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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 www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Interestingly, The Telegraph's competition, the Times had reported the day before that 1,000 Muslims were legally practicing polygamy within the borders of the U.K. According to The Times, "Under British law, husbands and wives can have only one spouse at a time. Multiple simultaneous marriages constitute bigamy, a criminal offence." Britain's official position is to dissuade multiple marriages by only allowing entry into the country only one wife of a husband. However, other wives may enter separately through a student visas and other means. Adding to the problem is the fact that some Muslim communities within the U.K. hold unrecognized polygamous marriage ceremonies, so the true extent of polygamous marriages cannot be clearly ascertained.
Polygamy is a big concern for Britain, because families receive a housing allowance from the government based on the dependents in the house and if a husband has multiple wives, the family receives a larger allowance. But, that's not the only concern. Polygamy is illegal in western cultures because it is recognized as being inherently dangerous to women – putting all the power in the relationship within the control of the husband. Many marriages are arranged without the wife's consent and there is a real danger of unpleasing wives being abandoned by the husband, with no protections for her continuing welfare.
"The Government has no grip on the situation," said Humphrey Malins, the former Shadow Home Affairs Minister and founder of the Immigration Advisory Service. "This is quite clearly exploitation of women."
I note these facts to show the continuing dichotomy in thinking among those whose worldview is based on relativism. 51 people were killed in London by an indigenous Islamic terror cell in 2005. The British government is understandably uneasy about Islamic leaders who are promoting violence as an answer to what they perceive as threats against their religion, yet Britain's academic community feels that this would cause undue bigotry against what may be innocent followers of Islam. However, when a true moral concern such as polygamy is the focus, the concern over whether the individual's welfare is being harmed, in this case the woman's, their protection is secondary to the civil liberties of the community as a whole.
You can see how relativism begins to really confuse the conception of morality. Since there is no consistent application of standards, protecting the possible persecution of an individual is held in one instance, but disregarded in another. Of course, the Islamic community doesn't suffer a similar confusion. Islam teaches an absolute morality. We see this most clearly in the third news story I saw, this time from the Jerusalem Post. The story tells of how a man was arrested in Mecca this week. His crime? He was a believing Christian in a city so holy only Muslims are allowed entry to it.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Many were worried that Superman was too much of a "Boy Scout" for the modern era. So director Bryan Singer makes Superman a little more self-absorbed and brooding. And of course, the movie ends with the revelation that Superman has an illegitimate child – some boy scout!
In contrast, Spider-Man 3 is different. Although there were some sappy elements, I was struck by the marked undercurrent of Judeo-Christian values in the film. The film opens with Spider-Man reveling in the fact that he has become a pop-culture celebrity, and Peter Parker lets all the fame and adulation go straight to his head. But the main focus of the film is how one can let their darker feelings control them or they can choose to overcome them.
Regardless of circumstances (symbiote or not), ultimately each person is in control of their own actions and feelings. In a culture where we are all victims, blaming our culture, economic status, or even the pressure of everyday life ("you just don’t know what I’m going though!!"), it was refreshing to see on screen someone who says none of that matters – I still am the one responsible for my own actions.
When Superman Returns was released last summer, many reviewers caught the not-so-subtle symbolism of Superman as a type of Christ. Singer decided to lay on the mythic elements of a savior since he is the only son of Krypton and he goes away for a while, only to return. However, Singer, being raised a "secular Jewish kid" really got a lot wrong. The new Spider-man really comes much closer to a Christian worldview in that it shows we all have a dark side, we all need to mind it, and everyone needs help. The vulnerability of Peter Parker shows how much all of us, no matter how super we are, are in need of a true Savior.
Friday, June 16, 2006
As I said, she had been having a lot of difficulty digesting the concept of the Trinity. This is not unexpected. The Trinity is a difficult concept to grasp, even for Christians. I don't believe we'll ever fully understand it, even after we're with the Lord. However, that doesn't mean we should dismiss the idea as incomprehensible. The woman I spoke with told me that she had been asking Christians to better explain the Trinity for over eight years, and no one had ever been able to give her a satisfactory answer. Eight Years! Most, including pastors, when pressed for an explanation of the Trinity simply responded that "some things are just a mystery". Obviously, that wasn't good enough for her, but to her credit, she kept seeking.
Now, as I said, we don't fully comprehend the Trinity. But I believe we can apprehend the basic concepts and show that they aren't contradictory. In my talk with her, I highlighted the fact that a being is a single entity – something that has an essence. A being is a separate idea from personhood, which entails a center of consciousness. I also offered Frank Beckwith's example: a plant is a being with no personhood, a human is a being with one personhood and God is a being with three personhoods. God is single entity, but has three centers of consciousness – which is why the Son could pray to the Father and talk with the Spirit.
