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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 Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

A (Not Too) Serious Christian History Quiz

October 31 is both Reformation Day and All Soul's Eve, a very historic time for Christendom.  The modern church, though, seems to have historical amnesia as to its rich history.  Americans especially, who would never forget the Fourth of July or the Civil War, sit in blissful ignorance of the heritage of their faith.

Therefore I thought today fitting to have a little fun and teach a little history at the same time.  Check out the questions below and see how many people, places and events you recognize. Look up some that you don't. You'll be the better for it!

1. When Christians have a discussion about Origen, they are:
  1. At Comic-Con debating the spelling for the name of the next Christian superhero.
  2. Fighting over how long ago the earth was created.
  3. Trying to discover who invented the first anti-pain dental gel.
  4. Discussing one of the early church fathers and martyrs, who fought against Gnosticism and had controversial views on the nature of Jesus' subordination and the pre-existence of souls.
2. Milvian Bridge is:
  1. A card game Christians used to play to pass time in the catacombs.
  2. The scene of a battle where Constantine converted to Christianity and became sole emperor of Rome, thus allowing Christians to worship openly.
  3. A promising new dental apparatus.
  4. The route one would take to grandmother Milva's house.
3. Arianism is:
  1. The heretical belief that Jesus is the first created being of God the Father.
  2. A love of all things Little Mermaid.
  3. The name given to the Joseph Smith doctrine that only white people can attain the highest heaven.
  4. The heretical belief that the Windows-based font is somehow preferred over Helvetica.
4. The Council of Nicea is:
  1. The first Council which Christians were instructed to "be-a Nicea" to each other (said with an Italian accent.)
  2. A council held just so that The Da Vinci Code could later point to it and say "That's where people decided to choose which books would be included in the Bible" even though the canon was never discussed there.
  3. The meeting where the Fellowship of the Nine decided to travel to Mordor.
  4. The first ecumenical Council, held in 325 AD, to affirm the divinity of Christ and established the official creed of Christendom.
5. The early church father Augustine of Hippo was known for:
  1. His extreme weight, which earned him his surname.
  2. His strange penchant to only write in the eighth month of the year.
  3. Being one of the pivotal fathers of the early church who shaped not only the church, but all of Western thought after him. Among other things, he defined evil as a privation of good.
  4. His love of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, especially that scary part when ears are wiggling and bubbles are blowing.
6. The Hypostatic Union refers to:
  1. How the divine and human natures of Christ are combined into one person.
  2. Emergency Room nurses championing a cause of organized labor.
  3. A new coalition of nations led by Greece and Italy leveraging their financial troubles to make sure the European economy never grows again.
  4. A club of statisticians who record the number of ADHD children across the country.
7. St. Thomas' Five Ways are:
  1. Part of the map showing "all roads lead to Rome." An intersection was later reconstructed in Sydney, Australia based on this model.
  2. A very popular hamburger chain during the Middle Ages.
  3. The instructions on proceeding through a four-way stop in downtown Los Angeles.
  4. Five arguments that serve as proof to the existence of God given the contingency of the observable world. 
8. The Diet of Worms is:
  1. Another name for fish food.
  2. The newest trend from Beverly Hills the Kardashians are selling.
  3. The assembly of the Holy Roman Empire where Martin Luther made his famous stand.
  4. A problem to be wary of when eating in third world restaurants.
9. Pascal's famous wager is:
  1. "Paperboy in the Fifth" – a tip he later passed on to Bugs Bunny.
  2. Betting he can successfully complete his 12-step Gambler's Anonymous program before you.
  3. Believing pale colors would be more popular if they were applied in crayon form.
  4. All men must choose between belief in the Christian God or non-belief. If reason cannot with certainty prove the existence of God, one would be more reasonable to hold to Christianity since if true, one stands to gain infinite joy and there is no downside if false. However, non-belief holds no joy in its affirmation and the danger of infinite suffering if false.
10.   The "Burned-Over" district refers to:
  1. An area of upper and western New York in the early 1800's that had been the location of so many tent revivals it made Charles Finney remark there were was no "fuel" (unconverted people) left to "burn" (be saved).  This area later became the starting point for many American heretical movements.
  2. Another name for the Roman province of Pompeii.
  3. A town of zealots that considers anyone sporting a comb-over an act worthy of the stake.
  4. A very popular dining area that houses both authentic Mexican and Indian restaurants.
11.   The "Great Disappointment" in the U.S. is known as such because:
  1. The Cardinals beat the Rangers in game seven of the World Series, thus allowing Catholics to gloat over Texas Protestants.
  2. Fringe did not air on Fox because there was a game seven of the World Series.
  3. The 1970's camp Christian film "A Thief in the Night" has not been released on HD DVD.
  4. The shattered expectations and falling away from the faith that many believing the teachings of William Miller felt when Jesus did not come back in 1845 as he had predicted.  Miller's teachings later begat both the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
12.   In 1906 the Azusa Street Revival began. It is famous because:
  1. It birthed the modern Pentecostal movement and its denominations.
  2. It started the retro-renewal craze where old town main streets are renovated into shopping malls and condos are sold for overinflated prices.
  3. It kicked off the seeker sensitive concept of churches offering "everything you would want from A to Z in the U.S.A!"
  4. It was the first service to use foghorns to wake up sleeping parishioners during the sermon.
Answers:  1:D,   2:B,  3:A,  4:D,  5:C,  6:A,  7:D,  8:C,  9:D,  10:A,  11:D  12:A.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching What is Unnatural - California and Homosexual Instruction

I hate trying to do a job with the wrong tools. There have been times when, for lack of a screwdriver, I've resorted to a butter knife to try and tighten a screw. If the screw fits tightly, then I usually damage the tip of the butter knife. Using a butter knife as a screwdriver can be done in a pinch, but it certainly isn't recommended and no one would say that screwdrivers make good butter knives. Each was designed for completely different functions.

