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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, January 13, 2015

Is There Such a Thing as Christian Terrorism?

The recent attacks on the French satirical periodical Charlie Hebdo resulted in a worldwide outpouring of support for the victims and condemnation of the terrorists. But the condemnation also came with a lot of confusion and rhetoric from both liberal and conservative factions. I don't believe it is right to paint all Muslims with the terrorist brush. As John A. Azumah explained in his recent piece, the Wahabbists follow a specific type of Islam, but they also shirk their own authority structures and seek to take matters into their own hands.1 Thus, the terrorists are both the natural outworking of Islamic beliefs and violators of its governing bodies.

While some on the right may have a penchant to see every Muslim as a terrorist, some on the left make two very different types of errors. The first is to see no connection between the terrorists and Islam at all. This is absurd to the point of ridicule. After Mohammad's conquering of Medina and Mecca, the Caliphite expansion across North Africa and into Spain, the Crusades, the Ottoman expansion, the attack on the Marine base in Lebanon, the attack on the USS Cole, 9/11, the London Subway bombings, the Madrid train bombings, and countless more attempts that have been thwarted, I think that any reasonable person can see a pattern developing. History shows that Islam was in fact spread by the sword, and it is easy to see how the children of the Hanbali tradition would see justification in continuing that tradition.

But it is the other mistake some have made that concerns me even more deeply. There are some on the left who would argue that it isn't Islam that's the problem, but it is any type of dedicated religious belief. These people charge that Christians who take their faith seriously are just as much a terrorist threat as radicalized Muslims.

One case in point is an article written by Jack Jenkins that appeared on the Think Progress site a month before the Charlie Hebdo attack. Entitled "The Other Kind Of Religious Extremism: The Christian Terrorist Movement No One Wants To Talk About," Jenkins tries to link individual attacks, such as the white supremacist Larry McQuilliams who shot up several buildings (but no people) in Austin, Texas with groups like Al Queaeda, Boko Harem, and ISIS.

Jenkins knows that McQuilliams was following the teachings of the white supremacist group the Phineas Priesthood. But for him, that's more evidence that some Christians can be dangerous. He writes, "McQuilliams' possible ties to the Phineas Priesthood may sound strange, but it's actually unsettlingly common. In fact, his association with the hateful religious group highlights a very real — but often under-reported — issue: terrorism enacted in the name of Christ." 2

Wait a minute. Did Jenkins really enact terrorism in the name of Christ? Did he scream out "Jesus be praised" during his attack? Not at all. According to the Austin Chronicle, who interviewed FBI special agent Chris Combs, "he had a rooted motive. 'He could not find employment,' Combs said. 'He was also upset that – in his eyes – many immigrants had more services afforded to them than he had afforded to him.'"3 Yet, Jenkins is pretty quick to rush his judgment simply because he had a book published by a white supremacist movement with the word "Christendom" in the title. Jenkins then shows his hand by widening his scope:
But there is a long history of terrorist attacks resembling McQuilliams' rampage across Austin — where violence is carried out in the name of Christianity — in the United States and abroad. In America, the Ku Klux Klan is well-known for over a century of gruesome crimes against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and others — all while ascribing to what they say is a Christian theology.4
Is he kidding? "All while ascribing to what they say is Christian theology?" Jenkins uses the IRA of Northern Ireland as one example of "terrorism enacted in the name of Christ." That's ridiculous; the IRA was very much a political group, described as "a militant nationalist organization" by the Encyclopedia Britannica.5 There was no ascribing their actions as the proper outworking of Christian theology. Likewise, the Klu Klux Klan cannot claim any verse that tells them to burn crosses or hang people because of the color of their skin. In order to demonize Christianity, Jenkins simply tries to grab hold of anything that seeks to use the word "Christian" while violating both the core teachings of Christianity and the example set by its founder, Jesus Christ.

When looking at the foundation of Christianity, one sees that the followers of Jesus died for their faith, and even during those times of early persecution they didn't form an army against their persecutors. The inherent worth of all men including those with physical or mental defects comes from Christianity. The teachings of Jesus such as the Golden Rule, to go the extra mile, or to "turn the other cheek" are the best values for a civilized and gracious society. Jesus Himself did not conquer with an army, but gave himself as a sacrifice for others. If an individual's acts with intent to terrorize or kill, you no longer have Christianity. You have something else entirely.

