12/26/12

Full Series on Gossip

I gained a lot from this study and I hope you will too! There are so many misconceptions concerning what gossip is and isn't. It's a very serious issue and as Christians we need to know about it and how to combat it. Each link below represents a portion of the article on it. Enjoy and be edified!

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

By: Jonathan Harris

Proverbs 16:28 states, "A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends." Plain and simply put, gossip is wrong because it reveals a prideful heart that results in destruction. No doubt you have experienced the hardship of a hurt relationship due to gossip. Those are the kind of wounds that never seem to go away. We need to be very careful what we say and check our motivations daily. James 3:6 describes the tongue as, “a fire, the very world of iniquity. . . that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James goes on, “from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” Those are some pretty serious words. Our tongue is a powerful source of both joy and hatred. If we can master it, we can master the whole body. The integrity of your relationships all depend on this.

I think it should be obvious by now what gossip is and what it isn’t. But one thing that has not been touched on is the subject of sarcasm and stereotyping. Although Scripture does use both devices (1 Kings 18:27, Titus 1:2, Matt. 23:24, 1 Cor. 13:1) we need to be sensitive in how we are wielding such powerful weapons. Yes, it’s great to laugh and have fun (Prov17:22) but we need to check to see what our motivation is. If our humor matches any of the elements that characterize gossip, then that’s exactly what it is. We can’t cover our gossip up with a joke. Prov. 26:18-19 says, “Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “Was I not joking?” The rule of thumb I try to use is this: I don’t make fun of someone by insulting them in order to make myself look better, but I will sometimes point out idiosyncrasies that set that person apart that are not demeaning. For example, saying someone is dumb is insulting. Saying someone likes the color green and always surrounds himself with green shouldn’t be. This takes a lot of wisdom and familiarity with the person you’re joking with, and even then you can sometimes accidentally hurt them. Be careful! If you wouldn’t like it said to you, don’t say it to them is another good rule. Remember also, sometimes it’s better to just keep silent. Calvin Coolidge said, “I've never been hurt by anything I didn't say.” Prov. 10:19 likewise reads, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Full Series on Gossip

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

What to Say, and When to Say It

By: Jonathan Harris

I remember when I was taking a seminary class in conflict resolution my professor asked the class, “Is it ever right to talk behind someone’s back?” The answer of course was, “Yes, there are some circumstances you have to!” For instance, if someone tells you they are going to commit suicide, but they ask you not to tell anyone, what should you do? The obvious response is, you should tell someone! The reason is very simple—because it is the loving thing to do. (As a side note: This is why I do not EVER agree to “not tell anyone” if someone has information they want to give me)You see, sometimes what’s in the best interest of someone isn’t necessarily what they think is in their best interest. We find in scripture that this principle is used on many occasions. One of them has to do with bringing an elder up on charges. In 1Tim 5:19 Paul tells the young pastor to “not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” This means there must by necessity be some “talking behind someone’s back” for Timothy to be aware of more than one accusation made against a particular elder. When it comes to sin, we are actually instructed to SAY SOMETHING! If we don’t, it is we who are in the wrong. With this being understood, my professor followed up with another question, “How then do we know when it is right to reveal personal information about someone else?” The answer we came up with was a simple one: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Though this may be simple to comprehend, it can be hard to live out. There’s a fine line between sharing a prayer request for the sake of gossiping (an all too common occurrence in our churches), and sharing a prayer request because you genuinely care about the person. I have endeavored to create a flow chart of questions to ask yourself before sharing personal information about someone else. This chart is not meant to be a fool-proof rigid set of rules and therefore must be approached with a humble heart and a wise spirit. What I do hope is that it will help to guide you in making important decisions on what to share, and whom to share it with. Chances are, if you’re thinking seriously about what information you should or shouldn’t share, you’re not going to gossip. 1 Tim. 5:13 associates gossips with idleness and being a busybody. “At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house ; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” The word for “gossips” (Phluaros) refers to a person “uttering or doing silly things.” So if you take what you share seriously, chances are you’re not going to gossip.        

Questions to Ask Before Sharing Information About Someone Else

I. Is it any of your business? (Prov. 26:17)
    A. No - Then don’t say anything and pray to God on your own. Perhaps you can share it with your wife or husband (I base this on the two becoming one flesh), but that’s it, and even then you should be careful to protect him or her from information that she or he cannot handle. (Note: Be VERY careful you do not simply shirk the responsibility to avoid inconveniencing yourself. This is just as bad as gossip because it flows from the same selfish root motivation).
    B. Yes - This is my business because it directly affects something I’m responsible for. This rule takes some wisdom, but most of the time it’s obvious as to whether it affects you. For instance, if you are trying to protect someone else you are connected to, you have a responsibility (i.e. your family, your friends, your coworker, your country, your church, etc.). 
        1. To what degree are you responsible? In every institution there are levels of hierarchy that God has established. We must be very careful to leave the things we are not responsible for in His hands. As a general rule we have the responsibility to confront a brother in sin (Matt. 18:15-17). There are other times where we must notify a spiritual authority (Gal 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:19). When it comes to those who are dangerous (especially heretics), we must warn those who they have the potential to harm (Matt 12:38, 1 John 1:10, Rom. 16:17, 2 Thess. 3:14, Titus 1:11). This could be something as small as “They’re looking to sell you something and that’s why they’re friendly,” to, “They’re spreading heresy” or “planning on killing someone.” Sometimes you may also need to warn people about slander against yourself. Jesus had to do this in Matt 5:17. It is right to protect your own reputation, or the reputation of those you love. (Jer. 37:13-14, 2 Pet. 3:16) When in doubt talk to someone who’s godly and can offer counsel (Prov. 15:22).
        2. What’s your motivation in sharing this information? If you have a pure heart and you want to warn someone about someone else, or warn someone themselves about their own personal sin, then go for it! But if you know you’re heart is wickedly trying to elevate yourself and put them down then consider whether you should share the information. A general rule is this: If you are concerned that what you say might get back to them, don’t repeat it (Gal. 2:11). (We are of course excluding situations in which the person will physically harm you if he or she knew you told the truth about them, or wartime situations having to do with espionage)

One final piece of advice is this: Always keep yourself in prayer when considering these matters. Leonard Ravenhill said “Notice, we never pray for folks we gossip about, and we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray! For prayer is a great deterrent.” 

Review

•    Is it my business? - No - Pray, don’t share   
•    Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Confront - Pure Motive - share if need spiritual guidance
•    Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Warn - Pure Motive - Share for those who need warning
•    Is it my business? -Yes - Responsibility? - Protect Reputation - Pure Motive - Share

Full Series on Gossip

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

What Gossip Is

By: Jonathan Harris

Many will be surprised to find that the word “gossip” is not found in Scripture, at least not our modern conception. Sure, there are places in our English translations that have translated a Greek or Hebrew word to be “gossip,” but what you’ll quickly find when you do any research is that the meaning seems to fall slightly short of the full concept of gossip we have in our culture. In other words, only one aspect of our rich definition is portrayed. This is why we must survey many different biblical words and passages in order to arrive at a complete definition.

Let us proceed starting with Prov. 20:19 which reads, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” The word “Pathah” (gossip) can largely be defined by the context. The word for slanderer (Rakiyl) can also be translated as “tale-bearer” or “informer.” So, someone who tells stories that ought to be kept secret is a gossip. The actual word for gossip here can be defined “to be spacious, be open, be wide.” The common expression “loose lips sink ships” applies. Someone who is too open tends to reveal stories that ought not to be revealed. Prov. 20:19 is very helpful in giving us an idea of the characteristics of a gossip, but it does little in telling us what kind of information constitutes gossip and to whom such information cannot be revealed. For that, we must continue our study.

