April 29, 2005

Faith Under Fire

Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason will be debating Deepak Chopra (New Age guru) on this week's Faith Under Fire TV show on the PAX network. As I understand it, the topic covered will be religious pluralism. Greg is a Christian apologist who has much expertise in this area, so this should prove to be an interesting show.

Things I expect to see in the course of the dialog:

  • Deepak being vague and mystical in outlining his beliefs
  • Deepak maneuvering to the position of grace and tolerance and painting Greg as narrow-minded and judgmental
  • Deepak using stories and metaphors in place of actual arguments, rather than as illustrations of points for which he has argued
  • Deepak unconsciously making judgments and exclusive truth claims as well as excluding Greg's beliefs from his inclusivistic world
  • Greg pointing out contradictions and calling Deepak to task on some of his claims
  • Deepak failing to directly address Greg's points and making ad hominem attacks against him or Christians in general
  • Deepak eschewing, either openly or implicitly, principles of logic and rational discourse
  • Greg making important points that unfortunately fly over Deepak's head, and the heads of many of the viewers

I encourage you to tune in this Saturday evening. Might even be worth recording to share with friends (believers or otherwise). (And if I forget about this come Saturday night I'll be begging someone for a copy.)

April 25, 2005

Bumper Stickers I'd Like to See

Honk if you exist

Determinism means never having to say you're sorry

You can't legislate individuality

I brake because of moral absolutes!

Don't look for higher truth. You haven't dealt with what you've gotten so far!

My God can beat up your god!

God's Word trumps your imagination

The trouble with karma is I don't remember why my life needs to suck

You can't "find yourself" if you're the one who's lost

You may think you're divine, but your spouse knows better

If you can find someone better than Jesus, follow him!

I used to be a hedonist, but that was more of a pain than a pleasure

Solipsism: there can be only one!

If you're a solipsist, what should I be?

If you're god, then we're all in trouble!

Just follow your heart (as long as you're infallible)

If Christianity's wrong, then so's religious pluralism

Postmodernism means never getting to say I'm wrong

"My truth" is that "your truth" is a fiction

If life's just an illusion, who's having this dream anyway?

I got my rights from God. Where'd you get yours?

If there's no such thing as evil, then why are you still whining!

If a river can't rise above its source, then how'd matter get self-awareness?

Boy, are you gonna get it when Jesus comes home!

Nesquik, arsenic: who are you to judge?

Don't like my politics? Maybe it's just your bad karma!

If all roads lead to Rome, then why aren't you Catholic?

If there's no truth, then keep your opinions to yourself!

If women are better, then there's at least one intrinsic difference between the sexes

If there's no hell, then what do we do with Hitler?

How'd animals get so many rights? They don't even vote!

I don't judge, man, I think all irrational beliefs are equally false

If God is dead, then somebody forgot to tell my conscience!

Don't pray for justice. You just might get it!

Evolution means never having to say "thank God"

Evolution: if you don't want God it's got to be true!

Evolution gives fat chance a full-time job

Materialism? Existentialism? Nihilism? It just doesn't matter!

I'm so tolerant, I'm even tolerant of intolerant people!

What's to "tolerate" if you agree with everyone?

I'm positive the sun is hot, the earth is round, and 1 + 1 = 2. Am I closed-minded?

I'm pro-choice too (as long as killing babies isn't one of the choices)

If the truth is within me, then why should I care what you think?

If All is God, then god just godded right on the god

If "good" people go to heaven, whose checklist do we use?

You can't pass the test. Jesus blew the curve!

I know I'm a sinner in need of God's mercy. What's your excuse?

If God's just "love," then who's covering "justice"?

If science defines truth, then who defines science?

If Jesus was just a good teacher, then the apostles were remedial!

Don't call my faith "blind" if yours requires something to come from nothing!

Big bang, anthropic principle, abiogenesis, Cambrian explosion, DNA: I smell a pattern!

My horoscope says I should avoid superstitious practices, so I'm ignoring it

If there can be a gay gene, then why not a homophobe gene too?

"Open minded" is just another name for "undecided"

No one gets out of here alive, and all baggage will be checked at the gate

I'd give you a hand, man, but I don't want to screw with your karma

I tried to find my destiny, but fate had other plans for me

If we've learned anything it's that the management of this planet should be outsourced

Be a nonconformist! Get your regulation piercings, tattoos, and grunge pants today!

My other car has pithier bumper stickers

April 17, 2005

Is Homosexuality Compatible With Christianity?

