Mothers with Empty Arms

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared ‘neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye

 And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

 Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn’t I a king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all.

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

Garth Brooks, The Dance

 

I’ve not written much on the problem of evil, it’s something I and my wife understand, our lives have been touched by pains, disappoints, loss, as have we all. The problem of course is I’m a student of the New Testament, a theologian, and a thinker, as an apologist writing about facts and presenting arguments is something I understand, but explaining or addressing feelings, well the dozens of times I’ve tried to start an article, it never went well.

October is infant and pregnancy loss awareness month (as apparently is April), and I’m a husband of a wife who has suffered from at least two lost pregnancies, and the father of at least two children that did not arrive into this world. We experienced the joy of expectation and found those hopes dashed as the ultrasounds took place. There are a number of women suffering from infertility, sometimes suffering without speaking, sometimes, like my wife, not wanting to speak, those empty arms being a bitter pill and sometimes very little is needed to remind someone of that aching heart. The hardest thing my wife has ever endured was losing her babies, the hardest thing I have ever endured was crying with her, holding her while methotrexate was used to save her life because of an ectopic pregnancy and trying to take care of her while I too mourned my lost little ones. This was after a pastorate had turned dreams to dust, and I cried out that naracisstic prayer we all pray, “why me, Lord,” or worse, in the recesses of my mind to cry out “it’s not fair.”

The theological answer is clear, of course, which is why the problem of evil is such a modern phenomenon developed in a culture that was nominally Christian enough that they had an expectation of God, but no actual understanding of God’s justice. Modern’s reject God because they believe He must be some cosmic Santa Claus, failing to realize that He is a just judge. The Christian answer is ultimately one of justice and freewill, far from the millennials starry-eyed belief that justice is an attempt to build Utopia, a Christian view of justice must always reconcile with the fact that we are a fallen race who no longer deserves the beauties of this world. Nor can we object to God’s allowing the fall because we ourselves have joined into sin willingly, it is no good to just blame Adam when our depraved wills have chosen to follow in his footsteps. Whatever else we might say of the problem of evil, we must begin from the standpoint that the atheist cannot make his case until he can prove man deserves better; I personally think this case cannot be made unless we choose to be ignorant of human history.

Of course, for the woman who has lost a child, or is struggling with infertility, this is a cold comfort, there is really a distinction between the problem of evil and the problem of suffering, the one asking why bad things happen, the latter asking why bad things happen to me. But then again, perhaps they are not so separate after all; we perceive them to be different because of the heaviness of our tears. To understand suffering, we ultimately need to understand that God is both just and loving, and if we are redeemed there is an “already-not yet” dynamic to our lives under the sun. We are already heirs of God, but we have not yet come into the fullness of our inheritance. We are already redeemed from sin, and yet the old man of sin still lives within us. We are positionally righteous before God through Christ’s sacrifice of His own body; Jesus being the Sacrifice for sin and the Priest offering that Sacrifice, but my life is still imperfect in it’s obedience to Him. We are freed from the cares of this life for the next, and yet we still suffer greatly. We are never promised that suffering will end in this life.

The key to our suffering, however, is that, as believers, the meaning of suffering changes, it is neither pointless nor eternal (no matter how it feels). For the lost, the suffering is a warning of what will come if they continue down a path that rejects the God who made them, but for the believer, it’s different. Our suffering, even in loss has a purpose. I can find solace, for example, in the fact that I believe my children have been spared all the pains of this life—and I am persuaded the pains of this life far outweigh the pleasures, the pleasures being reminders of lost Eden.  But I also have found that He which has begun a good work in me is completing that work. My wife and I are closer through our trials than we would have been without them. I have been forced to depend on Him in ways I never could have imagined; at times, just to get through the day. In college, I tried to be Spock, though I was passionate about the faith, I could only experience many parts of the Bible from the analytical processes of my mind, that now seems both foreign, vain and quite frankly misses much of the point. The saccharine substitutes so freely used by our society are shown to be a pale imitation of the joys in Him; we can no longer be satisfied with distractions and diversions. If the suffering brings us down, it also lifts us up, it reminds us that this life is temporary, but that there is something eternal, and life is more than the accumulation of things and accolades. It sharpens my desire to write and present an offering to Him. In short, if the suffering of the lost is hopeless, the suffering of the believer produces fruit, and we have the hope of looking to a day when that suffering will end. Garth Brooks is wrong, our lives are never left to chance, for the believer, God will always take our straw, and make it into something of value, if we will trust Him.

I know this isn’t the help many want, I understand the desire to scream out about the unfairness of it all. I’ve been there. But I also have learned that screaming at God for causing our pain is to miss the very same God who is the only one that can bring meaning to our pain. To forget Him in trials is to give up the strength that brings us through that suffering. If we are stuck for the moment in the fallen world, with its reminders of our lost innocence, we know also that He is suffering with us, and has already suffered for us. Joy will come, or at least peace, for me it was from a song by the Greenes.

