Natasha Crain wrote a great article last year on what an apologist does when they believe they have cancer. Little did I know at the time that 6 months later, I would get the news: Stage 2 colon cancer.
I've tossed back and forth about writing this but I felt two points I wanted to make were worth writing about.
Surrendering to Death
The Christian worldview is that those who are in Christ - that is, those who have repented (GR metanoeó) and put their trust in Christ, are forgiven of their crimes against a holy God, are made into new creatures and will be bodily resurrected on the last day. So why on earth should a Christian feel fear at the news they have Cancer?
I realized that I wasn't afraid to die per se, but rather of dying itself. The idea that this life was over. I had thoughts about my wife, my daughter, my family and friends. But I hadn't ever resided myself to the fact of dying. I had to be Ok with dying. Ok with my daughter growing up without her father, my wife being a widow. Ok with never accomplishing some goals. I new I would be with my God in all of His glory, but it was at this point that I understood what it meant to let go of this world.
So just how has the study of apologetics helped in dealing with my cancer diagnosis? Before I new what state it was and what we were looking at, I had to trust Christ no matter the news. This was much easier to do based on what I knew about the truth of the Gospels. Every argument for Christianity you can think of did not come to mind, but rather this thought "either I trust Him, or I don't". If I didn't, time to get busy being an atheist. If I did, time to get busy trusting and not worrying. The evidence for Christianity acts like a seawall. You see the waves of doubt, anger, sadness, and death coming for you. But the evidence reminds you of the truth, and you put your trust in Christ. Faith is not merely an intellectual assent, but rather an active trust. But the information that led you to that faith is a solid foundation.
As it turns out, the LORD has other plans for me at this time. The surgery I had removed all of the cancer. There was no spread to lymph nodes. I have to do a 6 month round of chemo, but this is for preventative measures and it's an oral pill. This has also made me begin to live healthier. In fact, I've started training in Gracie (Brazilian) Jiu Jitsu. I'm also heading to Scotland in the fall for a missionary support trip.
But I have confidence in the LORD that if all had fallen apart, He would have remained the same God and I would have been able to trust Him still.
I heard an argument for abortion over the weekend that basically stated an abortion is no different than removing life support for a comatose patient who is brain dead and only being kept alive by artificial means.
At first, this may sound like a good argument for abortion. But I believe it fails horribly before it even gets off the ground.
When someone is put on artificial life support, it is due to the ceasing of normal, biological means to provide oxygenated blood to the body due to injury or illness. In the case of those who are brain dead, often family make the decision to end life support so that their loved one can die with dignity. One may even include feeding tubes in the equation, but you could make an argument that those who cannot swallow or have the mental capacity to properly feed themselves use feeding tubes and no one would think to remove that tube to end the suffering of not being able to eat normally. But we have to remember that those who are not brain dead and are not incapacitated have the ability to breathe on their own and even feed themselves in most cases and we would say they have a right to life.
Umbilical Cords are not artificial life support
During pregnancy, the unborn child is attached to its mother via the umbilical cord. The cord provides Oxygen and removes Carbon Dioxide through the unborn child's heart as well as providing nutrients from the mother. But here is where the difference between life support and pregnancy lies. The unborn child is being kept alive exactly how they should be during a pregnancy. There is nothing artificial about it. The womb is the natural habitat of an unborn child and the biological mechanism that feeds and supplies blood to the child is the natural, biological method of life for the unborn child.
If an abortion is performed, life support is not merely removed from the child, but rather the child itself is killed intentionally. When artificial life support is removed from a comatose patient, artificial breathing is removed and the patient is allowed to naturally die from either the lungs not being able to supply enough oxygen or the brain's inability to send signals to the lungs to function. These are clearly different circumstances. The reason a family makes the tough choice to end life support is because they understand fundamentally their loved one has already died, only their bodily functions are being kept in motion. The natural, biological means of life is no longer present in their loved one. But in the unborn, the natural, biological means of life is present and functioning normally just as it should be. For life support to be removed from the unborn, in effect the mother would have to be killed.
Clearly, this is not what happens during an abortion.
But what is the pro life position on the question of end of life decisions?
