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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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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ministry Spotlight: The Poached Egg

turn on your brain
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis offered a rather famous reply to the skeptics of his day who tried to marginalize Jesus by saying he could never be divine. Lewis explained:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
I offer the quote because it is the the genesis of Greg West's apologetics site The Poached Egg, which is today celebrating its five year anniversary. The site is one of the top aggregators of apologetics content on the Internet; Greg  scours the web for some of the best content to help you defend the faith and gathers it together in a single location so you don't have to do the hard work of sifting through hundreds of blogs, articles, and ministry sites yourself.

The Poached Egg features content from apologetics luminaries such as Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, and many others. it is updated several times a day, so there's always something fresh to read. Greg has graciously features quite a few articles from this blog as well.

Make sure to check out The Poached Egg and wish Greg a very happy five year anniversary!

What Counts as Natural Evil?

The problem of evil is one of the most difficult issues Christians must deal with when defending their faith. While I've spent a few columns discussing how to answer the problem of evil generally, these responses focus primarily on what philosophers would call moral evil. Moral evils are evils perpetrated because people are sinful and do sinful things. God would be required to stamp out the freedom of man in order to stop the evil for which he is responsible.

That's all well and good, but what about those evils that man has no control over? What about the child born with cancer or natural disasters and earthquakes? Stopping those things doesn't take away free will, so why doesn't God at least do something about them?

Separating Natural Evil from Moral Evil

In addressing this question, one must think carefully about exactly what is to be included in the category of natural evil. For example, not all medical ailments fall into this category. Heart attacks are bad, but if an individual is obese and smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, it isn't surprising. If that person were to have a heart attack, blaming God for it is disingenuous. He or she had abused their body and reaped the consequences of his or her actions.

Other medical issues may be due to moral evil even though they aren't immediately visible. For example, the Hooker Chemical Company used a small portion of its land holdings near Niagara Falls to bury some21,800 tons of toxic waste in the 1940s and early 50s, all with the knowledge and approval of the federal government.1 In fact, a Reason investigation reports that various federal agencies used the land themselves to dump their own toxic wastes.2 Hooker Chemical was pressured into selling the land by the Niagara Falls Board of Education, who sought a cheap way to meet their need for large empty lots to accommodate new schools. Schools were then built on some of the property, sewer lines were constructed, perforating the waste area and allowing the chemicals to be carried by rainwater residential sections of the city. The School Board then sold the rest of the land in 1960 to another developer who had no knowledge of its toxic past.3

Of course, the results of what came to be known as the Love Canal Disaster wouldn't be evident for decades. It wasn't until the late 1970's that a reporter for the Niagara Gazette began an investigation as to why there were an inordinate number of y birth defects reported in their community.4 Until a severe storm that surfaced some of the chemical containers and the subsequent investigation, people did not attribute the birth defects, epilepsy or other various medical maladies to the moral failings of people.

What Can't We See?

It's quite clear that the Love Canal disaster was a result of moral evil. I don't know if Hooker Chemical took all of the proper steps when first disposing of their waste. I do know reading the transcripts of the School Board's minutes, the Board itself got greedy and improperly resold the land to subsequent developers, setting up a series of tragedies that ultimately caused people pain and grief. Yet, this is one example of which we know the facts; how many other supposed natural evils are really caused by the immoral actions of humans? We don't know but many natural evils may actually be a result of some chain of events that began with the choice of free moral agents.

Of course, not all free moral agents are human. If Satan is a real being as Christianity holds, then he can also be responsible for pains and ills that we would otherwise assume have no moral origin. We read in Job that Satan was able to summon great winds that would collapse houses or inflict Job with a severe illness causing sores all over his body. Satan and his demons are the source of Job's suffering; their actions would also be categorized as resulting from oral evil, and not natural evil.

Not all evil can be dismissed as moral evil, though. As the recent earthquake in Nepal shows, God did fashion the world to work in a certain way. I take up that portion of the response in this post. For now, simply realize that the evil men can do may have consequences beyond what we immediately see. Moral failings have far-reaching implications and it isn't fair to blame God for the evil that men do.


1. Zuesse, Eric. "Love Canal: The Truth Seeps Out." Reason Foundation. 01 Feb. 1981. Web. 10 June 2015.
2. Zuesse, 1981.
3. Zuesse, 1981.
4. "Love Canal Timeline." Niagara Gazette. Niagara Gazette, 26 July 2006. Web. 10 June 2015.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Why God Doesn't Reduce the Evil in the World?

