No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Category Archives: Christian Morals

Do you have to believe in God to be moral?


According to the Pew Research Center, a growing share of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral. That is the headline, and I have to admit it grabbed my attention. So here is the data breakdown. From 2011 to 2017 there was a 7% (49% to 56%) increase in the percentage of people who say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral and have ethical values. During that same timeframe, there was a 6% drop in the percentage of people who say that belief in God is necessary to be moral and have good values.

Ahhhh, this has the makings of a great ethics, theological and philosophical debate all wrapped up in one.

So, let me start with the theological aspect, and there are two key parts. First, is the idea that we have all fallen from grace and need saving. A couple of verses just to show you how “good” and “moral” we all are. Isaiah 64:6: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Romans 3:10-12: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

If we were able to BE ethical and moral, even with an ardent belief in God, we wouldn’t need saving grace. There are two things to take from the scripture I quoted. 1. None of us are moral or have good values according to God’s standards. 2. God’s standard is perfection, and we are not perfect.

Since none of us can be good/moral, let’s tackle the ethic’s aspect of it. Can a person, who doesn’t believe in God do something good? I for one don’t think that Christians have the market cornered on doing good. There are many philanthropists out there who do good works with their money, and a number of them are atheists. In the business world, some atheists are far more ethical than some who claim to be Christians. Many Christians struggle with the concept that an atheist can do good things, demonstrate virtue, or follow some of the ten commandments without any faith. This isn’t to say that they are good people (see above), but they are capable of acting, behaving, and demonstrating behavior that is talked about by Christ. Nevertheless, many atheists struggle with what ethical means, which takes me to the philosophical point.

What is good? What is ethical? To a Christian, right/ethical/moral are values derived from the Bible given by an absolute lawgiver. Strike that. Most Christians know that…well, maybe a few. Anyway, the world has ebbed and flowed over the very definition of good, and the idea that there is an absolute idea of what good is seems to be believed by few comparatively speaking. So when Pew asks a question about morals and good values, are they reference virtue ethics? Are they referencing ethics based on the greater good? Are they referencing a humanistic ethic (relativism)? Because they don’t define morals, we have no idea as to what those that answered the survey believe good to be.

So, what do we know? 1. No one can BE good. It implies a constant state of being, and no one IS good. Scripture and common sense make that clear. 2. All people are capable of doing some good things, but that does not make them good. 3. The definition of good, ethical and moral have been obfuscated by modern philosophy. The further away we get from an absolute moral law giver, the more confused good becomes.

So what does all of this mean? Well, lets start with the questions of the survey. Is it me or does anyone else notice two different questions in the one? Certainly, someone at Pew understands that there is a difference between BEING good and HAVING good values. This tells me that someone who doesn’t understand philosophical ethics, or the fundamental tenants of the Christian faith wrote the question.

What is the point of the survey then? I think what Pew is attempting to do is shape opinion by showing the world that the United States continues to become post-Christian. The data collected here is not indicative of anything other than to show the lack of ignorance on ethics and religion by Pew. There is so much ambiguity wrapped up in the question that there is no discernable way anyone, atheist or Christian, could answer it in any meaningful way.

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We are not called to be John McClane


john-mcclane-loved-characters

 

There is a dialogue taking place in churches after the shooting in Sutherland Springs.  This conversation is focused on church security and protecting members of the congregation.  Many in church leadership are calling for a review of how churches can provide a more secure environment.  The topic of security is not new and has continued to gain momentum since the Charleston shooting in 2016.

That emotion is easy to understand.  We are seeing a trend of churches being attacked, and with the last one in Sutherland Springs, they are becoming more deadly.  So much so, that there are now calls for armed security at churches.  Is this how we are supposed to respond to persecution, or attacks?  Are we called to beef up security, train ourselves for a violent response, or to be armed while we are at church?

The reality of Charleston and Sutherland Springs is that there is no way the shooter could have been stopped unless there was someone armed and on the premises when the firing began to happen.  As churches continue to discuss security, this will become plain to all and should leave any rational or logical evaluation with this conclusion.  But is that what we should do as Christians?  Are we responding to these shootings in the way the world would react or the way that Christ would respond?  Fortunately for us, the New Testament offers significant testimony to followers during times of persecution.

I know that this will more than likely not be popular in an America that is pro second amendment.  I know this will not be popular in a culture that has been taught that we have every right to defend ourselves, and our families.  I know that this will not be popular in a western Christian culture which doesn’t know how to respond to this type of murderous persecution biblically.  But I also know that the Bible does not call for an armed response to threats to our or our family’s persons.  In fact, it calls for just the opposite.  In fact, there are over 70 different verses in the New Testament describing our response to OR THE BENEFIT OF persecution.  There is not one instance, IN ALL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, that calls for better security or armed protection of believers.  Here are a few examples.