As Scott Klusendorf of LIfe Training Institute has stated, "The fundamental principle of the pro life position that is demonstrated above is we should never intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. But it doesn't follow from that position that we should always resist natural death.
The question facing us is when does treatment for the patient become permissible to remove? The answer to this question is guided by two principles:
At that point, what you are doing is not anti-life, you are simply trying to make the patient as comfortable as possible."
So in the case of someone who is comatose and brain dead, removing a breathing tube is not what is killing them, in fact, we would say that they are already dead, we are simply oxygenating their blood to keep the body functioning.
But with abortion, we are intentionally taking the life of the unborn who are not being kept alive though artificial means.
This is the fundamental difference between these two ideas and yet the similarity is the intention behind the act.
The debate over homosexual behavior has taken many surprising turns. The national debate has involved a Fast Food franchise and a maker of Duck Calls. It has involved extremes from Fred Phelps and his clan to groups like GLAAD comparing the whole thing to the civil rights movement of the mid 20th century.
What is missing from all of this is honest discourse. And what is missing from those who tell us that what they are doing is ok is "why it's ok?".
We hear arguments like:
So, for the Christian who believes that God teaches homosexual behavior is sin and that those who practice this need repentance and forgiveness, the message they give to LGBTQ people is very important.
Ultimately, the discussion boils down to desire. It's at this point that the discussion breaks down most often because neither side really understands their desires, their position as a human being in a fallen world, and how God views all of humanity.
So let's take a look at desire. Most homosexuals would say that they desire romantic/sexual relationships with those of the same sex and that they did not choose these desires anymore than a heterosexual chooses their desires for opposite sex relationships. I believe this is true, but not for the reasons most homosexuals or Christians believe. [though, I believe these homosexual desires developed at an early age rather than a person being born with them "out of the box"]
I do not believe God created people with homosexual desires. Homosexual desires are a result of the fallen, sinful state every person finds themselves in. It's no different than my desire to sleep with multiple women or someone's desire to get as drunk as they can, etc. Desire is not the benchmark for God's holiness or His creation. People desire many things - Money, Sex, Power. All of our sinful actions can be traced back to a desire. As a Christian, we must see ourselves before our salvation. The bible says we were "enemies of God". Enemies. At our hearts, we were evil. So it should not be surprising that people have sinful desires.
A big question here is "how do I know my desires are sinful?". The only real answer to that is to put it up against God's standards. We know from Romans 1 that homosexual behavior is sinful. Now, notice that I said homosexual behavior. Having a desire and entertaining that desire are two different things. Simply being attracted to the same sex is not sinful in itself [that is, that the desire exists] unless you were to dwell on such thoughts [as Jesus says, "if a man lusts in his heart...]. This is an important distinction for a Christian to make as he/she approaches those in the LGBTQ community in conversation about this issue. It is no more sinful than being tempted. Jesus was tempted in all things, but did not sin.
Now, instantly, someone will say "well, Jesus never said homosexual behavior was a sin!". Well, what did Jesus say? In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce. His response tells us many things about the Old Testament:
"He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Here, Jesus not only affirms the OT, but He also tells us what God's design for marriage is. Held up against this standard, the only holy marital desire is that of a heterosexual nature. We must ask ourselves if we should give in to any desire we have? If I have a desire for lying, should I lie and not be held accountable because I was born that way? What about theft? We could list many more but you understand the point.
So, when someone says they can't help the way they feel, they are correct. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a result of salvation through faith and repentance can change desires. But, desire is not an excuse for sin. And it may be that the desire itself does not change, so the Christian must then choose to remain pure and, perhaps, unmarried.
When we as Christians see our own selfish desires that are to be crucified daily, we can understand a homosexual's position and can offer understanding. Truth with gentleness and respect.
And for those in the LGBTQ community, understand that God does love you just as you are. But you are in no different a position than I or anyone else. Salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. And repentance leads to faith.
Be prepared to have honest conversations. Discard bumper sticker slogans. Let go of the Us vs. Them mentality.
Is There Any Evidence Outside of The Bible For the Events Surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ?
