September 13

blowback

In tonight’s Republican debate, Ron Paul was challenged on his foreign policy stance – specifically, an article he wrote for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The article in question was called “Ask the Right Questions and Face the Truth“. In it, Dr Paul illuminates both the causes and effects of 9/11 – that is, both why it happened, and what it has done to the US. It goes all the way back to Iran in the 1950s with Mossadegh, and the middle eastern intervention continued right up through 2001. After the tragedy, we invaded an Iraq that even Bush himself admitted had nothing to do with 9/11. US militarism now extends to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya as well, and that’s just the “short list” of declared action. The endless wars have been accompanied by blatant disregard for and losses of civil liberties, many of which the populace begged for in its initial, frantic response to the events of that day.

Those that claim to (or want to) have an intellectual acumen will impartially read the whole of Dr Paul’s article and study the supporting evidence before coming to a conclusion. Anyone care to explain why he’s wrong?

Some in the crowd booed when he said “this whole idea that the WHOLE Muslim world is responsible for this and they’re attacking us because we’re free and prosperous, that is just not true”. So… the WHOLE Muslim world IS responsible for this? Of course that’s ridiculous. What’s left to boo? People don’t really still believe the myth that they attack us “because we’re free”, do they? That’s an obsolete catchphrase supported by absolutely zero fact. It is well-established at this point that “insurgents” (we called them Freedom Fighters during the Soviet-Afghan War) resist the US because we occupy their lands and are seen as imperialists. We’ve been intervening in middle eastern affairs for over 60 years now. The CIA itself recognizes that this creates what’s called “blowback”. This is NOT a matter of opinion.

Ironically, Ron Paul himself receives some blowback because he has the courage to tell the truth, even when it’s unpopular. Dr Paul was booed because he forces America to look in the mirror, and it doesn’t always like what it sees. Paradigms and worldviews are challenged, and many times, the truth hurts. But only by embracing that truth can we heal.

As a moral people, we need to recognize when good policies are good, and when bad policies are bad. America is exceptional, it is the most prosperous country in the history of the world, but it is not infallible – in fact, far from it. Ron Paul is the only candidate on that stage who’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, and we should be open to honest discussion about this issue from a brilliant man who has studied it in-depth – not dismissive and closed-minded, as some of the crowd members at the debate were tonight. There is a reason Ron Paul receives the greatest amount of military contributions – those who have been there, and seen it, know what is really going on. Not only is it patriotic to face reality and question with boldness… it is decidedly UN-patriotic NOT to.

March 28

thoughts on omniscience (and determinism vs free will)

Determinism vs Free Will, Calvinism vs Arminianism – the classic debate has raged between Christians for generations. Though never completely sure one way or the other, I have generally fallen into the former camp throughout the decade or so I’ve seriously contemplated this issue.

Oftentimes one of the strongest arguments we rely on in the case for “determinism” is the idea that since God is omniscient, then He knows the future, and therefore things can’t happen in any other way. That is to say, God has a specific plan for each of us, planned down to the microsecond, and therefore, if we had any free will at all, we could choose to do something against God’s will, rendering him non-omniscient, non-omnipotent.

But does omniscience really imply knowledge of the future? Certainly we have seen God’s future prophecies fulfilled, but we know that since He is omnipotent He can assert his will at any time. Does His omnipotence preclude free will? I certainly can’t know for sure, but I will make the case that it does not.

Listening to a series by renowned theologian RC Sproul recently, I have picked up a thing or two about the field of Christianity known as apologetics. As Christians, we know that God is not just the source of, but is, all truth and rationality (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” – Proverbs 1:7). Within our measurable universe, rationality is generally regarded as that which we can consistently and empirically hold to be true, or natural laws. The crux of the issue, then, is that in our universe, rationality does not dictate time travel forward. Therefore, just as God cannot create a rock so big He can’t lift it (because this is a contradiction, and contradictions are not rational, so even God cannot perform contradictions), perhaps God also does NOT know the future (as this too would be a contradiction). Note that this does not in any way “limit” God in His omnipotence or omniscience, as these features only apply in rational terms.

We know that the Bible is full of verses which people of both Calvinist and Arminian camps use to support their position, and which in their own right can be interpreted either way. So to help find an answer, let us transcend looking at individual verses and examine this issue in the context of the Bible as a whole and some of its tenets which we know to be true.

