Friday, December 19, 2008

We Wish You a Molinist Christmas

"The most wonderful time of the year" is once again upon us. And when reflecting on Christmas, a good place to turn our attention to first, is the trip to Bethlehem in light of the census. Comparing the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke, together with some considerations of Josephus, some people conclude that the Bible dates Jesus' birth in error (in one or both Gospels). However, the census Josephus mentions is no doubt a different census from the one Luke mentions and there is no problem.

But the dating is not what I wished to talk about today.

When "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed" it necessitated the return of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. That is exactly where the Messiah needed to be born according to the prophecy, clearly written centuries in advance, in the fifth chapter of Micah in the Old Testament. Since God gave His word that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, God wanted Him to be born there (else He would be made a liar).

But Caesar Augustus was presumably not taking the census to fulfill Bible prophecy. He likely had reasons of his own, having nothing to do with biblical religion, for the census. For whatever reason, then, he wanted Mary (one could say) in Bethlehem as she was about to give birth.

God knew that if there was a Caesar Augustus, and if he found himself in the circumstances of the 4th century B.C. (Christ was apparently born in the fourth year B.C believe it or not) that he actually did find himself in, that he would decree a census requiring Mary to return to Bethlehem. God also knew that Mary was about to give birth to the Messiah who must, as we saw before, be born in Bethlehem.

I ask you, was Caesar free to issue the census which landed Mary in Bethlehem or was it really God's sovereign and fore-ordained decree? Yes!

You see how inter-related theology is? We started off talking about the first Christmas and ended up in the arena which has been debated for centuries by Calvinists and Arminians.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Steve's and Rob's American Testament

I have recently been writing some comments in response to posts on the Mormon blog

That blog is an Mormon apologetics blog run by Steve Smoot and Rob Watson. They are Mormon apologists and the purpose of their joint blog is to defend the Book of Mormon. Sometimes one, or both, shall respond to my friendly criticisms and sometimes not.

I think that overall, the case against the Book of Mormon (and more precisely, against current Mormon doctrine in general) vastly far outweighs the case in favor. In my dialogue with the two gentlemen, Smoot and Watson, I believe this has shown itself true. In particular, much of their defence is manifestly ad hoc and so, according to Occam, should be shaved away. Once that is done, the original critique is made even stronger by what the opponents say against it.

I certainly welcome Steve Smoot and Rob Watson to comment on this post and give their own perspective of the discussion which has been taking place between us and their thoughts on this post here at this blog. I also encourage all of you to check out their own blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Historic Presidential Race in Biblical Perspective

I am the president of procrastination and it looks like we're in for four more years. It should come as no surprise to anyone, therefore, that it took me until November 20th, to write a blog post I should have done on the night of November 4th.

The race to the White House this year was truly historic. This would be the first time in history that there was either a female Vice President or an African American President of the United States. As the chips fell, my expectation was realised, and with Obama's victory, we now have, waiting in the wings for inauguration, our first ever African American President.

What better time, then, to remind us all of the position of the Bible on women and various races. Often times, it is said by people who apparently do not know the Scriptures very well, that the Bible is sexist and/or racist. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Women. Woman was taken from the side of man, not the foot or head. Also, woman alone was 'meet' for man unlike the inferior animals. Both of these facts suggest that men and women are equals in the eyes of the Bible. While it is true that Paul said he did not permit a woman to speak in church, we must keep the historical context in mind. In the culture of that time, women were largely uneducated. So they would tend not to follow everything being said in the services. Imagine a high school freshman in a college senior math class. They would not be able to follow everything perfectly. The situation is analogous. In either case, the person would constantly be interrupting the instructor and nothing would ever get accomplished in the ensuing chaos.

Ethnicity. The most common charges of racism in the Bible are with respect to Jews and, in America, those of African descent. But the Bible was written by Jews, to Jews, about Jewish concerns (though, of course, many Jews today would likely deny this of the New Testament). So the Bible is clearly not anti-Semitic. What about prejudice with respect to African descendants? There is nothing in the Scripture that connects the mark of Cain to dark skin. The only other allegation I could think of are the biblical passages about slavery. Two comments here. First, just because the Bible talks about slavery, that does not mean that slavery is a good thing. Second, slavery as practiced in the ancient near East was different from slavery as practiced in the American south. This brings up a very important hermeneutical point. We must always be careful not to read modern events/experiences/perspectives into the ancient text of the Bible. Besides, it is in the Bible itself we read that God is no respecter of persons (i.e. all are equal in His eyes). And what is more, the abolitionist movement included many persons who were involved because of their Christian faith-not unlike the pro-life movement of today. There were, of course, slave owners who tried to justify their practices by appeal to the Bible but that does not mean the Bible actually said what they said it did. People have been reading all sorts of strange things into the Bible, that aren't really there, since day one. Is the Bible racist? I answer that with an emphatic 'no'.

So then, I see nothing wrong with either a female or a black leader of this country. The President (and Vice President) of the USA is the representative of the citizenry but who is that citizenry? The United States citizens are none other than the melting pot of many different men and women from many different nations. It is therefore appropriate to have that reflected in the ones we elect to represent us in high office.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Human Mind-The Blog

I have been spending some time over at Fabio's blog. Not the Fabio but another Fabio. is the address if you'd like to check our our discussion.

Fabio ran across a list of questions for skeptics on an apologetics website and, for his blog, he was answering them. In my turn, I responded to his comments.

What I found in our dialogue together was a great deal of frustration. There is a general trend found in many atheists to merely ridicule faith and the people of faith. The problem is, the more they talk, the more it becomes obvious that they have no idea what "the faith" really is. In addition, such people will tend to view themselves as eminently rational and Christians (or whomever) as complete imbeciles. But then when the Christian approaches them with good reasons, they merely blow it off.

So the general procedure went as follows. Fabio would respond to a question with the common misconceptions of antitheists that Christians have already dealt with 2000 years ago. Next, I would clearly explain the factual errors he made and give a rational defence of my own view. In the process I would point out inconsistencies in his own position. He would then respond by misrepresenting what I said and ridiculing me. Instead of having a fruitful and illuminating discussion, the whole affair was apparently fruitless. That is too bad.

I am not saying all this to get revenge or pay back Fabio for injustices done. But I did want to shed light on this all to common occurrence in apologetics. The same scenario recurs again and again (though not with all skeptics). For example, in a radio debate between Walter Martin and Madeline Murry O'Hare, she spent the entire time ridiculing-nit picking, really-Walter Martin. She never said a single thing of substance during the entire debate and would not allow Dr. Martin to get a word in edgeways. All this after remarking how offended she was for the rudeness of an audience she had recently addressed! And my experience with Fabio was somewhat similar. All fury and no substance.

Why would such eminently rational people be so afraid of rational discourse? Perhaps they are not really so rational after all. And how could somebody, whose entire life revolves around debunking religion, write books, give lectures, and participate in debates yet have no idea what it is that they are denying even though it has continuously been pointed out to them for thousands of years? I guess they don't want us to confuse them with the facts. It is no wonder that such persons do not believe in Christianity if they really think Christianity is as they say it is. But it is all a gross caricature. It seems a caricature that these people refuse to spend a pico-second reflecting on or examining because they want the caricature to be true. I can only conclude that they are willingly ignorant.

It is my honest desire that someday Fabio shall give a fair hearing to the many infallible proofs of Christianity, really reflect on them, and, hopefully, eventually embrace Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. Please, if you believe, keep him in your prayers.

Shalom out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Belated Reformation Day!

A few days ago was October 31, 2008. On October 31st each year is an illegal holiday. I am talking, of course, about my mother's birthday. But aside from that, it is Reformation Day. And so what better time of the year to reflect on the Reformation?

The advent of Protestantism is traditionally thought of as beginning with the nailing of the 95 theses to the door at Wittenberg. These theses of Martin Luther dealt primarily with the issue of indulgences. You know the saying: when a coin in the copher rings, we'll be able to afford St. Peters Basilica.

So Martin Luther saw this abuse of power on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and tried to address it. According to the movie re-enactments that I've seen, he was in total shock to find the then current pope less than sympathetic to his goals. As time passed, I think, the Reformation became less about indulgences per se, and more about the extreme authority of the pope on the one hand, and soteriological issues (i.e. the doctrine of salvation) on the other.