As we celebrate Easter, we are subject yet again to the onslaught of "historical" specials detailing the "real" facts surrounding Christianity. Surprisingly, there are still those out there who believe Christ Himself did not exist - a retelling of pagan myths.
So how can we verify the existence of Christ outside of the Bible? Is there any historical evidence?
The answer is a resounding YES! There are many pieces of evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and for his crucifixion by the Romans. Let's focus on one particular ancient historian - Tacitus.
Tacitus was a Roman historian and senator (AD 56 - 117). He served under Emperor Vespasian (who laid siege to Jerusalem). In his Annals of AD 116, he wrote about the fire of Rome during the reign of Nero and described the following:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular - (Annals 15:44)
It is clear that Tacitus is no friend of the Church. In fact, he is a sympathizer with persecution. But here, he outlines several historical facts for us.
1. Tiberius was Emperor during the time of Christ's death
2. Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate in Judea
3. Nero persecuted Christians and blamed the fire in Rome on them to defer suspicions away from himself
4. Christians taught that Jesus rose from the dead (the superstition)
5. Rome became a center for the Christian faith and was spreading throughout the world from there
The basic picture painted by Tacitus is one painted by the Nicene creed.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
Tacitus shows that indeed Christ lived and died by Pontius Pilate on a Roman Cross and his followers preached that He was resurrected.
This is but one piece of evidence in a tremendous cumulative case that points to Jesus being the risen Son of God.
When we think of objective morality, we think of a moral code that from outside ourselves - that is, it's not reliant on the collective opinions of human beings, but is transcendent of that. And as Christians, we believe that morality is grounded in God.
However, many atheist argue that even if God exists, morality would not be objective. "How is that?" you may ask. Well, it depends on what we mean be objective and subjective.
When something is subjective, it means it depends on the subject (in this case, us) for it's meaning. So, if I say chocolate ice cream is the best, it's a subjective opinion as it's based on the subject, me. When we say something is objective, we mean that it's mind independent. It's doesn't rely on opinion to determine it's truth. So, if we say objective morality is dependent on God to determine it's truth, atheists will argue that it then is not really objective as it depends on a mind (God) and is therefore subjective. It is here where 2 misunderstandings arise both for the theist and the atheist.
We need to be careful when we use the term "Objective Morality". Dr. William Lane Craig purposefully uses the term "Objective Moral Values and Duties". This is because those abstract objects - the values and duties - even if created by God have an intrinsic value unto themselves. For example, if God created green grass, the grass would still be green in and of itself no matter if an intelligent mind were behind it. The grass is still objectively green. The same would be said for moral values and duties. The values and duties have intrinsic moral distinctions in and of themselves. So rape is still wrong objectively even if God determined that truth which brings us to our next misunderstanding.
When we say God is the standard for morality, we aren't simply stating that God decided this was right and this was wrong. We are saying God Himself is the standard - that is - His character is the standard for determining moral truths. It is not as if there is a higher moral standard that God ascends to as that would make that standard God. It is for this reason that the infamous Euthyphro Dilemma fails. "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" It is odd that Plato's question posed to the Greek gods is then posed to God, but it is a fair question. However, it's a false dichotomy as God's character is the standard for moral truth. So something that aligns with God's character is good while anything that departs from His character is evil.
Now we have seen that in fact, moral values and duties are objective and the argument against this fails.
If you've sat in Church recently, you've probably heard sermons on being a better parent or having a better marriage. There may be classes on how to manage your finances better or on being a better leader. And while these are based on sound, biblical principles, we can mistake Christianity for a self betterment plan. It's at this point that our faith can become nothing but a therapeutic moralistic deism.
What I mean is this, many preachers preach messages that are all about us. We strive to have better lives - to live the American dream in some cases. We want to be successful, heal all of our pains and anxieties and have the best life now. Problem is, God doesn't promise us this. We tend to think if we are just good people and live our lives by a moral code and acknowledge God, we are then Christians. But the bible teaches something else.