You aren’t alone, we are in it with you, And if it is hope, never give up on our God, Mandy’s last pregnancy happened after she gave up, and her arms are no longer empty, and my heart is now full, though I often ask God to make sure my babies with Him are getting hugs. Joy can come in the morning.

 

 

And the Harvey Goes to . . .

So unless you have been away from civilization, the internet, the news, the radio and the watercooler, you probably have heard about Harvey Weinstein. Now I’m usually pretty careful about forming opinions in the first month for reason’s I’ve noted in the past, but the number of accusations (now over forty) of sexual harassment and even a few about sexual assaults (along with an audiotape by the NYPD) makes it hard to believe he is not guilty of serious indiscretions, even if some of the specific accusations may be false. It seems to me, though, this shows something about where we are as a society, or rather, the hypocrisy of the spectacle. This isn’t exactly new; rumors of the casting couch and sexual misdeeds and assaults are very old in the industry, going back to Louis B Mayer, Harry Cohn, Darryl Zanuck, and Howard Hughes, all major studio heads during Hollywood’s golden age.

What is new is the outcry and the response from within the industry; Barbara Walters blew off the accusations of Corey Feldman about Hollywood being full of sexual predators who preyed on child actors,[1] and his friend Corey downward spiral started with sexual abuse as minors. But there are convictions that would seem to corroborated that this is a problem in Hollywood, and that Walters was wrong not to suggest further investigation. Jason James Murphy, a Hollywood casting director, cast children in School of Rock and Super 8, before it was realized that he had previously been convicted of kidnapping and molesting an eight year old boy.[2] Worse, Victor Salva, director of Disney’s Powder and the Jeepers, Creepers line of films has worked with teens despite a conviction for sexual acts on a 12-year old during the filming of Clownhouse.[3] Leonardo DiCaprio’s former manager, Bob Villard, was convicted of child pornography, and the sexual assault of a 13 year old boy.[4]  Brian Peck, a convicted pedophile, who has worked as a vocal coach with children for both Disney and Nickelodeon,[5] but his conviction did not prevent him from working with his friend, Bryan Singer on X-Men 2.[6] Talent scout Martin Weiss,[7] and Nickelodeon production assistant Michael Handy,[8] used roles within the industry to molest children. Yet, when a documentary on childhood sexual abuse in Hollywood, An Open Secret was given limited release, and was opposed by a major Hollywood union, [9] apparently Barbara Walters was not the only person who thought investigating the problems of Hollywood was unimportant.

There are also charges leveled against Bill Cosby, also a case where many women over the years have made the same basic accusation; yet industry outrage is a recent phenomenon. The industry has continued to support Roman Polanski who has been accused of rape by four separate women.[10] He plea bargained a case in Hollywood of having sex with a minor – a 13 year old girl, who he plied with champagne containing quaaludes[11] – but when he found out that he might actually have to serve time in a prison, he fled to France before sentencing. In 2009, when the Switzerland considered extradition to the United States, more than a hundred Hollywood celebrities signed a petition (circulated by Harvey Weinstein) to have him released,[12] and Whoopi Goldberg stated on the view, “it wasn’t rape-rape,” and continued to defend this point, even after it was pointed out that Polanski had used drugs on his victim.[13] Interestingly enough, Whoopi’s defense of Weinstein is very similar to Weinstein’s own discussion of his deeds.[14]

There is also a sense in which the ourtrage is limited to one’s own situation. Rose McGowan who worked with Victor Salva on Rosewood Lane. In an interview with the Advocate,[15] she made the statement she knew nothing about his conviction and it was none of her business, but this is not the attitude she expected from Jeff Bezos on Weinstein working on an Amazon production. Apparently her allegations of rape should be taken more seriously than those of a twelve year old boy, or for that matter a court of law. Similarly, Asia Argentino signed the petition to free Polanski,[16] it seems in her estimation the assault on a thirteen year-old girl was less serious than an assault on herself. There is then, a sense of, “justice for me, but not for thee,” that occupies the discussion.

Allegations have been leveled against Woody Allen, Ben Affleck, Bryan Singer, and Oliver Stone, but I have tried to avoid rumors, (as the Old Testament stated no one was to be punished on the word of one witness alone), and stick with points were people have been convicted. Harvey Weinstein in 2009 stated in an interview with the L A Times, concerning the petition for Roman Polanski that “Hollywood has the best moral compass. . . “[17] Interestingly enough, his own letter on the subject presents himself as a man of his times.[18] I say this is interesting because the modern popular ethic moves not from the Bible or some other standard, on an assumption that there are no moral absolutes, only community standards. Weinstein is treated as if an absolute, and not merely a community opinion has been violated. In short, his argument that he is simply living out the culture of his own youth is completely consistent with the ethos of the modern American left, but the leftists decrying him are inconsistent with it. That is, they argue that sexual harassment is absolutely wrong, but when confronted with their own sins, they immediately will cite that not everyone believes in moral absolutes.