All of this is to exemplify my point that diligent study of the tough issues in theology is necessary for our evangelism. I haven't yet heard back from my discussion partner, but she said after our talk that for the first time she had received a response she felt gave her some answers. Because I had some credibility, I was also able to share God's plan of salvation with her. Now, she has a more informed view of two aspects of Christianity that she can think about and weigh more carefully. I will pray for her to come to that saving knowledge of Christ.
Knowing something about the Trinity allowed me to remove a stumbling block and witness more effectively. I pray that as you continue your studies, you will dig into the tough questions and not shy away from them because they are hard work. There can be much fruit gained from plowing rocky soil.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Last week I was invited to give a talk about the problems with Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code at a church up in Visalia. Now, many Christians have been awash in these discussions for a while. There have been so many books published on this one work of fiction that it is dizzying keeping up with the titles – and it has caused many people to ask whether we as Christians are overreacting. I don’t think we are, and I wanted to mention two reasons why this is so.
First, whenever someone of influence makes accusations against Christianity to a wide audience, I believe we have an obligation to offer a counter argument. As Darrel Bock said in his blog, engagement works. If we don’t offer a counter argument, then we’ve effectively allowed the nonbelievers to win unopposed. This hurts our witness and our evangelism efforts both now and in the future.
Secondly, I see these opportunities to demonstrate just how intelligent and justified belief in Christianity really is. In my visit to Visalia, I had the opportunity afterward to speak with a Mormon woman who came out to the event. She told me she had been speaking with Christians (including church pastors) for about eight years and had never received a good answer to how God could be three in one. I talked with her about how those things are not incompatible (see http://www.comereason.org/cmp_rlgn/cmp021.asp for my explanation) and she was grateful. She was looking for an explanation that went beyond “we just can’t understand all the things of God”.
My point in all this is to say that sometimes, these popular issues give Christians an open door. By having intelligent answers on something like The Da Vinci Code people are more willing to engage us on other issues – and allow us opportunity to spread the Gospel.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Below is an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle concerning the recent backlash of a "Christian Youth Rally" that took place within the city of SF.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
THE IRONY was obviously lost on the clueless San Francisco supervisors when they passed a resolution warning that a Christian youth gathering could "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."
Spare us the doomsday hyperbole, supervisors.
We can safely report that the politics of San Francisco suffered no discernible shift in ideological alignment from the convergence of 25,000 Christian teenagers listening to rock 'n' roll music and words of inspiration. There was no evidence of any surge in support for the Iraq war, affection for President Bush or oil drilling off the California coast. The medical-marijuana clubs were still doing business as usual, public dancing was still legal, the petition gatherers were still working Market Street for the latest save-the-planet cause.
The supervisors' reaction to the evangelical Christians was so boorishly over the top that only one word could describe it:
Intolerant.Page B - 6
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was quoted telling counterprotesters Friday that the gathering Christians were "loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting and they should get out of San Francisco." On Monday, however, Leno struck a more reasoned tone, acknowledging that his rally cry was "not one of my prouder moments." He said the youth group was "welcome in San Francisco," even though he does worry that its religious rhetoric could "under a cloak of love" feed a "fearful world's appetite for hate."
In fact, concern about heterosexual sex by unmarried youth gets equal treatment from the Battle Cry campaign. Its goal is to spread Christianity and to help young people recognize and resist the cultural influences of a "stealthy enemy" that includes "corporations, media conglomerates and purveyors of popular culture." Its Web site (http://www.battlecry.com/) speaks of "casualties of war" that include drinking, drug use, teen sex, pornography, abortion, suicide and violence.
We may disagree with certain aspects of the Battle Cry agenda -- on issues such as abortion rights, religion in schools or acceptance of an individual's sexual orientation -- but the attempt by counterprotesters and some of the city's elected officials to call them "fascist" and "hateful" was totally at odds with the tone of the ballpark event and the approach of the Web site.
The gathering was not an "act of provocation," as the supervisors claimed. It was a get-together of young evangelicals whose lifestyles and religious views just happen to be in the minority here -- apparently making them open season for politicians to chastise.
The young people who came to San Francisco to affirm their faith and enjoy a day of rock music deserved better. They deserved to be welcomed by a city that was as tolerant and progressive as its sanctimonious supervisors like to profess.
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