Fast forward to the present day and we find the pope does not have anywhere close to the authority he has exercised in years past. We also find that indulgences are no more-at least as they were in Luther's day. A third thing we find today is efforts on both sides, Protestant as well as Catholic, to re-unite Christendom. And then, much to our politically correct chagrin, we find bigots coming along to celebrate Reformation Day when they ought to be dressing up like Optimus Prime and collecting as much candy as they possibly can from door to door.

But I suggest to you that the Protestant Reformation is something we all-at least if we are Protestants-should take seriously. Although, I must confess, a reform of the Catholic Church would have perhaps been better (and this was Luther's original intention) but that is beyond the scope of the post.

While the papacy has lost a great deal of its power it has also retained some of it. Officially, every Catholic is to submit to the pontiff in all non-temporal matters. Within Protestantism, however, there is no supreme merely human authority figure. While each denomination may have a ruling body of the particular denomination, there is no general human authority for the church as a whole.

It seems to me that this is a good thing overall. For, as far as I can tell from the Scriptures, the church is supposed to rest on the authoritative teachings of the apostles. The apostles all being dead now, we are left only with their writings. In other words, on the Protestant view, there is no apostolic succession. The Bible alone is our authority. Sola Scriptura.

But the more interesting point of dispute between the protesters and the Catholic Church is perhaps the soteriological one. Apparently, Catholics hold now, and back then as well, that salvation is partially on the basis of works. For example, baptism is necessary to get rid of original sin. While this is not a work done by the baptizee per se (since the said baptizee is normally an infant and thus no willing participant) it still seems out of step with the Bible. Other examples include participation in mass and confession. If I am correct, the mass is to nullify venial sin whereas confession is to nullify mortal sin. But Protestants claim that our sins were covered at the cross. There is nothing left for us to do. We have salvation and often view the so-called vicariousness of the sacraments as a concession to salvation by works. Or, more precisely, salvation by grace plus, which is not, perhaps, salvation by grace at all. It appears to be a denial of sola gratia.

Does this mean that Catholics-I mean true Catholics that believe all the things Catholics are supposed to believe and, in addition, actually know what that is-are not saved? I will plead the fifth on this score. At the very least, I think it is safe to say, that Roman Catholics have got what appears to Protestants to be a faulty view of salvation. Whether they are saying the same thing in different words or if they are heretics (if one wants to use the h word) is a matter that I shall not comment on here except to say that the issue is a complex and confusing one. It is always hard to have intelligent dialogue with an "opponent" when neither of you agrees on the definition of terms and often there is the tacit assumption, on the part of both parties, that technical jargon is being used univocally.

So it seem to me that Roman Catholicism may indeed have an incorrect view of soteriology. This is not to say that the reformers got it right either, however. Rome was not built in a day so we should not expect it to be unbuilt in a day either. When I say "reformers" perhaps what I really mean here is "reformed".

Calvinism is no doubt an important facet of Reformation Day. And I am no Calvinist. Therefore, while I appreciate the good that was in the Reformation, or came out of it, I am not in total agreement with all aspects of it. I must say before continuing that I definitely count reformed believers as true Christians or brothers and sisters in Christ.

Still, they did not go far enough. Or more perhaps more accurately, they went too far. At least by my lights. Let us now turn our attention to the "five points of Calvinism." Those five points (or doctrines) are summed up in the ingenious acrostic "TULIP".

T: Total depravity-This first point is relatively uncontroversial in Protestant circles once properly understood. Man is basically not good after all. We are vile sinners outside of a relationship with Christ.

U: Unconditional election-This is the heart of the controversy right here. Perhaps the best way to view this doctrine is the way that Bertrand Russell viewed the ontological argument. It is a lot easier to feel that there is something wrong with it than it is to say precisely what is the problem. After all, God would remain 100% just if we all went to Hell. The fact that a handful of us are elected to escape is an added bonus. What's more, according to this doctrine, God's choice of the elect need not be arbitrary. While Calvinists say not everyone gets into Heaven, that is also the case in more Arminian soteriologies. All that being the case, I must confess that it just seems better to allow everyone a chance. God has created us with free will, and free will is good, so why wouldn't He allow us to use it in following Him? On the Calvinist view there is a kind of free will though it is in bondage to sin. In a sense, the Arminian (i.e. non-Calvinist conservative Christian) also believes this. But God can allow the Arminian to choose Him in spite of his total depravity can He not? Our free will is, I think, the ability to choose to do anything humanly possible and all things are humanly possible with God's help. So then, the Arminian allows for more exercise of free will than the Calvinist, it seems to me. And why believe in Calvinistic predestination in the first place? There are two and only two reasons why anybody ought to believe in such a doctrine. First, philosophical considerations. For example, if God knows what we will do in the future, some might say, we must do it so we are not free to do otherwise. But philosophical arguments for predeterminism are, it seems, inconclusive. Second, certain Bible passages which seem to teach predestination of a Calvinistic sort. But these verses can apparently be easily given other interpretations. For example, when Jesus said to His followers, "you did not choose me. I chose you," it is very easy (for me) to suppose that they could have said "no we will not follow you." So I think that we are not obligated to accept Calvinistic predestination. In other words, there is no sufficient reason, as best as I can see, for adopting a belief in unconditional election.

L: Limited atonement-I am not quite sure I understand precisely what is meant by this term. Apparently the idea is that God's goal, in sending His Son to die, was that the elect would receive salvation through the said death of the Son. However, Calvinists will say that the non-elect would also be saved through the cross if only they turn to Christ (which they won't do because they are not elect). But isn't this what we nasty Arminians were trying to tell them all along? The only people that will be saved are the people that will be saved. But everybody else could be saved too if only they would turn to Christ (which they won't do because they aren't one of the people who will be saved, ex hypothesi). Maybe it is like total depravity in that pretty much everyone accepts it once they understand it. Still, this doctrine seems even more controversial than predestination so one is certainly tempted to think this doctrine of limited atonement is uniquely reformed. Or, as I said at the beginning, mayhaps I do not accurately understand the meaning of the phrase.

I: Irresistible grace-This is the other side of the unconditional election coin. If election is not conditional on anything (even our accepting the gospel, apparently) then saving grace would be irresistible. Election is unconditional if and only if saving grace is irresistible. And since God sovereignly decrees our salvation-supposing Calvinism is true-we simply have no choice in the matter. On the other hand, if our election is not unconditional, then grace must be resistible. Obviously God is still sovereign. He has sovereignly decreed not that a particular sinner shall be saved but that a particular sinner exist with the free will to choose to follow Him or not.

P: Perseverance of the saints-Sometimes called "eternal security" this is the "once save, always saved" view. I actually agree with this view. Here are two arguments:
1. Jesus Himself explicitly said, "no man can snatch them (Christians in general, I presume) out of my hand." I am a man. Therefore I cannot snatch myself out of His hand, say, by committing apostasy. 2. One of the things a saved person is saved from is Hell. Being saved from Hell means you won't go there someday. A true apostate, however, would go to Hell so, by contradiction, eternal security is true.

Now, as I said before, Rome was not built in a day. The reformers did much doctrinal good. But it is surely unreasonable to expect them to do everything. They had too much on their plate in breaking away from Rome to precisely work out every detail of soteriological theory. Indeed, reformation was always said to be an ongoing thing. Continual reformation has always been the watchword of Protestantism in contrast to the stale traditionalism (note the "-ism") which Roman Catholics had fallen victim to. As the dust of the Reformation began to settle more time was given to focus on the precise formulation of Biblical salvation. Ironically, the reformed (i.e. Calvinistic) church, I tend to think, fell into the very same trap they were fighting against. They seem to have fallen into a theological rut. Not that theological truth can change over time, but perhaps Arminianism or Molinism is more in keeping up with the times of the contemporary evangelical, or Protestant, church.

In any case, these are how things seem to me. To any reformed people whom I've offended in the post, you have my sincere apologies. Please remember that I said at the outset that this is an in-house debate. You are not heretics and are still Christians. I am proud to call you brother or sister. So there you have it dear reader. I mean, some of my personal reflections on the Protestant Reformation. If the length of this post is any indication of importance, the Reformation most certainly does still matter. Until next time, goodbye. Sola Christus.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Don't Wanna Rock!

There is a robust industry of potato farming where I live. This Fall, I participated in the potato harvest by working for a short time on, appropriately enough, a potato harvester or combine. One of the things we had to do was pick rocks out of the conveyor belt. Sometimes large. Sometimes small. Always painful on the fingers. By the end of harvest season one may be tempted to say they never want to see another potato again. But not me. I personally have no problem whatever with potatoes. It is the rocks I don't like!

