Pages

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Does Atheism Poison Everything?: Berlinski and Hitchens Go At It

The New Atheist movement continues to rise in the West today and many of its leaders continue to push their worldview.  In response, many in the theistic community have responded with equal fervency and rationality.  Atheism is a dangerous and empty worldview.  Centered on nothingness, biological accidents, and deep meaningness. 

The following is a debate between theist David Berlinski and best-selling author and atheist Christopher Hitchens.  I haven't had a chance to watch all of it, but it promises to be an exciting debate.  The issues presented here are extremely foundational.  Life and death hang in the balance.  I'll give Hitchens credit.  In spite of his ongoing battle with cancer he remains stubborn in his disbelief in any deity.  Keep him in your prayers.

Berlinski is an academic and his performance on Ben Stine's documentary, Expelled impressed me deeply.  He is not, however, a Bible-thumping Christian and can be better described as a secular Jew or agnostic.  The reason for posting this knowing that Christian arguments wouldn't be made is to show the emptiness of atheism even from a more secular perspective.  Nothing in science or philosophy discards God (and therefore Christ).  The gospel is logical and we as Christians need not fear the academe or the New Atheist movement.

Part 1




Part 2




Part 3




Part 4




Part 5





You can watch the full video from C-SPAN by  clicking here.


HT:  Evolution News & Views 


For more:
Commentary -The Atheist Debates
Commentary -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Commentary -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel
Commentary - What's So Great About Christianity and Not About Atheism:  D'Souza on the New Atheism 
Commentary -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Commentary -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Commentary - Causation and the Existence of God:  How Scientists Continue to Prove Aquinas's Point  
Commentary - Creation or Manipulation:  The Limits of Man and the Evidence for God
Commentary - Just Add Universes:  The Foolishness and Motivation Behind Atheism's Leap of Faith 
Commentary - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality   
Commentary -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Shortblog -The Conversion of Francis Collins
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza  
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -"Friedrich Nietzsche" by George Burma  

The Economics of Abortion: The Fiscal Defense and the Fiscal Problem of Aborting 52 Million Citizens

A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject of abortion over the past thirty plus years.  Much of the attention has been given to the moral, scientific, and political issues.  Is a conceived child a distinct human?  Do they have inherent rights prior to birth?  Who has control over the life of the "fetus," the mother bearing the child or the child itself?   What is oftentimes missed is the economic aspect of abortion.  The cost of abortion on our economy is staggering and is greatly affecting our current economic situation.

The economic aspect of the debate has two main aspects of it.  First, after over 37 years of abortion on demand, America has eliminated over 52 million tax payers.  This is important because if these children had been given the right to live, our national dept, which is in the trillions of dollars, would likely be diminished much less than it is now.  Imagine the huge impact this makes for every local, state, and federal revenue with 52 million additional tax paying citizens.  In addition, some have argued that the lost GDP from the murder of so many Americans costs the American economy $37 trillion.

The second aspect of this is the complete opposite.  The first deals with the consequences, the second deals with the reason for abortion.  Oftentimes people defend abortion on the basis of socio-economical situations of those involved.  It works this way:  First, for those in the lower class struggling to make ends meet will be unable to sustain another human being.  As a result, such families will likely lean on government agencies and programs to supplement the extra bills.  Therefore, poor families naturally take advantage of government programs such as welfare and food stamps and thus the more children they have the more they will depend and drain the government treasury.  And though unintentionally, many of the policies of government only encourage those taking advantage of such policies to increase in numbers.  The more children one has, the bigger the check they can receive from the government.

As a result, many have pushed or at least excused abortion among the lower class.  If large poor families are draining the government bank account, then, many argue, it would be more ideal for such families to not reproduce in such large numbers because eventually those children will grow up and likely remain in poverty and lean on government programs to survive.  And, thus, the cycle continues.

Though I won't give many examples here, perhaps it would be best to note that many well meaning Christians have made this very same argument.  Jim Wallis and others in the Abortion Reduction movement, a movement primarily among moderate evangelicals, have suggested that if we remove poverty abortion would drastically change.  Therefore, until we deal with poverty banning abortion is futile and dangerous.  Though they may not mean too, many, including Wallis, has excused and even rationalized abortion among the poor.

This is an important conversation for our culture to have.  The gospel clearly implies that every life has value (rooted in an understanding of God and His work as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer) beyond political and economic purposes.  God creates human life and each life is made in His image.  To excuse or promote abortion on the basis of economics is a horrendous reason for murder.  Life is more precious than our 401(k) plan or our hopes for retirement.  Life should never hang in the balance of economics.

At the same time we must realize that issues like abortion have their consequences.  Anytime government rationalizes the murder of its innocent citizens they must expect the backlash.  From a purely economic perspective, society has eliminated potential customers, thinkers, leaders, and tax payers.  Though it is not best to determine one's view on abortion from a purely political or economic standpoint, one cannot miss the effect abortion has on such things.

It is important for Christians to have a more complete understanding of the issues surrounding something as important as abortion.  To be able to articulate the issues is central to our understanding of the gospel and to our responsibility as voting citizens.  But at the end of the day, let us not forget what is at stake:  life.  Regardless of the motivations behind eliminating a pregnancy, life is being robbed under the guise of choice and liberation.  At the end of the day, life should be celebrated as a gift from God not as a curse resulting from broken condoms or "unsafe" sex.  Life should be considered sacred because all of human life originates from God who has made us in our image.  So though aspects of economics and politics in the debate about life are important, let us not forget that what we are discussing is life.


First Things - The Cost of Abortion



For more:
Commentary - From Life to Choice to Economics: A New President and a Change in the Debate Over Life
Commentary - Abortion Reduction:  The Danger of Compromising on Life  
Commentary - Abortion: Is Common Ground Possible?
Commentary - The Slavery of the Unborn: Why Abortion Reduction is Not Pro-Life
Commentary - "No We Won't": Obama and the Lie of Abortion Reduction
Commentary - Colson: The March of Death
Commentary - A Day of "See I Told You So's"
Commentary - The Follow of Abortion Reduction: A Lesson in Common Sense
Commentary -  Social Conservatives Take Heed: 100 Days of Change

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Gospel and Pulpit Freedom Sunday: How Christians Have Missed the Point

This past Sunday was an important date.  Not because Christians worldwide gathered together to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord, but because a group of 100 pastors endorsed political candidates in their church's pulpits baiting the Internal Revenue Service to remove the church's tax exempt status.  This is not the first time such an event took place, but everytime such a stunt is performed by well-meaning church leaders, the coverage increases. 

USA Today reports:

On Sunday, a group of 100 preachers nationwide will step into the pulpit and say the only words they're forbidden by law from speaking in a church. 