In perpetrating intentional distortions such as these, Jenkins himself engages in a kind of journalistic terrorism, seeking to ghettoize the faithful followers of Jesus as some kind of threat. The public would be better served with the truth than misleading articles such as his.


1. Azumah, John A. "An Explanation of Islam's Relation to Terrorism and Violence." First Things. First Things, Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
2. Jenkins, Jack. "The Christian Terrorist Movement No One Wants To Talk About." ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
3. Hoffberger, Chase, and Michael King. "Shooter Had ‘Hate in His Heart'" The Austin Chronicle. The Austin Chronicle Corp., 5 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
4. Jenkins., Think Progress, 2014.
5 "Irish Republican Army (IRA) | Irish Military Organization." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Are you Ready to Argue Like Jesus?

Are you ready? Do you have what it takes? Are you prepared to argue? Christians today face more opposition to their beliefs than in the past. Those people are going to assert them to us. Therefore, we need heed the charge of the Apostle Peter who commanded that we always be ready to make a defense for our hope in the gospel (1 Pet. 3:15). One way to do this is to learn to argue well.

For many people, that last sentence sounds counter-intuitive. "Didn't your mother tell you it isn't nice to argue?" they may ask. Others think it's downright anti-Christian to argue. But, neither of these responses are true; and that's because when I use the word argument, I mean something different from what they're hearing. When I say the word "argument," I don't mean two people yelling at one another or hurting each other's feelings. I mean something completely different; and it has more to do with growing your understanding than raising your voice.

Why It's Impossible to Avoid an Argument

All people have beliefs. You can't be a functioning human being and not hold to at least some beliefs. Some of them are easily identified, such as "I'm alive right now" or "I'm reading this blog post." Others are a bit more complex, such as one's belief in the existence of God or which political party has better answers for his or her country, yet all these beliefs have some kind of reasoning behind them. It may be that you investigated the data or it may be that you were taught a belief from a young age. The authority figure or your study helped form your beliefs. There are a few beliefs that are self-presenting, like the belief that I am not in pain right now. I know I'm not feeling pain because pain experience is direct and immediate. However, most of our beliefs are formed through other means.

Because each one of us has beliefs, each one of us holds to certain things we believe are true about the world. A belief is simply that, something we take as true about the world. Those beliefs will also shape my actions and reactions to situations around me. If I believe in the power of prayer, that belief is going to play itself out in the action of my praying. If I believe that an unborn baby is made in the image of God, then that will shape my political views on abortion. Your beliefs will always spill out into your actions and touch the people and institutions you come in contact with.

There's the issue, though. Because different people hold different views about the world, it should be no surprise that you will run into people who don't believe things that you hold as true and they believe things you hold as false.  Such contacts mean two people will desire different outcomes to a specific situation, each believing that his or her outcome is the correct one. Just like two cars that are traveling in opposite directions arrive at a one-lane bridge simultaneously, both cannot go on their merry way until the conflicting desires are resolved.

Preparing to Argue Like Jesus

Because you, dear Christian, have reasons for your beliefs, and everyone will face beliefs that conflict with their own, it becomes crucial that you make sure you are better prepared to engage those conflicts. That requires you to learn to argue well. As I said at the top of this post, arguing doesn't mean yelling, fighting, or hurting someone's feelings. Arguing is simply discussing your beliefs with another person, but doing so by providing reason and evidence, or as Michael Palin defined it: "An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition." It means we talk and support our belief with the reasons why we think that such a belief is true.

As I've been saying, this is exactly the way Jesus did it. The Gospel of Luke tells us that "The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" (Luke 2:40). Jesus in his human nature grew in knowledge. He learned how to speak, and he learned the beliefs of his day. Jesus quoted the Scriptures – do you think he studied them? Do you think he worked at memorizing them? Do you think Jesus was a good student?  Did He study hard? He certainly seemed to know the beliefs of the Sadducees and the Pharisees as he put both to shame in Matthew 22.

I invite you to join me for the next few days as I lay out what well-structured arguments look like, and how you can make them. I also want to show what fallacies are, both to help you avoid them and to pick them out if your opponent should use them. Learn to argue more effectively; you will be following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Apologetics is Foundational Since the Earliest Times of the Faith

It should be the goal of every Christian to reflect the heart of Jesus in his or her life. Yet, some in the church bristle at the idea of equipping themselves to defend the faith against ideas raised against it. They assume apologetics to be an intellectual game, where they would rather take the path of Jesus and model love. However, as I've shown, Jesus integrated apologetics into much of his ministry.

