Josh Duggar and Christian Radicalism

The Duggar’s are in the news again, and their squeaky clean image is being dragged through the mud, and with it the image of Christianity as well. Josh Duggar is checking into a rehab center, likely for sexual addiction, though there may be other problems as well. I will again refrain from commenting on his sincerity, I commend him at least for admitting his sin, without blaming anyone else, and I hope he sincerely will turn in repentence to the God of grace. I pray when I see the news for his wife and children, and I hope they find peace.

Yet, scandal is not something new for the church. Scandal has plagued the church since its inception; when Paul wrote the church at Corinth, he was forced to counsel them to deal with a man sleeping with his step-mother. Yet when scandal hits, it’s a good time to consider the matter involved, and not just from the standpoint of PR.

One issue that is becoming abundantly clear in the Duggar scandal as it has played out in the press is the essential question of the law and grace. Tragically, the church has preached moralism rather than Christianity when it comes to public policy. Moralism, with its emphasis on law and on performance makes much of civic pride and duty, but it is sub-Christian in its understanding of the world, man, and the purpose of the law. Moralism can’t save, and in fact, it gives men the pharisaical notion that they are somehow “OK” or that God is somehow “ok” with them on the basis of their deeds, and not on the basis of Christ’s atonement. As Paul stated, “the good which I would do, that I do not,” and if he admitted that he was not a perfect Christian why is it so difficult for us to present the picture to the world that we don’t have it all together either, though we recognize that God is the answer?

As Christians, we have confused our culture with our message about Josh Duggar. We rightly discussed God’s forgiveness for sins, but this confuses the world because the message they have taken from our political activities and discussions for decades has been the bootstrap moralistic philosophy that tells men they must measure up to God, a message doomed to fail. And then we are surprised they don’t understand why we have responded to Josh as we have – we have sent a mixed message by not preaching the gospel.

We need to preach the law, the law is intended to be motivational towards repentence, but we need to preach it as broken sinners to a broken world. The law points out our failures, that we deserve to be punished, and compels us to flee to Christ, and it is this part that seems so lacking in our public discussions. When I was younger I thought of Focus on the Family and Fundamentalism as radically Christian ideas, but as I’ve grown older, I realize they are not radical at all, they have become tamed, Americanized, and made culturally and politically relevant. They do not interpret American culture from a Christian perspective they interpret Christianity from an American perspective. Christianity that fails to understand the radical nature of relationship with God as the cure to human ills is tepid and weak. During the end of the Fundamentalist era, we lost this essential understanding of the purpose of the law. We are paying for it now.

So where do we go from here? We need to make sure as we discuss the events and circumstances of the Josh Duggar scandal and afterwards to portray the entire message of the gospel – that Christ Jesus came to save sinners, and that Christ, not moral reform is the answer to our societal ills.

Slavery, Planned Parenthood and the Conscience

One of the recent trends in the study of American history is the recognition that slavery and racism are not uniquely “southern issues.” In the years before the War Between the States, Northern industrial interests had a clear pattern of profiting from Slavery. Northern industrial interests were built on textiles, primarily by weaving cloth from Southern cotton. Similarly, the questions of race riots in the North during the production of the second-world war or the involvement of the Klu Klux Clan in Northern states (most notedly in Indiana, before the trial of D C Stephenson). Yet, in the north there was a desire for respectability. They chose to let the South do the “dirty work,” while they spoke of Social Darwinism in glowing terms that were disconnected from the horrible reality underneath it. This of course does not excuse slavery in the South, it merely demonstrates that very human tendency to protect the conscience by hiding our baser natures from ourselves.

A similar story is being told today by the Center for Medical progress. The Planned Parenthood video releases are continuing to move forward, but sadly, as usually happens in Washington these days, not much good is coming from it. Whether it is because their role in funding political campaigns, a fear of a moderate and liberal constituency, or sheer principles for the right to murder children, the senate remains at best, deadlocked. And while the videos being release by the center for medical progress are strong evidence that Planned Parenthood’s behavior is unethical, sadly few people are actually questioning whether supporting planned parenthood is right, or ethical.

