Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Power of Propaganda

When I was stationed at Camp Lejune, I sang in the choir at the base chapel at Tarawa Terrace. I sang baritone with an older lady named Linda who had come to the US from Germany after WWII (she had a DEEP voice). She was at Camp Lejune because her husband had been a Major in the US Marines.

Linda invited me to eat with her and some old friends for Thanksgiving one year. After her friends had left, we sat down for some lengthy conversation. She told me of her time in Germany during WWII. Hitler is well known historically for his use of propaganda. Her tale was from the receiving end of the propaganda. She confessed a knowledge that it is wrong to be prejudiced against a people. Nevertheless, many years later Hitler's propaganda still influenced her emotionally.

What is often missed with the Palestinians (or Arabs in general) is the similarity to the Germans in their hatred for Jews and their ability to use the US media spin machine (aka propaganda). There is also a similarity in that most Palestinians are not maniacal hate-mongers. There are some Palestinian Christians and I have heard from US missionaries who have gone to them. However, even Christians can be fooled by propaganda. Most Palestinian Christians believe some of the lies that their leaders have told them about the Israelis. For example, when the Palestinians were kicked out of Jordan and settled on the west bank, Israel built good houses for them to live in. They were prevented from doing so by their leadership and told that the Jews were building shining neighborhoods for themselves while the Palestinians lived in squalor. Their leadership then called the US media and had them come and take pictures of the poor Palestinians.

The new Palestinian "Hitler" is just another in a long line of deceivers.

Propaganda works because it plays on the desires of those it is designed to influence. To combat propaganda, we must have a truth that transcends the bounds of this world. This is why it is normal for those who seek this truth to come under persecution. Those who wish to control through propaganda recognize that if their audience tests their claims against a higher standard their propaganda will be revealed for the lie it is and they will lose power. They often, therefore, use their propaganda to turn the foolish who believe them against the followers of truth.

What The Church Is Saying About Homosexuality Lately - And What It's Not

The good news is that a Swedish minister has been acquitted of hate speech charges for denouncing homosexuality. What did he say? "He labeled homosexuality a 'deep cancer tumor' on society during a sermon," according to the article.

The other good news is that the Vatican has come out against homosexuality... sort of. It prohibits homosexuals from becoming priests, although it doesn't do anything about homosexuals who are already priests except to encourage them to be celibate.

The bad news is that neither statement makes a cogent argument for why homosexuality is wrong. I made a brief one October 2004. In it I made the case that homosexuality - or other sexual activity other than in a marriage between one man and one woman - does not give a true picture of who God is as God has decreed it to be. As an addendum to my previous post, I'll tell you about a friend of mine. He's a homeschool dad who is a literature teacher at a local Christian school and also serves in a faculty leadership position. His oldest son has a ponytail, but the Christian School has a dress code that prohibits long hair for boys. When asked by a student how he can enforce the dress code at the Christian School while he allows his son to have long hair at his own home school, he replied, "it's not about the hair, it's about discipline." Likewise, for homosexuality, it's not about who we can be amorous with. It's about glorifying God - and what or what does not glorify God is not up to us to determine.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Understanding the Other Side

I like to think that I understand the other side of things. I analyze issues logically by separating the stated rationale from the real rationale. Doing so, I am more able to reveal the logical flaws in an errant system of thought while merely speculating on why someone would believe such a thing. My position is strong because I seek to believe that which is reasonable and defensible. Therefore I'm willing to consider changing what I believe if I find something more reasonable.

Nevertheless, I realize that because I do not hold a less defensible position, I cannot fully appreciate the motivations of those who desire to hold those positions.

With that said, there is news that Princeton is hosting three ex-terrorists who will shed some light on the mind of a suicide bomber. Many at Princeton appear to not understand the mind of an evangelical Christian. How, pray tell, do they think they can understand the mind of a suicide bomber? As noble as the attempt is, I fear they will come away with a false notion that they have some special understanding that validates a particular viewpoint on foreign policy.

While Princeton approaches a potential round of self-delusion, the University of California is blatantly discriminating against Christian high-school curricula (which includes Beka and Bob Jones) for admission to the school system. They refuse courses with explicitly Christian content while allowing curricula from other religions that have content that is explicitly religious in nature. The purported reason for this is that the UC system doesn't think a Christian curriculum offers enough understanding of honest-to-goodness requirements.

So, the UC people believe they understand Christians well enough to think that Christians don't understand them. The court case that is underway should be interesting. The UC, while discriminating on a broad range of courses is defending themselves by narrowing the scope of the debate to only evolution versus creation in the science coursework. They must think that they can influence the decision to hinge on the broader evolution-versus-intelligent-design-in-education debate that has school systems up in arms lately.

Furthermore, in South Carolina (the home of Bob Jones University, and decidedly a red state) Senator Mike Fair is seeking to encourage the state curricula makers to warrant science teachers to teach not only the reasons to believe evolution, but also the problems with evolutionary theory. He's not advocating teaching Intelligent Design or Creationism, but merely wants the students to have a more rounded understanding of evolution.

