Archive for April, 2008

Evolution and Intelligent Design

April 28, 2008

   Having recently seen, “Expelled: Intelligence Not Allowed,” the movie, I thought I should comment on this issue of creation that has twisted so many of us in the U.S. into knots, both liberal and conservative, Christian and otherwise. 

   Let me first say the movie was first-rate. I have already read several scathing reviews of it, which says to me it’s hitting some nerves. So bring it on. I don’t think the point of the movie was that Intelligent Design is superior to Darwinian evolution, just that the debate should remain open and vigorous, which it obviously isn’t. Too many in the sciences and academia seem to think evolution is a “closed issue” and completely “proved.” The truth is they will not allow dissent about this from any quarter, even though solid scientists like Stephen Jay Gould, Francis Crick, and Francis Collins all saw/see flaws in basic evolutionary theory. And there are many others.  I really think it’s in the interest of America, humanity, understanding, and the sheer need to talk about something intelligent now and then, we should allow the debate not only to start, but to get going with a little American free-thinking, free-speaking, free-hurling-of-verbal-bombs enthusiasm. 

   Regardless, let me tell you a little about my own journey in this matter and perhaps offer some intelligent conclusions. 

   To open, I have been fascinated by the evolutionary debate from my high school and college days back in the 1960s and 70s. We dissected fetal pigs and live rats in those days and remember marveling that I could open up a white rat’s chest and see that tiny heart pounding away like the Little Engine That Could.  I don’t remember the bio prof saying much about evolution at the time; what I do remember is that he wore the same shirt every class for the whole semester. The one time I went up to ask him a question, I had to turn away and ask someone for smelling salts before I could voice it without retching. That did throw a little wrench into my respect for people of the scientific mind, and I thought I should recommend that all the chem., physics, and bio majors not only learn how to memorize scientific laws like “ontology recapitulates philology” but also some lessons in good grooming(“A little dab’ll do ya” – Albert Einstein’s Law on how he keeps that mane of his tamed). 

   It never seemed to me a closed issue as I often talked to friends about it in college in “bull sessions” and the opinions flew about like vampiric mosquitoes in search of human blood. I remember a friend in college who was a pre-med student and an ardent evolutionist. He claimed everything in life happened through chemical reactions in the brain. I asked him, “Well, Diz, how do you explain your love for your girlfriend of several years?”

   He could only laugh. “My chemical reactions respond to her with a chemical called love, and her chemical reactions respond to me, that’s all.”

   I responded, “Fine, but please don’t tell her that. You may get hit. Or dumped.” 

   He agreed and looked around, putting his finger to his lips.

   Over the years, I have read all kinds of books on the issue, studied the fossil record, considered various data on mutations, and everything else I could find. Since I’d become a Christian in my early twenties, I never really saw that evolution had much of an argument. The fossil record was full of giant gaps, which evolutionists seemed to make “leaps of faith” about the same way I leaped to God when I first learned about eternal life, love, forgiveness, and that I could actually learn “the truth” about everything from him personally.

   Meanwhile, just to be sure, I took long looks at the fruit flies bombarded with radiation, the Miller-Urey lightning-in-a-bottle experiment, and all of it from Australopithecus to Zebra stripes. I never saw a fruit fly that turned into a mockingbird, or vice-versa. I read the results of anthropologists all vigorously trying to find that “missing link” in various digs here and there, and it seemed every bone they turned up turned out to be an ancient pre-human lineage that unfortunately didn’t lead to us but to some offshoot that never survived. 

   Moreover, I kept asking myself, if there really is this descent from apes to humankind, why aren’t we finding fossils all over the place of everything from rhesus monkeys to Richard Dawkins? The evolutionists kept saying, “They didn’t fossilize.” I honestly think they should take another look at Dr. Dawkins, but anyway . . . if we’re talking millions of years here, why not? We have so many other fossils, why not human beings, who in earlier incarnations might actually have tried to preserve the pre-human remains in a cave, crypt, or the latest steel box from the Charles Darwin Funeral Home for People Who Went Ape(the PWWAs)? Also, why aren’t there missing link species all over the world today? Why is it that only actual human beings seem to have survived? We have pygmies, aborigines, blacks, whites, Asians, and so on. Why not Cro-Magnons, Lucys, and Neanderthals lurking here and there in a colony dedicated to the “Mastodon Dance” so they can bring home some fresh meat for dinner?

   I hit the second problem with a Christian friend who had been a pastor but had to retire because of a serious bicycle accident that incurred brain damage. I knew he believed in evolution, “theistic evolution” anyway, and I said to him, “Jim, I’ve really studied this. How can you believe it? I mean, look at the fossil record. It’s so full of holes, you couldn’t even make a hunk of Swiss Cheese worth eating from it.”

   Jim gave me some website addresses. “Look at these. You’ll be amazed how they’ve filled in the gaps.” 

