Blog Archive

Followers

Come Reason's Apologetics Notes

Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

Powered by Blogger.

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Not to Get Mad When Talking with Non-Believers


The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to recognize same sex unions across the country has changed our nation. Corporations and government institutions that had previously provided an appearance of neutrality displayed their applause by adopting a rainbow colored version of their logos on social media and their web sites. The White House became the Rainbow House both virtually and in reality for an evening. Of course, many people followed suit and also cheered for the decision.

I believe that the Supreme Court decision will cause more discussions about the nature and definition of marriage, not less. Like many contentious issues of our day, this will cause emotions to rise, quickly devolving disagreements into exchanges that are more venomous and less Christianly. I was speaking with one online friend who told me how difficult it had been for him in such exchanges. He admitted, "I worked so hard to show [their] flawed thinking but they refused to see their error. I know I'm not ready for debate because I get too angry."

It is difficult to engage others when passions are high. It is harder when the other side has produced a rather consistent campaign of name-calling ("bigot, hater!") that slander you instead of wrestling with your arguments. But just as we are told homosexual practice is wrong, we are also commanded to love our enemies.

How do we do this? We must look at others and see them the way Jesus did. The Woman at the Well was a bit arrogant with Jesus. She was flippant in their exchange, even though she was the one who had a problem with morality and keeping a husband! Yet, Jesus didn't yell at her, he loved her but stood firm in his conviction.

Dallas Willard explains this approach:
We must see the soul and the person in its ruined condition, with its malformed and dysfunctional mind, feelings, body, and social relations, before we can understand that it must be delivered and reformed and how that can be done. One of the greatest obstacles to effective spiritual formation in Christ today is simple failure to understand and acknowledge the reality of the human situation as it affects Christians and nonChristians alike. We must start from where we really are. And here we recall that all people undergo a process of spiritual formation. Their spirit is formed, and with it their whole being. As I said earlier, spiritual formation is not something just for especially religious people. No one escapes. The most hardened criminal as well as the most devout of human beings have had a spiritual formation. They have become a certain kind of person. You have had a spiritual formation and I have had one, and it is still ongoing. It is like education: everyone gets one—a good one or a bad one. We reemphasize that those are fortunate or blessed who are able to find or are given a path of life that forms their spirit and inner world in a way that is good.1
Jesus saw the woman at the well as someone who didn't know about the things of God. In talking with her, Jesus was able to lead her to repentance. Whenever I engage others online or in person, I've found it better to see people as deceived. They're deceived by the world, by the Devil and by themselves. Like a young child, they are simply regurgitating a lie they want to believe. That's the beginning of compassion.

References

1. Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs: Navpress. 2002. 45.
Image courtesy Jessica Flavin [CC BY 2.0].

Sunday, June 28, 2015

How to Debate Same-Sex Marriage After SCOTUS



This afternoon, I had a mini debate on Twitter with a gentleman about same-sex marriage. I wanted to reproduce it because it was a good and respectful dialogue; these are the kinds of conversations that help clarify Christian beliefs and positions to those who may not be familiar with all the reasons why so many are deeply concerned about the SCOTUS decision to redefine marriage.

To set up the conversation, I had tweeted an article entitled, Labeling peaceful proponents of traditional marriage “religious extremists” is as misleading as it is mean-spirited. That lead to Chip's first comment:
ChipSalonna: Labeling it "traditional marriage" is as funny as it is misleading. http://t.co/7qEomYUJlm

Comereason: No. Marriage has been traditionally recognized as one thing for all of human civilization...
However, I use the term natural marriage because there a biological component involved as well.

ChipSalonna: Riiiight. Ever hear of Mormons? Or Muslims? Or Solomon?

Comereason: Yes, I have. So?
Can I ask you a question? How many wives did a Mormon or a Muslim or Solomon need to take before he was considered married?

ChipSalonna: After the first wife, how many more wives did a Mormon or Muslim have to take before they weren't considered married anymore?

Comereason: You make my point. The reference to traditional marriage is not a reference to NUMBER, but to the TYPE of union. 1 man, 1 woman..
2,000 years of western civilization is enough to claim something is tradition(al). Still, natural marriage a better descriptor.

ChipSalonna: So, you're ok with polygamy/polyamory? I find it hard to imagine that's true but I can't wait to see where this goes.

Comereason: No, I'm not Ok with it. It is a deviant form of marriage, a distortion of the ideal. But it is a kind of marriage.

ChipSalonna: "Deviant". But "traditional". At least polygamy has THAT going for it.

Comereason: None of this is relevant to whether the union of two people of the same sex should be called a marriage.

ChipSalonna: See my other tweet w/link to Wikipedia.