Now it is true that there have been notable scandals in American Evangelical churches, but for the Evangelical the problem is when we fail to be consistent with our epistemic source for defining ethics, the Bible. For Weinstein, it is the opposite, he is in trouble precisely because he is living up to the Darwinist ethic that views all moralities as subjective along with Hollywood’s view of love as of spontaneity and emotions, of giving into desires, and that is precisely what Weinstein has done.

Political commentator Mark Levin has suggested renaming the Oscars the Harvey’s, and it makes sense, but the Harvey’s may serve a better use, noting when someone in Hollywood is living up to “Hollywood values.” This year, the Harvey should go to Harvey Weinstein.

 

[1] http://worldofwonder.net/fbf-barbara-walters-tells-corey-feldman-youre-damaging-entire-industry-warns-hollywood-pedophila last accessed October 15, 2017.

 

[2]http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/17/business/la-fi-ct-casting-director-20111118 last accessed October 15, 2017.

 

[3] https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-pedophile-director-embraced-by-hollywood Last accessed October 15, 2017.

[4] http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/08/business/la-fi-ct-hollywood-molesters-20120109/2 last accessed October 15, 2017.

 

[5] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3115792/Pedophile-X-Men-actor-convicted-sexually-abusing-Nickelodeon-child-star-working-underage-kids.html last accessed October 15, 2017

[6] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3115792/Pedophile-X-Men-actor-convicted-sexually-abusing-Nickelodeon-child-star-working-underage-kids.html  Last accessed October 15, 2017

[7] http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/02/local/la-fi-me-molester-pleads-20120602  last accessed October 15, 2017

 

[8] http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/08/business/la-fi-ct-hollywood-molesters-20120109  Last accessed October 15, 2017

[9] http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/open-secret-aims-expose-child-predators-hollywood-article-1.2249251  Last Accessed on October 15, 2017

[10] http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-entertainment-news-updates-roman-polanski-accused-of-raping-german-1507133265-htmlstory.html  Last accessed on October 15, 2017

 

[11]http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/roman-polanski/story?id=8705958 Last accessed on October 15, 2017

[12] http://www.indiewire.com/2009/09/over-100-in-film-community-sign-polanski-petition-55821/  Last accessed on October 15, 2017, the petition itself has been taken down.

[13]https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=whoopi+goldberg+it+wasn%27t+rap-rape&&view=detail&mid=1DA0F795D27E0C65B20F1DA0F795D27E0C65B20F&FORM=VRDGAR  Last accessed on October 15, 2017

[14]Ibid.

[15]https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/features/2011/08/11/rose-mcgowan-my-life-l-word  Last accessed on October 15, 2017

[16] http://www.indiewire.com/2009/09/over-100-in-film-community-sign-polanski-petition-55821/  Last accessed on October 15, 2017, the petition itself has been taken down.

 

[17]http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/01/entertainment/et-polanski1/2  Last accessed October 15, 2017

[18]https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2017/10/05/harvey-weinstein-scandal-read-his-full-apology/738093001/  Last accessed October 15, 2017

The Tragedy of Hugh Hefner’s Life

Hugh Hefner is dead, and the internet and press are full of those lauding him on the one hand, and of Christians and feminists speaking of the damage he has done in society, on the other. But there is a third story I have not seen, which is the tragedy of a soul who choose straw instead of gold, and who has gone on to meet his Maker unprepared.               Those who laud Hefner will talk of how he has rescued society from narrow-minded religious puritans (nevermind that the puritans often did not live up to their stereotype), but then, this itself misunderstands completely a Christian view of sex. It is, of course rather ironic that anyone makes a case that a group with a higher birthrate than the rest of the population is somehow against sex. There is no question that Christians both engage in sexual intercourse and it is rather difficult to assume they do not enjoy it. The problem is that the world has the entire question of sex backwards, that is, they think that because Christians believe sex should remain within the boundaries of heterosexual marriage that we believe sex is evil. Instead, we believe sex is precious, and that promiscuity demeans it. Make no mistake, sex is precious and beautiful because it was made by the God who declared His creation, including the creation of man and woman who had sexual organs designed to please one another, to be good. For a Christian, declaring sex to be good is to recognize it to be a gift from God. The “misogynist” Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 makes a statement that, to the first century Greek world was an extraordinary claim: he argued that women as well as men had the right to sexual pleasure from their marriage; this passage has inspired a number of practical manuals on sexual intercourse, such as Ed Wheat’s Intended For Pleasure, and Tim LeHay’s The Act of Marriage.

