CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Resurrection of Jesus, a Jewish Perspective

I have been reading the above-titled book by a Jewish Rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, and have found it very informative. Dr. Lapide is an Orthodox Jew, a theologian, a specialist in New Testament studies, and says "I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event." To him, it is Christians' claims about Messiahship rather than about the resurrection, that is the key divide between Christianity and Judaism.

That in and of itself was interesting enough. But I found some perpsective on a traditional apologetic about the resurrection of Jesus--that the discovery of the empty tomb by women adds a measure of authenticity to the account. Apologists such as William L. Craig have often referred to this as evidence that the discovery of the empty tomb was based in history. The rationale for the argument is that the testimony of women was of less value than that of men in ancient times. Indeed, it appears that it was of little value at all.

Rabbi Lapide makes this argument and provides some interesting Jewish references underscoring the point:

In a purely fictional narrative one would have avoided making women the crown witnesses of the resurrection since they were considered in rabbinic Judaism as incapable of giving valid testimony (compare Luke 24:11).

The distrust toward women's statements in matters of faith goes back to the Hebrew Bible where it says in an old midrash on the Book of Judges (13:8ff) conerning the promised birth of Samson:

"Manoah said to the angel, "Until now I have heard it from the women that I am to have a son . . . but one cannot rely on the words of women; but now the word may come from your mouth, I would like to hear it; because I do not trust her words; perhaps she has changed or omitted or added something" (Numbers Rabbah 10). "

A similar story applies to the matriarch Sarah who simply denied her disbelief in the birth of a son which was promised to her: 'But Sarah denied, saying, 'I did not laugh'" (Gen. 18:15). On the basis of this passage it has been taught that women are unable to give testimony before a court (Yalkut Shimoni I, 82).
It would be an extraordinary claim to argue that the Gospel authors or their sources were unaware of this prejudice. (Note Luke's remak that when the women reported the empty tomb, the disciples' response was: "But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.").

Adding to the weight of this argument is that the Gospels authors candidly record emotions and actions which would confirm the prejudices of their audiences--that the women were confused and overly emotional. Luke notes that the women were "perplexed" and "terrified." When they finally reported what they saw no one believed them. Matthew notes that the women left the tomb in "fear and great joy". The earliest of all the Gospels, Mark, adds even more fuel to this fire. The women were "amazed" they "fled from the tomb" because "trembling and astonishment had gripped them", were "afriad" and "said nothing to anyone."

According to Rabbi Lapide, this is not how anyone would fabricate a narrative they wanted others to believe. Not at that time and in that culture. To date, I've not seen a perusaisive response to this.

Excerpts from The Resurrection of Jesus, A Jewish Perspective, pages 95-96.

The Argument from Design
Responding to Objections, Part II

2. God of the Gaps?

This is key: underlying nearly ever design argument, you'll find the assumption of ignorance of something and then the conclusion that since we don't know, then a god must be the proper explanation. Ignored is the question of whether or not an unknown and possibly unknowable god, using unknown and possibly unknowable methods, for unknown and possibly unknowable reasons, can ever be considered a rational "explanation" for anything. After all, it certainly doesn't provide us with much in the way of new and useful information. All that has happened is that our ignorance has been slightly reworded and not at all ameliorated. Agnosticism/Atheism, Argument from Design
The author of this piece from summarizing the objections to the Argument from Design takes on the old "God of the Gaps" argument. Several things may be said in response to this objection.

First, I am personally willing to admit that there is some truth to the fact that God is in the gaps. It is not, however, the gaps of human knowledge, but in the gaps of naturalism itself. Christians do not believe, for example, that thunder is caused by God. Christians are perfectly satisfied with and wholeheartedly agree and accept the scientific explanations for the cause of thunder in a purely naturalistic realm. At the same time, Christians know that God is the cause of thunder. No, He doesn't cause thunder by beating on drums or bowling in heaven. We don't even believe that God reaches out of heaven and throws lightning bolts at the earth which causes thunder. Those are infantile notions of what Christians believe. But at the same time, we see God as being the ultimate cause of all of these things because the very universe that was put together by God is held together by his sustaining power. (Hebrews 1:3) Thus, it is ultimately God who causes the lightning to strike, even though he is not personally throwing the lightning bolts but instead is maintaining and sustaining the universe which allows for the striking of the lightning and the rolling of the thunder.

Having stated the foregoing, that is not to say that the Argument from Design is limited to this type of input from God. No, the Argument from Design states that the universe shows such design and elegance that it cannot have come from nature. This is the key to the response to this objection. In arguing for God's creative hand which is everywhere visible (Rom. 1:20), Christians are not saying simply that "we don't know how it happened, so it must have been God." No, we are saying "it could not have happened naturally, so it must have been an outside creator, and given the facts that we can deduce about this creator from the cosmos He created, He must be God."

Which approach to the question is being used by the author of the article when he says: "underlying nearly ever design argument, you'll find the assumption of ignorance of something and then the conclusion that since we don't know, then a god must be the proper explanation"? Obviously, it is the first. But that isn't the argument being advanced. If Christians assumed that because something was unknown then it must have been God acting directly, Western science (which has its birth in the Christian west) would never have come into being. Why should it if everything unknown could simply be attributed to God? No, Christians have forever argued for God's creative hand, but have always looked first for physical explanations. If a physical explanation is found, then that doesn't bother the thinking Christian at all, nor does it make the Argument from Design any weaker.

Just for Fun

A Southern Baptist minister was completing a temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river."

With even greater emphasis he said, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river."

And then finally shaking his fist in the air, he said, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river."

With the sermon complete, he then sat down.

The song leader stood very cautiously and announced with a smile, "For our closing song, let us sing hymn #365, 'Shall We Gather at the River.'"

Black Holes and Theology
Matter in Black Holes doesn't go to another universe

"Stephen Hawking, the paralyzed wheel-chair bound Cambridge physicist, says he was wrong in his pioneering theoretical research into black holes, those mysterious collapsed stars whose gravity is so intense that it pulls everything into them including light itself. He had originally maintained that matter pulled into a black hole was irretrievably lost--even if the black hole eventually breaks up--leaving absolutely nothing behind. He even put forth the hypothesis that matter pulled into a black hole might be spit out in some alternative universe, a concept employed ever since in science fiction stories and TV shows. New calculations he has developed, though, suggest that matter pulled into a black hole still exists in some "mangled form" and that it might sometimes explode out." Black holes have a bottom
This has implications for the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. Many times on debate boards I have read where our universe may have been the result of matter spilling into the void where our universe rests from another black hole. David Brin (one of my favorite sci-fi authors) made capital of this idea in one of the short stories that are contained in his book Otherness. If Hawking is right, does this take away the main avenue by which the universe could have sprung into existence out of nothing?

The Argument from Design
Responding to Objections, Part I

The Argument from Design has a long history in the Christian and Jewish traditions. It dates back to at least the days of King David (see, e.g., Psalm 19:1), but was put in its most commonly cited form by the great medieval thinker Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Argument from Design can be stated as follows:

"The universe as a whole is like a machine; machines have intelligent designers; like effects have like causes; therefore, the universe as a whole has an intelligent designer, which is God." From The Encyclopedia Britannica.
The argument has certainly had its share of detractors over time. The purpose of this essay is to look at a couple of common objections raised against the design argument by skeptics, and to attempt to offer some responses. To avoid setting up a straw man concerning the views held by skeptics, I will quote from the Agnosticism/Atheism page from as the basis for the common form of objections.

