COMING SOON: “Veggie Tales Conspiracy Theories”

By Lane Noble

Unfortunately, the book review that I had set out to do will not happen for awhile because some things have come up that are competing for my time.

However, I do want to keep writing, and on the day that this post is published I decided to do a certain type of writing that I haven’t done before: investigative journalism, and I can’t think of a better topic to report on than the talking vegetables (and fruits) that helped to form my beliefs.

What are Bob and Larry really like? Did Laura Carrot really break Junior’s father’s plate? Are the business ethics employed by Mr. Nezzer at his chocolate factory moral, or should the factory be boycotted? I will be investigating all of these vital questions and more in my new blog series: “Veggie Tales Conspiracy Theories.”

Stay tuned for this exciting series, and remember: God made you special, and He loves you very much. Goodbye!

How Serious Should We Be About Abortion?

By Lane Noble

I can’t think of a better time to write this message that I have on my mind on the abortion debate. After all, we do seem to be at a crossroads when it comes to the issue of abortion because of the new law that Texas has passed concerning abortions in the state of Texas, and the Supreme Court’s response to that law.

I don’t think that there’s very many people out there with a neutral position on this topic. It’s probably one of the most controversial. One of the difficult aspects of it is that it reaches beyond just politics. Politics is involved because of the legislation involved. However, this is a social justice issue, and both sides of this debate make the claim that the other side has unjust intentions in mind. On the one hand, you have a side who claims that the right to a woman’s autonomy is being threatened. On the others side of the debate you have people claiming that a push for legal infanticide has been occurring since the nineteen-seventies.

Now, as of the time of this writing, I’ve only been around for almost twenty-three years. I wasn’t there when Roe v. Wade was passed. I was only a baby when President Bill Clinton legalized partial birth abortion. I was just learning how to read when President George W. Bush passed a twenty-week abortion ban. I jumped in on this conversation probably when I was about thirteen or fourteen and, from what I’ve seen, this debate hasn’t gained much substance since it first began.

In fact, and I try to avoid this kind of talk because I think it can exhibit too much pride, but I do think this holds true in this case, that many of the most prominent arguments in this debate should not survive a fourth grade education.

For example, one of the pro-life arguments that I’m not a huge fan of is this: “What if we had aborted Einstein, or Mother Theresa, or Thomas Edison, or Martin Luther King Jr.?” However, one could just as easily respond with, “What if we had aborted Hitler or Mussolini?” The argument can go both ways. Our actions have consequences no matter what, both good and bad. It seems a bit irrelevant to the conversation.

Another example on the pro-choice side would be, “You’re a man. You don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant. Therefore, you have no right to tell women what they can’t do with their bodies.” There’s actually a couple of problems with this argument. First, there are so many pro-life women out there that it makes that argument irrelevant. In fact, this is just a small sample of the many pro-life organizations led by and/or founded by women:

Feminists for Life

Secular Pro-Life

Democrats for Life of America

Pro-Life San Fransisco

Pro-Woman, Pro-Life

National Coalition for Life and Peace

Crisis Pregnancy Center Online

The Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Association

Florida Right to Life

Students for Life

American Life League

Americans United for Life

Oregon Right to Life

Virginia Society for Human Life

Delaware Pro-Life Coalition

March for Life

South Carolina Citizens for Life1

There’s way more organizations than these that fit into this category, but I don’t have the time nor the room to place them all here. You get the idea.

The third reason that this argument doesn’t work is because most pro-life advocates believe that abortion is murder, and murder is wrong no matter who commits it. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong for men to tell women they shouldn’t murder their own children, it would be wrong if they didn’t.

If you flipped the situation around, and men were capable of getting pregnant but women weren’t, it would still be morally permissible for women to condemn abortion even if they didn’t know what it was like to be pregnant.

It’s odd then, isn’t it, that everyone believes that this topic is so serious, and yet very few people seem not to be taking the time to construct an argument that we can take seriously.

As a biblical Christian, I take it very seriously, because I believe that what we are talking about here is the difference between life and death. It is. We are talking about the murder, emphasis on that word, of a human child.

This post is an attempt to help biblically-minded Christians to take this seriously. We have an opportunity to not just put an end to a particular injustice in the world, but to witness to future generations.

What do I mean by this?

Sit back and think for a moment about the various justice issues that the church, especially in the United States, has had to confront: slavery, racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, etc. etc. In every one of these issues, there were churches that supported these and who didn’t support these.

Yet, our current, unbelieving cohorts in the generations that live today always seem to justify their unbelief based on the churches that did support these injustices. They will say, “Why did God’s people support such injustice?” It happens all the time.

The same thing is happening with abortion. I want future generations to look back and recognize that the church of Jesus Christ does not support abortion. I believe that future generations, both Democrat and Republican, will look back on the abortion industry in horror, and be thankful that the practice is condemned in their day and age, just as many other injustices are in our life time.

I know that some of my readers are going to be upset that I compared abortion to such injustices such as slavery and sexism, as if they were on the same playing field. There’s a difference between somebody who is owned and mistreated their entire lives and somebody who was just killed in the womb. That may be, but that doesn’t mean abortion is not injustice and that future generations won’t look back at it in horror. Surely the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote wasn’t as horrendous as slavery, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t horrendous that they couldn’t.

I fear that our society is so severely miseducated on the topic of abortion, even people within Christ’s church, that we have placed it on the back burner. The fact of the matter is that abortion is murder. It is infanticide, and, for some reason, infanticide only horrifies us when the children are completely outside of the womb.2 This should be evident to anyone who has studied human development.

Make no mistake, I am not saying that there is no forgiveness for those who have had abortions or even those who have worked in the abortion industry. I am saying that this is an injustice that needs to end. Those who have participated in it can and should receive mercy. As biblical Christians, we should love everyone who works in the abortion industry, and we should love those who have had abortions, and we pray that they would all come to Christ for His forgiveness and be saved into His kingdom. 1 John 1:9 says that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God is a God of love and justice. Let us put this on display as we as Christians seek to end the injustice of abortion.

Footnotes:

  1. Some of these organizations, but not all, were found in “Pro-Life Feminist Organizations” Indiana University Northwest https://www.iun.edu/women-and-gender-studies/related-information/pro-life.htm
  2. In some cases, the baby is killed while it’s being born during what is known as a “partial birth abortion.” This is another aspect of the argument for abortion that I do not understand, as the baby is clearly alive and fully developed enough for life outside of the womb.

Coming Soon: Blogging Through “Letting Go of God” by Julia Sweeney

By Lane Noble

I’ve been wanting to blog through a book for awhile now, and I think that I have now found the time to do it. It’s a lot easier to just read through a book and think through it yourself. However, I’ve benefited quite a bit from commenting on various works. Thus far I have commented mainly on YouTube videos.

There is a lot of work that goes into writing commentaries on simpler works such as YouTube videos and other blog posts, which makes it even more difficult to do one on a book.

I’m going to try to release one post a week on this. I’m very excited to be interacting with this work as it tells the story of Julia Sweeney’s long journey of moving from Catholicism to atheism. It really is a fascinating audiobook (I don’t think a physical copy exists), because Julia’s journey from being a devout Catholic to being an atheist doesn’t exactly go the way most stories do. In fact, she dabbles in many different religions, trying to find out the truth about the world and how she should live her life. She also makes some a lot of critiques of the Bible as she studied it in her church.

While Julia’s story is rather unique, I believe that what she thinks and feels in de-conversion story rings true to a lot of people today. I think that as Christians can gain a lot of insight from her story and what she has to say. Particularly insightful is the way that she interacts with the Bible and the way that she tries to resolve the questions that she runs in to.

Are the arguments against God’s existence found in the book substantive? I don’t think that most of them are. Most of the arguments against God’s existence given by any atheist aren’t. Although she does raise some pretty good questions that I think deserve thoughtful answers. The fact is that there are an increasing number of people going through the same thought processes that Julia went through on her journey, and it’s worth exploring so that we can help those in our churches that are, as the phrase goes, “deconstructing” their faith right now.

We as Christians should and can be ready to give a defense of our faith. I believe that thinking through this book can help us.

Check back next week with the first installment of my commmentary on Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God.

Why We Need to Promote More Women in Christian Apologetics

By Lane Noble

Apologetics can be defined as presenting a rational defense of the Christian faith. The field has truly grown over the years. Not only has there been more work done in the academic arena of apologetics, but accessibility to apologetics information has grown significantly.

This kind of growth is something that we need to promote. The more we promote it, the more people will hear a reasoned defense of the Christian faith and the more the gospel will spread. At the very least, people’s plausibility structures, or what people are willing to entertain as possible, will expand to at least include the possibility of Christianity.

If we’re going to do this, however, we have to realize that, while secularism is growing, it is also changing. With the belief that this life is all there is, there is a growing push to make this world a better place. Obviously, we as Christians can applaud the idea of making the word a better place and, where possible, we should join secular humanists in that mission, without, of course, adopting a secular humanist philosophy.