But why? The videos clearly demonstrate what Planned Parenthood is doing, and while I will not focus on the legality of the enterprise (since I am not a lawyer), it is clear that the practice is unethical. The murder of innocent human beings, even if it is in order to provide medical treatment for others, is not justified. In this sense, they parrot Dr Joseph Mengela (the Nazi Doctor who performed experiments at the Nazi Internment camps) who used the same basic argument: if they are going to die, we should at least make sure science benefits.

In the last video, a Stem Express video admitted that lab technicians did not want the body parts provided intact; they reacted as human beings whose conscience has not been completely cauterized – they of course know that the samples they are working with come from babies murdered in abortion mills, but they do not want to be reminded of that fact.

And this is where America as a nation is today. Planned Parenthood, and other organizations like Planned Parenthood do the unthinkable in the name of convenience, they then use their expertise to create a “product” from those they murdered, and they then provide cover from a society that wants to profit, but without being faced with the details of the crime. The real reason why the center for Medical progress is being attacked so vigorously is because they are ultimately stripping away the anonymity, as the stark euphemisms are exposed.

This is why political solutions will ultimately fail. While American citizens may want to protect the appearances of righteousness against the harassments of conscience that does not mean the heart’s desire is clear. Rather than politics, we need to recognize the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves. Ultimately, what America needs is not moralism or moral education; we are not a Christian nation that has lost its way. We need as a country to have a heart transplant. By all means, continue to expose Planned Parenthood for what it is, hope the pricks of conscience will be something used by God. Yet, as believers, we know that this is not enough. but as believers, we need to go forward not only with facts, but also with Prayer. God is the God of the heart, we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, and therefore while this story is in the news, brothers and sisters, let us remember to pray.

Josh Duggar, Ashley Madison, and the real issue.

One of the big stories in the news this week is the Ashley Madison scandal. The biggest draw today is that Josh Duggar, formerly of TLC 19 kids and counting, is one of the men who was on the list, and he has publically claimed to have repented of his infidelities to his wife. I won’t comment on whether I think his repentance is genuine or not, any crimes he has committed are the jurisdiction of the government, not the church. Time will tell if his repentance is genuine. Man will claim that Duggar’s actions prove all Christians are hypocrites—as if the existence of a counterfeit twenty dollar bill proves there are no real greenbacks. Josh Duggar, whatever his sins and failings might be, is not the real story.

Nor is the real story the hacking itself, though of course, no one absolves someone from breaking into a computer system, releasing information or the patron’s credit cards as is alleged to have happen. Yet, what is really interesting is that Ashley Madison’s corporate owners attacked the hacking group by stating these were criminals who were trying to foist their own moral values on society. But this is to have the matter backwards; the fact that this information release has consequences proves the modern prophets of the new sexual ethic to be wrong.

Lets look at what is really happening. People were having affairs, they were connecting with the internet for anonymous sex, and they are upset that they have been caught, despite the fact that they were willing participants. If monogamy was really all that foreign to the American culture, then the Ashley Madison reveal would have no major consequences. If our society were really “enlightened” through the sexual revolution of the sixties, if “everyone” was really doing it, then it would not be shocking that “so and so” is doing it.

Someone might argue that modern sexual mores (or lack there of) are no big deal, after all, millions of people were signed up for Ashley Morgan (mostly men). Yet, they will argue, even if it is no real issue of morality, it might have social consequences, such as divorce. But, if modern sexual mores were as prevalent and as self-evident as these men imply, wouldn’t we embrace the social fallout as natural and good? If monogamy is a socially outdate idea, then shouldn’t the dissolution of marriages be the cause célèbre of the day? After all, one of the central tenants of marriage in the west, until recently, is that it was a commitment to a monogamous life? Other implications have been brought forward as well, for example, some people in the military might face court marshal, but why is that true in the first place? During the first World War, most European armies procured prostitutes rather openly and the US Military has long had a tendency to look the other way when it comes to prostitution, provided it doesn’t impact the mission; It is only when something is actually scandalous that the military seems to take major interest in morals clauses.

It seems to me the social ramifications, if they exist, are simply further evidence of a greater issue: Shame, the result of guilt. The sexual revolution spread the lie that human beings could have “free love” without ramifications and found that human jealousies were not so easily set aside. Sometimes the Romans are viewed positively for their looser views of sexual morality, but even their literature shows that sexual jealousy was understood by the ancient world to be a powerful, but negative force, the Illiad reveals the division of the Greek army created and the war itself started over sexual jealousy. Our modern belief in the changes of social mores are often expressed in the abstract, people may very well talk about how infidelity is natural, but would perhaps not take the same tack if the person who was unfaithful was their spouse. Some men will likely find out too late, that the wives they will lose, along with the respect of their children was worth far more than the pleasure involved.

