Monday, February 28, 2005

Evolution vs. Creation, again. Why does it matter? 

I missed this week's Vox Apologia, although the topic is one that interests me a great deal. I just ran out of time. It was on the subject of evolution vs. creation, and whether it matters. There are a number of excellent posts up. Here's RazorKiss' entry, for example:
We dare not, we must not, and we cannot look an enemy in the face - and turn away as if it is irrelevant. We made that crucial mistake when this enemy first appeared - and we dare not continue. We cannot look at naturalism - at evolution - and spit in our Creator’s face by saying “so what if they deny you?” Romans warns us what excuses exist, for those who deny their Creator. None. His Creation, regardless of attempts to deny it’s Creator, stands as a testament to His power, His majesty, and His creativity - as do we. Despite the philosophical dexterity accompanying the devaluation of man, while simultaneously exalting his attributes - we should take it as a warning. If we exalt the natural - we dethrone the supernatural - we dethrone God - and take His place as the pinnacle. When we take over the pinnacle - we set ourselves up as God.

I'm going to argue that the evolution vs. creation debate does matter, which of course comes as a surprise to no one. But while many who defend the Christian perspective on the matter are content to argue for some theistic hand involved in the existence of the world, while not really disagreeing with a great deal of the popularly believed science on the matter, I intend to argue that any account of the origin of the universe that doesn't conform to the Genesis account creates the exact same philosophical and theological problem as a completely atheist account of our origins.

I have argued before that people hold to their view of the origin of the universe for entirely other than scientific reasons, and that this is just as true of the so-called defenders of science as it is of anyone else. I make this claim because I have a high level of confidence that nobody, literally nobody, has seen enough data to actually have observed enough to take their position purely on the basis of science. Certainly nobody I've ever argued with has. What they have done is that they have heard other people talk about what they've seen, and what their interpretation is, and they've read books and seen pictures, all of little bits and pieces of work that other people have done, and they are told a certain story about what all of it means, and they accept that story. Certainly many individual scientists have done a great deal of hands-on work on certain fields. But one guy knows a lot about biochemistry, and accepts the story on astrophysics, zoology, botany, and the rest. Another guy might be a great astronomer, but know nothing about living things. Check out this post by PZ Myers, for example, a die-hard defender of evolution:
Don't ask me about the subject of the title; I know little about it. I've confessed before to my zoological bias, which means plants and bacteria don't get the attention they deserve here. Fortunately, I can tell everyone to go read the summary of angiosperm phylogeny at Niches. While I don't know as much about flowering plants as I should, I can at least appreciate their importance and recognize an interesting evolutionary story when I see it.

He doesn't know much about the subject, but he likes the story. That's what ties them all together- the story. There is a certain story about how everything happened that they all like, and so all of their data is interpreted in terms of that same story. Details might be adjusted from time to time; question marks left where the data and the story don't match; but fundamentally the story stays the same.

It reminds me of the debate about systematic theology sometimes. Some theologians say systematic theology is bad, because you force Biblical data into an interpretive grid instead of letting the data speak for itself. My answer to that has always been that that's what everyone does; it's just how humans think. The difference is, if you own up to a system, then at least you have the opportunity to check your system against the data, and adjust the system if necessary. If you are unconscious of your system, you will distort all of the data to fit, while never being aware that you're doing it.

I want to start my system with one simple premise: "Thus says the Lord".

This will of course render me ignorant, insane, and dangerous in the eyes of many. That's OK. But we all have a choice between building our thinking on the word of God, or on my own mind. These are the only two options, and I choose the first.

After I've chosen the first, and then I read Genesis 1-2, there's only one choice- the world was created in six days by the supernatural power of God. And if I read more of the Bible, I discover that this all happened probably less than ten thousand years ago. As I argued here, I believe Genesis because I love Jesus, because He saved me from my sins, and Jesus always assumes the absolute truth of the Jewish Old Testament, everywhere He speaks. This is why I am a creationist, because I choose to accept a particular authority.

But this is the dirty secret- that's what everyone does. PZ Myers accepts the authority of the article he quoted above, because it tells a story that he likes. All people, including all scientists, do this all the time, because no scientist has access to all, or even more than a tiny fraction, of all of the relevant data. Even a biologist doesn't dig up all the fossils himself. And he never even sees many of them. He sees pictures in books, and takes someone's word for it that they look like what the book says they look like, and mean what the book or the journal says they mean.

There's nothing inherently wrong with doing this. Again, it's what we all do, all the time. I believe that there are some interesting political events going on in Lebanon right now, but I have no first-hand information of that at all. I have chosen to accept the authority of the news reports I have read. And where I suspect a bias, that is, where the reporting of facts and interpretations does not fit the story I have chosen to believe, I adjust accordingly.

