Critical Thinking and the Veracity of the Bible


When I started my blog, one of the first posts I created dealt with critical thinking. Surprisingly, to me, I had an atheist who visited because he wanted to know what a Christian and critical thinking had to do with each other. What followed was a series of posts I did about critical thinking. That was . . . are you ready? . . . twelve years ago.

My thinking hasn’t changed about the fundamentals. I know more now, but I’m happy with this article. So I’m running it again, minus the personal references to my atheist friend who visited back then.
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A commenter once posed a question for discussion:

Given the plenitude of glaring scriptural contradictions combined with the complete lack of currently available supporting evidence for either deity or biblical veracity, is it possible to be a critical thinker and still believe in the Bible and Christianity as anything more than philosophy and parable?

It’s a fair question, but I cannot accept the “given” properties.

Before addressing that issue, let me say, I believe it is not only possible to still believe in the Bible and Christianity, such belief is the most logical outcome of true critical thinking.

To a degree, all Truth is something we must choose to believe. Think for a moment of gravity. The dictionary describes this as a force that attracts a physical body toward the center of the earth or toward another mass. I have never seen gravity, yet I choose to believe in its existence. Scientists who study such things say it exists. I have the repeated experience of seeing things fall, not rise, when I drop them. I conclude the scientists are right. This requires faith on my part, but it is not faith in a vacuum, or faith that flies in the face of the evidence. My faith in the existence of gravity is the logical conclusion a thinking person can arrive at.

As I sit here typing, I can gaze out at an overcast sky. However, I choose to believe the sky remains blue and the sun is still in place even though I can’t see either. I have multiple reasons for such belief, but for someone who would enter the discussion with the presupposition that only that which can be seen is real, nothing I said would change his mind, simply because his presupposition is wrong.

Similarly, if this discussion hinges on accepting as true the presuppositions the commenter laid out—namely that there is a plenitude of scriptural contractions and that there is a complete lack of currently available supporting evidence for either deity or biblical veracity, then this discussion can go nowhere.

Therefore, I need to address these one at a time. First, the contradictions. I agree that there are apparent contradictions in the Bible, but I disagree that there are any real ones.

At times I have said I am hot. At other times I have said I am cold. Which is true? Aren’t those contradictory? Not given the circumstances which surrounded my making the statements. So too, with the Bible. What may look like a contradiction is not when the circumstances are clarified.

As to the lack of supporting evidence for deity and/or biblical veracity, I suggest there are books and books that refute those statements.

For a cogent argument that is longer than a blog post, Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nelson Reference, 1999) or Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998) are clear presentations. The subtitle of the latter is telling: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. And by “evidence for Jesus” he means evidence that Jesus was who He said He was. (He also has written a second volume, The Case for Faith [Zondervan, 2000] which might be even more helpful).

Let me give my reasons for believing in the veracity of the Bible, in no special order:

  • extra-Biblical writings reinforce the historical facts recorded in the Bible
  • archaeological findings continue to support the events of history as told in the Bible
  • science and the Bible agree, whenever the Bible speaks to the field of science (apparent “unscientific” terms do crop up in Biblical poetry, as they do in my speech when I say such things as sunset, knowing scientifically that the sun, of course, does not set)
  • fulfilled Biblical prophecy supports the Bible’s claims
  • the unity of the Scriptures—though written over centuries, by forty or so different writers, the need for and the message of redemption are consistent throughout all 66 books
  • internal evidence—the Bible’s own claim of being true, of being the Word of God
  • experiential evidence—people’s lives are changed when they believe and act upon what the Bible says

For me, this is a compelling, though incomplete, list.

Let me expand the second-to-last point: internal evidence. Much like this blog, the Bible is a text we have from the hands of a writer we do not contact directly. Most of the readers here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction have not met me. In fact, there is no compelling evidence to prove that Rebecca LuElla Miller is writing this particular post—except that I am telling you, I am the author.

Does believing me exclude critical thinking? Not in the least. There are internal evidences you can use to verify that this is in fact my writing. First, the content. Does what I am saying sound like other things I’ve written? For those who know me, is it consistent with my character? Are the facts revealed in the post consistent with reality? (For instance, in various bios I say I live in Southern California. In today’s post I mentioned that I can gaze at an overcast sky. Can both be true today?)

In the same way, critical thinking can address the claims of the Bible to be true, to be the Word of God.

But what about those presuppositions about the veracity of the Bible that the commenter assumes as given? Held under the microscope of critical thinking, they will crumble because of the weight of the evidence.

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Why I Am A Biblical Creationist – A Reprise


00Galaxy_NGC1300A number of years ago I read an article entitled “Young Earth-ism Cost Her Faith” posted on a friend’s Facebook page. The author stated that “many apologists for young-earth creationism (including the writers of my Christian textbooks) actually appeared to have misrepresented evolutionary theory and the evidence for it in a way that I can only describe as dishonest.”

