Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Public Schools and Secularist Indoctrination

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

We often quote this promise. At the same time, we are also troubled by the surveys that show that 70-90% of church-going youth cease going to church entirely by the end of their senior year in college. Meanwhile, many who remain in church survive their college indoctrination with a seriously compromised faith. We are therefore left asking the question, “What is required in training up our child?” Lots! The Bible describes it as a full-time occupation:

• These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9)

God-talk should be pouring from our lips into our children’s ears as we “sit at home…walk…lie down and…get up.” How then can we fulfill this command when we send our children off to public schools for 30 hours a week?

I have dialogued with enough atheists to know that they are just as evangelistic as we are. They boast, “The church may have your children for two hours a week, but we have them for 30 hours. And then they sit in front of the TV for an additional 25 hours a week. And when they go off to college, they become our property.”

The public school system is opposed to the Christian faith and has become a promoter of a secularism that silently insists that God is irrelevant to questions of science and even of life.

• On November 17, 1980, the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law that required the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. The court said that the Ten Commandments were “plainly religious”…and may induce the children to read, mediate upon, and perhaps to venerate and to obey the commandments. (Erwin Lutzer)

What then are our children left to “venerate and to obey?” The Self! Our feelings and our subjective value judgments! Our sexuality! A natural explanation behind all phenomena! Whatever is not of God! Columnist George Will had summed up this hypocrisy very succinctly:

• And it is, by now, a scandal beyond irony that thanks to the energetic litigation of ‘civil liberties’ fanatics, pornographers enjoy expansive first amendment protection while first graders in a nativity play are said to violate first amendment values.

All of this is argued on the basis that the law must be neutral and not favor a particular religion. However, as Erwin Lutzer has written,

• No law is neutral. Every law imposes some form of morality on society. Abortionists impose their morality on the unborn. Homosexuals want their views flaunted in the public school classrooms. Atheists want religious influence excluded from public life.

What then has been the result of this new secular religion? No more Bibles, prayers, and religious symbols in the public school system! However, what is worse is the subtle imposition of secular humanism upon the thinking of the youth. The contributions of Christianity to society are ignored, while everything that presents a godless worldview is persistently promoted. Harvard professor Harvey Cox claimed that secularism “seeks to impose its ideology through the organs of the State.” However, this isn’t done overtly, but instead under the guise of “neutrality” and fairness to all religions, while disguising the fact that secularism also is a religion. It has also become the State religion. Vanderbilt Professor Carol M. Swain takes it one step further:

• The most powerful and elite educational institutions in our nation have for decades chipped away at America’s godly heritage as our educational institutions have become bastions of secular indoctrination…believers are asked to watch silently as secular humanists promote sexual activity among our nation’s children. (Be the People, 221

Meanwhile the atheists and secularists hypocritically charge us with indoctrinating and brainwashing our children. However, we also have ourselves to blame. We have fed our children to a hungry Jezebel. Christ had criticized the church of Thyatira because it allowed the self-proclaimed prophetess Jezebel to influence its flock (Rev. 2:20). We are doing no better by allowing our children to be indoctrinated by secularism.

We have paid little heed to Paul’s admonition that “a little leaven [false teaching] leavens [or corrupts] the whole loaf” (Gal. 5:9). We are then surprised that Jezebel has turned our children into heathens. We then chalk-it-up to the so-called “natural” and “inevitable” teenage rebellion we call the “generation gap.”

The dangers of leaven are so great that elders were required to refute falsehoods:

• [The elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach…(Titus 1:9-11)

Here, Paul refers to the corruptibility of the thinking/believing of adults. If adults are so easily persuaded, then children are little more than putty in Jezebel’s hands. We are therefore instructed to be vigilant about what enters our minds:

• See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:8)

What we believe can build us up or it can tear us down, depriving us even of Christ. How can we then subject our children to the “hollow and deceptive philosophy” of the world? Instead, Paul has warned us against the deceptive seductions of secularist philosophy,

• Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (2 Tim. 3:5)

Sadly, instead of fleeing this system, we throw our children into its mouth. However, our God is full of grace and hears our broken prayers of confession. My daughter had been a product of the public school system. Consequently, she rebelled at an early age and didn’t want to hear anything more about my faith after she turned 13. For the next 14 years, we lived in opposing fortified camps. She knew I didn’t approve of her thinking, and I knew she didn’t have much use for mine. One day I received a call from her that God had touched her precious heart, and now she wanted to return to Him.

We are now good friends. All the barriers are gone. I didn’t do anything to deserve this blessing; we never do. We just have an unbelievably gracious God who calls on us to confess our sins and then forgives us and wipes us clean from all its filth.


I still shutter when I use the word “evil.” It’s not that I don’t believe in evil deeds. I do, but I was immersed in the “psychological society” and thought and breathed the pop psychology that had been my nursemaid. I was therefore convinced that people weren’t evil. They might have been confused, troubled, misled, abused, and badly programmed. They might have been neurotic, psychotic, and acting out in ways that hurt others, but they weren’t evil according to the doctrine of the day. Therefore, I was convinced that if they were helped, loved, nurtured, affirmed, and had their needs met, they would naturally become loving and caring persons. After all, who wants to be evil!

Consequently, even after Christ had given me new life, I was confused by the many verses that spoke of evil people. Even the nation of Israel had become entirely evil:

• These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD'S instruction. (Isaiah 30:9)

I couldn’t understand this. Aren’t we motivated by our best interests, and wasn’t it according to Israel’s best interests to “listen to the Lord’s instruction?” Evidently, Israel simply failed to get God’s message. However, I later found that the entire Bible revealed how God had repeatedly tried to reason with Israel, assuring them that He would forgive their sins if they would only turn to Him. I found the individuals had also become utterly evil:

• Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil. (Proverbs 2:12-14)

• For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. (Proverbs 4:16)

It was hard for me to believe that people “delight” in evil. It flew in the face of everything that psychology stood for, at least in my thinking. I had heard about sadists and sociopaths who seemed to lack any semblance of a conscience, but it just didn’t compute with me. If our worldview is not detailed and accurate enough to accommodate fresh data, we usually discard the data.

We only recognize those things for which we have an open eye. I remember hearing that Eskimos can recognize 20 different types of snow. That’s vitally important to them, and they have distinctive words for each type of snow. My worldview had no category or word for an evil heart. Pop psychology had given me all the categories I thought I needed.

Years later, as a probation supervisor, I managed probation officers who had sex abuse cases. Therefore, we were required to go for specific training in this area. Before this, I had heard about innovative programs where the offender was required to sit and listen to someone who had been grievously sexually abused and the crippling effects it had on her life.

I thought that this concept was excellent. If the offender could only understand how much pain and destruction he had caused, he would certainly think twice or twenty times before he violated someone else. Although it made perfect sense to me, the training showed me how wrong I had been. Research has consistently revealed that many abusers actually enjoyed the pain that they were inflicting. To hear a victim crying about the abuse she had received only served to inspire the abuser to greater heights of sadism!

The abuser is not born a sadist. There’s a long process. The serial killer and sexual abuser, Ted Bundy, explained his personal evolution to the murder of 30 women:

• “Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective [it just depends on how you think about them], and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me – after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.” (Christian Research Journal, Vol 33, No 2, 2010, 32)

Bundy wasn’t born a sadistic serial killer. We have a conscience that restrains evil. It sends out strong impulses accusing us of wrongdoing and enforcing these judgments with feelings of guilt and shame. However, some of us, through persistence in evildoing and rationalizations, have been able to silence our conscience, giving ourselves completely over to the evil in our hearts. Bundy had to first convince himself that “all value judgments are subjective.” This gave him the freedom to “become truly free, truly unfettered.”

