The Joyless Worldview of the Pro-Choice Movement

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By Scott McClare

If you watched the Super Bowl a few weekends ago, you might have seen the ad for Doritos. It got a lot of attention because in the ad, a pregnant woman chastises her husband for eating Doritos during her ultrasound appointment, only to discover that her unborn child (visible on a monitor) also craves the chips and is reaching for them inside the womb. Though goofy, it was one of the more memorable ads from this year's game.

Apparently, the humour was lost on the folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America, however. They tweeted, after the ad aired:

That's an interesting choice of words: "humanizing fetuses." It assumes that a fetus is not human. But if it is not human, what is it? Canine? Porcine? No one can "humanize" the unborn. They are, by virtue of their human parentage, human beings. Humanity is intrinsic to our natures. It's not a title bestowed upon us because we happen to be "wanted" or made it through all nine months of gestation. Therefore, neither is our moral worth determined by these things. We have moral worth because we are human beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And it is because we are made in the image of God that taking another human life without justification is evil (Genesis 9:6).

Still from the Doritos "Ultrasound" spot that aired during the Super Bow, Feb. 7, 2016.NARAL also calls out stereotypes of "clueless" dads and "uptight" moms. But that invites the question: what are they the mom and dad of? if that fetus ought not to be "humanized"—if it's only a potential human being, and not an actual one—then why call them parents? Are they the human parents of non-human offspring? Of course not. In writing this tweet, NARAL assumes the very thing they are denying: the humanity of the unborn. This is incoherent, even for Twitter—and for NARAL.

It is NARAL and other abortion-rights advocates who commit the error of dehumanizing the unborn. It's easy to see why: if the unborn are not human beings, then no defense of abortion is necessary. On the other hand, if they are human beings, then no defense of abortion is possible. It is the unjust taking of a blameless human life.

Of course, it is the technology used in the Doritos ad that strikes the pro-choice position a mortal blow. Sonograms show what was hidden away for millennia: the visible humanity of the unborn, even inside the womb. The late Bernard Nathanson was once the director of the largest abortion clinic in the U.S. after New York legalized abortion in 1970. In his career as an abortionist, he oversaw more than 60,000 abortions, estimating he performed 5,000 of them himself. Like many abortion activists, he wanted to destigmatize the procedure. However, when he began using then-new ultrasound technology as a tool in his clinic, he saw the effects of abortion in real time. Over time Nathanson was compelled to reconsider his pro-abortion stance, and became a significant pro-life advocate.[1] Ironically, one of Bernard Nathanson's other claims to fame was co-founding NARAL in 1969.

Since Nathanson's time, what was once a relatively minor diagnostic tool has become a major influence on how we view pregnancy and childbirth. The millennial generation, those born after 1980, are significantly more pro-life than their parents. This is at least partly due to advances in technology, such as the widespread use of ultrasound in prenatal care.[2] Sonograms have become commonplace. Millennials have seen ultrasound images passed around by their pregnant friends, or pictures of their as-yet-unborn siblings taped to the fridge as though they were just another baby picture. (They have also seen abortion take away a third of their generation that never got a chance to live.) We can't conclude from this that the pro-life side is winning. But we can say that activist groups like NARAL don't have the option of preaching at us that we shouldn't "humanize" the unborn. We have seen the sonograms, and what they depict is undoubtedly human.

Aside from disputing the propriety of bringing Doritos into an ultrasound appointment, the on-screen couple appears happy to welcome their unborn child into the world. I like to imagine this reflects the real-life joy of the filmmaker, Peter Carstairs: the "beautiful baby" in the ad is played by an actual ultrasound of Carstairs' then-unborn son, Freddie, and given a taste for tortilla chips with a little digital trickery.[3] It's a humorous take on a routine event in the life of an expecting couple.

Compare that to the humourless worldview expressed by NARAL's Twitter complaints. Throughout the Super Bowl, the person using their Twitter account found fault with this or that advertisement for not toeing the line of their particular variety of feminism. For example, in response to an ad in which comedian Kevin Hart plays an overprotective father following his daughter on a date, they tweeted:

Maybe they don't understand that we already get that it's inappropriate. That's why it's funny!

NARAL also retweeted this remark from one of their state affiliates, after an ad celebrating "Super Bowl Babies" who are supposedly conceived on game day, hinting that they're no happier about born babies than unborn ones:

Most of us would take a healthy ultrasound as a joyful event. However, in the dour worldview of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who view everything through the lenses of their own radical ideology, even an ultrasound appointment is political. The fictional joy of an on-screen couple, as they see their unborn son on a monitor, "humanizes" the fetus and supposedly threatens the rights of women. Our cultural commentary can do better than this joyless approach.


[1] Emma Brown, "Bernard Nathanson, Abortion Doctor Who Became Anti-Abortion Advocate, Dies at 84," Washington Post, February 22, 2011, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/22/AR2011022206507.html. See also Bernard N. Nathanson, Aborting America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979) and Nathanson, The Hand of God (Washington: Regnery, 1996).

[2] Ken Blackwell, "How the Abortion Tide Turns," Washington Times, August 2, 2015, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/2/ken-blackwell-americans-becoming-more-pro-life/.

[3] Tiffany Dunk, "Aussie Filmmaker Peter Carstairs May Have a Big US Break Thanks to the Superbowl," News.com.au, January 5, 2016, accessed January 17, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/aussie-filmmaker-peter-carstairs-may-have-a-big-us-break-thanks-to-the-superbowl/news-story/bb221ab85850d1299ff4ead86a056aed.

Dear Government of Alberta

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By Justin Wishart

At Faith Beyond Belief we want to model how Christians can winsomely engage the public, including government officials. This is one letter that a concerned Christian parent wrote to a public official about the issue of transgenderism.

I am a proud father of two wonderful daughters. As their father, I take seriously the duty to protect and care for them. To me, their lives and well-being are more important to me than my own. Not only is this true emotionally, but I believe God, the maker of all things, gave me these daughters specifically with the mandate that I should love and protect them. This is as great an expression of my religious convictions as there is. In short, I love and care for them at a much deeper level than you are capable of.

This is the motivation behind my open letter. You have undermined the safety and dignity of my daughters with the adoption of the "Guidelines for Best Practices" document. Before I explain why this is so, I would like to explain why I created this open letter. I sent a letter to the Education Minister, David Eggen (NDP), and my MLA, Prasad Panda (Wildrose). Mr. Eggen replied with what appeared to be a generic form letter. It had the appearance of something sent any parent who may express some concern for these guidelines. The reply did not address even one of my concerns, not one. It seems clear that the Education Minister did not read what I sent and, judging by the response, they have not officially addressed the problems I see. Mr. Panda, as an MLA for the opposition party, offered me encouragement to make my issues known. I agree with Mr. Panda (thank you for actually addressing the concerns I raised) and this is the reason for this letter. When the safety of my children are at stake and my concerns are ignored, I am left with only two options: make this a public matter or remain quiet. My love for my daughters will not allow me to remain quiet.

The Best Practices document states that "strategies should be in place to ensure all areas of the school are safe for all students, all of the time." Yet, it is the document itself that undermines this goal. The primary issue I have is how the schools identify a transgendered person: "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." This clearly states that there are no other criteria which override a simple claim. No test, no medical evidence, nothing to confirm a person's claim. I understand why this is, as there is nothing that can possibly verify someone being transgendered. The document uses the term "evidence-based" throughout, but at the most basic level of this discussion, there is no "evidence-based" data for a subjective claim to transgenderism. It follows that anyone can make the claim, for any reason, and the school would simply accept it.