Coming to this conclusion caused her to ” ‘lose my faith,’ as it were.”

I was curious about the direction the responses to this article would go, but the website proprietors closed comments which also apparently hid them.

In the sidebar was another article that I thought might explore a similar subject, this one entitled “Why I Am A Darwinist–Mary Catherine Watson” , so I turned there.

In similar fashion to the writer who lost her faith, Ms. Watson came to her belief in Darwinism through exposure to it after growing up with a creationist education: “I took AP Biology and found myself convinced that evolution made more sense in explaining the world around me than did the Bible.”

The irony is, I had the reverse experience. I grew up with evolution, the Big Bang theory, Darwinism, taught in school as if there were no other possible answers.

But I was fortunate. I also grew up going to church where I learned the Bible was God’s authoritative Word, His revelation. Consequently, my experience was quite different from Ms. Watson’s.

From her study, she concluded,

And no, it is highly unlikely that every scientist is simultaneously deluded by this theory. Science is one of the most intellectually intense fields of profession [sic] around, and its workers have some of the highest IQs, they are not that naïve.

From my study, I concluded that God, who is omniscient, the Creator of all those high IQs, revealed that which only He could know with certainty.

Ms. Watson says she went to the Bible and found more questions. She admits evolution doesn’t answer all questions either but concluded, “in light of all the information I’ve come across from both sides, it [evolution] seems to me to be the more logical option.”

On the other hand, I went to the Bible and found more and more facts that made the big picture come together in a logical whole, outstripping anything science can answer. Evolution has no answers for the big questions like why are we here? and where are we going? and what happens after we die?

Ms. Watson changed her opinions in part because of her questions about the flood recorded in Scripture:

such a flood would require steady, worldwide rainfall at the rate of about 6 inches per minute, 8640 inches per day–for 40 days and nights–so as to cover the entire earth with an endless ocean 5 miles deep, thus burying 29,000 ft. Mt. Everest (the tallest mountain) under 22 ft. (15 cubits) of water, made me think again. That is a lot of water, where did it come from, and where did it go?

Her study of Scripture seems to be less complete than her math computations. According to the Biblical record of creation, there was “a lot of water”:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters . . . Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. (Gen 1:2, 6-9)

Then in the account of the flood, this:

on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. (Gen 7:11-12)

In other words, this was not the typical modern-day rain storm we’re familiar with.

Herein lies the divide between people like Ms. Watson and people like me—when the Bible records something that is outside my experience, I don’t conclude it was fabricated, mythologized, or inaccurate. I believe it is outside my experience and outside today’s scientific observation because things were different from what the scientists assume. And clearly, assumption plays a huge part in “observing” what transpired thousands of years ago.

The bottom line is this: Ms. Watson and the anonymous “lost her faith” writer read the same science I read, read the same Bible I read, and yet we have arrived at vastly different places. I am far from thinking that I know all the details about creation, but I’m pretty confident that the scientists who deny a Creator have made a serious error. If you start with a wrong hypothesis, it’s pretty hard to draw closer to the truth if you persist with that line of reasoning.

Hänsel_und_GretelIn the end, I’ll take the word of omniscient, eternal God over finite, limited Man when it comes to the origins of the cosmos. After all, without God’s revelation, we’re trying to follow a trail of bread crumbs back to the first cause. As Hansel and Gretel discovered, bread crumbs aren’t so reliable.

This post is a revised version of one that appeared here in June 2013.

God’s View Or Ours


Fossil_Trees_-_geograph.org.uk_-_750298Some years ago I read a discussion between Christians about evolution. It dawned on me that those advocating this theory based on scientific observation are opting for Mankind’s view over God’s.

Science “knows” now, the reasoning goes, that life has evolved from lesser forms. We’ve “seen” this in geological findings. We have the fossil “records.” These records, therefore, are to be believed over the record handed down to us from God—His Holy Word.

The problem with choosing scientific observation over the Bible is manifold. First, science continues to change.

In addition, science presupposes that The Way Things Are is exactly The Way Things Were. In other words, science has no room for things like a perfect world without death. What would that look like? How would that effect what we observe now? Science has no room for a world with one big land mass and no rain. What would that have done to geology? What would the world have been like if the atmosphere had a layer made up primarily of water? What would that have done to the way the world formed? What if the world in a bygone era allowed for humans to live nearly a thousand years? What would that do to dating fossils?

And even more radically, what if God formed a perfectly complete world, and universe, that looked old even though it was new. After all, what would a “new” mountain look like? Or a new star, a new sun, a new Man? What would a new tree look like when you cut it down? Would there just be one giant ring?

We have no reason to believe Adam came into being as an infant. Just the opposite. Scripture would lead us to believe he was a full grown man, on the first day he lived and breathed and had his being.

Science has no room to ask these “what if” questions because their answers have no “hard evidence” that such things were possible. Consequently, science closes the book on what the Bible suggests or even states.

