Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Review Of “Why I Am Not A Christian” By Bertrand Russell

Without a doubt, Bertrand Russell stands as one of the most formidable minds of the modern era. Through his efforts with Alfred North Whitehead in “Principia Mathematica”, Russell further elaborated the relationship between mathematics and deductive logic. Russell's endeavors, however, were not confined to complex philosophical treatises having little influence outside of academic circles. Russell's work spanned the intellectual spectrum, ranging from works on the history of philosophy to international relations and political theory. Russell even produced newspaper articles for mass consumption. But despite his prolific intellectual output, Russell did not apply his mathematician's logic and objectivity to much of his non-scientific thought, especially in the area of religion as embodied by his work “Why I Am Not A Christian”.

Instead of addressing a single topic throughout the entire work, “Why I Am Not A Christian” is a collection of articles and essays addressing Russell's position on religious matters in general and issues regarding Christianity in particular. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so he is.” Many times influential voices speaking in the opinion-molding institutions of academia and media contend that one's views on religion do not necessarily impact other areas of existence such as the political or the sociological. Scripture teaches that this popular opinion is incorrect. However, the Bible is not readily accepted by those arguing for the mentioned opinion. Even though the work argues against the traditional positions of Christianity, the power of “Why I Am Not A Christian” resides in how it links one's views regarding religion with one's beliefs about society and the world despite the author's attempt to argue otherwise.

Russell's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) found their basis in his position that the theistic proofs are not as conclusive as believers make them out to be. When asked what he would say if confronted by the Creator at his death, Russell said he would respond by saying, “God! Why did you make evidence of your existence so insufficient?”

In “Why I Am Not A Christian”, Russell proceeds to critique each of these arguments. None of them escape his scathing scrutiny. Of the argument from the First Cause, Russell remarks that, if everything must have a cause, then God cannot be the uncaused cause by those following in the intellectual lineage of Aquinas. Russell claims that this argument actually results in an endless digression of creators begetting creators much like those mythological cosmologies where the Earth rests atop an elephant resting atop a tortoise etc. etc (7).

From the outset, Russell argues from faulty notions. According to Norman Geisler in “Introduction To Philosophy: A Christian Perspective”, in a thoroughly naturalistic context something cannot come from nothing. But by its definition, a noncontingent being does not require a cause since its existence is complete in itself (289). Only finite contingent beings require a cause.

The next proofs tackled by Russell are the arguments for the existence of God from the evidence of creation. Russell argues that, in the light of Einsteinian relativity, the Newtonian system of natural law is not as binding upon the universe as originally thought. Therefore, these scientific principles cannot be used to argue for the existence of a rational creator. However, one could turn the tables on Russell and point out that the revelations of Einsteinian physics actually provide a better testimony to the existence of God than even the previous Newtonian model.

According to Russell, natural law is nothing more than statistical averages resulting from the laws of chance (Russell, 8). John Warwick Montgomery in “Faith Founded On Fact” rebuts Russell's position by pointing out that the Einsteinian and quantum paradigms actually allow for miracles while maintaining that an ordered universe exists. In those systems attempting to account for the totality of the physical universe, it is God who keeps the universe from instantaneously dissolving into the chaos of individual atoms flying off into their own paths and who can rearrange the normal operations of reality when doing so suits His greater glory such as turning water into wine and resurrecting the dead (Montgomery, 43).

Besides drawing faulty conclusions regarding the validity of the theistic proofs, Russell errs as to their purpose as well. Russell is correct in pointing out that these arguments do leave room for some doubt. Yet this can be said about any other linguistically synthetic proposition about the world as well.

If one wants to get really nit-picky about the matter, one could doubt whether Bertrand Russell himself even existed since the Analysts were not above doubting the veracity of historical knowledge. As much as it might irritate the so-called “scientific mind”, one cannot exist without exercising some degree and kind of faith.

The theistic proofs can serve as a guide pointing towards faith or as a mechanism to help rationally clarify it. They do not properly serve as a replacement for it. Norman Geisler points out that one ought not to believe in God because of the theistic proofs. Rather, the theistic proofs provide one with a basis to reasonably assert that God exists (Geisler, 269).

Having taken on the first person of the triune Godhead, Russell turns his sites onto the second, the Lord Jesus Christ. To his perverse credit in a perverse sort way, Russell does not hind behind the phony religiosity of the liberal and the modernist which states, “Jesus was a good teacher, but...”

Russell openly wonders whether or not Christ even existed. And even if He did, Russell asserts, Jesus is far from being the greatest among human teachers as asserted by the likes of the Unitarians and the New Age movement. At best, according to Russell's scorecard, Jesus comes in at a distant third behind Socrates and Buddha (16). According to Russell, Christ's greatest flaw was His belief in the reality of Hell and His condemnation of those who would not heed the Messiah's call. Socrates provides a superior moral example since Socrates did not verbally castigate his detractors (Russell, 17).

Russell's disdain for those believing in the reality of Hell exposes his own bias rather than prove his dedication to the ideas of truth that he invokes elsewhere to undermine the claims of religious faith. In appraising the idea of Hell, Russell does not give much consideration to the realm of eternal damnation, instead dismissing the concept as a cruel idea (18). But if Hell is real, is not Christ doing the proper thing in warning how such a terrible fate might be avoided? Employing Russell's line of reasoning, it becomes cruel to chastise someone standing under a tall tree with a piece of sheet metal during a thunderstorm since such an exhortation also warns of the dire consequences likely to result from such foolish behavior.

But while Russell questions the historicity of Jesus Christ, he readily accepts that of Buddha even though Christ is perhaps the best documented figure of ancient history. The first accounts of Buddha appear nearly 500 years after the death of that particular religious figure. Those regarding Jesus appear within the first several decades following the Crucifixion.

Allegedly having removed God from His thrown as sovereign of the universe, Russell proceeds to lay out what he does believe primarily in the chapter titled “What I Believe”. Replacing religion as the tool by which man approaches the world, Russell would have man utilize science to determine meaning, reducing the totality of reality to that of mere physics (50). To Russell, even thought is nothing more than the chemical components and electrical impulses arising from the brain's physical composition.

Yet despite believing the material world to be ultimate, Russell saw no problem with making pronouncements regarding the areas of life transcending the material base such as ethics and social organization. Russell boldly states in italicized print for all to read, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge (56).” However, elsewhere in the very same chapter, Russell says, “...nature in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad (55).”

