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Please Persuade Me! The Role of Values

New Zealand readers will be well aware that we are in the thick of a political campaign. The campaign is fascinating for a bunch of reasons – the Maori Party and the Greens potentially both battling for survival while Labour surges ahead, the old legend Winston Peters resurfacing again like Poseidon from the deep poised ready to bestow the Prime Ministerial crown on his favourite. Or perhaps, waiting like a midwife at a birth ready to declare whether it is blue for a boy or red for a girl. Child poverty, abortion, climate change, housing, and many other issues have been raised, and all are important for Christians to consider.  

But, in this post let’s briefly consider the place of values more generally. Bill English said that Jacinda Ardern’s values won’t pay for the groceries – probably true, but if they can’t pay for shopping, what can values do? In our consumeristic world are they even useful anymore, and in our scientific world are they believable? The central task of values, I think, is to persuade. If they are to do anything useful, they should serve as reasons for action in one direction or another. Reasons, for instance, to pick the blue or red, or another, team to run the country.

We can all understand that scientific or economic facts can be reasons to act (or vote) one way or another. If consuming a particular substance is scientifically shown to be likely to harm me, or pursuing a particular course is likely to make me go broke, I will probably decide against it. But values, surely they’re more ephemeral, more abstract – perhaps not even necessary in an adequately scientific society? We have to go slowly here though. The choices made on the basis of science or economics (physical harm or going broke) were actually made on the basis of both empirical facts and values. Only if we wish to avoid harm, or avoid going broke, will the empirical facts be relevant to the decision we make. So, we need values in order to decide what to do, even when deciding on the basis of scientific claims.

In a political context, and many other areas of social interaction, we want values not just for working out what we want to do (our own preferences would be enough for this), but for convincing others that they should want the same thing. Values cannot be just preferences if they are to fulfil their function, as they are intended to control not just our actions, but others’ actions – and to shape their preferences. When a politician appeals to values, they are appealing to, not empirical facts, and not just preference, but a claim about the way the world should be – a claim which intends to hold true across people with very different preferences. Values, if these things are real and useful, apply to both the poor and the rich, those that will benefit from an action and those which will not. In other words, they transcend individuals and people groups.

We live in a world where moral reasoning makes sense. It not only makes sense, but it is absolutely crucial for us and our society. Much more attention should be paid to the question of how to make sense of values, as their foundations (if any) will affect how they work in the world. This is a question which the Christian intellectual tradition has a lot to say about, and one which has contributed to many thinkers being persuaded of the reality of the personal Foundation of values. Christians should welcome open political discussion of values, in the hope that more will be persuaded of what is true, beautiful, and good.  

How should we then vote?

Once upon a time, there was a man who wasn’t thinking about politics. But it is not this day. Today, and seemingly for time eternal, politics. The End…? Please?

Yes, it is once again election time in New Zealand. Kiwis of different backgrounds and persuasions are beginning to think/not think about which boxes they will tick on September 23. For Christians, the results can be diverse. Conservative believers will often base their votes on one or more controversial issues concerning human dignity and the imago Dei (e.g. abortion, euthanasia) while avoiding the plagued parties who support these acts. Across the chasm, politically progressive believers identify with policies to free the captives and care for the least (oh, that’s what those passages mean) seeing the ‘other side’ as dispassionate and driven my Mammon. While the above examples are extremes, the crux is clear – we vote for the party that promises to tackle areas that we see as crucial. Emphasis on the promise.

The question then – which is the correct way? How should Christians vote? In essence, there is a simple answer.

Jesus

Forgive me for being incredibly cliched, but the answer is Jesus (and I never went to Sunday School). Look at these words that Jesus uttered during his earthly ministry:

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

(John 18:33-36 ESV, emphasis added)

Mere hours before his life-giving death, Jesus spoke these words to give all believers an instruction manual on how to live in a world governed by interim rulers.

