Friday, November 30, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 21: Answering to the problems of rage addiction, the blame game, consequential self-justifying warped judgement and resulting closed mindedness

It has long been rightly said that rage is a blinding emotion that can make us lash out impulsively and foolishly. 

Put another way: rage, blame projection and self-justified revenge -- as opposed to justice and reconciliation -- are seductively sweet and addictive, but often carry a bitter aftertaste of consequences indeed.

Unfortunately, in today's world, rage and self-justifying blame projection are too often in the driving seat of our thinking, speaking and acting. (A point, sadly, brought home to me as I looked at comments by Ms Johnson I had to analyse yesterday, and as I saw her attempted, predictably distractive and dismissive retort.)

That means, however, that if we are going about the cure of souls, we must be able to give a good answer that allows the willing to lance and drain the abscess of rage before it induces spiritual blood poisoning. 

To do so, we will need to refer to the planks and sawdust in eyes, saw-pit principle:

A saw-pit in action, making planks
Matt 7: 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. [ESV]
 The idea here is that it is all too easy to lose sight of what it is like to be down in the saw-pit, with sawdust raining down. Especially, if the job is being done on your clock. But, to fail to put oneself down in the saw-pit is to get the whole log in one's eye.

 So, the lesson here is that of empathy, learning to see things the way they appear to the other. (The same, that is exploited in the statement of the Golden Rule that would follow a few verses further on: "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." v. 12.)

Once we have empathy, an awareness of the logs in our own eyes and some practice in moral eye-surgery on ourselves, we are in a very different position, in respect of helping others with their own challenges.

How does that relate to our world today, beyond the obvious, personal level?

A good place to begin is the global level, where it is now commonplace to think we live in a wicked white man's world and that almost anything in response to these blue- eyed- devils in the guise of human flesh is justified. After all, they are to blame for slavery and colonialism, apartheid and the plight of the Palestinians. Not to mention, our own troubles.

A man is not a bird to be driven to jump from
a building as the alternative to being burned alive
Hence, the ugly situation where some people in the Caribbean were seen to be applauding the mass murder-based Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Something is wrong. 

Seriously wrong, when we find ourselves applauding mass murder based on taking ordinary people going about the ordinary business of life hostage in civil aircraft and using these planes as cruise missiles to target other ordinary people going about their work in office buildings. Murdering thousands, and putting tens of thousands at risk. Not to mention, nearly crashing the global economy, potentially putting billions at hardship.

Soberingly wrong.

Especially, when it can be shown (cf details here and here) that the IslamIST terrorists involved are actually themselves serving a totalitarian global conquest agenda that would reduce us under a subjugation as dhimmis that would actually be worse than Apartheid.

A 100-year global conquest IslamIST agenda
Jumping from the frying pan into the fire is not a wise thing to do.

Now, about twenty years ago, the Jewish historian -- it's important to know that -- Bernard Lewis, in his epochal essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage, tellingly noted:
. . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty -- not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . .
In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.
 These playing-field levelling words are at once balancing and sobering. For, indeed, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . "
Consequently, the underlying theme for this blog post is that under God we must face our common guilt, repent, seek renewal, revival and reformation, make moral progress across time, stumbling though it will be at any given point.  So also, we must expect a mixed bag of moral achievement at any point in the past, and in our present. 

As the reformers of half a millennium ago said of their work, the people of God are always under reformation -- and so (if we are wise) we must carefully build in an openness to correction and growth in light of firmly established core principles into our lives, institutions and the wider civilisation we are a part of.

 The slavery case that Lewis highlighted is particularly significant, as it is the one that leads ever so many to think that once the issue of race is injected, they need pay no further attention, they can dismiss those they disagree with as blue-eyed devils, or else as race-traitors.  And, who needs to listen to devils in the flesh or race traitors serving devils in the flesh?

This brings out, of course, the deceptive power of the trifecta combination fallacy: 
STEP 1: drag a smelly, distractive red herring across a track of thought headed in an inconvenient direction, leading it out to

STEP 2: a conveniently set up strawman distortion of persons and issues, then

STEP 3: soak in ad hominems [--> attacks to the man] and ignite with snide or outright incendiary attacks, creating a confusing, choking, toxic and polarising cloud of rhetorical smoke that triggers a blind fight and allows one to escape behind the cover of the smoke.
But they are blue-eyed devils!

Moreso than we ourselves can be, though our eyes are usually brown?

In short, let us realise that we too can go wrong and can justify ourselves in wickedness beyond belief that serves our perceived interests. For instance, how else can we explain a situation where in the Caribbean we now have several territories with murder rates that are among the highest in the world?

Let us think again.

And in so doing, we may find it helpful to ponder (and yes, I held back the link yesterday) what
>>. . .  we may read in The Oxford History of the Roman World,  [a work that is in other contexts not particularly sympathetic to the Christian view or claims; even by contrast with, say, sympathy to the rampant homosexuality in the ancient pagan Mediterranean world], under the sub-heading "The Church and the End of the Ancient World," on p. 471, that:

