Posts

Showing posts from August, 2004
Evil Motive and the US Supreme Court

Last month there was a terrific article in First Things about how theUS Supreme Court is using "evil motive" and "hate motivated"arguments in order to declare certain laws to be unconstitutional. The article is now available online at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0406/articles/smith.htm and it is a very sobering read.

To quote from the article:
----------------------------------------------------------------------
"It seems evident that the Court's technique is not well calculatedto promote mutual understanding. Let's look first at its effect on the losing litigants is such cases. With its evil-motives discourse,the Court makes it clear to citizens who support an invalidated measure—such as the Colorado Amendment 2 struck down in Romer—not only that they have lost but also that they have masked andmisrepresented their real motive, which, as the Court has discovered,is hatred.

The expressed moral convictions …
A Funky (Winkerbean) Discussion of ID
Comic Strip Investigates the Theory

Occasionally a comic strip takes on an issue with social/religious connotations. In the past, For Better or for Worst has taken up homosexuality, for example. Well, on Monday, August 29, 2004, the comic strip Funky Winkerbean commenced a series dealing with the mandated teaching of ID by the state science standards at the Ohio high school is central to the Funky Winkerbean strip. I have no idea if it will be a positive or negative light on ID, but I am sure it will be interesting.

If you don't get the script in your local paper, you can check out the comics here. Be aware that the strips available on the Internet run about two weeks behind the publication in the newspaper, so the strip from August 29 will probably not be available until September 13, 2004.
The Meaning and Misuse of "Fundamentalism" in the Press
Not every Christian is a Fundie

There is an interesting post on the Get Religion blog entitled "The Ancient Church Fathers and the AP Stylebook" about the use of the phrase "fundamentalists" in the press. As I have noted several million times, it is my view that anyone who takes their faith seriously is called a "fundamentalist" by the press, but the writer (Doug LeBlanc) points out that the term is both limited and misused.

So many people use this word as an all-purpose way of saying that someone is stupid. Fact is, I have met brilliant people who, accurately, could be described as Christian fundamentalists. And they don't handle snakes. Some of them hold doctrates from presitigious academic operations in Europe and other smart zip codes.

The bottom line: When used in a Christian context -- and you can make a case that this is the only context in which to use it -- the term "fundam…
Interesting Response to My Post on the Apologist
Is Craig Unreasonable?

Earlier, I prepared a short essay on the role of the Apologist. In it, I mentioned the writing of Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig, Ph.D., who I have heard speak on several occasions and who wrote the brilliant Reasonable Faith, and noted his statements in that book that it is the Holy Spirit who brings people to Christ. I believe his reasoning on this point to be accurate.

In response, an anonymous poster (I wish people wouldn't post anonymously--you can at least use a psuedonym) posted the following which I thought deserved a response:

http://www.jcnot4me.com/Items/contra_craig/contra_craig.htm is an interesting page about how reasonable 'Reasonable Faith' is.

I quote :-

In my twenty minute discussion with him, in the process of getting his signature, I asked him about his views on evidence (which to me seem very close to self-induced insanity). In short, I set up the following scenario:

Dr. C…
Pro-Abortion Groups Make Me Sick
When did infanticide become an issue of women's rights?

Consider the news report about the judge finding the misnamed Partial Birth Abortion ban unconstitutional:

A federal judge declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional because it does not contain an exception to protect a woman's health, something the Supreme Court said is required in laws prohibiting types of abortion.

U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey issued his ruling Thursday _ the second such ruling in three months _ even as he called the procedure "gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized."

The law, signed last November, banned a procedure known to doctors as intact dilation and extraction and called partial-birth abortion by abortion foes. The fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed. Judge Revokes Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, by Larry Neumeister.

Note that the judge calls the procedure "gruesome, brutal, barbar…
Spreading the Word

I recently finished reading the latest offering of Gary Habermas on the resurrection, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and wrote a review for amazon. Co-authored with Michael Liconoa, the book received praise from the usual apologist suspects, such as Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J.P. Moreland. But it also received praise from respected New Testament scholar Ben Witherington and historian Paul Maier.

