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Morals not grounded in something transcendent do not last very long.

Shocking

November 16, 2013

“We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” – CS Lewis 

The Burden of Proof

October 1, 2013

“It’s a projection I tell you! Look it is green and everything else is black and white.”

When Christians and atheists argue, where does the burden of proof lay? Could it not be said that logically and rationally speaking, the default position is always a negative ? Should not any claim to the affirmative be supported by evidence? Is it not true that a claim without evidence can be dismissed without evidence? 

This is the case frequently argued by atheists. 

But the answer is that this is simply wrong. It is not always the case that the affirmative needs to be proven. For example, if you and I are sitting in a room and I point out the window at a tree and tell you it is real, I would have the default position. If you seriously doubted the existence of the tree (say you suspected it was a projection from a nearby building) the onus would be on you to prove that the tree was not there.

Many other things fall in that category. For example, the rationality of our brain is assumed. Those who doubt it need to prove why they doubt. The testimony of most scientific work is taken as basic also. When you read a scientific periodical, even the peer reviewed ones, the scientific experiment itself is not repeated (but simply the method and process verified) – we take their testimony as true and then if someone doubts it, they need to repeat the experiment to show it was poorly done (or fabricated or whatever).

If you think that a soccer game is not honestly being refereed (the negative), no one would say that the league needed to prove it was. Instead they would turn to you and say, “what evidence you have that it is not being done honestly?”

And this is especially true in cases of personal testimony (which is really at the core of much of the argument for God). If I tell you I saw a friend today and you doubt it, few people would be on your side in the issue. They would ask “why do you question him? What evidence do you have that he did not see his friend? What evidence do you have that he is a liar?”

The argument could be made that the existence of God is one of those basic things that the skeptic must prove why he doubts. After all, most people have experienced God in some way. Most people know he is there. There are countless testimony and claimed witnesses. So why is that knowledge and those experiences and those witnesses all supposed to be on the defensive for the skeptic? Shouldn’t the skeptic be in the position of the man who doubts the tree’s existence or the soccer game’s honesty?

February 14, 2013

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say that the bible is a tool of oppressors and tyranny. But this is the opposite of the truth. To the contrary, the bible is written for and by oppressed people.

Here are some examples of the bible standing up for the weakest members of society (pretty unique stuff in ancient literature). Notice the theme that goes throughout the Old Testament (notice that it is not just in one book but the whole OT) regarding caring for the three groups of people who suffered the greatest in ancient societies – the widow, the orphans and the strangers (those of other nationalities and races within the midst of Israel).

Exodus 22:22-23 22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 17 Do not deprive the stranger or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. 19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

Deuteronomy 26:12 12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
Deuteronomy 27:19 19 “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the stranger, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Psalm 146:9 9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Isaiah 1:17 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Jeremiah 7:5-7 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 22:3 3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Zechariah 7:10 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

And in the New Testament, the theme gets even more pronounced with Jesus (God incarnate) personally helping widows (Luke 7), orphans (luke 18) and strangers (Mark 7).

The Apostle James sums up the whole Christian religion this way:

James 1:27 – 2:1 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
So. When you trash the Bible keep in mind that your attacks are lies (YES I used the word lie because I really believe it). The bible is not a friend of the slave owner or the oppressor. It is a friend of the slave and the oppressed.

The Christian Century

July 29, 2012

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink.” – John Lennon

It seems to be common knowledge that Christianity is in decline. Once upon a time everyone was Christian but no more. Now the church is in free fall. Many are using this as a call to radical change. For example, Rachel Held Evans says that evangelicals are losing young people because we are focused on the culture war instead of being grace filled Christians. Others think we need to reinvent church. 

I hate to break it to everyone. Christianity is not in trouble. It is not declining. It is not shrinking. It is certainly not in free fall. John Lennon said in 1965 that Christianity will vanish from the earth. He could not have been more wrong. In fact, Lennon was in the middle of a century of amazing world wide growth of the church. There was so much global growth that sociologist Phillip Jenkins has started referring to it as the Christian century. 

Pew forum recently published an overview of global adherence to Christianity over the past 100 years. As a percentage of the world, the number remains almost unchanged (dropping slightly from 35% to 32%) and in Europe the drop in adherence was significant (from 95% down to 76%). And even in America where people still go to church and evangelicalism still has political clout the numbers dropped (from 96% down to 86%). 

When people see these statistics they are often surprised that the numbers are not worse but they generally feel that they affirm the “common knowledge” that the church is in decline. 

But if you stop there, you miss something major. You miss seeing the Christian century that we have just lived through. 

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions. If Christianity is a largely Western Religion (“Christendom” referred to Europe and the USA in centuries past) and Christianity saw 20% declines in Europe and 10% declines in the USA, how did the religion manage to only lose 3% of the whole? And now consider this. Not only were there percentage declines as a whole of Europe and the USA but both Europe and the USA declined as a percentage of world population. The center of gravity for world population shifted south (into historically unchristian territories) over the past 100 years.

In 1910, the global north made up 33% of the world’s population. In 2010, it only made up 19%. So even if Christianity had not lost a single percentage point in Europe of the USA, it should have dropped significantly as a percentage of world population. In 1910, Christianity was adhered to by 87% of the Global North’s population and 9.2% of the Global South’s population. If you held those percentages the same in 2010, Christianity would drop from 35% to 23%! A 12% drop without losing any percentages in Europe or the USA. 

So, in spite of the population shift (putting us 12% behind the 1910 percentage) and in spite of losing a significant percentage of Europe and the USA (an effective 3% of the world’s population) Christian adherence is not down 15% as would be expected. It is only down 3%. What accounts for this 12% difference from expectations?

Massive growth in the global south. Southeast Asia and Africa became Christian in many parts. SubSaharan Africa went from being 9% Christian to 63%. China, Korea, Malaysia, and many other parts of southeast Asia saw major gains in Christian adherents. Some estimates say that there are over 100 million Christians in China making it one of the most Christian nations in the world. The growth on almost every continent is stunning. Christianity went from being a regional religion to being the global religion in about 100 years. 

Christianity is not in decline. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the 21st century will be more remarkable. If you look at where Christianity grew in the 20th century, that is where the population is supposed to grow most in the 21st century. SubSaharan Africa, now a majority Christian, has the highest birth rates in the world. 

Christianity is not fading away. 

Source: Pew Forum 

Mother of Cities

March 23, 2012

“The Christian church is far more than mother of the faithful. She is called to be mother of cities. And where shall the root of these new cities be planted? Where the Word and sacrament are. If God grants a genuine reformation, it will be one like that which was granted in the sixteenth century, and the most obvious common feature it will share with that earlier reformation will be that it challenges the rulers of this age. No greater indictment of the contemporary church than this can be found: the secular state is operating on all cylinders, and yet for the most part, the Christian pulpit remains a safe place to be” – Douglas Wilson