They plan to use the pulpit as a platform for political endorsements, flouting a federal law that threatens churches with the loss of their nonprofit status if they stray too far into partisan politics.

While other church and nonprofit leaders cringe at the deliberate mix of the secular and the religious, participants in the annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday protest hope this act of deliberate lawbreaking will lead to a change in the law.

The support from the Christian community is robust in this situation.  Perhaps the most prominent voice supporting the even has come from Christian author, thinker, and influential voice Charles Colson.  In an article titled Legislated Laryngitis Colson lays out the origin of church's being silenced by the IRS.  He shows that then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson silenced the church in an re-election effort.  He writes:

In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson was in the middle of a particularly bruising re-election battle. Two nonprofit groups had been especially troublesome to the senator, vocally opposing his candidacy.
So, on a hot summer day in Washington, D.C., Johnson slipped an amendment into the IRS 501(c)(3) code that governs nonprofit organizations in order to restrict their speech -- including the speech of churches. Johnson’s amendment stated that nonprofits could not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing and distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.” 

The penalty for such “participation?” Revocation of their tax-exempt status. 

Without debate, the Senate held a quick voice vote on the amendment. As the chamber filled with a chorus of “Ayes,” the church became infected with an instant case of laryngitis, thanks to the Senator from Texas.

Colson goes on to note that prior to Johnson's amendment, the church was always at the center of public and political debate.  And, thanks to an encroaching government, the church has been silenced and thus unwelcomed in the public debate. This begs the question, posed by Colson, then:

It’s now time to ask the question: Who decides what the church can and cannot say? 

Should it be the government? Or should it be the church? 

Colson makes an important point from a citizenship perspective.  Traditionally Christians and those of other religious beliefs have had a robust influence in the political and public arena.  Now, however, the government is abusing the tax code to silence unwanted political free speech.  The last question quoted above by Colson is an important question for Christians to ask.  Who decides what the church can and cannot say?  It does seem that in this one instance (not to mention the countless hate speech codes being passed throughout the nation and throughout the West) the government is determining not what the Church can say (that's the business of hate speech laws) but what they can't say.  Should not the Church, rooted in the gospel and Scripture, determine what the Church says?

I offer a loud Yes!  Yes, the Church should be free.  Yes the Church should speak for itself and have the liberty to say, proclaim, and believe whatever she wishes.  But I am afraid that even this misses the point.

Other Christians have offered their criticism of Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  The head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Richard Land, raised his concern by saying "It puts congregations in an awkward position. It's not a wise thing for churches to endorse candidates. We think candidates should endorse us."  As the head of the ERLC, Land finds himself very much involved in the political arena and as a Southern Baptist I wholeheartedly respect and support Dr. Land.  However, I believe that even he has missed the point.

Colson is concerned with the issue of freedom and the 1st Amendment and rightly so.  Dr. Land is concerned with the State aligning with the Church and not the other way around and rightly so.  But neither response is the correct one.

When we as pastors stand up in the pulpit and proclaim politics we have missed the point.  Certainly there are political implications of the gospel, but to campaign for the ways of man at the cost of the ways of God is not the duty of preachers.  As a pastor and as a voting citizen I know what I believe and already know how and who I am going to vote for.  However, when we meet on Sunday's to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord we meet to celebrate the resurrection and worship the God of our salvation.  Our priority at worship is worship, not politics.

I do believe that the government is walking on dangerous Constitutional lines disallowing religious institutions to endorse political candidates.  I also am against the government passing hate speech laws that silence religious believers and leaders from espousing their convictions and faiths.  I am first and foremost loyal to the gospel, not the tax code. However, when the Church gets more press regarding who they are going to vote for than the message they are called to proclaim everyday, we have missed the point.

The Bible is clear on this issue.  The gospel is more important and ought to be our utmost priority than anything else including public policy.  Yes Jesus did comment on political issues (like paying taxes), but he needed protested political policy.  Yes Paul certainly used his Roman citizenship to his own benefit but still expected believers to submit to government (even government ruled by the wicked Nero) as we submit to our Lord.  Yes Peter refused to obey the political and religious leaders of his day when they asked him to stop proclaiming Christ, but otherwise called on Christians to live peaceably among men and to obey the governmental authorities.

Furthermore, it is the priority of preachers and pastors to proclaim the gospel.  When God called Ezekiel, he described him as a watchman on the wall.  If he fails to proclaim the message of God, the blood of men's souls falls on his hands.  But if he does proclaim God's message and they refuse to obey, their blood is on their own hands.  In other words, "Preach the Word!" (2 Timothy 4:1ff).

Everything is about the gospel. Everything.  And the minute we take up precious time of worship and gospel proclamation we have cheapened the gospel.  If we really want to influence politics, we must proclaim the gospel.  Are we trying to moralize the unconverted or convert the immoral?  If we want real solutions, then we must preach Christ.  The gospel is central to all that we are and believe.  Unless our vote is centered on a gospel worldview, then it is empty.  Unless our sermons on centered on the gospel then they are nothing more than self-help, empty psychological babble.

Clearly I did not participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday at the church where I pastor not because politics is insignificant but because the gospel is too important.  Let us preach Christ and trust in the power of the gospel.  You know its a sad day in the health of the Church when trust in the policies of Washington more than the transcendent message of our immutable God.

Preach Christ!


Townhall (Charles Colson) - Legislated Laryngitis  
USA Today - Pastors plan to 'bait' IRS with pulpit politics    
CBN - Pastors to Challenge IRS on 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday'


For more:
Commentary -  Endowed by Who?:  President Obama and the Source of Liberty - A Gaff or a Statement? 

Commentary - The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty  
Commentary - The Politics of Cowardice:  Health Care Passes
Commentary - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Ground Zero Debate? 
Commentary - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Koran Burning Debate?
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ   
Commentary - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration 
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church  (Part 1)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government? (Part 2)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World (Part 3)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Birth of the American Concept of Separation of State and Church 
Commentary - Where Does the Madness End?:  Where the Homosexual Agenda Ends - Part 2
Commentary - What is to Be Our Response?:  Living As a Christian in an Obama Administration 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crossing the Wall of Separation: The Danger of the State Wooing the Church

We've been told for decades now that State and Religion are and must remain separate entities.  In other words, religion should never try to poison the political process.  At least that is what is meant.  The majority of the time the phrase "separation of Church and State" is used it is meant that religion and religious organization (read:  Christian right) should not influence or shape American public policy.  Many hate to see Christians and other religious persons getting involved and shaping our politics.

Interestingly, however, those who bark for the separation of Church and State are quick to defend the State using religion to push and promote its agenda.  The contradiction should be noticed by everyone.  Many are against Christians participating and meddling in political policy but are not against the State meddling in the business and work of the Church.  Clearly many in the culture consider the agenda of the State superior to the agenda of the Church.

