CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

A New Archaeological Discovery Appears to Support the Old Testament

From "Archaeologist unearths biblical controversy: Artifacts from Iron Age fortress confirm Old Testament dates of Edomite kingdom" by Michael Valpy:

Canadian archeologist Russell Adams's interest is in Bronze Age and Iron Age copper production. He never intended to walk into archeology's vicious debate over the historical accuracy of the Old Testament -- a conflict likened by one historian to a pack of feral canines at each other's throats.

Yet by coincidence, Prof. Adams of Hamilton's McMaster University says, he and an international team of colleagues fit into place a significant piece of the puzzle of human history in the Middle East -- unearthing information that points to the existence of the Bible's vilified Kingdom of Edom at precisely the time the Bible says it existed, and contradicting widespread academic belief that it did not come into being until 200 years later.

Their findings mean that those scholars convinced that the Hebrew Old Testament is at best a compendium of revisionist, fragmented history, mixed with folklore and theology, and at worst a piece of outright propaganda, likely will have to apply the brakes to their thinking.

Because, if the little bit of the Old Testament's narrative that Prof. Adams and his colleagues have looked at is true, other bits could be true as well.

As an advocate of the high view of Scripture, i.e., that the Bible is true in all of its particulars and can be relied upon, stories such as this make me smile. After all, this is one of those "archaeological proofs" sometimes relied upon by skeptics to argue that the Bible is not good history.

The article continues:

What is particularly exciting about their find is that it implies the existence of an Edomite state at the time the Bible says King David and his son Solomon ruled over a powerful united kingdom of Israel and Judah.

It is the historical accuracy -- the very existence of this united kingdom and the might and splendour of David and Solomon, as well as the existence of surrounding kingdoms -- that lies at the heart of the archeological dispute.

Again, I want to urge everyone to not jump on the bandwagon and announce this as now established proof of the validity of the Bible. But it certainly does appear that it will bolster the case for Biblical inerrancy.

NY Times Wrong: Pius XII Saved Jews

As hard as it may be to believe, it appears that the New York Times actually got a story wrong. This one happens to be about Pope Pius XII, and in their story the Times claims that he ordered that Jewish children that were sheltered by Catholic charities during World War II, and who had been baptized, were not to be returned to their Jewish parents, should they seek to claim them. Too bad the story is a fabrication, and one that was easily exposed by leading Italian experts on Pius XII. A full exposure of this fraud can be found here in an article by P. Thierry. The article is quite lengthy, and devestating to the credibility of the source used by the Times, as well as the methods they used (assuming they used any) in checking it before they ran the story.

Thierry begins with some of the simple errors:

"In fact, in its (January 9, 2005) article the New York Times was echoing similar accusations based on the same document made by Alberto Melloni in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera on December 28, 2004.

Melloni's sensationalism, repeated by the New York Times, has already been exposed by two of Italy's top Pius XII experts, Andrea Tornielli and Prof. Matteo L. Napolitano (co-authors of the book, Il Papa che salvo gli Ebrei (Piemme, 2004)."

So the Times was going with a story that had already been exposed as bogus. But it gets much, much worse as Thierry continues his expose:

"In a front page article entitled, "Ecco il vero documento su Pio XII e i bimbi ebrei," [The real/true document of Pius XII and the Jewish children, pp. 1 and 29] for the Jan. 11, 2005 edition of Il Giornale , a leading Italian paper, Tornielli examines the whole controversy by comparing the actual text of the original Vatican document, to Melloni's claims about a dubious French memo based upon it, giving the true facts, revealing the sharp differences between the two, exposing Melloni's claims and insinuations against Pius XII as false.

Similiarly, in a separate article entitled, "Il frettoloso scoop del professor Melloni,"[The Hasty Scoop of Professor Melloni, same edition, Jan. 11, 2005, Il Giornale, p. 29 ] Napolitano, one of the world's great archival/diplomatic experts, weighs in and severely chastises Melloni for rushing to judgment, and for rushing to publish an incomplete, totally misleading story, based upon a dubious memo unrelated to Pius XII – something that no serious historian should ever do."

Why might one become suspicious of the authenticity of this document?

"The incriminating document was finally brought to light by journalist Andrea Tornielli and published on Jan. 11 in the Milan newspaper Il Giornale.

Tornielli revealed that the document was kept at the Centre National des archives de L'Eglise de France, archive of the secretariat of the French Episcopate, position "7 CE 131"...

"Also, he revealed that the document was written in French, on a sheet of paper on which at been typed in the upper left corner "Apostolic Nuntiature of France," a reference number 4516, the date Oct. 23 1946. Tornielli also reveals that the document is unsigned, and thus its author unknown...

It immediately appears, even to the uninitiated, that the document is not from the Vatican as it is addressed in French from the Apostolic Nuntiature in France. Furthermore, the Vatican was corresponding in Italian, not in French, with Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who was then Nuntio, in France.

Thus, these two clues, plus the fact that the author of the document was unknown and the document unsigned, should have given the New York Times and any other serious journalist some pause before announcing the document as "a letter from the Vatican."

It is worth noting that Vatican documents are not released unsigned, especially when they contain instructions directly from the Pope. But there is more, and this gets especially troubling for a newspaper that prides itself in its ability to check the facts of its story before it goes to press:

"Also, Tornielli further reports that it is not a "one-page" document as reported by the New York Times but a three-page document. Two pages went mysteriously missing during the investigation of the New York Times and magically reappeared when Tornielli found the document in the archives. It is to be noted that the 3 pages were attached to each other.

The original three-page document can be viewed on the Internet on Prof. Napolitano's website at"

The two "missing" pages state expressly:

"...Furthermore, also those children who were not baptized and who no longer have living relatives, having been entrusted to the Church who received them, as long as they are not able to decide for themselves, they cannot be abandoned by the Church or delivered to parties who have no right to them. It would be something else if the children were requested by their relatives."

So the memo says that children who have not been claimed by anyone are not to be abandoned, but those who are claimed by relatives, even if baptized by the Church, are to be returned. It should be noted as well that both of the "missing" pages were signed (by His Excellency Mgr. Tardini), and were written in Italian, a language that is far more probable coming from an Italian Pope, than would be the French found on page one of this memo (the one that the New York Times relied upon exclusively for its story). Finally, these "missing" pages were actually attached to the first page!

Thierry tries to be charitable at this point in saying:

"The incriminating document cited by the New York Times is at best, if authentic, a well-intentioned translation, written by God-knows-who, which summarizes the decision for anyone who would not understand the Italian original, which had been given in its entirety."

But the qualifier of what is found on the attached pages is vital to understanding the full context of the memo:

"However point 5 of the French text declaring that children can be returned to their families provided they are not baptized is nowhere to be found in the Italian original, which had been approved by the Pope and which states the exact contrary.

The decision that had the approval of the Holy Father was that the Jewish children had to be returned to their Jewish families."

As if the story could not get any worse for the Times' fact checkers, the "missing" pages of the memo were physically attached to the first page, making it difficult to understand how only these last two pages could be missing, when the Times was busy quoting from the first.

Finally, the Times used this document to make a larger claim against Pope Pius XII and the Vatican during the war:

"Quoting a French historian, Etienne Fouilloux the New York Times writes "This document is indicative of a mind-set at the Vatican that dealt with problems in a legal framework without worrying that there were human beings involved. It shows that the massacre of the Jews was not seen by the Holy See as something of importance." (It is noted that Etienne Fouilloux is a collaborator of Alberto Melloni who originally published these allegations in Italy and has now been fully discredited)"

But a letter from the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Isaak Herzog, dated March 1946 exposes this as yet another falsehood:

"Indeed this was the letter of Rabbi Herzog in which he expressed the desire to Pius XII that Jewish children saved by the Church be given back to Jewish institutions and which triggered the decision of the Holy Office. The full text of Rabbi Herzog's letter is available at"

Thierry is especially ironic in further exposing the lie put forward by the New York Times:

"Leokadia Jaromirska, a Polish-Catholic rescuer, wanted to retain a Jewish girl she had protected during the Holocaust. Her custody struggle is told in the important book by Peter Hellman Avenue of the Righteous (New York: Atheneum, 2004). Describing her efforts to keep the female child, Bogusia, even after her father, Jonisz, had survived and come back to retrieve her, the author writes: "In a last ditch effort at getting authoritative backing on her side, Leokadia wrote a letter to Pius XII asking for his wisdom on the subject of Bogusia. In less than a month came an answer that struck down all hope. She was instructed by the Pope to return the child to its father. If she were to keep the child by force or stealth, in the end she would regret it, since, at school or elsewhere, the child would eventually learn the truth. It was her duty as a Catholic not only to give back the child, but to do it with good will and in friendship." (p.237)

In the New York Times Book Review, the book was described as worth reading just for the compelling story of Leokadia Jaromirska and the Jewish baby she named Bogusia. Apparently, the Times editors and writers who wrote the attack piece against Pius XII do not read their own Book Review."