Some Christians who opt for this science-over-Scripture approach reason that God wouldn’t “fool” us into thinking something was one way when in fact it was something quite different.

I hardly think God tried to fool us, seeing as how He wrote down His creative process. But on another level, this argument is too weak to stand up. Humans for centuries have been “fooled.” They believed, for example, that they lived on flat land. How deceptive of God to pull a fast one and actually put us on a round(ish) planet.

Of course, He wasn’t deceptive at all since the sun is round, the moon is round, and apart from the twinkles, stars are round. It is actually more a wonder that people didn’t figure out sooner that the earth is round. But there it is. Man, believing his own eyes, when in fact the truth was something quite different.

The same could be said about men who believed the sun was the center of the universe and many more “scientific” observations that have changed when new information came along.

My question is, when will we learn to believe Omniscience instead of our own fallible, imperfect, inexact observations when we are trying to figure out The True Way Things Are?

This post first appeared here in February 2011.

Published in: on March 17, 2016 at 6:24 pm  Comments Off on God’s View Or Ours  
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Critical Thinking and the Evidence for God


Hubble view of stars_and_spaceThe argument against the existence of God commonly came into play with the advent of Modernism, the Age of Reason, and the rise of science. Hence, what people for centuries had known by instinct now needed to be proved. And how can you prove the unseen? How can you put the Supernatural to a natural test?

People believing in God were slow to respond, in my opinion, perhaps not realizing the enormity of the consequences for answering science with “But I believe.”

Such a slow response, however, does not mean there are not some very specific, scientific evidences that point to the existence of God.

Here are some to which I ascribe, in no particular order.

  • The origin of the universe. Those who do not believe in God commonly believe in evolution and the big bang theory. This idea is flawed. First, it leaves unexplained where the material for the big bang came from. To date, all matter decays, which argues against some kind of eternal matter. Also, energy dissipates, which argues against energy being of an eternal nature. So what existed before the universe to bring it into being?

    Then, too, even if such a big bang did occur, belief that life came about as a result is contradictory to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: order does not come from disorder (layman’s translation – 😉 ). In the words of Dr. Henry Morris, Institute of Creation Science:

    the universal scientific law of entropy specifies the “downward” tendency of all things toward decrease of organized complexity.

    Finally, the idea that the big bang is scientific is fallacious. The scientific method requires a repeated result to verify a theory. None such is possible.

    In reality, the theory of the big bang is merely an idea formed as an alternative to God.

  • The design of the universe. From molecular structure to the path of the countless solar systems, this universe is intricately woven.

    In a paper entitled, “The Current State Of Creation Astronomy,” Dr. Danny R. Faulkner of the Institute of Creation Research says the following:

    Much evidence of teleology (design in nature) exists in the universe. For human, animal, and plant life this is very easy to see. If certain changes are made in the physiology or the chemistry of organisms, then life becomes impossible. The same could be said about the universe as a whole. If certain constants of nature are changed, then the chemistry necessary for life becomes impossible, and the universe begins to appear very suited, or designed, for life. The same is true for the earth: if we change its size, composition, distance from the sun, tilt of its axis, or any number of characteristics, then the earth becomes uninhabitable.

    It is mathematically improbable that happenstance can create such design.

    Simple experiments prove this. Take ten red checkers and ten black checkers, scramble them in a large plastic bag, then begin to shake them to see how long it will take to order them again with all red together and all black together. If a person were to shake the bag continuously for twenty-four hours, day after day, the probability that those checkers would again align by color is one chance in all the years of that individual’s lifetime, and beyond.

  • The existence of intelligent life. Humans reason, compare, contrast, synthesize, analyze, and criticize. Humans also communicate logically and extensively. The existence of intelligent life suggests a source of equal or greater intelligence. How can a substance formulate that of which it does not consist?
  • Humans sin. At first blush, that fact might have two arguments against it: How is sin an evidence of God? on the one hand and Is that a true statement? on the other. Let me take them in reverse order.

    First is it, true Man sins? We know that humans do things animals don’t do, negative things, like start wars and hold other people in concentration camps. Clearly, Man has a capacity for harm to others that sets him apart from the rest of creation. One word for that capacity is sin.

    How, then, is this evidence that God exists? In order for man to sin, he needs to violate certain natural laws. Who established these laws?

  • Man has inalienable rights. Our Constitution says it. Our freedom is staked on the truth of that statement. Who gave us these rights? The Creator who is involved with His creation.

    If it were not true, then there is no right of one person over another except the right that is earned, either by overpowering others or outsmarting them. Instead, we believe (though we don’t act consistently in accordance with what we say we believe) that the weak has just as much right as the strong and, in fact, should be protected and nurtured.

    The incongruence with “survival of the fittest” should be apparent.

  • Man has a conscience, a moral compass that cannot be explained by evolution. Some people believe society teaches that certain actions are wrong. That’s true to an extent, but there are some actions we know are wrong instinctively.