Perhaps no better example of this can be given than the current push by the Obama administration to utilize many in the faith community to push health care.  This week marks the 6 month anniversary of the historic signing of the health care law.  Contrary to what the the law's supporters believed, including the President himself, support for the government take over of health care has dropped.  The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, told an audience that the bill had to be passed so that we could then find out what was in it.  Furthermore, she, and many others, have suggested that once Americans found what was in the 2,000+ page bill they would love it.  However, the dreams of our elected leaders have proven to be empty.  Instead of the anger subsiding, it seems to be increasing and the coming political onslaught is almost a sure thing come November.

So in response, the President has asked many of his supporters in the faith community (read:  moderate evangelicals and other religious leaders) to essentially preach the gospel of health care reform.  The Politico reports, With nothing else working, President Barack Obama is asking religious leaders to help him sell the public on health care reform.  They go on to report:

“This is something that we’ll be able to look back on, just like we do on Medicare and Social Security, as a cornerstone that improves the security of millions of Americans, at the same time lowers costs and gets control of costs, both at the government level, but also for families and businesses," he added. 

Obama instructed faith leaders to treat the new law as settled fact and use their perches of power to convey that message to congregants and friends. 

“The debate in Washington is over, the Affordable Care Act is now law ... I think all of you can be really important validators and trusted resources for friends and neighbors, to help explain what’s now available to them,” he said.

Participating in the faith conference call with the President and his administration were organizations like People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) and the National Council of Churches (NCC).  The article goes on to quote the administration saying "We believe community-based and faith-based can spread the word," an administration official told POLITICO. "They are reaching people every day in churches, synagogues, mosques and secular organizations. They can spread the word about these things."

Those who are aware of the organizations like the NCC already know that such "Christian" organizations do not promote the gospel but a corrupt version of it.  The social gospel promoted by the likes of the NCC is all social and no gospel - it is all humanitarian without the call to repentance and belief in the death and resurrection of Christ.  In an attempt to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth here and now and in an effort to unite various denominations and even faiths, such organizations have compromised on doctrinal fidelity and embraced theological liberalism.  Once doctrine becomes an option, such groups and movements become nothing more than a humanitarian charity.

The Obama administration is preying on such groups.  And I don't blame him.  If I were President I would probably use such gullible groups who have already abandoned their faith to promote my agenda.  This isn't an attack on President Barack Obama, but on the willingness of so many faith organizations, especially Christian groups, to subject themselves to the policies of the State rather than the transcendent words and message of an immutable God.

President Obama is reminding us here that the wall of separation isn't as high as we have been led to believe.  It seems that those on the religion side are not welcomed to cross the fence, but those on the side of the State are welcomed to enter the realm of the faithful so long as they do so with the purpose of promoting the will of the State.

What one believes about the health care law is insignificant at this point.  Americans have entered that debate and have decidedly sided on the end of being against it.  Nonetheless, apart from some legislative miracle, it will likely remain the law of the land.  What concerns me at this point is how easily many Christians can be wooed by politics and politicians to do the will of the public all the while compromising the gospel.

As Christians, our responsibility and loyalty is to God, Christ, and the gospel.  We submit to the will of God and are called to proclaim an undiluted gospel.  Whenever Christians become the wooed instead of the wooer in the realm of politics and the public square diluting the gospel is inevitable.  Clearly the State has no real interest in the entire nation submitting to the Lordship of Christ.  If the nation did, then the State would lose much of its power.  Instead, the State's interests is the State.  Government has shown itself more than willing to use whoever it can to promote its own agenda and once Christians fall for this trick, they cease to promote a Christian message.

This is a reminder for the Church to remain the Church.  I firmly believe in the separation of State and Church, not because Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to a group of Baptist on the subject or because the Constitution establishes the God-given right of religious liberty.  I believe in religious liberty because when the State and the Church are one flesh, nothing but corruption and a corrupt gospel result.

So when Christians enter the public square it is imperative for us to remember that they enter the public square as ambassadors of Christ with the message of the gospel first and foremost.  Our priority is not tax policy or health care, but the salvation of souls and the reconciliation of the lost with their Creator.  We must promote and push forward the gospel, not the policies of a party or administration.  To confuse our faith with public policy is a molestation of the gospel and should never be welcomed in our pews, churches, or statements of faith.

The gospel should never be abandoned by any believer in favor of legislative agenda.  If we promote the law of man more than the Law of Christ then we have missed the point.  We have missed the gospel.


Politico - Barack Obama Seeks Divine Intervention  
The Blaze - Obama Asks Religious Leaders to Preach the Gospel of HC Reform 


For more:
Commentary - Endowed by Who?:  President Obama and the Source of Liberty - A Gaff or a Statement? 
Commentary - The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty  
Commentary - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration 
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church  (Part 1)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government? (Part 2)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World (Part 3)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Birth of the American Concept of Separation of State and Church 
Commentary - Where Does the Madness End?:  Where the Homosexual Agenda Ends - Part 2
Commentary - What is to Be Our Response?:  Living As a Christian in an Obama Administration 
Commentary - The Politics of Cowardice:  Health Care Passes
Commentary - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Ground Zero Debate? 
Commentary - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Koran Burning Debate?
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Endowed By Who?: President Obama and the Source of Liberty - A Gaff or a Statement?

I was going to avoid it, but it seems like that in the blogosphere and even on some cable news show, the issue won't go away.  The issue is centered on the question, where do our rights come from? and, does the Obama administration affirm the Declaration of Independence clear statement that rights originate from God - our Creator?

My hesitancy is based on the fact that I do not believe that President Barack Obama is ignorant of the Declaration of Independence.  He was, after all, a Constitutional lawyer and professor prior to his run at politics.  Certainly he understands what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote that "we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights."

I also hesitate making an issue out of this because sometimes the blogosphere and media, especially during an election cycle like the one we are in, over blows things.  When your the President, there will always be people who will go out of their way to smear you.  Though some of it is legitimate, especially with the fact that our current President has escaped some mainstream media scrutiny unlike previous administrations, oftentimes opponents of the President over due themselves.

So what is all of the hoopla about?  A few days ago, the President gave a speech to a room of Hispanic supporters in which he defined American rights.  In this speech, the President quoted the Declaration of Independence and left out (some would say he purposefully left out) any reference to the Creator.  The President said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [pause], endowed with certain unalienable rights:  life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Admittedly, this portion of the speech is awkward.  The pause is especially strange.  After mentioning that we are created equal the President paused, looked confused, and strangely acted as if he didn't mean to say it.  After the misplaced pause, the President continued quoting the Declaration but clearly left out any reference to the Creator as the source of our rights.  The White House claims that the absence of the Creator from the President's speech was an accident and unintentional.  They claim that the President accidently skipped that portion of his speech available to him on the teleprompter.


