You know, sometimes you just need someone else's perspective. Another viewpoint to explain reality to you and show you things about yourself that you never knew. Things that even your friends won't tell you, or don't know. Heck, they're probably guilty of it, too, and don't even realize it. Let me give a few examples of how my eyes have been opened... 1) I am a racist. More generally, I hate minorities. Yeah, really. I was shocked to find this out, but I guess it's true. There are many reasons. For one, I don't like Affirmative Action. I thought it was because ...
Sixty-plus years ago, a physicist by the name of Enrico Fermi postulated that, unless the evolution of life was unique to Earth, there should be many advanced species out there. If this is true, why haven't we detected them or they made contact? This is known as 'Fermi's Paradox'. Adrian Kent of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) thinks he may have figured out the solution by applying Darwinian principles. As Mark Buchanan reports over at NewScientist: "[Kent] argues that it's plausible that there is a competition for resources on a cosmic scale, driving an evolutionary process between alien species on ...
Everybody's got "rights". Just ask 'em! Rights to freedom of _________. Natural rights. Human rights. Civil rights. Property rights. Privacy rights. Abortion rights. Women's rights. Gay rights. Marriage rights. Workers' rights. The right to a minimum wage. The right to free healthcare. The right to clean air. You name it, and somebody's gonna claim it. Everybody's so sure they've got all these rights,... but why? What are rights? Where do they come from? Simply put, a true 'right' is a just claim to something. Someone or something is obligated to allow or provide you that thing you claim and perhaps some associated protections, and others are then obligated to recognize that right. So, rights are, in ...
Holy Hamstring, Batman! It's so mainstream these days, but I've always been a bit leery of the idea of Christians practicing yoga. I've even seen books in the store for "Christian Yoga". "But, isn't it just stretching & breathing exercises and 'meditating'? And doesn't it relieve stress and make you healthier?," you ask. Actually, there's a bit more to it than that. The practice of Yoga is primarily based in Hinduism, and the different positions -- aka postures, or asanas -- and reasons for them are rooted in Eastern mystical beliefs. Simply put, those beliefs are counter to the worldview and associated ...
If you watch national news, you may have noticed a lot of attention being given lately to a particularly horrible crime. One day in 2007, two home invaders terrorized and tormented a Connecticut family for 7 hours -- including savagely beating the husband/father, raping & strangling the wife/mother, raping the younger daughter (and possibly the older one, though that wasn't clear to me) -- before tying both daughters to their beds, dousing them with gasoline, and setting the house on fire. Fortunately, the girls died of smoke inhalation before the flames consumed them. Only the husband/father, Dr. William Petit, managed ...
If you are familiar with the Ed Sullivan Show from decades past, you probably know who Señor Wences was. He was the Spanish-born ventriloquist whose popular act consisted of him conversing with "Johnny" -- i.e., a puppet made from Wences' hand, on which he put eyes, nose, lipstick, a wig, and set atop a doll's body. As with any such act, while the ventriloquist does his/her best to make the puppet or dummy seem very "real", it is still under the complete control of the ventriloquist and says & does whatever s/he wants it to. In an article published today at ...
Who is "The Man," anyway? I don't know if the term is really used that much, anymore. But, my understanding was that it usually referred to groups & individuals of authority -- those in power and influence. It could be the government, some big corporation, "the Law" (i.e., cops, courts, the legal system in general). If used by a Black or Hispanic, the assumption could also be made that "The Man" referred to "white people", because they are/were the majority and usually in positions of power. Generally, the term was a way of focusing one's dissatisfaction with one's circumstances in life ...
Skeptics of religion -- and of Christianity in particular -- always like to pick apart the Bible, claiming that this or that is inaccurate or could never have happened or has been "proven wrong", or some such thing. I have yet to hear/read any "contradictions" that don't have some plausible explanation, particularly when one does not assume a purely naturalistic philosophy from the get go. But, much of the time, all one needs to do to resolve any paradoxes or textual difficulties is to approach the Biblical text with fairness and an open mind, as (hopefully) with any ancient document. ...
One of the ongoing arguments in the American public square is just how "religious" is our country and how much of that religiosity is -- or should be -- allowed in our government & society. One side typically has talking points about the Establishment Clause in the Constitution and the Separation of Church & State doctrine in, well, no official document. They point out the non-sectarian nature of our founding documents and institutions, claiming they were based on Enlightenment ideas. The other side counters with the obviously Judeo-Christian principles -- and, often, Christian beliefs -- exhibited and expressed by most ...
Every once in awhile, you hear someone trying to describe how evolution/Darwinism -- really, the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis -- explains "morality". Often the explanations involve recent observations of "morals" (or the rudiments thereof) among one or another type of animal -- elephants, whales, birds, cats, dogs, apes, etc. But, IMHO, there is always something missing. The naturalistic philosophers and scientists never really explain the concept of the transcendent, objective morality. At best, all they can do is suggest why certain individuals or communities -- human or perhaps not -- may adopt a certain code or guidelines to live by. Why is ...
I confess, I’m not really a “Tenth Amendment” guy. Not that I don’t recognize its importance in our founding and our ongoing freedoms. I definitely do. It’s just that First (and sometimes Second) Amendment rights are usually those that catch my attention. But, with the recent, national attention to certain issues — e.g., gun control vs rights, Obamacare, abortion rulings, same-sex marriage laws, etc. –, it is becoming more obvious just how crucial is our understanding of State sovereignty vs. Federal supremacy. The key term & concept here is “nullification”. This is one of those BIG topics that I know I need to get up-to-speed on but don’t relish doing the research.
Then, I remembered the Tenth Amendment Center. I started paging through their web site and found some great info. In particular, I found the article that follows by Michael Maharrey. It is very informative on the topic in general but has a particular emphasis on current gun laws. Before I finished it, I knew I wanted to share it with my readers, so I contacted Mike, and he graciously agreed to let me reproduce the entire article as a “guest post”. Cool!
Note: He has a similar writing style to mine, so, while you might be inclined to forget and think that I’m writing it, don’t. It’s all Mike. ;)
I need a civics lesson.
This according to the keepers of acceptable opinion at two divergent publications.
Both The Economist and the Montgomery Advertiser recently ran opinion pieces skewering nullification, specifically state efforts to block unconstitutional federal gun laws in Kansas and Alabama. Interestingly, both the author of The Economist piece and the editorial board over at the Alabama newspaper used the same strategy. They both try to make their readers believe anybody who actually views nullification as legitimate must not be too bright. Their implication? “The federal government enjoys absolute supremacy and a bunch of dumb racist, rednecks who don’t know anything about the U.S. government want states to ignore laws they don’t happen to like.”
