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John MacArthur needs an Editor November 5, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Politics.
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Reference: The Campaign for Immorality, Decision Magazine, November 2012.

Noted pastor, seminary president, and radio voice John MacArthur recently wrote an article that was included in Decision Magazine, an outreach of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. With all due respect to the elder Reverend Graham, his organization, and Dr. MacArthur, I think the article could have used some editing. Let this blog post be the notes he should have received.

We’ll start with some small issues:

  • A reader of this article might get confused when they read, “…the government passes out condoms so people can fornicate at will. For those who happen to get pregnant in the process…” Condoms are not necessary for humans to engage in sex. People can and do engage in sexual intercourse pretty much all the time both with and without condoms. The primary benefit from using a condom is to prevent pregnancy yet the second sentence makes it sound like pregnancies are an afterthought. This is strange wording.
  • “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” is indeed in the bible. It’s found in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 but it’s generally best to include the source rather than make the reader take the author’s word for it.
  • “In this current campaign season…”, “…to the culture in which we live”, and the like are sloppy writing. Like the ubiquitous ‘free gift’, these phrases are duplicitous and wordy. Avoid them. Rather, use “in this campaign season” and “to our culture” which are better due to their simplicity.

Unfortunately, we quickly come to more significant problems:

  • The author writes, “And if you think homosexuality, abortion, sexual freedom, and hating God are not evil then you’d better go back and check your bible again. How can people with that kind of agenda protect those who do good and punish those who do evil? (That’s the Romans 13 definition of the role of government.)” except  Romans 13 doesn’t say that. It says:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” – Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

  • As an aside, I think Christians in general, and the TEA Party faithful in particular, should pay attention to these verses and I thank president MacArthur for bringing them to our attention. However, they seem to speak a different message from the claims espoused here. (Verses 6-7 are essentially a command to pay taxes which many TEA Party advocates have spoken out against. And verse 7 is a command to respect and honor whomever God establishes in positions of authority as I’ve blogged about before. And I don’t see any exceptions to be made depending on which political party is in power.) Using this verse to support these political claims is very shaky.
  • “Romans 1 is not politics. The bible is not politics.” The bible is everything. It includes politics, sex, predictions, history, military history, origin stories, and more written in a variety of forms: prose, poetry, etc. To arbitrarily state that it doesn’t include political statements when it clearly does (See Romans 13 above) is ridiculous.
  • The beginning of the article dances around identifying itself as a political statement however the ending clearly calls out the Democratic Party on their campaign issues.

But the biggest flaw has to do with the underlying assumptions:

  • Assumption #1: Everyone registered as a Democrat and everyone that votes for a Democrat is against God. Not at all. There are democrats who are Christians. The concept is not an oxymoron. The south of the United States including large chunks of the bible belt was dependably blue for decades until Reagan in 1980. Is has been dependably red ever since but there are signs that North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida are becoming less red.
  • Assumption #2: Everyone registered as a Democrat and everyone that votes for a Democrat is voting for homosexuality, sexual perversions, etc. Also patently false. The LGBT community wants their voices heard and they have chosen the Democratic Party. There are gay republicans. Don’t overstep your argument by thinking all democrats hold the views of our President (or all republicans are Christian fundamentalists). Humans are more complicated than that.
  • Assumption #3: God is focused on abortion and gay marriage (to the exclusion of all other issues) and these should dominate every all political decisions by Christians. Baloney. Horse-hockey. Not. Even. Close. God is specifically described in scripture as not being a respecter of persons which means he loves non-Americans as much as Americans, Israelis as much as Arabs, Democrats as much as Republicans. He has our best interests at heart. All of our best interests. Yes, abortion and sexual orientation are included, but they certainly aren’t alone. Many democratic platform staples like access to universal healthcare, a good education, and environmentalism are Christian positions.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things that are right with this article:

  • Romans 1:18-32 does describe the wrath of God in relation to those who engage in and promote sexual perversions.
  • “…politicians have stepped – overstepped – into spiritual and moral areas, promoting horrific wickedness and blasphemous immorality.” Hear, hear Dr. MacArthur and I’d like to bring one more to your attention. Until the meeting between the Reverend Billy Graham with Governor Romney, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, the parent organization responsible for publishing this article, identified Mormonism as a cult on their website. Now it’s gone. I thought Christianity was supposed to work the other way around.
  • “Our corrupt culture will not be transformed for the better by political movements or pop culture…” True. Jesus basically said that a culture can only be changed by changing the individuals that inhabit it. Thus the concept of being born again.
  • The whole hate speech versus love speech dichotomy at the end is technically correct…but in my opinion it won’t sway the people it’s aimed at for at least three reasons:
    1. Pastor, you’re preaching to the choir. You’re telling Christians to speak out, but by and large they won’t. Furthermore, some of the most vocal have also been the most detestable so the people that could have been reached have been turned off to Christianity.
    2. “…if they affirm that direction, knowing that it will take them to hell” (emphasis mine). No, they don’t. They don’t understand biblical concepts or recognize them as valid in the same sense that all Christians do. This is the primary reason in my opinion why Christian arguments fall flat to a lost person. Christians mistakenly believe that everyone thinks the same way they do, but non-believers think in fundamentally different ways. They do not evaluate their choices in life by our standards so any argument that defers to any Christian belief comes across as empty and hollow and the lost person usually ends up thinking the believer is a fool.
    3. Romans 1:18 states that God gave them over to a debased mind. Like Saul, if He has already judged them how can we possibly explain their folly to them? Still, God continued to intervene in Saul’s life in ways that reminded him of Himself. So who am I to say we shouldn’t try? Just don’t get your hopes up too high. Perhaps there will be a few who will hear but the majority certainly will not.

In summary, there is good writing here but the errors, mistakes, and wrong assumptions are glaring, particularly coming from the president of a place called the Master’s College and Seminary. Again, with all due respect to Dr. MacArthur, you need an editor. And someone to be your sounding board. Paul had Barnabas. The disciples were sent out two by two. And it might be a good idea to reread all of Romans.

For further reading, I encourage visitors to read What’s Wrong with the Democrats (and Republicans) and “The American Dream” by Rich Deem as it covers several important points not included here.

UPDATE

I posted a link to this post on the BGEA website – the link is above the picture – but my comment has not been posted. The message beside the comment box says:

BGEA encourages you to participate in this discussion; however, please be aware that your comment will not appear immediately. Also be aware that we reserve the right to edit comments for spelling, grammar and clarity. User comments that include personal attacks or other inappropriate comments will not be approved for posting. Thank you for your patience.

It’s been long enough for my comment to be moderated so baring a technical glitch this means my comment did not meet the BGEA’s standards.

For shame! I think my post was biting, yes, but it wasn’t meant as a personal attack. Quite frankly, this post is full of constructive criticism. I even wrote it in a playful manner but you know some of these Christians – no sense of humor even though God created that too.

Now if my comment was excluded because it was deemed inappropriate, please define what that means. Furthermore, why is this the stance of the BGEA since it isn’t a biblical position. Where did God ever censor anything in the bible except the seven thunders in Revelation 10:1-4? Scripture includes death, dismemberment, and an entire book of erotic poetry.

Is it any wonder why Christians are viewed as hard-headed bigots in this country when dissenting opinions aren’t allowed? Well, I’m big enough to deal in a mature fashion on this topic and my God is big enough too so I welcome all comments. Unless a comment is wildly off topic, it will not be deleted or edited here including any comments from Dr. MacArthur, the BGEA, or a representative thereof.

Let Us Reason Together May 4, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses.
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Title: Frosty Footpath – Winter Snow
Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmiers2/6733322351/

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)

How to Find God October 28, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses.
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How does one come to God? How do we find Him?

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

So it’s both simple and complex. A person must believe He exists and that He is good.

No amount of argument or evidence conjured or amassed by the human mind can convince a skeptic that God has spoken, until God has been permitted to speak. – Walter Martin, Essential Christianity

God doesn’t want us to be Vegetarians April 12, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses.
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Psalm 104:24-30 (NIV)

24 How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

God Creates. God Destroys. God Creates Anew. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

In other words, many people (Christians included) have an incorrect view of death. It is typically believed that (1) animal death came as a result of the fall and (2) therefore, death is inherently sinful. Yet in this passage, God causes the death of creatures that He created. But God is perfect, holy, and cannot do wrong. Therefore, it must NOT be inherently sinful to kill animals.

