Blog Archive


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, June 30, 2014

Does the Resurrection Require Extraordinary Evidence?

I recently was invited to a meeting where several Christians were discussing the existence of God and the reasons they hold to Christianity with a group of atheists and agnostics. Eventually, the point about Jesus' resurrection was raised. When this issue was brought up, one of the skeptics said, "this is an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence."

Now, I'm not sure how it follows that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In fact, when you think about it, most extraordinary advances in human knowledge came without extraordinary evidence, but merely the supporting testimony of others who were eyewitnesses to the achievement. When Admiral Peary was the first to cross the North Pole or Sir Edmund Hillary scaled Mt. Everest, these were reported in newspapers all around the globe, but what was the evidence offered? Eyewitness testimony.

Now, granted, these kinds of achievements are somewhat different from the claim of the resurrection because they're repeatable - others have gone on to duplicate them. But my point is that when they were accomplished the first time, no one asked for evidence above and beyond the testimony of those who accompanied these men. That type of evidence was sufficient.

Another difference, though, may be in the fact that one could argue that while those achievements are remarkable, it is nonetheless conceivable that someone could accomplish them. All the facets for so doing (the strength, planning, etc.) already exist within humanity. Something like the resurrection, however, is on a vastly different plane: it's something never before seen in history. Well, let's look at another investigation that would also be on a vastly different plane, the search for intelligent life in outer space.

Searching for Extraterrestrial Life

The existence of life on other planets is a very controversial topic. There exists good research by scientists who have looked at the number of factors required for any life to exist have noted how incredibly balanced all things must be for living things to survive.1 Therefore, they highly doubt that intelligent life could exist elsewhere in the universe. However, there are other real scientists who are right now engaged in the search of extraterrestrial life. The project is called SETI and is funded largely by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

If you ever saw the movie Contact, starring Jodie Foster, you would be familiar with the SETI project. SETI stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, and these scientists aren't just looking for life, but intelligent life - aliens who can communicate with us. If they were to claim that they've found intelligent alien life, it would be an extraordinary claim.

So, how do they hope to prove that such life exists? Do they seek some extraordinary evidence, such as a flying saucer or to display the creature in front of the world? No, they simply point giant radio dishes to the heavens and listen for signals. In the movie Contact, the signal was something as banal as a set of blips in the sequence of prime numbers. This is not "extraordinary evidence". The scientists are simply looking for a signal that cannot be considered random - signals that hold information and therefore imply an intelligent mind. This is very standard evidence; the same type archaeologists look for when trying to understand ancient cultures.

Evidence that Explains the Observable Phenomena 

The reason the SETI scientists are looking for information-bearing signals in outer space is because the explanation for the existence of that signal can only be intelligent life. I guess one may surmise that a group of natural events could happen simultaneously to generate a signal that produces the first ten prime numbers or something like that, but that does not strike me as a reasonable explanation. For one thing, it's too ad hoc. In other words, it's so unlikely and contrived that it seems to be forced and not the way we see the world really work.

When trying to understand the historic claim that the resurrection of Jesus really happened, we must look to see if we have good evidence for it. Much like the SETI project, if the only workable explanation for that evidence points to a resurrection, then we are reasonable in believing that the resurrection did occur. It's not required for us to have "extraordinary evidence", but reliable evidence where the resurrection fits all the facts better than any other. If a competing theory is offered that also fits all the facts, then it should also be considered and both explanations should be weighed to see which is more likely.

I believe that we have such facts in the historical accounts of Jesus' resurrection. We have strong reasons to believe Jesus was crucified and was buried, that His tomb was empty, skeptics James and Paul  were converted, and the unwavering belief of the Apostles that they were eyewitnesses to the risen Christ. According to Dr. Gary Habermas, these are well-established historical facts accepted nearly universally by both liberal and conservative scholars.2 The question then becomes, what is the best explanation to fit these facts? Perhaps Jesus really did not rise from the dead - but then how do you explain the empty tomb? How do you explain the conversion of Paul from a zealous Jew and church persecutor to the biggest proselytizer the Christian church had?

Just as SETI, these evidence we have is not extraordinary in itself, but it is extraordinary in the fact that it leads to only one conclusion - that a man really did rise from the dead 2000 years ago and proved it by showing himself not only to His followers, but to His persecutors as well. There is no other explanation that fits the facts.


1. See John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. (New York: Oxford University Press,1988 ).
2. Habermas, Gary R.  and Michael R. Lincona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.
(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Pub, 2004.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Afghanistan Across the Street

Missions work can be exciting and exotic. Visiting foreign lands and experiencing different cultures emphasizes some of the differences people have even though we all have much in common, like the love of family, the desire to prosper, and the need for worship. Different cultures have different worldviews.

The phrase "mission opportunities" frequently triggers thoughts of faithful souls braving cultures unfamiliar with Christianity. The Joshua Project defined any nation that has less than a 2% Christian as an unreached people group.1 Nations like Afghanistan, Iran, and Somalia fit this category.

Christless Counties in Utah

You wouldn't have to go as far as Africa or the 10/40 window to find an unreached people group, though. This week I have taken a group of students to Sanpete County in Utah to witness to Mormons. Sanpete County has a population of almost 28,000 people and according to Tri-Grace ministries less than 1% of the people who live here are Christian, and Sanpete County isn't the only county in Utah where that's true.2 That means in the Unite States of America there are several large geographic areas that contain unreached people groups.

My experience in talking with people this week has proven that out. All the Mormons I talk with not only don't know any Christians, they completely misunderstand Christianity. They are convinced that Jesus taught eternal marriage and that we all existed as spirit children in a pre-mortal state. They believe that Christian ministers, being paid, must be in ministry for the money. They think that the Book of Mormon is comparable with the Bible and they think that Jesus taught one must perform certain works in order to be in the presence of God. Mormons I've talked with don't say "we were married in Salt Lake"or "we were married in Manti."They say "we were sealed in Manti."

This grieves my heart. One high school student who lives here told me today that when they were studying Martin Luther in her class as student exclaimed with amazement, "Martin Luther believed that you can get to heaven by faith alone?"The teacher affirmed her incredulity by answering, "I know, right?"The basic concepts of Christianity were as foreign to them as Arabic.

Making No Assumptions

Of course, it's easier to approach the people of Utah. I didn't have to learn a new language, eat strange foods, or figure out what cultural triggers are insulting. I can talk sports or child-rearing with the folks here just as I do my neighbors. And that is my point. No Christian should assume that just because you share a common bond with a neighbor or acquaintance you should never assume they know even the basics about the Gospel. Even those who use Christian phrases may not know what the gospel truly is.

I am very proud of these kids that took a week out of their summer to come to Utah and begin to reach these unreached people. They are amazing. I hope to lead many more trips out here during the year. If you or your church is interested, please contact me to discuss what's involved. It's the least we can do for those who are as desperately lost as those who live on the other side of the world.