From The Economist: “It is remarkable that a civics lesson like this is necessary.”
The Montgomery Advertiser editorial board gets even snarkier.
“That body (the Alabama Senate) has taken a plunge into the past by revisiting and embracing the long-discredited practice of nullification, the notion — abandoned decades ago by most people who passed sixth-grade civics.”
Talk about groupthink. Federal supremacists apparently find the whole “civics lesson” theme clever. I have to admit -– it does effectively create the impression that nullification supporters wander around in ignorance among the illiterate and uneducated. But the mockery would prove even more effective if the writers actually knew what in the hell they were writing about.
Here’s the problem: these amateur historians actually think the three things they leaned in their government school sixth-grade civics class make them some kind of experts. They might want to move on from pre-civics to basic civics before they try demeaning those of us who actually know the historical and the philosophical basis for nullification.
Let’s touch on a few basics, shall we?
1. Federal Supremacy – These wanna-be historians actually think the federal government stands absolutely supreme all the time, no matter what. They apparently never bothered to put down the sixth-grade textbook and read the actual supremacy clause in the Constitution. If they did, they would find that only acts “in pursuance of” the Constitution stand supreme. Yes Virginia, federal supremacy actually has limits! Alexander Hamilton made this clear in Federalist 33.
“If a number of political societies enter into a larger political society, the laws which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers intrusted [sic] to it by its constitution, must necessarily be supreme over those societies and the individuals of whom they are composed…. But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that it expressly confines this supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution.”
2. The extent of federal power – While we’re on the subject of limits, our civics professors apparently need a reminder. The federal government can’t just do whatever it wants. It operates under strict limits. The feds can only exercise powers delegated to it in the Constitution. James Madison described the extent of federal power in Federalist 45. He insisted that the powers delegated to the general government were “few and defined,” and those left to the states and people were “numerous and indefinite.” The ratifiers even insisted on a Bill of Rights “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.”
3. Who decides constitutionality? - Federal supremacists sell you a load of crap. They want you to believe the people of the states created a federal government with limited, enumerated powers, insisted on further “declaratory and restrictive clauses” -– the Bill of Rights — and then left it to that government to decide the extent of its own power. This idea not only earns them an F on their civics test, they also fail their logic test. Basically, these geniuses want the Dallas Cowboy player to referee the Dallas – New York Giants football game. How do you think that would turn out for the Giants?
Fact: the people of the states created the federal government in the first place. Therefore, the people of the states retain the right, in the last resort, to determine the extent of the powers they gave to the government they created. So yes, Kansas can determine what limits the Second Amendment places on federal regulation of firearms. Granted, this idea may fall into the realm of advanced civics, so maybe we should let a real expert explain it. How about we call on Madison, the “Father of the Constitution?”
“The States then being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and consequently that as the parties to it, they must themselves decide in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.”
Extra reading HERE.
4. Separation of powers - Even our journalists with their sixth-grade civics background probably remember separation of powers. If you ask them, they will tell you about the three separate branches – executive, judicial and legislative – and how they serve as a check on each other. What seems to escape our intellectual elite is the fact that these three branches all belong to a single entity -– the federal government. That raises an interesting question that Madison asked some 200 years ago. What happens in “those great and extraordinary cases, in which all the forms of the Constitution may prove ineffectual against infractions dangerous to the essential rights of the parties to it.” In other words, what happens when all three branches conspire to exercise undelegated powers?
In sixth-grade civics world, apparently nothing.
Again, these federal supremacists sell a crock of smelly stuff. They want you to believe that a government can exist as a self-limiting institution. That being the case, why did the founders go to all the trouble to create checks an balances WITHIN the federal government? Doesn’t it logically follow that some check on federal power in general must exist?
Uh, yeah. The branches of government serve as horizontal checks on power and the states serve as vertical checks on federal power. During the ratification debates, anti-federalists insisted the federal government would not remain constrained to limited, enumerated powers as supporters of the Constitution promised. Madison argued that the states would serve as the check.
“Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular State…the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassment created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, very serious impediments; and were the sentiments of several adjoining States happen to be in Union, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”
Madison’s blueprint sounds an awful lot like nullification, doesn’t it? Kansas says it refuses to cooperate with acts violating the Second Amendment. Alabama say it refuses to cooperate with federal acts violating the Second Amendment. Maybe Madison needs to take that sixth-grade civics class these guys talk about.
5. The Second Amendment – Even without the Second Amendment, the federal government still would not have the authority to regulate gun ownership within the borders of a state. The Constitution does not delegate that power to the federal government; therefore it remains with the states and the people. Secondly, the language of the amendment itself defines much greater restriction on federal power. “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Infringe – v: Act so as to limit or undermine something; encroach on, block.) The federal government may not constitutionally act in a way that limits the right to keep and bear arms -– period -– even when exercising a valid constitutional power. So even though the federal government has the authority to regulate interstate commerce, it does NOT have the authority to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms in the process.
6. Extra Credit - John Calhoun didn’t come up with nullification prior to the Civil War to support slavery, or even to oppose a tariff. He didn’t come up with it at all. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson get the credit for formalizing the principles of nullification in 1798, in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Nullification wasn’t used in defense of slavery. Not ever. In fact, northern states appealed to the principles when blocking the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. It was so effective, South Carolina listed “nullification” of the Fugitive Slave Act in its Declaration of Causes for Secession. (Which kind of punches a big huge hole in the “nullification has never worked” talking point parroted by federal supremacists.)
Yes, Andrew Jackson opposed nullification. So what? He uses the same lame arguments federal supremacists today use. They were just as lame in the 1820s and 1830s.
Sadly, tomorrow I will run across some other pseudo-historian repeating the same false “facts” about nullification, acting all intellectually superior. These people continue to run around and act like counter arguments to their tripe don’t exist. But they clearly do. These folks just need to start reading outside of that sixth-grade civics book.
* Michael Maharrey is the national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center and the author of Our Last Hope – Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty, the philosophical, moral and historical case for nullification.
Great stuff, eh?!
While I work on a new series of articles, I’d like to offer you a little economics lesson this week, courtesy of Jay W. Richards and his terrific book, Money, Greed, and God (2009). In the midst of a chapter discussing capitalism, consumerism, and the local vs. global issue, Richards gives a little perspective on why it’s probably not wise (or economical) to argue for one side over the other all the time.
