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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 worldview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label worldview. Show all posts

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Necessity of a Biblical Worldview (audio)

Recently, I was interviewed by Pastor Mike Spaulding of Soaring Eagle Radio on apologetics and how we are losing the Christian worldview, both in the church as well as in the greater culture. In this discussion, we discuss the need for apologetics in the church, how apologetics ministers to both believers and non-believers, how to answer questions nonbelievers offer, and ways you can grow in your own apologetics efforts. Listen to the recording below or click here to download the mp3 recording.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thank Christianity for the Technology Revolution

The standard narrative of secularists is that religion offers a backwards view of the world that is outdated in our technologically advanced culture. But as historians have looked back upon the development of technology, one can see that Christianity creates the fertile soil in which technological advancements can grow. In his book The Book That Made Your World: How The Bible Created The Soul Of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi makes this point well.  He writes:

Professor David Landes studied clock making in China and concluded that the development of technology is not merely a matter of ingenuity. The Chinese had technical ability, yet clock making did not become an industry, nor did it become a source of continuing and growing technological innovations in China as it did in Europe. Why? The Chinese were keen neither to know time nor to organize their lives accordingly.

 The development of the watermill illustrates that culture is as important for the development of technology as ingenuity is. In 1935, Marc Bloch published his finding that the watermill had been invented at least a century before Christ. Later, its usefulness for grinding grain was known in Afghanistan, on the border of geographic India. Almost everyone needed to grind grain, yet the use of the watermill never spread in Hindu, Buddhist, or (later) Islamic cultures. Christian monks in Europe were the first to begin the widespread use of the watermill for grinding and for developing power machinery.

 The above question was the topic of a 1961 Oxford Symposium on Scientific Change, spearheaded by Alistair Crombie. The best answer was given by Marburg historian Ernst Benz, who published a seminal essay in 1964, “Fondamenti Christiani della Tecnica Occidentale.” It demonstrated that “Christian beliefs provided the rationale, and faith the motive energy for western technology.” Benz had studied and experienced Buddhism in Japan. The antitechnological impulses in Zen led him to explore whether Europe’s technological advances were somehow rooted in Christian beliefs and attitudes. His research led him to the conclusion that the biblical worldview was indeed the key to understanding Western technology.
Technology flourished just as science flourished in the West because Christianity valued God as creator and it valued seeking the understanding of God's creation. Following God's example, creating and mastering creation leads to the technological explosion we enjoy today. So no matter which technology you've chosen to read this post, the fact you can read it at all is a result of the Christian worldview. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Consequences of Beliefs

I've spent a lot of time on college campuses engaging with students and answering questions. Some are intrigued by a concept of Christianity they were unfamiliar with before our conversation. Most, though, don't see why I or Christians like me would seek to argue for our faith at all. They believe that people should be able to choose whatever faith they're comfortable with and everyone else should leave them alone. They think that beliefs are preferences akin to what flavor of ice cream they prefer.

But beliefs aren't preferences like ice cream. They deal with not simply what we like, but what's true. One may like cigarettes but still hold the belief that they will kill you and thus seek to quit smoking. Another may not believe this, and satisfy his or her liking for cigarettes. Beliefs are not simply preferences, they are what we think is true about something or not, and there are consequences for holding to one belief over another.

Because beliefs have consequences, it follows that the more important the issue, the more important the belief. If I hold a belief that shoe brand A is built better than that shoe brand B brand, I may purchase brand A only to find out my beliefs were wrong. The shoes wore out quickly and I've lost a few dollars in the process. But if I'm an oncologist and I believe in the medieval practice of bloodletting to cure cancer, that's a bigger issue and the consequences of my beliefs are going to have bigger effects on both myself and my patients.

Religious Beliefs Matter the Most

We've agreed that the importance of true beliefs rises along with the importance of the issue, but where do religious beliefs fit in? Are they, like those students on campus claim, just useful to give the believer a good feeling? The answer lies in the issues that are central to all religions and even to those who hold to no religion as well. The focus of one's religious belief or non-belief is basically the nature of reality itself. Why are we here? Is there some purpose to life? Should I live toward some end? How do I fit in a world of other people and what do I make of them? Where do moral laws come from? Is there a God or higher power to whom we are all ultimately accountable? These are serious questions on how we value ourselves, other people, and our world. They are the biggest questions humanity wrestles with.

Because the issues answered by religious belief are so important, it should be no surprise that the consequences of those beliefs will have a major impact upon the world as well. My wife and I had the opportunity to stay in Manhattan in June of 2001. We spent four days in the city, even walking around the World Trade Center. Of course we didn't realize then that within three months those buildings would fall along with the lives of nearly three thousand people simply because of the beliefs of a small group of men. If 9/11 has taught us anything, it should be that beliefs matter and the big beliefs matter quite a bit. Yet, I still hear students tell me that beliefs are akin to ice cream. How could they come to that conclusion?

As we reflect and mourn those lost on this day, we should also reflect on how important it is to examine our beliefs and see if we have good reasons to believe what we do. Everyone has beliefs; the real questions are why do you believe what you do and are you willing to inspect your own beliefs to see whether they are true? That's what a rational person would do.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

How Christianity Lifts Cultures Out of Poverty

Sometimes it's good to get an outside perspective on history. Vishal Mangalwadi was raised a Hindu in his native India, but he couldn't find spiritual and intellectual satisfaction until he discovered the teachings of the Bible. In his book The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization he does a masterful job demonstrating how the Christian worldview is singularly responsible for the elevation of humanity.

One example is how Mangalwadi looks at the concept of colonization, something with which Indians are very familiar and passionate about. He writes:
Some people think that chance happenings of history, such as guns, germs, and steel, were the keys to the West's ability to colonize the world. Their materialistic perspective overlooks the fact that Catholic nations like Portugal, Spain, and France were the leading naval powers during the sixteenth century. What enabled much smaller Protestant nations such as England and Holland to beat their Catholic rivals?

Cedric B. Cowing, professor emeritus of history in Hawaii, studied the impact of the eighteenth-century biblical "Revival" in England and the "Great Awakening" or "New Light" in America. He concluded that the primary factor that propelled the English-speaking nations ahead of their Catholic rivals was the peculiar relationship between biblical spirituality and intellectual awakening.

