Category Archives: Apologetics

And Jesus Showed God’s Love by Guiding Sick, Injured, Poor People to Purchase “Free Market” Care

Portion of terra cotta panel at a former hospital in Liverpool. HistoricEngland.org.

Now, I hope you, dear reader, know that the title to this essay is absurd.i  The current state of affairs of our nation’s “health care” is problematic, and may soon get much worse in terms of how we (so-called Christians) treat people and in comparison to how other “westernized” countries of means, who seem to be less “Christian” than the U.S., treat theirs. I’m not just talking socialized medicine necessarily, but costs relative to care generally; they obviously consider what is going on with health care deliverers and regulate things appropriately to keep costs far lower than what you find in the states (while maintaining better health outcomes, too).ii  Why are these other countries more astute and caring than us in this “great and smart nation”? Who or what we serve is the difference. Our country serves Money (behind the guise of Freedom).iii

Of course our current system is broken, and virtually everyone agrees that it needs at least some fixes. But those who justify repealing “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) are not dealing with the core issues that are driving costs, while also ignoring a not-so-distant past when a great many persons didn’t have insurance. Ignoring all the heartache, deaths, bankruptcies, and suicides from that time, and the pre-ACA steep rises in premiums as well. Repealing Obamacare and throwing money at the states—much less money over the course of years—will not at all solve the basis for the wildly high costs of health care in America (which are still rapidly rising). The ACA contributed to this problem, but it’s not at all the single cause. The GOP talked of draining the swamp, but they are mired as deep into it as ever, as far as I can see; they couldn’t even include in their proposed legislation one of their long-term pet ideas, to open up insurance competition across state lines.iv

As it stands right now, the very very poor will still be eligible for Medicaid in the near future.  A number of poor that are in expanded Medicaid states will lose out relatively quickly (and I am going to say that it was cruel to leave people uncovered simply because they lived in a geography of no such expanded coverage), including the elderly in assisted living environments. I know that there’re plenty of people out there who don’t want to pay for much medicaid because they think people receiving it are lazy and taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen hearts-of-stone arguments regarding this, and it is not up to Christians to worry and judge so much about deceivers (and a lot of fraud is perpetuated by doctors, not patients). Deceivers will be found out and God will deal with them in His own way; our role is to lead people to Christ, even deceivers, if possible. We’re supposed to be the lights in a dark place here, not the judge.

The fact that there may be deceivers has nothing to do with helping the sick, who are often very poor because of their illness. It makes zero sense to push people who are very ill to work harder or at all in order to pay for health insurance: how can they work, and who would hire them? A lot of people get fired when they become sick—are you going to make their employer hire them back?  To even suggest this requirement is a hypocrisy and promoting a deception.  I bet a lot of these same people would nurse a sick or injured dog and not think anything of it. The dog would be getting all that care and attention for free, yet they insult and kick around those beings made in God’s image.  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9, NIV).

But What Did Christ Do and Teach about Sickness and health?

Whatever it was He did and taught, that’s what we’re to do (or at least try!). The very first hospitals that freely treated poor patients were Christian, because the followers that started them received Christ’s teaching and tried to follow His example.  What was Christ’s example?  Well, get this.  It is estimated that He spent 80% of His time healing people.v  He met people where they were at in their need in order to show that God was a God who was there for them, not some aloof diety.  If you haven’t gotten this from reading the New Testament, read it again more carefully.  There’s a difference between how we perceive what is written regarding what was said and what was done. Seeing as the disciples didn’t have computers and cheap paper, you have to think about what was going on based on the few words chosen.vi  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV). (I love John. Just think what a bold statement that was for his time period.) So, I think I could write a book on Jesus’ and his disciples’ works of healing, but I’m going to limit the examples to two very brief ones here; two that I think provide much insight into God’s will for our thinking in this matter (and the author of both, Luke, was a physician).

