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Honest to God on the Issues #002: Evolution and Creationism November 16, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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There are fundamental questions capable of changing the direction of the entire human race.

  • Where did we come from?
  • How did the universe come to exist?
  • Is there a God?

By and large, there are only two real alternatives – Creation or Evolution – though some individuals would discount either one or the other. Furthermore, the Creation-Evolution controversy is well known but it’s also incredibly complex in ways that most people are not familiar.

First, let’s talk about Evolution which is actually an umbrella term. It can refer to any of several different and specific scientific processes acting at different zoom levels of our world. It’s a common tactic for a proponent of evolution to provide an example from one area, say the mutation of a virus into a new strain at the micro level, and then claim that proves evolution is the explanation for what happens in a different area, like Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor at the Macro level. Dr. Rana of Reasons to Believe likens it to the Shell Game.

It takes someone trained in the sciences to understand such details and to provide a way to refute the truth-claims of evolution (that Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor) without mucking up the science. Which brings me to a particular bible passage, Romans 1:18-23:

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23 (NKJV)

This amazing passage states that the universe (the heavens) reveals God’s handiwork. What the bible says about God creating the universe cannot be separated from scientific facts. God is both Lord and Creator. Thus the Evolution – Creation debate is in fact a “false” debate. Modern Christianity has stepped right into a trap that C. S. Lewis warned us about long ago:

“[The Devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” – C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Young-Earth Creationism is the other error because it denies that the physical world, which God created, is the way that science says it is. Scientists merely observe the physical world and make interpretations and inferences about how it works. The scientific process itself is very pragmatic: whatever works is kept and built upon to create a fuller and more complete model.

Now, I am not proposing that the evolutionary explanation for the origin of humanity and the universe is correct. Far from it in fact. As a Christian, evolution is the obvious error in Lewis’ comparison. But Romans 1:18-23 merges belief in God with an accurate understanding of the world God made. The bible states that humans are fallen and sinful. How much more then must our own interpretations, both of scripture and of science, be treated with suspicion?

I cannot help you make the choice to accept this conclusion but I can point you to the organization which helped me. I spent years working through trying to find an integrated approach to science and scripture and I found it in Reasons to Believe. Do not believe all the lies you might have heard about them. They are honest, professional, and trustworthy. More to the point, they’re also logical and consistent. They’re scientists and Christians so they understand the particulars of this debate in ways that the rest of us cannot. I’ve looked at the alternatives and found them illogical and God is a God of logic, of sense, of consistency.

So I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to look to Reasons to Believe. Contact them. Subscribe to their podcasts. Read their books. According to I Thessalonians 5:21, test what they say and hold on to the good. I have followed them for 15 years and they have never faltered or failed to offer an explanation for all of the challenges posed by so great a debate.

Your science apologetics will soar through the roof when based on real science. Another tool in the Master’s toolkit to minister, counsel, and encourage.

Honest to God on the Issues #001: Violence November 14, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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Violence.

It’s not a pretty sight. So, what does scripture say? Remember that I am writing a story. It includes some violent plot developments so I am specifically looking for what to include and how much to incorporate. Is there a limit?

My Pre-Existing Beliefs

I think scripture is clear on one point: violence is part of life. The ancient Israelites waged war, people died, people murdered, and people were killed all in a variety of ways. Playing the sheep all the time will more than likely get you maimed or killed. That said, violence should be considered a last resort. Generally, the violence is not described in graphic detail. It seems more objective like a news report: Sampson and the foreskins of the Philistines, etc. I remember a female judge killing a foreign general (and thus ending a way) by driving a tent stake through his eyes. Torture is not promoted but it is described: sending children through the fire, etc.

My Questions

  • What is violence? Is there an operative definition?
  • Should violence be met with violence?
  • Are there exceptions to portraying violence in a graphically explicit way?
  • What is torture? Is there an operative definition?

Definitions

Wikipedia seems to have a good definition albeit a lengthy one:

Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. – Wikipedia

I recently read a book on the subject: Violence: A Writer’s Guide by Rory Miller. It’s available as a self-published ebook only but I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. I understand from external sources that the author is a Buddhist,  but my reading of this particular book is that he is anti-Christian. There is a particular diatribe near the end that’s wrong on many levels and has nothing to do with the topic of the book. Read with caution. Nonetheless, the author is a martial arts master and has been a corrections officer and tactical team leader. The book was an eye-opener for me. Among the many great insights into violence are the following gems:

The fact is that some things, especially dangerous things happening very fast, can ONLY be solved by violence.

Why do people use violence? Because it works.