At 384 pages, I expected this to be an in-depth discussion of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Having read it, I discovered that it is not. But it is something else. And something very helpful. It is a kind of manual for Christians about how to evangelize by using the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection. The actual presentation of the evidence is not nearly as in depth as N.T. Wright's exquisite The Resurrection of the Son of God or as forcefully structured as William L. Craig's many expressions of the argument (The Son…
Balaam's Ass
On Seeing Along and Not At


The account of Balaam's Ass (Numbers 22:28-34)is one of the most perplexing in the entire Bible for both the Bible-believing Christian and the skeptic. After all, how can we take a book seriously when it contains stories of talking donkeys? Doesn't this show that the Bible, as noted by the infamous anti-Christian Clarence Darrow, a fable not to be trusted?

The story points out the bifurcation in approaches to the Biblical text which can often lead to widely divergent views of its veracity. If one starts with some of the difficult stories like the account of Balaam's Donkey or the Serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), one could to conclude that the entire Bible is nonsense because we all know from personal experience that donkeys and snakes can't talk. Isn't the only reasonable thing to do is to reject the Biblical account as unhistorical?

However, if one starts with the evidence for God's existence, reviews the ev…
Defense of Marriage Act Upheld by Federal Court
Too Bad its only a Bankruptcy Court

According to Agape Press, a bankruptcy court situated in the State of Washington has upheld the provisions of DOMA over the effort of a couple of women who had married in Canada to file a joint bankruptcy. According to the news report:

The ruling on Thursday from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Snyder in Tacoma said the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, is constitutional.

The case arose after two women, Ann and Lee Kandu, were "married" in British Columbia in August 2003. Several months later, they filed a joint petition for bankruptcy in Washington state. But federal law allows joint bankruptcy filings only by a debtor and his or her "spouse." According to DOMA, a "spouse" -- under federal law -- refers "only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

The Kan…
Another Review of The Twilight of Atheism

Earlier I posted a link to my review of The Twilight of Atheism over on amazon.com. Just wanted to give my Anglican and Episcopalian brothers out there a heads up that an anglican periodical has offered this review of the same book.
Flat Earth Thinking
Why does About.com maintain their belief that "junk DNA" proves evolution?

About.com's atheism and agnosticism pages has an article (or at least it did as of the time of the posting of this essay) in their section of Evolution FAQ entitled "Is Evolution Science? Junk DNA". It first describes "junk DNA" as follows:

Junk DNA are basically pieces of DNA that have no function (or in some cases, such as introns, they produce no protein but may be involved in regulation of the gene). When the DNA is transcribed, these pieces of DNA either do not get transcribed at all or are only partially transcribed, with no final result (i.e., a functional protein) being produced. You can cut out or modify most of this junk DNA without affecting the organism.
Supposing that it is true that "junk" DNA exists, what does it prove? Well, to About.com's Atheism/Agnosticism editors, it must prove that evolution happened.

"It is hard enough t…
The Job of the Apologist
The Stone in the Path

I have been engaged in debating Christianity with atheists, agnostics and skeptics on the Internet since 1997. I have participated in hundreds of discussions, and have incurred the slings and arrows of those who disagree with me. One might suppose that I would be able to regale everyone with stories of how I have managed to "save" many people in all that time, or to talk at length about the people who I know who, through the results of my arguments, have gotten on their knees and "come to Christ" in my presence. Alas, I cannot say I have had any such experience. Does that mean that I am a failure as an apologist or that apologetics are useless. Not at all.

In the course of discussing Christianity with the many Internet skeptics, I have never, ever expected that someone would suddenly say "wow, you're right!" My expectations are shaped, in part, by my belief that people don't reject God because they have…
Lessons Learned from The Twilight of Atheism

I recently finished reading Allister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism. McGrath is a professor at Oxford and was himself an atheist through his college years.

The book has caused something of a stir among atheists, as evidenced by their responses to the book over on Amazon.com (for my own amazon review go here). I am not sure how many critics have actually read the book, but it is hardly the polemic some suggest. Indeed, it is a thought provoking book no matter what your background.

McGrath spends little time discussing arguments for or against the existence of God. When he does it mostly has to do with setting the historical stage. Instead, The Twilight of Atheism follows the rise and fall of a philosophical movement -- atheism. By atheism McGrath means what many call "hard atheism." The deliberate, supposedly informed, affirmative belief that there is no God.

