Monthly Archives: January 2011
Related Series on Parchment and Pen
I’m running through DaGoodS’s list of questions Christians hope no one will ask. This has become a pretty popular series, so I thought for a moment that C. Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen blog copied my idea and did a similar series of his own, “Questions I Hope No One Asks.” So far, he has two:
I read the first post just to see if he mentioned the series on this blog as his inspiration. Alas, he either had the idea all by himself or decided not to mention me. Although I agree that “free will,” “God doesn’t love everyone,” “He’ll save everyone eventually” are all inferior answers, Patton’s own answer of “I don’t know” is equally insufficient.
As a fellow Calvinist, Patton ought to know that everything God does is intended to reveal his glory. God wishes to reveal all of himself to those he has chosen as vessels of mercy, and so in order to reveal his hatred of sin and wrath against unrighteousness, he has passed over many of his creations and allows them to suffer under his wrath.
That’s a sufficient answer to someone like me, who is confident of salvation and steadfast enough in faith to continue to run the race until the end. But to someone who is perishing, it is pure folly (to put it nicely). In other words, my answer satisfies believers firm in their faith but leaves unbelievers or believers who are questioning their faith thinking of God as a maniacal, merciless tyrant playing dice with the lives of people he ostensibly loves.
Yet my answer is still consistent with Scripture. The key is that the answer satisfies believers with a strong or unshakable faith (Rom 8:28), who are the people that God works all things out for. But to those who are perishing, it sounds like “folly” (1 Cor 1:18).
But what about those who are tottering on the brink of de-conversion? Well, God doesn’t really like the fence-sitters (Rev 3:16). An answer like that is bound to make you pick a side, not continue sitting the fence.
I’m not terribly comfortable with that answer, however confident I am that it is the right one. I don’t know why so many people have to be in the “perishing” category. It seems as though God could have created a system that revealed his full character and brought him glory, and resulted in more people saved. But, as I’ve pointed out time and again, the goal of this experiment called the human race was not to maximize salvation, but the glory of God.
The second question is a good one. I think that God intended the Fall to purposely create a system where only a few would be lavished with his mercy, while the remainder suffered his wrath. As above, that would maximize his glory. Again, the comfort level with that answer is minimal for me, however confident I am in the veracity of the answer. Satan is a part of God’s plan, for better or for worse. Patton seems to agree with the fact that Satan is part of God’s plan, at least in principle.
I think the answer to both questions really comes down to the fact that this life is all about God, not about us. God is ultimately free to do as he decides with us, and there’s really not much we can do about it.
As far as Patton’s inspiration for this series, I’ll continue to delude myself into believing that it’s me. That’s healthy, right?
In Christ Alone
Great song. We played this at church today and I really got caught up in the music and pondered the lyrics. I challenge everyone to at least ponder the lyrics.
I like the more upbeat version of this tune, though Natalie Grant did an excellent take on this track with her amazing voice.
On Not Posting for a Few Days, or, 2011: Year of E-books
It’s been a week or so since I’ve updated, and I wanted to assure everyone that I’m okay and that I will be updating regularly in the near future. Being the full-time caregiver to two wonderful children is how I’ve been spending most of my time. I used to do my writing after they go to bed, but I’ve found sleep to be a much more tempting way to spend my time. That is why the updates are getting spaced further out lately.
This is a teaser on what I’m going to be up to on the blog. I have three e-books in the works with a possible fourth, plus three series of posts for the blog.
I have taken my top posts for all time (from 2006 until around January 2011) and collated them in an e-book. Nine posts in all; why it’s not an even ten will be discussed in the actual book. I’m going to edit them and release updated versions of most posts by the middle of February.
I have an e-book slated for this Easter defending the Resurrection. Chris Hallquist (the Uncredible Hallq) has put together a small flier entitled “The ‘Evidence’ for Jesus’ Resurrection Debunked in One Page.” It literally is what it promises: a single page that casts dispersions on the use of the historical method to prove Jesus’ Resurrection. I plan to discuss problems with that flier in a flier of my own, “‘The “Evidence” for Jesus’ Resurrection Debunked in One Page’ Rebutted in Two.” This will summarize a case contrary to Mr. Hallquist’s assertions and is meant as a teaser for the e-book.
A third e-book will be released sometime in the late summer and will focus on the characters of Revelation. I promise that this is not more of the same best selling Left Behind-like crap churned out by Tim LaHaye and his ilk. I do not believe in any current Christian eschatology vogue.