With that said, one of the major pushes, one that I think Christians can get behind, is a push for gender equality, which is a value that the Bible most certainly promotes. (Galatians 3:28) However, over the years, the western church has distorted that value and made Christianity look like a “white man’s religion.” This is why many critical theorists and what are known as “social justice warriors” see Christianity as oppressive.

While we know that the claim that Christianity is an inherently oppressive religion doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, the fact of the matter is that it is up to us as Christians to prove them wrong. We know that because they are actively avoiding belief in a Creator and coming to faith in Christ, they aren’t going to do the work necessary to fairly evaluate Christianity. Thus, we need to go to them, and make it easy for them to see us living the way we ought to be living, so that they will be interested in at least taking the gospel message seriously.

Right now, as diversity seems to be increasingly important to a secular audience, we need to make sure that women are visible in the field of apologetics, so that Christianity is not perceived as merely a “white man’s religion.” By doing this, we expose that phrase “white man’s religion” for what it really is: a false excuse not to take Christianity and its truth claims seriously.

Now, this is not to discredit men in apologetics. There are so many male apologists out there that have done wonderful work in the field of apologetics that I’m grateful for. What we want is for people to see that the gospel of Christ is for everyone.

With that said, if you want to familiarize yourself with some women in apologetics, here are some of the best women apologists that I know of to familiarize yourself with. We don’t just want to learn from and refer to people from anyone. We want biblically-minded, wise, and intelligent Christians. Here is just a sampling of women like that to get started, in no particular order:

Dr. Alisa Childers

Patricia Engler

Dr. Georgia Purdom

Dr. Avery Foley

Dr. Elizabeth Jackson

Karina Altman

Dr. Esther Meek

These women, to say the least, are geniuses. They do fantastic work in the places that God has put them. For example, Dr. Esther Meek is a seasoned academic philosopher, and she does a phenomenal job at handling some of the most difficult questions in philosophy. Patricia Engler is amazing when it comes to practical ways of thinking through objections to Christianity and witnessing to people in a secular culture. Dr. Georgia Purdom has excellent insight into the creation versus evolution debate. Definitely check out all of the women that I’ve mentioned in this list. Karina Altman mostly writes articles and gives talks for Answers in Genesis, so what you find from her may be limited, but she is still worth reading and listening to.

I should mention another reason that we need more women in apologetics, and that’s because we need more female mouthpieces to speak out against abortion. This is not to say that men can’t do this, and that there aren’t women out there doing so effectively, but, as the pro-choice movement has made clear, they hate it when men try to convince people that abortion is wrong. While this is fallacious thinking on the part of the pro-choice movement, and we should point this out, it is worth having more women speak on this issue in order to get past that obstacle in the minds o most pro-choice advocates. It is often the case that we have to work with fallacious thinking if we’re going to reach those that don’t care to give God’s Word a fair hearing.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the growing number of women in the field of apologetics. I hope that we will see even more in the future, and that the gospel will spread to the ends of the Earth because of it.

Listen to Me and Keith Stout on “Diverse Unity”

Jesus prayed before His death this before He died in John 17:20-21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (ESV) Jesus took unity so seriously that He prayed this before He was crucified. If Jesus took it this seriously, then so should we.

On Diverse Unity, we seek to understand how Christians can pursue obedience to this commandment. In a world full of different ideas, we have a responsibility to sift through them and to stay united under the one message that unites us: Christ crucified and raised from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins.

Check us out! Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Sisters and Brothers, These Idols Have No Place in the Church: A Warning to Evangelicals

By Lane Noble

I want you to picture a church building. You have that picture in your head? Great. Now, I want you to imagine the pastor of this church preaching. Got it? Alright. Now this particular pastor is a faithful preacher. He is preaching the Word of God so obediently and articulately that everyone in the room should be entranced by it.

Now, I want you to imagine that in front of this pastor, there is a table. On this table are two marble busts of two different gods. These gods both have offering plates in front of them and they are full of money. In some cases flowers and valuable items have been placed in front of them.

Now you have three sections of pews. In the middle section, the Christians are listening intently to what the pastor is saying. Their Bibles are open, they’re taking copious notes, and they are prayerfully considering what God has to say to them through His Word. On the right side of the sanctuary, you have another set of pews that are listening to the sermon, but they’re not really considering the message very thoughtfully. They have their eyes on the god on the right side of the table and, once the sermon is finished, they plan to pay homage to it again and then go and spread the message. They also glance over at the pew section on the left side of the building to scold them.

This left pew section is also listening to the sermon, and they’re considering the message, but it’s not sufficient. This message needs to be better, and they wish the pastor would look down at the god that they are staring at and pick it up and praise it. At the end of the sermon, they too would pay homage to their god and spread the news about it to as many people as they possibly could. They would also scold at those staring at the other god on the opposite end of the sanctuary.

The Christians sitting in the middle of the church were trying not to notice the facial expressions and disdain their fellow church members were making towards one another. They tried to ignore it. Jesus was to be their main focus. They prayed for their family members in Christ. They prayed for unity, only for the same thing to happen over and over again Sunday after Sunday.

During the week, the pastor tries to take down the shrines to these gods, only to be viciously attacked by his church members for doing so. He talks to other pastors and asks what he should do.

“Keep this god and destroy the other. Preach about it weekly. It’s biblical.”

The pastor, worn out, finally rebukes his church for idolatry, only for them not to hear him. They’re too focused on the idolatry on the other side of the church, and they can’t see their own sin.

These gods also have names. The god on the right is named, “Tradition,” and the god on the right is named, “Bitterness.”

These two gods are regular attendees at our Sunday morning gatherings, our Sunday evening gatherings, our Wednesday night gatherings, our small groups, our church memos, our seminaries…anywhere there is a corporate gathering of Christians, they have found themselves there, and there are always people who set them up and pay homage to them and chastise their fellow Christians for not doing the same.

This is a very serious problem, and one that needs to be addressed. In order to address it, however, we need to see what these gods are and what they represent, and then we can identify how we can destroy these gods and convince others to abandon their worship.

God: #1: Tradition

Tradition is the god that has been around the longest and, odds are, there will always be people in the United States who submit to it. Hopefully it will decrease, but the cultural pressure to worship it will likely always overwhelm some people.

Tradition says that the United States should be held in higher regard than it should be. It says that domestic and political freedom should be protected and that only governments who represent those freedoms should be obeyed, contrary to what is stated in Romans 13. They would give up their lives before giving up freedom of speech, press, the right to own weapons, etc. etc. These are the people that are willing to be revolutionaries if they decided that they had to be.

To these people, the United States is a Christian country that must be kept a Christian country, and that this is their “home sweet home.” Their highest good is keeping this country their “home sweet home” and traditional American values rule over everything else.

Like every unbiblical philosophy, there’s usually some grain of truth to it. The freedom of speech is a beautiful right that our government thankfully still protects, with a few exceptions of course. It is true that many of the rights and philosophies that are outlined in the constitution of the United States represent a biblical form of government. While not perfect, the people who worship the god of tradition are not wrong to be appreciative of how good we have it in this country.

However, the people who worship the god of tradition usually say with their mouths that Christ is their supreme King, their other words, conduct, and engagements throughout their lives say otherwise. They are so focused on keeping the United States, and the church, in line with “traditional American values” that they neglect what Scripture says about kingdoms and nations and what God’s Word says about sharing the gospel and loving your neighbor and, in particular, loving your enemies.

How do we destroy this idol? If an “American value” contradicts scripture, it goes in the trash. Simple as that. We repent of our wrongful thinking and we evaluate what our greatest treasure is. Our greatest freedom is in Christ. He has set us free from the bonds of sin and one day we will be free in the new heavens and the new earth with Him, and so it will not matter if the United States somehow becomes a totalitarian regime in the future. No one can take away the promise that we have in Christ.

Anybody who tries to confront someone about this idol will likely be faced with scorn. The best thing to do is to constantly and persistently remind these people of where our true loyalties lie. We should set an example for them, inform them, and, often, these people repent and reorder their desires.

God #2: Bitterness

What is the god of bitterness? That seems rather unexpected for someone to say doesn’t it? Where and how is this god being worshipped? It’s being worshipped in reaction to the people who worship the god of tradition. You see, because of all of the destruction that those who worship the god of tradition have imposed upon the church and the world, and all of the damage that they’ve done to the great comission from Jesus to go into all of the world and preach the gospel, these people see it as their religious mission to act as a sort of leftist version of the puritans. In their eyes, those who have worshiped the god of tradition need to be the constant subject of rebuke until their is no trace of it left in the church.