    Take child abuse, for example. Even in prison, where hardened criminals reside, and no one is teaching against the behavior, a child molester is hated. Why? Why would people with seemingly no moral constraint react negatively to such behavior?

    Or cannibalism. When was the last time someone taught against cannibalism? And yet, the thought is disgusting. Why? Not because of teaching. Because it is against a Man’s conscious.

    I submit that a number of things we now accept were once reprehensible, grating against our moral sensibilities, but society taught us they needed to be tolerated, even accepted and embraced.

    So where does a moral sensibility come from? A moral Creator.

  • Personal experience. I know this is probably the hardest to understand and to accept and is the weakest of the arguments, but it’s still true, and therefore adds to the body of facts: I know God, first hand.

    When you put all the pieces together, it does make sense. The universe has a Creator—one who is pre-existent, orderly, intelligent, and moral, one involved with His creation.

    We have a book that claims to be from Him. It reveals Him as pre-existent, orderly, intelligent, moral, involved with His creation, and, in fact, loving. To prove the latter, His Son entered the world to show us what science could not.

    Because I know the Son, I also the know God who sent Him.

    Let me illustrate. I know a lot of people through the media of the Internet, either from visiting their blogs, engaging in discussions on Facebook, or from reading their comments here. I know them because I’ve read a record of their thoughts.

    Much the same way, I know God. However, there’s more involved than just knowing facts about Him because I know what He has chosen to say about Himself.

  • This post first appeared here in August 2006.

    Believing The First Narrative


    red flag warningI think most people are trusting. Maybe too trusting. Chances are, unless we have some prior knowledge that would lead us to doubt or discount what someone says, we are apt to believe the first person who tells us about an event or gives us their opinion.

    I saw a TV show the other night. A medical professional saw suspicious signs of abuse on a young patient from a juvenile facility. Red flags went up. She questioned the boy and heard his tale of being mistreated—purposefully denied hydration, disciplined by being burned with cigarettes, and more. She informed the authorities who called in the person in charge.

    His story was quite different. This was a troubled teen who was lying, hurting himself. But without further evidence, no action could be taken on either side. Yet, the medical professional continued to believe the patient . . . until physical evidence proved he was in fact lying.

    Most people, I think, have some level of trust. Someone comes to the door selling candy for a school fund raiser. Chances are, most of us don’t think this is actually a serial killer or some form of con artist.

    Conversely, when the news program we watch regularly reports that there are email scams going around and we shouldn’t send money to people contacting us for financial help, we are most likely going to be suspicious of email asking us for money. On one side are the friendly faces of the news reporters we see day in and day out, and on the other, an anonymous person who says he needs help.

    I have no problem deleting those emails. Those are the scams the news warned me against. Probably. I’ll never know for sure. I’ve believed the first narrative I heard and acted accordingly.

    Others, however, believed the narrative that someone was in great need of help, and in fact, they would be repaid for their kindness. That was the first narrative they heard. They wanted to help and they wanted to make a little money in the process. So they emptied their bank account, and lost everything.

    Another group of people have lost to scam artists that present a more respectable front. Take those who lost so much in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal back in 2008. Or how about the Fanny Mae fiasco: “In December 2011, the SEC brought a civil suit charging three former top executives with securities fraud for misleading investors about the extent of the mortgage giant’s holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans during the financial crisis.” (Forbes)

    Understandably, investors believed the people they were hiring to handle their gambl speculatio capital venture. But a set of ciminals took advantage of that trust and bilked the investors of millions.

    Believing narratives is critical in other areas, too. Take politics, for instance. In 2010 independently wealthy Meg Whitman ran for the governorship of California. Her campaign looked promising, until the first attack ads accused her of trying to buy the election. In contrast, independently wealthy Donald Trump has proudly exclaimed that he is funding his own campaign without the help of financial backing so that he doesn’t owe anyone any favors.

    In one case, the opponents wrote the narrative, and in the other, the candidate got ahead of the issue by telling a different story. In each case, the public seems to have believed the first story released.

    This tactic is a favorite of Donald Trump’s. For instance, he said in a televised debate that Jeb Bush was weak, and every time the former Florida governor spoke, Mr. Trump made faces or mocked him or repeated the accusation. He gave no facts, produced no evidence, but the charge was picked up by news analysts and stayed with Mr. Bush for weeks afterward, if not until the end of his campaign.

    The fact is, however, that people have agendas. The kid trying to sell candy has an upfront agenda which he announces in his first sentence or two. Other people, however, have layered agendas. The investment scammers, for instance, did want people to give them their money to invest, but they also wanted to cheat those people out of that money. They needed to come across as believable and trustworthy when in fact they were the opposite.

    So what?

