What About Christians And Identity Politics?

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Call it “identity politics” or “multiculturalism” or whatever else you like, but America’s public discourse today is often all but dominated by analyses based on speakers’ respective racial, ethnic and cultural identities.

Democrats are deep into identity politics, while Republicans often find it repellant. There are Christians among both, but does the God of the Bible have anything of value to say to Democrats or Republicans on the issue of identity politics?

You bet it does, especially if you happen to work on Capitol Hill where the issues raised by identity politics are especially intense and urgent. So where do we start?

Continue reading “What About Christians And Identity Politics?”

This Mom Is A Great Argument for God

So you’re walking down a corridor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building during a break in a committee hearing and there on the floor is the word “MOM” spelled out in Cap’n Crunch.

Being a dutiful son or daughter, you love your mom, of course, so you stop to ponder  this odd sight, speculating for a few seconds about how it got there and then going on about your business before the hearing resumes. As the day continues, though, your mind keeps going back to that MOM because something about it is puzzling.

Continue reading “This Mom Is A Great Argument for God”

Are You Smarter Than This Kid?

William is 11-years old but he loses me at about his third sentence on why Stephen Hawking was wrong to conclude there is no god. I know there are a bunch of folks reading this blog who are on both sides of that issue, so give a listen and tell us what you think in the comments.

And please, remember, keep it civil.

Asked during a recent interview with Hellenic College Holy Cross to explain his unusual passion for engaging atheists, William said:

“Well because there’s these atheists that try to say that there is no God, when in reality it takes more faith to believe that there’s no God than it does to believe that there is a God… Because it makes more sense that something created the universe than that the universe created itself. It takes more faith to say the universe created itself than to say something other created the universe because that is more logical.”

Continue reading “Are You Smarter Than This Kid?”

If Jesus Wasn’t Resurrected … Who Got His Dead Body?

Here are three rock-solid bottom-line facts you can trust to be true about Jesus

Jesus told His disciples repeatedly before He was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified that those things would happen. He also told them He would be resurrected on the third day after His death.

They didn’t understand any of it before it all came down but within a few days of His death and burial, they were telling the world they had seen and talked to Him, that He was alive, that He had been resurrected.

Here we are 2,000 years later and a bunch of theories have been proposed to explain away the disciples’ claim that Jesus was resurrected. One of those theories is that Jesus didn’t come back to life, and the reason the tomb was empty was because somebody stole His body.

Continue reading “If Jesus Wasn’t Resurrected … Who Got His Dead Body?”

NEWS FLASH! Millennials Run Congress

Great post today in Roll Call by reporter Alex Gangitano titled “Politicians Worry About Millennials But They’re Already Running The Hill.” If you work on the Hill, you knew that before today but Gangitano’s post puts some interesting human faces on the reality.

Gangitano quotes Chris Carter, 31, who is chief of staff for Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who at the age of 25 was Hudson’s district director and moved up to his present position at age 29.

“When you get constituents who come up to D.C. to lobby … I do think it’s a little surprising to them when they come in and are talking about a very important issue and they’re sitting across from a 20-something who’s in a senior role in an office,” Carter told Gangitano.

Continue reading “NEWS FLASH! Millennials Run Congress”

Which Are More Reliable, Aristotle and Plato, or Matthew, Mark, Luke And John?

One of the most frequently mentioned myths about the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is the claim they cannot be historically accurate because they were written decades after the events they purport to report.

Several of the commenters to yesterday’s post here — “Are Christians The Biggest Fools Of All Time?” — repeated variations of the claim the Gospels are unreliable because so much time elapsed between the events and the writing of the individual books. The actual facts, the critics argue, were lost to the myths and legends that grew up around the events related in the Gospels.

The German higher critics of the 19th Century made this claim a standard argument in the conventional wisdom scholarship of the 20th century among those who reject the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ and His claim to be the incarnate creator of the universe and everything in it. And the argument continues in popular culture and debate to this day, as seen in the comments to yesterday’s post.

There has been a tremendous amount of scholarship on the accuracy and reliability of the Gospels in recent decades. Below is a link to a recent podcast of Frank Turek’s interview with Dr. Craig Blomberg, who is one of the most respected scholars in the world on this issue. I highly commend it to anybody on any side of the debate.