   So I went to the websites. Yeah, they had an impressive layout. But when I looked carefully at their “lineages” for the development of the eye, or the bird-wing, and so on, it was the same old story: giant leaps of faith everywhere. When I pointed this out to Jim, he just shrugged. “I thought it was pretty good, but then I’ve had brain damage.” 

   So, look, evolution-people. You’re gonna have to do better if you want to convince the likes of me. I’m quite open to hearing what you have to say, but so far it’s mostly been nice stories that just don’t have the facts behind them. 

   As for Creationism, which is generally defined as the belief that Genesis one is an exact record of how God made everyting in six actual days. I’ve read magazines like “Answers in Genesis,” dedicated to just that proposition. Some of their arguments are pretty good. My only problem is that I just can’t bring myself to believe God meant to give us a scientific argument in that chapter.

   Remember: evolution didn’t even come about as a genuinely scientific theory until 1859 when Darwin had “Origin of the Species” published. So how was God going to explain to those early Hebrews and everyone else up to 1859 how he did it? People didn’t have the horse chart back then. They wouldn’t have understood one-celled organisms, mutations, the Galapagos finches or the fossil record anymore than you and I understand how Michael Moore ever became a legitimate movie-maker.

   God was not about to say, “Look, you’ll just have to wait till 1859 for this one.” No, he gave us a sketchy outline that made it neat and clean and didn’t require all the nonsense we see today in biology classes. “And so, you see that all the stages of human embryo development goes through all the evolutionary stages of previous species. Ontology recapitulates . . . well, that other big word no one can remember. Of course, Haeckel, the person who drew the diagrams, made most of it up. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s true whether he made it up or not.” 

   No, those generations just wanted to know who this God was and what he was like. Genesis one told them that: he’s all-powerful(did it all fairly effortlessly, since he didn’t have to rest until the seventh day), he can create at a mere statement(“Let there be light” and there was), and he has a love for beauty(roses, tropical fish, women), variety(everything from amoebas to antelopes, goldfish to swordfish, artichokes to zucchini), the grotesque(the hippo, giraffe, crab, some of my relatives), fun(dogs, cats, hamsters, me), intrigue(cobras, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi), power(lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my), sheer crazy nutso-ness(kangaroos, ostriches, rhinoceroses, Robin Williams), practical jokes (the platypus, bat, venus flytrap, appendix), total risk(all of us out there with free will), good cooking(salt, paprika, Rachael Ray), and undoubtedly a taste for a savory cut of meat now and then(chicken, lobster, filet mignon, and pastrami on rye)(with mustard).

   Clearly, from Genesis one, one can conclude God is quite a character, not only in what he created, but how he simplified explaining it all in a way that everyone could get it through the ages, except of course today’s progressives, atheists, and members of the NEA.  

   What about I.T. or Intelligent Design? For me the old watch argument does it. You see a watch on the ground, you don’t say, “Hey, look what appeared out of nowhere today, experienced random changes through mutation, and was naturally-selected to be at this place?” No, you pick it up and if it works, you take it home and give it to your ten-year old: “Here, Gardner, you can use this now in view of the fact that we’ve bought you sixteen watches over the last few years and you’ve lost everyone of them.”

   Why is it that some people believe the most complex things in all creation like  DNA, cells, weather, planet earth, and us all happened by accident when everything else ever made and used by people was designed by intelligent beings? Why can’t we take that little step for man, that giant step for mankind, and admit that nothing ever came out of nothing, except perhaps the writings of Jim Belushi?

   Ultimately, I think there’s one reason evolutionists believe evolution over any form of design that involves an intelligent God, person, thing, being or whatever: they don’t want anyone like the God of the Bible telling them how to live. They don’t like things God says in the Bible about sin, guilt, sex, forgiveness, salvation, Jesus, people, the world, heaven, hell, and everything else. So in order to dispose of that God and his warnings that they’re accountable to him, they have to get rid of that God.

   Now that’s a hard thing to do in today’s world. First of all, he’s God, all-powerful and can do things like part the Red Sea, incinerate altars with lightning bolts, and open up the earth any time he wants. So knocking him off could be difficult. Saran has already tried it, and look where he is. 

   Thus, Plan B calls for them to shut all of us up who believe in him. But since most Christians are motor-mouths about Jesus, that also proves impossible. Furthermore, our laws say we can believe what we want. Thus, Plan C: change the laws.

   When they can’t do that, because the Supreme Court is stacked in favor of people who actually believe the Constitution, they decide to take over the education of our kids so the kids’ll believe as they do, and eventually we’ll all die out.

   Problem is, we who believe the Bible take seriously not only the God of creation in Genesis one, but also his command in that same chapter to reproduce and fill the world with our kind (non-evolutionists, presumably). So not only do we make lots of kids, but when they come home from school telling us the teacher said we all came from monkeys, we just say, “No, you came from God. Your teacher came from monkeys.” And they believe us instead of the teacher because we can whip their behinds and the teacher can’t. 