    The Bible has clear counsel for the believer. We are to be on the alert. We have wolves in sheep’s clothing who would fool even the elect if they could. We have an enemy prowling around like a roaring line. We have spiritual forces that come against us, that require spiritual armor. Woven throughout other counsel for handling such conflict is the command to be alert.

    This idea, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, means we are to be “quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.” It also has a second connotation: we are to be “able to think clearly; intellectually active.” Being alert, then, requires critical thinking.

    A companion word might be discernment. If we are to be alert we must discern what is a true threat and what is simply true. We are to “keep our thinking caps on,” as one of my old teachers would say. Our job is to pay attention and to evaluate so we can spot error.

    In truth, if we are to be alert we must be willing to question those first narratives, even when they come from friendly news anchors we watch day in and day out. We can like them. We can laugh at their jokes and ooohh and aahh at the same baby Panda video that they do. But we still need to be alert when they present a narrative for us to believe.

    Often times we hear a narrative from an unofficial source first. A neighbor shot a video and gives it to the news. The snippet played on TV suggests an unprovoked attack by one person. Later when the investigation is complete, however, a different story emerges. But some people refuse to believe the official version of what happened. Why? Because they trusted the first narrative. They believed what their friends the news reporters showed them that first night.

    Some of those folks might even become conspiracy theorists, thinking that the second narrative has been invented to cover up the “obvious” facts. No amount of proof can move people who have been convinced by the first narrative.

    I think Christians should be alert and therefore should learn to question. Not that we should become skeptics, but we should develop a realistic view of the world. The fact is, those who do not believe in Jesus as God’s Son sent to save sinners, will see the world in a vastly different way than do Christians.

    In addition, people running for office want our vote and sometimes our donations. People on TV want us to keep watching their program or their network. They may also want us to see the world as they see it. They may assume we have the same values as they do.

    If we realize these things, we can simply agree or disagree. We can turn the channel or read a book. We can smile and say no, my values are different. Or we can say, That makes sense; I’d like to learn more.

    What we must avoid is mindlessly repeating as truth what we heard from someone else without any investigation on our part. That’s the opposite of being alert. That’s closer to giving ourselves over to brainwashing.

    Reprise: God and Bandwagons


    2011_Bandwagon_1I have a thing against bandwagons—a term we use to denote people leaping into a suddenly faddish cause. Mostly I don’t think people who jump aboard popular crazes are using their heads, or their hearts, or their character. They are simply going with the flow.

    Of course I can be wrong about that. I once declared the Beatles were a passing fad. Oops! Turns out they revolutionized pop music. I missed on that one.

    But you can see why a non-musician such as I might make the mistake. I mean, there were countless girls at their concerts, screaming and crying, to the point that you had to believe NO ONE was actually listening to the music.

    Of course, I didn’t understand about the music industry either—how records and radio and promotion all worked.

    The point is, I know from that experience bandwagons may be more than faddish, but my first instinct is to suspect they aren’t.

    I’m glad about that too because I think it protects me from going along just to go along. Not that I haven’t done that on occasion. In college a friend asked me to go to a movie with her. Sure, what are we seeing? Turned out to be the controversial X-rated (since, downgraded to R) Midnight Cowboy.

    Going along just to go along can lead to some places I don’t want to be.

    But just recently, I discovered that, as logical as my decision not to go along “just because” might be, as important as it is to fight against mindlessness, there’s a greater reason to stand against bandwagon jumping: God is against it.

    At least He warns against it. I should have seen this sooner. After all, the New Testament uses the analogy of a narrow road and few who find life, but a broad road with many on it heading to destruction.

    In the epistles, we’re told not to be conformed to the world—no going with the flow.

    In the Old Testament, God clearly told the people of Israel not to be like the nations around them—no fitting in just to be one of the guys, or one of the cool nations with all those idols and altars.

    But most recently, I read with new eyes an admonition in amongst the “sundry laws” given Moses at Mt. Sinai:

    You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice (Exodus 23:1,2 – emphasis mine).

    Jesus’s crucifixion is the perfect example of the kind of bandwagon jumping God commanded His people to avoid. I mean, one day the masses were clamoring to make Jesus their king, and in a matter of days they were just as vociferously telling Pilate to kill him.

    In the passage above, I didn’t highlight the “doing evil” or “pervert justice” parts, but here’s the thing. If someone jumps on a bandwagon—goes along just to go along—he rarely is thinking about whether or not the end is evil or if justice will be perverted.

    The very me-too-ism involved in getting on board a bandwagon requires a blind eye.

    Seems to me we would do well to slow down and think, search the pages of Scripture, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit before we write the next scathing blog post or call someone like the President or governor or Senator or a neighbor unkind names for disagreeing with those of us atop the bandwagon.

    Stretch that out to writing a certain kind of novel because that kind is selling, or to proclaiming parts of the Bible outdated because they clash with what most people in our culture believe, or to abandoning belief in an unchanging authority because the majority of society has swallowed postmodern philosophy. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. While I might be wrong about what is or isn’t a fad, I don’t think I’m wrong about our need to turn to God before we take a position … about anything. Turning to Him seems like the best way to keep from jumping on any old bandwagon that might be passing by.