God created Lucifer. God did not create sin. Lucifer in his pride challenged God’s authority and lost. We know this to be the point at which sin and evil came into being. Sin and evil entered our world through Adam’s fall. Lucifer (or Satan) is the author of sin. God does not create evil or sin, but permits it under His own will (His “permissible” will). God’s perfect will does not include sin, because He does not create the sin. Therefore, we must conclude that God created both Lucifer and man with, at least to some extent, free will – not just from our perspective, but from His as well – because otherwise, He would have predetermined that Lucifer and man would sin, which means He would have had to create the sin, which we know He does not do.

The existence of sin, therefore, seems to imply to us that God allows free will. Keep in mind, no doubt God can assert His will in our lives at any time in His omnipotence, so you might call this position “limited free will” OR “limited determinism”. Whether we have free will or not, God still has a perfect will that He is working towards, in which the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled. I recently read a commentary by AW Tozer which gave a good metaphor for this: God is directing a cruise ship from one port to another, and we humans are free to move about that ship as we please, but in the end, we will all end up at that final destination.

Now, we must address those verses which mention those “elect” or “pre-destined”. I would assert that these are in the context to be called, NOT to be saved. That is to say, God may choose some of us to draw nearer to Himself than others – they are the “elect” – but He may not “force” them to choose Him.

In conclusion, I posit that there could be complete determinism via His foreknowledge and assertion of every single thing He will impose, BUT, His omniscience doesn’t necessitate determinism because omniscience doesn’t have to include foreknowledge if He allows free will, since that would be illogical. Happy trails wrapping your mind around all this! Please leave any comments below.

As a side note: as a programmer, I have always been fascinated by the concept of “true random” (those in the field will understand this fascination, because we know that true random in computing is impossible). We know, though, that we can create imperative programs where we define the functionality and predetermine all of the inputs to get an expected result. How much more, then, is God glorified in the allowance of free will as opposed to complete determinism? In my professional opinion, infinitely so :)

March 10

even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles

I’ve been meaning for some time now to address some things Stefan Molyneux has said in his videos over the course of the past few years. Over the past year or so, I’ve listened to probably the majority of his videos – and there are a lot of them – dealing with anarchism, and I am very much in favor of what he advocates, as far as the politics goes. However, on the religious side of things, I am a Christian and Stefan is an atheist, and he tends to say things that don’t truly represent Christianity. Consequentially, he tends to look at everything in a very secular light, where he takes the possibility of miracles or anything that we might consider “supernatural” or “anti-scientific” completely out of the equation.

The reason I title this writing “even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles” is because I think that no matter what your religious persuasion – Christian, atheist, whatever – there is one circumstance that you strictly cannot deal with outside of supernaturality – and that is, existence itself. Basically, there are three different cases to explain how we are here (existence):

  • matter was created by God (whom always existed)
  • matter always existed (implying infinite history)
  • matter did not exist and then did (conservation of mass?)

Any way you slice it, mere existence is “anti-scientific”.

Also, just as a side note – Stef likes to refer to God as a “square circle”, or an impossibility by definition, stating that He cannot be omniscient and omnipotent, and I take exception to that. His reasoning is that if God were omniscient then He would be all-knowing and would know His future plans, and therefore couldn’t change his future plans, meaning He would not be omnipotent. I think this is pretty deceptive and intellectually dishonest, and definitely not sound. If God had a plan and then needed to change it, He simply would have already known He was going to change it. It’s really pretty simple… it’s just a clever twist on the age-old “can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it?” paradox… just much less confounding and silly, and a bit more cunning.

Category: Christianity, religion | Comments Off on even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles
March 8

RE: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

What follows is my logical, educated, and intelligent response to 10 questions I recently saw posed in a video critical of the Christian faith called 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer. As the questions attempt to approach the Christian “in spite of” their faith, I will attempt to approach the answers in the same manner.

Question #1: Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?

Though not constrained by them because of His omnipotence, God tends to work within the bounds of natural laws governing our physical world – in fact, there are solid cases for scientific (rather than “magical”) explanations for almost everything He has ever done, including Creation. Most occurrences regarded as miracles (at least, those which are detectable by humans) could be explained away by secular means – they are, however, usually extremely improbable by rational measures, and over a series of occurrences, are recognized as more than just patterns of coincidental, infinitesimally small “chance” encounters of good fortune by those who are not blinded by doubt.

Of course, before Jesus’ birth (in the Old Testament), God did reveal Himself in much more direct ways – however, because of Jesus’ salvation, God no longer had a need to physically manifest Himself in our world – Jesus paid the price for our sins, and God leaves the onus of whether to believe on us (at least, in a manner of speaking). And, during his time on earth, Jesus healed a leper and a blind man – both miracles of the same nature posed here – both well-documented, eyewitness cases.