   So all the evolutionists keep running into the few of us at various street corners yelling that God is real, you’d better repent, or he’s gonna get you. It’s at that point, I think they’ll try to eliminate us completely(that happens in the end times according to the Bible, if you’ve noticed).

   Last, when only a few of us still remain, they’ll try to wipe us all out at Armageddon.

   It’s at that moment that our God returns and disposes of all of them, brings back all of us who believed in him, and we party for the next four trillion years. After that, we break up into groups and talk about what went wrong on earth with those evolutionists. After two minutes, we decide we just can’t figure it out, we go back to partying, ruling the universe, and eating filet mignons for all eternity. 

   So I guess the question is this: Look, do you want to hold to your weak, foolish, and full-of-holes arguments about evolution, or do you want to repent of all that and party with the God who is the ultimate Party-Guy of the Universe?

   For those of us who enjoy blowing horns, shooting off fireworks, eating shrimp, French onion dip and chips, not having a hangover the next morning, talking about something other than the latest news about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and seeing God blow our minds for the rest of eternity, it’s a pretty easy choice. 

 

The Atheists Are Coming!

April 26, 2008

             I’ve been reading with much interest the books and ideas of various atheists: Richard Dawkins, the renowned evolutionist; Sam Harris, the atheist Christianity-slayer; and Christopher Hitchens, the spouter of all things horrible against religion. It was with some trepidation that I picked up Sam Harris’s book first at my local Borders, called, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” His stated purpose was to pound the final nails into Christianity’s coffin. He seemed very confident he had the arguments, logic, and facts to finally put the whole Christ-myth into the dirt for good.

            As a Christian, I read with some anxiety. What would he say that might derail my faith of more than thirty years?  I’ve always worried somewhere in the back of my mind that someone would come along who would blast Jesus to pieces.  They’d find the real tomb he was buried in and his bones would still be there with his coat – “Jesus” stitched over his chest pocket. Or some “gospel” that had the true story of him being just a regular guy who did nothing but hang around with fishermen, but who told such great tales that the fishermen had to write him up and embellish the book. 

            Nothing like that has ever happened, although a recent movie documentary and book tried to show someone had found Jesus’ bone in a crypt in Nazareth. Sorry, that one didn’t fly, although the media made much of it.

            Yet, as I delved into these atheists’ books, I worried that they’d made some incredible discovery that would do just that: prove the whole history of Jesus was bunk! 

            So I read avidly searching for what it was. Nonetheless, when I put the book down, I sat there absolutely stunned. I said out loud, “This guy doesn’t have anything. Not a thing.” 

            I moved on to Richard Dawkins’s latest, “The God Delusion.” When I finsihed, again I was astonished. “How can these educated men believe this swill?” I asked myself. It really was startling how feeble their arguments and “proofs” were. I’d heard many of these ridiculous arguments in my first few years in seminary and had them debunked years ago.

            For example, Dawkins made much of St. Thomas Acquinas’ argument from causation, that every effect demands a cause equal to or more powerful than itself. Dawkins poses the question, If everything goes back to the first cause—God—then what caused him? Dawkins seems to think this sophomoric argument quite potent. The problem is that Acquinas argued that an “Uncaused Cause” was the first cause: God himself, the one who was never caused, made, or created, but always was. Dawkins seems quite satisfied that he has destroyed Acquinas and God in his little question, but really it’s all quite foolish. Just about anything that exists today had a “first cause” or “uncaused cause” in some sense. The lightbulb’s first cause was Edison. Many of the peanut’s first “inventions” came from George Washington’s Carver’s discoveries. Even Post-It notes has a “first cause,” if you want to look at it that way.

            When Dawkins uses his evolutionary beliefs, he stretches it even further. He admits the “beginning of life” should cause some real “awe” that it happened. Unfortunately, he has no idea how it happened, but he’s sure one day we’ll find out, without the need to invoke God. In the recent movie, “Expelled,” Ben Stein even gets Dawkins to admit that perhaps the first cause of life in our universe was caused by elite beings from another universe, who themselves came about through some evolutionary process! How convenient. Dawkins goes on like this page after page: “they’ll find the evidence” for the tremendous gaps in the fossil record. And, “those gaps will be filled.” And, “we’re seeing more every day that shows the truth.”

            Unfortunately, he never quite arrives at the “facts” so indisputable that everyone would heartily agree to them. 

            I only read a little of Hitchens. He sounded like a cross between a little boy having a tantrum and the Cowardly Lion, screaming, “I won’t believe. I won’t believe. I won’t. I won’t. I won’t. “ 

            Nonetheless, these books are big bestsellers. People rip them off the shelves of Barnes and Noble, and Borders like cancer victims in search of the cure. After reflecting on them, my conclusion was that anyone who knows anything of history, theology, and Christian faith, it’s all twaddle, to say nothing of illogical and without any real facts to back up their so-called research. However, I also see that if you know little to nothing about the Bible and the God portrayed in it, these works would be very convincing — especially if you’re just looking for a reason not to read the Bible or pursue the truth or not repent of the sins you know to be sins but would be happy to learn from the atheists that those are “just choices we all make, nothing wrong at all.” 

