Archive for November, 2010

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Rewriting The Ten Commandments

Monday, November 29th, 2010

On a radio talk show, the host was discussing a court case that involved a Ten Commandments display where a plaintiff, backed by the ACLU, was demanding that the display be removed. A woman calling in to the program told the host that she agrees with the plaintiff that the Ten Commandments have no business in a public place. Furthermore, she was offended by the idea of the Ten Commandments being used as a means of “forcing religion and morality down her throat.” The show’s host, who feels that the display should remain in place, asked the caller a series of questions. He said to her, “Would you be angry if you found out that your husband was cheating on you?” She replied, “You’d better believe it!” The host responded, “So, you really do think that adultery is wrong.” He asked her another question. “Would it upset you if someone deliberately misled you regarding a product or service that you purchased?” The caller said, “Of course” to which the host responded, “So, you really do think that lying is wrong.” Using one real-life example after another, he went right down the list explaining to the caller that she’s contradicting herself when she claims that she is “offended” by the Ten Commandments or that she can “live without them”. She had just admitted through her answers that she personally benefits from and desperately needs the Ten Commandments as a restraining force in society to keep others from doing harm to her.

It’s bad enough that there are groups and individuals today who try to deny the Ten Commandments and who relentlessly pursue the removal of them from public life. But it doesn’t end there. They take it to the next level by trying to replace God’s Law by establishing “ten commandments” of their own choosing. This is becoming more apparent with every conversation that I have with the average person on the street. For example, if I was discussing the topic of same-sex marriage with someone and if I was arguing against it and the other person was arguing for it, I have no doubt that at some point in the conversation the other person would insist that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is discrimination. If I were to ask this person if they believe that discrimination is wrong, I’m sure they would say, “Yes. It’s wrong to discriminate.” This, of course, leads to a follow-up question. When they say that discrimination is “wrong”, what do they mean by that? Do they mean that it’s only wrong for them, or are they saying that it’s wrong for everyone? Obviously, they’re trying to say that discrimination is wrong for everyone.

Here’s my point. Why is it that when I say, for example, that adultery is wrong, others are quick to tell me that it’s only “wrong” for me and that I shouldn’t “force my morality on anyone else.” Yet, when it comes to something that they feel is wrong, such as intolerance, they don’t seem to mind forcing their morality on everyone by insisting that intolerance is wrong for everyone. Do you see what’s going on here? Those who are opposed to the Ten Commandments are trying to remove God’s Law from public life, insisting that there are no moral absolutes. But then they try to replace them by setting up moral absolutes of their own- “Thou shalt not be intolerant.” “Thou shalt not commit hate speech.” “Thou shalt not discriminate.” Again, it’s important to understand that these “counterfeit commandments” are being treated by today’s culture as if they are moral absolutes, written in stone!

The very fact that those who reject God’s Law feel the need to replace them with a different set of moral absolutes bears testimony to the fact that no society can survive for very long without a solid moral foundation. The only question that remains is, which moral foundation provides the best foundation for a stable society? We must either choose a foundation based on arbitrary rules that are derived from man’s shifting opinions that vary from person to person, or else we must base it on the Commandments given to us by our Creator, which have proven trustworthy throughout history. Just in case anyone has any serious doubts as to the answer to that question, all they need to do is ask the woman who called in to the radio talk show that day.

Posted in Christianity and Culture | 1 Comment »

“If You Don’t Like It, You Don’t Have To Look At It”- An Argument That Deserves To Be Challenged

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Dr. Francis Beckwith is a Christian philosopher, author, scholar, debater, and lecturer.  He is currently a professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University.  Dr Beckwith’s credentials and accomplishments (which are too numerous to list here) include such books as “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air”, a devastating critique of moral relativism which he coauthored with Greg Koukl in 1998.  In addition to his tremendous knowledge and insight, one of the things that makes Frank Beckwith such an engaging speaker is his dry wit and his uncanny ability to detect and expose a flaw in his opponent’s arguments during a debate.  One afternoon I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Beckwith live as he was speaking on the topic of moral relativism.  At one point, he related a story about an experience he had while sitting on a panel that was debating the issue of pornography.  Dr Beckwith had put forth several arguments to make the case that pornography has been a tragic, destructive force in our culture, leaving countless lives and relationships confused and broken in its wake.  A woman on the panel who sought to defend the porn industry tried to shut down Frank’s comments by saying, “Well, Dr. Beckwith, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it.”  Not to be outdone, Frank immediately shot back, “What makes you think that I wouldn’t like it?  The fact of the matter is that I probably WOULD like it!  That’s the problem with pornography.  That’s what makes it so powerfully deceptive, addictive, and destructive.”  Dr. Beckwith is absolutely right.  When wrestling with social and moral issues, we cannot and must not base our decisions on whether or not we “like” something, because it is oftentimes the very things that we like that turn out to be our greatest downfall.