This person also tends to see any sympathy towards any form of conservatism as sinful. Even if the concept to which sympathy is extended is biblical. In the worldview of the god of bitterness, the main focus of preaching, teaching, and writing needs to be those who worship the god of tradition. It’s not just about truth. It’s not about God’s Word. It’s about what the people who worship the god of tradition have done wrong. The ones who are dead and the ones who are still living. In the eyes of those who worship the god of bitterness, the people who worship the god of tradition are one of the biggest problems the church faces. The other problems aren’t as big of a deal as this one.

This idol is more difficult to destroy because it is being mobilized by both anger and increasing cultural pressure. There is no easy answer for convincing people to abandon worship of the god of bitterness. The first step to take, just like in helping the tradition worshippers, is to affirm what they get right. Obviously we can affirm them in confronting those who worship tradition. We can rightly affirm that the church, both historically and currently, has not done enough to oppose racism. We can affirm that many Christians don’t tackle the abortion issue correctly. We can affirm that many Christians, both in the past and now, haven’t and don’t react to the LBGTQ+ revolution correctly. However, there is a biblical way of handling those who bow down to the god of tradition, and it’s not going to happen through the constant nagging of the other side.

Those who worship this god are very unlikely to recognize that bitterness is their god, which is one of the reasons that we must be examples to them, remind them of biblical truth when they need to be reminded of it, and distant ourselves from their idol worship when they decide to participate in it.

What is the root and solution to all of this?

It will ultimately be through faithful preaching and obedience to the Word of God that others will be changed. We do absolutely nothing by complaining and ranting about all of the faults of the evangelical church or the culture. It has been tried many times before. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. It is only through the preaching of and obedience to God’s Word that a culture is changed, and, honestly, seeing as our culture or the evangelical church hasn’t changed much, maybe it’s time for us to take a look at ourselves and see how we might or might not be obey what God has revealed to us in Scripture.

Responding to Famous Atheists: Part One

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

By Lane Noble

I haven’t had very much time to write lately, and now that summer is rolling around and I seem to have more time on my hands, I’ve decided to get back on it. Now, I started this blog mainly so that I could improve in my writing, and one of the areas in which I wish to write is within the field of the philosophy of religion. That is a topic that I haven’t written on as much as I would have liked to, as it requires a bit more time and research than other topics that I write about. For example, one of my previous posts about how my life has improved since I stopped using social media didn’t require much time at all. Now, I would like to get back to what I love writing about most. The existence of God.

I’m going to devote a seven part series that will probably not come out sequentially, but will be published within the timeframe of a couple of months, that responds to arguments from some of the most famous atheist figures of recent. Make no mistake. I don’t intend to malign or ridicule these figures. They don’t deserve that kind of disrespect. I merely wish to contribute to an important conversation about the existence of God and the importance of religion, particularly Christianity, in society by responding to some popular claims made by the most influential atheists. I hope that all of my readers find this response thought provoking and perhaps even enlightening.

The figure that I will be responding to today is atheist philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris. Harris is one of the so-called “four horsemen of the new atheism” that has influenced Western culture in particular over the past few decades. I want to make it clear that I think that Dr. Harris is a respectable thinker and has some valuable insights that he often makes in his podcast, the Making Sense Podcast1, however, the argument that I am about to break down that he makes about religion is one that I think needs to be responded to, because it is not just a common argument that is made about religion, but an increasingly common attitude that has become sort of a default position of people who live in the west. Especially in places such as Australia and Belgium, where secularism has been highly influential.

Without further ado, I will let you watch the video from Dr. Harris where he makes his argument, so that you can get it in full, and then I will respond to it:

The question that is posed to Harris before he begins to speak is, “Is there a possibility of a creator?” Now, in this particular time in history, the year 2021, that question seems to be a bit less common and it sounds a bit strange to the modern ear, because the disposition of atheists and religious people towards the debate over God’s existence has changed, because today’s secularists seem to be arguing that “atheism” is the default position for any rational person. Secularists at the time that this video was made, the year 2011, would be more prone to arguing that the existence of God should be the default position for any rational person. The United States today is essentially becoming New York City, where it’s just generally agreed upon that “fundamentalist” religion, or religion that seems to hold to its historic teachings, are probably wrong and that anyone who does believe it usually lives in the deep south somewhere with an inferior education and grew up in a community where most everyone was religious, and thus their religion was probably not criticized very often. In a less demeaning way, this is basically the perspective that Harris is arguing for.

Now, because in the year 2011 the United States had more religious people, especially mainline Protestant adherents, and since the trauma from the September 11, 2001 attacks hadn’t drained away yet, Harris realized that he was still living in a world where religion held a tighter grip on the average person in the world. It wasn’t yet possible for an outspoken atheist to become president. Not even Barak Obama, who was president at the time and was the most secular president to take office at that point, (President Biden has since taken that spot), had made appeals to religious texts and teachings when campaigning for office and for particular policy positions. All of this to say that Harris knew that he was living in a deeply religious world that wasn’t quite as secular as it is now in the year 2021, and thus this was a point worth making. To sum it up, the point that Sam Harris is making in this video was a clearly articulated philosophical argument at the time that he made it. Now it has become more of a default presupposition. It wouldn’t make much sense to bring this point up nowadays, because our secularized culture would just see this as an obvious fact. Questioning this would be like questioning that the Earth is round.

It is worth noting that a majority of the world is still religious. Western culture, however, is becoming increasingly secular, and we need to note that, unless religious people double down on evangelism efforts, the United States will probably look more like Australia does now.

Sam Harris begins by asserting that the existence of a creator of the universe is an unfalsifiable claim. He goes on to say that there are many things that we can reasonably believe without proving them. He uses the idea of the matrix as an example.2 In other words, he says that the idea that someone created the universe should be lumped in with the other things that we’re not tempted to believe, such as the existence of ghosts or leprichans. He says that the idea of a God, especially the god of any particular religion, is damaged even further when you consider the theology and the history of the various religions, especially the religions that still exist today. Here are his exact words:

“The New Testament makes it perfectly clear that Jesus is the Son of God, really the Son of God, and you have to believe this, otherwise you’re gonna spend eternity in hell. The Koran says twice that Jesus is not the Son of God, and anyone who believes he’s the Son of God will spend eternity in hell. This offers as much room for compromise as a coin toss. Let’s say that we just knew that one of those claims was right. We’ve eliminated all the other possibilities. We’re living in this challenging universe where God has given us this highly imperfect book and asked us to grapple with it. But now we have the biblical claim, the New Testament claim, to the divinity of Jesus and the necessity of believing in it and the Koranic claim that belief in the divinity of Jesus leads to damnation. Which one of these is more likely, that one of those is right and the other one’s wrong, or that we have these competing tribes who are toiling in the context of abysmal ignorance about the world and the birth of the cosmos and the destiny of any individual soul after death? I would put my lot in with a wider view of the circumstance…”

Let’s just pause there for a second. Now, if you’re familiar at all with the debate over the existence of God, then you’ve probably heard some form of this argument before. It essentially boils down to this point: How do you know that your religion is the right one when there are so many religions out there? Harris is basically using an altered version of this argument. In fact, I would say that this argument is stronger than the traditional version of it. Harris is using a more empirical version of the argument. Another way of putting it would be this way:

“We have no evidence that there’s a God. We know that ancient civilizations were ignorant about how the world works. We know that not all of these religions can be true. We also know that the religious texts and teachings of these religions resemble more of the thinking of ancient cultures that didn’t know as much as we do now. In light of all of this, I think it’s safe not to exert too much mental energy wondering whether or not I’m wrong about the truth of these religions.”

Please note that that’s my paraphrase and not Harris’s actual words, but that is essentially what he is arguing. He is basically making a probability argument, as the question that was posed to him was a question about the probability of a creator. He is, in a way, shifting the burden of proof on to religious people, without really expecting that burden of proof to be met.

To put it another way, it would be like someone telling us that ghosts exist. If someone were to come up to us and say, “Is it possible that ghosts exist?” odds are you would say no. The reason that you would say that is because there really isn’t any reliable evidence that ghosts exist, and there does seem to be a pattern amongst the claims that ghosts exist. They all seem to have holes in them. Harris is basically putting the existence of God on par with ghosts.

Now, here is the problem. There are many people out there that believe that the existence of a creator is not an unfalsifiable claim, as Harris says. In fact, you could fill hundreds of libraries with all of the literature that has been produced, even today, on the existence of God. Now, I understand that Harris has interacted with a few pieces of this literature, and I would say that he probably only has a superficial understanding of what the top scholars are saying on these topics. I say that not as an insult but just as a note to say that there is more to the story than Harris probably realizes here. However, he doesn’t explicitly say, in this particular video at least, that there’s no evidence for God’s existence. It’s just sort of implied. The main argument that he makes against Christianity in particular is that the Bible is a highly imperfect book. Now, he goes into why he believes this in other places, but the main point that I want to address here is this: Bible scholars and theologians are well aware of these objections and they’ve filled hundreds, if not thousands, of volumes answering these objections. Many of these theologians specialize in other fields along with theology, such as the hard sciences or philosophy. They make it their vocation to understand these objections and then to respond to them as appropriately as possible.