After all, it’s His creation and He can do what He wants with it. He’s the one who killed the animals to clothe Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit. Adam and Eve made a covering of leaves but God brought them fur clothing. How else did he get it except by killing some of His own animals?

Far be it from us to put words in God’s mouth and make any claim in His name that isn’t backed up by scripture.

A Scientific Test for the Existence of a Creator April 5, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Faith, Science.
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We find comfort among those who agree with us–growth among those who don’t. ~ Frank A. Clark

Last night, I attended a panel debate between Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Dr. Howard Neufeld on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Dr. Rana is an old-earth creationist employed by Reasons to Believe who believes that there is strong evidence for a creator and who identifies this creator as the judeo-christian God. Dr. Neufeld is a naturalist in the department of Biology at Appalachian State University, a proponent of evolution, and an atheist who believes there is no need for a creator to explain the natural world.

Despite the use of the term debate, this was not a fierce, emotional battle. It was a well-organized back-and-forth where each of the speakers was allowed uninterrupted time to showcase their arguments with time for rebuttal and audience questions at the end.

Full disclosure: I subscribe to the RTB model. I think it’s a well thought out scientific model that is above trivial arguments of being unsound from a scientific perspective. That said, Dr. Neufeld did raise an interesting point that I would like to address.

He said that science is only interested in what can be tested and I agree with him. He further said that one could not devise a scientific test for God. He invited anyone with such an argument to share it and so I am.

To get there, we must travel through a few hypotheses so let us begin:

  1. For the sake of argument and hypothesis, suppose a creator does in fact exist. What can the natural world tell us about this being? He or she would, by necessity, have to exist outside our physical space in order to create it in the first place.
  2. This is testable because we know from Einstein’s laws and their extensions that matter, energy, space, and time were all created with the creation of the universe. Thus, such a deity would have to exist independent of matter, energy, space, and time.
  3. So, assuming such a being exists and that this being has chosen to reveal himself (for the sake of simplicity, since gender cannot be inferred, I will use the masculine), which of the world’s religions, if any, describes a god in these terms? The answer is only one – the judeo-christian God. No other religion describes their god as being transcendent beyond matter, energy, time, and space.

Here is one such passage:

Luke 24:33-43 (NIV)

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

The above passage demonstrates transcendence beyond matter, space, and energy. Jesus had a physical body but it appeared out of nowhere. Scientists now have a theory of teleportation, but it only works on the scale of atoms and requires an enormous amount of energy which is beyond humanity’s capacity to produce.

The following passage demonstrates transcendence beyond time. It’s a lengthy passage. The example begins in verse 48, but I have chosen to include the verses leading up for context.

John 8:31-59 (NIV)

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus’ Claims About Himself

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

There you have it. A scientific test for the existence of a creator – provided one posits the existence of a creator in the first place which is a necessary and reasonable hypothesis. It is the nature of the scientific method to embrace all new hypotheses in order to test new theories and ultimately expand the scientific knowledge of humanity.

In summary, if there is a creator this being can be identified as the judeo-christian God. This concept is very nicely codified in Romans 1:20 (NIV):

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Why I’m Biased Toward Christianity November 12, 2010

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Morality.
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Are there thoughts that are so distasteful and upsetting that they should be banned?

[This post developed out of a comment I posted on First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Writers – The Kill Zone by John Gilstrap. It is my reponse to John’s pertinent question quoted above.]

In November 2010, Phillip R. Greaves II was legally able to write his book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover’s Code of Conduct, and publish it. The resulting uproar was a reaction over his permission to do so and Amazon removed the book. Thus, this is not a question of censorship. Certainly, the removal was a business decision on Amazon’s part albeit one that aligned with the dominant morality of the moment.

When discussing any situation it is necessarily through the lens of one’s worldview. The western worldview has most strongly been influenced by the ideals of Christianity which are still felt today in the laws and ideals of America. But humans need boundaries to know what is right versus what is wrong. Religion provides part of that and government another.

In vocabulary terms, it’s the difference between the definitions of “can” and “may“. “Can” has to do with ability. “May” has to do with permission and implies a request by the asker to make a decision. In general terms, “Can” is the realm of government while “May” is the realm of religion, philosophy, culture, and worldview. The above situation encompasses aspects of both making it complicated and interesting.