But more immediately, let’s address the question posed in the headline above. Nobody today doubts when they read Plato’s “Republic” or Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics” that they are reading what the Greek philosophers actually wrote, even though what they hold in their hands are copies of copies of copies … stretching back centuries.

Even so, when was the last time you heard anybody say Plato’s discussion of the shadows on the wall of the cave cannot be trusted as what Plato actually wrote or believed because so much time elapsed between his original manuscript and the earliest copies used by copyists in the millennia before Mr. Gutenberg invented the printing press? Or that Aristotle’s Golden Mean as the key to human virtue was a creation of a later copyist and thus was not the philosopher’s original view?

Nevertheless, that’s a commonly expressed argument whenever the Gospels are under discussion.

But guess what? There are far more copies of the Gospels, written much closer to the original authors, than there are for any other of the ancient classics, including Plato and Aristotle.

Aristotle’s works were written between 386 B.C. and 322 B.C. The first copies came along in about 1,100 A.D., or roughly 1,400 years after Aristotle did his thing. As for Plato, he wrote between 427 B.C. and 347 B.C, and the first copies date to 900 A.D., for an interval of roughly 1,200 years.

Compare that to the New Testament, which, regarding the Gospels, the critics claim were written, at the earliest, around 70 A.D., with copies first appearing around 130 A.D.

In other words, if the same standards of reliability and accuracy are applied to the New Testament that have long been accepted without question for other ancient authors, then the Gospels must be viewed as among the most reliable of the ancient classics. You can check out this post by Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research for more specifics on this angle.

And as I always say, a great place to start in assessing these issues is “More Than A Carpenter” by Josh and Sean McDowell. Just tell me your address and I’ll get a copy of MTAC for free.

Now, here’s Frank Turek’s extended audio conversation with Dr. Craig Blomberg:

https://crossexamined.org/?powerpress_embed=72550-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio

Are Christians The Biggest Fools Of All Time?

Why yes, if Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion, as He repeatedly told His disciples beforehand He would be, then every one of the billions of people who have lived who professed their faith in Him has been a schmuck, a fool, conned, etc.

This may come as a shock to some, but St. Paul put it rather succinctly at 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

Spartacus, the favorite gladiator of a certain famous New Jersey senator, might shrug and say “party hearty tonight, dudes, cauz tomorrow half of us are going to die.”

Now, think of it from a slightly different angle — If He was resurrected, that means He’s God. And that changes everything for everybody, including you and me, my friend. So with that thought in mind, take 3.30 and give a listen to this from Bobby Conway, “The One-Minute Apologist.” Yes, I know, that’s not just one minute. It’s branding, I guess.

By the way, I found this particular video on The Poached Egg, a web site you should definitely check out if you work for a senator or representative in the Congress of the United States.

Or if you just care about groovy stuff like epistomology, the ultimate purpose of your life, the significance of the ancient Roman Army’s Kustodian to everything that has happened since it briefly guarded a certain tomb near Jerusalem, and so forth.

Why Work On The Hill … If There’s No God?

If that seems like an apples-and-oranges kind of question posed in the headline, be assured that it’s not. Think about it: Why would anybody put in such long hours, usually for low pay and little or no recognition on the Hill unless they are convinced that doing so will somehow advance them towards something that is both important and worthwhile.

And that’s the point of the question in headline. What gives your life its ultimate meaning and purpose? What makes you get up every day and slog over to Rayburn or Russell or another of the congressional office buildings to do your thing as a press secretary, case worker, committee flack, legislative assistant or whatever?

Is it to get experience and contacts, or develop a specialized knowledge or skill set, to set you up later to “earn the big bucks” working for some corporation, lobbying outfit or advocacy group? This is a question of central importance regardless if you are a liberal, Republican, conservative, Democrat, independent, Mug-Whump or don’t-have-a-cluer.

It also applies if you happen to be slaving away in the executive branch in a political appointee slot or a career civil service position. Ditto if you’ve already scored the big one, drive a Bimmer or Benz to work, routinely rub elbows with the rich-and-powerful and have the names and numbers for everybody who is anybody in this town in your cell phone’s contact file.