For example, skeptics often point out that the Bible is constantly making scientific errors. One such instance of an alleged error is in Leviticus 11:13-19, where God says, “And these birds you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.” (ESV. Emphasis mine.) In this scripture, the Bible seems to identify a bat as a bird. Now, we know very well that bats are not birds. So was the Bible wrong?

No. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even call bats birds. It was just a poor choice on the part of those who translated the Bible into English. The original Hebrew word that the word bird replaced here is “owph” which can be literally translated as a “fowl/winged creature.” This word includes everything that has wings and can fly. That would include bats.3

In many instances, critics like to point out “internal inconsistencies” in the Bible. One such internal inconsistency that is often mentioned is a contradiction between the resurrection accounts in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12. The first two passages say that there was one angel in the empty tomb of Jesus and the passage in Luke says that there were two. Do we have a contradiction here? No, and I would say that to make that assertion so confidently is symptomatic of intellectual laziness. The late theology professor and pastor Dr. R.C. Sproul put it well:

“…would it not be possible for one eyewitness to be more concerned about who wasn’t there-Jesus-than he was about the number of angels present?…If there were two angels, we know there had to be at least one; thus, since Mark and Matthew don’t say there were was only one angel there, there’s no contradiction between them and Luke. Instead, there’s various in persepctives because they’re relying on different eyewitness reports of the same event. Such variation is exactly what we should expect from different accounts.”4

Just a bit of background: the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection are recorded in four different books of the Bible, each having its own author. If the details of the accounts were exactly alike, they would actually be considered suspect. We would have reason to believe that the authors collaborated to make a plausible sounding Jesus legend. That’s not what we have. What we have are authors that focused on different details and aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection in their own writing styles.

Does that mean that these accounts are wrong in some areas? No. Let’s say that my friend Keith and I witness the same event. Let’s say we are out walking, and suddenly, we get robbed. After the robbery, we report it to the police. We’re talking to two police officers, and one of them officially says, “I’m sorry boys, but there’s nothing that we can really do if you don’t remember what the thief looked like.”

After this, Keith and I go and tell the story to our parents. I say to my parents, “The police officer that we talked to said that there wasn’t anything that he could do for us.” Keith, however, tells his parents, “One of the police officers that we were talking to said that there wasn’t really anything that they could do for us.” Was I wrong in telling my parents that one police officer said that there wasn’t anything that they could do? Absolutely not. I was a little more concerned with the fact that the police couldn’t do much for me rather than the number of police officers that were sitting in front of me. The way that I spoke didn’t bar the possibility of there being two police officers, I just didn’t mention one of them. It’s the same situation when it comes to the two angels in Jesus’ empty tomb. The writer is more concerned the fact that Jesus’ dead body wasn’t where it had initially been put. Mathematical precision wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. Yet the language that he used doesn’t contradict the fact that there were two angels there. The authors were just more concerned with the claim that the angel was making.

In the very same article in which Dr. Sproud addresses this alleged problem, he says this, “The main thing I want to say about this issue is that most alleged contradictions turn out not to be contradictions at all.” 5 As my pastor would say, “Christians have been answering these questions for two thousand years. Pick a century.”

There are many ways in which atheists make accusations against the Bible’s perfection, but they are usually the result of biblical/theological illiteracy or just not thinking very hard about the issues at hand. Like I said before, Bible scholars and theologians are well-aware of these issues and their are perfectly sound answers for them. Alongside this, we have to much external evidence confirming the Bible’s truth, such as evidence within archeology, science, and philosophical arguments.6

I say all of this to argue that there are good reasons to believe that the Bible is a perfect book, and thus comparing it to other religious texts is a misguided comparison at best.

Now here’s the final nail in the coffin of the argument that is being made: the criteria for truth that I just laid out for the Bible is the standard that atheists use for their believe in naturalism, or the belief that everything merely came about by natural processes. Evidence. Which means that what we have here really are two competing views of the world: Christianity or naturalism. This makes Christianity immune to the argument that Harris just made. If it weren’t, then we would also have to throw atheism into the mix. We might say something along the lines of “If you were born on one of the coasts of the United States, then of course you would choose to be an atheist.” Yet, if we have any shred of evidence for naturalism, then we can’t possibly speak of it in that way whether it’s true or not. If we have any evidence for the Bible’s accuracy, then it is in the same boat.

Now let’s look at the rest of Harris’ argument:

“It’s a very strange sort of loving God that would have created this sort of circumstance that by mere accident of birth you are rest to believe, let’s say rightly raised to believe, that this book was the perfect book, but if you happen to be born in China, you go for centuries without hearing about this. It’s a totally provincial and I think implausible scenario…”

Well we know that because of the evidence that Christianity and its claims are not implausible, but let’s look at the argument at face value here. Christianity is is the most adhered to religion in the world.7 Now, there are many people who are living in countries that are under cover Christians. That is to say, they wouldn’t exactly be labeled as Christians because their governments have illegalized it. Therfore, Christianity is not limited to a particular geographic area. It’s a global religion. It is a religion that has grown largely because of Jesus’ command to spread it to the nations (Matthew 28:20) Not only this, but in Romans 1:18-32 makes it very clear that creation makes the existence of God along with what He expects of us morally evident to every person but that we distort the truth in exchange for a lie, which would explain why most people in history have been religious, and would explain why there are so many religions that are and have been limited to specific geographical regions. This is why virtually every civilization had its own god or set of gods. Israel was unique in that it was their mission to add converts to the kingdom of God. This is why Judaism in its truest form was not merely an ethnic religion.

I’ve thrown a lot of information out, but in summary, Harris is making an argument about the probability of the existence of a creator. He argues that it’s improbable because the idea of a creator is unfalsifiable and in the end there’s not explicit reason to believe it. He also believes that it’s improbable because the theology of the various religions are inconsistent with what we know from modern science and because the religious texts of the various religions are imperfect and reflect ancient ignorance rather than what we would expect from an omniscient and omnipotent creator. I’ve made the case that the Bible is a perfect book that can be trusted and that the probability of a creator is made much higher by the fact and that the presence of other religions doesn’t lower the probability of the truth of Christianity. We are living in a secular age that discourages serious conversation about the topic of religion. Indeed, many don’t even realize that such serious conversations can take place. I urge my readers to take this subject seriously, because it is fundamental to our understanding of morality, science, politics, beauty, and what it means to live a good life. I hope you take it seriously from now on. When you do, you can see why arguments such as the one made in Sam Harris’ video are not very persuasive. I hope that Harris comes to see this. He is an intelligent thinker. I would say that it’s possible that he will in the future.

Footnotes:

  1. Harris, Sam Making Sense Podcast samharris.org https://samharris.org/podcast/ Please keep in mind that I don’t agree with everything that Harris says in this podcast. Many of the criticisms that he makes of religion are not substantial at all. However, he does have some valuable perspectives and a healthy skeptical attitude when it comes to current events and certain philosophical issues.
  2. There are great philosophical works that argue that we are not living in the matrix, as a few people actually believe. If you’re interested in reading content like that, check out Meek, Esther Longing to Know (Grand Rapids, MI Brazos 2003) for what I believe this the best response to the topic.

3. Hodge, Bodie “Bats of the Feather: Did Moses make an error when he called a bat a bird?” Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contradcitions Vol. 1 Ham, Ken 2nd printing, (Master Books: A Division of New Leaf Publishing Group November, 2012), p. 56. The author’s source for this information was F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Brigg Hebrew and English Lexicon, 9th printing (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers 2005) p. 773.

4. Sproul, R.C. March 24, 2021, “Are There Contradictions in the Bible?” Ligonier Ministries https://www.ligonier.org/blog/are-there-contradictions-bible/

5. Ibid.

6. If you’re interested in any of this evidence, there ae so many different books that you can look into. Lee Strobel and Norman Geisler’s books are a good introductory into the subject. Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig is a good author for intermediates. William Lane Craig also has a lot of advanced and introductory material as well. You can also look into Josh and Sean McDowell’s resources. Fantastic authors that do a fantastic job at teaching about the evidence for the Bible’s accuracy. If you’re not a huge reader, Capturing Christianity’s website is also really good: https://capturingchristianity.com

7. Hackett C., McClendon D., April 5, 2017 “Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe” Pew Research Center https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/

My New Mission As a Writer

By Lane Noble

Okay, so the title of this post may be a bit misleading, because technically this isn’t my new mission as a writer. Rather, this is a conscious modification of an old mission that I’ve had for years.

I enjoy writing non-fiction on my blog, but I also love writing fiction. It’s rather unfortunate that I haven’t done it much over the past few years, but lately, as I’ve come to have more time on my hands, I’ve started to write fiction more.