However, while some accept his proposition, he is drawing some criticism. There appears to be some science teachers who don't understand the criticism of their belief that science has proven evolution beyond the shadow of a doubt. I wonder if it is possible for most science teachers to teach evolution and oppositions to evolution so their students have an adequate understanding of evolution's strengths and weaknesses.

The level of vitriol tends to be an inverse ratio to the level of reason in one's arguments. This is because people who realize on some level that their pet views are unreasonable fear on another level that they will be proven wrong. Therefore, for those of us who find occasion to teach, I would suggest we do so with more understanding and less self-rigteous anger against those who oppose our pet views. If our pet views bear truth, they will stengthen under the test of a new generation of well-equipped critical thinkers. If they do not bear truth, it is best that they are discredited lest many are further deluded by them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Beyond the Bible

Before I begin, I want to mention that this commentary is a response to David Neff's report of the book by I. Howard Marshall entitled "Beyond the Bible". I have not read this book myself and my comments are based merely on what I construe from Mr. Neff's article.

First, let's reason about who or what God is. I've already spelled out some thought about temporality and eternity.

Ontology and teleology and other such classical "proofs" of God are not true proofs per se, but they are self-evident truths (to the extent that one's brain doesn't hurt too much to contemplate them). Rather than proving the existence of God, they offer a preliminary definition of God as foundational to the existence of the temporal universe. In other words, The temporal, measurable universe is rooted in that which is eternal and immeasurable. In Biblical terms, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Therefore, we ascribe the term "God" to that which is eternal and immeasurable.

Our ideas about who God is do not originate in a vacuum. To some degree, they come from our experiences and observations of the world in which we live as viewed through the filter of our temperament. To another degree, they must come from God Himself.

But one must ask, is God sentient? One test is to ask if there is something obviously intentional built into the universe that can only be ascribed to God? If it is possible for the eternal to exist without the existence of the temporal, then the existence of the temporal is enough to prove deductively that God functions intentionally. Therefore, God is sentient. If we as temporal beings are sentient, how could we be created by a God that is not sentient? The answer is as self-evident as the existence of the eternal. One must also conclude that if God is intentional in our creation, then He has a purpose for us. We are not our own.

If God has a purpose for us, by what means does He communicate this purpose to us? The communication must be widely accepted as communication from God. After all, why would the creator communicate through an obscure means? Since widespread communication can be duplicated, it stands to reason that the communication would be set apart from any counterfeit communication by some measurable means. Holy Scriptures are obviously the communication that is widely accepted. Holy Scriptures are also widely counterfeited. If Holy Scriptures in every religion agreed with one another, then we could not say that one is right and the rest are wrong. They do not all agree. Therefore, one must be right and the rest counterfeit.

There is one set of holy Scriptures that stands out. It was written by several authors over a period of a couple thousand years with a unified message. It was written in a context of historical congruity. Documentation of it's transmission from ancient copies to more recent copies demonstrates a remarkable lack of error. The overwhelming abundance of it's copies throughout the ages is astonishing. Perhaps the greatest earmark is the accuracy of fulfilled SPECIFIC prophesies of future events. None have proven false. The only prophesies left unfulfilled are the eschatological ones which wouldn't have happened yet.

This earmarked communication consists of the Hebrew Scriptures and their fulfillment in the Christian Scriptures. This is the Christian Bible.

Theology is the study of who God is. Hermeneutics is the study of the Bible in order to develop our knowledge base for theology. We may start with ideas gained from experiences and observations, but ultimately we must refine these ideas if not supplant them entirely with truth gained from hermeneutics.

What do we make of how different people and different traditions interpret the Bible? Is there a right way and a wrong way to do hermeneutics? If so, then how do we know what the right way is? Just like the Bible is earmarked as God's communication to us, certain hermeneutical principles can be derived from the same apologetic that leads us to look for God's earmarked communication. For example, if God wants to communicate to us, His communication will use language that is understandable. It will employ expressions of speech and cultural references that are known and researchable.

So, I've briefly discussed that good Christian hermeneutics have a sound and reasonable apologetic and that good theological principles are discerned from applying sound hermeneutical principles to the Bible. This is not the end of Biblical study, however. The purpose is not simply to know about God. Instead, if we go back to our apologetic, we realize that God want us to know His purpose for us. That means that we must apply what we know about God to our current situation. Therefore, application is the crown of the Biblical study pyramid:

This is my understanding of an organization of logical premises and conclusions that create the framework for Biblical studies and analyses. This is why I feel compelled to address the article linked in the title of this post.

The article states:

"Marshall says this approach is inadequate because it does not yield consistent results, and because it provides little help in dealing with contemporary problems that could not have been foreseen by the biblical writers."

This appears to presuppose that the only applications we can make from a systematic review of the Bible are those that the Bible itself makes. This view fails to consider that the purpose of the applications made in the Bible is to point us to transcendent principles that may be applied to any situation.