“This is a question of central importance regardless if you are a liberal,  Republican, conservative, Democrat, independent, Mug-Whump or don’t-have-a-cluer.”

So where am I going with this one? Right here, to The Poached Egg. Yes, you read that right, The Poached Egg. It’s a web site that “is a large and continually expanding virtual library of articles and essays compiled from all over the World Wide Web. Noted apologists, biblical scholars, philosophers, scientists, historians, students, and laymen all come together under this one site.” Founder Greg West is also the editor. He knows his stuff.

Check out this video discussion that lays out the basic underlying issue behind the question in the headline above. Then, I hope you will tell me what you think of it in the comments below — be it positive, negative, lukewarm, whatever.

So When Was The Last Time You Checked Your Unstated Assumptions?

You know what I mean; assumptions like if a person is a Harvard graduate, he or she must be smart. Or anybody who becomes a plumber or a carpenter isn’t likely to be reading philosophy at night. Or Texas really is God’s country.

OK, maybe not that last one about the Lone Star State, but here’s another one that is clearly among the most important influences on American public life these days: Modern science has liberated us from the shackles of beliefs and values based on ancient myths.

There are multiple variations on the theme but what they all come down to, more or less, is the unstated assumption that “science” is the only path to truth. Anything that claimed to be truth prior to, oh say, 1900 is almost prima facie considered by the current generation to be wrong or worse.

I would bet next month’s paycheck — assuming I get one! — that if you asked 100 randomly selected congressional aides about this, the vast majority of them would quickly agree with that proposition.

A closely related proposition and one that also has profound influence on the way issues are analyzed on Capitol Hill is the idea that there are “facts” and there are “opinions,” and public policy ought always be based solely on the former, not the latter. Stuff like faith and patriotism are mere opinions.

So, think about this: To be “true” in the scientific sense, according to this assumption, something must be observable, repeatable and measurable. That being the case, it must also be concrete, material. That means it cannot be non-material, or, to put it bluntly and in layman’s terms, there ain’t no such thing as the “supernatural” or “spiritual.”

So much then for the fundamental claim on which the entire Christian faith rests – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God. Given the science assumption, Jesus may have been a great teacher, an itinerant preacher with a real knack for turning a phrase or maybe just a lunatic, but what He couldn’t be is dead, buried and then alive again on the third day.

Normally at this point, I would launch into a discussion of the many apologetical “proofs” for the veracity of the Resurrection claim. But there’s another way to go at this issue and that is to examine the historicity of the claim.

Brit N.T. Wright — a former university lecturer/turned bishop, delivered a lecture some years ago in which he made an extremely persuasive case for the proposition that:

The Christian claim was from the beginning that the question of Jesus’ resurrection was a question, not of the internal mental and spiritual states of his followers a few days after his crucifixion, but about something that had happened in the real, public world, leaving not only an empty tomb, but a broken loaf at Emmaus and footprints in the sand by the lake among its physical mementoes, and leaving his followers with a lot of explaining to do but with a transformed worldview which is only explicable on the assumption that something really did happen, even though it stretched their existing worldviews to breaking point. More of that anon.

What we now have to do is to examine this early Christian claim more thoroughly, to ask what can be said about it historically, and to enquire, more particularly, what sort of ‘knowing’ or ‘believing’ we are talking about when we ask whether ‘a scientist’ can ‘believe’ that which, it seems, ‘the resurrection’ actually refers to.

I could give you the link to the text version of Wright’s lecture, but it’s so much better to watch and listen to him deliver “in person” via this video:

Thanks, by the way, to Wintery Knight for bringing this superb lecture to my attention so that I can share it with all my friends and future friends on Capitol Hill. Wintery Knight notes of Wright that he “has taught at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Duke University, McGill University, and lectured on dozens of prestigious campuses around the world. He’s published 40 books.”

In other words, Wright is somebody to whom we would be wise to pay attention. That is not to say I agree with everything he says because I don’t. But his point about thinking historically is an important one, especially if you happen to work in a job in an institution in which making history is an everyday occurrence.

Do You Really Believe What You Say You Believe?

