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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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Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

How Would Stephen Fry Answer His Own Challenge to God?

The British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has lit the Internet ablaze. During a taping for the show The Meaning of Life, interviewer Gay Byrne asked the atheist Fry the question that was previously posed to Bertrand Russell: "Suppose it's all true, and you walk up to the pearly gates and you are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him, her, or it?" (You may watch the full clip below.) Fry fired off a very emotional response, beginning with:
I'd say, "Bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you! How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault! It's not right; it's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain." That's what I'd say.1

He goes on to object to God creating the parasites that cause river blindness, detailing the symptoms of some of the more horrific cases. When asked by Byrne "And you think you are going to get in, like that?" Fry responded "No, but I wouldn't want to. I wouldn't want to get in on his terms. They are wrong."

Fry's response is not unfamiliar. It is standard New Atheist fare, a recapitulation of Dawkins and others. He has such arrogance in his answer, though, it seems to take even the interviewer's breath away. Fry is confident that God cannot exist because of the horrible natural evil he sees in the world. Or if God does exist, he has a lot of explaining to do to Stephen Fry as well as to those poor bone cancer victims.

The Problem of Evil is Everyone's Problem

While Fry is railing against God, I wonder how he would answer the same charge using his own worldview. How would Fry offer comfort to the mother of a child with bone cancer within his understanding of atheism? Would he tell her, "Well, I'm sorry. Evolution is driven by natural selection of advantageous genetic mutation. Your child has a mutation, but it wasn't an advantageous one for her. She has to die, but that's OK. The more fit will leave more offspring." Given Fry's view, how can he say contracting bone cancer is unjust? It is the process of mutation in practice.2

Is Fry's answer better? If bone cancer is part of the evolutionary process, how can he label its existence wrong? Where does he get this definition of right and wrong from? If he wants no mutations of DNA at all, then he wants humans to evolve no further. Otherwise, things like pain, suffering, and parasites eating out the eyes of African children is just how the world works; right and wrong don't enter into it at all.

Devils and Angels

Interestingly, before this portion of the interview, Fry was commenting on his bipolar disorder. Byrne asks, "You say for all the pain that depression causes you, you wouldn't want rid of it because of the places it takes you, in terms of creative highs." Fry agrees and quotes W.O. Jordan who said, "Don't take away my devils because you'll take away my angels, too." He then tells Byrne how he can lead a high functioning, successful life that is fulfilling even with a mental illness.

So why is it that Fry can see good come from debilitation within his own life and he would resist the removal of the defect of bipolarism and yet he cannot open his mind at all to the possibility that God allows the evil we see in the world for greater purposes? Surely, Fry doesn't know so much that he can say with certainty how a world of free, fallen creatures would behave in a world where they never need to rely upon God for their safety, to ease their pain, or to appeal to a hope for the future.

The Luxury of Atheism for the Affluent

Andy Walton makes the same point concerning Fry and folks like the British Humanist Association. You may remember that Richard Dawkins and the BHA created an advertising campaign declaring "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."3 Walton comments such thinking is "aimed at a small, privileged elite of Western people in the 21st century." He continues:
Stop worrying, says Fry. Forget about God and life after death and finally you'll be free to enjoy life. Well, sorry Stephen, but if you take away God and the hope of a life to come, then the majority of believers you'll be ‘setting free' aren't privileged, Western people who'll be released into a life of self-gratifying loveliness. In fact, they are mostly poor, the majority are women and they are clinging onto their hope and faith for all that they're worth. Think of Christians in Syria, DR Congo or North Korea. Think of the hell on earth some them are experiencing. How dare Stephen Fry tell them that life would be so much better if they gave up on their silly faith.4
I think that's right. It's far too easy to assume the moral high ground and judge God when it suits you, but to provide answers from one's own beliefs, that's tough. If Fry wants to really make a convincing argument against God, he needs to come up with his own answer to the problem of evil, one that's better than the hope offered to those wounded children trough Christ.


1. "Stephen Fry." The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne. RTE One. Dublin, Ireland, 01 Feb. 2015. The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Bone Cancer - Causes." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.
3. "Atheist Bus Campaign." British Humanist Association. British Humanist Association, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.
4. Walton, Andy. "Thou Shalt Not Question Stephen Fry." Threads. Andy Walton, 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why Would the Press Ignore a Real Life House of Horrors?

2013 was a strong year for the crime and horror genre. The Walking Dead was a runaway hit on cable and crime procedural s such as NCIS and Criminal Minds were topping network ratings.1 The horror film genre pulled in over $450 billion in ticket sales, the highest in years.2 So, one can understand the anticipation of a large audience at the real-life trial of a man accused of running a "House of Horrors," using the term of the NBC news story when the initial report was sent to the Grand Jury in 2011. It states that the remains of seven children and one woman had been discovered, but prosecutors believe there had been many more. Bags and bottles of body parts "were scattered throughout the building," according to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.3

Understandably anticipating an enormous crush of reporters, cameramen, and others, the court duly set out to reserve seating for all the press during the trial. Except no one came to cover the trial. According to JD Mullane, himself a reporter with a local New Jersey paper, there was some local press, along with a few blog site reporters. No one else showed up.4 You can see Mullane's picture of the empty seating yourself below.