And, so, without further ado…
“Bigger Is Better — Except When It’s Not
Affordable suits (or cars or cell phones or imaging equipment) are possible not only because of division of labor, but because of ‘economies of scale.’ If a company can find one hundred thousand customers, it’s worth the company’s investing in sophisticated ‘labor-saving’ equipment so that it can mass-produce the product. If a company produces just six cars, the costs per car will probably be astronomical, as they were in 1896. But then Henry Ford pioneered mass production in the early twentieth century by using assembly lines. Ford could sell cars at prices that ordinary, middle-class Americans could afford because he so reduced the cost of production for individual cars. Automation and mass production make exquisitely complex technologies like DVD players and cell phones available to almost everyone in modern societies, technologies that initially were available only to the very rich.
Large chain stores like Walmart often replace local mom-and-pop stores. It’s not because they’re part of some evil globalization conspiracy, but because they enjoy greater economies of scale. They can buy, sell, and distribute in bulk, and can negotiate lower prices with suppliers because of their purchasing power. If you produce music CDs, and Walmart offers to buy a million of them, you can afford to sell the CDs near your cost of production and still make a handsome profit. The size of a Walmart or Target allows it to sell many products cheaper than the local store does.
But no one is forced at gunpoint to shop or work at Walmart. Given the choice, many people prefer the savings of a Walmart or a Target to whatever virtuous feelings that might accrue to them by paying more and getting less at local mom-and-pop stores, which often enjoyed near-monopolies in small communities before the competition moved in. It’s easy to forget that even Walmart started out as a local store in Rogers, Arkansas, owned by Sam Walton. It slowly grew — not through a pact with the devil, but because customers preferred it to the competition. In fact, the company didn’t get really big until Walton was in his fifties. It now employs over a million people worldwide, making it the largest private employer on the planet. None of those employees are forced to work at Walmart.
So does that mean that in a global economy small operations will always give way to giant, multinational corporations? No. Just as there are economies of scale, so too are there what are called diseconomies of scale. Larger companies are generally more bureaucratic, top-heavy, and slower to react to radical changes. ‘What small companies give up in terms of financial clout, technological resources, and staying power, they gain in flexibility, lack of bureaucracy, and speed of decision-making,’ observed one Indian entrepreneur. That’s why new companies spring up all the time (Google started only in 1998) and big companies collapse (think Enron). GM is the largest car company in the world, but it’s not the most efficient or profitable.
Bigger is better for some things, but not everything. Small, local charities, for instance, tend to help vulnerable populations with long-term problems more effectively than big, impersonal organizations. And ideal size varies from industry to industry. The best size for an elementary school is not the same as the best size for a coffee shop or an oil refinery or a gas station.
Moreover, even though Walmart, Costco, and Starbucks are giant corporations, their individual stores are only so big. They don’t just keep getting bigger and bigger. And Walmart doesn’t ship unknown employees from Arkansas, or robots from Taiwan, to staff its stores. The same local people, with local knowledge, who would work and shop in a mom-and-pop store end up in the Walmart as well. There are two coffee shops near my house — Starbucks and Kava House. I’m just as likely to see people I know at the Starbucks as at funky, locally owned Kava House. And the Starbucks is actually the smaller and cozier of the two.
Sometimes local knowledge outweighs economies of scale, giving small stores an advantage. And sometimes local insights are then expanded or bought out (at market price) by larger operations. Social worker Stacy Madison started with one business partner, Mark Andrus, with a single sandwich cart, selling pita sandwiches in downtown Boston. The cart got so popular that they started baking the pitas into little pita chips so customers would have something to munch on while they waited. Sales of these healthy alternatives to Fritos grew along with the health consciousness of yuppies. And before long, a company named Costco started selling the chips. Now you can get them at Target, too. Stacy’s is the number-one pita-chip brand in the country. Nobody had heard of them a few years ago. American business is filled with such stories. In market economies, most little operations get big not by getting evil, but by serving customers.”
So often, whether in the news or TV/movies, big consumer store chains and their executives are painted as greedy, unfair, monopolist jerks. It might make for a good story, but is it realistic? As has hopefully been made clear from the above excerpt, this is an unfair characterization. Sure, there are probably such people in some positions in some companies, but that’s true just about anywhere, any industry. Demonizing an entire chain or even business model — one that saves consumers money and employs tons of people — is just absurd.
“[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach.” — Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist
Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, “Huh! You consider yourself ‘scientific’?” I was surprised that this was a surprise to him.
Whereas my relative has a PhD (in the social sciences), I only have a B.S. (in Computer Information Systems), but I still think of myself as scientifically-minded. True, I’m not a practicing scientist or even a “science nerd” or “nut”, but I do have a healthy respect for science, love “science apologetics” (not to mention, science-fiction), and consider myself to be skeptical and analytical by nature. But, this wasn’t good enough for him. I could hear the condescension in his tone. Suspecting where this was going, I asked,
“Why don’t you think I am (or can be) ‘scientific’?”
His response was very telling:
“Because you believe in ‘revealed wisdom’.”
There you have it — an obvious bias towards scientism/naturalism and implicitly against the idea that any true knowledge can come from anything other than (naturalistically-defined) “scientific” research & analysis. As a theologically conservative Christian, I accept “revealed wisdom” (i.e., the Bible as the Word of God), which is by definition (according to secularists like him) not empirically verifiable. Before getting off on a tangent, though, we agreed that it was not the right time to pursue that subject further.
So, I’m gonna do that now….
I would like to address two questions. First, can the Bible be tested? Yes. Next question? Seriously, though, let me expand & restate the question: “Does it make sense to believe the Bible is a revelation from God?” In the book A World of Difference, Kenneth Samples answers this query with the following list of six reasons why it is in fact “intellectually credible to believe the Bible is God’s actual revelation to man”:
- “Unlike most other religious books, the Bible is uniquely connected to history. Therefore, many of its central claims are open to historical investigation (verification/falsification).
- To some degree, a number of the scriptural accounts (though certainly not all) have been corroborated or supported by extra-biblical historical sources and archaeological evidence.
- The bibliographic evidence (manuscript abundance, authenticity, and integrity) on the part of the Bible far surpasses all other ancient literary works, secular and religious.
- Though written in antiquity, the Bible presents a cosmology (a singular beginning to all matter, energy, time, and space) that matches well with the prevailing views of modern science.
- The Bible appeals to the fulfillment of prophecy and to miracles to substantiate its claims. Both areas can be evaluated in terms of their historical accuracy and explanatory power and scope.
- The Bible presents a realistic view of human beings (their nature, predicament, and resolution) and offers a world-and-life view that is rational, viable, and existentially fulfilling for humanity.”
