This is part one of a two part series on the passing of New York's Reproductive Health Act.
The recent passing of New York state's Reproductive Health Act has caused an uproar between Pro Choice and Pro Life advocates. There is much confusion as to what the bill actually says and does.
The fact checking web site, Snopes, has posted an article fact checking the claim from Pro Life advocates that the bill allows abortion up to term. So did Snopes get this one right? Here's what they did get right:
Some have cited this as a slam dunk on Pro Life advocates who claim the bill allows for unrestricted abortion up to term. But the truth is, the term "health" is ambiguous in the bill and is separated from "life" as a different scenario. Health can mean anything from Gestational Diabetes to Pre-eclampsia. It can also be used to mean anything health related - from mental stress to economic strain.
Jay Watts, president of Merely Human, Inc. believes those who do not think the bill would be used in that manner have not read the bill and do not understand current abortion law.
It shows people don’t understand abortion law in the U.S. The third trimester considerations in Roe were set aside in Doe v Bolton’s absurdly broad health exception back in 1973. That exception goes beyond physical health and life of the mother and includes emotional, financial, and familial health. Planned Parenthood v Casey reaffirmed the exception in 1992 while abandoning the trimester system for a viability standard. This means that New York both affirmed the health exception while simultaneously eliminating all other considerations for the unborn in their state penal code. They also opened up the possibility of heightened allowances for PA’s to participate in performing abortions.
In short, the bill actually expands the ability for late term abortions for all of the reasons abortions are performed in every state. The previous law which restricted late term abortions to only those scenarios that put the mother's life in danger (which are less than 2% of all abortions performed annually) has now been expanded to include the mother's health which is not more specifically defined in the bill. The bill also defines a "person" as someone who has been born and is alive. This is not a scientific statement, but rather a metaphysical one which the NY state legislature has no authority to make.
So the fact is, the Reproductive Health Act expands abortions in the state of New York to include late term abortions where as previously, New York state law restricted late term abortions.
Those are the facts.
The recent backlash against Lauren Daigle for her comments on homosexuality has sparked debate amongst Christians who both defend and critique her.
John Crist, a Christian comedian, recently posted a video on his Instagram feed condemning those who judged her for her comments. Crist seemed to be unaware that he himself was judging other Christians for their behavior. The thing is the church should make judgments on truth. The New Testament constantly warns us of false prophets and teachers. The apostle Paul tells us that "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ". If a brother errs, we take them aside lovingly to correct them. But what about someone like Daigle or Crist? Do Christian celebrities have a larger responsibility to adhere to sound teaching or to speak the truth? First, we should make a sober judgment against ourselves to see if we were in the same position, would we do any different. Secondly, we shouldn't confuse the act with someone's salvation. Each of us are a work in progress and the point of the Gospel is that we as human beings are constantly missing the mark. This is why Christ came and died on a cross.
That being said, we can rightly judge actions that have larger impacts on public perception of the Gospel and the Church and correct those actions if need be. When Jesus warned us "not to judge lest you be judged", He wanted us to not judge hypocritically. Paul put it this way in Romans "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?....While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" Romans 2:2-3, 21&22
We tend to look to the famous for our theological marching orders. However, this is a mistake. Those like Daigle should be careful to place themselves under authoritative teachers, but we should be doing the same. Celebrities can fall into the popularity trap and so begin to follow the path of Progressive Christianity
We must strive as the Church to read the Bible, understand it's history, proper hermenuetics, orthodox theology, and a good apologetic. We also must not set up celebrities to fulfill a role they never were meant to. If we show a brother their error, it is out of love and their edification and shouldn't be to tear someone down. But we shouldn't look to a celebrity for our biblical instruction as they are in the entertainment business which is always a dangerous road for anyone to navigate and it shouldn't surprise us when one fails in some fashion but rather we should respond in prayer, grace, and truth. Not every so called Christian celebrity fails in this fashion as there are many who have a solid biblical understanding. But we should be able to rightly divide the truth for ourselves by delving into God's word and putting ourselves under solid, orthodox teachers and allow the truth to change us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is a cost in doing so, is to push the next generation into the relative, dialectical millstream that surrounds us. ~ Dr. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
Most have heard about Lauren Daigle's interview on iHeart radio when asked about homosexuality. When pressed as to whether it's a sin, she responded "I can't honestly answer on that, in a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don't know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can't say one way or the other. I'm not God."