One thing, however, that I’ve come to think about more often are the kinds of stories that I write. Over the years, I’ve mostly been prone to writing science fiction and fantasy. I think that I also have more of an affection for apocalyptic thrillers than the average writer. (You can imagine how much writing inspiration for those types of stories during the year 2020.) I still trend toward these types of stories. Now, I do also love writing realistic stories as well. I have one in particular in mind that is probably going to take quite awhile to write just because of how intertwined with the evens of the past ten or so years it is.

Lately, however, I’ve been listening to an author and podcaster that I very much admire. I admire him because he, along with myself, just so happens to be a fan of the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. Matt Fradd, who actually has a podcast called Pints with Aquinas1, is a very intelligent and inspiring man. Despite the fact that I’m what demographers would refer to as an Evangelical Protestant (I don’t prefer that term) and he is a Roman Catholic, I have learned quite a bit from him. One theme that I have picked up from his podcast that he loves to emphasize is the concept of human dignity. Of course, as a Christian viewing things from a biblical worldview, I most definitely have to emphasize that concept as well. We are all created in the image of God and therefore we have inherent dignity. (Genesis 1:27)

Yet, we live in a society that doesn’t want to acknowledge the Lordship of our Creator and therefore wants nothing to do with being the image bearer of God. They would rather be their own image bearers. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when this attitude carries over into the views of other people. There is no more obvious place to see this attitude shift then in contemporary art and literature.

Matt often suggests practical ways that we can grow in the virtue of seeing the dignity of others and treating them as such. One such way is by being more selective of the things that we watch, listen to, and read.

You don’t have to go very far on the internet to see anything that contradicts the idea of human dignity. Most channels on television also contradict this view. They subtly, and possibly without even knowing it, communicate messages that influence us to think of human beings as anything but dignified. Human beings are stupid and not worth caring for. Human beings are savage animals with more sophisticated brains. Human beings are sex objects here for our sexual gratification. The list of messaging goes on and on.

As a Christian, I can’t stand for any of that. I know on the basis of God that humans aren’t mere animals with more sophisticated brains. I know that while humans are inherently sinful and therefore often unwise, that does not mean that they aren’t worth caring for, and you don’t even need to be a Christian to recognize the disgusting idea that humans are sex objects. Yet, these messages, through entertainment, literature, the internet, etc. are being thrown at us constantly and, whether we realize it or not, are constantly influencing our thinking.

For example, you may not really believe that humans are mere sex objects, but are you possibly objectifying people that you’re sexually attracted to in your mind? By definition, that is seeing someone as a sex object. What about the idea that humans are stupid and aren’t worth caring for? How often do you turn a blind eye to suffering or injustice because somebody you were too consumed with your own desires and needs? These messages are everywhere, and we need to be cautious of them.

This is why I am committing myself to write stories that dignity humanity. No matter what I write, I want to write stories that don’t contradict the fact that we are made in the image of God and therefore have inherent dignity. Instead of objects of lust, the characters in my stories will be portrayed as people who should be loved. Instead of portraying humans as unworthy of being cared for, I will portray them as image bearers that God loves and, in light of reality, will care for them. Instead of portraying humans as animals that are controlled by their instincts, I will portray us as moral beings who should know the difference right and wrong and can choose virtue over vice, even if the character in question doesn’t do so. I want to write a story that is truly beautiful, and one that is healing and enlightening to the soul. Not one that seers the conscience and abates humanity in the eyes of the reader.

This is something that I can do with just about any story, and I challenge every writer reading this to make the same commitment. Will I be perfect at this? Of course not. I do, however, want people to see my writing as life-giving, not life-sucking.

At the end of the day, no matter what our vocation is, we need to be able to look people in the eyes and value them as human beings, even if they don’t value themselves. This is a command to Christians, not a suggestion. With that said, to God be the glory for having mercy on us and allowing us to see each other in this dignified light.

  1. Fradd, Matt Pints with Aquinas Matt Fradd pintswithaquinas.com https://pintswithaquinas.com/episodes/

Four Reasons My Life Has Been Better Without Social Media

By Lane Noble

Around two months ago, I slowly weaned myself off of social media. Keep in mind that this is something that I’ve had since I was eleven years old. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that an eleven year old should not be on social media at all. It’s not a place for children. I would also argue, however, that it’s not a good place for teenagers and adults either.

The first social media platform that I ever joined was Facebook. That was pretty much the most popular website to be on alongside Twitter and YouTube at the time. I then joined Twitter, and then a few years later joined Instagram. I finally graduated to Snap Chat, and, for a time, with the exception of Twitter, I loved all of them.

Once people saw the potential of social media and how exciting it was, (there was a time when it was an exciting concept), it seemed as though everyone was joining. Even kids were lying about their age and joining Facebook. (Like me.)

Now it seems like social media is a sinking ship, and many people are deciding quickly whether or not they want to jump off or climb to the top.

I, for the longest time, was one of the many people that climbed to the top. For a long time, I was afraid to get off of social media lest I miss something important or I have ties severed with friends that are on there too.

I now realize that jumping ship was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. After about two months, I have noticed a huge difference in my life. I didn’t realize how harmful social media was until I got away from it. I want to share with you four amazing changes that I’ve experienced because since my exodus from this platform, and then I want to respond to some objections for quitting, because I realize that social media, more likely than not, is harming you more than you realize too.

1. I Was Less Angry

This is probably a more obvious one, but it’s still worth mentioning. For me, Instagram and/or Snap Chat was where this was most prominent, but it happened on Facebook and Twitter too. I would log on, and at first something nice would pop up. A family on the beach or a photo of a newly married couple. I then proceed to scroll down and, WHAM! Somebody has posts a mean and vicious attack on my political views. I take a deep breath and scroll some more. Somebody did something stupid and they knew better. I scroll some more. More politics. I scroll some more. More politics. I scroll some more. Somebody is insulting my religious views. I scroll some more. Another person did something stupid. On and on and on and on it goes. On occasion I may get a break, but typically I would have to do something to relieve my stress before doing something else, and it was making me less happy throughout the day, which leads me to the next reason.

2. I Was Way More Productive

I can’t emphasize enough how much more productive I was once I got off of social media. My academics improved. My work life improved. My room was cleaner. My life was dramatically improving in this area.

There are two reasons this happened. The first is that I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or going through snap chat stories in an effort to procrastinate what I was supposed to be doing. This happened more than I realized. Especially during the pandemic.

Secondly, as indicated above, I would usually be anxious, angry, or depressed once I got off of social media. I tried to correct for this by hiding certain people, reporting ads I didn’t want to see, and not opening stories from people I knew would negatively impact my mind, but no matter how hard I tried, I was almost always worse off for logging on than if I had done something else. As a result, I would need to take more time to get myself into a better head space, which would give me less time to accomplish the things that I needed to get done. With less time to get things done, I would get even more anxious and depressed and it became a seemingly endless cycle.

This doesn’t happen nearly as much anymore. Not only am I getting things done, but I’m finding more rewarding ways to spend my leisure time.

3. Less Self-Comparison

This was something that I didn’t realize that I actually did, and I didn’t usually do it intentionally. It would typically happen when someone would post what they were doing of what they’ve accomplished online, and I would beat myself up over the belief that I haven’t accomplished that much. The only person one should measure themselves against is the person that they used to be. Progress and growth is not a race.

I’m much more confident in my abilities and in my accomplishments now. I don’t compare myself to others and I don’t feel as inadequate as I used to feel. People try to present the best image of themselves on social media, and often at the expense of authenticity. Therefore, it really is inevitable that people would be tempted to compare themselves to others and beat themselves up over their own perceived flaws when frequently engaging with social media.

4. Better Information

The world has been flooded with more information than it ever has before, and the obvious reason for that is the internet. Believe me when I say that I love the fact that I can learn about almost anything that I want to on the internet. Seriously, I can become an expert in anything that I want without even getting out of bed. Websites are a great place to get find information you want to know…except for social media websites.

The year 2020 has been a great illustration of this. False information about the coronavirus has been spreading faster than the coronavirus itself. False information about the Black Lives Matter movement and false information about racism. There has been false information about the election. Heck. I’m still not even sure if I know who actually won the election. For all I know Kanye West is our president and I’ve been believing it’s Joe Biden because I saw it on social media.

All joking aside, I’m not being fed nearly as much garbage on social media as I was, and it has lessened the sense of confusion that I feel and am sure a lot of people feel about our world today. I’m getting more information from reliable sources, in part because I have more time to seek out such sources.

That’s four ways my life has been better. Now I’d like to respond to two objections against quitting social media that most people have because, honestly, I think you would probably be better off quitting as well.

1. I Need (Insert Social Media Platform Here) For Church, Book Club, Keeping Up With Friends, etc.

This was actually one of the main reasons I didn’t get off of social media for a long time. If I had known two years ago that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were spending a lot of money trying to get me to believe that lie so that I would keep using their platforms, I would have likely gotten off at that point.

