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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.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
|Photo By *christopher*|
Now, I agree that all have the right to their beliefs. But defining faith in this way misconstrues what the concept of faith is all about. The claim that "all faiths are simply a choice and are equally valid" really translates to "all faiths have an equal claim to truth and there's no way to discern whether any of them are true or not." That's just not the case. For example, I don't think anyone today would give Greek mythology serious consideration as a true belief. But how do we know that Greek mythology isn't a viable religion? Because we use reason and evidence to see that its claims about how the world works are unsupportable. They are internally inconsistent and externally incoherent with what we know about the world.
Similarly, we can look at today's different faith systems and see that they cannot all be true since they make competing claims about how the world works. As an example, the monotheistic faiths such as classical Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim that there is a God who is distinct and separate from His creation, while pantheistic faiths such as Vedanta Hinduism or the New Age hold to the idea that all is God. Now, one or the other may be true, but they certainly cannot both be true at the same time. Therefore, any faith that teaches all ways to God are equally valid, such as the Bah'ai faith, holds to a logical contradiction and can be dismissed simply as being illogical. It simply doesn't match the way the world works.
Now, I'm not saying that faith is unnecessary or that reason can do all the work. I am saying, though, that any faith that forces you to deny reason is a faith not worth holding. Christianity is a faith built on evidence: historical evidence of a real event. Of course it requires faith, but we can investigate its claims on the basis of history to see whether they stand up. Mormonism, for example, also makes claims about historical events, but they are unsupportable. If the things claimed in the Book of Mormons are demonstrably false, then it follows that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God and we have good reason for not believing Mormonism to be true.
I think it's a mistake to lump anything with a "religion" or "faith" tag into a category marked untestable. There certainly are ways we can make informed judgments about what we believe. That's why Paul tells us "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good."
Being reasonable or rational means holding on to true beliefs. So, if someone questions of whether it's rational to be a Christian, that means we need to talk about whether Christian beliefs are true—which requires honest inquiry. To not check out the claims of Christianity when they very well may be true would be a very irrational thing to do.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Image by feeb
Johann Sebastian Bach once said “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” Bach also said that he worked hard on his craft and those that worked as hard as he did should see results. Bach recognized that believers should excel in whatever they do as that would honor the Savior. For much of Christendom, this maxim was followed. The finest thinkers were Christians; names such as Augustine, Ockham, Anselm, Aquinas, and Pascal still play a central role in secular programs of philosophy. Science, too, saw Christians take the lead with such notables as Newton, Kepler, Boyle, Mendel, and Kelvin. And of course the world's great artists continually produced paintings and statues around biblical themes.
But that seems to have changed today. Peter Kreeft put is best when he said:
Good art both reflects and drives the culture in which it is presented. It is at root a medium that engages the heart first, and then the mind. We know that the story tellers of today are the record producers and the movie directors; and we can see their influence at the fashion shows and at the ballot box. However, Christianity seems to be markedly absent from making a significant impact in this day and age. We've settled for following the lead of those who hold views antithetical to Christianity. I'm not satisfied with the ghettoed Christian music station or television channel. I'm not satisfied with the substandard and derivative work of Christian artists who are supposed to substitute for the secular flavor of the day.
Now, to be sure, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush. LeCrae is topping the hip hop charts all over the place. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien's books are still masterpieces. But we should see more. We should be leading in the arts, not following.
So, I'd like to challenge you, Christian. If you have a passion for storytelling, if you're an artist, filmmaker, writer or musician, work hard and take a risk. Think about how to work hard and honor God while being meaningful. We need to move the culture of today. In so doing we can move people more towards Christ.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Recently, I saw an article by Jason Hiner entitled "Take my holiday challenge: Contribute $25 to 3 of these 10 worthy charities". I thought this was a great idea, and while Hiner lists ten charities that are doing great work and are worthy of support, he's writing for a secular audience and doesn't include any overtly faith-based organizations. Therefore, I decided to compile a list of ten ministries that are not well-known but are making a real difference in defending the Christian faith. Some of their leaders you may have heard of, but most of these are operating on shoestring budgets. A gift at this time of year would be a huge help as they obey the command to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."
So look at the list below, choose three (or more if you desire) and meet the challenge of donating $25 to each. You will truly be a blessing to them and make a difference in the Kingdom.
- Reasonable Faith
Reasonable Faith is the nonprofit ministry of philosopher and theologian Dr.
William Lane Craig, who is simply one of the most active defenders of the
faith today. Craig's many debates against the most stalwart of atheists have
become legendary, so much so that after debating the recently deceased
Christopher Hitchens, an atheist web site
remarked "Craig spanked
Hitchens like a foolish child." Not content to rest only in the US,
Bill's traveled the world over, recently getting back from a very successful
tour of the UK where in the space of ten days he presented five debates and
at least eight more lectures and interviews to a largely secular public.
His clear thinking and scholastic ability are unmatched.
Support Reasonable Faith here
- JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center
Another well-known figure in philosophy and Christian apologetics is Dr.
J.P. Moreland, who authored the phenomenal Philosophical Foundations of
a Christian Worldview (with Craig), Scaling the Secular City,
and many other popular books. However, most people don't know that Moreland,
as an in-demand speaker, also has his own nonprofit ministry, Eidos
Center. The main goal of the organization is to help support selected
speakers and authors who are doing great work in promoting the Christian
worldview. There are many churches and groups who may not be able to afford
a speaker the caliber of Moreland, but Eidos seeks to stand in that gap,
providing the funds necessary to get solid Christian thought into the minds
of the larger culture. JP's been a huge influence on me in my growth as an
apologist and his organization needs to be more recognized.