Distinguishing the functions of butter knives and screwdrivers is a pretty basic task; one we use in making decisions daily. Should someone to run a hair dryer in the shower? Of course not! You can simply look at how these items are built to see their functions.  Electric hair dryers will not function properly in water, it's simple and we consider it common sense.

Now, let's use this same grid when looking at homosexual unions. When it comes to intimacy, we can look and see that homosexual unions cannot function correctly. The parts simply are not there so that intimacy can be achieved and still have the couple's bodies fit as they were designed to fit. It's simply obvious that two male or two female bodies won't couple in the same way. Therefore, homosexuals are forced to find other ways to be intimate. Do heterosexuals practice some of these "techniques"? Yes, they do, but that's not my argument. Just like sometimes using a butter knife as a screwdriver, both heterosexual and homosexual couples can use alternative means to seek sexual fulfillment. However, homosexuals have one aspect of intimacy not available to them that is available to heterosexual couples. That's the natural coupling of bodies to fit in a way that they were designed to fit. This is a huge exception! To not have this aspect of intimacy available to any couple shows that no matter what way homosexuals seek physical intimacy, it won't be the way that nature intended their bodies to be used.

Because homosexuals cannot couple in a way nature intended, it follows that homosexual unions are not natural. Homosexual unions are like construction workers who only have butter knives in their tool belts. Without the tools to function properly, no one would hire such workers to work on his or her home. You would deem them incompetent. Worse, if your son or daughter's shop class instructed the students that butter knives were an acceptable substitute for screwdrivers, you would rightly complain to the principle that unsafe practices are passing as education, and probably pull your child out of shop until the situation changes.

Starting January 1st, though, California mandates that the state's elementary schools teach children, even first graders, that homosexuality is a legitimate way for couples to function.  As this recent L.A. Times article shows, even liberal school who have upheld homosexuality as acceptable are having a hard time figuring out how to work such indoctrination into the classroom. This is simply outrageous. The danger inherent in promoting this line of thinking is far more dangerous than teaching wrong concepts in shop class. This puts the very fabric of our culture in the cross-hairs, and would affect all.

The Times article ends with one of the school staff commenting on just how they will implement the new teaching mandates. "'We're looking for places of natural fit. We're not going to shoehorn in something gratuitous just to make a point.'" And that's my point exactly. The bodies of homosexuals don't fit, the instruction won't fit and entire law doesn't fit. it is a gratuitous law that is shoehorned into teaching standards just to appease  certain segment of the majority party's supporters. We are supposed to teach our kids that doing construction with butter knives is just another acceptable choice, no matter how many fingers you may lose. We should be outraged.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Origin of Life Matters in the Debate on Evolution

There's an old joke which is a favorite of mine. During World War II, the German U-boats were devastating the English efforts by targeting troop ships and disrupting the British supply chain. Supposedly, Churchill was apprised of the situation and asked what could be done to combat these unseen and therefore uncatchable threats. "Simple," Churchill replied. "Boil the seas and the boats will have to surface. Then our fighters can manage them easily." The officers replied incredulously, "How are we supposed to do that?!" Churchill replied, "Look, I supplied the idea; the rest is an engineering detail!"

In my last post, I discussed how many who hold to a neo-Darwinian view will quickly dismiss questions about the origin of life when discussing the viability of that evolutionary model. As I showed there, it seems that the origin of life does really come into play even in the literature of those wishing to promote an evolutionary paradigm, such as the National Academy of Sciences. However, this doesn't really answer the objection offered that the origin of life cannot be used as evidence against evolution since the former is focused on the beginning of life and the latter assumes life already exists and simply seeks to address the diversity of life in the world. Fair enough, let's then address this objection directly.

One of the primary goals for folks like Richard Dawkins and those who support his Blind Watchmaker hypothesis is to show that the incredible diversity of living beings throughout history has been the result of random mutations coupled with specific environmental factors that would cause some of these mutations to remain, since they provide an advantage to the organism. In other words, we are looking at random mutations and natural selection. But, natural selection assumes that there's something to act upon. If there are no mutations, or if the mutations are not wide enough to cause sufficient variation so that natural selection can make a selection, we don't get any change. So, the next question would be, in looking at the diversity of changes and the time allotted, could natural selection do all that work, considering it must first wait upon a random mutation that is also beneficial? This then prompts more questions.

As we start to think through all the questions that this model provokes, one can see that the model must get increasingly complicated. But, a fundamental issue hasn't been addressed—where did the stuff come from to modify in the first place? Not only can natural selection not act when there are no changes, it cannot act if there is no life. That's simple. If I were to go to an auto show and see a new experimental car made out of some unique alloy and ask where did that come from, telling me whether it was put together by robots or by hand doesn't answer my question. My question is who thought it up and how did they develop the new material. The origin of the vehicle is as much a focus of the question as the assembly.

Similarly, when we ask about the origin of life on the planet, taking us back to just a single cell and then looping through a vastly complex set of parameters obfuscates the question of what is necessary for such a theory to begin to function. If random mutations can't start, then they can't help us anymore than the motivations for surfacing in a sub when the seas are boiling. The complexities of forming life from non-life are so much bigger than the changes needed to get from one life to another that if you answer the first, the second would follow in line. It's not much of a stretch to say that if God could create life, then He could create it with diversity. But if we only limit ourselves to genetic mutations and natural selection, we've really not provided an answer. You can draw up battle plans for targeting U-boats once they surface all you want, but until you can boil the seas, they won't provide you with any advantage.

Image "Spirogyra cell". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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