Dual citizenship

Jesus’ last words to those charged with continuing his mission – the apostles – didn’t contain three points of application on how to create a Christian society. We don’t vote to establish heaven in the here and now. We vote in good conscience who we think will best lead our respective cities and countries to the greatest common good. We are very much dual citizens, finding our homes in the City of Man and the City of God. Our ultimate allegiance is to the latter, but as long as the Lord wants us here, we are to strive to serve the interests of Babylon and it’s people. One of the most abused sections in the Old Testament – Jeremiah 29 – testifies to this fact as do the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Peter and Paul. If seeking the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7) is the priority of the exiled Christian (that’s you), then the question of who to vote for becomes simple and complex – who best assists the City of Man to flourish and thrive? Different Christians will answer this question in different ways and that is alright. If you lean left, that is alright. If you lean right, that is alright. If you are disillusioned by it all and abstain, that is alright.

As we approach the 2017 General Election, remember politics is a grace (Romans 13) but not the grace. Good policy does not save souls. If we mix up politics and the Christian message, the bar is set too high for the common grace of politics, while the saving grace of Christ is minimised and diluted. By confusing the two kingdoms, we destroy them both.

If you are a Christian, you owe your allegiance to a kingdom that is not of this world. A kingdom that is far above petty bickering and broken promises. A kingdom built on an immovable Word and ruled by an impeccable King. A kingdom sprouting from a seed.

In this kingdom, you do not vote but are voted for, by the Right and Honourable King of elected rebels.

Praise His Name forever. Amen.

Jesus The Game Changer

Jesus the Game Changer 5 of 10: DEMOCRACY

This is the fifth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.


Democracy and Christianity

Democracy in America

In 1831 a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to America to undertake a study of American Society. He wanted to understand why the French democratic experiment had failed, and to identify what things America was implementing to protect democracy. He wrote a work called De La Démocratie en Amérique, otherwise known as Democracy in America.

In Democracy in America, Tocqueville identified various threats to democracy, the first of which was an excessive love for equality. The idea of equality implies that because no person has any more right to rule than another, the only just way to run society is by the will of the majority; however, this can lead to despotism or tyranny. In a purely democratic society, whatever most people consider to be right, is what is right since if you go against what the majority have said, you proclaim that your opinion is superior. People are expected to agree with the majority while at the same time, abandoning rational thought. As Tocqueville comments:

“Formerly tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen; nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing to learn, has been perfected by civilization…Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, to reach the soul, clumsily struck at the body, and the soul, escaping from such glows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics that is not at all how tyranny behaves; it leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul.”

A second threat he identified, was an overemphasis on individualism. As people become more equal, they begin to focus in on themselves. In an aristocratic society, people have societal bonds and duties toward each other; if all men are equal, duties beyond that to your family and friends become less important to maintain. Citizens who become too individualistic soon begin to lose the will and motivation to fulfill civic duties and exercise their freedom. A third threat he saw was a tendency of the people towards materialism. As equality grows, individuals begin to believe that they should have as much as everyone else. Further, people may willingly abandon their freedom in exchange for a benevolent despotism which will protect their own personal peace and prosperity.

However, at the same time, Tocqueville also identified elements that can combat the undesired side-effects of equality including religion, the education of women, and freedom of association and of the press. Alexis argues that religion is the most important because of the things it teaches. First of all, religion teaches citizens of the nation how to use and not abuse their freedom. Because the government provides no absolute standards, it is necessary for religion to provide moral boundaries, and as such, teach citizens how to use their freedom. He argues:

“Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot … How could a society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? And what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to God?”

The second reason why religion is a true defender of democracy, is that it stands against the spirit of individualism. Because religion brings people into a community of common belief, it encourages individuals to think about the local and broader community of which they are a member. Finally, because religion draws people’s thoughts beyond the physical toward the eternal and immaterial, it leads them away from materialism. For these reasons and more, Tocqueville strongly warns the leaders of society to not disturb the faith of the people for fear that “the soul may for a moment be found empty of faith and love of physical pleasures come and spread and fill all.”

Tocqueville concludes his work with the following:

“The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst. But it depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.” [0]

Democracy and Christianity

So, how does Christianity fit into all this? In this next section, we will look at how the Christian religion provides a sure foundation for democracy and equality.