Support JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center here.
- Stand to Reason's Brett Kunkle & Alan Shlemon
Stand to Reason is one of the flagship apologetics ministries in the
country. Led by Greg Koukl, the team there is always providing
top-notch teaching and material, whether on the radio, on the web, or
in person. While STR is pretty well known, less so is its powerful
student impact leader, Brett Kunkle and speaker Alan Shlemon. Kunkle
has been doing a remarkable job with junior high and high school students,
preparing them for the absolute war of worldviews they will face when
heading off to college. He is the originator of the Apologetics
Missions Trip concept; taking kids "in the field" to talk with atheists,
Mormons, and others hostile to Christianity. Shlemon has been cutting his own
path in focusing on cultural issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage,
and Islam. Both gentlemen do not get paid by STR, but must raise their own
support - so your gifts can mean quite a lot!
Support Brett Kunkle Support Alan Shlemon
- Mike Licona/Risen JesusMike Licona has
gained a rather elevated profile lately. In his monumental work,
The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Licona
delivers over 700 pages of support for the contention that the resurrection
of Christ is as strong a fact of ancient history as there ever can be.
However, because he also honestly included a few paragraphs that explain his
struggle with the best way to approach Matthew 27:52, he's been let go from
his previous ministry position and is now creating his own apologetics
nonprofit. Licona's scholarship is outstanding, with many talking about his
book replacing N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God as
the new standard work on the topic. As a new organization, Licona really
needs your support.
Support Mike Licona/Risen Jesus
- Evangelical Philosophical Society
If all your favorite apologists could be considered superheroes in
battling worldviews, the Evangelical Philosophical Society would be the
Hall of Justice where they all congregate. The EPS has done a stellar
job putting out one of the top-ranked scholarly journals on the philosophy
of religion (Philosophia Christi) as well as the annual EPS Meeting
where scholars can meet and discuss the latest issues in the field of
apologetics. Beyond the academic arena, they host the annual EPS Apologetics
Conference, where each of the over 30 speakers present for free in order to
keep the costs down for the general public. The EPS basically covers
their costs with memberships and subscriptions, so any donations provide a
bit of a cushion to the great work they do.
Support the EPS
- Illustra Media
We live in a visual age and if you want to get your message across, you
will need to do so visually. Concepts such as the irreducible complexity of
the bacterial flagellum or the origin of life are especially difficult to
discuss without a model. Luckily, apologists have Illustra Media to
handle the tough task of making compelling DVDs on such intricate topics -
and they do so with beauty and finesse. Using computer animation along with
interviews from high-visibility personalities such as Lee Strobel and Dr.
Stephen Meyer, Illustra makes a compelling case for the Creator that is as
faith affirming as it is awe inspiring. All this even though the two
founders operate basically out of their house!
Support Illustra Media here
- International Society for Women in
I know a lot of people think that the geeky ideas of textual criticism or
the biological challenges to life's origin are not going to resonate with
women, but there is a definite need for female apologists, and the ISWA is
seeking to make that happen. When you think about it, who is the first
person to hear questions from kids about what their teachers just taught
them in school? It's going to be Mom, so Christian women better be
trained in how to understand and effectively answer these issues. Sarah
Ankenman has put together an organization seeking to speak the language of
52% of the population (that's ladies, friends) and provide insights that men
simply don't have. We need more of these!
Support ISWA here
- Mary Jo Sharp/Confident Christianity
Speaking of women in apologetics, Mary Jo Sharp has not only embraced her
calling, but she's running with full gusto. From conference speaker to
author to a couple of very stimulating debates against Islamic scholars, Mary Jo
and Confident Christianity are showing what an apologetics ministry with
focus and purpose can accomplish - even with a miniscule budget. Her clear
style resonates well with both students and women's groups. A donation here
could help Confident Christianity cover travel expenses so she can reach
even more people with a smart and winsome Christian faith.
Support Confident Christianity here
- Ratio Christi
Ratio Christi is a unique organization reaching out to college students.
Rather than creating a whole new ministry, they leverage existing Christian
clubs and study groups on college campuses and universities across the
country, and pair them up with a trained apologist who can help answer the
tough questions that students or their professors will invariably raise. The
idea of meeting people where they are is practical and I love the idea of
empowering apologists to come out of the study (or away from the computer
screen) and meet real students with real needs.
Support Ratio Christi here.
- Apologetics 315
Ever since Brian Auten got the itch to blog his apologetics homework back
around 2007, Apologetics 315 has been one of the top resource sites for
gathering and disseminating apologetics information. The weekly
apologist interviews along with the Top 16 Apologetics podcasts and the
growing list of apologetics ministries and materials put Brian at the
forefront of internet resources for both apologists and lay people. The site
doesn't yet have a donation function as it isn't a fully qualified
nonprofit, but you may want to contribute anyway.
Support Apologetics 315 here
Blessings to you this Christmas season and during the New Year. May we continue to take every thought captive for Christ.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Many know of Martin Luther King, the famed civil rights activist. His birthday is a federal holiday in the U.S. Most are familiar with his "I have a dream" speech given in Washington in 1963. Fewer are familiar with King's magnificent "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" in which King answers some of his critics within the church, claiming that breaking the law is against Christian principles. Here, King eloquently argues that the exact opposite is true; Christians need to be engaged in fighting evil wherever they find it. You may read the entire letter here, but I thought I'd provide a few excerpts.
- "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their 'thus saith the Lord' far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."
- "One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.' Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality."(Emphasis added)
- "Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience."
- "I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: 'All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.' Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." (Emphasis added)
- "There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."
- "But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."
- "Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment."
- "If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith."
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