This is not uncommon in the church today - especially amongst "Christian Entertainers". But it speaks to a larger problem in the world. "Hatespeech" is the buzzword of our culture. People are labeled as hateful simply for disagreeing with someone's perspective or lifestyle. For Christians, the temptation is to not be seen as a hater or a bigot. But this is not how Jesus taught us to live. The Gospel message is offensive at it's core. It tells us that we are evil at heart, beyond all hope. The love God shows us is in coming down as a man and dying a horrific death on a cross - a symbol of all the evil within us and what it takes to be declared righteous in His sight. People do not like to hear they are evil, that they are subject to God's wrath.
Sweet Jesus who loves everyone is the image the world likes. They don't care for the Jesus who whipped the money changers or who spoke of God's judgement. Christ came to seek and save the lost. But, just as the prodigal son, it's only after we realize how far we've fallen that we turn around and come home to Him where He is waiting to welcome us with open arms - rejoicing in our repentenance. When the spotlight is on, many who call themselves Christians compromise Jesus' message in order to maintain a popularity and to be seen as tolerant.
But Jesus said "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." - John 15:18-25
We are meant to be offensive because we follow our master. They hated Him and nailed Him to a cross. We must remember that the most loving thing we can do is tell someone the truth in love. When we compromise the Gospel message, we are doing more harm.
Apologetics can be a loaded term as it encompasses so much in the way of history, theology, philosophy, science, and archaeology. Many in the church make the claim that Jesus did not use apologetics, so why should we. But this is not the case.
For an illustration, let's take a look at Jesus pointing out a Self-Refuting argument.
In Matthew 12:22-28, we read about Jesus casting out a demon and the following exchange:
22Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Here, Jesus points out a clear logical fallacy committed by the Pharisees. In today's world, people still do the same thing. How often have you heard someone talk about speaking "their truth" or "that's true for you, but not for me"?
By asking questions the way Jesus did, we can point out the problems with these views to help bring a better understanding of the nature of truth and in so doing, bring someone closer to being ready to hear the Gospel.
Jesus used arguments and we should too.
Many have an idea that the discipline of Apologetics is limited to showing some esoteric point to be true or getting into long debates with atheists. The truth is, apologetics is about one thing - bringing people to Christ. Some see evangelism and apologetics as differing from each other in their end goal. But is this the case?
The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer referred to apologetics as "pre-evangelism". He believed that most were not ready to hear the Gospel as they had many questions or objections that were in their way. Apologetics was the way to prepare the person to hear the Gospel so that they could respond without the obstacles of those questions. One could say that apologetics correctly done would be the "handmaiden" of evangelism. Apologetics is there to help our evangelistic efforts, not to get into fights over doctrine or ideas about evolution.
In, The God Who Is There, Dr. Schaeffer wrote:
They (non Christians) are valuable, so we should meet them in love and compassion. Thus, we meet the person where he or she is. Consequently, if I were with Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, and the Philippian jailer said to me, “sir, what must I do to be saved?” for me to start talking about epistemology would be horrible. I would say what Paul said, “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” because the jailer was, on the basis of previous knowledge and events, ready for that answer. Now on the other hand, if we are dealing with someone who has honest problems and who really believes that truth is truth – things are true and things are false, it would then be a different need. In that situation, if he or she had questions on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection and so on, we would deal with those questions – because he or she already accepts that truth is truth. .
Evangelism and Apologetics go hand in hand and we should, as Christians, be prepared beforehand to engage in both disciplines so that we can follow the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations.
Scheaffer, Francis A. , The God Who Is There, InterVarsity Press, 1968.
*Editors Note: This article has been edited for clarity.
This idea is making the rounds once again. This go around, the narrative is blaming Zondervan for removing parts of the Bible. So, did the NIV version remove over 64,000 words from the King James Version of the Bible? In a word, yes. But it's not what you think.
First a bit of history. This is not exhaustive and I can recommend some colleagues of mine who can give a more detailed account. The King James Version of the Bible was based on a set of manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus or "received texts". This was a small group of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that was translated by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516. The KJV was published in 1611. It also formed the basis for the Tyndale and Lutheran Bibles among others. These manuscripts were full of typographical errors and some books, like the Revelation of John, were not complete and were translated back into Greek from the Latin Vulgate adding more mistranslation and strange wordings to the mix. Also, many passages contained words that were mistranslated or that there were no English equivalents for, such as "Baptize". These manuscripts also contained passages that are not present in the earlier and much better Greek manuscripts found later at Oxyrhynchus Egypt.