1 "Definitions." The Joshua Project. Web. Accessed 6/28/2014.
2 "Field Demographics.” Tri-Grace Ministries. Web. Accessed 6/28/2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Book of Mormon Shows Joseph Smith to be a False Prophet

Last night on the streets of Manti, I had an interesting discussion with a man about his beliefs and the Book of Mormon. He was older, in his sixties, and he had been studying the book fervently. Born and raised in Utah, he came from a multi-generational family that was faithful to the LDS. He said that he had to read the book "hundreds of times" before he could truly understand it, but he now does and it drove him to some interesting conclusions. One of the most surprising admissions he made to me was that the later revelations of Joseph Smith were wrong and he was a false prophet!

A statement like the one above strikes people as counter-intuitive, but I actually agree with the man. If you were to read the Book of Mormon alone, you would never arrive at Mormon doctrine. In fact many passages in the Book of Mormon directly contradict the later revelations that Smith taught, even regarding the nature of God Himself.

Eternal Progression

The central concept of LDS theology is the doctrine of eternal progression. That doctrine teaches that God is a man who was a faithful Mormon in his physical life and has now been exalted. As the LDS prophet Lorenzo Snow famously put it, "As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be."1 While Snow coined that phrase, he didn’t create the doctrine. Joseph Smith originally taught this idea in a very famous sermon known as the King Follet sermon. There, Smith in his office of prophet who is to present the revelation from God Himself, Smith teaches:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.2
Smith goes on to explain that "you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves" in order to have eternal life.

The unchanging nature of God in the Book of Mormon

The teaching of the exaltation of God from a man is in direct contradiction to Smith’s Book of Mormon, though. Moroni 8:18 declares, "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity."3 Mormon 9:9, borrowing from the book of Hebrews reinforces the idea that God is changeless. "Do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing."4  According to the Book of Mormon, then, Joseph Smith’s teaching that God was once a man is false.

It is interesting that Joseph Smith prefaced his remarks about God by saying how important it is to get the doctrine correct. He put it in no uncertain terms:
My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is; and if I am so fortunate as to be the man to comprehend God, and explain or convey the principles to your hearts, so that the Spirit seals them upon you, then let every man and woman henceforth sit in silence ... But if I fail to do it, it becomes my duty to renounce all further pretensions to revelations and inspirations, or to be a prophet; and I should be like the rest of the world—a false teacher.5
I believe Smith is a false teacher.  The man with whom I was conversing did as well, however he still held to the Book of Mormon and claimed that Smith was called to be a translator, not a prophet or political leader. I think that someone who claims to be a prophet and is proven to be false would not be used of God to reveal his word. That’s pretty simple since the definition of a prophet is someone who reveals the word of God to the people. Smith is a false teacher, and none of his teachings, including the Book of Mormon should be trusted.


1. The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow. (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012). 83.
2. Smith, Joseph, Jr. "The King Follett Sermon." Ensign Magazine. April 1971. Web. Accessed 27 June 2014.
3. Smith, Joseph. "The Book of Moroni." The Book of Mormon Online. (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Web. 2007. Accessed 27 June 2014.
4. Smith, Joseph. "The Book of Mormon." The Book of Mormon Online. (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Web. 2007. Accessed 27 June 2014.
5. Smith, Joseph, Jr. "The King Follett Sermon." Ibid.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mormon Testimonies and the Feedback Loop

Yesterday, on our Apologetics Missions trip, I took the team to Salt Lake City to visit Temple Square. We talked with a couple of Mormon missionaries there who were very nice and showed us some of the grounds. One of the missionaries explained that one aspect of the weekly Mormon church service was to offer their testimony. The LDS web site defines a testimony as "a spiritual witness given to an individual by the Holy Ghost… that Joseph Smith is a prophet, which God called to restore Jesus Christ's church to the earth; that we are led today by a living prophet; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's Church restored on the earth today."1

The missionary explained that everyone was to offer their testimony at some point. On the first Sunday of the month, in the Mormon sacrament meetings, the attendees are encouraged to share their confirmation of the truth of Mormonism.2 Those who teach are also encouraged to share their testimonies to one another.3

Later, when I was asking a few questions, I had said that I understood God and heaven differently than the LDS doctrine she had stated and I explained how the Bible promises that not just my family would be together in eternity, but that I would have a relationship with all the saints in Heaven, and we would be closer than even my family and I am now. This obviously caused some significant problems because shortly afterwards, I was warned by Mormon security that I am not allowed to share my testimony with the missionaries. Basically, they require visitors to just listen to missionaries talk about their faith; it should never go the other way. It seems that the Mormon church's use of testimonies in their services are a lot like that feedback loop.

The Feedback Loop

I've been a professional musician for over thirty years, so I know a little bit about feedback.Some people may not know the term feedback, but you are probably familiar with the concept. Feedback is that high-pitched squeal that gets really loud and hurts everyone's' ears. Sometimes it comes from a guitar but you more often hear it coming out of the PA.

Feedback is caused when a signal amplifies itself. Singers will use wedge speakers on the floor to project their voices and the music back at them for a reference monitor. If the singer's microphone isn't positioned correctly, it will catch the monitor's sound output and send it back through the PA, amplifying it again. Of course, you can see where this will lead: as the monitor gets louder, the mic catches more signal and sends it back to the PA which then sends a louder signal back to the monitor and everything begins to increase exponentially until either the speaker blows out or someone's eardrums do!

The Mormon use of testimony is a lot like a feedback loop. Good Mormons will stand up and share how they "know" that the Mormon doctrine is true because of the feelings they have. This truth-bearing isn't based on scholastic research. As the Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains, "Latter-day Saint missionaries, in particular, rely on testimony bearing, rather than on logic or artifice, to reach their listeners."4 So testimony isn't about logic. But the result is that people hear other's unwavering devotion to Mormonism and they don't feel like they are good Mormons unless they have a testimony to offer as well.So, just as everyone's life looks a lot more perfect on Facebook than it is in reality, the Mormons' use of testimony simply makes doubt or questioning seem foolish or unholy. Testimonies simply amplify the one message the Mormon church wants people to hear: that it is beyond question.

Ultimately, I believe this is one sign that Mormonism is a cult. When another person explaining his understanding of spiritual things is questioned by security because he dared do so on Temple grounds, it raises suspicion. When the security guard told me that we are not allowed to share our testimony, it revealed what the practice of testimony really is: to keep the faithful Mormons faithful and only hear the message the church wants. But, like that signal from the PA, you don't get truth from a feedback loop. Ultimately, you end up with a lot of noise that will hurt people.


1. "What is a 'testimony' that Mormons speak of?" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Web. Accessed 6/26/2014.
2. Christensen, Clayton "Testimony Bearing." Encyclopedia of Mormonism. (New York : Macmillan, 1992) 1470. Digital version may be found at
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of Pageants and Propaganda

Yesterday, we arrived in Manti for the first night of our Apologetics Missions Trip. Each year for two weeks in June, the LDS Church hosts The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, reenacting Joseph Smith's claims of visions from God, an intricate history of ancient Israelites transplanted to the Americas with wars and revivals, and the ultimate exaltation of faithful Mormons to Godhood. It was a big production, with thousands coming out to watch each night.

The interesting thing about this performance is it fits the same mold as other official church "biographies" produced about Joseph Smith and the Mormon church. Every one I have seen really whitewashes the history of Smith and his followers, and falsely characterizes what traditional Christianity teaches. I get that people want to hold their leaders I high regard, but Smith is clearly inhuman in LDS presentations. Even in the Bible, the Apostle Peter is shown as a flawed man who denied Christ in Jesus' hour of trial. This is peter, the one whom Jesus called "rock", the one whose declaration of Jesus as the Christ prompted Jesus to respond that His entire church would be built on it.