            More recently, I read Dinesh D’Souza’s, “What’s So Great About Christianity?” another bestseller. It annihilated the arguments of these atheists, showing the logical and factual fallacies in their writings. A fascinating read, D’Souza repeatedly shows that the very foundations of western civilization hearken back to Christianity, from it’s influence in scientific discovery, to education, to health care, and so on. D’Souza shows that if atheists succeeded in their stated mission of eliminating Christian truth from the world, they would be knocking the foundation of human freedom, discovery, and exploration out from under them. This would undoubtedly lead to a world like that under Hilter, Stalin and Mao who used the “truths” of Darwinian evolution and atheism and a rejection of all things religious to murder millions and create a world as backward and evil as any we’ve ever seen.  

            Thus, I’d like to challenge you. If you’re looking for reasons to reject God, Jesus, the Bible, and all things Christian, any one of the atheists’ books will probably satisfy you. They provide just enough supposed “truth” to let you feel you’re okay and don’t have to ever worry about heaven, hell, judgment, God, Jesus, or any fire-breathing Christian cornering you at a party ever again. 

            On the other hand, if you want some real truth and “meat” to chew on for the rest of your life, as well as spiritual grist that may ignite faith in you or bolster your present faith, try D’Souza.

            In the Bible God invites all of us, “Seek me while I may be found.” His promise is that “you will find me if you search for me with all your heart.” But if you really want an out, if you demand, “No, I want nothing to do with you, God, and I want some reasons to justify that conclusion,” then God will let you find it in Dawkins, Harris, and the others.

            God simply will not force himself on anyone.  

The Comforts of Hell

April 19, 2008

             A title like “The Comforts of Hell” probably strikes most people as an oxymoron. What kind of comforts can there possibly be in hell? 

            Well, not “in” hell, but “about” hell. 

            The Bible reveals that hell is a place where its residents “weep and gnash their teeth” forever, where the “worm never dies, and the fire never dies”(see Jesus’ words about it in Mark 9:42-50). Everyone there has received specific punishments on the basis of his or her sins while living on earth. Revelation 20, the chapter about the Last Judgment, concludes, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”(20:15). 

            Many people, especially those who grew up in church environments, have heard of these things. Many more reject the idea of hell or say it’s not worthy of a loving God to create and populate such a place. But just as the Bible speaks much about God’s love, grace, kindness, and compassion, it also says that “it’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” and that “vengeance is mine, I will repay.” The God of scripture is unlike any person ever conceived. He is both just and gracious, loving and wrathful, forgiving and holy, hating any and every sin. No human could ever have painted the composite we have of him in the Bible, for no person would ever have been able to dream up the contrasting character traits that make up his being. 

            That is why the reality of hell can be vastly comforting. 

            For one thing, the truth of hell means all people truly are accountable to God for how they lived and conducted themselves on earth. The Apostle Paul says, “God will give to every man according to his deeds”(see Romans 2:6), and “each one of us will give an account of himself to God”(Romans 14:12). This means that kid who bullied you all through grade school will have to own up to it before God. It also means people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and everyone who ever cheated, hurt, despised, hated, murdered, committed genocide or even cussed you out personally will answer for those crimes. 

            For another, it means real justice will occur for everyone who was ever treated unjustly. No evil person will escape. They will all pay for the terrible things they did to anyone and everyone. God will mete out punishments in accordance with the crimes, and right every wrong.

            For a third, it means all our deeds, words and thoughts count for eternity. Nothing is wasted, forgotten, or overlooked. Of course, an evil person would not consider that very comforting. But for those who love God, it means we truly are significant. Everything we do has meaning and purpose because of the reality of hell.  

            The fourth comfort about hell, and this is the greatest one, is that while it is terrible pain and agony for all eternity for those in it, no one ever has to go there. In John 3:17, the verse after the famed John 3:16, Jesus says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” The great truth of Christianity is that Jesus Christ paid for all sins of all humankind on the cross. If we simply trust him with our lives, and put our faith in him, hell’s horrors become meaningless. We will never experience them for Christ experienced them for us. 

            It’s a great promise and truth. For those, though, who reject it, hell is a giant warning: you will answer and be punished for everything you ever did. So if you don’t want to end up here, get your life right with God. Now. 

Amazing Sins of the Bible

April 16, 2008

Amazing Sins of the Bible

 

Many people today regard the Bible as archaic, idiotic, just another book written by people with axes to grind the size of snowplows. But have you ever really considered some of its statements, especially about sin? Surely no mere human would require these things of anyone. Nonetheless, apparently God does.

 

 

I remember when I first became aware of sin as sin. For years I lived in relative ignorance, even though I grew up going to church. During my 1971-72 senior year in college, I began a deep and consistent search to answer questions that kept popping up in my mind: why was I alive? What happened when you died? Was there a God? What was life all about? It seemed no one I knew could answer any of them, even though I studied under some intelligent and compelling professors.