So, the NIV when it was produced, relied on these manuscripts along with other sources to produce a more accurate translation than the KJV. The charge against it assumes that the KJV is the original version of the Bible which it is not. That is not to say that the NIV doesn't have it's own issues, but there was not a conspiracy by Zondervan or Harper Collins to sneak in a falsified copy of the Bible. And this accusation is a very old one. More modern translations such as the ESV or the NASB have footnotes for the variant passages to let you know they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts.
The larger issue here is many western Christian's ignorance of textual history. Can you trust your Bible? Absolutely. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the reliability of scripture and the sheer number of manuscripts show it hasn't changed over time. But, there is not and was not a conspiracy to change the Bible and remove words from it for the NIV version.
A few years ago, I saw a post by someone that immediately struck me as off:
"Sola Scriptura" is this a true saying? No, it is not. A person could memorize all of scripture and be no better for it. It is the Holy Spirit that gives understanding. It is not something that can be put into a bible translation, bible commentary, a theological writing, or traditions. It is the living water that flows from God. Do not put your trust in people and what they say, put your trust in God. He says he will teach us through the Holy Spirit. Go to the Lord in sincere humbleness with an empty mind of a child and let him teach. Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Immediately, there are a couple of issues here and I want to give them a quick response.
First, something that glares at me is the statement "He says he will teach us through the Holy Spirit". Where do we get this idea? From Scripture! So unless the poster is suggesting the Holy Spirit planted in their mind or outright audibly told them this, scripture was the source for this teaching.
Sola Scriptura in Latin means “by Scripture Alone”. In Protestant Christian doctrine, it means that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the sole, infallible source for the teaching of the church and Revelation of God. It is considered inerrant and infallible in Christian doctrine.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”. This means that the words of scripture are not mere writings and teachings of men, but the words of the LORD Himself.
Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit would remind us of all Jesus said. “"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Here, Jesus is clearly speaking to the apostles. This does not mean the Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us, but Jesus is clearly telling the disciples that the Spirit would remind them of all that He said and they in turn were able to write it down.
Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that all scripture is the authority for doctrine and theology. It doesn’t mean that the Bible is the only source for truth. In fact, in order for the Bible to be true, Truth must already exist and have a standard for it – in the case of Truth, that standard is God Himself. But the Bible is the inspired world of God containing all of the information needed to make one wise unto salvation - 2 Timothy 3:15
This objection mischaracterizes Sola Scriptura as a claim to be the sole source of Truth which is not the claim being made by this doctrine. And it does not align with scripture itself which clearly shows us that the Bible is the ultimate written authority for Christian doctrine, theology and practice. While the Holy Spirit leads and prompts believers, it does not contradict scripture nor impart ancient secret truths not revealed in scripture before now.
Often, I see other Christians objecting to the use of apologetics altogether. They will usually say that faith doesn't require evidence or it's not faith.
But is that the case? If we look at the word "faith" itself, we can get a clearer picture of what the Bible is actually talking about.
First, faith comes from the Latin "fides" which means "good trust". But the Greek word used in the New Testament is "pisteuo" which means to have confidence in or to credit the thing believed in. The other greek word used for faith is "pistis" which means "conviction of the truth of anything".
So faith is trust and trust is object centered. You put your trust in something. But does God require a blind trust or has He given evidence that we can put our trust in? As always, we must consult scripture.
First, Jesus says in John 10:24-26
"So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep."
And again in vs 36-38, Jesus says
"do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
What about Thomas? Jesus told him blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed. But not seen what? The resurrected Jesus. But, what did Thomas see in the time he spent with Jesus? Healing of the sick, raising of the dead, casting out of demons, feeding of 4k and 5k, etc. Shouldn't then, Thomas have believed when Jesus told the disciples ahead of time that he would suffer, die, and on the 3rd day rise again? Jesus gave evidence.
What about John the Baptist? In Matthew 11, we see the following:
"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians:
"7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel." Phil 1:7
There are many more passages in the NT that admonish us to offer a defense (apologia) for the Gospel we preach. But the one that gives us the direct command is 1 Peter 3:15:
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense(apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect"
In John 20, the apostle writes " Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Acts 1:3 tells us "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God."