I think many people relate to Peter in the Bible not because he was given such revelations from God, but because he was so flawed and carried away by his emotions. Peter was a "ready, fire, aim" kind of guy; he said what he felt at the time even when it was wrong. I think that's why so many people relate to him so well; he was human.

We see none of that humanity in Joseph Smith. Instead he is portrayed in mythic form, like Hercules. Smith is portrayed as pious at the tender age of fourteen and the play's script hammers home this point with a narrative that has Smith clinging to his first vision "in spite of persecutions and threats of death." Of course, it wasn't the first vision that upset the people of Illinois and Missouri so much. It was the fact that the Mormons were polygamous, which endangered their daughters, and later they were politically manipulative, controlling the vote.1

Beyond the fanciful representation of Smith, the retelling of the Book of Mormon's account of the history of the Americas. As the tale unwinds of the great civilizations of the Nephites and Lamanites who go to war again and again, with various revivals and fallings away, and with the supposed appearance of Jesus on this continent to establish His church here, it becomes clear just how mythical the story is. Forget the fact that there is no archaeology to support any recognition of any civilization advanced as the Book of Mormon claims. Forget the fact that there isn't a shred of DNA to show the native American peoples were of Semitic descent. The Book of Mormon has huge historical anachronisms that show it couldn't be an account written in the time period given.

One of the biggest was on full display at the Pageant as the supposed ancient faithful continued to proclaim that they had established themselves on this continent for the reasons of worshipping the true God, practicing the true faith and pursuing freedom and liberty.2 As Americans, we understand the idea of freedom of religion and freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, but such words don't fit in a civilization existing about one hundred years before Christ. Those are words coming from the American revolution. They are a out of place as someone today finding a supposedly ancient scroll from Egypt and translating it to say that someone chose to open a home office. They also repeated the canard that people who lived prior to Jesus would claim the name Christian. As I've explained before, this makes no sense at all.

I had the opportunity to talk with a Mormon couple before the pageant and asked them why they were Mormons. How did they know that this is the true faith? Although they were both raised Mormon, the wife said that there was a time when she had to "investigate these things for herself." She ultimately admitted that the truth value of the entire LDS faith rests on the truth or falsehood of the Book of Mormon's claims. "If it isn't true, then everything we've been teaching in our churches and classrooms is wrong." I agree with her. The question is only will she be open to investigating the facts instead of her feelings towards her church?


1.In Joseph's Smith's idyllic community of Nauvoo, Illinois, even some of his followers including publisher William Law grew increasingly disenchanted with the changes that Smith was instituting, including such political manipulations. Law published a single edition of the Nauvoo Expositor that highlight's Smith's interests with politics. In the online copy found here, he writes:
The next important item which presents itself for our consideration, is the attempt at Political power and influence, which we verily believe to be preposterous and absurd. We believe it is inconsistent, and not in accordance with the christian religion. We do not believe that God ever raised up a Prophet to christianize a world by political schemes and intrigue."
2 Alma 43:47-48 specifically uses the concepts not only of freedom from bondage, but the idea of freedom of religion and liberty, wording more indicative of a 9th century author rather than an ancient author.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changing Lives Through Apologetics Missions Trips

As you're reading this, I will have already hit the road, leading a group of students from Harvest Christian Fellowship to Utah for one of our Apologetics Missions Trips. You may wonder what exactly an Apologetics Missions trip is. Basically, it's a way to train Christians on how to discuss and defend their faith while witnessing to those who need to hear the Gospel.

The idea is simple: take Christians out of their familiar environment and place them in a location where the vast majority of people do not believe as they do. This helps the students see what the world is like from a non-Christian viewpoint; it takes them out of their bubble and out of their comfort zones. Then, we teach them how to respectfully and graciously interact with others on campus or our on the streets and we set them loose.

We've taken such trips since 2010, going to such diverse areas as UC Berkeley, Salt Lake City, and Dearborn Michigan (a predominately Muslim community). The results are astounding. Kids learn not only to support their own worldview, but they see how atheists or those with different faiths are not equipped to answer the hard questions themselves. We don't pull punches on these trips, either. For Berkeley, we brought in Richard Carrier to address the kids, as well as a couple of notable atheists. In Michigan, we brought in a Muslim apologist. In Salt Lake, we went to the center of Mormonism at the Temple Square and interacted with the missionaries assigned there.

In each outing, I've seen our students become more confident and more assured that the Christianity they hold is true, it not only holds its own against these different worldviews, it offers a much better explanation of how the world works. These kids now know how to answer questions on matters like moral absolutes, the Trinity, the exclusive claims of Christianity and so much more.

Another amazing aspect of the trips is the ongoing witnessing opportunities the kids have. Students will continue conversations they started by e-mail after they return home. I've talked with kids who have continued to witness to those they've met for over a month afterward! The ministry opportunities are great.

This year, we are heading to Manti where thousands of Mormons come to witness the Manti Miracle Pageant, which reenacts the trek of Mormons for Missouri to Utah. We will be on the streets each night, talking with Mormons and asking them if they believe that joseph Smith was a prophet and why. Check back here as I provide daily update.

If you or your church is interested in participating in an Apologetics Missions Trip, just drop me a note at and I'll be sure to get back to you. To support such trips, please click the donation button at the bottom of this post.For now, I will leave you with a letter I received from Skyler, a young girl who participated in our Dearborn trip last year. She writes:
Hey Lenny,

I thought you might find it interesting to hear an update on what positive outcomes have come from last year's trip to Dearborn. I have made good friends with two different Muslim girls whom I met there. I have an opportunity to go back to Dearborn next month with Ministry to Muslims. While I am there I am planning to hang out with my Muslim friends that I met there last year on our trip.

Aside from that, through the connection of some of the Christians we met in Dearborn I have made more connections to various ministries in the Arab world and have now received a brand new opportunity to go to Lebanon, which I am prayerfully pursuing. Please be encouraged in your ministry, and know that God is truly using it in mighty ways.

Last year's mission trip to Dearborn has completely changed my life in the most glorious of ways! I am praying that God will continue to use these trips to positively affect the Kingdom in many more ways.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Do Homosexual Couples Value Women Less?

What a mess in Texas. Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs are homosexual partners who decided they wanted a family. Because the two men cannot procreate with each other, they enlisted an egg donor and a surrogate who gave birth to two boys, one sired by each man who was listed as that child's father on the birth certificate along with the surrogate. Hanna and Riggs wanted to adopt each other's boy so they could be legally recognized as parents; however a Texas judge disallowed the listing.1

This whole issue is a mess and it grieves me that Hannah and Riggs don't like the ramifications of their choice to be a homosexual couple. Part of choosing a homosexual relationship is knowing that one can never naturally produce children. It simply cannot be. Instead, they decided to father children through artificial means. This means that the two men enlisted the aid of at least two women in their desire to create children, one or more as the egg donor and another woman to carry the babies to term.