The invention of the automobile was a pivotal moment in human history. The locomotive had been around for nearly 100 years and was instrumental in moving people and goods long distances. But the fact that locomotives ran on rails didn't make it functional for short trips to varying destinations. People still had to rely on horses or horse-drawn buggies.

When the mass-produced automobile debuted, it changed everything. People had significantly more freedom once they owned an automobile. They could choose to go where they wished at any time they wished. They could take luggage and supplies with them. Roads, being much cheaper to build and maintain than rails, also began to appear everywhere and highways stretched across the country opening up even more opportunities.

Of course, as the number of drivers increased, the number of accidents increased as well. Cars could be dangerous, especially to pedestrians. If cars were placed on tracks, the number of fatalities could have been decreased, but doing so would defeat the purpose of the automobile. A car on rails is an amusement park attraction, not an automobile.

God Created Humans as Free Creatures

I offer the automobile as one kind of illustration to help answer one objection for God's existence. When I'm on college campuses, I usually hear the question "Why would an all-good and all-powerful God allow evil in the world?" I normally offer the Free Will defense, stating God wanted to not simply create creatures, but he desired creatures that could freely choose to love him. Some may acquiesce to the idea that God would have to allow people to choose and therefore some kind of evil is inevitable, but many offer a second objection. They usually ask, "But why would a good God allow so much evil? There's just too much suffering in the world for God to exist."

Of course their objection is loaded with assumptions. One may be that God could just remove all the truly evil people in the world. The first question I have is where should God draw the line? How much evil should he allow and how much should he quell? You may think that a gang-banger who kills people should definitely be included, but then we've lost a Nicky Cruz, who later went on to become a powerful evangelist, leading thousands to Christ. What about cheats and liars? How did you do on your taxes last year? God will at some point remove all the evil in the world; that day is known as Armageddon, the end of the world. Until then, God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

Couldn't God just suppress the evil people do?

Another assumption is that God can somehow tamper with someone's evil desires, yet not have people lose their autonomy. They seem to be saying that we could have a world much like our own, where human beings are truly free, yet their freedom to choose evil ways is suppressed. Just how does God do that? An all-powerful God could take away the ability of people to choose to kill or rape or steal, but what would be the result? God would be making them something less than full human beings. They would be limited to run on the tracks that God provided for them rather than have the freedom to choose their own path.

If we recognize God as wholly good, it would be an evil thing for God to change a free creature to something that is less than free. No one wants to be a Stepford Wife against his or her will. Just as an automobile is reduced to something less when it is placed on tracks, so human beings are reduced to something less when their ability to make free choices is removed.

We do see a lot of evil in this world. But that doesn't mean God is doing nothing about it. We see God working to stem the evil through his teachings and through his church. That's one reason Christians are so passionate about issues like human sex-trafficking, feeding the poor, and ministering to those with drug and alcohol problems. It's also why we're so passionate about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, where others would resist these moral principles. We want to stand against evil, even though it can be unpopular. However, to assume there can be less evil in the world without substantially altering the free choices of human beings is to assert more than one can prove.

We can think of it this way: the first and greatest commandment is to love God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. To not love God is a sin; it's evil. Believing in God would go a tremendous way in stopping murders and rapists from their evil ways, too. So, how many atheists are willing to let God forcibly change their minds about His existence?

Image courtesy Thomas Mielke and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5) 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.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Top Five Apologetics Blog Posts for May

The news event in May were showstoppers. As the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments over the legality of same-sex marriage laws, a more interesting event was happening in Canada, where a same-sex couple didn't protest because a Christian store owner rejected their business, but accepted it gladly. The story was enough to be one of the blog's top read posts.

This month, the blog saw over 28,000 pageviews, making it the second most popular month yet. In addition to the story above, top articles included the origin of life arguments, how the so-called "lost Gospels' stack up against the four canonical Gospels, and why we all need to be better prepared to share our faith. Here are the top five blog posts for May.
  1. Flipped: Same-Sex Couple Demands Christians NOT Provide Wedding Service
  2. Os Guinness Says "We Are All Apologists Now"
  3. Does a Fertilized Egg Have a Soul?
  4. The Odds Against a Natural Account of Life's Origin
  5. Why There's No Such Thing as a Lost Gospel
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