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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, April 30, 2013

Why Are Christians So Obsessed with Homosexuality?

I've spent a lot of time on university campuses lately. I get to interact with students and hear what's on their minds when it comes to questions of faith in general and Christianity in particular. Nowadays, I expect that someone will raise the issue of homosexuality, particularly the debate over homosexual marriage as we talk. It's pretty much guaranteed to come up and many times it forms the whole of my discussion with the students. Because this is such a hot-button issue, I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts on the subject that could hopefully help others when their conversations shift this way.

Let's start off with one objection that I hear all the time: "Why are you Christians so obsessed with homosexuality?" You can see that even online, the question gets asked a lot. Just look here, here, and here for some examples. It is a common refrain I hear from students when I've been talking with them about the state of marriage.

Why are evangelical Christians so obsessed with homosexual acts? Is it because, as some have claimed, that Christians are secretly suppressing their own homosexual attractions? Well, no. Such an assertion is ridiculous on its face. The Gallup organization estimates that 3.5% of the U.S. population identifies as homosexual. Even if we double that stat, there would only be 7% of evangelicals who would make up the constituency that hold to this supposed secret homosexual desire. Such a group could never hold the political clout to pass the traditional marriage laws that passed with solid majorities in 32 states and the federal Defense of Marriage act. This is simply a fallacy (known as tu quoue) that ignores the biological and moral arguments that Christians offer about the topic. But then why are Christians so obsessed with homosexuality?

Here's the answer: we aren't.

You may be shocked at reading that. You may disagree and think I'm dishonest. You may say that all you hear is Christians opposing the right for same sex couples to marry. But believe me, the last thing I want to do when I walk onto a college campus is to talk about homosexuality. It's not in the forefront of my mind. I'd much rather talk about Jesus, what salvation by grace really means, how God wants all people to renounce their sin whatever that may be and follow Him because He has a better way.

Those are the things I would like to talk about, and that's what Christianity has done historically. We've reached out to the poor and homeless; most churches have ministries that help these people within their community. We have looked to help orphans and sent people on missionary projects. We work to help folks overcome alcohol addiction or drug abuse. All these areas have a long, vibrant history within Christianity which is reflected both in the many efforts and ministries of the local church and para-church organizations like The Salvation Army. How many churches have a homosexuality ministry? They are nearly non-existent.

Actually it is other people who keep bringing up the issue of homosexuality. Activists want to change the definition of marriage, and they want to require Christian photographers and florists to service homosexual weddings. They sue Christian psychotherapists must not only take on homosexual patients, but affirm their actions.  They even want to indoctrinate children by rewriting state educational standards so that homosexuality is taught from the first grade. There's been a concerted effort to consciously and determinedly change our society so that homosexuality will appear as benign even though the science shows that it is nothing of the sort. It should be no surprise, then, that Christians and parents would respond.

When I'm at a university, the floor is wide open for questions. People can come up and ask anything, and they immediately latch onto homosexuality and continue to ask about it over and over. They then ask, "Why are you guys so obsessed with this subject?" I tell them I will give them an answer, but I want to know what their motivation was in asking the question in the first place. I will say, "I think that the changes that we're being asked to make as a society are serious and they require thought and care before  we simply jump into them. But realize that YOU are asking this question and I'm responding to it. You brought up the issue of homosexuality, not me."

Christianity didn't initiate this conflict. We should as thoughtful people should respond to the demands that others are making, but we've been playing defense from the start. Homosexuality wasn't even on most Christians' radar before the 1980's when the media began covering it in response to the AIDS epidemic. Then, after the assembly  175 homosexual activists into a forum they themselves dubbed " the War Conference", activists Kirk and Madsen produced a published manifesto with the goal to "desensitize, jam, and convert" the American public on the issue of homosexuality. That turned into a book which further pushed what Dr. Charles W. Socarides  called a plan "chilling in its diabolism, chilling in its hatred of straight America, chilling in its advocacy of lack of conscience, chilling in its brutal and naked lust not for sex but for power."