May I say, I had a lot of fun most of the time. On the other hand, one of the unpleasant aspects of the job-besides sore fingers, of course-was working with certain people who seemed to have an extreme grudge on their shoulder against me. Paul tells us that we are to get along with others as best as we can. If they absolutely refuse to get along with us, what do we do?

Enduring such tribulation, I began to reflect on the seeming fact, that no matter where one works and no matter what one does, there is always someone who just arbitrarily decides that they are going to hate one's guts.

I am sure that the Christ-like thing to do in such situations is to approach the other person to talk over the problem. Of course, if the other person is not willing to talk things over with you, then there is really nothing you can do besides pray for them and try to ignore their shenanigans as best you can.

But surely this state of affairs is frustrating. I like to get along with everybody. Of course, as an apologist, I am constantly telling people, "no, you are wrong," and that could get very annoying for those I am in dialogue with, I would venture to guess. But I hope nobody gets the wrong idea. Disagreeing is part of the package that comes with being an apologist for the Christian faith. I by no means derive my jollies from being contentious or argumentative. Again, it is my desire to get along well with all.

So I find myself frustrated when others apparently dislike me. It was particularly hard to swallow when the offending party was a minister, in a Christian environment. This person made many claims to me which I could not help but realise, as time passed, were not true. When they said, "I've been honest with you from the beginning," that was, I think, especially painful. I expect that sort of behavior from jobs in the world, but not at jobs run by Christian institutions.

But there was really nothing I could do. Just pray for the other person. We are instructed by Christ Himself to pray for our enemies-though I hate to use the e-word. And of course, it being easier to see the mote than the beam, it never hurts to pray for ourselves as well. Perhaps we are at least partially at fault in such circumstances as on-the-job conflict at times.

In any case, these tribulations are relatively minor. I never got fired and life does go on. Such affairs build character in us too. Still, all this goes to show that even if we are not formally in full-time ministry as, say, pastor of a church, we still have Christ with us at work and need to follow Him there just as much as on Sunday mornings. I hope I am a faithful follower at all times. I leave you with a question. Though now it is a cliche it still behooves us to ask it of ourselves at all times and in all situations. What would Jesus do?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Moist Your Mind... With Intelligence

I finally saw the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" today.

The vast majority of the documentary film was spent restating more or less standard creationist (i.e. non-atheistic-micro, but possibly not macro, evolutionary) concerns. And there is certainly nothing at all wrong with this as the film was aimed at a general audience, I presume, and general audiences are not necessarily familiar with such material.

There are two points, with respect to the film, that I would like to note here.

First, there have, it is claimed in the movie (and I have no reason to doubt this claim) been several persons who have lost their jobs because of their perceived affiliation with some strand or other of the creationist movement. The people in question are primarily professors but there was at least one journalist mentioned. In the course of the movie these people are named, as well as the organisations they previously worked for, and were given an oppurtunity to appear on film. The alleged offending party at their organisation-say a university campus-were also given the chance to present their side of the story.

If these allegations are true, and they almost certainly are, then I can sum up my feelings towards the situation with a single word. Appalling.

Before the host Ben Stein went straight to the horses mouth, he swung by Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. The man in charge of that publication said that there has been no such discrimination so far as he knew. Of course, his magazine and staff had nothing to do with the purported discrimination itself. And I am not sure we should expect him (his name escapes me at the moment) to know about such clandestine matters as campus faculty politics. Still, this move by Ben, or whomever, was amusing because the rest of the film was tracking down the various offended and, to a lesser sucessful extent, offending, parties. I say this is amusing because Christians are all to used to hearing skeptics make great claims that turn out to have no basis in reality.

At any rate, as the movie progressed Mr. Stein asks what he can do to help keep academic freedom alive and well at university campuses. In a special feature on the dvd, he announces that there is a petition circulating around for just this very purpose. For more information about the petition go to

The main focus of the documentary, besides exposing a kind of religious persecution, was the intelligent design movement (or ID). It has been interesting for me to watch the reaction of mainstream evolutionists to the ID. And this brings up the second point I wished to make with respect to "Expelled". It is now my thesis that the hard-core young Earth creationists really did have a point all along.

But let me back up a bit. As I explained in a previous post, I have come to believe in an old Earth. With smart people like Alister McGrath and John Polkinghorne being full-blown theistic evolutionists, why, I was on the verge of becoming one myself. After all, the Bible explicitly says animals were made from the dust of the earth which is essentially the same idea that as that of chemical evolution out of "a warm little pool," it seems to me. I even went on wikipedia and saw that the general descent of life matches more or less the Genesis account (i.e. the order of the animals is the same in both "accounts" it would seem). And since all truth is God's truth, nature cannot contradict Scripture. As a Christian I care a great deal about truth so I want to take scientific truth very seriously.

But, there is a catch. Sometime ago I was watching a clip of Dr. Francis Collins. He is either a theistic evolutionist, or, at the very least, an advocate for the compatibility of Christianity and neo-darwinism. He is a biologist and wrote "Searching for Darwin's God". In this clip he was addressing a room of his colleagues about a recent high profil ID trial which he had apparently just testified at. The whole room was laughing (at his instigation?) about how silly the ID movement is. But what he said about the ID movement was-more precisely, his description of irreducible complexity-was nothing like I remembered it. I checked it out and found that he had grossly misrepresented it.

But badly misrepresenting a scientific view, especially when its proponents have been careful, and infinitely patient, to clarify the misunderstanding, and laughing at it is precisely what evolutionists have always accused the hard-core creationists of doing. Similar argumentum ad pot-calling-kettle-black was no doubt also found in the movie "Expelled" by biologists speaking out against ID.

It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that mainstream biology is willfully ignorant not only of the hard-core creationism in vogue in the past, but also of the currently more respectable ID points of view. In other words, it appears that non-religious scientists are really not the rational, reasonable, unbiased people they want us religious people to believe.

So it appears that macro-evolution with atheistic connotations is the only game in town for biologists that are not religious as Bill Craig would say. And furthermore that they will not even consider an alternative viewpoint. I want to be crystal clear on this point. I am not claiming that macro-evolution from a single common ancester never occured or that there is no scientific data pointing in that direction. That may (or may not) be the case. All I am saying here is that creationists of all stripes (including theistic evolutionists) are not getting a fare shake and that we do have a legitimate point to make. I would think, what is good for the creationist goose, is good for the non-religious evolutionary gander.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trust Your Media-anic

Some time ago, I was visiting my grandmother-she is in a nursing home-and, at the suggestion of my mother, I turned the t.v. to a news channel. I was interested in a story they were telling about the 'Gabriel Tablet'. This archaeological find may, according to some, shed light on the historical Jesus. Now, as a conservative, I break out in a rash whenever I hear about 'the quest for the historical Jesus' though, of course, there is nothing wrong per se with such an idea. I was delighted to see Ben Witherington (a fellow conservative evangelical) being interviewed on this program which, I should also mention, was not on Fox News (so it was presumably leftist).

So they talk about the Gabriel tablet for a short-too short-then go back to their lead story. Apparently Jessie Jackson had said something less than flattering about Barrack Obama. He subsequently made it crystal clear that he was very sorry about getting caught saying such things. They went on and on about this foolishness for some time, occasionally alluding to an extra-marital affair that Jonathon Edwards was said to have had four years ago.

So, they talked for about a minute on this archaeological find which allegedly gives new information about Jesus (albeit, unsympathetic to traditional Christian beliefs) and spent the much of the rest of the time with the usual garbage associated with political campaigning.

With this, we come to my main point. It has neither to do with liberal religious scholars or liberal politicians. Instead, I am pointing out how backwards the liberal media is. What is more important, the latest presidential race gossip or Jesus? To ask this question is to answer it. Yet we are subjected to the sophomoric, or rather junior high-ic, hooie we've all come to expect from the liberal media day after day.

So there I am, with the two women I love most (after my wife, of course) complaining about how bad the media can be sometimes. My mother told me, "for goodness sake, not everyone is a zealot [like you]". She may have a point there. But the point I was getting at, and am getting at now in this post, is that the media often is not the objective, informative, and relatively comprehensive information source they presumably want us to take them as. One certainly does not have to be religious fanatic to recognise this fact.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Experiences at LDS.NET

Wow, it is surprisingly difficult to keep updating a blog! I find myself doing other things and putting it off until-my goodness-so much time has passed since my last post. What have I been up to in the interim? One thing is posting on "" (not to be confused with ""). Its a real cool place to be a Mormon. There are also those of other persuasions there, however, such as myself. The main message I have been trying to convey in my time there has been the great problems that I percieve in the personal testimony concept.