The Good Samaritan

(The full and short story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.) In this story, a “faithful” person wanted to justify himself, we’re told (that is, justify his actions or lack thereof), asking Jesus to define “neighbor” (the person who he had to love as himself).  So, Jesus told the little story commonly known as The Good Samaritan.  In it, two spiritually high-level Jews purposefully ignored a half-dead man lying in the road.  The man was there after suffering violence. But a man who the Jews would have despised (if not really hated), a Samaritan, stopped and helped the stricken stranger.  (Samaritans were considered idolatrous half-breeds who accepted only Moses’ scriptures and ignored the rest).  He not only treated the man’s wounds as best he could right there in the road, but took him to an inn and paid for his expenses, including whatever additional treatment the inn keeper could provide.  So Jesus’ (offensive) answer to the question was that the stranger in need who you happen to come across is your “neighbor” and worthy of your assistance/love. Perhaps God puts such situations in front of us, expecting us to provide His blessings–to be His hands.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

(The full and short story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.)  Another story Jesus told was that of an unnamed “rich man” and a poor diseased beggar named Lazarus.  Lazarus suffered greatly, and his situation hadn’t changed after someone laid him at the rich man’s gate. The rich man lived in luxury his whole life, never lifted a finger to help Lazarus (even with him at his gate!), and ends up in hell upon death.  Sometime later, Lazarus himself died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom (without getting into a big theological discussion, just say heaven).  Lazarus, although he suffered on earth and might have seemed cursed to some, was in fact blessed by God; God knew his name and in the end Lazarus found rest and peace. The story continues with Abraham telling the rich man, who tries to intercede on behalf of his still living brothers, that his brothers (like himself) have not listened to Moses and the prophets. Therefore, neither will they listen to someone who was raised from the dead. They have no faith in anything or anyone else.  All in life is for self, and they are so focused on that that they can’t see anything else.

The poor and diseased are at our gate, the gate of the wealthy and powerful United States, and we only hear of ways to cut back funds for them in order to help those better off.  We don’t hear talk about greed, the high value of medical industry stocks that benefit government employee pensions, the extreme amount of money the medical industry puts into lobbying, advertising, and other types of influence, etc.  Costs do need to come down for everyone, but not at the expense of the poor, disabled, diseased, and elderly.  Price reductions need to come down by appropriate and humane means that deal with greed, corruption, and catering to the wealthy.  And our church leaders need to say so out loud, to let those in need see that God is there, and loving, and not an aloof diety.  God isn’t dead, but what of the visible church?

Notes

i  Setting aside for a moment the fantasy of a truly “free market” economy, such a market would be for choosing which potato chip brand you want to buy, not whether or not you or your child lives or dies. Markets have nothing at all do with the human need to get life sustaining help from one’s fellow man. It’s too weird that this kind of thing even needs to be said . . . that there’s this context in America where the idea of needing to say it had been formed. I don’t see how we can move further away from God than we are now.
ii  See 2015 International Profile on Health Care Systems (at the time of this writing, the most up-to-date report) and The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective (2016).
iii  And why don’t we have preachers out there preaching on greed and the root of evil, money (1 Timothy 6:10, but many more verses are needed for the understanding of greed and its consequences)? Jesus was radical. When He walked the earth, people knew of Him. It is really no wonder the church in America is so weak, as it just doesn’t seem to even exist.  Jesus knew what people’s needs and concerns were, he was anti-establishment (anti-world system) and the book of James is very much so as well.  I think people know this inherently; they know if God is speaking to them and their needs, and they’re not seeing it come out of today’s Christian institutions. Preachers aren’t publicly denouncing financial scandals or a living wage being denied to laborers.
iv  Besides the sources found in note ii regarding costs, here are bipartisan recommendations from persons well-experienced in the system: JAMA Forum: Reforming Medicaid
v  Healing is a Major Aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
vi  You have to use your imagination, as the common expression goes, but some Christians fear this type of mental exercise. Many only use the scriptures as a moral rule book, and they like to throw that rule book at people. Right living comes after receiving God’s spirit, not before. In any case, a dashed reading through the scriptures will not yield the insights into God’s will that we need for living His way.

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Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.
Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.