No, the sexual revolution and the changing sexual mores that Hefner bequeathed have not left the world a better place. His legacy is one of broken homes, addiction, sexual jealousies and a loss of intimacy in our sexual relationships. Hefner’s comments about his first wife show a man who was shattered by an affair. “I had literally saved myself for my wife, but after we had sex she told me that she’d had an affair. That was the most devastating moment in my life. My wife was more sexually experienced than I was. After that, I always felt in a sense that the other guy was in bed with us, too.”[1] Thus, Hefner’s own life was touched by the inadequacies that he has bequeathed to many women comparing themselves to his models. Rather than working through his pain, he turned to addiction instead, seeking to make sexual conquests into substitutes for sexual intimacy. In his old age, there is no companion who he has truly shared a life with, no one who has helped him bear the existential sorrows of life, no one who has shared the joys of life. His children did not grow up in his home, and subsequently he had to compete for their affections with his former spouses rather than sharing those affections with them. Often he lived with girlfriends whose affections for him were based solely on the lifestyle the playboy fortune bought for them, rather than a soulmate who loved him no matter what. Whatever else be said, Hugh Hefner had a large bank account, but an impoverished life.
[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-442600/Playboy-boss-Hugh-Hefner-finds-soulmate.html#ixzz4uYKQydZn  Accessed 10-4-2017

Dreamers and Social Justice

 

 Today the question of Dreamers is on everyone’s minds, after Donald Trump canceled an executive order of the previous administration.  I think this illustrates one of the major problems in our nations ongoing discussion of social justice, which is a misunderstanding of justice, itself. As I have noted in the past, the question of social justice isn’t whether we are for or against it, nearly everyone ultimately is in favor of social justice, however, there are vastly different views and ways to define it. Because this is such a hot potato politically I ask that all quotations of this article be verbatim, with the entire article in copy; I also would suggest if you do not read this argument to the end, you will not understand the point I am making, and will therefore misunderstand the point I am making. I consider both the Democratic and the Republican takes on this issue to be exercises in extremism and I don’t want to be quoted as wholly favoring either a blanket amnesty nor articulating a position that goes wholly in the other direction, and while I will note a few generalities, I am not making an argument for a complete answer to the question of those who are in the United States Illegally.

 

Justice

 Now of course, many will immediately object to discussing this in terms of illegal immigration or illegal immigrants, they will tell me I should use the word “undocumented,” but if we are discussing justice, we must begin by dispensing with politically inspired euphemisms. If someone is present in this country and they either do not have a visa, or have overstayed a visa, then their presence in this country constitutes an ongoing criminal action. This means, whatever else we might say, dreamers and others cannot claim they have a civil right to remain in the United States. This is true by definition, a civil right is a right granted by government, such as, for example, the right to vote. The very fact that someone does not have a valid visa means they do not have a civil right to live, work or study within the borders of the United States, since the country has not granted them that right; they are at heart trespassers. One might, depending on their predilection note that there are civil rights, and then there are natural rights, and yet, I have not found a persuasive case that immigration can be treated as a natural right, since there seems to be a natural right to both self-defense and to the proceeds of one’s own labor, unfettered immigration would then be in fact to diminish the natural rights of American citizens and to behave unjustly. When it comes to dreamers many will claim this is harsh, but that is the entire point I am making. Justice is harsh to malefactors; after all, dreamers did not come to the US of their own accord, and yet, if they are over the age of majority, they have chosen to remain and are therefore, in terms of justice, culpable. Some will argue that they grew up in the American culture, and therefore it is too hard to return to the nation in which they were born, but the question isn’t whether we feel for their plight, at least if we are considering justice, the question is solely one of whether they have a right to be present in the United States. As to no fault in originally coming here, well, the pain and suffering they face is the fault of their parents, not the US government; crime often has innocent victims; this does not negate the rule of law.

 

Some will try to argue from a jaundiced view of history that the US in particular has no right to control it’s border, or must somehow allow excessive immigration in terms of reparations, but this is both questionable issues of fact (based largely on a cherry-picked version of history with a few very distorted facts; unfortunately, both sides of the political aisle regularly traffic in historical distortions), and quite frankly not germane. While the history of the Mexican War and the purchases of Southwestern land are complicated, they also don’t actually solve the issue. That is, whatever might be the case of the US possession of say, Arizona, the Mexican government stole the land previously from Spain, who stole it from certain native tribes, who stole it from other native tribes, who likely themselves obtained it by shedding blood. If we begin pushing for reparations, then the problem is every piece of property in the world has been taken from someone previously, whether legitimately or illegitimately, and we will never be able to untie the knot. In the United States, as is true in many countries, there is a greater fundamental problem, much of the American Indian population intermarried with the European population, and as a result, many of the so-called WASPs are actually the descendants of both oppressor and oppressed in earlier eras; similarly, those Mexican settlers in places such as New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and other places have long since assimilated and intermarried within the conquering population. Not only can we never untie the knot of stolen land, many persons that would be paying the costs of a conquest would justly be receiving an equal share of the reparations as those claiming to be victims, as well. More to the point, the question of justice and individuals is not built on the past, but on their own conduct. Whatever happened one hundred and fifty years ago, illegally entering another country is still a crime, and therefore the individual is culpable from the standpoint of justice.

 

A few will appeal to Christians on the basis of Old Testament passages appealing to the way we treat the stranger and alien, but it is no good in a question of justice, since the assumption seems to be that these persons were in the land with the legal permission of the nation. The ancient world had immigration laws as well, and in fact, deportation of the modern American state is kind in comparison.