Each of these six could be further elaborated on in multiple posts of their own. But, I think this is sufficient for now to show that, unlike certain other religious texts, the Bible is subject to scientific & historical testing, and it scores very well.
“Without the idea of an eternal, consistent God who creates natural laws that reflect his own character, there never would have been a reason to explore the natural world and expect predictable results from it. What [Bill] Nye fears is actually seen in the Muslim world, where Allah is understood to be capricious and likely to change his mind on a whim, making logic and scientific endeavors pointless. Some of the most famous early scientists were Christian….”
Indeed, as sociologist Rodney Stark and others have reasoned, this is most likely why science was effectively stillborn in the East (despite early and sporadic progress in some places) but flourished in the West.
Cronn went on to list a few of those early scientists. It had a couple errors, but I have corrected and added to it here:
Modern science has built on the outstanding and often groundbreaking work of these scientists. Were they not “scientific”? Should we throw out their research and everything that grew out of it, simply because they accepted “revealed wisdom”? Nonsense! It’s pretty obvious that none of them said, “There’s some principle or law or phenomenon occurring in nature that I can’t figure out, but I know that God is responsible, ‘cuz the Bible tells me so, and that’s good enough for me.” That might have been sufficient for the average joe & jane on the street. But, these guys reasoned and performed experiments to better understand the world around them — or, as one luminary said, “to think God’s thoughts after him.” They (or others after them) were often able to apply that knowledge to make the world a better place.
Speaking of modern science, here are several more contemporary scientists who also believe(d) in “revealed wisdom” and do/did not ignore it when doing their research:
I ask again: Are these men UNscientific? Is their work not valid or trustworthy, because they are theists — note, Schroeder and Gelernter are Jewish — who believe in special revelation? No, I think not. They and those on whose shoulders they stand have done incredible work, making amazing contributions in their respective fields of science.
Of course, I don’t put myself in the company of these men. As I said, I’m no scientist, nor do I play one on TV (or even on the Web). But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be, in some sense, “scientific”. I’d like to think that my family member was being forgetful and not thinking clearly when he said what he did to me that day. For him to actually believe it, he (and anyone else who would agree with him) must either be ignorant of the facts or simply allowing his anti-religious worldview to blind him to the truth. If it is the latter, then he denies reality, and that’s not very scientific, at all.
“Many scientists do believe in both science and God, the God of revelation, in a perfectly consistent way.” — Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist (“avowed atheist”)
People make excuses.
Nobody likes to be blamed or accused of doing something bad or wrong. We don’t like to be punished or embarrassed. We don’t like to be made to feel guilty — even if we are guilty of wrongdoing. We usually realize that what we were caught doing (or habitually do) is illegal and/or immoral — and maybe dangerous, too. But, we wanna do what we wanna do. So, we make excuses. “They made me.” “I had no choice!” “I don’t/didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” “Everybody’s doing it!”
Another favorite reason/excuse given for one’s behavior is that it is “only natural”. Homosexuals and their supporters often use this as part of their arsenal, saying that gays & lesbians should not be prohibited from or “judged” for doing what comes naturally. I believe there is, in many cases, a “natural” factor to homosexuality. But, there has never been proof of a “gay gene” or any other physico-chemical cause for homosexuality. However, let’s concede that there is such a thing for the sake of argument. Let me respond to the “we should be allowed to do what comes naturally and is normal for us” argument with a few questions:
Should kleptomaniacs (i.e., those with a psychological compulsion to steal) be allowed to take the property of others without reproach? Should pedophiles be allowed to molest children unhindered? Should sociopaths be permitted to murder and commit other acts of violence with impunity? These people all suffer from “conditions” that can and have been argued to be “natural”. Yet, very few people would say that they are “normal” and their behaviors should be not only tolerated but accepted. We don’t permit the argument of “natural disposition” in these cases to get the perpetrators off the hook. (Though, sometimes the insanity plea works.) This is because it is generally understood & accepted that such behaviors are morally corrupt and harmful to those directly involved and to society at large. (Note that it is the behavior that is punished and not merely the proclivities.) I believe it can be demonstrated that the same is true of homosexual behavior.
Not convinced? Let me try another (though hypothetical) one. What if it could be reasonably argued that there is a gene, or combination thereof, that causes some people to have a nigh-uncontrollable urge to “bash” any gays that they come across. To be clear, by “bash” I mean violent physical assault, not merely expressing disagreement or even being verbally abusive. I seriously doubt that anyone with any sense of morality would allow the “gaybashing gene” defense to let anyone who acts on such natural impulses be excused without punishment for their behavior. I trust you get my point.
Of course, this doesn’t even address matters of biological & psychological complementarity of man and woman, or various other arguments for and against homosexuality, homosexual behavior, same-sex marriage, etc. I realize that. I do plan to blog on all of that eventually, but I’m going to try to stay focused here….
Part of the homosexuality-is-natural argument is the observation that hyenas, bonobos, penguins, and other animals are known to perform “homosexual” acts on occasion. (Mere same-sex companionship is even less of an argument, imho.) My response to this has always been, “Do you really what to appeal to bestial behavior as an excuse for giving in to your baser instincts — for this or anything else?” (Of course, many of these advocates refuse to recognize that humans are anything more than “just another animal.”) Last year, during the whole Chick-Fil-A brouhaha, I read an article by Michael Minkoff at Political Outcast, in which he brought up the failure of this “reasoning”:
“[W]hy are homosexuals so obsessed with the fact that animals intermittently commit homosexual acts? The fact is that animals really don’t practice homosexuality, per se. It’s not like any of them are exclusively attracted to the same sex. They just have no self-control. They will hump pretty much anything around if they get the notion. My dog used to hump male and female dogs, plush toys, the legs of guests, sectional sofas… you know -— anything. He was a dog, after all. He ate our underwear and pooped in the hallway, too. I fail to see why that matters. Animals variously engage in incest, genocide, cannibalism, pedophilia, and other socially unacceptable behaviors. If homosexuals want to legitimize their behavior by claiming that it is “only natural,” what leg do they have to stand on to condemn anything -— including the so-called ‘intolerance’ of Chick-Fil-A?”
Now, we may ask why God — assuming we believe in God — would make us a certain way. “Why do I have these feelings?” “Why would God give me these desires and then tell me I can’t act on them?” Well, that’s a discussion for another time. But, the short answer is that we all struggle with desires, passions, tendencies, and habits that we know are wrong for one or more reasons. Our own issue may not be homosexual urges but heterosexual lust or a penchant for substance abuse or a violent temper or envy or whatever. It is our responsibility to deal with it/them appropriately, curbing those behaviors that are immoral, illegal, and/or dangerous to ourselves and others.