Put aside your political correctness for just a moment and think about that. One could claim transgenderism because the person feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Yet, another person could claim the same thing just because they want to look at naked girls. According to the Best Practices document, there is absolutely no way to tell one from the other. My daughters become potential victims, over and over again, and the school isn't allowed to stop it. This will allow a boy with sexual issues into my girl's washroom since students "are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." This potential victimization of my daughters is not some vague theory. At the University of Toronto, they had to revise their inclusive washroom policy because of voyeurism. Two people were seen recording their victims as they used the washroom. How many more people were victimized this way without their knowledge? What would be different here?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only should these false claimers be allowed into the washrooms, but also in change-rooms. "Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change-room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity." How easy would it be for a boy to sneak a camera into a change-room because they falsely claim to be transgendered? Not only would you be allowing such a person to lewdly view my daughters, you set up a very real possibility of them being victimized on the Internet. This also applies to sport teams, as it states, "if sports teams are divided by gender, students are given the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression." As a former wrestler, I shudder at the thought of girls being forced to wrestle with boys who falsely claim transgenderism. This easily opens girls up to be molested by such people; all with the school's approval. Given these guidelines, how could you stop it? This does not even include the real possibility of an unfair physical disadvantage given to my daughters, and can discourage female participation in sports.

Yet, it even gets worse. This doesn't merely apply to students, but to adults as well. "Family members are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." When pedophiles are given a ready excuse to be somewhere they should not be, this will merely embolden them. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a parent who is a pedophile slipping into the girl's washroom where my daughter is. There he will have uninhibited access to her. If a teacher happens to walk in before anything happened, the pedophile would simply claim transgenderism. The teacher becomes powerless to do anything at this point. Sure, she can wait around until he leaves, but the pedophile could simply attend the next function and try again until he is successful. Even if a "legitimate" transgender physical man walks into the washroom, my daughters could feel vulnerable and more than a bit frightened. This, then, undermines her sense of security. Things like this have happened. Christopher Hambrook, self-identifying as Jessica, was granted access to a woman's shelter where he sexually assaulted at least two women in Ontario. Hambrook had previous convictions including a sexual assault of a five-year-old girl and raping a 27-year-old woman. The proposed guidelines found within this document are similar to the Ontario laws which allowed Hambrook access to the vulnerable women. What's to prevent a "family member" from doing the same thing here?

Then, the Best Guidelines policy further undermines the dignity of my daughters. If they feel threatened or insecure, whether it is due to a real or perceived threat, they are shamed if they bring it up. "A student who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse is offered an alternative facility." It is my daughters who get paraded around the school, thus showing everyone how "intolerant" they are. This will marginalize them and open them up to ridicule. Not only does the policy undermine the safety and security of my daughters, they are publicly exposed and shamed if they decide not to be a victim.

I know it must be difficult for a student to feel that their physical sex doesn't match their internal sex. Growing up can be confusing enough without throwing something like this into the mix. I also, on a certain level, understand the government's desire to offer help to such students in this manner. I also find no solid evidence that this would even be helpful to children who claim transgenderism. What if these children experience gender dysphoria? Could these guidelines end up harming children by affirming their dysphoria?

I also demand, yes demand, that my daughters are not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. To be clear, I do not think that every person, or even most people, who claim to be transgendered are predators. But, to be even more clear, predators will use the ideas expressed in these guidelines to help them catch their prey. It may not happen right away, but we can see that these things are happening in other jurisdictions. Let's have an open-minded and inclusive conversation about this, not the narrow-minded, politically-correct, and totalitarian approach these guidelines propose. The lives and well-being of my daughters depend on it.

Sincerely,

My daughters' father,

Justin Wishart

The Meaning Of Christ In Other Religions: Myth, Symbol, Pre-Figurations and Promise (Part 1)

By Dr. Ron Galloway

This is the first of a three-part series. The first part revolves around a discussion with a Hindu convert to Christ. The second part will circle around an encounter with a post-graduate student in religious studies, and the final part will consist of further reflections on the same theme.

Could it be that the symbols, myths rituals, insights, and teachings of religions—past and present—might reveal a partial understanding of Jesus Christ, the God-Man? Might this not be the case even in the populations of humanity that are still distant from Him, and do not know Him as He is? Could it be that symbols from other religions and cultures—ancient and present—might, in some way, foreshadow Christ's incarnation, resurrection, and even the day when Jesus Christ will transfigure the universe? Could it even be that symbols found in myriads of other religions have, in some real sense, their fulfilment in Christ? The Bible itself is full of foreshadowing and promise. It is also rich in the symbols, events, celebrations, and traditions of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Might not there be something of the same thing in the symbols, events, celebrations, rituals and traditions of other religions? Might they not act as a bridge to point cultures to Christ, and to His incarnation, resurrection, transformation, and transfiguration? Might there not be a way that these kinds of symbols, rituals, celebrations, and traditions are meant to foreshadow Christ, and even to reveal that Christ is the concrete reality to which they point, just as they did for Israel?

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I know of a Hindu convert to Christ who once said that it is not only possible, but that it happened to him. The idea of other religions' symbols, rituals, celebrations, and traditions pointing to Christ was, for this convert, a reality. But before we hear more from him, I should clarify what is being suggested in this discussion and what is not.

We need not argue that non-Christian beliefs receive such foreshadowings, symbols, events, and traditions through direct revelation, as in the case of Israel. It seems to me, however, that one can reasonably entertain the possibility of at least some parallels. The Bible says that God has put eternity in the hearts of all people. God has made people in such a way that there will always be something in their religions, their myths, and their self-understanding that causes them to yearn for a transcendent realm. By transcendent, I mean a realm of reality that human beings would never be able to invent or imagine as it really is. Yet this realm is nevertheless attuned to the deepest yearnings of human hearts and minds for peace with God and with all God's creation. People sense that this transcendent realm can aid them in their struggle for survival, yet it also causes them to yearn for a new and better world free of the toil, struggles, and evils in themselves. Yet even though the yearnings are there, the Bible makes clear mention of a universal evil in the human heart and mind before encountering Christ. This universal evil is the unregenerate heart of a humanity that wants nothing to do with God. This leads human beings to purposely suppress the eternal yearnings in their hearts.

Mircea Eliade, Paul Ricoeur, and Martin Buber—all respected religious thinkers—explored this suppressed reality of the human condition: particularly as it plays out in story, myth, mythic symbol, rites, celebrations, and traditions.[1] Are there things that humanity will normally deny at the cognitive level that are revealed in myth and symbol at a level of deeper awareness? Aided by some of the insights from Mircea Eliade, I am going to suggest that myth and symbol and other religions at this deeper level of suppressed awareness all seek an answer, and resolution, and that the answer is Christ alone. This said, I now return to the Hindu convert whom I was speaking of before.

Many years ago I attended Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and there I meant a Hindu convert who explained that when he became a Christian, he realized that Christ had fulfilled many central symbols of his Hindu belief. He said, for example, that the Hindu belief in reincarnation involved the understanding that, for man to be healed, he must be reborn. As a Christian, he now believed that the countless rebirths demanded by Hinduism were merely shadows whose fulfilment was our one-time rebirth made possible through Christ's death and resurrection. He went on to assert that Jesus Himself was pointing to this birth. For it was Jesus who said that "unless you are born again you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 3:3-4).[2] However, Jesus made clear that He alone is the source and power of that new birth. My Hindu friend understood that the myth of reincarnation finds its true object in Christ. In Christ we are born again, but only once (Hebrews 9:27). In Him, concrete reality comes into history and time.