As of now, all e-books are going to be available free of charge.
On the blog, I’ll be finishing my current series answering some of DaGoodS’s questions that Christians hope no one will ask, which began here. I needed to do more research and I plan to get those questions answered shortly. That got preempted last week in favor of the pro-life fight that I waged on the blog and Twitter in response to Blog for Choice Day.
The series on DaGoodS has generated a lot of interest from regular readers of Thoughts from a Sandwich. As per my usual comment policy, I’m not intentionally ignoring people when I don’t respond. If you feel that your challenge to my argument should be addressed, you can e-mail me. I do respond to e-mails promptly.
After I complete DaGoodS’s questions, I’m going to answer more questions that theists allegedly can’t answer, originally from a thread on Reddit. I started that series back in November, then continued it last week. I have five future posts planned, plus a sixth post with two general observations.
Finally, there has been some recent discussion about faith. I repeatedly have said that faith is trust. Atheists, however, believe faith is a blind step, taken without or despite evidence. The less evidence available to make the decision, the greater the spiritual reward. If the evidence is actually against something, then God will reward you more than your wildest dreams can imagine!
Traditional Christians have never believed that faith is founded on nothing. But atheists have jumped to defend the contention it is quickly, so I’m going to look in-depth at the definition of faith. The Catholic Church, the oldest Christian denomination and deeply rooted in tradition, has a lot to say on the subject of faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Several Popes have also written on the subject recently; Pope John Paul II on the relationship of faith and reason, and Pope Paul VI on the mystery of Christian faith in the Eucharist. I’m going to examine each of those, and the Bible (especially Hebrews 10 and 11).
If this series is popular enough, it might end up being the mythical Christmas season e-book I mentioned earlier.
So that’s a taste of what is to come. Stay with me and let’s reason together (Is 1:18).
Ignorance of Pro-Choice
I had planned to write a post yesterday refuting two common Bible verses that pro-choice advocates cite to “prove” that the Bible is actually pro-choice. Of course, if the choicers understood the historical and cultural context of those verses, they’d be singing a different tune. Or at least not using them to undermine the Bible’s clear pro-life position.
For more, check the blog fellow apologist and brother in Christ, Dave Armstrong, who has listed numerous verses on why the Bible is pro-life.
If I had scheduled that post to appear today, that would have left me free to read and research on the scientific and philosophical reflections on what makes a life alive. That would have been posted tomorrow. And then I’d have the weekend free to finish my series on DaGoodS’s questions that Christians hope no one asks.
But I got unexpectedly busy yesterday, and that busyness continued through today, which means I wasn’t as active in “Ask Them What They Mean by Choice” Day, the pro-life countermeasure to Blog for Choice Day, as I wanted to be.
But I still wanted to do something for it, so I found @juliewashere, a Twitter user and founder the Golden Coat Hanger, a blog on feminist and abortion issues, and I decided to use her tweets to show how extraordinarily inconsistent her pro-choice position actually is. It’s inconsistent to the point of frightening. Let’s look.
Twitter user @KatyPundit (who is male and named David; so much for my uncanny ability to guess gender using forum aliases) told Julie “You gave consent when you spread em open.” Julie responded:
that’s consent to sex, and ONLY sex.
Which is a perfect example of why sex education in America is failing. Pregnancy results from sex. Not every time, but it is a looming possibility each and every time a man and a woman lay down together. So, if you have sex, you’d best be prepared for pregnancy.
David reminds her of this fact: “LOL, Sex makes babies. At least that’s how MY kids got here… U came by Stork?” And Julie responds with a disconnect between sex and pregnancy:
no, pregnancy makes babies, and it takes several months.
Nice, genius. What do you think makes a person pregnant? I think this line of reasoning comes from someone who wants to have sex with any given partner at any given time and not have to worry about a potential pregnancy. In other words, sex isn’t for intimacy and love; it has no spiritual dimension, nor should it always be connected with bringing new life into this world. Sex is purely for the enjoyment of the two people doing it.
Yet another instance of people wanting to give into the flesh and jettison anything to do with higher, spiritual decisions. It can’t be about self-control and discipline! Sex feels too good to be disciplined about it, right? I heard Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad argue that pre-marital sex was a right belonging to all human beings that has been co-opted by religion. I guess Julie would agree with that line of reasoning.
Jack Yoest (@JackYoest) said, “The mothers went in to get a dead baby,” of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s patients. Julie responded:
No, they went in to get rid of fetuses.
