of those reasons are evident.

2. God’s command to destroy the Canaanites was motivated by his intention to preserve Israel from the deep moral corruption that would have inevitably resulted through cultural assimilation with the pagan nations. God’s wrathful justice upon the Canaanites resulted in an act of mercy (protection) upon the Israelites. Therefore God’s command to destroy an entire people group nevertheless constituted a moral good.

3. The Canaanites were a morally decadent and reprobate people. Archaeological discoveries have revealed that they practiced such moral abominations as temple prostitution, child sacrifice, and bestiality.2 And for hundreds of years they consistently ignored God’s call to repent of their wicked ways (Genesis 15:16). In God’s eyes they were beyond moral rehabilitation.

4. Life in the ancient Near-Eastern world was extremely brutal. And the Canaanite nations viewed the Israelites as their enemies. In this context of warfare among nations God’s command to destroy the pagan peoples was a necessary act of war.

5. God, as the sovereign creator and sustainer of life, has the prerogative to take life at his just discretion (Deuteronomy 32:39; Job 1:21). Because the cosmos belongs to the Lord, he has the ontological right to do as he wishes with his creatures. His only constraint is his moral nature. God is therefore in a different moral category of being than his creatures. He is the ultimate judge of all things. As Christian philosopher Paul Copan notes: “Like Narnia’s Aslan, Yahweh, though gracious and compassionate … is not to be trifled with.”3

6. God’s order to exterminate the Canaanites was not a command to murder (to take human life without just cause). Rather, it constituted a command of capital punishment on a grand scale and therefore reflected a retributive form of justice (the punishment matched the crime).

7. The divine command for the Hebrew army to destroy the Canaanites took place in a unique historical and biblical context. This was not a common or normative event in the life of God’s people. Yahweh is compassionate and patient and remains, in spite of this act, a God of mercy (Exodus 34:6).

Why Such Utter Devastation?


Yet while God had just cause to destroy the Canaanites for their wicked ways, was it necessary to kill all life? Couldn’t the innocent children have been preserved?

Unfortunately, the abominable evil of the Canaanite society had polluted the children as well.4

God, who knows the thoughts and intentions of people (Hebrews 4:12), knew that if these children had been allowed to live they would have inevitably infected God’s people with terrible iniquity. The Hebrews had to be “preserved” because they were the very people from which the Messiah would emerge. Additionally, it may be that God took mercy upon these children and granted them divine acceptance in the next life. God’s compassion is deep and wide even in the midst of temporal judgment.

An important lesson to be learned from this great and terrible event is that God loves his people and he will take extreme measures to protect them from moral and spiritual ruin (Romans 8:28).
___________________________________________________

References:

1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 31.

2. Gleason L. Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody, 1964), 261.

3. Paul Copan, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?” Philosophia Christi 10, no. 1 (Summer 2008), 31.

4. Ronald A. Iwasko, “God of War,” in Christianity for the Tough-Minded, ed. John Warwick Montgomery (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1973), 99-107.
______________________________________________

Please Note: If you have the chance, I highly recommend reading Clay Jones' article, also on this topic, entitled "We Don't Hate Sin So We Don't Understand What Happened To The Canaanites" (Philosophia Christi 11, no. 1).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Thought Police: The Conceptual Problem with Hate Crime Legislation

(Biola.edu/news) by Kevin Lewis Nobody in their right mind wants to be identified with hate. And those who promote “Hate Crime” legislation, such as the current president and congress, know it. For this reason one of the worst kinds of criminal legislation has found a home in the American legal system. And this legislation is both dangerous and ineffective.

The basic problem with the concept of hate crimes is that hate crimes criminalize thought, rather than behavior. Historically, criminal law exists to punish proscribed behavior. Criminal law was never intended—and should not be enacted—to punish thought.

For the record, the essential elements of a crime include (1) a proscribed voluntary act committed with (2) the requisite intent for that particular crime. That’s it. For example, for one to be convicted of battery, a person would need to willfully and unlawfully use force or violence upon another person. Motive has nothing to do with substantive criminal law. A bad motive does not make an act a crime any more than a good motive will prevent an act from being a crime. As such, the motive of “hate” for a particular race, gender, or sexual behavior group, like homosexuals, is irrelevant to substantive criminal law.