Prov. 26:20 states, “ For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” The word “whisperer” (Ragan) tells us something about the nature of gossip. It is defined by the action of speaking low so others will not hear what’s being said. Normally we think of Gossips as those too loose with information, and that is true, yet it must also be understood that gossips are only loose with certain people. A gossip will not want you to know what he or she is saying about you. They likely will not reveal negative information to people to whom you are connected either for fear that it may get back to you. This is the opposite of Paul’s example in Gal. 2:11 when he “opposed Peter to his face.” If you are sharing personal information about someone else that you would be afraid to reveal to them yourself, or have someone else link it back to you somehow, chances are you’re probably gossiping. The phrase, “you didn’t hear it from me,” exemplifies this behavior.

One rule of thumb, which should be obvious, is that you shouldn’t lie about people, but I strongly suspect that most gossip involves some sort of deception. Ex. 23:1 says, “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” It should go without saying that any information that is false ought never to be revealed to anyone. It should likewise be noted that the motivation behind revealing false information is “malice” according to the passage. This is a point too often missed. I believe it is the motivation behind our words that constitute whether or not it is gossip. We will see this more clearly as we continue our survey.

Proverbs 18:8, "The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body." The word for “dainty” means “ to gulp, swallow greedily.”  Let me ask you a question, “What makes information about someone else addictive and attractive?” When someone is put down there’s an obvious feeding of the flesh that occurs—we’re being put up! We say to ourselves, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as them!” This is what makes gossip so alluring! Again, notice, it’s the motivation behind the revelation of the information, not the information itself. Someone who’s sharing information about someone, that they don’t want to get back to that person, for the purpose of making themselves feel elevated, constitutes gossip.
   
Jesus tells us exactly where gossip comes from in Matt. 15:19 where he preaches, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” The word for “slanders” (Blasphemia) means “ detraction, speech injurious, to another's good name.” When applied to God we call it “blasphemy.” In the form of blasphemy slandering constitutes taking away from God’s attributes or attributing to Him attributes that do not belong to Him. At the root, blasphemy is an attempt by man to subvert God—to make Him less and us more. Well, when applied to people in the form of slander it’s much the same thing. We, once again, lie by attributing false attributes to someone else’s character to make us feel self-righteous. We can sometimes even do this by sharing the truth, but not the whole truth. This Jesus teaches, comes out of the heart of man. It is an evil motive that inspires such speech.

To conclude our short tour through what the Bible says about gossip let us review the elements we have discussed.

Review

•    The elements of Gossip include:
    •    Purposely precluding information from the party being discussed (Prov. 26:20)
    •    Sharing information about someone for the purpose of elevating oneself (Ex. 23:1, Prov. 18:8)
    •    Attributing false damaging information to someone else (Matt. 15:19)
•    A gossip is someone who is characterized by sharing the kind of information described above in a loose manner (Prov. 20:19)
•    Therefore, Gossip is the act of sharing damaging information about someone else for the purpose of elevating oneself, and often includes lying.


Full Series on Gossip 

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

What Gossip IS NOT

By: Jonathan Harris

In order to define what true gossip is we first need to talk about what it cannot be. One modern definition goes like this, “Gossip is talking about someone behind their back.” Really? Because, if we’re really going to adopt this definition we will essentially have to likewise accuse the Apostles and our Lord of this very act. In fact, I don’t know how we’d even function as a society if everyone were to adopt this? How many necessary tasks require us to talk about someone when they’re not around, including details that may not be the most flattering? Anyone who’s ever been in management of any kind can especially relate to this. Let’s look a few biblical examples of this before moving forward.

    But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. — Gal 2:11-13 NASB

It is obvious from the character of the letter that Paul’s purpose in using this particular story was to educate the Galatians on the relationship between the law and grace, yet look how he does it! Was Paul a “gossip” for including in his letter an example of the hypocrisy Cephas (Peter) had partaken in? Paul is known for calling people out in his letters. In our day and age these things would be considered extremely harsh and intolerant, no doubt candidate examples for gossip’s poster children. Consider these illustrations from the man who wrote and developed Christian theology more than any other individual.    

    I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. — Phil. 4:2   

    It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. . . I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. — 1 Cor. 5:1, 5 (The Corinthians no doubt knew exactly who Paul was talking about)

    You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and     Hermogenes.— 2 Timothy 1:15

    for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. — 2 Tim. 4:10

There is no doubt Paul would have been accused of heinous gossip and intolerance if such events took place in our own day. Yet consider this. Paul, while describing the depths of depravity man will commit when left to himself, along with such sins as “murder” and “deceit” uses the word “Psithuristes,” a word translated, “gossips.” “Psithuristes” can be defined as “a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor.” So Paul was against gossip! Therefore, gossip must be more than simply sharing unflattering information about someone. Likewise, it must also be more than simply sharing information about someone behind their back or when they’re not around. How else would the apostle Paul have even heard about some of the personal situations he wrote against when he was not present to observe them first hand? Obviously, a witness must have brought him this information.

 Now, look to the example of our Lord who in Matt. 19:23, right after the rich young ruler leaves His presence, turns to His disciples and states, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Is there really any doubt as to whom Christ was referring? And everyone who’s read through any of the Gospels knows that our Lord did not mince words when it came to the religious establishment. Christ not only publicly and privately condemns the Pharisees but he even uses sarcasm while doing it! (Mark 12:38-40, Luke 11:37-52)

In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus instructs on the steps for “church discipline” as it’s sometimes called.

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector

It should be noted that there must be some kind of conversation taking place between the initial confronter and those in the church who jointly confront during the second step. This means that something negative is shared behind someones back for the purpose of restoring them to a right relationship with God. In the last step this negative information is given to the rest of the church, again so that the brother can be won back.

In light of both the example of the Apostle Paul and Jesus, I believe it would be helpful for us to shed our bumper sticker conceptions of gossip and start afresh a search for a new and true definition.

Review

•    Gossip IS NOT merely talking about someone behind their back (Matt. 18:15-17; 19:23)
•    Gossip IS NOT merely saying negative things that damage other people(s) reputation in public or private. (Luke 11:37-52, Gal. 2:11-13, Matt. 18:15-17)


Full Series on Gossip

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

Gossip: An Introduction



By: Jonathan Harris

When you think of the word “gossip,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the title of a section in your local newspaper? Or, possibly you think about the tabloids you brush by as you’re in the aisle at the supermarket? Or, maybe gossip is that juicy slice of information you happen to obtain from your friend regarding “who has as crush on who!” Well, whatever your concept of the word, one thing seems for certain—everyone seems to have their own understanding of what exactly it is. Gossip is one of those often misunderstood but very serious sins. We tend to throw the word around a lot, usually at someone we believe has accused us of something or insinuated something negative about ourselves (Oh, the irony!). But do any of us really understand biblically what we’re saying when we accuse someone of gossip? My suspicion is that the biblical concept of gossip has largely been forgotten, along with many other sins such as gluttony, envy, laziness, etc. My goal is to correct what I believe is an erroneous definition of gossip in modern Christianity and educate those who, like myself, were simply unaware on all the Bible has to say about this deadly sin. My hope is that this will be a convicting wake up call to all Christians so that we can work toward a more harmonious body of Christ and become better witnesses to our lost and dying world.