However, many find such a story impossible.  Clearly the President does not have a happy relationship with the faith or the conservative community.  Those who have been particularly bothered by the absence of "the Creator" were already Obama detractors.  It has often been noted the President's apparent uneasiness with the faith community and any language promoting a particular faith or faith at all (remember the whole, "is Obama a Muslim controversy?").  So when the President leaves out any language about a Creator quoting  our founding document that clearly defines and identifies the source of our "inalienable rights" people justly become angry.  Was it a gaff?  Perhaps.  But if not, then "Houston, we have a problem."


Regardless of the real reason why Obama misspoke, the reasons for why this has become an issue remains important.  If any President, political party, politician, or citizen rejects the Creator as the source of our rights then the American system of freedom and rights is in jeopardy.  This is perhaps the biggest danger of pure secularism.  Whenever God is denigrated to "a weekend thing" and unwelcomed in public forums, debates, or conversations, the the meaning, limits, and extend of liberty becomes confused.


If rights do not come from God, then where do rights originate?  That is the big question.  If they do not come from our Creator, then they must originate with man - namely, government.  Whenever government defines rights, then government is given Divine power.  To declare something to be a universal right is power greater than that of a large standing army.  Rights protect and define life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  This is not insignificant power.


Note the trend in secular countries.  When the nation moves from its form of Theism to secularism, the nation quickly begins to dilude such rights as speech, assembly, and religion.  The passing of hate crimes and thought crimes become the normal practice of society.  Suddenly persons have the right not to be offended instead of the right to voice their opinion.  Where did such a belief come from?  Psychology, secularism, and other anthropological sources.  In other words, they come from man and they are granted by governments.


Take the more recent debate in America over the right of health care.  Many who supported the Health Care bill did so on the basis that health care was a right, not a privileged.  Certainly some debate is warranted regarding everyone's access to health care, but the debate assumed the right without any discussion on its source.  As a result, we looked to government to give us this right instead of assuming and demanding that as the image bearers of God we already possess such a right.


This is an important distinction.  When we fought for liberty and established the Bill of Rights, Americans were establishing what is by nature obvious.  Religious liberty is given by nature (and the Creator of nature) that transcends kings and republics.  The right to protection and religion are clearly God-given and no government should or can remove them.  So when the President suggests, purposefully or accidentally, that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is absent from any need for a Creator, people raise eyebrows and citizens become concern.  If rights do not come from God, then do they come from you Mr. President?  And if they do, what assurance do we have that we will still have these rights under your leadership or under your  successors?  If rights originate with man, then liberty is fickle, but if they originate from our Creator, then they are immutable.


So should we be alarmed and start demanding answers from the administration?  I don't know.  But the conversation is important.  Anytime an elected leader speaks about rights and fails to mention the source of our rights, we should become alarmed.  At the same time, however, we must be reminded of the gospel here.  Freedom begins with the gospel.  We can defend religious liberty or the right to bear arms until we're blue in the face, but unless we embrace the freedom that comes from our Savior apart from cheap grace or cheap religion, then our national freedom is a farce.  One can exercise their right to free speech all they want, but unless they embrace the message of the cross they are not as free as they have convinced themselves.  This is what separates Christianity from everything else.  The gospel is liberating in ways that no political constitutional can never ensure.


So let us not forget.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

At the same time, and more importantly, It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)





For more:
Commentary - The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty  
Commentary - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration 
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church  (Part 1)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government? (Part 2)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World (Part 3)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Birth of the American Concept of Separation of State and Church 
Commentary - Where Does the Madness End?:  Where the Homosexual Agenda Ends - Part 2
Commentary - What is to Be Our Response?:  Living As a Christian in an Obama Administration 
Commentary - The Politics of Cowardice:  Health Care Passes 

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's So Great About Christianity and Not So Great About Atheism: D'Souza on the New Atheism

One of the most important thinkers in America today is Dinesh D'Souza, author, thinker, debater, and now President of the King's College.  D'Souza's book What's So Great About Christianity? has had a major impact on my life and thinking.  Though there is much I disagree with D'Souza, he still remains an important Christian thinker.  D'Souza's primary approach in dealing with the New Atheist is to take their own arguments and reveal its many flaws and show how the facts favor Christian theism, not atheism.

In the following video, D'Souza sums up his book and why atheism fails intellectually and factually. 




For more:
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza 
Commentary -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Commentary -The Atheist Debates
Commentary -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Commentary -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel
Commentary -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Commentary - Causation and the Existence of God:  How Scientists Continue to Prove Aquinas's Point  
Commentary - Creation or Manipulation:  The Limits of Man and the Evidence for God
Commentary - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality   
Commentary -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -"Friedrich Nietzsche" by George Burma
Shortblog -The Conversion of Francis Collins

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Remarriage of Faith and Public Policy: Why Kennedy's Legacy Is a Farce

One of the closes, if not the closes, Presidential elections of the past 100 years was in 1960 between then-Senator John F. Kennedy and then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  Kennedy, in the end, was declared the winner and went on to serve his nation as President, but not without months of controversy beforehand.  The victory was not easy and after defeat Nixon declared that he would never enter public life again . . . only to re-enter years later and eventually win the White House for himself.

One of the difficult "humps" that the late President Kennedy had to climb during that campaign regarded his faith.  Kennedy was a Catholic and served as the first Catholic in our nation's highest political office, but not without controversy.  There were many accusations virtually all of which were foolish.  Some claimed that Kennedy would just be a puppet of the Pope.  Others feared that "the Catholics were coming!  The Catholics were coming!"  Some went so far as to claim that Kennedy was the Antichrist citing his Catholic faith (then again, have there been any Presidential elections in recent memory where at least one candidate was not labeled the Antichirst?).

Of course this was not the first or the last example of Presidents and presidential hopefuls having to defend their faith as they sought to be Commander-in-Chief.  Just look at 2008.  Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney had to give a major speech and had to constantly deal with his Mormon faith.  Many have argued that if Romney runs again, he will once again have to deal with his faith as it too has proven to be almost too big of a hurdle for him to cross.

And then there was then-Senator Barack Obama's Jeremiah Wright problem.  The black liberation theology pastor had become the main story during the Democratic Presidential primaries as the Hillary Clinton campaign encouraged nonstop discussion and airing of Wright's controversial sermons and sound bites. In response, now President Obama had to defend his pastor and define his own faith.  Eventually, as more tapes surfaced and Wright refused to remain quite, the President had to disown Wright.