Also, I doubt that thorough study results in inconsistent results. No examples are given here of what these inconsistencies may be. I have found more often that theologians apply hermeneutical principles inconsistently. For example, Lutheran doctrine considers the statement of Christ, "This is my body," to be literal while it denies that the thousand-year reign is literal. To suggest that "this approach" (J.I. Packer's four interpretational principles, which represent foundational areas of traditional hermeneutical principles) does not yield consistent results is antithetical to the apologetical notion of the unified message of the Bible. I suggest, instead, that applying consistent hermeneutical results to the Bible yields exceptionally consistent results. The greatest area of tedium I have found in studying the Bible is when analyzing a text and deciding on the set of hermeneutical principles that apply, going back and checking to see if I have applied this same principle consistently in the formation of other theological principles.

The article continues:

"You can't learn to play tennis without observing, practicing, and having a coach. Likewise, you can't understand how the discrete moments of revelation in the Bible become Christian doctrine without observing the work of those who went before, personally engaging in the active interpretation and application of the text, and having a 'coach.'"

It also states that "The book's title, 'Beyond the Bible', is a recognition that doctrine develops." It uses "the Trinity and the high Christology of Chalcedon" as examples of doctrine that develops writing that "Biblical revelation points us ineluctably toward those truths, but the Bible writers never make them explicit."

I would agree that God uses tradition as well as historic debates to establish certain doctrine. I also agree with the need for discipleship. What is lacking in this analysis is a distinction between extra-Biblical instruction that is correct and that which is erroneous. There must be an overriding principle lest we fall into the trap of theistic existentialism. True doctrine is not developed, it is discovered. False doctrine is developed.

The article makes an interesting distinction claiming that "Evangelicals are often criticized because we tend to emphasize Paul's theology rather than Jesus' ethics. But how do we apply Jesus' words?" Later in the article it comes close to inadvertently answering this question:

"The epistles are responses to moral, spiritual, or theological errors. These letters did not attempt to set out truth in a systematic way, but to apply truth to wayward communities. Marshall shows how the apostles appealed to the leadership of the Spirit, the consistent teaching of the church since the time of Jesus, and the way in which the events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection opened up their understanding of the Scriptures."

Evangelicals should not be criticized for emphasizing Paul (and the other epistles) because they are precisely Christ's teachings as understood within the context of the Hebrew Scriptures as applied to real situations.

One other claim addressed in the article is that "'one cannot make a body of doctrine heresy-proof, because heretics are so ingenious.' Thus, the work of reading and applying Scripture is never done." This implies that new heresies continue to crop up. While I agree that there are a few obscure heresies that have cropped up in more recent times, the big heresies that we are all familiar with are the same old heresies that were directly addressed by the epistle writers. "The work of reading and applying Scripture is never done" is true less because of new heresies, but more because of new Christians.

Also, I take issue with the statement quoted by Neff, "one cannot make a body of doctrine heresy-proof, because heretics are so ingenious." I'm not sure how a context could qualify the meaning of this, so I'm not sure if I'm misunderstanding something by seeing this comment out of context. I have said that true doctrine is discovered and that false doctrine is developed. If we make a body of doctrine, we are not discovering the body of true doctrine that God has given us as much as we are construing a false body of true and/or false doctrines. Therefore, if we are making a body of doctrine it will not be heresy-proof. If we discover the body of true doctrine God has given us, then it is error-proof. Heretics will deny the body of true doctrine, therefore it is not the body of doctrine that needs to be error-proof, but the heretic that needs to be brought into subjection of the doctrine God has given us. The heretic does not hold the body of true doctrine, but a false body of doctrine that he has made.

The last statement of the article is as vague a well-written statement as I've ever read:

"The rules for interpreting Scripture can take us only so far, but as Marshall and Vanhoozer demonstrate, we can learn a lot by watching great interpreters playing at their finest."

The question I have is if the rules for interpreting Scripture only take us so far, what rules do Msrrs. Neff and Marshall suggest will take us farther? Perhaps they are in the book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Whatever Suits Him

A man, Jeffrey D. Bedford, is suing ABC and Walt Disney for sending him a gay man for an episode of "Wife Swap".

The linked article lists several complaints against the producers in the suit. One of them states, "Bedford conducted a Bible study for the Haileyville Baptist Church, wherein the gay swap participant invited a gay coalition into Bedford's home for the study."

My question is: What is kind of Bible study can a man lead who agrees to a wife-swap in the first place?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Prayer Works

My youngest son, Paul, just had surgery Saturday. We have a large church full of faithful prayer warriors as well as extended friends and family who are praying Christians. We aren't shy about asking people to intercede in prayer on our behalf. Needless to say, many people were praying for him, for us, for the surgeon...

Paul was born with an extreme case of urinary reflux. The scale for rating severity of reflux is from 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst. Reflux in each ureter is categorized separately. Paul was rated to have a 5 in his left side and a 4 in his right side. After a couple of years of treatment and testing, scarring was noticed and a bilateral ureter resection and re-implantation was prescribed. Immediately before the surgery, the doctor indicated that the level of his condition made him an exceptional case, but that the procedure had a 95% chance of correcting the problem. He predicted the surgery to last two hours or more. After a little more than an hour he came out and indicated that the surgery not only went well, it went extremely well and that he wished all the surgeries he did of this sort went this well. He also bumped his prediction of success up to 99%.