Full Series on Gossip

1. Gossip: An Introduction
2. What Gossip Is Not
3. What Gossip Is
4. What to Say and When to Say It
5. Gossip, the Tongue, and Humor

12/3/12

Book Review: Pushing the Antithesis by Greg Bahnsen

By: Jonathan Harris

I have to say, and I do this honestly, that as far as presuppositional methodology goes, you cannot beat this book! For those seeking to understand the method and apply it I would say this: Pick up a copy of Greg Bahnsen's Always Ready for the understanding (or Jason Lisle's The Ultimate Proof of Creation if Bahnsen seems a bit academic), and a copy of Pushing the Anthithesis for applying. Pushing the Antithesis (composed by Gary Demar), systematically goes through each precondition of intelligibility (The things we need to assume in order to function in the world) and shows why the nonbeliever is living a fallacy and the Christian is living consistently. It does so with invaluable quotes from representatives of the nonbeliever's worldview and ends each section with a Bible study on the particular topic. In addition there is a study guide for small group discussions and applications. For those seeking to learn how to debate/evangelize using Presuppositional apologetics this is a must!

Book Review: The Portable Presuppositionalist by Jamin Hubner

By: Jonathan Harris

Presuppositional apologetics has been a passion of mine for a few years now. Ever since I was exposed to Greg Bahnsen's worldview lectures I've been reading, listening, and watching everything I can get my hands on regarding the topic. That process recently brought me to Jamin Hubner's book The Portable Presuppositionalist. After finishing Hubner's work I came to the conclusion that it was specifically intended for me and people like me---people passionate about the subject. Although I did not find any new information (regarding the apologetic method), or even clarifying details as to how to explain or understand presuppositional apologetics, I did find two fascinating things: 1) An academic, historical, and meta-apologetic (meaning the theology of apologetics) discussion on Presuppositional apologetics, and 2), some practical examples of how one can apply this method in debate settings via transcripts of various debates. For those who are still struggling to understand presuppositional apologetics, or who frankly don't care about the history behind how we ended up with this method, this book is probably not for you; but if, like me, you long to dive full force into the depths of history to uncover the richness of what makes Presuppositional apologetics the only method for biblical Christians, I'm sure you will be blessed and entertained!

11/23/12

Refuting Naturalism

How Naturalism Presupposes Supernaturalism
By: Jonathan Harris

Webster’s dictionary defines naturalism as, “a theory denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically : the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.” Oftentimes naturalism is associated with atheism. Self-proclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins, in his famous book, The God Delusion, equivocates the two giving greater clarity to what naturalists think of themselves. Dawkin’s writes:

Human thoughts and emotions emerge from exceedingly complex interconnections of physical entities within the brain. An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and no miracles - except in the sense of natural phenomena that we don't yet understand. If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural.

Atheism and naturalism seem to be two sides of the same coin. Atheist’s define themselves based on what they deny, a belief in a deity or deities, while naturalists tend to define themselves based on what they affirm, the idea that all that exists does so in the material world. However, to be accurate, Atheism is really just a subset of naturalism. I believe the term naturalism can also be applied to certain monistic Eastern religions. While naturalism may be veiled by religious terminology in these contexts, we are still essentially talking about a world in which everything that exists does so “within the box.” Defining God as “in everything” or “part of everything” fails to make a distinction between God and nature and therefore assumes that all that exists does so within the natural realm. For the purposes of this article, I shall focus my attempt to apologetically engage naturalism more toward the atheist in a Western context than toward the monist.

This way of thinking may seem sophisticated to some people. After all, there are some really smart scientists such as Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking that seem so confident that “the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be.” Shouldn’t we listen to what “science” tells us instead of trusting in “blind faith?” The answer to this question becomes much easier for the Christian to answer when we look at naturalism not from a pseudo-scientific standpoint, but rather from a philosophical standpoint. In other words, we need to examine the fundamental presuppositions of the naturalist position before even approaching the question! Only when we do this will it become obvious what our answer should be.

The Achilles heel of naturalism is that it is not actually a purely scientific/objective/impartial outlook on life. It is a worldview by which we examine life itself. Because of this fact, naturalism actually disproves itself because it assumes supernaturalism before even starting the investigative process. Allow me to illustrate. Say there was a man who claimed that all that existed within the cosmos were solids, liquids, and visible gases, but not “invisible” gases. The evidence he used to further his case was that no one had ever seen invisible gases, therefore they must not exist. However, all the while our friend talked about the non-existence of invisible gas he breathed them in order to communicate. Most people would find such a person utterly foolish, and indeed he would be. In the same way, the naturalist claims that all that exists is matter in motion, yet when it comes down to it they rely on an absolute knowledge in order to even make such a statement—a knowledge that by definition must be supernatural. This simple illustration made by Ray Comfort will help us see the problem.

If I were to make an absolute statement such as, "There is no gold in China," what is needed for that statement to be proven true? I need absolute or total knowledge. I need to have information that there is no gold in any rock, in any river, in the ground, in any store, in any ring, or in any mouth (gold filling) in China. If there is one speck of gold in China, then my statement is false and I have no basis for it.

To say that there exists nothing supernatural requires the naturalist to have some way of knowing every facet of every fact from every time, something that only an infinite supernatural being would be capable of. So in essence, the naturalist is claiming that within the knowledge he has not gained through scientific inquiry, there exists no proof for the supernatural—a highly unscientific statement indeed. Naturalism presupposes supernaturalism.

Another problem for the naturalistic worldview can be referred to as “the one and the many problem.” This problem states that if naturalism were true, there would be no way of knowing whether it was true or not. In other words, there would be no naturalists if what they argued for was actually correct. In our world there exist two categories of “things” that everyone subscribes to: universals, and particulars. The particulars refer to individual or groups of individual categories. A pencil, mind, or the concept of love would be examples of particulars. A universal however applies to multiple things, is abstract, and a general rather than a specific truth. Concepts such as the laws of logic themselves or numbers would fall into this category.  Greg Bahnsen helps us see the distinction between the two with this helpful illustration.

To illustrate the function of universals in a simple way, let’s look at Huey, Louie, and Dewey, the fictional nephews of the Disney cartoons character Donald Duck. Huey, Louie, and Dewey are “ducks.” But consider: “To what does the term ‘duck’ refer?” The answer, of course, is all of them. Huey, Louie, and Dewey are particular individuals who are in the class of “ducks,” which is the general, universal organizing concept. They each share “duckness.”

A naturalist essentially believes that all that exists are the particulars. For universals to exist there would also have to be something supernatural since universals are not found in nature. Some naturalists have tried to claim that the laws of logic, mathematics, and morality are all social conventions, but for this to be true they wouldn’t be constant, and they would rely on human minds in order for them to be true. Before human minds were on the scene two plus two was not necessarily four. The universe could also have both existed and not existed at the same time and in the same sense before human beings convened and accepted the law of non-contradiction. As you can see, the naturalist has a problem here. He tries to interpret “brute facts” with organizing principles (universals) that transcend brute facts. This shows that the naturalist doesn’t really believe in his own naturalism. The naturalist has no tool available to him (universals) by which to know that naturalism is true, if it were true. Therefore, for naturalism to be true, science must also be rendered impossible since it assumes that there are universal scientific laws.

