Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is Masturbation a Sin? A Disagreement with Steve Hays

Steve Hays of Triablogue defends masturbation as a good thing here. Matthew Bellisario responds to that here. I weigh in, siding (for once) with Bellisario here. Hays responds to all three of us in one fell swoop here. I’ll let Dave Armstrong and Matthew Bellisario deal with his retorts to them on their own. I’ll consider Hay’s response to me.

[A] guy named Cory also raised some objections. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer any arguments to respond to. Just assertions.

So, Hays isn’t going to respond to me at all. Darn.

I already dealt with the “lust” objection, both practically and exegetically. Of course, I could always be wrong, but no counterargument is forthcoming from his end.

Oh, whoops! He is responding to me. I’d better start paying attention. Let’s see. He’s already dealt with the lust objection. Unless I’m missing something, he did not deal with the issue at length. This is what he said:

Traditionally, the church has frowned upon masturbation. One reason is the relation between masturbation and lust. This cannot be denied. On the other hand, lust is also aggravated by the absence of a sexual outlet. That is, indeed, in the nature of sexual tension, of a tension between sexual desire and sexual release. Unrelieved sexual tension only builds.

Interesting. So masturbation is fine as an outlet for sexual tensions because otherwise the tensions would simply build and build. This is interesting because the atheist tends to justify things like pre-marital sex, pornography, and other things I would hope that Hays categorizes as sinful by appealing to the same sort of logic. It relies on the false assumption that you can’t deny yourself sexual pleasure. Read the rest of this entry

Criticizing Church Spending

There is much criticism for the way that the modern church spends its money, both from our side and from the other side. Much of it is well deserved, I can assure you.

For example, Pastor Rick Godwin of Eagle’s Nest Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, TX came under fire for this in 2007. According to church records, the pastor, staff and families took charter flights for travel and the bill came to $143,000 for the first seven months of the year. Church funds were used for gifts to elders, including a $2,600 for an Armani suit and $2,518 for a Cartier watch. Independent auditors expressed concerned over how the church handles its finances, and advised that they not speak to the IRS without a lawyer present.

Christian Valley Christian Church in Jonesboro, AK, is spending $925,000 to double the size of its existing building.

Ed Young has gotten it from Chris Roseburgh on our side, and Daniel Florien from the other side. Full story here. Young allegedly owns his own private jet, a Falcon 50 valued at $8.4 million. Young’s estate is valued at $1.5 million. He is paid an annual parsonage of $240,000 on top of a $1 million salary. Young answered the charges, but not the satisfaction of most.

Tony Morgan announced on his blog that the folks at Clark ProMedia are going to begin marketing holographic technology to churches. It will enable churches that have multiple campuses to view a 3D image of their pastor delivering the sermon. It will be as if he is right there in the building. I can only wonder how much it will cost to implement, and where the money could be better spent–like missions to Haiti or Chile, maybe?

Churches, especially the mega-church set, do not always spend their money well. That cannot be argued. Other examples abound, like this one (also from Unreasonable Faith). Though warranted, the criticism works in both directions.

While church monies could be better spent on things like missions rather than holographic technology or private jets, I think it’s just as valid to consider how the critics are spending their money. Atheist organizations have some really interesting pet projects on which they spend their money.

The Atheist bus ad campaign initially cost $213,914. But the activity has gone viral and is now spread all over the world, which probably has multiplied the cost at least tenfold–and I’m being extremely conservative here. Mariano from Atheism is Dead critiques the campaign in these essays. Could this money have been better spent? Perhaps on the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders?

What about Michael Newdow, who has spent years in federal court attempting to get “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” removed from the currency. He also sued unsuccessfully to stop references to religion and God from being part of President Bush’s second inauguration as well as President Obama’s inauguration. What if his time was devoted instead to helping people in Haiti or Chile?

Of course atheists will side with me that it is ridiculous for Godwin and Young to spend church money the way that they did (and probably still do). But I know for a fact that they will not agree with me that the bus campaign or Newdow’s lawsuits were wastes of both time and money. Consider Vjack mulling over becoming more vocal as an atheist by wearing atheist t-shirts and displaying bumper stickers. It’s not directly related to the bus campaign, but it does have similar overtones.

As for Newdow’s lawsuits, they are a self-evident waste of time and money and little more needs to be said here. But, atheists are supporting Newdow in his efforts. Vjack characterizes this issue as “too important to abandon.” The comment section over at Friendly Atheist is alive and well with many who support Newdow. Obviously, Hemnant supports Newdow as well–saying that the lawsuit has merit and hoping that someone will be successful with it (if not Newdow).

So, I think it’s fair to say that neither side seems to have the big picture in mind. Opponents are quick to criticize church spending, but their own spending habits are highly questionable. Meanwhile, as the atheists are always fond of pointing out, thousands of children will die today of starvation. Holograms and private jets won’t save a single life, but neither will bus ads nor will striking “God” from Pledge and currency. And while mega-church goes look forward to their tithes bringing in a hologram and ignore the pastor’s private jet, atheists will defend Newdow’s activities and the bus ads as important and necessary. Neither side will see the forest through the trees, and that is extremely sad.