Here is how a “hate crime” works. If one commits a “regular” battery, a specific punishment is given, but if the battery was motivated by “hate” for the person in the protected class, a sentence enhancement is added to the punishment for “regular” battery. Now if the sentence enhancement for “hate” is 5 years, the person was sentenced to 5 years in jail for thinking the wrong way. This is simply unacceptable for a number of reasons.

First, it criminalizes thought. Enough said. Second, if the motive of “hate” can be added as an element of a crime, it is certainly possible for a legislative body to separate the “hate” element of the crime into a separate offense, which would simply criminalize the motive itself. Third, it could have the effect of establishing a constitutionally suspect “status” crime, which would simply punish a person of a particular character, such as, being a “mean” or “hateful” person. Fourth, hate crime statutes are virtually useless and merely symbolic. They do not prevent crime. Thugs who commit hateful, racially motivated murders will not be dissuaded from doing so in the future because it will now be considered a “hate” crime with a sentence enhancement. Fifth, this is a law enforcement issue, not a legislative issue. If a particular group of people are being targeted as victims, law enforcement agencies are able to direct resources and create task forces to focus on these problems.

Finally, one of the worst aspects of hate crime legislation is that it arguably creates an unequal status under law for some classes of people. How so, you ask? If a criminal receives a greater penalty for victimizing one type of human being over another, the greater penalty indicates a greater harm was committed against that victim. But this is not so. All humans are made in the image of God and are innately equal in value. Hate crime legislation, however, rejects this self evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The punishment for crimes should be the same for all human beings. All are equally precious.

Violent crime is always wrong against any person and should be vigorously prosecuted and punished. But this latest federal enactment of a hate crime statute is simply another step toward tyranny and it, along with all hate crime legislation, should be repealed.
Written by Kevin Lewis, Professor of Theology and Law, Biola University. Kevin Lewis, J.D., is also the founder and director of the Evangelical Law Institute (http://www.lawandjustice.org/), and he regularly teaches church-state classes, systematic theology, and Christian apologetics at Biola University.
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Click here to listen to a 16-minute talk on this issue by William Lane Craig

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Truth About Abortion Film

COMING SOON

BLOOD MONEY is a new film that helps get the truth out about abortion. According to recent polls, Americans are now leaning against abortion. This is, in large, due to the truth being made known. We will keep you informed on the release dates of this film. But for now, watch the trailer and support it by sharing it with others.



SUPPORT THE FILM www.BLOODMONEYFILM.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Greatest Living Apologists

Apologetic Junkie is compiling a list of every living english-speaking apologetics scholar. Our goal is to inform you, and other junkies, about the world's best christian apologists and to help these scholars gain more exposure for the kingdom. Click on this link to see our list and please submit names you don't see (by clicking the "Questions?" tab in the left menu bar). Please include any links to their websites or speaking schedule if you have them. We will continue to add to our http://www.apologeticevents.com/ page where we will continue tracking their scheduled appearances and will try to include your favorite apologists.

The Next God Debate


Click HERE to see the latest details for the Dec 9th "Does God of the Bible Exist" debate in Costa Mesa. How to get in, debater bios, how to get a DVD, and more is on this site. Please submit a question to the panel while you're there and try to stump an atheist!

Monday, November 2, 2009

5 Reasons God Exists

(Reasons.org)

Kenneth Samples discusses the following 5 reasons for God's existence:

1. God uniquely accounts for the physical universe's beginning.
2. God uniquely accounts for the order, complexity, and design evident in the universe.
3. God uniquely accounts for the reality of objective ethical values.
4. God uniquely accounts for the enigma of man.
5. God uniquely accounts for the claims, character, and credentials of Jesus Christ.

video

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why I Believe In God

(Scriptoriumdaily.com) by John Mark Reynolds

In one comment thread on this blog, someone asked why I believe. Here is a short answer.

It is an odd thing to be called on to defend something you think you know. It is disturbing at first, because it makes you simultaneously wonder about your own mental clarity and that of your questioner. Why would he ask such a question? Isn’t the truth of the matter obvious?