That question, “Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians?” is not a new one, but has been in the Christian news (at least) recently over the controversial suspension of a black female professor at Wheaton College.  I haven’t written specifically on this topic, though I touched upon it in Does DA: Inquisition’s Imshael have anything to do with Ishmael and Islam?  In that article I point out how Islam rejects God’s plan for humanity, as provided by God in the Old Testament through Isaac, and openly celebrates this rejection through their holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  How can it be claimed that Muslims worship the same God when they reject biblical scriptures and even God’s plan for humanity?  As any bible student knows, God’s plan is interspersed throughout all of the Old and New Testaments, so to reject it and then claim you worship the same God makes no sense.  Yet the Wheaton professor, besides showing solidarity with the repression of women (which is not biblical), claims that Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Continue reading Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

English: Michal lets David escape from the win...
English: Michal lets David escape from the window. A painting by Gustave Doré, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a feminist, but it doesn’t take a feminist to see the mysogeny in some Judeo-Christian circles when King David is so glorified while persons like Michal, David’s first wife, are vilified.  If Michal can be so maligned, then any woman can.  David treated Michal (and his other wives) like his property in more ways than one, and many “believing” men still see David’s actions in a righteous light.

King David, Israel’s most revered king [1], who was chosen by God for that role and for his part in God’s redeeming plan, was a poet and a bit of a prophet, but he did things that God did not approve of and which are utterly un-Christlike/un-Christianlike [2] (read about Judah and others that God used and you’ll see that He didn’t forcefully make them “saints”).  As always, we should recognize and praise the good, but we need to also recognize the bad and not repeat it.  We are also called to recognize and help the oppressed.

Background

What got “me going” on this subject at this time was a biography of David.   In the introduction the author claimed that the only thing David did wrong was have Uriah the Hittite murdered because he wanted the man’s wife (Bathsheba).  Though the author didn’t provide the reference for his claim, it comes from 1 Kings 15:5:  For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.  Since there are other things written in the Old Testament that David did that displeased God, this statement can be taken as a generalized commendation, just as other kings received generalized condemnations; and “in the case of Uriah the Hittite” David committed many deep sins, not just one.  (Note, however, that this particular verse seems to have been added to scripture later since it is not in the oldest versions of the Greek Old Testament).

Continue reading Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

bad trees don't produce good fruit
Bad fruit — it can look good on the outside while it’s rotting on the inside. With God’s help in discernment, we should be able to recognize bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Jesus, in Matthew 7:18).

I was reading Matthew today and came across the below group of verses.  It made me think about my own salvation and if I’m on the right track.  I have these times where I wonder if God expects more of me, if I’m letting Him down, and if He’s really paying attention to me anymore.  I think all believers go through times with thoughts like that.  I do believe I’m saved, as Paul wrote: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).   But I also think Paul wrote his passages about persevering  for a reason, that people can indeed fall away from the faith (become apostate).  One example from Hebrews (12:1-3):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The following passages from the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, consisting of three paragraphs and concepts, is a good reminder to consider:  where we’re at in our faith; if our faith is matched by our actions; and, if our righteous-looking actions are hiding unrighteous motives.  It is that last bit that is the scariest.  Those persons who do NOT enter God’s Kingdom, even though they seemed like they were powerfully working for God, seem to be surprised.  Perhaps it is yet just another deception they are trying to pull off, or, they are so deluded they can’t even tell the difference.

Continue reading Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

family-iconPhilosophy professor William Lane Craig maintains a web site, Reasonable Faith, where he has apologetics articles and answers people’s questions.  He answered someone’s question about the recent gay marriage supreme court ruling, and I’ve reproduced much of it here.  See Craig’s site for the full response.


I’m going to use your question, R.C., [as] an excuse for addressing the Supreme Court’s tragic and misguided decision to re-define marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

We need to understand clearly that that is exactly what the Supreme Court has done. By ruling that same-sex unions can count as marriage the Court has implicitly redefined what marriage is. Marriage is no longer taken to be essentially heterosexual, as traditionally conceived, but has been implicitly redefined so that men can be married to men and women to women.