The fact of the matter is is that you don’t have as much control over your social media use as you think. The people that work for social media platforms are experts in psychology. In fact, a lot of companies hire psychologists (known as Industrial-Organizational Psychologists) to learn how to get people to use their products.

Social media is more different. The longer you’re online, the more opportunities for ads to show you. The more ads they show you, the more money they make. They will do anything to not end up like MySpace.

If this sounds far-fetched, you can experiment with this yourself. Quit social media for at least a week and see what happens. You can always get back on. For most platforms, you have thirty days to reactivate your account before it’s gone for good.

Believe me, you are not as dependent on social media as you think you are. If someone who has been using it since they were eleven years old can quit, so can you.

2. Social Media is How I Keep Up With People I Don’t Usually Get to See

Whenever I hear adults talk about high school reunions twenty years after they graduated, I usually hear them say something like this, “If I haven’t seen you in twenty years, I probably don’t care much about seeing you now.” That’s not to say that you don’t like those people. It’s just to say that the people that you really wanted to say in touch with, you did stay in touch with.

I think the same principle can be applied to social media. If you look through all of the people you follow on social media, my guess is that the people you really want to stay in touch with have a means of communicating with you outside of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Even if they don’t, if they really care about staying in touch with you they won’t care if you give them your phone number to text or your email, and you don’t have to know every single thing that’s going on in their lives by keeping an eye on their posts on Facebook. In fact, you relationship with them will probably improve because you’ll have things to talk about over the phone or text. You won’t automatically know what they’ve been up to via Twitter.

3. Social Media Doesn’t Negatively Impact Me

I can almost guarantee you that social media is impacting your life in ways that you don’t even realize. Prior to my quitting, I didn’t realize just how much of my daily anxieties were coming from my use of social media. After just a couple of weeks, I noticed so much more peace. I had no clue what it was doing to me!

Like I said, just quit temporarily, and if you decide that you really need social media back, go for it. After about two months I actually rejoined Facebook, and four days later I deleted it because I noticed that all of that anxiety and frustration that I had before was back.

If you’re still not convinced, there’s a video below that I think might change your mind with more reasons for leaving. I think quitting will change your life like it changed mine. At least give it a shot.

The Pandemic In Hindsight: The Benefits of COVID-19 (Part 2)

By Lane Noble

In my last post, I discussed three benefits of the Coronavirus-2019 pandemic that we would do well to take note of. However, there were so many that I wanted to highlight, that I am splitting this up into a three part series highlighting and drawing out the many benefits of this historical event.

As I said the last time, the Coronavirus has caused great harm and suffering in this world, and I don’t in anyway wish to downplay or make light of that. The suffering and/or trauma that has come from it should be noticed and handled with care. However, I do think, as with so many tragedies, much good has come out of it as well, and I think we should take note of said good and be thankful for it.

With that said, here are three more benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. The Advancement of Science

As Christians we can and should affirm the gift of modern science. We should be grateful for just how many amazing achievements we’ve made using the tools of scientific inquiry. For example, because of science, when my car broke down on the side of the interstate on my way across town a couple of years ago, I was able to use my mobile device to call for help instead of trying to flag someone down for help or walk to the nearest convenience store to use the phone. I was able to hitch a ride home and have my vehicle toed in no time.

Then of course we have even more amazing achievements such as cancer treatments and vaccinations. We can actually make ourselves almost invincible to deadly pathogens that for thousands of years were essentially death sentences to humans past. We can even protect our pets from rabies using vaccinations. Thanks to medical science, Polio is no longer the health threat that it once was, and Meningitis doesn’t scare us the way it used to.

Not only that but we can actually fling ourselves to the other side of the planet in a giant piece of metal in less than twenty-four hours. All thanks to science.

When we consider this, and more, we realize that God has truly give science to us as a gift. Many lives have been saved and made easier with it, and now, with the help of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have been able to advance it further.

The coronavirus vaccine is a historic achievement that we shouldn’t ignore. While it is true that the amount of testing it has gone through is probably not ideal, the fact of the matter is that to develop this vaccine as quickly as the developers did is nothing short of a scientific miracle. While most vaccines take years to make, this one took less than one year.

Yet when this virus first became an international crisis there was so much that we didn’t know about it. This virus has actually taught us a lot about epidemiology that we didn’t already know. This virus allowed us to better understand viruses in general.

Not only that, but this pandemic allowed psychologists and sociologists to enter understand human behavior and mental health. The better we understand this, the better we can make mental health care for all people.

2. The Ugly Revelation of Immorality

Christians operating out of a biblical worldview understand that, contrary to popular belief, suffering doesn’t make people immoral. Suffering reveals the immorality already present within us. Most commonly, we can see examples of this in somone who is experiencing high levels of stress. Often these people will shout at others for no good reason, or they wil say things that they would never say otherwise under the pressure that they’re under.

Suffering doesn’t make anyone evil. It pulls back the curtains to reveal evil. Christians who have been paying attention to U.S. culture know that, probably more than ever in the history of this country1, immorality and a commitment to the subversion of the truth revealed in God’s Word has risen.

However, if I’m being honest, I’m very shocked by the commitment of the secular left2 to the evil institutions that they support during the pandemic. That is, their willingness to put people’s lives at risk during the pandemic just to preserve and advance them.

There is probably no better example of this than the example of abortion. In my own home state, Planned Parenthood was using up so much medical and financial energy that should have been used in other, more essential places to help fight against the Coronavirus. I have trouble believing that any morally sane person could truly believe that stopping someone from having a baby, unless the birth was going to be life-threatening to the mother, could ever be considered worth risking people’s lives during an international health crisis. Then again, life never seems to be a priority for abortion clinics.

We’ve seen that even in the midst of an international pandemic, the secular left is unashamedly committed to the termination of innocent life.

I could go on citing more examples, such as the willingness of the secular left to turn a blind eye to rioting in the streets even at the risk of people’s lives, or the unwillingness of both the right and the left to set aside their political differences to work for the public good is very revealing. Christians, we’ve seen what this society has become. The way to reform is by revival. It’s happened before. It can happen again. That’s the benefit for Christians is that we have our fingers on the pulse of our society. It’s good for Christians who haven’t been following this to notice it now, and be mobilized to evangelize to the rest of the culture.

3. The Value of Servanthood

I think that this benefit in particular might be the most overlooked of all of them. When the pandemic first began, we had to readjust our lives quite a bit. Events that would have normally been in person were now virtual. Those who lived alone were more isolated than they probably ever have been. Grocery trips were no longer indoors (maybe that’s a blessing). On and on the list goes. The pandemic make things very difficult, and, while we did see the worst of humanity, we also saw the best of it. I think all of us, to some extent, learned the value of living in a community dedicated to serving one another. While it did take place during an international crisis, perhaps our communities were being served for the better. By being given an incentive to cultivate servanthood, our communities have been dramatically improved. That’s a blessing that we should never take for granted.

Footnotes:

  1. Notice how I didn’t say that the world has never been as immoral as it is now. There are some that would argue this. Others, however, while recognizing the unique challenges that we face, believe that the world has always been this immoral, barring the possible exception of Genesis 6:5, that talks about how evil humanity was in the days of Noah. Some even believe that Genesis 6:5 is not referring to how evil humanity was, but just to express that they were very evil and that God was not pleased with man. I personally believe that the world’s “levels” of disobedience haven’t risen, I would say that we are living in a unique time period where the very central understandings and institutions of the universe are being redefined by secularists, such as the definition of marriage, gender, sexuality, the family, what it means to be human, etc. That said, I do believe the challenges the United States are facing are definitely unprecedented to its history because the founding of the United States was so highly influenced by evangelicalism and the Christian worldview, and the Constitution was written with the understanding that human beings have “natural rights” given to them by God, whether or not the founders of the Constitution believed in the Christian God or the Deistic God.

2. I want to make sure that I clarify the term “secular left.” I recognize that there are many wise and godly Christians who might say that they lean to the left of the political spectrum. However, it must be noted that there is a section of the left that is very much committed to secularism. This is an indisputable fact. This is not to say that there aren’t left-leaning policies Christians can vote for in good conscience. I do mean to acknowledge, however, the fact that there is a very large and influential group on the left that is committed to a very secular, unbiblical worldview.

The Pandemic in Hindsight: The Benefits of COVID-19 (Part 1)

By Lane Noble

I walked out of my bedroom and saw that my mother had just come home. She was still in her work clothes and was clearly worn out from teaching first graders all day.

“Well,” she said, “we’re out of school for the next three weeks.”

“Really?” I said in a surprised tone. “Why?”

“That virus. The Goveror is shutting all of the schools down for two weeks, and then we have Spring Break. So I’ve got to get packets ready for them.”

“Well…alright then.”