Romans 8:35-37 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Romans 12:17-21 –  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Peter 4:12-19 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.  For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So what do we take from this?  Reading this, and the many other scriptures it would appear that we are called to just…suffer.  This is so contrary to everything in our culture which would have us crawling through air vents to take out would be shooters.  Does that mean that we are just to stand there and take it?  There is no instance in the New Testament where believers took up arms to stop persecution.  In fact, the one documented incident of a Christian fighting back resulted in his actions being rebuked by Christ himself.  Of course, I am referring to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In all of the documented instances of Paul, Stephen, or other nameless Christians being persecuted, there is no instance where Paul says to take up arms to protect yourself in church.

As the dialogue continues into church security, I hope that church leadership takes into consideration those who were persecuted in the New Testament.  I hope that the church does not cave to the trappings of the American culture, but instead caves to the rewards of a kingdom mentality.  We are citizens of the kingdom first and must act according to those ethics, rather than American ethics.

So the conversation shouldn’t be about added layers of security.  Instead, the discussion should be whether we dare to remain biblical in the face of persecution.

THE lying liars and the lies they tell


Have you ever heard a lie that had small nuggets of truth associated with it?  It’s like a chocolate covered doughnut that has sprinkles on it.  The lie is the doughnut, and the sprinkles are the truth.  While the truth can be seen, it is barely noticeable when it is eaten.

Now that I have all of you salivating over this imaginary doughnut, I want to talk a little bit about our enemy.  So let me ask you an honest question, do you feel awkward bringing up his name in the midst of a conversation?  Do you find yourself looking for words like enemy, or our adversary?  I do.  It feels off to say the following sentence, Satan is influencing my thoughts today, please pray for me.  Or how about this sentence, You are under Satan’s influence, and you need to start praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you.

We live in a weird world today.  Paganism, and Satanism is on the rise, and getting its own monuments outside of public buildings.  There is a growing trend of Christians who believe that  Satan is not a real entity.  Many preachers teach that hell is not real.  And Bible believing Christians feel embarrassed to talk about the influence of Satan on theirs and others lives.

And it is all about influence, NOT demonic possession.  Everything in the current media is focused on exorcising demons and the increase of exorcisms.  Nothing focuses on the day to day influence that a demon, or Satan can have on you.  What kind of influence?  Anything that could change or alter your behavior towards God, or towards sin.

So when I say THE lying liars and the lies they tell, I am referring to Satan and his demons working overtime to give you the doughnut, with enough sprinkles on it to get past your truth meter, or to trick you.

To use myself as an example.  I have been in the process of writing several books over the last year, and just completed my first one.  All of these books are related to being a Christian.  Throughout the process I have had a nagging feeling that no one will read the book, and at times I have had to force myself to continue work on them.  This became so regular that I wrote on the potential influences that our adversary can have on our lives, through influence alone.

The name of the book is The Interview and it is now available for purchase through Amazon on the Kindle, and through paperback.  If you want to see numerous examples of how THE lying liars and the lies they tell can impact your life, read this book.

Interview Book Cover

Buy it now for the Kindle for $3.99 or in Paperback for $6.99

Two major stories today


Cannot serve two masters

Well despite publishing the post on rethinking missions, I am sure most everyone is going to be focused on two significant stories, Manafort being indicted, and Kevin Spacey. Two quick comments on both of these stories.
First, on Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey has come out as being gay after Anthony Rapp released a statement of being harassed as a child by Spacey. I like many others have enjoyed many of the films that Spacey has acted in. However, this comment by Rapp seems to be following the trend of sexual harassment and worse from Hollywood. This provides further evidence that there is a significant gap between the lives that the rich and famous live on the coasts, and the lives the normal people live everywhere else. I agree with Cory Feldman in believing that these accusations are the tip of the iceberg, and the culture of the business of Hollywood has become morally, and ethically bankrupt. However, this should have been and could have been predicted when the culture continues to shun any idea of an absolute morality or ethics. Virtue is absent, and has been replaced with a humanistic ethic of no right or wrong other than ones “pleasure.”
Likewise, Manafort’s indictment demonstrates the allure of a different kind of ethic or lack thereof. Like many of those in business, Manafort appears to have manipulated the law to gain power, influence and wealth at the expense of any virtue, or ethics. Again, this behavior is commonplace in a world that rewards skirting the law, or sometimes breaking it, to attain wealth and power. While the story of Hollywood has been breaking over the last month, the tale of a business person manipulating, bending the law, and people, to attain wealth is as old as the Bible.
While there are many points in scripture that can address these issues, the one that immediately came to mind for me was Matthew 6:22-24: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
When you read the news on both Manafort and Spacey can you see the masters that they serve? For Manafort, his master was money. And how true of Christ’s words in this case? While I am sure that all of Manafort’s actions did not rise to the level of criminality, I would be willing to bet that his eyes were unhealthy, which opened his heart to be full of darkness. Spacey’s master appears to be different and more subtle. I believe that Spacey’s master was…himself. His actions seem to indicate that he was driven more by emotion, and his pleasure. While the parable Jesus is speaking of in this part of Matthew was focused on money, I believe that the principle is the same. Spacey cannot serve both himself, in the humanistic sense, and God.