Bad Denver Archdiocese!

Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Denver archdiocese has recently backed a decision by a local school to expel a child because his parents happen to be a lesbian couple. Jimmy Akin, a staunch defender of Catholic moral theology, naturally sides with the bishop on this and writes his defense here. Of course, good Catholics don’t argue with the bishop once the decision is made.

I’m not Catholic anymore, so I have the luxury of disagreeing, which of course I do. Vehemently.

It is the unfortunate tendency of those who claim to be Christians to treat homosexuality as some sort of super-sin. Cries of “I’m gay!” mean that the crier is immediately ostracized from the Christian community. As if same sex attraction is somehow unforgivable.

Men, haven’t you ever seen a fine specimen of maleness and wondered what it was that drew women to him? Maybe you started to find yourself attracted, too?

I know that women judge the attractiveness of other women, so I’m not even going to as that same rhetorical question for the females.

This type of thing is hardly earth-shaking, and I much doubt that it would be sinful. Perhaps that attraction gets carried to its extreme and then you find yourself experimenting. Then you find yourself liking the results of your dalliance. It could happen to anyone.

Maybe you’re one of those who never found anything attractive about the opposite sex and always gravitated to the same sex. Again, this is hardly earth-shaking. This kind of stuff happens.

Isn’t this how any sin happens? I fantasize about killing my annoying neighbor. The fantasies become more real, and suddenly the opportunity presents itself to make them come true. Next thing I know, I’m on trial because the police found my hairs and a few carpet fibers from my house on the body.

I’ve previously argued that homosexuality is sin, but not a super sin. There is no super-sin that God will not forgive save one. The tendency of the Christian to treat homosexuality as some sort of super-sin and ostracize its practitioners is one of the largest failings of the church to reach sinners badly in need of the grace offered to us through Jesus Christ.

And now, Archbishop Chaput and his defenders are continuing this grave error. By not admitting this child because of his parents’ homosexuality, they are missing a great opportunity to witness to this young man and to teach him that his moms’ behavior is wrong. He will now grow up being taught by example that homosexuality is right and will miss what may be the only opportunity the church may ever have to show him it is sin.

No kudos to Chaput. He is eliminating whatever Christian influence that this boy may have had in his life, and sending the message that we don’t want him because his parents are sinners. Whatever happened to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28)? Or, better, Deuteronomy 24:16?

This Makes Me Happy

Many theists, myself included, argue that God is self-evident. There is much positive evidence all around us, in the form of creation itself, for the existence of God. The fact that the world operates on natural laws, the evidence for fine-tuning of the universe, and the very fact that there is something rather than nothing all point to the fact of God. Atheism is not a default position that one arrives at for lack of theistic evidence. It is a willful, moral decision that one makes, and then spends the rest of his natural life supressing the knowledge of God in rebellion.

Much of the published critiques of the New Atheism have focused on their arguments. But, Jim Speigel is changing that. In his new book, The Making of an Atheist, Speigel makes the case that I just alluded to: that atheism is a willful and moral choice to rebel against a self-evident God.

The Evangelical Philosophical Society interviews the author and reviews the book.

It makes me happy that an author has finally stopped critiquing atheism’s hollow and unconvincing arguments and attacked the reason why there are atheists at all.

I think that people need to hear some of these things. I think that more authors need to paint atheism as a moral choice. Or, more appropriately, a choice made because the person actually lacks morals to begin with. Rather than learning what is acceptable to God, the atheist desires to go his own way and make his own morals. I see this repeatedly in exchanges with atheists: “Why is homosexuality immoral?” “Rape isn’t a moral issue.” “Adultery is acceptable if both spouses are into it.” “What’s wrong with incest?” (All statements I’ve witnessed atheists making.)

I’ve generally noticed that a common thread runs through most “moral” reasoning that comes from atheists. Freedom to have sex with whomever one chooses, free of any restrictions. For example, the ongoing objection in this post on courting from Daniel Florien seems to be the fact that Mary and Ted will have no sexual contact, including kissing, until they are married. Why is that a bad thing, exactly?

I have two posts in the works related to the thesis of Speigel’s book. One is on the atheist penchant for redefining terms. When did “faith” start to mean belief despite evidence to the contrary? And another specifically relating to the utter decline of sexual morality in the atheistic community is on its way. Can you believe that many atheists think incest is perfectly all right given modern birth control?

Despite statements like that, atheists take exception to the portrayal of atheists as immoral. Now, where would anyone get the idea that atheists are immoral? Certainly those that don’t believe in God, monogamy, or prohibitions on incest are fine and upstanding pillars of morality.

Jim Speigel’s book should be very interesting indeed!

This is Weird . . .

Fail Blog titled this “Church Sign Fail:”

All I see is truth. No fail here at all.