Prayer works!

But this statement opens up a couple of questions. Could great results happen without anyone praying? I believe so. Could bad results happen with many people praying? Sure. Why, then, do I presume that when I have much prayer and great results that the praying caused the great results? Actually, I don't. Bowing my head or knees, laying prostrate on the floor, folding my hands, standing with my hands up or crossed behind my back or in front of me... combining any physical position you can imagine as being associated with prayer and causing my brain cells to fire off in an odd way doesn't cause anything (except sore knees or cramped muscles after extended periods). Only God causes the end result.

Prayer then, is not me acting in my own power affecting my own ends for my own purposes. Prayer should never glorify the one praying. Prayer should only glorify God because prayer is the self-abasement of the one praying in acknowledgement of the power of God. If the God to whom one prays is not the God who created everything (i.e. a false god), then the prayer is effective only in blinding the one praying to the only God who really has the power to do anything because it causes him to further warm to the idea that the false god to whom he prays is the true god. Therefore, whether great results happen or poor results happen, I will glorify God. This is why I say that prayer works. I give God the glory and offer thanks for what He does no matter what happens. In so doing, my prayer continues.

What if we pray to a false god and give the false god glory no matter what happens? What is the difference between doing this and praying to the true God of creation? The primary difference is simply that in one we pray to a false God and in the other we pray to the true God. How can we know the difference? The misunderstanding in all this is thinking that prayer should have in itself an apologetic for the true God, meaning that we have reason in the prayer itself to know anything about God. Prayer is not apologetical. Prayer is the result of an apologetic. Effective prayer begins with knowledge of God; it doesn't necessarily result in knowledge of God. We do not begin prayer to a false god and end up praying to the true God at the end. If anything changes, we begin by acknowledging the God (or god) to whom we pray and end up more strongly conformed to Him. This is why corporate prayer is good. If we follow the prayers of one who is spiritually mature, we can receive a measure of spiritual maturity in the words with which he addresses God.

So what do we make of intercessory prayer? As far as that goes, why pray for anything? If the purpose of prayer is the spiritual formation of the one praying, then what good is it to pray for tangible results? However, even Jesus asked the Father for tangible results. The answer is that when we pray to the true God, He has the power to actually affect things, whether He changes our hearts to motivate us to create the results we desire or He does it Himself. The Arminian would say that God reacts to our praying. That places the onus of the results on the one praying. Therefore, should we not receive some glory for having worked on behalf of the results? The Calvinist would acknowledge that not only has God has ordained the results, but even our praying was ordained. Therefore, God should receive all the glory.

Therefore, God uses intercessory prayer to glorify Himself through the testimony of His church. What would God do if none pray? Would the results be different? For example, if no one were to have prayed for my son's surgery, would we have had bad results? A more extreme example: what if a man of God meets one possessed by a demon and calls on the privileged power of God to cast the demon out. He does so through prayer. If he had not done this, would God have removed the demon without the effective prayer? God created the world not only at the beginning of time, but He also created the world through the end of time. That means He created every event in between. To say "what if" begs the question that other events are possible than what God has created or ordained. The fact is, people prayed and we had great results. This was a fact before it even happened. And God is faithful to have made it happen this way. As for the demonic possession, if God wants to cast a demon out, he will send a man of God to do the work and give His power to make it happen, because this is consistent to demonstrate the glory of God.

No matter what happens, God is faithful and He will be glorified. This is the purpose of prayer. God should be thanked and glorified for whatever results He provides. If the results had been horribly different - if my son had gone to sleep in pre-op and died on the operating table never to awaken in this world again - I would stand today comforted by a heavenly Father who once lost His Son and I would glorify Him in the midst of tremendous sorrow.

To God be the glory.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Persecution Watch

Christianity in the US, and US culture in general, is much different than the great majority of the rest of the world. Most of the faithful church faces great persecution. This persecution is largely ignored by the US media. A little more research and I may put some links to some sites here. I'd like to make it a more regular posting. One recent article concerns our allies in India. It begins with the following statement:

More than 60 Christian converts in northern India will be burned to death if they refuse to return to Hinduism by Sunday, a group of extremists has warned.
Read it and know that this is not uncommon for Christians in much of the world.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just War

I hardly ever forward those e-mails that get forwarded to me, much less post them on this blog. I'll reprint this one here because it contains an analogy similar to one I've used elsewhere. I can't attest to the veracity of the events or the names of people and places refernced in it.

One foolish argument I've heard from anti-war Christians is that we are supposed to love our enemies. There are others and I may address them another time. But this notion of loving our enemies should never exclude us from also loving their victims and potential victims. In a fallen world, it is just for the strong to come to the defense of the weak. It is a sin to turn one's back when one can do something to help them.

Here's the e-mail:

This one really makes you stop and think -

Letter to the Editor- Odessa American- Odessa, TX

The other day, my nine year old son wanted to know why we were at war...My husband looked at our son and then looked at me. My husband and I were in the Army during the Gulf War and we would be honored to serve and defend ourCountry again today. I knew that my husband would give him a good explanation. My husband thought for a few minutes and then told my son to go stand in our front living room window.