Over and over again, Jesus said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repentance is a change of mind, heart, and direction towards our sin. It is turning away from sin while turning to God. It is then that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as we are made new creations in Christ - forgiven for our sins and made righteous in Christ as we are reconciled to a Holy God. There are no promises of success in life. In fact, the early Christians suffered greatly because of Christ. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)
If we come to Christianity because our lives are falling apart due to divorce, job loss, or sickness, Jesus cares about those things and helps us to deal with them. But there is no promise of a resolution that we want. And if we have not acknowledged our sins before Him, we are still in them and are enemies of God. We come to Him on His terms, not ours.
The danger is a watered down Gospel that is nothing more than the same type of feel good, self help message that gurus the world over are teaching. If the message you are consistently hearing is about a better you and not about reconciliation and submission to a Holy God through Christ Jesus, it may be time to seek God's guidance as to where you should fellowship.
So, in a previous article, we established that apologetics is there to help your evangelism. But how does it do that?
There are several ways to do this, but it's better to show it in a scenario. Suppose you have shared the Gospel with someone and they ask "Why should I believe this is true?". This is a textbook opportunity to begin using an apologetic. But, it requires more nuance than just spitting out facts. For example, you could start with a question "Well, how do you normally determine what's true and what's false?". This is a way to learn more about the other person - how they think, how they see truth, etc.
You could also ask what issues they may have with your message. Another scenario could be you sitting in a waiting room and the television is tuned to one of the news channels. Maybe they are talking about abortion or SSM. Someone may speak up and make a comment about the subject. Now, you can begin asking questions again. This could lead to a chance to clarify the Gospel message.
If you have a friend you know very well who isn't a Christian, you can always ask them Frank Turek's favorite question "Hey, if Christianity were true, would you be a Christian?". Here, you can find out more about what they think and begin having such a conversation.
The Gospel is first and foremost in our efforts to bring people to Christ, but we must be careful to remember that our conversations don't happen in a vacuum. They are organic and fluid and bringing a Gospel presentation into a conversation that hasn't moved in that direction can make things awkward. But spiritual questions can help open the door. And the more prepared you are to deal with the tough questions, the more confident you will be in sharing the Gospel.
Last night, Mike S. Adams, PhD debated Willie Parker M.D. on whether abortion was morally wrong. While it would be easy to say that Mike won the debate (hands down), I would rather focus on Dr. Parker's responses to Mike Adam's arguments for the pro life position.
1. Argument from Ad Hominem
Surprisingly, Dr. Parker's first salvo in this debate was a claim that Mike Adams attacked his character. In reality, Mike used arguments from the science of embryology and read excerpts from Dr. Parker's book. This was confined to Dr. Parker's justifications for abortion, not against his character. It seemed that Dr. Parker attempted to argue from emotion from the outset by claiming a personal attack and this set the tone for his responses the rest of the night. Arguing from emotion is what you most often confront when making a prolife argument. After all, these are in fact real issues that concern real people everyday and they are not easy to deal with. However, truth doesn't rely on how someone feels about that truth and it shouldn't be the deciding factor in determining truth.
2. What about the science?
Mike Adams based his arguments on the science of embryology to show that a fetus is wholly, biologically human the same as those who have already been born and from the philosophical argument that the unborn are persons. He argued that because of this, they had equal human rights as the mother or anyone else. Dr. Parker did not dispute the scientific arguments at all. This is what surprised me most of all about this debate. He would sometimes refer to "medical facts" and seem to infer that Mike was not repeating true medical facts but would never say what those facts were or how Mike was incorrect.
3. What is personhood?
The main thrust of Dr. Parker's position was that the unborn were fully human, but not persons. He claimed that Mike Adams never used the word "persons" in his arguments (which was not the case) so that meant he knew being human was not the same as being a person. This is always a strange position because you must show what the difference is. I've never heard the definition of a non-person human from someone on the pro choice side and it's something they should be able to define if they believe it's the case. Dr. Parker also seemed to be stating that personhood was a legal term, but in fact, it's a philosophical/metaphysical term. He also stated he felt sentience determined personhood. This is a bad line of reasoning. For example, a person in a coma due to a brain injury could be said to not be sentient. Since they are not able to experience their environment, are this still a person?