Evil comes in many faces and forms. For any program or intervention to have any hope of helping others, it needs to able to distinguish between the proactive Bundies and those who are trying to restrain their evil. Without this discernment, our programs are doomed. When we send our charming Ted Bundies to the psychologist, they almost inevitably co-opt their psychologists to their way of thinking. I’ve had received numerous calls from these “help agents” telling me that Ted really wasn’t such a bad guy. Instead he had been misunderstood and deserved an early discharge from probation!

We all have evil in our hearts. We might not be a Ted Bundy and have not “achieved” Bundy’s degree of “liberation.” However, we all have a worsening problem. To some degree, we are “trapped by evil desires” (Proverbs 11:6), although many of us fail to realize this. This is because we have an amazing capacity to convince ourselves that we aren’t evil (Proverbs 21:2; 16:2).

We will not know that we are an alcoholic until we try to quit. Unfortunately, most of us haven’t tried to quit our evil.

We need to be born again. Without this, we can not even perceive the things of God (John 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 2:14) or even our own evil. All we can do is to cry out for the mercy of God, as the Bible instructs us to do in so many ways. Jesus said it this way:

• Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How the Bible has Ennobled, Protected and Elevated the Female Sex

Ironically, Christianity continues to receive a bashing because of its alleged maltreatment of women. Sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt attempts to address this challenge by comparing the fate of women in Christian nations to those living under other belief systems:

• Whether in Saudi Arabia or in many other Arab countries where the Islamic religion is adhered to strongly, a man has the right to beat and sexually desert his wife, all with the full support of the Koran, which says, “Men stand superior to women…But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bedchambers and beat them; but if they submit to you then do not seek a way against them” (Sura 4:35).

In contrast to this, the Bible informs that in Christ, “There is neither…male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). Both are equally precious before God. In fact, the Bible instructs us to grant even greater honor to the woman to compensate for her weaker physical status. The Greco-Roman culture was little different from the Islamic:

• A respectable Athenian woman was not permitted to leave her house unless she was accompanied by a trustworthy male escort, commonly a slave appointed by her husband. When the husband’s male guests were present in his home, she was not permitted to eat or interact with them. She had to retire to her woman’s quarters. The only woman who had some freedom was the mistress. (How Christianity Changed the World, 98)

Rome was little different:

• The man had supreme, absolute power over his children even when fully grown, including grandchildren. He alone had the power to divorce his wife, and he also possessed the power to execute his children. He could even execute his married daughter if she committed adultery…He had “full authority to chastise his wife and, in some cases, even kill her…” [Rudolph Sohm]…”Women were essentially a slave of man’s lower passions” [Raphael Patai] (Schmidt, 100-101)

Despite the women-ennobling message of their Scriptures, the Hebrew commentaries – the Talmud and Midrashim – disparaged women:

• Barring women from testifying in court (Yoma 43b). And like the Athenians, the Jews barred women from public speaking. The oral law that “out of respect of the congregation, the woman should not read [out loud] in the Law [Torah]” (Megillah 23a). Another rabbinic teaching proclaimed that it was “shameful” to hear a woman’s voice in public among men (Berakhoth 24a). Still another taught, “Let the words of the Law [Torah] be burned rather than committed to a woman…If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery” (Sotah 3.4). (Schmidt, 102)

What a contrast this is to the prophet Joel’s divine proclamation:

• I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29)

While the Jewish Talmud states, “He who talks to a woman [in public] brings evil upon himself” (Aboth 1.5), Jesus cut through these unscriptural taboos. Women followed Him and were gladly received into His presence. In contrast:

• Men in ancient societies…commonly married child brides, often as young as eleven or twelve…Research shows that Christian women married later than their pagan Roman counterparts They not only used their freedom to marry later, but they also…they also had the choice as to whom they married. Under patria potestas the Roman woman had so such choice. (Schmidt, 111)

Married women had to be veiled even in Israelite society. Polygamy also reigned. Schmidt concludes,

• As a result of Jesus Christ and his teachings, women in much of the world today, especially in the West, enjoy more privileges and rights than at any other time in history. (115)

It was Christian teachings that had put an end to many misogynistic practices:

• For hundreds of years India’s cultural custom of suttee, the burning alive of widows [even teenage widows], was an integral part of India’s Hindu-oriented culture. When a woman’s husband died, she, as a good and faithful wife, was expected voluntarily to mount her husband’s funeral pyre and be cremated with him. If she refused, she was often put there by force, even by her son(s). (Schmidt, 116)

A woman’s value was solely based upon that of her husband. This practice was also found among many other peoples “and by some American Indians before Columbus arrived” (116). The painful and crippling practice of foot-binding was widely practiced in China. Feet were forced into tiny shoes to make the women more sexually appealing to potential husbands. Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette explained that without bound feet, the woman would be “disgraced and it was impossible to get a desirable husband for her.”

• It was Christianity’s influence that eventually led the Chinese government to outlaw this dehumanizing practice in 1912. Lin Yutang has shown that Christian missionaries led the crusade to abolish foot binding. (Schmidt, 119)

Clitoridectomy (“female circumcision”) is still widely practiced in non-Christian nations:

• Minimally clitoridectomy involves the removal of a young girl’s clitoris. Frequently, however, the procedure also includes removing the inner and outer labia, and sometimes “almost all of the girl’s genitalia…” [Linda Burstein]. (Schmidt, 121)

Schmidt concludes:

• Before Christianity arrived, century upon century had brought little or no freedom or dignity to women in any pagan culture. In short, where else do women have more freedom, opportunity and human worth than in countries that have been highly influenced by the Christian ethic? (122)

Even in modern day China, the State has co-opted her reproductive rights, limiting her to a one child policy. In many other countries, girl babies are so devalued, that they are aborted or abandoned at a much higher frequency. This speaks profoundly about the value they place on the female sex. In contrast, the Bible is the great equalizer:

• Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)

Husbands are thereby warned that if they mistreat their wives and fail to respect them, God will turn his back upon them. Nevertheless, many will respond that the Bible continues to relegate the woman to a diminished role. Admittedly, the Bible does set forth some role distinctions. However, we have to ask if these role distinctions ennoble or degrade.

In the early 70’s, I lived in Israel on some of the most radically socialistic kibbutzim of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. These radical socialists had disdained all role distinctions, even marriage. Even the children were regarded as the common property of the community and not of a particular mother and father. In order to prevent any class distinctions from arising, the communal responsibilities were shared equally. The men would therefore have to “man” the baby houses.

However, by the time I began my trek through these communes, things had already begun to change. Husbands had settled down with their own wives, and their children would join their respective parents after work and school. Also, the men would no longer do their duties at the baby houses. The women had already staked out their claim to this domain.

Why had this reversal occurred at such radically socialistic communities? Sexual realities weight heavily upon us. Men are not only different morphologically, they also have different inclinations and strengths. Consequently, the babies are best nourished by those who have more of a heart for them.