The fact that women are necessary to the child-bearing process shouldn't surprise anyone; even a third grader can tell you that every baby had a mommy and a daddy at some point. But Hanna and Riggs really don't like that reality. They are trying to manufacture a family while still holding onto their male-only relationship. But the question then arises: If a mother is necessary for the first nine months of human development, why would anyone think that she is optional for the next eighteen years? Why are the same feminists who scream because there are no women priests not screaming when two men appear before a Texas judge and say, "We would like you to legitimize our choice to deprive two children of their biological requirement for a mother"? Of course, they didn't put it in those terms, but that's what is implied by the action. Hanna and Riggs think that women add nothing essential to the proper development of human beings. Two people are all that matters, even if they are the same sex.

As an aside, why two? Where does the idea of a couple come from? That is also a result of biology, because only one man and one woman can procreate. You can't get a child with one or three. But if one ignores biology it could be one or five or perhaps even the government itself.

Perhaps that's the solution; take all biology out of the equation, have the government create the babies and assign them to people. Everyone gets the same chance that way and orientation or fertility never come into play. Or, we can say that we feel for the individuals who cannot conceive, but such a solution is worse than the affliction.

Riggs has protested the court decision, claiming that it isn't good for the babies. "Ultimately, we're talking about is what's better: one parent or two parents. For me it's two parents. It's a no-brainer."2 If Riggs was thinking about what's better for children, then he should have thought twice about the surrogacy itself. As I've written before, children from sperm donors don't do as well as children from biological parents.  Also, Mark Regenerus' huge study comparing same-sex families to natural families underscores the fact that if one wants the best outcome for a child, they should be reared with a mother and a father.

 I therefore think that it is right for the judge to rule as she did. Interestingly, I think a case can be made that those who hold to natural marriage as the appropriate environment in which to rear children actually value women more than those lobbying for the legal rights of homosexual men adopting children. Natural marriage proponents see women as irreplaceable—irreplaceable!—in the development on young lives. While some children may tragically lose the opportunity for a mother, to create that scenario by design strikes me as cruel.


1 Jehangir, Mariam. "Texas Judge Denies Gay Couple Legal Parenthood of Biological Sons." First to Know. Web. 18 June 2014. Accessed 23 June 2014.

2 Ibid.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Challenge of Islam (podcast)

Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, but is still a mystery to most Christians. Is it a religion of peace and a breeding ground for terrorists? Join us as we examine Muslim beliefs and discuss how to effectively witness to Muslims.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Keep Your Maybes Away from Our Babies - Arguing when Life Begins

It is a common bromide for people to claim that taking a secular approach to moral issues is better since secular positions aren't as biased by dogma. They claim religion will yield conclusions that are unscientific and unproven. The abortion debate is a perfect example, with the pro-abortion side creating placards of "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and other nonsense.

However, in the last couple of weeks it has been telling how much pro-abortion supporters don't want to face science; they are looking increasingly desperate in their attempts to shove the question of when a human life begins into the domain of dogma. The whole thing started when Florida Senator Marco Rubio made the statement, "Science is settled — it's not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception."1

Rubio is right, of course. Take any human being and trace their point of origin and that being begins his or her existence at the point of conception. A fertilized egg, left to its natural progression, has all the information within itself to develop into a fully functional human being. Pulling just one quote from many, The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines an embryo as "An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus."2 This seems like a no-brainer, right?

As you can imagine, the pro-abortion crowd went into overdrive to try and counter Rubio's assertion. Phillip Bump of the Washington Post went to a single source (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Hal C Lawrence, III, MD) and derived a comment of when pregnancy begins, not life. Bump then concludes, "'Life' is something of a philosophical question."3 Planned Parenthood's president Cecile Richards at first refused to answer the question of when life begins, claiming it is a question "that will be debated through the centuries."4 She then said that for her her three children weren't alive until they were born.

While folks like Mollie Hemingway over at the Federalist has done a good job taking apart the claim of no scientific consensus, I wanted to approach the view from another angle. If the beginning of life is something that can be debated and relativized for each person, then it stands to reason that the end of life can also. If science cannot determine if a human zygote is alive, then they cannot identify the clear signs of life at all. So, does that mean that death is a "philosophical" question that doctors cannot answer? Should doctors refrain from judging a person who claims his beloved wife is not dead? How can one pronounce a scientific assessment of death, given all its ramifications, for such a philosophical issue? Perhaps every hospital should have a staff philosopher on hand to help declare things alive and things dead!

Determining life is actually easier than determining death, as two separate entities (egg and sperm) come together to form a new thing. Death doesn't always offer such a clear hallmark; there are cases where it is difficult to determine whether or not a person is dead. However, those are usually dealing with rare situations involving minutes or hours. A person who is dead for a week is definitively dead. In that sense it makes it even less plausible to beg off the beginning of life as "philosophical" while trying to retain a medical standard for the cessation of life.

It's obvious that pro-abortion advocates are running scared in this line of questioning. They are making bad excuses and trying hard to marginalize a significant question of human existence for political and profit motives. They are trying to create a new dogma about life, while seeking to ignore the clear science that agree with the position of those who hold to the biblical view of human life beginning with conception.


1 "Rubio: It's 'the left' that denies 'scientific consensus' — on abortion." Speed Reads. THE WEEK Publications, Inc. Web. 15 May 2014 Accessed 20 June 2014.

2 Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993. 146 Taken from "Life Begins at Fertilization." Princeton University. Web.

3 Bump, Philip. "Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did." The Washington Post. Web. 15 May 2014.. Accessed 20 June 2014.

4 Ernst, Douglas. "Planned Parenthood president: Start of life not ‘really relevant' to abortion discussions." The Washington Times. 28 Feb. 2014. Web. Accessed 20 June 2014.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Evidence of Life's Design Fits Like a Glove

I recently wrote a post on how the origin of life argues for God's existence. In the comments section, one person replied, "I wouldn't say intelligent design is 'a priori' forbidden, but I would look for the design. Is there a map, or some kind of blueprint? Is there some kind of scaffolding left over from the construction phase? These are things we're actually looking for." Well, scaffolding doesn't continue to exist even on buildings we construct today, so that may not be the best indicator. However, other indicators of design do exist, and one points clearly to the need for a designer.

Most people realize the importance of proteins to life. Proteins make up muscle and tissue of organisms. They even form even the walls of cells, including single-celled organisms. Without proteins, life simply cannot exist. There are many different proteins, however all proteins are built with the use of only about twenty smaller units, known as amino acids.

Amino acids are interesting molecules, in that they are not all shaped the same way, even when they have all the same chemicals. They are known as chiral molecules, which means their structures have direction. One illustration that is often used is to look at your left and right hands. Even though each of your hands has four fingers and a thumb, they aren't the same. A left hand won't fit into a right-hand glove. Amino acids are like your hands; they have a "handedness" to their shape.

The Origin of Life Flips Heads Thousands of Times

Chiral amino acids tend to occur naturally in equal numbers. Just as one would expect to find about as many left hands as right hands in any random sample, nature produces an equal number of "left-handed" and "right handed" amino acid types. The left-handed and right handed versions of these amino acids have the same chemical properties, but here's the interesting thing; only left-handed (levorotatory) amino acids are the ones used to build the proteins needed for life. This means that under random conditions, you have about a 50% chance of a left-handed acid being used in the construction of a protein as well as about a 50% chance of a right-handed acid being used. Each will bond equally well to the backbone. Yet, if you were to mix these acids, you're going to do grave damage to the protein.