In the first chapter of Genesis we read:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

Right in the beginning, God affirms that all humans are made in the image of God and in so doing declares the equal value and dignity of every person. Yet the dignity of man is marred, for in the third chapter of Genesis we read:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23 ESV)

Right at the start, the Bible affirms the nobility of man, yet at the same time the wretchedness of man. From this we reason that because all men are equal, no person has the right to rule with absolute authority, yet because we are fallen, limits on the power of government are necessary. The will of the majority is not necessarily right, and the individual has the right and even a duty to go against the majority opinion when he or she believes the majority is wrong. Second, the Genesis narrative demonstrates to us that every human being is accountable before God to obey the moral law. There is a God in heaven who will judge, and as Adam and Eve were judged for their transgressions, so God will judge every person on either their own deeds, or upon the finished work of Christ as the New Testament affirms. Third, we see that the Bible does not affirm individualism :

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:28-29 ESV)

In this first chapter, God commands Adam and Eve to populate the earth and bring it under their authority and rule. As such they have a duty to each other and to the earth, a responsibility to obey God and look after that which has been entrusted to them. This is not individualism, but a focus on community and a clear picture of obedience and interdependence. Finally, Christianity clearly speaks out against materialism by teaching that every human being will one day die and spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Any possession in this life we possess for a limited time; the one who is consumed with temporal things may forfeit the next life, yet one who has an eternal perspective understands that this life is only a brief moment when compared with eternity.

In the Final Analysis

As you can see, the Christian perspective provides a sure foundation for the preservation of democracy. In fact, everything that has been said thus far can be summarized in this statement:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

Each individual is to love and serve every other individual, to obey God, to think of others before the self, and to love only God and people. What does this mean for us? We need to get involved in government and pray that others may also get involved who are Christians. We need to share the gospel, and bring people into the kingdom so that they may also be governed by Christ. And finally, we need to examine our own lives, and see if we are truly loving God and people, or if we are succumbing to individualism and materialism. If we are, then we must repent and seek the forgiveness and strength of the Lord. Democracy sure has problems, but it’s the best we have, as Churchill once remarked before the House of Commons:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…” [1]


References

[0] – http://www.gradesaver.com/democracy-in-america

[1] – https://richardlangworth.com/worst-form-of-government

Stuff.co.nz gives up on journalism to peddle pro-gay propaganda

A recent article on Stuff, linked by a friend with more enthusiasm than brains, crows: Children with gay parents ‘happier’ – research.

O RLY?

Reading the article, we discover the following (emphasis mine):

The preliminary findings from the Australian study contradict stereotypes that a family without an obvious dad or mum would harm the children, said lead researcher Dr Simon Crouch … Crouch, who is himself a gay man with four-year-old twin boys, ran the world’s largest study on homosexual families at the University of Melbourne.

So a gay parent of two young boys runs a study in response to a “lot” of “stereotypes” that if a mother/father is missing “there must be a problem”…and then “finds” that children of gay parents are happier. In other news, the pope commissions a study into the psychological well-being of the priesthood and finds that most priests never wanted to have sex anyway, and definitely have never harbored thoughts about altar boys.

In Stuff’s meager effort to make this seem like original journalism rather than a rip-off of a Sydney Morning Herald article written over a month ago, they got a lesbian mother, Kiwi comedian Urzila Carlson, to make some comments. Because as we know, comedians are renowned for their thoughtful interaction with weighty topics. Urzila comes out with the following snafu:

If you look back in the 80s people were saying if those parents got divorced those kids are not going to be ok. As long as both parents love you, it doesn’t matter, you will turn out alright.

Which is an interesting analogy to pick given the reams of research accumulated over the past 30–40 years which show that children who suffer through divorce are very often not okay. (You can look it up if you don’t believe me, but I assume anyone with common sense and/or friends knows this; http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs482.pdf is one example I happened to find on the first page of Google.)

So this lesbian mother is explicitly comparing having gay parents to being the victim of a broken home. That seems about right, given the strong, unapologetic argument made by Robert Oscar Lopez in his Public Discourse article, Same-Sex Parenting: Child Abuse? Lopez, who was raised by a lesbian mother, observes (emphasis original):

Like divorce and single parenting, same-sex parenting isn’t merely controversial or untested; we know that children have poorer life outcomes when they are raised outside a married biological-parent household. The data we have … make it all the more clear that it’s abusive to force children to live without a mother or father simply to satisfy adult desires….