Some will argue from an evolutionary perspective that moral codes developed to perpetuate the species, but such arguments are highly speculative, and imaginative. One can likely make a case for how any social custom evolved (one can also speculate that human jealousies could not have evolved because they are counter-productive for evolution as well, if one really tries), but one cannot demonstrate that it actually has done so. Social evolutionary theory then is limited in its explanatory power due to its lackluster methodology. And while someone can imagine other answers to the question, I believe the one in the Bible best explains this tension between the sin nature’s desire to cheat on the one hand, and the shame brought on by the conscience on the other. The ultimate reason why men want to cheat desire to do so anonymously is because, “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”

My Wife’s favorite word.

As I noted last week, Truth in the Trenches is now more than two years old. It’s a small ministry, but one that my heart is in fully.

In celebrating, we’re using my wife’s favorite word: Free!

Last week I released the kindle version of my conclusions in the area where I first stated apologetics. This week, for the next four days my second Kindle Publication, The Tragedy of Compromise will be free. The tragedy of compromise is different. This is a collection of my first thoughts on the YEC/Theistic Evolution debate within the Church. Intelligent design has led a number of people to embrace theistic evolution, I believe that is a mistake.

The Tragedy of Compromise is my apology to the Christian community for the YEC position. It is why the YEC position is both most consistent with the faith.

And did I mention you can get it here for free.

AC Kills Hector – Humanity and the Law

Let me tell you a quick story, during a gang war, the names have been alliterated to protect the guilty. Two members of the same gang have a dispute about who can have a sexual relationship with one of the women (lets call her B). One of the two gang leader’s senior lieutenants (we will call him AC) leaves in a huff, and the gang’s leader (we will call him AG) finds himself in serious trouble. One of the AC’s underlings (we can call him PA) feels sorry for his former friends; PA joins the next fight, is killed and so AC then challenges Hector, a leader of the rival gang. During that fight AC kills Hector and to show his contempt and superiority mutilates Hector’s body.

No, this isn’t the plot of a new Hollywood gangland movie, these are actually some of the major plot points from Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, a tale set near the end of the Trojan War. The humans (as well as the Olympian false gods) are rich in humanity, the same humanity we see around us today. It both intrigues us and when we stop and think, repels us.

Last year, while listening to Homer’s Illiad and Odyseus on my commute home from work, it struck me how little human beings have changed; in fact, what has really changed about humanity is the quality of his tools and weapons, nothing major in mankind itself is all that different. This is why so many Hollywood movies regurgitate older stories in new (or blatant) rewrites – the old themes still hold true.

Often we see people making the argument that Christian moral strictures are old fashioned, out of date, out of step with the times, and other arguments rooted in a “chronological snobbery” (as C S Lewis might put it). This viewpoint in and of itself assumes what my reading of the Iliad refutes: it assumes man has truly progressed from his lusty days of bloody conquest. In fact, much of what we see today is not a question of moral progress, but regression to the mores of the blood-drenched civilizations of the past. Whether we call it “exposing an infant” or “aborting a fetus” (our habit of using scientific jargon to avoid confronting our consciences by the heinousness of the act of murder we are committing), ultimately it makes little difference, both are murder; in both cases, our common humanity is unchanged from pagan times.

The problem is that too many moderns don’t consider the point of the Old Testament law. The law according to Paul is not intended for self-reformation, and according to James, it is a mirror to expose the real wickedness that is within us. The law confronts us with our need to change.

This, I think, tells us why the emerging church in their attempt to make Christian morality culturally acceptable by pleading for tolerance of homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, or abortion miss the mark so profoundly. In their attempts to make Christianity relevant to modern prejudices, they have ultimately nullified the very thing that makes the law relevant, its pointed barb at the unregenerate heart. They view the law in terms of establishing principles for an acceptable or unacceptable moral life rather than a measuring stick to demonstrate our unacceptability to God.