 

The nature of justice

Justice, in short demands deportation, and yet the above is not necessarily the end of the story, but before moving on, the central issue is how do we define justice. The above illustrates the problem of the modern understanding of justice, because justice is, before all else, the punisher of the malefactor and the criminal, even if those crimes are those that our humanity shrinks from punishing. As the Old Testament reminds us, no one hates the thief that steals his daily bread, but he will still repay four-fold (the penalty for theft under the Old Testament law). Justice cannot be partial to the circumstances of the parties involved, doing so is fundamentally unjust. Therefore, one cannot use justice as a means to absolve criminals of guilt. We cannot take in discussions of justice someone’s circumstances into account, it is the individuals actions and their culpability that is the fundamental issue. Moderns are so eager to speak of their rights, they try to use justice to eliminate their own guilt. And yet, just because a police officer might have bigger crimes to deal with than writing a speeing ticket to me, it does not follow that I can claim the ticket is an injustice.

 

The Desire for Mercy

And yet, if the above seems harsh, it is not the final answer, unless our appeal is to justice and social justice alone; it should not be. Social justice demands deportation; but the law, of course, allows for unjust outcomes. For example, the president is given, in the Constitution, the authority to pardon or commute the sentences of criminals, to show mercy ather than justice. Immigration is a big issue, and another blanket amnesty seems unwise. And yet, we live in a country that has refused for decades to enforce its immigration rules. One might suggest, then, if we have ignored the justice of law, and let people settle into lives for decades, mercy should be substituted for justice, at least in some cases and to some degree. I am not in a position to discuss a fully developed immigration policy, but for dreamers who have assimilated to American society, learned English, are employed and not living off of the American social safety net, it is reasonable (and I believe Christian) to consider issuing visas and allowing them to pursue American citizenship; at least for those asking for mercy rather than making arrogant demands (since mercy is often predicated on confession and repentance). Further discussion of course is needed (for example recompense for using a stolen social security number, whether there are necessary “works meet for repentance,” or fines required), but these are questions that frankly should be taken up by congress, not an apologist or theologian. Yet, in a nutshell this makes my point, sometimes it’s not justice we want, but mercy and forgiveness for crimes committed in the past. 

 

After all, as a Christian, I myself acknowledge that I am a fugitive from justice, the righteous justice of God, in fact, demands my punishment. I cannot use my circumstances to justify myself, I have still engaged in the violation of God’s law. I should be less concerned about the sins of others not because they are not heinous, but because if God is just, I will answer for my sins, and not theirs. Nor can I proclaim innocence, no him an who has any introspective sense of himself or herself can do so. And yet, I turned to Christ, because He offers me mercy, instead. This in fact is the very essence of the faith, God provided Himself a sacrifice to give mercy to the unjust.

 

Origin Confusions part 3: Limitations and Heresies

 

The last two articles have been steps in developing an article I wrote called Mea Culpa some time ago. I raised a digression, a discussion of the difference between the way an apologist or a theologian approaches this issue, and the need to try to keep from bringing every element of the discussion into our evangelism and our apologetics. Soulwinner’s leave gospel tracts with those they seek to win, they do not leave an entire apologetics library. In short, the apologist is a part of the church’s spiritual munitions industry, the theologian is a part of her domestic industries. Discussing the differences between interpretations of Genesis with an unbeliever is like the digression the woman at the well wanted to make in her discussion with the Lord about where worship should happen. A discussion of origins is well and good with the theologians in the church, but with unbelievers, this is something like explaining the sine, cosine and tangent to those who have not even mastered addition. In these contacts, keep it as simple as possible; answer objections where needed and press the point that all we see cannot come about without a creator.  The first piece, two weeks ago expanded the basic main point of mea culpa, which is the need to exercise charity in the way we discuss issues where Christian brothers disagree on doctrinal issues.

But there is a limit to evangelical charity in these discussions, there are doctrinal commitments that are necessary for one to claim to be an Evangelical, one of which is the infallibility of the Scriptures, and there are some who are crossing that line in this particular issue, particularly writers such as Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns, who are arguing that the Old Testament is a myth. Let me explain the difference for a moment. A proponent of the day age theory of the earth, or a proponent of the gap theory is not arguing that Scripture is wrong about the origin of the earth and universe, they are arguing that a young earther like myself has misunderstood what Genesis means. Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns instead argue that the Bible is simply wrong about science and history, and yet still claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they merely argue this term needs to be redefined. I am currently focusing on Lamoureux because I know his work better.

Of course, this is not in keeping with Evangelical teaching, but what these men are doing is trying to redefine the term “inerrancy.” There is a sense in which their use of this term is simple dishonesty, theologians in the twentieth century began to develop a theological vocabulary to allow for a discussion of bibliology that allowed for more nuance, thus inerrancy (Scripture contains no errors) was distinct from infallibility (Scripture contains no errors in doctrine). Of course, because many churches have inerrancy in their doctrinal standards, this becomes a problem for those who disbelieve that the Bible is inerrant. And there are historical reasons to be concerned about those arguing the Bible is infallible but not inerrant, after a while the claims that the Bible is infallible begin to be diluted when inerrancy is abandoned.[1] Yet, Lamoureux does not argue that Scripture is infallible but not inerrant (an honest way of describing his position); to do so would be to cut oneself off from churches and funding that require one to be an inerrantist.