Now to the self-appointed priests of rationalism and empiricism, this is an extremely foolish and blinkered way to think. But all that means is that they are ignorant of their own thought process, and therefore unable to adjust the story they have chosen to believe.

Every attempt I have ever read or heard to interpret Genesis 1-2 in any way other than a young-earth, six-day interpretation has been an attempt to accommodate the biblical account to the "facts" of modern science. The interpretation of the text are always discussed, but when you dig into it, you discover that interpretation is always a secondary concern, and the primary concern is making the text "fit" the science. But accommodations of that nature never work, because what is being attempted is to accommodate two stories, two philosophies that fundamentally contradict each other. One philosophy is the one that says that we think God's thoughts after him, and that all truth is learned by first submitting myself to God's proclamation of truth. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". The other philosophy says that man is the measure of truth, that I decide the facts and the meaning of things; that I decide what is right and wrong. You have to make a choice. You have to pick one of these stories; you cannot have both. This is the choice to worship the creature rather than the creator. If the Bible is true, then the atheists and unbelievers who claim to be scientists have no ability to tell me anything relevant about the origins of the universe. They have no wisdom; their minds are given over to darkness as punishment for their rebellion; they are fools. And why should I attempt to modify the holy Word of God to acoommodate the ravings of fools? They may be very good at describing things that they can see. They may be good at building things. But they have nothing to say about any issue to which the Bible speaks.

Of course, the other implication of this train of thought is that while it is immensely important whether I believe evolution or creation, it is not all that productive to argue about it, except when there is already a broad agreement on the philosophical underpinnings of the debate. But if someone does not believe the Bible, then I do not expect to convince them of creation, any more than I could convince them that Jesus actually walked on water. Both he and I believe what we believe because of issues that have nothing to do with science.

Doubt me? Go read some of those blogs that are written by supposed defenders of science. They spend almost their whole time raving about philosophy, and they attack people like me not in scientific terms but in philosophical terms. They hold a level of hatred toward people like me that cannot be explained by simple differences in scientific opinion. They claim that defenders of creation are liars and evil people. But if science is their concern- the simple aggregation of knowledge- why would they care about a disagreement over a fact, or even about a liar? If a man is a liar, then real scientists will have nothing to do with him, as they constantly claim. Then the development of knowledge will not be affected at all by that liar. He might fool some rubes; he might get some government money or get some stickers put on some textbooks, but so what? No, their hatred can only be explained by the fact that their philosophy is being attacked; their religion; their God.

The first thing that the devil ever said to man was, "Has God really said?" Satan's attack has always been an attempt to twist the word of God to mean something other than what it means. We must not accommodate that attack at all. So, creation vs. evolution is important primarily because the word of God is important. We must understand that the real point of attack is not on science, but on the credibility of the word of God. The devil's always been good at arguing, and the defenders of evolution are too. But if we remember what the attack is really about, and what we stand to lose, then we will not be fooled.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ed "What the" Heckman for posting my late entry to Vox Apologia VII. Go check it out- lots of good red meat there.

ANOTHER UPDATE: One more quick related thought, here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Walmart, and the supposed "little guy" 

Joe's got a great post on EO about Walmart.
The biggest change was that we now had choices. Before, if we needed consumer products we had to travel thirty miles down the road to Paris. The members of the local retail oligopoly offered a limited range of products at outrageously inflated prices (that seems to be forgotten in the hagiographic idealization of small retailers). Options that were taken for granted by people who lived in urban areas – the ability to buy a Sony Walkman and the latest Duran Duran cassette – were completely closed to our rural community. Sam Walton, though, changed all that.

In fact, it would be hard to underestimate the impact of “everyday low prices” had on how rural Texans. Even low income families like mine were able to afford items that were once considered luxuries. For example, I was able to purchase a weight lifting set for less than $20 dollars which allowed me to transform within a matter of months from an 85 pound weakling to a 98 pound he-man. On the surface, such changes may seem inconsequential. But when viewed on a macro level the broadening of consumer choices had an incredibly transformative impact.

The role of Wal-Mart in creating economic conservatives should also not be underestimated. Employee profit-sharing was a foreign concept for most citizens of Clarksville. For many people, the first stock that they ever owned (that didn’t come with hooves) was that of Wal-Mart, bought while working for the company. People who had formerly viewed stocks as the province of “Republicans” and other wealthy folk suddenly began to take an interest in Wall Street. The concept of company ownership suddenly became a reality for people who had previously never considered it a possibility.