    This article is a revised version of one that appeared here in September 2009.</font

    Published in: on October 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Reprise: God and Bandwagons  
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    The Loss Of A Dissenting Opinion


    Berkeley_glade_afternoonPolitically correct speech crept up on society, but it’s starting to take over. I don’t know how or when it gained such a stranglehold on Western culture, but its grip is tightening.

    I knew the climate on many universities has been opposed to open discourse for a long time. And of course laws have been passed about hate speech. Who could disagree that saying hateful things is wrong? But who defines “hateful things”?

    Apparently it’s “hateful” to disagree with the prevailing attitude of society. The odd thing is, the First Amendment specifically guarantees that a person has the right to voice a dissenting view, even when that view is contrary to public policy.

    Today no one seems concerned about upholding the First Amendment. It’s become much more important to stop people from speaking against prevailing attitudes.

    For example, though Donald Sterling was illegally taped in a private conversation, his remarks, deemed racist, earned him a lifetime ban by the NBA.

    When “the first openly gay football player” was drafted in the NFL and kissed his male partner with the cameras rolling, another athlete tweeted his negative reaction. The next day, after the media, soundly criticized him for his “insensitive” comments, he was made to apologize.

    When the tape of Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend became public, another well-known person expressed his view on Twitter about how he’d respond to someone, even a woman, hitting him. The next day, after being lambasted by the media, he also apologized.

    Of course these dissenting opinions involve things society, or the media which voices “accepted societal practice,” has determined to be right or wrong: gay relationships, racism, domestic violence. Hence, no dissenting opinion is allowed.

    I find this troubling! Even if a person is wrong, as they have been many times—see, for example, the burning of the American flag during the Vietnam era—the Constitution and the Supreme Court have supported their right to say what they believed (or to act out their view).

    Now it seems one publicly-funded school has decided that “sectarian” material, particularly books written by Christians or published by Christian publishers or about Christian subject matter, does not belong in their library. Most notably they have removed The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom about her experiences during World War II, including her involvement in hiding Jews from Nazis in the Netherlands, being betrayed, and ending up in a concentration camp.

    Yes, Corrie ten Boom was motivated by her Christianity, and she was comforted and counseled by the Bible in the concentration camp, so apparently those facts earned The Hiding Place the label of “sectarian.” Should this story prove to be true (so far, every article I’ve found derives its information from the press release of a single organization), it’s an appalling event, but completely consistent with the others which point to a decline of free expression of ideas—religious ones as well as controversial private ones or public ones that a powerful organization deems to be “offensive.”

    When, I wonder, will all Christian ideas be “offensive”?

    Of course there’s also the story about the Christian college campus ministry, InterVarsity, which was de-recognized by the California State University school system. Or how about the Florida college that ruled the same Christian organization couldn’t require Christians to lead the group.

    In all these instances, the common thread seems to be an unwillingness to allow groups or books or individuals to have a dissenting voice. We are no longer a society that encourages thought and reasoned discourse. Instead we slander those with whom we disagree.

    For instance, one site, AnnoyedLibrarian, in reporting the removal of The Hiding Place from the charter school’s library shelves had this to say:

    I was unfamiliar with Corrie ten Boom or her book The Hiding Place, but if the Wikipedia entries are accurate, it does seem like the book is pretty Christian. Supposedly, the entire time she and her sister were in a German concentration camp, they “used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus,” because not enough people had told the Jewish prisoners that they were wrong to be Jewish.

    And later, this:

    If The Hiding Place were actually removed from the library collection, it’s likely because the book wasn’t used at all. Unused books get cleared away to make room for something else.

    If you want to teach kids about the Holocaust, using the testimony of a Christian evangelist doesn’t make a lot of sense, so only teachers who wanted to evangelize their students would have used it, and most of them probably don’t teach in California charter schools.

    After all, there must be some other book that might help students learn about hiding Jews from Nazis during the war, maybe one whose main audience is broader than that of evangelical Christians, perhaps a book written by an actual Jewish person who was in fact hidden from the Nazis, and maybe she could be roughly the same age as the students who are learning about her, helping the students to identify with her more.

    There must be a book like that out there somewhere.

    The reference, I’m assuming, is to The Diary of Anne Frank, as if that one book is all that’s allowed to tell the story of Jews and their plight during World War II. As if the story of Christians motivated by their faith to do what is right at the risk of their lives is somehow less important or trivial or insignificant in light of the startling revelations of a coming of age teen.Alexander_Yakushev,_February_2012_reading_Pravda

    No, we are fast becoming a society which only wants uni-think. It reminds me of the old quip: “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” We don’t want debate because we have no intention of changing our minds. And we don’t want anyone else telling us we should change our minds.