Radical feminism has done a great disservice to females. While it has pointed to wrongs that needed to be addressed, feminism has also demeaned the very areas and duties where women excel and has extolled those professions where they are not equipped to compete. Men make better firemen and construction workers. Women keep better homes and children. If we fail to recognize these distinctive inclinations and abilities, we degrade those we are trying to elevate.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why They Hate Us

No one likes being hated. We Christians are no exception to the rule. However, we respond to it in different ways. The “mea culpa” response is a very common one. It looks to ourselves to ask, “What are we doing wrong? What are we doing to provoke others?” This is a good and Christian response. Maturity requires such a response, and when we do a little honest examination, we all find that there is much the matter with our lives.

However, I don’t think that this is the reason why we are hated. After all, there is much the matter with everyone’s lives. However, Christians seem to be singled out for intolerance by the very ones who regard themselves as models of tolerance. One blogger just responded that the thing he hates most about Christians is the way we ruthlessly indoctrinate the youth and exercise influence over the political processes. However, every group does this! This blogger concluded his attack by claiming that the world will be “much better off under atheism.” Clearly, he isn’t reluctant to indoctrinate and to influence politics! Why then his hypocritical stance?

Perhaps instead, we should try to understand the intolerance towards us not in terms of who we are but what we represent. Sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt wrote,

• St. Augustine in the early part of the fifth century said that the Romans despised the Christians they opposed their unrestrained sexual lifestyles (The City of God, 1:30). Tertullian said that the Romans so despised he Christians that they hated the name “Christian” (Apology 3). (How Christianity Changed the World, 94)

Schmidt concludes that the Romans didn’t like it “when sensually lustful behavior is morally questioned and called sinful.” This response isn’t unusual. Minicius Felix cites a Roman pagan who strongly criticized Christians for their anti-gladiatorial stance:

• “You do no go to our shows; you take no part in our processions…you shrink in horror from our sacred [gladiatorial] games.”

When people feel judged, they lash out defensively. We often cling to our honor and sense of self-importance more tenaciously than to our wallets. Christian morality is threatening even when we don’t direct our Biblical judgments to specific individuals. However, it’s not just a matter of assailed honor. My honor is called into question whenever I blog. Most respondents resort to personal attacks. However, this doesn’t send me to the Manhattan Bridge to end it all. This is because I am convinced of the correctness of my cause.

However, recently I was charged with misrepresenting a famous preacher-sociologist in an essay that I had posted on my blog. I was horribly distressed because I realized that it was possible that his allegations were correct. However, I didn’t have a copy of the sermon to check against these allegations until I found it on-line, to my great relief. I then reasserted my charges with some additional ones, without an ounce of discomfort.

Why then can’t those who are living “unrestrained sexual lifestyles” do the same? If they are convinced of the correctness of their conduct, why do they have to respond so defensively and with such intolerance towards the Christian position? I think that this is because they are not convinced. Although they might speak confidently about their lifestyle choices – and all their associates will agree with them – they are still stung by any suggestion that they might be sinning. Why? Because we are all programmed with a moral sense! We know what is right and wrong.

If someone angrily accuses me of walking down the street instead of running, I will remain undaunted, because I know that I haven’t done anything wrong. However, if this same person rightly accuses me of lying, I will probably resent him and defensively attempt to justify myself. This is because I know that I have done wrong, and consequently feel guilty and vulnerable.

Do those who commit sexual sin know that they have done wrong? According to the Bible, they know that they have:

• The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

We are going to be hated. Jesus certainly was! Why? Jesus stated that the world hated Him, “because I testify that what it does is evil,” (John 7:7). We too are a reminder to the world of its evil and coming condemnation (Romans 1:32). Consequently, we are a stench to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:14-17). At least we are a pleasant fragrance in the nostrils of our Lord.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Battle

Is the secularism of today really neutral, or is it instead a State-supported stealth religion, attempting to secure a greater role in our thinking? Bill Clinton’s US Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, described the battle in which modern secularism is now engaged:

• The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give authority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. (Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism, 18)

I appreciate the fact that Reich was willing to admit that this “underlying battle” is actually being waged. It seems that most secularists will deny this fact, deceptively claiming that they are just trying to be neutral. He has also laid out the fundamental battle lines with clarity, although not without considerable distortion. He writes that those who believe in a “higher authority” are “blind” in their allegiance to Him. Not only is this inaccurate, but it is also very degrading, suggesting that we are mindless.

Likewise, although Reich correctly suggests that our prime interest is in eternity, he pejoratively claims that we “believe that human life is NO MORE than preparation for an existence beyond life.” Hence, he wrongly portrays us as uninterested in this life. Instead, it is our belief in eternity that lends meaning and purpose to our existence here.

Although Reich is correct to suggest that “scripture” is our highest authority, it is not correct that we “believe truth is revealed SOLELY through scripture.” We believe that God also communicates His truth to us through our mind, conscience, and His creation.

Clearly, these subtle and negative misrepresentations are all part of the “underlying battle” of winning hearts and minds. What are the other weapons of this battle? We need to answer this question, for if we fail to see their arrows, we will fall victim to them. Professor of Politics and Law at Vanderbilt, Carol M. Swain, argues that secularism has successfully and hypocritically banned religious speech:

• A fundamental principle of [secular] academia is that religion is a private matter, never to be discussed in the public square. Citing Scripture and other religious texts is out of bounds – even though it is permissible for politicians or other public figures to quote their favorite philosophers, educational experts, rock stars, or new age gurus…Of course, this taboo against Scripture advantages the cultural elite…(Be the People, 43-44)

This is hypocritical! The secular elites have their own religion. Reich eloquently articulated it – a belief in the supremacy of the individual and of science. This is a religion that has taken captive even the minds of many Christians. For example, one Christian teacher confessed to me her discouragement with her students. They had all gleefully admitted that they regularly cheated on their exams. She then spoke highly about a values program that had been initiated at her school, which asked students to consider whether cheating would best help them achieve their long-range career goals.

I then asked, “Isn’t this program merely more of the same, promoting the welfare of the individual as supreme? Aren’t you merely reinforcing the secular religion which has gotten us into this trouble?”

She responded angrily, “What do you expect me to do? Do you want me to take out my Bible and start talking about God and what’s eternally right and wrong? I work at a public school!”

If it is a public school, why then is it committed to the religion of secularism that exalts the fulfillment of the individual above everything else? This is a double-standard! Secularism can secretly institute its own religion, while banning every other religion by erroneously claiming that the public square has to be neutral. According to Swain,

• Law professor Steven D. Smith argues that public discourse needs to be freed from the constraints imposed on it by secularists…Unable to use religious language and hemmed in by their own rules, Smith argues that secularists smuggle in religious concepts but call them by other names, such as liberty, freedom, or equality. This, Smith says, creates a “secular cage.” (44)

All talk of values and ideals is religious. We a stuck in a “secular cage,” where the songs of secularism are the only ones permitted to be sung. Perhaps we need to become more conversant with our own melodies, at least enough to confidently sing them out loud.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

VD and Riots

What do the venereal disease vaccine Gardasil and the youth riots in the UK have in common? Perhaps a great deal?

The California legislature is now pushing through a bill to remove parental notification for children as young as 12 to receive the dangerous STD vaccine Gardasil…Gardasil, the most popular HPV vaccine, has been found to cause dangerous side effects and as many as twelve deaths in the United States alone.