If humanity is nothing more than the sum of the physical composition of the species, it is then inappropriate to elaborate a theory of morality. Morality poured into such a naturalistic crucible becomes nothing more than individual personal preferences, which do seem to serve as Russell's source of moral reasoning. According to Russell, traditional morality is based upon cruelty and ignorance. However, according to John Frame in “Apologetics To The Glory Of God”, to invoke the values of love and knowledge (even when done so to undermine traditional conceptions of virtue) is to inadvertently defend the divinely established order of creation traditional moral values rests upon in the first place since such values are only desirable if a divinely created hierarchy exists (93-102).

Ultimately, one cannot craft a system of ethics solely based on science legitimately defined as science. At best, science can only assess and clarify the situations to which moral principles must be applied. To say that science is the source of moral values is to argue for a scientism or a naturalism as loaded with as many conceptual presuppositions as any theistic creed.

One can base one's ethical beliefs on the record of Scripture, which II Timothy 3:16 says is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for corrections, and for instruction in righteousness. Or, one can operate under man's own unaided reason, which is finite, corruptible, and known to change every five to ten years subject to FDA approval. History reveals which has the far better track record.

Unlike many Christians who do not take their worldview outside the church sanctuary or seminary classroom, Bertrand Russell was not one content to keep his philosophy and ideology confined to the level of an academic exercise. In terms of political activism, this was manifested by his vocal opposition to the nuclear diplomacy engaged in by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the tensest days of the Cold War.

However, the application of Russell's worldview did not always lead him to pursue admirable yet perhaps naive goals such as world peace. In fact, Presbyterian minister D.James Kennedy suggests in “Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search Of Its Soul” that Russell may have formulated his philosophical position regarding religious matters as a justification for his erotic proclivities, the lanky intellectual having actually had numerous adulterous relationships including philanderous escapades with the daughters of friends and colleagues (173). In fact, Russell social views derived from his foundational assumptions sparked considerable controversy. After all, it was not his “Principia Mathematica” that cost him a professorship at the City College of New York but rather his views regarding marriage and personal morality.

Seeing man soley as the product of natural processes and merely as a highly evolved animal, Russell's views regarding human intimacy and procreation reflect this sentiment. According to Russell, much of traditional morality --- especially that dealing with sexual ethics --- is based upon superstition. In fact, Russell believes that it would be beneficial for society and family life if the traditional understanding of monogamous, life-long, God-ordained marriage was openly violated. In these matters, Russell sounds much like a contemporary Planned Parenthood operative or public school sex educator. For example, Russell argues for no-fault divorce, unhampered sexual promiscuity provided children do not result from such illicit unions, and for temporary trial marriages not unlike the phenomena of cohabitation (Russell, 168-178).

Despite his attempts to expand human freedom and happiness in regards to these matters, Russell's proposals are in reality prescriptions for heartache and disaster. The segment of society sustaining the highest number of casualties in the sexual revolution are the young that Russell had hoped to liberate. According to syndicated columnist Cal Thomas in “The Death Of Ethics In America”, by the age of twenty-one 81% of unmarried males and 60% of unmarried females have had sexual intercourse. However, such carnal stimulation is not necessarily the fulfilling personal growth opportunity Russell claimed it would be.

Venereal diseases rank as the number one form of communicable illness in the United States. And the varieties of this pestilence prevalent today do not always react as well to penicillin as those ravaging the morally deviant of Professor Russell's day (Thomas, 92). Those engaging in Dr. Russell's trial marriages --- what use to be referred to as living in sin --- fare little better. Those participating in such arrangements on average go on to experience higher levels of marital discord and incidents of divorce.

God did not establish the regulations regarding human intimacy in order to rain on everybody's parade. These rules were promulgated in order to bring about the maximum degree of individual well-being and personal happiness. Matthew 19:5 says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. Hebrews 13:4 adds, “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

To his credit and the shame of the church, Russell does note how women have over the course of history often endured oppressive marriages many times under the sanction and justification of misunderstood interpretations regarding marital submission. However, any cruelty justified under this command is a misinterpretation of the passage's true intent. In Ephesians 5:25, just two verses away from the famous Scripture misused as an excuse for all manner of masculine cruelty, the Bible clearly reads, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church.” This love is to be a sacrificial and gentle love; not the decree of a tyrant even though the husband is the king of the house. Studies indicate that, in reality, marriage is far safer for women than the live-in arrangements advocated by Russell under the euphemism of temporary marriage.

Having dismissed the traditional family and religion (both organized and otherwise) as impediments to humanity's progress, Russell puts his hope for the betterment of mankind in the state. Rather than punish individuals committing sins so heinous that they infringe upon the well-being of society, the state is to manipulate human behavior in order to bring about desired outcomes beneficial to the greater community. In fact, according to Russell, sin defined as an action committed by an individual in defiance of the universal moral order as established by an omnipotent creator does not exist. Sin is merely that which is disliked by those controlling education (159).

Even those committing the most heinous deeds are not beyond the pale of psychological reprogramming or pity much like that lavished upon a wayward dog that cannot help scratching up the furniture. To bring about his scientific utopia, the state would be granted expansive powers in even those most private aspects of existence. For example, Russell's state would go so far as to decree that children must be confiscated from their parents and raised by trained statist experts (Russell, 163).

Russell also suffers from the same paradox afflicting Marx and other socialists in that Russell desires to shrink the power of the state while at the same time dramatically increasing it. While wanting to put economic power into the hands of workers through a system of guilds and syndicates, Russell also sought to establish a world state having a monopoly on the use of force as well as establish guaranteed incomes and the human breeding restrictions mentioned earlier.

The issues raised by Russell's political opinions still possess relevance today with much of contemporary civic discourse an ongoing debate regarding the very kinds of policies advocated by Russell and his leftwing associates. F.A. Hayek noted in “The Road To Serfdom” that, while liberals might have naive but benevolent intentions behind their social engineering proposals, these ultimately require more bloodthirsty totalitarians or others of a similar vain lacking concern for innate human freedoms and constitutional liberties. Even Russell admits that much of human liberty is the result of the interplay between church and state (185). What then would result should the influence be nullified as Russell proposes?

Reflecting upon Russell's proposal of state-run childcare, it is highly doubtful whether or not such a program could be implemented without a great deal of bloodshed or a massive multi-generational conspiracy such as Hillary Clinton's it takes a village mentality and the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of The Child. Programs and policy outlooks such as these seek to alter the fundamental nature of the family primarily through bureaucratic stealth and covert legislative manipulation. Realizing that the proclivities towards marriage and family ran so deeply in the human psyche, even the Soviets had to back off their plank to so openly undermine the oldest of human institutions as part of their diabolical agenda.

And while the wars plaguing mankind are deplorable, the geopolitical landscape allowing them to arise is still preferable to the global tyranny and persecution that would result from a planetary regime that would impose its iron will on any portion of the world refusing to heed its edicts and decrees. At least under the current world order, a small percentage of humanity is able to enjoy some measure of freedom until the Lord's Second Coming.