Here, Dr. Craig Hazen notes that the apologetics task has been exemplified in every ambassador who sought to introduce a lost world to the Creator. He writes:
It is very important to understand that in justifying the task of Christian apologetics throughout the history of the church, it was Jesus himself who set the stage. He did this not by writing apologetic tracts and treatises but by creating what I shall call here an "ethos of demonstration" among his followers. Jesus demonstrated the truth of his message and his identity over and over again using nearly every method at his disposal, including miracle, prophecy, godly style of life, authoritative teaching and reasoned argumentation' And although Jesus clearly authorized the apologetic ethos for his followers by living it out himself, it is also important to note that he did not create this approach ex nihilo during his three years of ministry. Indeed, Jesus was really just reaffirming an ages-old ethos of demonstration that had been well established in the Old Testament tradition. From the miracles of Moses in Pharaoh's court (Ex 7) to Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) to God himself calling for his opponents to "present your case ... set forth your arguments" (Is 41:21), a divine pattern was already fixed by the time Jesus came on the scene.1.
1. Hazen, Craig J. "Defending the Defense of the Faith." To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview: Essays in Honor of Norman L. Geisler. Francis Beckwith, William Lane. Craig, and James Porter Moreland, Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. 37. Print.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Two More Arguments Against Homosexual Marriage

Many pundits are stating that 2015 will be the year the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)  will take up the question of homosexual marriage. With conflicting rulings from different federal courts of appeal, it seems more than likely. But SCOTUS doesn't have to rely on religious beliefs alone to understand why allowing homosexual marriage is a dangerous precedent for a society to set. Once can look at the behavior and the political issues that the concept of marriage involves to argue that protecting natural marriage is more beneficial to the citizens of the state than redefining marriage to any and all comers.

The Behavioral Question

I've previously written on biological and medical arguments against homosexual marriage that I believe are incredibly strong and demonstrate how natural marriage is more than just a way to share a life with someone you love. Yet people argue that individuals have the right to define marriage as they see fit. They share the opinion of Chip Arndt and Reichen Lehmkuhl, the self-proclaimed "married" homosexual couple who won CBS' game show The Amazing Race. Arndt noted the Oxford dictionary definition of marriage encompasses only a man and a woman. He then commented, "What's happening today, which has always happened through any revolution of culture, is that people redefine words. And we're basically saying-
Reichen: It's time to redefine.
Chip: It's time to redefine it."1

I've said before that heterosexual marriage is necessary to survival of a culture and how the concept of marriage as we now understand it is incompatible with same sex unions. What many don't realize is many in the homosexual community who do want to redefine marriage intend to change the concept well beyond the boundaries of which sexes are involved.

Even today, looking at homosexual couples who identify themselves as monogamous or committed, one finds a modification of those concepts. In the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, scientists studying homosexual relationships noted "Gay monogamous relationships are rarely faithful. 'Monogamous' seems to imply some primary emotional commitment, while causal sex continues on the side."2

Another study of homosexual partnerships was conducted by German "Sexologist" and homosexual Dr. Martin Dannecker. In 1991, Dannecker studied 900 homosexuals in 1991 living in what they defined as "steady relationships". However, Dannecker found that 83% of those males had numerous sexual encounters outside their partnerships over a one-year period. Dannecker then concluded that the "clear differences in the manner of sexual gratification" between single and non-single gay men were the reverse of what he expected. Of the homosexual men in steady relationships, he wrote, " the average number of homosexual contacts per person was 115 in the past year." In Contrast, single gay men had only 45 sexual contacts.3

Such a radical departure from the concept of two people entering into a lifetime commitment is both shocking and dangerous. Promiscuity is understood as a high-risk behavior carrying dire consequences, not the least of which are health related. In fact, an upscale homosexual men's magazine, Genre, surveyed 1037 readers in October of 1996. Here are some of the results: "One of the single largest groups in the gay community still experiencing an increase of HIV are supposedly monogamous couples." 52% have had sex in a public park. 45% have participated in three-way sex. 42% have had sex with more than 100 different partners and 16% claim between 40 to 100 partners.4

Of course there are those who want to do away with the concept of marriage being a union between two individuals altogether. In a Los Angeles Times article,  the head of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Paula Ettelbrick, was interviewed and asked about her views on the same-sex marriage controversy. Ettelbrick, who is also a law professor, "recommends legalizing a wide variety of marriage alternatives, including polyamory, or group wedlock. An example could include a lesbian couple living with a sperm-donor father, or a network of men and women who share sexual relations."5 The article goes on to discuss how one of her goals, in Ettelbrick's words, is to "push the parameters of sex, sexuality and family, and in the process transform the very fabric of society."6 Such changes to the concept of marriage do nothing to alleviate the high-risk behavior in which homosexuals engage and, according to Dannecker's study, may actually enflame such behaviors.