The fact that God had communicated his Word motivated people to learn reading and writing. The Bible was already a library—a collection of sixty-six books. On top of that, John Wesley urged his converts to study fifty selected titles. In America the awakening had begun under Jonathan Edwards, America's first philosopher. The attempt to master his books, the recommended books, and the Bible motivated believers to develop a number of learning skills. Cowing said that as a result of these spiritual revivals,
in Britain, many of the converts of Whitefield and Wesley were motivated to learn to read [the Bible] and write, but in the northern colonies [e.g., North America] where people were already literate—except the Indians and Negroes—the energies and discipline released by the New Light were the inspiration needed to master abstract religious material. In comprehending theological as well as devotional printed matter, the emotions [stirred up by Revivalists] aided the development of cognitive skills. The novices in focusing on the stages of conversion were studying a process analogous to the still mysterious secular sequence of gathering data, altering hypotheses, and somehow relying upon intuition to synthesize the conclusions. This type of thinking would have a more general utility later. The Great Awakening induced a grass roots intellectualism that ultimately spread in every direction, from belief in God's sovereignty all the way to agnosticism.
These spiritual revivals led to the mass awakening of reason. People were seeking and receiving the promised "Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord"—which is "the beginning of knowledge." By producing an unprecedented hunger for the knowledge of truth, biblical revivals lifted Protestant countries out of the poverty that was chronic worldwide.1
Mangalwadi's conclusions were confirmed by the painstakingly thorough research of sociologist Robert Woodberry. Woodberry's findings were published in the American Political Science Review journal where he reports:
In particular, conversionary Protestants (CPs) were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, most major colonial reforms, and the codification of legal protections for nonwhites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These innovations fostered conditions that made stable representative democracy more likely—regardless of whether many people converted to Protestantism. Moreover, religious beliefs motivated most of these transformations. In this blunt form, without evidence or nuance, these claims may sound overstated and offensive. Yet the historical and statistical evidence of CPs' influence is strong, and the cost of ignoring CPs in our models is demonstrably high2 (emphasis added).
Here is yet another example of how the Christian worldview measures up to others. Christianity offers real-world benefits here and now to people. It elevates living conditions even for those who don't convert because it upholds reason as profitable and human knowledge as an intrinsic good. In the marketplace of ideas, Christianity has proven itself to be reliable.


1. Mangalwadi, Vishal. The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011. 88-89.Print.
2. Woodberry, Robert D. "The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy." American Political Science Review 106.02 (2012): 244-45. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Christian Morals Make Us More Free

What is true freedom? Does having fewer restrictions make one more free? That's the message advertisers would foist on our kids. From the No Rules skateboard apparel to yesterday's MTV Video Music Awards where Miley Cyrus was given "pretty free reign… no rules,"1 to Ashley Madison's come-on slogan of "Life is short… have an affair, " the message is unmistakable: freedom means shedding the moral restrictions of the past.

It's part of people's nature to bristle against rules, especially those rules that would force one to curb his or her predilections. Children would rather eat candy than vegetables for dinner. Students would rather play video games than study. Most adults in society today look upon those desires as childish. They understand there are real consequences to taking the easy road. Ignoring the nutritional needs of one's body or educational opportunities that color one's future isn't a freeing experience; they have real and significant consequences.

Given the serious consequences of childish actions, people have come to realize that it is actually more freeing to live within these rules. The person who studied hard in school and has earned a degree has many more opportunities in front of him than one who didn't. The person who eats well has the freedom to perform better in sports. Freedom isn't about the next few hours or the next few days, but what happens over a lifetime.

Christian Morality is Freeing

While people generally agree on the obvious examples I offered above, this principle of freedom applies within the moral realm as well. Marvin Olasky recently interviewed University of Texas philosophy professor J. Budziszewski on the changes in attitude college students display today as opposed to years past. Budziszewski has been a keen observer of the difficulties Christian students face when entering college, and given our sex-saturated culture, the temptations for easy sexual hook-ups is everywhere. When asked about what the church can do about all the young people leaving their faith in college, Budziszewski answered:
We haven't a chance of getting people to live a Christian way of life if they think it is just a collection of joy-killing rules. What we should explain is that Christian morality is a prerequisite for happiness, and that it makes us more free, not less—free to do what is good rather than being jerked around by desires. People need to have the vision of the good that temptation is pulling them away from.2
This is a crucial message that the church hasn't communicated very well at all. We've turned sex into a series of "thou shalt not's" instead of emphasizing the holiness of sex. We've warned against the ways of the world in ominous tones instead of talking with kids about just how much freedom one gains when one works at developing the good in one's life. Gratification delayed does not mean gratification denied, it simply means you will have the freedom to experience the full joys of what God has intended for you without the nasty consequences. There will be more choices afforded to you and you will have more control over your life's path.


1. Boardman, Madeline. "VMAs Producer: Miley Cyrus Has 'free Rein,' No Rules for Sunday's Show." Entertainment Weekly Inc, 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.
2. Olasky, Marvin. "J. Budziszewski: Generation Disordered" WORLD. WORLD News Group, 21 Aug. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Putting Christianity to the Life Test

Car dealers love to get you to test drive one of their vehicles. It's one of the things they aim for when they interact with a new customer. They know test drives increase the likelihood of purchase. You experience all those new sensations: that new car smell, no stains on the seats, and all the latest gadgets. It makes the car that much more enticing.

However, I have found a test drive to be of only limited benefit. I like to rent a car for a week or so and test it that way. We use our vehicles differently in real life than we do driving around the block with a sales man sitting in the passenger seat. We see if the trunk can contain our stuff, how the car reacts in a more diverse range of traffic conditions, and whether it fits the way we live and drive. This kind of gives me a much better sense of whether the vehicle will work in the day to day needs of the real world. To invest in a car that fails to, say handle steep grades if you live in the mountains or (as in my particular case) one that can't haul a lot of kids with large bags of hockey gear would be costly.

Even more costly, though, would be to invest one's life in a worldview that fails the real world test. We live in a culture that currently sees no problem with holding to beliefs that don't square with our real world experiences. For example, recent news events have brought the question of religious liberty and people's right to have their actions be governed by their consciousness into the spotlight. I've seen many letters to the editor like this one from Chris Jacobovitz who states categorically, "Any legislator who lets his or her 'deep personal beliefs' get in the way of making legislative decisions should resign immediately."1 I would like to ask Mr. Jacobovitz if deep personal beliefs of people like William Wilberforce, who lobbied the English Parliament for twenty years to abolish slavery are OK. Or those of Henry B. Whipple. Of course, Mr. Jacobovitz's view is itself a deeply held personal belief, and thus it should not get in the way of anyone else making legislative decisions.

Your Worldview Must Match Reality

It is common to run into people who think that any kind of personal belief must somehow be distanced from one's public interaction, but this only breeds the self-refuting nonsense like that found in the letter above. It's a small test drive that sounds good at first, but hides its shortcomings. Beliefs must be examined in light of how they make sense of the outside world; they should be lived with and measured. If the worldview is true, it will accurately reflect the real world. And there's no better example of that than Christianity itself.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Rome they need to change their worldview. He encourages them to not be conformed to the thoughts and ways prevalent in the world of his day, but to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12;2, ESV). The verse is a familiar one, but I like the way the ESV renders it. Instead of the King James "to prove", the ESV uses the more modern "by testing." That is, we can test what is good and acceptable and perfect by living out the Christian worldview and see how it fits. Paul is so confident that living your life sacrificially with your mind transformed will demonstrate the reality and benefit of the Christian faith. He tells the Thessalonian much the same thing, charging them to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

I've said before that Christianity knows nothing of blind faith. It is an eminently practical belief system that has a 1700 year track record of bettering lives and bettering nations. There is no other worldview that more closely matches reality than Christianity. Christianity is responsible for the concept of human equality, provides grounding for morality, explains life, consciousness, and provides real meaning for our existence. In other words, Christianity teaches us the truth about ourselves and the world around us. Certainly that's worth investing in.