 I came home that winter and visited a friend who, to my surprise, had become a raving, lunatic Christian. She believed God was real. She believed she knew Jesus personally. She believed you could be sure when you died you went to heaven. She went on from amazement to amazement. In the end, she pointed me to a book I should read: “The Late Great Planet Earth,” a huge bestseller back then by Hal Lindsey. I cruised to the Baptist bookstore the next day and bought it. Read it that night. By the last page, I was frightened out of my gourd. I decided to begin reading the Bible and praying every night, thinking that was what I should do. 

 

 After that it started happening. First with “little white lies.” I began to notice (like I never had before) how often I just whipped those lies out when it was convenient. “No, don’t think I’ll go with you. I don’t feel good.” “Make over a 3.5 last semester. Yeah, I really did.” (It was a 3.0). Dateless on party weekend: “Oh, I have a date. She’s somewhere around. Went to get us some beers.” 

 

 I couldn’t figure it out. Why did I do such things? Yet, every time I slung one of those babies out, some little voice inside of me peeped, “That was wrong. Why did you say that? It was a lie.” 

 

 Other things started to hit, too. About sexual sin, pilfering money from others, and telling grandiose stories about my past that weren’t true. 

 

In time, I became a Christian. I started to devour the Bible like a starving mad man. It was then I began to discover the real issue of sin from Jesus. 

 

Let me show you a few statements from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7. We soon find Jesus’ words about murder. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

 

Take a hard look at that. Anyone who is “angry” with his brother is “subject to judgment? What normal person would consider that worthy of a court trial besides an ambulance-chasing lawyer?

 

Look further: calling someone “Raca” (think “jerk,” “idiot,” or “moron”) means you could be dragged before the Sanhedrin for a major trial. That’s the same group that sent Jesus to the cross. Didn’t even Jesus meet a few numbskulls in his short life and call them that?

 

But then we come to the last line: calling someone a “fool” (try: “a-hole,” “s—head,” etc.) could win you the “fire of hell”. Surely you jest! Most of us utter such words every day in traffic! Had Jesus at that moment gone nuts? 

     But let’s go on. Notice what Jesus says just a little later: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

 

Whoa! Haven’t most of us guys looked on pretty women nearly every day and not felt that twinge of lust in our hearts and elsewhere? 

 

Okay, just one more. “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

 

Let’s face it. Divorce in our society is rampant, in every sector. I have personally been divorced once, and not even for “marital infidelity”.

 

What is going on here? Has Jesus flipped out? If this is what it’s all about, you can count most of us out. Our first day after committing to following him, we’d be back to square one on all three issues. 

 

But is Jesus really trying to make us feel bad, like dirt?

 

Not at all. What he’s doing is showing us just how difficult it is to attain the perfection God requires for us to enter heaven. God is holy, just, righteous, perfect. Infinitely perfect. Jesus says God requires the same of us. 

 

“But it’s impossible!” You cry. 

 

Right. That’s why in time, Jesus will paint two pictures. One, being perfect all on our own for our whole life, from birth. Then failing, and getting judged. Or, two, realizing you can’t do it, you’re lost.

 

You see, with the above words Jesus shows us how messed up we are in God’s eyes. That’s why he will later tell us, “I lived a perfect life for you. Come to me, take my perfect life by faith, and give me all your sins, past, present, and future. Then you receive my perfection and God’s forgiveness forever. I’ll also throw in eternal life, heaven, all of God’s riches, peace, love, joy, me being with you every moment, and everything else just to sweeten the pot.” 

 

That’s what faith is all about. No one can ever live up to God’s rules. If you think you’re a pretty good person, nice guy, decent girl, maybe you need to think again. Not even Mother Teresa could have done these things. Yet, this is what God expects of you if you want to “deserve” heaven. So why not just give up now, and give it all up to him?

 

Believe me, when you feel that gigantic burden to be perfect lift, you’ll lift off with real joy, hope, peace, and gratitude. That’s how it was for me. I not only felt physically lighter, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For the first time in my life it was easy to admit I was a sinner, and I had sinned. Multitudes of times.

 

But now I knew the full extent of God’s forgiveness and why Jesus’ death as so necessary. It took that much to make it possible for God to wipe it all away. In my case. In every case. 

 

I Turned to God Out of Bitterness, Too!?!?

April 15, 2008

             Senator Obama’s recent remarks about how bitter Americans are these days and how we have turned to God out of that bitterness resonates with me. I did turn to God out of bitterness. At least in some ways. How? 

            For one, I was bitterly scared of going to hell. But all my professors would tell me was that there was no hell. I should get over it. I tried. Hard. But the idea that I might get out there after this life and have to go to hell for reasons I could quite well imagine remained. Why didn’t anyone have an answer to that one among the world’s most intelligent people at the university I attended? 