The question is not whether Christian moral principles are outdated, the Bible is not outdated because it speaks to the unchanged human nature within us all. The real question is, do we consider God to be our authority or men to be our authority? All to often, this is precisely the issue that confronts us, and sadly many churches seek to side with man, not God. This is why some “evangelical” churches and leaders have been more open with same sex marriage, etc. Of course, this is not really new – the early church had those that sought the world’s approval by conforming Christian thought to that of Plato, but that is a story for another time.  Of course, if Jesus is resurrected from the dead, then these churches have their priorities backwards, and are committing theological treason.

Its Truth in the Trenches Birthday tomorrow – and I’m giving away the gifts.

On March 4, 2007 the Discovery Channel released a film called, The Jesus Family Tomb. What no one knew at the time was that they were also launching what would eventually be Truth in the Trenches.

I watched the documentary in horror – the facts and scholarship represented were extremely poor (one central point, the uniqueness of the name Josie was something I had disproven in a few minutes). But the work was well produced with solid marketing and excellent storytelling (something I admit to not being very good at myself, but we do what we can).  I completed a quick bit of research, put together a packet and sent it to a number of friends.

A lot has happened since now and then, we’ve faced tragedy and I had nearly dropped out on life. Then, our pastor preached a series called Down but not Out, and I started this blog.

Why go over the history lesson, because I first registered on August 6th 2013, and released a sermon on August 17th (The Rational basis of Christianity). In honor of this blog’s purpose, I’m giving away our kindle booklet, Da Vinchi, the Templars and the Jesus Family Tomb free starting tomorrow, August Sixth for five days. You can find it for any kindle powered device!

Cecil the Lion, Dr Mengela and the Monsters Among Us

When I was in my undergraduate years, some preacher boys and I viewed a VHS Tape of a sonogram of an abortion. It was the stuff of nightmares as the child struggled in the womb against the doctor’s instruments (abortionists have stated this is a mere reflex, as if pain is not, itself a reflex to possible harm). The doctor who killed the child repented of the murders he had committed, when he saw the child’s response. I have also comforted my wife during the loss of our own to children, Avery and Taylor in the womb. Similarly, my own mother was counseled by an Obstetrician to abort me. There are those who deceive themselves into saying these are not babies, and not entitled to be treated as human beings. Often in apologetics, I seek to maintain my objectivity – I am passionate about what I do, but my passions follow my thinking; logic is not limited to the cold dispassion of the study, truly understanding the logic of a matter creates an impulse to act. Yet, when it comes to the cavalier description of butchering babies for research material, it is difficult if not impossible to be detached. Man cannot make a dichotomy of himself. There is a time to answer counter arguments with counter arguments, but now I can only shake my head at how man can strain so reluctantly against the obvious.

In the past two weeks we have seen videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing in no uncertain terms the sale of human body parts from children murdered in their clinics, we have also seen the death of an animal, Cecil the lion. The murder of human beings seems in many circles to be the less pressing matter. Many people will object, they will claim my language is over the top, that I haven’t proven that this is murder. But what other word applies to the deliberate killing a person who has not been convicted of any crimes, when it is not a matter of self defense, and it is not involved in the prosecution of a war? Many will argue that these children are not actually human, but they have not been able to present a viable alternative definition of humanity, a valid, sound cogent argument why passage through the birth canal somehow conveys a right to live. The only definition of human life they have given (that of the child’s developed capabilities) leaves no logical difference between the murder of a human ‘fetus’ (to be clinical) and the murder of a six month old infant or someone with severe mental handicaps. Indeed, some bio-ethicists are raising the same arguments the Nazi’s did for infanticide; using terms like “potential human” in ways similar to the Nazi term subhuman. In many cases they directly relate this view to abortion.

The way our society uses language also belies the hypocrisy in the “its not really a baby” defense. If it’s not really a baby, why do we tell woman how to take care of their babies in neonatal care? No one says to an expectant mother, “when is your fetus due?” In fact, we regularly refer to human fetus’s as babies unless the mother wants to kill the child, then to assuage the shame brought on by guilt we change our language.

Some democrats will argue that this is a woman’s right (as if another human is somehow unaffected); and if abortion is legal why not let science benefit? Dr. Mengela, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed inhuman experiments on Jews in the death camps, said much the same thing. If they were going to die anyway, why not benefit society?