    If debate dies, we might as well simply ask Pravda, uh, the Associated Press what it is we should think.

    Words Have Meaning, Or Do They?


    Deconstruction _ LEGO PhilosophyWords have meaning. Of course they do, or people would never be able to understand each other. If I say, Thanks for visiting my blog, no one is going to mistakenly think I’m saying you’ve stopped by my home. My blog address is one of my online locations, but it’s not where I reside physically. It doesn’t take any special level of language acumen to understand this.

    And yet we are living in a time in which the meaning of language is up for grabs. Postmodern philosophy has played a role in the deconstruction of language.

    Here’s a brief summary of what was and what is replacing it:

    Western philosophy is in this sense logocentrist, committed to the idea that words are capable of communicating unambiguously meanings that are present in the individuals mind.

    Words are capable of communicating unambiguously. Sounds similar to words have meanings.

    For the postmodern thinker, however, there’s deconstruction:

    deconstruction, a method of textual analysis . . . which by means of a series of highly controversial strategies seeks to reveal the inherent instability and indeterminacy of meaning. . . . Deconstruction is best approached as a form of radical scepticism and antifoundationalism. (quotes from “Postmodernism”)

    And why deconstruction?

    Postmodernists believe that people are trapped behind something in the attempt to get to the external world. However, for them the wall between people and reality is not composed of sensations as it was for Descartes; rather, it is constituted by one’s community and its linguistic categories and practices. One’s language serves as a sort of distorting and, indeed, creative filter. (from “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn”)

    If language is distorting reality, then it needs to be deconstructed.

    And so, we have a culture–Christians and non-Christians alike–that systematically goes about redefining words. I’ll mention some of the hot-button issues by way of illustration, not to make a point about them necessarily, other than to say, deconstruction is effective.

    First, the Mormon church has for years effectively deconstructed a number of terms from the Bible: Son of God, Father, atonement, redemption, salvation, and Christian to name a few. The apparent intent is to shake the identification of cult. Rather than trying to deconstruct the meaning of that word, Mormons instead have couched their doctrines in terminology that means something very different to Evangelical Christians than it does to Mormons.

    So in the Mormon community “Jesus Christ” refers to a god, not a member of the Trinity.

    Words have meanings, until someone deconstructs them.

    For centuries now here in the US, marriage has meant “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.” For the last fifteen, twenty years, however, this definition is being deconstructed. Consequently, same-sex relationships now claim marriage, though clearly the traditional definition contradicts the concept.

    Other words have undergone a similar deconstruction: the concept of glorifying God, for example, and even the meaning of worship.

    Most recently “natural” took a hit in order to explain away Romans 1:26-27. The thinking of the author of a recently published book roughly states that God said in Genesis, it is not good for Man to be alone. God then saw there was not a fitting partner for Man, so He gave him one.

    For the gay man, the only fitting partner is another man, so this means what is natural for him is a male partner, not a female partner. Therefore when he is joined in “marriage” to his partner, that is good in the same way that Adam and Eve’s union was good.

    Extrapolate that then to the Romans passage and you see that in reality for the gay person, same sex activity actually is what is natural.

    I undoubtedly have mangled the explanation, but it serves as a good illustration. According to postmodernism, language takes on meaning from within a culture or community. So within the gay community, “natural” has come to mean the opposite of what it means to the rest of society. Or should I say, what it had meant to the rest of society.

    The thing is, words actually do have meaning, so society at large either accepts the deconstruction of marriage and natural and Christian or it rejects those re-definitions.

    If it accepts them, then the words will have come to mean a new thing.

    Living languages, in fact, do change the meanings of words, so there’s no shock there. But the fact is, this manner of deconstructing language seems to carry with it intention. It would seem there are those who wish to a) destabilize culture and/or b) reverse meanings.

    What I find so fascinating in all this is that the Bible told us we’d be right where we are:

    Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
    Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
    Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

    The Case For Independent Thinking


    press_conferenceIn the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell, the province of Oceanian, operating under the direction of Big Brother, is perpetually at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. At any moment, however, the government could make peace with the enemy and declare war on the former ally.

    The unique aspect of this reversal was that the government would alter history to appear as if they had always been friends with country X and had always been enemies of country Y. The public, then, who had been fervently opposed to Eastasia one day, became fervently opposed to Eurasia the next. No one seemed to notice that what they had believed to be true, what they had rallied to support, had been altered.

    In essence, they did what they were told and believed what their government fed them.

    This same kind of mindlessness is a trait in the dystopian Safe Lands society created by Jill Williamson in her novel Captives. There, two media personalities hold sway over the population, dictating fads and trends that change over night for no reason other than the whims of the celebrities.

    Sadly, real life seems to be imitating fiction. More and more, celebrities are telling the public how to live and what to value while government is telling its citizens how to think and what to think, with the media creating the illusion that “this is the way everyone thinks” or “this is what is right.”