One does not merely disregard an argument because it is inconvenient to the positions one has taken; Enns and Lamoureux have raised an argument that should be answered, and I have been working on these answers amidst other processes. Essentially, their argument is that the Bible reflect ancient science which has been disproven, and therefore we should simply ignore any attempt to apply the Bible to origins and treat the universe as essentially naturalistic with a few miracles allowed in the context of the Gospels (although Lamoureux claims Jesus makes scientific errors as well in discussing mustard seeds). For example, Lamoureux argues that the Old Testament presents the sky as existing of a solid dome, and since this is false, one cannot accept the Bible’s proscriptions about science and therefore we treat Genesis as a myth that contains valuable information. Yet, the problem with his approach is that this ultimately becomes a point where Christianity is falsified, because of the importance of the fall in discussions of Human death in the Pauline epistles and thus Scripture is not infallible either.  One must also wonder about Jesus’s treatment of the Torah as the works of Moses. Again, we cannot simply assert that, because the conclusions are distasteful that the argument is false, although we may argue a counter argument outweighs Lamoureux’s work. But, there are significant problems in the case Lamoureux has made. These include the following:

  1. Lamoureux treats language in the Bible as if it is being used as a scientific term, this is something I call semantic naivete, and I’ve had a piece published in a Answer’s research journal recently discussing this point.[2] My argument is that terms used in ancient science will have had an impact on the language being used to describe the world and metaphorical language overtime becomes a “literal” meaning of the term.
  2. Related to this, the terms used as semantic connections in this theory use secondary sources with the surety as if they were primary sources of information. Lamoureux uses the etymological history of a term as if it were a primary source for understanding it’s meaning, and at other times translations, comparisons to related languages, or translations (such as Lamoureux’s references to the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament) are used as sources to ground his argument. But these are sources of secondary value, and one must therefore modify the certainty of the argument they are raising from these sources.
  3. The approach they take is an old approach that underlies those arguing the gospels are myth. This approach was a common one in the gospels in the past in scholarship and today has some popular levels of support. This is sometimes referred to as an aspect of the religionesgeschitelich Schule or the history of religion approach. For example, Lamoureux argues that the narrative of Genesis one is taken from pagan myth, but has been denuded of references to pagan gods and monsters to make the rhetorical point that God is the originator of creation. The thing about this particular way of discussing the gospels is it misses what actually happened that led to this approach being largely dismissed from the gospels texts. Simple comparison can’t be based simply on age of a tradition, when we don’t have the sources for the Torah or the pagan versions in hand, otherwise we are begging the questions. Just as Lamoureux argues from comparisons to ancient myths, Young Earth Creationists often discuss the flood by comparing it to ancient myths, the only difference being those young earthers usually have a broader number of sources they are working from.[3] The differences in the analysis comes down to assumptions, one can make arguments about what is prior, but just as the Christian YMCA preceded the Hindu YMHA in india, it does not follow that a tradition with older extant material is necessarily prior.

 

Conclusion

I have argued that we ought to exercise charity in our discussions with other believers in issues of origins, and that we should be cautious not to make specific models central to our apologetics. Yet there is a limit to our graciousness, and those claiming the Bible itself contains errors should be treated as we might someone that denies the deity of Christ or the virgin birth. The arguments that these men are raising are themselves flawed, and therefore they do not demonstrate that the Bible is false.

[1] See Marston’s Reforming Fundamentalism. Marston is a historian of the Fundamentalism/Evangelical conflict although he is perhaps better in discussing Evangelicals than Fundamentalists, but it is clear that at Fuller, the faith was watered down and the doctrinal and ethical authority of the Bible were implicitly weakened.

[2] https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/phenomenological-language-and-semantic-na%C3%AFvet%C3%A9/ This journal is peer-reviewed.

 

[3] Lamoureux limits himself to Semitic sources, but there are flood narratives in other civilizations, although some borrowing cannot be discounted. There are some scholars who believe Hesiod’s Theogony (a poem discussing the origins of the Greek gods) has roots in Semitic writings.

 

Origin Challenges Pt 2: Theology and Apologetics

Before the hustle and Bustle of Charlottesville, and the answer provided to questions of the Alt-right and its relationship to Christianity, I had started a discussion on origins and Christianity and was taking it in two different directions. The first direction is towards my own growing thoughts on apologetics, something I will call Mere Evangelicalism to honor one of the influences that is leading me in this direction, C S Lewis. Like a lot of apologists, I started reading Lewis as a teller of tales about Narnia, but I have come to understand him as one of the masters of my art.