1. Jacobovitz, Chris. Letter. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2015. Web. 20 July 2015.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Scary World of Truth

The world can be a scary place. Just yesterday police helicopters were circling the park behind my home searching for a suspect who jumped out of the car and was fleeing through back yards in an adjoining neighborhood. Certainly people should be vigilant when walking in unsafe neighborhoods or unknown city streets.

What's surprising, though, is the fear that so many people have of being exposed to the truth. Philosopher J. Budziszewski in his book How to Stay Christian in College gives one example:
Truth is hot, scary stuff. Truth about God is the hottest of all. It scares some people so badly that they don't even want to search for it. One day in a "great books" course, my students were discussing the great medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas was a Christian, and some of the students were interested in what he believed about God. As they explored his views, one young man became more and more agitated. Finally he said, "This isn't helping me," and asked whether he could just pick up the assignment and leave. Of course, I said he could.

Later he visited my office, and I found out what his problem was. He told me that he wasn't interested in truth—that the only thing he cared about was what had immediate practical value for him. Searching for truth about God, it seemed, was especially impractical because if he found it, his whole world might turn upside down.

Or could it be that it would turn right side up?[1]
This young man was uncomfortable with dealing with facts that didn't fit into his current belief system. That seems to be the default position more and more these days. I've talked before about how college students have descended into an infantile position of trigger-warnings and campus speech codes. But it isn't only individuals who seem to shrink at facing uncomfortable facts. Yesterday, I wrote about how the media is purposely censoring stories like Planned Parenthood's harvesting and selling of baby organs. They censor the facts that put their favored position in a bad light.

Why are people today so scared of the truth? Because the truth can mean work. It takes work to reexamine how you understand an issue. Questioning one belief may cause other beliefs to be questioned as well. Sometimes one's entire worldview becomes fragile. Sometimes it will take a lot of time and research to figure out how to put your beliefs together in a way that corresponds with the truth and still makes sense. However, it's worth it. If you aren't holding to true beliefs, sooner or later you are going to crash into reality and the consequences can be much worse.

The truth shouldn't scare us. Christians more than anyone else should embrace the truth, even if it means changing some of their positions. I can say that assuredly because I know all truth is God's truth. Jesus declared himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). That's why I have taken my sons to listen to atheists. I talk with them about other views. I myself read newspapers and opinion pieces by folks with whom I disagree. Sometimes their views will cause me to reexamine why I believe a certain thing or if my understanding of a particular position is shallow. However, I've never found the truth to undermine the Christian faith.
1. J. Budziszewski. How to Stay Christian in College. Colorado Springs: TH1NK, 2004. (Kindle Locations 650-655). Kindle Edition.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Living in a Post-Pagan Culture

We in the West are living in a post-Christian culture. Europe has been overtly secular for many years, but given the high percentage of the population in the U.S. who believe in God, identify with a specific Christian faith and state religion is very important to them. Yet, the recent Pew survey showed that mainstream Christianity has been losing adherents, especially with the Millennial generation.1

Even prior to the Pew survey, the influence of Christian beliefs had been clearly waning as we saw less and less evidence of the Christian worldview impacting the important moral questions of our day. Instead of the God of the Bible and his moral standard, most Americans hold to God as someone you pray to in order to escape trouble but doesn't require anything from you. It's akin to what researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton labeled Moral Therapeutic Deism.2 The recent battles that Christians have had to fight in not servicing homosexual unions to maintain their religious integrity offers a clear sign that the country had left its Christian underpinnings. There should be no doubt that American—the last hold-out in the West—has become post-Christian.

What are we trading Christianity for?

Of course, believers have lamented how a society built upon and existing because of a Christian worldview would now jettison its foundational principles for something that is not clearly defined. Most of the culture is moving to a feelings-based system of judgment.

Take a recent letter to the Los Angeles Times. Reader E.J. Parker was opining on whether the Los Angeles should change the name of Robert E. Lee school and wrote, "For me, the deciding point is this: Were I an African American, how would I feel as a parent, sending my child to a school named for the great hero for the Confederacy?" That's the deciding point? Feelings? Yet, in all those lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and wedding coordinators who wouldn't service a homosexual ceremony (and even a complaint against Christians who would), feelings are the impetus and the deciding factor.

So, what is in store for Western society now? Are we to slide back into paganism? No, that won't happen. A feelings-based society is further removed from Paganism than it is from a Christian society. C.S. Lewis explains:
For [those in a post-Christian society] neglect not only the law of Christ but even the Law of Nature as known by the Pagans. For now they do not blush at adultery, treachery, perjury, theft and the other crimes which I will not say Christian Doctors, but the pagans and the barbarous have themselves denounced.

They err who say "the world is turning pagan again." Would that it were! The truth is that we are falling into a much worse state.

"Post Christian man" is not the same as "pre-Christian man." He is as far removed as virgin is from widow: there is nothing in common except the want of a spouse: but there is a great difference between a spouse-to-come and a spouse lost.3
Lewis is exactly right here. Christianity provided the grounding for the equality of all men; it is unintelligible in paganism. The New Secularists who place all their emphasis on the feelings of others have taken that Christian idea and warped it to mean all people should be equally unoffended. The new concept only vaguely resembles Christian morality, but it is completely foreign to pagan Rome of Greece, where the conqueror is lauded as the supreme example of humanity.

The West has divorced itself from Christianity. Our society is now is selling off all those things that remind us of the relationship. But if Christianity built the house, bought the furniture, and created the traditions, what will our lives look like once all those things are gone? We cannot look to the pagan past as we have buried that husband long ago. This brave new world is unknown, and perhaps those who advocate for it should show a bit more caution before every bit of shelter is lost.


1. "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." Rep. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C., 15 May 2015. Web.
2. Smith, Christian. "On "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" as U.S. Teenagers' Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith." Religion and Youth. Ed. Sylvia Collins-Mayo and Pink Dandelion. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2010. 46-57. Print.
3. Lewis, C. S., Wayne Martindale, and Jerry Root. The Quotable Lewis. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989. 482. Print.
Image courtesy Zoomar and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Liberal Philosophy is Backfiring on Its Champions

There aren't many people championing Marx and Lenin anymore. The New York Times reported that the Socialist party has only about 1,000 registered members, the Communist Party U.S.A. has about 2,000 members, and the Democratic Socialists, 6,000. Compare that to their heyday; in the 1932 presidential election, their combined votes numbered nearly one million. 1

Why are these parties so unsuccessful today? One reason is Communism as an idea has proven to simply not work in the real world. It was tried across many countries of Eastern Europe, most notably within the Soviet Union. The Communist experiment ran some 70 years, but it didn't improve the lives of the citizens, it worsened them. In fact, in every country where communism was attempted, it became an utter failure. Even today, citizens of Communist countries like Cuba are still suffering in third-world conditions. Once Communist China adopted Western/capitalist economic models (while using communism to hold onto political control) it began to thrive.