I don't shop a whole lot at Walmart, because I have to drive into Colorado Springs to find one, and when I get there, there are a lot of other choices. If there was a Walmart here in Limon, you bet I'd shop there.

There is one grocery store, one drugstore/hardware store, and one larger hardware store here in Limon. All but the larger hardware store would likely be put out of business by a Walmart here in Limon. People talk about the sad local businessman put out of business, but you're talking about two or three people. And they're not poor. The guy who owned the grocery store before I got here sold it and was able to move to Hollywood and pursue an acting career for his son with the proceeds. Their prices are wildly inflated and their selection stinks. Walmart would provide lower prices, better quality and better selection for everyone in town, without having to drive 70 miles for it. If you dispute that, you've got nothing to worry about. If they didn't do better than the other stores, people wouldn't shop there. So two or three people lose out, and a few thousand benefit.

Even if employment went down, it would only do so because they were able to produce the same or better product with less manpower. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. If that happens, then everyone's got more money in their pocket (because of having to spend less for so many things) to spend at other local businesses. More people come to Limon for shopping instead of the Springs or Denver, and then they eat at Limon restaurants and see a movie at the Limon theater. Those businesses hire more people. Everyone does better. Who knows- maybe they'll even go to church at a Limon church.

Blocking the Walmart from coming to a small town like this is all about protecting privilege. It's about protecting wealthy business owners from competition, and wealthy landowners from the possibility of the store lowering land values (which it never does.) Hating Walmart is another liberal cause du jour and like all the other liberal causes, it masquerades as being for the little guy, but it's all about protecting the status quo, in favor of the privileged and stomping all over the average joe. Nobody forces anyone to shop at Walmart or work at Walmart. Even if Walmart comes and puts the grocery store out of business, you can still drive to Colorado Springs like everyone already does.

My one hesitation is the tax incentives. I don't think anyone should be getting a tax break over what other businesses get. The market should determine those things and businesses- small or large- should be treated the same under the law, as much as possible. But that's just one concern, and not a central one.

Walmart, if you're listening- come build a store here. Make it a Superstore. I don't care how ugly it is. The Superfoods isn't exactly eye candy anyway. If you do, I'll shop there. And a bunch of other people will too.

Good post, Joe. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Baptism, the Covenant and Our Children 

From my comments on Belgic Confession Article 34:

Baptism replaces circumcision in this respect- both ceremonies identified members of the covenant people. There has always been a nation, though in Old Testament times that nation was a political and ethnic body, and now it is a church. But there is still a nation which is the covenant people of God, and this covenant people include believers and their children. Acts 2:39 says that the promise of salvation in Christ is to “you and to your children”. 1 Peter 2:9 says that the church is a “holy nation”, just as Israel was supposed to be. Being the covenant people means being the people who possess the word of God and the promises of God.

In the Old Testament, if anything came into contact with unclean things, such as dead bodies, unclean animals like pigs, or lepers, they were unable to enter the temple until they were cleansed. This cleansing was accomplished by sprinkling water. There is a whole ritual associated with this, given to us in Numbers 19.

In Ezekiel 36:23-28, God talks about the restoration of Israel, which would come in the time of the Messiah. In that passage, God promises to “sprinkle clean water” on the people, to take away their idols and filthiness, and to give them a new heart. This promise is the promise given to us in baptism. When John the Baptist came, he taught the “baptism of repentance”, and told people that they needed to get baptized in order to prepare the way for the Lord. God (Jesus) was coming into their presence, and they were filthy, so they needed to be cleansed. John made it clear that their baptism had to be accompanied by repentance, because their problem was their internal sin, not outward ceremonies. If they turned away from their sins, then baptism promised they would be forgiven. We need to be careful to distinguish between the sign and the thing signified. Baptism is not the forgiveness of sins; baptism promises forgiveness of sins, if the promise is believed by faith.

Col. 2:11-12 makes the case that baptism points to a more comprehensive reality than circumcision, and therefore takes its place. Circumcision shows us our sinfulness and the need to cut off the sinfulness of our nature. Baptism shows us the reality of forgiveness, and our death and resurrection in Christ. ur baptism therefore shows us the “circumcision of Christ”; that Christ was cut off (killed) for sins, and we died in Him, and rose again in Him, and therefore we never have to worry about cutting off sin again.

Baptism is therefore something God says to us, not primarily something we say to God. It is the sign of a promise. That promise is given to the whole covenant people, which include children, just as the promise of circumcision was to the whole covenant people, including children.