A moral conscience, the intellectual ability to reason and reflect on choices, and the capacity for self-discipline are three aspects of human nature that separate us from every other creature on Earth. Everyone has free will; we make our own choices about how to behave. We will be held accountable (and reap the consequences) for those choices in this life and/or in the afterlife.
“[A]nd if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (I Cor. 15:14)
Despite the title, I’m not actually going to delve too deeply into the whole inerrancy issue in this post. In fact, I’m not even going to get into detail about the evidences & arguments for the Resurrection Hypothesis that will be referenced. What I am going to do is introduce a challenge made to Dr. William Lane Craig, one of the premier Christian philosophers and apologists of our time, and his interesting — and probably unanticipated by most — initial response to said challenge.
On his primary website (reasonablefaith.org), Dr. Craig accepts questions on various theological & philosophical topics from fans and skeptics alike. Sometimes (I’m not sure how often), he chooses one of the missives and posts a fairly thorough, layman-friendly, and amiable response. A few months ago, one friendly skeptic — going by “D.” — wrote a somewhat lengthy note, which began as follows:
“I just finished reading your very thoughtful book The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus with the sincere goal that it would resolve my doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, which you rightly insist is the central doctrine of Christianity, without which Christianity unravels. Though raised a Christian, I long ago left the church because of doubts about the historical reliability of the Bible. I am not a member of any religion. Still, I try to keep an open mind and occasionally revisit the Christian doctrine in hopes of finding some way to reconcile my doubts.
Unfortunately, I found that your book failed to address my key doubts regarding the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection found in the four gospels.”
An honest inquiry by someone ostensibly in search of the Truth. D then listed nine “qualms” he was having with the case as presented by Craig in his book. When I read them, my own first instinct was to start digging into various apologetics resources to see how others have responded to such challenges. As Dr. Craig pointed out, they were a mix of those dealing with the facts of the matter (e.g., resurrected saints, witnesses at the tomb) and others that questioned the best explanation of the facts (e.g., bodily resurrection vs. hallucinations and legends). They were thoughtful but nothing new, really. However, instead of addressing these issues right away, Dr. Craig first honed in on something in D’s initial remarks — namely, his leaving the church “because of doubts about the historical reliability of the Bible.”
Here is Dr. Craig’s reaction:
“When I read this, I thought, “What an odd thing to do!” Why not simply adjust your theology so that the Bible is taken to be a fallible human witness to God’s self-revelation in history, or less radically, so that divine inspiration of Scripture doesn’t entail biblical inerrancy? Why this “all or nothing” attitude? Why would such relatively minor qualms as yours about the reliability of the Gospel accounts call into question Jesus’ deity and resurrection or the existence of God?
I can’t help but suspect that the reason is that you had a defective system of theological beliefs. We can think of our theology like a web, with certain beliefs near the center of the web and others further out nearer the perimeter. Too many conservative Christians have the doctrine of biblical inerrancy at or near the center of their web of beliefs, so that if that belief is compromised the whole structure of the web collapses and they lose their Christian faith.
This is quite wrong-headed. At the center of our web of beliefs should be certain essential doctrines like the existence of God and the deity of Christ and then a little further out the doctrine of, say, the atonement, and further out still doctrines like the sacraments and biblical inspiration and its possible corollary biblical inerrancy. If one of the central doctrines is abandoned, then the whole web, indeed, collapses. But if a belief near the circumference is discarded, while that will cause readjustments elsewhere in the web, it won’t compromise the structure of the whole. If your qualms were to remain unallayed, then you would be justified at most in giving up a doctrine of biblical inerrancy, but you should not abandon Christ.”
To be honest, a couple of the statements above seemed a tad harsh to me, at first. But, I’ve heard Dr. Craig often enough to know that he is very good-natured, so I know that wasn’t his intent. (As we’ll see in a minute, he is actually trying to encourage D.) More to the point, I think Dr. Craig makes a very good observation regarding the tendency of many Christians to give certain doctrines the wrong priority. For example, specific interpretations & details about Creation and End Times seem to get undue attention in some quarters, even becoming de facto tests of orthodoxy. This can be dangerous for precisely the reason he gives. Sometimes, a wrong understanding of doctrinal priorities can impede a skeptic’s journey to faith, as well.
I think a web, or concentric circles, is a helpful way to think about it.
“Indeed, D., on the basis of your qualms you needn’t abandon even a strong apologetic case for the historicity of the resurrection! My Doktorvater in Munich Wolfhart Pannenberg has opined that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are so legendary that they have scarcely a historical kernel in them; yet he stunned German theology by arguing for the historicity of Jesus’ post-mortem appearances and empty tomb and, hence, for his resurrection sheerly on historical grounds.
In fact, my own case for Jesus’ resurrection would not be touched by most of the qualms you express. I present a two step argument for Jesus’ resurrection: first, that there are three facts which any responsible historian who wants to give an account of Jesus must explain, and second, that the Resurrection Hypothesis is the best explanation of those facts. The three facts are very modestly stated:
2. Various individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death.
3. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite having nearly every predisposition to the contrary.
The strength of my case -— which only dawned me afterwards -— is that these three facts represent the mainstream judgement of New Testament scholarship today. These are not the exclusive property of evangelical scholars but represent the view held by the wide majority of New Testament critics who have written on the subject.
Now this should be tremendously encouraging to you! Doubts about the historicity of Matt. 27:51-53 or the number of angels at the tomb or the names of the women at the tomb become, if not irrelevant, then at least unimportant with respect to the case for Jesus’ resurrection. You can and should be a vibrant Christian despite your qualms.
So the point is, I’m not engaged in the same project that concerns you: I’m not trying to demonstrate the reliability of the Gospel accounts. Rather I’m weighing the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I claim, not to be able to establish the general reliability of the Gospel accounts, but to establish those three specific facts listed above and to show that the best explanation of those facts is the hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Achievement of that limited goal would neither justify belief in the Gospels’ general reliability nor does it require it.”
Dr. Craig did, of course, go on to address D’s 9 qualms, some of which I may address in a subsequent post. But, I found Dr. Craig’s observation & point above to be intriguing and thought I’d present it to you for consideration. Can you (or someone you know) identify with D’s struggle with the historicity or inerrancy issue? Any reactions to Dr. Craig’s admonishment & encouragement, one way or the other?
One final thing: Happy Resurrection Day!!