1. Who Created God?

"The first, most common, and most obvious objection to the whole family of design arguments is the fact that any god which would have been able to create the universe would itself have to be rather complex and certainly couldn't be 'accidental.' So, if the universe and the human body is too complex to be accidental, what about this god? Who or what created this god? The theist will normally respond by claiming this god is a 'necessary being' and doesn't need a 'creator.' Unfortunately, this is totally unsupported and totally unsupportable. There is no basis for such an arbitrary assertion, except to try to excuse their god from the same standards they wish to apply to the universe. However, any excuse made for this god can be equally work for the universe. Why can't the universe be 'necessary' or not need a 'creator?' No one can say - after all, we really don't know enough about our universe or universes in general to make such a judgment." From Agnosticism/Atheism, Argument from Design
This objection misses a very important distinction concerning the nature of the universe as opposed to the nature of God. The universe, as we know it, is constituted of a successive series of events occurring in time. The universe exists in time, and its structure is formed by events in time. Cause and effect are the hallmarks of this reality/universe. There is nothing known to exist in this universe which does not have a beginning, and each beginning has been caused by something else. This is seen in the big bang--a theoretical (but probable) explosion approximately 14.5 billion years ago that brought the universe into being.

God is quite different from that. Anyone with an elementary theological education knows that God exists outside of this universe. Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen, in his book Philosophy and Religion, makes great capital of this distinction when discussing the Argument from Direct Religious Experience (his objection to which also fails, but that is for another essay). In his argument, he makes the following point about God:

"God is Pure Spirit, a being 'out of time,' transcendent to the world. * * * God is supposedly a mysterious infinite being 'beyond the world,' 'beyond space and time.'" Id., p. 45.
Nielsen is right to this extent: God is conceived of as a being who exists outside of this universe. He pre-exists the universe and therefore pre-exists time. Unlike the universe which is time dependent, God is posited as time independent.

If God is time independent, then unlike the universe, God does not need a creation event in time. The universe shows every sign of being created, but God is posited (and taught in the Judeo-Christian religions) as a being who was pre-existent and created.

Now, the author of the piece shows a lack of philosophical ability when he questions the difference between God and the universe as "necessary" beings. He asks "why can't the universe be 'necessary' or not need a 'creator?' No one can say - after all, we really don't know enough about our universe or universes in general to make such a judgment." Actually, we do.

Philosophy has long held a distinction between necessary and contingent beings, even though the exact nature of the distinction may change over time or depending upon the philosopher. However, generally speaking, a 'contingent' being is a being which has not in itself the complete reason for its existence. For example, the existence of any human being cannot be explained without reference to their parents, and, of course, food and air. A 'necessary being,' on the other hand, means a being that must and cannot not--exist. (Definitions obtained here.) Can the universe be the "complete reason" for its own existence? I suppose that it could if you are willing to agree that the universe came into existence out of nothing through natural processes. Of course, that would require the universe to pop into existence using natural processes when the natural processes (or at least the "nature" that allows the working of natural proceeses)don't exist because nothing exists. That seems a little odd.

But even if we were to posit that the universe could spring into existence out of nothing using only natural processes that operate on nothing to produce the universe, the universe would still not be a "necessary being." The universe does not have to exist. It is not "necessary."

God, however, assuming He exists, would not be a "contingent being." If He exists (and I assert that the evidence is clear and convincing that He does exist), then He would have in Himself the complete reason for His own existence. Nothing need create Him because He is the creator Himself. In fact, God is the only "necessary being" (but that is for another post). Thus, the universe cannot be a "necessary" being.

Part II will follow shortly.

Marcus Borg's Blinders 
His failure to account for the first Easter 
Several years ago, I picked up a copy of Marcus Borg's Jesus: A New Vision at a library book sale. I spent all of one dollar to buy it, and except for the fact that I find it a useful tool to point out the absurdity of his position, I would find it to be the least valuable dollar I ever spent. I want to take just a second here to point out one of his more ridiculous statements.

"[T]he image of the historical Jesus as a divine or semi-divine being, who saw himself as the divine savior whose purpose was to die for the sins of the world, and whose message consisted of proclaiming that, is simply not historically true. Rather, it is the product of the blend produced by the early church--a blending of the church's memory of Jesus with the church's beliefs about the risen Christ. The former was seen through the window provided by the latter. They remembered Jesus with the 'eye of faith,' that is, in the light of Easter and afterward.
* * *
"Knowledge of the historical Jesus is not essential. Being a Christian does not require having accurate historical information. Generations of Christians, taking the gospel portraits at 'face value' as historical accounts, have had incorrect historical beliefs about Jesus without harm to their faith or piety. Christianity does not consist primarily of having correct beliefs about the historical Jesus, but consists of having a relationship with the living Christ." (Some emphasis added.) Jesus: A New Vision, pp. 7-8, 13.

With all due respect to the Dr. Borg, this is absolute nonsense. Certainly, he is entitled to follow the teaching of those scholars of the New Testament who believe (for various reasons) that the historical Jesus was not the Jesus that we see in the Bible. I certainly have found no compelling reason to accept that line of thinking, and I certainly can point to a number of well-respected scholars who have rejected those conclusions. Thus, I do not believe, and do not believe the weight of the evidence is so overwhelming as to force anyone to adopt, Dr. Borg's misguided conclusions that Jesus was less than he is reported to be in the Gospel accounts.
But suppose for the sake of argument that he is right. Suppose that Jesus--far from the picture presented clearly in the Gospels of a man who claimed to be God, performed miracles, died and self-volitionally resurrected--was a man who was a simple (perhaps profound in many ways) eschatalogical preacher who had not self-image of being the messiah who was sent to die for the sins of the world. What then?
According to Dr. Borg, the belief in such a Jesus is still valid. Why? Because the Christian believer would still benefit from "having a relationship with the living Christ." Well, now Dr. Borg needs to explain two things: first, in what sense is Jesus "living"? Second, in what sense do I benefit from the relationship with this "living Christ"? Obviously, if Jesus were no more than an eschatalogical preacher who was elevated to Godhood by the post-Easter church, then Jesus would be no more "living" than any other previously dead prophet. After all, if Jesus didn't really bodily resurrect from the dead following his crucifixion, then he is only as alive to us today as Moses, Samuel and Ezekiel. Come to think of it, he is also only as alive as Confucius, Muhammad, Gandhi and Jackie Gleason. Dr. Borg needs to answer how Jesus is any more alive than any of these other people.
Dr. Borg gives a rather mealy-mouthed answer to this question.

We cannot know exactly what happened. According to the earliest accounts of Easter reported by his followers, Jesus 'appeared to them' and they knew it was the same person that they had known during his ministry. We do not know what form the appearances took.