I use this example to highlight a fairly simple point: there are a lot of theories that sound good on paper, but when applied in the real world, they simply don't work. In fact, that's one way to identify if your worldview makes sense—see how it matches up with reality.

Political Correctness Eating Its Own

I've been watching with interest how liberal advocates are now suffering the consequences of their own dictums. Universities have been beating the drum on non-offensive speech, relative morality, and political correctness for decades, but now those who have promoted such views have been finding themselves subject to condemnation by the very students they instructed.

One example is Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University and a self-described feminist and cultural critic recently wrote an article decrying the "sexual paranoia" happening at college campuses. She didn't name any names nor did she point to a specific example, yet according to the Fiscal Times, two students filed harassment charges against her claiming that her essay had "'a chilling effect' on students' ability to report sexual misconduct ."2 Since in Title IX cases, the university basically treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent, Kipnis had to undergo an arduous ordeal trying to show how the feelings of the students who felt victimized didn't count.

Edward Schlosser, a professor at "a midsize state school" admits in an article on Vox that "my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones."3 He recounts how a class discussion on the housing crash where a student challenged a film presentation on the underlying cause of the crash because the video did not talk about race as a factor. The student filed a complaint with his director.

Schlosser said the new feelings-based standard has him modifying his teaching style. He reports:
I have intentionally adjusted my teaching materials as the political winds have shifted. (I also make sure all my remotely offensive or challenging opinions, such as this article, are expressed either anonymously or pseudonymously). Most of my colleagues who still have jobs have done the same. We've seen bad things happen to too many good teachers — adjuncts getting axed because their evaluations dipped below a 3.0, grad students being removed from classes after a single student complaint, and so on.4
I believe Schlosser is scared. In fact, he was so scared he chose a pseudonym to write the article.

There seems to be no one who is safe from the rebid demand to not hurt feelings by students today. Even Dan Savage, the sex columnist and homosexual advocate was caught the double-edged sword of hurt feelings. You may remember Savage from his castigation of Christian students at a student journalism conference last year. He was hoisted on his own petard when speaking at the University of Chicago. Savage was explaining that he used to use the word "tranny" to talk of transgenders, but even using the word in his explanation caused students to accuse him of committing a hate crime and set up a petition on providing guidelines for future speakers so they will not offend anyone. 5

Tolerance Crumbling Under Its Own Weight

There are many more stories such as these coming out of universities. Christina Hoff Sommers experienced this many times when she speaks, eliciting charges of triggering students and faculty alike. Sommers is also a self-identified feminist, although she likes to present the facts as they pertain to things like wage differences or biases against women in vocations. Those facts are enough to make her an enemy of those who simply want to believe the narrative rather than the truth.

I've written before about living in the age of feeling. I've recognized that by abandoning the traditional moral understanding of sex, colleges have opened themselves up to more sexual miscreancy.. Now, we can see the fruition of the "tolerance" and "do not offend" ideology. Liberal professors, who have taught such poorly defined  concepts are now beginning to reap the consequences of that position. All I can hope is that like communism, the culture abandons those failed ideas and returns to search for the truth, for that's the only thing that will withstand the test of time.


1. Berger, Joseph. "Workers of the World, Please See Our Web Site." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 May 2011. Web. 08 June 2015.
2. Morrissey, Edward. "Why College Professors Are Afraid to Teach Millennials." The Fiscal Times. The Fiscal Times, 4 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015.
3. Schlosser, Edward. "I'm a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me." Vox. Vox Media, Inc., 03 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015.
4. Schlosser, 2015.
5. "Univ. of Chicago Students Offended by Gay Activist's." Illinois Review. Illinois Review, 4 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Secularism's Undue Influence on Society

Yesterday, I discussed how secularism is not a neutral position. Secularism is a worldview, and as such it makes truth-claims about the nature of reality, the nature of man, and how people should derive their morals and their meaning.

Author Nancy Pearcy has recognized the influence that secularism has as well as the attempts of the secularists to spread their specific beliefs upon not only the political spectrum, but across a wide swatch of culture. Pearcy explains:
Among the worldviews competing in America's pluralistic society, there is one that we all encounter in some form. It has become nearly universal, crossing ethnic, racial, and national boundaries. Sociologists describe it as an emerging global secularism. "There is, without question, a globalized elite culture," writes sociologist Peter Berger, "an international subculture composed of people with Western-type higher education." They tend to congregate in large metropolitan areas, so that elites in New York City have essentially the same secular mind-set as their counterparts in London, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo.

These urban elites exert power far out of proportion to their numbers. As Berger writes, "They control the institutions that provide the 'official' definitions of reality," such as law, education, mass media, academia, and advertising. In short, they are society's gatekeepers. People who have the power to control the "'official' definitions of reality" are in a position to impose their own private worldview across an entire society.

As a consequence, global secularism is an international worldview that we all need to engage, no matter where we live or work. Political scientist Benjamin Barber dubbed it "McWorld," a homogenous global culture dominated by McDonalds, Macintosh, and MTV.1
Apologetics is one way of engaging the culture and showing how the Christian worldview can not only stand when compared to the secular worldview, but it offers better answers and a more consistent view of reality than secularism can. I will be highlighting some of these points in upcoming articles. For now, know that you, dear Christian are already drafted into the war of ideas, so you must takes steps to engage secularism as it continues to influence our laws, our kids, and our society.


1. Pearcey, Nancy. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning. Nashville: B&H, 2010. Print. 9.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Secularism isn't a Neutral Position

Should Christianity have a voice in politics, education, and the public square? Many people think so. They tend to believe that you can hold whatever belief you wish, as long as you don't "force your faith into a secular government."1 Organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have been trying to systematically remove all crosses or any type of religious displays set up on city or county properties. The thought is that in public areas such as schools and government a secular viewpoint is neutral while a religious viewpoint is biased.

But I don't think that's true, and neither does philosopher Brendan Sweetman. In his book Why Politics Needs Religion, Sweetman discusses why secularism is anything but a neutral position. He first builds the case that secularism is a distinct worldview with its own specific beliefs. He states that every worldview is what he calls "a philosophy of life" In other words it is the grid through which we see and make sense of the world. Sweetman notes that every worldview holds the following traits:2
  1. It is concerned with three primary areas: nature of reality, the nature of persons, and the nature of moral and political values.
  2. It contains a number of life-regulating beliefs.
  3. Not all beliefs can be fully proven or demonstrated.
  4. It is exemplified by certain rituals, practices or behaviors.
  5. It offers a moral code.
  6. Proponents will explain, defend, and seek to persuade others to their understanding.
After outlining these traits, Sweetman notes how secularism clearly holds to each of the categories above. By denying the interjection of God or any kind of supernatural entities, secularists hold the nature of reality and the nature of persons are purely physical. Sweetman quotes the famous opening line from Carl Sagan in his Cosmos series, claiming "The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be." Sagan makes a clearly metaphysical claim yet secularists would never object to this series because of a distinctively religious viewpoint. Of course, secularists claim that the nature of values comes from ourselves.