The scandal, though is about more than Planned Parenthood, it’s about our society itself. There is something wrong with America today. We speak of abortion in Euphemisms, to assuage the consciences that modern psychologists insist do not exist. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda minister would be proud. The American left is already making accusations that these videos have been edited and taken out of context (as if there is a context in which negotiations over the price of human organs is acceptable). The discussions in the news media is about whether or not congress should defund planned parenthood, not the prosecutions of Planned Parenthood officials. The problem is, even if America has not accepted atheism at a theoretical level, it has sadly assumed that humans are little more than animals on a practical one. Tragically, our society has responded far more harshly to Cecil’s death than to the murderess talking about killing children in a more advantageous way, while sipping wine with the smile belying the monster she really is. The true shame is that a monster like this can walk free in America today, with her held high. And the reason why this is the case is because we ultimately don’t care on the societal level about the blood on her hands. The irony is, in the name of social progress and tolerance, we no longer care about human life. This illustrates how the Bible is right about us.

I would love to make some positive point, to answer an objection, or to raise an argument. I’ve struggled with what to say or how to address this. In the end, all I can do is shake my head, admit we owe Dr. Mengela an apology for seeking to put him on trial when we do not extend the same standard to our own citizens and cry that I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.

Scottish Atheists

One of the regular arguments one hears from Christians is their appeal to their experience with Christ – that is, Christians often state their experience in life tells them Christianity is true. Many people would immediately reject this approach to the Christian life, though I believe that this experience in life is a valid witness of the truthfulness of Christianity, even if it might be limited in its argumentative value. My experience of God is sufficient to convince me that Christianity is true, but it does little to demonstrate that faith to another.

Yet, when this contention is raised with atheists (particularly internet atheists) one often runs into the same series of arguments.

  1. An atheist who formerly attended Church will claim that they had the same experience.
  2. The Christian will argue that the atheist’s experience was false, and not the same, on the grounds of Scripture.
  3. The Atheist will accuse the Christian of exercising the “No true Scotsman” logical fallacy.
  4. The Christian and atheist will now argue whether or not Christians are committing the no true Scotsman fallacy rather than the question of whether Christianity is true, a digression along the lines of the woman at the well asking where it was appropriate to worship.

Part of the problem is that the Christian counter argument is actually misstated – actually, it should be, “if Christianity is true, as my experience and the historicity of the resurrection of Christ indicates it is, then your experience and mine are different,” but of course, this is a mouthful.

I would like offer a different analysis to the counter argument, and then a weighing of the actual value of the argument from our experiences.

The problem of Grounds

The real issue is not whether the Christian defense to the former churchgoing atheists experience is an example of the no true Scotsman fallacy, the real problem is that neither the atheist nor the Christian has any grounds to weigh the others experiences. An atheist might well argue he had a religious experience but this does not mean all religious experiences are the same. The internal elements of our souls are not quantifiable, and they resist descriptions in human language. Since there is no evidence of telepathy, direct mental communication will most likely not allow someone to evaluate another person’s experience either.

What this means, in practice, is that an atheist who formerly attended church may have had a religious experience, but he has no grounds to compare the inward elements of those experiences to that of the believer. He may very well believe the two experiences are the same, but it is merely a bald assertion dressed up as an argument.

The experiential argument

The argument from experience makes an excellent shield, but a lousy spear.

Since one cannot communicate adequately the experiences of Christianity, it has little ability to persuade others that Christianity is true. Augustine was convinced Christianity is true in part by a voice he heard telling him to come and read, but likely an atheist will not be convinced because Augustine heard a voice (and might not be convinced if he himself heard one, Luke 16:29-31). At the same time, a Christian is well within his rights to argue that his faith is rational on the grounds of his experience – one might well tell Augustine the voice he heard was a hallucination, but I doubt Augustine would have accepted this to be the case.

Your experience will likely not convince others, but it should prevent you from being so shaken.

I therefore suggest that noting your experience as a Christian is perfectly valid when someone asks why an intelligent person in the 20th century would choose to be a Christian (of all things). If, and when the atheist accuses you of the no true Scotsman fallacy, my suggestion, ask him to prove his experience and yours are the same. As he is making the assertion, the burden of proof in this case is ultimately his.