Given the sensationalistic nature of the story and the horrific evidence of the crimes, it simply doesn't make sense that a real life drama with all the markings of the most gruesome Criminal Minds episode wouldn't be covered daily. Until you understand that the defendant was an abortion provider and his crimes uncover the lie that legal abortions somehow make women safer.

Kermit Gosnell was a late-term abortion doctor operating with a legal license in a city where late term abortions were illegal. He would commonly deliver babies alive and then kill them afterwards. This "procedure" was so common that they were considered "standard procedure" and prosecutors estimate that hundreds of babies had been murdered that way.5 Gosnell's wife would perform the despicable act on Sundays if he were not around.

The women who sought Gosnell out were also in danger. According to the Grand Jury report:
Instruments were not sterile. Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed. There was no functioning resuscitation or even monitoring equipment, except for a single blood pressure cuff in the recovery room.

There were cat feces and hair throughout the facility, including in the two procedure rooms. Gosnell, they said, kept two cats at the facility (until one died) and let them roam freely. The cats not only defecated everywhere, they were infested with fleas. They slept on beds in the facility when patients were not using them. 6
At least two women died as the result of seeking Gosnell's abortion services. The only surprise is that there weren't many more—that we know of.

One worker described the abortions as "literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body" and said "it would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place."7 All while Gosnell made millions.

Abortion Hides Misery and Death

Cases like Gosnell's highlight the inhumanity of abortion in our country today. The only difference between what Gosnell did to those babies and what happens in clinics where late-term abortions legal is Gosnell's "snipping" was done a few seconds later than theirs. Other justify their actions by delivering all of the baby but the head. They seem to feel those last ten centimeters offer some kind of moral justification for their actions.

As far as I'm concerned, the press's negligence in covering the Gosnell story makes them somewhat culpable. They don't want to tell the real story because it negatively impacts an agenda they want to promote. The reality is that abortion is the business of death. It is soaked in blood and it doesn't care about the well-being of the women as much as it cares about turning a profit. Not all the abortion clinics are a dirty as Gosnell's. He is an extreme case. But we really don't know much about what the status of most abortion clinics are, given the reluctance of both the regulating agencies and the press to check them out with a critical eye.

As I write this, it is the 42nd anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision that legalized abortions across the country. It is a scourge upon our nation, not to mention terrible law. We must remember the Gosnell case and share it with others to show that making abortion legal makes it neither right nor safe.


1. Schneider, Michael. "America's Most Watched: The Top 25 Shows of the 2012-2013 TV Season." CBS Interactive Inc., 10 June 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
2. "Box Office Performance for Horror Movies in 2014." The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
3. Staff and News Service Reports. "'House of Horrors' Alleged at Abortion Clinic.", 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
4. Hemingway, Mollie. "WPost Reporter Explains Her Personal Gosnell Blackout." GetReligion. Patheos, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
5., 2011.
6. Williams, R. Seth. Report of The Grand Jury. Rep. no. 0009901-2008. Philadelphia: In the Court Of Common Pleas First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Criminal Trial Division, 2011. Office of the District Attorney. City of Philadelphia, 1 Jan 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
7. Araiza, Karen, and Emad Khalil. "Gosnell Abortion Worker: It Would Rain Fetuses." NBC 10 Philadelphia. NBCUniversal Media, LLC, 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.

Image courtesy Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada and licensed via CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Top Five Blog Posts for December

While the holiday season proved a busy one, we had a lot of folks stop by the blog. Last month saw over 25,000 pageviews which is the largest month to date! Three of the top five posts focused on Jesus, which was befitting. Two others took on atheism and naturalism. So, without further adieu, here are the top five posts for December:
  1. Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable
  2. History Testifies that Jesus Worked Miracles
  3. To Witness Like Jesus, Use Logic and Reason
  4. The Resurrection is Central to the History of Jesus
  5. What the 'Atheist Invocation' Really Demonstrates

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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

God Outwits Ann Coulter on Ebola

At the beginning of August, the news of American missionary doctor Kent Brantly's contraction of Ebola made the headlines across the country. Some people who were incredulous that a healthy American doctor would risk his life to serve others in a foreign country. Others, like commentator Ann Coulter seemed indignant. Coulter opened her August 6 column with the following:
I wonder how the Ebola doctor feels now that his humanitarian trip has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered.

What was the point?

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan's Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America's premier hospitals.1

As I had previously responded, Coulter's article devalued human life by weighing the price tag of Brantly's treatment against the human suffering he was alleviating treating Liberians with the disease.2 I had noted that putting oneself at risk for the sake of others has always been a part of the Christian tradition.

I also wrote that Coulter also errs by taking a utilitarian approach to Christian missionary efforts. I wrote, "If God is in control, then we have faith that He may work it out for His good." Little did I realize how quickly this would be proven, for just today CNN reported that Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States was free of the disease. CNN reported that Pham "thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, the American physician who also survived Ebola, for donating his plasma to her while she was sick."3 As ABC News notes, "Antibodies in the blood of a survivor may help a patient fight off the germ."4

Interestingly, Brantly himself received plasma from one of the very patients he was treating in Liberia. A 14-year-old boy under Brantly's care had recovered from the disease and donated plasma to Brantly.5

However, that wasn't the only treatment Brantly received. He was also given an experimental drug named Zmapp, which also contains Ebola antibodies. However, that wasn't an option for Pham, as “Its maker says supplies are now exhausted,” according to the ABC report.6

So, just before a Liberian traveler to the US contracted Ebola and spread it to Pham in this country, a US doctor who treated and helped a young boy recover from Ebola contracted the disease himself, was given an experimental drug rich in antibodies before supplies ran out, was flown back to the very same state at considerable expense, and ultimately overcame the disease. He was then able to donate his plasma to those like Pham who contracted the disease through a completely different contact point. And because his recovery was such a short time ago, Brantly's plasma was still rich with the antibodies that could help fight the virus.