            Why was my father paying a fortune to have me learn this stuff? I was kind of bitter about it. I don’t know if my father was, though. He never said much about the bills except to say, “You’re good for another semester.” Had to love the guy about that. 

            For another, I was bitterly enslaved by guilt. Every time I slept with a girl, which I was told was the natural and wholesome thing to do, I felt guilty. Everyone said it was a mirage, nothing to worry about. It would go away in time, a leftover from my church upbringing. But it didn’t go away. Not when I lied to friends about this and that. Not when I cussed my head off and got the nickname in my fraternity of “Guttermouth.” Not when I did drugs and got drunk incessantly. Always, always there was this little voice somewhere deep down inside me saying things like, “Why do you do this to yourself? It’s stupid.” And, “This is wrong. You’re going to feel real bad in the morning, and afternoon, and night.”  And, “If your family saw you doing these things, they would be ashamed.”

            Why was that voice always there no matter how many times I told it to go away or that it wasn’t real or that it was just superego ranting I should simply ignore? 
            Another bitter element for me was how anytime I mentioned things like, “What is truth?” people always said, “There is no truth, you make it up as you go along.” When I said things like, “Either there is a God, or there isn’t. Both statements can’t be true,” my erudite professors intoned, “If it’s true for you, it’s true. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks.”

            When I tried to argue about logic and things like that, they just said, “If there’s a God, why is the world so messed up?” 

            “Yeah,” I said, “I want to know the answer to that one, too.” 
            They just shrugged and turned to the next part of the lecture. 

            Sheesh. All I wanted to know was the facts, reality, you know, those kinds of things. But all I was told was, “Go get laid. That’ll make you feel better.” Or, “Just do something fun this weekend to take your mind off all this garbage.” I was quite bitter about that. Wasn’t college where I was supposed to learn about life, justice, meaning, purpose? No, it was all, “What matters to you is all that matters.” But I didn’t know what mattered to me. And what did matter, finding out the truth, was just “stupid” since there was no way to find it or know it.

            So I was pretty bitter about that, too. 

            For a long while, it seemed no one had any real answers to anything. They couldn’t even agree on if Shakespeare really wrote Shakespeare.

            So in the end, I said to God, “Just tell me the truth. That’s all I want. If it’s Hinduism, fine. I’ll take it. If it’s Buddhism, that’s okay. Or whatever. Just show me the truth.” 

            He took me at his word. He showed me what the Bible said about Jesus, God, reality, purpose, heaven, hell, everything. I was shocked out of my gourd. In it there were real answers, grounded in history to my amazement. So I said to Jesus, “Okay, you’ve got me. I’m yours. I’ll follow you wherever.” 

            He said, “Go back to your college and tell them about me.”  (I had graduated by them).  

            So I did. Old friends called me “condescending,” “arrogant,” “cocky,” “a fanatic,” “off my nut,” and “just looking for a psychological crutch.” 
            Some people did listen. But when I explained the gospel to one, he just said, “It’s too simple. That can’t be the truth.” 

            I think he went away kind of bitter.  

Homosexuality and the Bible

April 10, 2008

             Much controversy rages today about so-called intolerant Christian attitudes about gays. Just today, I received several e-mails alerting me about the support of  “the gay agenda” by General Motors and McDonalds, and a call to boycott those companies. I am grieved by the way some in the Christian community treat gays. But I also don’t like being labeled “intolerant” just because I subscribe to biblical morality. 

            I have known a few gays over the years. Most were sincere, friendly, hospitable people. Like all of us, all they wanted from life was genuine happiness and love. But while we all desire such things, Jesus said the only way to it is “narrow.” Like that or not, it’s wise to take to heart what he says. His words have guided billions of people for millennia. 

            To go at this biblically, God has given all people genuine freedom to believe, speak, and act as they wish. We can curse God and his laws or believe in him intensely. Ultimately, gays can do as they please in this world, no matter how much others may disdain them. 

            However, no one can break God’s revealed laws without suffering the consequences, both here and in eternity. The Bible teaches that God will call us all to account for our lives in this world. He will judge us on the basis of those choices. Many don’t want to hear that. But God repeatedly warns us in the Bible that ignoring, rejecting, or hating those truths only win his censure and ultimate judgmentl. 

            Second, God alone has the right to judge people. Christians have no right to take his place and judge others, or hate them. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Christians who revile and abhor others are sinning against God, no matter how justified they may think they are. 

            Third, while the Bible clearly says homosexuality is “sinful”(see passages like Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-32, and 1 Timothy 1:8-10), so are all other sexual sins, including fornication, adultery, and sodomy. The Bible also condemns coveting, lying, envy, gossip , slander, and arrogance, to name only a few. Some might think these things rather trivial. Apparently, God doesn’t. Nor does God single out homosexuals as any worse or better than anyone else. In the biblical view, we’re all lost sinners until we repent and trust Christ. We may love our sin, but God calls us to turn away from it, no matter how much satisfaction we might get from it. 