Still, there’s another problem with the argument that says, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it” (or any variations of it such as, “You have a remote control- use it”).  The argument is built on the false assumption that if I leave it alone (porn or offensive music, movies, or TV shows), it will leave me alone.  Supposedly, if I choose to avoid such things, my life will not be impacted by them in any way.  That’s the claim, but nothing could be further from the truth.  A case in point- I once heard a family give a heartbreaking testimony to the fact that even though pornography had never been allowed in their home, they still ended up paying the consequences of it.  Apparently, a young boy who lived down the street from them had been viewing pornographic magazines that someone had discarded.  Eventually, he found an opportunity to live out his fantasies by molesting their little girl.  The point is, even IF I “use my remote” and avoid certain movies, music, and publications, the fact remains that all of those things will continue to have an enormous impact in shaping our culture which, in turn, directly impacts my friends, family, and loved ones.

One final thought.  I can’t help but notice that those who use this argument are not consistent in how they apply it.  For example, as I look back over the past several years, I could cite numerous cases where an individual or a small group of people have

complained that they were “offended” by a public prayer, a Cross, or a Ten Commandments display that has been in place for many, many generations.  And so, as a result of one person being offended by it,  the majority ends up giving in to his demands by removing it.  And yet, when thousands of people speak out against something that they find deeply offensive, this same person will respond to them by saying, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it.”  It’s just one more reminder that those who are quick to give such advice are oftentimes unwilling to follow it themselves when it comes to that which they find offensive.

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Filling in the Gaps

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Earlier this year I needed several repairs done around the house, so I hired a guy to do the work because I knew that he had the skills to do a great job and get it done much more quickly than I could.  Upon completion, he took me outside to point out a concern that he had regarding the new lighting fixture that he had just installed on the exterior.  Apparently, some wasps had managed to squeeze through a gap between the old fixture and the stucco on the wall and had built a small nest in there.  He suggested that a bead of caulking around the new fixture would fill in the gap, preventing this from happening again- and he was right.

Filling in the gaps is always a good idea when it comes to construction.  What isn’t such a good idea is when we try to use God as a “gap-filler”.  Unfortunately, that’s what many Christians are doing today.  That is, they are trying to use God like a tube of caulking to “fill in the gaps” when it comes to knowledge.  In other words, any time they come across something that they don’t understand, rather than trying to understand more about it through careful investigation, they just fill in the unknown by saying, “God did it.”  If you were to ask them where the universe came from, they would say, “God did it,” without offering any further details.  How did life begin?  God did it.  How did biological systems come about?  God did it.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  In principle, I wholeheartedly agree with them that God did it.  My concern in offering such a simplistic answer is really two-fold.  For one thing, such an answer perpetuates the myth that faith is a “blind leap into the dark” that needs no justification behind it.  (That, by the way, is not a Biblical view of faith).  Secondly, I’m concerned that most people who say that God did it are not saying this as a result of careful, critical thinking.  Rather, they say it out of convenience because they really don’t know what else to say, nor do they feel that it’s worth their time or effort to investigate the issue more fully.

Sad to say, it is this lack of intellectual rigor and discipline on the part of many Christians that draws so much fire from some of the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins.  On more than one occasion, Dawkins has expressed a real disgust for Christians who simply reply in a dismissive sort of way that God did it.  This is one of the reasons that Dawkins and others have arrived at the false conclusion that ALL Christians are content with such shallow answers.  They assume that Christians have no desire to pursue the sciences in order to gain more of an understanding of such issues through careful study and through the discipline of hard, mental work.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a guy who described himself as a “skeptic”.  In an attempt to understand my view a little better, he asked me if I was one of “those people” who tries to use God as a way of explaining something that I don’t understand.  I assured him that I’m not taking that approach at all.  I went on to explain that the reason I’m offering God as an explanation is because the evidence we see around us points directly to God as the best explanation.  Out of all of the competing explanations, God is the most plausible explanation for the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, the information content of DNA, the irreducible complexity of biological systems, and so on.

I mentioned earlier that Dawkins and other well-known atheists abhor anyone who uses the “God of the gaps” to explain that which they don’t understand.  The irony in all of this is that for all of their ridicule, Dawkins and others like him often rely on a “gap-filler” of their own, namely evolution.  If you were to ask Dawkins how the universe came to be, he would say (in effect), “Evolution did it.”  How did life begin?  Dawkins would say, “We’re not sure- but we are sure that evolution did it!”  Where did consciousness come from?  Evolution did it.  How do we explain love?  Evolution did it.  Where did morality come from?  Evolution did it.  So, whether he wants to admit it or not, it seems that Dawkins has a “god of the gaps” of his own-  except in this case, Dawkins’ “god” turns out to be time and chance.

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.