On the Newsboys

I’ve seen a lot of articles about the “co-founder” of the Newsboys (before anyone had really heard of them) becoming an atheist and have had a couple of thoughts.

First, I think Christian music can be excellent, but it shouldn’t be our primary source of knowledge about Christianity. Christians need to be discerning. It’s easy to pick up ideas just from hearing them repeated over and over through headphones without ever really thinking about them. There’s a lot of pressure to say the right things these days (or to say very little) so that people are not offended.

Second, training in apologetics, church history, and Christian philosophy are essential for every Christian, at least at a basic level. Richard Dawkin’s book has been roundly criticized by atheistic philosophers from across the world for how poor his arguments are, but it remains convincing for people who don’t know any better. Many Christians think defending the truth is the wrong approach, despite the fact that Peter writes that it is a requirement for all believers (1st Peter 3:15) and the Apostles all argued based on evidence. John’s gospel ends with “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”. He gave evidence. So should we.

When Christians enter college or the workplace, they are often attacked and have few defenses and sometimes don’t even know what Christianity teaches. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out what happens next, as this story illustrates.

Thoughts, Etc

I’ve decided to try something new. Posts divided into categories so I don’t have to write as many transitions!

A few states, including Michigan and Ohio, have had an appeals court respond to same-sex marriage bans in the affirmative. This has, predictably, caused an uproar. The crowd that has made it their motto to do away with hate, intolerance, and judgment has spent their evening posting hateful, intolerant, and judgmental poison on as many news articles as they can find. I know this, because to my shame, I attempted to engage a few of them and wasted a good portion of my night on the effort.

I try to be polite and kind in such discussions, because my goal is to win people on the sideline. I have been crafting a summary “blurb” I can just copy/paste on those sorts of threads. I made it intentionally “nice” and used no religious arguments; I’ve found that most people are so disdainful of religion that merely mentioning it distracts them too much to communicate in whole sentences.

People on the fence can take a reasonable, historical, philosophical, coherent argument presented nicely and compare it to pure hatred. I wish I was exaggerating.

My argument is straightforward and simple. First, I declare I have no interest in debate, something which is usually true. This is followed by many appeals for the reader to give my side a chance and to avoid calling it names. It would be wonderful if this were not necessary. Following this, I present a concise yet profound history and meaning of the word “marriage” itself which I have co-opted from a man whose intelligence dwarfs mine and who I have the utmost respect for, considering we have never met.

Finally, I present this:

Of course, you can call whatever you want “marriage” – it is in the end, just a word – but the fact that human beings still require a mother and a father and most people think both of ‘em should stick around for their children means that some special relationship exists as a result of how human beings continue the species. People can ignore or accept human nature, but they aren’t going to change it.

And I think this is right to the point. Words are proxies; they don’t mean anything on their own but signify something that does mean something. If “marriage” is changed to mean something else, the relationship at the basis of human flourishing is going to get a new name. So be it, I guess. But it is an awfully confusing route to take for people to get tax breaks that only make sense for parents with children.

There is no clamor for male “mothers”, female “fathers”, or child “parents”, despite the fact there are benefits to all the roles.


Brittany Maynard took her life after discovering she had cancer. This was followed up by article after article documenting people who were diagnosed with her form of cancer and told they had months to live and who then recovered.

I read a great article in response to the whole concept of assisted suicide. Highlights include:

“I first think it’s odd since if any activity could be safely assumed to require no assistance, suicide is it.”

“Assisted suicide can’t be merely a call for an effective means or one that avoids making a mess. It is rather making the more interesting and controversial claim that death is medicine”

“If even death is no longer such a criteria, we are left only with choice: if I want X and medicine gives me X, then the medicine is effective. But there has to be more to it than this, since persons can be mistaken about what they want, or otherwise incapable of seeing it.”

“But if one can be mistaken about whether he should die, he can be mistaken about whether he should live. The role of the standards is to talk the first group out of suicide and the second group into it.”

Another thing I would add is that it seems Miss Maynard’s knowledge of her cancer was more hazardous to her health than the cancer itself; had she survived the cancer, she may have lived decades more.

I don’t listen to talk radio very often, sticking mostly with podcasts, but this morning I listened to part of Rush Limbaugh’s show and a caller received a free iPad for an idea that I had before the time he said it occurred to him: That if people wanted the congress to work with Obama, they would have elected Democrats, not Republicans.

I am jealous.

I’m over a month into learning Latin from this book. It has gone well, and while it takes me a while to get through the material – longer than I would like – I tend to get translations and pronunciations correct. Gloria Romanum! Well, to their language at least. It’s a lot of fun.

Forgetting History

From Crisis Magazine (though I’m not Catholic, I enjoy many of their articles and this one in particular):

“The main reason why that book could not now be published is that there is no one who could write it and no one who would read it.”

It’s sad what has happened in less than a century; that people graduate college with reading levels beneath eighth graders from the 1910’s and that a religious culture has transformed into a radically secular one. If it took a thoroughly religious and historically literate culture to give us a Constitution, limited government, and religious freedom, we should pause to think about the trends away from those prerequisites and what the shift entails.