The Court’s majority opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, shows a clear consciousness of what the Court is doing. Referring to the traditional view, Kennedy writes, “Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world” (my emphasis). It is this view which Court’s majority declares is now obsolete.

Continue reading Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

Happy In Church

This is the second part of New Testament Views of Women: 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Due to the length of this study, I decided to divide it up. Please see Part 1 here [forthcoming] as they relate to each other.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women [or she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There is so much seemingly wrong with this passage in relation to basic Christian doctrine and belief that it seems hard to take it seriously. If the epistle is authentic—which not all early church leaders believed was the case–Paul surely wrote it for a specific local situation and/or a particular false teaching. Verses 13 and 14 read: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” There are at least two implications here, so let’s go through them in detail.

Eve was Deceived: Why?

Continue reading New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

“Which Libtard said That?” (hint: the Bible is involved)

Detroit. Perfect example of greed gone amok. Unsourced photo of abandoned Detroit packing house; quote added.
Detroit. Perfect example of greed gone amok. Unsourced photo of abandoned Detroit packing house; quote added.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  James 3:9

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  James 1:22

Why this Post

Far more often than is good for me, I see people cursing other people on the internet. I see this most often on Twitter, but it happens everywhere (I just happen to be on Twitter . . . too much). Most disturbing, of course, are the instances of this that come from those who claim to be Christian. Now, I’m not referring to heat-of-the-moment squabbling. I’m referring to the pre-meditated and consistent cursing of people “other” than themselves, like conservatives calling liberals “libtards,” liberals calling conservatives “homophobes,” and liberals (mostly, from what I have seen so far) saying moderates are stupid and/or smug (apparently for rejecting them).

People have always had a problem with the “us vs them” mentality, so I don’t know if it’s worse now in the U.S. than before (it seems so), but, followers of Christ ought not to be in this worldly way. We are to reach people for Christ’s kingdom, not push them away. With these thoughts in mind, I have read conservatives curse people who have a concern for others, concerns and desires that God Himself commands us to share.   There are liberals who also curse conservatives for being pro-life and anti-gay, and no doubt this is why some conservatives can’t see anything good coming from the liberals. Part of it, though, is that some conservatives either don’t know the biblical teachings regarding the poor and wealth, or they choose to ignore them. This only serves to add fuel to the anti-Christian fire.

In fairness, however, “What homophobe said that?” will be posted as a separate article (due to length). Many liberals either ignore God’s teaching on physical love and marriage, or else try to explain it away (even some liberal Christians do this). However, God’s attitude toward homosexuality from the old to the new testaments didn’t change, and passages about its sinfulness are not taken out of context, despite what critics say. That article will include passages supporting the “pro-life” stance as well.

Here are “140 characters or less” quotes, but more often paraphrases (those entries with no quotation marks), of biblical passages along with the actual passage reference and who uttered them. Feel free to use them on Twitter or elsewhere, but it would be nice if you shared my article url.

Continue reading “Which Libtard said That?” (hint: the Bible is involved)

New Testament Views of Women: Overview

Veiled and Silenced, amazonChrist is primarily known as the savior of the world – his sacrifice being for all who want to dwell with God (Jesus’ blood removes our sin so that we are able to be in the presence of the sinless God). But Jesus did something quite significant and often overlooked (as evidenced throughout the writings of the New Testament): He raised the status of women to the same level as men. Many would argue that men and women have a few different responsibilities in regard to the family and church, but in God’s sight the sexes have equal standing: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

There is a great deal that can be written on this topic–including the contradictory teachings of, and actions by, some church leaders and Christian men. But first, let’s look at some social mores that exhibit the status of women in Israel and the surrounding cultures at the time Jesus walked the earth, and some that are still with us today in various parts of the world.

Female babies are of low worth: In past and present non-Christian cultures, female worthlessness is widespread. Female babies were commonly the victims of infanticide. While that continues today, in places where ultrasound is available many more female fetuses are aborted than male fetuses (especially in China and India). Christians do not value females less than males and do not abort or kill female babies.