The strength of the book is that it examines atheism as a cultural …
Why Can't God be a Creative Creator?
Another angle on the "bad design" argument.

Over the past few weeks I have been focusing on the Argument from Design, and will shortly be adding more responses for detractors. However, I have also found that the argument from design has been, at least in part, the subject of discussion at other excellent blogs. I have previously pointed out that Prothesis Blogspot wrote on the subject of "bad design", i.e., the idea that imperfections in the universe suggests that there is no designer. It's akin to saying: "If I were God, I wouldn't have done it this way."

Imago_Dei blog has also taken up the same "bad design" issue (apparently, it was the blog that led Prothesis Blog to take up the argument). His initial thoughts are found at Perils of Bad Design which sets forth some very interesting thoughts on the topic. But more interesting to me is his latest post on the topic entitled Tiny Engineer or Creativ…
Have Archeologists Found John the Baptist's Cave?

The Associated Press is reporting about an archeological find outside of Jerusalem. It is a cave with 28 steps leading down to a large pool believed to be used for baptism, located near John the Baptist' reputed hometown. There are also various drawings in the cave depicting a man holding a staff and wearing animal skins, as well as pottery shards likely used in baptismal ceremonies. The drawings were likely drawn in the fourth of fifth century.

One set of archeologists seem convinced these drawings accurately represent a local tradition dating back to John the Baptist's activities in the area. Another set see no clear evidence linking the location to John the Baptist. Apparently a book will be forthcoming soon. Given the roller coaster ride of the recent "James the brother of Jesus Ossuary" caused, this could be interesting. Although unlike that controversy, there seems to be no doubt about the legitamacy …
Polygamy is a Constitutional Right?
Gosh, I didn't see this one coming.

From the Dallas Voice: The Community Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians in Dallas:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — If Texas cannot criminalize sodomy, Utah should not be able to criminalize polygamy, argued the attorney for three adults who want to live together as husband and wives.

The three filed a lawsuit after they were denied a marriage license by the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in December.

They ask that the county clerk be required to issue the marriage license, and they seek a declaration that the state’s criminal and civil bans of polygamy are unconstitutional.

“What my clients want is to be able to enter into that relationship without the stigma of being branded as criminals,” civil-rights attorney Brian Barnard argued Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart, who took the case under advisement.
Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Jensen argued that the group lacks legal standing to challenge the statutor…
Image
Nothing New Under the Sun

The old adage that there is nothing new under the sun applies even to the Jesus Myth. Though popularized on the internet, the notion has been around for a long time.
The origins of the modern Jesus Myth may be traced back to 19th century historian Bruno Bauer. As he became more and more sceptical of the historical worth of the New Testament, he finally reached the point of denying the historicity of Jesus himself. Few scholars paid him much heed at the time. Eventually the scholarly community responded with various tracts and articles and speeches (many of which were put forth in German). This opposition was diverse including Jewish, liberal, conservative, Catholic, and Protestant scholars. Eventually, in the early 20th century, some leading scholars published book-length treatments of the Jesus Myth. These scholarly responses seem to have resolved the question as far as historians and New Testament scholars were concerned. I have discussed their treatements o…
Bad Design
A quick response from Prosthesis Blogspot

CADRE friend, the author of Prosthesis Blogspot, has (apparently independently) written a short piece pointing out problems with the "Bad Design" response to the Argument from Design. He describes the problem this way:

The "bad design" objection is basically the idea that humans can think of "better" ways to design things in nature (e.g., the human knee), therefore to say that an infinitely wise, perfect God designed these less-than-perfect things makes no sense. His response is short, concise and worth the time to read. It can be found here.
The Argument from Design
Answering Objections, Part IV

Continuing my series responding to the objections set forth to the Argument from Design.

A false alternative which is normally presented by the theist is that if the universe has not been created by a master designer, then it must be controlled by "chance." But what is this thing called "chance" that is being referred to? I'm not really sure - there are different conceptions of chance, and I don't think that theists who are using this term are actually using it properly. Genuine "random chance" - which might be defined as an unpredicable [sic] outcome not determined by the workings of natural law - is exceptionally difficult to achieve: even a good shuffling of a deck of cards does not achieve true randomness, although repeated shuffles can manage a decent imitation. In metaphysical terms, "random chance" does not appear to exist in the universe, at least above the quantum level - afte…