What does she think a fetus is? Not a person, as she tweets:
Fetuses are real, they just aren’t people. Learn to read.
I was never a fetus just like I was never a sperm. There was simply no me yet.
First, notice that there was no “her” in either the sperm or the fetus. That will become important later. Now, look at this contradictory tweet:
Live doesn’t begin at conception, it was already present before that. You fail biology.
And Julie fails the argument. Abortion takes a human life unjustly, which is the textbook definition of murder. She just admitted that life was present before conception, therefore it follows life is also present during the pregnancy and development of the unborn child (she denies the existence of an “unborn child” in another tweet). However, if she denies that a fetus is a human life, she must explain when it becomes one.
Julie defines human life in this tweet:
children are sentient, sapient, non-parasitic human beings. Nothing magic about it. Welcome to reality.
Julie’s previous tweets show us that she understands (though she may not acknowledge it) that the mind and the brain are separate. This tweet essentially confirms that position. I’ve established in this post that the brain and major organs function in a fetus prior to 10 weeks. Julie explains that while in the womb, before and after conception, there was no “her.” She believes that it is the mind that makes a person a person. That is evidenced by the fact she has tweeted “Women are people. There is just no compromising that point” and “bio fact: fetuses are non-sentient.”
Yet the mind and the brain are inexorably connected. When the brain ceases to function, the mind loses its ties to this material existence. Without my Christian faith, I couldn’t answer for certain what happens then. The problem Julie has is that she must explain when the mind begins to exist in order to definitively argue that the act of abortion isn’t murder. She never does that; she is basing her pro-choice position, then, on the unproven assumption that the fetus has no mind. Yet it has a brain that functions.
On Using Refuted Arguments
Many years ago, Dr. Laura made a comment on her radio program stating that the Bible declares homosexuality an abomination, and that should settle the matter. This was subsequently parodied in an episode of the West Wing, where the President pwns a Dr. Laura-like character by quoting chapter and verse from Leviticus several outmoded laws, asking her to clarify them for him. Eventually, the President’s list was expanded with other outmoded laws and circulated as Internet chain mail.
When all this first happened, J.P. Holding wrote an excellent refutation of it.
Anyone with a general understanding of how a Christian approaches law and grace already knows how ridiculous this argument (if you can even call it that) is. The Old Testament Law points to a morality far higher than it espouses; a morality written into the hearts of every person on this planet. Ultimately, if we let the Greatest Commandment and the Second Greatest Commandment together be our guides, then we will fulfill the Old Testament Law without having to dive into the minutiae of it. That morality that exists in conception and can exist in point of fact by the grace of God, is the morality we aspire to.
Because we understand that a higher morality exists, we therefore seek to achieve it. It hasn’t been realized yet, and so we keep trying. What it is, even between religions and societies, is fairly consistent. That’s why I say it is an object of conception–we know it when we see it, but we haven’t seen it yet. Even the most die-hard atheist can admit that society isn’t as moral is it should be, and knows deep down that we need to somehow fix the broken parts.
Despite the fact that the West Wing clip (and the letter it spawned) stands refuted (specifically by Holding and generally by a Theology 101 understanding of law and grace), atheists continue to circulate it on YouTube. The Blog for Why Won’t God Heal Amputees just posted it again.
Therefore, here’s my question to atheists: How many times do Christian apologists have to refute the same arguments before you’ll stop using them?
This is Sick
It looks like the pro-choice crowd is so pleased with having the ability to end a human life on a whim that they are actually celebrating the 38th anniversary of the day they were granted that “right.” January 21st is the sixth-annual Blog for Choice Day.
It’s not going to stop with blogs, either. Pro-choicers are called to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to get the pro-choice message out.
Jill Stanek has announced a counter-initiative called “Ask Them What They Mean by Choice Day” for the same day. Each time a pro-lifer encounters pro-choice rhetoric, we should (as the name suggests) ask them what they mean by “choice.” Of course choice is code for “kill the baby.” Just like the term “reproductive rights” is code for “right to decide if my child lives or dies.”
Last I checked, the power of death and life belonged only to God, not to us. Short of saving the mother’s life (and even then I can still see a serious moral dilemma, but we live in a fallen world where sometimes choices like that become necessary), I can’t think of a single justifiable reason to abort a child that doesn’t use a lot of wild suppositions and far-out “what if” statements. Like, “What if the baby doesn’t get adopted and ends up in an abusive foster care home?” Or, “What if the baby is born with a terminal disease?” And so on. Those just dodge the issue.