I can remember when even giving a child an aspirin required parental approval. How things have changed! Now, even administering a life threatening drug has become an undercover conspiracy between child and State. However, the danger of the drug isn’t the real problem or the connection with the riots. Instead, it is the new message that the State is communicating to the children and the parents. Essentially, it is telling the parents, “We know better than you what is best for your child. And therefore telling you what we’re doing with your child may prove to be an obstacle for Johnny’s welfare.”

This message is offensive enough, but the State is communicating something even more sinister to the children: “Your parents are trying to get in the way of your fun, sexual development, and maturity, and we the State will not allow that to happen to you. You have a right to express yourself sexually, and your parents are repressed kill-joys. However, we can make nullify their influence.”

Well, they have nullified parental influence. The riots in the UK have demonstrated this along with the helplessness of both State and parents in controlling these youthful passions, which the State has gleefully coaxed out of the box. The State has pathetically called upon the parents – the very ones that they have disempowered – to keep their kids off the street, and the kids have responded back that they have their own set of rights, and they’ll show the powers who is really in control!

Well, who should be in control of the children – the State or the parents? King Solomon was a wise king. He understood that it is the parents who truly love their children, and therefore, they are the ones who should have both custody and control. Two prostitutes came before the wise king, both claiming that the one disputed child was their own. Solomon then ordered that the child be cut in half, so that each claimant would receive an equal share of the child. However the real mother cried out,

• "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" But the other said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" (1 Kings 3:26)

Wisdom told Solomon that the real mother naturally wanted the best for her child, and therefore he returned the child to her.

However, the State is foolishly doing the opposite thing – taking the children away from the party that has the deep and enduring attachment to the children, thereby undermining that relationship. Such hubris can only produce disaster. The riots in the UK should serve as a wake-up call.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are the Gospels Historically Trustworthy?

How historically reliable are the Gospels? Using the objective tools that all historians employ, the answer is “Highly reliable!” Using these various criteria of authenticity, New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg claims that these tools can,

• Eventually lead one to accept virtually all the gospel tradition….These include the linguistic, social, political, economic, cultural and religious environment s depicted; the great events of Jesus’ life-baptism, temptation, transfiguration, teaching on the kingdom, call to repentance , parables, beatitudes, teaching on God as Father, the miracles, and exorcisms as signs of the kingdom, the betrayal, agony, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection…Latourelle sums up: “On each of the subjects enumerated, we can invoke the testimony of many exegetes. To the extent that researches [sic] go on, the material acknowledged as authentic grows ceaselessly until it covers the whole Gospel.” (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 253-54)

Let’s just look at one of these criteria. When Bill Clinton wrote his autobiography some years back, the critics and historians understandably panned it. It was just too self-serving. The only confessions that Clinton made were those that everyone already knew about. The book’s credibility was therefore highly suspect. However, if a politician’s autobiography includes confessions against his best interests – failures, criminality, moral weaknesses – we justifiably regard it as highly credible.

The same principle pertains to the study of the Gospels. If the Gospels reflect the interests of the early church, we might assume that the Gospels reflect their biases and not reliable reporting. If instead the Gospels do not reflect the interests of the early church, then we might assume that that they were written by people – the Apostles and those associated with them – whose overriding motivation was to transcend their biases to accurately tell the story of Jesus.

Let’s transpose our question this way. “Do the Gospels:

1. Reliably present the life and words of Jesus (27-30 AD), or
2. Do they reflect the interests of the early church (70-100 AD)?”

When we examine the Jesus of the Gospels, we find that virtually everything He did and said cut against the grain of not only His contemporaries, but also His Apostles and the early church. In other words, they go against the biases and interests of all parties involved.


His 12 chosen Apostles were all simple men. They didn’t reflect a cross-section of Israelite society. They weren’t highly educated people – not the type of people with whom you or the early church would want to identify; not the type of people who would draw new converts.

Even worse, Jesus’ 12 are consistently portrayed as simpletons who just didn’t get it. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find Jesus telling them that they had done a good job or that they were catching on. Yes, Jesus did affirm Peter’s response on one occasion, but then followed it with a stinging denunciation:

• "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23)

In fact the Apostles misunderstood almost all of His teachings. Even at the end, they still failed to get it. The Apostles seemed to be so filled with themselves, that they refused to believe what Jesus told them:

• "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.'” (Mark 14:27)

They all proudly protested that they would never abandon Jesus. Later, they had to eat their words. Nor could they even stay awake to pray with their Master. If the early church had written the Gospels – and they reflected the agenda of the early church – they would have presented a more glowing and winsome portrait of the Apostles, one that would lend status and credibility to this new and embattled religion. However, we find no indication of this kind of window-dressing. Instead, they are presented as morally bankrupt – racist and status-conscious. They looked up to everyone above them and tried to place impediments in front of those petitioners they regarded as inferior. They discouraged and even blocked the blind, children and gentiles from seeing Jesus. Meanwhile, they held the rich and rulers in high regard and went to great lengths to please them.

Who would want anything to do with such characters, and who would invent such patriarchs if they wanted their religion to flourish? No one! Why then do we have such consistently disparaging portrayals of the Apostles in the Gospels? They must be true!

Besides, Jesus received the worst sinners into His presence. They were such social outcasts that the ruling class concluded that He couldn’t be a prophet. He allowed a degraded woman to touch Him, bringing upon Him the contempt of the leadership (Luke 7:39). And it wasn’t only the ruling class which felt this way. The entire culture partook of this worldview. Jesus not only alienated everyone, He reserved His strongest denunciations for those who were most highly respected, certainly not something you’d want to do if you are starting a religion!

How then could such a Man have a following? Even many of the skeptics of the Jesus Seminar have reluctantly admitted that He must have been a miracle worker:

1. “On historical grounds it is virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and exorcist.” Marcus Borg (Jesus Seminar {JS})

2. “Throughout his life, Jesus performed healings and exorcisms for ordinary people.” John Dominic Crossan (JS)

3. “On the eve of the Passover Yesu was hanged…because he practiced sorcery and led Israel astray.” Babylonian Talmud (Jewish sources have an aversion to mention Jesus by name and anything positive about Him.)

4. “Jesus certainly performed exorcisms as they were practiced in the first century…It would have been natural for an itinerant charismatic healer and teacher to do so.” John Rousseau (JS archeologist)


Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It makes it seem that He had a sin to confess. No one would have invented such an account. The fact that He was tempted by the Devil for 40 days suggests that He could be tempted. On the surface, this would seem to be inconsistent with the agenda of the early church to prove that Jesus is God.

We see a Jesus confessing ignorance about His return: “Not even the son of man knows” (Mark 13:32). The Gospel accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane show a fearful and reluctant Jesus. On the Cross, we see a confused Jesus, crying out, “Why have You forsaken Me?” – hardly the portrait of Jesus that the early church would want to convey!

Besides, every other religion paints their leader departing in style, as an inspiration and an example for all the followers. However, Jesus departed in utter disgrace – beaten, stripped naked, murdered as a common criminal, abandoned by His Apostles. This is not a portrait that others would find inspiring. Why should the Gospels include this account unless it actually happened this way? Why were the women, whose testimony lacked any credence in that culture, be listed as the first ones to encounter the risen Lord? Again, it must have happened that way.