Everything in Mormonism seems to boil down to the personal testimony. For those of you unfamiliar with the LDS sub-culture, "personal testimony" means something different-surprise! surprise!-for them than it does for Christians (or anybody else, for that matter). As they use the term, they have prayed about the Book of Mormon, and perhaps other LDS truth claims, and received a feeling that it is directly from God. "I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God," they say, because they have had a feeling that they take to be God saying, "Joseph Smith is a prophet of God."

I am amazed not that there are so many people who are Mormons. Instead, it is incredible to me that there are any Mormons. Every Mormon has, by very definition, had such a feeling, and, it is primarily or exclusively because of that feeling, that they are Mormons! Don't they realise that feelings come and go? Do you ever feel like not going to work in the morning? Of course, but your reason tells you that you ought to go to work anyhow, because you need the money to live. It is not God telling you, "don't go to work today." You are just tired. Feelings are at best a secondary epistemological apparatus. Yet these people have hung their entire life, and afterlife, on a mere feeling. That sounds very dangerous to me.

A second point that I have found myself stressing to the Saints at this sight is that the Bible absolutely does not teach Mormonism. Though I have not mentioned this at the site, I have come to see the entire Bible as one large polemic against LDS doctrine. At any rate, this second point is intimately connected to the first, for, it seems the Mormon misinterpretation of the Bible ultimately boils down to what the Mormon prophets say the Bible says. The most important Mormon prophet, of course, being Joseph Smith himself. And how do they know that these prophets are giving them the right meaning? Because they have prayed, and subsequently received a feeling, that these false prophets (according to Christian orthodoxy) are authoritative. At least, this seems to be the case.

One issue that I was about to address when I got booted off (more on this below) was that of the Book of Abraham. The Mormons believe in at least the following texts as inspired:
1. The Bible
2. The Book of Mormon
3. The Doctrine and Covenants
4. The Pearl of Great Price
Now, the Book of Abraham is a part of the Pearl of Great Price. The Mormons believe "...the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated [and transcribed?] correctly..." They further teach that the Book of Mormon was translated from gold plates that are now in heaven. The Doctrine and Covenants are more or less what God told Joseph. Finally, the Pearl of Great Price was translated by Joseph from Egyptian papyri. Not counting the Bible (which all true Christians recognise as being from God, as opposed to the other 3 which tend to be universally rejected by all true Christians), then, the only one of the above scriptures which may be tested, by comparison to the original manuscript, is the fourth.

And what do we find when we examine the Egyptian papyri? What Joseph says they said, under divine inspiration, they do not say. One would think that such a discovered truth as this would immediately end, once and for all, all Mormonism. After all, if Smith has been conclusively shown to claim infallible translation ability on certain works, and the only one we may examine is totally wrong, that would tend to throw in doubt his claims as the modern-day prophet to restore the gospel, and the whole foundation of Mormonism would crumble. Why has that not happened?

I have seen only two responses to this problem (if anybody knows of others, please let me know). The first reply is that Smith may have had, under divine interposition, access to some sort of esoteric meaning in the papyri that Egyptologists (who often are not Mormons) don't have access to. I think that merely to state such ad hoc moves of desperation is to refute them so let us move on to the second, and more believable (though still implausible) rebut offered us by LDS apologists.

This second claim is that perhaps the part of the papyri now extant, was a different part of the texts owned by Joseph Smith. It is quite true that Joseph did in fact have more papyri than we now have (i.e. of his own collection, much has been lost). While that is true, there are still some problems. In the Book of Abraham itself, we read in 1:14, of a figure at the beginning (do not quote me, but I believe that in older printings, the exact phrase was "the beginning of this record" wherein 'record' was taken to mean 'entire scroll' by some LDS apologists!). The figure at the beginning of the Book of Abraham is a picture common to many Book of Breathings which is sometimes also called the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or, I suppose, Necronomicon for all you 'Evil Dead' fans-though the Necronomicon in the movie was, I understand, a fictional invention of Lovecraft).

So what do we have? Joseph Smith had a papyrus, with the Book of Breathings picture at the beginning and some of that very same scroll has been translated by Mormon scholars as the Book of Breathings. The Book of Breathings has nothing to do with Abraham. Rather, it is a magical book which helps dead Egyptians in the underworld. Mummies were buried with it. These Mormon translators will sometimes say, "well, the part that is now extant is the Book of Breathings, but, maybe the Book of Abraham was later added on to it, Smith had it when he was translating, but that later add on was lost to history."

But it gets even worse! There is also extant what are called the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. Mormon scholars, who accept the authenticity of the Book of Abraham, admit the existence of these papers. The papers were written by the scribes of Joseph Smith. In them, there is a page/s which is divided into two columns. On the left side is Egyptian which one finds in the Book of Breathings. On the right side are English expressions. It appears that Smith (it must be remembered that he 'translated' in the early days of Egyptology before there was necessarily an understanding of the Egyptian language by specialists in Egyptology) had this key made up to 'translate' the Book of Breathings. He had claimed that Reformed Egyptian (the original language, purportedly, of the Book of Mormon) could say many English words using only a single symbol. And we find this idea manifested with respect to the key in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. What the Mormon scholars want us to believe, is that a. Smith translated a portion of a scroll, part of which was the Book of Breathings, still extant, and part of which was the Book of Abraham, lost to history; b. this translation was done under divine guidance; c. he (and/or his scribes) later went back to compare the original Egyptian to the inspired translation (apparently they somehow confused the Book of Breathings itself, with the allegedly added Book of Abraham when they did this) and; d. finally, enemies of the one true Church today, as they call themselves, have misinterpreted the unispired reverse translationeering (to coin a new phrase) as a key to the inspired translation.

I am afraid that both possible explanations are rather implausible and we probably ought to reject them both without a moments hesitation. But then Mormonism collapses as I said before. It is important to realise before going on that what has happened is that the only testable, uniquely Mormon scripture, has been tested and found wanting. It was then removed from testability for, say the defenders, the real Book of Abraham has been lost to history. That is very convenient don't you think?

As I said before, I have been kicked off of this website until mid-September. So wake me up, when mid-September ends. Perhaps the old saying about the truth, is itself true. But this shunning did not happen all at once. First, I received a warning. Somebody had written into a discussion forum there, at, and I told them what I thought about them joining the Church (this was the question they asked of members of the site in general, as I recall). My own comments were construed as being derogatory against the Church and so, since then, I have been on my best behavior. I have toned down the abrasiveness of my criticisms. I have explicitly stated that my concerns are only my own opinion about what appears (and things are not always as the appear, of course) to me to be the case about Mormon doctrine. And yet, I find myself banned for derogatory comments against the Church (and insulting people too, I think). I tried to email the site to express my confusion and ask for clarification but, because I am banned from using the site, I apparently cannot even contact the moderator about this problem!

If the people at FAIR (a group of LDS apologists) have all the answers, and if the personal testimony of members is so unquestionably indubitable, one wonders why the site is so afraid of hearing an alternative perspective. The internet infidels allow me to express my views on their forums. Sometimes Mormons express their views in evangelical churches. What's so bad about me stating objective facts in a public forum? Could it be that God's one true church, ain't so true after all? Is that at least a possibility? If so, then the personal testimony idea may be considered sufficiently undermined.

And you know, now that I mention it, why do Mormons want to be considered a part of the Christian Church anyway? According to the Book of Mormon, all churches save for their own, follow the Devil, and all creeds, which all churches have always followed, according to Joseph Smith's first vision, are an abomination in the eyes of God. They are not likely to mention this when they come to your door, it seems, but then there are a lot of things they don't appear to want to tell you when they come to your door. Perhaps the truths of the one true church aren't.

In conclusion, I very much welcome an LDS person, other Mormon person, or itself to reply to what I have said here. In the marketplace of ideas, we all have a voice. Please, exercise your freedom of speech and critique this post. May the grace of Jesus Christ rest upon all who read this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reveiw of Horton Hears a Who

Some time ago I was browsing through the stacks of a bookstore and came across a book written by Dr. Seuss. I pulled it from the shelf and as I read the introduction I was surprised to learn that the book was intended for adults. But it looked like all Dr. Seuss books. I am not certain now but I believe the book was "Horton Hears a Who."