Comereason: It's easy to Google things and Wikipedia is notoriously inept at being factual in hot button issues.
For example, Rome had marriage laws spelled out in the patria potestas, but those laws did not apply in same sex issues.
I agree that Greece, China, and even parts of India today have homosexual relationships. No one called it marriage, though.

ChipSalonna: As you wish. We call it "marriage" now.

Comereason: Do you have a Social Security number?

ChipSalonna: Rhetorical. What's your point?

Comereason: How many Social Security numbers should each person in the U.S. have?

ChipSalonna: [Waiting...]

Comereason: The IRS reports that there are many thousands of people who are issued multiple SS#'s. It doesn't make any of those NOT a SS#.
Further, you SHOULD only have ONE. But they are all real SS#s. What you are trying to argue is that because there have been...
...multiple SS#s in the past, its OK to call a driver's license a SS#. Both are identification, both issued by the govt.
There are so many similarities, who cares about the little differences?

ChipSalonna: I get the point with your analogy. And I've already accepted that you view 1MnW as "deviant" but "traditional". The *big*...
...difference is that we're talking people &their feelings & freedoms, not numbers or pieces of paper. I assume that...
...ultimately you view SSM as bad b/c God says so. So, here's a hypothetical for you. If God came to you and said "Hey,...
...Lenny, the Bible had a few mistakes with the homo stuff. It's really ok for them to get married." Would you continue to...
...make the "secular" arguments you're making now?

Comereason: You're absolutely right that this isn't about pieces of paper but about people. We can agree on that.
My argument isn't just procedural. I'm concerned about the people involved. Do you know why Govt got involved w/marriage at all?
Or (to be more specific) why they continue to be involved?

ChipSalonna: I'll come back to your question. But would you abandon your arguments given God's "retraction"?

Comereason: Actually, the Bible really doesn't say anything about same sex unions. If we were discussing a purely civil contract...
...such as CA's civil unions, I wouldn't be fighting it--and I didn't when it was passed. Marriage is different, though.

ChipSalonna: So, you consider your arguments to be *purely* secular? You don't trace any anti-SSM thoughts back to God? Truly curious here.

Comereason: No. I believe all truth is God's truth and he designed the world to run a certain way. We get a clearer picture from the Bible.
But I believe I have arguments that can be accepted even if one doesn't hold to the Bible as a moral principle....
... Marriage has a consistent basis across all cultures and all faiths. Thus I can offer secular arguments.

ChipSalonna: Ok, so in my hypothetical, if God "clarified" the issue, you'd have to say your secular arguments were somehow wrong. Yes?
(Not a trap. Just getting a clear picture.)

Comereason: I don't doubt your sincerity. I'm just trying to understand. I have a hard time seeing how that would be possible, though...
Human beings are created in a specific way. God would be saying something that argues against his created order.
The only institution that all of humanity has recognized as proper to creating and rearing children is the family. That's it.
The primary reason Govt gets involved is for the welfare of the child. That's why deadbeat dad laws are on the books....
The Govt recognizes marriages because it then knows who he responsible parents are for the child, unless otherwise stated.

ChipSalonna: Except that you said biblical teaching isn't clear on the marriage issue.

Comereason: I said God didn't explicitly say "no same sex unions." The Bible is clear on sexual activity between those of the same sex.

ChipSalonna: So, it seems to matter little (from a secular point of view) whether we're talking about civil unions, marriage or shacking up.

Comereason: I don't gamble and I don't drink but I'm not pressing for prohibition.
I don't condone shacking up, but there should be no law against it.
There's a difference between tolerating an action and changing the definition of an existing institution.

ChipSalonna: I meant civil unions, marriage or shacking up w.r.t SSC.

Comereason: Right. All of those are in a different category from marriage.
But it hurts kids. It takes two people to create them, yet they're denied the right to have even a chance at a mom & dad.

ChipSalonna: Gotta run. It's been fun. I'm sure we can have Round 2 later.

Comereason: I really appreciate the respectful tone, Chip! That's why I'm willing to converse. Thanks for that.

I want to again thank Chip Salonna for his respect and genuine sincerity in trying to at least understand my positon. he is to be complimented for being a gentleman.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What About Slavery in the Bible? (video)



"Why would a God of love allow the Israelites to won slaves, even giving them laws on ownership?" It seems to be a common objection by some who seek to demonstrate that the Bible is incoherent. However, as Lenny explains in this short video, the concept of slave in the Ancient Near East wasn't the same thing as it was in the pre-Civil War south. It was much broader, including serfdom and share-cropping type relationships.