Look for a post this Friday refuting some pro-choice positions that try to use the Bible against our pro-life stance. Under consideration will be Numbers 5:11-31 and 2 Samuel 11:15b-23. I’ll also contrast some philosophical details with scientific details of life.
Must Read Testimony of a Former Pro-Choice Advocate
Abby Johnson is a former executive from Planned Parenthood. Recently, she renounced working for the company and has become a pro-life advocate.
When asked why she switched sides in the debate, she said something very touching and powerful. I almost cried. Here is her account of why she had to leave Planned Parenthood:
I had never seen an ultrasound-guided abortion before. They’re not standard procedure because they take a few extra minutes. To the best of my knowledgeit [sic] was the first time it had happened at our facility.
I was called in to help. My job was to hold the ultrasound probe on the woman’s abdomen so that the physician could get a view inside the uterus. I got everything ready. When I looked at the screen and heard them say that she was 13 weeks pregnant, on the screen I saw the profile of a 13-week-old baby in the womb. I had seen thousands of ultrasounds before, including ultrasounds of my own daughter Grace, who is now four. In that instant, I had a flashback to my own ultrasound of my daughter when I was 12 weeks pregnant. In that instant, I realized what was about to happen and what I was about to witness. . . .
When the abortion procedure started, I saw the child begin to move away from the abortion instrument and recoil. The child knew that it’s life was in danger. Before that moment, I had never even considered that the child in the womb felt pain or felt anything for that matter. Planned Parenthood had always told us that the fetus had no sensory development until 28 weeks.
So, something that isn’t “technically alive” and has no sensory apparatuses recoils at a medical instrument? Interesting. My question is this: does the child really not have any sensory apparatuses? Let’s look at what Pregnancy.org tells us this happens for the first 13 weeks of pregnancy:
Neural tube forms – It will develop into the nervous system (Brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin). Already your baby has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more!
Moving on to week 5, the heartbeat begins, blood flows in the veins, and most of the organs take shape. The brain, center of the nervous system and the arbiter of sensory input, develops and grows in week 6. Elbows, fingers, and feet grow in week 7. By week 8 cartilage and bones form, as well as the tongue and the eyes. Independent movement begins in week 9, and at this stage the baby is capable of grabbing an object placed into its hand! By week 10, all critical development is finished, the “embryo” is now officially termed a “fetus,” and this is the point where the baby just solidly grows.
Take note of this. The aborted baby in Johnson’s story was 13 weeks. Pregnancy.org tells us that at 11 weeks, the major organs start to function. That would include the brain, which would interpret all the sensory information from the nervous system. Is there any reason to assume that the baby is incapable of feeling pain? I’m no scientist, but it seems likely that the baby would feel pain, as he or she has all the necessary organs to.
At the 12 week mark, the fingers and toes separate and dexterity improves, but as we’ve just learned, a little one of only 9 weeks is capable of grasping an object. Since the eyes aren’t functional, the only way that the little one would know to grasp something in his or her hand would be to feel the object being placed there. Are we to believe that the baby is only capable of feeling pressure changes?
At week 13 is when the hands are fully functional, and the little one might start playing with his or her fist for comfort. Further, the baby begins to practice inhaling and exhaling. It is here that the little one that was the catalyst behind Johnson’s conversion was aborted.
I needed to believe that [they baby can’t feel pain until it’s 28 weeks] to continue to justify abortion. I was surprised, shocked, appalled and disgusted at what I was watching. I felt betrayed because I couldn’t believe that this company that I had believed and trusted in had lied. I didn’t want to believe it, but was looking at it so clearly. The evidence was in front of my face. The abortion started and in just a few moments, the screen was black, and the abortion was complete. In that moment, I knew that my life was going to have to change. I knew that I couldn’t walk out of there the same way that I had walked in.
Her book is Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-opening Journey Across the Life Line. It sounds excellent.
Questions Theists Can’t Answer, part 2
Continuing a short break from DaGoodS’s questions that Christians hope no one will ask, I proceed with a thread on Reddit proposing questions that theists supposedly can’t answer. Of course we can answer them, we have answered them, and yet they are still being asked as if they defeat theism once and for all.