Secularists hold to particular beliefs such as all humans should have the freedom to do or not do as they please, as long as it doesn't harm others. Thus we see the push for same-sex marriage, and euthanasia laws become more prominent and offered as secular stances against religious convictions. Secularists also hold to beliefs they cannot prove, such as concepts like the existence of the multiverse or the belief that science alone can answer questions such as "where do we come from?"

Secularism as Religion

However, Sweetman goes further in his comparison. He argues that secularism is not merely a worldview; it can fall in to the category of religion. He outlines what religious beliefs entail and points out secular beliefs are formed in the same manner as other religious beliefs:
When a particular belief or view is described as religious, what is normally meant is that it is supported by or based upon or derived from some of the following sources: (1) a text, such as the Bible, the Qur'an, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, Karl Marx's Das Kapital, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, (2) the institutional churches), including representatives such as the priests and other authorities of the worldview (e.g., Billy Graham as a spokesman for Protestantism or Richard Dawkins as a spokesman for secularism); (3) a profound personal experience of some kind (e.g., the experience that God is near, the experience that people are fundamentally equal, etc.), (4) the tradition of the church in question (e.g., in Judaism by appeal to the Talmud; in secularism by [selective] appeal to the works of philosophers John Locke, Immanuel Kant or John Stuart Mill); (5) appeal to faith alone (e.g., believing that life is a gift from God on faith; believing that there is a scientific answer to the question of the origin of the universe on faith).

The reader will have noticed that I have deliberately included secularist examples of these sources, as well as examples from traditional religion, in order to illustrate that it is quite possible for a secularist to hold and to promote a belief based on these sources; these sources are not confined to religious believers. As long as a secularist belief is based on a similar type of appeal to the kinds of sources that religious believers might also use, then the arguments used to exclude religious beliefs because they come from these sources will also apply to secularist beliefs that come from the same kind of sources. Contemporary political theory, as we will see in chapter six, appeals frequently to the authority of liberal political tradition to support some of its important, indeed crucial, claims. These examples also serve to remind us and to emphasize again one of my main claims: that secularism is also a religion, and that it has the same formal structure as traditional religious belief.3
While it may be argued that Sweetman is really describing atheism as the belief system above, it has become increasingly difficult to separate secularism where no ideas based on a belief in God are allowed and atheism where no beliefs based on God can be found. If secularism is the default position in our political discussions, then isn't secularism elevating an atheistic viewpoint above other faiths?


1. Rosman, David. "Forcing Religion into Government Is Wrong." The Columbia Missourian. The Columbia Missourian, 3 June 2015. Web. 4 June 2015.
2. Sweetman, Brendan. Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public Square. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. Print. 48.
3. Sweetman, 2003. 86-87. "
Image courtesy Jeffrey M Dean and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Christianity and Super-Hero Movies (podcast)

They're smashing box office records and have become one of Hollywood's most bankable formats. But why are movies like The Avengers, Captain America, and The Dark Knight so popular? And do they hold a secret to sharing the Gospel? Listen to this exciting podcast series to find out how super heroes derive their power from the Christian tradition.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Muslim Root of the Armenian Genocide

When we hear the accounts of oppression and slaughter coming out of the Middle East we're horrified. I recently read of one such story where a wedding party had just returned to the family's house from the church ceremony. A band of armed terrorists awaited them there, attacking the guests and the wedding party itself, robbing them of their belongings. When they reached the bride, they stole all she had, raped her, and left. Weddings then began to be held secretly in homes for fear of becoming targets or because the Muslims would kidnap the bride prior to the wedding, asking for ransom for her return.1

You may think that stories like this come from recent news reports. But, this story isn't about a group like ISIS seeking to exterminate Christians in Iraq. This was a common occurrence for Middle Eastern Christians throughout the Ottoman Empire from the 1500s until its collapse in the twentieth century.  Today, Armenians the world over are remembering the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide's beginning, with ceremonies, gatherings and stories. One hundred years ago today, the Young Turks, while looking to establish a  more modern, more European-like society also began a mass extermination that took approximately 1.5 million lives.

How could such a thing happen? How could a government seek to destroy an indigenous portion of its population? As Dr. Gregory H. Stanton has taught, there are eight stages people groups are subjected to that point to genocide.2 While the Armenian Genocide cannot be classified as exclusively religiously-motivated, it is the teaching of Islam that clearly set the stage.

The Ottomans, following Muslim Sharia law, had a policy of dhimmi, which meant that non-Muslims would have to pay a tribute tax (jizya) and hold second-class status in their own lands. Through Islamic law, the Armenians were classified, symbolized, dehumanized, and polarized, four key stages that Stanton identifies. Ramsay's report, written nearly two decades before the beginning of the exterminations, reports Christians were viewed as unworthy of even being converted to Islam for centuries:
They were dogs and pigs; and their nature was to be Christians, to be spat upon, if their shadow darkened a Turk, to be outraged, to be the mats on which he wiped the mud from his feet. Conceive the inevitable result of centuries of slavery, of subjection to insult and scorn, centuries in which nothing that belonged to the Armenian, neither his property, his house, his life, his person, nor his family, was sacred or safe from violence – capricious, unprovoked violence – to resist which by violence meant death! 3
The New York Times agrees that there was already "a policy of extermination directed against the Christians of Asia Minor" in place well before the Young Turks began their purging of Armenians.4 The Armenians had subsisted in this manner for so long because of their acquiescence to their Muslim conquerors. Ramsay continues:
Every one knew that any sign of sprit or courage would be almost certain to draw down immediate punishment… [The Armenians] are charged, by the voice of almost every traveler, with timidity and even cowardice; but the for centuries they had the choice offered them between submission and death. So long as they were perfectly submissive, they were allowed to live in comparative quiet; so long as they had money, they could purchase immunity from or redress for, insult. Naturally and necessarily the bravest were killed off, they that could most readily cringe and submit survived, and all efforts were directed at acquiring money, as the only way of providing safety for family and self."5
However, as Taner Akcam writes, in the nineteenth century things began to change. "The Christian minorities, infected with the spirit of progress and freedom blowing in from Europe, began to revolt against political and economic oppression and demand equality, followed by autonomy, and eventually territory. The Ottomans generally met these demands with violent suppression and terror."6

When The Young Turks, a group that sought to create a constitutional government in Turkey instead of a monarchy grabbed power, they provided the other four steps necessary for the genocide: an organized state, preparation, extermination, and denial.7 To this day, the Turkish government denies that any type of genocide has occurred, even though it was recognized by the United Nations thirty years ago.