* * *

Did Easter nonetheless involve something happening to the corpse of Jesus? On historical grounds, we cannot say. What we can say, however, is from the standpoint of Christian faith most crucial: Jesus' followers continued to experience him as a living reality, and in a new way, namely as having the qualities of God." (Emphasis in the original.) Id., pp. 184-185.
So, according to Dr. Borg, we can trust that the apostles experienced "something" as the result of the earliest accounts of Easter reported by his followers, but that something does not necessarily include the bodily resurrection that is also reported by his followers and attested to by Paul. What we apparently know is that somehow, through some unexplainable event, the earliest Christians continued to experience Him. But isn't this a real problem for Dr. Borg? If the disciples did experience the living Christ following his Easter crucifixion, then what other possibilities could explain it other than the bodily resurrection? After all, if these disciples were so excited to tell the world about what they experienced following the death and resurrection, wouldn't it be likely that we should be able to discern from the "earliest reports" something of what they experienced? And why is it that the bodily resurrection is ruled out when it is these same "earliest reports" that give him confidence that something happened in the first place?
Moreover, if Jesus didn't really come to die to save the world, then what is the benefit to me (and you) of having a relationship with that "living Christ"? By the terms of the Bible, I would still be under the law and would be required to uphold every jot and tittle in order to join in the presence of the Father when I die. My "relationship with the living Christ" does nothing to free me of that burden because Jesus, much as I may want to believe to the contrary, wasn't really the Son of God sent to take away the sins of the world, but was instead merely another man--an insightful man who was a religious revolutionary--whose death does not free me from anything. In fact, my relationship with my wife is really more meaningful than that.
With all due respect to Dr. Borg, I stand with St. Paul and in doing so, I think I stand on firm ground.
"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 1 Corinthians 15: 12-19.

Jesus, Paul, and "Abba Father"

An anonymous commentor questioned my connection between Paul's
reference to crying out "Abba Father" and the Gospels' reference to
Jesus crying out "Abba Father." Of course, the commentor was Mr.
Carr, who also raised the issue at the Secular Web. At first I
thought his criticism had merit. At first, I originally replied in this

I think that is a fair criticism of that one point. If it
belongs in the connections between Paul and Jesus, it probably should
be in the category of allusions to his teachings.
But upon further review, I find the connection between the use of "Abba
Father" in the Gospels and in Paul's correspondence to be very
probable--certainly the best explanation of all of the relevant facts.
For convenience, I also repeat the point from my earlier post:

7. Jesus prayed to God using the term “abba”
• Gal. 4:6; Romans 8:15-16 (Mark 14:36)
The context in Galatians 4 is important:

Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not
differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he
is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the
elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time
came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so
that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might
receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Gal. 4:1-6.

Paul is focusing here on Christians being adopted as sons of
God. In other words, it is how Christians move from being
slaves to being like Jesus--sons of God. One way that this adoption is
manifested is by our being able to cry out , "Abba! Father!." That this
is as Jesus did is strongly suggested by the locus of Jesus (having
come to earth), and the reference to being empowered to pray in this
manner by the "Spirit of His Son." In other words, Christians have been
enabled to do what Jesus did, to approach God as his Son Jesus did.
There is also the curious retention of the Aramaic (in both the Gospels
and in Paul's correspondence) which suggests an early origins of the
prayer in Palestine.

This conclusion receives additional support from the other
use of "Abba Father" by Paul. For all who are being led by the Spirit
of God, these are sons ofGod. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Rom. 8:14-17.

Again the focus is on being adoptive sons of God. Here the connection to being like the
Son of God is more explicit. We are not only children of God, but
"fellow heirs with Christ" who suffer and will be gloried "with Him."
Again, crying out "Abba Father" is a sign of being like
Jesus, of doing what he did. But since approaching God as a father is forbidden
by those who are slaves under the law (no slave would so address his
master), we must be transformed by the Spirit before we can approach
God as Jesus did.

Additionally, the identity of the suffering of the Christian and that
of Jesus in connection with the use of the phrase "Abba Father" is

further indication that Paul has Jesus' prayer in mind. The context of
Jesus' use of that phrase was his prayer in the Garden prior to his
arrest. The Gospels depict it as a time of great
suffering for Jesus.

Paul probably saw the prayer as an echo of Jesus' own prayer style, and thus
as proof that those who so prayed thereby attested that they shared his
sonship. The point can be stated briefly. The retention of the Aramaic
('Abba'), even when the Greek equivalent is attached, clearly
indicates a prayer form well established prior to its transposition
into Greek (hence the almost formulaic ring of iv.6 = Rom viii.15). And
since that transposition happened at an early stage, the reason for the
cherishing of the Aramaic form most probably reaches back behind the
earliest Aramaic-speaking community (if there ever was an only Aramaic-speaking
community in the first place). That ties in to the tradition that
"Abba" was a characteristic prayer form of Jesus himself. But this is
precisely the implication here: that the Spirit of the Son prays the
prayer of the Son and so attests sonship of those who thus pray; hence
also the further thought of Rom. viii.17 -- not only heirs,
but "heirs together with Christ".

James D.G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, pages 221-22.

Finally, there is the uniqueness of this form of address. Praying
to God as "Abba Father" appears to be unique to Christianity at that

When Jesus addressed God this way he did something new, for in the
literature of early Palestinian Judaism there is no evidence of Abba
being used as a personal address to God. To the Jewish mind the use of
this familiar household term would have been considered disrespectful
in prayer.
William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, page 518.

Wrapping up many of these points, Witherington comments:

The confirmation that we are on the right track here comes in what we find
the Spirit prompting the believer to do, which is to pray as Christ
did, using the same intimate terms he used to address God, namely Abba.
I have argued elsewhere at some length for the distinctiveness and
importance of this form of addressing God, as something we do not
really find elsewhere in the prayer language of early Judaism. [fn.
131. See my Christology of Jesus, pp. 216-21]. We do not have evidence
outside of the NT for any other early Jews praying to God as Abba. What
is stricking about this prayer language here is that the Aramaic is
juxtaposed with the Greek, and even more striking if the fact that the
one time we find this language on the lips of Jesus in Mk. 14.36, we
find exactly the same form -- literary 'abba, the Father' or 'abba,
So at the moment, I'm inclined to keep it on the list things Paul knew about Jesus. Further comments are welcome.

What Did Paul Know About Jesus?

It is often remarked that Paul does not know much about Jesus. It
must be admitted that the Gospels give us more detail and information
about Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection (and in the case of
Matthew and Luke, his birth) than do Paul's letters. Of course,
this is largely due to the fact that Paul was writing letters, not
narratives. And his letters, for the most part, were
"occasional." By "occasional" I mean that Paul wrote in response
to specific issues of which he had become aware. Nevertheless, in
addition to echoing many of Jesus' teachings as preserved in the
canonical Gospels, Paul's occasional letters demonstrate a familiarity
with many aspects of Jesus' life and ministry. I list many of
these references here:

1. Jesus was divine and pre-existent
• Col. 1:15-16 (John 1:1)

2. Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews
• Gal. 4:4, Romans 15:8