 Life requires all the same-handed amino acids to be chosen, but to assume that such a feat was accomplished thousands of times without someone screening out the right-handed acids stretches credulity to its limit. According to this podcast with bio-chemist Dr. Charles Garner, scientist working in laboratory conditions haven't even been able to come close to any model where such an event would happen. Just as any coin that consistently turns up heads would be evidence of tampering, so too does the same-handedness of amino acids.

DNA and RNA - The Other Glove Drops

Some may at this point argue that it is because of DNA or RNA that the left-handed acids are chosen for building proteins. But DNA and RNA have the same issues themselves. The nucleotide chains that make up these molecules are all right-handed! So if one were to start with a nucleic acid to build proteins, it still requires a model of selecting only right handed acids, even though there's a 50/50 chance of getting a left-handed one there. The problem still exists, and it is possibly made worse given the simplest life forms require some hundreds of thousands of base-pairs within the genome.

In all, we have only right-handed nucleotides able to give the instructions for forming proteins and only left-handed amino acids to be used in creating those proteins. Yet all of this was to have happened through mechanical processes with no intelligence involved. In any other field of study, such evidence would be clearly identified as purposeful organization. There is no reason to not count it so here, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Natural Marriage: Crucial to the Survival of a Culture

The same-sex marriage debate continues to rage and many of its proponents paint the conflict in individual terms. They ask, "How could you deny two people who love one another the same chance at happiness as anyone else?" They argue that marriage is based on a legal understanding of union, and if one were to change the laws in a state or country, it would simply open the door for more people to be happy.1 However, this is a woefully simplistic view of both society and the law. Those who argue for maintaining a natural view of marriage are not trying to stifle anyone's happiness; they are seeking to guard our society from the dangers that accompany any weakening of the understanding of marriage.

When one claims that "marriage is the building block of society" it's important to understand just what this means. The first communal unit in human history was the family. Families grew into tribes, tribes grew to communities, and communities grew to cities, states, and nations. But the core relational unit that binds all these relationships together is the family.2 This means that the family is the building block of society. Without a man and a woman joining together and rearing children, a society simply cannot survive.

The conclusion that the natural union of a man and a woman is at the basis of continuing our civilization is not mine alone. Paul Nathanson is a sociologist, a scholar, and a homosexual. However, he voices grave reservations about the concept of homosexual marriage. Nathanson has identifies at least five functions that marriage serves and are functions that every culture must have in order to survive and thrive. They are:
  • Foster the bonding between men and women
  • Foster the birth and rearing of children
  • Foster the bonding between men and children
  • Foster some form of healthy masculine identity
  • Foster the transformation of adolescents into sexually responsible adults 3
Note that Nathanson considers these points critical to the continued survival of any culture. He continues "Because heterosexuality is directly related to both reproduction and survival, ... every human society[y] has had to promote it actively . ... Heterosexuality is always fostered by a cultural norm" that limits marriage to unions of men and women. He adds that people "are wrong in assuming that any society can do without it." 4

Nathanson has partnered with fellow Canadian scholar Katherine K. Young to author "Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage." There, Young and Nathanson put forth an excellent case why heterosexual marriage needs to be not only protected but encouraged by society in order for the society to survive. They state:
Although no particular culture is genetically encoded, the ability and need to create culture is genetically encoded. We are equipped and even driven by nature, paradoxically, to be cultural beings… culture is not a superficial veneer on something more primitive and basic, in short, but a defining and fundamental feature of human existence.

Because heterosexuality is directly related to both reproduction and survival, and because it involves much more than copulation every human society has had to promote it actively (although some have allowed homosexuality in specific instances.)"
Young and Nathanson then conclude, "Heterosexuality is always fostered as a cultural norm, in other words not merely allowed as one 'lifestyle choice' among many"5 (emphasis added.)


1. "Getting married means that things are legal, and you are protected by the law" stated Anne Kester when asked about her relationship that was legally recognized in the Netherlands. The quote appears in the Nov. 20, 2003 Christian Science Monitor
2. For one example see _Evolution of Human Societies_ by Allen W. Johnson and Timothy Earl
Stanford Univ. Pr; 2nd edition (November 2000)
3. Nathanson, Paul as quoted in "Questions and Answers: What's Wrong With Letting Same-Sex Couples 'Marry?'" by Peter Sprigg
4. Ibid.
5. Young, Katherine K. and Paul Nathanson "Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage" Sept. 29, 2003

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Understanding Intelligent Design

One of the hot-button issues Christians face today is the conflict over evolution. Proponents of a naturalist/materialist worldview have sought to explain all of life's origin and complexity in purely mechanistic terms. Christians believe that life originates with God and the laws He put in place. Because of this, the argument has been framed as a one of science versus religion, but that dichotomy is a false one. Religion doesn't sit in contrast to science and evolution has many unexplained precepts that are assumed to be true.

There is another way of looking at the question, though. We can simply look at the data we do have and ask "is life more likely to be the result of only mechanistic processes, or does it show the earmarks of an intelligence?" This isn't a religious question; whenever forensic investigators discover a body, it is the question they ask. Does the evidence show that the person died of natural causes or was there an intelligence who set things in a certain order to cause the person's death? If the answer is there seems to be an intelligence at work, then the death is classified as a homicide, even if no one know who the killer was.

Similarly, if we look at the evidence for origin and complexity of life on earth and see signs of an intelligence, it makes sense to conclude that life was intelligently designed, even if that investigation doesn't identify who the designer is. This is the basis of intelligent design and it is what separates ID as a theory from a religious belief.

A couple of years ago, some students wished to interview me for a project they were working on concerning the theory of intelligent design. I thought they asked pretty good questions that help to clarify just what intelligent design is and why it is worthy of inclusion in science education, so I thought I'd share them here.

1. Do you consider intelligent design a scientific theory? Why or why not?

Yes, in a broad sense. Scientific theories try to discover and explain why we see the material world the way it is, how it functions and what predictions can be made based on that knowledge. Intelligent design wrestles with those same questions starting with the same evidence.

A very famous proponent of evolution, Dr. Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, had published his theory on how evolution is the driving force behind the complexity we see in living organisms today in a book called The Blind Watchmaker. Given the same initial starting point, intelligent design proponents argue that the blind watchmaker hypothesis has many problems and intelligent design offers better explanatory value and broader explanatory scope than Dawkins’ model.

Given that both theories are seeking to answer the same questions and they are looking at the same evidence, it stands to reason that both can be classified as the same field of study. If Dawkins’ evolutionary model is considered science, so should ID. ID does not need to identify what that intelligence is (e.g. a specific "god" of any faith), but much like forensic science, it simply posits that the evidence is best explained originating from an intelligence rather than random, purposeless mutations and natural selection.

A similar example would be the scientists who are involved with the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project. These scientists search the heavens looking for information rich, complex signals. If they were to hear such a signal, they would posit that it was generated from an intelligent mind. Similarly, ID scientist look at the information rich, complex structure of human DNA and draw the same conclusion. If the SETI researchers are considered scientists and their pursuits are science, then it follows that the ID scientists are similarly doing science.