Specifically regarding amputees, it is important to realize that God does not create miracles – at least in the modern age – that fly in the face of measurable, natural laws. This question is a clever twist on the age-old paradox “Can God create a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift it?”. It is not a question of God’s power or whether He answers prayer, but instead a deceitful manner of asking “can 1 = 0?”, and the answer is, of course not.

It is important at this point to establish a principle that can be applied to this as well as many of the rest of the questions going forward: it is up to God to decide how His justice is best done – in this specific instance, whether or not to grant our requests – since He is the perfect Creator and we are not, and much (perhaps most) of the time, what we think is “best” (our requests) are not in line with His perfect will. This can perhaps best be summed up in the quote, “God always answers our prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.”

Question #2: Why are there so many starving children in our world?

Because of Satan’s choice to turn against God and his subsequent fall from God’s grace, sin exists. Because Satan deceived humans who in turn chose to turn against God, sin was introduced into the world. Because of the existence of sin, there is pain and suffering – including starvation. In the absence of sin, nobody would ever suffer, including children. However, God does not promise His children the absence of sin in this world, but instead, after it is gone, along with its pain and suffering. It is important to note that the Creator is the only entity among us qualified to judge His own justice – for as the Bible teaches in Romans 9:21, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

The asker implies that if God existed, He would answer the prayers of all who pray for an end to child starvation. But as we established earlier, God always answers our prayers – but sometimes the answer is no, for the reasons we’ve just set forth. It is important to realize that the reason many children in our world starve is not because God makes them, but because Satan does. This in no way belittles the very real and distressing fact that there are are children suffering even at this very moment – but Christianity, via the Bible, teaches that it is not this life that matters or that will be remembered, but the next.

Question #3: Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?

The issue here is in the presupposition of the question – that everyone is “innocent”. The Bible in fact teaches that all men are born in sin, and therefore guilty before our perfect God. The Bible verses specifically quoted pertain to commissioners of particular sins for which God has specified a penalty – however, these penalties are issued in the Old Testament. Christ’s death changed everything. Because Jesus paid the ultimate penalty for our sins, we are no longer commanded to issue such penalties upon others, in accordance with grace – however, ultimate justice will be God’s.

Question #4: Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?

Again, the question makes an errant presupposition – that all of the events which it subsequently refers to are “anti-scientific”. The first in question, Creation, is of course supernatural. However, did matter itself not come into existence “supernaturally”, no matter what the source? Either matter always existed (implying infinite history), or matter did not exist and then did (conservation of mass?), or matter was created by God (whom always existed). Any way you slice it, mere existence is “anti-scientific”.

The asker then makes a number of claims without evidence and which he could not know – and, in fact, specifically contradicting actual testimony from the Bible. The claims in question are “The Flood”, “Jonah and the Whale”, and “the Creation of Adam”. There is actually a significant amount of scientific data supporting The Flood. It is not impossible that a man lived inside a whale for days – it may be considered a miracle, but even at that, the story never contradicts any natural laws. The Creation of Adam goes along with Creation, above.

Question #5: Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?

From the first two verses the asker refers to in support of this supposition, we can understand what he is implying. Said verses are:

20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

Exodus 21:20-21

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:22-24

The first thing we must do is address the fact that the asker is being intellectually dishonest. Nowhere in these verses is God portrayed as “a huge proponent of slavery”. God is simply addressing the reality that, because men are of sinful nature, slavery exists. Therefore, because of sin and slavery, God commanded that the masters show justice even towards their slaves, and that even the slaves be joyful in all that they do, because they do it not for their masters, but for God.

Question #6: Why do bad things happen to good people?

If there was any person whom “bad things” did not happen to, we would say that person has “a perfect life”. God does not give “good” people – or even His children, Christians – a perfect life, and as sinners, we are not worthy of such. Even Christ, the only man who ever walked the earth without sin – a perfect man – endured a life of much hardship, culminating in an extremely painful death. In fact, to suppose that bad things should never happen to good people would be to imply that good people should never die.

Christians do not believe that only good things will happen to them – in fact, the Bible teaches that because of their faith, Christians will endure much hardship and persecution. One must look no further than Job, whom God calls “blameless and upright… the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-2). Because of his great faith, Job endured a series of trials and tribulations, carried out by Satan, that left him a broken man – however, because his faith did not falter, God rewarded him many times over.