“We must remind ourselves that beneath any formal constitution―even beneath our Constitution, the most enduringly successful of such formal documents―lies an unwritten constitution much more difficult to define, but really more powerful: the body of institutions, customs, manners, conventions, and voluntary associations which may not even be mentioned in the formal constitution but which nevertheless form a fabric of social reality and sustain the formal constitution.” – Russel Kirk

The Incoherence of Pop Morality

The president and a number of ideological relatives of his have put forth a public service announcement on the topic of sexual assault. ABC reports:

“As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women,” Obama said as he unveiled a new campaign to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault on college and university campuses.

“We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should,” he said. “We make excuses. We look the other way. The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.”

This isn’t an attempt at awareness, or even a recommendation for some action. It is an outright condemnation of the public for what the president calls a lack of value for women. In his own words, the problem does not lie with the agents who commit some crime or morally evil act, but with everyone else.

His wording is important in other ways as well. Our society “still does not sufficiently value women”, meaning that we’ve come from a low point towards some goal and have not reached it. If I had to wager a guess, that low point is the pre-feminist 1950’s and the time prior to it. And yet, surely sexual assault as it takes place on college campuses today was not prevalent than as it is today. Forgoing a feminist definition of sexual assault – which in extreme cases, includes marriage itself – the problem seems to be a relatively recent development.

The fact that this issue is with “sports leagues” and “pop culture” and “politics” means that it certainly isn’t a conservative War on Women, since pop culture in particular is not part of conservative dominion, in any sense of the word. And in this portion of his statement, he seems to be correct. Pop culture, in promoting the bodies of women over their feminine qualities, does little to help women.

Even still, the blame is said to rest squarely on the public, not the perpetrators. But is that justifiable? And beyond that, is it justifiable to say that no victim ever shares any responsibility for their status? Is it truly justified to say that a married woman who is usually home with her family is equally responsible, should she be assaulted, as a woman who routinely drinks at a bar and leaves with men she has never met? Clearly not. Clearly, fairness in this sense is not justice.

There is even further confusion. It seems that the term “sexual assault” means little more than acts which are not done in mutual consent. Acts themselves don’t seem to matter, nor when they occur. So long as they are done with mutual consent, they are acceptable. This leads to attempts to codify consent, such as a bill in California that taken seriously would mean that married couples are involved in sexual assault. When consent becomes the only moral boundary, it simply isn’t strong enough to stand on its own.

This probably won't stop a horde.

This probably won’t stop a horde.

This new morality is based entirely on consent and unenforceable, absurd laws revolving around it. When conservatively minded people object to this as, well, unenforceable and absurd, they are condemned for engaging in a War on Women. Mean old conservatives don’t want to stand on the wall full of holes arbitrarily placed in the middle of barbarism, so they must be barbarians themselves, so the thinking goes.

A true conservative position on the matter is that walls indeed must be placed, but they must have some sense to them. They must be firmly grounded in a coherent ethical framework instead of abject relativism. They must be guarded instead of abandoned at will when the political tides change. They must be built solidly and intelligently, instead of thrown together when it becomes obvious that something must be done. These are the sorts of walls I would be willing to stand and guard, and indeed the walls that I desire to see rebuilt. To say that those who are similarly minded are traitors and haters of women because we would rather not settle for less is absurd and emotional nonsense.

Moralism and the Gospel

Albert Mohler posted an article about moralism and its clash with the Gospel:

One of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.

My own response is that I think this is close to the truth, but there is some clarification missing that makes it seem as though it is focused on the wrong problem.

A simple way to state it is, to slightly turn a phrase: “Christianity is not mere moral teaching, but it is not less than moral teaching”. Moral living is a really big deal in Scripture. John 3:36 teaches that God’s wrath does not rest on sin alone, but on sinners. Over a dozen times in the psalms, we are told something similar.

We tend to completely separate “sin” and “sinner” today, but that seems like a false separation. Our actions and our character and motivations tend to be intertwined, not distinct. At the same time, while it is true that God loves everyone in the sense that we are all created in His Image, He does not love people who are in rebellion for their rebellion in the same way that He -does- love those who are obedient for their obedience. That is a type of love He does not and cannot spread out to everyone, because it is a response.

I agree with the general theme, that Christianity is not mere morality. But I think Christianity -is- at least morality. What I observe today is a very libertarian approach to morality in Christians. The emphasis is on “well, it’s okay if you are doing some sinful behavior, because it’s none of my business”. But the Gospel compels us to confront sin in the world; order, discipline, and love compel us to confront sin in the church.

Perhaps the best approach is to see morality as an intrinsic property of Christianity, not as something to separate from it. Though even still, I think Christians are quite right in pursuing the true, virtuous, and beautiful even in an anti-Christian world since sin and destruction are closely tied, and Christians are called to be lights to the world, not observers.