2. What is your definition of intelligent design? In other words, what do you understand it to mean?

Intelligent design simply looks at the state of living organisms on our world today and, given the fact that life shows specified complexity, holds information-bearing DNA, and the improbability of life coming from non-living matter, concludes that an intelligence is the best explanation for the origin of that life.

The intelligent design movement may include young-earth proponents, old-earth proponents and theistic evolutionists, but it does not argue for any of these positions. It merely states that intelligence rather than randomness is the best explanation for the origin of the universe and complexity we see in life.

3. The Golden Ratio (Phi) has often been cited as evidence of intelligent design. Do you believe this is valid evidence? Why or why not?

No. It would not be uncommon to see certain mathematical ratios repeated throughout a three dimensional universe that share the same physical laws. This "evidence" is not associated with the intelligent design movement, but is offered by only one subset of creation proponents. It is therefore unfair to associate this line of argumentation with all of the ID movement.

4. Should intelligent design be integrated into biology curriculums at schools? Why or why not?

Part of the nature of science is to better our understanding of the world by examining currently held beliefs in the light of new evidence and new theories. We may hold to a theory that has widespread acceptance (such as the infinite age of the universe) until we uncover new evidence (such as Hubbell’s red-shift) which argues for the universe having a beginning. At that point, it is in the best interests of science to jettison the theory that provides less explanatory values and smaller explanatory scope for a more robust one.

The ONLY way science can advance is by examining competing theories in this way. Given that the blind watchmaker hypothesis has some clear problems explaining certain facets of biology, such as the specific nature of DNA, the creation of life from non-living matter and the observation of irreducibly complex mechanisms within living organisms, it cannot be considered a complete theory and other ideas should be sought out. We may find new evidence to further secure the current hypothesis OR we may find new evidence to disprove it and adopt a model such as intelligent design. However, to not teach the valid objections to evolution that ID proponents have raised does science no service and actually will hinder our growth in understanding of biology.

   4a. Is it supported by valid scientific evidence?

ID scientists are real scientists and their objections to the blind watchmaker hypothesis have been found through valid scientific research. Some examples are:
  • The fact that amino acids which make up the building blocks of life have chirality (handedness). Although they appear in nature in equal proportions, those found in life are left-handed. Random bonds in the "primordial soup" would not generate all bonds of a single handed set of amino acids.
  • Evolution argues that natural selection leaves only those changes that provide beneficial to the organism and these changes happen in small, successive steps. However, the recent recognition of irreducibly complex systems (such as the flagellum, of an e. Coli bacterium, which requires over seventy different molecular parts) that have to be present all at the same time argue against such small successive steps.

5. What are your views on evolution? Is it credible scientific theory?

It depends. The word has been over-used and normally is not clearly defined.  Micro-evolution, the idea that with a species adaptations occur within specific limitations (such as the length of finch beaks, the color of moths, or the height of dogs) is widely accepted and uncontroversial. That is credible. That makes sense.

Macro-evolution, however, doesn’t deal with the evolution of a species within itself, but rather the evolution of one family turning into another completely different family (i.e. a fish evolving into a reptile). The DNA required to produce a feather is different from the DNA required to produce a scale, and since DNA is a message system containing information, one should not assume that such information arose by chance. By its very nature, information is not random, but purposeful.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Should We Honor Single Moms on Father's Day?

You may think this article is a day too late, and perhaps it is, but I'm writing this as a reaction to what I've seen by well-intentioned Christians in response to Father's Day. Yesterday, people in over 75 countries set aside one day to recognize the importance and contribution of fathers, while many others set aside a different date for the same purpose.

But what is it we are celebrating about fathers? Many would say it is a time to recognize all the great things that their fathers have done for them. I understand that, but then how does Father's Day differ from a person's birthday celebration? Isn't that where one would be feted for his or her contributions to loved ones? Mother's Day and Father's Day are nationally recognized holidays, so do they mean something more than simply a flagpost for individuals to pour whatever meaning they desire into it?

I believe the extolment of fathers has become more crucial in our culture than ever. Much of this is due to the marginalization of the role of the father in society, a point that many Christians are inadvertently guilty of themselves. I know of several people who, while being very well-intentioned, sent the message that fathers were not essential to the rearing of children. Message such as "Happy Father's Day to all you single mom's out there" were prolific. But such messages say one thing: fathers are not necessary. It may be harder if you are a single mom, but by celebrating a single mom on Father's Day, you are really saying that she can do both jobs. It is tough, but she can do it!

Why Fathers are Unique

Before we go much further, please realize that I understand the difficulty single mothers face. I was raised in a broken home. I get it. But there are very specific things fathers offer that are impossible for anyone else. Three very specific ways fathers are essential are that they provide a stability to the family that no one else can provide, they show commitment in a way that only fathers can, and they model aspects of God as Father that are impossible for mothers to so do.

1. Fathers provide family stability in a way that mothers cannot alone.

There has been study after study and one thing is clear: the single greatest factor that accounts for the well-being in the development of a child is whether or not they come from a home where both biological parents are present. Children from single-parent homes will suffer much higher rates of poverty, substance abuse, imprisonment, and suicide.1 Children with biological fathers are much less likely to suffer from abuse; even those homes where a non-biological male is present.2 Father s are necessary because they help stabilize the family. They take on the burden of providing and protecting the mother as well as the children, which alleviates some of the burden that mothers face, allowing them to focus on other aspects of rearing the children. They provide another voice from a male perspective on the issues related to rearing children and they can encourage risk and "boyish" behaviors that women may misinterpret.

2. Fathers model commitment in a way that is unique.

A second aspect that is unique to fatherhood is that fathers must commit to their families even though they are one step removed from birth. A father's commitment to take the responsibility for his children gives recognition to the fact that such life that came from one's own body, even though that fact isn't immediately visible. Biology makes it easy to see the physical bond between a mother and her child; even after birth nursing connects the two. But it is certain that a father is as necessary component for the life of an individual as a mother. Fathers must consciously choose to dedicate themselves to their families.

It is the commitment to the well-being of one's progeny above one's own interests that makes a father someone unique. Mothers have a similar commitment, and both, in my opinion, should be expected of any responsible member of society. But because the bond between father and child are different than those of mother and child, the way that commitment is expressed is different. Each is important. Studies show that the father's relationship with a child shapes their long-term ability to attach to others far more than the mother's.3 Children need fathers to learn how to feel secure in their relationships.

3. Fathers model God's faithfulness in a way that is unique.

In a very real way, fathers are an earthly example of God's love to His children in heaven. It is God's dedication to us, even when we're unfaithful to Him (see the prodigal son parable in Luke 15:11-32) that is the model for earthly fathers to follow. Those men who abdicate their responsibility are damaging their children spiritually as well as physically.

So, on Father's Day, I think it is important to say that fathers are not unnecessary. While single motherhood may be difficult, we shouldn't diminish the role of the father. It is only when we recognize the role of the father as something that can never be substituted with anything else that we will begin to reestablish the proper importance of fathers in the eyes of culture.