Other stories of the Pope's personal intervention in the return of Jewish children to their relatives are also given by Thierry, each documented in books that have been out at least since 2004.

So the New York Times ran a story that was:

1. already under attack in Italy by Pius XII experts as factually incorrect
2. based on the first page of a three page memo in which only that first page was unsigned, and in French, rather than the signed, and in Italian second and third pages, all of which were attached to one another, and only the last two of which offer the full context of what the actual instructions happened to be
3. directly contradicts known stories about the Pope using his power to reunite Jewish children with their parents after the war

To date I am unaware of whether or not the New York Times has published a retraction or an apology for this story.

I must say, however, that my confidence in the objectivity, and the competence, of the Times, has been shaken.


The Shroud May be a Burial Cloak, but It Ain't Dead Yet

For those of you unfamiliar with the Shroud of Turin, here is a brief description from "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin":

The Shroud of Turin , which many people believe was used to wrap Christ's body, bears detailed front and back images of a man who appears to have suffered whipping and crucifixion. It was first displayed at Lirey in France in the 1350s and subsequently passed into the hands of the Dukes of Savoy. After many journeys the shroud was finally brought to Turin in 1578 where, in 1694, it was placed in the royal chapel of Turin Cathedral in a specially designed shrine.

Photography of the shroud by Secondo Pia in 1898 indicated that the image resembled a photographic 'negative' and represents the first modern study. Subsequently the shroud was made available for scientific examination, first in 1969 and 1973 by a committee appointed by Cardinal Michele Pellegrino and then again in 1978 by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP).
(Footnotes omitted.)

In 1986, scientists conducted a radio carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin and determined that it originated in the middle ages. Again, from the "Radiocarbon dating" article:

The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 - 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr). These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval.

To all but the most faithful to the Shroud, the issue of its authenticity appeared dead. It was a relic of the Middle Ages--a fake, if you will. Of course, most of the Shroud faithful continued to ask how the Shroud could have been made since it does not appear to have been made by any type of process that could have been known to people living in the Middle Ages. (And when I say "Shroud faithful", I am not talking about strickly Christians. One of the best Shroud sites on the Internet is which is run by a Jewish man.) Consider the following from 2005 News on the Shroud of Turin from

The Shroud of Turin images may not the direct result of a miracle, at least not in a traditional sense of the word. But they are not manmade either. These seem to be the contradictory conclusions from a article in the completely secular, peer-reviewed, scientific Journal of Optics (April 14, 2004) of the Institute of Physics in London: Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, researchers at the University of Padua, Italy, discovered a faint image of a second face on the back of the Shroud of Turin.

This supports a hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin's images are the result of a very natural, complex chemical reaction between amines (ammonia derivatives) emerging from a body and saccharides within a carbohydrate residue that covers the fibers of the Shroud of Turin. The color producing chemical process is called a Maillard reaction. This is fully discussed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Melanoidins, a journal of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities (EU, Volume 4, 2003).

The proposal, by chemist Raymond E. Rogers, a Science Fellow of the Los Alamos Laboratory, and Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan, is hypothetical. But the chemical and physical nature of the Shroud of Turin's images is pure scientific fact.

Imagine slicing a human hair lengthwise, from end to end, into 100 long thin slices, each slice one-tenth the width of a single red blood cell. The images on the Shroud of Turin, at their thickest, are this thin. In selective places, an otherwise clear layer of starch fractions and saccharides, a mere 200 to 600 nanometers thick, as thin as the wall of a soap bubble, has undergone a chemical change into a caramel colored substance. Spectral and chemical analysis reveal that the chromophores of the Shroud of Turin's images are complex, conjugated carbon bonds.

Consider what the Skeptical Inquirer (no friend to religion) says about the possibility that it is a painted image in "The skeptical inquirer and the Shroud of Turin":

The notion that such super-thin images were painted is preposterous. Yes, it is true that one scientist did peer through a microscope and find components of what might have been paint. And because of this he concluded that the Shroud was painted. Walter McCrone was a world renowned microscopist, deservedly so. He was a true scientist and he knew his craft well. We should not doubt that he found iron-oxide and mercury-sulfide, both constituents of paint. But there are many reasons why such chemical particles might be found on the Shroud: water used for retting flax and centuries of dust; particularly dust in churches with frescoed ceiling and walls. All other scientists who examined the image fibers -- many of them as renowned and every bit as qualified -- have disagreed with McCrone. There is, simply, an insufficient amount of paint constituents to form a visible image. Spectral analysis proves that. So does the now certain knowledge of the image bearing super-thin film. Ironically, McCrone identified the super-thin starch substance that ultimately became part of the proof that his conclusions were wrong.

So what are we to make of a 14th century bishop, Pierre d'Arcis, who wrote in a memorandum of a painter confessing to painting the Shroud's images? In isolation his document is damning. But the skeptical inquirer, being true to his ways, must challenge such a claim with the full conspectus of what was being written at the time. Pierre's peers doubted is veracity and questioned his motives. It was all about money. Pierre was the bishop of Troyes. The Shroud was being exhibited at nearby Lirey and it was to that town that pilgrims with bags of coin were flocking. The d'Arcis memorandum is pointless. The skeptical inquirer is fully justified in his skepticism for no painter painted on a caramel substance and a surrounding clear substance that was a hundred times thinner than a single brush hair.

Now, however, late news arrives which raises serious doubts about the radiocarbon dating of the shroud. According to "Prominent Los Alamos Scientist Proves 1988 Carbon-14 Dating of the Shroud Used Invalid Rewoven Sample" on

A new, peer reviewed scientific paper by Raymond N. Rogers, retired Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was published on January 20, 2005, in the latest issue of the journal Thermochimica Acta, Volume 425, Issues 1-2, Pages 189-194. Titled "Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the Shroud of Turin," the paper concludes:

"As unlikely as it seems, the sample used to test the age of the Shroud of Turin in 1988 was taken from a rewoven area of the Shroud. Pyrolysis-mass spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the Shroud."

In a press release earlier this week, Rogers stated, "The radiocarbon sample has completely different chemical properties than the main part of the Shroud relic. The sample tested was dyed using technology that began to appear in Italy about the time the Crusaders' last bastion fell to the Turks in AD 1291. The radiocarbon sample cannot be older than about AD 1290, agreeing with the age determined (for the sample) in 1988. However, the Shroud itself is actually much older."

As a result of his own research and chemical tests, Rogers concluded that the radiocarbon sample is totally different in composition from the main part of the Shroud of Turin and was cut from a medieval reweaving of the cloth. Rogers was also the leader of the chemistry group for the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), the scientific team that performed the first in-depth scientific examination of the Shroud in 1978.

A similar article about the news can be found on the MirrorUK website in an article entitled "Shroud of Turin Might be real After All".

This does not mean that the Shroud is authentic and can be dated to the time of Jesus, but it does mean that the number one obstacle in the way of such a dating has now been removed.

Determining when to Stop a Dialogue: An Example

When engaging in dialogue on matters of faith, it is often difficult to tell when to end the conversation. As people who are called to give a defense for our faith, it is sometimes hard to know the point at which we should stop throwing our pearls before swine. Naturally, each dialogue is different and must be viewed with respect to its individual facts. But as a general rule, I use generally stop when I believe the person with whom I am engaged in dialogue is being disingenuous and there is no other compelling reason to continue the conversation. As an illustration of when I think this point arrives, I want to relate a recent dialogue I had with a skeptic. While the topic of the dialogue was Intelligent Design and its relation to Creationism, the manner in which the other person responds illustrates some of the things I look for when determining the bona fides of the other person when talking about Christianity.

The conversation concerned an article by Dr. Henry Morris on the Institute for Creation Research page. In the article, Dr. Morris makes the claim that the advocates of ID use many of the same arguments that had previously been used by Creationists (as these scientists who agree with the ICR and advocate a young earth are called) while the former distance themselves from the latter. He also says that Creationists had used a similar strategy to the wedge to try to get their Creationist teachings into schools. A couple of things should be noted. First, Dr. Morris is a Creationist and not an advocate for ID. His observations are necessarily the viewpoint of a person who is on the outside looking in. He has some agreements with the ID advocates, but he criticizes them in his article. In order to say that his viewpoint represents the teaching of the ID proponents requires an unwarranted assumption that he can speak for ID simply because he is a Creationist. But that is like saying the because members of the Communist party share some of the same goals of the Democratic party, it means that Democrats are Communists and what Communists say about the goals and purposes of the Democratic party speaks for the Democratic Party. Such conclusions are unwarranted.