Friday, June 26, 2015

C.S. Lewis on the Drive for Sexual Happiness


For today, in the wake of the expected but still tragic Supreme Court ruling regarding homosexual unions, I offer two C.S. Lewis quotes. The first, taken from God in the Dock, is Lewis’ expounding on our drive for the erotic concept of love above all else. He was concerned with the rise in divorce rates and the ever-present excuse that people "deserve to be happy." Yet, by reducing love to erotic passion, it paved the way for this morning’s decision by the Court. Lewis explains:
If we establish a "right to (sexual) happiness" which super­sedes all the ordinary rules of behaviour, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while the bad behaviour is real and works miser­ies and degradations, the happiness which was the object of the behaviour turns out again and again to be illusory.1
Such a view coincides with the plans of the Devil, who seeks to corrupt and usurp the institution of marriage and the blessings it holds. In his famous The Screwtape Letters, Lewis in the voice of the demon Screwtape, explains to his young apprentice that the forces of evil cannot create pleasures in and of themselves. Thus it has always been the objective of the Evil One to twist and malign marriage until it becomes something unrecognizable:
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfy­ing form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not OURS. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the plea­sures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any plea­sure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens our Father's heart.2
My country has now crossed a threshold where we have taken the natural good that is marriage and shaped into that in which it is least natural and least redolent of its Maker.

References

1. Lewis, C. S. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology. Cambridge: Eerdman’s, 1970. Print. 351.
2. Lewis, C. S. "The Screwtape Letters." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. Print. 210.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Do We Defend Christian Values to Non-Christian Audiences?


In anticipation of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I've been posting and teaching on how to address the issue with friends and family. One example is the recent video series I taught and posted on Facebook (which you can see here.) Most people are interested in ways of approaching this subject in a thoughtful way while countering the narrative that being against same-sex marriage laws somehow means Christians are bigoted. They see examples such as this ways to open discussion with others.

However, I did receive a few responses from people who wrote something to the effect of "All we need is the Gospel. Share the Word with them." I've run into such thinking before, with those who question the necessity of rigorous training in logic and apologetics. They think such things are "of men." They admonish me and other believers to simply let loose the "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17) to fight our battles.

How's That Working for You?

I think such talk is sincere but misguided. First of all, we live in a post-Christian culture. The Bible is not taken to be the final answer on issues such as same-sex marriage. That's why if I quote the Bible to a person who supports homosexual unions, it really doesn't sway them at all. In fact, many times it solidifies their stance since they see themselves as more modern and progressive than some 2,000 year-old book.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the changes of belief about this issue can quickly see my point. We've been offering Biblical admonition against homosexuality and same-sex marriage for over 30 years. Which way did the culture shift? Which way did the Church shift? According to a newly released Pew study, over 60% of Catholic and mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage.1 Even among Evangelicals, the support for same-sex marriage has DOUBLED in the last ten years.2 All this even though the scriptural admonitions against homosexuality are clear and have been discussed repeatedly, especially in churches.

In the words of Dr. Phil, "How's that workin' for ya?" I can answer that: it isn't.

Scripture is Not a Spell

While I do believe that the Christians who think quoting scripture is the proper way to face these questions are sincere, they are trying to make scripture into something that it is not. They think scriptures are some kind of secret weapon that cannot be resisted. They see it as a sort of mystical summons of the Holy Spirit who will magically change those with whom they're engaging; a few phrases that one only needs to voice in order to change people's hearts and minds.

But "the Word" is not a magical incantation and it's wrong to think of it that way. Such is an unbiblical view of scripture itself. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the one who transforms lives. It is he would is responsible for our understanding our sinfulness and our need for Christ. But that doesn't mean the Spirit will reshape every unregenerate idea, even among believers. That's why Paul didn't quote scripture to the Athenians in Acts 17 when he witnessed to them. Instead, he used popular poets and thinkers they were familiar with to make his point. When Paul was held prisoner in Jerusalem, he didn't quote scripture to his captors, but appealed to Roman law (Acts 22:25) in order to escape flogging.

As Christians, we are to follow Jesus's command to be salt and light on the earth. Part of being salt is to stem the decay and corruption from evil. That's why Christians need to engage this issue. We need to arm ourselves with ideas that can resonate both inside the church and with nonbelievers. In matters of political consequences, such as abortion, we must be able to show thoughtful nonbelievers why the Christian position is the right one. We can only do that by knowing and presenting the facts of the issue at hand.

References

1. "Changing Views of Same-Sex Marriage." Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Pew Research Center, 08 June 2015. Web. 25 June 2015. http://www.people-press.org/2015/06/08/section-1-changing-views-of-same-sex-marriage/.
2. "Changing Views of Same-Sex Marriage," 2015.
Image courtesy Mike Haufe and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) License.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
Check out more X