Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Is Politics Your Religion?

With the election season in full swing and campaign rhetoric raging, allow me to make a few comments. Your politics are not identical to your religion. Allow me to say that again: your politics are not identical to your religion. Now some may not believe me, but this is nonetheless true. Jesus did not say, “I did not come to call the Republicans, but Democrats to repentance,” did he?

First, let me address conservatives. I am doing so because I am one, and because it is largely the culture in which I live. You should be able to worship with people of other political beliefs in the same body of believers without obnoxiously conflating good and evil with conservative and liberal. The attitude of moral superiority and “anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-is-my-enemy” is not at all Christ-like. 

I have found that, rather than being evil, liberals and conservatives often agree on the social ills of society and that they must be fixed (especially when these liberals and conservatives are both true Christians); they simply disagree on what must be done or how to do it. No one thinks American children should be uneducated dolts. However, people disagree on the role of public education, private education, and homeschooling. If you divide religiously over these types of political issues, then you are causing a schism in the body of Christ and you are sinning.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “There really are moral issues that are also political!” Fair enough. Abortion, murder, stealing, etc. are all things which are morally incorrect and all Christians should oppose. However, there are other moral things (such as a friend lying to another friend) that many people do not think should be illegal, yet conservatives may. Gay marriage is one such issue. I know some Christians, very conservative theologically and good people, who oppose gay marriage morally, but not politically. That is, just as they do not want divorce nor promiscuity, neither do they want homosexual marriage. But they think all of these should be allowed legally. 

The big issue over the last four years has really been socialism. Inherently, there is nothing evil about a community sharing resources for its own advancement. However, as conservatives like to point out, socialism routinely fails at its goals of bettering the community, instead enslaving them to poverty. Now it can be argued doing this amounts to a great evil. But it doesn’t then follow every advocate of socialism is advocating evil. Remember: people do not always rationally follow every conclusion; simply because something is logically entailed by X and someone is asserting X, it does not follow that someone is asserting the something! So stop demonizing your brothers and sisters for disagreeing with your (admittedly advanced ;) ) political ideology and get right with God about it!

Liberals: your section will be much shorter. You’re welcome. Stop pretending as though conservatives have no heart. It’s just not true that conservatives do not care about the poor and the downtrodden in life. As I stated above, most people really do want the poor to succeed; conservatives just think these things ought to be done by the churches and the charities more than the government. You’ve got to give your brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and seek to work with them, not demand they convert to your ideology if they want to be considered to be like Jesus.

Next, politically-liberal Christians should refrain from class warfare. It is far too common, even among conservatives, to demonize the “fat cats” and the wealthy. This is an unscriptural practice, especially when it comes to our brethren in the faith. Paul said in Galatians 2:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Stop making a class system the basis of how you treat people. Instead of hating the 1%, try thinking of the 100% for whom Christ died.

Conservative or liberal, what unites us is not our politics. It is our Savior. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God . . . For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12, 14) “. . . What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” (Acts 10:15) Amen to that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

30 Things When Turning 30

I have recently celebrated my 30th birthday. I have decided to reflect briefly on 30 things I have learned about Christianity, life, philosophy, and apologetics. Some of these things are meant to be serious, and others funny. I’ll let you decide which is which.

  1. Do not conduct impromptu church business meetings. Ever.
  2. If you don’t like me, then there’s probably something wrong with you.
  3. It is very difficult to be truly objective in an argument.
  4. There are many good reasons to believe in the Christian God.
  5. There are no good reasons to think there cannot be a God.
  6. Just because a word can be translated that way, it does not mean it should be translated that way.
  7. Don’t put Twinkies on your pizza.
  8. There is no point in exclusive dating before the age of 16.
  9. If something happens 95% of the time, you are not the exception.
  10. Unbelievably, college really is much easier than real life.
  11. I do not know the depths of God’s patience and love toward me.
  12. Because of counterfactuals, what God knows just about you alone would boggle any finite mind.
  13. Spiritual disciplines are extremely hard. I don’t know if there are any I have mastered.
  14. Most people are willing to ask for help to change their lives (spiritual and physical); most people are not willing to do what the answer requires.
  15. Your religion is not identical to your politics.
  16. There are things more important in life than Calvinism vs. Arminianism.
  17. With notable exceptions (see #9), you should not leave your church family unless God moves you.
  18. It doesn’t matter how well you worship God out on the boat. Nothing can replace a gathered body of believers.
  19. Biblical literacy is essential to holiness.
  20. Theological and philosophical consistency is essential to biblical interpretation.
  21. Don’t jump off a moving truck, even if it’s slowing down. Ever.
  22. Everyone can learn a small part of Christian apologetics.
  23. Scholarship does not equate to theological liberalism.
  24. Scholarship should not take away from living a good Christian life to the external world.
  25. Don’t be afraid to try more things.
  26. When it comes to church, learning, and the Christian life, never be satisfied.
  27. Raising children must be a 24/7 job.
  28. Be proactive, not reactive.
  29. Social acceptance is our thirty pieces of silver.
  30. Your debt is probably too much debt, and you need to get out of it!

Go ahead and ask me about any of these; there is probably a story!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Question about Christian Epistemology

Randy, I have a question about Reformed Epistemology. In this Question of the Week (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-appeal-to-the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit-question-begging), Dr. Craig essentially says that Plantinga's model for warranted Christian belief boils down to this conditional:

(1) If Christianity is true, then there are no successful de jure objections to Christian belief.

He then says that we know that the antecedent of this conditional is true because we do experience the witness of the Holy Spirit. But, there seems to be a problem here. In order to say that our experience of the Spirit's witness (non-inferentially) warrants our belief that Christianity is true, we have to assume that the consequent of that conditional is true, right?
It might not be fair to say that Reformed Epistemology is question-begging, but this certainly seems to be an unusual consequence of the theory. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that it is question-begging?

This is an awesome question, and certainly worthy of more exploration. I think William Alston's work in Perceiving God lends a lot of help to this issue. I do not think it is question-begging, for the heart of the issue is not how we convince someone else God exists and Christianity is true, but how we ourselves know our experience of God and Christianity is veridical (and hence that Christianity is true and God exists). 

The idea is that this experience of God, which would include the Spirit confirming in us these things are true (Rom. 8:16), is an immediate experience, in the literal sense of the term. That is, there is nothing that comes between the experience itself and our perception of that experience. If it is the case that the experience is immediate, then one does not need to first examine all (or even any) de jure objections to Christianity. This is because there is no mediate between the experience and veridical perception. Only if one has a defeater for the experience itself would one be in trouble. But, as with most (if not all) truly immediate perception, it's really impossible to "get outside of" the perception. This works both ways: proving it and proving it false both fail. 

The idea is that if Christianity were true, then in order to come up with de jure objections one must hold them in light of the fact the Spirit is working, which surely doesn't work. But if one holds this immediate experience, he can't very well know that he is not having such an experience! In any case, while it won't work to convince anyone, I do find it interesting as a sort of weak justification for the Christian to himself; a way of knowing. As a result, this immediate experience and knowledge of the Holy Spirit literally will never be defeated.
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