A couple of weeks later I get the call from my mother, who was staying with my grandfather in the hospital. “Don’t come up here. They aren’t allowing visitors because of the disease. They aren’t letting people in unless you have to come in.”

“Wow! Okay.” I said.

Another day I was on my way to a job interview. I stopped at a fast food joint to pick up something to drink and a box of fries (I was low on blood sugar) and I got into a conversation with the cashier.

“The Governor is making all of the restaurants close at five today.”

“Are you serious?” I exclaimed. “That’s crazy!”

Eventually I received a call from my pastor saying that we would no longer gather for service for the time being to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I was shocked. I felt like I was living in one of those apocalyptic thrillers. Except that I was fully immersed in it.

I remember being shocked the first time I went to the store for the first time since a pandemic alert had been issued. The silence was somber. The elephant in the room was that being here was dangerous. There were police officers surveying the aisles. Everyone had just started wearing masks. There was tape on the floors reminding everyone to social distance. There was hand sanitizer and there were signs dispersed with a drawing of a man wearing a mask, reminding everyone to wear a face covering. There was also a person standing out front, taking note of the amount of people coming in and going out so as not to have too many people in the store.

The once customary handshake had become a public health threat. COVID-19 notices posted on every single website. A flood of emails coming in from every company detailing how they were going to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. This was definitely becoming the defining issue of the early twenty-twenties. At this point, the fact is that it’s officially been a year since the world was changed by the pandemic, and we would do well to reflect on the past year.

The obvious fact of course is that many have suffered at the hands of this pandemic. Many have died from the illness itself. Many have lost their jobs, and many have suffered from serious anxiety and depression. The suicide hotlines have blown up over the past year. The destruction that COVID-19 has wrought should not go unnoticed, and Christians should be well aware of the suffering so that we can pray for those involved and serve them. However, in this article, and two more articles to come, I would like to examine the potentially unnoticed benefits of COVID-19. I actually think that more good came out of COVID-19 than not, which is why I’m dedicating three articles to this topic. In this one, we will examine three:

1. Taking Away What We Never Knew We Needed

The world today is a desperately and severely anxious place. I’m often surprised nowadays when someone tells me that they don’t wrestle with an anxiety disorder or aren’t constantly apprehensive. The line at the door of the therapist’s office is miles long now, and we’ve completely drugged ourselves up with anxiety pills. Millions of dollars are being stuffed into the pockets of meditation app designers who want to help others reduce anxiety through mindfulness meditation.

There is no shortage of explanations for this rise in anxiety over the years: chemical imbalance, technology, social/political unrest, dietary issues. All of these obviously play a part in the problem, but there’s one fundamental thing that we had almost completely abandoned before the pandemic and almost completely lost by the time it arrived: community.

It turns out that we got just enough community to stay alive but not nearly enough to stay sane. Social media and other communications technologies gave us the illusion that we were actually connected. Yet we knew something was wrong. It was just that no one wanted to fix it.

What little community that we had was taken away from us with the arrival of COVID-19. Yet, we got more of it. When we realized what we were missing, we went for it. Though it was mostly through FaceTime, we spent more time with friends. We spent more time with family. Hopefully, with the end of this pandemic we won’t take this gift from God for granted to the extent that we were before it.

2. Learning the Value of Slowing Down

When the lockdown started, for many of us, our schedules shrunk. Hours that would have normally been spent doing things miles away from our homes were now freed up to be filled with other things.

Now, from a biblical worldview we know that idleness is not a good thing. We recognize that there is a certain danger from having too much time on our hands. However, our society was moving at a breakneck speed prior to the pandemic. To an extent, we still were when the pandemic began. The speed of the news and cultural transformation writ large did not help matters. However, we did slow down during the pandemic, and there is value in that.

I actually learned some new ways to relax and detox. One such way was mowing the lawn. Now, I still live with my parents, and mowing was something that I had done periodically, but was not primarily responsible for. However, I ended up mowing not just my own lawn but the lawns of my neighbors and the lawns of other folks who were unable to do so. I came to find that it was actually relaxing. I loved turning on a podcast or an audiobook and then doing something productive, with very few other deadlines on my shoulders.

I also took up meditation. Again, something that I had done before, but didn’t really realize the value of until then. I used two apps called Soulspace and Calm. One of those apps focuses specifically on mindfulness and the other is a Christian meditation app that focuses on slowing down and filling your mind with truth. I found both apps so helpful.

I know many folks who have improved themselves and grown in wisdom tremendously because they’ve been reading and praying more during lockdown. Others have replaced their high stress lives with lower stress ones in general. In this sense, the pandemic was healthy. It was like a vacation from the high intensity of our previous world.

3. The World Unmasked Its Ugly Face…and That’s a Good Thing

Christians knew, intellectually, that we live in a Genesis three world. A world that is tainted by sin. God’s perfect design is no longer perfect, but because of God’s wonderful plan of redemption creation will eventually be restored.

Christians, western Christians in particular, have always had a false sense of security in this world. Yeah we live in a sin cursed world but we don’t want to be too negative. Life is short. We need to enjoy life…

I believe that the pandemic has ripped apart the above piece of garbage. What the pandemic, and really the year 2020 has taught us in general, is that life is short and life is fragile. It could be taken away from us at any moment. It could be taken away by COVID-19. It could be taken away by radical protesters and/or rioters. It could be taken away by a car crash or a murder hornet. This world is dangerous because it has been ruined by sin, which is one of the reasons that Jesus told us not to get too comfortable here. The kinds of events that took place over the last eyar aren’t knew. Humans haven’t been as “enlightened” as we thought they’ve been. Humans are evil at heart. They’re barbaric. They search for blood by their very nature. While by God’s grace we can do good things, even those who aren’t Christians, apart from God we are opposed to all things good. We are messed up. The year 2020 is the normal state of things. This is how the world really is, and if we become too comfortable in it then rest assured, we will go down with it when God judges the world.

Thankfully, we have the good news of Jesus that things don’t have to stay this way for us, and we can take this good news to the rest of the world. We have the only message that will eventually bring about the end of all suffering for a person. If we have such a message, then, in the words of atheist Penn Jillette: “how much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”1

Like I said before, we would do well to reflect on the past year. There are so many valuable lessons that we can learn from it. Hopefully, the church will grow as a result.

Notes:

  1. Taylor, Justin “How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proseletyze” The Gospel Coalition https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-much-do-you-have-to-hate-somebody-to-not-proselytize/ Accessed March 10, 2021


Secular Outcasts: The Marginalized Demographic That Christians Can Help

By Lane Noble

The major “threats” to Christianity during the early two thousands came from a movement known as “the New Atheists.” This movement aimed to eradicate religion through “education” and the spread of “reason and critical thinking.” They were successful to some extent. The book sales from famous authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens display that. Many have said that they felt “liberated” by such books.

Christians rightly rose up to the challenge of these atheists. There were books and resources from people such as Lee Strobel, who is probably most famous for his book The Case for Christ. You also have the rise of apologetics ministries such as Reasonable Faith, Living Waters University, the Discovery Institute, and Answers in Genesis. Now, many of these ministries predate the New Atheists, but all of these sought to fight the rise of secularism, and when the New Atheists hit the battle field, weapons in hand, these ministries were ready. Nowadays, we have more ministries and missionaries effectively responding to these attacks on God’s Word than ever.

Now, this secular revolution of sorts, just as every revolution does, have turn to eat their own. Those who used to be at the top of the secular revolution such as Sam Harris and Bill Maher have been seized by the very militants they once led and thrown out into the streets. Left to starve intellectually and losing hope for the future of the world.

These former thought leaders and revolutionaries wanted a word where not only atheism was dominant, but reason and logic. They wanted public policy to be based on science and critical analysis of known facts. They wanted people to solve problems using their minds, not their gut feelings.

While it seems they’ve had major successes in secularizing the society, they haven’t succeeded in producing a more rational one. The more secular left that they’d dreamed of has become more of a cult than a movement of those who want to use reason and science to change the world. They know that this can’t go anywhere good, and thus they worry for the future of our world.

Biblically minded Christians know, however, that there is hope for the future of the world, no matter how rational it is. We also, believing that God has commanded us to love Him with all of our minds (Luke 10:27) and that we’re to subdue the Earth (Genesis 1:28), we as Christians can support reason and science. We believe in reasonable discussions about all matters of truth. We know that God cares about truth. This is something that we support completely.

This is where evangelistically minded Christians have to realize that this is where we have an opportunity. We must have compassion and sympathy for those non-Christians who desire to come to reasonable and true conclusions about the world, because this, too, is what we want. We must reach out to those non-Christians who want to have rational conversations about important topics. They have few places to go for this, and we as Christians must be ready to receive them so that we can respectively and calmly talk with them about important topics on which we disagree. In fact, there are an increasing number of them who, right now, are willing to discuss the viability of God’s Word with those who are willing to have a good dialogue with them.