He said "Son, stand there and tell me what you see?"

"I see trees and cars and our neighbor's houses." he replied.

"OK, now I want you to pretend that our house and our yard is the United States of America and you are President Bush."

Our son giggled and said "OK."

"Now son, I want you to look out the window and pretend that every house and yard on this block is a different country," my husband said.

"OK Dad, I'm pretending."

"Now I want you to stand there and look out the window and pretend you see
Saddam come out of his house with his wife, he has her by the hair and is hitting her. You see her bleeding and crying. He hits her in the face, he throws her on the ground, then he starts to kick her to death. Their children run out and are afraid to stop him, they are screaming and crying, they are watching this but do nothing because they are kids and they are afraid of their father. You see all of this, son....what do you do?"


"What do you do, son?"

"I'd call the police, Dad."

"OK. Pretend that the police are the United Nations. They take your call. They listen to what you know and saw but they refuse to help. What do you do then son?"

"Dad.......... but the police are supposed to help!" My son starts to whine.

"They don't want to son, because they say that it is not their place or your place to get involved and that you should stay out of it," my husband says.

"But Dad...he killed her!!" my son exclaims.

"I know he did...but the police tell you to stay out of it. Now I want you to look out that window and pretend you see our neighbor who you're pretending is Saddam turn around and do the same thing to his children."

"Daddy...he kills them?"

"Yes, son, he does. What do you do?"

"Well, if the police don't want to help, I will go and ask my next door neighbor to help me stop him," our son says.

"Son, our next door neighbor sees what is happening and refuses to get involved as well. He refuses to open the door and help you stop him," my husband says.

"But Dad, I NEED help!!! I can't stop him by myself!!"


Our son starts to cry.

"OK, no one wants to help you, the man across the street saw you ask for help and saw that no one would help you stop him. He stands taller and puffs out his chest. Guess what he does next, son?"

"What Daddy?"

"He walks across the street to the old ladies house and breaks down her door and drags her out, steals all her stuff and sets her house on fire and then...he kills her. He turns around and sees you standing in the window and laughs at you. WHAT DO YOU DO?"



Our son is crying and he looks down and he whispers, "I'd close the blinds, Daddy."

My husband looks at our son with tears in his eyes and asks him, "Why?"

"Because Daddy.....the police are supposed to help people who needs them...and they won't help.. You always say that neighbors are supposed to HELP neighbors, but they won't help either...they won't help me stop him...I'm afraid....I can't do it by myself Daddy.....I can't look out my window and just watch him do all these terrible things'm just going to close the blinds.... so I can't see what he's doing........and I'm going to pretend that it is not happening."

I start to cry. My husband looks at our nine year old son standing in the window, looking pitiful and ashamed at his answers to my husband's questions and he says...


"Yes, Daddy."

"Open the blinds because that man.... he's at your front door... "WHAT DO YOU DO?"

My son looks at his father, anger and defiance in his eyes. He balls up his tiny fists and looks his father square in the eyes, without hesitation he says: "I DEFEND MY FAMILY DAD!! I'M NOT GONNA LET HIM HURT MOMMY OR MY SISTER, DAD!!! I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM, DAD, I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM!!!!!"

I see a tear roll down my husband's cheek and he grabs our son to his chest and hugs him tight, and says... "It's too late to fight him, he's too strong and he's already at YOUR front door should have stopped him BEFORE he killed his wife, and his children and the old lady across the way. You have to do what's right, even if you have to do it alone, before its too late." my husband whispers. THAT scenario I just gave you is WHY we are at war with Iraq. When good men stand by and let evil happen son, THAT is the greatest atrocities in the world won't affect him. "YOU MUST NEVER BE AFRAID TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT! EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALONE!" BE PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN! BE PROUD OF OUR TROOPS!! SUPPORT THEM!!! SUPPORT AMERICA SO THAT IN THE FUTURE OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER HAVE TO CLOSE THEIR BLINDS..."

GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!
Steven R Chandler, CMSgt
332 ELRS/Vehicle Management
Flight Balad Air Base, Iraq

...this boy just took a significant step closer toward being a man.

The Sexual Revolution Comes to Fruition

A "slippery slope" argument is a logical fallacy. For example, observing that today was a degree warmer than yesterday cannot be used to prove that next year the temperature will be 365 degrees hotter than it is today. The term "slippery slope" is often misused in concluding that there is a trend based on recent history. In the case of global warming, a "slippery slope" type argument is used to make Chicken Little type proclamations. Although global warming is demonstrated to be occurring, there is no demonstrable link between excess carbon and other elements in the atmosphere and the overall warming trend of planet earth. There is evidence to suggest that this is a normal cycle. There is also evidence to suggest that it could get very bad. There is not enough evidence to suggest that we have anything to do with it. But I digress, this is another post...