Part of evangelizing naturalists is pointing out these, and other flaws in their worldview in a humble but direct way. When it comes down to it the naturalist doesn’t really believe in his naturalism. He acts as if universals exist and as if there is a divine source of absolute knowledge. He demonstrates such beliefs in every action. Trusting his sense perception, becoming outraged at moral injustice, conducting scientific experiments, etc. all presuppose supernaturalism. Therefore, the naturalist is really a walking bundle of contradictions. Romans 1 describes this syndrome when it states, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” The naturalist in fact does know God, and it’s at this point in which we engage them. 2 Cor. 10:5 states our task in this way. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We show the non-believer that in reality he does rely on the God of Scripture by pointing out the contradiction, and then we offer up the Gospel as the reasonable alternative.



Sources
                               
Comfort, Ray. “Why the Atheist Doesn’t Exist.” ChristianAnswers.Net, n.d. http://www.christiananswers.net/evangelism/beliefs/atheism.html.

D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Pub., 2007.

Dawkins, Richard. The God delusion. London: Bantam Press, 2006.

DeMar, Gary. Pushing the antithesis : the apologetic methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen. Powder Springs, Ga.: American Vision, 2007.

“Naturalism - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/naturalism.

New American Standard Bible, 1995.

10/14/12

Foreordination and Free Choice

A Reconciliation
By: Jonathan Harris

Most of us who call ourselves Christians know that the Bible teaches both that God is sovereign over all things (including time) and that man is responsible before Him. This is often brought up in interactions with other worldviews as a contradiction. How is it possible that God can "foreordain whatsoever comes to pass" and still hold human beings liable for the crimes they commit? The tendency among most evangelicals is to try to somehow diminish God's sovereignty so that He's just reacting to human choice rather than planning it. They'll say things like, "God looked down the corridor of time and saw those who would choose Him, and in turn, chose them." Of course, there's nowhere in Scripture that it actually states this, and no definition of "choice" would include such a mechanism. But nonetheless, without this response a Christian is left feeling the tension of the dilemma. So how do we navigate this problem biblically, and does the "God looked down the corridor of time" argument work? Also, what are the alternatives to believing the Biblical view? Are they any more consistent? That's what I intended to examine in this brief Sunday School lesson I gave to my local church. I hope it is of use to you as well.

Both Are Biblical

If you read Proverbs 16 you might be quite surprised. It states in verse 10 that "A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment.." Then two verses later the same proverb says, "It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, For a throne is established on righteousness." Was there a blatant contradiction between three verses? Why, if kings declare divine decisions, and shouldn't err, do they, and are held responsible for it? Wouldn't the author have seen such a problem? The Bible maintains that the idea that God foreordains and the idea that man is held responsible are not diametrically opposed. Foreordination is explicitly taught in both testaments (Is. 46:10, Psalm 33:11, Eph. 1:3-14; Rom. 8:28-30, 1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:13; etc.). Is. 46:10 states, "Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'." Likewise, Rom. 8:28-30 says:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.God's control over time is just about always (if not always) viewed as a comforting reality. Just think of the alternative! If God were not in control of the future how much comfort would there be in the midst of any tragedy in this world, and how would we know God's promises would be kept? At the same time, man is morally responsible for His choices and is in fact commanded to choose righteousness. (Deuteronomy 30:19; James 1:13-14; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 13:3; etc.) Luke 13:3 puts it this way, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." In the words of James:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.So now that we know both of these truths (God's foreordination and man's free choice) are biblical, how is it that we reconcile them? And furthermore, why would we pray or evangelize if God's just going to do what God's going to do? Let's answer the second question first.

Both are Compatible


God Ordains the Ends as Well as the Means
(Phil 1:6, 2:12; 3:14; Eph. 2:10; Acts 2:23, 4:27-28; etc.)

Paul says in Phil 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." In the very next chapter he states, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling." If you continue reading, in the chapter after that Paul follows it up with the personal resolution, "
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." So let's get this straight. It's God who's at work in the believer's sanctification process, yet the believer is commanded to pursue greater spirituality. So while the believer exercises him or herself to obey God it is really God at work in them. Bingo! It's in God's sovereign plan that the believer will put forth this effort thereby bringing about the intended result. The end (a mature believer) is accomplished through the means (the believers pursuit), yet both are ordained by God.  This is true when it comes to evangelism and prayer as well. God has ordained that those things are his means by which he accomplishes an end. So prayer does change things and so does evangelism, yet it is God who is at work in the very process including believers in His divine decree. Eph. 2:10 declares, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

So are good means the only means that God declares or can He declare evil means to reach good ends? We find this answer, among other passages, in Acts. It states in 2:23, "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." Then in 4:27-28 it reads:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
So there's the answer. God does ordain even evil to reach a good end.


Foreordaining Does Not Equal Coercing

It is important to note something very important here however. God did not coerce those who perpetuated the arch crime of history to do what they did. It says they were "godless men." The roman soldiers didn't have to work that day, they could have done an infinite number of other things rather than crucify the Lord. But the truth is they wanted to. They desired to kill Him, and so they carried out their plan, a plan God had ordained from the beginning. It's hard to wrap our heads around this from a human perspective. If we want to make a future outcome absolutely certain we must coerce in order to accomplish it. For instance, a mobster, if he wants someone knocked off, must in advance either pay someone reliable to do it, or do it himself (that is, if he wants to be certain it will happen). From God's vantage point this is not the case however. God does not have to coerce in order to accomplish. He works in such a way that men retain their choice making abilities and make the choice he predetermined at the same time. This is not a contradiction logically, but a difficult concept to understand from a human perspective because we must coerce in order to accomplish something for certain. In other words, we're not God.

So the problem, logically speaking at least, has been eliminated. The law of non-contradiction says that things cannot both be true and not true in the same sense and in the same way. In this case, there is no contradiction because God is sovereign over human affairs in two senses. In one sense He foreordains, and in another sense He does not coerce. So the obvious question at this point is, are there any better explanations/reconciliations out there that better explain this idea of foreordination and free choice? Let's take a look.

Arminianism

Arminianism assumes that a future outcome can be foreknown and yet not foreordained (i.e. "God looked down the corridor of time.") This we shall see is logically inconsistent. Now stay with me. You may have to read this next sentence a few times. If it is certain in advance that an event will take place, it is by necessity having an effect in the mind of God before it occurs, making it therefore certain in advance that it will happen. Now what's the significance of this? Well to put it plainly, the Arminian doesn't really do anything significant to reconcile the seeming discrepancy. He really brings us back to square one. If all things are foreknown, and if the future is foreknown it is not contingent, therefore the future is not contingent. "Contingency" just means there are circumstances that are able to alter the outcome. So basically if God can foreknow events, which the Arminian grants, then those same events are by necessity also certain to take place, meaning that they are in fact predetermined.

The Arminian's motivation seems to be the protection of "free will," yet the Scripture teaches that human will is bound by human nature (Matt. 7:18; Rom. 3:12; Mark 7:21; etc.). The choices we make are a result of the kind of people that we are. Sinners sin, redeemed people do good works. Yes, there are choices given to mankind ("free choice") but a decision will be dictated by a person's nature. We do not make decisions in a vacuum, and neither does God. He in fact limits Himself to His own nature, otherwise we would be at the mercy of an arbitrary God whom we can't even rely on to keep His own promises to us.