  • Polygyny and divorce: Polygyny was permitted though not very common in ancient Israel; it was relatively common elsewhere. In Greece, a man had one wife but he also had a legal mistress (so, essentially, a 2nd wife). Polygyny was not approved by God, though there are a number of instances of it recorded in the Bible. The NT clearly reiterates God’s will that one man be married to one woman; polygyny is not allowed in Christianity. A man could divorce his wife easily in ancient Israel, but the NT does not allow for this.
  • Complete control of wife and children by father or husband: In Rome, fathers had total control over family members, and a husband had absolute power over his wife; he could sell a daughter to her future husband. All these powers became illegal some years after Christianity became legal in Rome (374/313). Women also were granted the right to own property and have guardianship of their own children. In Greece, wives had segregated quarters and could not visit male guests of her husband’s in her own home. As in ancient Israel, women in Greece were not to speak in public. Women simply had a very low status in Greece and ancient Israel, and in Israel at the time of Christ, women’s legal witness was virtually non-existent. This obviously changed with Christ’s work.
  • Clitoridectomy: The removal of the female clitoris, and often other genital parts, is a common practice in many African countries (and is found in countries where Africans have immigrated to). This is condemned and outlawed in Christian-based countries.
  • Binding feet, China: In order to be more attractive to men, girls used to have their feet bound so that they remained “small.” The fact is, the foot only became very disfigured and it often became severely infected. Because of Christian missionary pressure in the 19th century, the Chinese government outlawed the practice of female foot binding in 1912.

There are other practices around the world (past and present), like burning or burying widows alive (in India), arranging marriages of female children (this still occurs in China, India, and parts of Africa), maintaining double standards for adultery, and the forced wearing of veils, that make obvious the widespread low status of women but which are condemned by Christianity. As Alvin Schmidt, author of How Christianity Changed the World, said in an interview, “Geroge Sarton, a historian of science, once said, ‘The birth of Christianity changed forever the face of the Western world.’ As far as I know, Sarton had no love for Christianity. He merely said what history revealed to him. Another historian, for instance, has said, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was the turning point in the history of women.’”

Now let’s look more specifically at how women were viewed and treated by Israel when Christ lived, and what Christ did to elevate women. Today when we read the New Testament (NT) text alone, we simply cannot understand how radical so much of what Jesus did was; our culture reflects in so many ways the changes that Jesus began. The radical things Jesus did seem normal to us now, so we must look into the context of the times to fathom the changes that he wrought.

At the time of Christ¹ women existed for the pleasure of men. If a woman did not bear a male child or didn’t please her husband in some way, he could divorce her with ease. A woman could not divorce her husband. Women were not to speak in public with men (men should not even give a greeting to a woman in public), they were not to testify in court, they were not supposed to read the Torah (Law), nor were they to be taught. As a rabbinic teaching advised (Sotah 3.4), “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to a woman . . . . If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery.” Also, women were set apart from men in synagogue worship, either by a partition or by being in separate rooms.

Each one of the above negative aspects of womanhood in ancient Israel was reformed by Jesus, as it was never God’s will that such treatment of women exist. First, regarding a man’s ease in divorcing his wife, Jesus told his disciples that it was not to be—that instead a man could divorce his wife for unfaithfulness only (Matthew 19:4-9). Second, what about women speaking to men in public? To the great shock of his disciples, Jesus not only spoke to women in public, but also to a Samaritan woman publicly (she was very shocked as well) (John 4:5-29)–both no-nos in ancient Israel. In speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus also taught her. Jesus both spoke and taught to Martha in public (John 11:25-26). Jesus taught Mary, Martha’s sister, and commended Mary for wanting to learn from him (Luke 10:38-42). Another woman followed Jesus in order to be healed. She was not only healed by him, but he talked with her and blessed her publicly (Mark 5:25-34).