Unfortunately, there are few things we believe that some other person, seemingly rational, cannot doubt. After a bit of reflection, the doubts of others about my beliefs are less disturbing, because it is a chance to exercise wonder. Not surprisingly it is wonderful to wonder and a chance to wonder why I think God exists has proven an excellent opportunity for healthy Socratic doubt leading to a sense of His presence.

I am thankful for the process.

God exists, but what God? I mean the God that is all-powerful, all knowing, the God who is the Creator of the cosmos. By definition if such a God exists, there is only one God, because only one being could logically be omnipotent.

Some of my atheist friends assert that since I don’t believe in many gods, I am just an atheist who has refused to go all the way. After all, having given up on the worship of Zeus why do I cling to the worship of the God of the Bible?

My friends are mistaken, however. I don’t reject Zeus, because he does not exist, but because he is evil. The Zeus revealed to me in Homer is not worthy of worship, because he uses his power for evil. Now my friends who are atheists might immediately reply that the God of the Old Testament also commands or does things that appear evil to us, but this is different. The God of the Old Testament is presented as good and some of His reported actions are difficult to square with that goodness. At the worst a believer need only doubt the report, but the gods of the Greeks are presented as intentionally acting for our harm.

There is no giving Zeus the benefit of the doubt, because he and his worshipers do not ask for it!

Of course, in any case Christians do not deny that Zeus might exist as a spirit, though he clearly does not (at present) physically dwell on the top of Mount Olympus! We do not claim to know every supernatural being that exists and for all I know the supernatural world is very complex place indeed. I have it on good authority that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in Richard Dawkins and my philosophy.

So why do I know God exists?

Given the limits of a short essay, I will only be able to point in the direction of my favorite reasons, but there are many books that provide deeper justification and further explication of these reasons. On a popular level favorite books that were helpful to me include J.P. Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City and A.E. Taylor’s Does God Exist? Readers looking for something more difficult would do well to check out the work of Richard Swinburne of Oxford University.

Of course, I don’t believe in God at first because I sat and thought about Him. I believe in God, because I encountered Him. I prayed and had an experience of Him from a very early age. He has answered my prayers and forced me to change my behavior. This every day direct mental experience of His existence is fundamentally why I know God is real.

If I did not have it, I would have little motivation to wonder about Him, but I sought Him and I found Him . . . or better He found me! Of course, despite my apparent sanity (from my own biased point of view!), I might be mad or deceived. God might be an illusion in my head, despite the sense that there is a different mental texture to what His voice is saying.

Once challenged in his beliefs by reasonable questions, only a fool or a saint would be sure that he was not deluding himself. I know I am no saint and I hope not to be a fool, so I had to ask if my experiences were real and if I had correctly interpreted them.

It is important, therefore, that I have every day indirect experience of His existence. The community of believers around me matters. I am not alone in thinking God is real or speaks to people. This does not prove that God exist, but the billions of people over long periods of time who have believed in God does suggest that at the very least I am not the victim of some private delusion!

So I speak to God and He speaks to me and millions of living and otherwise rational human beings share this experience. It is what I would anticipate if God is out there. Why do some people fail to share that experience?

I don’t know, but absence of evidence in a few does not suggest the problem is in those who believe.

Third, there are philosophical arguments that suggest the existence of God is either necessary or reasonable. For example, the existence and nature of the cosmos suggests the existence of a rational God. The universe appears to have order and design and I am not persuaded that merely naturalistic processes can account for this order and design. Whatever the process God used to create, and only the arrogant believe they have this all worked out, the fundamental nature of that creation suggests a plan.

Fourth, morality persuades me that God exists. The long trajectory of human history demonstrates a common morality behind the blind spots of any particular culture. There is a common way that most people in most places and most times have followed. This law suggests a lawgiver.

Fifth, the existence of gratuitous beauty convinces me God exists. When I traveled above the clouds for the first time with my oldest son, he told me that it was beautiful and neither of us was surprised. Wherever we looked, we saw beauty and this was not a beauty that could have been hardwired into us by any natural process. Wherever we look as human even to the furthest reaches of the cosmos beauty is there waiting for us.