Baptism is a promise of the covenant of grace, that God has freely offered forgiveness of sins in the death of Jesus. Receiving the sign means receiving the promise of the covenant, and marks me as a member of the covenant. Receiving the sign does not mean that I am saved. I must believe the promise, not just receive the sign, in order to be saved. The covenant people are the church, which is a holy nation, and includes our children, and therefore our children receive the sign of that covenant just as adults do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Federal Vision/ Auburn Avenue / Etc 

Lee at Two Edged Sword has been posting a very useful series on the Federal Vision controversy. His latest is an analysis of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery report, which came out recently criticizing the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue / Norm Shepherd / New Perspectives issue. That's a lot of issues to criticize in one report, which is one of Lee's criticisms of the report.
They tried to take on too much. This report examines The New Perspectives on Paul, Bishop N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the Federal Vision. This would have better been split into several papers. One of the chief complaints made by the Auburn Avenue Church is that the report does not recognize the nuances of their argumentation, and it does seem to overlook some.

This is a helpful analysis, and I'd recommend it to anyone trying to understand this difficult and complicated issue.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Terry Schiavo 

Terry Schiavo is going to die soon. Scratch that- she's going to be murdered.

She's committed no crime. She suffers from no terminal illness. She can be saved. She wants to be saved. But she's going to be killed. By doctors. Jollyblogger has an excellent summary of the situation- check him out for more.
What Terry's husband isn't telling you and what the media won't tell you is that Terry is not in a persistent vegetative state. Other doctors have seen her and have concluded that she is not in a persistent vegetative state. She still responds to stimuli, she shows joy when she is around her mother and has given the family indications that she knows her life is threatened and doesn't want to die.

You can read all about this at the website Terri's Fight.

The devaluing of life continues. We are rapidly entering a world where the high priests of science tell us who's worthy of life and who's not. A Down's Syndrome baby, who frequently will show more loyalty, more compassion, more moral judgment than a normal person, is judged unworthy of life. A person who is not yet independent of his mother is judged unworthy of life. Or just a woman who had an accident and needs medical care, but who's husband is after her money so he can go on living with his mistress, is judged unworthy of life.

Some people, some of whom have promised never to come around here anymore (oh well), will accuse me of hypocrisy because I support the war and the so-called murderous Bush administration. And to that I'd answer that if you can't distinguish between killing enemy combatants in war time, or accidental deaths in war time, on the one hand, and killing a helpless woman in a hospital bed whose only crime is difficulty expressing herself on the other hand, then remind me never to do business with you, and if you move in next door, let me know so I can put in a security system. You're clearly unable to make the most basic moral judgments.

UPDATE: More thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For those in the comments who keep saying I've got no evidence, here's a very interesting post from a medical doctor examining the CT scan. I can't judge the accuracy of what he's saying, not being a medical doctor, but it certainly adds some question to the idea that "doctors agree" she must be PVS.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Christian Rock, from the outside 

This is kind of an amazing article. It details the experience of a GQ writer going to a Christian rock festival. You think he's going to make fun of them, but he ends up not; he ends up in awe of their passion and love, and seems like he feels empty at realizing he's got nothing in his life to compare. I ended up feeling kind of sorry for the writer. But it's really good, and really perceptive. Check it out. It's long, but worth it.

Via Sacred Journey.

Emergent Church thoughts from Phil 

Phil at Every Thought Captive, who spends a lot of time thinking about apologetics, has some interesting thoughts about the Emergent Church and their critique of modern evangelical apologetics.

The most annoying thing to me about the Emergent church movement is that whenever they want to identify themselves as such, they focus on their differences, but whenever confronted with a debate, they just say they're the same as everyone else. Generalizations, I know, but there you are.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Book Review: False Intimacy 

In my last book review I looked at the book Not Even a Hint by Josh Harris, which addresses the issue of lust. I said that while I found the book very helpful, I felt it somewhat unsatisfying at the end of the day, as it did not seem to really address the root issues involved.

Another book that I have read recently, False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumburg, comes much closer, I believe, to a deep, Biblical analysis of what drives lust.
False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction
False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction

Dr. Schaumburg believes that all people need intimacy; that it's what we're created for. God created Adam and saw that “it was not good that he was alone.” Fellowship and communication is fundamental to God's own nature, being a Trinity, and so it is also fundamental to man's nature, being created in God's image.

So we go into marriage looking for intimacy, but are inevitably disappointed because our spouses are sinners just like we are. So they hurt us, disappoint us, judge us, and the intimacy we crave either doesn't come at all or in the best of circumstances comes only partially and at a high cost of effort in the relationship. People therefore turn to other things to fulfill their need for intimacy, things which can create an illusion of intimacy for a short time, and at little or no relational cost. They turn to pornography or prostitutes, or affairs, or romance novels or a hundred other ways to create the illusion they are looking for. There is no chance of rejection or judgment from pornography, from a prostitute, or even from a one-night stand, since the partner in a random affair doesn't know you well enough to really hurt you. They also look to fulfill that need or at least to numb that pain in non-sexual ways as well- substance abuse, work, achievement, possessions, friends, and all of the other ways that people use to avoid the pain of their lives.