Second, whether they like it or not, Creation scientists are a pariah in the world of lay science. They are seen as people who look to the Bible as their guide and try to bend the evidence to prove their worldview rather than allow the evidence to speak for itself. As such, they are seen by many laymen who take an interest in science as phonies. They are seen as a “disfavored” (and that’s a kind word) group in science. While I think that they are wrong, I am not making a judgment on them in what I say. I simply adopt the idea that Creationists are a disfavored group.

I should add that what I reproduce here is only one line of the conversation I was having with this other person. I am trying to be careful to reproduce all parts of the conversation that reflects on what was said so that you can see why I believe he is being disingenuous. (I have corrected some of the spelling errors I made.)

The conversation began with the other person (who I will refer to as “the Skeptic”) pointing out the Morris article and saying:

Note particularly that the ICR recognizes the purpose of the Wedge strategy, and points out that much of IDeology is nothing more than a re-hash, without proper attribution*, of material that the (so-called) scientific creationists had presented decades earlier.

Even the creationists don't like the cheap tuxedo ID puts them in.

I responded:

First, with respect to the article, the biggest argument that this creationist has is that he thinks the Wedge strategy is wrong. He believes that a person can believe in ID without becoming saved. You know what? He's right. That's because ID, as a scientific discipline, is uninterested in the identity of the intelligent designer. If you interpret the designer to be "God" then that is your philosophical imprint on what you learn. ID does not advocate for God and it is not creationism.

Second, to the extent you are trying to say that Creationists have used similar arguments, you are using a logical fallacy known as "guilt by association." The claims of ID stand or fall on their own without reference to others who may have made similar claims.

From this point, the Skeptic seeks to divide and conquer by splitting up what I said into sub-arguments. As such, much of the conversation from this point is not included as irrelevant to what comes later. Here is the important part of what he says in response that ultimately led me to believing that he was being disingenuous.

Following George MacReady Price, in the 1920's, Henry Morris is THE guy on "scientific creationism." He founded it. He knows darn well what he has done, and he knows what the IDeologists are doing.

He points out, correctly, that Johnson, Dembski, et aliae are merely wedging the door open for biblical literalism, but are not honest enough to say so, out loud.

I would strongly suggest you re-visit "guilt by association." The IDeologists do everything in their power to avoid the appearance of associating with SciCre. (Morris explicitly points this out, as well.)

Note that he first believes that because Morris is a Creationist, he “knows what the IDeologists are doing.” He is committing the error of already assuming that ID and Creationism are one and the same without proof. Second, he makes a claim that he will never support about the wedge strategy being used by Johnson, Dembski, et al. (the major pro-ID advocates). Finally, he suggests that I am wrong about “guilt by association” because the ID advocates are trying to avoid the appearance of associating with Creationism. This last point is the line that I now follow. I respond:

Right, they do so because they are not creationists, and so that they are not guilty by association. I suggest you revisit the fallacy yourself.

Think about it: if you are concerned that some of your beliefs could be attributable to your being associated with a disfavored group, but you think your ideas have merit and deserve an independent, objective review, wouldn’t you distance yourself from that group? Of course you would. The ID advocates are doing the same thing with Creationists. I do not know whether the ID advocates see merit or no merit in the work of the Creationists, but they certainly can recognize that being associated with them would lead to bad things since a Supreme Court case has already said that an Arkansas law requiring the teaching of creation science had its intent to promote religion. (Again, there is reason to doubt that this case should be binding beyond the facts of the case, but people have the arrived at the perception that the court said all teaching of creation science is religion. It is understandable that ID, which is presenting itself as a science—because it is a science—wants to distance itself from being associated with Creationism.)

How does the Skeptic respond? He (at least, I think he is a “he” and not a “she”) says:

Since they refuse to associate, then it isn't "guilt by association," now is it?

The Skeptic apparently believes that one has to actually associate for “guilt by association” to apply. But this is not true. In the 1996 American presidential election, Pat Buchanan ran for President in the primaries of the Republican party. At that time a rumor circulated that he “hung around” with neo-Nazis. There was no evidence that he did hang out with such people, but the charge alone was enough to make Mr. Buchanan guilty of being a neo-Nazi by association. In essence, the damage from the “guilt by association” arises not because there is an actual association, but because there is a charge of association.

In fact, there is not even a requirement of actual association in order to engage in the fallacy. Consider the following from the Nizkor project:

Guilt by Association is a fallacy in which a person rejects a claim simply because it is pointed out that people she dislikes accept the claim. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

  • It is pointed out that people person A does not like accept claim P.
  • Therefore P is false

  • It is clear that sort of "reasoning" is fallacious. For example the following is obviously a case of poor "reasoning": "You think that 1+1=2. But, Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, Joseph Stalin, and Ted Bundy all believed that 1+1=2. So, you shouldn't believe it."

    The fallacy draws its power from the fact that people do not like to be associated with people they dislike. Hence, if it is shown that a person shares a belief with people he dislikes he might be influenced into rejecting that belief. In such cases the person will be rejecting the claim based on how he thinks or feels about the people who hold it and because he does not want to be associated with such people.

    Of course, the fact that someone does not want to be associated with people she dislikes does not justify the rejection of any claim. For example, most wicked and terrible people accept that the earth revolves around the sun and that lead is heavier than helium. No sane person would reject these claims simply because this would put them in the company of people they dislike (or even hate).

    So, to get back to the dialogue, I initially responded:

    I never said that ID advocates had engaged in guilt by association. You are the one making the guilt by association. They are the ones seeking to prevent it.

    The Skeptic responds:

    Nice try, too bad you fail. One can only make the assertion of "guilt by association" if they associate. OTOH, since they use exactly the same techniques, it isn't "guilt by association" but "guilt by being guilty."

    In case you are not familiar with Internet shorthand, “OTOH” means “on the other hand.” Notice that he is continuing to claim that one has to actually associate before the logical fallacy of “guilt by association” applies. But then, he goes back to his initial charge that because Morris—who is not an ID advocate and is on the outside looking in—charges that the ID advocates are using some of the Creationist arguments or approach, they are Creationists.

    I choose to ignore the second part of his rebuttal and return to the main point: he is trying to hang ID advocates through the logical fallacy of guilt by association because the Skeptic is trying to associate the two groups together even though the ID advocates assert that they are not Creationists. I say:

    You just don't get it do you? The reason that you have guilt by association is because others improperly associate the two! This is done when people say such things as "ID is creationism in a white lab coat." (thus, sayeth Dave Thomas, President of New Mexicans for Science and Reason) A person or group does not actually have to associate with the "evil" person or group to be tied together and have the dirt of the one spread on the other.

    Here is where he changes his story:

    However, I said it isn't guilt by association, it's guilt by being guilty. Note where Morris points out that IDeologists are using the exact same examples and arguments that SciCre's used decades earlier.

    Think about it. I began by saying he was engaging in guilt by association, he wrongly claimed he wasn’t because there was no actual association. Now he is saying that the ID advocates are associated because they are using the same tactics. Do you see how this is simply “guilt by association” again? At first, he was trying to claim that Morris was on the inside and had special insight into ID strategies which is a claim to guilt by association. Having realized he cannot win that argument, he tries to shift the argument to a claim that the ID advocates are using the same strategies which means, again, that they are guilty by association with the Creationist strategies. It is the same thing all over again!!

    He is trying to change the story and trying to put me on the defensive by claiming that I am somehow not responding to his argument. At this point, I ended the conversation. There is no point in continuing conversations where the other person makes inconsistent claims and treats them as though it is your fault that you are not responding to them.

    Vandalizing Marriage

    Yesterday another columnist from the "National Post" waded into the same sex marriage and polygamy debate. This time it is Barbara Kay, and her column is entitled "The broken window theory of marriage." I found her theory to be intriguing, especially as it related to my own thinking as to how we got to where we are today, with the traditional understanding of marriage in Canada so badly compromised as to be ready to collapse into nonsense.