Some time later I was listening to a podcast of the radio program "" and John Snyder, the host, was reading that book, "Horton Hears a Who," to his audience in the context of National Right to Life Day. Was it, he asked, a pro-life allegory? In a memorable line from the book (and the movie) Horton declares, "a person is a person, no matter how small." The idea certainly fits whether the allegory was intentional or isogeted.

Then a little while after that I had the opportunity to watch, for the first time, the movie version of the Seuss classic at a makeshift drive-in. I went expecting to see a polemic against the so-called pro-choice movie in cognito. While that aspect was, apparently, present in the movie, there was a whole other level in which the movie may have been viewed (intentional by Seuss and/or the author of the screenplay or otherwise).

And so there are at least three levels on which, it seems to me, the film can be taken. The first level is that of merely a funny and entertaining cartoon for children of all ages. The second level is that of clandestine propaganda against the pro-choice, falsely so called, movement. But the third level is what I'd like to focus on in this 'review'.

I was struck in the movie with the apologetic overtones. Though never explicitly on the surface, I could see that the movie was quite possibly, a kind of a defence of religious faith. For example, the atheistic kangaroo (who was played, I think, by Carol Burnett) tried to persuade, very loudly but without a lot of sound reason, the other jungle dwellers that Horton was being silly. After all, they could neither see nor hear Whoville so it must not exist. In contrast, Horton could hear them and, in a sense, see them. Perhaps that was just a subjective delusion on his part, though, the kangaroo may have retorted.

Then within Whoville, the mayor had a hard time to get his fellow citizens to believe in Horton and the larger world outside of Whoville. When he finally came clean and said that Horton, who was trying to save them, was a giant elephant in the sky, they all looked up. He responded with, "don't bother looking for him because he is invisible." This is precisely what theists sometimes tell atheists.

Still, while we cannot see God, or Horton, in the traditional sense, their are signs all around us. We have the Scriptures and the prophets like Whoville had their mayor, a kind of prophet, and the Horton horn. Also we have a revelation of God in nature. Whoville had a scientist who saw the signs of Horton in nature. "How did you know?" she asked the mayor. This was with respect to the earthquakes when Horton fell and the climate change when he, Horton, moved to colder areas.

Yes, the perceived theological undertones gave the movie a special appeal for me. And there is one scene which was particularly poignant to me. The jungle has Horton locked in a cage. They are about to throw the clover, whereon Whoville resides, into the fire. Horton (played by Jim Carrey) says, with tears in his voice, "you are making a big mistake!" This scene immediately brought to my mind the scene from "Liar" when Carrey's character, an unscrupulous lawyer who is finally beginning to see the light, says to the judge, "I hold myself in contempt!"

As I said before, I am not sure if the deeper meanings of pro-life and pro-faith were intentional but they do fit in nicely with the narrative. If we apply the three-fold meaning to this scene what do we get? The exciting climax of the story for children. The shocking realisation of the multitude of children killed by abortion by women (and in a sense, men too) who don't realise that they are making a mistake. Remember, a person is a person, no matter how small. Finally, how many people head for the flames on the excuse that they cannot see or hear a God so He must not exist? What about all the signs of God in general and special revelation? They stick their head in the sand. Perhaps they just want to party (remember the Whoville anniversary party) or listen to the 'arguments' of another (as the people of Whoville where easily persuaded by the kangaroo).

If you are interested in any of the three levels then I think you will like this film. It was hilarious. Not just for kids. It had the obligatory Bugs Bunnyish allusions. Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell (who played the mayor) are certainly favorites in more adult oriented comedies. It was family friendly. It had a very strong (intentional?) pro-life message. And one is very tempted to say that it affirmed theistic faith in a subliminal sort of way. The flick definitely produces food for thought (and discussion).

In my own opinion it is probably one of the best movies of all time. I know that is saying a lot but I really do think so. Certainly at or near the top of the list amongst cartoons I have seen. I give the movie five out of five stars. I think we'll all want to add this picture to our movie libraries.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

King Heathen's Call to the Deconverted

I am ashamed to admit this but recently I have become addicted to You Tube. And a few days ago I got the idea to search that video library for testimonies of people that have left the Christian faith. I found one video posted by a young man calling himself "King Heathen" who was calling for deconversion stories. I then started watching some of those.

There were a few general trends that I saw in the first dozen or so (these were the only ones I watched of 92 videos). Every person is different, of course, but generally the reasons for deconversion fell into one, or more, of the following categories (perhaps among others):

1. I had a bad experience with the people from my church.
2. I read the Bible.
3. I had some questions that nobody would (or could?) answer so then I decided, eventually, there were no answers so it, religion, must be false.
4. Belief in God is analogous to belief in Santa Claus. We outgrow the latter and we ought to, in turn, outgrow the former as well.
5. I did not know there was anything else to believe. What about them in this life? What about them in the afterlife?

Before addressing these concerns I must say that for some of the people, their deconversion was apparently a fairly traumatic experience. I in no way intend my thoughts on the above reasons to be attacking them individually or collectively. My heart goes out to anybody suffering emotional pain. There is one woman in particular, from the You Tube videos, that I feel especial concern for. Furthermore, I take the struggle with doubt very seriously. I myself have struggled with, and sometimes still do, struggle with doubts. It seems to me to be a good thing to reflect upon the truthfulness (or lack thereof) of one's faith but that can be a stressful exercise to go through. I know from personal experience how hard struggling with doubt and critical examination of one's own faith can be. I therefore do not wish to belittle or make fun of anybody else that has shared in either or both of these trials.

Let us begin, now, an analysis of the videos from my own personal perspective. The five reasons listed above were the main reasons and, I must say, I find them very unpersuasive reasons (except perhaps psychologically persuasive on the subjective level of each individual exreligionist). Let us look at these reasons one by one.

1. Sometimes professing Christians do not act as they should. To say that that fact makes Christian doctrine false does not logically follow in any way. This is a common fallacy of logical reasoning. Namely, the genetic fallacy and/or the ad hominem fallacy. The inference that Christianity is false on this basis is, in a word, a non sequitur.

2. The idea here is that supposedly the Bible is riddled with contradictory material or obviously false stories. I have been studying the Bible for years and came to the opposite conclusion. A common example given was that Genesis teaches there was no evolution and science contradicts that. However, when one reads Genesis one nowhere sees an explicit denial of evolution. There are two places that one might construe as an implicit denial but I see no reason to so construe them. The first place (actually several places) is where the Bible speaks of God creating biological life. But nothing could be more obvious that the method of His creating may have been, for all Genesis says, through biological evolution. But, you may object, He is said to create from the dust of the earth. Isn't that exactly the same thing that is said to have happened with chemical evolution (which is thought to have started biological evolutionary processes, I understand)? The second place is when the various creatures are said to reproduce after their kinds. Ask an evolutionary biologist, "do cats give birth to cats, dogs to dogs, and so on?" What do you think s/he will tell you? He will say, "of course!" And this is neither more nor less than what we read in a certain part of Genesis.

You see, there is a real problem that the beginning Bible reader does not seem to be aware of. Ignoring this problem leads to charges of biblical contradictions ad infinitum. However, once the problem is recognised, and taken seriously, the alleged contradictions tend to evaporate. The problem is that the interpretation of the Bible is a complex science. I am not trying to say that only enlightened proponents of orthodoxy such as my self may understand it correctly. Please do not accuse me of special pleading. The Bible is not unique in this. The Koran (which I reject as being a revelation of God) also holds special problems with respect to hermeneutics. As do the writings of Aristotle, Herodotus, and any number of books. The Bible was written over a long period of time by many different people. This fact alone presents special hermeneutical problems. It was written in three different languages, none of which are English, which fact presents further problems. It was addressed to cultures vastly different from our own which further complicates the issue. I am not saying that it is impossible to correctly understand the Bible or that all the experts agree on the interpretation. Rather, I am trying to say that if a twelve year old (as many of the deconverted I saw on You Tube seemed to be when they started reading the Bible for themselves), who is new to the Bible, starts reading it we should not be surprised if s/he immediately has no resolution for all apparent conflicts. How many 12 year olds do you know that have a detailed understanding of ancient near eastern history, language, etc?