The piece below was put together (I think) by Steven Anglin. I came across it on Facebook the other night (h/t Laura Fichter) and thought, “I have to share this on my blog!” I’ve been trying to contact Steven to confirm his authorship but haven’t heard back, yet. Meanwhile,…
Some of you may be thinking that “geniuses” is a bit of a stretch. It may be a bit of hyperbole, but I think at least a couple of America’s Founding Fathers (e.g., Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson) may well have ranked as “genius”, if given the equivalent of a modern IQ test. National pride and hyperbole aside, for an eclectic bunch of farmers, lawyers, and small businessmen, I think our Fathers did a pretty remarkable job of hammering out and instituting the founding principles & laws of our fair — nay, exceptional — country. In fact, I’d say we have arguably the best constitutional republic and representative democracy in the history of the world.
The “American Experiment”, however, is on wobbly legs, these days. Some people think our founding documents are not just imperfect (with which I agree) but outdated, even bad. They want and are working toward a radically different kind of government, a different kind of society. Those founding principles and the liberties they entail are getting beaten up, ignored, or taken away.
As for the “idiots” charge, I’ll let you decide how accurate that is….
2. If you have to get your parents permission to go on a field trip or take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
3. If you have to show identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book, but not to vote,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
4. If the government wants to ban stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines with more than ten rounds, but gives 20 F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
5. If, in our largest city, you can buy “two” 16-ounce sodas, but not a 24-ounce soda because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
6. If an 80-year-old woman and 3 yr old child can be stripped searched by the TSA, but a woman in a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
7. If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
8. If a seven year old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is cute, but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
9. If children are forcibly removed from parents who discipline them with spankings while children of addicts are left in filth and drug infested homes,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
10. If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government intrusion, while not working is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, Medicaid, subsidized housing, and free cell phones,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
11. If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big screen TV while your neighbor buys iPhones, TVs and new cars, and the government forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
12. If being stripped of the ability to defend yourself makes you more safe according to the government,… you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.
‘Nuff said? If not, feel free to add your own (as long as they’re civil)….
Back in high school, a friend and I had fun writing humorous lyrics for new versions of existing songs. The one that comes to mind right now is “Pump On”, a weight-lifting/bodybuilding variation of the song “Sail On” by the Imperials. Kinda silly, but we had fun exercising our creative muscles. (Our actual muscles, not so much.) In that vein, I have attempted to do something similar (but with a contemporary, political twist) with a very famous, “socially-conscious” (post-)Beatles song. (Oh, it helps to play the tune while reading.)
With apologies to John Lennon…
Imagine there’s no Obama.
It’s easy if you try.
No taking of our guns,
No drones up in the sky.
Imagine all the people
Free to protect themselves…
Imagine laws with solid grounding.
It isn’t hard to do.
Defending marriage, no abortion,
And secured borders, too.
Imagine all the people
Legal and alive…
You may say I’m a dreamer,
But it’s still within our grasp.
I hope someday you’ll join us
And we will take our country back.
Imagine no “progressives”
Building up the welfare state.
Instead, free-market economy
And limited need to regulate.
Imagine all the people
Succeeding on their own…
You may say that it’s impossible
To be safe & prosper once again.
Stay and fight for proven principles.
Sometimes, dreams come true, my friend.
Feel free to pass it along! (As long as you give me credit, of course. Unless you think it sucks and just want to have your friends laugh at me, too. Then, no credit is necessary.) :)
By the way, lest you think this an odd song for me to use (given the original lyrics) or are aghast at my corrupting a classic, I think Lennon would get a kick out of it — and probably improve it immensely. As it turns out, he was much more politically conservative in his final years. Rejected atheism, too.
Everyday, it seems I hear & read statements from people that assert or imply that Christianity is “unreasonable”, “irrational”, “illogical”, etc. These words, while related, all have different shades of meaning and can vary depending on who’s talking, but the gist is the same. It’s true that many Christians act unreasonably, irrationally, or illogically — either on occasion or on regular basis, unfortunately. But, so what? The same can be said for many non-Christians. I maintain that Christianity itself, as a carefully thought out, theistic worldview, is wholly reasonable, rational, and logical. So, I want to draw attention to one response to this general claim of unreasonableness that may help your understanding on this issue, as it did me.
I was thumbing through the book A World of Difference by philosopher/theologian Kenneth R. Samples, which has a section in one chapter entitled “A Christian View of Knowledge”. After a brief look at the ancient Hebrew and Greek words for “knowledge” and their connotations, Samples points out that knowledge in Scripture is sometimes “personal and experiential” and sometimes “propositional”. He continues:
“Though no one strict approach to the question of knowledge finds complete agreement within Christianity, several universally accepted points represent a consensus among Christians.”
He proceeds then to list and discuss six “universally accepted points”, but it is the final one that I would like to reproduce for your consideration:
“6. The Christian faith involves knowledge and is compatible with reason.
While a variety of positions have been represented throughout church history regarding the proper relationship between faith and reason, a broad measure of agreement shows that they are indeed compatible.
Historic Christianity is reasonable in four distinct ways:
First, the Christian faith affirms that there is an objective source and foundation for knowledge, reason, and rationality. That basis is found in a personal and rational God. This infinitely wise and all-knowing God created the universe to reflect a coherent order, and in his image he made man with rational capacities to discover that logical organization.
Second, Christian truth-claims do not violate the basic laws or principles of reason. Christian faith and doctrine, though they often transcend finite human comprehension, are not irrational and absurd.
Third, the Bible encourages the attainment of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and promotes such intellectual virtues as discernment, testing, and reflection.
Fourth, the truths of the Christian faith correspond to and are supported by such things as evidence, facts, and reason. Biblical faith (Greek: pisteuo, the verb “believe”; pistis, the noun “faith”) can be defined as confident trust in a reliable source (God or Christ). Faith (or belief) is a necessary component of knowledge and reason because, as explained previously, a person must believe something in order to know it. Yet reason can be used to evaluate, confirm, and buttress faith.
Reason and faith therefore function in a complementary fashion. While reason in and of itself — apart from God’s special grace — cannot cause faith, the use of reason is normally a part of a person’s coming to faith and supports faith in innumerable ways. Faith is foundational to reason, and reason can evaluate or confirm faith.
In the New Testament, descriptions of faith always focus upon an object. And the trustworthy object of a person’s faith is God or [specifically the Person of] the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the very faith that results in salvation involves knowledge (concerning the facts surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) and discursive reasoning (as to what those facts really mean). Saving faith then includes knowledge of the gospel, assent to its truth, and confident reliance upon the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It involves the full faculties of a human being — mind (knowledge), will (assent), and heart (trust).