God has not left us without evidence of the truth. It becomes clear that we as Christians need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and how to articulate that truth.
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20
Recently here in my state, a man was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend. In response to the loss, the District Attorney who prosecuted the case stated:
"..Of course, we're gutted, However, what people will not understand is this: The number one reason we lost is the burden of proof in a circumstantial case is not just beyond a reasonable doubt but it's far higher."
Is this true? Do I need to be absolutely certain before I can say this man is guilty or innocent? What about the case for Christianity? Do I need to be certain of every detail before I can accept the evidence as pointing to it being true?
The truth is, you don't. In fact, most of the time, we know things are true or false without having all of our questions answered. But this brings up a question: How does one weigh evidence?
According to J. Warner Wallace, semi-retired Cold Case Detective and Christian author and speaker, understanding evidence first begins with understanding the difference between direct and indirect evidence
Direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. For example, a person witnesses a robbery and testifies in court. That is a direct evidence case. Indirect evidence is everything else. Indirect evidence is also known as circumstantial evidence. Even DNA and fingerprint evidence is not direct evidence, it's only a fact that is part of a larger body of evidence. In a circumstantial case, you draw inferences from the facts [evidence] you are presented. People can draw different inferences from the same facts. and a lot of this can be based on your personal bent. So what you must do is set aside your presuppositions and determine to follow the evidence wherever it leads - even if it's to a place you do not like.
Circumstantial evidence can make the strongest case for Christianity by building a cumulative case. A cumulative case can be compared to a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to be put together, they start to form a picture. At some point, if there are enough pieces, you can see what the picture is even if you don't have all of the pieces.
Another example: I am in the computer security industry. We make a product that provides secure remote access to systems. On occasion, a customer will report an issue that turns out to be a problem with their network. Now to show that, I need to comb through a series of logs that contain information. But there is never a smoking gun that says "it's their network". Instead, I have to put all of the information gathered together to form a cohesive picture of what's going to to show the customer where the issue lies. And this is exactly how we show that Christianity is true from the evidence.
Rational Inference is a basic law of logic and all of the facts are not required to make such an inference. There is a huge, circumstantial, cumulative case for Christianity. And when you weigh all of the evidence together, you begin to see the picture of Christ form. But, there will still be unanswered questions. I have them and you will too. But we don't make decisions based on being absolutely certain.
Back to the criminal case. I was not there to see the evidence, I'll leave it up to the jury. But if the DA thinks that a circumstantial case requires a higher burden of proof, he may have sunk his own case or had a bad one.
If you think you can't be a Christian because you cannot answer every question, apply that same burden of proof to everything else you think is true and see if those things hold up under the same scrutiny. You may find your case for those things wanting.
Recently saw this meme on social media:
Now, there are a lot of issues here, but what caught my eye was "..Peer reviewed DOCUMENTATION, Empirical results of repeatable EXPERIMENTATION.."
So this bring into question if one could test the Supernatural. Specifically, if you posit that God is the supernatural explanation of the universe, could you test God? This is what is known as a catagory error. In other words, since God would be supernatural, any tests that are by their nature designed to test nature would be null and void. You would have to use other tools to determine if God is a reasonable explanation for the universe given the evidence. Now you could use science to determine a particular supernatural claim such as if someone claims to have been miraculously healed of cancer, you can use science to determine from medical records if they indeed had cancer and you can use science to examine them now to see if the cancer remains or if a natural explanation is more reasonable like chemotherapy.
Proper tools for determining the supernatural in principle would be philosophy and logic as examples. Philosophical arguments for God being the cause of the universe would be the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, Leibniz Cosmological Argument, and so on. These arguments rely on the truthfulness of their premesis. If the premesis are true, then the conclusions logically follow.
Many naturalists assume that God is not a reasonable explanation for the universe (and many other things) because it cannot be "proven" by science. But the mistake is using the wrong tool for the job. As Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason would say, it's like "trying to weigh a chicken with a yard stick".
Because God is an autonomous being, requiring documented scientific experiments showing His existence is really moving the goal posts a bit. It would be better to require scientific evidence of the results of His existence. Even then, ideas like morality, logic, and even reason would not be able to have science reveal the reason for their existence as they themselves are abstract objects like mathematics. You know they are there, but you cannot determine why using science. You can only see their results.
This requirement fails at a fundamental level and sets the bar higher than science can prove about itself.