Sixth, the world of Ideas points in the direction of the existence of the Mind of God. As a Platonist, I am convinced that numbers and ideas are real. There is a metaphysical world that cannot be reduced to the material. This does not prove God exists, but makes His existence more plausible to me.

Finally, love suggests to me that God is real. As Plato points out in his masterful dialogue Symposium love is surely of something. Humanity possesses a love for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful that demands a proper object. Only God is great enough to be a sufficient end for all the longing in the human heart. It might be that the universe is perverse and has given us this great longing without any means of fulfilling it, but there is no good reason to take this withering view. The sensible, indeed the hopeful response, is to assume that like hunger or thirst this longing too can be find satisfaction in reality.

My friends who don’t believe in God might claim that I believe in God, partly, because I want to do so. This is true. The existence of a good God is such an awesome, exciting, and hopeful idea that I am rooting for it. There is nothing irrational with giving good news the benefit of the doubt, if you don’t sacrifice your mind to do so.

You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

"Free to Live and Love as We See Fit?"

(Albertmohler.com) by Albert Mohler

As Sen. John McCain recently remarked, "elections have consequences." President Barack Obama signed the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" into law on Thursday, fulfilling a campaign promise and handing the gay rights community one of its most sought-after achievements.

The bill, named for two men killed in vicious attacks, extends the definition of federal hates crimes to include attacks "based on a person's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental or physical disability."

Referring to Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, the President said:

It's hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead. It's hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who'd offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died
.

Those words are eloquent in exposing the deep evil that resides in far too many human hearts. If anything, the President spoke too cautiously. It is not only "hard" for any morally sane person to imagine the mentality behind these attacks, it is and must be impossible. Such crimes of violence against any human being should and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But defining these crimes as "hate crimes" shifts the legal issue from the criminally violent act itself to the thoughts and intentions of the criminal. This is a dangerous and unnecessary step, for the very idea of a hate crime requires the government to play the role of psychiatrist and also requires a list of those who deserve special protections. How can government stop the extension of that list? If criminalizing hate is legally justifiable, should not every citizen be granted these same protections?

Even more ominously, the logic of hate crime laws inevitably leads to the idea of laws against what is defined as "hate speech." It is not fair to suggest that this specific legislation includes a hate speech provision. It is fair, however, to sound the alarm that very important rights involving the freedom to speak openly against homosexuality, for example, are now at far greater risk.

There was no surprise in the fact that President Obama signed the bill. The shock came, not in the fact that he signed it, but in what the President said in his comments. "This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade. Time and again, we faced opposition," said the President. "Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. Time and again we've been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we're all free to live and love as we see fit."

Does President Obama actually mean what he said here? Does he really call for a society "in which we're all free to live and love as we see fit?" The hate crimes bill he signed into law covers gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The courts will have to sort out all that is covered in those categories.

But the "free to live and love as we see fit" language was set in a context larger than the hate crimes bill. President Obama is an intellectually serious man. He knows that words matter. When he speaks of all citizens being "free to live and love as we see fit" he opens the door far beyond the categories of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. Does he mean to include polygamists in this vision? The "polyamorous?" Incest? The catalogue of sexual interests claimed by some as "loves" goes far beyond these.

We are living in an age increasingly marked by what Sigmund Freud called "polymorphous perversity." I do not believe that President Obama meant to include any and all sexual interests and lifestyles under his blanket category of living and loving "as we see fit." But words really do matter, and this President now bears responsibility for signing a dangerous bill into law and then for compounding that act by using language that was self-congratulatory, dishonest, and dangerous.

In another sense, the President's language was revealing. The logic that leads to the celebration of gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships cannot stop with those sexual categories. In an age that elevates "consent" as the only meaningful moral and legal issue, any effort to refuse similar recognition to any consensual sexual relationship, lifestyle, or practice is doomed to eventual failure. It is all just a matter of time.

Yes, Sen. McCain, elections have consequences. But words have consequences, too, President Obama. Do you really want to live with the consequences of your words spoken on Thursday?