Christian faith and reason also connect in the renewing of the mind. This important transformation involves individuals using their cognitive faculties to the fullest extent in devotion to God. Christian philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) called this indispensable intellectual and spiritual activity ‘faith seeking understanding.’
Believers should use their God-given reason to explore the depths of their faith. They should strongly endeavor to discover the Bible’s truths — stretching mental and spiritual muscles, so to speak, to apprehend (yet never fully comprehend) such doctrines as the Triune nature of God and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Such exercise moves a person from the initial stage of faith to the deeper stage of reflective understanding and a greater sense of God’s infinite and eternal majesty. Loving God with a person’s mind is part of fulfilling the overarching commandment to love and honor God with one’s entire being. (Matt. 22:37)”
You may not be a Christian believer, or even a theist. If not, you likely don’t accept some of the precepts or assumptions involved in the above. That’s fine. (Well, not really, but that’s another discussion.) If you are a Christian believer, that’s GREAT! Either way, I hope this post helps to assure you of the consistency within the historic Christian worldview on the complete compatibility of reason and faith.
“Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for a connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forwards (sic) in hope and seeks explanations, not so much in origins as in goals. The purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its result. The man was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him (John 9:3)…. We have to be as patient as God Himself to see the end result, or to go on living in faith without seeing it.” — Francis Anderson, in his introduction to Charles Spurgeon’s The Suffering of Man and the Sovereignty of God
As you may recall, my last post reproduced the first half of my FB discussion with “Ed” regarding how to reconcile the idea of “diseases like cancer in God’s ‘very good’ creation for millions of years”. The phrase “very good” is a reference to God’s proclamation in Gen. 1:31, after He finished His creative work on the 6th <yom> (aka “day” or period of time). As a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC), Ed is very disturbed by the idea of pain, suffering, & death existing before the Fall of Adam (and Eve) and the resulting Curse, which in his view was the first time that any physical (or, even psychological) discomfort was visited upon higher-order creatures. (This would include decay/deterioration, too.) Such inflictions are deemed unnecessarily cruel and, therefore, call into question God’s character. As an Old-Earth Creationist (OEC), I hold to a very different view, which I tried to explain to Ed, though I don’t purport to be an expert of any kind.
The second half of our exchange follows, beginning with me:
“Back to the crux of your question…. Perhaps the question could be rephrased, “How can millions of years of animals suffering pain, often to the point of death, be part of the Master Plan of a Good God?” These animals didn’t learn valuable lessons from their pain & suffering like humans can, after all. Nor could they “draw closer to God” through the ordeal. There is, understandably, a strongly emotional aspect to any question regarding pain/suffering/death, especially when God’s role & attitude is in question. But, it exists and we need to deal with it. So, along these lines, let me throw out a few things:
1) All life is from God, human and non-human. Without Him, we don’t exist. It is, therefore, His prerogative to allow/cause any pain or take any life He chooses for whatever reason He chooses. He *owns* us. And, as the Source and Standard for objective morality, God cannot be deemed immoral for allowing/causing pain or taking lives. Fortunately, we know that He is also good, just, and unchanging in character. So, as Ian pointed out [in earlier comments from the larger, preceding FB exchange], “Suffering exists, so God must have a morally justifiable reason for allowing it, otherwise he would be inconsistent.”
2) Since soulish animals (i.e., birds & mammals) can actually form relationships with humans, many people are particularly emotional about the idea of these creatures suffering pain or being killed. We even tend to anthropomorphize our pets’ thoughts & behaviors. So, it’s no surprise that a somewhat sentimentalized view of animal suffering & death can develop.
3) All physical life suffers to some degree and eventually dies. But, from a Christian perspective, there is a profound difference between the physical death of a spiritual creature (a human) and the death of any other form of physical life. For the former, pain is greatly intensified by the awareness & anticipation of future agony — physical, spiritual, or both. But, the future is neither anticipated nor worried about by the latter.
4) “Eons of death may be offensive, but that is hardly grounds for contrary belief. After all, human death itself is extremely offensive, described in Scripture as an enemy, but it still is a fact. We cannot protest; God, after all, pronounced the death sentence. But he also sent his Son as our Redeemer.” — Prof. John C. Munday, Jr., Regent University
5) Even in a cursed, post-Fall world, the YEC also has to explain how/why God allows innocent animals to suffer pain & death. I say “innocent” because, while the YEC view states that animal death was the result of Adam’s sin, the animals are not spiritual and are therefore morally blameless. So, why does God make them suffer for crimes they did not commit? (I think Ian brought this up earlier, too.)
OK, that wasn’t comprehensive, and it probably could have been better composed. It may not be emotionally satisfying, either. But, hopefully, you get the idea of where I’m coming from on this.”
I’m sure more could have been said, certainly on the broader issue, but I actually had a hard time finding much material specifically discussing the “disease” issue from the OEC perspective. Ah, well….
Here is Ed’s response:
“You said “[pain/suffering/death] exists and we need to deal with it” yes we do, but this is not the issue were discussing, but rather why is there suffering and pain from the beginning according to OEC. And you’re also right is saying “There is, understandably, a strongly emotional aspect to any question regarding pain/suffering/death, especially when God’s role & attitude is in question.” Exactly, this is the heart of the discussion as according to your view God did create a world of “pain/suffering/death” and called it “very good”. And this is why I think this issue is so important.
1) Here I think you’re begging the question as you say suffering exists and your argument is that it always has for millions of years. And God you say must have a justifiable reason for allowing it, but this again it begs the question.
2) I more or less discussed this point already suffice to say that it’s natural that we hate, abhor, feel strong emotion and sadness when say a pet dog gets cancer and has to be put down. Our all powerful and good God surely didn’t create creatures like these to suffer unnecessarily for millions of years… don’t you think God abhors cancer too?
3) Yes I agree there is a difference, but are we to then say well it’s suffering to a lesser degree so we can therefore justify millions of years of this in God’s “very good” Creation?
4) Again you’re right “Eons of death may be offensive” and it fact it is and many individuals have ask why this was necessary. In fact it can become a stumbling block for some. However I don’t wish to give the impression that someone can justly reject Christ’s offer of salvation because of the OEC view. There are many fine Christians who hold to OECs only because I believe they’re been inconsistent within their overall Christian worldview with regards to OEC.