Faith and politics have always been an uneasy and uncomfortable couple in American politics.  Whether it be language of a Providential Divine in our founding documents or President George W. Bush's answer that "Christ, because He saved my life," was the most influential philosopher in his life.  Faith is a big issue in politics and especially Presidential politics.

In 1960 faith was a front page issue.  Then Senator Kennedy was under attack for his unwavering Catholic faith.  In response, fifty years ago, Kennedy laid out what has become the standard of balancing faith and politics for many politicians today.  In a major speech given on September 12, 1960, Senator Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance regarding his faith.  In the famous speech, Kennedy stated:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all . . . 

But let me stress again that these are my views. 
 
For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President.

I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.

The final two paragraphs cited above are perhaps his most famous.  Kennedy's point is clear.  When it comes to politics, Kennedy sought to assure the American public that his faith was a private faith that did not shape his public policy.  His religious identity should not confuse his political convictions.  The two are and would remain separate.

This belief has continued to this day especially, though not limited to, Mr. Kennedy's political party.  During the 2004 Presidential election between then-President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry faith became an issue.  Kerry, like Kennedy before him, was representing Massachusetts and was a Democrat.  And, like Kennedy, Kerry was a Catholic.  When asked about how his faith would affect his work as President, Kerry quoted the above speech from the former President saying, "I'm not running to be a Catholic president.  I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic."

The legacy of the late President continues today.

But we must admit that such a policy and approach to politics is inaccurate.  Both Kerry and Kennedy are being dishonest with their voters when they say they can divorce their Catholicism from their political views.  Such a dichotomy is an impossibility.

The standard set by Kennedy is a dangerous one.  Many have bought into the lie that divorcing our faith from our politics is possible.  But it is not.  Theology and faith, in fact, shape and determine our politics.  The Kennedy family is a perfect example of this.  On his deathbed, the late Senator Ted Kennedy wrote to the Pope seeking assurance of his salvation.  The Pope refused to grant it.  What is interesting is that in the letter, Senator Kennedy detailed his reasoning for why he should be among the redeemed:  his liberal public policy.  Interesting how the younger brother of the late President who set the standard of divorce between faith and politics could not keep them separate on his own deathbed.  Ted Kennedy proved that his Catholicism wasn't orthodox but progressive.  His faith, as he proved, did shape his public policy and his public policy did shape his faith.

Regardless of how much we try to divorce these two in our federal officials, we cannot not.  Everyone is a theologian and everyone's theology shapes their views, beliefs, and voting records.  There is no such thing as a private faith though many have tried to prove the contrary.  Faith, religion, and theology are public matters because we wear them all on our face, in our actions, and behind every word we speak.  Faith, even when we try to privatize it, always manages to come to the forefront.  Kennedy's true theology, whether Roman Catholic or progressive, determined his ethical, moral, and political views.

Fifty years later we are still dealing with this same issue.  Many, even beyond the realm of politics, have convinced themselves that faith belongs in churches, synagogues, and mosques.  But such a belief continues to show its foolishness.  Theology transcends religion and enters our everyday lives whether it be our marriages, our place of employment, or traffic jams.  A private faith is no faith at all.  A real faith affects and drives our worldview.

As voters we must expect more from our elected officials.  Instead of asking them to leave their faith at the door, let us assume that their theological convictions will drive their voting record and public stances.  Therefore, the debate over religion, faith, and personal theology ought to remain in the public sphere regardless of how uncomfortable or confusing it might be.  Faith is a shaping part of our lives and to ignore as much is foolishness.  When we select our leaders, let us know who they really are beyond sound bites, media ads, and campaign stump speeches.  Let us accept that worldviews matter and theology shapes every worldview.  Though it is dangerous to apply inaccurate labels to persons of particular faiths, theology still matters and must remain a topic of concern and discussion.

It is time to make faith a subject of importance again.





 Albert Mohler - John F. Kennedy in Houston, Fifty Years Later 


For more:
Commentary - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of All We Are and Do  
Commentary - What's In a Word?  A Subtle Shift From Freedom of Religion to Freedom of Worship and Why It Matters 
Commentary - The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty
Commentary - The Lion of the Senate and the Lamb of God:  The Pope, the Politician, and the Plea for Grace 
Commentary - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration 
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church  (Part 1)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government? (Part 2)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World (Part 3)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Birth of the American Concept of Separation of State and Church 
Commentary - Where Does the Madness End?:  Where the Homosexual Agenda Ends - Part 2
Commentary - What is to Be Our Response?:  Living As a Christian in an Obama Administration 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Causation and the Existence of God: How Scientists Continues to Prove Aquinas's Point - Part 2

My unmarried sister and my wife have the same name.  Though this gets some laughs, it has created some problems in the past.  When we first got married, my wife and I moved our separate bank accounts in our hometown into a joint checking account in the city we were living at.  The problem was, however, that when we withdrew the money from my wife's account, we actually withdrew my sister's money.  That's a major problem . . . at least for my sister!

Shortly after we got home my sister called me praying that a mistake had been made.  Sis knew that her bank account shouldn't have been empty.  In other words, she assumed that there must have been a cause.  Something had to have happened.  No one wakes up and assumes that their bank account is empty by accident when the day before there was money in it.

Let's try a different illustration.  Let's say that you wake up and witness a new car in your driveway that says, "Happy Birthday!  Enjoy your new ride!!"  I would assume you would ask yourself questions like, "who did this?  Where did this come from?  Why would anyone do this for me?"  What you would not do is assume that the new car appeared out of nowhere or that the large gift in your driveway was uncaused.  No.  Something, or someone, bought it, dropped it off in your driveway while you slept, and intended on you driving it.  Happy birthday indeed!

The point is that causation comes natural to us.  We know that everything has a cause.  This logic is a powerful argument for the existence of God.  At some point, something caused everything to exist.  Even if we assume the big bang, something had to cause the matter to appear and cause it to explode.  In order for there to be a cause, there has to be a source behind it.  At the end of the day, we call the ultimate cause of everything God.

I have laid out this argument more fully in a previous post, but it serves as a reminder because to some this argument remains weak and false.  Take Lawrence M. Krauss for example in a recent Wall Street Journal article.  Krauss is responding to recent allegations that physicists Stephen Hawking is wrong to argue that God is not needed to explain everything that exists.  Krauss believes that science has proven that something does come from nothing.

He article begins:


Physicist Stephen Hawking has done it again. This time he's sent shock waves around the world by arguing that God didn't create the universe; it was created spontaneously. Shocking or not, he actually understated the case.

For over 2,000 years the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has captured theologians and philosophers. While usually framed as a religious or philosophical question, it is equally a question about the natural world. So an appropriate place to try and resolve it is with science.