            Last, gays want Christians to say their lifestyle is as morally legitimate as any other. Unfortunately, no one really has the right to do that. Even if the whole world says something is right, what ultimately matters is what God says. In that sense, every person must decide how he will live. But he must also remember that God will one day call him or her to account for his life.  

            Many Christians sympathize that gays believe their only sexual joy in life is through their lifestyle. But every Christian has had to forsake that as well as fornication and other sexual sins because God says so. The great truth is that he gives us better things in return for such devotion. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” King David says, “and he will give you the desires of your heart”(Psalm 37:4). I have found that promise to be true many times over in my life and so have most Christians. 

            Ultimately, if it turns out we Christians are wrong about God and the Bible, then that is our misfortune. But if right, it will mean far more than mere misfortune for those who reject him. 

            In the meantime, the law we must all obey is to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. If most people followed that rule alone, our world would be a different place. Christians must obey that law in every relationship, no matter how much they may dislike the sexual preferences of others.

            It is also the one law that, when obeyed, might win those who oppose us to the faith we so genuinely love.   

The Implications of Darwinian Evolution

April 7, 2008

             I have studied the theory of evolution as set forth by Darwinians like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for years. Some like Dawkins argue that evolution is “proved.” For him, there is no God, no supernatural, nothing beyond this world. All things happen by the processes of natural selection, survival of the fittest, and random change brought on by mutation. Everything in life, from amoebas to DNA to human emotions and religious impulses can be explained by these mechanisms. 

            Against such a point of view are other scientists who, in frustration with the lack of proof and evidence, have come to other conclusions. Scientists like Stephen Jay Gould(“punctuated equilibrium”), Francis Crick(“panspermia”), and Francis Collins(“theistic evolution”) cannot subscribe to the above views for various reasons.

            I’m not here to argue who is right. What I’d like to do is consider the implications of true Darwinian theory as set forth by Dawkins, whose writings about it are bestsellers.

            To do that, let me tell you about a real life incident concerning a friend whose daughter was gang-raped in her college dorm room by three football players. They targeted her because she was a Christian and a virgin. As they repeatedly raped and sodomized her, they mocked her religious and sexual morals. She now struggles with alcoholism, doubt toward God, and a deep bitterness about life. The culprits, later caught doing this to other women, suffered minimal consequences. One plays in the NFL today for millions of dollars a year.

            What does a Darwinian really have to offer this girl? Just think it through with me for a moment. 

            First, what happened to her happened because she was weak and they were strong. Survival of the fittest. They were more fit than her and by it advanced the species.             Second, if she asks, “How can I get my life back together?” the Darwinian has to answer, “You can try, but since you’re so weak, you’re being weeded out from the herd. Death is all you have to look forward to. And good riddance.” 

            Third, if she says, “Who will make this right for me?” The Darwinian answer again is, “No one. There is no such thing as justice or redemption in this world. There is no God or afterlife. You’re on your own.”

            I cringe at those answers, but I don’t really think a Darwinian would say any of the above. He couldn’t because it’s too callous and horrific even to consider speaking aloud. But really what else does his worldview have to offer?

            In contrast, as a Christian I can unequivocally say to this girl, after weeping with her and just being there, perhaps for a long time, “We live in a fallen world and bad things do happen to good people in it. But you can trust that God will be with you through this. He will comfort you supernaturally through his people. Somehow he will make even this work for good in your life, and show that to you. In the end, if those rapists never repent, he will punish them with eternal hell. At the same time, he will take you to his heaven where you will never experience pain or anguish again. He will wipe every tear from your eye, and help you understand his plan for your life. You will live in the company of those who will love you forever and nothing like this will happen to anyone there ever again.” 

            To me, that encapsulizes the Darwinian view and the Christian view. One might appear nice in theory, but can it work in the real world?

            The other? Well, you be the judge.

            My friend says they’re working through the pain with their daughter. It’s slow going, but there’s a lot of love to go around. She trusts that God will not only get her through this, but her daughter, too. In the end, no matter what happens, she knows this world isn’t the end for any of them, and that is to her strong comfort indeed.  

Whatever Became of Consequences?

April 3, 2008

            Today, the idea of sin has been banished from our culture. Even more, the issue of the “consequences for sin” is ridiculed and reviled. “How dare you say this happened to me because of what I did?” Or, “You judgmental, intolerant freak. Who are you to say I’m just sowing what I’ve reaped?” People who talk about “the wages of sin,” or, “Your sin will find you out,” are often put down as hypercritical fundamentalists. Richard Dawkins, the well-known author and atheist, says one reason he hates the God of the Bible so much is because of God’s repressive view of sexuality. Dawkins thinks we should get to do whatever we want sexually or otherwise and no one has the right to tell us it’s wrong or there will be consequences. 