Contrary to what even the National Rifle Association claims, America's Founding Fathers did not draft the Second Amendment to protect skeet shooting and squirrel hunting. Instead, this constitutional provision established a sense of liberty by creating tension between freemen and the operatives of the state by implying violence could result should government authorities over step the confines of their legitimate powers. Something similar is true with a system of nation-states competing with one another, none of which can tyrannize all of mankind at one time.

By reading “Why I Am Not A Christian”, one is reminded that the current culture war besieging America did not begin with either the inaugurations of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. It is in fact decades and even centuries old. While setting out an agenda and its ideological justification, Russell's “Why I Am Not A Christian” also provides a glimpse into the cultural disputes of another era.

The final chapter of the book consists of an appendix detailing the court case that ultimately prevented Russell from obtaining a professorship of mathematical and scientific philosophy. Whether or not Russell's critics should have acted so vehemently is open to debate as (to utilize a phrase just employed) there is some virtue to settling things through “open debate” with each side detailing their merits and revealing the weaknesses in the arguments of their opponents. However, history has shown that the concerns raised by those opposed to Russell's appointment were based in legitimate fears.

Though Russell cannot bear sole guilt as much of that must also go to his colleagues sharing in his worldview of loose sex and paternalistic government, this philosophy has gained such prominence in social institutions such as education, entertainment, and even religion. Regard for the family and human life has deteriorated to such a degree that is has become regular to hear in news reports of former mailmen mowing down with machine guns their fellow employees (the act itself now referred to as “going postal”) or of prom queens killing their newborns between dances. The world has never been perfect since the expulsion from Eden, but seldom in history has there been times where such outright evil is openly justified by those in authority such as certain psychologists, elected officials, and media personalities.

Bertrand Russell's “Why I Am Not A Christian” will not stand as a classic regarding what is explicitly written upon the pages. For the highest rational principle appealed to is that the world should enshrine the thoughts and preferences of Bertrand Russell simply because they are the thoughts and utterances of Bertrand Russell. However, the message it propounds between the lines of each man serving as his own god ranks among the central apologetic challenges of this or any other era. The clear style and detectable fallacies found within the pages of Russell's “Why I Am Not A Christian” will prepare Christians to take on more sophisticated versions of these arguments wherever they might appear.

By Frederick Meekins

There are answers if you know where to look for them Faith in Christ Lives JOIN the Faith in Jesus Network

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Review Of "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton

Over the course of the modern era, whether fairly or not, orthodoxy has come to be associated with glumness and austerity. Thus, those coming across "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton might assume they are in for a dull and obtuse recitation of doctrine and dogma. They will, however, be delightfully surprised by Chesterton’s wit, feistiness, and zest for life.

It is Chesterton’s contention that, rather than stifling the individual, it is through orthodoxy that man is liberated to both accept and embrace the contradictions of this life for what they really are in all their wonder and horror. It is the heretic that is unable to rise to a level that would give him a perspective that would enable him to appreciate things as they actually are since the heretic is ultimately beholden unto these very forces of life. Chesterton muses, “Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true (22).”

Often, believers are accused of being close minded. However, Chesterton contends that Christians are no more close minded than the adherents of any other outlook. Chesterton writes, “For we must remember that the materialist certainly much more limiting than any religion...The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle (41).”

As a result, the heterodox mind must increasingly withdrawal from a world that declares the glory of God in order to maintain the consistency of the fiction it has constructed. For example, in illustrating views regarding the existence of sin, Chesterton offers the following humorous illustration, “If it be true...that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat (24).”

Those adverse to traditional religious notions have constructed elaborate epistemological systems in an attempt to justify their unbelief. However, Chesterton assures, such intellects (though formidable by human standards in terms of the facts such minds have accumulated) actually bear a startling resemblance to the insane.

Like the insane, rationalists view themselves as the source of all meaning. In the struggle and strain to understand everything, Chesterton notes, the consistent rationalist is actually driven mad as they end up losing everything but their reason. Chesterton observes, “The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad; he begins to think at the wrong end...But we may ask in conclusion, if this be what drives men mad, what is it that keeps them sane (48)?”

The answer provided by Chesterton is none other than the mystical imagination found in religious orthodoxy. The thing about the cosmos human beings occupy is that is both physically and epistemologically too complex for the finite mind to fully comprehend. The only thing we can do is appreciate what we can and to accept that there is a power beyond us. Chesterton notes, “The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable but not quite (148).”

Chesterton further likens the spiritual realm to two wild horses threatening to bolt off into the extremities of either direction with only the church adhering to orthodoxy capable of reining in these powerful tendencies that are good and pure when kept together as a team but result in heartache and ruin if not kept working together in tandem. Ironically, Chesterton claims, though often depicted as scatterbrained the best poets (actually quite sensible and businesslike) are often the ones embodying the spirit necessary for handling this awesome responsibility. For what the average person desires above all else is a life of practical romance defined by Chesterton as “the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure (16).” And what is any more mysterious and secure at the same time than God Himself?

Written in the early years of the twentieth century, some of the authors mentioned by Chesterton might seem obscure to readers not that familiar with general literary history. However, the fact that they have been forgotten while Chesterton is still embraced as a foremost defender of the faith is a positive testament to the relevance of Chesterton’s ruminations that, though written nearly a century ago, ring with a truth that sounds as if they just rolled off the presses.

by Frederick Meekins

There are answers if you know where to look for them Faith in Christ Lives JOIN the Faith in Jesus Network

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Retiring Episcopal Hierarch Calls For Communist Upheaval

In reflection on her term as the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church posted at YouTube, Katharine Schori said that the reign of God would look like a society where there is justice in the sense that nobody lives in want and nobody has too much.

Given that the apostate wing of Anglicanism isn't exactly known for its apocalyptic millennialism or even a literalist interpretation where these eschatological expectations can only be fulfilled at the Second Advent of Christ's return, such a statement ought to be a cause for concern.

There is little reason to object to the aspiration of everybody being free from want provided they lift a finger of their own to some degree in pursuit of this ideal.

However, without Christ Himself on scene to render such a verdict, who is to say what constitutes “too much”?

Might “too much” be the ostentatious vestments and silly hats many belonging to this retired bishop's particular denomination like to prance about in?

If these functionaries really cared about the equitable distribution of recourses, they could still solemnly fulfill the requirements of their ritual and liturgy in little more than a collared clergy shirt running not more than $50 online.

More importantly, how are those that “don't have enough” necessarily negatively impacted by my having “too much”?

What if one has more simply because one has been a better steward of what one has been blessed?