As a scientist, I have never quite understood the conviction, at the basis of essentially all the world's religions, that creation requires a creator. Every day beautiful and miraculous objects suddenly appear, from snowflakes on a cold winter morning to rainbows after a late afternoon summer shower. 

Yet no one but the most ardent fundamentalists would suggest that every such object is painstakingly and purposefully created by divine intelligence. In fact, we revel in our ability to explain how snowflakes and rainbows can spontaneously appear based on the simple, elegant laws of physics.

 Krauss is a smart guy and this article does reveal his intelligence, but these opening paragraphs are perhaps the most foolish things I have ever read.  He is right in asserting that the source and Creator of everything has been the subject of philosophers and theologians for centuries.  The reason for this is that God is something that science can never prove or disprove.  The reason is that science is limited to studying the natural.  The very definition of supernatural assumes that the natural cannot observe it under a microscope.  Therefore, disciplines like philosophy and theology become a must.

Clearly Krauss rejects the Cosmological argument for God.  But did you notice the foolishness of his argument.  He asserts that no one but the most ardent fundamentalists would suggest that every such object is painstakingly and purposefully created by divine intelligence.  He points specifically to snowflakes and rainbows which spontaneously appear based on the simple, elegant laws of physics.  Though he thinks he has proven his point, he has only validated the Cosmological argument.

The question isn't, do such things appear, but what causes them to appear.  Snowflakes do not form in the African desert.  The reason is obvious to anyone who knows what a snowflake is.  The climate is not right for snowflakes.  However, given the right conditions, such as temperature, weather patterns, and precipitation in clouds, snowflakes are formed.  Notice, that they are not created ex nihilo (out of nothing), but formed.  Precipiation in the right conditions forms into snowflakes which then fall to the ground.

Krauss even acknowledges this.  He points out that snowflakes and rainbows are formed based on the simple, elegant laws of physics but one must wonder where such laws come from?  Don't such laws imply a Lawgiver that stands above such laws?  Is this not a reminder of not just the Creator God but also the Providential God?  Krauss is making the same foolish argument that Hawking did.  Just as Hawking assumed the existence of gravity, so too Krauss assumes the existence of natural laws.  But without a Fine Tuner, one cannot explain why the universe is subject to such laws (we call this the Anthropic Principle).*

The rest of Krauss' argument doesn't get much better.  He then begins to discuss dark energy and our flat universe.  Throughout the piece he continues to return to the same assumptions.  For example, he argues that if you add up the total energy of a flat universe, the result is precisely zero. How can this be? When you include the effects of gravity, energy comes in two forms. Mass corresponds to positive energy, but the gravitational attraction between massive objects can correspond to negative energy. If the positive energy and the negative gravitational energy of the universe cancel out, we end up in a flat universe. Although Krauss is writing in scientific jargon that the average person doesn't understand (and I'm struggling with it myself), the same problem remains.  The phrase when you include the effects of gravity is problematic for his argument.  Where did the gravity come from?

What we are left with if we adopt Krauss and Hawking's conclusions is antiscience foolishness.  If we are honest, what these well-respected men are arguing for is spontaneous generation.  This has been proven to be scientifically false.  Something never arises from nothing.  In the 17th Century, the theory of spontaneous generation (that living forms appear from nonliving forms) was busted.  It was actually believed that the creation of mice, mildew, and other living things could be explained as being the result of chance and accident.  What science showed was that certain conditions invite mice, mildew grows on certain things, and maggots are attracted to rotten meat.  No spontaneous creation whatsoever, but causation.

Of course these men would reject the accusation of spontaneous generation.  Such a theory has been debunked, but what they cannot deny is that science has yet to answer the Cosmological argument both for the existence of an ordered and law-abiding universe and for the existence of life itself.  If spontaneous generation has been proven false then how did we go from rocks and dirt to living and reproducing cells?  Likewise, if everything has a cause, then what caused the first cause?  Furthermore, what created the matter that led to the first cause?  Science has yet to answer such questions.

In spite of his best efforts Krauss has only proven the age old Cosmological argument.  There must be a Divine Cause and His name is God.  So instead of proving Hawking correct, Krauss has only proven the problem of science.  In spite of its best efforts science will never be able to resolve this difficult riddle until it accepts the obvious.  But I wouldn't hold your breath.  Many in the scientific community are bent on killing God in order to rationalize their own worldview.  But being that God is eternal and not subject to our limitations I wouldn't worry about science accomplishing their love-affair anytime soon.

The question then is not, does God exist? but since God exists who is He?  That is a question that science will never answer and why we are all theologians.


*  At this point, Krauss argues, So if we can explain a raindrop, why can't we explain a universe? Mr. Hawking based his argument on the possible existence of extra dimensions—and perhaps an infinite number of universes, which would indeed make the spontaneous appearance of a universe like ours seem almost trivial.  It should be pointed out here that Hawking's argument of multiple universes has no scientific evidence whatsoever.  It is a hypothesis based on nothing.  Therefore, we conclude, that Hawking (and Krauss with him) is taking of leap of faith instead of relying on the evidence and facts of science.


Lawrence M. Krauss (Wall Street Journal) -  Our Spontaneous Universe: I have never quite understood the conviction that creation requires a creator 
Commentary - Causation and the Existence of God:  How Scientists Continue to Prove Aquinas's Point - Part 1 


For more:
Commentary - Just Add Universes:  The Foolishness and Motivation Behind Atheism's Leap of Faith 
Commentary - Creation or Manipulation:  The Limits of Man and the Evidence for God
Commentary - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality  
Commentary - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of All That We Are and Do 
Commentary -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel
Commentary -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Commentary -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Commentary -The Atheist Debates
Commentary -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -"Friedrich Nietzsche" by George Burma
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza
Shortblog -The Conversion of Francis Collins

**  The above pictures illustrates the domino affect; that is, that what causes the dominoes to fall is caused by someone pushing the first domino.  It perfectly illustrates the Cosmological argument for the existence of God.  Just as something must cause the dominoes the fall, so too something must cause matter to exist.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just Add Universes: The Foolishness and Motivation Behind Atheism's Leap of Faith

What are the chances of order coming from chaos?  Have you ever tried it?  Have you ever witnessed it?  Put a stick of dynamite inside a printing press and you will never get the US Constitution.  The chances of order coming from chaos is slim to none.  Actually we could say that such things don't happen period.  Order is designed, chaos is simply is not.

This is one of the more powerful arguments for Intelligent Design.  Whether we look into the sky or through a microscope we see order, not chaos.  The Earth is exactly in the right spot in our solar system for life to survive.  Its axis helps support life.  The moon is the perfect size, at the perfect distance, with the perfect rotation for life to exist.  What we see is design.  Look at a cell and you witness a factory at work at the smallest of levels.  Once again, we see design at work.