Some were difficult to understand. Others were impossible to follow. These would discourage followers. On one occasion, Jesus taught:

• "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:53)

As a result of this difficult teaching, many departed from Him. However, just about all of His teachings were difficult to understand. He taught, “Hate mother and father,” “Let the dead bury the dead,” “Cut off hands,” “Don’t let your left hand know what your right is doing.” His parables were no less challenging. None of them had appeal to the common man or the leadership. Many were even offensive. None would warm the heart, except perhaps for the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” But even this parable ends by placing a sword into the gut of those who think that they are religious.

His other sayings and teachings were, for the most part, impossible to follow and utterly humbling for anyone who would try to follow them. He taught, “Sell all you have,” “Give alms of all that you have,” “Turn the other cheek,” and “Give to anyone who asks.” It seemed as if Jesus didn’t want any followers. Who would want to be part of a religion that required everything? No one, who wanted to promote a religion, would create such teachings, least of all the early church, who understandably would want to make them appealing. Evidently, these difficult teachings had been recorded as such because these were exactly what Jesus had taught.


Jesus had been very cryptic about many of the central doctrines of the faith – His messiahship, His divinity, the atonement, the new covenant – those doctrines that the people of His day did not have the ears to hear. Had the early church edited the Gospels, they would have made these cherished doctrines more explicit in the mouth of Jesus. His words would have reflected their concerns. However, for the most part, He had been embarrassingly silent about these doctrines until the time of His departure.


Had the early church exercised editorial oversight over the Gospels, they would have surely smoothed out the rough edges. However, we have no evidence that this ever happened.

At the end of his book, Blomberg concludes,

• “Whether by giving the Gospels the benefit of the doubt which all narratives of purportedly historical events merit or by approaching them with initial suspicion in which every detail must satisfy the criteria of authenticity, the verdict should remain the same. The Gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said.”

If the Gospels are reliable, then we can accept their accounts of the miraculous, especially the Resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, this authenticates His testimony about Himself and His words as the Words of God Himself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dualism vs. Materialism

Dualism – the belief that we are both physical and spiritual beings – is essential to our lives, relationships and legal system. Without this belief, society as we know it will be vastly degraded. For one thing, without the spiritual component, we lack any stable identity as people or even as humans. Perhaps a hypothetical meeting between two materialists – those who claim that we are merely the sum total of our physical parts – might prove illuminating.

Josef Mengele was in charge of human experimentation at Auschwitz - Birkenau, the Nazi death camp. His extreme cruelty earned him the title, “angel of death.” He secretly escaped to South America where he successfully avoided capture until his death, 34 years later. In this fictitious dialogue, he is finally cornered in an empty bar by a bounty hunter, Richard Mawkins, both of whom love to talk philosophy.

MENGELE: You’ve got the wrong person, Mawkins. I am not the Josef Mengele of Auschwitz. You see, during these 30 years of exile, every chemical in my body has been replaced. I therefore am not the same person. Our identity is a matter of our materiality. Therefore, I’m a completely different person than the Mengele who ran all those so-called diabolical experiments. It would therefore be a gross mistake to take me into custody.

MAWKINS: Very clever, Mengele! You are a man after my own heart – devious and unprincipled. We are both materialists who don’t believe in ghosts, like an unchanging immortal soul. Even though such an immortal soul provides a basis for believing in our unchanging identities and our guilt, we both have the courage and wisdom to reject such ridiculous fantasies. They’re for sissies, not for men like us. However, you are making a significant philosophical blunder. Your identity and consequent guilt do not rest upon your material substances but rather in their organization – their DNA.

MENGELE: Mawkins, did you know that I have an identical twin. He has the same DNA as I do. Would you therefore regard him as guilty as “I” of my so-called crimes against humanity? After all, we are genetically identical! Does this make us the same person? Of course not! Besides, no one believes in your preposterous notion that we are our genes and consequently, the my brother is me. If that were the case, my brother would have been arrested long ago. Therefore, you can’t appeal to DNA as the basis for our individual identities.

Did you know that I had wanted to clone an entire army of “humans.” Of course, they would all possess the same DNA. But would this mean that they were all identical, without their own identities? I think not!

Once again, I must inform you that I am not the Mengele of Auschwitz! Besides, I’m now an old man with many ailments. I don’t think that they will throw me into prison.

MAWKINS: Mengele, I must admit that I have underestimated you, but there is something that you fail to understand about my contract. If there is no conviction, I don’t get paid. Besides, if I bring you in dead, I am guaranteed my bounty. I guess I’ll just have to kill you. No disrespect intended, of course. Actually, I’m growing to admire you. But I am a materialist, after all. And, as you said, you are just an ever-changing sack of chemicals, without any personhood that extends beyond your chemicals.

MENGELE: But that would be wrong to kill me. I’m a human being, and I have my rights!

MAWKINS: Mengele, you are indeed funny. You know better than that. How can you claim to be a “human being,” when you even deny that you are the Mengele of Auschwitz? If your changing materiality provides no basis to prove that you are the same Mengele of Auschwitz, then how can your materiality establish the fact that you are a member of the human race? As you point out, “you” are always changing. How then can you claim to fit into any one category, if you are different every day! “Humanity” is just a label we’ve invented to convince ourselves of our superiority. Actually, there is only a continuum, a solidarity between all living things. The distinctions we make are just passing and illusory.

And who has given you “rights?” Aren’t our rights just arbitrarily given at the caprice of the government? They no more real than our changing identities! Materialism has no room for the fiction of “rights.” Rights are merely manipulative tools that the ruling class extends to the masses in exchange for their compliance.

Besides, we’re all different in terms of the physical, some more evolved than others. As such, we have no reason to believe that we’re better than the pig. In fact, the pig might have a superior sack of chemicals than what your sickly body now contains. Why then should I treat you any better than I would a pig, especially if it’s going to cost me my bounty? I’m sure that you understand that, Mengele.

MENGELE: Spoken as a true materialist! Mawkins, I admire the fact that you conduct yourself without insincere sentimentality. You know that materialism has no room for those silly conventional values! You refuse to escape to the world of imaginary values when things get a bit tight and the rules of the game need to be changed. I was never that way. I never shed tears of repentance for the things I did, not like that cry-baby, Albert Speer. We are two of a kind. I’d consider it an honor to be slit as a pig with your knife.

MAWKINS: Mengele, I really hate to do you in, but that’s just my genes talking. As you know, business is business.

What makes us who we are? If we are nothing outside of our component substances which are always in flux, then when I say that I am “me,” what can that possibly mean? Also, when I say, “Here’s a picture of me when I was five,” does such a statement have any meaning? In other words, can a materialistic worldview provide the continuity for life, truth, and justice in the way we have enjoyed?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guilt: Another Proof for God

Many atheists have asked me, “What evidence do you have that there is a God?” I respond, “The entire world points to God. All creation bears His imprint, like a Van Gogh painting unmistakably bears the imprint of Van Gogh and no one else!

To demonstrate this point, let me just look at our feelings, one in particular – guilt. Now, let’s ask the question, “Which makes more sense”:

1. Guilt is merely the product of bio-chemistry, the product of evolution. We evolved this feeling to socially connect us, something that would impart a survival edge.

2. While guilt does have a bio-chemical component, it also represents the workmanship of the Creator who, through it, instructs us that His absolute moral truth has been violated.

What then happens when an atheist feels guilty? He can regard this feeling as a useless evolutionary contrivance that has outgrown its usefulness, like the belief in God, and disregard it, even to his own discomfort and detriment. However, there is another choice. He can obey it for pragmatic reasons. He can apologize for his “guilt,” recognizing that this both resolves the uncomfortable guilt feelings and also has a salutary effect upon his relationships.