So, no, Christians are not obsessed with homosexuality. Homosexual activists and the media are.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Answering Atheist Arguments Against God

Atheism has been taking center stage lately. Both the New Atheists and a cohort of Internet skeptics continue to raise objections that have caught the public's fancy. Are they right? How should we answer? In this recent podcast series, Lenny highlighted some of the more popular arguments against God's existence and demonstrated the poverty of atheist objections. Listen to all four parts in the series below:

Answering Atheist Arguments Against God (Part 1)
Answering Atheist Arguments Against God (Part 2)
Answering Atheist Arguments Against God (Part 3)
Answering Atheist Arguments Against God (Part 4)

To subscribe to the Come Reason podcast, click here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Protecting the Value of Life

My newly born granddaughter is over at the house this week and this morning I awoke to the sounds of the hungry girl crying. I loved the sound. It isn't that I would like to see her upset; at three weeks, crying is really the only way she can communicate. To me, the sound of a newborn's cry is a confirmation of life. It's an echo of her first cries in the delivery room and when it fills my house I take a certain kind of joy in knowing that our family will continue, that life has been passed on. It's how things should be.

Photo courtesy Gianni1wiki
As loving parents, my son wants only the best for his daughter. He cares about responding when she cries. He wants to make sure she's getting the best nutrition and the proper rest. He performs diaper changes so she won't get a rash. As she grows, her needs and the proper responses to them will change, but the motivation is the same: he wants to provide the best environment for her flourish. However, we as a society are corroding some of the necessary conditions for human flourishing and it worries me.

In its constant pull away from its Christian moorings, today's culture is blind to the damage it causes to all human life. The continuing horrors being disclosed from abortionist Kermit Gosnell's murder trial, the aftermath of the Boston terrorism attacks, and the general elevation of the individual's desire for pleasure over the best interests of the community are all symptoms that a culture that once held to a moral framework informed by Christian values has turned its face from that foundation and now seeks something else.

 This becomes all the more evident when we compare some of the hot button issues of today with their counterparts in pre-Christian societies. Ancient Rome was the pinnacle of technology and living in its day. It had successfully conquered the world. Its citizens then enjoyed an unparalleled era of Pax Romana—200 years of peace. However, in this time of comfort and leisure the Romans didn't think twice about its degradation of human life. Parents of babies who were considered less than desirable were killed, offered as sacrifices, or left out by the Tiber to die of exposure. Historian Alvin J. Schmidt reports, "So common was infanticide that Polybius (205? – 118 B.C.) blamed the population decline of ancient Greece on it (Histories 6)."1 Schmidt also tells of how the Romans practiced abortion for the sake of wealth and convenience2 and encouraged suicide as a more noble way to die than through natural causes.

Of course the Roman trivializing of life is nowhere more evident than in the Roman Gladiatorial games. Using human beings as sport because they were slaves or held religious views that were considered improper to the state is something we would consider barbaric today. But such actions were a natural conclusion to a worldview that places the individual's happiness above the life of another. Most people don't realize it was because of the act of one brave Christian martyr that the Gladiatorial games ceased within five years of his stand.

I write all this because it is too easy to see how we are falling back into a trap of trivializing life. Abortion today is framed as a political issue, but no one bothers to remember why Christianity sought to eliminate it. Kermit Gosnell shows how debased one can become when his worldview objectifies the beginning of human life as a product or choice to be had or not. The terrorists in Boston cared not one whit for the value of their victims' lives. They wanted their own position to be heard no matter the cost.

In our modern age, we've forgotten that the Christian principles that shaped our society also transformed it from a more barbarous one. We're once again in an age of relative peace and luxury, and there are those who think the old ways can be discarded simply because they are old or they get in the way of personal expression. They need to realize that tit may be because of those old ways that we have the true peace that they so cherish. It's easier to stay secure when one has strong walls built around him to keep out the things that will cause harm.  G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said only a fool would tear down a fence before he knows why it was put there to begin with.