4. Is abortion murder?
Dr. Parker also stated that no police officer would arrest him because abortion was not murder. He seemed to be confused as to what Mike Adams meant when he said something could be legal but not moral. Slavery was legal, but immoral. Eventually, the laws reflected this. However, the fact that abortion is legal doesn't mean it's not murder. This is a moral truth claim about a set of actions and the law is based on this underlying, objective moral value, not the other way around. This was a very strange argument to say the least.
5. What about Religion?
Dr. Parker in his opening statements began to refute arguments from Christianity stating that because we live in a pluralistic society, we cannot make laws based on a particular religion. While there are philosophical problems with that statement, it was confusing as Mike Adams never made a single argument from Christianity or the Bible. While Mike comes from a Christian worldview, he contained his arguments to the science of embryology and the philosophical argument that the unborn were persons. This appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against any religious argument for the pro-life position, but it was an awkward line of reasoning.
In the end, while I expected to hear some new scientific arguments for abortion to contend with, I only heard the same arguments that are always made and was shocked at the line of reasoning Dr. Parker used. This was a good debate as it brought out the pro-life position and showed the weakness of the pro-choice view.
A popular level objection to Christianity today is to ask a Christian if Jesus killed little babies in the Old Testament. This banks on the idea of the Trinity and judgments recorded in the Old Testament such as the Flood or the slaughtering of the Canaanites. Another version of the problem of evil, the objection is that Jesus doesn't love people and is a baby killer. But this objection makes a number of mistakes that I will address here.
1. Who is God?
It may seem strange to start here, but this is where we should always begin. God is the maximally great being. Triune in nature, He is just, holy, righteous, and merciful. He is also love. So how could God judge? The issue comes down to thinking of God on equal footing with man. However, God is not man. Man is His creation - created in His image. But man is fallen. God however, is timeless, spaceless, immaterial, all powerful, personal, and all loving. To bring God down to our level is to misidentify the creator of the universe.
2. What is Murder?
Murder is rightly said to be the intentional taking of innocent human life without good cause. But, it is the taking of innocent human life by other humans. God is creator and the author of life and death. When God judges and takes life, He judges rightly as He is the standard of good. When we violate God's law, He is right to judge. When judgement befell man in the flood, God would have known several things: Noah was the only righteous man left, it would have been impossible for him to care for all of the children left. In wiping out mankind other than Noah's family, God was able to start over again to curtail the corruption that had overtaken the earth.
3. A Wrong View of Eternity
In the taking of the lives of children, God brought their innocent lives into His presence for eternity - to be raised up on the last day. We often think of life as only being the short time we have here, yet God has put eternity into the hearts of man. It is why so many cannot fathom there isn't an afterlife. We have an innate sense of it. But if this is the case, then why is abortion wrong some may ask? Reviewing our definition of murder, we do not have the ability or right to decide life or death outside of what authority God has given for keeping law and order. Abortion is the taking of innocent human life without sufficient cause. Because God brings an aborted child into His presence doesn't change the crime that was committed.
This objection is designed to bring the issue into an emotional arena, yet our emotions have nothing to do with the truth. Strangely, God judged the Canaanites for sacrificing their infants to the god Molech. In 2015, the total number of abortions performed in the US - including data from non reporting states - was 826,169. That is nearly 1 million abortions in 2015 alone. Yet the objection is claiming God is a moral monster for judging the earth and for killing babies. It would be good to find out if the person making the objection has an issue with this number.
This is part two of a two-part series on the Reproductive Health Act
With the passage of New York's Reproductive Health Act, the debate over abortion has intensified. A popular argument against the Pro Life position is to claim pro life views are "religious" in nature and not to be believed.
This is a fallacious argument on two fronts and while it is a myth that pro life arguments are religious, let's address the idea head on.
First, to say "you're just religious" is an Ad Hominem. It's like calling someone a "racist" to shutdown a conversation. Whether or not someone is religious has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of an argument.
Second, to say an argument is religious is a genetic fallacy - that is - claiming an argument is false because of where it comes from. The argument stands or falls on it's own merits, not those of the person making the claim. To say you cannot read religious websites or trust religious arguments is to ignore the argument itself and disengage. This is intellectually dishonest and is a tactic that goes beyond the abortion issue in our society. You must deal with the facts of any argument and the fact is the RHA expands late term abortions that were previously prohibited by NY state law.