3. This seemed to be by far the most common reason unfortunately. I say it is unfortunate because there are good answers to the good questions people ask of Christianity. I can remember in my own life when I was in the upper grades of high school struggling with doubts. I would go to pastor after pastor, and mature Christian mentor after mature Christian mentor, and it became very frustrating. There common method of dealing with my doubts was to pray. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I do not deny that it helped me in this case too. However, why didn't they give me, in addition to prayer support, the wealth of very good philosophical and other arguments that Christian apologists have for the faith? People have been questioning and attacking Christianity from day one and many intelligent believers have been developing good arguments against the arguments of the "cultured despisers" and in favor of Christianity. The fact that good people suffer did not suddenly fall in Bart Ehrman's lap only recently. No, Christians and everybody else have always had to deal with the problem of evil in some way or other. Christians have had 2000 years to deal with it and there are good answers to this good question. A partial answer is that God cannot prevent us from doing evil things to each other without taking away our freedom. I don't know about you but I do not like the idea of being a robot. I enjoy my freedom. A lot more could be said but let us move on to the next item.

4. This is an objection one runs into not infrequently though I am not sure why. I mean, it is a blatant false use of analogy. I see nothing remotely similar in the two things being matched together. In some cases we start believing in Santa because our parents tell us he is real then stop believing in him because our parents tell us that. We know, as parents, that we are just playing a game with our children (though they don't know it is a game until they become older) when we tell them about Santa. I do not think there are any sane adults who believe there really is a Santa. The only reason anybody would believe in Santa is because they are a child and were taught about him by adults. As soon as the children are out of the room or to bed for the night the self-same adults look at one another and say, "oh yes, Santa is real. You know what I mean. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. No what I mean." On the other hand, many of the smartest people throughout history have believed in God. Socrates,Plato, and Aristotle define ancient philosophy. They all believed in God. Most of the Church Fathers used philosophy to defend their faith in God. One common argument for acceptance of Christians in Rome (to not become lion food, say) was that the Christians, like the pagan Romans, also believed in a God. Aquinas who defined philosophy in the middle ages attempted to prove God's existence (and succeeded?). Today, the president of the American Philosophical Association is an evangelical Christian. He certainly believes in God. He has given over two dozen arguments for the existence of God from philosophy. Antony Flew was an atheist but converted to deism on the basis of the new school teleological argument. Alister McGrath is a professor of historical theology at Oxford University. He converted from atheism to Christianity on the basis of argumentation. Are there any philosophical argument for the existence of Santa. The best I can think of is, "he is a logically possible being so it may be the case that he exists though we have no good reason to suppose he actually does." Again, there is no analogy whatsoever between Santa and God or at best only a ridiculously weak analogy.

5. When we are young I suppose it is only natural to think that everyone believes whatever our parents tell us is true. As we get older we do learn about other perspectives. How do we know we have the right view? Perhaps, we may not know that, immediately, but I think it is too radical to say that because there are many views, none of them are true. This is the case whether the view under consideration is with respect to religion or otherwise. They cannot all be right but one of them just might happen to be. I have found Christianity to be that. I was not raised in what could be called a Christian home, either. But you don't have to take my word for it. There is plenty of good evidence that you can examine for yourself if you have not already done so. At any rate, what about these other faiths? Are they wrong? Well, according to the law of non-contradiction they cannot all be right since they contradict each other. While only one, at most, may be right, that is not to say that the others are all totally wrong in every aspect. As a Christian I believe that Christ is the only way to Heaven. I have to admit, therefore, that a Jehovah's Witness, say, will go to Hell when they die because they do not have Jesus (not the biblical Jesus anyway). Is this fair? We all deserve Hell but God has gracefully granted us a way of escaping what we deserve. His name is Jesus Christ. If one rejects that way of escape it is one's own fault, not the fault of God. As I just said, it is what we deserve, therefore it is eminently fair. Is it good? No. God Himself has said in the Bible that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He also says there that He is not willing that any person should perish. Like any loving human being, God does not want you to end up in Hell. He has gone out of His way to provide against that inevitability. He pleads with you and I plead with you to come to Christ today. There is no other escape. What about those who have never heard? What about those born into a different faith community from Christianity? I'd be more concerned about myself if I were you. Still, it is a legitimate question. I am not quite sure how to answer it yet though I shall continue to give it thought.

What are we to conclude from this examination? It seems to me that the people who deconverted, whose videos I just finished watching, may very well have been sincere in their faith prior to leaving it but I do not see were they had good reason to deconvert. I really don't. It may be that they were speaking in generalities, and that if they had got into specifics they would have had sufficient reason, but based on what they said in the videos, they were rationally unjustified, so far as I can tell, to deconvert. On the other side of the coin, one could perhaps say that they were also rationally unjustified in becoming religious in the first place. "My parents made me go and I thought everyone believed it," was the main reason. While there is a place for authoritarianism, though I hate to use the word, in Christian faith, I saw little, if any, rational justification for the religious belief explicated in the videos. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I think it goes without saying that if one begins their faith non-rationally then later obtains rational reasons for faith in the other direction-namely, atheism-it only stands to show deconversion would take place. At least that seems to be the case to my way of thinking. But all of this only serves to underscore the very very important need for good apologetics in the Church today. In reality, from an apologist's point of view, we have every good reason to believe, and no good reason to lack belief, or totally believe against, Christianity. I would much like to hear from people who posted one of those videos we've been analyzing or another person who has deconverted from a religion. Please let me know your takes on what I've said here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Copernican Revolution in Creationism

I am a creationist. It is common for anti-creationist speech (propaganda?) to say that creationists are like old dogs. And we all know how hard it is to teach them new tricks. In other words, so goes the allegation, creationists just believe whatever the Bible says and their thinking never changes.

But I got to tell you, that I, for one, have undergone tremendous change over the years in my own thinking on the issue of creationism. I guess the first cardinal point in my own journey came when I took an introductory-physical geology course at a secular university. This served two functions in my journey as an evolving creationist, if you'll pardon the very bad pun. First, it got me to question the faithfulness of extreme creationists (a la Ham, Hovind, etc.) in their quotation of evolutionary sources. Second, I had the opportunity to observe first hand that evolutionary scientists are not the blubbering idiots that extreme creationists seem to think they are.

About this same time I went to hear Kent Hovind speak. During the Q & A time I asked him why he tied the big bang in with evolution. As I remember, he said it was the beginning of the process (which he denied ever having occurred) culminating in macro evolution. But I had come to be open to the big bang. It was useful apologetically a la kalam cosmological argument. Furthermore, I could not see in the Bible where it says God absolutely could not have created the cosmos 6000 years ago by means of the big bang (I have since come to see that if there was a big bang-and it seems essentially certain that there was-it must have been billions of years ago).

During my years as an extreme creationist I did not give Dr. Hugh Ross a fair hearing. I saw him as a kind of heretic (though his heresy was relatively minor). I remember reading one of his books and thinking he was compromising the Scripture to be too accommodating to heathen science. Later on, however, I started to see that he was on to something with his view of an old world. And this brings us to the second major turning point. I still have some more thinking to do on this point but I am willing to admit now that it is more or less certain that the cosmos is billions of years old. And what is more, this seems to me to be consistent with the Bible if not explicitly taught by it.

So geology 101 and Dr. Ross giving me permission to be an old-earther (and retain orthodoxy at the same time, which is very important to me) were the first two steps. And may I say that I am still a work in progress when it comes to creation/evolution? And may I further say that when one critically reflects on the problem for oneself it seems that one shall see that creation/evolution is an incredibly complex issue? In fact, with one notable exception it is probably the most complex issue in all of Christian apologetics.

One of the reasons why it is so complex is that everybody defines their terms differently. For example, what exactly is evolution? An extreme creationist would perhaps take evolution to mean macro evolution. They do admit theistic micro evolution but deny that they are theistic evolutionists. This makes no sense to me. And in my informal debate with a naturalist, I get the impression that he (exapologist is his username online) thinks that Dr. Behe denies evolution. He, Behe, even accepts macro evolution. Even common ancestry of all species. Rather, I think I'm right in saying that he defines evolution, when denying it happened, as naturalistic evolution. The point is that people in the debate need to start carefully defining their terms. So far very few, if any, have done so.

And that is the first step in any debate if real progress is to be made. Instead what normally happens is people just talk past each other and often agree more than they think (though they probably do have significant differences as well).

As was said above, my perspective has changed a lot over the years on the question of creation/evolution. What is my point of view at present? I answer that, I do not see a conflict between evolution and the biblical account of biological origins but neither am I persuaded that all species share common ancestry. I find myself leaning towards, though not yet totally embarrassing, progressive creationism. By 'progressive creationism' I mean that God created the various kinds of animals in progressive stages. So maybe He waits for the trilobites to become extinct then a thousand years later He creates angle worms, for example.