What we see is order at work.  The sun always rises in the morning and sets in the evening.  The moon always goes through predicable stages.  Days are always the same length of time.  Life seems order.  It is ordered.

This begs the question then; What are the chances that an accidental explosion in space billions of years ago led to the creation of an entire universe wherein at least one planet spawned intelligent life which could then study the universe that created its life?  Slim to none.  In fact, it is impossible.  Such order, design, and intelligence is not the result of accidental chaos.

This doesn't mean that explanations haven't been given to explain away the impossibility of such an ordered universe coming from chaos.  According to Darwinism, the house always wins.  The audacity to argue that life and order has come from chaos is profound.  Such a hypothesis is absurd.  The leap of faith to believe in such a thing borders on the miraculous, but many continue to hold to it.

A growing hypothesis promoted by evolutionary scientists to explain why the slim chance of order proceeding from chaos happened in our favor is known as multiverse.  The argument is that our universe is only one among millions - billions even.  The argument goes that when the Big Bang took place, the chaos led to billions of universes with ours resulting in life.  Others suggest that since the original big bang, multiple big bangs have taken place thus resulting in an infinite number of universes.  This helps explain away the chances of order taking place.  The idea can be compared to winning the lottery.  The chances of me winning are slim.  However, the more people that play the better the chance that someone would win.  So though I may not win, someone will.  That is what is going on in the multiverse hypothesis.  If there are multiple universes, instead of just one, then the chances increase for one of those universes supporting life like ours.

The question then becomes:  what evidence is there for such a theory?  None.

In his wonderful book, What's So Great About Christianity? author Dinesh D'Souza raises this issue and shows the real motivation behind such a hypothesis.

As Weinberg admits, "These are very speculative ideas . . .without any experimental support."  Smolin is even more candid.  he calls his ideas "a fantasy . . . It is possible that all I have done here is cobble together a set of false clues that only seem to have something to do with each other . . . There is every chance that these ideas will not succeed."  I appreciate their candor, and I am reminded of that old Ptolemaic remedy for problematic data:  "just add epicycles."  Now we are in the real of "just add universes." -134

That seems to be the answer to the dilemma:  just add universes.  The motivation is obvious.  The anthropic principle is a serious threat to the naturalistic worldview.  The anthropic principle says that since life seems fine-tuned for human habitation, then it must have a Tuner (see D'Souza, What's So Great About Christianity?, 130).  In other words, if it looks designed, then it probably is.

But such an argument is what Darwinists are trying to avoid.  For if there is designer, then there must be a Designer.  If causation wasn't burdensome enough, the anthropic principle has only made the case for evolutionary atheism even worse.  If chaos never comes from order and if the earth and the world she dwells in seems designed then there must be a God.

But instead of embracing such an obvious message, many atheistic scientists are trying to pull rabbits out of their hats.  The multiverse argument is one such rabbit.  In spite of the lack of evidence for multiple universes, these scientists speak of it as if it were fact.  In recent days, physicist Stephen Hawking has continued to promote this absurd idea (in the past Hawking has argued for an infinity of universes based on what is known as "imaginary time."  Again, no evidence and the speculations sound more like science fiction) in his attempt that God is unneeded for our seemingly orderly and designed universe.

What such a principle does, and what Darwinism is known for, is reject human dignity and signifiance in its effort to rob any need for God.  The larger the universe (or universes) the less significant we become.  The bigger things are, the smaller we are.  The anthropic principle argues that the majesty of the universe reminds us of the wonders of our Creator.  Atheistic evolution, on the other hand, points us to nihilism based on accidental biology.  If we are just one world of billions spinning in one universe of many resulted by an accidental explosion then our existence as no significance, meaning, or purpose.

As Christians we must realize what this means and why atheists are so motivated to push such leap of faith theories.  Christianity, built on the gospel, points us to a Creator that designed the wonders of the universe for our observation so that in it we might revel at the might of our Maker.  The gospel reminds us that though the universe is beyond our grasp, our God and Creator has paid special attention to us.  God forces us to stand in awe of His majesty.  And since creation points us to an transcendent and yet immanent, Creator, we, therefore, have the assurance of meaning and purpose.  Evolution, as pushed by popular atheists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, in their attempt to disprove the necessity of God, pushes us farther into meaninglessness.  This is the great divide between naturalism and creationism.  One offers purpose and meaning, the other offers nothing but emptiness. 

But perhaps the greater point here isn't just the result of materialism, but the motivation behind it.  One must admit that the multiverse hypothesis is foolishness and will likely never be proven.  So why promote it?  Here we must admit that oftentimes worldview, philosophy, and theology cloud our scientific judgments.  Instead of going where the evidence leads, many are taking a leap of faith and defending an unproven theory.  Which makes more sense - the slim chance of order from chaos or a Designer that designed order?  The motivation behind promoting the foolishness presented here is the real revelation.  In an effort to live freely without God, man is forced to hide Him under any rug they think is big enough to hold Him.  But even drawn up, unprovable theories cannot deny the fact that the world seems designed.  And if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, maybe it is a duck.

What we have here is a reality that we all want to deny.  Science isn't as objective as we have been led to believe.  Behind every study, exploration, and experiment is a bias human being driven by their worldview.  Reject God and you will go out of your way to overlook Him.  Atheism is big business in the culture these days and any theory (regardless of how foolish it sounds or how little, if any, evidence supports it) promoted by atheists will receive its fair share of coverage.  The reason for this cannot and must not be missed by Christians.  If there is a God, then we are accountable.  But if there is no God, then all is permissible.

However, where this all leads is where the real danger lies.  Atheism appears liberating, but as it is presented today, it is suicidal.  By removing God from the telescope, we are left looking into empty space with no meaning or purpose.  Morally liberating though it may be, but the consequences are dire.  If there is no meaning or purpose in life then let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  But even that is without any real, transcendental meaning.  The emptiness of atheism is perhaps its greatest flaw.  Turn to atheism and you are all alone.  Turn to the Creator who providentially created you and you will find hope.



For more:
Breakpoint (Charles Colson) - Stephen Hawking's Leap of Faith:  Unnecessary Science 
Commentary - Causation and the Existence of God:  How Scientists Continue to Prove Aquinas's Point  
Commentary - Creation or Manipulation:  The Limits of Man and the Evidence for God
Commentary - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality  
Commentary -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel
Commentary -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Commentary -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Commentary -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Commentary -The Atheist Debates
Commentary -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -"Friedrich Nietzsche" by George Burma
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza
Shortblog -The Conversion of Francis Collins

*  The above picture is taken from the first Men in Black movie. This is a screen shot from the final scene of the movie revealing a multiverse where an alien holds our universe in his hands like a marble.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember 9/11: 102 Minutes That Changed America

Relive the action of nine years ago. I think this is the most powerful movie reminding us of what it was like on September 11, 2001.