These are not the only interactions that Jesus had with women. There are very many recorded in the NT. Of very real significance, however, is Jesus’ appearing to women first after his resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). This put women in a whole new realm of being chief witnesses. Remember, women could not testify or be a witness in court. The fact that Jesus appeared to women first, and told them to go and tell the male disciples of his resurrection, had to have really driven home the message of women’s spiritual equality to the disciples—once they accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection that the women were telling them. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the believers, both male and female, met and prayed together (Acts 1:14). As the fellowship of believers grew they met in houses for “church,” and many of these houses were owned by women. The possibility of the women as leaders in these early churches will be included in another of this series.

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Note 1. How Israelite men viewed and treated women changed and varied through time, and was no doubt influenced by the cultures that surrounded them. This essay is interested only with the status of women at the time of Christ.

The second and third articles in this series can be found here:

New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Co-workers

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)

Review: “God According to God”

Cover of "God According to God: A Physici...
Cover via Amazon

God According to God, by Gerald Schroeder (HarperOne 2009)

If the discoveries in physics over the past century are correct, then that physically condensed energy of the big-bang creation is totally the expression of metaphysical wisdom (cited in Gen. 1:1) or information (J.A. Wheeler) or idea (W. Heisenberg) or mind (G. Wald).  Physics not only has begun to sound like theology.  It is theology (p 156).

God According to God, written by a MIT trained physicist and applied (Jewish) theology professor Gerald L. Schroeder, is a fascinating read (even if the subtitle, A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along, seems a bit of a stretch).  It’s an important read, too, if one takes the accolades on the cover seriously.   For example, “A remarkable book.  The science as well as the meaning of this universe and of life are discussed with insight, rigor, and depth,” says Nobel Prize (physics) awarded Charles H. Townes.

What’s really amazing about this book is that it combines modern science with theology in such a human way.  It’s written for the layman, yes, but it is written to show that not only is belief in God not inimical to science, but that modern science is actually proving God (or at least the metaphysical), and that taking God and the Bible seriously (and not simplistically or superficially) reflects reality and how we are to live in it.  The God of the Bible is simply not the god the critics so energetically and often vehemently criticize.

“The world gets its share of free reign and when a mess arises, the God of the Bible may enter to aid in the repair.  Nipping the potential evil before allowing it to flourish would be a compassionate world-management system, but that fails to match the blueprint brought by the Bible.  The logic lies in the need for an unhampered free will.  God hides the Divine presence sufficiently to allow each of us to make our own choices, for better or worse, freely within the confines of our physical and social landscape . . .“ (p 205).

After the introductories, Schroeder presents issues regarding the origin of life, and how much “science” popularly held is not accurate or true.  For instance, there is no logical reason why RNA would have developed on its own in our prebiotic world; everything is against it happening.  He refutes Stephen Hawking’s (and Scientific American’s) embarrassingly optimistic view of life happening on its own, providing data on how it would be impossible for random mutations to create the variety of proteins used in earthly life.

Earth itself is unique and improbable.   The elements in our universe that make life possible are surprising and improbable too, with carbon being the most unlikely.  While carbon is common, it is not at all easily made.   The astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, who was an agnostic before the means by which carbon could be abundantly formed was discovered, later said:  “Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule” (p 62).

For the Christian who has read other layman-oriented resources regarding origin of life and evolution issues, and facts about the specialness of earth, I recommend reading this book as well.  In combination it is about the most informative and wonderfully written as you’ll find.   Also for the Christian, Schroeder offers some eye-opening insights into Genesis and the possibility of nature as rebel (his other biblical interpretations from the Jewish perspective are also very much worth chewing on).  He ties in the possibility of nature rebelling with what we are learning of nature at the quantum level.  We now know that atoms are not the smallest units of matter, but the particles that make up atoms do not behave like matter.  They may even be waves, and they seem to behave in way that indicates “mind.”