. . . there were questions about [Christian] compromise with the political and social system. Gregory of Nyssa boldly attacked the institution of slavery. Augustine thought the domination of man over his neighbour an inherent wrong, but saw no way of ending it and concluded that, since the ordering of society prevented the misery of anarchic disintegration, slavery was both a consequence of the fall of man and at the same time a wrong that providence prevented from being wholly harmful. Slaves were not a very large proportion of the ancient labour force, since the cost of a slave to his owner exceeded that of employing free wage-labourers. Slaves in a good household with a reasonable master enjoyed a security and standard of living that seldom came the way of free wage labourers. But not all slaves had good masters, and in special cases the bishops used the church chest to pay the cost of emancipation. Refusal on moral grounds to own slaves became a rule for monasteries. [Henry Chadwick, "Envoi: On taking Leave of Antiquity," in The Oxford History of the Roman World, Eds. Boardman, Griffin & Murray, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press paperback, 1991), p. 471. Links added. NB: In the very next paragraph, the contributor goes on to discuss how the church also deeply disapproved of capital punishment [which in many cases of course would be by the utterly degrading death on the cross, and which would thus sharply contrast with Paul's remarks on the magistrates' power of the sword in Rom 13:1 - 7] and judicial torture. Indeed, he notes that "[a] Roman church-order of about 200 forbids a Christian magistrate to order an execution on pain of excommunication. No Christian layman could tolerably bring a charge against anyone if the penalty might be execution or a beating with lead-weighted leather thongs . . . Torture forced so many innocent people to confess to crimes they had not committed that the Christian hatred of it commanded wide assent . . ."  In short, the picture is far more complex than we might have thought.]
Thus, plainly, there is a longstanding serious question about the basic morality of slavery and similar institutions in the Biblical and historical contexts of the church from the C1 on, and the response to the status quo across the ages reflected an uneasy compromise with severe reservations by leading Christian thinkers, including no less a light than Augustine of Hippo. 
Then, in recent centuries, once democratising and reforming forces gained enough momentum to make a difference in the balance of power in relevant societies, a powerful [--> and eventually successful, but we must never fool ourselves that he success was easy or predictable . . . ], Christian-based antislavery movement emerged. 
The case of the American Founding is very important, for both negative and positive reasons; as Stephen McDowell (2003) aptly observes here:
America's Founding Fathers are seen by some people today as unjust and hypocrites, for while they talked of liberty and equality, they at the same time were enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans. Some allege that the Founders bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery. Consequently, many today have little respect for the Founders and turn their ear from listening to anything they may have to say. And, in their view, to speak of America as founded as a Christian nation is unthinkable (for how could a Christian nation tolerate slavery?) . . . . 
America's Founders were predominantly Christians and had a Biblical worldview. If that was so, some say, how could they allow slavery, for isn't slavery sin? As the Bible reveals to man what is sin, we need to examine what it has to say about slavery . . . . 
The Bible teaches that slavery, in one form or another (including spiritual, mental, and physical), is always the fruit of disobedience to God and His law/word. (This is not to say that the enslavement of any one person, or group of people, is due to their sin, for many have been enslaved unjustly, like Joseph and numerous Christians throughout history.) Personal and civil liberty is the result of applying the truth of the Scriptures. As a person or nation more fully applies the principles of Christianity, there will be increasing freedom in every realm of life. Sanctification for a person, or nation, is a gradual process. The fruit of changed thinking and action, which comes from rooting sin out of our lives, may take time to see. This certainly applies historically in removing slavery from the Christian world . . . .

Some people suggest today that all early Americans must have been despicable to allow such an evil as slavery. They say early America should be judged as evil and sinful, and anything they have to say should be discounted. But if we were to judge modern America by this same standard, it would be far more wicked - we are not merely enslaving people, but we are murdering tens of millions of innocent unborn children through abortion. These people claim that they would not have allowed slavery if they were alive then. They would speak out and take any measures necessary. But where is their outcry and action to end slavery in the Sudan today? (And slavery there is much worse than that in early America.)
Some say we should not listen to the Founders of America because they owned slaves, or at least allowed slavery to exist in the society. However, if we were to cut ourselves off from the history of nations that had slavery in the past we would have to have nothing to do with any people because almost every society has had slavery, including African Americans, for many African societies sold slaves to the Europeans; and up to ten percent of blacks in America owned slaves . . . . [Moreover] after independence the American Founders actually took steps to end slavery. Some could have done more, but as a whole they probably did more than any group of national leaders up until that time in history to deal with the evil of slavery. They took steps toward liberty for the enslaved and believed that the gradual march of liberty would continue, ultimately resulting in the complete death of slavery. The ideas they infused in the foundational civil documents upon which America was founded - such as Creator endowed rights and the equality of all men before the law - eventually prevailed and slavery was abolished. But not without great difficulty because the generations that followed failed to carry out the gradual abolition of slavery in America.
[Kindly, read the whole article . . . ]
As can be seen from the relevant history -- including the text of the US Constitution [Art I Sect 9 parag. 1] -- the first effective target of that movement was the Atlantic Slave trade, then (especially in Britain) amelioration of terms and conditions of slavery, then finally when it became clear that the abuses and corruption inherent to the system were incorrigible and utterly at war with the Christian conscience, the struggle moved on to the difficult and perhaps impossible agenda: abolition. (We should not ever make the mistake of looking back and reading from the fact of eventual success, that this was foreseeable as an inevitable and obvious outcome of the mere balance of forces at work at the time! Also, given how deeply blind we can be to moral objections to our interests, we should also remember how hard it is to learn how to see what is now "obvious" to those who are not so blinded.)  
Moreover, we can see that the modern antislavery movement started from the logical first point of attack -- the utterly indefensible practice of kidnapping and transporting human beings into servitude under horrendous conditions.  For, such a target had some prospects of success, even in the teeth of how strongly Naval and commercial power were tied to that horrible trade. The reason was simple: there is simply no biblical or moral defense for "Those pirates, yes, they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ships . . ." and the resulting utterly corrupting and abusive chattel slavery imposed on our ancestors by the Europeans (who had the merchant ships) and the Africans, Berbers and Arabs who carried out so much of the kidnapping and selling in Africa.
These insights in turn easily explain the reluctance of the British West Indian planters to encourage missionary work, literacy and Bible reading among their slaves; and also their hostility and suspicion towards the dissenter missionaries who pursued just these objectives. But, greed for super-profits plainly blinded the traders to the serious moral and biblical issues at stake. So, instead of creating an indentured labour system, which the OT tolerates and regulates (and which was how for instance the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts), the Europeans resorted to plantation chattel slavery and racism, backed up by unjust laws passed in the interests of the powerful. Then, they suppressed, ignored or twisted the scriptures and persecuted those who protested, to silence their uneasy consciences. 
Though, it should be noted that many who found themselves trapped as owners of slaves, had the integrity to still object to the system; in particular including the hopelessly indebted Jefferson, author of the US DOI of 1776. As McDowell notes, abolitionist and sixth US President John Quincy Adams observed on July 4th 1837:
The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. Such was the undoubting conviction of Jefferson to his dying day. In the Memoir of His Life, written at the age of seventy-seven, he gave to his countrymen the solemn and emphatic warning that the day was not distant when they must hear and adopt the general emancipation of their slaves. “Nothing is more certainly written,” said he, “in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free.”
Thank God, many dissenting Christians dared to stand up stoutly for the liberating truths of the gospel in England, in America and -- starting with black American Missionary George Liele, who came to Jamaica in 1783 as a refugee fleeing re-enslavement -- here in the Caribbean. Fifty-one years after that date, "the Monster" was dead. Then through an endowment from the people of God in Britain, a network of free villages was formed, starting the process of economic liberation. And, within five years of "full free" in 1838, a hundred Caribbean Missionaries went to West Africa -- the land of our ancestors -- with the gospel.>> 
Clearly, professor Lewis -- a member of a minority that has repeatedly suffered brutally at the hands of the West's power brokers for more than 2,000 years -- has a sobering point. 