3. Jesus was referred to as “Son of God”
• 1 Cor. 1:9 (Mark 1:1)

4. Jesus was a direct descendent of King David
• Romans 1:3 (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:27)

5. Jesus was a direct descendent of Abraham
• Gal. 3:16 (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:27)

6. Jesus' upbringing was under the Jewish Law
• Gal. 4:4 (Luke 2:21-52)

7. Jesus prayed to God using the term “abba”
• Gal. 4:6; Romans 8:15-16 (Mark 14:36)

8. Jesus expressly forbid divorce
• 1 Cor. 7:10 (Mark 10:6-10)

9. Jesus taught that “preachers” should be paid for their preaching
• 1 Cor. 7:11; 9:14 (Luke 10:10)

10. Jesus taught about the end-time/eschatology
• 1 Thess. 4:15 (Matt. 24:6-31)

11. Paul refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), as did Jesus
• 1 Cor. 3:22 (Matt. 16:18)

12. Jesus had a brother named James
• Gal. 1:19, 1 Cor. 15:6-7 (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3)

13. Jesus initiated the Lord’s Supper
• 1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matt. 26:26-29)

14. Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord’s Supper
• 1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matt. 26:25)

15. The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly rulers
• 1 Cor. 2:8 (Matt. 27:1-50; Mark 15:1-47)

16. Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus’ death
• 1 Thess. 2:14-16 (Matt. 27:1-3; Mark 15:1)

17. Jesus died by crucifixion
• 1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 13:4; Galatians 3:1 (Matt. 27:1-50; Mark 15:1-47)

18. Jesus was physically buried
• 1 Cor. 15:4; Rom. 6:4 (Mark 15:43-47; Matt. 27:58-66);

19. Jesus was resurrected from the dead
• Romans 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-7 (Luke 24:1-53; Mark 16:1-20; Matt. 28:1-20; John 20:1-21:25))

20. The resurrection occurred on the third day
• 1 Cor. 15:4 (Luke 24:7, 21, 46)

21. Jesus appeared to his followers on distinct occasions following his resurrection
• 1 Cor. 15:4-7 (Luke 24:1-53; Mark 16:1-20; Matt. 28:1-20; John 20:1-21:25)

I have rearranged the order of these statements in that described in
the written gospels and have attempted to largely place them as they
are laid out in the gospels. Because Paul’s epistles were not
written in a narrative framework we should not expect them to be in
chronological order. Nevertheless, they are powerful
witnesses to the early church’s beliefs. In short, “the outline
of the gospel story as we can trace it in the writings of Paul agrees
with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in
the four Gospels in particular.” F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents,
page 79. Thus, the idea that Paul did not know any facts about a
human Jesus -- often used to support the Jesus Myth fantasy -- is
itself a myth.

Search Function Added

I just added a new search function that will allow the searching separately of the CADRE Comments blog as well as the CADRE webpages only. If you want to search the members sites, it needs to be done at the CADRE website. Hopefully, it will work.

N.T. Wright on Justification and Imputation
A summary on 40 bicycles

There is an interesting blog that I have run across called 40 bicycles (don't ask me why).

This blog has a five-part (and continuing) summary of N.T. Wright's ideas on justification and imputation complete with footnotes entitled (coincidentally enough) "N.T. Wright on Justification and Imputation". For those of you looking for good ways to shorten up your reading, this may be worthwhile.

Parts I and II can be found on this page. Parts III, IV and V can be found on this page.

Science, Religion, Copernicus, and Galileo
Seeing the Truth Behind the Myths

Of course, everyone knows that Galileo was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church for daring to contend that the earth was not at the center of the universe, right? Well, as is so often the case, what everyone knows is probably not historically accurate. I have recently come across two excellent essays on the topic of Galileo. The first is from the Evangelical Outpost and is entitled "The Myth of Galileo: A Story With A (Mostly) Valuable Lesson". The blog points out that Galileo, far from being the pristine man of pure science, was a rather conceited show-off. His initial findings supporting the Copernican view of the universe were not denounced by the church when initially shown. Rather it was only after Galileo made a pain of himself trying to turn the battle into a battle of Biblical interpretation, that the RCC, after much restraint, acted.

In 1610, Galileo used his telescope to make some surprising discoveries that disputed Aristotelian cosmology. Though his findings didn’t exactly overthrow the reigning view of the day, they were warmly received by the Vatican and by Pope Paul V. Rather than continuing his scientific studies and building on his theories, though, Galileo began a campaign to discredit the Aristotelian view of astronomy. (His efforts would be akin to a modern biologist trying to dethrone Darwin.) Galileo knew he was right and wanted to ensure that everyone else knew that the Aristotelians were wrong.

In his efforts to cram Copernicanism down the throats of his fellow scientists, Galileo managed only to squander the goodwill he had established within the Church. He was attempting to force them to accept a theory that, at the time, was still unproven. The Church graciously offered to consider Copernicanism a reasonable hypothesis, albeit a superior one to the Ptolemaic system, until further proof could be gathered. Galileo, however, never came up with more evidence to support the theory. Instead, he continued to pick fights with his fellow scientists even though many of his conclusions were being proven wrong (i.e., that the planets orbit the sun in perfect circles).

Galileo’s fatal mistake was to move the fight out of the realm of science and into the field of biblical interpretation. In a fit of hubris, he wrote the Letter to Castelli in order to explain how his theory was not incompatible with proper biblical exegesis. With the Protestant Reformation still fresh on their minds, the Church authorities were in no mood to put up with another troublemaker trying to interpret Scripture on his own.

But, to their credit, they didn't overreact. The Letter to Castelli was twice presented to the Inquistion [sic] as an example of the astronomer’s heresy and twice the charges were dismissed. Galileo, however, wasn't satisfied and continued his efforts to force the Church to concede that the Copernican system was an issue of irrefutable truth.

The essay continues to talk about how Galileo actually brought about his own downfall by directly insulting Pope Urban VIII in a very interesting read that I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in the tale of Galileo.

A second essay, on Prothesis Blogspot posted July 13, 2004, and titled (like this article) "Science, Religion, Copernicus, and Galileo" supplements the earlier article by giving more background on the Copernican theory and adds more information to the tale of Galileo. Importantly, it notes:

Things changed when Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. Urban was considered a friend of Galileo and he was considered somewhat of a moderate on the issue of heliocentrism. Although he was a theologian, he was very knowledgable [sic] of the scientific issues. After meeting with Urban a few times, Galileo got permission to write a book that looked at the pros and cons of both heliocentrism and geocentrism. The only condition was that he could not promote either of the views, he could only present each sides arguments and counter-arguments. This book became Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Contrary to what Galileo promised, the book was largely an argument for heliocentrism. In addition, Galileo took a what Urban had said in a conversation they had and put his words into the mouth of a simple-minded, Aristotelian geocentrist.

This, of course, did not make Urban happy at all. Not only did Galileo write what he had agreed not to write, he also mocked Urban in the process. Galileo was brought to trial again, but not for his scientific theory, nor for his biblical interpretation. While these were mentioned, the trial largely dealt with Galileo's disobedience to the pope. The scientific and biblical interpretation issues were already dealt with, there was no need to rule on them again. Finally, Galileo was found guilty of disobedience and was sentenced to house arrest.