Christianity upholds the equality of all people. We are all made in the image of God and all worthy of respect. Christianity teaches that we are to pray for our enemies, that we are not to take vengeance but it is up to God to repay. Islam teaches the subjugation and separation of non-Muslims.  It shouldn't be a surprise that horrendous atrocities can be cultivated in a culture where Sharia principles have been lived out for centuries.


1. Ramsay, William Mitchell. Impressions of Turkey during Twelve Years' Wanderings. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1897. Print. 208.
2. Stanton, Gregory H. "Genocide Watch." Genocide Watch. Genocide Watch, 1988. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
3. Ramsay, 1897, 207-208
4. Kifner, John. "Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview." The New York Times. The New York Times, 2007. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
5. Ramsay, 1897. 208.
6. Akçam, Taner. A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. New York: Metropolitan, 2006. Print. 27.
7. "Armenian Genocide History." Armenian Genocide. Armenian Genocide History, 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Beware of Becoming a Christian Hermit!

In 1694, a group of forty Bible believers headed to an area known as Wissahickon, on the outskirts of what was then the civilized area of Pennsylvania, seeking God. Led by Johannes Kelpius, the group had traveled from Germany in order to prepare for what they had anticipated as the end of the world.1 The group was motivated by Jesus's second coming, which they believed would happen soon. They withdrew from greater society, planted their own food and built a common hall to hold worship, with a tower to spot signs of Christ's second coming.2 Kelpius himself supposedly lived and meditated in a cave.3

Cave of Kelpius (image courtesy

Known colloquially as the "Hermits of the Wissahickon," the sect spent their time:
hosting public services, bloodletting Germantown residents, studying religion, observing the stars and planets, and practicing alchemy and numerology. One of the focal points of their worshipping practices was music, and most of the sect's members were musicians, including Kelpius, who some consider the first Pennsylvania composer.4
Of course, the end of the world didn't arrive in 1694. It didn't come in 1700. It didn't even arrive in 1708 when Johannes Kelpius passed away. The remaining members stayed for some time, but after a decade, the sect had disbanded entirely. Today, there is nothing left of the sect or their structures. However, the cave still remains, which you can visit if you can locate it within Fairmont Park in Philadelphia.

I bring up this sliver of history because I see so many Christians acting in a way similar to the hermits of Wissahickon. I don't mean that people go out to the wilderness and build monasteries. But we Christians do cut ourselves off intellectually from the wider world. Sure, we work for secular companies, attend state schools, and entertain ourselves with movies and television like anyone else, but how often do we interact with or challenge the worldview that powers our culture today? How many churches are equipping their parishioners to engage with others about their beliefs?

Many Christians today are content to listen to Christian radio, attend weekly services that focus on worship music and talk of how we are living in the end times. That's all well and fine, but the church was never called to live in a bubble. We are commissioned to make disciples of all people, and that means doing the hard work of understanding the beliefs of others while also being able to share Christianity as the solution to the world's problems. We need to be able to explain to our friends and families why same-sex marriage is wrong or why the threat to religious liberty is a fundamental threat to our culture. We need to be able to offer reasons why God exists or how the foundation of Christianity is the fact of the resurrection. How many churches equip their congregations in this way? Far too few.

Christianity has been a world-changing faith ever since the disciples began following Jesus's command to make disciples. We've saved lives, improved nations, civilized barbarous peoples, stopped infanticides, advanced science, stood for equality, and comforted those everyone else rejected. We need to continue that legacy. We need to break out of our holy huddles and begin to be faithful to the call that our Lord gave us. Otherwise, we might end up just as forgotten as the Hermits of Wissahickon.


1. Borneman, Robert. "The Wissahickon Hermits." Christianity Today. Christianity Today, 1 Apr. 1986. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
2. Dicciani, Kevin. "The 'rapture' That Never Came: The Story of 'The Hermits of the Wissahickon'" Chestnut Hill Local. Chestnut Hill Local, 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
3. Avery, Ron. "Cave of Kelpius." Independence Hall Association, 1999. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
4. Dicciani, 2015.
Picture courtesy of

Friday, April 17, 2015

True Beliefs and The Truman Show

The concept of belief has been twisted and distorted to mean something different than what had been traditionally understood. Belief is simply what one holds to be real, what one takes as true. It is just as proper to say that I believe my favorite team will win the championship as it is to say I believe the sun will rise tomorrow. I may have different kinds of evidence for claim number two than claim number one, and I may have a different level of certainty for each, but if I hold each proposition as true, then each forms a belief.

The common perception today is when one references beliefs that relate to certain metaphysical claims like the existence of God or the foundation of morality, belief is nothing more than a preference. Such views are mistaken. Because one's view of reality is different, one's beliefs are different, and that matters quite a bit.

But how can we as Christians communicate the importance of holding true beliefs? Getting someone who holds a different view to understand just what Christians mean when they say belief in God is objectively true or that right and wrong really make a difference can be frustrating. In teaching about spiritual matters, Jesus often used situational stories, called parables, to make his point. Like Jesus, we can use examples to help us illustrate our points. One of the better places to draw upon stories that would be understandable and relatable to most people is Hollywood.

Leveraging secular films to convey biblical truth may seem strange at first, but it shouldn't. All people struggle with the same "big questions" that ground their worldviews: What's the meaning of life? Does it matter what I do on this earth? Should I be true to my beliefs? What is my final destiny? Hollywood has explored these questions almost since the motion picture was invented. While they don't get everything right, you can find real gems in Hollywood blockbusters.

We Should Desire to Know What's True

We can see the value of true beliefs by watching The Truman Show. In Peter Weir's film, Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, who had been adopted by a television company so they could film his every reaction to the scripted life they created. Truman is real, but he has grown up in a false world. Friends and family are scripted actors. His town is a gigantic soundstage with the capacity to manufacture weather and change night into day. Since Truman doesn't realize that he's being manipulated, he thinks he's living in the real world. Yet something is gnawing at him. He senses that things in his little town of Seahaven are too perfect and yet too restricting. Living here is safe, but it isn't living. Ultimately, Truman would rather die than not experience the greater reality of life in all its gritty messiness.

In the climax of the movie, Truman is offered the safety and security of staying inside his bubble, but he would have no part of it. He would rather face the difficulties and the unknowns of a world that he never has experienced than live in a world system that isn't real. We hope and cheer for Truman because we instinctively know that being lied to is worse than whatever struggles lie ahead. Manufactured worlds are for hamsters, not humans.

Seek the Truth

The belief that Truman had in the film is that the world was different than the one presented to him. He believed the world was a bigger place than the one presented to him, and he sought answers to those things that didn't make sense to him. While the film doesn't show us this, I imagine that Truman would be quite shocked at the dirty, dangerous nature of the real world. I can't imagine the mental anguish someone in such a situation would feel as they reflect upon all the lost years and dreams of being deceived into believing in a world that wasn't true. However, he doesn't stop searching because the truth is worthwhile, even if it ends up being unpleasant.