Chief among the Christians that are responding to this opportunity are such notable thinkers as William Lane Craig and Tim Keller. Cameron Bertuzzi, the founder of the ministry Capturing Christianity, has also been good about this. YouTube is currently filling up with better and better conversations between Christians and secularists because these secularists are hungry for intellectual stimulation. We as Christians can provide that for them as well as something better. Through our dialogues with them, we can possibly, and I pray that we do, persuade them of the truth of the Gospel. No longer will they have to shiver in fear of the notion that humanity will destroy itself. No longer will they have to fear death because Christ has taken away the sting of death. They will finally have something more certain than the process of science to place their hope in.

We don’t have to be famous evangelists to provide skeptics of Christianity with what they’re looking for. These people can be found at your local colleges and universities. These people can be our neighbors. These people can be coworkers. They will make themselves known. You will know when you will reach them.

The culture war is hotter than its ever been, and those who refuse to join the various cults at war with each other are looking for hope during these times. We should be sure to do so. Christianity will always be a faith that is committed to truth and reason. When there are non-believers who seek such things, we should be there to provide it.

Les Miserables: The Beauty That God Works Through

By Lane Noble

When I was fourteen years old, my English teacher took my class to go see the stage version of Les Miserables. At the time, no one in our grade new of this life changing story. Nor did we really care to. As far as we were concerned this was just another field trip that was only good for getting us out of class.

While I had difficulty following the stage version at first, from the first beat I was captivated by the music in the show. Now, to be fair, I have always had a bit of an unusual taste in music, so let’s just say that more than likely the rest of my classmates weren’t nearly as drawn into it as I was, but nonetheless, I sat back and enjoyed it.

I remember trying to recall the melodies of such classics from the show such as Master of the House and Look Down. The very next day, I determined to find the songs from the show.

Eventually, after listening to the soundtrack for awhile, I decided that I would watch the movie. I bought the DVD at the store and watched it, and was completely moved by it. It’s safe to say that that movie changed me for the better.

If you’re not familiar with Les Miserables, the basic plot of the story surrounds a man who lived in nineteenth century France named Jean Valjean who was imprisoned for nineteen years. As a result, his life was ruined and he was no longer treated as an equal in society. When it seemed all hope of living a decent life was lost, a church bishop finds him sleeping in the cold, and brings him inside his own home. The bishop proceeds to feed him and give him a place to sleep.

Lather that night, Jean Valjean gets up and steals some of the bishop’s valuables, then runs off with them. When the police bring him back to the bishop to ask if the items were stolen, the bishop tells the police that he gave those items to Valjean and that they could go in peace. The bishop gives Valjean the means to get back on his feat financially and tells him that from now on he needs to live his life with integrity. The grace that the bishop extended to Valjean changed his life forever, and from then on he lived not only a life of success, but one of love and compassion. As a result, many other lives are changed.

You don’t have to love musicals to understand why that story is so powerful. There are other aspects to it as well, but it would take me too long to go through those. The point is, the story of Les Miserables is probably one of the greatest fictional stories of mercy and love ever written, and, in my view, is highly underrated.

Not long after I saw the movie, I read through the entire book of Matthew for the very first time. I remember very specifically reading a particular passage and thinking of Les Miserables. I think that Les Miserables is a great illustration of this passage:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. or do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

In the movie, after Jean Valjean is helped by the bishop, he gives glory to God. Later on, Valjean adopts the daughter of a dying prostitute to ensure that she doesn’t go into poverty. Just before she dies, the prostitute redeclares her belief in a loving God shortly after denounces Him. The whole movie is full of people coming to give glory to God primarily through the work of His servants.

I really can’t convey how great this movie is through words. One needs to watch it in order to truly understand just how moving it really is. The bottom line is this: What we can learn from this wonderful movie is that God primarily saves people through His messengers. Namely, His people. We not only share the Gospel through words, but through actions. In fact, if nonbelievers don’t see us acting out our faith, why should we expect them to believe a word of the Gospel. We want them to see just how much the Gospel has transformed us, and, hopefully, they will come to want that transformation themselves.

People need to hear the Gospel. That’s vital. However, what we can learn from Les Miserables is that people should not only hear the Gospel, but they should see the results of the Gospel. They should see our changed lives. We need to show people how Christ has changed our lives, because Christ can change their lives too.

Why Moderation Breeds Hopelessness (and how to stop it from happening)

By Lane Noble

In an episode of Family Guy, the daughter, Meg, is persuaded to convert to Christianity by actor and evangelist Kirk Cameron. As a result of her conversion, she tries to convert her family.

“Meg,” Her mother, Lois Griffin, says. “I’m glad you found something to have faith in, but there’s such a thing as moderation!”

This is the attitude of probably most religious Americans. It’s commonplace to hear an endless string of justifications for why one shouldn’t take all of the teachings of one’s religion seriously. The argument is that it’s not necessary in today’s day and age. We’re enlightened twenty-first century Americans. We know that moderate religion is the way to go.

I hope to convince you that this chain of reasoning isn’t sound at all. This logic is not only wrong, but it will, at one point or another, lead to hopelessness and despair. I hope to convince you that there is another chain of thinking that leads to hope and confidence.

Why Not Moderate Religion?

Everyone has personal beliefs, and those personal beliefs are what drive us every single day. Many of the beliefs that we hold are beliefs that we’ve give thought to, or ones that have been passed down to us by our parents and/or legal guardians. These beliefs might be about God. They may be about morality. They might be about politics. Whatever those beliefs are, we hold them consciously. We are aware of them.

On the other hand, however, there are many beliefs that we hold that we aren’t aware of. Counselors and therapists know this well. They know that certain beliefs put us in certain patterns of thinking, and destructive beliefs can lead to destructive patterns of thinking. That’s why many therapists and counselors will try to help clients identify those beliefs and thus alter destructive patterns of thought into life-affirming patterns of thought.

When it comes to beliefs about God, we have many conscious beliefs. We might consciously believe that God is loving. Or we might consciously believe that God expects certain things of us or doesn’t expect certain things of us. It may be, however, that there are certain, unconscious beliefs about God that are driving us without us realizing it.

Those who hold to a moderate form of “Christianity” usually believe in a loving God. They would be correct in that. However, there is an unconscious belief that many hold about God that is the driving force of how they relate to Him. It’s so subtle that many don’t even realize it’s wrong, The idea is that, if God is loving, then He doesn’t require radical life change from His followers. Their beliefs could be summed up in one simple statement, “Live life to the fullest and, while death is sad, at least I’m going to heaven afterwards.”

This sort of thinking, whether the person who who is thinking it admits it or not, makes God out to be just another lifestyle choice, like the choice to start working out, or to go on a diet, or to spend less time on social media. It’s a good way to live life, but it doesn’t define us.

To some readers it might seem odd to have their identity in wrapped up in Jesus Christ. Here’s why it makes sense: If God is the Creator of all things, He and He alone reserves the right to define His creation as He sees fit. He is the Creator of reality. He is the One Who gets to define it. As our Creator, He and He alone grants rights to His creation. By making God just another “lifestyle choice,” we are essentially telling God we have the right to define reality for ourselves.

One might respond, “But nobody full devotes themselves to God. I’ll still go to Heaven.” Not according to God. God Himself condemns such thinking in the book of Revelation. Speaking to a church in Laodicea area, He says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) The work “lukewarm” is a term that refers to the temperature of water. To be lukewarm is to be neither hot or cold. Jesus uses this word to refer to people who are not fully committed to Himself. He uses pretty strong language against those who live their lives in such a way.

Why, then, does moderate “faith” in Christ lead to hopelessness? First of all, if God does matter more than anything else, then there is more to life than God. A world view that suggests that there is more to life than God is a world view that lets us despair about the missed opportunities of our lives. All of our tragedies are here to stay. In the biblical world view, the joy of God gives us hope because it far surpasses the suffering of this world. (Romans 8:18) If there is more to life than God, our sufferings actually have enduring consequences. Those consequences are only temporary in a Christian worldview.

Second, it leads to hope and despair because it means that God isn’t fully involved in our lives. The implication of this is that God doesn’t have a comprehensive plan of salvation that gives us hope in the midst of our rough circumstances. It means He is overlooking some suffering and invested in other suffering. In the Christian world view, God will do away with all suffering, and one day it will be as though the horrible things of this world never happened.

Lastly, moderate “faith” in Christ leads us to hell. Faith in moderation is the road to damnation. As we’ve seen, we’re either in or out. No middle ground for Jesus.

This may scare some. However, there is nothing to fear. Jesus has His arms open wide for all to come in. Salvation is free. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You don’t have to do anything to but to put your faith in Christ. All we need to is place our faith in Him. He will teach us His ways through His Word (the Bible.)

Will you consider coming to Christ today? His arms are open wide.