The biggest thing to note about all of this is that it is hard to classify this as just a conflict between science and religion. For one thing, all the people involved agreed to the authority of Scripture. Most of the major people involved were also well aware of the scientific issues at hand. If anything, this was a conflict of various ideas. On the one hand, there was the conflict between the scientific theories of geocentrism and heliocentrism. As I think I've shown, both systems had advantages and disadvantages at the time. From the data alone, neither system could be preferred. Also, there was a conflict between a literal interpretation of certain parts of Scripture and a non-literal interpretation of those texts. This was complicated by the Catholic church's worries about the Reformation. So there were conflicts, but they were not the universal to all of science and all of religion. They were particular to these circumstances and they dealt with competing views of science and competing views of scriptural interpretation.

Again, like the earlier blog, this essay is well worth the time to read it through. The Prothesis blog highlights more the differences in worldviews between Galileo and the RCC, but both can be read consistently with the understanding that it was Galileo who caused his own problems. Not because he took a stand for a scientific view he thought correct, but due to his arrogant approach in attacking the issue.

I would add that The Crime of Galileo by Giorgio de Santillana, is one of the standard academic works which demolishes most of the myths and explains that it was politics and academic spite rather than religion that led to the scientist's downfall.

Does This Further the Cause of Christianity?

A church's plan for an old-fashioned book-burning has been thwarted by city and county fire codes.

Preachers and congregations throughout American history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God.

The Rev. Scott Breedlove, pastor of The Jesus Church, wanted to rekindle that tradition in a July 28 ceremony where books, CDs, videos and clothing would have been thrown into the flames.

Not so fast, city officials said.

"We don't want a situation where people are burning rubbish as a recreational fire," said Brad Brenneman, the fire department's district chief.

From CNN on-line news: Fire department bars book-burning.

In my efforts to speak to skeptics about Christianity, one of the obstacles that I need to overcome is the belief that Christianity is anti-intellectual. According to skeptics, Christians burn or banish anything that doesn't comport with our world view. As such, we are seen as the main impetus behind the burning of the Library at Alexandra, the suppression of the work of Galileo, and countless other acts that show that we are not interested in truth, but rather interested in spreading our propaganda and suppressing the truth.

These anti-intellectual efforts, it is thought, continue through the present day practice of seeking to ban various books from libraries and schools, among other things.

As a Christian who believes strongly that God did call us to love Him with all our minds, I firmly believe, and regularly contend, that Christianity is at least as rational and intellectual as any other world view in existence (and I would argue that it is the most rational and intellectual). At the same time I sympathize with this congregation and Pastor who are trying to make a point about the filth that emanates into our lives from the dark side of the secular culture we live in. I know that I personally don't allow my children to watch any prime time sit-coms or dramas offered on any of the major networks--not because they might introduce the kids to something that will lead them to see the falsehood of Christianity, but because of the sexual innuendo and violence that so permeates television. I am hopeful that that is the motivation that these people have in seeking to burn the magazines, CDs, etc. in the CNN news story.

But what image does this present to the world? Is it read by the world as a story about standing up to culture's wickedness, or is it seen by culture as another example of anti-intellectualism by the church. I think the second paragraph of the story tells it all: "Preachers and congregations throughout American history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God." If I may paraphrase how non-Christians will see this: "This is another example of these crazy religious folk using emotionalism and anti-intellectualism to build their church." Don't agree? Well, here is a quote from infinityranch.blogspot with the author's "take" describing what's happening:

Let's hear it for red tape! A Bible-thumping church in Iowa had their plan for a good ol' fashioned book (and CD and video and . . .) burning scuttled by city and county ordinances that prohibit outdoor burning.

You see, when the skeptic reads material like this, they see the burning as related to the repression of free speech. They don't see that the Christians are objecting to the debasing of culture, but see us trying to reach in and limit what they want to do as free amoral agents. And to be quite honest, I am not in favor of book-burnings because of this impression. We need to win hearts by first winning minds, and book-burnings hurt our efforts.

To add insult to injury, that pastor of this particular church sees book-burning (specifically) as "Biblical":

Breedlove said a city fire inspector suggested shredding the offending material, but Breedlove said that wouldn't seem biblical.

"I joked with the guy that St. Paul never had to worry about fire codes," Breedlove said.

Maybe I missed it, but I cannot recall one place in the Bible that St. Paul burned books. The only book burning I am aware of in the New Testament comes from Acts 19:19 where some sorcerers who turned to Jesus brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly as a sign of their repentance. I don't see the text giving any indication that this practice was wide spread or that St. Paul was either present or condoned it. But regardless, it seems to me that since the practice of witchcraft is absolutely forbidden in the Bible (see, e.g. Deut. 18:10), the voluntary burning of these scrolls hardly signifies an urging of anti-intellectual activity by St. Paul calling of Christians to burn anything that could be seen as countering Christianity.

Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb
A concise explanation from Answering the Skeptics II

Bakunin writes:
Nowhere is there as many contradictions between the
versions of the story as here. Was Jesus resurrected on
the third day or after 3 days, which is on the fourth?

Dr. Foster writes:
This can easily be explained by understanding the Jewish expression of time. The authors did not mean exactly three days or 72 hours or 4320 minutes or 259,200 seconds. The Babylon Talmud records that "The portion of a day is as the whole of it." Esther 3:16 and 5:1 confirm this, as does 1 Samuel 30:12 and 30:13. Also, the Jewish day begins around 6 PM in the evening, since Elohim created the heavens and earth on the very first day out of darkness. There are also fourteen references to Christ being raised "on the third day."

The "three days and three nights" in reference to Christ’s period in the tomb can be calculated as follows. (1) Christ was crucified on Friday. Anytime before 6 PM Friday would be considered "one day and one night" in Jewish time. (2) Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 P.M. would be the second Jewish day. (3) Saturday 6 P.M. until Sunday 6 PM would be the third Jewish day. This is the day that Christ was raised from the dead, just as He predicted.

It is interesting to note that all of the other religious leaders are still dead in their graves, and you can still go and worship them there if you want. Christ proved his deity by raising Himself from the dead and fulfilling over 300 Old Testament prophecies. His tomb is still empty today, because He is God who became a man to die for our sins so that we can have eternal life. Jesus said, “I am He that lives, and was dead; I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and hell."

From Answering the Skeptics II.

Minnesota's Step for Truth in Science
Minnesota Science Standards Requires Learning Problems with Darwinism

"Minnesota has become the third state to require students to know about scientific evidence critical of Darwinian evolution in its newly adopted science standards. On May 15, the Minnesota legislature adopted new science standards that include a benchmark requiring students to be able to explain how new evidence can challenge existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution.

"The benchmark reads, 'The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including Š theory of evolution. Š' The benchmark is included in the 'History and Nature of Science,' strand of the science standards for grades 9-12." Minnesota Becomes Third State to Require Critical Analysis of Evolution

I know from first hand experience that this topic creates a real fuss among the anti-religion community. Yet, if science is really about reaching the truth, it is hard to see why it should be objectional that Minnesota would adopt standards that require students to know "how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models . . . ." If scientific inquiry were really open, wouldn't you think that the supporters of Darwinism would welcome the questions so that they could answer them? Instead, the approach is to supress the counter-arguments.

I think that the problem is that science has become more than a discipline in their eyes. The November/December 2003 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, an anti-Christian rant rag, includes an article by Ann Druyan which I think is rather telling. Consider the following quote (highlighted in the magazine itself):

"It's not enough to have forty minutes of science in the daily school program, because science shouldn't be compartmentalized that way. Science is a way of looking at absolutely everything." Skeptical Inquirer, Nov.-Dec. 2003, p. 29.