I would say, that while it is vitally important that God created the cosmos out of nothing and that He now sustains it and rules over it, it is relatively less important (though still fairly important) when and how He did it. This is my Father's world. He is thus free to intervene in a miraculous way at any point in time that He so wishes. That is also vitally important. I think I've hurt a lot of ears in this post but it is an honest revelation to you, dear reader, of where I currently stand. This is a fascinating area of inquiry. I therefore look forward to reading any and all comments you post to this entry at this blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Has anybody out there in the blogospere ever heard of a older RPG called "Golvellius: Valley of Doom"? I beat it today! It is a pretty neat game. It is like a Sega version of the original Zelda game. But it has its own feel as well entirely different from Zelda. I was surprised at how long the game was. Anywho, let me know if you've played it before and what you thought of it. Please and thank you.

Rest in peace righteous rocker. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review of Rambo

John J. has come full circle. John J. Rambo that is. And sure enough, by the end of the 4th Rambo movie, he's walking down the long road. And he's on his own-dah...dah dum.

I grew up in the eighties and was a huge fan of Rambo. But this newer movie was very different from the others. "First Blood," the first movie, was a rather good movie-the most unique of the four. As a kid I watched it with much pleasure. Apparently what happened next, was that it made some money and so the movie-makers decided to morph Rambo into an action hero franchise and market him to kids. The second movie was cheesy (though I did not notice as a child) and the third one was even worse. And then there were the Saturday morning cartoon incarnation of the Rambo universe. That was definitely marketed towards kids.

Now, all of us kids-mostly boys-grew up with Rambo. He was our hero. Fast forward to today and Stallone hasn't done anything lately (accept, of course, "Rocky Balboa," and, if you go back a little farther, "Spy Kids 3-D") for movies. All the old franchises are being resuscitated lately and, of course, the boyhood fans are now adults. So I guess Stallone thought he'd come out of retirement once again to revive his second major serial character only this time make it more edgy and adult oriented.

Most parents would not be comfortable allowing their children to watch the new one, I think. That is how edgy and adult oriented it is. There are plenty of f-bombs in the film and also much gore. Of course, in a Rambo movie, you would expect to see a lot of violence. But did we really need the 27th decapitation? Wouldn't the first 26 (primarily by gunfire) suffice? Still, Rambo and his buddies are hardened assassins so you would expect a good deal of swearing and, when people step on landmines or have their heart literally blasted out of their ribcage with a canon, one would expect to see blood.

And there was certainly a lot of blood, and severed limbs (not just heads) in this movie. In fact, I think that, apart from some horror movies, this is probably the goriest movie I have ever seen. Even horror movies aren't normally this gory. "Dead Alive" (sometimes also called Brain Dead) certainly was more gory and "Evil Dead II" was as well. But "Saw," for example, was slightly more tame than Rambo part four it seems. Even the Kill Bill movies were relatively tame compared to this movie.

This, as it seems to me, is not necessarily a bad thing. As I almost said before, this new Rambo movie is more realistic than the other Rambo movies. He actually talks in this one and he does not take on the military of an entire country on his own. Rather, he is fighting a Burmese army as, for all intents and purposes, a Burmese soldier. So it is two armies fighting each other not one man, who doesn't talk, fighting an entire country and winning.

Another difference from the older movies was that Stallone does not appear shirtless in the movie in a state of hyper-saturation from body oil. Considering his age that could be a good thing. That being said, however, his short sleeve T-shirt reveals arms which do look quite buff. Also, there did not seem to be as much action for Rambo to do. The last 15 minutes or so I got the impression that Stallone is old and since it is his movie anyways, he would just stand behind a very large gun and shoot a lot of bullets (while making a tomato paste out of the enemy). Keep in mind that this is after an hour of him leaning against the motor of his pontoon boat.

One part that surprised me was that even the Burmese children were portrayed as getting killed. Very rarely do we see children getting killed in an action movie or any kind of movie in general. I think that anachronism was wholly intentional. There are some third-world countries which heavily persecute Christians. In the Rambo movie, Christian missionaries are going into Burma to help them but many of the Burmese are already converts. And they are being persecuted by a dictatorial government. There is one memorable quote in the film where Stallone's character says, "live for nothing, or die for's your call." Could it be that Rambo was coming around to the missionaries point of view that Christian and medical aid to Burma was a helpful-worldchanging kind of thing? At any rate, what I am trying to say is that it seems the movie is not merely "let's shoot lots of bullets" but actually trying to expose the plight of persecuted Christians in places like Burma. I may be reading into it what is not there but that is the impression I felt while watching the movie. Perhaps the six o'clock news, in real life, was not covering persecution of Christians (and perhaps others) and their martyrdom like they should have, in my estimation. Who better in the fictional world of movies than Rambo to draw our attention to the barbarism against fellow believers and save the day?

In the final analysis, I must say that though better than the second and third installments, "Rambo" is not as good as "First Blood" but it is still quite good especially for an action movie. I tend not to like action movies too much. They just seem mindless and formulaic. I think the plot line was good in theory though not fleshed out as much as it should have been. I give it three out of five stars. If you were a childhood fan like I was you'll definitely want to see it. And while not the best movie of the year (Stardust?), it is certainly worth watching, at least if you are an adult male. But again, while the first three were perhaps appropriate for younger children, I suggest you don't allow anyone in your household that is not at least a teenager to watch this film.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Atheism...What's Up With That?

Is it just me, or are there an obscene number of people, recently, coming out of the closet, so to speak, as being militantly anti-Christian? And many of these people claim to have been ministers of one sort or another. Dan Barker, John Loftus, Gary Lenaire just to name a few. Reading through their arguments for loosing their faith it becomes apparent that their faith must not have been very strong. Obviously, I am unable to peer into their heart and determine their true motivation. Nevertheless, their arguments are so bad that one cannot help but suspect either an ulterior motive or, at the very least, an extremely shallow faith to begin with.

Be that as it may, whether or not the so-called new atheist is a deconvert or not, why, even old new atheism was once new agnosticism. I mean to say, new atheism is nothing more nor less than agnosticism, albeit a militantly anti-Christian agnosticism. You see, in the good ol' days of yesteryear, an atheist was a person who said, "I know God does not exist," and, an agnostic said, "I do not know if God exists or not."

Then the atheists were defeated again and again in debate so they retreated into agnosticism. But (to save face?) they started calling themselves atheists again only with "atheism" redefined to mean "without theism" or "lacking belief in God." While it may be true that "atheism" literally means "without theism," one must not go on literal meaning necessarily. Indeed, does not "inflammable" literally mean "flame retardant?" And nobody would use an inflammable substance to put out a fire. People immediately saw through this ruse and, thus, new atheism was born. If this analysis is false, and it may be, it is certainly at least the impression that I personally have of the situation.

But new atheism is not mere suspension of judgment as I said before. Instead it includes a militant opposition to Christian doctrine and practice. Why would somebody speak out against Christian truth? Do they see it as a threat? Do they know it to be true but really really really want it to be false? Perhaps we cannot say what their true motives are. What we can do, however, is examine their arguments and see how manifestly awful they are. Now, I do not mean to suggest that I dislike the conclusions of their arguments and so I reject them on that count. Rather I mean to say that the arguments themselves are just plain bad when viewed objectively.

Take the poster child as an illustrative example. I am speaking of Richard Dawkins. In a chapter of his book "The God Delusion" he gives a critique of the classical theistic proofs. This is not arguing against Christianity per se but is a pre-requisite, perhaps, for giving a positive case for atheism. As I remember, he a. misrepresented Aquinas' cosmological arguments then argued against a straw man, b. said he did not like the ontological argument then proclaimed we should reject its soundness on the basis of his personal feelings, and c. ridiculed a modern argument which he apparently got from Swinburne (but it was a new argument and so not as distinguished as the classical proofs and, therefor, perhaps not as good as the older, more established proofs). QED? I think not.

Now, if one is temporarily suspending judgment because they have yet to examine the evidence for Christianity that is one thing. But I think the new atheists have already made up their minds in spite of the evidence. When reminded of the overwhelming case for Christianity, many of them blow of the arguments with a wave of the hands-waving at the meager supply of straws before them as they try in vain to grasp them. They refuse to see the truth it seems.