It wasn't until 1972 that Father's Day was recognized nationally by President Richard Nixon. Nixon even invoked scripture in his proclamation:
To have a father—to be a father—is to come very near the heart of life itself.

In fatherhood we know the elemental magic and joy of humanity. In fatherhood we even sense the divine, as the Scriptural writers did who told of all good gifts coming "down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning"—symbolism so challenging to each man who would give his own son or daughter a life of light without shadow.

Our identity in name and nature, our roots in home and family, our very standard of manhood—all this and more is the heritage our fathers share with us. It is a rich patrimony, one for which adequate thanks can hardly be offered in a lifetime, let alone a single day. Still it has long been our national custom to observe each year one special Sunday in honor of America's fathers; and from this year forward, by a joint resolution of the Congress approved April 24, 1972, that custom carries the weight of law.

This is fitting and good. Let each American make this Father's Day an occasion for renewal of the love and gratitude we bear to our fathers, increasing and enduring through all the year.4
I agree.


1. "Statistics." The Fatherless Generation. Web. Accessed 6/16/2014.
2. Zuckerman, Diana PhD and Sarah Pedersen. "Child abuse and father figures: Which kind of families are safest to grow up in?" National Center for Health Research. Web. Accessed 6/16/2014.
3. Grossmann, Karin, "The Uniqueness of the Child–Father Attachment Relationship: Fathers' Sensitive and Challenging Play as a Pivotal Variable in a 16-year Longitudinal Study." Social Development, Volume 11, Issue 3, pages 301–337, July 2002.
4. Nixon, Richard M. "Father's Day, By the President of the United States of America." 1 May 1972.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Problem of Evil - The Free Will Defense Explained (video)

Why would God allow evil and sin to plague humanity? In this short clip, Lenny explains how God's desire to create creatures that truly love Him means that God must allow those creatures the freedom to choose. That means they could also choose to rebel. This clip is taken from a longer teaching entitled "How Could a Loving God Allow Evil in the World?"

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Rise of the Anti-Hero

"If a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation."1 – Andrew Fletcher.
It is no secret that we're in the midst of a cultural revolution. As western society pushes more aggressively towards post-Christian secularism, we are beginning to see changes in more obvious ways than before, so much so that others are beginning to take notice.

An Op-Ed column by writer Greg Burke appeared  in today's Los Angeles Times entitled "Disney's 'Maleficent': Romancing the devil." There, Burke observes that the movie company known for its family-friendly fare is now "risking the wrath of monochrome Christians everywhere."2

Disney has portrayed evil with interesting specificity in previous films. Even in 1940's Fantasia, evil demons in the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence were clearly depicted, especially when juxtaposed with the hallowed blurriness of "Ave Maria" which is supposed to counteract the evil frivolity. For fallen men, evil is always easier to see than holiness.

But, as even Burke notes, in Malificent there's a fundamental shift in the understanding of evil. Not only does he claim that "Jesus has lost some reputational ground," but he believes "It's easier to identify with a Maleficent than a messiah."3 He writes:
Once a force of pure evil, the demonic Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) has morphed into a sympathetic Earth goddess akin to Demeter, cursing yet protecting her Persephone-like surrogate daughter, the sleeping beauty Aurora.

In endowing the horned Maleficent with motherly love, veteran Disney writer Linda Woolverton takes a stance similar to that of Scandinavian/European black-metal bands such as Immortal, Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth: They embrace darkness in order to align themselves against those who claim to represent the "Light" — the legions who invoked Christ while destroying primeval cultures and slaughtering the metal folk's tribal forebears. Maleficent's brutish screen opponents, crowned with medieval helmets, lack only crosses on their chests to identify them directly as Crusaders.4
The mistaken history and pejoratives aside, I think Burke is onto something and this change in the public's self-understanding is not exclusive to Disney. The anti-hero is the rule of thumb in entertainment today. One has to look no further than hit television shows such as Dexter, Breaking Bad, or The Walking Dead to see how heroes with moral clarity have been replaced by protagonists (if one can use the word) who week after week are playing by their own rules and using demonstrably evil means to achieve their individual ends.

In Book II of The Republic, Plato was deeply concerned with the popular entertainment of his day. He felt that the stories people told had a profound impact on the society as a whole. He states that the most stories were having a corrupting influence on those who partake of them by not only being false, but offering dangerous lies by making what is naturally bad good and vice-versa . He calls such corruptions "ugly and immoral as well as false—misrepresenting the nature of gods and heroes, like an artist whose picture is unlike the object he sets out to draw." 5

Unlike Plato, I don't see state-governed censorship as the solution. However, while our entertainment reflects our declining values, it also reinforces those "ugly and immoral as well as false" views on just what a hero should be. We know that children who watch these shows are affected in many ways,6and such representations are multiplying exponentially. I think it demonstrates that we are truly in an age that Paul warned us of in II Timothy 3.

We need good, educated Christians and apologist to not only debate Christianity's values in the public square, but we need more educated Christian artists to create thoughtful entertainment that can support and exemplify Christian principles. Otherwise, we may lose our culture entirely.


1 Fletcher, Andrew M. An Account of a Conversation Concerning a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind. Volume 11. (Edinburgh, 1704.) 10. Available online at
2 Burke, Greg. "Disney's 'Maleficent': Romancing the devil." The Los Angeles Times. 13 June Web. Accessed 13 June 2014.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Cornford, Francis MacDonald. The Republic of Plato. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.) 69.
6 Wilson, Barbara J. "Media and Children's Aggression, Fear, and Altruism." Children and Electronic Media Volume 18 Number 1 Spring 2008. The Future of Children. Web. Accessed 13 June 2014.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How will children be valued if Christianity is lost?

I've written before about how modern culture takes for granted many of the values and benefits that are specifically rooted in Christianity.1 Christianity has single-handedly improved the world in multiple ways. One very clear example of that is how Christians were unique in abolishing infanticide and child abandonment.

George Grant in his book The Third Time Around  writes, "Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children." 2 Alvin Schmidt agrees, writing:
Frederic Farrar has noted that "infanticide was infamously universal" among the Greeks and Romans during the early years of Christianity. Infants were killed for various reasons. Those born deformed or physically frail were especially prone to being willfully killed, often by drowning. Some were killed more brutally. For instance, Plutarch (ca. A.D. 46 - 120) mentions the Carthaginians, who, he says, "offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan" (Moralia 2.171D). Cicero (106 - 43 B.C.) justified infanticide, at least for the deformed, by citing the ancient Twelve Tables of Roman law when he says that "deformed infants shall be killed" (De Legibus 3.8). Even Seneca (4 B.C.? - A.D. 65), whose moral philosophy was on a higher plane than that of his culture, said, "We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal" (De Ira 1.15). So common was infanticide that Polybius (205? - 118 B.C.) blamed the population decline of ancient Greece on it (Histories 6). Large families were rare in Greco-Roman society in part because of infanticide.3
Schmidt goes on to catalog that this practice wasn't reserved by the ancient near-eastern societies but that  "it was common in India, China, Japan, and the Brazilian jungles as well as among the Eskimos" as well as the pagan parts of Africa until Christian missionaries reached them.4