The Political Question

Ultimately, it becomes important to understand why marriage is encouraged within the laws of the United States. As I've written before, the marriage relationship is seen as so necessary that "every human societ[y] has had to promote it actively".7  This means that the welfare of the society depends on the active encouragement of monogamous heterosexual unions. When understood this way, one can make a case that the U.S. constitution requires the definition of marriage to remain as it now stands.

First, we must understand that homosexuals are not being denied equal rights to marry whomever they want. The restrictions regarding marriage are enforced equally to both the heterosexual and homosexual population. For example, neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals can marry a sibling. In the same way, no one can marry someone of the same sex - that proscription applies to all citizens equally and is therefore not discriminatory.

So, why does the government restrict marriage at all? The opening paragraph of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Preamble, and it sets forth the overarching principles of what the document is designed to accomplish. It reads "We, the People of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America."8

Note that the writers explicitly state its purpose is to promote the general welfare for the people of the United States and their posterity. But I've demonstrated that homosexual marriage is in conflict with this. It wouldn't promote the general welfare of the society - it would hinder that process! Therefore, it does not make sense to say homosexual marriage is a constitutional freedom. How can we usurp this foundational intent of the framers that's explicitly stated in the constitution itself with something that is nowhere mentioned as a right?

Philosopher Francis Beckwith, in his article "Wedding Bell Blues; Understanding the Same-Sex Marriage Debate" sums it up thusly, "Since marriage is an intrinsic good, just as justice is an intrinsic good, a culture that does not nourish, encourage, and protect traditional marriage will do so at its own peril, just as it would imperil itself if it no longer understood justice as an intrinsic good. … Republican (small "r") government results from good citizens civilized by the institutions of family, honest work, and good religion. If, to quote Aristotle, statecraft is soulcraft, then the end of the state should be to produce good citizens and therefore provide a privileged and protected position for these institutions. The state, consequently, should treat traditional marriage as privileged and protected in contrast to other alternatives."9

Beckwith states that the purpose of government really defines its role regarding marriage. If the state is interested in making good citizens and promoting the good, then marriage must be protected as a heterosexual union. He continues "On the other hand, a state that treats all alternative lifestyles as equal does not believe that statecraft is soulcraft and is therefore not particularly interested in producing good citizens qualified to engage in republican government. Such a state denies there is any such thing as the good, the true, or the beautiful."10  The founding fathers have demonstrated that the government of the United States was formed for a higher purpose, that qualities such as establishing justice, promoting the welfare of the people and ensuring that their posterity also enjoyed those assurances. Since homosexual marriage endangers society in real ways and is antithetical to those ends it cannot be considered constitutionally protected. It does, in fact, undermine the intent of the constitution itself.

References: Editors. "Married and Millionaires-amazing!" Here Media, Inc., 21 Aug. 2003. Web. 09 Jan. 2015.
2. Connell, RW. Crawford, J., Dowsett, GW., Kippax, S., Sinnott, V., Rodden, P., Berg, R., Baxter, D., Waston, L., "Danger and context: unsafe anal sexual practice among homosexual and bisexual men in the AIDS crisis" Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology (1990 ) 26: pp.187-208.
3. Wittmeier, Carmen. "Now They Know The Other Half." Alberta Report 7 June 1999: 27. Print.
4. "Sex Survey Results," Genre (October 1996), quoted in "Survey Finds 40 percent of Gay Men Have Had More Than 40 Sex Partners," Lambda Report, January 1998, 20. Print.
5. Rivenburg, Roy "Divided over Gay Marriage" Los Angeles Times 12 March 2004. E1. Print.
6. Ibid.
7. Young, Katherine K. and Paul Nathanson "Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage" Sept. 29, 2003
8. The United States Constitution
9. Beckwith, Francis J. "Wedding Bell Blues: Understanding the Same-Sex Marriage Debate - Christian Research Institute." Christian Research Institute, 22 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Jan. 2015.
10. Ibid.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

What Islam Really Teaches About Images of Muhammad

The world is in shock at the grave tragedy in which twelve people were gunned down at Charlie Hebdo by Muslim extremists. The French satirical newspaper had published several cartoon caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad over the years, many of them placing the prophet in scandalous or obscene positions.