5) Now this I think is a good question and really what I meant by a challenging question… that is why do animals suffer for mans sin?. Adam and his descendants were to have dominion over God’s wonderful Creation. As Adam was the head what he did with regards to obeying or disobeying God would also have huge implications for all living (including the animal kingdom) on the Earth in which he was given dominion over. An effect of this seen straight away was thorns coming out of the ground. Also many friendly and peaceful animal types would now become vicious and given the chance attack, kill and devour a person or another animal. And to expand on this weather conditions would also change… I mean I’m sure Adam and Eve been naked enjoyed perfect weather conditions and also their descendants would have too provided they continued to obey God. But now things were going to change because of the fall and subsequent curse. There would now be cold and heat extremes. Earthquakes and tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes e.t.c. Yes in many ways the world had changed and the world is indeed groaning again because of mans sin and rebellion.
Christopher I thank you for the time and effort you’ve put into this, but unfortunately you’re right I’m not satisfied at all, only the Biblical account of Creation, the fall and subsequent curse gives real answers to why there is suffering in the world today, but at the beginning it wasn’t so which is also so characteristic of the God we both know and serve. God bless…”
There you have it: a quite civil exchange between two Christian “brothers” with very different understandings on some theological — and, by extension, scientific — issues. Did we make our positions clear and explain the reasoning behind them? You be the judge…
I told Ed I hoped to respond to him within a couple days. Unfortunately, I got busy with some other stuff and never did, and after several more people traded comments with Ed, the thread finally died. Here are a few responses to his last comments that I came up with while reviewing for this post:
Initial remarks) Technically, the question was specifically about how an OEC explains (rationalizes?) “diseases… for millions of years” in God’s creation, but I struggled to keep it focused on that, too, so I didn’t quibble. Please note, however, that from the way he phrased “according to your view God did create a world of ‘pain/suffering/death’”, it sounds like that was all that characterized the prehistoric Earth. This obviously was not the case, but Ed makes it sound like some earthly version of Dante’s Inferno!
1) With my first point, I was just trying to show part of the larger perspective. Thus, from the standpoint of the OEC argument which he asked me to give, God’s sovereignty and good character should be enough for us to accept His allowing pain & suffering and taking life, pre- and post-Fall. Such things may be sad, but they should not be so shocking or offensive, even when we don’t understand His reasons. (More on the assumptions of the YEC view below.)
2) I’m sure God gets no joy from cancer or anything else that causes pain/suffering/death, but perhaps satisfaction to the degree that it contributes to the ultimate completion of His purposes. We should, too. Yet, Ed’s plea seems to demonstrate the inordinately sentimentalized view of animal suffering that I mentioned.
3) No, it’s not just the lesser degree that justifies it. But, it does occur to me that God is often merciful to us in the midst of our suffering, which occurs under His sovereign will as part of His eternal Plan. Once one accepts the necessity of this world’s characteristics for the fulfillment of that Plan, then maybe we can accept the things I mentioned — principally, that other creatures don’t experience the psychological, emotional, and spiritual (and, in some cases & to some degree, the physical) trauma of pain/suffering/death the same way humans do — as examples of His mercy upon animals that must die for the greater good.
4) I think that various YEC tenets are at least as much, if not more, of a stumbling block for skeptics than “eons of [animal] death”. Still, I appreciated Ed’s acknowledgement that there are “many fine Christians who hold to OECs [sic]“, even if he does think we are theologically inconsistent.
5) In an attempt to explain why, on his view, innocent animals were cursed with pain/suffering/death as a result of the Fall/Curse, Ed essentially recounted select aspects of the YEC position. Notice how many ad hoc explanations are thrown in that are required for YEC but have no actual, scriptural basis: a) friendly/peaceful animals having their entire nature & biology radically changed; b) first appearance of extreme weather conditions and natural disasters on the Earth. (I’m ignoring the supposed genesis of thorns for now, since there is at least a scriptural argument for it, however flawed it may be.) There’s no scientific basis for this stuff, either. Plus, the conditions within the Garden were much different than those without. The only part that I can see as the beginning (genesis?) of an actual argument is the idea that Adam’s moral failing directly affected all of Creation, because he had been given dominion over it. I don’t completely buy it, anymore than Ed accepted my reasoning, but at least it was something.
This post is pretty long already, but I’d like to finish with a few final comments on the broader idea of where pain/suffering/death fits into God’s plan for His creation.
God never said He intended life on Earth to be pain-free or without “fear, dread or sadness”, not even pre-Fall. This is an assumption read into the text by some well-meaning Christians. As idyllic and beautiful as it was, I suspect even the Garden of Eden had its hazards, minor though they may have been. (Ever scrape your arm or other body part against a rough rock or tree bark?) But, even the Garden only covered a limited region in NE Africa and/or the Middle East. Everyplace else was “wild”.
There seems to be a desire by YECs to insert a moral component into Creation that I don’t think is required by Scripture. The idea is that a “very good” — often re-stated as “perfect” — Creation must be totally blissful, with no worries or risks of anything “bad” happening to any (soulish?) creature, anywhere, anytime. To suggest anything less would be a slight on God’s good character. James Stambaugh has written that such a god would be “cruel, vicious, and capricious.” Yet, we see both from Scripture and from our own life experiences that God uses pain/suffering/death of those created in His image for good. Even Hell is a morally righteous place, since that is where God’s justice is meted out upon those who go to their graves in rebellion against Him. (In fact, He gives them exactly what they wanted: eternal separation from His Presence.) If there is a moral characteristic to Creation as a whole, including Hell, it is that it is instrumental in the carrying out of God’s purposes. Yeah, I know there’s probably no emotionally-satisfying way to say that God was/is OK with a cute little ________ dying a painful death, let alone countless others. All the more reason to focus on the Big Picture from a theological and philosophical standpoint.
I don’t expect anyone of a YEC persuasion to read this post and change his/her mind right away. It requires a paradigm change, and that usually takes time — though probably not millions of years. (I speak from experience, though I wasn’t as hard-core YEC as some.) In his terrific book Peril in Paradise, Dr. Mark Whorton addresses what he calls the “Perfect Paradise Paradigm” adopted by YECs in contrast with the “Perfect Purpose Paradigm” adopted by OECs. There are big differences in how the two positions understand certain biblical passages and the implications thereof. Part of it has to do with whether Adam’s Fall was part of God’s eternal Plan, or if He had to go to a “Plan B” after Adam screwed up. (In fact, I plan another post that goes more into this in the next couple(?) months.) It also concerns the origin(s) and purpose(s) of not only moral evil but natural “evil” in this world, which gets into the questions discussed in this post and Part 1.
If you are interested in investigating this topic further, I highly recommend Whorton’s book, as well as the writings (online & offline) of the scholar team at Reasons to Believe (RTB).