Here is a new article that came about as a result of two queries that hit me at the same time: one from my daughter and the other submitted through our apologetics site. The content is presented in the form of answers to the following sequential questions.
  • "Is my loved one going to hell because they are homosexual?"
  • "If we all have sin then why pick on homosexuality?"
  • "Is homosexuality really a sin?"
  • "Is it possible for someone to be mistaken in this one area and still be saved?"
  • "So, is the final answer that there are no homosexual Christians?"

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April 06, 2005

Why did God make weeds?

(or, The Problem of Weedvil)

My 8-year-old son asked me an interesting question the other day. After reading a bit in a gardening book his grandmother gave him, he asked, "Dad, why did God make weeds?" Now, maybe I read too much into things, but I take this to be his first foray into the area that Christian philosophers refer to as "the problem of evil."

He and I talk quite a bit about nature, biology, and astronomy (he's a bit precocious in the area of science), and I am always keen to point out the wonder and beauty and intricate design that can be found across the entire creation. He knows that God has superintended all these things and that nothing that exists is merely a product of "chance."

By the way, have you ever noticed how much the concept of evolution comes up in average TV programming? Even if you shepherd a child's viewing toward things like Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and cartoons, you still have your hands full dealing with the fall-out. Of all the cultural battles I imagine needing to be waged, philosophically deconstructing a Pokemon episode just seemed to have escaped my todo list. But back to my point.

Given that my son knows that God is responsible for all things that exist, it's only natural that he wonder about the purpose of some of these things. And since he knows that God is good, he would expect those purposes to be "good" as well. And if some of these things seem to be worthless, unattractive, or bothersome, then you can expect some confusion to result. If weeds are just useless, ugly, pesky intrusions into our otherwise well-kempt lawns and gardens, then God's either gone asleep at the switch or He's playing games with us.

The tie-in to the problem of evil comes in thinking that if God is good and he's in control, then life should be a field of dreams. Any sickness, bad fortune, or natural disaster we encounter is like a weed in our Garden of Eden. This is often taken by non-believers to be a knock-down argument against the existence of God – well, the Christian God anyway – and a nasty run-in with some kudzu or poison ivy has left many a would-be Christian with hard feelings toward this "good" God.

So, how did I answer him? Well, I didn't give (or at least start with) the knee-jerk Christian response that "it's a fallen world and we just have to suffer these inconveniences." My first observation was that many weeds are actually quite beneficial. For example, dandelions and clover may be a nuisance for you, but for bees and horses they are far more interesting than your lawn. And many weeds are edible for humans as well; we just generally prefer other plants. In fact, I'd personally classify lima beans and Brussels sprouts as "weeds," but my wife is not impressed by my reasoning. The hardiness of weeds also makes them good at soil conservation on hostile terrain. And there are even known (and certainly undiscovered) medicinal properties in some of these plants.

The other observation was that what we call a "weed" is basically just a plant that is growing where you don't want it to grow. If daffodils or basil sprouted in the middle of my yard I'd be compelled to mow them down, and when grass intrudes into my garden I "weed" that out along with the rest of the invaders.

It strikes me that evil is analogous to weeds in roughly these same two ways.

In some sense evil can be seen as misplaced good. That is, good that has been exercised at the wrong time or in the wrong way. For example, being romantic with my wife is good, but being romantic with my neighbor's wife is not good. Or spending quality time with my son is good, but flying kites during school hours is not good. So in this way, evil is like the otherwise good plants that grow outside of their proscribed domain.

Not that God has made evil things to be of intrinsic worth, but evil can serve a "good" purpose in the grand scheme of things. It occurs to me that evil bears fruit in us and reveals a side of God that we might otherwise fail to discover. For example, how would we know anything of patience, mercy, longsuffering, and compassion if there were nothing to wait for, no one to forgive, nothing to suffer, and no one to be healed? Additionally, is it not true that one way to understand a thing is to identify everything that it is not? What better way to deter the will to rebel in eternity than to be exposed to the myriad failures of the best schemes of man and demons to make a kingdom apart from the reign of God? As Paul tells us, "all things work together for good to those who love God," and evil is certainly one of those things that is at work upon us.

God is the maker of good things, but the untamed will of the creation put these things into disarray. However, Scripture tells us that the garden will be weeded in the end. Even further, God will till and plant a new garden where all things will keep to their proper estate and have not the slightest appearance of weediness. The fearful thing is that it will only be sown with the seed of those who were planted by the Word and yielded a harvest. Here's praying that we are deeply rooted in the "good soil."

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Westminster Presbyterian Church Columbia, TN