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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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Monday, May 11, 2015

Proofs Society Is Regressing: Abdicating Our Right to Speak

Imagine you had two children. One became a philosophy professor, the other an engineer. Which would you say chose the more valuable occupation? Would the choice of their respective careers demonstrate which child was more intelligent? Which one knew the world better? Today, it is the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses that are emphasized in schools. The humanities, like literature, history, and philosophy are considered additions to the sciences, not equally necessary to them. But that's because our society is terribly biased.

The bias stems from a widespread belief that society always progresses forward. That is, the beliefs and knowledge we have today supersedes those of a century ago. Three hundred years ago humanity was even more superstitious and ignorant than the people of the last century and a thousand years ago they were even worse. Humanity has been marching in an upward trajectory and we've never been smarter or understood our world better than we do today.

I think that such a belief is itself indicative of the poor intellectual shape to which modern culture has succumbed. Of course we know more about science. We can do things that were heretofore unimaginable. But while it is true we know more about the workings of our world, it is equally true we know less about the workings of ourselves and what makes civilizations prosper. We've emphasized our ability to manipulate our environment while abandoning the values and philosophies that allowed us to achieve such feats in the first place.

Living in The Age of Feeling

Historians sometimes classify human history into specific ages where the culture stresses specific aspects of their society. We had the Age of Empires with Greece and Rome. Then, as Fulton J. Sheen notes, the Middle Ages would be classified as the Age of Faith. After the renaissance, humanity entered the Age of Reason. So, what age now we are living now? Sheen says we are now living in the Age of Feeling.1 We are living is what Sorokin labeled a sensate culture. We place too much value on the feelings we and others feel, and it is making us stupider as a culture.

I can think of at least three ways our culture has demonstrated it values feeling about all else:
  1. We would sacrifice our rights rather than feel uncomfortable
  2. We would ignore our biology instead of recognize human limitations
  3. We would sacrifice excellence in exchange for parity
Let's look at the first of these; our society is giving up our rights as human beings in order to promote the comfort of others.

Uncomfortable Speech is No Longer Tolerated

During the Age of Reason, very intelligent people recognized that a free and modern society could only prosper through the free exchange of ideas. This meant that freedom to express unpopular ideas would be crucial to advancement. Today, we have taken the opposite position, and this has been never more apparent than in our institutions of higher educations. Colleges were viewed as the place that promoted the free exchange of ideas. Now, they shelter and cloister their students from anything that a small elite defines as "hateful" or offensive.  Schools like Oberlin College offer "trigger-warnings" on course material that may upset a student.

Other schools like Rutgers University and Smith College have disinvited speakers because a small group of students and faculty disagreed with their political positions. Oberlin did host Christina Hoff Sommers, only to have students protest her presence, try to shout her down, or like those at Georgetown create "safe spaces" for students where they wouldn't listen to the speaker and instead take comfort in the seclusion of comfortable ignorance. How is this helping to shape the future leaders in society? How can we take Oberlin or its students seriously when instead of listening to an intelligent, articulate adult present her case on a position you may disagree with, you instead want to act like a child and hold your fingers in your ears? That isn't progress; that regress.

There are two additional ways our society demonstrates that it is becoming less advanced rather than more advanced. I will look at each ibn upcoming blog posts. But for now, pray that enough people become sickened by such antics that they stand up for our right to free speech, even speech with which they disagree. One good way of doing this is to not give money to any college or university that upholds things like speech codes on campus. See the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's latest report to find out which schools meet this criterion.

Continue to part two of this article ».


1. Sheen, Fulton J. Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980. Print. 23.
Image courtesy Emanuela Franchini and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The True Value of Motherhood

It's no secret that our world is upside-down. Perhaps not upside-down in the physical sense, such as all the globes should be stood on their heads, but inverted as to the cultural understanding of value. We continue to use the wrong yardstick in measuring what's truly worthy to be pursued or what we deem as valuable. Thus we value the feelings of the adults and claim such are all that legitimately sanctions marriage or we value the desire to hold a child and think that such is all that is necessary to deem oneself worthy to become a parent. However, as anyone who has been married for an appreciable length of time will tell you, it requires quite a bit more sacrifice than the initial feeling can sustain. Similarly, parenthood requires sacrifice on the part of the parent for the sake of the child. This is one reason why both marriage and parenthood are inextricably bound together.

Many times I've had discussions with others about what has been labeled the disparity women face in the workplace. Women, they tell me, should be represented equally in the number of positions on every level across every field. (Of course, it seems these people don't care nearly as much about women garbage collectors or sewage technicians as they do video game developers or NASA engineers.) But I think that's completely wrong.