Perhaps, we can now begin to find the maturity to respond as he has done.

I think we also need to begin to heed the counsel of Jesus about planks and sawdust in eyes, and we may find it useful to look at rage and self-justifying projection as addictive, destructive attitudinal habits that need the twelve-step recovery process treatment. END

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 20: Angeline Jackson vs Piero Tozzi -- A case study on how warped "rights" and "black consciousness" thought joined to Saul Alinsky tactics has become a gateway for the dechristianising tidal wave in the Caribbean

{NB: Some follow-up remarks are here,
particularly on the appeal to rage}

Caribbean communicator, journalist and philosopher, Billy Hall, is known for a favourite saying that "one slice of the cake has in it all the ingredients."

That is why, though international human rights lawyer and counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom Piero Tozzi and web designer and Jamaican "human rights" activist Angeline Jackson are hardly in the same league, it is appropriate to note on how the latter (it seems "Sept 8th," she has failed to properly date her post . . . ) tried to denigrate, demonise and dismiss a recent presentation of the former in Jamaica by invitation of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, under the heading "Right wing Christianity in Jamaica":
It’s a shame that they did this, but what is worse is that (and I know people may dislike this), black people have once again open the doors to allow a new type of slavery and a new type of colonization. We black people have decided that we will take the white man’s word for it and become so evil to other black people based on something natural to them, on the premise that the white man’s god, -imposed on us for centuries, used to justify our slavery, used to rape our women and destroy our homes- will be angry at us and destroy our countries! We hold on so tightly to the god of our colonial and slave masters that we have forgotten how to think for ourselves.
It is immediately obvious that this is an exercise in dismissal by atmosphere-poisoning ad hominem projection, starting from the "Right Wing Christianity" tag, which is meant to lead us to infer to would-be theocratic, fascist tyrants. 

At the risk of using a sledgehammer instead of a nut-cracker, I think it is important to address Ms Jackson's short but exceedingly manipulative argument, step by step, on points. 

I do so as a case study on how dechristianisation is affecting at least some of the rising generation of young people in our region today in the guise of human rights activism.

Let us observe how a cluster of mutually reinforcing fallacies can lead to such a tangled thicket that is very hard indeed to clear away so that the one enmeshed can be set free to think and decide based on clear, coherent, well-grounded thinking:

>>It’s a shame that they [--> the alleged "Right Wing Christians"] did this,
 a --> This immediately brings out why it is so important for us to get straight that Fascism is actually a statist, identity group, politically messianistic ideology, so it is technically of the "left," not the "right," the latter being a distractive tag created by no less than the late and utterly unlamented dictator of Soviet Russia, Joseph Stalin.

b --> Similarly, it underscores why we need to be very clear indeed that of the two most notorious Fascists, Mussolini was a Socialist leader who took up the nationalist mantle to advance his cause, and Adolph Hitler was a somewhat skeptical neo-pagan occultist and manipulator of Christian symbols, who did not shun from anti-Christian blasphemy in presenting himself as a political messiah for Germany. Where, Nazism is itself short for: National Socialist German Workers' Party. Yes, socialist and populist/ mass-based as well as racist.

c --> Third, we must not allow ourselves to be intimidated or manipulated by the use of smear-words such as "right wing." Instead, we must be willing to point out that the substitution of namecalling for reason is not only rude but revealing of the lack of respect for fairness and truth that too often characterises today's activists.   This young lady would be well-advised to reflect on the straight vs spin issues here. Also, on the implications of Saul Alinsky's tactics, as are exposed here.
but what is worse is that (and I know people may dislike this), black people have once again open[ed] the doors to allow a new type of slavery and a new type of colonization.
 d --> Playing the race card to smear those with whom one disagrees based on skin colour. [--> Cf. following post here.] Mr Tozzi has raised a moral and legal case regarding the imposition of a homosexualist agenda in law under the false colours of equality, freedom and rights, and the undermining of respect for life based on the spreading of abortion on demand. Please deal with his case on the merits instead of on accusations of racism, and by extension of insinuations of betrayal of blackness by those who disagree with you. (And BTW, as a person of Italian ancestry, he would have had little to do with the slavery we faced in our region at the hands of the black African, Berber and Arab raiders and traders who sold our ancestors to the English merchants who brought them to Jamaica.)

e --> Similarly, the slavery and colonialism accusations are simply smeared across those with whom one disagrees. Not only is this unfair, but it fails to reckon in a balanced way with the actual history of the ending of slavery in our civilisation, whereby many convinced Christians of all races fought injustice and oppression because they understood the importance of fundamental rights through their Bible-rooted worldviews. Names like Wilberforce, Buxton, Equiano, Fry and many others come to mind.

f --> This shows how the inculcation of an unbalanced view of the history of our region is warping the ability of young people to think straight once colour is injected into a discussion. A point for serious correction of our education approaches.
We black people have decided that we will take the white man’s word for it
g --> This is a naked appeal to thinking and deciding based on colour of skin, instead of on the merits of the case. For shame! 

and become so evil to other black people
 h --> This of course further plays the race card as though disapproval of homosexual conduct is tantamount to betrayal of our race and oppression of other black people. This presumes a knowledge of what is good and evil that not only cuts across the general consensus of humanity across the ages, including our own race, but it raises serious questions on grounding such claims. For a first instance, what grounds good/evil? Has this young lady thought seriously about the warning the prophet Isaiah gave us 2,700 years ago, on what can ever so easily happen if we lose our way on matters of morality and the need to attend to and heed the voice of our Creator in our morally freighted thinking and doing:
 Isa 5:18 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
        who draw sin as with cart ropes . . . .
        20 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who call evil good
        and good evil,
        who put darkness for light
        and light for darkness,
        who put bitter for sweet
        and sweet for bitter! 
      21 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
        and shrewd in their own sight!
      22 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
        and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
      23 ​​​​​​​​who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
        and deprive the innocent of his right! 
      24 ​​​​​​​​Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
        and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
        so their root will be as rottenness,
        and their blossom go up like dust;
        for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,
        and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.[ESV]
i --> Instead of simply dismissively sweeping away the counsels of Scripture, one needs to first address its grounding as truth, especially based on the prophesied Messiah, who in the person of Jesus of Nazareth came, walked and served among us, loving, healing, setting free, teaching, dying on a cross by unjust sentence, but using that as the pivot of redemption. And then, having died as the willing sacrifice for our sins, was buried and rose from death with over 500 witnesses. And, who, having ascended to the Right Hand of the Father, has poured out his life-transforming Spirit so that millions of people -- "red and yellow, black or white" -- from across the whole world, for 2000 years now, have met and been positively transformed by God in the face of the risen and exalted Christ and in light of the thousands of powerful promises in his Word.