Often, and especially in the worst cases, this process has begun much earlier than marriage. In childhood, people are often hurt by parents, teachers or others. This may take extreme forms such as abuse and molestation, or more everyday forms like ridicule, neglect, emotional coldness or the like. And so the child perhaps from a young age learns patterns of behavior to protect himself from this emotional pain. He learns to create these illusions which will protect him from insecurity and rejection. He carries those patterns into marriage, and perhaps at first he thinks that marriage will give him what he's been lacking all these years, but when the inevitable hurts and difficulties come, then he retreats back into his illusions. In the most extreme cases this pattern presents itself in sexual addiction, where the person engages in extreme, very dangerous and self-destructive behaviors in his quest to try to ease his craving for intimacy while avoiding relational pain.

This explains why these behaviors are so hard to stop, and why so many efforts to combat them are ineffective. Education is not the answer. The person knows these behaviors just create an illusion, that they're not the real thing. The person knows that it will ultimately be unsatisfying and that the guilt will be terrible. But for a short time, it eases the unbearable pain, and so the cost is considered worth it. External efforts to create control will also ultimately fail. The sexual addict is seeking to ease a terrible pain, and no external pressure brought to bear against him will be worse than the internal agony of loneliness and alienation. Man needs intimacy, and needs it desperately, and he will soothe that agony even at great cost to himself.

This also explains the only real cure that is available to us. Ultimately, we must learn to seek real intimacy with God. He is the only one who can satisfy what we need. When we place the burden of fulfilling our needs on spouses, we ask something of them that they can never ultimately give us. We must learn instead to cultivate a real relationship with God. This means we need to learn to pray, not to get something, but merely to draw close to God. Likewise we need to learn to read our Bibles, not just to learn something or fulfill some duty, but to hear God's voice and get to know Him. As James tells us, Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you.

The goal of the covenant of grace is fellowship with God. God did not save us because He had a bunch of rules that He needed someone to follow. He saved us to create for Himself a people with whom to fellowship. Jeremiah 31:34- “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Intimacy with all other people must first be based on intimacy with God. Fellowship with God was broken by the sin of Adam, and the immediate result of this was that Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness and had to hide from each other, and from God. When I begin to re-establish fellowship and intimacy with God, with starts by accepting forgiveness of sins by the death of Jesus Christ, then I can start to learn how to have real intimacy, though not perfect intimacy, with my fellow man (and woman) as well, first and foremost being my spouse.

Schaumburg's book is an excellent study of the nature of sexual addictions and what causes them. It's well-written and very Biblical, going deep into the nature of the problem. His book, while focusing on fairly extreme kinds of behaviors, does much to explain a wider range of behaviors, as we come to see that sin has a common root- alienation from God and rebellion against His rule. I recommend it to anyone interested in the issue, whether for personal growth, to combat the particular issue, or for help in understanding a spouse or loved one trapped in sexually addictive behavior.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Say hello to my new baby!

Here's some ultrasound pics, only likely of interest to family members and the like. Junior's got all the right pieces and parts, as far as we can know at this point. Here's a profile:
facing up

We got one of those neat 3d ones done. It's so incredible- you can totally see your baby just swimming around in there! The scans are a little murky, but here's the one I thought was the best:

3d, facing a little to the left

And finally, we're one of those modern couples that likes to find out the gender. Warning- this may not be suitable for some viewers.

The arrow is pointing to the reason the guy running the machine was 98% sure it's a boy:
go ask your mother

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Imago Dei answers NARAL challenge 

Serge at Imago Dei has written a great response to a challenge from NARAL for all pro-life supporters to support Harry Reid's bill for government funding for contraceptives:
It should be self evident that any effort to "Put Prevention First" should concentrate on the methods most effective in decreasing pregnancy.

That why I was surprised that Senator Reid's bill focuses mainly on increasing access to contraception. The idea that increasing contraceptive use as the major strategy in reducing pregnancy is severely flawed. Pregnancy is not a pathological disease that indiscriminately strikes unsuspecting women. Pregnancy is the natural consequence of chosen human behavior (excepting the rare cases of pregnancy by rape). You seem to want to treat pregnancy as a disease, in which we need more medication to battle. However, I suggest that we treat pregnancy like other behavior related issues, and concentrate not on the flawed pharmacological means of decreasing pregnancy, but on the behavioral aspects of human sexuality. In other words, our most way to decrease pregnancy is to discourage behavior that results in pregnancy.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Book Review- Not Even A Hint 

I have recently read two books dealing with the subject of sexual sins and I thought I'd share my findings. The first book is Not Even a Hint by Pastor Joshua Harris, and the second is False Intimacy by Dr. Walter Schaumburg.