    Kay first deals with the arguments put forward by Andrew Coyne (which I addressed yesterday here), George Jonas, and others:

    "Eighteen months ago I wanted to write a column about the creeping respectability of polygamy, but my then-editor considered the topic too far-out. And lo, look what is making headlines today.
    Andrew Coyne, George Jonas and the Post Board dismiss "slippery slope" worries about polygamy gaining recognition. Jonas says polygamy may not be unnatural... but "it's certainly un-Canadian." In 1999 when a Reform Party bill designating marriage as "the union of one man and one woman" passed the (House of) Commons by a thundering 216-55, gay marriage was also "un-Canadian," yet a scant five years later, gay marriage is a reality. Why shouldn't other marriage-minded entities in Canada, however outlandish in concept today, take heart from that rush to judgement?"

    In this Kay echoes my own concern from my response Coyne's column. Once marriage is declared a "human right" (as it has by the courts in Canada, then what is the basis for denying this right to other unpopular minorities, such as polygamists? Kay then goes on to offer her analogy:

    "Polygamists have not challenged the ban for the same reason people walk by an apparently abandoned car for days on end-until someone breaks one of the windows. THe car is then vandalized and stripped within hours. Gay marriage is that broken window."

    This analogy, as I said, intrigues me, and I will come back to it below, but first I wanted to examine what Kay sees as the motivation behind this "vandalization" of marriage. Kay continues:

    "Continuing vandalism will see marriage abolished altogether, exactly what radical gays, feminists and family law theorists wanted in the first place, and the reason why feminists disparage heterosexual, but support gay, marriage."

    Here I actually disagree with Kay. While it is probable that radicals do wish to abolish marriage (or at least hijack the word, turning it into a meaningly nonsensical expression devoid of real meaning). But I do not believe that this is the objective of the majority of same sex marriage supporters. Their "vandalism" (to borrow Kay's expression), is unintentional, and certainly not malevolent, though the end result will be the same as if it was. Marriage will be stripped of all real meaning, at least in our secular society, leaving the majority of people either confused, or indiffierent, to its purpose.

    Kay then provides a concise explanation of the historical, social, and cultural purpose of marriage:

    "Whether entered into for love, status, money, security, or family alliance, monogamous marriage between one man and one woman has proved the best institution humans have devised for furthering the human race, while advancing social stability, dignity for women and the protection of children. Its proven legitimacy arises from its enduring publich achievements, not the motives people have for entering into it."

    Here Kay appeals to the utilitarian in all of us. Society should defend the traditional definition of marriage because that form of marriage has worked, and has served to make societies better. For this reason alone, Kay believes that both same sex marriage, and polygamy, should be rejected. While I agree with the utilitarian reasons for defending traditional marriages, I believe that Kay has missidentified gay marriage as the "broken window" that begins the process of "vandalization" of marriage until marriage itself is left a pile of rubble.

    In my opinion, the windows were smashed long ago, and gay marriage simply represents the latest bashing delivered against traditional marriage. Liberalized no-fault divorce laws, legal recognition of "common-law" relationships (making them equal, in the eyes of the law, to traditional marriages), and the proliferation of multiple marriages [with the resulting increase of blended families, as well as the dramatic increase in the number of children living with step parent(s)], have each, in turn, served to reduce the status of marriage to the point that many people do not see what the big deal is over letting two men, or two women, choose to "get married."

    I have heard the argument put very bluntly, and by a good number of people. The defender of gay marriage talks about how heterosexuals have made a mess of traditional marriage already, through repeated divorce-remarriage cycles, having children by multiple women (sometimes within marriage, other times by affairs, and still others through a series of extramarital sexual encounters), and through comi-tragic events like the Britney Spears 55 minute do it yourself wedding/divorce.

    "Look at the joke people have made of marriage already," these gay marriage apologists say. "What's the big deal if we let gays get in on the act now?"

    One might put it another way: "the car is already smashed up beyond recognition, or repair, so who cares if someone else comes along to slash the tires?"

    I agree that the institution is pretty battered. But one does not make the situation better by continuing the assault. A better alternative is to look for ways to repair the damage, and perhaps to even rebuild it. Given the long, and indisputable track record this institution has in doing good for so many societies through so many eras, it would certainly seem reasonable to suggest that we ought to make the effort.

    The alternative is to just keep up the vandalism until there is nothing left to save.


    Outrageous Media Distortions: Dr. Dobson and SpongeBob

    A news wave started at the NY Times and gained force through various news outlets and blogs (including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly) characterizing Dr. James Dobson, of Focus of the Family, as objecting to SpongeBob Squarepants as being gay. He was even accused of claiming that watching the cartoon character would turn kids gay. Such an accusation would be silly. And so far, among leaders of the so-called Religious Right, Dr. Dobson has avoided being characterized as silly.

    His credentials are impeccable:

    For 14 years Dr. Dobson was an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, and served for 17 years on the Attending Staff of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (1967) in the field of child development.

    He is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a licensed psychologist in California, and is listed in Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare.

    A more obvious example of media bias against Christians would be hard to find. Dr. Dobson never claimed that SpongeBob was gay. He never claimed that watching SpongeBog would make anyone gay. He objected to the use of SpongeBob by a radical group attempting to use the cartoon character to promote an activist homosexual agenda.

    But enough from me. I will let Dr. Dobson speak for himself (someone should):

    "I've been in the public eye for thirty-something years and I have never had my words more misrepresented than they were in this instance," Dobson said on today's installment of his internationally syndicated radio program. "I was said to be on the warpath for my dislike for SpongeBob — who supposedly has homosexual characteristics.

    "I said no such thing."

    What Dobson did say, in a speech last week in Washington during an event sponsored by the Family Research Council, was that SpongeBob is one of 100 popular animated characters that may have been co-opted by an innocuous-sounding group to promote acceptance of homosexuality to children. The group, the We Are Family Foundation, has produced a video slated for distribution to 61,000 public and private elementary schools; it features SpongeBob, Big Bird, Barney and others singing the old disco hit "We Are Family" and spreading a message of "diversity and unity."

    Whatever one thinks about the intentions of “We Are Family,” the gross distortion of Dr. Dobson’s comments are themselves an outrage. What good is a “free press” if it uses that freedom in such an abusive manner to promote its own agenda? Freedom of the Press is one of our most valuable rights. I just wish we had more to show for it.

    Note: Apparently Reuters covered the protest in a more fair manner.

    Rolling Stone Rolls Uphill--Reverses Decision against Religious Advertising

    Rolling Stone Magazine has apparently changed its mind about not accepting advertising with a religious message, or at least, so says the Houston Chronicle:

    Rolling Stone magazine has reversed itself and agreed to accept an advertisement for a new translation of the Bible.

    After first rejecting the advertisement, Rolling Stone sent Zondervan a contract for a half-page ad in the rock magazine's Feb. 24 issue, said Doug Lockhart, executive vice president of marketing at the nation's largest Bible publisher.

    Lisa Dallos, a spokeswoman for Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media LLC, said Tuesday that the company had "addressed the internal miscommunications that led to the previous misstatement of company policy and apologize for any confusion it may have caused."

    Oh, so it was all a mistake--a misunderstanding about the advertising policies. I see.

    I personally would like to think that it was my scathing commentary on the issue which caused the change, but I ain't that stupid.

    The ELCA Takes the Lukewarm Approach to the Homosexual Issue

    "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." Rev. 3: 15-16

    The results of the Journey Together Faithfully (JTF) study of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have been revealed at the ELCA website. This study was designed to explore the Biblical teaching on the issue of homosexuality focusing on how the church should respond in two areas: 1. Should the church sanction or bless homosexual unions (and they aren’t talking about the AFL-CIO)? 2. Should the church ordain noncelibate homosexual pastors?

    First, let me point out that the opinion of the Bishops with respect to this issue is not much in doubt. As near as I can tell from a meeting that I attended with the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod, they will not directly tell you their positions with respect to these issues. But just because they won’t tell you directly, does not mean they have not made their feelings clear indirectly. Consider this from an article entitled "ELCA bishops meet with sexuality task force" from the Lutheran Magazine:

    The bishops "have come to new places of understanding the issues after 10 or 12 years of talking," one group reported. "How can we expect the church to come to a new place in six sessions [of the sexuality study]. The core of the ELCA doesn't know what it thinks because of the battle over scriptural authority."

    What "new places of understanding" have the bishops come to that they cannot expect the church to arrive at in "six sessions" of the JTF study? The answer seems obvious: an acceptance of homosexuality as Biblical. I personally find much more troubling the idea that there exists in the ELCA a battle over scriptural authority, but I will reserve comment on that for another day. At this moment, however, I think it safe to say that the bishops of the ELCA have, by and large, concluded that the acceptance and blessing of homosexuality is consistent with the Bible. I also think it clear that this suggests that the JTF study was designed to lead the congregations towards this "new understanding."