Christianity holds that the truth matters. Paul encourages the Thessalonian church to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21, ESV). As I've said before, Christianity even offers a way to investigate its claims. That gives every person a way to check out the truth claims of the Christian faith. If the world is really the way the Bible says it is, then to not believe so is akin to running on a hamster wheel. It may seem fun for a while, but you are really going nowhere.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Five Things Your Worldview Must Account For

Recently, Tom Gilson posted an open question on his blog. He asked those that identify themselves as atheist or agnostics, "What does your worldview explain better than Christianity?" Gilson was careful to distinguish an atheistic belief from a worldview, given that atheism is the denial of God's existence but isn't robust enough in itself to qualify as a worldview.

There have been many answers to the question received so far from atheists, but most have been disheartening. It isn't because I may or may not disagree with them. They are disheartening because none of them describe a worldview. They each take on one aspect of understanding the world, namely the scientific enterprise, but leave so much more out of their answers.

I've explained before that a worldview is the way one sees and interprets the way the world works. It's basically a framework for understanding and interpreting the various facts we encounter in our lives. That's why any attempt to outline a worldview must account for at least the following five things. I'd like to go over each of these quickly.

1. One's understanding of origins

The concept of origins is central to interpreting many things in the world. Some of the key questions of origins include: Where did we come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is reality? Where do good and evil find their foundations? These are all crucial when seeking to make sense of people and situations. For example, if you hold that human beings bear God's image, you are going to have a different perspective on the nature and dignity of issues like assisted suicide, abortion, and the equality of all people.

2. One's understanding of rationality

Reason is a key component of understanding our world, so providing an account of rationality and why or if we can rely on our reasoning skills is important. How does reason work in the world? Is it a reliable way of knowing things? How can one know that?

3. One's understanding of purpose

Another primary factor in interpreting the world is identifying if there is any kind of purpose to our world and if so, how can one discover that purpose. The understanding of telos—that there is a design or an ultimate end to the cosmos, humanity, or even to each individual will play a huge part in how one values others, the environment, and many other areas.

4. One's understanding of morality

Morality and its grounding has been something I've written about quite a bit, but every worldview must have some kind of understanding of what morality is and where it comes from. Societies simply cannot function without certain agreed upon notions of right and wrong. Even if your worldview holds that objective morality doesn't exist, it must be expressed and integrated into your explanation of how society determines values.

5. One's understanding of ultimate ends

Lastly, every worldview has some kind of account of what our ultimate ends are. Is there a reality beyond this world? Do we cease to be when we die? How does one discover this end and how does this life relate to any our ultimate end? This along with the question of purpose are key to helping us decide how to act in various circumstances.

One of the reasons I hold to the Christian worldview is it answers each of the five questions and does so in a way where each area is integrated with the others to form a coherent whole. Christianity gives a single picture of the world, where each of these five areas makes sense with 1) the way we observe our world to work and 2) makes sense with each other. They follow naturally from one to the next. Without an integrated, coherent worldview, values and judgments become confused or contradictory.

So, what's your worldview? Have you thought about each of these five areas? Does your worldview not only account for each, but does it do so in a way that isn't ad hoc, or happenstance?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Can You Be Moral Without Being Answerable to Anyone?

I've spent the last few posts discussing the concept of morality and some of the necessary ideas that must accompany any explanation of where morals come from.  I've said that to judge anything as right or wrong, one must recognize that real moral obligations exists and these must be grounded in a source beyond the created order of the universe. I've also explained that moral agents must be really free to choose to obey moral laws. In each case, we can see that the naturalist understanding of reality fails to account for these aspects of morality. Today, I'd like to look at the third component that must exist for morality to make any sense: the fact that people must not only be free to choose the good, but there must exist some kind of responsibility between the moral laws and the person in question.

Genuine Responsibility of Moral Agents

What does it mean to be responsible for our actions? It is more than simply being free to choose whether or not to follow some obligation. It also means there is some kind of relation between the individual and the law. Imagine if you will a person who witnesses a mugging occurring while walking down the street. The person recognizes the mugging is wrong and there is nothing hindering that person from stepping in and trying to stop the mugger. Is such a person morally obligated to do so?

You may answer "yes" pretty quickly, but the answer may not be that simple. What if this person is only twelve or thirteen years old? Is a child obligated to step in? I would think not. We understand that the risk a pre-teen would take in trying to stop a mugging mitigates the obligation to intercede. However, the witness may have other obligations (such as calling the police or testifying in court). However, if the person is a police officer, then he or she is more obligated than even an adult passerby.

While the mugging is an extreme example, we may look at less egregious violations. In California, which is my home state, one may make a citizen's arrest for "a public offense committed or attempted in his presence."1 This legislation is broad enough to include speeding, parking violations, driving without a seatbelt or even jaywalking. So, are you morally obligated to arrest someone you've witnessed doing any of these things simply because you think he is wrong and the law allows you to do so? No. Moral obligation calls for something more than that.

What Binds Us to Moral Laws?

To say one is morally obligated to act in a certain way is to say that one is bound to the moral law in a specific way. The police officer in the example above is bound by his position and his duty to protect the citizens of his community. To not intervene in a simple mugging would violate the oath he took and the trust that the community has placed upon him. But what is it that binds every person to concepts like "cheating is wrong" or "do not lie"? What makes every person responsible to not be bigoted against another? How can such responsibilities obtain on a naturalist account of the universe?

The answer is that there is nothing on a natural worldview that obligates us to behave in such a way. We may not like it when other people cheat or lie, but there is no reason on a naturalist account as to why we must not do so. Like the citizen's arrest, while you can choose to act in a way that others consider laudable, there is no law of nature that says you must. On naturalism, survival of the fittest is the ultimate code: if you don't survive, nothing else matters. Realize, it isn't humanity that must survive. It is you, individually and your offspring. So, if you can lie and cheat to give your offspring an advantage, it would make sense to do so.

However, if God created us, then we are obligated to Him for our very existence. That means that if God created us and intended us to behave in a certain way, we should behave in that way. If we don't, as creator he has every right to punish us for violating his precepts. It is only on a theistic worldview that the idea of moral responsibility makes sense.


1. California Penal Code 837. "CA Codes (pen:833-851.90)." State of California, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Image courtesy Android Wear and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Where are the Survival of the Fittest Ethics?

Ideas have consequences. It should be no surprise that how one sees the world will also influence his or her understanding and interpretation of certain events. Unexplained healing of a loved one after praying will be understood by a Christian as the intervention of God while an atheist would probably assume it was simply a coincidence. It would be difficult to prove either point given on a single, specific instance. The fact that each offers different explanations for the resultant recovery shouldn't surprise anyone.