With all due respect to Ms. Druyan, science is not a way of looking at everything. Science can give us a basis for understanding how nature operates, but it tells us little or nothing about many, many, many things. To give science as much credit as Ms. Druyan promotes it to the religion. Sorry, but it isn't that all-important.

Promising that Every Vote is Going to be Counted?
Who really opposes this?

As the crowd erupted, Kerry boomed: “I’ve got news for you. In 2004, not only does every vote in Florida count but every vote is going to be counted.”

Am I the only one in the world who seems to recall that it was the Democrats who were arguing that the absentee ballots from military servicemen should not be counted in the Florida election?

Friday, December 8, 2000 -- Knight Ridder News Service

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two Florida judges refused Friday to throw out 25,000 absentee ballots in two counties, handing George W. Bush a minor victory in his battle to hold on to his slim statewide lead over Al Gore.

Bush won the absentee voting in Martin and Seminole counties by a combined margin of 7,612 votes, which loomed all the larger after the state Supreme Court later Friday ordered a statewide manual recount of thousands of ballots that failed to register votes for president when counted by machines.

Circuit Judges Nikki Ann Clark and Terry Lewis said there was no reason to throw out all the absentee votes in those two counties, as Democrats acting independently of Gore had requested. In both counties, Democrats charged that Republican election officials illegally allowed fellow Republicans to fix faulty absentee-ballot applications by adding missing voter identification numbers.

So, shouldn’t it be the Republicans who should be promising that they will see to it that all votes are counted despite Democratic opposition?

The Vatican Backs Refusal of Communion to Pro-Abortion Catholic Candidates
Why is this debateable?

In April, the Vatican's leading prelate on the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, declared unequivocally that unambiguously pro-abortion politicians should be denied Holy Communion. Last weekend it was revealed that Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the most important congregation in the Vatican, told U.S. bishops in a letter that pro-abortion politicians who will not alter their stand or abstain from communion after being instructed by church leaders, "must" be refused communion.
Vatican Backs Communion Denial to Pro-Abortion Politicians

I am not a Roman Catholic (as a Lutheran, I have an affinity for much of the Roman Catholic Church's teaching), but I think this is the only solution that the Roman Catholic Church ("RCC") should adopt, and the only outcome Roman Catholic politicians should expect.

I realize that the concern has been since JFK that Roman Catholics may be under too much control of the RCC, and JFK was applauded for showing that a politician could be a Roman Catholic without being a puppet of the RCC. Still, it seems to me that if a politician wants to claim that he or she is Roman Catholic and garner the good will that such a belief will bring from a great number of people (including me), they need to be serious about their faith. Especially in matters of morality--matters which the church is well-equipped to opine concerning--politicians should not be able to claim that they are Roman Catholic while refusing to implement the teaching of the church on these issues. This seems especially true in the RCC where the church has a single, unifying authority who has the final word on these issues. If the politician disagrees with the Holy See, then it seems to me that the politician should either change his religion or submit to the teaching of the RCC.

I support the RCC in this matter.

The Wall of Separation between Church and State
It's not in the Constitution, so where did it come from?

Anyone interested in the answer to this question should read Professor Clayton Cramer's relatively short but wonderfully accurate blog-essay posted July 7, 2004 entitled Playing Telephone With The Constitution. After pointing out that the infamous phrase appears no where in the Constitution (if you don't know that, check it out yourself), but rather appears in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, Professor Cramer notes:

It seems most likely that Jefferson's remarks were intended as a statement of what states should do--but even Jefferson recognized that the First Amendment was a limitation only on the federal government. State governments throughout the Revolutionary and early Republic period regularly took actions that clearly gave preference to religion in general, Christianity in particular, and in some cases, to specific Christian denominations.

I would add one thing that his article omits. Thomas Jefferson was not the first to use the "wall" metaphor in describing the relationship which should exist between church and state. Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island used the same phrasing when discussing the relationship between church and state in 1644. Williams wrote that the Christian Church is separate from the world, and "when they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wildernes of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall it selfe, removed the Candlestick, &c. and made his Garden a Wildernesse, as at this day." ["Mr. Cottons Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered," Roger Williams, 1644, London, from "The Complete Writings of Roger Williams," Vol. I, edited by Reuben Aldridge Guild, Russell & Russell Inc., New York: 1963, page 108, as quoted on Ye Olde Walls of Separation.]

While some (see, e.g., Ye Olde Walls of Separation) see Williams' language as simply reinforcing the view that there should be a high, impenetrable wall between church and state, this does not appear to be the way Rev. Williams' intended his phrase to be understood. In Religious Liberty by John T. Noonan and Edward McGlynn Gaffney, they point out that Rev. Williams' wall was a rather one-sided one. The wall existed not to protect the wilderness of the world (i.e., a "howling wilderness, in frost and snow") from the church, but the beautiful garden of the church from the wilderness of the world.

The wall or hedge, which God himself would break down if a gap was allowed in it, was thought of as a structure protecting the holiness of the church, keeping it from contamination by the world. [Religious Liberty (2001), p. 125.]

Certainly, the metaphor from the writings of the pre-eminent founder of the State of Rhode Island would have been known to Thomas Jefferson, and it is quite likely that he understood it in much the same way.

I mostly agree with Prof. Clayton: the separation of church and state metaphor should be given a fast and proper burial. The "wall" of separation was never intended to be a two-sided wall, but rather a wall which protects the church from intrusion by the state. The use of the wall to prevent the infusion of religious thought into secular life is a misuse of the First Amendment.

An Old-Theme Rehashed
Jesus and the Mystery Religions

Another book has recently come to my attention that tries to claim that Gospel accounts of Jesus were simply rehashed version of the stories of the gods of the mystery religions. It is entitled Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. The cover of the book shows on amulet depicting the dying god Orpheus on a cross/anchor. Does this prove that Jesus was a copycat savior?

The overall question of whether Jesus is a copycat savior from the mystery religions has been answered quite authoritatively and convincingly by Dr. Ronald Nash in his book Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? a book that I would highly recommend to anyone seriously considering this drivel. (I should add, that the idea that this is drivel is not my own. Here is a quote from Publisher's Weekly about the Jesus Mysteries book: "This is at once a wonderful and a terribly flawed book; at times it is absolutely on target, and yet it yields to such vitriol and inflated language that it will be easily dismissed. * * * In sum, this is a disappointing, sensationalist polemic." To my knowledge, Publisher's Weekly has no theological axe to grind.) As a preview, Nash's book establishes that while there is some similarity between the mystery religions and the Christian religion, such similarity exists because the mystery religions copied Christianity, not visa versa.

But what about that picture on the cover? Doesn't that prove that it Christianity is simply a spin-off of earlier mystery religions? Well, our member Bede has taken up that challenged and established that the amulet is more fluff than substance, here (see the entry for July 7, 2004).

John Kerry's Failure to Reconcile a Belief that the Fetus is a Person and the Fact that Abortion Kills

From David Limbaugh:

People I've debated on the issue have generally taken the position that the baby in the womb is "potential life" or a clump of cells or a zygote. They seemed to sense that they would have no legitimate argument in favor of abortion if they admitted the baby was a life.