Secular Theories

There are three basic philosophical theories when it comes to the subject of foreordination and free choice. Libertarianism, compatibilism , and determinism. Libertarianism assumes that humans are completely free to do whatever they want. The problem with this is that if you assume no God at the outset all you have is nature, and nature is regulated by laws (if this fact is denied you run into even greater philosophical problems). If laws regulate decisions libertarianism cannot be true. In an effort to save a godless system libertarians can run to compatibilism as an alternative (The idea that somehow human freedom is compatible with the fact that choices are predetermined by nature). The obvious problem here is that if all that is making a particular decision are the impersonal forces of physical laws then compatibilism is really a delusion. Physical laws are based on principles. For the sake of argument lets say human decisions are controlled by the principle that all decisions made will be the most selfish possible given a particular set of circumstances. If this is true, it is the impersonal principle that controls, not the person themselves. There really is no personhood because the person must choose the most selfish decision at all times (and a moral attribute such as selfishness being defined by a natural law is another problem in and of itself). The most honest position toward this question is perhaps made by the determinist who thinks that human decisions are bound by natural forces and admits this. However, once again we have a problem. If this is true, humans are not the ones making the choices themselves, but rather they are subject to impersonal forces. Therefore, they are not the ones making the choices themselves and should not be held responsible. Rapists and murderers are not liable for their decisions. They're are simply acting on their natural impulses. A decision to kill a small child is no different than the decision of a basketball to bounce off the ground. Why should anyone care? There is no significance. And any determinist who tries to convince someone of determinism is really just showing that he or she actually doesn't believe what they advocate since each one of us is already determined to believe what we'll believe.

Conclusion

As we can see, the alternatives to the Biblical view make us run into real philosophical problems. The Christian can be confident and bold in his worldview. The Bible does reveal mysteries, but does not reveal logical impossibilities. The two must be distinguished, and the nonbeliever must be pressed to reveal his own presuppositions. Only then will the truth be made evident.

10/1/12

Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism

By: Jonathan Harris

I have to say, I'm really (no like seriously, I'm not exaggerating at all) digging these Politically Incorrect Guides more than any other series I've been exposed to. Homeschoolers should use them as curriculum (or at least a curriculum supplement depending on the subject), and public/private schoolers should read them during/after high school to be deprogrammed from the liberal garbage that permeates most every text-book (even Christian ones) out there. This is also the series college students need. I mean it. All the information is right there. If you want to look more in depth you can check out the sources and recommended reading books. I cannot necessarily endorse every single point perpetuated by the series, but is there anything that any person is going to agree 100% with? Not really. But since these books stick so closely to fact you can't really argue with them---and the Capitalism installment is certainly no exception. It does not disappoint. I like to describe it as the brute facts with a little common sense. I'm left questioning, "How can anyone question capitalism? Would they not either be ignorant or evil?" Sounds extreme right? Of course it does in our cultural context, but why run from something simply because of how it sounds? Shouldn't we be evaluating things on their merits of truthfulness? I challenge those out there who doubt the wisdom of a free market---Get this book! It's nothing complex. It's actually very simple and very logical. You'll have a chance to think through all the common free-market arguments and concepts as well as read several chapters on Macro-economic government history and policy with real-world examples. Get it, read it, believe it, spread the word.

9/24/12

Book Review: The Cross Centered Life

By: Jonathan Harris

In C.J. Mahaney's book The Cross Centered Life, the author shows how why and how every Christian should look at their life as a whole---through the lens of the cross. At first I found the book to be a bit disorganized. But when I got to the end everything came together. There were some especially helpful chapters on dealing with emotions and dealing with trials. I thoroughly recommend this book to all Christians, especially for newer Christians. It's a good introduction to what Christianity is all about and how to live life the way Jesus did, gaining the most satisfaction and giving the most from self.

The Few, The Proud, the Ignorant

A Response to Christian Anti-Intellectualism
By: Jonathan Harris

In a May 2011 article in Relevant Magazine, the author of "Is Christianity Anti-Intellectual?" asks:

Why the anti-intellectualism in the Church today? . . . after years of arduous intellectual work, countless sleepless nights and the accumulation of massive educational debt—these bedraggled but eager students [seminary students] are often greeted by an anti-intellectual church that says, "I have no need of you."

I myself have noticed this trend in the church as a whole. In a book published 12 years ago by the leader of one of the largest and fastest growing branches of evangelicalism it is stated:

You know the beautiful thing about [our denomination]? People don’t know where you really stand… And the whole field is ours… When you’re marketing something, you want the largest market appeal possible. So don’t chop up the market and say, ‘Well, we’re just going to fish in this little market here.’

Wait, it's good that people are unaware about your theology?

I recently came across a DVD series by a pastor in a local branch of this group who brags on the back of it that he's never been to seminary. Now, there's nothing wrong with a pastor who obtains his experience and knowledge outside of seminary, don't misunderstand me. For some it may be better to do it that way. But to wear it as a badge of honor? That somehow the product is superior because it was not subjected to formal education? This trend frightens me, and I do believe it is a trend.

When I refer to Christian anti-intellectualism I'm really referring to people who make statements such as these:

"Jesus was against the religious leaders of his day. They knew the law really well, but they didn't, you know, feed people and live the Christian life." (Assuming living the Christian life is wearing a t-shirt.)

"God doesn't care about all that fancy theology. He wants to touch our hearts." (Note: The second half of this statement is true. The first half is not.)

"You can keep your fancy Greek words. I'll keep the nice things I do for people." (As if the two are diametrically opposed.)

I could go on, but you get the point. Maybe you've run into people like this. Maybe you are someone like this. I don't think everyone who acts in such ways is evil or isn't a Christian by any means. Many of the Christian anti-intellectual mean well. They are perhaps reacting to a false, stale, fruitless religion that they've witnessed in their parents. A religion that has much knowledge, but not much in the way of actual love. I get that. But please realize, the two aren't mutually exclusive! The only way to live rightly is to first know rightly. Yes, Jesus did correct the Pharisees, but it wasn't for their study or their knowledge. It was for their hypocrisy! They knew so much, and applied it so wrongly. Listen to what the Bible has to say about Christian intellectualism. The study and drive we should all have for His Word.

"as also in all his [Paul's] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:16

So let's be clear. Some things in the Bible are hard to understand. Does this mean we should ignore them or oversimplify them with our own experiential interpretation about what they mean to us? No! That would put us in the category of the "untaught and unstable." Let's instead do what 2 Tim. 2:15 tells us to. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." So it takes work! That means study. How many times did Jesus ask the Pharisees, "Have you not read?" (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31; Mark 8:17, etc.) According to Jesus, part of the great commandment included loving God with all your mind, not just heart. (Mark 12:29-39). This coming from the same God who sends out the invitation, "Come let us reason together." (Is. 1:18)

My personal view on modern Christian anti-intellectualism is that it comes from a Romantic inclination regarding man. It is the idea that man will find truth through the emotive faculty of the heart and not the mind that drives what we're witnessing in the evangelical landscape. We know intuitively that science has not delivered its promises. It leaves us bankrupt. Raw data is not capable of getting us a spiritual experience in our estimation. So we seek our feelings for truth. In short, it is the subtle adoption of post-modernism in the church that has lead to where we are. Definitions are deemed constraining. Labels are deemed too divisive. Theology is deemed elite. Understanding is demonized, and the mystical is elevated. I wonder whether the trendy jeans, v-neck, sloppy stage backdrop that looks like something more out of Discovery Zone than a church, and the same synthesized three chords in row, heard through a dimly lit fog, are a reflection of this trend? It's almost like we're trying so hard to say, "Hey we're not part of the University or Business world. You can be yourself here!" Except no one ends up being themselves because we're all implicitly told that in order to be yourself you must be sloppy and undignified. So we create a false piety (really pride) to reach for. The new spiritual elite are truly the Christian anti-intellectuals.