By Frederick Meekins

There are answers if you know where to look for them Faith in Christ Lives JOIN the Faith in Jesus Network

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Minding The Times: An Exposition On Postmodernism

One might say the future is here --- and we might want to send it back for a refund. Having waited years and wondering at times whether mankind would even survive to see the day, the world now finds itself on the other side of a new millennium. In some ways, it is everything optimistic futurists dreamed of in terms of faster modes of transportation, improved forms of medicine and almost instantaneous global communication. However, one would hardly consider it the quaint but technologically sophisticated world of George Jetson whose most formidable challenges consisted of navigating Mr. Spacely's fickle temper and making sure Rosie the robot maid stayed adequately oiled. Instead, inhabitants of the early twenty-first century worry if their children will even return home alive from school in the evening or how much longer they have until turbaned fanatics turn the accumulated glories of Western civilization into a smoldering atomic wasteland.

Somewhere along the highway leading from intentions to actuality society seems to have taken a wrong turn and gotten lost along the way. When finding oneself in unintended surroundings while road-tripping across the country, one pulls over to the shoulder of the road to look at a map to determine where one's navigation went astray. Likewise, when a culture begins to display signs of being out of kilter, the time has come to examine the sociological roadmap in terms of the philosophies, beliefs, and ideas individuals use to live their lives and those in authority employ to oversee events.

The observer of intellectual trends might note the contradictory nature of today's philosophical scene. For while proponents of the status quo purport to be characterized by a considerable latitude of conscience, such professed flexibility ultimately turns back on itself and bears down harshly upon any dissident daring to question the system's most cherished assumptions. The prevailing outlook can be characterized as a pragmatic Postmodernism.

Postmodernism can be looked at as a worldview holding that truth as an objective overarching reality does not exist and is instead a subjective linguistic or conceptual construct adopted by an individual or group for the purposes of coping with existence. As such, no single explanatory narrative is superior to any other. In light of such characteristics, Postmodernism is pragmatic in the sense that ethical propositions are judged by how well they work rather than how they stand up to standards of right and wrong. Postmodernism is relativistic in that each propositional expositor is self-contained since it is inappropriate for an individual to judge someone else or another group by the standards to which he himself subscribes. James Sire notes in The Universe Next Door that to the Postmodernist the use of any one narrative as a metanarrative to which all other narratives must submit as to their authenticity is oppressive (181).

As is deducible from its very name, Postmodernism is more a response than a set of original insights. Sire argues, "For in the final analysis, Postmodernism is not 'post' anything; it is the last move of the modern, the result of the modern taking its own commitments too seriously and seeing that they fail to stand the test of analysis (174)." In other words, Postmodernists are basically Modernists having grown tired of maintaining the illusion that things such as values still matter even when the issue of God does not. Therefore, one can gain significant understanding into the Postmodernist mindset by examining the outlook's Modernist roots and where these systems ultimately diverge from one another.

As a derivative of it, Postmodernmism shares a number of assumptions with its cousin Modernism. Thomas Oden observes in Two Worlds: Notes On The Death Of Modernity In America & Russia that both outlooks embrace autonomous individualism, reductive naturalism, and absolute moral relativism (33-35). Both systems are naturalistic in the sense that in them all reality is reduced to and originates from physical components; nothing exists separate or independently of matter. As such, man is an autonomous being since, without God, man can rely only upon himself and his institutions to provide purpose, guidance, and meaning for his life. Since this is the case, all ethical and social thought is predicated on finite human understanding and therefore subject to revision in light of changing circumstances or the accumulation of additional data.

Even though the Modernists sought to set out on their own without holding God's hand, many of them endeavored to maintain a system of behavioral standards and social norms reflective of the Judeo-Christian ones embedded in the cultural consciousness but now resting on an alternative foundation. Rather than seeing the niceties governing civilized conduct as arising from the character of God and discoverable through the study or application of His Holy Word, these courtesies were seen as coming about through the unfolding of trial and error, a process most akin to biological evolution. While most Evangelicals are aware of the links between Darwinism and Nazism and Communism (both vile forms of totalitarianism), most are not as cognizant of the links between this theory of origins and what many would consider stereotypical British traditionalism. Alister McGrath writes in Intellectuals Don't Need God & Other Modern Myths, "Darwinism achieved popular success in England...because Darwin's ideas happened to coincide with advanced Whig social thinking relative to matters of competition, free trade, and the natural superiority of the English middle class...Darwin's science provided a foundation for Victorian liberalism (161)."

It did not take long for the hopes, dreams, and promises of Modernism to break down and disappoint many of its enthusiastic adherents. Psalm 127:1 says, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain (KJV)." Instead of utopian brotherhood as promised by Marx, millions found themselves enslaved behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains. Instead of the sexual liberation promised by the likes of Freud, for tossing aside restraint and embracing the wilds of passion, just as many found their bodies rotting under the curse of diseases unheard of just a few decades ago. Still others discovered that a life of constant entertainment was not quite as entertaining as originally intended. As John Warwick Montgomery so eloquently summarized through his courses in Apologetics at one time offered through Trinity Theological Seminary, in the nineteenth century God was killed and in the twentieth century man was killed.

Thus, with the realization that finite man was incapable of establishing any enduring standard, the Postmodernist decided that the best that could be hoped for was a kind of compulsory hypertolerance all must ascent to and embrace in order to be recognized as full members of the community. Not unlike the Roman Empire where citizens and subjects were pretty much free to practice whatever religion they wished so long as there was room enough within their beliefs for the emperor as an object of worship, those existing under hypertolerance's prevailing rule find themselves free to believe whatever they would like provided they are publicly willing to admit that what the next fellow believes is just as valid, no matter how strange or unorthodox it might seem to be.

Such an approach of live-and-let-live might work between neighbors who agree to keep their differences on their own respective sides of the fence for the sake of community tranquility. However, there are instances in life where matters cannot be glossed over simply by closing the door behind you and retiring to your living room, especially when how controversial issues are approached will end up impacting the way in which people live.

After all, the idea of absolutist tolerance exists for purposes beyond mediating athletic rivalries among coworkers and arbitrating those heated debates as to whether chocolate or vanilla is the better flavor of ice cream. The concept, to the Postmodernist, becomes the central organizing social and cultural principle. Harold O.J. Brown notes in The Sensate Culture, "...postmodern man is beginning to create for himself a world filled with...all manner of beliefs that would have been dismissed as absurd superstitions only a few years ago (55)."

Since Postmodernism seeks to rest asunder traditional dogmas and orthodoxies, it inevitably ends up emphasizing outlooks and perspectives not regularly brought before the public's attention. Sometimes this can be beneficial in the sense that information once overlooked is brought to light that provides a more fully-orbed picture as to what really happened such as when historians expand the scope of their research outward from diplomatic or military concerns to embrace the social realm as well. However, the approach has often sparked more trouble than what it is worth in terms of the conflict that has arisen and the rights that have been trampled upon as activists jockey for position in this moral and intellectual free-for-all.