My answer to those like Coulter who asked "What was the point?" would be "Perhaps God had a bit more knowledge and foresight in this whole situation." Brantly's plasma has helped save American lives. And that only happened because Brantly was faithful to his calling to serve the suffering people of Liberia. I had written before that "for Christians, pragmatism is not the primary model for action: obedience is. It is not to us to merely count the number of people we may touch, but to trust God and follow His will for our lives."7 God's ways are indeed higher than our own, but it sure is cool seeing how He works it all out to His glory.


1. Coulter, Ann. "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic'." AnnCoulter.Com. 6 August, 2014. Online.
2. Esposito, Lenny. " Ann Coulter is Wrong-People are More than Numbers." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
3. Martinez, Michael, Michael Martinez, and Jason Hanna. "What Will Nurse Do after Beating Ebola? Hug Her Dog, of Course." CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
4. Marilynn Marchione Ap Chief Medical Writer. "How Plasma Transfusions, Antibodies Fight Ebola." ABC News. ABC News Network, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Esposito, Ibid.
Image courtesy Samaritan's Purse.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Modern Man is More Gullible than Christian Believers

Many times skeptics charge that people of previous ages believed in the bible and Jesus' resurrection because they were somehow more gullible than the "reasoned" minds of today. Malcolm Muggeridge, in a lecture entitled "The Bible Today" answers this charge with his own counter-charge: modern man is not more skeptical and reasonable. In fact, the opposite is true; as media projects a more authoritative voice, it makes more people willing to believe in anything at all.

Personally, I find it on any showing quite ludicrous to suppose that, for nineteen of Christendom's twenty centuries, Christians were credulous idiots ready to believe any tomfoolery the Bible fostered, and that then, with the coming of Darwinism and all that followed therefrom, the scales fell from their eyes, and they realised that the Biblical truths they had been induced to accept were largely fraudulent and absurd. For one thing, it would seem to me that our twentieth century, far from being notable for scientific scepticism, is one of the most credulous eras in all history. It is not that people believe in nothing — which would be bad enough — but that they believe in anything — which is really terrible. Recoiling, as they do, from accepting the validity of miracles, and priding themselves on seeing the Incarnation as a transcendental con-trick, they will accept at its face value any proposition, however nonsensical, that is presented in scientific or sociological jargon — for instance, the existence of a population explosion, which has been so expertly and decisively demolished by Professor Colin Clark of Monash University. Could any mediaeval schoolman, I ask myself, sit through a universally applauded television series like Bronowski's Ascent of Man without a smile of derision at such infantile acceptance of unproven and unprovable assertions? Not to mention television advertisements, on a basis of which the most expensively educated populations in the western world alter their dietary and sartorial habits, puff happily at lethal cigarettes recommended as being conducive to romantic encounters by burbling waterfalls or on golden beaches washed by azure seas, and generally follow every whim and fancy wished upon them by the tellymasters.1


1. Muggeridge, Malcolm. "Is the Bible True?" The Gargoyle: The Journal of Malcom Muggeridge 10 (2006): 14. The Malcolm Muggeridge Society. The Malcolm Muggeridge Society, Apr. 2006. Web. 27 Sept. 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Danger of a Media-Driven Worldview

Television personality and journalist Malcom Muggeridge had a prescient understanding of the power of media. When addressing the National Religious Broadcasters, he spoke on how Christ may be communicated in a media-driven culture, one that Muggeridge characterized as "increasingly given over to fantasy." In this quote, he makes clear just why drawing one's worldview from popular media is dangerous.
Simone Weil wrote: "Nothing is so beautiful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy, as the good, and no desert so dreary and monotonous and boring as evil. But with fantasy it is the other way around. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied, intriguing, attractive, and full of charm."

Now the media, as it seems to me, strikingly bear out Simone Weil's contention. In their offerings it is almost invariably eros, rather than agape, that provides all the excitement; success and celebrity rather than a broken and a contrite heart that are made to seem desirable; and Jesus Christ Superstar rather than Jesus Christ on the cross who gets a folk hero's billing. Good and evil, after all, constitute the essential theme of our mortal existence. In this sense they may be compared with the positive and negative points that generate an electric current. Transpose the points, and the current fails. The lights go out. Darkness falls and all is confusion. It seems to me clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the darkness that is falling on our civilization is due precisely to such a transposition of good and evil, and that the media in furthering the transposition are a powerful influence—perhaps the most powerful in furthering the consequences.1


1. Muggeridge, Malcom. "Christ and Media." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 12/3 (Sept. 1978).
Accessed online. 195.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Lost Tomb of Jesus and Ovaltine

One of my favorite movies is the holiday-themed A Christmas Story. Every year as Christmas approaches, I pull out the tale of Ralphie, a 1940's kid who listens to Orphan Annie on the radio and pines for "an official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time."