I agree that women are are just as valuable as men and can contribute to all fields. However, to ask for parity across all occupations is simply silly. It makes no sense to have women's worth measures in the game of career advancement, which is a game men have traditionally played throughout the ages.  Why should women measure their worth using a man's yardstick? It is like telling a British football player he must be measured by his execution of American football rules. Yes, they are both called football, but they are drastically different.

One of the reasons women are valuable is their ability to offer a different perspective and say to the men, "Perhaps your chasing after power and position and the almighty dollar isn't the thing that should drive you. Perhaps you should value your family more and value your time with them instead of spending the extra time at work and away from the home." For what is a worker other than an indentured servant that must answer to others (his deadlines, his employer, his stockholders, or his customer)?

That's why I see the mother who chooses to stay at home and rear her children as holding immense value. Here we have an individual willing to sacrifice for her family in order to shape the future leaders of society. She pours herself into helping them form their thoughts and their moral character. If people are more valuable than money, then those who grow children into moral human beings are doing more valuable work than the one who schlepps of to his nine-to-five (or seven-to-seven) job every day regardless of the position's title.

I'm not alone in my feelings. C.S. Lewis, in one of his letters, wrote something very similar, comparing how a woman who stays at home must feel with all the chores and demands place upon her.  He writes:
I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife's work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, "To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour". (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist…1
I've seen this in my own household, with my wife putting her shoulder to the unending tasks of laundry, cooking, cleaning, shuttling children to various practices and appointments and doctors and classes. I've watched her seek to instill in each of my children a value for God and for the Good. I can think of no more honorable a position than mother and the person who devotes herself fully to such a task is worthy to be honored on a day like today. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. May you who shape human beings into virtuous men and women be blessed for your accomplishments.


1 Lewis, C. S., W. H. Lewis, and Walter Hooper. Letters of C.S. Lewis. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1993. Print. 447.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Talking Faith Without Fighting (video)

Sharing your faith can be difficult - passionate discussions can sometimes lead to angry words or hurt feelings.  But is this the way we should share the Gospel?

Watch this recent message where Lenny offers some specific tactics for sharing your faith to help you present the truth in a loving, winsome way.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Why Knowing God Requires More than Feeling His Presence

Have you ever heard someone say they don't need all that book learning and theological study to follow Jesus? "Just give me Jesus and that's enough," they may exclaim. Such a sentiment is replete in the more liberal churches. J. Gresham Machen took such views to task. In his great Christianity and Liberalism, he denounces such beliefs as unsubstantial and contrary to real Christianity. He writes:
If religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral. What makes affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which we possess of the character of our friend. Human affection, apparently so simple, is really just bristling with dogma. It depends upon a host of observations treasured up in the mind with regard to the character of our friends. But if human affection is thus really dependent upon knowledge, why should it be otherwise with that supreme personal relationship which is at the basis of religion? Why should we be indignant about slanders directed against a human friend, while at the same time we are patient about the basest slanders directed against our God? Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion.

How, then, shall God be known; how shall we become so acquainted with Him that personal fellowship may become possible? Some liberal preachers would say that we become acquainted with God only through Jesus. That assertion has an appearance of loyalty to our Lord, but in reality it is highly derogatory to Him. For Jesus Himself plainly recognized the validity of other ways of knowing God, and to reject those other ways is to reject the things that lay at the very center of Jesus' life. Jesus plainly found God's hand in nature; the lilies of the field revealed to Him the weaving of God. He found God also in the moral law; the law written in the hearts of men was God's law, which revealed His righteousness. Finally Jesus plainly found God revealed in the Scriptures. How profound was our Lord's use of the words of prophets and psalmists! To say that such revelation of God was invalid, or is useless to us today, is to do despite to things that lay closest to Jesus' mind and heart.

But, as a matter of fact, when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, "Jesus is God," is meaningless unless the word "God" has an antecedent meaning attached to it. And the attaching of a meaning to the word "God" is accomplished by the means which have just been mentioned…