What is truth?


What is truth?

There was an article published in Christianity Today about Christian Psychology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The story had a lot to do with Eric Johnson stepping down as the leading Christian psychology professor from Southern.  There is a backstory associated with his resignation, his relationship with the head of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Heath Miller and Albert Mohler, President of the college.  The article details interactions, statements, who said what, and who potentially influenced who.  The primary issue though is more subtle, and potentially damaging to Christian education in general.

The primary question that should be examined is this, what is truth?

Wrapped in the human interactions of what has transpired between these gentlemen is the idea of biblical sufficiency.  To be specific issue here, Eric Johnson believes Christian Psychology can be an integrated field between the Bible and science.  He has and continues to argue that the Bible is the final source of truth and that God’s truth is universal.  Meaning that it can be applied or seen in secular fields of study.  Heath Miller, and it would appear Albert Mohler, disagree with this point arguing in the supremacy of scripture alone.

This article has a special meaning to me.  Being an alum of Southern, and knowing the impact that it has on the church, I am and will continue to be interested in what it teaches young students as they become pastors and head out into the world.  With a Doctorate in Education, I have a passion for how these students are educated and ensuring that they are prepared for the real world that lies outside of the confines of a seminary.  The other reason that this has a special meaning is that I have been on the frontline of this war between integration, and scripture alone.  My engagement began before entering Southern and was pushed to all-out war by the time I graduated.

Let me explain.

During my first trip to Louisville for classes, I entered into a discussion about church planting with a few of my classmates.  It was an excellent discussion.  Of those involved, two were directly involved with ministry, and two were involved in the business world.  I suggested that church planting could be more effectively and efficiently managed through project management.  The two involved with ministry balked at the notion, arguing that it wasn’t biblical and that project management was more business-oriented rather than church oriented.  I loved that discussion because it was an open and honest exchange, which paled in comparison to the discussions I had had with local pastors who simply deny that business tools and skills are simply not applicable to church management.  Again, the default position is that the using business skills, administrative skills as the Bible calls them, cannot be employed or are not applicable because they are not biblical.  At least with my classmates, there was a dialogue  and a great academic discussion.  With the local pastors…not so much.

My next encounter with this issue was with the presentation I made on Idealism.  During this presentation, I argued that Plato had unknowingly discovered the truth of God while exploring his Allegory of the Cave, had precisely described the separation between spirit and body, and began to argue for an absolute moral ethic, which could only be supported by God.  As such, I argued that incorporating these grander idea’s and philosophies into church education could be paramount to helping Christians explain their faith, and asked for a paradigm shift to include philosophy, as well as the practical components of day to day living.

The response was predictable, and only one student out of our group of 12 agreed.  Most argued precisely what Albert Mohler and Heath Lambert argued.  I and the classmate who agreed with me took the position of Eric Johnson.  This was not the only time that this would happen.  This issue would come up in my dissertation, as I argued that complexity theory was compatible with the Bible and that secular research for organizational change identified characteristics of general change which are found in the Bible.  At one point in my argument, my supervisor had stated that one of my points was unbiblical, to which I responded…I disagree.

Fast forward to today.  I have started listening to a lecture series on CS Lewis and what shaped his philosophy.  Several quotes were noted in the second lecture which caught my attention.  And several that I found on my own.

  • “the only possible basis for Christian apologetics is a proper respect for paganism”
  • “[I]t is only since I have become a Christian that I have learned really to value the elements of truth in Paganism and Idealism. I wished to value them in the old days; now I really do. Don’t suppose that I ever thought myself that certain elements of pantheism were incompatible with Christianity or with Catholicism.”
  • “Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The Divine light, we are told, ‘lighteneth every man.’ We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story—the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth.”

What is Lewis talking about?  Integration.  This idea, that divine inspiration could motivate secular non-biblical thought.  This notion that there is value to studying secular theology to improve our ability to communicate to a lost world.  Which begs the question,  would Lewis have been able to get a job at Southern based on his belief that apologetics must be inclusive of more paganistic writings and philosophies as a point of reference?