One scene in the film shows an excited Ralphie receiving his Orphan Annie secret decoder pin. After transcribing the radio code, he locks himself in the bathroom, working feverishly to crack Annie's urgent communiqué. Ralphie wonders, "What could this important code from Annie be?" The message finally translates to "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine" and Ralphie is crushed that he placed all his faith in a "crummy commercial".

That's the way it is for many folks in Hollywood. They want to sell you the illusion, and make money off it in the process. Even if there is no real danger or real secret, they'll make it up just so they can market something to an unsuspecting public. As an example, let's look at the Discovery Channel's special from a few years ago, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Produced by James Cameron of Terminator and Titanic fame, and directed and narrated by Simcha Jacobovici, the show tries to claim that "the 2,000-year-old ‘Tomb of the Ten Ossuaries' belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth."1

They further try to press the point that this somehow deals a fatal blow to the New Testament. James Cameron states in an interview that "Faith and forensics make very uneasy bedfellows.. Faith implies essentially the lack of a need for evidence… The scientific method is in direct opposition to that. You have to investigate, you have to find the proof."2 Jacobovici tantalizes us with lines such as "The New Testament doesn't say that Jesus had a son, but perhaps in this instance, archaeology forces us to throw a different light on the New Testament".3

What We Know About the Tomb

Is there reasonable evidence to believe that a Jewish burial tomb containing Jewish burial boxes from the first century held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family? When we look at the evidence, what we find is that Cameron and Jacobovici are more interested in selling the idea that what they found is new evidence than producing actual evidence for a find. We have a two-hour television special that is nothing more than hype with no substance. First, let's strip away the hyperbole and see exactly what was found.

Facts from the Special:
  1. A tomb was found in 1980 in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem, hewn out of rock
  2. The tomb contained ten ossuaries to hold the remains of the dead buried there.
  3. Six of the ossuaries bore names inscribed on them including Jesus, son of Joseph; a form of Joseph (Jose), Matthias (Matthew) and Judah son of Jesus
  4. Two ossuaries bear female names: a Latin version of the name Mary using Aramaic letters (Mariah); and another with a version of the name Mary (Mariamne) and a full title supposedly reading "Mary known as the master".
  5. Some residual DNA shows that several of the people who were buried in the tomb were related in some way.
  6. The DNA also shows that the occupant of the Jesus ossuary was not related to the occupant of the Mariamne ossuary.
From these facts, the filmmakers make all kinds of assumptions. First, the coffin marked "Jesus, son of Joseph" pricks their interest. They then note that all the names in the tomb are also found in the New Testament. They believe that since the Mariah ossuary uses a Latin version of Mary, this could likely be Jesus' mother, since she was known by the Latin version of her name. They believe that the Mariamne box held the bones of Mary of Magdala, who would be Jesus' wife, since she is not a blood relative of the family.

Seeing the Truth

I think even a cursory look at the actual evidence and the conclusions that the show tries to draw demonstrate just how much the filmmakers are straining to make a connection. Let's take the names as an example. Dr. Darrel Bock pulled data from Richard Baukham of St. Andrews, in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. He gives us a breakdown of name frequencies in first century Palestine:
"Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinian Jews. The first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuaries.

1 Simon/Simeon 243 - 59
2 Joseph 218 - 45
3 Eleazar 166 - 29
4 Judah 164 - 44
5 John/Yohanan 122 - 25
6 Jesus 99 - 22
7 Hananiah 82 - 18
8 Jonathan 71 - 14
9 Matthew 62 - 17
10 Manaen - Menahem 42 - 4

For women, we have a total of 328 occurrences (women's names are much less often recorded than men's), and figures for the 4 most popular names are thus:

Mary/Mariamne 70 - 42
Salome 58 - 41
Shelamzion 24 - 19
Martha 20 - 17
You can see at once that all the names you're interested were extremely popular. 21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary). The chances of the people in the ossuaries being the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the New Testament must be very small indeed."5

Of course, you never hear that 122 tombs have been found with the name of Jesus and that Joseph is the second most popular name discovered on ossuaries. Or, the show doesn't report that an ossuary in 1926 was found with the same "Jesus, son of Joseph" inscription.

The authors next try to impress us with the facts that another other ossuaries bear names identical to Jesus' brother, Joses (Joseph). While this may be true, we saw that Joseph is the second most common name in first century Palestine. But what about Jesus' other brothers? If this is a family crypt, where are James, and Simon, and Judas? The Judas we have in the tomb is the son of Jesus, not his brother. And who is the Matthew? We have no history of a Matthew as being a living blood relative during Jesus' time.

Of course the fact that there's a tomb at all causes all sorts of problems. First, Jesus' family was too poor to afford a rock -;hewn tomb which was quite expensive in that day. Even if they could afford one, though, the family resided in Nazareth, not Jerusalem. Why wouldn't the entire family have a crypt there?

Next, you come to the problem of the reports of the empty tomb itself. Bodies take about a year to decompose before they are ready to be placed into an ossuary. If Jesus' family had a tomb in Jerusalem, do you think that the leaders of the Sanhedrin would have gone to find it and squash the Christian young Christian movement before it started? And why would all the apostles, including Jesus' brothers James and Jude, die martyrs' deaths without even one of them recanting and confessing that they made the resurrection story up.

Finally, we have DNA evidence that proves, well, nothing at all. So Mariamne wasn't related to Jesus. So what? This doesn't make her his wife. She could have been Matthew's wife, or Judah son of Jesus' wife. It's a huge stretch to try and connect two people in a civil union just because they aren't blood relatives.