There seems to be a "slippery slope" when it comes to sex. After all, we've been predicting that if we lose this battle legalizing homosexuality or that battle about sexual content on the air that the sexual immorality will increase. We have cited legalization of bestiality and polygamy most recently in the homosexual debate. As evidence that it is happening as predicted, there is a bill taking the teeth out of the law against bestiality and polyamorists are coming out of the closet. At the time, I considered the arguments that we were simply being alarmist and there was nothing to fear. However, we knew that there simply wasn't a shift in societal morality, but that there is an intentional effort to sway public opinion to discard morality that has been codified since Moses and Hammurabi. Evidence that this is intentional and not simply a natural progression of thought is in the recent case where parents were ruled to have no say in what their kids were exposed to in school.

In case you haven't heard this one, several families sued the school because their elementary age children were asked in a survey a series of sexually intimate questions. The survey was conducted without parental notification or consent. This means that the government can expose our children to anything a bureaucrat has an inclination to expose them to and the parents can't do the first thing about it. This is why my family homeschools.

This is not a "slippery slope", this is tyranical incrementalism.

I'll comment further on polyamorism, because it is slightly different than polygamy. Polygamy has always tended to have the same sociological accountability and marital commitment that monogamous marriage has. Polyamorism appears to be more of an "anything goes" situation with a pseudo-commitment stipulation and no accountability. Polyamorists have tempting arguments:

First, polyamorists say that they simply recognize human nature and that humans have the capacity to love multiple people. However, they also say that all they need to do is get past jealousy. If loving multiple people is human nature, then so is jealousy. Why deny human nature on the one hand if they are all about following their human nature on the other. This begs the question: is human nature AS IT IS TODAY what human nature is supposed to be? If so, then is it not human nature to occasionally murder other people in our own interest? By what means then do we judge what human nature we are to suppress and what human nature we are to follow? Understanding that humans are typically internally conflicted only muddies the water on this issue. There is a way to know how we are to be, but I'll get to that later. The point is, this argument for polyamorism is seriously flawed.

Second, polyamorists claim that they don't have indiscriminate sex, but that they only have sex inside of committed relationships. The fact that such "commitment" is whatever they claim it is at any given time indicates that no accountability exists for maintaining commitment. In other words, if I wanted to have indiscriminate sex and justify it, all I would have to do is claim that me and my sex partners are "committed" to one another. I could simply claim commitment and play the role in order to have sex with this person for awhile then that person... I don't have to mean it as long as I have everyone fooled. One reason for monogamous marriage is that we are protected from predators in this manner.

Another reason is that we protect our children from predators as well, and I would argue that this is a greater reason. Children need stability and if mommy and daddy have boyfriends and girlfriends, then they lack the stability of committed parents and are exposed to their parents' adult lovers who aren't committed to the needs of the children. On top of this, the parents are at risk of exposure to debilitating disease unnecessarily and this puts children at risk of being orphaned or having a parent who cannot tend to their needs because of their own illness.

Then there's the issue of love. What is love? It has been debated by teenagers and poets for centuries. Adults who fail to mature never learn what it is and stop caring after they have become jaded enough. Those who have subordinated themselves sacrificially to the needs of another learn what true love is and they live happily having given up rights to their own self-determination. Polyamorism focuses on one's own desires. While one may claim that they celebrate the love successes of each of their significant others, they do not live sacrificially for their needs, because to do so would be to deny their own desires. And that's why polyamorism will fail.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Wal-Mart and The Origin of Christmas

Well, I suppose that the Catholic League's real reason for the boycott was the letter from the temporary customer service associate that made claims about the origins of modern Christmas. I'll republish the letter here:

Walmart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than "christmas" which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with "christmas" red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world.

While most of the claims are dubious, and one or a few false, the fact is that Christmas does have such types of origins. Is this what offended the Catholic League? Wal-Mart issued an apology, although they won't go back on their policy change of using the "Happy Holidays" greeting instead of "Merry Christmas".

But what of the fact that Christmas has pagan origins? Christmas isn't the only one. Much of the syncretism that occurred when Constantine declared Rome to be a Christian empire is still seen in church practices to this day. For example, the name "Easter" is directly derived from the Babylonian goddess of life, Ishtar. Lent comes from the 40 days of mourning that Samiramis did after her son, Tammuz was gored to death by a wild boar. Legend has it that Ishtar brought him back to life after these forty days. People eventually came to honor Ishtar by decorating eggs. The first orders of Nuns were from the temple prostitutes of the false gods of Rome. Christmas wasn't celebrated until the church felt the need to countermand the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

There are even some practices that have been theologized, but have roots in practical practices. Sprinkling water for baptism, for example, came from the impractical idea of melting enough snow in northern Europe to dunk people. Besides, getting wet in winter wasn't a good idea at the time - a baptism could mean death due to pneumonia. Because the practice was normalized, theological reasons were invented to continue the practice. People just don't like change.

There are so many examples and I haven't fully explored the ones I have set forth here. My point is, Christians shouldn't be afraid of the truth. If it's true, it's God's truth. If we don't like it, we need to change. The Catholic League should have taken the opportunity to set the record straight and propagate the gospel through bold humility instead of fiddling with a petty squabble with Wal-Mart.

