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Humanity is Basically Good?

In the wake of the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon spectators, people are struggling to make sense of the world. Or, more accurately, they’re trying to reassure themselves of their worldview. Trying to convince themselves of the basic goodness of humanity. Attacks like this are rare in the US. But in other parts of the world, they are a way of life. And in other parts of the world, daily life is a horror that we in the West can hardly fathom.

In fact, the human story is one of brutality, injustice, and suffering. Insulated by the now waning benefits of a Judeo-Christian value system, the world is once again closing in…and even then it has only been held back briefly and barely at arms length. Yes, many displayed virtue in helping out those injured. I was impressed at how quickly people ran towards the blast to help the injured. And yet in the same week I read a story about a man in India. His wife and 8 month old child lie dead in the street as he begged passing motorists for help. None of whom stopped.  Why did people render aid in Boston, but not there?  Worldviews matter. And we still have the remnants of a society whose worldview compels us to render aid.

Most assure themselves that the “good people outnumber the bad.” But history demonstrates that goodness and peace is an anomaly. Christian Theology perfectly explains why the world is the way it is, though the why’s of any individual situation may be obscured. The larger why is sin. Deny sin, and the world will leave you constantly scrambling to explain…or explain away…in order to make sense of things.

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin–a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R.J.Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

-G.K. Chesterton

 

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Taking Liberal Pro-LGBT Theology for a Test Drive

The writer over at Eternity Matters take pro-homosexual theology for a test drive:

People who hold to pro-gay theology* (i.e., God doesn’t consider it a sin and that he approves of “same-sex marriage”) use all sorts of fallacious arguments to make their case.  In this post I am taking the pro-gay theological reasoning out for a test drive, so to speak, to see how it applies to other passages.  After all, if their principles are sound they should work in other situations as well.

Ideas have consequences. Anyone who is concerned about truth should be concerned with being consistent. Unfortunately, it’s most often not the case. But this is one test for whether or not an idea is sound. Does it make sense in contexts where the logic carries over?

It’s a good read. You can check it out here [link].

Saturday Link Roundup for 4/6/13

How Environmentalism Harms the Poor [link] (HT: The Acton Institute PowerBlog)

A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is not this earth but God. The earth and its development by man are themselves the arena in which the drama of each person’s relation to God could be and is worked out. It is also true that this “working out” concerns one’s neighbor and man’s relation to fellow man.

Environmentalism is the secular perversion of the Christian idea of stewardship. This is ultimately a worldview conflict.

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First World Problems (HT: Acton Institute PowerBlog)

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A Harvard University student explains how evidence changed her mind about God  [link] (HT: Wintery Knight)

A good article on how an atheist became a Christian via apologetics at Harvard University.

I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.

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Have a great weekend!

Annihilationism, Continuity, and The Cross

Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins.  “Pay” is a good word to use for it– even the writers of the New Testament use accounting language to describe what took place. In fact, when Jesus cried “It is finished” the word he used was “tetelestai.” That’s an accounting term that means, “paid in full.”  When ancient Greeks finished a business transaction, the account would have that word written on it. In this case, it was a divine transaction where we take on His righteousness and Christ takes on our sin.

If the penalty for our sins was annihilation instead of torment, then Christ would have to have been annihilated in order to pay for them. But he wasn’t annihilated, He was tormented. He endured a conscious awareness of his pain and separation from the Father…which is a good description He gives elsewhere of the fate those who die in their sins without his provision. [Luke 16]

Furthermore, it would be impossible to first exist, then be truly annihilated, and then return, as there would be no continuity of existence. That is, something that ceases to exist cannot return. It’s gone. The only thing that could “return” would be a copy, not the original. Otherwise the thing, or person, wouldn’t have been truly annihilated.

If I am right on this, it’s another reason to reject annihilationism.

The Truth About Peer Review

This just in: Peer reviewed journal articles are not immune from human nature.

If you spend any time familiarizing yourself with the latest scientific study, then sooner or later the issue of peer review pops up. Especially any time you raise an up an idea contrary to the holy church of neo-Darwinian evolution.

The crucible of peer review is intended to be a way to weed out bad or questionable or unclear conclusions about the world we live in.

Which would be great if time and money were unlimited and politics and bias were nonexistent. But that simply isn’t the case, as this article by Denise O’Leary on the truth behind peer review points out.