An Attempt to Sell

There are more problems, but space prohibits me from going into any further detail. In fact, there are so many more problems with this "lost tomb" that Professor Amos Kloner, the respected Israeli archeologist who was in charge of the initial examination of the tomb and its contents says that the special is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Kloner remarks, "The claim that the burial site [of Jesus] has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell. I refute all their claims and efforts to waken a renewed interest in the findings. With all due respect, they are not archeologists."6

Like Ralphie in the Christmas movie, I hope that folks take a skeptical look at specials like this and see them for what they really are: empty messages that are nothing more than people hoping to make money off controversy. Perhaps the Discovery Channel needs to get some cross-play between their shows. I'm sure that someone with the skepticism of the MythBusters would be able to see the flaws in this special and take it for what it really is: a two-hour "crummy commercial".


1. This title was used in the special's web site located at
2. "The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Cameron Interview - Part 2"
3. "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" as seen on the Discovery Channel March 4, 2007 9:00 PM
4. "Hollywood Hype: The Oscars and Jesus' Family Tomb, What Do They Share?" Darrell Bock, accessed online 3/5/2007
5. "Excerpt: 'The Jesus Dynasty' by James D. Tabor" Accessed online 3/5/2007
6. "Jesus' burial site discovery is just PR spin",7340,L-3369346,00.html Accessed online 3/5/2007

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Answering Arguments for Abortion: "We'd Mess Up Three Lives"

Recently, a media commentator talked about how he and his girlfriend at that time had decided to have an abortion after she found out she was pregnant. He claimed that "abortion saved my life." Many times we hear that an abortion is necessary not only for the mother, but for the child and the father, too. It is said that all three lives would be destroyed if the pregnancy were to continue. Here's why such a claim fails.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Top Ten Apologetics Tweets

One of the ways I leverage social media is to expose people to the wider views and issues that are being written about online.  So, I use my Twitter and Facebook accounts to post interesting links or to start conversations about things that matter. (Not exclusively, mind you. If you follow me you may also get some personal updates or a proud photo of a family member.)

Below are the top ten read articles I linked to with an apologetic or cultural focus. It's interesting to see just what resonates with folks out there as well as what was hot in the news this year. Some of both are reflected below.
  1. Why do they always ask about rape and incest?
  2. Roger Ebert Reviews a Tragedy: His Search for God
  3. Supreme Court Decisions Cannot Define Morality
  4. The knockout game: reporting more hype than truth.
  5. Triumph of the vulgarians
  6. A Tale of Two Hitchens
  7. The Culture of Memes and Why It’s Ruining the World
  8. Family Says They Did Tip Gay Server, Didn't Leave Note
  9. A Whole New Meaning to Sex-Crazed
  10. Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Debunking 'Bible Secrets' Television Shows

Every year before Christmas and Easter, the media turns to stories about religion to try and boost their audiences. Like clockwork, the History Channel has just begun a series titled "Bible Secrets Discovered". This is the latest in a genre (including "The Bible's Buried Secrets," "Jesus Family Tomb" and others) that seeks to publicize some novel scriptural understanding that undermines the Bible's credibility. Are their charges true?

Below is a four-part audio series plus a two page downloadable PDF outline where I show how these 'Bible Secrets' shows engage ins a bit of misdirection to achieve their goals. More P.T. Barnum than true scholarship, when examining the facts thoughtfully, one can quickly see why these shows present an emperor who has no clothes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jesus or Skeptic? The New York Times Gets Confused

Adam Grant seems like a pretty smart guy. According to his CV, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in organizational psychology and his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa honors, and the John Harvard Scholarship for highest academic achievement. He is a professor at Wharton College at the University of Pennsylvania and he's written a best-selling book. Grant's writings have also been features in the New York Times. In fact, his most recent piece, entitled "Why Men Need Women," just ran last Sunday—prime time in newspaper circles.

Certainly, an academic of this caliber knows how to properly cite his sources. But as smart as Professor Grant may seem, he made an egregious error in his Times piece. In discussing how Mary Gates, Bill Gates' mother, had inspired both him and his wife, Grant wrote:
"Mary read a letter aloud that she had written to Melinda about marriage. Her concluding message was reminiscent of the Voltaire (or Spiderman) mantra that great power implies great responsibility: ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected.'"[1]
It's a great thought. Grant obviously thought it was powerful enough to include in his story. But, he's woefully confused on the origin of the teaching. The quote originates not with Mary Gates, Stan Lee, or Voltaire, but with Jesus Christ! The quote is taken from Luke 12:48 which reads in part "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more" (ESV).

Grant seems to be truly ignorant of the origin of Mrs. Gates' quote, instead attributing the idea to a much weaker concept that Voltaire helped popularize. How could an academic miss this? And how could the New York Times editors miss this? Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson claimed that rigorous fact-checking and truth-testing are "a fundamental part of our job as journalists."[2] I realize that one cannot source every quote by every individual, but we are talking about misattributing a quote from the man who changed the course of humanity more than any other in history!

The truth is that both an academic and the editors at The Times missed this is because there is a much more pervasive dearth of religious knowledge in our culture, especially in the news media. There have been books written on it. The folks at The Media Project continue to sound alarms over it. But, The Times and other mainstream news outlets continue to be willfully blind on the question of religion. They seem to be falling for the classic blunder, the one that thinks, "because religion isn't important to me, it really isn't important at all."