j --> Sadly, the impression one gets from the attitude of smear-laced contempt we are seeing, is that there has been no serious examination of the facts about Jesus, and the truth of the gospel, which by its very nature would transcend barriers of race, sex, class etc. God's rescue, restoration and blessing plan for sinners. I therefore take opportunity to invite her and others of like ilk to examine a short survey here, a more detailed discussion here (an online book), and the video here:

k --> Also, has Ms Jackson seriously thought about the gap between IS and OUGHT that can easily appear in a worldview (as Hume notoriously pointed out in his "guillotine" argument) and which points to the need for a worldview foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT? [Cf here on grounding worldviews in general.]

l --> Has she realised that -- after literally thousands of years of debate at the highest levels -- the only serious candidate for such a foundational IS, is the inherently good, wise and loving creator God who has made us equally in his image, so that "red or yellow, black or white, all are precious in his sight"? (Does she know that this is a cite from a typical evangelical Christian Sunday school chorus? Does she understand how this leads on to the question of how we have moral worth, rights and freedoms?)

m --> Let me therefore cite a general remark by Arthur F. Holmes, on the sound grounding of ethics and morality in worldviews:
However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .
R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .
Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments. [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: 1984), pp. 70 – 72.]
n --> In terms of core sexual ethics, the Judaeo-Christian view was aptly summarised by Jesus -- the one who demonstrated his authority by rising from the dead -- in answering a question on divorce and remarriage:
Mt 19: 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?”
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” [ESV]
o --> The pivot of sexual morality is its purpose, as manifested in the Creation order for man and woman. So, Jesus' reply to anything that takes sexual conduct out of that context of committed marital union of man and woman, is: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

p --> That is why Paul, discussing moral issues in 1 Cor 6:9 - 11, includes among "the unrighteous" that "will not inherit the kingdom of God," as yardstick cases: "the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers."

q --> However, he highlights that there is hope: "such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." And indeed, we have a great many cases where such life dominating sins have been overcome by the grace of God, the twelve-step type approach being particularly successful with cases of addictive or habituating, life-dominating sins. So, the gospel is not just a matter of disapproval of sins, but empowering the penitent believer in Jesus to, by the indwelling Spirit, overcome and live a life of growing purity and love by God's grace.
based on something natural to them, 

r --> Plainly, the creation order purpose of sex is the bonding of man and woman in God-blessed union, leading to the birth of children and their nurture in stable families. Anything that undermines such cannot be properly "natural," and is indeed an expression of a twisting of nature out of its proper course -- the very definition of what "evil" means.  That is why the apostle Paul, writing to a culture deep in rebellion against God and suffering its consequences, on the consequences of cultures turning their backs on God, says:
Rom 1: 19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  [--> in the old days, in pagan temples, nowadays, maybe in museums or on TV or in textbooks]
 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 

32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [ESV]
s --> There is a common argument that tries to sweep away this grim warning, by appealing to how people are programmed by their genes and cannot help their sexual conduct if their genes have made them that way. As the just linked book will document in more details, this is specious:

1: We can roughly summarise the genetic role in human behaviour as that about 10% of essentially any behaviour by human beings is genetic, i.e you have to be human before you can act like a human being does

2: But, because we are complex, intelligent, thinking and responding, deciding creatures with minds of our own, we generally have power to choose how to behave, never mind how strongly our impulses impel us. 

3: If you doubt this, think about why -- despite the the impulses and hormones that may move a young man -- we hold someone who seduces or rapes someone, responsible for his actions. That is, the impulses and thoughts of what could be possible or desirable are an input to our behaviour, but we do have a responsible choice on how we act on such impulses. (Taking in the across time dimension, this even holds for things such as habituation or addiction to drugs and alcohol or porn, etc.)

4: In this context, no gay gene has been reliably scientifically identified, and in fact the incidence of homosexual behaviour in cultures and communities ranges from essentially zero, to the about 1 - 3% that statistics documents for contemporary Western culture [the 10% number commonly repeated is a myth], to -- in certain Melanesian cultures, compulsory -- yes, 100% -- for certain periods of life. 

5: In addition, there is no fixed range of time for onset of such behaviour, it tends to fade away with time, and cultural patterns of such behaviour vary from urban to rural areas [much more common in urban areas], and across the time scale of decades to centuries.

6: For instance, in various Melanesian societies [look up the Sambia], formerly, boys were made to participate in compulsory ritualistic homosexual behaviour tied to the animist religion of that area for a certain period, then they were married and it was expected to cease; as it apparently overwhelmingly did. In our own civilisation, historically the predominant form of such behaviour among males, was the seduction of boys by older men. However, under legal pressure in recent centuries, a new pattern emerged of men going with men. And so forth.

7: These are consistent with a cultural pattern, accidents of upbringing and primary relationships, leading to habituation, rather than genetically stamped behaviour. 

8: There are in fact serious studies and entire movements that underscore the accuracy of Paul's remark "such were some of you." That is, though it is admittedly a difficult challenge, life dominating questionable habits, addictions and behaviours can be addressed with appropriate methods. 