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With respect to the incarnation of Christ—i.e. His coming down to us as a human child in a manger—there is something very different, yet, in some ways, very similar in the Hindu doctrine of avatars. Undoubtedly, my Hindu friend was more than aware of it, but at the time I did not think about discussing it with him. Had we discussed it, he would, I suspect, readily explain how Hindu avatars, serve as a near-perfect foreshadowing of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Avatars, as understood in Hinduism, are human beings indwelled by Brahma at certain times in history. Brahma, for a time, inhabits a mortal body that is enslaved to the wheel of life and death. But when the human being dies, Brahma departs. In Hindu teaching, when an avatar comes to earth, he takes the form of an illusion—i.e. a person. In Hinduism, we will recall, the human being is only Karma, an illusion. Now in some Hindu teachings, there is a soul in the person, but the soul is without human content. It is devoid of all the attributes that belong to the person. So then the soul that departs is simply Brahma.

Even when the soul in the individual person is considered separate from Brahma, nothing really changes, for the soul is still wholly identical with Brahma in every respect. It shares nothing of the finite human personality. So, then, avatars do not really come into history at all, for history in Hindu teaching is an illusion as well. Hinduism is forever helpless to bring God into relationship with real human beings. At death, Atman—the higher self—Brahma in finite human beings—leaves the illusory finite self. So while Brahma can visit a human being, he can never be one. But the Christ who became a man is no avatar. He is fully God and fully man, able to represent fully both God and Man. He is the reconciler—the one who truly reconciles humanity with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This Hindu convert now knew something far more wonderful than an avatar. He now personally knew the God who, unlike Brahma, does not wish to annihilate the human finite self, but to love and preserve it.

The Greek name Iësous, transliterated Jesus, means salvation or saviour. Jesus came into history and became a human being. He died and rose again, fully representing humanity in His life, death and resurrection. At present, He is seated at the right hand of God. Further, He is in a position of equal power with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As the gospel of John so beautifully says: "In the beginning was the word (Jesus Christ), and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were brought into being by him, and without him, nothing was brought into being, that has been brought into being (John 1:1-6).

Ironically, the coming down and visitation of avatars finds its concrete fulfilment in Christ Jesus. All the avatars who come and will come down can be viewed as pale shadows of the one who was concretely born in Bethlehem. They are mythic shadows of the one to come. This concrete fulfilment in Christ reaches its wonderful culmination after Christ ascends, and descends again in the final judgment. Then the fullness of the New Heaven and Earth is brought into being, and God, at last, has His dwelling with men.

In Christ, humanity, God, and the universe are real, and can be known and loved. On that final day—the day of Christ's return—authentic joy will flood the galaxies and utterly fill those human beings who are in a deep and eternal relationship with God the Father, God the Son, And God the Holy Spirit, the three in one.[3] All this will take place amidst a true and authentic history, where in the end, peace, joy and love will prevail. In Part 2, I will explore this discussion of the meaning of Christ in other religions further, amidst my encounter with a postgraduate student who presents to me a religious list that she supposes devastates the credibility of the Christian faith.

[1] See Freud, Totem and Taboo; Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections; Buber, Good and Evil, 73-74; Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil; and Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religions and Cosmos and History.

[2] All Scripture quotations are the author's translation.

[3] See Matthew 11:27, 23:9, 28:19; John 1:14, 3:35, 5:18, 6:27, 8:27, 10:15, 10:38, 13:3, 14:28, 16:15, 17:5; Romans 8:15, 15:6; 1 Corinthians 1:3, 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, 2:18; 1 John 2:24; Revelation 3:21.

A Hijab and a Philosopher

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By Justin Wishart

A short time ago, Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College, was suspended for saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.[1] Many people came out in support of Wheaton, while others supported Dr. Hawkins. The main controversy was over her Facebook comment: "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God." One supporter of Hawkins is Catholic philosopher Dr. Francis Beckwith. He wrote two articles in support of Hawkins, and by extension his pope.[2] Much ink has been spilled commenting on Hawkins' and Wheaton's actions, so this article will focus on and analyze Beckwith's articles.

It's important to recognize the implications here and Beckwith's desire to defend this position. "As the Church declared in Nostra Aetate (1965): '[Muslims] adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. . . . Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.'" Beckwith views this as Catholic dogma, and his desire to defend Hawkins becomes evident.

The Argument

His first argument is to point out that just because people use different names doesn't mean that they are talking about something different. "Take, for example, the names 'Muhammed Ali' and 'Cassius Clay.' Although they are different terms, they refer to the same thing, for each has identical properties. Whatever is true of Ali is true of Clay and vice versa." Beckwith points out that if one person uses one name for God and another person uses a different name for God, this does not mean that they are speaking about different gods. I agree. Even Christians in Middle Eastern countries call God "Allah." "So the fact that Christians may call God 'Yahweh' and Muslims call God 'Allah' makes no difference if both 'Gods' have identical properties."

This is where Beckwith gets into his first bit of trouble. If his above argument is true, and I think it is, then the object in question must have "identical properties." Anyone who has compared the Islamic idea of tawheed and the Christian idea of Trinity knows that they don't share "identical properties." Beckwith anticipates this objection. He attempts to argue that Islam and Christianity share concepts that are identical. "In the same way, there is only one being that is essentially God: the uncaused, perfect, unchanging, self-subsistent, eternal Creator and sustainer of all that which receives its being from another." Both faiths have these identical beliefs about God; Beckwith rightly calls this "classical theism."

Yet, the immediate question focuses around the differences between the two faiths. Beckwith anticipates this, as well, and argues that just because people have different notions about something does not mean they are talking about different things. He uses this analogy:

Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of "being a father to several of SHs children." On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of "being a father to several of SHs children."

Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not. . . . Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity [How does he know this?], but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? . . . The fact that one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person—whether human or divine—does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.

This is the distinction that holds Beckwith's argument together. From this argument, he concludes: "For these reasons, it would a real injustice if Wheaton College were to terminate the employment of Professor Hawkins simply because those evaluating her case cannot make these subtle, though important, philosophical distinctions."

Analysis

For clarity, I will list Beckwith's points succinctly:

1. Just because people use different names does not mean they are talking about different things. If they have "identical properties," they are the same thing.

2. Muslims and Christians ascribe many identical properties to God, which is called "classical theism."

3. Just because Muslims have less knowledge of the true God, doesn't mean they are necessarily talking about a different god.

My analysis will focus primarily on point #3, as I essentially agree with the first two points.

The major blunder in Beckwith's argument is that he confuses epistemology and ontology. Epistemology focuses around knowledge, for example, how one gets to know God; and ontology focuses around being, for example, what God is. Looking at Beckwith's analogy, one sees this epistemological focus. It is because "Bob does not find the evidence convincing" that he doesn't believe that Thomas Jefferson "sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings." This clearly has no bearing on whether Thomas Jefferson actually "sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings." Now, let's make his analogy into an ontological analogy. If Fred's Thomas Jefferson actually did "[sire] several children with his slave Sally Hemings" and Bob's Thomas Jefferson actually did not "[sire] several children with his slave Sally Hemings," then they cannot both be talking about the "Third President of the United States."

To say that God is triune, or to say that God is tawheed, is not an epistemological expression, but an ontological one. As the Athanasian Creed states, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God."[3] This is clearly an ontological claim. Likewise, when Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips explains the meaning of tawheed, he says "that Allah is One, without partner in His dominion . . . One without similitude in His essence and attributes . . . and One without rival in His divinity and in worship."[4] Since these are both ontological statements, expressions of what God is, the differences actually do make "God" different between the two faiths.