Of course, Jesus' teaching was important enough to Mary Gates that she would quote it. That same teaching then influenced Bill and Melinda Gates to give incredible amounts to charity. To me, that seems important. Perhaps The Times could hire someone with a little working knowledge with Jesus and His sayings, just in case they make a lasting mark on our society.


1. Grant, Adam. "Why Men Need Women." New York Times. July 21, 2013, page SR1. Accessed online at
2. Brisbane, Aurthur. "Update to my Previous Post on Truth Vigilantes." New York Times. Accessed 7/24/2013.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Same-Sex Governments vs. Same-Sex Marriage

One of the things I like to do in the morning is read the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times. It gives me a bit of insight into how people on both sides of an issue are thinking. But I can also see how reactionary or inconsistent certain points of view can be.

In yesterday's paper, LA Times columnist Jim Newton authored a piece where he voiced his concern about the upcoming Los Angeles City elections. Entitled "An all-male City Council?" , it decries the absence of women in the civic races, stating it is quite possible that all 18 positions could be filled by men.  He writes, "at least 13 of 15 council seats will be filled by men after July 1. The city attorney will be a man, as will Greuel's successor as controller." He then asks "Does it matter?"

Newton receives his answer from Laura Chick, a previously elected city official. Chick responds "Absolutely it makes a difference. Our brains are different. We have different perspectives…. There's something terribly wrong with this." The term for someone serving on the Los Angeles City Council is four years, so it. Newton calls such a scenario "a startling setback".

I agree with Chick on her assessment of women and men.  Women do provide a different perspective and they are wired to think differently. However, today, the Los Angeles Times editors provided their endorsement for same-sex marriage dismissing the argument that such configurations would be harmful to children.  The editorial proclaims, "The notion that same-sex couples cannot be loving and competent parents is not supported by research, and in any event children already are being raised by same-sex parents even where same-sex marriage is not legal."

Leaving aside the false way the editors framed Justice Kennedy's concern, I think it's clear how inconsistent the Los Angeles Times is showing itself to be.  To have only single sex representation on the City Council "absolutely matters." It would be a "startling setback" for the city whose council members only serve for four years and still have access to the thoughts and understanding of both male and female constituencies.  This is because men and women have different brains and different perspectives.  However, to have a same-sex couple rear children for eighteen years is not a problem at all, because it's happening. But how is it possible that both can be true?

Men and women are different, and they act differently as a result. The idea that they have different brains means the sexes are not interchangeable; biology matters. If an absence of a sexual perspective matters for a four year term, it most definitely matters when it's missing from the home life of a developing child for all of his or her formative years.  The primary way children learn to understand how to be a man or a woman and how to interact with those of the opposite sex is through the modeling of their parents. The child of a homosexual couples are denied this.

So, which is it?  Does it matter if a city council or a family is confined to a single sex or do both sexes offer something unique to the process? If they do, then why don't the Times' editors at least admit as much?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Exorcising God from Martin Luther King

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an Op-Ed piece entitled "King's Easter epistle" by David B. Oppenheimer for Easter Sunday. The article wasn't really a nod to Easter observances. Rather, it marked the 50th anniversary of King writing his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Oppenheimer discusses the events surrounding King's imprisonment and how he answered the charge of how one could violate the law in arguing  for following the rule of law. He also reproduces a portion of King's letter, ending with what Oppenheimer feels to be the key idea: "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."

Photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.
While all of this is well and fine, I find it interesting that Oppenheimer stops his quote short. He takes a 540 word paragraph and lops off 15 words that make up the last sentence. The closing of the King passage reads, "I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'"

Why would Oppenheimer choose to exorcise that sentence? Perhaps the reason is that in both the article and in the excerpt, Oppenheimer avoids the question of "What is it that makes a law just or unjust?" But this is King's goal in writing his letter! He is not simply telling his interlocutors why he chooses to protest, but providing the moral basis for so doing. King holds that the moral grounding for discerning between just and unjust laws is found in God Almighty.

The fact that King rooted his morality in a biblical belief is clear from the letter itself. In the very next paragraph of King's letter, he writes:
 "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."
So, King quotes from Augustine and Aquinas in grounding his judgment between just and unjust laws in the moral law.  Both Augustine and Aquinas argue that the moral law is rooted in God's law, a point which King agrees when he follows up the phrase "moral law" with its clarification "the law of God." This makes sense as King begins the paragraph quoted in the article with the sentence "We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights." Notice King states that his rights are given by God. That makes them irrevocable by local ordinance.

I think it's telling how Oppenheimer chooses to amputate a sentence from the key area of his excerpt on King. He feels that discussing the examples of prejudice King cites will move his audience and those examples alone are enough to buoy King's argument.  But King didn't feel this way. He used the examples as a way of setting the stage for his real argument: men have rights endowed to them by God and it is the responsibility of anyone who follows that God to also act out against the injustice of those laws. Later in the letter, King writes:
"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.