However, this will cause dissonance. If guilt lacks any objective reality – there is no right-wrong or good-bad, these being no more than social conventions or bio-chemical reactions – for what then need he apologize? Yes, it works, but it only works if both parties maintain the illusion that an objective law has been violated. How will the atheist respond if the wronged party says, “You’re a hypocrite! You are apologizing and you don’t even believe that you’ve done something wrong. You’re merely apologizing to manipulate me!”

The same thing can be said about any altruistic act. The wife can always ask, “Why did you buy me flowers? Is it because it makes you feel good about yourself or do you think that your flowers have purchased a favorable response from me?” If an altruistic act lacks an adequate cognitive foundation, then it cannot be altruistic, but rather self-centered.

When a paradigm leads to inevitably incoherent results, we generally seek a new paradigm, one that will resolve the contradictions. Let me suggest that you try on a new paradigm for size, one that explains the facts.

At this point, you might answer, “Well, I never said that there weren’t problems with living out atheism, but that doesn’t mean that it wrong!” I think that you are overlooking an important issue. If the way you live your life contradicts your stated position, then your life contradicts and invalidates your position. This is especially the case if atheistic morality is based upon what works (pragmatism), and life clearly shows that it doesn’t work.

There is also another perspective to consider. There seems to be such a wonderful correspondence between feeling-action-moral resolution-feeling that bears the imprint of intelligent design. When I feel guilt, it seems to be more than an un-designed chemical reaction. I feel that I’ve committed an objective wrong, and the guilt doesn’t dissipate until I deal with it in a moral way. I’ve got to confess my sins and make restitution for them. Interestingly, if I just apologize to get my wife off my back, it doesn’t work. The entire process has to be bathed in truth and the recognition that a wrong has been done that has to be addressed in a truthful way. Furthermore, it is not enough to buy my wife flowers if I’ve wronged her. I have to humble myself and confess my wrongdoing. It is amazing the restoration that true confession can bring!

The same truths also pertain to my relationship with God. I can say “forgive me” for hours, but I won’t feel any relief until I confess the very thing for which I am guilty. Clearly, confession must be based upon moral truth and not chemistry.

This is a paradigm that not only works for me, but one that also corresponds to reality and provides the ultimate roadmap for restoration.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Militant, Monopolistic, State-Sponsored Religion

The secularism of our Founding Fathers bears little resemblance to the “secularism” of today. The historian, Edwin Scott Gaustad, quotes perhaps our most un-Christian Father to this effect:

• “Almighty God hath made the mind free.” It follows therefrom that mankind should do all that it can to keep minds unshackled and un-coerced. Let us consider, Jefferson noted, that if an all wise and powerful God restrained himself from coercing either the bodies or the minds of men and women, how utterly absurd it must be for “fallible and uninspired men” to arrogate to themselves the right to exercise “dominion over the faith of others…Be it enacted,” therefore, “that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” One will suffer in no way for his or her religious opinions; on the contrary, all persons “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” And whatever their opinions, this will in no way affect their citizenship or their rights. (A Religious History of America, 119).

Now, I’d like to contrast these sentiments with the fate of Laura Fotusky who just resigned as town clerk of Barker, NY,

• Rather than violate her conscience by facilitating gay marriage….She had hoped New York’s gay marriage law – passed by the Republican-led legislature on June 24 – would allow religious exemptions…But when the law didn’t allow such exemptions, Fotusky resigned: “Basically I had to choose between my God and my job.” (World, August 13, 2011, 10)

Governor Cuomo responded to Fotusky’s resignation, saying: “The law is the law…” However, the law hadn’t always been that way. It had demonstrated more respect for divergent opinions and issues of conscience. Instead of proclaiming that “the law is the law,” our Fathers would have made allowances, as the freedom loving Jefferson proclaimed that the people “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” Would it have been too difficult to ask someone other than Fotusky to process same-sex marriage papers?

This is something that has been routinely done in mental health clinics. A new rape-case client is not assigned to a counselor who had just been raped. A Christian therapist is not assigned a same-sex (SS) couple. There had been respect for people’s feelings and faiths. However, this is rapidly changing. Two Christian students were dismissed from graduate counseling programs in two different state schools because they refused to acknowledge that same-sex marriage is morally acceptable. This is a far cry from the Fathers who proclaimed that government should in no way exercise “dominion over the faith of others.” Jefferson had insisted that all people “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.”

Just recently, the Obama administration eliminated certain rights of health care professions to not have to participate in activities that violated their conscience. Must today’s secularism compel a dogmatic religious conformity in these matters? Must it force the pharmacist to prescribe the morning-after pill against his conscience? On the same page of the same World Magazine,

• A chaplain at a briefing asked a senior Pentagon official if a biblical worldview on homosexuality would be protected in the post-DADT {Don’t Ask, Don’t’ Tell] military. The reply he received was chilling: If you cannot come in line with the policy, then resign your commission.

We still don’t know how the repeal of DADT will play out for the chaplaincy and religion. However, this Pentagon official, reflecting the opinion of many others, is essentially saying, “The only religion will be our secular religion! We no longer allow religious diversity.” But why not? We’ve made provisions for the conscientious objector (CO). Why not also for the integrity of the religion which has provided the very foundation for this nation? In “God of Liberty,” historian Thomas S. Kidd writes:

• “Whether evangelical or rationalist, most Patriots assumed that Christianity would, in some sense, be the cornerstone for the preservation of the new American Republic.” (112)

According to Kidd, these sentiments were broadly held for quite a while:

• “Through the era of the Civil War most Americans would continue to believe that the Christian religion should assist government in lifting people’s moral dispositions, so that they might contribute positively to the freedom of the Republic. Even the skeptical Thomas Jefferson believed that Christianity, in it original purity, ‘is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty.’” (114)

The religion of the Founding Fathers allowed for religious diversity: “Almighty God hath made the mind free.” Therefore, this should guarantee the free expression of religious conscience. However, today’s secularism wants to place it in shackles: “You must believe in SS marriage, or else! No alternative speech will be tolerated!”

Our Founding Fathers were wise. They realized that by compelling religious conformity, they would not only be promoting a State religion, but also would jeopardize any possibility of unity. Meanwhile, today’s aggressively militant secularistic religion is placing this unity in jeopardy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The De-Christianizing of America

How can we – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Homosexuals and Atheists – all live together peacefully under one roof? What type of society can best facilitate this peace?
The liberties of one group are now regarded as representing an affront to the liberties of other groups. Many therefore are gravitating to a “secular” solution that will ban offensive religious assertions and symbols from the public arena. Here’s one example of how this is playing out:

• The Air Force has suspended an ethics briefing for new missile launch officers after concerns were raised about the briefing's heavy focus on religion. The briefing, taught for nearly 20 years by military chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is intended to train Air Force personnel to consider the ethics and morality of launching nuclear weapons - the ultimate doomsday machine. Many of the slides in the 43 page presentation use a Christian justification for war, displaying pictures of saints like Saint Augustine and using biblical references.