    Smoking has been banned in many places (here in California, in most places); bicyclists must wear helmets and motorists, seat belts; infants must be in car seats; and all of us are now supposed to purchase health insurance. In some parts of our state, plastic grocery bags have been banned, and in New York, giant-sized soda was forbidden. All these rules and regulations are in place because government needs to do our thinking for us, apparently.

    Further, the politically liberal faction accuses political conservatives of mindlessly following certain talk radio personalities who tell them what to think. On the other hand, here in California, the labor union bosses are known to tell their members exactly how to vote on every issue and for each candidate.

    Worse, lobbyists now tell Congressmen how to vote on bills they haven’t read.

    And no one seems to notice!

    Every time the government passes some silly law, I think, do they seriously believe we can’t reason for ourselves? But then I hear people I know, educated people, parroting some kind of nonsense that’s circulated through a media source, and I slap my head. Are we so conditioned that we are losing our ability for independent thought?

    I was raised in an era that taught school children how to recognize brainwashing. Now I see those same techniques coming out of the White House and state house and out of our TV commercials.

    Apparently we have become a society of consumers, and every business, political entity, cause, or organization sees people as buyers to whom they must sell. “We need to sell people on the idea that . . . ” seems to have replaced, “This is the right thing to do.”

    So here’s my plea for independent thinking:

    1. It’s Biblical. Scripture says to test the spirits to see if they are from God or from false prophets. (1 John 4:1) Jesus said “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matt. 24:4) and Paul said, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). And those same Thessalonians were commended in Acts for “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Surely, thinking things out doesn’t stop with “spiritual things,” does it? Shouldn’t our whole lives be about integrating God and His word and way into all we do?

    2. It’s necessary. On occasion when I was young, I’d try to talk my mom into something she’d forbidden by saying, everyone’s doing it. She wisely pointed out the weakness of that argument: if everyone jumps off a cliff, would you jump too? Eventually I got the point.

    3. It’s wise. Doing anything without thinking is not wise. Letting someone else do your thinking for you is even less wise. This week I saw a segment of the program Lookout that featured a crook masquerading as a church financial investment counselor–or some such position. In fact, he bilked church people of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme. How? People let someone else do their thinking for them.

    4. It’s responsible. In theory children listen to their parents and do what they’re told. The adults in their lives know what’s best. However, at some point, it’s time to grow up. It’s time for those children to take charge of their own lives. If they simply trade off their parents for some other group or organization or “role model,” they haven’t truly grown up. Sure, adults are still influenced by others, but we alone bear the responsibility for our decisions. Anyone still mindlessly going along with the crowd or the political party or the way the culture is doing things is immature, not having learned yet to take on the responsibilities of an adult.

    I’m sure there are other valid reasons we should cultivate independent thinking. What am I missing, or am I tilting after windmills?

    Discernment 101 Revisited


    About the time you think it’s safe to return to the water, it isn’t. So, too, with reading and going to movies and watching TV. Well, pretty much everything related to culture. Western society has largely spurned its Christian underpinnings, requiring those of us who still cling to the Solid Rock to think carefully about what our minds dwell on lest we also get washed away at sea.

    Mormonism is one example of this need. Are they a cult or are they Christian? Another is the murky theology of those who are “progressives” or who identify as “emergent.”

    A year and a half ago we had the over-hyped discourse Love Wins by Rob Bell with its ideas that there is no hell and all will eventually make their way into God’s presence in the after life.

    Before that we had Paul Young’s controversial, rambling theological discourse disguised as fiction, The Shack, which, among other things, cast aspersions on the Bible and suggested universalism.

    Now we’re at the threshold of another similar “story,” complete with media hype. Mr. Young has just released Cross Roads and has begun a book tour, complete with book signings, an appearance on The Today Show, and an interview with People magazine.

    Have I read this book or know its theological content? I don’t.

    I’m also not aware that Mr. Young has re-examined or changed any of his erroneous beliefs peppered throughout The Shack. Consequently, when we see a book on the horizon that may contain ideas contrary to Scripture (most books) and yet purports to be Christian, we as Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ need to keep in mind some basic principles of discernment.

    • The Bible is the ultimate authority of what is True. We need to examine the things we read and hear and see to determine if they are so or if they come from someone’s fabrication of God and His way.
    • Because someone is friendly and encouraging or is a good speaker or is entertaining or . . . ad infinitum, does not increase the likelihood that they are telling the truth.
    • That someone claims Christ is no guarantee their story will reflect Christ truthfully.
    • Christians are admonished to test the spirits to see if these things are so.

    “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

    • False teaching abounds which should make Christians more alert, not more reclusive.
    • Legalism is not the same thing as discernment.

    What are your thoughts about discernment? What else should be included in a list of basic principles to keep in mind if we are to be discerning about our culture?

    You might also want to read the first “Discernment 101” post written three years ago.