Tinfoil Helmets

No, seriously. A humorous piece was written that reports a "study" that tinfoil helmets really amplify mind-control rays from aliens and the government instead of blocking them. This is likely to cause much debate as to whether the study was for real or just part of the conspiracy. After all, if they can just get us to take our tinfoil helmets off...

Atheists in Foxholes

I appreciate what the men and women in our armed forces do for our country. As a vet, I know what they go through. Fear hit the men I was with as the first scud missile detection set off the air alert siren and we donned our ABC gear and dove into the bunker. We did what we were supposed to do and within the short period of time we were supposed to do it. Once safe in the bunker, it was time to wait until the danger was averted. I could see terror in the eyes of some near me through the lights of their gas masks. As the siren whined, fell off and restarted, the men began to recite perhaps the only part of the Bible they had ever memorized: the Lord's Prayer.

It's a great anecdote to support the old cliché: "There are no atheists in foxholes." While the story is true, the cliché is not. Many do realize their own mortality and turn to the faith of their heritage when the rounds start coming downrange. However, there are some who deny any transcendent power upon which, or through which, the universe is founded. These have every right to think as they will, and I certainly don't begrudge them their faith or lack thereof.

I do want to point out that their worldview generally contains fundamental inconsistencies. Perhaps the most logical atheism I've encountered is that of Friedrich Nietzsche, the father of atheistic existentialism. Existentialism gave rise to modernism and has relativistic thinking at it's core. If there is no God, then Existentialism is the most logical conclusion one can reach. Relativistic thinking is common, however, most people would recognize some absolutes were they to be honest with themselves. As a a result, much of society today is functionally existential.

My take on it is this: I don't believe there are such people as atheists. They simply don't exist. You can take this two ways:

  • The first is feigned relativism. If relativism is absolute (yeah, this is the problem with relativism), then there should be no conflict between my belief that there are no atheists and the belief of one who considers himself an atheist. The argument of the relativistic atheist is obviously ludicrous.
  • The second is an understanding that everyone believes in something even if one believes only in oneself. Humanist atheists are at least honest in this regard. However, one can follow the edicts of a god even if one doesn't realize it.

Crossing the Line in San Diego

This article summarizes the saga of the war memorial, publicly owned by San Diego, that has a cross as its centerpiece. The latest chapter invlolves a vote by the people of San Diego to turn the land over to the federal government in order to preserve the memorial. The city council refused to turn the land over to the federal government without a referendum from the people. The referendum came back to them at a whopping 75% approval. However, a judge denied them the power to do this.

In the United States of America we do not have a pure democracy. Pure democracy amounts to mob rule. This is why we are a Representative Republic. Some legislative issues are handled by popular vote, but most are handled by elected representatives. All executive issues are handled by elected administrators and judicial issues are handled by judges who are either elected or appointed and occasionally by representative juries who are appointed.

On the one hand, the judge's ruling against the result of the referendum appears to be a check against mob rule. However, this check doesn't belong in the purview of the judicial system. That's what representatives are for. All the court can do in this matter is to determine if the action contradicts a binding law, like the constitution. The federal law allowing the federal government to accept the gift of the memorial that the ballot initiative fell under was never questioned - only the action the people of San Diego via a legal referendun by their representatives was ruled against. In this case, the judge overstepped his bounds. This is judicial activism, and it is unconstitutional. We are a Representative Republic, not an Oligarchy. The judicial branch must be reformed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Rising Tide of Junk Science

I'll reprint this article here:

Did volcano cause a sea level rebound?

05 November 2005

From New Scientist Print Edition.

WE CAN put away the life rafts for now. The near doubling in the rate of sea level rise during the 1990s was probably due in part to the delayed effects of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines - and not runaway melting of ice caps.

Volcanic eruptions have long been known to cause a global chill by filling the upper atmosphere with particles that block out some of the sun's radiation. Pinatubo's 1991 blast cooled the atmosphere for two years, but no one was sure whether similar cooling occurred in the oceans.

Now John Church of the CSIRO in Australia has combined observations of the oceans' heat content with climate simulations to calculate that ocean surface temperatures fell by up to 0.5 °C in the months after the eruption in 1991 (Nature, vol 438, p 74). Since cooling reduces the water's volume, he calculates that Pinatubo should have taken 5 millimetres off sea levels worldwide during this period.

Since then, the oceans have been regaining heat, but this warming happens more slowly that it does in the atmosphere. Church calculates that the Pinatubo rebound explains half of the surge in sea level rise measured by satellites between 1993 and 2000. During that period, sea levels rose by 3.2 millimetres a year, compared with an average of 1.8 millimetres since 1950.

We hear much about whether science has "proven" something to be true or not. Science cannot deductively prove anything to be true. It can only deductively prove something to be false and inductively demonstrate the likelihood that something is true. This is because we will never know everything. Haven't we been told that the oceans are rising because the polar icecaps are melting because of global warming? Apparently it wasn't true. It's been touted as though it were true, but mere assertions are not the stuff of "proof". Keep this in mind when you hear reports from junk science like evolution and global warming.

Can Wal-Mart Really Ban Christmas?