It seems obvious, in this instance, that the Christian worldview has received favorable treatment to the consternation of other groups. It would seem that the most irenic solution would be to eliminate any religious favoritism in favor of neutrality on religious matters, thereby providing a common meeting ground for everyone. In this regards, David Smith, an Air Education Training Command spokesman, stated:

• "Ethics discussions are an important part of professional military development and it is especially important for our airmen who are training to work with nuclear weapons because they have to make hard decisions…We are looking to see if we need a briefing like this... but it will not be a religion based briefing."
This brand of secularism raises several questions. Is it possible to present a values orientation without it being “religion based?” And what does it mean to not be “religion based?”

While this Air Force presentation might be religiously based, the argument against it is, by necessity, also religiously based. If arguing in favor of the “just war” concept is religiously based, then arguing against it also must be religiously based. Otherwise, we would be unfairly discriminating against one point of view because it’s religious, allowing the other point of view because ostensibly it is not religious.

All of our values are religious. They can not be derived from the facts, reason, or science alone or any combination of them. Values come from another source. To discriminate against the source of one set of values, because it’s deemed “religious,” and not the other is biased. This disqualifies the opinions of a Jew or Muslim because their views come from a formally identifiable religion, in favor of the atheist, whose religion is less formal and explicit, is unjust. (Of course, we need to speak in a language that others can understand. For instance, we would resent it if a Muslim quoted the Koran in order to prove his point.)

This suggests that there is no values-neutral position to which government can resort. Every law and every judgment entails values and every government reflects its own philosophy, worldview or religion. It’s therefore disingenuous to plead that secularism provides a marketplace of values-neutrality where everyone can congregate equally. Instead, it will always have a set of values – implicit or explicit – to which the participants must conform. It will always favor one point of view over another.

What then is the solution? I’m not sure. However, in a democratic society, it must begin with open and transparent discussions about values, without hypocritically attempting to silence those voices that are labeled “religious.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Doubt can be highly disorienting and daunting, but it’s also quite normal, even among the most spiritual. None were more spiritual than John the Baptist. According to Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3), John had been the one selected to prepare hearts for the coming Messiah. Indeed, he was the first one to identify Him, proclaiming to all,

• “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!...I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29-34)

You might think that after John saw this confirmatory evidence, doubt would have been permanently banished from his thinking. However, after he was imprisoned by King Herod, doubts about Jesus played havoc with his mind. He therefore sent his disciples to Jesus

• …to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3)

When they found Him, Jesus could have told them, “What’s the matter with the faith of that John? Hasn’t he already received enough evidence?” However, Jesus knowing the painful depths of our trials of faith and our need for solid reasons-to-believe, advised John’s disciples to report back to him about the miracles that they were watching Jesus perform.

We, however, do not have Jesus living among us in the flesh, feeding His contemporaries on a regular diet of incontestable miracles. Yes, God is still a God of miracles, but it doesn’t seem that He performs them as liberally as He once had. How then are we to reassure our flagging faith through those “dark nights of the soul?”

I come from a long line of progenitors who have perfected doubt into an art form. Nothing that we hear can escape the clutches of our negativity, skepticism and criticism. While this might be OK if one doesn’t have any cherished beliefs, this tendency has made my faith-walk into a climb of Mt. Everest. Nothing came easily to me. Often, I felt crushed under the burdens of my own deeply entrenched skepticism.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned many valuable lessons on the Everest trek. For one thing, I’ve learned that I am incapable of keeping my own faith. My faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9), one that He also had guaranteed to service:

• Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who THROUGH FAITH ARE SHIELDED BY GOD'S POWER until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Knowing that God is the author and defender of my faith, when I go through those “dark nights,” I have learned to pray this way, “Lord, you will have to keep me. I can’t keep myself. My salvation is your gift, and so I’m committing it to you, completely.” I therefore leave my concerns with God, and He always picks them up, strengthening me at each slope.

Nor does He disdain me for my failures. After John disciples left Jesus, He began to muse about John:

• “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

John’s lapse did not diminish him in the eyes of our Savior. Neither will ours!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loving God

Spiritual maturity is so closely associated with loving God, but how do we love God and fulfill this first and most important commandment? There are several possible answers. Perhaps the first response would be obedience. Jesus stressed that loving God was about keeping His commandments:

• “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21)

Obeying His commends even includes loving our neighbors as ourselves:

• I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 1:5-6)

In order to “love one another,” love has to begin with loving God and following His truths. Instead, we usually associate love with the magnetism of being drawn to another. While this is an important feeling – and it motivates love – it doesn’t tell us enough about how to love. Instead of promoting the best interests of the other, it therefore might only indulge and enable the object of love to pursue a course of self-destruction, when pursued independently of God’s truth. For instance, instead of inculcating self-control and a sense of responsibility, parents might simply give their children what they want, thinking that this will fulfill their needs.

Loving others has to be grounded in truth, God’s truth. However, this understanding also begs another question: “Why are certain people more diligent than others in keeping His commands?” Sometimes this diligence is attributable to a fear of loosing God’s love or salvation. Martin Luther had been the most diligent monk in his Augustinian monastery. In fact, driven by the fear that he wasn’t good enough for God, he almost died through his zealous practice of the spiritual disciplines on two occasions. In addition to this, he would resort to confession four hours a day with his beloved vicar and mentor, Johann von Staupitz. Finally, Staupitz, being fully cognizant of Luther’s torment, advised him, “You just need to love God.”

Luther thundered back, “Love Him? I hate him!” This was because Luther had no confidence that God loved him, despite all of his acts of obedience. Although a necessary requirement, obedience to God’s commands is not always the same thing as loving God.

Instead, we need to be obedient for the right reasons. Jesus had been loved by a woman who had the right reasons. He had been invited to the home of a religious leader for lunch of elegance. However, while they were reclining at his hosts dinner table, a prostitute entered and threw herself down at Jesus’ feet, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair, and then massaged them with costly oil.

Meanwhile, the leader was disgusted by this sight. He reasoned that Jesus couldn’t possibly be a prophet, if he allowed such a woman to even touch him. Knowing what he was thinking, Jesus asked the man if one forgiven a great debt would be more grateful than the one forgiven a minor one. Jesus then explained to the leader:

• "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (Luke 7:44-47)

The woman loved God much because she had been forgiven much. At last, she was free, eternally. She knew that no price was too much for her to pay in ministering to her Savior. Consequently, driven by gratefulness, she even entered the home of someone who would regard her with absolute contempt.

I therefore thank my Savior for His daily reminders about myself, that I am unworthy of even a “thank you” from Him (Luke 17:7-10). He shows me my moral failures, inadequacies, and inabilities. It hurts, but instead of this revelation sending me into a down-spin of depression, it now produces gratefulness and a sense of intimacy. It also reminds me that those who are forgiven much love much. So my prayer becomes, “Lord, continue to show me how much you forgive me so that I might adore You more.” However, this awareness is not nurtured apart from the daily revelation of my garbage.

Loving God also requires a Scripture-based knowledge of His love. We need to know how much He loves us before we can truly love Him. For Luther, Scripture opened a door to heaven as the Spirit illuminated Romans 1:17: “And the righteous shall live by faith.” Luther suddenly realized that it wasn’t about him attaining to his own righteousness – this was an impossibility – but about God freely giving him the gift of His own righteousness through faith, which He procured on the Cross (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:7-9).

However, many of us want to love the Lord more and recognize that it requires a greater awareness of our Lord’s grace and how much we need it. Yet we lack this critical awareness. Instead, we might perceive that we are critical and self-righteous, and that our relationships have suffered as a result of this. Here are some recommendations to deal with this problem:

1. Everything starts with asking and trusting in Him. Just know that everyone who comes to Him in truth finds Him (John 6:37; Romans 10:13).