A Tale of Two Disciplines

When it comes to origins, the question falls into a lot of different disciplines. This includes, for the believer, questions of the exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2, and their impact on the Scriptures throughout the text following. There are also scientific questions, and with this questions of science, and these questions are often resting on unanswered (and perhaps even unasked questions) of philosophy of science. For example, in many cases, Christians are applying an approach to science that is not necessarily considered current, when Christians start discussing evolution they start applying falsification criteria, and seem far more reminiscent of the approach to philosophy of science appealed to by Karl Popper. These in turn point towards other issues, how do we deal with the questions of philosophy, theology, exegesis and science? The scientist, of course, sees his own field as the paramount source of data for a solution, but fails to note that there are no such thing as an unbiased observer and the process of interpreting science has a number of subjective aspects.

 

It seems to me, at least from within a Christian worldview, the questions of origins actually affect two disciplines, one is that of the systematic theologian, who draws from Biblical theology, historical theology, exegetical works, philosophy, etc., and puts forward a statement of how the world came to be and how it fits into God’s economy. Someone who is an Evangelical should at the least make sure this fits within the basic boundaries of orthodoxy, a good test of which are the five fundamentals of the faith. Thus, for example, the moment someone claims the Bible is not infallible, we no longer have a Christian theory to work from.  My argument last time, discussing not that we should weaken our position, but that we should be kinder and more careful about the rhetoric we use when we discuss the issue of origins is primarily based on the way we handle the systematic theological aspect.

A second issue, however, is that of apologetics. Apologetics is a very large field, and like Biblical studies, it requires a great deal of knowledge about a number of different fields, although many apologists, like Lewis have a specialty in some area. Apologists discuss origins from a different angle. A theologian is ultimately interested in the question of which sub-school is correct, an apologist is more interested in the atheist who argues God is unnecessary because of natural selection, and therefore does not exist. There is a danger here, just as theological liberalism developed from Friedrich Schleiermacher and others trying to synthesize Christianity with anti-supernaturalism, it is possible to move into areas that are compromise,[1] but it also means that the apologist must confront different issues from the systematic theologian.[2]   Therefore, I propose a different way of crossing the division to remove systematic theological concerns from apologetics, and apologetics from systematic theological concerns.

 

Mere Evangelicalism

Lewis, in his seminal work, Mere Christianity, which is one of the most influential works outside of the Bible on Christianity, suggested that his goal was not to argue for a specific branch of Christianity. Rather he argued his book was a like a hallway between rooms, and the various rooms were differing denominations and understanding of the faith. While I am unabashedly an Evangelical, I think this makes good sense. While we may, from time to time, defend the trinity with an unbeliever, we do not require someone to be able to write out a theological definition of the trinity before they come to Christ. Nor do we believe someone must understand someone must take a stand on Calvinism and Arminianism—at least not most of us, C H Spurgeon being an eminent exception. Similarly, the apologists concern is not that someone accepts a specific approach to the questions of Genesis, this is something where the complexities of the discussion can be absorbed, to the degree of their ability, as they grown in Him.

Secondarily, as I noted before, I don’t debate inerrancy with an unbeliever, it simply makes no sense. The belief that the Bible contains no errors in faith or no errors in any matter is an important point of Christian theology and frankly, a necessary point for a believer to cross. However, our view of the Bible in theology is itself a conclusion of our belief that the Christian religion is true, we do not believe the Christian religion is true because we believe in the infallibility of the Bible. Therefore, as I’ve noted for some time, I instead want to focus on the reliability of the Bible for apologetics not it’s epistemic and theological character. The latter is important in dealing with heretical forms of Christianity or for answering questions of life and godliness, but to the unbeliever it is as nonsensical as explaining green to someone that has never been able to see.

In apologetics, then, I prefer an intelligent design approach for apologetics rather than discussing a specific theory of origins. While we may need to deal with arguments against Genesis (and we should answer them forthrightly as they come up), the unbeliever will scoff at Genesis not because it is false, but because his understanding is limited to the naturalistic worldview. Jesus did not argue with the woman at the well about where they should worship, He instead shifted the discussion upwards, with unbelievers; the discussions of cosmic fine tuning, for example, are prior to any discussion of biological origins because the universal constants must be in a very narrow band for life to exist at all, micro-biologists such as Behe have noted structures that are not consistent with neo-darwinian evolution, and if evolution were true, it cannot provide an answer to the nature of man (since evolution cannot explain why we like art and literature, our ability to make reliable grounds-consequence statements of belief, nor our moral beliefs). In effect, the goal is to jump over the modern logjam to the questions they do not have an answer for.

[1] Before someone thinks I am going back on my statements in Mea Culpa let me phrase it this way, there is a difference between one who argues there is no error in Genesis, but we have misunderstood it because of errors in translations or because of some point of grammatical phenomenon (ie Genesis does not err, but our interpretation has), and someone who argues that there is a scientific or historical error in the text.