But, the modern preacher will say, it is incongruous to attribute to Jesus an acceptance of "rational theism"; Jesus had a practical, not a theoretical, knowledge of God. There is a sense in which these words are true. Certainly no part of Jesus' knowledge of God was merely theoretical; everything that Jesus knew about God touched His heart and determined His actions. In that sense, Jesus' knowledge of God was "practical." But unfortunately that is not the sense in which the assertion of modern liberalism is meant. What is frequently meant by a "practical" knowledge of God in modern parlance is not a theoretical knowledge of God that is also practical, but a practical knowledge which is not theoretical —in other words, a knowledge which gives no information about objective reality, a knowledge which is no knowledge at all. And nothing could possibly be more unlike the religion of Jesus than that. The relation of Jesus to His heavenly Father was not a relation to a vague and impersonal goodness, it was not a relation which merely clothed itself in symbolic, personal form. On the contrary, it was a relation to a real Person, whose existence was just as definite and just as much a subject of theoretic knowledge as the existence of the lilies of the field that God had clothed. The very basis of the religion of Jesus was a triumphant belief in the real existence of a personal God.1
Christianity and Liberalism was written in 1923, yet it has never been more relevant. Because the book is in public domain, you can grab a copy for yourself for free. Download it here.


1. Machen, J. Gresham, and Presbyterian. Christianity and Liberalism. New York: Macmillan, 1923. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 707-739)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Why Those "Lost Books" of the Bible Don't Cut It

What is it that separates those sixty-six ancient texts that we call collectively The Bible from the many other ancient texts which have existed over the centuries? How did the early church decide to follow only certain books and not others? Is there something that unifies all the biblical texts that is missing from, say, the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Judas?

The answer is yes, there is. I've begun t look at three specific attributes that all biblical texts share that are not true of any so-called "lost books" of the Bible. Yesterday, I discussed how all of the biblical books shared a specific authority, both in their claim to speak on God's behalf and in their recognition as authoritative voices given their proximity to the apostles. Today, I'd like to look at the second common attribute of scripture: its acceptance throughout the early Christian Church.

Christianity has always been a faith that claims a certain kind of unity. When the disciples tried to stop a man who wasn't part of their group from casting out a demon using his name, Jesus rebuked them, saying "He who is not against you is for you" (Luke 9:50). The Christian church is one church, one body of Christ with many members (1 Cor. 12:12-13). The early church held this concept of unity highly, even incorporating it into their statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, which states "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Protestants today may be thrown by the world "catholic;" it doesn't refer to the Roman Catholic Church (Capital "C"), but it simply means "universal."

The Universal Acceptance of the Biblical Books

Because Christianity is both apostolic and catholic, it shouldn't surprise many that the writings we recognize as scripture are also apostolic and catholic. The Hebrew Old Testament was seen as authoritative and called scripture by both Jesus and the apostles. The early church fathers would also cite OT books as authoritative. When a man born just one generation after the Apostles named Marcion sought to throw out the Old Testament, he was condemned as a heretic. The Old Testament was accepted and understood as being the word of God and proclaiming the coming of Jesus as Messiah.

The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were also universal in their acceptance, but not quite as neatly. While the Old Testament had been established as a single corpus, the New Testament was still being formed as the Church was being formed. Also, because early Christianity was spread across parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe, distributing the apostles' writings became more challenging. Still, most of the texts were accepted by a wide majority of the church very, very quickly, normally within the 20 to 40 years of their actual writing.

The sharing of authoritative texts began very early within the church. Paul sets this model in his letter to the Colossians, where he writes, "And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea" (Col, 4:16). It is because letters were shared and copies were made so other churches could refer back to them that we have as many New Testament manuscripts as we do. While Paul's letters might be addressed to a certain church or person, other apostles would write to the church as a whole. Peter begins his first epistle addressing it to "those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion" (1 Pet. 1:1). James uses the same language. Jude addressed his to "those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ" while John writings make the distinction between those in the faith ("us") and those not of the faith ("them) in 1 John 2:19. Clearly, he was offering instruction to the church as a whole.

Disputed Books of the New Testament

Because of the time it could take for books to be copied and passed along to other areas of the world, not every church had recognized every book immediately. Others would be wary of books that they saw as suspect, such as 2 Peter or Jude. Eusebius named five books as being controversial (James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude.) Yet these books were quoted by various church fathers prior to this and some were included in lists of scripture such as the Muratorian Canon.1 By 367, Athanasius lists all the books of the New Testament as authoritative and it reflects the exact twenty-seven books we have today.

The contrast between the accepted New Testament books and those claiming to be "lost books" is staggering. Various church fathers like Origen, Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Clement of Alexandria and others would write of them and condemn them. No gospel other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were ever supported by anyone for inclusion in the canon.2 A couple of epistles were, such as the Shepherd of Hermas or the Epistle of Barnabas. These were ultimately rejected as not being connected to the apostles and not being universally recognized within the church as scripture.


1. Geisler, Norman L., and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1968. Print. 288-294.
2. Geisler and Nix, 301-316
Image courtesy Malcolm Lidbury  [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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