To make matters worse, the knowledgeable Christian deniestawheed and the knowledgeable Muslim denies the Trinity. It's not as if Muslims believe in "classical theism," which doesn't contradict the Trinity, and when shown the Trinity he accepts it. It is precisely the opposite: it's exactly the knowledge that has been shown to him that he rejects. To lump in Abraham and Moses into this discussion is to say that Moses only has "classical theism" in mind when talking about God, a dubious claim, and if shown the Trinity he would have rejected it as well. Does Beckwith believe this? Sure, it is probably correct to say that Paul had a more complete view of God than Moses. But Moses' view of God never contradicts Paul's. Yet, Mohammad's view does.[5] It is the contradictions that equally matter. For Beckwith to focus on what Muslims and Christians agree on is to not really have a meaningful discussion on this subject. It's not that Muslims have a lack of knowledge, it's that they reject this knowledge. The laws of thought demand that we cannot be talking about the same thing anymore. Muslims do not worship the same God as we do.

Space does not allow me to point out that God Himself does not think He is like any other God, or provide the copious scriptural evidence to support this. Molech and Yahweh also shared identical properties, but God clearly didn't say the Canaanites worshiped the same God. Why should we accept Beckwith's "classical theism" as the benchmark for sameness while denying the similarities found within other religious conceptions of God? On what basis? Beckwith has not provided a meaningful argument here. It is disappointing that someone of Beckwith's calibre produced this fallacious argument because he "cannot make these subtle, though important, philosophical distinctions."

[1] Manya Brachear Pachman and Marwa Eltagouri, "Wheaton College Says View of Islam, Not Hijab, God Christian Teacher Suspended," Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2015, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-larycia-hawkins-20151216-story.html.

[2] Francis J. Beckwith, "Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?," The Catholic Thing, December 17, 2015, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/12/17/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/, and Beckwith, "Why Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God," The Catholic Thing, January 7, 2016, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2016/01/07/why-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/. All quotations attributed to Beckwith are taken from these two articles.

[3] "The Athanasian Creed," New Advent, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm.

[4] Abu Ameenah Bilaal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawḥeed (Islamic Monotheism), 2nd ed. (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2005.), 17.

[5] "O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, 'Three'; desist—it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs" (Quran 4:171, Saheeh International translation).

The Church: Dominant, Sub-, or Countercultural?

By Ian McKerracher

As part of the dominant culture, the role of the Church was well-defined for everyone involved. It was a role that lasted, off and on, for the better part of one and a half millennia. The Church was to be the conscience of the culture and the arbiter of morality and ethics. This role was valid for most of the past centuries of the Western worldview, since the time of Constantine, who enabled the Christian Church to bear the task of formulating orthodoxy and orthopraxy. If you wanted to know what was right or wrong, you could go to the Church and get an answer to your questions.

When the Church wandered from that role and sought a voice or a part to play in the wider culture, she tended to do very poorly. Cast into the role of a military power, many times she spawned religious wars and power grabs. Cast into the role of Science Journal, many times she opposed the best science of her day.

Bear in mind that all this was accomplished with the Church as a significant player in the culture. In today's climate, there is a renegotiation going on between the Church and that same wider culture: especially in North America, but also in Europe and whereever the touch of Western civilization has landed. This is what those in the Church who are looking back to the "glory days" are balking at. The renegotiation is trying to relegate the Church to a much-diminished role. They no longer want the Church to be the arbiter of their morality. They want to do their own thing without any outside interference. They want the Church to be confined to a limited subculture status.

The question is: Should the Church submit to that diminished role? Should we just accept that the culture around us is no longer listening to us, and so we should enter into a new phase by looking after our own interests just like all the other factions of society do? Do we just go quietly into that good night?

I want to say that there is another way: a third way between being a major player in the dominant culture (a role no longer available to us anyways) and being an inwardly focused subculture only concerned with the issues that the greater society allows us. This third way is being a counterculture. In the role of counterculture, the Church actually begins to revert to its original model provided by the pages of Scripture. It appears to me that the place for the Church is and always has been here. We were not designed to play the role of dominant culture, as evidenced by the great failures of the Church in the past. We also are not just one of many of the subcultures scattered throughout our world. The Church has a unique position in the culture—or should have.

For the Church to pursue this role, it is imperative that the Church start becoming the church! We should ask ourselves: if there was a group of people who have the Spirit of the Living God inside of them, what would they look like? How would they be different from the surrounding culture? What would their priorities be?

One sure-fire way to answer these highly charged questions would be to look at the culture outside and away from the Church, and begin to do the opposite things. I am not suggesting that the Church be "oppositional," thinking that would make us more attractive. That idea certainly has not been very successful any time it has been attempted. Attitude is everything, and being a jerk is still being a jerk even when you have the Truth. Let's just remember that those outside our congregations don't have the overwhelming reality of the Living God inside of them, and so they would act in a way that shows they are not being informed by Him. If the dominant culture, including those in political power, in educational power, and in the power of the media, are not being influenced as freely by the Holy Spirit as Christians should be, then the way they conduct themselves and the pursuits they deem valuable should reflect that difference. We could just observe their attitudes and actions and assume that we should look different.

Flower_Power_demonstrator
Flower_Power_demonstrator

We have had many countercultural groups over the course of history, with whom we can make comparisons and be instructed. They appear and disappear like waves on the historical ocean, and sometimes leave us with the faint smell of salty fishiness in the background of our collective consciousness. The hippies of the last century were much more than a weird fashion show with great music. They were countercultural in the true sense of the word. They redefined, for themselves, the notions of success, relationships, and personal autonomy. At the time, the Vietnam War provided a focus point for them to counter. Conventions of hair length were turned on their heads, along with dreams of picket fences in the suburbs, paid for by a personal commitment to a corporation for life. Those same hippies had children, who are now the "Occupy" people trying to change the social contract, or the social justice warriors that stride through the Internet, cutting a vast swath of vitriol, fueled by a sense of the unassailable rightness of their causes. These are examples of negative countercultural movements, which have suffered (or will suffer) the ignobility of being dashed upon the rocks of reality as their ideas become mainstream.

The Church has a history of very positive countercultural actions over the course of her story. Though many of the chapters of that glorious story have have been besmirched in modern times by a media hostile to religion, there are episodes of Church history where she rose to the occasions of her greatness by being present and accounted for to bear the weight of serving the victims of the poor policies of the dominant culture. With a true and robust redemption to offer those victims, the Church shone like a beacon, cutting through the fogginess of the anti-intellectualism that founded (and still confounds) the collective insanity that characterizes a life outside of God's good graces. Whether it is waiting in a boat below bridges where women cast their unwanted babies; gathering money and resources to help the poor at home and abroad; or providing care for disenfranchised, hospitalized, or incarcerated people, the Church was doing social justice long before it came in vogue to demand it from others. And she did all this with a clear-eyed vision to be an instrument in the Hand of the Master Builder of the Kingdom of God: to be involved in something infinitely larger than itself, a Kingdom where Love rules!

It doesn't take long for anyone focusing on those kinds of questions and looking at the latest rendition of the Church to realize: we aren't that, in whatever way we apply Scripture as a map to define what "that" is. Church-wide repentance is a great option! I heartily endorse it as a way to return to the original scriptural mandates set upon us by our Lord. As for the politics, bureaucrasies, and other power centres of our world: let the dead bury their dead. Let's follow Jesus.

Atheism Requires a Little Humility

By Nick Bertsch

When conversing with various atheists, I have encountered sort of a self-righteousness that confuses me. There is a certain sense in which many have a very condescending view of anyone they deem stupid enough to believe in a creator of the universe. The funny thing is, there are more problems in explaining reality for those who deny God's existence, than there are for those who affirm it. Here are a few off the top of my head, just to start.