Grant goes on to list some of the Christians who changed this practice, even to their own detriment. He writes:
The heroes of the faith who demonstrated the grace of Christ through such deeds of kindness during the apostolic era were legion:
  • Addai ofEdessa was one of the Apostle Thomas's earliest disciples. Sometime at the end of the first century he was sent to what is now Urfa in Iraq. There he established the church and launched innumerable evangelistic enterprises. He also was forced to confront the barbarous program of child limitation and elimination practiced in that region. Eventually, he was martyred for his refusal to temper his pro-life fulminations.
  • Benignus of Dijon was a missionary from Lyons who was martyred in Epagny in the late second century. He was renowned for his generosity and charity especially to the sick and suffering. A mob of superstitious citizens in that pre-Christian Gallic region slew him because he nursed, supported, and protected a number of deformed and crippled children that had been saved from death after failed abortions or exposures.
  • Callistus of Rome was a Christian slave who was imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor in the Sardinian quarries late in the second century after becoming involved in a scandalous financial scheme. After his release he was emancipated and put in charge of the church's shelter and cemetery on the Appian Way which still bears his name. He faithfully occupied himself with his duties-caring for the poor, comforting the bereaved, and giving refuge to the dispossessed. His compassion for abandoned children was especially noteworthy-it was Callistus that helped to organize the famed "Life Watches" that placed hundreds of exposed children into Christian homes. Eventually, he was chosen to serve as Bishop of Rome.
  • Alban of Verlamium is widely venerated as the first Christian martyr on the island of Britain. During the last few decades of the second century he offered refuge to those fleeing the persecution against the church. He succored the sick, cared for the poor, and saved abandoned children from certain death. Bede the historian records his brutal martyrdom on Holmhurst Hill after he tried to intercede on behalf of a pitiful family of refugees.
  • Late in the third century, Afra of Augsburg developed a ministry to the abandoned children of prisoners, thieves, smugglers, pirates, runaway slaves, and brigands. Herself a former prostitute, she cared for the despised and the rejected with a special fervor, taking them into her home, creating an adoption network, and sacrificing all she had-that out of her lack they might be satisfied. Ultimately, her work came under the scrutiny of the authorities, and she was martyred during the great persecution of Diocletian.
  • George of Diospolis, patron of both England and Lebanon, was a Christian soldier who gained fame after several daring rescues of children in distress. He was known as the "Dragonslayer," not so much because of exploits with rare and dangerous reptiles, but because of his willingness to snatch innocent life out of the jaws of death. Eventually, he too fell victim to Diocletian's wrath in the persecution of 304, and was beheaded in Nicomedia. Later, innumerable legends made much of his exploits-romantically associating him with damsels and dragons-but it was his willingness to risk all for the sake of the sanctity of life that earned him his place in history.
  • Barlaam of Antioch was a cobbler for the imperial forces who devoted all his free time to the care of orphans and widows in his church. Because he himself had been saved from the infanticide wall outside the city, he was especially concerned for exposed children. Even though he was not a pastor or church leader, his good deeds were so widely known that the enemies of the faith sought to have his witness silenced. During the calamitous persecution in 304, they succeeded in having him martyred.5
It is Christianity's view that every person bears the image of God that stopped the horrific practice of killing or disposing of infants. As our culture now seeks to abort Christianity from its social moral fabric, they also abort the foundation that roots the equal value of all human life. How will the weakest among us fare in such an expulsion?


1. For an extended quote on this from scholar Alvin J. Schmidt, see my previous post "The Effects of Jesus on the Western World."
2. Grant, George. The Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement from the First Century to the Present (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Pub., 1991).27-29.
3. Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).49.
4. Schmidt. Ibid. 5. Grant. Ibid.27-29.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Watching The Car Crash of Colleges Purging Christians

Imagine living in a town with a moderate population of 20,000 people. The town has several traffic signals that seem to take far too long to turn green. Townspeople complain that the signals are slowing down their commutes, even when no one else is on the road. Why should they be held up when they have important things to do?

The city council members, hearing from this vocal minority and wishing to be reelected, begin to justify the idea of removing the signals and selling the idea to all the townspeople. Drivers are smart; they will be careful when crossing the intersection, they argue, because no one wishes to get into an accident. They will slow down and stop, giving deference to others who were there first.

So, the leaders issue a command to take down the signals, proclaiming that everyone now has more freedom. They can now enjoy an unencumbered driving experience and they may make better time since they don't have to stop unnecessarily. They even begin to say that commerce should increase because of the time savings.

As you can imagine, that isn't going to be what actually happens. More people begin to traffic through these intersections because there are no signals and those in a time crunch think they can save a few seconds off their commute. Accidents at the intersections go up; sometimes this is because a rogue speedster simply didn't want to stop, but more often because everyone has a different opinion of who was to have the right-of-way. Stymied, city officials decry the actions of anyone who gets into an accident and set up special panels to fund out why drivers wouldn't stop. They then begin to focus more blame on sports car owners for being at fault because they obviously want to go faster than anyone else. Why else would they be driving such a performance-oriented vehicle? It's no matter, though. Accidents will continue to rise and people will continue to be hurt.

Today's Colleges Have Removed the Traffic Lights

This is what our college students are facing today. Institutions of higher education used to understand that they had a responsibility to educate the entire person. Part of that education included religious and moral instruction. Alvin J. Schmidt notes that even as recently as 1932, 92% of the 182 colleges and universities in America were founded by Christian denominations.1 However, things have changed. Not only have many of those institutions abandoning their Christian roots but, colleges across the country are forcibly pushing for amore liberal sexual acceptance policy. Even the New York Times is reporting, campuses are ejecting Christian clubs because their stand on sexuality is being classified as “discriminatory.”

At the same time, we are seeing reports that sexual assault on college campuses is rising.2 While some of this is due to sketchy reporting methods, there is no doubt that the number of casual sexual encounters has grown on campuses across the country.

One function of Christian teaching is that it provides certain guidelines on moral behavior. It is like those traffic signals in the parable above. The Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality is that it should be considered holy and exclusively reserved for married couples. But such views make people wait instead of receiving immediate gratification. So, colleges have adopted a position to remove any traffic signals and allow everyone to judge for themselves when and how they should engage in sexual relations. Sexual encounters went up and so did complaints of unwanted sex. Colleges tried to enforce an idea of mutual consent, but what constitutes mutual consent can be interpreted differently by those involved. Policies have been revised (such as Cornell's and Yale's) to say that one must verbally say yes. So, to have sex, the college expects two twenty-year-olds in the heat of passion to go through the same motions as the assent one must give to sit in an emergency exit row of an airplane. But that consent doesn't count when one person is intoxicated. And this is considered rational and based in reality?

Will any of these gyrations matter? Of course not. Just like our imaginary town, there will be legal battles and squabbles, but it should surprise no one when problems go up and people get hurt. Colleges, just at the time where they need clear guidelines to restore order and protect all of their students are removing the last vestiges of restraint they had. It's like watching a car crash in slow motion.


1. Schmidt, Alvin, J. How Christianity Changed the World. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.) 190.
2. Associated Press. “Sexual assault reports on U.S. college campuses increased by 51 percent in 10 years, report shows.” Accessed 6/11/2014.

Photo credit: Damnsoft 09
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