It is abusive to tell a child, “We are your moms” or “we are your dads,” and then expect the child never to feel the loss of such important icons, in addition to the injury of having been severed from at least one, and possibly both, biological parents—not because it was necessary, but because the two adults insisted on the arrangement.

He goes on to add, “None of these problems would arise if we lived in a world where gay people saw children not as a commodity for purchase but rather as an obligation requiring sacrifices (i.e., you give up your gay partner instead of making your kid give up a parent of the opposite sex, because you’re the adult.)”

But what of the research being cited by Stuff?

What indeed. I checked into this further, and the study itself is the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS). Right now, all the information we have about the results of this study comes from a single-page “interim report”—in which the only summary is a two-line paragraph:

On measures of general health and family cohesion children aged 5 to 17 years with same-sex attracted parents showed a significantly better score when compared to Australian children from all backgrounds and family contexts. For all other health measures there were no statistically significant differences.

Since the study itself will not be available until around September 2013, this is just an assertion in lieu of any argument. It is entirely premature to quote anything from this research as if it were fact since the actual study is not available.

That said, what is available is detailed information about how it was conducted. This information shows that ACHESS is incapable by design of producing any scientifically relevant findings about same-sex parenting. It is simply not a scientifically credible study, for three main reasons:

1. Too broad

ACHESS’s sample group is much broader than its carefully-worded summary—and the media—is suggesting. It covers “children…with at least one parent who self identifies as being same-sex attracted.” So this is not a study of same-sex families, as Stuff implies, but a study of any and all parenting situations where homosexuality is any kind of factor.

2. Non-random, non-population-based sample group

The sample group itself was recruited in a way which automatically invalidates it for a properly scientific study (emphasis mine):

Initial recruitment will involve convenience sampling and snowball recruitment techniques … This will include advertisements and media releases in gay and lesbian press, flyers at gay and lesbian social and support groups, and investigator attendance at gay and lesbian community events … Primarily recruitment will be through emails posted on gay and lesbian community email lists aimed at same-sex parenting. This will include, but not be limited to, Gay Dads Australia and the Rainbow Families Council of Victoria.

This kind of sample group is not random and population-based (which would be a requirement if this were real science), but rather self-selected and thus skewed in the worst possible way. It will obviously attract only those parents likely to be ideologically motivated to put the best face on homosexuality, and with the ability to do so. In other words, the study only samples people who are likely to have signed up for the express purpose of manufacturing pro-gay results—so the data is inherently unbalanced and scientifically irredeemable.

Furthermore, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the sample group is 80% women. Gay fathers are under-represented—yet another methodological flaw.

3. High likelihood of falsified reporting, with no external accuracy checks

Although the study is ostensibly about the effects of same-sex parenting on children, the results were reported by their parents. Furthermore, recruits self-reported their data—with no objective measures in place to ensure this reporting was honest. Given that they were aware they were partipating in a major, politically-charged study, it is more than plausible to think many of them exaggerated, omitted, or otherwise distorted facts. And it is undeniable that parents are unqualified to report on the psychological state of their children as accuracy as the children themselves. So the skewed sampling is massively exacerbated by the high probability of an unknown amount of skewed reporting.

What real science says about homosexual parenting

There is already a study similar to ACHESS, except performed scientifically. It is called the New Family Structures Study (NFSS). Contrary to Stuff’s brazen claim that ACHESS is the largest study like this in the world, NFSS uses a randomly-selected sample nearly ten times larger: 3,000 American adults aged between 18 and 39. Unlike ACHESS, the NFSS did not advertise its primary research question “on the packet”—so the data is not suspect up front due to the participants’ ideological motivations. And because all the respondents were adults, they are able to speak for themselves about their childhoods—as opposed to ACHESS which sampled 5–17 year olds, but had their parents fill out the response form.

Unsurprisingly, the results from NFSS are completely different to those alleged by ACHESS. For example (emphasis mine),

Of the 239 possible between-group differences here … the young-adult children of lesbian mothers display 57 (or 24% of total possible) that are significant at the p < 0.05 level ... and 44 (or 18% of total) that are significant after controls ... The majority of these differences are in suboptimal directions, meaning that LMs display worse outcomes.