First, most atheists are also naturalists or materialists. They believe all that exists is matter. In other words, "In the beginning were the particles." If this is the case, then it follows that wherever each person is at this moment is the result of physical processes. We are basically molecules in motion, or "moist robots." This should mean that our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. are not rational but chemical, and we have no control over them. Whatever sense of morality we have, whatever view of God we have, and whatever else we think, are not something freely chosen or deduced rationally, but rather caused by chemical reactions in the brain. In other words, we don't reason, we just react. There is no free will in this view; we are biologically determined. This means that the atheist has no grounds to think his view is rational, because his beliefs are caused by his biology. Chances are though, most atheists will switch categories, claim they have free will, and yet cling to a worldview that undermines it completely.

Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues as much in his book Mind and Cosmos. He writes: "Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself."[1]

Second, although I am sure some will disagree, it seems that it is atheists who, more often than not, will take the wildly counter-intuitive position of denying such blindingly obvious things as objective morality and consciousness to argue against a creator. Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has famously said, "DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is, and we dance to its music."[2] There are many atheists who will even argue that our consciousness is an illusion. Despite such bold statements, they will then proceed to argue about the immorality of religion (which is really just people dancing to their DNA, supposedly) using what they feel are rational arguments produced by their consciousness which is supposedly illusory . . . for everyone but them. Makes sense, right?

not-atheist-symbol1Third, when the best answer your worldview can provide in many cases is "we don't know," then it would be polite not to look down on those who draw an inference to the best explanation by positing God. The origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the origin of consciousness are a few things that have no plausible explanation within the worldview of naturalism, and it would be nice to see an atheist or two be a little more charitable with Christians, since "we don't know" is the best they can ultimately come up with when pressed.

Fourth, even though it's a standard atheist tactic to blame religion for causing more wars and violence than anything else, it is actually atheism that has the higher body count. Regimes like those of Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong made atheism the institutionalized position, resulting in the slaughter of over 100 million people combined, many of whom were religious people. Is it because all atheists are evil? Of course not. It is because atheism reduces us from human beings created in the image of God, with intrinsic value, to glorified animals with extrinsic value, who can be killed if they are not useful or oppose what you want. If a person has the power these men had, and views people this way, there is nothing logically incoherent about killing anyone who disagrees. Those claiming to be Christians who committed violence did so against the teachings of Jesus. Read for yourself. However, those who believe we are all animals and are accountable to no one have the logical backing for some pretty ugly things. Most atheists don't think like this, which I am glad for, but there is nothing in the logical outworking of their worldview which would prevent them from doing so. In other words, they are inconsistent yet again, and should be a bit more charitable to those with a worldview that doesn't lead logically to these kinds of things.

Fifth, since most atheists think evolution is really to blame for the way we all think and behave, why is it so impossible for them to keep their evolution to themselves and let Christians and everyone else believe what they want? Why are they so threatened by us? Why do some feel the need to remove any mention of God from anything in society, and silence or ostracize anyone who dares to dissent? I find it a little telling of the weakness of their worldview. If religion is a product of evolution that has helped people survive, then there is no explanation for the irrational hatred so many atheists have for it.

Finally, it is seemingly impossible for many atheists to accurately represent the Christian worldview before they proceed to argue against it. They consistently build a straw man of what we don't believe (with a few verses ripped out of context from the Old Testament thrown in), and then proceed to tear it apart. If you can't argue confidently and logically against a view someone actually holds, then don't look down on them with such disdain for holding it.

I could probably rant forever on this, but I think I have made my point. I love when good conversations happen, but find more and more that the tone, and the tactics, are often unhelpful. There are many like me who have not blindly accepted belief in God, but have logically thought it through and find His existence undeniable. The reality is, there are massive problems with the atheistic worldview, and it would serve some atheists well to have a little humility in view of this. Christians are not the only ones with questions to answer.


[1] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 27.

[2] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

The Apologetics of Handel's Messiah

Messiah-titlepage.jpg

By Scott McClare

Every Christmas, I make a point of listening to George Frideric Handel's great oratorio, Messiah. So do many people. If you live in a large enough city, you could potentially attend a performance several times each December. And because of Messiah's lengthy performance history (and Handel's habit of modifying the score to suit his performers), the variations are endless: modern or period instruments, professional or amateur soloists, mass choirs or small ensembles—to say nothing of the extensive catalogue of recordings! A more recent tradition is the "sing-along Messiah," in which the choir invites the audience to bring their own scores and sing with them. Paradoxically, this makes the oratorio one of Western art's highest achievements, as well as one of its most accessible.

Messiah is a Christmas institution. So it may come as a surprise to many that its first performance—a benefit in Dublin, Ireland, for the relief of prisoners' debt—took place in April, 1742. (The performance was a success, raising enough money to release 142 debtors from prison.) Its official debut in London took place the following March. Handel himself never had Messiah performed at Christmas; it was for the Easter season. Only the first of Messiah's three parts deals with the birth and ministry of Jesus, telling of the promise of judgment, redemption, and salvation through selected Old Testament passages as well as the birth narrative from the Gospel of Luke. Most of the best-known selections come from Part 1, likely because of its association with Christmas.

However, Part 2 tells of Christ's passion, his death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and his glorification. It continues by speaking of the beginning of the spread of the Gospel, and its rejection by the world. It culminates in the "Hallelujah" chorus, which declares the absolute sovereignty of God:

Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 16:9)

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)[1]

The words are so closely associated with the "Hallelujah" chorus that you probably think of the music while you're reading them. We hear this chorus every Christmas, but it rightly belongs to Easter! The meaning of Messiah is not "for unto us a child is born"; it's that He is "King of kings and Lord of lords." Hallelujah!

Finally, Part 3 promises eternal life, the Day of Judgment, and the final destruction of sin and death. The oratorio concludes with the exaltation of the Messiah:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, andriches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.

Amen. (cf. Revelation 5:9,12-14)

Even less commonly known, perhaps, is that Messiah is as much an apologetic work as it is an artistic one. The libretto (text) was composed by Charles Jennens, Handel's friend and frequent collaborator. Jennens was a devout Christian who was concerned about the rise in popularity of Deism amongst England's intelligentsia. Deism is a philosophical theism that rejects divine revelation as a source of knowledge, concluding that human reason alone is sufficient to establish the existence of a deity. When God created the universe, He established natural laws for its running, but He does not involve himself in its activity. Jennens' brother had lost his faith and committed suicide after corresponding with a Deist. Grieving for his brother, Jennens composed the libretto to Messiah as a response to Deism, compiling Scripture after Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible (paraphrasing here and there) to show that Christ was the promised Messiah and that God took an active interest in the redemption of the world. Jennens was reportedly less than satisfied with Handel's score (which he composed in less than a month), complaining that some parts were "far unworthy of Handel, but much more unworthy of the Messiah." The judgment of history has, perhaps, been more favourable.

My favourite selection from Messiah takes its text from Isaiah 40:5:

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed; and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

The last phrase is drawn out in long, solemn notes that underscore its significance. It is immediately followed by a bass solo that thunders out: "Thus saith the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:6). Jennens draws out the story of Jesus almost entirely from the Old Testament, primarily the prophet Isaiah, drawing from the Gospels only for the annunciation of Jesus' birth to the shepherds by the angles (Luke 2:8-14). The Creator is no mere spectator, and this birth is no mere accident of history. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it; therefore, it has come to pass.