For more:
Commentary -  Graham:  The Unwavering Love of God 
Commentary - September 11th Remembered - 2007

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Burn or Not to Burn, That Is Not the Question: Where is the Gospel in the Koran Burning Debate?

Every pastor wants to grow his congregation and for many that means becoming more popular and increase the positive publicity of the church and her pastor.  As a pastor myself, I know the temptations of playing this game.  Oftentimes church growth is more about appearance than it is about the gospel.  Well, one small church pastor in Florida has gained international publicity, but I wouldn't call it positive.  Pastor Terry Jones will be leading his 50 member congregation through a Koran burning "ceremony" on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  The reason:  Jones hates Islam and considers it a wicked religion.

This small church pastor has created a lot of stir.  So much so that leading political, social, and cultural heads have almost universally condemned him.  Even General David Petraeus, head of US forces in Afghanistan, has asked the pastor not to burn the Koran's arguing that to do so would put our troops in Afghanistan in more danger.  Certainly the general has a point.  Remember what happened when one cartoonist published a somewhat negative cartoon of Mohamed?  Remember what happened when the media and the left spread false accusation that US soldiers were flushing Koran's down a toilet in Guantanamo Bay?  I'm just guessing, but I think burning Koran's in mass might be considered offensive to most Muslims.  But just a guess.

The fact that this pastor has gained so much interest is telling about the influence of Islam.  Blogger Jeremy Smith is right to point out that NPR wouldn't care if some unknown person in a suburb of a college town leads a handful of people in burning of The Wiccan Book of Ceremonies and Rituals? But attack the revered book of Islam and heads of states take time out of their day to address the world. You may not know how to respond to Islam, but you cannot ignore it.

Islam has become a serious issue and not one that Americans or anyone in the world can ignore.  What we believe and how we respond to Islam affects every one at this point.  Making matters worse is the ongoing debate surrounding the Ground Zero Mosque (which is the now politically incorrect term).  Many consider the mosque to be insensitive.  Thus, if those wishing to build the mosque seek to offer an olive branch to America, perhaps they should build elsewhere.  On the other hand, others argue that to build the mosque would be proof that America remains the home of the free.  However, it doesn't help that the imam behind it all is having video after video surface on the Internet and played on the nightly news of previous (and what seems radical) statements he has made.

Regarding the mosque, no one is question their right to build there.  The problem for many (and most Americans and especially New Yorkers) is the sensitivity of the location of the project.  The Florida pastor finds himself in a similar situation.  Those opposing the burning of the Koran do not do so because they reject his or his congregations right to do so, but its sensitivity.  General Petraeus may be right; burning the Koran's would put our troops over seas, and our nation, in immediate danger if the small church goes through with its plans.

But in all of this I find major contradictions.  Those opposed to the mosque in downtown Manhattan are labeled Islamophobics who hate Muslims.  Even Time Magazine did a cover story on the suggestion.  The response from its opposers was immediate.  It isn't Islam that is hated, but concern for the families of those who lost loved one's on 9/11 must be taken into account.  And yet those who oppose this pastor are somehow free from similar accusations?  If we follow the logic then, if those who oppose the mosque are Islamophobics then those who oppose Pastor Jone's Koran burning must be Christophobic right?  Aren't those who oppose the Koran burning just as concerned about its sensitivity as the mosque builders?

Of course no one would admit or make that argument.  I have found that many who support the mosque oppose the book burning.  This is the contradictory and confused world in which we live in.  The sensitivities being ignored by the mosque must be downplayed while the sensitivities being ignored by the church in Florida should be condemned.  Am I missing something here?

Furthermore, I find it hypocritically that many on the left condemn the burning of the Koran and yet fight to the death the right of citizens to burn the American flag.  Conservatives are at least more consistent here.  If it not wrong - in fact it should be celebrated as a First Amendment right - to burn the American flag then should the ACLU be defending the pastor and his congregation?

It is tempting at this point to join the crowd and defend/oppose the Koran burning on purely secular and cultural grounds.  Most in our country, including many Christians are worried about the political and security fallout from this and rightly so.  But as Christians are first and primary concern isn't politics or national security, but the gospel.  That isn't to say that other things don't matter.  But what ought to be our priority is what this event says about the gospel.  Let us not forget that the pastor is leading a group of Christians into doing this.  He isn't alone.

So what does this have to do with the gospel?  Everything.  As a pastor, I have to ask myself, if I were in Pastor Jones' shoes, would this be the right signal I would want to send as a messenger of Jesus Christ to the lost community?  Is this act more of a publicity stunt (as Dr. R. Albert Mohler has suggested) or it about the gospel?  If we care more about the shock value of an event or getting our face and church on the news than the gospel then perhaps it would be best for us to step down.  Furthermore, here is my rule of thumb (quoting comedian Brad Stine), if Hitler tried it, maybe try going in a different direction!

Nowhere does Jesus or the apostles do anything remotely similar to this (and no Acts 19 does not apply here).  Instead, what Jesus and the Early Church did was proclaim the gospel.  Making political or even religious statements like this distracted the lost and dying world from the gospel.  Do we care more about what we think about Islam or the fact that there are people (both in the Islamic and non-Islamic world) who need to hear the gospel?

The gospel is at stake here.  When people see a provocative book burning are they witnessing the message of Christ or the publicity stunt of a pastor?  Are we pointing people towards or away from Christ?  In this event, I think the answer is clear.  Before we as Christians can discuss the rights of an action, let us discus what such actions say about and do to the gospel.  If we stand in the way of the cross, then we stand in the way of the work of God.  Pastor Jones is standing in the way.

But before we can become too indignant let this be a lesson for all of us.  How many times does our love affair with politics, a political party, an economic theory, a national security belief, or legalistic, self-righteous religion stand in the way of the gospel?  Everyday we hear of a lot of opinions Christians have about every subject but unfortunately much of what is said resembles little of the gospel.  Unless the gospel is at the center of our focus, we are wasting our breath and we not in the will of God. 

So let this be a sober reminder to all of us.  This isn't about rights or sensitivities, its about the gospel.  Instead of burning books, let us preach the gospel.  Instead of publicity stunts, let us trust in the sovereignty of God and fulfill the task He has given us. 

Leave the matches at home.


Fox News - Petraeus: Burning Koran Puts American Lives 'in Jeopardy' 
New York Times - Florida Pastor Says Koran Burning Still On 
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. - The Briefing:  September 8, 2010 
Breakpoint (Charles Colson) - A Bad Idea 
Reformation 21 (Jeremy Smith) - Some Thoughts on Book Burning 


For more:
Commentary - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Ground Zero Debate? 
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