Islamic activist and Sharia law lecturer Anjem Choudary seemed to justify the attack in a USAToday Opposing Views piece where he said that freedom of expression "comes with responsibilities" and explained that "the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike."1 He seems to place the emphasis on the satirical aspect of the portrayals rather than the fact that these were images of Muhammad. However, it's being reported that any depiction of Muhammad is banned in Islam. A CNN report entitled "Why Islam forbids images of Mohammed" wrote that "The prohibition again illustrating the Prophet Mohammed began as an attempt to ward off idol worship." They also note the prohibition extends to other prophets and noted that "some Muslim countries banned the films Noah and Exodus this year because their leading characters were Hebrew prophets."2

But that's not quite what Islam teaches.

No Images of Any Living Creature

To be clear, there is no prohibition whatsoever against images of the prophets in the Qur'an. The closest one gets is Sura 21:52 where Abraham rebukes the idol worship of his people with the question "What are these statues to which you are devoted?"3 However, it isn't only the Qur'an that informs the religion of Muslims. Muslims must also rely on the traditions of Muhammad, as recorded in a series of books known as the Hadith. There are different Hadith for different factions of Muslims, but most Muslims are Sunni by far and their Hadith bans not simply depictions of Muhammad or the prophets, but any visual representation of any person or animal is forbidden!

One such Hadith has Muhammad rebuking a woman who purchased a pillow for him to recline upon because it had images of people on it:
Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet)

I bought a cushion having pictures on it. When Allah's Apostle saw it, he stopped at the gate and did not enter. I noticed the signs of hatred (for that) on his face! I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I turn to Allah and His Apostle in repentance! What sin have I committed?" He said, "What about this cushion?" I said, ‘I bought it for you to sit on and recline on." Allah's Apostle said, "The makers of these pictures will be punished (severely) on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said to them, ‘Make alive what you have created.'" He added, "Angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 72, Number 844)4
Another Hadith has Muhammad stating, ""Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or there are pictures." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 72, Number 833)5 According to an article on, Muslim scholars both ancient and recent have concluded that anyone making depictions of living creatures will be required by Allah to breathe life into them on the Day of Resurrection. When one cannot, that person will be punished for idolatry. 6 The article goes on to state that: "'No pictures' includes no photos (still or moving). ‘No pictures' might reduce idolatry, but the reason given is not that, but that Allah will torment all who have made pictures" and "No pictures in the home includes no television in the home."7

The prohibition on images in Islam is wide and sweeping. The Answering-Islam article notes that for some reason while images on a pillow are banned, Muhammad didn't have a problem with little girls playing with dolls.8 This makes little sense as the doll makers are certainly doing the same thing as sculptors or pillow manufacturers. Also, most Muslims today don't seem to ban television or cameras from their homes.

The ban on images is simply one more way to underscore the fragmented nature of the teachings of Islam. The press misunderstands the ban and in some ways helps justify the offense in the eyes of the west by limiting it to some kind of attack only on the holiest figures of the Islamic faith. That is a misrepresentation, since even a harmless depiction of an anonymous individual is not allowed. Choudary allowed the USAToday web site to publish his Op-Ed with images of people accompanying the piece. He also has his own web site that shows his picture.  Such actions show the hypocrisy of his stance.


1. Choudary, Anjem. "People Know the Consequences: Opposing View." USA Today. Gannett, 08 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Jan. 2015.
2. Burke, Daniel. "Why Islam Forbids Images of Mohammed." CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Jan. 2015.
3. "Surat Al-'Anbyā' (The Prophets) - سورة الأنبياء." Qur' Qur', n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2015.
4. Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 72, Number 844. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. University of Southern California, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2015. .
5. Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 72, Number 833. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. University of Southern California, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2015. .
6. "Are Pictures of Muhammad Really Forbidden In Islam?" Answering Islam. Answering Islam, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2015.
7. Answering Islam, Ibid.
8. Answering Islam, Ibid.

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