The European conception of “evolution” includes the metaphysical, and apparently many leading scientists are leaning toward the view that nature has “mind.”  Neurosurgeon Frank Vertosick, Jr., talks of the “microbial mind,” Freeman Dyson (physicist, Institute for the Advanced Study, Princeton) and others show that “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances.  They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities . . . .  It appears that mind . . . is to some extent inherent in every atom” (p 95).  Mathematician and physicist Sir James Jeans wrote (pp 90-91):

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.  Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter.  We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”

We cannot see or understand this “mind” in nature, and we cannot even understand our own brain-mind connection.  We may know that chemical reactions take place in our brain that are related to specific activities, but we still do not understand how we remember, think, or imagine.  Just as there is something else to nature than predictable natural laws, there is more to us than the physical.  “The dogmatic myth of materialism has been proven to be wanting, more fantasy than fact. . . . in the words of Nobel laureate and biologist George Wald, ‘The stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.  It is mind that has composed a physical universe’” (p 151).

Schroeder’s thesis can be summed up thusly:

“Within the subatomic world, there is a probabilistic pattern established by the laws of nature.  Individual quanta, however, may ‘choose’ not to follow the given path.  So too is the history of humanity.  Torturous though the trend may be, God has a plan for humanity.  The microengineering of that plan is largely up to us.  There is a flow from pagan barbarity toward the elusive goal of peace on earth, goodwill to all.  Each of us, as individuals, chooses whether to enhance or impede the flow toward the Divine goal” (p 215).

 

Authors Cited

Dyson, Freeman.  “Progress in Religion” (acceptance speech, Templeton Prize), March 2000.

Heisenberg, Werner.  Physics and Beyond (New York:  Harper & Row, 1971).

Vertosick, Jr., Frank.  The Genius Within (New York:  Harcourt, 2002).

Wald, George.  “Life and Mind in the Universe,” Quantum Biology Symposium, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry 11 (1984):  1-15.

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012 (prior publication at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

Review: “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”

Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover
Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover

by Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press 2009)


“This straw-targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is to say, among those who would not allow a first-year student to get away with the vulgar caricatures in which they themselves indulge with such insouciance”
(p 52).

Terry Eagleton’s invective against anti-theist’s claims about religion, and Christianity in particular, is one of wit, humor, and sauce.  One hopes that those that are curious about the popular anti-God rhetoric, but who are basically outsiders—neither informed and faithful Christians or card-carrying anti-theists—will be the prime readers and beneficiaries of this “lecture series” book.  Not that there isn’t a good deal that those in the other groups can get out of it.  Indeed, as the Booklist review asserted, “serious Christians may be [Eagleton’s] most appreciative readers.”  But on the opposite side Eagleton himself opined that there was not a “hope in hell” that Ditchkins, that is Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, would read his work or be moved by it.

Eagleton, who is a professor both of English literature and culture theory, and who also writes philosophically (in fact, this book has been rated as important in philosophy), presents how the various arguments against religion that Dawkins and Hitchens vehemently espouse are very seriously misinformed and flawed.  “. . . the relations between these domains [poetry and other language types] and historical fact in Scripture are exceedingly complex, and that on this score as on many another, Hitchens is hair-raisingly ignorant of generations of modern biblical scholarship” (p 54).  He shows how Dawkins’ views, which reflect Victorian era progressivism, are simply unreasonable and unrealistic.

“We have it, then, from the mouth of Mr. Public Science himself that aside from a few local hiccups like ecological disaster, ethnic wars, and potential nuclear catastrophe, History is perpetually on the up.  Not even beaming, tambourine-banging Evangelicals are quite so pathologically bullish.  What is this but an example of blind faith?  What rational soul would sign up to such a secular myth?” (pp 87-88).

Regarding Ditchkins and science, Eagleton discusses how “Dawkins falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science” (p 6), and that “His God-hating is by no means the view of a dispassionate scientist commendably cleansed of prejudice.  There is no such animal in any case” (pp 65-66).  “[Scientists] are peddlers of a noxious ideology known as objectivity, a notion which simply tarts up their ideological prejudices in acceptably disinterested guise” (p 132), and Dawkins, for example, “castigates the Inquisition . . . but not Hiroshima” (p 133).  While anyone is welcome to criticize superstition, the current culture has sunk into scientism, which refuses to take anything seriously that “cannot be poked and prodded in the laboratory” (p 72).  “Ditchkins does not exactly fall over himself to point out how many major scientific hypotheses confidently cobbled together by our ancestors have crumbled to dust, and how probable it is that the same fate will befall many of the most cherished scientific doctrines of the present” (p 125).