So what's the solution? I don't have time to critique all the worship styles in this piece. Some of what's done these days is perfectly fine. I just want to ensure it's for the right motivation. This I do know. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17) If you want to have true faith you must first hear the word of God rightly divided. Personal piety, emotional experience, a heart touched by our Creator are all AMAZING things, but they flow from an understanding, not an ignorance. It all starts with "the word of God" which is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb. 4:12) Let's not forget our foundation in pursuit of true spirituality.

9/1/12

2016: Obama's America



A Review
By: Jonathan Harris

A couple days ago I had the privilege of watching 2016: Obama's America, not at a church or conservative function, but at a mainstream movie theater. My expectations were pretty high. I had been hearing ads for a couple weeks on the radio and they had made me curious. I mean, I knew what Obama was all about right? I've listened to loads of talk radio, read many news outlets, and I did a lot of research on him before the 2008 election. Is there anything I could possibly be missing? The answer was, "Yes, there was." I had viewed Obama more through the light of American history than the light of international geopolitical history. Obama wasn't raised in America. His views were not as shaped by the civil rights movement as they were the anti-colonial sympathies of his father and his mentors. This is crucial to understanding what his agenda is. And while I thought all Obama wanted to do was make this country look like a European socialist democracy, I couldn't have been further from the truth. I truly believe, according to this new information Denish D'Souza (the film's narrator) has uncovered, that Obama's goal is to make the U.S. look like a third world nation. You'll have to watch the movie to find out why!

All in all, my high expectations were met. I was entertained and educated. Please go and see this film, and help make it a hit!

8/27/12

Book Review: Heaven is For Real

By: Jonathan Harris

You may wonder how a review of the book Heaven is For Real even fits into the mission and theme of this blog. Liberal professors on a college campus don't usually push any brand of Christianity (they're against all of it), and students generally don't defend a certain brand of Christianity (they're just trying to hold on for dear life and defend the basic elements that define generic Christianity). I would like to suggest a different strategy for those defending Christianity in secular environments, including college campuses. Defend it biblically. What do you mean? I mean defend a brand of it. Defend the biblical brand. Don't defend something that undermines itself. What does this have to do with Heaven is for Real? Here's what it has to do with it. In our postmodern day and age, experience is everything. I mean, we are more prone to leave the defenses of a logical argument in favor of an experiential story (not that experience is always bad) because we think its more convincing and less likely to be questioned. You're intolerant if you question experience aren't you?

This is where Todd Burpo's Heaven is for Real fits in. It's a modern apologetic. You mean Heaven is For Real should be put on the same shelf as Evidence that Demands a Verdict and The Case for Christ? Yeah, that's basically what I'm saying. Listen to the title for a minute. This book is trying to authenticate the idea that heaven is not just a fairy tale as your college professor may have you believe. It is a real place. Here's my question though. What's the source of authority? Is it God or a little boy who happened to supposedly have a trip there? If it's man, then we have a problem. The very point of Christianity is to trust God above all---not man. But can't a little boy lead you to trusting God? That's like saying, won't candy lead me to healthy food? I'm not demeaning personal testimonies here. There's a place for them, and the apostles regularly gave their own experiences...but always in subservience to the Word of God. In other words, their testimony was consistent with God's word (Heaven is for Real contradicts it), and they tried to sway their audience by showing that God is the only reasonable truth center there is. It went like this: God is real, therefore my experience is in line with this truth. Not, my experience is line with this truth, therefore, God is real. Others have done a better job cataloging the Scriptural problems with this book. So I'll point you to one of them now (Heaven is for Real Review). My main point however is this: If your foundation is the Word of God, don't use as your authentication something outside the Word, especially something that undermines it. This is not a work of apologetics. It's at best an overconfident work of personal testimony, and at worst a work of fantasy. Not something you want to give your classmates or your professors.

Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History

By: Jonathan Harris

On the whole, I give Thomas E. Wood's The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History two thumbs up. It's by far the most helpful, informative, and interesting installment in the Guide series I've reviewed so far. First of all, Woods is smart. I mean really smart. He's probably one the smartest men out there right now when it comes to cultural, political, and economic history. He's also original. Well, there are people who agree with him. In fact, you'll find that if you go back to the historical period he writes about, most people, or at least a sizable amount, agree with his modern-day conclusions. You just never hear about them because they were typically the silent majority (i.e. they weren't the newspaper owners, history book writers, victors in their own causes or wars). So Wood's bringing up their right conclusions on controversial questions such as Should we have fought WWI? or Were Jim Crow laws racist? will serve to be a new tune to your ear. Every student, after taking their high school history course, should read this book to gain a broad overview of everything they missed, and to wet their appetite toward further study.

7/15/12

Are Liberal Atheists Smarter than Conservative Christians?

A Christian Response to "IQ and the Values of Nations"
By Anthony Maylath

Introduction   

    The London School of Economics (LSE) recently released controversial research that concludes atheists are smarter than those who are religious (Kanazawa, 2009). The article uses a school of thought called evolutionary psychology to provide theoretical framework that basically states that mankind is continually evolving into smarter beings and that liberalism and atheism are results of becoming smarter.
   
    The results of LSE’s research might sound troubling to any bible-believing Christian. The research seems to indirectly indicate that Christians are not smart enough to comprehend that God does not exist. The inference is somewhat of an insult to all Christians. However, upon close examination, the results of LSE’s research should not trouble any Christians for two primary reasons: (1) the interpretation of LSE’s regression model is erroneous, and (2) the model itself is too broad and does not capture specific phenomena that occur between Christians and other religions. Once these two factors are explained, we will see that LSE’s article should not concern Christians because it may not fully explain how IQ causes certain beliefs.

“Scientific” Results

    I put the word “Scientific” in quotes because economics is not an exact science. The methods used in LSE’s research follow the scientific method and is used by many businesses and universities. However, the results econometric models yield can often be unclear, difficult to interpret, and prone to statistical errors. However, I will do my best to explain LSE’s regression (cause and effect) model in light of biblical Christianity.

Mathematical Background

    LSE’s regression model basically shows the cause and effect relationship between IQ (intelligence quotient) and another variable. The study examines how IQ affects four different dimensions: tax rates, income inequality, belief in God (“yes or no” question), importance of God (on a scale of 1 to 10), and level of polygamy. This paper will only focus on the religious aspects of LSE’s analysis.

     Before we dive into the numbers, let’s have a basic lesson is statistics. For each variable two tests are done: a correlation and a regression (cause and effect analysis). These two tests seem to be the same but are slightly different. Correlation, unlike linear regression, only measures how often two things occur together. Say John has a high grade point average. Also assume that grade point averages and SAT scores are correlated. Therefore, if John has a high grade point average, then he probably has a high SAT score. Notice that the two variables can be swapped. However we do not know if high SAT scores cause high grade point averages or if high grade point averages cause high SAT scores. The model is ambiguous with respect to cause. On the other hand, the linear regression model explicitly defines what the cause is.  In LSE’s regression model IQ is always the cause.

The Numbers

    LSE’s results were that the belief in God and the importance of God are both strongly correlated with lower IQs. The regression revealed that for every point in national average IQ there is a 1.119%  decrease in a nations belief in God, and for every point in national average IQ there is a 0.2024 (out of ten) decrease in the importance of God in a nation.

Interpretation

    These results may sound alarming to a bible-believing Christian, but since LSE’s model is so broad, it does not capture the whole situation. There are two main arguments I bring against this model: (1) biblical Christianity is radically different from all other religion and therefore should be treated differently, and (2) less religious people typically have smaller families and do not have church responsibilities (Kanazawa, 2009); therefore, less religious people have more time to develop their academic skills.