In a previous post, I answered several miscellaneous questions. Here are some more miscellaneous questions:
Do you use any other 2000 year old information to live your life? Would you like your doctor to use 2000 year old methods? If something is wrong, it is always wrong. Morals are absolute, despite many (failed) arguments to the contrary. It was wrong to steal 2000 years ago, and it still is. It was wrong to cheat on your wife 2000 years ago, and it still is. Moral values don’t get revised over periods of time.
Why did god often appear to ignorant goat herders yet never makes an appearance now, except to the delusional? Jesus Christ represents the full and final revelation of God. God has no more need to appear to us today. Even if he did, it wouldn’t do any good. Even in the Bible, with the apostle Paul as the sole exception, God only appeared to people who already believed.
Why did god, in his perfect wisdom, give us totally useless body hair (and toenails)? Hair and nails may lack function on their own, but they serve a purpose within the frame of the human body. Hair and nails are recycled dead cells. Anyone who watches true crime documentaries also knows that deadly poisons are expelled through hair. Hair and nails, therefore, are part of the overall design. Otherwise, how would we get rid of useless organic tissues or deadly poison?
If god flooded the world, where did all the water go? In retrospect this question is easily answered. If someone were to believe a “god” could create water, the answer would most likely be he made it disappear. There is no “magic” necessary to answer this question. As I’ve stated before, if one subscribes to a global judgment in scope, but a flood that was local in geographic terms, then we no more have to ask where those flood waters went then we would for the receding flood waters of any of the numerous floods experienced in recent history.
As it happens, a local flood model actually makes all of the manifest problems with the story of Noah’s Flood vanish. For more information on this viewpoint, see here.
Jimmy Akin has an interesting article about former Pope John Paul II’s progress on getting canonized a saint. Not that JPII is advancing the cause, of course, but that his supporters are pushing the Vatican to name the recently departed pope a saint immediately. As in now.
I wanted to comment because a statement in it ties into my recent post answering questions from a Reddit thread enumerating questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can). That previous article was on questions that tied specifically to the soul’s eternal destiny, and Akin touches ever-so-briefly on that.
Akin’s article had a statement that dropped my jaw with regard to determining eternal destiny. Before I give my thoughts on that statement, let’s begin with asking why the Vatican would have an interest in thoroughly investigating a potential saint before canonizing him.There are three points to bear in mind. Read the rest of this entry
Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Eternal Destiny
I’m still researching some responses to DaGoodS’s remaining two questions that Christians hope no one will ask. But I wanted to put something up today, so keeping with the theme of questions posed to Christians, I’m going to answer two interesting questions.
A long time back, on Reddit, there was a thread collecting all of the questions that theists allegedly can’t answer. In a previous thread, I began to answer some of those questions. I would like to continue by answering two questions that relate to the eternal destiny of the soul.
The first question I’m going to break up into pieces so it’s a bit more manageable.
Guy is an adulterer without repenting and thus, goes to hell, right? Another guy kills a hundred people, without repenting, and thus, goes to the same hell, right? Now, do you think it is proportional to treat both guys with the same fate?
However, if they go to “different places” according to the gravity of their sins, do they go under authority of God? If so, does it mean that God actually determines the penalty, and not the Devil?
If I kill your whole family and by my last breath I repent, would you feel comfortable meeting me in paradise?
What most critics miss about Christianity is that “easy-believism” isn’t what is in view. After establishing that sin means certain death for the people who continue in it, Paul rhetorically asked the Roman church, “How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Rom 6:2)?
Most churches today practice Gospel Lite, telling us that if we believe in Jesus, then we get to go to heaven. Never do they peel away the layers of sin in our lives, trying to show us that we need to repent of our former selves and live according to Jesus’ teachings. Above all, we must practice grace and forgiveness. Not by becoming doormats, but by embracing the greatest of the commandments and loving God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. Then, loving our neighbors as our own selves.
So, for the mass murderer who makes a deathbed profession, we have to ask ourselves, “How sincere is this guy, really?” He might just be trying to avoid hell by embracing that Gospel Lite prevalent today. If he isn’t sincere, God will know that and judge accordingly.
If he is sincere, and he is in heaven, then I will have my faith in God’s judgment to just and fair.
The bottom line is this: God does things at the counsel and good pleasure of his own will. He doesn’t ask his creatures how we would like to be dealt with, nor how he should deal with others. As he knows all, we should place some trust in his judgment.
In other words, just because a person once professed faith in Jesus doesn’t mean that he automatically gets the golden ticket and goes to heaven. There is a component of obedience that must be met as well.