9: And it is worth noting that the alcoholics who pioneered the 12-step type approach, were the targets of dismissive and "gotcha" professional and media hostility sixty years ago too, but they overcame this by dint of the basic fact that what they were doing worked often enough and reliably enough that it is by far and away the most successful addiction recovery approach.
on the premise that the white man’s god, -imposed on us for centuries, used to justify our slavery, used to rape our women and destroy our homes- will be angry at us and destroy our countries! 

 t --> this is the race card game again, which is not only a fallacy but a false accusation. Besides, Ms Jackson here shows an utter misunderstanding of the history of the way slavery [formerly the universal wrong] was successfully challenged and ended in large part through the formation of movements of opposition by explicitly Evangelical Christians, acting on explicit biblical principles.  [U/D: Cf remarks here, in an onward reply.]

u --> Indeed, it is worth noting how the very symbol and motto of the antislavery societies on both sides of the Atlantic, were taken from the Biblical book of Philemon, which exactly lays out the case that undermines all types of abuse and exploitation, with slavery in the lead:

 v --> And in fact the way in which we would destroy ourselves by undermining marriage and the purpose of sexuality is obvious. We live in a world where sex is a powerful force, for good if used correctly, but when it is twisted out of its Creation-order purpose it goes out of control and this has patently destructive consequences. If we abuse our bodies, relationships and creation order institutions for nurturing children aright, do we have any just reason for complaining if the consequences we have been warned against turn out to be destructive?

w --> And indeed, the Kantian Categorical Imperative works as a criterion of identifying immoral behaviour in part on just that: if a pattern of behaviour were to become universalised, if it would be destructive to the community, it is obviously wrong. (In short, evils work by parasiting off the fact that most of us, most of the time, do not act like that. As a non-controversial case, try out: lying. A society in which all people lie all the time is an impossibility and so we see why lying is a destructive abuse of our power of communication.)
We hold on so tightly to the god of our colonial and slave masters 
x --> This tries to poison the atmosphere by associating God and the teachings of the gospel with colonialism and slavery. The teachings themselves are not examined nor fairly addressed. Such is a plain failure of duty of care to the truth and fairness in discussion. The grounding of belief in God has nothing to do with whether slave masters and colonial overlords came from Christianised but imperfect cultures.
y --> Instead, it has everything to do with evidence in the world around us and in our hearts and minds, that render us without excuse for dismissing God in the teeth of abundant and even compelling warrant. (And, in case you were unaware, Paul was a member of an oppressed minority, who was writing to fellow believers under the evil tyrant Nero and writing in part about why the oppressive culture they had to confront day by day was like that. No, the Christian faith is not at root that of oppressors. I guess it is worth noting that the Christian faith reached Africa in Egypt and Ethiopia well before it was established in Europe, and that it was welcomed by the peoples of Africa then and again 150 years ago when 100 Jamaican former slaves went as missionaries to West Africa. That is why the Christian faith is vibrant and growing in Africa today.)

that we have forgotten how to think for ourselves.
 z --> As the above documents, by and large just the opposite is the case. Please think again, and on the subject of basic critical thinking you may wish to look here, on dealing with media spin and similar manipulative propagandistic indoctrination in the name of education cf. here, and on a toolkit for grounding a worldview, cf, here. >>

I trust that the above will be helpful to Ms Jackson (who seems to have completed high school in Jamaica about six years ago) and others of like ilk.

In the meanwhile we can see underscored the urgent necessity for something like the AACCS that has been under discussion for some time. END

PS: Forgive the situation where instead of hitting save early this morning I seem to have hit, post on a half-complete post.

F/N: I have notified Ms Jackson about this post and will shortly notify the LCF in Jamaica and the ADF about this post and so also the online remark it responds to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 182: Grinches trying to steal Christmas (and Easter) -- and why we should not help them

The Grinch at "work" (story)
Sometimes, Evangelical Christians can be heard complaining about how commericalised and secular Christmas (and Easter) have become. Some -- especially those in some sects -- are prone to emphasise how such holidays have an indisputably pagan element, tracing to Saturnalia (and spring rites of Ishtar etc). Some even mutter about the "X" in X-mas (not realising that the "X" is actually the Greek letter Chi, first letter in "Christ" . . . meaning, Messiah, cf. video here).

I think that is a big mistake.

Christmas and Easter -- never mind the commericalisation etc. (and, some retailers may do 1/4 to 1/2 the year's sales in the Christmas rush, so even that is understandable) -- are golden cultural opportunities to present the gospel in a culturally attractive way, and to provide a well-presented answer as to the reason for our hope in Christ. 

The autograph title page (HT: Wiki)
For instance, Handel's immortal Messiah oratorio has never been excelled; and yes, I deliberately chose a mere student group's performance. This astonishing piece of the classical canon of music is not wholly beyond the reach of mere mortals!

 Here (as a sampler) is the "Unto us . . . ," which joyously announces the royalty and reign of the newly born Messiah, as is prophesied in Isaiah 9:1 - 6:

Even just a snippet like this, is an occasion for celebration, and will help open hearts and minds to hear the reason for the evident and overflowing joy. 

Indeed, such seasons are times for honest joy and enjoyment.

Not to mention, an occasion to learn and to teach the lesson, that it is better to give than to receive, including those who are less fortunate in our circle of celebration.

As the Apostle Paul said, we are to "make the most of our opportunities" even in the face of an evil day.

And as for the other Grinches, such as the angry atheists and other secularists of the ilk who would insist on doing things like posting this screed:

The Freedom FROM Religion Foundation display at Christmas time at the state capitol in Wisconsin. Cf response to the main claims being asserted here.

. . . at the State Capitol in Wisconsin, at Christmas time, let the following two links suffice by way of reply:
1: The game-changer, the Christ who came, lived among us as a person of history, died for sins and rose from the dead.

2: Answering typical atheistical talking points.
Let us make the best use of the upcoming Advent season, to communicate the good and cheerful news of Jesus to all men, even in the face of what is too often an evil day as there is one who knows his time is now very short indeed.

So, let us rejoice and look up, for our Redemption draweth nigh! END

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 19: Answering to radical secularist "he hit back first" well-poisoning tactics -- the revealingly parallel cases of suing against the WTC Ground Zero Cross and complaining about a vandal putting horns on an atheism billboard promotion by the Freedom FROM Religion Foundation

One of the main callings of the church is the cure of souls through the grace and gospel of Christ.

In a civilisation subjected to radical attempts to strip the public square of reminders of the biblical call to penitent trust in Christ and transformation through the gospel call to the truth in love and purity, that requires diagnosis that may be uncomfortable and even unwelcome to the point of some taking umbrage. But, that does not by any means mean that we are to shrink back from telling the painful truth that we need if we are to be restored to wholeness as individuals and as a culture. Just the opposite; exploratory surgery may be painful and inconvenient to what we would rather be doing, but the alternative may be far worse.