    The bishops were very concerned about an up or down vote on the issue. Note the following from an article (also in The Lutheran) entitled "Sexuality task force begins work on recommendations":

    Many bishops spoke of "the price of a yes/no vote" on the blessing and rostering issues. They discussed the effects such a vote may have on relationships within congregations and synods, with neighboring Christian churches and with Lutheran churches around the world.

    So what happened in the JTF study--a study that appears to have been designed to bring the congregations around to the bishop's views? The bishops were shot down. The results of the study shows that the church, as a whole, rejects the idea that homosexual unions should be blessed or that actively non-celibate homosexual pastors should be ordained. According to the tabulated information, 56.2% of the people oppose blessing and rostering, 23.2% favor blessing and rostering, 3.6% proposed alternatives, and 17.2% had no opinion. In other words, of the people who had opinions, it was almost 2 to 1 against blessing and rostering.

    But what the bishops want, apparently the bishops get. It appears that they decided to find a way to allow the blessing and rostering while playing lip service to the opinions of the ELCA and avoiding an up or down vote (especially since it appears likely that they would lose such an up or down vote). So, how did they resolve this problem? The committee who worked on the JTF study results made three recommendations. Let’s look at them one at a time.

    Recommendation One

    It has become clear to the task force that the disagreement over these issues before the church is deep, pervasive, multi-faceted, and multi-layered. This church is not of one mind. This being the case, we believe that this first recommendation should be put before this church as a precondition to the other recommendations.

    Because the God-given mission and communion we share is at least as important as the issues about which faithful conscience-bound Lutherans find themselves so decisively at odds, the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality recommends that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements.

    Translation: the vote didn't come out the way we wanted, and we are going to try to do something that most of you aren't going to like, but you shouldn't leave the church over this because that would be unchristian.

    Recommendation Two

    With respect to the matter of blessing same-sex couples who have entered into long-term monogamous covenants of love and care, the ELCA currently has no legislated policy, and the task force declines to recommend any change. In this time of conflict and uncertainty, the Conference of Bishops pointed the way by treating such decisions as matters of pastoral care and the task force believes that pastors and congregations can and should be trusted by this church to exercise the wisdom of discretion in their ministry to same-sex couples and their natural and congregational families. Therefore, we are agreed that the following recommendation is an appropriate expression of that trust.

    The Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality recommends that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continue to respect the pastoral guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops.

    Translation: We are adopting what is known as the "local option." While we are not granting permission to the bishops to actually marry homosexual couples, each church can do whatever it wants with respect to the issue short of marriage, including "blessing" the unions, while we continue to indoctrinate . . . er . . . study the issue. The best thing about this course of action is that we don't have to have a vote on it because we are not changing the position of the church. A win-win for the bishops!

    Recommendation Three

    The issue concerning the ordination, consecration, and commissioning of people in samesex committed relationships is one that has caused the greatest division among members of the task force. We experienced within our group the painful tension caused when Christians, in good conscience, differ in their interpretations of Scripture with regard to this issue. In our discussions, the following strong convictions were voiced repeatedly as we struggled to formulate a recommendation that would find support among the majority of the task force members.

    o Some of us believe that we should affirm and uphold the current policy and practice of the church, assuming that discipline will take place and be graciously endured.

    o Some of us believe that we should review and modify Vision and Expectations and Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline, especially regarding homosexual people living in committed relationships.

    o Some of us believe that the ELCA should find a way to “create a space” in our church (for example, by allowing local option, developing a process to grant exceptions to policy, ordination to place, non-geographic synod, etc.) for ministries that would fully accept the gifts of gay and lesbian rostered leaders without fear of discipline or rejection.

    Despite this diversity of beliefs, the task force sought to shape a recommendation that would provide the most hope and possibility for the life and mission of the ELCA at this time. Two of the strongly dissenting positions are presented in more detail in Part Three of this report. Others on the task force hold positions that are not totally supportive of the recommendation, but see it as a way to provide the continuing stability of tradition while also creating opportunity for ongoing discernment of new ways in which the Spirit might be speaking to the church in our time. Therefore, we present the following recommendation that was approved by a strong majority of task force members. It is important to note that this recommendation prevailed even though some task force members who supported it would have preferred other options.

    The Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality recommends that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continue under the standards regarding sexual conduct for rostered leaders as set forth in Vision and Expectations and definitions and Guidelines for Discipline, but that, as a pastoral response to the deep divisions among us, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who in good conscience, and for the sake of outreach, ministry, and the commitment to continuing dialogue, call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates whom they believe to be otherwise in compliance with Vision and Expectations and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called.

    Translation: We are going to put on a face that says that we are not going to permit the rostering of non-celibate homosexual pastors so that the 2 to 1 majority of people in the church who oppose it don’t get angry. But if any church wants to call a non-celibate homosexual pastor, there will be no consequences. In other words, it will be a restriction without teeth because the churches will be free to ignore the prohibition as they see fit.

    I'm sorry, but this is simply not acceptable. The ELCA, on this issue, has taken a stand of not taking a stand. The issue of homosexual unions ought to be resolved fully and completely, one way or another, based on the teaching of the Bible. Personally, I think that the teaching is very clear and that the "new place of understanding" of the bishops is wrong. But it is even worse that the ELCA seeks, by this guise, to present a position to the church which pretends to be one thing when it really is another. The ELCA has become the lukewarm church despised by God in revelations, and I think God will spit them out of his mouth. Perhaps He already is doing so:

    ELCA baptized membership slipped below 5 million in 2003, with 4,984,925 parishioners in 10,657 congregations -- a reduction of 53,081 -- Almen reported. Since 1990, membership has decreased a quarter million from 5,240,739. About half that decline occurred in 2002-03, with a combined decrease of 114,952.

    If the ELCA continues to act this way, they will certainly be less at least one other member: me.

    What's Wrong with the "Beliefs" of the Universal Life Church

    If you want to be a minister, the Universal Life Church will print you out a certificate in a little over a minute. With this certificate, you are supposedly a registered minister who can perform weddings. Michael Newdow, atheist legal advocate, holds one of these certificates and claims, as a result, to be a minister.

    Legally, a person who holds one of these certificates may be considered a minister. (I have not taken the time to look into the question from a legal standpoint.) But in the real world where words have meaning, a holder of this certificate is not a minister in any traditional sense of the word. A minister, as far as I am concerned, is a person who has received training in his faith from others who have earlier received such training, such that he is able to speak out rationally about the faith and expound upon its tenets. A certificate printed out in a matter of seconds is hardly training.

    More importantly, the Universal Life Church has no real tenets that can be upheld and taught because its very base is relativism. According to the ULC's website:

    We believe you, we believe in you, we accept you - we offer our hand to you to share respect, wealth, power and influence in the world through the power of God as you believe; your beliefs count in the ULC.

    We ask only that you promote the freedom of religion and do that which is right. It is up to the individual to determine what is right as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others and is within the law. That is as close to the Golden Rule as one can come.

    The teaching of this "church" is essentially "do what is right." A lofty and admirable goal. But, of course, the real question is "how does one know what is right?" According to the ULC, it is up to the individual to determine right and wrong. On what basis do they determine this? The ULC only gives two limitations: your actions cannot infringe upon the rights of others, and it must be within the law. The church compares this teaching to the Golden Rule, i.e., do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

    How do I know when my actions infringe upon the rights of others? What if my religious belief is that the law is wrong? To these questions, the church gives no assistance. Each person, being armed as a moral lawgiver to themselves, is apparently free to determine these things independent of any governing authority beyond the secular authority of the state. This is the madness that is relativism.

    Relativism suffers from many problems, but these problems are compounded when morality is reduced to independent personal morality. First and foremost, in a relativistic moral culture, each man (and woman) becomes their own islands of morality where it is not possible to tell someone else that they are doing wrong. Now, this is not much of a problem when you have an issue of right or wrong that we can all agree as right or wrong--like murder. But when you get to more controversial issues, such as racism, then there are no guiding principles which can be used to determine whether one person's moral position is better than another's moral position.

    The ULC would undoubtedly say "but we say that you cannot inflict on the rights of others or do what's illegal, therefore, racism would be wrong." But what if we lived 100 years ago when "separate but equal" accommodations were seen as acceptable and Jim Crow laws institutionalized racism? In that society, it was not inflicting on the "legal" rights of others to treat African-Americans as sub-humans, and it certainly wasn't illegal. So, on what basis would the relativism of the ULC have anything to say against racism under those circumstances?