But as secular and humanistic influences have gained ascendance in our culture, I've anticipated the day when moral relativists would become so brazen as to discard their reliance on the argument that "the fetus is not a human life."

Indeed, with the breathtaking scientific and technological advances -- such as the discovery that a baby in the womb smiles and feels pain -- it's practically inevitable that the pro-aborts will be forced to abandon that argument.

In fact, one can detect from the militancy of pro-abortion radicals that to them, at least, the focus is not on what's inside the womb -- whether it's a baby or a potential life. It's all about power, the unfettered prerogative of women to do as they please, even if it means killing an innocent child inside their womb.

So it doesn't surprise me that someone in the pro-abortion camp finally admitted he supports the "right" to an abortion even if it means killing actual human beings in the process. It does surprise me, however, that that someone is Sen. John Kerry.

But you see, Kerry is in a bit of a pickle, considering his professed allegiance to the Catholic Church, which has consistently been one of the strongest institutional forces against abortion. Many Catholic bishops have stated that Kerry should not be allowed
Communion because of his anti-life stance.

Perhaps Kerry thought he could cleverly thread the needle, simultaneously satisfying his Catholicism and his contradictory liberal theology, by saying he is personally opposed to abortion but that he doesn't believe he should impose his belief on others.

Kerry stated, "I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception. But I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist . . . who doesn't share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."

So, now Kerry admits that he believes what is scientifically obvious, that life begins at conception, but feels that he should not stand in the way if a mother wants to snuff out that human life for her own convenience. It makes me wonder how many other beliefs he may sacrifice in the name of his political ambitions.

Who Said This?
A Vote for Teaching Intelligent Design

It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.

When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them form the Being who is the author of them. . . .

The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal.

Why, it was none other than Thomas Paine--a man of whom atheist hero Robert Green Ingersoll said "Thomas Paine was great."

The quote is from Thomas Paine on "The Study of God", Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, in a Discourse to the Society of Theophilanthropists and can be found on here.

Thoughts About the Gay Rights Movement
The Movement's Undercutting of its own Foundation

To all apperances, the gay rights movement seems to be picking up steam. The supreme judicial court in Massachusetts has declared that the limiting of marriage to only heterosexual couples denies equal rights to homosexual couples. City officials, quite often acting alone, have attempted to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples regardless of the wording of the law in San Francisco, New York and other localities. More of the same is happening in the churches. In the Episcopal Church, the decision has been reached to bless same sex unions and ordain homosexual pastors. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the issue is coming to a head where the congregations are studying the issue and being fed . . . er . . . led in studies that suggests that the Biblical teaching is unclear on the issue of homosexuality which is ultimately herding that ELCA body towards the blessing of same sex unions.

Two essays I read this morning have me thinking about the shaky foundation of the gay rights movement both in terms of absolute morality and in terms of Constitional law.

In Star Parker's most recent editorial entitled "Black pastors join gay-marriage debate," she notes that more and more African-American pastors are actively taking up the conservative point of view on the gay marriage debate. Since the gay rights activists seek to identify their cause as a struggle for equal rights, it would seem that the African-American community would be one of the most sympathetic to their cause as the sufferers of what is probably the most egrigious denial of civil rights denial in our nation's relatively short history (the Native-Americans may be able to claim worse). Yet, these pastors are standing against the claims of the gay marriage advocates. In analyzing why the African-American community is rejecting the claims of gay rights advocates, Ms. Parker notes:

Wilfred McClay, a history professor from the University of Tennessee, gets it with the following observation about black attitudes on this issue: "It is not just that they know when their movement is being hijacked. It is that the religious sensibility that animated the civil rights movement, and that is still very much alive in the American black community today, is bound up in a biblical world view that would no more countenance the radical redefinition of marriage than it would the re-imposition of slavery."

There is real outrage in the black community and McClay is on the right track in his analysis. Blacks know instinctively that the debate on gay marriage is the symptom and not the problem. They know that the root problem is the implicit de-legitimization and marginalization in the United States today of traditional standards of right and wrong.

Blacks know that it was such rationalizations of ultimate standards that opened the door to slavery and its perpetuation and justification by our nation's highest political bodies and courts for a good portion of our nation's history. Without an anchor in ultimate standards, blacks know that the best politics and law, even in as great a country as ours, can lead anywhere. (Emphasis added.)

Our true safeguard against tyranny is not in unbounded freedom, but in the legitimate footing of that freedom on an absolute morality. Without reference to God, there is and can be no absolute morality. So it is with the gay rights movement: in arguing for equal rights, they are arguing for a right that can only come from God. But in denying the Biblical teaching on homosexuality (a teaching I believe to be clear and convincing), they undercut the very source of the right for which they are arguing.

But what about the Constitutional principals involved? It appears that Justices are confused. They want to uphold the highest principals of the Constitution, but have more and more separated themselves from the actual text and original purpose of the words by adopting the "Living Constitution" approach to Constitutional Law (which is, interestingly enough, discussed on the webpages under "Agnosticism/Atheism"). In doing so, the courts, like the gay rights advocates, are undercutting the very foundation that serves as the source of the Constitution itself. Consider the following comments from Professor Clayton Cramer in a comment entitled "Destructive of These Ends".

The pastor was reading a really subversive document this morning during the sermon--a document that fundamentally runs against everything that our courts believe. It's a document that says that government's legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed--not from the fanciful theories and falsifications of history that the left has used to strike down law after law:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

If there is any better example of the naked abuse of power than judicial mandating of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts, it has not happened in my adult lifetime.

Agree or disagree with Prof. Cramer, he is on the right track. The consent of the governed is noted in the Declaration of Independence (quoted above--and numerous other of our founding documents--as the basis for any government's legitimate claim to power. If the judges depart from that to which the people agreed in promoting their own political agenda, then they are undercutting the very foundation that they rely upon to add legitimacy to their decisions. Thus, when judges use the language of the Constitution (such as the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment) to grant equal rights to homosexuals on a par with heterosexuals--a position that would have been unthinkable to most people in the 1860s and 1870s when the 14th Amendment was adopted--contrary to what the polls suggest is contrary to the vast public opinion even today, the decision is being made without the consent of the governed, and the edifice is built without a firm foundation.

Is the 4th of July the "Real" Independence Day?
Every American knows that July 4 is Independence Day. The day that American formally separated herself from England. But as many popular beliefs surrounding America's origins, the truth is more complex. In reality, the Continental Congress declared the independence of the colonies on July 2, 1776, by adopting this resolution:

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
Why then, do we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July?

Because on that day in 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. Our Founding Father realized that a glib statement resolving independence was insufficient to launch the Revolution. The United States had a duty to formally and publically justify its independence to the world. To accomplish that task, the Continental Congress formed a committee to draft a document. The members of the committee were: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

Thomas Jefferson took the laboring oar in drafting the document. He finished his task in 17 days. The committee approved the draft and submitted it to Congress; which leads us to another one of those little known facts about the American Revolution. Though Thomas Jefferson had relied heavily on Christian political philosophers -- most notably John Locke -- he left out some divine language. Literally. Jefferson's draft did not include some of its most notable phrases, including: that men are "endowed by their Creator" with certain inalienable rights, that the United States through the Declaration was "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions", and that the United States was undertaking the task of liberty with a "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence." Jefferson, however, did include a reference to "the laws of nature and of nature's God."