Faith in God does not magically make good things (in the worldly sense) happen to anybody. Faith in God, though, allows us to deal with the bad things with the knowledge that His will is being done and through it all, He will be praised.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:21

Question #7: Why didn’t any of Jesus’ miracles leave behind any evidence?

As mentioned earlier, Jesus performed miracles such as healing a leper and a blind man. This is fact was empirical evidence; the leper overcame leprosy, the blind man overcame his blindness. It is unclear what kind of evidence the asker requests; no, Jesus did not miraculously create a timeless art piece to endure all generations, but to require the such is a bit silly. Frankly, Jesus has nothing to prove to man – dying on the cross for our sins was quite enough.

Question #8: How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?

With all due respect to the asker, this question appears to be simply a misunderstanding of the Christian faith. Christians do not believe that Jesus is still on earth or that he “appears” to people here and there. Jesus lives at the right hand of his Father, God, in Heaven, where he will stay until his return.

Question #9: Why would Jesus want you to eat his body and drink his blood?

Some religions – Catholicism being the major one – believe that the bread and wine of Communion literally “become” Jesus’ actual body and blood. This belief is known as transubstantiation. However, we must make a distinction between Catholicism and Christianity, as the former does not believe in salvation via Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace alone, but alongside works.

Most Christians believe that Communion is symbolic instead of literal. However, either belief does not necessarily make one a Christian or not. Jesus said “This do in remembrance of me.” What is important is simply that Christians follow this command in taking Communion.

Question #10: Why do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?

Let us first establish a truth that can be applied to people who commit all sorts of sins, but whom call themselves Christians. The Bible plainly states that some who outwardly call themselves Christians are in fact not:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:21-23

The Bible tells us the difference between the wheat and the chaff:

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Psalm 1:4

And the Bible implies that faith without works is dead:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17

So we know that some who live in sin yet profess Christianity are hypocrites and in fact remain dead in their sin. Yet there are still many true Christians who still fall to sins such as divorce every day. How can that be? Well, we have already established that no man is perfect, including Christians. We are all born of a sinful nature and while the Christian faith redeems us, it does not change our outwardly worldly nature. Christians are still exposed every day to the same sins, the same temptations, the same struggles as the unbeliever.

But, even after all that, we know one thing: Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s mercy is greater than any sin that any man could ever commit. God knows that no man can or will ever live up to His perfection. But in His infinite love, He has given us only one requirement in order to partake of eternal salvation: believe. If we do so with a true heart, He will never leave us, and though we will continue to stumble every day, we know that He will be there to pick us up again and again and again.

Conclusion

I hope that this has cleared up the Christian response to these questions. Please leave any additional comments below!

sources:
  1. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-biblical-evidence-for-original-sin
  2. http://www.ministryhealth.net/mh_articles/016_principles_of_suffering_outline.html
June 17

why I fight

there’s an episode of my favorite miniseries of all time, Band of Brothers, called “Why We Fight”. well, this is why I fight.

one question I’ve pondered and heard from others is: there’s no use – why should we try? the Bible says there will be an end time, and if this is it, why should we try to resist the inevitable? some people will even mention Romans 13, which talks of submitting to the authorities. well, this is true when the government is just. but when it is not, the Bible teaches us always to fight evil; to simplify, if a police officer ordered you to kill your own family, I hope you would not comply. I feel that, even if we are currently set on the path to the end, if we change our ways God will forgive us. “The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).

but what effect do I have? true, my voice probably has little effect or impact on the occupiers of DC as they currently are; most of them are corrupt, power hungry, and set in their ways. but when the whole of the People are armed with knowledge, they will no longer be silent. they cannot, it’s against our human nature not to crave freedom. so I will keep ringing the bell until either everyone joins, or there is no one left to hear me. like the protagonist of the 1976 movie Network, “I want people to be mad as hell! I want you to stand up, open your windows, and yell ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

our government has openly declared war upon We the People. every day their actions confirm this, they just haven’t verbalized it. every disregard of the Constitution, the charter of the very government that ignores it, is an act of war. they are taking our liberty, and it is going further than legislation, stepping into the world of physical violence. I am personally being attacked by the very institution which is sworn to defend me; this is why I fight.

“I swear upon the altar of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
– Thomas Jefferson

UPDATE 7/15: Chuck Baldwin wrote an article “Romans Chapter 13 Revisited” on the same topics discussed here. I’m sure he read my post! ;)