Miracles and the Bible

To believe the Bible gives an accurate account of history is not to believe in impossible tales of talking snakes, dead men getting up and walking around, nor men standing in furnaces and not burning.  Instead it is to believe in certain agents that have control over matter who manipulate it at times for certain purposes.  Snakes do not talk, but they can be made to appear to.  Dead men to not walk, but in principle God could raise them to life again.  And of course, fire burns unless prevented from doing so.   The biblical accounts of the miraculous are the accounts of agents at work, not nature violating its own rules.

Thursday with Chesterton: The Heretics and the Lamp-post

Thursday is a good day for Chesterton:

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the  monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

-G.K. Chesterton – Heretics

The Fairytale Universe

I have had moments when thinking about eternity and God and heaven when the complete “otherness” and strangeness of it hits me.  Not strangeness in the sense that I disbelieve it, but in that it’s all so different than anything I have experienced.  I understand why an unbeliever would call it a fairytale.

But then I think of the fairytale I’m living in now.

I didn’t exist, and then I did – just like the universe itself.  We move bodies of matter through space with our minds.  Space?  What is that anyway?  Or matter, for that matter? And don’t get me started on “time.”  (A theory/B theory anyone?)

Then there’s gravity, and energy, and magnetism.  Why, it’s practically… magical.

Humanity started out with the earth.  There we were, marooned in the universe on a rocky green and blue island in space with nothing but rocks, trees, grass, and the duck-billed platypus.  And then there we are on the moon.  THE MOON, PEOPLE!  We built devices and dropped them on Mars and Titan, flew by Neptune and taken pictures of galaxies as numerous as the stars in our sky.

Through math we know the orbit of every planet in our solar system 1000 years in the past, and a 1000 years in the future.  In other words, we have been given a tiny piece of information about the future.  What is this prophet we call math? Using numbers to understand the skies?  It sounds too amazing to be believed.

Our problem isn’t that spiritual realities are unbelievable, it’s that we have taken the material reality for granted.

 

 

Algorithms as Gatekeepers: Filter Bubbles

This is a very eye-opening talk by Eli Pariser (who I don’t know anything about other than he gave this talk) on what he calls “filter bubbles.”  It’s what happens as more and more sites try to tailor what content is delivered to any given user and is based on what they’ve clicked on, put as status updates and the like.  The result is that from Google to Facebook to Yahoo! News, we’re fed information that we already agree with (or that the sites think we agree with) and we encounter dissenting opinions and ideas less and less.

It’s a relatively short talk and worth the time.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

How does this affect people’s perceptions of religion, politics, and current events?  How is it shaping our worldviews?

 

Facebook Statuses, Perceptions, and Responsiblity

Last year I met Mark.

Mark and I hit it off great.  He just started teaching high school and I did that for a couple years, so we traded war stories.  For a whole afternoon we shared tales and complained about the ridiculousness that can be public education.

Later in the week I got a Facebook friend request from him and accepted it.  Why wouldn’t I?

Then I learned that for him Facebook was an outlet where he poured out his utter contempt of all things religious and conservative.  Every sardonic post was heavy with disdain for those ignorant morons who did not share his view.  They hate science.  They hate gays.  They hate reason.  They hate women.  They hate…they hate…they hate.  With as much bile, sarcasm and mockery that one could muster he decried the “hate” of those who differed with him.

I didn’t mind.  I have no problem with people who have strong opinions that differ from mine.  Even when they hatefully accuse those who share my views as ignorant, stupid, and…um…hateful.

But then I realized something.  After a few months, whenever I thought of Mark I didn’t think of that guy that had a great conversation with me.  I thought solely of his Facebook rants.  Facebook, and the way he used it, were altering my perception.  I began to have this image of a hate-filled, belligerent Mark.  Filled with rage and mockery.  Why would I want to ever be friends with a guy like that?

Even though he may feel this strongly about certain issues, they do not encapsulate his personality.  Yes, they are part of him…and I disagree with him on these issues profoundly.  But Facebook was reducing him to a characture of himself.

So I hid his updates.

I have to date, hidden a few people for the same reason.  Not because I disagree with them, but because I realized Facebook statuses were replacing their personalities as mental icons.  And that’s not really the way they are.

I’m learning that social media not only requires wisdom in representing yourself accurately, but also in what you read.  Our perceptions are easily skewed.