Controlling for Other Religions  

    I would make the argument that biblical Christians gravitate towards critical thinking, knowledge, and wisdom while all other religions do not. This fact is clear in the bible. We see a notable example of critical thinking (an aspect of intelligence quotient) in Acts 17. “Now these [the Christians in Berea] were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica[...], examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:16, NASV). In this example, we see that a critical analysis towards scriptures is not only encouraged, but it also led to faith in Christ.

    Moreover, we see that many great scientists throughout history have been Christian. Two of the most notable Christian scientists were Johann Kepler, considered to be the founder of modern astronomy and Isaac Newton, the beloved founder of modern physics. Kepler and Newton were not merely nominal Christians; rather, both were earnest in their faith.  Kepler attended seminary, studied biblical genealogy, and believed that the earth was only 7000 years old. On the other hand, Newton was a committed to the faith from a very young age and published several works on biblical prophesy (Morris, 1997).

    I suspect that most other religions do not encourage study and critical thinking the way that Christianity does. For example, the Qur’an is extremely hostile toward unbelievers, which means there is little room to question authorities (Qur’an 9:123). Furthermore, the Catholic Catechism teaches that only clergy can correctly interpret the bible, which discourages the layman from its study. Please do not misunderstand me. I believe those associated with the Catholic church can be saved; however, some of Catholic doctrine is not consistent with scripture. “[Catholicism] puts the priest between the Christian believer and the knowledge of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and makes him the sole interpreter of truth” (Boettner, 1962). Despite the fact that Catholicism and Islam are the two larger religions that seem to discourage critical thinking, LSE’s model does not possess a mechanism that separates biblical Christianity from these and other religions. Therefore, it is possible for IQ and biblical Christianity to be positively related because the possibility that people with low IQs join other religions waters down the fact that smart people choose Christianity.   

Advantages that Atheists Possess

    It is clear that atheists possess two distinct advantages over theists with respect to IQ. Firstly, as LSE’s research mentioned, atheists tend to have smaller families than theists. A smaller family would mean more time for other things, such as work and education. Since both work and education may have a positive impact on IQ scores, it could be considered an advantage. Secondly, less religious people do not have as many obligations as more religious people. Church, baptisms, missionary trips, prayers, and ceremonies all take time and usually may not add to skills that would improve IQ scores. Therefore, since less religious people once again have more time, they can use it to pursue careers and education which may increase IQ scores.

Conclusion

    Indicated by LSE’s research, we saw that belief in God and the importance of God were both strongly correlated and a result of relatively lower levels of intelligence. However, this we notice that LSE’s model does not separate biblical Christianity from other religions. My claim is, if the model adjusted for biblical Christianity, we would see the opposite effects because some other religions do not accommodate critical thinking, while biblical Christianity encourages it. We also saw that less religious people may tend to have higher IQs because they have more time to devote to activities that increase IQ test scores.   

    Often, the results of scientific research can appear to cast doubt upon the Bible, but, under close examination, we may find that the findings are misinterpreted. As a believer, I challenge everyone who reads this paper to do critical research on the things that people (or even experts) say. We live in a sinful world, people lie, and occasionally even spread falsehoods because of incompetency. Because of this, we need to be like the Bereians of Acts 17 and critically analyze important issues that affect our lives.        

 

Work Cited

Boettner, Loraine. Roman Catholicism. Phillipsburg: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962. Print
  
Morris, Henry R. Men of Science Men of God: Great Scientists who Believed the Bible. Green Forest: Master Books, 1997. Print.

Satoshi Kanazawa. “IQ and The Values of Nations.” Journal of Biosocial Science Vol. 41 (2009): pp 537-556. Print.

7/4/12

A Few Thoughts on Being Single

By: Jonathan Harris

It has come to my attention over the last few years that both young men and women want to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Big news flash Jon! Yeah, I know. Duh. Perhaps you're one of them. I know that I am. In a way, just about everyone is! Gen. 2:18 remarks that it's not good for man to be alone. So just about every woman is designed to want to be a man's helpmate, and every man is wired to want a helpmate. This is all obvious stuff, especially to Christians, since we know why humans are wired this way. Having stated the obvious, I'd like to examine something troubling to me regarding how this obvious truth is being treated in our Christian culture. I don't know if this is something personally observable and applicable only in my limited experience, or if it's an epidemic, but I would like to offer up my perspective on it.

To put it plain, I feel like way to many men and women (especially women perhaps) feel inadequate being single (especially Christians). I've noticed conversations about other individuals indicating the unhealthy importance we place on romantic relationships. Let me illustrate. Ever heard someone say  things like: "He/She's doesn't deserve to be in a relationship." "Oh, he/she should be in a relationship with someone who will make them happy. He/She deserves it." When we use the word "deserve" it almost seems to constitute some kind of "right." If we're not careful single people can become jealous and people in relationships can become little matchmakers wanting everyone to be like them. Now I've heard these types of conversations for years, and am ashamed to say I've been a part of some of them. But I'd like to make something clear. My opinion on this shallow way of looking at romantic relationship is that it's wrong. Plain and simple. Now, let me defend this assertion.

1. Humans are complete without a romantic partner (i.e. husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend).

Objection: WHAT? How can you say this? You just ruined every romantic story. Doesn't the Bible say that it isn't good for man to be alone. Doesn't that mean men and women need each other?

Response: Yes, God did say that loneliness wasn't good, and woman was created to meet this need. And yes, there are romantic inclinations expressing the joy and need for a marriage partner in legitimate ways (see Song of Songs). But, this doesn't make humans somehow incomplete if they don't have that. James 1:4 gives the formula for being "perfect" and "complete, lacking nothing," and it has nothing to do with romance or partnership with the opposite sex. Think about the single people of Scripture. Think about Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Were they somehow incomplete?

2. Humans are happy without a romantic partner.

Objection: But how can you be happy if you don't have someone to share all your stuff/experiences with?

Response: Paul, a single man, had "learned to be content in all circumstances" according to Philippians 4:12. I don't want to take away from marital joy, because surely there is a happiness that comes from it, and having that intimacy is a blessing, but it is not necessary. The Giver of all joy can certainly manage to give someone committed to Him more joy then they could ever have with someone else if He so desired. Didn't Jesus himself remark in the Sermon on the Mount that in heaven "[we] will be like the angels, neither [married] nor given in [marriage]?" So, the most blissful place ever contains no romantic relationships. Got it. Another overlooked fact is that with marital joy also comes a lot of concessions and compromises (any relationship does), and those aren't always happy.

3. Some humans are more valuable to the Lord's cause without a Romantic partner

Objection: Aren't two always better than one? The very picture of a relationship is a yoking, meaning that the two are better equipped together for a special task.


Response: This is very true. For some people it is helpful to have someone by their side to help them along. I would say this is true for most of us actually. But the truth also remains that we don't have to voluntarily yoke ourselves to someone. We can still accomplish a task without someone else even if it's more difficult. In fact, for some of us we're even more efficient. Read what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

If you read the whole chapter you'll find that Paul is referring to the gift of singleness. Some people can get more done for the kingdom of God without being in a relationship.