    Maybe the ULC would argue that "rights" of others are not merely legal rights, but much more. Okay, I agree that the rights people hold aren't limited to legal rights. But I have a basis for saying that. I believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights as the result of our having been made in the image of God. Since every person has that image, it is not appropriate or deprive them of an equal position on the basis of their skin color--a reather innocuous trait. But in the relativism accepted by the ULC we are back to the earlier question: on what basis do you determine what is another person's rights in order to know whether you are infringing on those rights? Relativism cannot provide any answer.

    In fact, in the view of the relativist, there is no such thing as moral improvement. How can a person become a better person if what is moral is left to whatever they decide on the particular day? If I am a racist one day and then decide racism is wrong, a relativist church cannot say that I am a better person as a result. All the church can say is that I changed my moral position. Even worse, if I decide to become a racist, they cannot say that my views have gotten worse--only changed.

    Even if the state recognizes the ULC as a legitimate church, I don't. Churches need to take stands on the moral issues of the day or they are little more than fronts so that people can gather, collect money and spend money without tax consequences.

    Same Sex Marriage and Polygamy

    Last Sunday Bishop Frederick Henry of (my own) diocese of Calgary started a rather large firestorm with his pastoral letter On Same-Sex Marriage. Both of Canada's largest newspapers, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star, condemned the letter, and Bishop Henry for his "bigotry", "fearmongering", and assorted other crimes against humanity, but what they did not not do, was confront the actual arguments in his letter. This is known, where I come from, as ad hominem, and is not acceptable in legitimate debates.

    Fortunately, two other columnists, both from the National Post (Canada's third largest paper, and the only other one besides the Globe that is national in distribution) did confront some of those arguments, as well as others offered by opponents of same sex marriage. In this post I would like to address the position put forward by those one of those gentlemen, namely Andrew Coyne ("Panic over polygamy", National Post, January 22, 2005). A response to George Jonas ("Raiders of Multicult v. Amazons of the Status Quo", National Post, January 24, 2005) will have to wait, as I am restricted greatly by time constraints.

    Coyne's column is curious, as he sees absolutely no link at all between the debate over same sex marriage, and that of polygamy. He states:

    "The courts could accept their (polygamists) "demands," if they were of a mind to, without ever having ruled on whether two men or two women should be allowed to marry-just as the courts remain at liberty to reject them, regardless of the "precedent" established by legalizing gay marriage.
    That's because the two are entirely separable issues..."

    While Coyne is technically correct that the two issues are separate, and "entirely separable", it is also quite easy to link them, just as any other "human rights" case can be linked to any other that makes similar types of claims. When black men were (at least technically) given the vote in the United States, this served as a precedent, and argument, to allow the same right to women. Both are persons, and therefore entitled to the same human of rights. Likewise, if marriage is a "human right", then the granting it to one minority group (in this case gays) begs the question as to why it cannot be granted to another minority group (polygamists). The fact that the former get their rights because they are politically powerful, and the ruling Liberal Party of Canada wishes to give them this right hardly serves as justificiation for then denying it to the latter simply because (as our Prime Minister put it himself recently), it is "against the law" is, at best, hypocritical. Gay marriage was "against the law" only two years ago everywhere in Canada, until a couple of judges decided to make it legal based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Ontario and British Columbia (with other judges later adding several more provinces to this list). That was less than two years ago, and now the Liberals wish to make it the law of the land everywhere in Canada because it is a human rights issue, and the Charter makes it "necessary".

    To put it simply, judges interpret the law based upon past decisions. So, if it is established that marriage between two men or two women is a human right, then what is to stop them from deciding that marriage between a man and several women (or vice versa) is also a right? And if that should happen, then it is no longer not only not "against the law", but it then becomes the new law based on the Charter of Rights. Extrapolating from the argument of the Prime Minister, the Charter cannot be violated, so he would be as obligated to legalize polygamy as he is now with same sex marriage.

    Coyne attempts to address this concern in his next paragraph:

    "True, both are instances of "discrimination"-in one case against homosexuals, in the other, against polygamists. Had the courts outlawed discrimination of any kind in the marriage laws, we would not need to worry whether polygamy would be next: It would already be here. But that is not what the courts have ruled, and nother obliges them to do so in the future."

    This is a bit of verbal slight of hand on Coyne's part. Of course the courts are not "obliged" to do anything. In fact, they are free to be as consistent, or not, in their interpretation of the Charter and Constitution as they wish. But the logic of their arguments remain, and if one follows their logic consistently, then one does not have to consider the question for very long before concluding that a human right belongs to all person equally unless clear social harm can be shown to occur by granting that right to an unpopular minority. Since Coyne fails to present an argument for such social harm based on legalizing polygamy, one is left to wonder what it might be. He has already rejected any argument for social harm caused by the legalization of gay marriages. In his view there is, in fact, no possibility of harm against any heterosexual married couple caused by the legal marriage of a homosexual couple. Again he merely asserts this position without supporting it, so it is difficult to tell what possible harm could come (in his view) to that same heterosexual married couple if a man and several women elect to marry one another as well.

    Coyne does say this much:

    "It was the courts' judgement that, the state having established a particular legal status for monogamy in the marriage laws, it was unreasonable to reserve this only to heterosexuals. Whether this seems sensible to you as it does to me will depend in part on whether you agree that the essence of marriage, at least as far as the law is concerned, is monogamy-and not, as other argue, procreation... You are not required to produce offspring. You are required to be monogamous. Adultery is grounds for divorce. Infertility is not."

    It is strange that Coyne does not mention that in Canada one can choose to get divorced for any reason one chooses, including because one feels like it. And contrary to what he has stated above, one can list infertility as the reason for divorce as well. Regardless, my question here is why Coyne thinks that monogamy is the central purpose of marriage. And more importantly, I am left to wonder why his preference (and the courts', assuming they share it), should matter all that much to us. Opinions change. Society changes. And so, as we have seen, do judges and their fancies. Besides, in many cultures and societies, polygamy is the norm, or at least tolerated. Such has never been the case with gay marriage. So of the two, the latter is the more radical departure from social norms.

    Coyne offers a very thin reed upon which he can rest his case. Monogamy might be nice, but it is certainly not socially necessary. In fact, given that adultery, bigomy, and polygamy have been around as long as human history, one would be hard pressed to demonstrate how it could possibly be the legal and social reason for encouraging marriage. Societies have survived all of these, and will continue to do so. On the other hand, society does have a real, and demonstratable interest in procreation. Very simply, if men and women of one generation choose not to produce children, then theirs will be the last generation ever. And if they do not produce enough children, then their society will undergo very radical changes.

    In the end, Coyne trivializes marriage by basing its need on a social whim (monogamy) which is not even socially necessary (however morally and emotionally beneficial it might be to individual members of that society). People, societies, and cultures can adapt to various forms of non-monogomous relationships (in fact, wasn't that what the Sexual Revolution of the 60's and 70's was all about?). But it will not survive without children being produced by heterosexual couplings. On this basis alone the argument would appear to be settled.

    I commend Coyne for putting forward his rationale for supporting gay marriages. But the fact remains that he fails to acknowledge that his preference is rooted in nothing more than a prejudice for monogomy between couples, a prejudice that society at large need not (and indeed, often does not) require, even as he rejects the more objectively defensible argument from procreation, which no society can survive without.

    As I said, it is a very curious argument.


    An Academic Book Review of Profit With Delight: Revisiting the Genre of Acts

    A few months ago I wrote a piece about the genre of Acts. I concluded that the author of Acts intended, and his audience would have understood, that he was writing as a historian of his time.

    One of the possible genre classifications that I ended up rejecting was that of the ancient novel--that is, the idea that Acts was a fictitious narrative meant primarily to entertain its audience. It's most articulate proponent is Richard Pervo, who made his case in the book Profit with Delight. I have read his book and responded with several problems with his theory. Recently, however, I ran across an excellent review by Marion L. Soards of Pervo's book that discusses some of these same problems as well as others.

    The strongest part of Pervo's argument is that ancient novels were written to entertain and Acts was written to entertain. Pervo discusses several elements of Acts' narrative that suggest that its author intended to entertain his audience. As I pointed out, however, although ancient novelists wrote to entertain, so too did ancient historians. Soards agrees and provides additional examples:

    [S]cholars have long recognized that one of the goals of ancient historians was to please their readers.... The precense of entertaining or pleasing elements in an ancient work does not automatically mean that it is not history. Yet Pervo takes this position. He is able to do so largely by ignoring this characteristic in ancient historiography--for example, it is remarkable that while Pervo mentions Thucydides (only!) five times in his study, he completely ignores Heroditus, "The Father of History," who writes in a lively, engaging, entertatining, and even fantastic manner--not unlike the author of Acts. Similarly, Pervo refers several times to Lucian of Samosata and Xenophon of Ephesus, but he brings Dionysis of Halicarnassus into the study only twice; Polybius, once; and Sallust, three times. Many--perhaps most or all--the common characteristics Pervo identified between Acts and the ancient novel may be located in these ancient historians whom Pervo basically ignores.