That headline above poses one of the most important questions anyone can ever ask themselves. Unfortunately, it’s too often one of the last questions all of us ask of ourselves.

The question has a particular relevance for people working on the Hill. At the surface level, everybody in Congress, working for Congress, reporting on Congress, seeking to influence Congress and trying to get to Congress has beliefs, or at least claims to believe certain things.

But whatever you profess to believe, can you have absolute certainty that what you say you believe is what you actually believe? And how do you know the difference between the one and the other?

Believe it or not (did you catch the pun?), I’m not referring to the professed political, religious or ideological beliefs that shape appearances, what you seem to be or what you want the world to think you are. What I am talking about are the beliefs at the core of your being that actually define who you are and determine what you do.

Why is this such an important question for congressional aides? It’s not simply that aides by definition work for somebody else and thus are routinely called on to defend, explain, conceal, justify or rationalize away what “the boss” says or does. It’s important because such a fixation can make it even more difficult than it normally is to ask ourselves the headlined question.

Allow me to illustrate with an example from my own life and years on the Hill. Alcoholism runs in my family, a fact I was grimly aware of from a very early age. I saw what it can do, physically and emotionally, to people and families, the misery, pain, and emptiness. And I vowed early in my life to “never be that way.”

But then I came to Washington, D.C. and to the Hill. Booze was and is today quite prevalent. It’s not for nothing that Washington, D.C. routinely ranks among the top cities in America for per-capita alcohol consumption. A lot of people working on the Hill are only a few years past boozy campus cultures, which makes this a peculiarly relevant example.

If you’d asked me the first day on my first Hill job about drinking, I would have quickly said I would never let that become a problem, I grew up in an alcoholic home, saw what it did to people, etc. etc.

But then over the months and years that followed, it became easier and easier to declare those things but then do quite the opposite. Places like the Tune Inn, Hawk N Dove (remember that one!?) and Bullfeathers became regular haunts.

“Pub grub” (self-explanatory) and “draft beer” (or bourbon, or whatever)  and “networking” (jobs, allies) and “targets of opportunity” (come on, you know what this one means) became life fixtures. It became the major rhythm of my life — work during the day, keep working in the night, plus partying.

It took a long time but eventually I learned that sooner or later decisions do indeed have consequences in life and not just for me. Today, I thank my Lord Jesus Christ for the blessings of sobriety and a generous measure of the courage required for the honest self-awareness that requires regularly asking myself the headlined question above. Would that I had asked it sooner.

The point I’m getting at is this: The way to know if you really do believe what you tell yourself and the world you believe is to look at your actions and ask yourself: Are these the actions of somebody who believes X?

Jesus had no patience for hypocrisy, especially among those in high places. The 23d chapter of the book of Matthew in the New Testament is the “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees” scene in which He directly addressed the issue of personal authenticity:

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others. ***For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called ‘rabbi’ by others …

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside may be clean …

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also appear outwardly righteous to others , but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

But this isn’t simply a question of saying one thing and doing another. It’s why we all do that so often. It’s that “within you” (and me, and everybody else) that is the problem. Too often, we know what we should do, but we go right on doing the wrong thing. The Apostle Paul put it this way at Romans 7: 15 — “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

And why is that? It’s that thing none of us these days wants to acknowledge exists but which is nevertheless an ever-present reality And the solution is something many folks working on the Hill scoff at, choose to ignore or have never heard about.

Want to know more? Let me buy you a cup of coffee or a sparkling water or whatever at one of the Hill office complexes’ cafes or restaurants, and we’ll continue what could prove to be the most important discussion of your life. It changed mine in more ways than I can count, all of them for the good.

*** Go here for an explanation of phylacteries and fringes in Jewish culture, ancient and modern. 

 

 

Monday’s Biggest Issue: Are These The Five Best Natural Arguments for God?

Talk to enough people over many years and you begin to get a sense of what are the most persuasive arguments for the majority of people who are either just doubtful about whether God exists or who are outright skeptics.