There is a strong relationship between good art and a good message. I have met many Christians who can appreciate many kinds of mediocre art as long as they mention Jesus enough times and are helpful for sharing the Gospel. Yet, in Messiah, a devout Lutheran composer has created one of the acknowledged masterpieces of the Western musical canon, listened to by millions every Christmas. Thanks to his friend, a devout Anglican with a concern for the spiritual state of England, those millions flock into auditoriums and churches willingly to hear the Gospel sung to them.

I wrote last Christmas about why the Incarnation is important. Only God, taking on true humanity, could atone for the sins of, and intercede for, the human race. Without that first Christmas, when "God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4 ESV), there would be no Easter—no cross to free us from the penalty of the law. But Charles Jennens and George Handel were right to focus on the work of Christ on the cross, and the blessings that result from it. Without the hope of Easter, there would be no joy at Christmas.

[1]Like the text of Messiah, Scripture passages are taken from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.

Scripture Alone!

By Scott McClare

Sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—has been called the formal principle of the Reformation.[1] This is the principle that Martin Luther famously appealed to when he declared at the Diet of Worms, "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the word of God."

As important as it is, many evangelical Christians have difficulty defining sola Scriptura, understanding what it means, or knowing how it has been derived. One high-profile convert to Roman Catholicism, Scott Hahn, says that one of the milestones on his journey to Rome was when one of his theology students asked where the Bible taught sola Scriptura, and he had no adequate answer.[2]

How, then, can we define this vital, yet misunderstood, doctrine?

The key Bible verse for sola Scriptura is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.[3]

The Apostle Paul says, first, that the Scriptures are "breathed out by God." This is a literal translation of the Greek word Paul uses, theopneustos. The Bible is, as it were, the very breath of God Himself: where the Bible speaks, He speaks. Theopneustos occurs in the Bible in this one passage. In other words, Scripture—graphe, the written Word—is said to be God-breathed, but nothing else is. The Bible is the sole God-breathed, infallible norm.

Title page of the King James Version of the Bible, 1611.Paul goes on to say that Scripture is sufficient: by it "the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Here is an analogy. I am currently preparing to go to school in January. I need to purchase a number of things: a laptop computer, software, textbooks, and so forth. I can buy all these things in the college bookstore. It is sufficient to equip me for my classes. However, if I can't buy the laptop there—if they have to send me to Best Buy to get it—then they aren't sufficient. They would be incapable of fully equipping me for school.

Similarly, the Scriptures contain "those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation," as the 1689 London Baptist Confession puts it.[4] If one of those necessary things was not found in the Scriptures—if I could only find it in the sacred tradition of a particular church organization—then the Scriptures would not be sufficient. They would not be capable of making me "complete, equipped for every good work." The Roman Catholic Church affirms the infallibility of the Bible, but when it says that it has been entrusted the "sacred deposit" of both Scripture and Tradition, and that only the Magisterium is capable of making them known, it denies what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 means.[5]

While this passage teaches sola Scriptura explicitly, we see it practiced implicitly by Jesus and the Apostles. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees: "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29), holding them responsible for what they knew of the Scriptures; the Apostles turned to Scripture when they chose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:20); Luke commends the Jews in Berea for their use of the Scriptures to check out what Paul taught them about Christ (Acts 17:11), among many other examples.

One Roman Catholic objection to sola Scriptura is that Scripture might be an authority, but it is not the only authority. I happen to agree; however, sola Scriptura, properly understood, does not claim that the Bible is the sole authority or the only source of truth. We do not deny that there are other authorities, such as creeds and confessions, church councils, or even pastors and teachers, who are a gift from God for the benefit of the church (Ephesians 4:11ff). However, these authorities are subordinate to the Scriptures. The Bible is not the only authority; however, it is the final authority.

Another objection is that the early church fathers didn't believe in sola Scriptura. However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that the early church was unanimous in all its beliefs and practices. Christians lived all over the known world. Each region had its own distinctive practices and traditions. Many times these were assumed to be of apostolic origin simply because they had been practised there for a long time. Because of the huge distances involved (and a lack of rapid transit and smartphones!), representatives of the whole church rarely assembled together in an ecumenical council, and only did to settle vitally important controversies.[6]

One fourth-century father, Basil of Caesarea, wrote this concerning his disputes with the Arians:

They are charging me with innovation, and base their charge on my confession of three hypostases, and blame me for asserting one Goodness, one Power, one Godhead. In this they are not wide of the truth, for I do so assert. Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth.[7]

In other words, the Arians had their traditions, and Basil had his, and neither accepted the other's as binding. Only "God-inspired Scripture" could infallibly arbitrate between them.

Augustine, who apparently had a higher view of sacred tradition than Basil, said something similar in his dispute with the Donatists:

[L]et us not listen to "you say this, I say that" but let us listen to "the Lord says this." Certainly, there are the Lord's books, on whose authority we both agree, to which we concede, and which we serve; there we seek the Church, there we argue our case.[8]

Augustine and Basil certainly sound a lot like Martin Luther did, a millennium later! All of them recognized that human authorities and traditions were not consistent from place to place or time to time.

A third objection is that if Scripture is the sole infallible authority, then its interpretation is fallible, so only an infallible Church can infallibly interpret it.[91] How else could we decide a sincere dispute between two Christians about the meaning of a difficult passage in the Bible?

Again, this is not an argument against sola Scriptura. It only shows that people are fallible. In fact, an infallible Magisterium would be of little help. In all the centuries of its existence, the Roman Catholic Church has only supposedly interpreted a handful of passages infallibly, meaning what it has said about the vast majority of the Bible must be fallible. There is no third possibility.

A doctrine closely related to sola Scriptura is that of perspicuity: in all essential matters pertaining to salvation, the Bible speaks plainly and clearly. These subjects are "so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them."[10] Of course, not all Scripture is equally clear and plain. As Peter wrote, some parts were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). What is his answer to this problem? He encourages his readers to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (3:18). Peter—whom Roman Catholics claim as the first pope—does not tell them to appeal to an infallible church hierarchy. He tells them to get more understanding. When we find ourselves in an honest disagreement about the Bible, should we not prayerfully do the work it takes to bring us closer to the truth? Jesus, Peter, and the other Apostles hold us accountable for what we know of the Scriptures. It would be unwise to hand that responsibility over to someone else.

The Holy Scriptures are infallible. Human beings are not. If we are to maintain a Christian worldview and defend it before others, we need to ground our understanding on the solid rock of the Bible rather than the shifting sand of human tradition and opinion. And we need to know why, because many of those people whom our apologetics are for, find their authority in something else.


[1] A formal principle of theology is its authoritative source. Contrast this with the material principle, which is the theology's central teachings. In the Protestant tradition, the material principle is the glory of God or justification by faith alone.

[2] Scott Hahn, "The Scott Hahn Conversion Story," Catholic Education Resource Center, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/the-scott-hahn-conversion-story.html.

[3] All Scripture passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[4] London Baptist Confession of Faith [hereafter LBCF] I.7, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.vor.org/truth/1689/1689bc01.html.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church 84-85 (New York: Doubleday, 1995). The Magisterium consists of "the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."

[6] One such example was the Council of Nicaea in 325, convened to debate the teachings of Arius, of which I have written previously.

[7] Basil of Caesarea, Letter 189, New Advent, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202189.htm.

[8] Augustine, On the Unity of the Church, III.5, Christian Resources, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.christiantruth.com/deunitate.html.

[9] "[I]t is the Magisterium which has the responsibility of guaranteeing the authenticity of interpretation. . . ." Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Sherbrooke, QC: Editions Paulines, 1994), 101.

[10] LBCF I.7. By "due use of ordinary means," the authors meant such things as prayer, corporate worship, the preaching of the Word, and private and corporate study. Of course we must acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in aiding our understanding, as well.