    Soards also criticizes Pervo for failing to give due consideration to the features of Acts that are characteristic of ancient historiography but not of ancient novels: "[T]here are elements in Acts outside the boundaries of ancient novels, even historical ones, that place Acts more in the circule of ancient histories than of ancient novels." He goes on to list "the historical prologues of Luke and Acts, the author's remarks about sources and intentions, [and] the exact use of titles in relation to Roman officials and provinces." Though Pervo waves briefly at these features, he "moves quickly here, and does not build his case."

    Finally, Soards makes a point that I did not emphasize--the absences from Acts of features typical of the ancient novel genre. This includes the absence of "sex, romance, details of persecutions, encounters with bandits, and graphic depictions of executions." Though Pervo is aware of the problem, he tries to explain it away as the result of a Christian audience. "Ultimately, there is too much in this reasoning that has to be given away to the audience. It will seem easier to many who weigh Pervo's case to conclude that Acts communicates to its readers using a different genre from the ancient novel rather than that genre minus most of its juicy parts."

    Marion L. Soards, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 58.2 (Summer 1990), pages 307-10.

    Rolling Stone Advertising Policy Excludes Religion

    From advertising:

    Rolling Stone Rejects Bible Ad

    Rolling Stone has rejected an ad for the Today's New International Version of the Bible due out in February. Execs for the magazine say the ad violates an unwritten policy regarding ads containing religious messages.

    Zondervan, the nation's largest Bible publisher, says the ad in Rolling Stone was key to the $1 million ad campaign, adding that the print ad does not contain the word "God" in it. Similar ads will run in The Onion, Modern Bride and on Web sites like and

    Guess we don't want to pollute the minds of our youth with religion, huh? After all, consider what great values they are recieving from such moral, musical icons as D12/Eminem who sing on "My Band":

    I think everyone's all jealous and s*** cuz I'm like the lead singer of a band dude...
    And I think everyone's got a f***** problem with me dude...They're all like "Oh my god it's him"
    "Becky oh my f***** god it's Eminem"
    "I swear to f***** god dude you f***** rock"
    "Please Marshall please let me s*** your c***"

    And let's not forget the great Usher's contribution (feat. Lil' Jon, Ludacris)in "Yeah":

    Forget about the game I'm a spit the truth, I won't stop till I get em in they birthday suits...So gimmie the rhythm and it'll be off with they clothes, then bend over to the front and touch your toes...Me and Ush once more and we leave em dead, we want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed

    Yeah, it sure is a good thing that Rolling Stone Magazine is protecting our children from religion, isn't it?

    Are there Purely Secular Reasons for Moral Laws?

    William Raspberry has written a rather remarkable article entitled Religion Vs. Unity: Compromise Seen as Retreat From Core Values (note: you must register with the Washington Post to read it). The main thesis concerns the fact that many Americans (most largely in evangelical circles) see compromise on certain religious issues as a "retreat from core values." He says:

    What, in my view, threatens to test the American tradition of working things out are issues closely tied to religious faith: abortion, homosexual marriage, the teaching of evolution.

    While I could take exception to what he says, this is passable since there is certainly no doubt that these issues are issues that are important to and effect Evangelical thinking. But what surprises me in his article is a really nonsensical statement he makes later.

    Public officials who think it's a sin to have an abortion, support gay marriage or work on the Sabbath should try to avoid those things. But they shouldn't, on the basis of their religious belief, deny your right to any of them.

    Ah, but aren't murder and theft forbidden by the Ten Commandments? Wouldn't the distinction I'm urging make it impossible to outlaw killing and stealing?

    Well, no. There are ample secular grounds for legislating the protection of life and property. Religion needn't enter into it. You might throw me in jail on a perjury count if I bore false witness in court, but surely your only secular concern for my making graven images is if I were into counterfeiting.

    But no matter how clear and reasonable these distinctions seem to me, everyone sees them that way.
    (Emphasis added.)

    There are "ample secular grounds for legislating the protection of life and property"? Can he name one that isn't morality based? After all, it is really pretty clear that the reason we outlaw murder is because we think it is wrong to kill another person, i.e., it violates morality. That is morality, Mr. Raspberry. I am certain that it would not sit well with you if we were to say that public officials who think it's a sin to commit murder, steal or grant equal protection to all people should try to avoid those things; but they shouldn't, on the basis of their religious belief, deny your right to any of them.

    Perhaps Mr. Raspberry went to school in California where at least one certain school board has tried to prevent a teacher from telling students that the very basis of our Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness arises because the founding fathers believed that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. There is no doubt that our American "secular" belief that murder is wrong arises from morality--and Biblically based morality at that.

    You see, he is appealing not to any real secular standard, but just a generalized belief he has that things such as murder and theft can be somehow classified as secular wrongs, while things like abortion and same sex marriage are not. But how? Really, this is not a ivory tower discussion. It is meaningful and important to determine the proper basis for legislation. If he can name one secular basis for outlawing murder and theft that is not morality based, I would like to hear it. Just one, please.

    Even his example of the counterfeiter is an example of morality. He suggests that the reason we might find counterfeiting wrong is that it violates the proscription against making graven images. First, the only graven image the Bible says we ought not make (moral rule) is an image of God. Thus, making images of George Washington or other Presidents and Treasury Secretaries is hardly a law which violates the ten commandments. Second, and more importantly, the reason we say counterfeiting is wrong is because it is a form of stealing, and we know that we ought not steal because it violates morality, i.e., religious beliefs. We are right back to a religious reason for opposing counterfeiting.

    But more than that, he is assuming that there are no valid "secular" reasons for standing against abortion, homosexual marriage and working on the sabbath. For the sake of argument, let's call anything that can be opposed without resort to the Bible a "secular" reason for legislating against them. Can I think of any "secular" reasons for opposing abortion, for example? Of course. We value, in this country, the lives of all human beings--the same secular reason that we outlaw murder. We know that we are killing something when an abortion is performed, and we have to ask "what is it?" If it isn't a human being, then no excuse for abortion is needed. If, however, the infant is a human being, no excuse is sufficient to justify the killing. So it boils down to whether the "fetus" is a living human being. This is not a question of theology, but of science. The law of biogenesis says that two human beings can only produce through sexual union another human being. The "fetus" is living, it is growing and it is a human being. End of argument.

    Am I being difficult or silly if I refuse to compromise my position that the killing of an innocent human being should be outlawed even if it occurs while the human being is in a development stage of life? I hardly think so, and I have done so without one reference to the Bible. I can also defend traditional marriage and blue laws without a single reference to the Bible, so I guess that I can defend them on secular grounds, if I am correct in my understanding of Mr. Raspberry's definition of secular.

    You see, regardless how clear he thinks himself to be, Mr. Raspberry is engaging in fuzzy thinking. He assumes that there is such an animal as a purely "secular" reason for creating rules that govern morality. If such an animal exists, I have yet to see it.

    Was The Inaugural Prayer a Dig at Michael Newdow?

    As regular readers of this blog have surmised, I am in favor of maintaining the great tradition in this country of giving thanks to God at public functions for the benefits he has bestowed upon us. I think it is a very minor infringement upon the liberties of those who don't want to hear it in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of the country is religious.

    The Reverend Michael Newdow (and I use the term "reverend" with a smirk on my face for reasons I detail here) has been the main engine for attacks on the public recognition of God. He has twice filed lawsuits seeking to ban "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, and has recently lost his second bid in court to ban the public prayer at Bush's inauguration ceremonies (he apparently tried to ban the prayer at the 2000 swearing in ceremony).

    As I listened to the prayer, I wondered whether the Rev. Luis Leon, the Episcopal minister who gave the prayer, intended to take a subtle swipe at Newdow. During the early part of the prayer, he intoned that we were "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Yes, he combined the prayer with the tail end of the pledge of allegiance. Newdow must have had steam coming out of his ears (assuming he was listening and not sitting in the corner pouting).

    Okay, quoting the pledge once could have been an oversight, but then, towards the end of the prayer, the minister said it again: we are "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Twice in the same prayer, he quoted from the Pledge of Allegiance--the part that Newdow is suing to remove!! (I have to admit that I let out a guffaw when I heard it.)