[Levels of Violence:] Nice-Manipulative-Assertive-Aggressive-Assaultive-Murderous.

People tend to define violence as the level above the level they are willing to use. The strategies for dealing with any given level do not work and often backfire when attempted on a higher level of conflict.

This is reality. The bible was written by real people about real events. It’s reality too. So there should be some common ground between the words of scripture and violence as it relates to our modern society.

Next, the Torture issue. How does torture differ from violence, the more general term. Is there an operative definition? Sadly, the answer is no. There are many definitions but few are satisfactory. I prefer the wording of the following from Amnesty International:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain by one person on another, or on a third person, in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter. – Amnesty International, (1973) Torture in the Eighties.USA Edition. Amnesty International Publication.

Torture is systematic and always deliberate, a battle of wills, more mental than physical. ‘Cruel and unusual punishment’ comes to mind. By contrast, violence is messy, sometimes accidental. More physical than mental.

But that doesn’t work for Manipulators. They are mentalists, not fighters.

On second thought, it shouldn’t matter. Torture can’t be compared to the earlier levels. By definition it should only be compared to the Assaultive and Murderous levels. I think there is a control aspect to torture that isn’t part of violence generally. One person is the other’s prisoner. Being held against one’s will plus the systematic pain. So here is my initial operative definition of torture:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain by one person on another being held against his or her will in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter or a third party. (Draft 1)

Can the pain be mental or emotional or is it only physical? Given that we can only interact directly with other humans at a physical level and we can only interact indirectly in terms of our mental and emotional states, I think it’s safe to clarify this as physical pain.

And think again. Waterboarding – which I believe is torture – is not based on physical pain. Counterexamples are very useful things, aren’t they? I would describe it as cruel and unusual treatment so let’s visit our definition again:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain (usually physical but can be mental or emotional) often using cruel and unusual methods by one person on another being held against his or her will in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter or a third party. (Draft 2)

To be continued…

This is more complicated and time-consuming than I expected so I will continue these thoughts another day. Sometimes sleeping on an issue is the best way to move forward on it. And maybe I can reword that awful definition. It’s getting out of hand.

Honest to God on the Issues #000: Ground Rules November 13, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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With the success of my previous post and the utter lack of understanding on the so-called Christian right regarding how Romney lost the election, I find myself inspired to post. The voices that are being heard are mostly talking heads, pundits, and the like. There are few true Christian voices out there and most are not speaking from a position of understanding. None of the talking heads quote scripture or they cherry pick verses that support their claims without including verses that speak the contrary. My recent article about John MacArthur and Romans 13 is unfortunately a very typical example.

Let’s begin by establishing some ground rules. I may return to this post and clarify these at a future date but for now here is a good starting point:

  1. References: Every statement must reference specific scripture passages and the quote must be included in the post. All scripture will be taken from online sources and a link included in the post. I shall use KJV and NIV since they are two of the most popular versions and because they have a history of their proponents being antagonistic toward one another. Any scripture in support of our points must agree across these two versions. Agreement is important. For more information read Authorized King James Version and New International Version on Wikipedia.
  2. Biblical Accuracy: This author assumes the bible, as composed of the old and new testaments, is the complete and accurate written word of God. Therefore, the bible speaks from a position of authority on all topics. Where versions differ we will drill down for a deeper understanding. Where the bible is silent we will attempt to infer its position indirectly. For more information read Biblical Infallibility on Wikipedia.
  3. Biblical Inerrancy: This author assumes the bible, as composed of the old and new testaments, is without error. Some may laugh at this claim, but I’m making it and I can reasonably back it up even scientifically. For more information on this position read Biblical Inerrancy on Wikipedia. For more information on the harmony between science and scripture visit Reasons to Believe.
  4. Others TBA

What follows is a short list of topics. My intention is to return to this post to flesh out the list and provide links to topics. You can think of it as a list of political issues too.

Future Topics

  • Violence
  • Homosexuality and Gay Rights
  • Taxes
  • Environment (Stewardship)
  • Creation and Evolution
  • Universal Health Care and Socialism
  • Religious Tolerance
  • Racism and Discrimination (sexual orientation, gender, disability, race, color, religion, or national origin)
  • Women’s Rights
  • Immigration
  • Education
  • Others TBA…

Finally, why am I so interested in this? I’m writing a book. I want to know where I stand anyway, but because I’m writing a book that will deal with some difficult topics I feel it’s even more important that my grounding be as secure as possible. My intention is to work out the details of my beliefs in this series of posts and translate that into my stories.

I may not get it all right on the first try so I welcome all comments. Constructive feedback is always useful.

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