It is this propensity for Postmodernism to deny the existence of established objective truth that makes the system so dangerous. However, it can also be this aspect that works out to be the Christian's unwitting ally in the apologetic struggle.

To the Postmodernist, what we construe as knowledge is in reality mere interpretation; the fact is, facts do not exist. Chuck Colson writes in A Dance With Deception: Revealing The Truth Behind The Headlines, "The carelessness about factual accuracy didn't come out of nowhere. It came from a shift in educational theory...Educators began to downplay facts and focused instead on changing students' values to solve social problems (47)."

The result of this has been the ascension of increasingly bizarre academic theories and assertions more about promoting trendy causes than expanding the horizons of human understanding. For example, one Feminist professor contends that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is actually about pent-up sexual energy that "finally explodes in the...murderous rage of the rapist"; others of similar mind oppose the scientific method as an approach to acquiring knowledge, claiming the method is based on the subjugation and control of sexual domination (Colson, 55).

Some of this might be cute for a good laugh if it confined itself among a few lunatic professors who were trotted out before the students for an occasional lecture or to write articles for publication in journals barely read by anyone. Like most thinkers, Postmodernist scholars hope to exert influence over minds other than their own. Postmodernists, however, want to do more than alter the focus of classroom textbooks. Dr. James Kennedy warns in Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search Of Its Soul, "In fact at the bottom of the 'change' movement is a deep desire to dismantle this nation and to sever average Americans from their heritage of faith and freedom (74)."

It is said nature abhors a vacuum. Something will eventually step in to take the place of something else that has been removed.

In the film "The Neverending Story", the amorphous adversary known as "the Nothing" operates on the assumption that those without hope are easy to control. Postmodernists might claim to be creating a community of tolerance and inclusion free of artificial hierarchies, but end up imposing a regimen more doctrinaire than anything even the most tightly-wound Fundamentalist would devise.

This is because of what Francis Schaeffer termed "sociological law", defined in A Christian Manifesto as " that has no fixed base but law in which a group of people decides what is sociologically good for society at the given moment and what they arbitrarily decide becomes law (41)." This principle results in a mass of seemingly contradictory policies that are unified only in their opposition to the divine order of innate human dignity. The individual is reduced to the level of a mere cog to be tinkered with to improve the engine of the overarching societal machine.

For example, in the name of elevating minorities, certain programs such as campus speech codes and preferential employment practices turn around and infringe upon the traditional rights of those just as innocent as those these convoluted regulations claim to protect. Conversely, those justifying this social manipulation by such utilitarian standards could just as easily alter their position and justify the wholesale slaughter or detention of entire ethnic groups as in the case of Nazi Germany.

According to the Washington Times, Professor Noel Ignatiev of Harvard argues for the abolition of the White race. So long as Western institutions continue to embrace such blatantly pragmatic standards, one can no more count on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the precepts of liberty in the end than the Chinese Community Party since, no matter how much we try to dance around the issue, both ultimately draw upon the principle of the state as the final authority. They only interpret it differently at this given time.

The human mind and spirit cannot endure for very long the chaotic vacillation of such lawlessness before the individual eventually cries out for answers to the extremes of licentiousness and total control. Throughout much of the Modern Era, the Christian apologist could appeal to a shared respect for historic and scientific fact common to both Christianity and commonsense realism. Today, the Christian must first reestablish why anyone ought to believe in anything at all and then assert how the Biblical approach provides the best possible explanation for the condition in which man actually finds himself and the facts as they are rather than how he might like them to be.

The apologist must begin this process by exposing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Postmodernist system. James Sire writes in The Universe Next Door, "If we hold that all linguistic utterances are power plays, then that utterance itself is a power play and no more likely to be more proper than any other (187)."

This claim by Postmodernists that all utterances are merely power plays fails the test of systematic consistency where a philosophical proposition must square with the external world as well as logically cohere with the other statements comprising the set of beliefs under consideration. But more important than the sense of satisfaction resulting from the discovery of this contradiction allowing for a degree of one-upmanship in the battle of ideas is the realization that this contradiction exposes the unlivability of a particular worldview.

Big deal, the Postmodernist might quip in response to this inconsistency since they are not known for their devotion to logical argumentation. Try as they might to gloss over this oversight with platitudes honoring the glories of relativism and tolerance, Postmodernists still deep down possess that human yearning for a universal justice. Romans 2:14-15 says, "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts..."

It might not be fashionable to contend that there is no such thing as right and wrong and often believing such is even an occupational requirement in certain academic and governmental circles. But when it comes down to it, no one really wants to be treated as if that was the case. C.S. Lewis was fond of noting that those among us preaching the loudest in favor of relativism would cry bloody murder just like the rest of us if egregiously wronged. Just see what happens the next time the faculty nihilist is denied tenure when up for review.

Once it is established by our own existential makeup that there is something to right and wrong beyond the whims of those strong enough to have their way with the weak, it needs to be highlighted where these standards come from. John Frame in Apologetics To The Glory Of God writes, "Now, where does this authority of the absolute moral principle come from? Ultimately, only two kinds of answers are possible: the source of absolute moral authority is either personal or impersonal (97)."

This means that the ethical framework of the universe either arose within its own structure on its own or through the conscientious ordering of a higher organizing mind. Since we ourselves possess consciousness, by default the source of this moral order would have to be aware since it is impossible for the unaware to give rise to the aware or even to establish an ordered universe since that which is not guided and directed is haphazard and random.

If the Christian has been successful up to this point, the Christian has aided the Postmodernist in realizing that there is purpose and direction in life. The next step in the process involved proving to the Postmodernist that the Christian faith is the correct system of thought and meaning. Now the Christian can reintroduce a more traditional apologetic since the Postmodernist is now capable of stomaching objective fact.

The task of the Christian Apologist is to show the unbeliever that the Christian faith is the most viable religious option. This is accomplished by emphasizing the validity of the Biblical account. The first hurdle to overcome regards the historical legitimacy of the Gospel records. To accomplish, Winfried Corduan provides the following checklist of questions in No Doubt About It: The Case For Christianity: "(1) Are the accounts written by people closely associated with the event? (2) Are our present versions of the Gospels what the original authors wrote? (3) Are the accounts so biased as to be unbelievable? (4) Do the accounts contain impossibilities (186)?"

By answering these questions, it is discovered that the Gospels are remarkably well off. The Gospels are themselves written by eyewitnesses or contain the testimony of eyewitnesses. Corduan writes, "Matthew and John were disciples...Mark was a native of Jerusalem and present at the Gospel events...and reported the reminisces of Peter. Luke...was not a disciple...Yet tells of the research he did (189)."