If you are a new atheist then I really don't see where you have a leg to stand on. Do you disagree? You no doubt will. Please post a comment or two explaining your own point of view.

Shalom out.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Informal debate with a naturalist

Salutations blog readers! I (evangelical) am in the process of critiquing atheistic arguments at ''

If you are interested in checking out what I have to say there, then just go to that site, click on 'Index', then click on whatever argument you'd like to read about. My own comments are posted at the bottom of the the page as is standard practice when commenting on another's blog.

p.s. I must confess that Exapopologist is eminently cordial in our dialogues together. EA, if you ever read this, I commend you for such.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Trust

I just watched the short (just over a minute) film "How Can I Know This is True?" It is available for download, free of charge, at

In the streaming film a woman, a very hot woman by the way, is talking about how she was always so rational. Then she reads the Book of Mormon and prays about it. She then admits, as though this were a good thing, that when she was trying to decide if it (the Book of Mormon) is true, is the word of God, that she "wasn't thinking about it-she was feeling."

And you know, that is a really remarkable statement. I wasn't thinking about whether the Fermat's last theorem was true, I was feeling (that would have saved an awful lot of time and effort don't you think?). I wasn't thinking it was a good idea to drill a hole in my head, I was feeling. I wasn't thinking that I should join Hitler's genocide, I was feeling. I wasn't thinking it was good to fly a plane into the twin towers, I was feeling.

I can remember very clearly speaking with some Mormon missionaries. I would continually ask them, "why should I believe what you are proclaiming?" I always got the same answer, "just pray about it and you'll feel it's right." Well, maybe I am missing something, but to totally base one's life-and afterlife-on feeling does not seem very wise to me.

I am a man. Men are rational creatures. Even by male standards, though, I tend to be exceptionally rational. I can see the evidence for biblical Christianity and perceive it as compelling. But Mormonism? I mean, feelings are certainly a valuable part of the human psyche so I am in no way anti-feelings. And yet, everything has its proper purpose. Is it the purpose of inductive science to establish deductive mathematics? Is it the purpose of a sewing machines to feed babies?

Again, it is the epitome of folly, it seems to me, to base an entire religion, an entire worldview, an entire life on feeling that something is true unless I have badly misunderstood the sense in which "feeling" is traditionally used in LDS testimony.

To be fair, in the video, the woman also says that God told her that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. So this is more than just a feeling perhaps. But there is a real problem here because God has told me that he (Smith) is not a prophet of God. It is too bad there wasn't some objective court to appeal to when considering competing religious claims. Oh wait-there is. And this is precisely what Christian apologists down through the ages have appealed to in their rational defences of the faith.

How can we know that Mormonism is false? I suggest we use our minds instead of our hearts in determining truth. It is an easy matter to see that Mormonism is not biblical Christianity (though they strongly affirm it is). All we have to do is examine what the Bible teaches then place that side by side with their own teachings. If the two systems are mutually exclusive, why then, quad erat demonstrandum.

One glaring example of contradiction, perhaps the most glaring, is that Mormons are polytheists and the Bible, I think very explicitly, says there is only one God. It is a well-known saying, well known in LDS circles anyway, that, "as man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become." In other words, if you are a good Mormon, you will someday become a god so, therefore, for the Mormon, there are many gods. And this is polytheism. In contrast, in the Bible, if one has spent five picoseconds reading the Old Testament then one sees that the major problem there, was getting everybody to agree that there was only one deity. And that lesson was a very hard one for the Jews to learn but learn it they did by New Testament times. And that is part of the reason why to this day some Jews do not accept their messiah Jesus. How could a man be God when only Yahweh is God?

And strict monotheism is not absent from the New Testament either though, of course, it also teaches that Jesus is God. So if you read on the official LDS website that Mormons are Christians too, don't you believe it for a minute-if by Christian they mean biblical Christianity. And when the Mormon missionaries come to your door and ask you to pray about the Book of Mormon there is no need for it is already manifest that it cannot be true (the reasons not all being discussed in this post).

So then, you can know that biblical teachings are true through good evidence (not here discussed) or you can feel that Mormon teachings are true. I think it is clear which side of the debate I, for one, fall on. All that being said, I would not like to give a fair hearing to the other position. Any Mormons in the blogosphere are encouraged to leave comments to this post setting the record straight. As a matter of fact, I'd love to have the opportunity to have a formal and friendly debate with you on this blog. Please let me know if you are interested.

Prince Caspian Review

It had been a while since I read Prince Caspian so before going to see the new one recently, I visited my local library and "rented" the old version on VHS. To the best of my memory it was itself quite faithful to the book. The differences between the old and the new Prince Caspian videos are multitudinous.

I must say that I was impressed with the faithfulness of the first new movie to the book "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." I was less impressed with the second offering. It seems to me they took a lot more liberties with the latter than they did with the former. The opening scene of the first movie was absent from the book though, more or less, implied in it. Further, the scene on the ice was a clear departure from the book. Other than that, with the possible exception of a watered down version of the anological trilemma, there really wasn't a whole lot different between movie number one and book number one. By analogical trilemma, I mean when the professor is reassuring the oldest brother and sister that they ought to believe their youngest sister about the magical wardrobe as incredible as it may seem.

So there were too many changes in Prince Caspian the movie from Prince Caspian the book, in my opinion. What other complaints are there? Well, there was way too much fighting in this one (and also the first one). Yes, it is true, that there is fighting in the books. Moreover, violence itself is not a problem. There is plenty of violence (and sex, now that you mention it) in the Bible itself. My problem is not with violence per se. In fact, I rather enjoyed the first installment of the Saw series. Those movies are about a man who enjoys torturing people in unique ways, albeit with a view to ethical reform if the people happen to survive the ordeal (they normally don't survive). My problem is with violence as a spectacle which takes away from the real story under consideration.

And what is the real story of the Narnia series and, more particularly of Prince Caspian? I remember watching an interview of the cast of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and one of the people said that it, the first movie, was just a good story and can be interprated any way one wants. Not so. Jack clearly intended certain meanings to be taken from his Narnian series. He specifically said, in a letter to a child, that Aslan is supposed to be a real person who really exists outside the novels in our world. He then went on to imply that that person is Jesus Christ. It is not that Narnia is an alegory for Christianity. Rather, Narnia is a parallel, albeit fictional, Christianity you might say.

And there are certain ethical themes in the various books. For instance, Edmunds lust for Turkish Delight is an illustration of gluttony (one of the seven deadly sins). His gluttony lead immediately to the negative consequence of the betrayel of his friends and siblings. And after that, it led to his death. Or, it would have, if Aslan (who is Jesus, remember) did not die in his place on the stone table (the ten commandments, by the way, were written on stone tables in our own world). The Chronicles of Narnia are blatantly, though not explicitly Christian stories. Now, even in the new movie Prince Caspian they included the ethical idea of faith. If you have seen the movie or read the book, you know that the older siblings do not believe the youngest's eyewitness testimony to having seen Aslan in spite of everything that happened in part one. In other words, they had a lack of faith which is sin.

But, while this ethical idea was included, along with the heinousness of pride, the focus of the movie seemed to be not primarily on ethics, which is closely linked to theology in my view. Instead, the focus seemed to be on fighting battles. And such "cheap thrills" normally imply a lack of substance. But there is no lack of substance possible when one is talking about Jesus so all the fighting was superflous at best and watered down the real story at worst.

Now, this is not to say that the movie did not have its good points as well. I enjoyed the movie (though I have other complaints as well I'll spare the reader here). I thought prince Caspian was cast much better than he was in the older movie. That is one example of a positive. The special effects were good. The movie seemed more mature than part one which is a nice feature for adult audiences. And it did stay close to the essence of the Narnia series of books as a whole and Prince Caspian in particular. So it was not all bad.

In the final analysis I would have to say that I could pobably give it five stars if there was less gratuitous violence and less deviations from the book as I remember it. For these perceived flaws I can only give four stars or less. I do recommend it for fans of the books, the older movies, good fantasy fiction in general, Christians with an imagination, and everybody else.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Blog's Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to be an extention, not only of myself, but also, a soon to be founded ministry. There are, of course, many different sorts of ministries. This one is a ministry focused on Christian apologetics (i.e. the intellectual defence of the faith). As for the blog itself, it shall consist primarily of random thoughts for the day normally revolving around something of cultural interest and/or important for Christian apologetics. And the cultural analysis shall be from a particularly Christian perspective. Thanks for reading! Tell all your friends about this blog!!