We're tearing down the walls of the Christian worldview and I fear a few savage beasts have already slipped in. This is why I do apologetics. It's not for my sake, but for the sake of my granddaughter and the society in which she will live. As a precious human being born into this world, she deserves nothing less.


1 Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World.
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). 49.

2 Ibid. 56.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bible Contradictions - Quick Tips on Dealing with Difficulties

We're at the close of our series looking at the supposed contradictions in the Bible. In all our examples, we have shown that there can be answers to passages that seem to contradict each other or facts that we know today. Since it's impossible to deal with more than merely a handful of examples in this series, I want to leave you with a few checkpoints to use when confronting charges of a contradiction. The following quick tip guide will help you think more clearly in your discussions:

Quick Tips on Dealing with Difficulties

Is it really a contradiction?

  1. The burden of proof rests on the critics
    The Bible is probably the most critiqued and scrutinized book in history. Whenever a person charges the Bible with supposedly containing a contradiction the burden rests on them to prove that the contradiction is actually one and not his or her mistaken reading of the text. The text is innocent until proven guilty.1
  2. If there's a plausible solution, then it cannot be a contradiction
    Remember, I said at the outset that a contradiction is a very specific thing – it must show that the statements are making competing claims about the same thing at the same time. If it can be shown that another understanding of the text is not only possible but would be reasonable, then the charge of contradiction evaporates.
  3. Be sure you know what the text says
    Read the text carefully. Words like "after these things" could mean a significant gap in time. Ignoring them is one way to snub style.
  4. Be sure you know what the text means
    With 2,000 years or more between those that wrote the biblical texts and us, it is very easy to misunderstand the intent of the author. Both Snubbing Style and My Way or the Highway make this kind of mistake, but in different circumstances.
  5. Don't confuse imprecision with error
    Round numbers, shortening chronologies and estimating timelines within days instead of minutes are all considered appropriate in ancient literature. Robot Reporting is really a very recent approach to telling a story. As timekeeping improved, so did the precision in recording time.
  6. The Bible itself is an archaeological document – and one of the highest caliber. Therefore, it should be treated as trustworthy. If another document calls into question the Biblical text, why should one assume the Bible to be in error?
    One thing that always amazes me is how when a critic finds ancient texts that bring the accounts of Jesus into question, they never subject the competing claim to the same critical standard as the biblical text. The so-called "lost gospels" are a prime example of given them the benefit of the doubt while the Bible is supposed to be overwhelmingly convincing.
The Bible has shown its value as a historic document. Authors like Luke have paid particular attention to historic details, getting even inconsequential facts right. As we've seen, most claims of contradiction can be easily reconciled to the satisfaction of anyone who is open to honest inquiry. However, a lot of people I come into contact with aren't really interested in the evidence but ale looking for another excuse to not have to believe what it says. Julia Sweeney, a well-known performer who was on Saturday Night Live exemplifies this when she offers her critique of the Bible. She says:
"To me, the Iliad offers more insight into human character and lessons than the Bible. You know, like Jesus was angry a lot. When he turned all those people into pigs and made them run off a mountain, it was so hateful, not just to people but to pigs. I felt upset for the pigs!" 2
Sweeney is trying to object to the story in Mark 5:2-13. However, her woeful misunderstanding shows that she hasn't even done a thoughtful reading of the text. Jesus didn't turn people into pigs, He cast demons out of people and into a heard of swine. He didn't make them run off a cliff, the demons did that voluntarily. Sweeney gets all the facts of this passage wrong and then tries to imply that Jesus was somehow cruel to both people and animals! It was C.H. Spurgeon who said "I would far rather have a man an earnest, intense opposer of the gospel than have him careless and indifferent." When people run roughshod over the biblical text and then claim "contradiction" they really aren't being honest; they're simply throwing out another smokescreen.3