Regarding the quality of the Gospel manuscripts, so many have come down to us in the present day with so few variant readings that there is little chance of some textual huckster committing documentary fraud without someone catching wind of it. As to the matter of bias, while the Gospels and the Bible were written to advance a certain perspective the same as any other book, it is remarkably blunt in cataloging the shortcomings of its most beloved protagonists. Most memoirs and autobiographies go out of their way to cast their subjects in the most favorable light possible even at the expense of factual accuracy.

Lastly, as to whether or not the Gospels record impossibilities is a matter of preconception in the mind of the beholder. One can either maintain the Humean notion that miracles do not occur because miracles do not occur or abide by the canons of historical research and accept these extraordinary events as they come since the rest of the document passes muster.

Since the Gospels are deemed as historically reliable, it would follow that those studying these document should look to those spoken thereof in its pages to provided the content and meaning of these events addressed. After all, the Founding Fathers are still looked to as important sources for interpreting the U.S. Constitution and for what was intended for the early American republic.

Likewise, to comprehend fully the significance of Jesus, the sincere student of history ought to consider what this historical figure said about himself. Jesus says in Matthew 12:39-40, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign. But none will be given except for the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth." From later passages detailing the Resurrection, we see that he carried through on this promise.

In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Peter responds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus did not chastise Peter for idolatry; instead he ratified the Apostle's assertion by replying, "Blessed are you, Simeon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."

An apologetic designed to address the concerns raised by Postmodernism presents a number of possibilities as well as challenges to the Christian seeking to reach those trapped by this subtle but pervasive mindset. Crafting an apologetic addressing the spirit of the age to an extent makes the evangelistic task somewhat easier.

Postmodernism already wrests asunder most metaphysical pretensions as linguistic obfuscations protecting the powerful. Therefore, the Postmodernist has already done a portion of the Christian’s work by exposing the invalidity of most intellectual systems. The Christian can therefore rush in and expose the contradictory nature of outright nihilism without first having to tear down incorrect theologies and the faulty ethics arising from them. As a result, the Christian can then show how the alternatives found in the Bible strike the proper balance between the liberation and conformity tearing at the heart of contemporary culture and individual well-being.

However, these characteristics can also serve as drawbacks when employing an apologetic addressing Postmodernism. Even though the Apologist does not have to deconstruct (to use a term popular in Postmodernist circles) faulty conceptions of God when dealing with these thinkers, the Christian has to take the time to reestablish why anything matters at all. With those hovering around the periphery, it might be relatively easy to lure them back onto the solid ground of commonsense founded on Christian absolutes; however, those at the heart of this movement churning out its lies and deceptions will be considerably harder to convince and will continue to ensnare unreflective minds.

It is in the campaign against this ongoing subversion that the Christian waging a defensive action to preserve the remaining shreds of moral sanity can get bogged down and neglect the distinctives of the Christian faith in favor of a less offensive set of principles common to various religions and ideologies shocked by the ethical brutality of the contemporary era.

Of the crop of books over the past few years by figures such as Bill Benet, Robert Bork, and James Q. Wilson that bemoan the decline in social morality, Hugh Hewitt writes in The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness In An Age Of Unbelief, “But there is no apologetic content to these writings. And they are mute on the ultimate question, they are ineffective. In fact, they might actually be harmful (154).” The Christian accomplishes little of lasting impact if the message is watered down to attract allies or spends inordinate amounts of time addressing the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual darkness in high places.” The Christian is involved in a grand spiritual conflict all around him. As in all wars, weapons and tactics change over time as each side engages in a spiraling exchange of point/counterpoint as each side tries to best the other.

In the Modern era, the Christian utilized an apologetic appealing to a common respect for objective factual knowledge shared with the broader culture. However, in the change to Postmodernism, the Christian has had to alter the apologetic to show how life without objective truth is unlivable. From that point the Apologist can go on to show how what Francis Schaeffer termed “true truth” indelibly points towards Christ.

By Frederick Meekins

There are answers if you know where to look for them Faith in Christ Lives JOIN the Faith in Jesus Network

An Inconvenient Reality

As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
                                                                                       Matthew 28:11-15 NLT

What do you do when the truth no longer fits the narrative you’ve been supporting? What do you do when you have been patting a story on its head for years—purporting to represent the truth—and evidence arises that completely dispels what you held to be reality? These indeed are the circumstances the chief priests and elders found themselves in following Jesus’ literal physical resurrection from the dead. These Jewish leaders had been standing against prophecy-based truth regarding Jesus from the inception of his miraculous ministry. Jesus’ ways and teachings just didn’t fit into the religious structure they had developed.

Now they were in an absolute dilemma utterly confronted with incontrovertible facts contrary to the narrative they had been patting. It is interesting to note that these Jewish leaders were at the point of ultimate decision in how they dealt with the truth regarding Jesus. This could have been a time of conviction, a time of repentance and turning. Instead they chose to perpetuate the lie even compounding it further by adding preposterous exclamations. Can you imagine a soldier admitting to his superiors that he was asleep on guard duty? Further, there would be the question as to why—once the guards became aware of the disciples’ intent—they didn’t do something to thwart their efforts. I can imagine the bribe paid by the Jewish leaders must have been significant considering how it had to offset the incredible experience just encountered by the soldiers as well as the charges of dereliction of duty they would face before their superiors.

Have you ever considered that the scenario just reflected on is still being—in principle—worked out through the church? Is it possible we could be practicing the faith today in ways that are in fact in denial of absolute biblical truth? If this were in fact true we would find ourselves embarrassingly in the same untenable position occupied by the Jewish elders of Jesus’ day. If this were true, we would—spiritually speaking—be shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of forfeiting eternal rewards.

How did the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day arrive at a point in their religious experience wherein they could literally reject the very one all Scripture pointed to as the coming Messiah? At risk of oversimplifying I would suggest that somewhere along the path of their spiritual journey they forgot that everything God gave them in their religious order was meant to announce Jesus. In doing so they began to make it more about themselves than about God. Everything God gave Israel in terms of the feasts, sacrifice, priesthood, the temple, etc. was intended to point to and proclaim the coming Messiah.

Once they started down this road another misleading dynamic came into play. The people began to rely more and more on dogmatism for truth rather than revelation. That is, there began to be an unqualified acceptance of the religious teachings of the elders without questioning and investigating rather than seeking to know truth by revelation based on one’s personal relationship with God. We see an example of this kind of behavior in Acts where Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica is interdicted by unruly Jews who thoughtlessly followed their leaders without thinking things through for themselves. Paul then moves on to Berea where he is met with an entirely different response.