A Response to Tyler Huckabee's "Why I Support Gay Marriage"

By Jonathan Lutz-Orozco

Looking online today, it is so easy to become consumed and overwhelmed with so much information on theology, God, religion, and our human experience. We have so much to share, think through, and debate, and nothing stokes the minds of so many like the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Some have made their points and moved on, while others, such as myself, are working through its implications for our North American world today. One person who has argued his viewpoint is Tyler Huckabee, a blogger and editor for Relevant Magazine. Tyler wrote an article in July outlining why he supports gay marriage, and why it should not be considered a problem within Christian theology and the Christian worldview.

In his article, he points out a few arguments and points that are usually against gay marriage, and tries to either explain them away or reduce their importance to the discussion. In the following paragraphs, I wish to look at the points Tyler has brought up, and examine if the view he espouses regarding same-sex marriage is possible to hold from a biblical and theological point of view. Tyler brings up the five main themes or topics that have been used to support gay marriage.

The first point Tyler brings up is that women were made for relational capabilities over reproductive capabilities. He states:

I do not believe we must necessarily accept a literal reading of the creation narrative for this point to stand. Even as a myth, it is notable that the creation of woman was not primarily utilitarian, but relational. The core truth of Eve's identity was not that she was a woman, but that she was a human. Strictly speaking, God didn't create women to be anatomically useful, but simply to be. He didn't create love as a pleasant incubator to keep humanity coming, but because love is in His nature. The whole idea of childbearing doesn't even show up until God curses humanity's sin.[1]

By Nndd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThis issue is not so much the literal or poetic reading of Genesis; the issue is that Tyler sees that the utilitarian and relational reasons for women's creation are at odds. We cannot argue fact here, as only God Himself has His reasons for creating male and female, but from the text we can infer that God created woman for both relational and utilitarian reasons such as companionship for Adam and procreation of humanity. Tyler develops a false dichotomy in the text, and in Genesis 2 we also see that directly after the creation of woman, the ancient explanation of a heterosexual marital union is actually described (Genesis 2:23-24). Man was meant to cleave to a woman, and in the ancient Hebrew culture this was a very important union that was not to be reduced to something else.[2] We see from the text that humanity was meant to flourish and be in right relationship with God, but this relationship was broken and the consequence was painful childbearing, not childbearing itself. It follows then that men and women, if they can propagate, can rejoice in their progeny, but if a woman and man cannot propagate they still have companionship. Each example has both uses and is not simply reduced to either/or.[3]

The second point that is brought up is that Paul did not know about homosexual relationships in terms of a marital commitment. I must quote Tyler at length:

There are attempts to explain this away. Some Old Testament scholars will split the law into different categories about which ones were intended for just Israel and which continue to apply to anyone who follows Jesus. So, laws about slaves, rape and women were meant for that time, and laws about wearing linen and eating shellfish were meant for that culture. But laws about murder and theft continue to be relevant for our lives today. As do laws about gay marriage, the thinking generally goes. If you do that, then it becomes very easy to sort through the Scripture and systematically choose which of God's laws seems most reasonable for you to follow. Perhaps that is how God intended the law to be understood. Perhaps He never meant for it to be a whole cloth. It seems a bit odd to me (it seems contrary to a plain reading of James 2:10), but it could be true. Or perhaps when Jesus came, he truly did free us from the law. Perhaps he didn't free us from it in a complicated way, but a simple one. Perhaps the burden of our law is love. Perhaps the many, many scholars who believe Paul's writings about same-sex relationships referred to a cultural practice no longer applicable to our modern conversation around homosexuality are right.[4]

A fair response to this would be that Paul spoke about fidelity between a male and female specifically. We have various passages that pin this over and over. Today Paul would absolutely have things to say about marriage, because as a Jew it is regarded as sacred and to be untouched by sin. To assume Paul would accept that he would allow same-sex marriage, or even approve of it, is to assume he would go against his own letters and own Jewish tradition and view of sexuality and marriage. In fact, various liberal pro-gay and gay scholars all agree that the Bible disagrees with homosexual marriage and homosexuality as a lifestyle.[5] In fact, one prominent scholar, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, posits that Paul's responses to homosexuality in his letter to the Romans confirm that the ancient culture had some idea of homosexual practice, and behaviour was as common in his day.[6]

Another point or theme that is seen through the entirety of the blog post is the idea that loving someone means holding to their identity. He writes:

And a love that must hold people's identity at bay is an imperfect love—a love that refuses their own loves. If someone were to say they loved me but saw my own marriage as an affront to God, I would say that that person does not then really love me. I could not abide that sort of love in my life. I just could not.[7]

Jesus spoke about what we identify with many times in the Bible. The rich, the poor, the prostitute, and the priest were all asked to live on an equal moral ground, which is to follow the Ten Commandments and to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He also told His followers some of the hardest things anyone has ever had to hear: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16: 24).[8] In this single verse, God has asked us to lay down our very lives, and, yes, even our own desires, to follow His mission to seek a lost world that is in need of true identity. Paul highlights this perfectly in Galatians 3:25: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Our identity is not in marriage, singleness, homosexual or heterosexual; our identity is in Christ if we believe He is God. If He is God, we then follow His ways and His truths, which are founded in the Bible, which is supported by outside sources.

Another key point that is important in Tyler's view is that condemning people to loneliness is wrong: the common thread that unites Tyler's post is that of loneliness.[9] Tyler argues that loneliness is the biggest problem for many homosexual couples, and a God that cannot allow same-sex marriage to fill that void is not a God of love. But, as was stated earlier, God has demanded all of us to count the cost: for some that means scorn, for others death, and still others loneliness or no sexual expression. There is a choice of being single, and to many it is the only option, as many other homosexuals have indicated.[10]

The last theme or point that Tyler ends his post on is the idea that this topic does not have eternal consequences.[11] In this case we should be careful. I agree we should not pass judgment on others who do not fit our code of conduct if they do not believe in Christ, for Christ Himself will judge. But if they agree to Christian ethics and have a lifesaving revelation of His power and love, they must be held accountable. God has called us to live a holy life and we must understand what that means, and if Christ uttered the chilling words in Matthew 7:23 where He states, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers," should we not all ask ourselves if we are in danger of deception? If we are possibly missing the freedom He came to give us by His Spirit? We must not be so light on sin as the Western church is so prone to be; we must all be held accountable if we claim fellowship with the one who gave so much to be in union with us.

In closing, Tyler Huckabee brings up common points that many believe or hold to that seem to support a pro-gay marriage stance, but we must all take into consideration the wider ramifications of accepting anything that the culture tells us to accept. The biblical worldview informed by Christian theology has always been at odds with the way a secular or pluralistic world works, and it is only God who has defined man and woman, marriage and sexual intimacy. To re-read what the Bible plainly states, and what many scholars have defended as the biblical viewpoint, is a dangerous road to walk down that will inevitably lead to isolation and loneliness from the God who created us.


[1] Tyler Huckabee, "Why I Support Same-Sex Marriage," The Unbearable Lightness of Huckabeing (blog), July 7, 2015, accessed August 15, 2015, http://tylerhuckabee.com/2015/07/07/i_support_gay_marriage/.

[2] Smith, William, "Marriage," Smith's Bible Dictionary, Bible History Online, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.bible-history.com/smiths/M/Marriage/.

[3] Kevin Allen, "Sexuality, Virginity, and Marriage," podcast, Ancient Faith Today, January 12, 2014, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/aftoday/sexuality_virginity_and_marriage.