Final Thoughts

I think as a result of these truths we ought to be careful as Christians when talking and interacting with single people. Couples sometimes treat single people as if they have a disease, and the right cure is their friend or neighbor whom they can't wait to introduce to them for the purpose of matchmaking. This isn't appropriate. Single people have an advantage in that they aren't constrained by a relationship. They have freedom to do things people in relationships cannot. We should never push someone into doing something with these incorrect motivations. We, instead, must value single people and the contribution they give to the church. If you are a single person, as I am on some level (I'm not married, though I have a wonderful girlfriend), you need to thank God for it. Thank God for the opportunities you have. I know of a number of young men and women who would make excellent wives and husbands but aren't in any kind of a relationship at the moment. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this! It's not a problem we have to correct. And if you are single, please don't conform to that pressure. God in His time, and if He wants to, will give you a partner. If He hasn't done that for you yet, just focus on him and living your life. You aren't missing out on anything!

6/27/12

Real Marriage- The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together: A Review

By: Jonathan Harris

I just got finished listening to the audiobook version of Real Marriage by Mark and Peggy Driscoll. Overall, I think there are some good things to be gleaned, but I would not recommend this book, especially to singles. It's much too sexually explicit, and resorts to some rather sketchy handling of Song of Solomon to support certain sexual acts.

Part 1: Marriage
was good and helpful I think, especially its description of a married couple as "best friends" and what that looks like. The one caveat I have is that Mark Driscoll seems to think that God told him to marry his wife when they were both living in sin. Huh? There's a small amount of mystical "God told me," stuff that doesn't seem to comport well with Scripture. Part 2: Sex, was not very helpful, and I think it missed the point of what sex is actually created for. The chapter on porn was good, and there were, intertwined, many good principles, but weeding through the weeds to find the flowers can be a waste of time. Part 3: The Last Day, was ok. It was practical, but very "self-helpy."

I've left the real Biblical critiques to Tim Challies and John MacArthur, I can't say it any better than them, so please check out their blogs if you have questions about this work.

6/25/12

Thy Word is Truth

Why Christians Believe the Bible and Non-Christians Don't
By: Jonathan Harris  
 
The following is a audio presentation regarding the questions, "Is God's Word really true?" "Why do Christians believe it?" "Why don't Non-Christians?" "How do Christians interact with Non-Christians who don't?"

6/13/12

He Is There and He Is Not Silent: A Review

By: Jonathan Harris

Francis Schaeffer, one of my personal favorite thinkers, shows that the only acceptable option for modern man looking for meaning is to adopt biblical Christianity. Unlike Van Til or Bahnsen, Shaeffer doesn't make the reader aware that his starting point is the biblical God in order to prove the biblical God. However, neither can he be considered a classical or evidential apologist. Schaeffer's tactic is to take man's starting points, bring them to their logical conclusions, and show why such philosophies that come out of them are unlivable. He focuses especially on logical positivism and linguistic analysis in the area of epistemology, but makes sure to rule out every alternative possibility in the realm of metaphysics and morality as well. Though some might find Schaeffer's wording hard to understand, I believe, for the serious apologist---especially one who wants to understand presuppositional apologetics---it is helpful to hear an alternative vocabulary for the same concepts. This will offer the defender a wider breadth of words by which to explain his position to the nonbeliever, and it will serve to enhance the concepts the defender already holds. For example, Schaeffer's use of the word "base," is equivalent to Bahnsen's use of the word "presupposition." I probably would not offer this work up to someone new to apologetics, and/or untrained any kind of philosophical thinking. But for those who want to hear the transcendental argument explained from a different angle, you can't beat this book.

Warning: For those thoroughly trained in presuppositional apologetics, this book may seem a bit on the autonomous side sometimes. It may seem that Schaeffer is appealing to man's reason and his knowledge of the world, and indeed he is, but to Schaeffer I believe he is doing so with the understanding that man has a God-given intellect preloaded with the understanding that God exists. As he repeatedly says, God has made man to live in this world and given him instruments for functionality consistent with this world.

Sex is Not Ultimate

Why Our Society is Hyper-Sexualized
By: Jonathan Harris

In Tim Challies book Sexual Detox, the author states, "Sex is not ultimate. If your only influence was popular culture you might never realize this. . ." While this should perhaps be a painfully obvious observation, especially to a Christian, It struck me as something profound. I know Francis Schaeffer made the point in How Shall We Then Live that the Roman empire, heading towards its final demise, idolized the pornographic in conjunction with the violence of the arena (not that Rome was a bastion of morality before). You can see this clearly in the art being produced at the time. Not only was the quality of workmanship decreasing, but the subject matter became more and more overtly sexual. We can see the parallels in our own day and age. Western Civilization, and history itself, seem to have circular patterns.

What kept Rome from manifesting completely its sexual perversion preceding its fall was the concept of Roman honor---the idea that the greatest achievement for the Roman citizen was the pleasure of the gods and the glory of Rome. However mistaken this notion may be, it kept pornography (as well as unnecessary violence, the two being inextricably linked), from becoming the "ultimate" (i.e. the greatest source of satisfaction, the ideal to strive for, the goal and purpose of life).

For the modern Western World the situation is slightly different, but similar. For the areas affected by the Protestant Reformation, the ultimate was the glory of God. Man's purpose in life was to fulfill his dominion mandate by subduing the earth by being the best steward of what God had entrusted to him. This gave man purpose, and gave God glory, the both drawing mutual pleasure from the situation. Sex gained its meaning from this overarching purpose. Sex taught man what a relationship with God was like, it gave man an opportunity to experience mutual pleasure with another being entrusted to him, and it sometimes initiated the development of more humans for the process to continue.

What's happened in the last one hundred years (with a head turning spiral in the last fifty), is sex has lost its purpose. It no longer exists in the context of pursuing a greater relationship with God in the enjoyment of His gift and the understanding of His relationship to us. It's not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. Thus, sexual experience is the ultimate. It is the greatest. It the most fulfilling (however temporary). It is god.

For Rome the transition came when the gods were viewed as a farce and the honor of Rome a joke. For America the transition has come as a result of the philosophy of evolution (or to be more accurate: naturalism). In a world of mechanistic processes, man has no outlet for his God-given pursuit of spirituality. Looking to one another (relationships, sex, etc.) and internally (drugs, alcohol, porn etc.) man is desperately trying to grasp something transcendent, and the closest thing to a heavenly experience one can find in the physical world as complex animals happens to be the sexual encounter; and with no limits or bounds it gives the allusion of complete autonomous freedom.

My prediction is this: Modern man, though a sexual creature, will not be able to sustain sex as his ultimate for very much longer. He will find that, disconnected from its real purpose, sex will only leave him dissatisfied and he will search for something outside of pleasure for meaning in this world. I believe the New Age movement and the corresponding rise of Postmodernism are already showing this on an individual level. The most promiscuous among us have kill themselves, coming to a bitter end when their bad trip or sexual encounter leave them unsatisfied. They made their own rules and destroyed truth (to them the mechanistic machine), but replaced it with their own experience leaving them lonely and isolated in the world. Man will eventually replace their sex god with something that seems to be more transcendent in order to give meaning to their sexual drive. Will it be a thoroughly worked out eastern system, Islam, or will we go back to our Christian roots and put it where it should have been all along? Only time will tell, but Christians need to treat sex as what it truly is. It is not something to take lightly and joke around about because it is better than that. It is more magnificent, more holy, more amazing, more reflective of who our Creator is. Neither should we refuse to discuss it and pretend that it's dirty. That demeans it, and to reject the gift is to reject the giver.

How will understanding the place of sex change the way you view and discuss it? How will putting it in its rightful place change your personal habits concerning it? How will viewing God as the ultimate change other habits in your life/
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