 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (Acts 17:11 NKJV).

How refreshing to see how at least some of the Bereans chose to verify what they were hearing by appealing to Scripture for themselves. Now, I am not suggesting that church leaders today are intentionally misconstruing the truth thereby leading the masses of believers astray. However, we have inherited a unquestionably unbiblical church structure that necessarily discourages individual believers from sorting out truth for themselves.

The unbiblical structure to which I refer is the dichotomy or clergy and laity practiced by most Protestant churches today. Few believers today question or challenge this false hegemony. Most behave as if this bifurcation of leadership and ministry functions existed from the church’s inception. If not that, they see this unholy division as an improvement over what the pristine church practiced for over three hundred years. When comparing how effectively the early church propagated the Gospel throughout the known world with the missional ineptness and basic irrelevancy of the church today, it seems incredible that we could believe we have improved on what they did.

The truth is there was no clergy/laity division in the church throughout most of the first four centuries of its existence. This was mostly true because from the beginning believers were taught that the church constituted a kingdom of priests. In other words, each and every believer was encouraged and challenged to discover his particular gifting and calling in the body of Christ. Early Christians felt a unique sense of responsibility to bring something of the life of Christ to the other believers each time they gathered. By creating a distinctive class of professional ministers the church has effectively disenfranchised believers from their individual calling, ordination and gifting. This action basically nullified the priesthood of believers so adamantly taught in Scripture.   

 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God…But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1Pe 2:5,9).

How many Christians do you know today that have an abiding sense of their gifting, calling and ordination coupled with a profound sense of responsibility to personally bring equipping ministry to the body of Christ? On the other hand, how many do you know that feel themselves to be part of a spiritually subservient class of believers incapable of doing ministry summarily relegated to the professional clergy? Given these conditions, the loss of authentic ministry in and through the body of Christ is inestimable. By tacitly accepting the clergy/laity fraud, we have fundamentally crippled the spirituality and effectiveness of the church.

The truth is that the Holy Spirit can exercise God’s ministry through any committed believer regardless of background, education, experience or status in life. The greatest qualification for being a ministering servant of Christ is not seminary training and denominational ordination. It is one’s absolute surrender to Christ accompanied with the willingness to be conformed to his image. In this spiritual state God can mold and use us as vessels unto honor in a great house.

From the Old Testament types and shadows to the origins of the church in the first century God has always intended to express himself through all his people. How long will we continue disavowing biblical truth, denying the priesthood of believers and forfeiting the best God has to offer for building up the body of Christ and taking a compelling Gospel to a lost world? The answer lies within each of our hearts as we consider our response in the face of biblical truth. Will we continue to pat a false narrative on the head and remain spiritually listless or will we repent and like Paul choose to be everything in Christ he died for us to be?

F. Stoner Clark - January 26, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Unearthly Beings

Rather than embrace the salvation there for the taking provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a growing percentage would rather put their trust in alleged visitors from outer space planning to usher humanity into a New Age utopia under the guise of a “benevolent dictatorship”.

A good example of this increasingly-pervasive UFO mythology appeared in an edition of the Prince George’s Journal when one of the columnists exhibited a number of the typical intellectual and spiritual fallacies surrounding this controversial issue. For starters, the columnist assumes the federal government is concealing alien corpses from another planet or knowledge pertaining thereof under lock and key in the deserts of the Southwest.

Our government might be guilty of many things (including psychic warfare according to various reports), but harboring extraterrestrial biological remains is probably not one of them. Naturally, people are going to see strange things in the skies above Roswell and Area 51; it is, after all, where experimental aircraft are tested, many of which in all likelihood do not conform to popular aeronautical configurations.

The philosophical reasoning of the columnist under consideration is even more fuddled than her historical assumptions. The columnist complains about the popular conception that the universe’s non-human inhabitants are diabolical and bent on interstellar domination. But she herself then makes the equally egregious error in assuming any extraterrestrial intelligence must be in a moral sense inherently superior to any human being.

Many of the great Western thinkers of both the classical and Christian traditions contend human beings possess the same nature the world over, operating along an established behavioral continuum. Isn’t it safe to assume that sentient life across the universe would adhere to a similar standard?

Popular science fiction seems to bear this out as television programs in this genre exhibit a wide array of alien psychologies often in the span of a single episode.

On Star Trek alone, Vulcans value the intellect while Klingons revel in bloodshed; the Borg epitomize Communism as they have no rulers yet all are slaves having their individuality sublimated to the prerogatives of the collective. The Bajorans of Deep Space Nine are deeply religious, the shows producers using them to comment on the role of religious faith in light of the Space Age. On Babylon 5, the Vorlons claim to stand for universal order while pursuing their own nefarious agenda. So much for extraterrestrials being superior.

It seems from this small sampling that such creatures would be as complex and varied as the nations and peoples now inhabiting our own world. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry through his work seemed to argue humans would actually be the ones providing a sense of balance to galactic affairs with the so-called aliens actually the ones for the most part exhibiting behavioral and philosophical extremes.

It seems the incessant praise of all things alien might just be another attack on the wonders man has accomplished in his few short millennia of existence. The liberals who bash human ignorance in light of the knowledge an advanced extraterrestrial civilization would have to offer turn around and praise the backwards peoples of the Earth such as jungle tribesman and desert nomads.

Applying this heuristic of the “noble savage” (to borrow Rousseau’s term), wouldn’t us simple Earthfolk bring enlightenment to the interplanetary voyagers? Perhaps we simpletons would even persuade them to abandon their vile space-faring technology (which no doubt pollutes the solar winds) for a way of life more in tune with the principles of cosmic sustainability confined to a single planet.

By Frederick Meekins

Journeyman Christian Philosopher

There are answers if you know where to look for them Faith in Christ Lives JOIN the Faith in Jesus Network

Journeyman Christian Philosopher by Steven Yates

Hello, and welcome to my portion of this blog. I’ve been a Christian since high school, although my commitment to Christianity has had its “nights” as well as its “days,” periods of intense doubt from which I eventually recovered. Perhaps this is the nature of the journey of the philosophically inclined, who have come to recognize the necessity of the centrality of God in all things but who have drawn wisdom from a variety of sources — sometimes as lessons learned from bad examples and bad experiences. In any event, I’ll not regale you with the details of my journey except to say that they involved numerous forays both in and out of, and eventual abandonment of, American academia. To say that I am skeptical of much of its product these days is an understatement.