[4] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[5] Jeff Allen, "Liberal Scholars Agree: The Bible Forbids Homosexuality," BarbWire (blog), April 29, 2014, accessed August 14, 2015, http://barbwire.com/2014/04/29/liberal-scholars-homosexuality/.

[6] Robert. A. J. Gagnon, "Why 'Gay Marriage' is Wrong," Robert A. J. Gagnon Home, July 2004, accessed August 13, 2015, http://www.robgagnon.net/homopresbytodayarticle.htm.

[7] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[8] Scripture citations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

[9] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[10] Michelle Boorstein, "Gay Christians Choosing Celibacy Emerge from the Shadows," Washington Post, December 13, 2014, accessed August 14, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/gay-christians-choosing-celibacy-emerge-from-the-shadows/2014/12/13/51c73aea-6ab2-11e4-9fb4-a622dae742a2_story.html.

[11] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

Logic and Worship

By Justin Wishart

As I was in a local Christian bookstore, I noticed a book simply titled Logic. Since I am fascinated with the study of logic, I grabbed the book. The author of this book was Isaac Watts who lived between 1674-1748,[1] with this book being first published in 1724.[2] I was very interested in the chronology of the book as a historical look into logic, as it was written before symbolic logic became a dominant way of teaching and doing logic. Another thing that really interested me was that Isaac Watts is much better known for writing hymns, some of which we still sing today.[3] Many people seem to think worship music and logic somehow operate in different spheres. While the book itself isn't about the relationship between logic and worship specifically, there are many clues as to what he thought that relationship might entail.

Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts

The first thing to do is properly define what worship means within Christianity. In the ESV translation, the word "worship" is used 110 times in 104 verses. Reading through the verses shows how big a topic worship actually is, and how the word refers to many different things. It can refer to religious ceremonies that one performs.[4] It could mean the actions one does in their life.[5] Worship can be done incorrectly (Deuteronomy 12:4), directed towards the wrong object (1 Kings 9:6), and if done incorrectly or to the wrong object there will be great consequences (Deuteronomy 8:19). Worship seems to be so much more than mere Sunday service songs, yet it also includes our sacred songs. Merriam-Webster provides some definitions that help sum up this encompassing view of worship:

2: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence

3: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

4: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem[6]

Particularly striking is definition 4, which has "devotion" as part of the definition, which really lines up with Scripture well (see Romans 12:1, for example). This means that worship is an all-encompassing trajectory of one's life. While it includes things we do, it also includes who we are. To worship God is to become godly. Once worship is biblically defined, we can see how logic becomes critical in proper worship. Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).[7]

In the introduction of Watts' book, he spells out the usefulness of logic in a person's life.[8] We will go through what he says and apply it to worship as defined above.

Now the design of Logic is to teach us the right use of our reason, or intellectual powers, and the improvements of them in ourselves and others. This is not only necessary in order to attain any competent knowledge in the sciences, or the affairs of learning, but to govern both the greater and the meaner actions of life. It is the cultivation of our reason by which we are better enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood; and both these are matter of the highest importance, whether we regard this life, or the life to come.[9]

There seem to be three general prongs in Watts' quote. First, logic cultivates our inner self. Second, logic helps inform our actions in life. Third, logic is needed to know what is true.

Logic Cultivates Our Inner Self

This perhaps is the most profound relationship between logic and worship that Watts presents, because it does not merely indicate our outward expressions, but speaks to who we are. Scripture tells us that we are made in God's image, but what does this mean? The late theologian Gordon Clark gives the answer:

The Scripture teaches that God created man in his own image. Although the first chapter of Genesis does not say explicitly what that image is, it implies that the image distinguishes man from the animals. From Colossians 3:10 we may infer that the image consists chiefly in knowledge, rationality, or logic. . . . Therefore, the contention is that knowledge and rationality are the basic constituents of God's image in man.[10]

While some might protest against the idea that rationality is "the basic constituents of God's image in man," certainly one should recognize that logic is at least part of God's image. There is a relation, an image, between the mind of God and the image of God in man, to our mind.[11]

To develop one's logical abilities is a sanctifying process towards the pure design of God for man. God gave us logic so we can think His thoughts, communicate with Him, communicate about Him to others, communicate with others, and enact His will on this earth. All these things we understand to be exactly what worship is. Thus, the more we develop our internal logical faculties, the better we become at being vessels of worship of the creator who made everything logically and orderly. Logic is, therefore, critical to worship.

Logic Helps Inform Our Actions in Life

In Deuteronomy we read, "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way" (12:4). The immediate question should be: how shall we not worship God? There is also the question of who the real God is that we should worship. In the same book we read, "And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish" (8:19). It becomes extremely important that we have the right God, and that we worship God correctly. This is no easy task, but it is a task which requires logic to complete. Without logic, you could not tell the difference between Christ and Krishna, or know whether to communicate with the spirit world, or partake in Communion.

Given our definition of worship, we need to know to whom we worship and how we are to act in our worship before we can know our proper actions. Thus, in order to be worshipers who worship in truth in our actions, we need to have solid development of our logic and reasoning. As mentioned, this process is not always easy, but the more we develop our logical faculties the more competent in worship we become.

Logic is Needed to Know What is True

Obviously, if we are to be worshipers who worship in truth, then knowing what is true becomes critical. When Jesus proclaimed, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," Jesus equated Himself with truth (John 14:6). As Christian worshipers, the truth, or Jesus, must be defining our lives because worship is our lives. Logic becomes critical in distinguishing, as Watts said earlier, "good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood." Should we act one way or another in some situation? Should we sing this hymn or that hymn? Should we worship this God or that god? Is this experience we are experiencing from God or from a demonic angel of light? We cannot even begin to answer these questions until we can distinguish truth from error. This is but another way that logic is necessary to our worship.

Even when we look strictly at worship music itself, we see that logic is necessary. Do we want to sing words of error if we are to worship in truth? On the back cover of this book, Doug Wilson says the following:

Fuzzy thinking is one of the great sins of our age. Christians who seek a return to the clear-mindedness which characterized the church of previous generations will certainly welcome the return of this great text on logic by Isaac Watts. The clear devotion of Watts' hymns came from a clear mind – and that was no accident.

Many people wrongly characterize logic as somehow a "cold" exercise that is not a befitting pursuit for a Christian. Logic is certainly not an easy field of study, it is true, but neither is becoming good at the piano easy. However, when we look at what logic is and how it applies to worship, we see that logic is truly a beautiful thing. It is a gift from God, and allows us to have a real and meaningful relationship with Him and with others. It allows us to become the creations He meant us to be. It allows us to follow God's commands in our lives because our love for Him compels us to do so (John 14:15). Because of logic, we can become the true vessels of worship we were intended to be, and really, what could be more beautiful than that?

[1] "Isaac Watts," Wikipedia, updated August 19, 2015, accessed October 30, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Watts.

[2] The copy I purchased was a reprint: Isaac Watts, Logic: The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993).

[3] Notable ones are "Joy to the World" and "As I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

[4] For example, in Acts 24:11, Paul says he went to Jerusalem to worship, meaning he went there for the religious ceremonies done at the Temple.

[5] For example, in Romans 9:4 worship has been translated from the word λατρεία which means "service rendered for hire; any service or ministration: the service of God; the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; to perform sacred services." Also look at Hebrews 12:28.

[6] "Worship," Merriam-Webster, accessed October 30, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

[7] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[8] Watts, Logic, 1. Watts defines logic as "the art of using Reason well in our inquiries after truth, and the communication of it to others."

[9] Ibid., 1-2.

[10] Gordon Clark, Christian Philosophy (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 308-09.

[11] Augustine also held this view. For more, see Ronald Nash's book, The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1969).