A useful point to begin addressing the de-Christianisation challenge that now haunts our region and the wider civilisation, is the recent suit by the notorious American Atheists group founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, against the WTC Ground Zero Cross being restored to the 9-11 site and the Memorial/Museum being built there.

First, the WTC cross:

However, the attempt to bring the Cross back to the site -- remember, the final resting place of thousands whose remains were literally ground to powder during the collapse of the buildings on that awful Tuesday Morning -- has met with a lawsuit by atheists who are literally claiming to be made ill by the mere appearance of that oh- so- despised image, the cross.

(And, no, this is not lines from a movie script, it is reality.)

As Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) notes:
In the tumultuous days following the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, workers at Ground Zero discovered a sign of hope and comfort – a cross – two intersecting steel beams from Tower One of the World Trade Center standing in the midst of so much death and destruction.
In the decade since 9/11, the Ground Zero Cross has become a symbol of hope and healing for those who survived the terrorist attack, the families and friends who lost loved ones on that day, and the coworkers of the brave first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This historical artifact of the 9/11 attacks is, lawsuit notwithstanding, going to be featured in the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Unfortunately, angry atheist syndrome has reared its ugly head again. As soon as the cross selection was announced the American Atheists organized filed suit, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The group actually claims that its members are experiencing “dyspepsia [upset stomach], symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish,” not from the devastating destruction of life caused by the terrorists on 9/11, but as a “direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional existence of the cross.”

That’s not a line from a blog post, a press release, or a fundraising letter; that is the actual legal argument presented by the American Atheists in their complaint . . . . [But,] while the lawsuit argues that it is unconstitutional to “plac[e] a religious symbol of Christianity on government-owned property,” it “fail[s] to note that the cross is actually a remnant of the ruins of the Twin Towers.”
Notice, these athiests actually object to the very EXISTENCE of that cross that was somehow found standing amidst the rubble of the collapsed towers, and which reminded those there that once, outside a city wall, our Saviour hung, unjustly on a cross, and turned one of the greatest evils into the greatest good: redemption.

That tells us their real target: the EXISTENCE of the gospel of the cross, and the scriptures and church that stand in testimony to the power of that gospel to transform hearts, minds, lives and civilisations with millions of cases in point, across twenty centuries and around the whole world.

At the same time, across the United States, the similar Freedom FROM Religion Foundation is complaining bitterly over the following defacement of one of their promotional billboards in Oregon:

A defaced FFRF billboard, in Oregon USA (The horns were added
by a vandal. This is childish misbehaviour and wrong.)
Obviously, whoever vandalised the billboard in a manner similar to a childish school notice-board prank was wrong.

But, with all due respect to freedom of speech, the most grievous injury in that billboard lies in the theme in the very name of the organisation: the smear that Bible-believing Christians are inevitably seeking to impose a right-wing tyrannical theocracy rooted in utterly false or even fraudulent claims, and must be stopped by lawsuits and the like.

If you doubt me, here is a sign posted by the same group at the Wisconsin State Capitol at Christmas time (and which was placed in the Washington State Capitol at the same season in 2008):

FFRF sign posted at Christmas season in two US State Capitols. (Now we know the root of the objections to Christmas.) Note the assumption that evolutionary materialism -- which is actually self-refuting and founded on questionable origins science claims and ideologically loaded assumptions -- is the only credible way to understand our world, and the historically unwarranted inference from this, that Bible-believing Christian religious views are essentially enslaving superstition. (Cf here for a recent discussion on the historical anchorage for the credibility of the gospel.) The issue of grounding morality on such an "evo mat" frame is ducked; even though since Plato in The Laws Bk X, this has been highlighted as perhaps the most dangerous social consequence of widespread evolutionary materialism and associated radical relativism; due to the link to the nihilist premise that might and manipulation make 'right.'  But then, it is always easier for such atheists and fellow travellers to claim to be the bright man's view rooted in "science" and to spew objections  than to sit at the table  of comparative difficulties. (HT: Wikipedia, fair use)
We are seeing here an attempt to rewrite the history of the rise of modern liberty and democracy, to paint the Christian faith as an enslaving tyranny, and to censor from the public square any reminder of the existence and significance of the Christian faith and gospel in our civilisation. Dechristianisation, echoing uncomfortably of the all too many similar attempts by destructive radicals from the days of the French Revolution on.

But, I find that it is the comments by atheists and fellow travellers on the article about the defaced billboard that are probably the best point to speak to. 

While, to do so comprehensively would require the writing of a fairly lengthy book -- and it is utterly unlikely that such would have the patience to work through a book, they predictably would look for the first point they could use to divert attention, lead off to a favourite strawman soaked in attacks to the man and set alight to cloud the air with poisonous, blinding, confusing, polarising rhetorical smoke -- it is important to lay out at least a framework that we can understand what is going on, and what increasingly will be pushed into our region from the North, on Cable TV, on the Internet, in textbooks, or even in requirements of so-called development or social upliftment projects

So, allow me to now clip a more or less typical cross section of street-corner or comment box talking points that catch my eye, and insert some relatively brief balancing and corrective points. The clipped points will be lettered, and the responsive ones numbered:

>> a:  since we tend to view any religious icon as quaint and mythologically historical, we don't tend to go around vandalizing religious objects or billboards.