[2]It is true that a theologian may serve as an apologist, and an apologists may do theology, but of course, all this means is that there focus must shift

Vox Day: A Satanic Imitation of Christianity

I recently posted a statement as a Christian response to the Alt-Right in light of the recent domestic terrorist attack during a counter-demonstration against White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m a Christian apologist, not a politician, and this isn’t a political blog, but sometimes apologetics means more than answering an objection or raising an argument in favor of Christianity. Sometimes it means denouncing someone who is bringing the name of the Lord Jesus into disrepute. Therefore, I want to specifically call out Vox Day to repent of his actions, which are increasingly defaming the Lord’s name.

Vox Day is the nom de plume of Theodore Beale, a popular Alt-Right blogger and “thinker,” and  his blog, narcissistically named Vox Popoli appears to be a crossroads of that movement. Day obliquely promotes racism and claims to be a Christian, though he denies the omniscience of God and the Trinity.[1] He will distance himself from men like Richard Spencer (who coined the term alt-right) when it suits him, such as in response to the terrorist attack over the weekend[2] after a rally Day described as “peaceful,”[3] and he also uses claims to be an American Indian to deflect such charges, admitting this is because it is  rhetorically useful.[4]

Day himself has described the Alt-Right with a sixteen point manifesto,[5] included among these are the claims that the Alt-right values Christianity as one of three pillars of Western Civilization (Point 4) and then includes a variation on the “fourteen words” (point 14). For those who may be unaware the fourteen words,[6] originated with David Eden Lane, a Neo-Nazi and convicted domestic terrorist. The fourteen words are something like the verbal equivalent of a swastika, and Day went on to defend its use, without clarifying what the alleged danger is to western culture,[7] by appealing solely to denotation with little regard or attention to either it’s connotation or it’s usage.[8] As someone who claims National Socialism is a “semiotically useful form of German nationalism,”[9] he cannot claim ignorance of this point.  He has also made claims that intelligence may be understood in racial terms:

“It is absurd to imagine that there is absolutely no link between race and intelligence. DNA is already being used to predict race with a 99 percent level of accuracy by forensic crime labs, and there is not a single shred of evidence, empirical, historical, anecdotal or documentary, that suggests intelligence is the sole human attribute which is distributed equally throughout humanity. While the relationship between race and intelligence has not yet been fully understood, there is far more reliable evidence for the existence of such a relationship than there is for many widely-accepted scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, string theory, multiple universes and so forth.”[10]

Some in the alt-right also use a series of parentheses around Jewish names, usually this seems to indicate that Jewish surnames echo through history, which is more than a little reminiscent of conspiracy theorys about Talmudic Judiasm raised by Czars, Nazi’s and Islamo-fascist regimes.  Day engages in this activity, and has apparently had his Twitter account blocked for anti-Semitic behavior.[11]

As I noted last time, this is not in accord with Scripture. Paul’s epistles leave no room for racism, contra-Day,[12] Paul very clearly made it plain that Peter was in sin when he withdrew from fellowshipping with gentiles.[13] Paul also called into question the partisan spirit of the Corinthian church.[14] Throughout his epistles he calls people across different ethnic and class lines to a new life in the Kingdom of Christ.  Of course, Christians may very well take different positions on trade deals, immigration or US foreign policy, but not when taken on the grounds of ethnic segregation.[15] This is in fact contrary to the church, which is the result of the “breaking down of the wall of emnity” between Jews and Gentiles.[16] Even the passage most misquoted by segregationists is itself rooted in an affirmation that we are all one blood.[17] None of this is present in Day’s rhetoric or spirit.

Therefore, whatever else he may be, it is time to unequivocally state, Vox Day is no Christian, his claim should be refuted, and he should be treated as a heathen and a publican.

[1] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2012/03/false-doctrine-of-trinity.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[2]http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/08/stupidity-is-no-substitute-for-strategy.html last accessed 8-14-2017

[3]http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/08/riot-police-called-out-in.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[4] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/08/did-not-see-that-coming.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[5] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/what-alt-right-is.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[6] We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

 

[7]https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/in-defense-of-14-words.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[8]Of course the answer to Day’s dare is that he has not expressed what danger he seems to think threatens my existence or the existence of white children. There is no biological pathogen that I am aware of to target our DNA, no plot put forward for white genocide, and in fact few in America even among the Antifa movement would be willing to consider such an extreme. What is the point except provocation?

 

[9]https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/09/of-alt-west-and-alt-white.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[10]http://www.voxday.net/  last accessed 8-14-2017

[11] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/05/why-i-was-blocked-from-twitter.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[12] http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/06/life-in-post-white-not-america.html last accessed 8-14-2017

 

[13]Galatians 2:11-21

[14] First Corinthians particularly chapters 1-4.

 

[15]Nor are the fears of some cultural genocide rational, Rome was successful in part because it was profligate with it’s citizenship to colonies, and because it intentionally assimilated people and ideas from other cultures, particularly through auxiliary units serving in the legions. This would be an example of how the failure of civic nationalism is not the failure that Day claims, although one may very well question whether the modern American society is able to maintain this stance in a post-Christian age.

[16]Ephesians 2:14

[17]Acts 17:26