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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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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Whether You Want to Be or Not, You Are Drafted into the War of Ideas

“Boy, I sure wish you could come with me and talk to my college professor!” “If only I had you with me at our next family dinner.” “Wow, I would love to have those guys at work come and talk to you for a while.” Have you ever said or thought a statement like that before? Many pastors and apologists are hearing phrases like these more and more. There are good reasons for why this is so, as students are facing increasingly harsh criticism when standing up for their Christian beliefs.

As a Christian, you're a target for others who hold ideas and beliefs different from you. And because you can’t have an expert beside you all the time, it’s going to be up to you to try and defend what you believe in many situations. Whether you want to be or not, you've been drafted in to a war — a war of ideas! The Apostle Paul tells us the very same thing when he writes to the church at Corinth: “We use God's power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5 CEV)

Those fortresses that Paul talks about, those are the ideas that this world has on how to do things: what’s right, how we should act, how we should treat others, and how our faith fits into the picture. Most of the world's understanding of right and wrong, morality, the nature of man, and how our beliefs are worked out in our daily lives are opposite of what the Bible says should be so. Satan is the father of lies. He manipulates this world to believe some of the most unbelievable things, and as you've probably experienced, people don’t like it when you try to promote the Biblical way of approaching actions. You will find that people will tell you that you are being intolerant, judgmental, belligerent, narrow-minded, naive, or something worse. They are comfortable in their worldview and they don’t want to hear that they may actually be sinning or wrong. Their ideas are entrenched, and those are the “fortresses of this world”.

You see, most people assume that their faith is just one aspect of who they are. They believe that faith is important, but it is a personal thing. Most people are mistaken. Faith is so much more than just a part of us. It is the lens through which we see and understand the world.

The Bible takes this same view. It doesn't tell us just what to believe but provides us with a framework by which we can judge our experiences. If the Bible is the word of God, then it holds the truth in every aspect of life that it comments about. It is our guide to reality, not merely for religious worship but how we should act living our everyday lives. Therefore, it becomes a really big thing to understand and provide answers for what we think we believe and have reasons for why we would believe it. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Looking for Real News? Let the Reader Beware.

 photo by Southwest

There's an old Latin phrase the Romans originated and most people have heard  even today: "caveat emptor," let the buyer beware. This holds true for even those consumers that want to be objectively informed by our news media. Before we go further, realize this isn't some type of "the newspaper's politics is slanted" diatribe. No, this is more about business than politics.

Today's Los Angeles Times ran a story in their science pages with the headline "Scientists infuse 'life' into inanimate compounds." Such a sensational achievement by science should be trumpeted across the headlines of all majors papers, no doubt.  However, this was carried in their regular science page, back on an interior page of a subsection of the paper.

Why would the Times choose to bury such a sensational story? The answer lies in the story itself.

The scientist had hundreds of bacteria-sized particles, each with an attached mineral hematite that stuck out on one end spread randomly in a drop of liquid solution. Because the solution included hydrogen peroxide and when exposed to a blue-violet light hematite reacts with the hydrogen peroxide, whenever the scientists turned on the light, a chemical reaction would start and the particles would gather together in crystal-like shapes. The article goes on to say "at first, the particles moved about at random. Then, about 25 seconds into the chaos, the limited space and directionless driving produced a traffic jam of particles." Because of the "jam" the particles forced themselves into these hexagonal structures.

This is an interesting and non-trivial find; I'm sure it can lead to efficient ways to do things on a microscopic level that we've not been able to accomplish before.  However, is this an example of infusing life into inanimate compounds?  It doesn't seem so to me.  Anyone who has studied systems restricted by some type of containment knows that such systems will sort themselves into a honeycomb shape. Cannonballs and oranges in crates are routinely cited as examples of this.  It is common enough that chemists even have a name for it: face-centered cubic packing.

Now, the fact that these particles are grouping in such a way because of the influence of the light is as I said interesting and could hold promise for many different uses.  However, this has nothing to do with making things alive. These particles are infused with life in much the same way a pinball machine comes to life when you drop a quarter in its slot. So why would the headline scream that scientist have succeeded in infusing life into inanimate objects? Of course the headline used scare quotes around the word "life" but they knew people glancing at the article would draw an implication. The newspapers bank on such sensationalism to get people to read the story.

As thoughtful consumers we need to be cautious and carefully read the claims made in the media today.  Supposed documentaries of the Discovery Channel and other cable shows will routinely use this tactic to try and grab viewers. Many times an unwitting public will buy a ridiculous idea that Jesus' family tomb was discovered or that the Gospel of Judas somehow overthrows two thousand years of Christianity. But the Romans knew better than to believe the first thing someone tries to sell you, even if what they're claiming to trade in is the truth.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women?

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting couple of articles earlier this year discussing the pros and cons of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is clear to anyone who takes the time to look at history that humanity, and especially Western societies, underwent a fundamental change because of the separation of sexual activity from procreation.

In this article, Hoover Research Fellow Mary Eberstadt focuses on four myths that seem to still be prevalent today (especially by those with a certain political agenda) and she deftly knocks down each one.  The four she identifies are:
  1. The "war on women" consists of tyrannical men arrayed against oppressed but pluckily united women.
  2. If it weren't for the Catholic Church, no one would be talking about contraception anyway.
  3. The "social issues" are unwanted artifacts of a primitive religious past that will eventually just fade away.
  4. The sexual revolution has made women happier.
Eberstadt takes each of these in turn and shows how silly they are when looked at in real world contexts. She shows that even by looking at popular women's periodicals you can see these myths don't hold. You can read the short article here. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Modern Civilization Cultivating Its Own Destruction.

Although this quote from Malcolm Muggeridge is is some forty years old, it is more apt now than ever before:

"So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over—a weary, battered old brontosaurus—and became extinct."

Pater, Alan F. What They Said in 1975: The Yearbook of World Opinion (Beverley Hills, CA: Monitor Book Co, 1976). 480.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Offer Stories When Sharing Your Faith

Have you ever struggled in a conversation to make your Christian views known?  Have you ever been tongue-tied when someone objects to belief in God because of the problem of evil or the exclusive claims of Christianity? Don’t be too hard on yourself.  It can be difficult getting across all the aspects of a worldview as rich as Christianity, especially when you may not have had much training or practice.

However, there is a great book that can help you be an effective communicator when those providential opportunities to discuss your faith arise.  The God Conversation, written by J.P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff, is a compact, easy to read collection of illustrations and stories that you can use to communicate the reasons for your faith in an effective way.

The authors note that illustrations are one of the prime ways important concepts have been passed on throughout history. It is the main method Jesus used in His teaching. And these stories remain memorable to both the sharer and the hearer.

The book has eleven chapters covering five major themes: the problem of evil, competing religious claims, the fact of the resurrection, morality and ethics, and the creation/evolution question.  Each area looks at many of the common objections offered today and provides an illustration of why the Christian view makes sense.  By using clear examples where most people would agree, the effectiveness of the stories is easily seen.  But Moreland and Muhlhoff go beyond just the illustration as they provide the reader with extended discussion ideas and further develop the arguments.

I highly recommend The God Conversation, but not just for the evangelist or apologist. Facebook and social media today have made these kinds of interactions almost inevitable for every Christian who takes his or her faith seriously. By using stories such as these, you will find such engagements to be less contentious and more productive.  And you may even learn a little bit more about your own faith in the process.

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