Over at Reasons to Believe, Hugh Ross points to these five in his long experience:

* Origin of space, time, matter, and energy
* Origin of life
* Human exceptionalism
* Fine-tuning of the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life to make possible the existence and redemption of billions of humans
* Genesis 1’s predictive power to accurately describe, in chronological order, key events in Earth’s history leading to humans

At first glance, I was a bit taken aback by the reference to Genesis 1 as a natural argument. But here’s how Ross explains it:

“Genesis 1: Genesis 1:2 establishes the frame of reference for the six-day creation account as the surface of Earth’s waters, and it describes four initial conditions: ubiquitous darkness and water on Earth’s surface, no life, and unfit conditions for life.

“On day 1, Earth’s atmosphere becomes translucent (“let there be light”). On day 4, the atmosphere becomes transparent (“let there be lights in the expanse of the sky”). The Hebrew word for day, yom, has four literal definitions, one of which is a long, finite time period.

“That day 7 is not closed out by an “evening and morning” implies that the creation days are consecutive long time periods. Thus, Genesis 1 accurately predicted both the description, timing, and order of the events of creation. Resource: Navigating Genesis

Knowing that there are among HillFaith’s growing legion of readers both believers and skeptics, I’d be interested to hear responses from both camps. I think number 3 is especially persuasive. What think you?

Mark Tapscott is HillFaith’s editor, IT jockey, spiritual guide, chief bottle washer and overall Jack-of-All-Trades. Email him at mark.tapscott@gmail.com

Does Faith or Science Best Explain Morality?

That question in the headline above captures at many levels the essential debate that defines the post-modern era, especially as it relates to a host of social and other issues that regularly confront congressional aides, their bosses and the journalists that cover them.

There is an incredible wealth of material available now on the Internet on both sides of the question, but a debate hosted at Stony Brooke University by New York Apologetics in 2015 may be the most enjoyable, intellectually engaging and comprehensive presentation yet.

It’s a long program, so be prepared to do a lot of listening, thinking and learning from both men at the podium, Dr. Frank Turek of Cross-examined.org and Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine. Would that all public policy debates were as civil, enlightening and educational as this one:


 

Here’s The Impossible Task For Atheists

Logic in many respects is the point where the debate between Christian and atheist advocates reaches the decisive questions each must confront: How does something come from nothing if God doesn’t exist and how can either’s answer be demonstrated?

I’m a journalist by training, not a philosopher and certainly not a mathematician, so I claim no such authority in this discussion. Being a journalist of an investigative bent and a man who has experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, however, I love engaging in civil discussion with others about these ultimate issues.

And I will be sharing regularly here on HillFaith quotes, references, links to, excerpts and analyses by people, believers and non-believers, who I find have something worthwhile to contribute to our discussion.

My friend Chris Shannon posted this lengthy excerpt from Christian philosopher and theologian J.P. Moreland addressing the decisive questions posed above:

“…you can’t get something from nothing…It’s as simple as that.  If there were no God, then the history of the entire universe, up until the appearance of living creatures, would be a history of dead matter with no consciousness.
“You would not have any thoughts, beliefs, feelings, sensations, free actions, choices, or purposes. There would be simply one physical event after another physical event, behaving according to the laws of physics and chemistry …
“How then, do you get something totally different- conscious, living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures- from materials that don’t have that?  That’s getting something from nothing!  And that’s the main problem …
“However … if you begin with an infinite mind, then you can explain how finite minds could come into existence.  That makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense — and which many atheistic evolutionists are conceding — is the idea of getting a mind to squirt into existence by starting with brute, dead, mindless matter.”

This quote is from Lee Strobel’s interview with Moreland, who is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, can be found in its entirety in Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Creator.”  Strobel is a former journalist, so, yes, I am perhaps a bit partial to him!

And after you consume Moreland above, go to BigThink for an alternative approach to the question.

Now, Moreland has set the table for what should be a helpful discussion for all concerned with things like knowledge, truth and logic. Let it begin! And by the way, if you work on the Hill, where you come out on these matters has a great to deal to do with how you resolve many of the seemingly mundane daily issues with which you deal.

Mark Tapscott is HillFaith’s editor, IT jockey, spiritual guide, chief bottle washer and overall Jack-of-All-Trades. Email him at mark.tapscott@gmail.com