A Roman Catholic group is wanting to boycott Wal-Mart because they believe that Wal-Mart is banning Christmas. This belief is based solely on a policy change from using the term "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidys". They cite other reasons like the addition of Hanukka and Kwanzaa items, but Wal-Mart has always had Hanukka and Kwanzaa items to some degree.

I just want to know what power Wal-Mart really has to influence Christmas. Unlike Target, they remain firm in their support of the Salvation Army. Does the use of "Merry Christmas" really contribute the people's faith? Who are we as Christians to say that a store owned by the private sector shouldn't try to make a buck providing items of some other religions?

The fact is, we've been complaining about Christmas becoming too secularized and commercial anyway. It may do well for us to back off the glitter a little and focus on presenting the truth about the incarnation of Christ. Some of the secular things about Christmas are fun, to be sure. Some elements like Christmas trees and Santa Claus are rooted in paganism and some in church history, but now they're just a source of entertaining lore and decor. While such elements can distract us from the real message, they can be redeemed by using them as tools to express the real meaning.

Santa Claus, Christmas trees, reindeer and sparkly lights mean nothing in and of themselves. This is what you find at Wal-Mart typically, along with a dozen decent Christmas cards and some manger scenes. The best thing for Christmas is to crack open that dusty Bible on your bookshelf. If you don't have one, Wal-Mart has a fair collection of those too.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Vatican's Lack of Reasonable Faith

The Vatican, apparently, now believes that macro-evolution is a scientifically proven fact. However, they rest this claim on the presumption that science is the arbiter of reason. Cardinal Paul Poupard addressed reporters:

"We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," Poupard told reporters. "But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism."

This rationale is in error because many scientists themselves are not reasonable and produce results and analyses that are contrived on the basis of the presupposition that all science must be naturalistic. Would the Vatican agree with this? If so, they would have to deny supernatural miracles. They fail to realize that the naturalistic presupposition, by definition, excludes supernatural explanations for the origin of life despite the fact that a supernatural explanation is more likely.

The Vatican's premise is the old Galileo argument:

The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th-century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

While the math is much easier to work out using Newtonian physics, Einstein's relativity demonstrates that the orbits of the planets about the sun are merely mathematical constructs. If the physical dynamics were calculated using Pluto's moon as the center, the relative locations of the solar bodies would still be the same over a period of time. (Be that as it may, the whole Earth-as-the-center-of-the-universe notion is more properly understood as regarding the importance of the seat of mankind rather than an actual physical location.) To dredge up Galileo is to found the notion of faith-as-opposed-to-reason on the historical account of a flawed debate.

In the Vatican's attempt to become more reasonable, flawed reason is used:

Said Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest: "A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false. (Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

First, testing a hypothesis can only disprove something. It can only calculate a likelihood of the truth value of a testable relationship between two things. Therefore, there is no deductive proof of evolution. There is only a likelihood, and that likelihood is not very likely. Instead, the most likely explanation for the evidence at hand is excluded unilaterally because of the naturalistic presupposition. And that’s not reasonable: Presupposition is a matter of faith, and faith in the naturalistic presupposition is in direct opposition to the Christian faith, which holds the presupposition that with God all things are possible.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I was just reading an article on WorldNedDaily about the hypocrisy of the Hollywood left. The headline item is about how Michael Moore says he owns no stock but that he actually owns tens of thousands of shares of stock including Halliburton. Some of the other items, reprtined here:

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who proclaims her support for unions, yet the luxury resort, the vineyard and the restaurants she partly owns are strictly non-union. While she advocates tough new laws enforcing environmental regulations on the private sector, the exclusive country club she partly owns failed to comply with existing environmental regulations for the past eight years – including a failure to protect endangered species.
  • Noam Chomsky has made a reputation for calling America a police state and branding the Pentagon "the most hideous institution on earth," yet his entire academic career, writes Schweizer, has been subsidized by the U.S. military.
  • Barbra Streisand is another proponent of environmentalism, yet she drives an SUV, lives in a mansion and has a $22,000 annual water bill. In the past, she has driven to appointments in Beverly Hills in a motor home because of her aversion to using public bathrooms.
  • Ralph Nader plays the role of the citizen avenger – the populist uninterested in wealth and materialism, pretending to live in a modest apartment. In fact, he lives in fancy homes registered in the names of his siblings.

There are those who criticize the Christian Church for being full of hypocrites. The truth of the matter is that churches are indeed full of hypocrites - I'm one of them. The difference between the hypocrites in the Church and the hypocrites in Hollywood is that mature Christians and healthy congregations recognize their hypocrisy and desire to rid themselves of it because it is a poor witness for Christ. There may be some in Hollywood who have repented as such, but by and large this is not the case.

Oddly many who criticize the Church for its hypocricy worship at the altars of the silver screen and the boob tube. They fail to recognize their own hypocricy. Instead, I suggest they delude themselves in order to find an excuse to not give up what they mistakenly believe are the more enjoyable things in life. Such things fail to satisfy human longing for security in our relationships. The only one who can satisfy this longing is the One who created social relationships in the first place...and He's no hypocrite.