It also notes that children of lesbian mothers (and to a lesser extent gay fathers) are vastly more likely to have been sexually victimized, to be in some form of counseling or therapy, and to have difficulty identifying as fully heterosexual. (In other words, yes, being the child of a gay couple is more likely to make you gay.)

TL;DR

Junk science: “Having gay parents makes you happy and well-adjusted.”
Real science: “Having gay parents makes you unhappy and maladjusted.”

Mondayizing Waitangi Day and Anzac Day

Last night I saw the Campbell Live article on TV3 asking the question should Anzac Day and Waitangi Day be Monday-ized? This year features the unfortunate coincidence that both of these holidays fall on a Saturday, thus NZ workers miss out on what would otherwise be a day off. Read more

Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity?

We have a right to expect worldviews to correspond to human experience. Worldviews should fit with our experiences easily and naturally. They should address and cohere with what we know about the world and ourselves. Of course, this is not the only test of worldviews. And it is not the primary test. But it is nontheless an important question to ask – can my worldview be lived out in the real world? What are the consequences to the ideas I hold? Can I consistently live the system I profess or do I find that I am forced to live according to beliefs borrowed from a contrary system?

One of the reasons why many reject Christianity is because of the real world consequences they believe lead from it. For example, Christopher Hitchens is popular for arguing that religion poisons everything – creating fanaticism, multiplying tribal suspicion, and causing violence and war.

John D. Steinrucken, however, has recently written an provocative article in the American Thinker arguing for the social benefits of religion. He makes the bold claim that:

“religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.

Succinctly put: Western civilization’s survival, including the survival of open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Steinrucken suggests that secularism “has never offered the people a practical substitute for religion” and that, in fact, “secularists should recognize that we owe much to the religionists”:

“The fact is, we secularists gain much from living in a world in which excesses are held in check by religion. Religion gives society a secure and orderly environment within which we secularists can safely play out our creativities. Free and creative secularism seems to me to function best when within the stable milieu provided by Christianity.

To the extent that Western elites distance themselves from their Judeo-Christian cultural heritage in favor of secular constructs, and as they give deference to a multicultural acceptance that all beliefs are of equal validity, they lose their will to defend against a determined attack from another culture, such as from militant Islam. For having destroyed the ancient faith of their people, they will have found themselves with nothing to defend. For the culture above which they had fancied themselves to have risen, the culture which had given them their material sustenance, will by then have become but a hollow shell.

An elite must, by definition, have a much larger base upon which to stand. For Western civilization, that base has over the centuries been the great mass of commoners who have looked to Christianity for their moral guidance and for strength to weather adversity. The elitists delude themselves if they think the common people will look to them for guidance once their religious beliefs have been eroded away.”

Interesting stuff.  Read the whole thing here.

Both the Contestant and the Referee: A Review of The End of Secularism

Harold Kildow, of the Evangelical Political Scholars Association, reviews Hunter Baker’s new book The End of Secularism:

“the political liberalism that perhaps marked a climax run in the history of liberty, had as one of its pillars religious toleration. A corollary is that government is not in the business of caring for souls—and thus a salutary separation of church and state is called for. It is but a short rhetorical step from there to the default understanding regnant to this day, to wit: toleration, liberty, and all the good things of our Western political patrimony depend upon a strict neutrality in government when it comes to religion. Thus secularism is the sine qua non of a well-ordered, and peaceful, democratic nation. Of course, Baker’s title announces the end of secularism, not its ascendancy; his brief but thorough treatment (194 pages not including notes and a very valuable bibliography) belongs in the hands of students and their professors, parishioners and their pastors, and everyone concerned that the referee has entered the game as a contestant.

Elite opinion, at least since the French Enlightenment, has tended to secularism and outright atheism. But the baleful effects of elite belief are less pronounced in societies or eras where government does not imagine itself to have authority over all or most of the public’s life. The era of Big Government is, sadly, still with us; and as its power and authority have increased, the number of perches for self styled elites has increased, and like the branches of a well watered tree, offers refuge and sustenance for many an obnoxious bird. What makes secularism especially obnoxious in Baker’s telling is its deceptive posture as morally neutral—and its concomitant assertion that the threat to social comity is solely from religion. Remove religion and its entirely unwarranted moral certainty from the public square, and, voilà!, problem solved, the era of life and light can begin in earnest.