Worldviews not only influence how we interpret results, they also influence our actions prior to the result. Given the example above, the Christian who believes in the power of prayer will pray for the sick person before he is healed. He or she may admonish others to also pray, asking God to intercede for them on whatever difficulties they may face in life. Pastors will encourage prayer and one would expect prayer to become part of the "fabric" of the Christian life. If the One who created the world exists and has instructed us to petition him, then we should do so.

But one would not expect prayer to become part of the fabric of the atheists' life. Someone who doesn't believe in God has no one to whom he or she would appeal. They would hold that we are the product of evolutionary processes, random genetic mutations that are shaped and strengthened through selections that weed out the weaker, less advantageous traits in whatever environment the creature would find itself. It is as Richard Dawkins puts it "life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."Things like unexpected healings are based on the mechanics of the body, and may simply be sheer luck. Perhaps that individual has a genetic mutation that provides the ability to recover from an affliction that most people wouldn't. That person is fit, surviving to possible pass that mutation onto his progeny.

What are the Ethics of Evolution?

One would expect this worldview of indifference regarding survival to become part of the fabric of the atheists' life. Survival of the fittest should be the fundamental principle that shapes their understanding of the world. But when we look at the ethical systems that people who identify as atheists adopt, they don't champion laws allowing the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak. People consider the idea of domination by conquerors to be ancient, backwards and barbaric. Instead, the atheists will uphold ideas such as the weaker members of humanity should be protected.

Of course, sometimes the evolutionary worldview has made its mark, most notably with the eugenics movement popular in the early twentieth century. The term eugenics was coined by Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, who sought to apply Darwinian principles to attributes like human intelligence. It was then promoted by people like Charles Davenport and Margaret Sanger, who began Planned Parenthood.2 Ultimately, the United States over 64,000 people deemed genetically inferior were sterilized under eugenics standards implemented by 30 states in the country.3

Realize that I'm not arguing that the eugenics movement as implemented in the first half of the twentieth century was right in its mixing of social dynamics with biological heredity. The proponents may have oversimplified the source of intelligence. However, it is consistent with the naturalist, Darwinian worldview. Accepted moral concepts like those with inheritable mental illnesses, those who are unable to reproduce, or those who are physically incapable should be afforded equal worth are not grounded in an evolutionary world view. In fact, such beliefs are the opposite of survival of the fittest.

I don't believe that holding to atheism makes one any more immoral than anyone else. In fact, I applaud those who strive to be good, decent people. However, I struggle with the inconsistency of how a naturalist would ground his morality in an evolutionary framework. It’s like an atheist praying—he may do so, but it doesn't show much consistency in his belief system.


1. Dawkins, Richard. River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. New York, NY: Basic, 1995. Print.
2. Witkowski, Jan. "Social Origins of Eugenics." Social Origins of Eugenics. Image Archives on the American Eugenics Movement, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
3. Rivard, Laura. "America’s Hidden History: The Eugenics Movement." Nature Publishing Group, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.>.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exposing Our Kids to a More Dangerous Epidemic than Measles

What does Disneyland and a measles outbreak have to do with apologetics? It draws an interesting parallel.

Measles is making the headlines in Southern California. Between December 17 and 20th, one or more visitors to Disneyland in Anaheim had the contagious disease. Within a month of that visit, there have been at least 54 cases of measles reported across Southern California, three neighboring states, and Mexico, according to the Los Angeles Times. Health officials in Orange County are trying to stem its spread by ordering some 50,000 children to stay home from school because they hadn't been properly vaccinated. 1

Officials have stated that the outbreak is the worst the state has seen in fifteen years, yet if you don't live close to the Magic Kingdom, you may find all of this marginally interesting. Until you discover the reason for the rapid spread of the disease: parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. According to the Times article, "Orange County is home to several upscale communities where a higher than average number of parents have opted to not fully vaccinate their children because of their personal beliefs" that vaccinating children may have some link to autism. 2 The science on this is faulty, as the Centers for Disease Control reports. Yet parents say they don't want to take the risk of even a possibility of a vaccine having some tie to autism. Thus, they choose to not vaccinate their children.

Living off Others' Beliefs

Here's the interesting thing in all of this. The parents who are not vaccinating their children truly believe they are protecting them. One parent was quoted in the article saying, "I didn't want to flood her system with a bunch of chemicals all at once. I wanted to be informed and not trust what medical professionals said." But the only reason she would come to the conclusion that not vaccinating her child was safer is simply because she was living at a time when most children had already been vaccinated against measles, mumps, and other childhood diseases. Now, as vaccination rates falls in certain areas, the threat of measles and other life-damaging diseases is on the increase.

I find this is true of our culture's abandonment of Christian values as well. We are now coasting on the remnants of a culture that was anchored in Judeo-Christian values, but its rapidly changing. Over 40% of children born in 2012 were born out of wedlock.3 That's almost half! And with teenage birthrates dropping, the report shows that a significant number of adults are simply choosing not to marry, but to have children anyway. As you can see in the graph below, this trend has increased exponentially since the 1960s, according to the CDC.4

The Plague of the Disappearing Nuclear Family

In 1992, Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle was publicly ridiculed for saying bearing children out of wedlock was wrong and it shouldn't be labeled as "just another lifestyle choice."5 The position taken by folks on the left like Diane English (the producer and writer of the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown) is that Quayle was being ridiculous and backwards. Progressive individuals didn't think marriage was necessary to raising a child. Only love is. But many reports like this one from ChildTrends show "the image projected by movie stars or well-educated, well-paid professional women who choose unwed motherhood has little in common with the situation of most unmarried mothers." 6 That reports states the reality that both women who have unmarried births and their children are:
at a distinct disadvantage as they move through life. Statistically, mothers who bear and raise children without the support of a husband are more likely to be poor and to report greater stress than their married counterparts, and their children are more likely to have academic and behavioral problems. Research findings show that wanted children raised by both of their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage have an easier lot in life and the best chance for healthy development.7
While it was easy in the 80s and 90s to pronounce a progressive view of raising children alone, that ease was facilitated by the fact that children in those situations were invisible and harder to quantify. As children of unwed mothers increase, the effects become more pronounced and they affect all other socio-economic groups as well. Just as the unvaccinated children were borrowing the immunization of the larger community to assert that their choices were good for their children, so the liberal viewpoint that the traditional family unit is unnecessary borrowed from the stability previous generations that were the product of that traditional union brought.

The biggest difference I see is that while public officials are reacting to the measles epidemic by seeking to quarantine those infected and requiring vaccinations before children can return to school, no one in government is trying to stem the more insidious evil of out of wedlock births. As parents see the risks to the well-being of their children, they are now seeking vaccinations. Unfortunately, there is no simple shot that can sure the problem of a generation of kids growing up without a traditional family.


1. Lin, Rong-Gong, II, Roxanna Xia, and Nicole Knight Shine. "In Measles Battle, O.C. Bars Two Dozen Students Lacking Proof of Shots." The Los Angeles Times 21 Jan. 2015: A1. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.
2. Lin, et al. A1.
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