"We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.' It was 'illegal' to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws."
I do agree with Oppenheimer that "Anyone who hasn't read King's response lately (and most of us who have) would benefit from spending a few minutes reading it this Easter weekend." But Oppenheimer needs to take off his selective glasses and receive the letter as a whole.  As King noted above, just doing what is legal or illegal because the state has declared it such doesn't make it just or right. We need to ground our concept of justice in "a higher moral law."  Only then can we see clearly and advocate justly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is the Media Biased on Same-Sex Marriage

This weekend, Patrick Peyton, Ombudsman with the Washington Post published a piece on how he and a reporter from the Post exchanged an animated dialog with a reader over the paper's coverage of the same-sex marriage issue. As Mollie Hemingway pointed out in her column over at Get Religion "the reporter reveals some breathtaking bigotry about the people he or she is supposed to be covering." But Paxton, whose job as Ombudsman is supposed to be the people's advocate and voice to the paper, is just as complicit in his complete ignorance of the reasoning that social conservatives use when discussing the issue.

By Pablo Perez

The primary problem is identified by Rod Dreher. He states:
"Most reporters and editors, in my 20 years of experience, do not set out to slant stories, and in fact try to be fair. The bias that creeps into their coverage is typically the result of a newsroom monoculture, in which they don't see the bias because everybody, or nearly everybody, within that culture agrees on so much. In the case of gay rights and the marriage debate, though, they don't even make an effort to be fair."
Dreher says that the reporters, editors, and others in most mainstream journalism outlets fall back on the concept that "error has no rights." In other words, we reporters know that you traditional values folks (or worse "religionists" as Peyton called us) are really backwards buffoons, and therefore your opinion isn't even worth understanding. This belief is assumed to be true, even as it vilifies a significant portion of the population. So, there is no vast left-wing conspiracy, but a general unrecognized level of groupthink by the media.

Of course throughout the original post, Peyton continually misunderstands both the concern of the reader and the argument we have against same-sex marriage.  He falls back yet again to the old trope that its basis is the same as bigotry against mixed race marriages. But such a comparison is as insulting as it is pig-headed. As I've noted in a recent podcast, marriage is the only institution that allows our society to continue through the act of procreation and the rearing of children. There is no other institution that will bring us the next generation. No other. Not one.  Homosexual unions by their very definition cannot do this. Sure they can adopt children, or maybe "borrow" a gamete from the opposite sex to birth children. But such measures will never produce an entire generation of citizens. In fact, books like Huxley's Brave New World cry out against the divorce of human procreation from its natural biological origins.

Hemingway I think hits the nail on the head when she writes:
Here's what needs to happen. Right now. Every reporter — no matter the beat, no matter how much in the tank for redefining marriage, no matter how close-minded they've been to this point — every reporter needs to stop what they're doing and read "What is Marriage."

It's a very easy-to-read book that succinctly explains the traditionalist arguments surrounding marriage. Refusing to learn the arguments of those who oppose changing the law must end. It simply must end. The ignorance and bigotry with which reporters have covered this topic is a scandal. It's destroying civil political discourse, it's embarrassing and can't continue.

Reporters don't need to change their deeply-held biases in favor of changing marriage law. But they do need to learn even a little bit about the arguments of those who oppose such a change.

No reporter working today should ever make the error of comparing arguments against marriage redefinition with anti-miscegenation laws. It's clownish and easily disputed.
Such a step is one of the bare minimum requirements for the job of journalism. Get the facts straight first, and then you can report the news accurately.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Are the Smartest People Only Concerned with Science and Technology?

Every year, the online magazine Edge asks 150 people who they deem the "most complex and sophisticated minds" a provocative question and publish their results.  This year, that question was "What *Should* We be Worried About?" While each person submitted a short essay containing their answer, you can see a pretty fair synopsis of the results at the Motherboard site. The article is telling in many ways.

Photo by Vincerama

One of the most immediately noticeable things in the collection is simply how many of the respondents focus on science and technology as points of worry.  Of the 150 answers, half dealt with these topics.  They either saw science as the ultimate savior of mankind that is somehow being stifled, science leading us into monstrous or disastrous consequences, or our increasing dependence on technology and the Internet as our ultimate undoing.  Compare that with only three answers dealing with economic issues, two on governments or political issues, and twenty-three who worried in some way about our cultural shortcomings or homogenization.  (There were even eight who said we worry too much about being worried!)

Of course, when one looks at who Edge considers the smartest people in the world, they tend to bias their results. There are no people listed whose primary focus is in ethics and there are just a few professional philosophers—thus inadvertently underscoring Anton Zelinger's worry that "we are more and more losing the formal and informal bridges between different intellectual, mental and humanistic approaches to seeing the world." Of course no theologians were invited to the party.

In the responses, you do see several nods towards religion, but they are all cast in negative terms. Science writer Matt Ridley is worried about what he terms "superstition" and writes with alarm that "the fundamentalists are breeding at a faster rate than the moderates." Tim O'Reilly worries that "the rise of anti-intellectualism" (which he clarifies for us as "conservative elements in American religion and politics") will stifle technological process.

But, religion and ethics are key to answering many of the other worries voiced in the collection. Seirian Summer is worried about synthetic biology spiraling out of control. Both Stanislas Dehaene and Melanie Swan are concerned that our technology will become so advanced authorities and companies will soon be able to read people's brains. And Colin Tudge claims that "Science has become increasingly narrow-minded—materialistic, reductionist, and inveterately anthropocentric: still rooted, philosophically, in the 18th century." As I've said before, science does not have the tools to deal with these issues, since they are fundamentally questions of morality.