But Congress was not satisfied with such a Declaration. They wanted overt, explicit references to God and a direct appeal to Him as the Judge of their cause. The committee itself added the reference to our rights being "endowed by their Creator." The full Continental Congress added the appeal to the Supreme Judge of the World and the reliance on providence. With these additions in mind, we can see that the Declaration of Independence was not just a political document. Not just a statement of political philosophy. It is also a religious document. And, on July 4, 1776, that document was adopted by our nation's Founders. Arguably, it is the most important political document ever written.

To the overwhelming number of Americans during the Revolution (including the vast majority of Founding Fathers), God was inextricably bound together with freedom, independence, and good government. They believed that we could not even begin the process of independence and establishing a new country without Him. Though some may have attempted to downplay this aspect of American liberty, they were rebuffed (as was Jefferson's more secular draft) by their contemporaries. It was likely just such attempts that prompted George Washington to state the following in his Farewell Speech:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
So why do we celebrate our Independence Day on the 4th of July? Because of the power and elegance of the Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution was not about a date in time. It was about ideas. It was about freedom. It was about rights. And, it was about God. And all that the Revolution was about, the Declaration states. It was not the decision of a few men on July 2, 1776, that gave us liberty and founded our nation. Rather, it was the ideals and beliefs upon which they based their actions. By adopting the Declaration of Independence, the Congress embraced the ideals that continue to give us liberty. Thus, the 4th of July is the "real" Independence Day.

The Virtue Of An Open Mind?
Is an Open Mind an Exercise in Relativism?

It is virtuous to be open-minded, right? Well, maybe not. At least about some things.

* * *

Here is the deal. Being open-minded or close-minded, in and of itself, is morally neutral. It is kind of like faith. Having faith, for the sake of having faith, means nothing. The question is, what is the object of your faith? Likewise, what are you open-minded or close-minded about?

Read the remainder of the essay from The Dawn Treader here.

Pascal’s Wager and the Rational Gambler
An Interesting Approach to Blaise Pascal's Wager

The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal claimed that we are making a similar bet when it comes to God. By the way in which live our lives we are either betting that there is a God or that there is not. Since there are no third options, we are either making the decision either ignorant default or by rational choice.

Like Unwin, Pascal believed that there is no overwhelming evidence that can remove all doubt about which choice we should decide. Practical reason may help us determine which is more probable but it cannot ultimately decide the matter one way or the other. What we can do, according to Pascal, is make a rational gamble.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume (as Pascal does) that the evidence will lead us to choose between Christian theism and atheism.* Each choice will result in different expected values based on the unique payoffs and costs.

In order to determine the costs, let’s make the distinctions as clear as possible for our rational gambler by bringing in a cruel dictator to compel him to make his choice. The tyrant not only forces the gambler to bet but vows that if he selects Christianity he will be instantly martyred. If he bets on atheism, however, he will have a life of ease and pleasure – a daily ration of brownies and milk.

See, the remainder of the essay Wagering a Life: Part 2 – Pascal’s Wager and the Rational Gambler from the The Evangelical Outpost.

America (Let’s Not Forget)
A Poem in Honor of the Fourth of July

See the torch lifted high,
  Against the blue Manhattan sky
“Send me your poor and your weak,
  For your huddled masses I will speak."

Great as the freedom that she brings,
  She’s still second to our King.
Jesus Christ our King of Kings,
  To Him we turn for blessings only He can bring.

God bless America,
  Sweet Land of Liberty,
Let’s not forget between the fireworks and barbeques,
  God’s blessing is what really keeps us free.

Rolling hills and countryside,
  For our freedom men have died,
Giving up their lives for liberty,
  They spilled their blood that we should all be free.

But all they fought for would be loss,
  But for God’s work upon the cross,
It’s only through God’s grace that we are really free,
  And through God’s grace our country grows in liberty.

God bless America,
  Purple mountains majesty,
Let’s not forget between the fireworks and barbeques,
  God’s blessing is what really keeps us free.

God bless America,
  Sweet Land of Liberty,
Let’s not forget between the fireworks and barbeques,
  To thank the Lord our God for keeping us free.

©2004 William Kesatie

John Kerry, Democrats and Religion

An interesting story comes out of Slate concerning religion and John Kerry's campaign for the Presidency entitled "Pilgrim's Progress? John Kerry's dubious approach to religion". The article commences by pointing out that there is a large number of very religious people in the Democratic party.

"As you may already know, one of America's two political parties is extremely religious. Sixty-one percent of this party's voters say they pray daily or more often. An astounding 92 percent of them believe in life after death. And there's a hard-core subgroup in this party of super-religious Christian zealots. Very conservative on gay marriage, half of the members of this subgroup believe Bush uses too little religious rhetoric, and 51 percent of them believe God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophecy about the second coming of Jesus.

"Liberals could read these statistics and sneer about 'those silly Republicans' were it not for the fact that it's the Democrats who hold these beliefs. And the abovementioned ultrareligious subgroup is not the so-called 'Religious Right' but rather the so-called 'African-Americans.'"

I have personally encountered a large number of this latter "ultrareligious subgroup" in my travels, and have often wondered how they could be part of the Democratic party which tends, in my opinion, to be the party arguing consistently for amorality in law. Or, just as importantly, the question comes up as to why this group isn't asserting more influence on the Democratic party platform. Well, Stephen Waldman, the article's author, makes an interesting suggestion.

"Perhaps they've come to believe the misleading punditry about the religion gap. Well, heck, they may figure, if there aren't any religious people in our party, no need to talk about that stuff.

"More likely, the Kerry campaign suffers from the fact that while most Democrats are religious, many liberal Democratic activists are not. Perhaps the real problem with the paucity of African-Americans at senior levels of the Kerry campaign is not that he doesn't understand racial language but that—forgive the gross stereotyping—the white aides tend to be more tone deaf about religion than the black ones."

Not being a Democrat, I don't know if he is right, but it is an interesting thought.

The Demands of Letting Go

In First Things Magazine's most recent issue, R.R. Reno makes an interesting point concerning apologetics and the reason that some people won't respond.

"When I conjure in my mind the objections that people I know maketo Christianity, I am reminded of my friend on the couch, enervated by life's manifold demands. Most of these people are not confident rationalists dismissing the supernatural or wanton hedonists rejecting moral constraint; they are not dogmatic about the universe being purely material, and most want to live according to some moral code. Their real objections have to do with stretching, and the fear of breaking. Faced with the Sermon on the Mount they collapse on the couch, as it were, and protest that the degree of demand is just too much. Christianity promises new life in Christ, and our reaction is to shrink from the prospect. We think of our present lives, and we cannot imagine enduring the long commute. We hear St. Paul's appeal-'present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God'- and we worry that we lack the inner resources to stretch so far. We fear breaking across the difference."

R.R. Reno, "Fear of Redemption", _First Things Magazine_, June/July Issue, pg. 29.

Isn't it interesting that a faith that teaches "let go, let God" can be seen as too demanding?

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