b:  Atheists haven't generally been destroying the private property of religionists in a childish hissy fit, even as the latter have stigmatized and persecuted them through the ages to the present day.
1 --> Ducked: as we are seeing, radical atheists and fellow travellers are quite busily seeking to censor positive Christian messages from the public square (and also from the way the history of our civilisation is taught).
c: I really dislike it when they come around to gang-save me on my porch. And the three who interrupted me while I was gardening in September were quite summarily informed that they were Not allowed to go forth and be rude to all people.
2 --> The subtext of contempt and implied inference that to try to  share the gospel is "rude" are revealing. Sure, sometimes people are irritating, but the problem here is plainly that there is a rage at the gospel and God being taken out on handy representatives. (You would not dismiss, say, a door to door encyclopedia salesman as trying to gang-educate you [we notice the hint of a particularly heinous crime against the person . . . gang-rape], or as inevitably "rude.")
d: I have never had an atheist try to force anything on me. Christians, totally different story, always pestering you to believe what they believe. Organized religion is a fraud.
 3 --> Fraud, of course is deliberate deception to make gain at the expense of the misled. To use such a term here is simply out of order and disrespectful, and that is before we get to the issues that:
  • There is a good worldview level warranting case for taking the reality of God seriously, starting from the credible evidence that our observed world -- the ONLY observed world -- had a beginning [thus cries out for a begin-ner], is finely tuned in many ways to accommodate Carbon Chemistry, cell based life, and the further evidence that that life is, from the first living cell on up, similarly fine-tuned to function based on specific, complex organisation and associated information. Where in fact, say, the process that makes the workhorse protein molecules of life, is based on digitally coded information stored in DNA, transcribed to mRNA, transferred to ribosomes serving as assembly machines, and uses tRNA molecules as position-arm assembly devices that have a universal joint tool-tip loaded with amino acids by using the information stored in the configuration of the tRNA. Such a complex,step by step (algorithmic) process based on digitally coded information has just one plausible, empirically warranted source: design. And, that is rooted in the actual testimony of science (never mind the dismissals by those who would censor this out).
  • Indeed, the observed contingency and fine tuning for life of our observed cosmos and the similarly intricate nature of life in it, jointly point to an underlying root cause of being that is a necessary being, of sufficient power and intelligence to design and build a cosmos such as we inhabit and to then create in it life. One may indeed try to find an alternative to this, but one cannot properly exclude such a view from sitting at the table of scientifically viable alternatives to be taken seriously. But, sadly, that is just what today's atheists seem to be bent on doing. 
  • Furthermore, we find ourselves bound by the compelling force of ought (even though the problem of evils -- why is evil objectionable? . . . ), even when we try to dodge it through obfuscation: just look at how we habitually quarrel, by trying to either show someone in the wrong, or to excuse ourselves as not really being to blame. Seldom or never do we hear the monstrous dismissal, shut up you sheep and slide down my throat nicely. Similarly -- and the atheists are quick to do this -- we want our rights (real or imaginary) to be respected by one and all. But a right (if it is indeed so) is precisely a binding moral claim that we should be respected in light of our inherent dignity as human beings and neighbours.  Such demands that a credible worldview has in it a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, or else ought forever after would be groundless. (Where also metaphors like a worldview-raft always under partial repair, actually sit on a foundational ocean and its underlying principles and forces of floatation.) The only seriously viable candidate to date is the inherently good, wise and loving creator God.
  • There is further warrant for the historicity, passion and resurrection of Jesus with 500+ witnesses on record in eyewitness lifetime. That starts with the broadly accepted evidence that: 
(i) Jesus was crucified and died under sentence of Pontius Pilate in Judaea, c. 30 AD, 
(ii) he was buried, the tomb being found empty a few days later by  a circle of his women followers coming to carry out final burial rituals, 
(iii) from that day forward, he appeared to multiple disciples, many of whom became the leading witnesses of the gospel and who could not be stopped from their testimony not even by fire and sword, 
(iv) he also appeared to the key objectors James (his brother) and Paul (the first arch- persecutor) both of whom became leading witnesses and peaceful martyrs for the gospel. 
  • The only seriously offered explanation that can meet these credible facts (cf the comparative table and discussion here on in context) is the testimony in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11, which reads in key part:
1 Cor 15:1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brothers,  of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.[ESV]
  • In short, the origins of the church in C1 and its otherwise inexplicable success in testifying to the gospel, are themselves evidence of the truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son as our Saviour. And indeed, there are millions of lives transformed by personally coming to know God in the face of the living Christ, which has as a matter of fact, repeatedly transformed lives, families, communities and even civilisations. That is a game-changing truth.
  • Clearly, this legitimises people freely associating in witness to such a pivotal and life transforming truth  and demands respect for it, in light of freedom of conscience, association and expression, even at community level. (Indeed, that renders highly questionable the sort of visceral hostility to the point of declared illness that we are seeing imposed on such communities by circles of militant, busybody atheists.)
  • Where also, we note that the objector would probably never dream of suggesting that one may freely generalise from the existence of embezzlers, shysters and quacks, that all bankers, lawyers and medical practitioners are quacks.
 4 --> As already highlighted, in the teeth of such, radical atheists are in fact busily censoring both education and the public square, resorting to lawsuits or to dominance of key institutions. So, it is simply disingenuous for this objector to claim "I have never had an atheist try to force anything on me." In fact, the truth is the exact opposite.
e:  we do want the public sphere free of your beliefs. Your christian beliefs are no more valid than any other belief. I suggest you consult the definition of faith, the basis for all religions: "Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on
spiritual apprehension rather than proof." And you don't see a problem there? Wow.
 5 --> This case actually admits to the intent of censorship, but seeks to "justify" it as keeping ill-founded superstitious beliefs out of the public square. Which immediately begs the question of the suppression of discussion of the warrant for Christian faith, as we already saw.

6 --> There is also a distortion of the proper meaning of Biblically rooted Christian faith, which is in the historic Christian context, trust in God in light of his credible word, rooted in sound conviction based on adequate grounds for holding it true that in fact God raised Jesus from death, with over 500 witnesses who could not be shaken. 

7 --> As the Apostle Peter put it in the face of his own impending martyrdom:
2 Peter 1: 15 . . .  I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . . . 

 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV (cf here on, on the prophetic element of scripture as an aspect of teh authentication of the gospel.)] 
f:  when you ask Christians to prove their beliefs, they say "it's in the Bible." Scientists have already been able to prove that the earth is many, many, many,, may , many, MANY times older than the Bible says it is. If they're so wrong on that one, why should I believe them on anything else?

 8 --> Strawman. This objection caricatures the easily accessible warranting case made for the Christian faith as though it were a circular argument rooted in "the Bible says." Yes, some who may not know much more than that may act like this, but that is hardly representative of the actual serious case made by informed Christians, which is not hard to find. So, at best, this is an irresponsible misrepresentation.

9 --> As a first-level video "101" summary, the reader is invited to watch Lee Strobel's popular level presentation here:

10 --> The second problem here is the demand for "proof." This opens up the way to a demand for accepting selective hyperskepticism -- an inappropriate degree of demand for warrant that cannot be met by empirical facts, when one objects to a particular claim. 

11 --> For, empirical evidence can only be warranted to the balance of the evidence, up to cases where there is no reasonable doubt. It is thus inappropriate to demand of such cases of matters of fact, warrant that is only appropriate to something like mathematics. And indeed, science is itself a case in point of something unable to meet the demand for absolute proof.

