Friday, April 15, 2016

Bombs and Earthquakes: Shared Evil, Shared Hope

The following picture which I posted in reaction to the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 appropriately popped up in my Facebook memories as I was listening to this morning's news about the terrible earthquake on the Japanese island of Kyushu.

The immense suffering in the world, whether caused by the evil of human choices or natural disasters, can be disheartening, especially as we wonder helplessly, "What can one person do?” Still, there are people trying to do something.

Earlier this month, the mayor of Boston declared that from now on April 15th would be officially known as One Boston Day. The One Boston Day tradition actually started last year as a day that “encourages random acts of kindness and spreading of goodwill,” in order to support and honor the community that rallied together in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The phrase “random acts of kindness” is unfortunate; deliberate acts of kindness stemming from a character that cultivates kindness would have a more powerful impact on the world than moody spurts of faddish, feel-good deeds. Nevertheless, surely we can all get behind the message of demonstrating love and goodwill towards our fellow human beings through caring actions. One Boston Day as a reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings represents how we are not overcome by evil, “but overcome evil with good.” And that is a great message both as a reminder to ourselves and as a little, in-your-face victory dance before those who thought to overcome with evil.

Now regarding the earthquake in Japan, there is no “bad guy” to point the finger at, but perhaps there is an intangible “bad guy.” This unseen “bad guy” was also present and near the heart of the terror attack in Boston three years ago. Let’s call his name “Despair.” Despair is the unwelcome houseguest of the soul that is touched by tragedy and death, and Despair never wants to leave on his own. Furthermore, he thanks us for our hospitality by inviting his brother, “Apathy,” to move in as well. NO. As soon as possible, Despair must be shooed away and his room must be converted into a residence for the strong and patient ally, whom we may call “Perseverance.” Despair might linger on, squatting in corners or lurking behind the sofa, but if the house owner refuses to feed him and provide comfortable repose, eventually he moves on.

Thoughts of perseverance and despair came to mind, while I watched a video of a baby being rescued from the rubble, miraculously unharmed. Media outlets provide a steady stream of images. Many are of the damage and loss, but there are also images of helpers, of people providing blankets, neighbors consoling each other, emergency teams in action. Each moment shared is a great consolation not merely as signifying a tangible form of relief to those in pain, but also in that every person who perseveres has taken a stand against despair and affirms the value and goodness of this world, of existence itself. The accumulation of these acts creates a bulwark of compassion against apathy and despair.

Moreover, the lifting of the spirit by each precious rescue is proof that if even one life is saved, it counts. Yes, even only one counts, and it counts beyond counting, because something infinite has been touched. So we can rejoice, precisely as the good shepherd rejoices over the rescue of one lost lamb.

Look for the helpers and by all means be a helper. Pray and consider donating to the Japanese Red Cross.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fact-Checking Sam Harris 2: Did Jesus Command Christians to Kill in Luke 19:27?

Sam Harris claims that Jesus ordered his followers to kill his enemies in Luke 19:27. But is this what the text says? Only if we ignore the fact that the command is part of a story that Jesus is telling, and that it's a king in the story who issues this command. Can we take the leaders of the "new atheist" movement seriously when they make such blunders?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pastor Saeed Abedini Has Been Freed by Iran

Christian pastor Saeed Abedini (along with several others) has been freed as part of a prisoner exchange with Iran.
Pastor Saeed Abedini
CNN—Iran has freed four prisoners from the United States, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Iran's semi-official FARS news agency reported Saturday, citing Tehran's prosecutor.

According to FARS, Iran freed Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who had been held on various charges. FARS identified the fourth prisoner freed as Nosratollah Khosrawi. Details of Khosrawi's case were not immediately known.

The release is part of a prisoner swap deal in which the United States reportedly freed seven Iranian-Americans held on charges related to sanctions against Iran, FARS said. The news agency had previously said the U.S. was to release six prisoners.

"Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the general interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal," FARS quoted the office of the Tehran prosecutor as saying. (Continue Reading.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fact-Checking Sam Harris 1: Islam and the Virgin Birth

Sam Harris recently said that he wants to correct every error he's ever made, and that people should send him any errors they find in his works. One of Sam's errors was made on "The Colbert Report," where he insisted that, according to the Qur'an, anyone who believes in the virgin birth of Jesus will spend eternity in hell. Since Islam affirms the virgin birth of Jesus, we can only wonder how much Sam really knows about the religions he discusses in his books and lectures.

***UPDATE*** Sam Harris responded: "I meant that Quran asserts Jesus wasn't divine. I misspoke." Odd to give a reply about Jesus' deity when Colbert was talking about the virgin birth, but it's entirely possible to misspeak while the cameras are rolling and you don't have much time to think about what you're saying.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Advice for Future Apologists

In 1 Peter 3:15, Christians are commanded: "In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." From the Greek word for "give an answer" comes the word "apologetics."

Christians are commanded to be apologists. But how do we go about this? In this video, seven experienced Christian apologists (Douglas Groothuis, Gary Habermas, Craig Hazen, Mike Licona, Nabeel Qureshi, Mary Jo Sharp, and Frank Turek) share their thoughts.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Craig Blomberg: Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

While all Historical Jesus scholars go to the New Testament to learn about Jesus, ancient non-Christian sources report a number of facts as well. Interestingly, the facts we learn about Jesus in non-Christian sources support the Christian view of Jesus.

In this short video, Dr. Craig Blomberg shares the details we learn about Jesus from non-Christian sources.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Privileged Species

Are humans the accidental products of a blind and uncaring universe? Or are they the beneficiaries of a cosmic order that was planned beforehand to help them flourish? The Privileged Species is a 33-minute documentary by Discovery Institute that explores growing evidence from physics, chemistry, biology, and related fields that our universe was designed for large multi-cellular beings like ourselves. Featuring geneticist and author Michael Denton, the documentary investigates the special properties of carbon, water, and oxygen that make human life and the life of other organisms possible, and it explores some of the unique features of humans that make us a truly privileged species.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Information Enigma

Even the simplest life requires a tremendous amount of genetic information, so the amount genetic information required for the diversity of life in our world is simply unfathomable. Is it reasonable to assume that this information arose through unguided naturalistic processes? Or does the evidence point to an intelligent designer?

The Information Enigma is a fascinating 21-minute documentary that probes the mystery of biological information, the challenge it poses to orthodox Darwinian theory, and the reason it points to intelligent design. The video features molecular biologist Douglas Axe and Stephen Meyer, author of the books Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ami Horowitz Enlists Yale Students to Sign Petition to Repeal the First Amendment

Yale University, one of the nation's most prestigious schools, member of the Ivy League, founded to be a beacon of "Lux et Veritas," and alma mater of five U.S. Presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, hundreds of members of Congress, and several foreign heads of state, lately finds itself a big, warm, fuzzy nest for the ignorant and self-referentially inconsistent.

In less than an hour, satirist Ami Horowitz is able to recruit 50 Yale students to sign a petition seeking to repeal the First Amendment. In case you need a little refresher, the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Yes, that's right. Fifty Yalies just signed a petition to repeal their right to petition. Maybe their new motto could be "Tuta Custodia," except that's in Latin, which is elitist and rude.

If you're in the mood for a cringe-inducing horror show, watch "Ami on the Street: Do We Really Need the 1st Amendment?" highlighting Horowitz's encounters with these "enlightened" minds as they sign their rights away, sincerely thanking Horowitz for the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Leibniz’ Contingency Argument (William Lane Craig)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz(1646-1716) was a philosopher, scientist, and mathematician who wrote in seven languages and co-discovered calculus (along with Isaac Newton). One of his arguments for the existence of God may be summarized as follows:
(1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.

(2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

(3) The universe exists.

(4) The explanation of the universe's existence is God.
Here's an excellent short video on this argument by Reasonable Faith (William Lane Craig's apologetics ministry).