    I have mixed feelings about this. I think that a prayer to God should not be used to slap someone in the face. If Rev. Leon intentionally included the refence to chide Newdow, then I think that it was inappropriate and I would urge him not to use prayer as a tool against people with whom he may disagree in the future.

    However, if it wasn't an intentional slap at Newdow, and instead Rev. Leon wrote what he felt to be right under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit without consciously realizing what he was doing, then it appears that God was taking a dig at Newdow through the "unintended" consequence of the prayer. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

    What is History and What is Fiction in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

    New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg has provided a balanced, unreactionary review of the mega-hit book, The Da Vinci Code. He actually thinks it’s a pretty darn good novel, but notes that the problem is that most readers will not know where the historical facts end and the fiction about Jesus and Church history begins:

    A competent church historian is needed in places, however, to help people understand just where the boundary is crossed between fact and fiction. But what concerns me most, as a New Testament scholar, are the number of people who think that the occasional comments about Jesus, his associates and the literature and events of first three Christian centuries are at all accurate. Put simply, they are not, and even very liberal biblical scholars (as in, for example, the famous Jesus Seminar) agree (see their two books, The Five Gospels [New York: Macmillan, 1993} and The Acts of Jesus [San Francisco: Harper, 1998]).

    Though his article is not lengthy, Blomberg identifies several of the more notable features of The Da Vinci Code that have no basis in history:

    • There is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus married or had children, and there is good evidence that he did not.

    • The Bible was not collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great, and there is overwhelming evidence that the process of establishing the canon had been begun by the mid-second century.

    • The Dead Sea Scrolls did not contain any gospels or other Christian documents. The DSS are a collection of Jewish writings.

    • Jesus did not write Q. Nor is there anything startling or hidden about Q. It has been a feature of even conservative Biblical scholarship for decades.

    • Claims that Jesus was divine arose much earlier than the fourth century. In fact, such claims are clearly made in the first-century canonical writings.

    • The Priory of Sion does not have any documents proving the New Testament false. The Gnostic and post-canonical gospels and writings are widely available in English translations.

    Blomberg concludes with these thoughts:

    For readers who want actual scholarship pointing to the reliability of the New Testament, I invite them to consult my books on The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP, 1987) and The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues and Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP, 1991). For an excellent study of what can truly be known about Jesus outside the New Testament, see the book with that title by Robert E. Van Voorst (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). For an in-depth response to the small number of scholars who do put stock in apocryphal documents besides Thomas, see Philip Jenkins, Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For a survey and debunking of modern legends and fictions of various kinds (there are ample predecessors to The Da Vinci Code, and none of them agrees with another!), see especially Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Eugene: Harvest House, 1996).

    Meanwhile, enjoy The Da Vinci Code. It's a fantastic novel. I'm so glad I read it. Just keep reminding yourself throughout, "It's only a novel. It's only a novel."

    Sex: Is it Biblically bad?

    A few years ago, a list of 25 supposedly unanswerable questions about Christianity was circulating on the Internet. One of them made it appear that God, who was the creator of human sexuality, was opposed to sex. Here was the question:

    Explain why sex, potentially one of the most wonderful, beautiful things in human nature, is considered "bad" by your particular sect. If your sect does not consider sex to be "bad," then refute Matthew 19:12, 1 Corinthians 7 (particularly verses 1 and 9), Galatians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, James 1:14 15, and Revelation 14:4.

    Now, most Christians probably recognize intrinsically that if something was created by God, it isn’t bad. Genesis 1 reports that when God created humanity in the form of Adam, he pronounced him to be good. He created Eve to be the companion of Adam. Now, I don’t see any reason to believe that God created Adam and Eve without sexual organs and that they were only added after the fall. Obviously, Adam and Eve were created to be bedmates, and thus, sex was part of God’s “good” in creation. Bad? When God says “A man shall cleave unto his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) "shall" is a word of command. In other words, sex in marriage is ordered by God! Consider what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:4 5:

    The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.

    These verse alone are sufficient to overcome the objection that sex is somehow bad in God’s eyes. But because the question cites some verses that supposedly overcome this very clear teaching, I suppose we ought to take a look at them.

    Matt. 19:12 – Jesus said: "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

    Let me see; because there are eunuchs (some by birth, some emasculated by others, and some self-emasculated) sex is bad? If that is it, I don’t see the connection. Is the author saying that because Jesus says that the self-emasculating eunuch made himself a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" that means that sex is bad? Personally, I don’t see where Jesus says anything that can be interpreted to mean "and you should, too."

    In fact, looking at the verse in context (remember context?), it is very clear that he is not saying that. In Matthew 19, Jesus is discussing divorce and telling the disciples that if someone divorces his wife, except for infidelity, they are committing adultery. The conversation continues with the disciples making an incorrect statment:

    Matt. 19:10-11 -- The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." But [Jesus] said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.

    Let me put this in more contemporary language: The disciples said to Jesus, "In this view of marriage, surely it must prove a snare rather than a blessing, and had better be avoided altogether." Jesus answered them, "that the unmarried state is better, is a saying not for everyone, and indeed only for such as it is divinely intended for." Verse 12 (the verse cited by the questioner) then gives three examples of people to whom it may be appropriate.

    The questioner then proceeds to raise 1 Cor. 7 where Paul discusses the fact that he has chosen not to marry. The two verses singled out by the questioner are as follows:
    1 Cor. 7:1 – Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

    1 Cor. 7:9 -- But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

    This is the problem with taking verses out of context – the author is forcing a meaning on the texts that Paul does not intend to convey. The Bible contains an unparalleled commitment to marriage and sex within marriage. Consider Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.” Why would God (the ultimate author of the Bible) say that marriage is honorable in Hebrews but that a man should not touch a woman in another? It is not because God is inconsistent, but rather because the two verses are talking about different aspects of how to deal with our relationship with God and each other. Paul explains himself later in the chapter in verses 29-35:

    But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

    What about Galatians 5:17?

    Gal. 5:17 – “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

    Galatians 5:17 has nothing to do with sex at all! Perhaps you can argue that it is intended to say that the desire of the flesh for sex is in opposition to the desire for God, but the verse is more general than that. The verse is not singling our sex. Rather, it is saying that any desire of the flesh sets itself against the Spirit. Thus, if this means that sex is evil then my desire for a Coca-Cola must be evil, by the questioner's logic. And it is if my desire for the thing of the flesh exceeds my desire for God.

    1 Thess. 4:3 -- "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality."

    Why do I have a feeling the questioner did not read some of these verses but only cut and pasted? Sex inside of marriage is not seen as sexual immorality anywhere in the Bible. This is a general refutation of sex outside of the confines that God has provided for our benefit.

    James 1:14 15 – “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

    This verse has nothing to so with sex. It defines the origins of all sin in a man's life. Contrary to the assumption of the author, “lust” is not limited to sexual desire. Lust, according to Meriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, includes: “1 a : PLEASURE, DELIGHT b : personal inclination : WISH 2 : usually intense or unbridled sexual desire : LASCIVIOUSNESS 3 a : an intense longing : CRAVING b : ENTHUSIASM, EAGERNESS” We lust after all types of things, sex being just one. When we follow through on our lusts (“lust has conceived”), then we sin. This is not a verse that stands against sex!

    With respect to Revelations 14:4: Revelation has a lot of symbolism in it. Unless you know the WHOLE Bible, it is hard to discuss this book. Yet, let me make a brief comment.

    Rev. 14:4 -- These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”

    Revelations is a book that looks at a lot of things spiritually. The ones who have not been defiled, in this case, are being singled out "in contrast to the apostate Church, Babylon (Re 14:8), spiritually "a harlot" (Re 17:1-5; Isa 1:21; contrast 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:25-27). Their not being defiled with women means they were not led astray from Christian faithfulness by the tempters who jointly constitute the spiritual ‘harlot.’" (From the on-line commentary about the Revelation of St. John the Divine by A. R. Fausset.) Again, this verse has nothing to do with sex, per se.

    Sex, regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, is not looked down upon or shunned in the Bible. However, God has limited the types of sexual activities we may engage in and the circumstances we may engage in them. The Bible teaches that sex should be limited to marriage, and that marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman. There are some other restrictions, but it is important to keep in mind that all of the restrictions have not been put in place to deprive us. Rather, they are there so that we may be fulfilled and live a life that is both pleasing to God and beneficial to ourselves. Sex is part of our lives and the created good. If we exercise our sexual encounters appropriately, we will benefit, and God will bless us.

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