Not Even a Hint: Guarding Your Heart Against Lust
Not Even a Hint: Guarding Your Heart Against Lust

Not Even a Hint is more a practical help at coming to understand lust on a general level, and to help men and women avoid it. He defines lust simply: craving sexually what God has forbidden. So, it can involve quite a large number of things, from romance novels to pornography to getting intimately involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend. He makes a very important emphasis from the beginning, that we cannot overcome this sin by our own power. He tells a story that I think many of us can relate to, of making a contract with several of his friends not to do certain things for a period of time to avoid lust, and the great sense of pride he felt at the beginning of the contract, and the shame and guilt he felt at the end at how completely he had failed.

I can certainly relate. I actually decided at one point to stop watching all TV and movies, for that exact reason. And I kept my bargain. I never watched any TV or movies until I decided, about a year and a half later, to end my “special dispensation”. Not only did it not help much at all with my problem, but it had the added benefit of making me self-righteous, even driving a wedge between me and my wife. It was when I realized this that I decided to quit. I'm still glad I did it, because I learned some important lessons about myself and about sin- pretty much the same lessons Josh Harris relates in this book.

We are utterly dependent on the Spirit, and can only be saved by the Gospel. So Harris exhorts us at the beginning of the book not to use his practical steps and suggestions as a legalistic means of change, as if we can work our way out of our problem. We must start by believing in Jesus Christ, accepting forgiveness and praying for the Spirit. Only then is real change possible.

Harris then lists a number of practical approaches to the problem. These include things like identifying your sin triggers, identifying times of day when you're more susceptible or places where you're more likely to be tempted, and avoid them if possible. Reading and memorizing Scripture is another suggestion he makes. He stresses the importance of accountability partners.

This last part of the book left me a little unsatisfied. The thing that kept defeating me over and over was that when faced with the opportunity to sin, I didn't want to avoid it. I didn't want to remember Bible verses, or think about Jesus, or avoid looking. I wanted the sin more than I wanted anything else, so I committed it. There's the real rub to me- how do I stop wanting to sin? If I didn't desire it so much, I wouldn't do it. I knew it was a lie; I knew it wouldn't satisfy; I knew the guilt would be horrible and the potential consequences very bad; but I didn't care. It felt so good for a short period of time, and it was that short period of time that I cared about more than anything. All kinds of addictive behaviors report the same kinds of thinking. The drunk is in a love-hate relationship with the bottle. He is perfectly aware of all the negative consequences, but the bottle is the only thing that takes the pain away, even if only for a short time.

I also question the effectiveness of accountability partners. I would ask, if someone is unwilling to be accountable to God, why would they be accountable to some man? It seems to me that accountability would only work by creating the fear of external consequences, mostly shame, and if it's just the external consequences that are feared, then you'd just lie to your accountability partner. And the other real danger is that people will use it as a crutch, thinking that just being involved in the process will somehow produce real change, much like people often get hooked on counseling.

In my experience, there's only one thing that will produce real change, and that is cultivating a relationship with the Lord.

This is not to say that any of Harris' suggestions are bad ones. I think they are good ones and helpful, and he makes all of the right caveats to get a person started in the right direction. But I don't think Harris succeeds in getting at the real nature of the problem. To say that lust is desiring what God has forbidden is certainly true, but why do we desire what God has forbidden? Why do so many people, so many pastors even, pursue insanely reckless behaviors as downloading and storing pornography at their church office? Or even worse, have affairs with secretaries or counselees? Why do women pursue one meaningless hook-up after another, even after not only knowing about, but actually experiencing, all of the potentially deadly side effects such as STDs and assault? God did not forbid these things because He wanted to spoil our fun. He forbade them because they are very bad for us. So why do we chase after what will only make us miserable?

This is where the second book steps in. Dr Schaumburg's book, False Intimacy, does a fine job of getting at the root causes of sexually addictive behaviors and provides real, but hard, answers. I'll review that book next. [UPDATE: That review is here.]

Despite some of my misgivings about this book, Harris obviously speaks with sincerity, insight and experience, and gets the most important things so really right that I can heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to deal with this issue. I'd especially recommend it for teens and single young adults.

I've been sick 

I have been just as sick as a dog. I thought I was going to die for sure. Every time I swallowed something, it felt like someone was cutting my head off.