For Lewis, it would appear that the answer to the question of ‘what is truth?’, would have been the universal truth that can be attributed to God. Even if it came from the mind of a lost soul.

Having taught Biblical Ethics, I now can fully grasp the point that Lewis is trying to make.  There is biblical truth found in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.  There is biblical truth found in Kant’s Categorical imperative.  There is biblical truth found in Bentham’s utilitarian ethics.  However, they are all not biblical, and many aspects of each theory do not line up with the Bible.  I agree with Lewis; we can use these philosophies to have a greater understanding of atheistic ethics and use them to shed light on biblical truth during an apologetics discussion.  However, that involves utilizing texts outside of the Bible and would be an integrative approach.

My heart is concerned about the message something like this sends to those who watch how the Baptist church acts in general.  Many people still look at the Baptist church as the church that wouldn’t allow Kevin Bacon to dance to Kenny Loggins.  Things like this, further that perception.  To actually argue that only those who are saved are the only ones who can discover God’s truth is simply unrealistic, and not historical.  For Southern to take the position and actively engage in staffing decisions based on the idea of excluding the integration of knowledge is a flawed position, and opposes CS Lewis’s view.  From an educational perspective, you have more students, who head out as pastors, with very little understanding of the real world, and how real people educate themselves in it.

Resistance Is Futile


Our New God

So here we are again. We have found the next thing that will ultimately run God out of our universe…finally. I came across an article on Yahoo talking about Dan Brown and his latest book. If the name Dan Brown sounds familiar it should because he is the author of The Da Vinci Code. If you are like me, you lost track of Robert Langdon, soon after he cracked the code, but apparently, this is the 5th book in the series. Who knew? Well, my wife tells me that only a few people knew….maybe millions. Whatever.

So, Brown says this book is inspired by the question “Will God survive science?” I’ll respond to that epically awesome problem later on. The title of the article is what caught my attention, collective consciousness to replace God.

I have to admit that my head exploded with different ideas. The easiest is the whole collective consciousness. Anytime I hear the word collective I think of one thing…the Borg. Remember those people/robots from Star Trek who were assimilated into the collective way of thinking? But, if I recall correctly, even the collective had a leader and if the collective will replace God, then who is the new leader? Well according to Brown…WE ARE!

The other piece of my small aneurysm is wondering who will define the collective norm? With the Borg, it was the queen, at least in the movie. But would the collective norms be determined by a small group of individuals or the collective culture? Alas, Brown thinks that artificial intelligence that will define the collective consciousness. But who determines the artificial intelligence? And thus the circle is complete.

There is nothing worse in this world than failed ethics. Humanistic ethics is the most extreme version of this. At its worst, humanistic ethics promotes the idea that each of us defines our good. From an ethics position, this is untenable, and philosophically this argument was destroyed by Aristotle. The humanistic notion of ethics is so wrong that there is no “at its best.” Humanistic ethics lead to Enron. Humanistic ethics lead to the housing crisis. Dare I say…humanistic ethics leads to Harvey Weinstein. Here is an interesting question about collective consciousness. Does anyone question whether the horrid sexual harassment culture in Hollywood, was approved by the collective consciousness of its culture? I don’t. And keep in mind, approval comes in many forms, implicitly or explicitly. Something that pervasive, accepted by the collective powers that be, creating a culture that knowingly allows harassment as part of routine behavior. Sounds like a collective Borg-like mentality to me.

This is a culture that publically denies any form of virtuous ethic, and at the same time demands it from those that violate all sorts of virtue. In other words, they turn their back on the moral law giver (God), publically state that humanity is the ultimate arbiter of ethics, and then fall back on the moral laws given by God when they feel like they have been wronged.

It is astonishing that humanity, after thousands of years, is still trying to replace God with something at their fingertips, or by something they have or create. There is nothing new here, and the Bible is littered with the stories of thousands of “Dan Brown’s” who believed that humanity could replace God. You name it, and mankind has tried it when it comes to replacing God. But, everything comes back to one severe deficiency, humanity cannot get it right, as they are unqualified to be God. You remember that one time when these two folks thought they could be like God and ended up wrecking everything? Yeah, how did that work out for them?

As to the question of whether God can survive science. Well, considering that God has managed to survive the root science that has allowed humanity to develop the current science, somehow I think he will manage just fine. Besides, do you know how many major scientific discoveries there have been since the 4th century BC? About 190. That is equal to about one significant scientific discovery every 11 years. And through it all God has been magnified not diminished.

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