Because of the above, it is impossible to ban anything based on a moral objection to it while remaining perfectly objective and neutral to all parties. Drawing that line *requires* a position be chosen on the moral issue first. Justice truly is and must remain blind.

Since one cannot remain neutral, I will defer to my own Christian heritage and worldview to answer John’s question with a resounding “yes.” Some may call this conclusion biased, and they’d be right, but there is no possibility of an impartial conclusion so at least I know why and can explain how I came to this decision.

Science in Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee September 3, 2010

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Science.
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Source: Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee

I took advantage of a free download of Tosca Lee’s first book, Demon: A Memoir. This is a limited time offer so get the PDF or eBook now.

It’s a great read so far, but the science is a bit off. I subscribe to the integrated approach of the bible with science espoused by Reasons To Believe. And in that mindset I read the following on page 66 of the PDF:

He gestured in the general direction of Cambridge. “But what they fail to realize is that creation defies rationality, mathematics, and reason no matter how you try to quantify it. You might as well try to quantify El himself—something you’ll never find me wasting my time on.”

No.

Creation was not like this because God is not like this. The creation was the most incredible, finely-tuned, organized, and micro-managed event that has ever been. Astronomers have proven this over the past decade through a number of impressive discoveries culminating in a photograph of the background radiation of the universe. This photograph is highly uniform and homogenous which tells astronomers many things about the beginning including the high degree of complexity and organization involved.

In other words, God was intimately involved in the creation of the universe. He setup all the laws of physics that govern the world and the universe He created has stayed true to them from the beginning. Mind, it’s difficult to even talk about these things without using scientific terms. God certainly didn’t call the laws He setup the physical laws. Human scientists gave them that name after their discovery. But I digress. A single blog post is not a place to expound on this. Whole books exist to that end.

Note also that I’m not trying to minimize the emotional component of this creative act. It’s a false choice to think that something must either be felt or planned exclusively. It’s just that God is bigger than that. He’s certainly an artist based of the high level of creativity displayed throughout creation, yet creation follows mathematical principles and conforms to scientific laws at the same time. Certainly, creation was something beyond our comprehension but to say that “creation defies rationality, mathematics, and reason” is to miss out on God’s genius in those areas.

Other than that, I’m enjoying the book.

Can Asteroid Impact Events cause Lava Flows on the other side of the Planet? March 10, 2010

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Science.
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I was watching a television show about the origin of our Earth on television last night (3/9/2010). Sorry, I don’t recall the name or channel.

Anyway, it mentioned that a crater was discovered in the gulf of mexico that was 100 miles across and stipulated that this dated correctly to be the smoking gun that killed off the dinosaurs. It also mentioned massive lava flows in India – lava so thick that whole temples had been carved from the rock. These lava flows occurred at about the same time as the asteroid impact.

The show indicated that both events would have spewed matter into the atmosphere, darkening the sun, and eliminating much life on the planet. The show mentioned that scientists did not know which event was more lethal to life but obviously the dinosaurs and much other flora and fauna from that period are now extinct so the combination was extra deadly.

Now, the show didn’t mention but I’m wondering if the impact could have also been the cause for the abundant lava flow. If the impact was massive enough, couldn’t it have sent shockwaves through the earth and in effect pushed lava out on the other side? If two plates colliding on the surface can push hard rock up into mountains couldn’t a large-enough impact compress magma and cause it to rupture in a similar way – but directed away from the impact site so as to absorb the force of the event? Even if the two locations are not geographically on opposite sides of the planet, perhaps the impact was at an angle and lining up the two events would give the trajectory of the impact.

So, is this possible? Has any scientist ever postulated such a consequence from an impact event? Could the two events be related? Could we discover the trajectory of this impact after 65 million years?

Not to make an impact event any more dire, but if this is true then impacts smaller than previously thought would be sufficient to wipe out all life on the planet.

Be Very Careful How You Live January 13, 2010

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses.
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Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV):

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

A Theory Explaining Why Europeans Are White December 16, 2009

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Science.
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Source: Why Are Europeans White? E1 – a knol by Frank W Sweet

The simple answer: Neoteny, the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles.

The long answer: It’s very interesting. The author chains together an incredible series of events including the gulf stream, ocean currents, the invention of cereal growing, Solar UV Rays, human adaptation, Melanin, and the human body’s need for Vitamin D. Very interesting.

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