Andrea has little patience for whining, so she reacted to my misery mostly by making fun of me, which I think on the whole is a good thing, since it encouraged me to get better sooner. And I am better today, thank God. My throat still hurts pretty bad, but the rest of me feels fine.

UPDATE: Andrea admitted that if I had died, she would have felt guilty for making fun of me.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What's Good for the Country? 

I came across this post at Fraters Libertas which discusses, among other things, the debilitated state of the Democratic Party. After giving some advice, they say this:
Granted, I'm more than happy about the sorry state of the Democratic Party today. The more they continue on their tailspin towards insignificance the better. But the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth is getting very tiresome.

The sentiment that the worse off the Democratic party is, the better off America is, is one I see more than a little bit on the right. I don't think anyone's happier than me that Bush won the election. But I also know that Bush isn't nearly as conservative as I and many others would like, on many subjects. And could it be that the reason for that is that when running against such very liberal candidates, one only needs to appear moderate in order to win?

From a conservative standpoint, would the Republican Party be better off if the Democrats were more moderate, had better ideas and were fielding stronger candidates on a national level? If you think the Republicans would be worse off, then you're saying that the Republicans can only compete against weak opponents, and that competition would not force the Republicans to improve, thus contradicting the free market principles the Republicans are supposed to stand for.

Further, if you'd answer that yes, it might make the Republicans better, but they'd likely also lose more elections that way, that reveals that your only concern is power. You're saying that having a Democrat in office is worse than having a Republican in office, no matter what either candidate is like. It's only the political power of the Republicans that you're concerned with if that's your opinion, not the state of governance or the state of the union.

Here's my point: It would be good for the Republicans and good for the country to have a decent opposition party in power. I would love to occasionally have the option of voting for Democrats. It would make the Republicans work more for my vote. But the Republicans know that any conservative will always vote for them, no matter how unconservative the Republican candidate is, because the option is so unpalatable. So the Republicans aim at the middle. We see that this year in Bush's budget, which while promoting many conservative goals, also massively expands the federal government, which is not a conservative principle at all. The only consolation I have is that Kerry would have expanded it even more.

Of course the other option is that the Democrats fade to such a level that the Republicans become massively dominant, and then split along traditional conservative / Libertarian lines. Moderade Democrats would have already aligned with one of those groups, and what was left of the Democrats would become a fringe third party like the Greens or the Socialists. That would be fine with me too.

UPDATE: Instapundit has a great post summing up a number of perspectives on this point. Summing up is Glenn's big strength, I think. He says,

Beinart's views are marginal in the Democratic Party -- heck, the kind of patriotism that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd demonstrated in Davos is indiscernible in the MoveOn / MediaMatters end of the Democratic Party -- while the Seymour Hersh Vietnam-nostalgia strain runs strong. That's bad for the Democrats, and bad for America, but it's nonetheless the case.

Exactly. I'm not under any illusions that BushCo are angels, and all governments need strong opposition.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I haven't posted much for a while, because my internet connection has been very bad. Also, I just haven't had a lot to say. I've been doing nothing but argue with atheists for a while, and that saps me.

So tonight, I got an email from someone in South Africa who wanted to transfer $125 million dollars to the US, and needed someone to help, and he would give me a percentage if I could work it out. Whenever I check my spam filter, I have about thirty of these in there, but this one made it through. Not really news, right?

But I actually thought about it. I thought, "what if this one is legit?" Can you believe that? I've gotten maybe five hundred of these emails, and even posted on the scam, and still, one comes through, and for a second, I THINK ABOUT IT.

If that's not proof of the depravity of man, I don't know what is. My greed overcame all of my common sense and experience and moral precepts, if just for a second or two. It's always good now and then to get a reminder that I need the Spirit not just to start me on the journey but to finish it too.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Biblical vs. Systematic theology 

There's an interesting discussion about Biblical vs. Systematic theology on Rev. Lee Johnson's site, Two Edged Sword.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

IDC vs. Darwinism, and The Man Jesus 

While Christian theology must face questions raised by modern science, modern science has excluded from discussion the primary claim of the gospel that the man Jesus was actually the Creator and Sustainer and Lord of the entire universe. If that claim is true, and modern science has chosen to ignore it, then it is guilty of impervious ignorance.

-From False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumburg

Schaumburg in this passage is talking about homosexuality and whether or not it is genetic or natural in its cause. And the point he is making is that if modern science, or any given proponent of modern science, does not factor into his system of knowledge this one all-important fact, then they will be utterly unable to arrive at truth in any other respect; they will be "guilty of impervious ignorance."