2. King David asked the Lord to examine him to reveal those things that David needs to know (Psalm 139:23-24). We must do likewise.

3. Trust that God will reveal to you what you need to know and when you need to know it (Psalm 51:6; Phil. 3:15).

4. Meditate regularly on the Word. The Spirit is able to make it come alive for you as He did with Luther (Hebrews 4:12).

5. Prepare your heart for hardships. We naturally only want to see good things about ourselves. However, Christ will use pain to bring long-denied truths to the surface (2 Cor. 4:7-11).

6. There is wisdom among our spiritual elders (Eph. 4:11-14). Seek out those you respect.

• He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:31-33)

Just know that when you ask Him to teach you to love Him, you are asking according to His will. Jesus desires an intimate relationship with you based on sincerity and truth (John 4:22-24).

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Religion Called "Naturalism"

My Dear Wormbottom,

Before things begin to escalate and I am surrounded by throngs of adoring reporters, I must explain to you our latest lawsuit. I think the best way to begin is to quote what the press has already reported:

• When two steel girders were found intact, in the shape of a cross, in the middle of the wreckage of the World Trade Center after 9/11, it was hailed by many as a mini “miracle” and a sign of hope for a country beleaguered by a devastating terrorist attack.

• Now, however, an atheist group has filed a lawsuit that seeks to tear down that cross, which was moved recently to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City…“What we’re looking for is a remedy that honours everyone equally, with a religion-neutral display, or display of equal size and prominence.” According to the lawsuit, American Atheists’ members “…are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state.”

I know it sounds ridiculous to charge that we “are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not [our] own imposed upon [us] through the power of the state.” And I know that it makes us seem like helpless victims, even though we are the ones who are actually at the helm of the ship. But this is what’s working today! It’s the victimhood strategy, and we have successfully cast ourselves in that role, even though we are anything but victims.

Just think of our victories—how we have already succeeded in marginalizing God in favor of our own religion of “naturalism!” Because of our efforts, we have been able to toss any discussion of God and supernatural causation out of the science classroom. That’s right—we have succeeded at convincing the ignorant public that supernaturalism is a religion, while atheism and naturalism are not.

I can’t help but laugh. Naturalism is no more scientifically provable than supernaturalism. But through our diligence, and of course our unparalleled propaganda machine, naturalism has been accepted as 100 % solid, bedrock science in the minds of 99% of the public. It doesn’t seem to matter that there isn’t a solitary stitch of evidence that the physical laws of nature are indeed natural rather than having been designed and emanating from the mind of God! The public has been gloriously bamboozled and we, my friend, are on a glorious roll!

Once this current “crusade” has succeeded in proving that religious symbols are all unconstitutional, then we can expand our horizons and proceed to remove any and all names with religious connotations from institutions. For example, I believe the day is just around the corner when there will no longer be any “Methodist” or “Presbyterian” hospitals. Likewise, the time is soon coming when there will no longer be any medical centers named Mt. Sinai or Beth Israel.

Just how will we do this?

Well, when it comes to removing any religiously-affiliated names, we will simply argue once again that by entering such a hospital we “are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not [our] own imposed upon [us] through the power of the state.” You have to admit that this argument will work supremely well in this context. Hospitals are about healing, and how can we partake of optimal healing when we are constantly reminded that this is a “Methodist” hospital? Through this strategy, we will erase from public consciousness any appreciation for the fact that religious institutions have made vast contributions to the fields of health and medicine. Don’t forget that we have already been able to obliterate from public consciousness the undeniable truth that our most prestigious bastions of higher education—like Harvard, Princeton and Yale, just to name a few—all had their starts as loathsome, contemptuous Bible schools. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner we can forget that, the better!

Can you see where we are headed with all of this? We have already been able to convince many that it has been because of atheism and our brand of secularism that we are now a progressive, tolerant and freedom-loving society. Along with this, we have been able—through a barrage of constant repetition—to bring about an association in the minds of the public between two entities that in the past would never have been mentioned in the same breath. And just what might these two entities be, you ask? Why, it’s none other than Christian Fundamentalism with Islamic Jihadist Fundamentalism. That’s right. I’m sure you’ve sensed it as you’ve watched TV and listened to the news. The fundamentalist “connection” that we have tried to make between the two began very subtly but now has moved into the realm that some might call over-the-top. But, no matter…the plan has worked. As a consequence, now, whenever the public thinks of Christian Fundamentalists, they also think of Jihadists. Ah, how sweet it is!

But of course, we can’t let any of these victories totally go to our head. Not just yet, anyway. We must remember that the opposition can use the same arguments. They can also claim that they “are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state.” There are so many examples of this. They could justifiably claim that required attendance at school pep-rallies marginalizes them, or that the school play diminishes them because they weren’t selected, or that the textbooks fail to give adequate recognition to their particular ethnic group. However, we have succeeded in keeping attention focused on our grievances. And, perhaps even more important, we have managed to keep the public’s attention away from the real issue—that any policy or institution is going to favor one set of values or people at the expense of others. For the most part, the public is not even entertaining this thought. Once they catch on, we’ll have to find a new strategy. But until then, we will push this part of our agenda as far as ignorance allows us. Lucky for us, there’s a lot of ignorance out there!

Now, please allow me to go back and try to explain the first part of our charge: “What we’re looking for is a remedy that honours everyone equally, with a religion-neutral display…” Of course, we know that “religion-neutrality” is impossibility, and that all displays, rulings and proclamations reflect some sort of a values orientation. Certainly, you and I are both well aware of the correctness of that assertion. There is no values-neutrality in anything that we, the media, or the universities do. However, we have succeeded admirably in promoting this deception for our own advantage. You see, we can promote our own values till the cows come home, but nobody charges us with violating the separation between church and state. Yet whenever the church raises a counter-issue, we invariably invoke the “separation clause!” Who cares if it’s blatantly hypocritical on our part—it’s working!

Let me give you some wonderful examples. We have been able to influence students towards sexual permissiveness for years. I won’t bore you with all of our strategies, but let me mention just one: values-clarification exercises. We designed these to demonstrate to students that there is no right answer. Of course, we haven’t explicitly said this, but the message is implicit nonetheless. However, when the religious simpletons start screaming that there are indeed right moral answers, we counter—once again, with phenomenal success—that they are just imposing their religion on the educational process. There’s a marvelous double-standard at work here… our stance that there are no objective values is just as religious as theirs. We say “no,” and they say “yes.” But you see, with this impressive string of victories we are amassing, their side has been virtually silenced, while we have been able to go our merry way, unscathed for the most part.

This strategy has worked in so many areas that I am breathless with excitement to share them with you. But let me end with just this one. We have succeeded in removing the school sanction for a Christian group at Hastings Law School. We argued that their religious requirement for membership and for holding office in the group violated the school’s non-discrimination policy. What the courts conveniently overlooked, for us at least, was the fact that all groups discriminate. The student Women’s Breast Cancer Support Group discriminates in favor of women. The Democratic Society discriminates in favor of democrats. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point.

I can’t wait to hear from you about more of our luscious victories, the triumph of cunning over truth. I’m sure that you are rejoicing along with me as we continue to build a better world.

(With help from my friend, Van Misheff!)