In chapter 1, Eagleton presents basic Christian beliefs not only to show that Ditchkins does not have an understanding of them, but to also promote them as quite respectable.  Of course, throughout his book Eagleton gives little quarter to “fundamentalists;” he praises Jesus and his radicalness, and those who actually follow His teachings to help the poor and seek justice.  He also contrasts this Christian mandate to love socially to the liberal humanist (of which Ditchkins is an example) legacy of love being kept private.  Yet another significant difference between Christianity (and for persons like Eagleton who hold a more socialist view) and the liberal humanism of Ditchkins is the matter of sin and redemption.  To Ditchkins, there is nothing to redeem.  Humanity is steadily progressing, even if catastrophes like World War II have happened.

“In my view,” Eagleton writes,  “[scriptural and orthodox Christianity] is a lot more realistic about humanity than the likes of Dawkins.  It takes the full measure of human depravity and perversity, in contrast to . . . the extraordinarily Pollyannaish view of human progress of [Dawkins’] The God Delusion” (p. 47).  Christianity believes that there are “flaws and contradictions built into the structure of the human species itself,” and so violence in history is not just due to historical influences; and Christianity is hopeful.  It is “outrageously more hopeful than liberal rationalism, with its apparently unhinged belief that not only is the salvation of the human species possible but that, contrary to all we read in the newspapers, it has in principle already taken place.  Not even the most rose-tinted Trotskyist believes that” (pp 48-49).

There are all kinds of fun passages like those already quoted in Eagleton’s book.  It can be very useful to Christians who want to be able to cite a seemingly non-Christian critique to the anti-theist crowd.  Conservatives be warned, however, that Eagleton presents and is supportive of Liberation Theology (he is a Marxist who aligns himself with “tragic humanism”), and is very critical of modern capitalism and western foreign policy.  He has good, though general, arguments for the atheism of capitalism and the disconnect between the West’s religious rhetoric and its actual practices (which, interestingly, he often places on liberal humanism).   Indeed, Christianity’s lack of following its leader has brought much criticism upon itself, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive” (p 55).

Eagleton points out the good that historic Christianity has done, which Ditchkins refuses to acknowledge, while pointing out hypocrisies of some liberals.  Some examples:

“The values of the Enlightenment, many of them Judeo-Christian in origin, should be defended against the pretentious follies of post-modernism, and protected, by all legitimate force if necessary, from those high-minded zealots who seek to blow the heads off small children in the name of Allah.  Some on the political left, scandalously, have muted their criticism of such atrocities in their eagerness to point the finger of blame at their own rulers, and should be brought to book for this hypocrisy” (p 68).  

“Such is Richard Dawkins’s unruffled impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has ever flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false . . . . and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry” (p 97). 

Speaking of empiricism and truth, I found chapter 3 more interesting the second time I read it.   It’s really a pleasant read and borders on the mystical in places.  Eagleton writes lucidly on how we understand truth and what is reasonable and rational.  A set of examples about what is reasonable and rational, relative to what is true, is (1) that of humans previously thinking that the sun circled the earth – since it certainly looked that way it was rational to think – and (2) what we know of certain nuclear particles in our present time.  These particles are said to go through two different spaces at one time.  This is not rational or reasonable, yet we think that it is true.  He continues with a discussion that promotes the concept of “love” being a precondition of understanding, concluding that “The rationalist tends to mistake the tenacity of faith (other people’s faith, anyway) for irrational stubbornness rather than for the sign of a certain interior depth, one which encompasses reason but also transcends it” (p 139).

“Yet the Apocalypse, if it ever happens, is far more likely to be the upshot of technology than the work of the Almighty. . . .  This, surely, should be a source of pride to cheerleaders for the human species like Ditchkins.  Who needs an angry God to burn up the planet when as mature, self-sufficient human beings we are perfectly capable of doing the job ourselves?” (p 134).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (previously posted by author at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)