            All through my life, though, I have seen how doing wrong things often brings on grave consequences. Some “fudging” once on a tax return got me into an audit that cost more than three-thousand dollars. Sneaky police officers have caught me speeding so many times that I finally gave up and decided to stick to reasonable limits. Getting overly angry has cost me dearly in some relationships.

            Why do we do this to ourselves?

            The truth is this attitude permeates our culture. We believe there are no moral rules we should obey, no “commandments” we need to heed. Instead, many say we “make up our own morality” and “If it makes you happy, what could be wrong with it?”

            Nonetheless, we see consequences all around us. From the sexual capers of Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to the sub-prime mortgage crisis to politicians lying about their courage under fire, we all know that violating basic laws against adultery, greed, and false witness brings tremendous and terrible results. Unfortunately, we all escape enough to make us think we can risk the wrongdoing again and again and again. That is, until we inevitably get caught. And then we try to lie our way out of it, or downplay it, or tell others “It’s none of your business.” 

            Unfortunately, by then the kick kicks back and we may be kicking ourselves about it for years after. 

            Is there any hope for those who’ve stiffed the moral truths that underpin reality and found themselves on the wrong end of a scandal or family upheaval?

            I know of no other place you’ll find such words, but when the enemies of Jesus threw a woman caught in adultery at his feet and demanded he say stoning her was the right thing to do, Jesus didn’t compromise justice, or fall over and say, “Oh, well, it happens.” No, he confronted the justice-seekers, showing them their hypocrisy, and then he turned to the woman and said, “I don’t condemn you either; go, and sin no more.” 

            When the Romans nailed him to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

            Christ calls us to a realistic discipleship: “Don’t sin, or it will be bad for you; but when you do, ask for forgiveness and go on, determined not to do it again.” He doesn’t always eliminate the earthly consequences, but faith will eliminate the eternal ones, according to the Bible. It’s never too late for anyone to go to God and find mercy. He says in Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together; for though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as wool.”

            It’s when we continue to lie, cry, “Foul!” or call our accusers “moralistic hypocrites,” that we only make matters worse. 

 

This Infernal War

April 1, 2008

    Okay, let’s grant that most of us want this war in Iraq and other places to end. We don’t want more casualties, we don’t want to spend more trillions. We all feel it should have been won long ago. Some claim, even Sen. John McCain himself, the war has been mismanaged until recently. A large bloc of voters believe we never should have gone there in the first place. 

   But here are some questions that I’m asking in my feral brain these days as a non-military person who still respects the need for a strong military in these perilous days.    First, why should we just “pull out” in 30-60-90 days or whatever, if we’re winning at this point, as nearly everyone says(McCain, Murtha, etc.)? Casualities are lower than ever. The Iraqi government is slowly getting their act together. Al-Qaeda is virtually destroyed in Iraq. This looks to me like a Super Bowl team forfeiting at three points ahead just because some of the fans hate them. 

   Second, since we face an enemy motivated by religious and ideological concerns, why should we think defeating them should be easy? In the America of today, we are far too used to seeing quick and easy solutions to even the toughest problems. But my impression of problems like jihadism is that they were a long time coming and will be a long time going. These people crave dying in their cause. They use universally despised and reviled techniques to fight – suicide bombers, women and children as “shields,” murder, rape, and all kinds of world-recognized evil — because their cause not only permits it, but  commands it. And they believe they will be rewarded for such actions in ways not even Donald Trump could offer. Facing such an enemy is totally new and unprecedented. So why should we think this war would go like anything resembling a conventional war? 

   Third, do we really believe if we did simply quit the field of battle that jihadism will simply disappear, satisfied that they have the Middle East to themselves? They have made clear that their gripe is not our presence in the Middle East. Their gripe isn’t even a gripe. It’s a goal, a determined, implacable resolve to conquer the whole world for Islam. So how can we even begin to believe that quitting will in any way stop this force?  In fact, if we do quit, it will send a signal to all of them that they should keep going.

   Fourth, how can anyone say, “I support our guys in the military, but I can’t support their mission, cause, and actions in the Middle East”? Look, if you hate the military, hate what they do, hate everything about it, simply say so. We can take it. But this pretend stance of supposedly supporting them personally but saying as those young people face suicidal maniacs, snipers, IEDs, and imminent death every day, “On the other hand, I reject your goals, your work, and I will do everything I can to make sure you fail” is truly evil. And it doesn’t work logically, realistically, or even theoretically. It’s just a political dodge. Like in poker, either you’re in or you’re out. But you can’t be both. 

   Show me answers to these questions with facts, logic, and realism, and perhaps I’ll come over to your side. But for now, I honestly think we’re in the fight of our generation and our lifetimes. Giving up when most people in power say we’re winning is foolish at best, and suicidal at worst. Moreover, it won’t solve the problem because the problem isn’t the war, the killing, the casualties, or any of that. It’s them. Their ideas, their outlook, their hearts, their repeatedly proclaimed desire to convert us or kill us.         

   Show us how to deal with that permanently, and you have my unwavering support.