There are a few other answers that are notable. Benjamin Bergen wants our kids to hear obscene words, claiming such language "carry no intrinsic threat of harm." I wonder if African-Americans feel that way about the "N" word? Thomas Metzinger is concerned about the proliferation of illegal drugs. Daniel L. Everett is worried about the demise of the scholar. And Roger Schank is worried "that people can't think, can't reason from evidence, and don't even know what would constitute evidence." On that last point I agree. I hope Edge magazine will also lose their myopia and think more about asking experts in morality when morally charged questions arise.

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

He Needs to Be Committed: Touré's Abortion Double-Speak

Last week we marked the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision, a particularly bad bit of legalese that opened the door to more than 55 million babies being slaughtered in the U.S. to date. There were many articles commenting on the decision, from both pro-life and pro-choice camps. One that specifically caught my attention was from the MSNBC commentator Touré (nee Touré Neblett) who said in a video commentary that abortion had "saved my life."

Touré's monologue began:

"This week brought us the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and made me reflect on a moment from about fifteen years ago when I was in a committed relationship with a woman who I knew was just not the one.  She probably also knew it wasn't gonna work out… and then she got pregnant. And I was terrified. I've always known the importance of family and building kids into strong adults. And I know I would not be who I am if not growing up under the watchful eye of two people who loved me and loved each other.  I knew that pregnant woman and I were not gonna be able to form a lasting family. She decided it was best to have an abortion and days later she did; we did. And in some ways that choice saved my life. I was not yet smart enough or man enough to build a family or raise a child and I only would have contributed to making a mess of three lives."

Touré goes on to say how years later, after he married his current wife and they were expecting their first son, his belief in abortion was shaken by viewing 3-D ultrasounds.  "But in the end I remain committed to being pro-choice because I cannot image arguing against a woman's right to control her body and thus her life." He then dismisses babies in the womb by saying that "there is a reasonable and unsolvable medical debate about when exactly life begins."

Now, there is so much terrible thinking here that I could write a book about it, but if I were to be given the chance to talk with Touré, I think I would ask him two questions.  First, notice his opening sentence. He said, "I was in a committed relationship with a woman who I knew was just not the one." Hmm. What do you mean by "the one" Touré? The context seems to imply that you didn't truly love her (remember families are built by two people who love each other), or you at least didn't love her to commit to forsake all others for her. So, if that's the case, then tell me what exactly was it that you were committed to? How can one be in a "committed relationship" without committing to the person for life?  The only answer I can come up with is that he was committed to the sex. He states that "She probably also knew it wasn't gonna work out... and then she got pregnant." So, she got pregnant after they both knew it wasn't going to work out? Touré's understanding of commitment is about as fast and loose as one could have.

Secondly, Touré said that the experience of prenatal care and the technology of ultrasounds made him question his position on abortion. His only escape from the fact that medical science through ultrasound showed that there is a live human being in the womb was to assert that "there is a reasonable and unsolvable medical debate about when exactly life begins." Perhaps the debate is unsolvable medically (the question of the soul would be a metaphysical question and thus lie outside the purview of science), but my question would be so what? There is an equally unsolvable medical debate about when exactly life ends.  However, we don't throw up our hands and claim that we can never recognize a patient from a corpse.

No, Touré is doing a brilliant job of Orwellian double-speak here.  He wants to be committed when it's not a commitment and he claims that any small area of doubt is justification to deny the facts of science that are presented to him directly so he may hold onto his politically correct ideology. It is just this type of propaganda and self-denial that allows the slaughter of the innocents to continue. If Touré was truly held to "a woman's right to control her body and thus her life", he wouldn't stand for destroying both those bodies and those lives in utero, before they ever had a chance to grow and thrive.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Top Five Apologetics Podcast Topics

The Come Let Us Reason Together podcast has been one of the most popular features of our ministry. With 90,000 downloads last year alone, our weekly podcast continues to provide thoughtful instruction on important apologetics issues.  We've been blessed to again be counted among the top 16 apologetics podcasts by the well-respected Apologetics 316 web site.

Below are the top five topics downloaded in our 2011 releases. If you haven't yet subscribed to the podcast, you can do so via iTunes or by RSS.
  1. Did Christianity Steal from Mystery Religions?
  2. Dealing with Bible Contradictions
  3. The Case Against Homosexual Marriage
  4. Who Chose What to Include in the Bible?
  5. Looking at Eastern Religions: Hinduism & Buddhism

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jim Caviezel's Amazing Reading of the Resurrection

In 2001, I was working on a project with the American Bible Society. That's when I first saw this haunting video and was introduced to Jim Caviezel as a storefront preacher reading John's account of the resurrection. It has stuck with me all these years.

Many of you know that Caviezel went on to star in the hit film Frequency before his landmark portrayal of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. He is currently starring in the television show Person of Interest. He recently said that role caused Hollywood to shun him, but he doesn't worry about the cost to his career. "We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth."

Usually, I don't care for dramatic readings of the Bible. There must be a certain level of interpretation when these are done, and I find that most of the time the actor doesn't quite get all that's going on in the text. Not this time. Caviezel delivers the chapter with incredible sensitivity and insight, and the film is a feast for the eyes. You will be touched.

Strive for the best

One additional item. It used to be that Christianity was responsible for the best of art and media. Sadly today, most Christian entertainment is merely derivative of whatever the secular world finds popular. I pray that  the church can produce more top-notch, innovative videos like this.
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