12 --> Thus, we immediately see the blunder in: "Scientists have already been able to prove that the earth is many, many, many,, may , many, MANY times older than the Bible says it is." As has been known since the days of Job, we simply were not there to directly observe the actual course of events at the world's founding, nor do we have generally accepted record of such. So, at best, we are dealing with the unobserved and the unobservable, reconstructed using various techniques held to give us a timeline of the deep past of origins.  

13 --> That is, on the grounds of the limits of warranting observable facts, we inherently can have no such ability to "prove" the age of the earth or the course of its development from its origin. But unfortunately, various models of origins and associated timelines and suggested events and mechanisms have been presented to the public as though they are indisputable fact as firmly established as the roundness of the earth (which is directly observed) or the orbiting of the planets around the sun (also directly observed). That is irresponsible, though it is commonly done.

14 --> Worse, we face an a priori imposition of evolutionary materalism -- typically disguised under the claim that it is a reasonable methodological constraint, methodological naturalism -- which biases what is accepted as science on origins. As Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin notoriously observed in a well-known January 1997 NYRB article:
 . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . ["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997. (Cf. more extensive cite and discussion here, if you imagine that this can be dismissed as "quote mining," or, worse, imagine that the wider context justifies such ideological censorship.)]
 15 --> No wonder, then that in his reply to Lewontin in November 1997, the ID thinker, Philip Johnson remarked:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

16 --> Johnson's aside on "Biblical literalism" brings us back to the issue of Young Earth Creationism, which is the pivot of the objection. The objector of course fails to appreciate or acknowledge that there is a reasonable range of views on Bible timelines and chronologies, and in so doing irresponsibly thinks that to dismiss a 6,000 or so year timeline for origins is sufficient to dismiss not only the account of origins in the Bible but everything that happens after Genesis in the Bible as well. This is another strawman tactic. (Where, the objector would be well advised to reflect on the limitations of reconstructions of the timeline of the past.)
g:  Atheism a Religion??? You're all a bunch of idiots. go talk to your imaginary friend, or the easter bunny.
 17 --> Atheism, manifestly, is often the ideological functional equivalent of a religion, with Evolutionary Materialism-dominated Science as its equivalent of a prophet.

18 --> The dismissal of God as the equivalent of a childish "imaginary friend," also reflects a subtext of irresponsible and superciliously dismissive contempt that fails to recognise that there is serious reason to at minimum take theism as a serious worldview option; even if one decides to object. 

19 --> But it is always so much easier to rhetorically resort to contempt-laced ridicule, and the talking point that to take theism and the God of the Christian Faith in particular, seriously, is to be ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked. 
h: There is no "evidence" about anything in the Bible. It's all based on belief. It's an entertaining work of fiction, not unlike a Batman comic (though as far as super heroes go, I'd be much more inclined to believe in Batman--I'm a sucker for that utility belt).

20 --> Blanket dismissal of actual evidence, and a similar resort to a loaded redefinition of "belief." It is telling that, say, the actual strongly supported historical evidence in Luke-Acts is dismissed without consideration as "fiction."

21 --> It is worth the while to now pause a moment and cite Paul Barnett's summary of the record of early non-Christian sources on the basic facts of the early Christian movement and particularly the existence of Jesus as an historical figure:
On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:
    1. Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 - 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 - 36). [Tacitus]
    2. The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    3. Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    4. His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    5. He was called "the Christ." [Josephus]
    6. His followers were called "Christians." [Tacitus, Pliny]
    7. They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    8. It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    9. His brother was James. [Josephus]
[Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31. Cf. McDowell & Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993) for more details; free for download here.]
22 --> It is also worth the while to pause and cite the summary made by noted NT scholar Craig Evans, in his 2004 University of Calgary Benthal public lecture, on the state of informed opinion on the scholarship on the historical quality of the NT in our day:
The story told in the New Testament Gospels—in contrast to the greatly embellished versions found in the Gospel of Peter and other writings— smacks of verisimilitude. The women went to the tomb to mourn privately and to perform duties fully in step with Jewish burial customs. They expected to find the body of Jesus; ideas of resurrection were the last thing on their minds. The careful attention given the temporary tomb is exactly what we should expect. Pious fiction—like that seen in the Gospel of Peter— would emphasize other things. Archaeology can neither prove nor disprove the resurrection, but it can and has shed important light on the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and missing corpse . . . .
Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. Archaeology, remarkable literary discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and progress in reassessing the social, economic, and political setting of first-century Palestine have been major factors. Notwithstanding the eccentricities and skepticism of the Jesus Seminar, the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel. But this does not mean that the historical Jesus that has begun to emerge in recent years is simply a throwback to the traditional portrait. The picture of Jesus that has emerged is more finely nuanced, more obviously Jewish, and in some ways more unpredictable than ever. The last word on the subject has not been written and probably never will be. Ongoing discovery and further investigation will likely force us to make further revisions as we read and read again the old Gospel stories and try to come to grips with the life of this remarkable Galilean Jew.
i: your god needs better public relations. If your omnipotent deity can't reach out and convince even 50% of the Earth's population that it exists, then it has some serious limitations.

23 --> This objector has the shoe on the wrong foot. It is we who -- in the face of accessible and adequate evidence to show us our duty to the truth and the right -- are on trial. And, we are responsible to respond appropriately to that evidence, as say we can see from Paul in his statement to the Areopagus Council in Athens, c. 50 AD:
 Ac 17: 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2  25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for  
                    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3
            as even some of your own poets have said,  

                    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’4 

 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” [ESV]
24 --> We can easily join with those who dismissively mock, or join with those who always want more and more evidence, no degree of reasonable warrant ever being close to enough, or we can join those who, on hearing the evident truth, turn to him who is Lord and Saviour, finding salvation, deliverance and transformation.>>

We can therefore see how a seemingly impressive cluster of atheistical arguments collapses on closer, informed scrutiny. But that is the first problem -- too many of us are simply not informed.

The second is like unto it.

We seem to be blissfully unaware of lessons of history regarding the potentially destructive implications for evolutionary materialist secularist ideologies for our civilisation, despite the warning by Plato speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger in his The Laws, 2350 years ago:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.
We need to learn, and we need to heed such warnings in good time to prevent re-living some of the very worst chapters of history yet another time. END