But secularism, to bring another metaphor, has its hand on the scale while selling us the goods.”

Read the whole thing here.

Arriving on shelves late last year, The End of Secularism challenges the notion that religion must be kept a private matter and therefore prevented from informing public life and policy decisions. Baker argues that secularism itself not only fails to be neutral, but does not solve the problem of religious difference.

For more details about the book, you can listen to an excellent interview with Hunter Baker on the White Horse Inn or download the book’s introduction here.

With many voices today claiming that Christianity poses a threat to freedom, this book looks to be a timely and persuasive call to reexamine secularism’s status as the “super rational public philosophy to trump all the rest”.

Friday Night Miscellany

Some late night Friday reading from the interwebs. Knock yourselves out, peeps.

Christianity and Politics

-This week, the story that has dominated discussion in Christian circles has been the recent joint declaration by Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders on the need for Christians to stand up for moral issues. The document, titled the Manhattan Declaration, included signatories such Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Josh McDowell,Albert Mohler Jr., J. I Packer, and Ravi Zacharias. Drafted by Chuck Colson, it calls for a renewed vision of justice and ethical life in government and society, especially with respect to the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife. While some have applauded the declaration and view its “ecumenism of the trenches” as a necessity, others wonder if the Gospel is being obscured.

– Timothy George and Al Mohler defend their decision to sign the document.

Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, James White, Frank Turk, Tim Challies explain why they disagree with the document. David Doran, Steve Hays and John Stackhouse also offer their thoughts, while Brian McLaren just misses the point completely.

Apologetics

Brian has a great list of apologetic podcasts.

Does God really want all people to be saved? Video interview with Dr R. C. Sproul.

Relativism vs Pluralism: What’s the difference?

– In his post, The Basis for Moral Realism, Tom Gilson puts forward several questions for atheists who want to hold onto moral realism, including:

  • What is a moral value or duty; specifically, to whom or what is it a value, and to whom or what is the duty directed, owed, or pointed?
  • To whom or what was it directed, owed, or pointed when there was no person in the universe toward whom it could have been so pointed?
  • Who or what held any responsibility for these moral values or duties before there was any intelligent life?
  • In what did these values or duties inhere, or in other words, where did they exist?
  • Was there such a thing as evil while the stars and planets were forming? What was it?
  • Was killing immoral for the first 3 billion or so years of evolution, before humans arrived?

Does “I don’t know” work as a defense for certain moral issues?

Theology

Kevin DeYoung offers an apologetic for the prominence of words in worship.

John Piper’s presentation at ETS concerning “A Common Word”.

Douglas Wilson recounts the thinkers who have rocked his world: “The men I am most indebted to philosophically are: C.S. Lewis, Cornelius Van Til, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Calvin, Richard Weaver, the early Rushdoony, Augustine, John Knox, Gary North, J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, G.K. Chesterton, Paul Johnson, John Stott, Christopher Dawson, H.L. Mencken, William Buckley, David Wells, R.L. Dabney, E. Michael Jones, P.G. Wodehouse, Greg Bahnsen, and Peter Leithart. And after a diet of such books for twenty-six years, I have to say that reading an emergent book by Brian McLaren is like watching a six-year-old do card tricks.”

David Mathis reviews NT Wright’s new book, Justification: Paul’s Vision and God’s Plan.

Doug Groothius’ audio presentation on ‘Everyday Spiritual Warfare’.

Christianity and Culture

Exegeting the Cohen Brothers’ latest film, A Serious Man

– Coming to a pulpit near you? Movie producers hope to try and get pastors in on the marketing of the new film adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak apocolyptic novel The Road.

Dr Who and morality.

Official photos from the set of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Behind the scenes video of the Radio Theatre’s dramatic audio production of The Screwtape Letters.

Other Stuff

– This week marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Time magazine interviews Dennis Sewell on Darwin and his legacy.

Positive comments from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel on Stephen C. Meyer’s new book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins): “Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.”

Great photos from the National Geographic’s 2009 International Photography contest.

– And finally, Kevin Staley-Joyce recalls a great quote from the masterful G. K. Chesterton:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to itand says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.”

To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.”

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