Schaumburg's book is excellent, by the way, in understanding the root and nature of sexual addiction. But it was another subject that sparked my interest in this- the old intelligent design question, that is so frequently discussed in the blogosphere these days. In particular, this post by Joe Carter and the discussion that followed, called to my mind the intractable nature of the disagreement, just as the disagreement about homosexuality and abortion and so many other things these days seems to be just as fundamentally intractable.

If Jesus really was a real person, who was miraculously conceived in the uterus of a virgin, who performed many miracles, who claimed to be the son of God, who predicted that he would be killed but that he would rise from the dead, and that through these events would be declared to the world to be its lord and king; if these propositions are in fact true, then that changes everything. Literally everything.

I believe that the world was created in six days less than ten thousand years ago. I do not believe this because I looked at the facts and decided they point in this direction. I believe this because the first two chapters of Genesis say that it was, and Jesus said that the Old Testament is the authoritative word of God, and I believe everything that Jesus tells me. It's really just as simple as that. I feel no need to nuance my belief in this fact to make it look more agreeable to the science of the day, through day-age schemes or framework hypotheses or anything else. At the end of the day, we all have to decide who we're going to believe, and when given the choice between God and man, I'll choose God.

I admire guys like Joe Carter and Rusty and many others for trying over and over to get in these discussions with folks like DarkSyde and Panda's Thumb and Pharyngula, and they try to have these discussions as if they were discussions about commonly held facts, for if we're going to have a meaningful discussion, as in a court of law, for example, then the first thing we have to do is establish what the facts are, and then move from there to the interpretation of those facts and so on. So we talk about this particular molecule or that protein or the other fossil, and so forth, and the IDC vs. evolution argument tries to pretend that they can come to some common understanding of what those facts are and what they mean.

I say "pretend" on purpose, because there is one fact that they will never agree on, and that is the question of whether Jesus is the Lord of the universe, or not. And as I said, that fact changes everything.

Now of course you might respond by saying that there are adherents to IDC who do not believe in Jesus. And I expect that's true. But I also know that I no more hold to their position on where the universe came from as I do the atheistic evolutionists. I will not defend some ambiguous "designer" argument that could be Jehovah or Allah or Brahma or someone else. I will defend the account of Scripture, and only that account. And in reference to the particular discussions I'm referring to, Rusty and Joe are also both believers in Jesus and my argument therefore applies to them.

The only way that an unbeliever will come to accept the IDC argument is if they can do so in a way that allows them to still ignore the claims of Jesus, as Edward Flew did recently. And this gets us nowhere. What do I care whether someone believes in some nebulous designer of the universe or not? Disconnected from the true God of the Bible, it's just a flutter in the mind, and means nothing. People will not get their sins forgiven by IDC. And I can't work people a step at a time into the kingdom of heaven. Either they accept the claims of Jesus or they do not, and everything hinges on that.

The discussion on EO bears all the hallmarks that I am talking about. A question of fact is brought up by Joe, and immediately the whole discussion devolves into bitter name calling and recrimination. DarkSyde (atheist blogger at UTI and frequent commenter on my blog) says,
"What is the scientific theory of Intelligent Design in regard to eyes or anything else in biodiversity, and what testable predictions does it make? What is the falsification criteria?" and he asks these questions over and over, and says nobody answers him. Now I could bring up the question I keep asking him, which he never answers. But what DS is doing here is setting up a particular criteria for truth, and rejecting whatever doesn't fall into his box. We evangelicals need to, in one sense, recognize the truth of the attack that DS and the other naturalists are leveling. As long as we agree to the naturalist terms of the debate, we will fail to overcome this objection. There is no way to neutrally examine the facts on the table and come to a common conclusion, because there is that one other fact that will not, indeed cannot be agreed on by both sides, and that one fact fundamentally alters the interpretation of every other fact.

The naturalists may believe that acknowledging this fact is a retreat, but it isn't. It's recognizing that if we pretend that facts are neutral, then we've already handed the debate to the naturalist, because this is the cornerstone of his philosophy. The Christian philosophy teaches that all things bear witness to God, and only by the word of God can I ever come to accept that fact. Without the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am a blind man, and I will pretend to see all of the facts before me but I will not understand anything.

When the naturalist frames the debate the way he does, he's asking us to close our eyes and then debate him. He's asking us to subject ourselves to the same "impervious ignorance" that he is trapped in. If he can get us to agree to do that, then he has won the debate. So I am not going to close my eyes. I am not going to pretend that I believe God created the universe for any other reason than that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and He told me so.

None of this should be interpreted as criticizing the strength of Joe's or Rusty's or anyone else's argument. I think Joe does a great job in this post and in the comments of debating. But I think we need to understand the intractable nature of the problem that's before us in convincing anyone of the Biblical account of creation, and to set goals appropriately.

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