I am now an expatriated U.S. citizen living in Chile. My wife is Chilean. We live in Chile’s capitol city, Santiago. We have no children, just two spoiled cats. She works, while I spend my time writing, working on an online course project I wish to launch in a month or so, and also at learning the preliminaries for an ecommerce project I hope will deliver some income in the foreseeable future. And since Chile is a Spanish speaking country and since I am far from fluent in Spanish, I study the language when I can (my wife’s being a native speaker is a huge benefit). This means going to English-Spanish language exchange events, which are numerous here as many Chileans are constantly working to improve their English skills for business and other purposes. We gringos are available to help; most of us have taught English periodically, and I will do so if asked.

In any event, my portion of this blog will reflect the results of a few of my private (now public) inquiries into the sort of philosophy the Christian worldview and life requires, and how a philosophical temperament conforms itself to the sort of life Christ called upon us to live. Many (including my present pastor) have asked how I fit the two together, the sort of philosophical training that led to a Ph.D. and belief in both God and the divine inspiration of Scripture — especially in light of Colossians 2:8! My answer comes from having studied the secular, non-Christian traditions thoroughly. I know what they say. I know how the advocates of the various non-Christian ethical theories argued their case. And I am as certain as I can be that all these theories fail. While dismissive of Christian "supernaturalism" they invariably invoke demonstrably false premises — premises at variance with history and human experience. They presume our fundamental innocence, which can be restored by various cures such as changing our institutions or bettering public education or something else external to us. If we look at ourselves honestly, we are compelled to acknowledge our sinful nature on empirical grounds alone, quite apart from what Scripture says. Original sin, a concept battled by Freudians, Marxists, and countless other secular schools, looms as the best explanation for our utter inability, historically, to build a society that doesn’t shaft somebody; or allow at some point the temptations of power and privilege (and I am not talking about “white privilege”); or allow our technology to be used to build weapons capable of laying waste to much of the planet. A minority among us is drawn to power, this being the first premise of my approach to political philosophy (hardly new and original, I am aware, but I am more interested in what is true than what is new or original). The rest of us all too often take easy routes of mediocrity rather than hard ones of vigilance and responsibility, leaving ourselves vulnerable to those who would wield power.

The answer to original sin is not liberal democracy, which arguably delivered us into the hands of global oligarchy; nor is it the pure laissez-faire capitalism of libertarians, Ayn-Randians, and Austrian economists (even if they get some things right). We are not suited for complete freedom and autonomy. Total freedom destroys freedom, as it necessarily includes the freedom of bullies and would-be tyrants to destroy the freedoms of the rest of us, whether for the sake of some vision of Utopia or just their own greed. The answer to original sin is not behavior modification; it is not Freudian psychoanalysis; it is not "transhumanism," tinkering with ourselves technologically; nor is it any of the various sorts of pseudo-intellectual escapism available today. The only answer to original sin, i.e., our sins, is Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins on the cross. Our Faith in Christ is, thus, a necessary condition for absolution from sin before a perfectly holy God.

Let this be my introduction here. I am an avid devotee of quotes—a “quotoholic,” if you will. In that light, I will share some of my favorites, beginning with the most pivotal and meaningful passages in Scripture, important insights of the great philosophers, and also a few from modern fiction and films, and one from a musician. A science fiction fan since my childhood days, I’ve also tried to draw insight from that. Comments are welcome, as well as suggestions for topics on the borderlands of philosophy, science, and Christian theology. The journey continues.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth.” Genesis 1:1.

“In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord …” Isaiah 1:18

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me …” Hosea 4:6

“For God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son, that all that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

“For by grace are ye saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints …” Ephesians 6:10-18.

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16.

" is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of men to atheism, but further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion." Sir Francis Bacon

"Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist." Edmund Burke

"Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." Thomas Jefferson

"[W]e have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." Samuel Adams

"Let us remember that ‘if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.’ It is a very serious consideration … that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.” Samuel Adams

"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance." James Madison

"A population of sheep will beget a government of wolves." Bernard de Jouvenal

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton

"War ... is such a terrible thing, that no man, especially a Christian man, has the right to assume the responsibility of starting it." Leo Tolstoy

"A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body." John Stuart Mill

"Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both." Frederic Douglass

"Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless, and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

"Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer method of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose." John Maynard Keynes

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” ~The Great & Powerful Oz, The Wizard of Oz

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” Herman Goering

"Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world & its people almost beyond recognition. All that is required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal -- and power." Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood's End)

"The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.... [E]ither party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of those things but will still pursue, with a new vigor, approximately the same basic policies." Carroll Quigley

"Oh perfect masters / They thrive on disasters / They all look so charming / 'Til they find their way up there." Brian Eno (“Dead Finks Don’t Talk” from lp Here Come the Warm Jets)

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip." George Orwell

"When trading is done not by consent but by compulsion -- when in order to produce you must obtain permission from men who produce nothing -- when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favors - -when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work and your laws don't protect you against them but protect them against you -- when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice -- you may know that your society is doomed." Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx

"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." Albert Einstein

"The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent." J. Edgar Hoover

"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." Henry Ford

"Political tags-such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth-are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." Robert A. Heinlein (The Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

"Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it." Frank Herbert (Chapterhouse: Dune)

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

"If you favor federal intervention at home, you're a liberal. If you favor federal intervention abroad, you're a conservative. If you favor both, you're a moderate. If you favor neither, you're an extremist." Joseph Sobran

"We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality." Iris Murdoch

"When a well-packed web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic." Dresden James

"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas." Ron Paul

"Ideas are very important to the shaping of society ... more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that governments and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts." Ron Paul

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depths of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“You can tell your children of the day when everyone looked up and realized that we were only tenants of this world. We have been given a new lease and a warning from the landlord.” ~Dr. Heywood Floyd, 2010: Odyssey 2

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” ~Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

“I had ... an experience. I can't prove it. I can't explain it. But everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever: a vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, and that we are not — that none of us is alone!” ~Dr. Ellie Arroway, Contact

“As a man of faith, I am bound by a different covenant than Dr. Arroway. But our goal is one and the same: the pursuit of truth. I, for one, believe her.” ~Palmer Joss, Contact

“I assume you read the confidential findings report from the investigating committee.” “I flipped through it.” “I was especially interested in the section on Arroway's video unit. The one that recorded the static?” “Continue.” “The fact that it recorded static isn't what interests me.” “Continue.” “What interests me is that it recorded approximately 18 hours of it.” “That is interesting, isn't it?” ~Rachel Constantine & Michael Kitz, Contact

"I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a little like Alice. Tumbling down the rabbit hole?” “You could say that.” “I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically that’s not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.” "I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.” “The Matrix?” “Do you want to know what it is?” [Nod from Neo.] “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” “What truth?” “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. [Morpheus picks up the two pills on the small table between them.] This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. [Neo swallows the red pill with a glass of water.] “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.” ~Morpheus & Neo, The Matrix

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” ~V, V for Vendetta

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Warren Buffet