1. Dr. Craig Blomberg writes "Once one accepts that the Gospels reflect attempts to write reliable history or biography, however theological or stylized their presentations may be, then one must immediately recognize an important presupposition that guides most historians in their work. Unless there is good reason for believing otherwise, one will assume that a given detail in the work of a particular [ancient] historian is factual. This method places the burden of proof squarely on the person who would doubt the reliability of a given portion of the text. The alternative is to presume the text unreliable unless convincing evidence can be brought forward in support of it. While many critical scholars of the Gospels adopt this latter method, it is wholly unjustified by the normal canons of historiography, Scholars who would consistently implement such a method when studying other ancient historical writings would find corroborative data so insufficient that the vast majority of accepted history would have to be jettisoned." From Blomberg, Craig L. Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, Il: IVP Academic: 2007. 304.

2. Miller, David Ian. "FINDING MY RELIGION: Julia Sweeney talks about how she became an atheist." San Francisco Chronicle 15 August 2005: Accessed online at <>.

3. John W. Haley's book Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible underscores my point. Originally published in 1874, it continues to answer almost all alleged contradictions offered to this day. To check it out, see Baker Books republished version here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bible Contradictions - Differences between Accounts Is Actually a Positive!

As we begin to wrap up our study of the different types of charges against the consistency of the Bible, we find that many of the claims of contradiction are really nothing of the sort. They are merely products of an author using the language, styles, and categories of his day, or perhaps trying to emphasize a particular point or teaching of his subject. Where two or more authors conflict, we can look to the authors' different goals in writing and see that they would report events differently. Regardless, the previous explanations show why the claims that the Bible cannot be the God's Word because it contains contradictions falls away as acceptable alternatives are available for these differing objections.

However, I want to bring up one additional point not often heard when discussing the differences in the Bible and specifically in the gospel accounts. I have claimed previously that the gospels are eyewitness testimony. Either eyewitnesses or close associates who interviewed the eyewitnesses wrote the gospels. The fact that accounts of Jesus' resurrection vary in theme and detail actually strengthen the claim these were eyewitnesses instead of people who all conspired to make up the same story. You see made up stories only deal with main events and they only have one particular point of view. When people get together to invent a fable, they don't worry about the details. You know Hansel and Gretel had bread with them in the forest, but you don't know which forest they were in or what type of clothing they were wearing. These things aren't deemed important to the story so they aren't considered.  All accounts of Hansel and Gretel are pretty much the same—which means they all stem from one source.

Eyewitness testimony, on the other hand, is messy and many times offers different facts. In fact, any police detective will tell you, if multiple witnesses tell the exact same story with the same details it is a sure sign of collusion, meaning the witnesses got together and fabricated what they were going to say beforehand. Cold-case homicide detective Jim Wallace supports this point. In his book Cold-Case Christianity he writes:
"I learned many years ago the importance of separating witnesses. If eyewitnesses are quickly separated from one another, they are far more likely to provide an uninfluenced, pure account of what they saw. Yes, their accounts will inevitably differ from the accounts of others who witnessed the same event, but that is the natural result of a witness's past experience, perspective, and worldview. I can deal with the inconsistencies; I expect them. But when witnesses are allowed to sit together (prior to being interviewed) and compare notes and observations, I'm likely to get one harmonized version of the event. Everyone will offer the same story. While this may be tidier, it will come at the sacrifice of some important detail that a witness is willing to forfeit in order to align his or her story with the other witnesses; I'm not willing to pay that price. I would far rather have three messy, apparently contradictory versions of the event than one harmonized version that has eliminated some important detail. I know in the end I'll be able to determine the truth of the matter by examining all three stories. The apparent contradictions are usually easy to explain once I learn something about the witnesses and their perspectives (both visually and personally) at the time of the crime."1
So, the fact that the gospel accounts differ from each other is actually a good thing! Eyewitnesses will report different aspects of an event because each has a different perspective. It means that the writers didn't conspire to make up one story but are reporting events with the impressions the witnesses really had.


1.Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homocide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospel. (Colorado Springs, CO: David C.Cooke Pub, 2013). 71.
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