Tag Archives: philosophy

Why Unbelievers Find Jesus’ Commands Too Extreme and Strenuous to Be Obeyed


 It’s impossible to live like this–impossible, impossible, impossible!

That’s what the great Russian writer Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy wrote in his article of 1882 On the Occasion of the Moscow Census…but those words easily sum up all he wrote in the last thirty years of his life.

This includes his attack on art, the church, the state and society, all as a result of his return to Gospel purity.

For example, upon his move to Moscow from the Russian countryside he was exposed to urban poverty and began handing out fistfuls of money, but realized that was not enough.

Thus his outburst.

He lashed out at his own class, the wealthy, who managed to live in the face of such wretchedness and hopelessness, and not flinch.

He taught that brotherly love and certain precepts from the Sermon on the Mount could, as the translator of  Richard Pevear put it, “lead mankind to a stateless, egalitarian, agrarian society of non-smoking, teetotal vegetarians dressed as peasants and practicing chastity before and after marriage.”

But as a father of thirteen children it is safe to say that Tolstoy failed to obey at least one of his own principles.

And that his ideal society (grounded in worldly wisdom) never emerged from the Russian country side is an indication of the impossibility of unregenerate men and woman to obey seemingly simple precepts like “Love your neighbor.”

Christopher Hitchens on Gospel Obligations

In his book Rage Against God, Peter Hitchens works his way through the arguments atheists use to suggest that we can develop effective and binding codes without a deity.

He then mentions his brother Christopher, who is, of course, an advocate of this belief, yet states, “the order to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed.”

Humans, Christopher says, “are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.”

That is, the gospel is a sick delusion.

Yet, the unrelenting devotion of mothers is a definitive example against that argument, as well as the work of doctors and nurses.

However, things heat up when we witness the most powerful expression of this obligation: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” ().

Now we are reaching contrary to human nature. And we are about to push it over the edge.

Gospel Obligations We Can’t Bear

The command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Not to resist an evil person. To give the man who sues you the property he wants–and then some. And to give to whom ever asks of you.

These are all examples of precepts impossible to bear.

And one way to suggest that these are contrary to human nature is to point out that just about everyone–believer and unbeliever–will try to wiggle out of these injunctions by providing tailor-made exceptions.

The only problem is there are no footnotes to these commands. Jesus is calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

And trust me: that seems a bit extreme and too strenuous to obey. And I am a believer.

John Owen on Properly Killing Sin

I suspect there is, has been and will always be an utter distaste for the commands of Jesus among unbelievers–Hitchens and Tolstoy being popular examples–because of the unlikelihood of meeting those obligations.

Why is that?

John Owen, in , has a lot to say about it. What follows is my summary of his argument.

If we are going to obey the commands from Jesus that say to kill our sins, then we must first be believers: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” ().

Otherwise there will be condemnation at your failure. This is why it is believers alone who are commanded to mortify sin:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Certainly philosophers in the past and the present can do something that looks like mortification–chronic fasting or vows of solitude–but it is false and unacceptable to God.

For unbelievers to attempt to kill sin through these methods amounts to a picture of the sun painted on a sign post versus the actual sun hanging in the sky.

This is typically the sad fate of wicked men who attempt to kill sin without Christ:

The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. Rejected silver they are called, for the Lord has rejected them. 

If Not Kill Sin–What Do We Tell Unbelievers to Do?

Yes, sin must be mortified, but something else must happen first for the unbeliever. You must be born of the Spirit. No Spirit, no mortification:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 

Those in the flesh cannot please God.

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 

And Christ in us will produce the right operation to kill sin:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 

In essence, killing sin and mortifying this or that lust is not the immediate business of unregenerate men. Conversion of their soul is their immediate business.

The 3 Things That Happen to Unbelievers Who Attempt to Kill Sin

So what happens when unbelievers try to destroy sin in their life without the help of the Holy Spirit? Owen says three things:

1. Unregenerate men are distracted from conversion.

When an unbeliever makes mortification of sins his main focus, he loses sight of what is truly important: his salvation. Thus, preaching mortification of sin to unregenerate men focuses on legalism and not repentance.

What did Peter tell the unregenerate Jews when they asked what to do about their sin? . The root must be dealt with if you want good fruit.

2. Unregenerate men engaged in killing sin think their souls are not in danger.

When they try to pacify their consciences without Christ, they are sick in soul, and run to mortification rather than the great physician.

Moreover, these unregenerate men trying to kill sin will think they are in good condition, doing quite well, thank you, without the help of some saviour.

3. Unregenerate men will despair when their attempts at mortification fail.

Eventually sin returns to trample all of their efforts–and in their despair they conclude that mortification of sin is all for nothing, and so give in, becoming, as Owen says, “the most vile and desperate of sinners.”

 Unbelievers who attempt to kill sin do so because they say, “I do not want to be bad.” But what they don’t say, but is equally true, is that they do not want to surrender their soul.

They want to maintain their autonomy and defeat their sin in their own power, which only leads to death. Unfortunately, killing sin without Christ deludes, hardens and destroys.

Jesus and every Apostle pointed out that to kill sin is the work of living men. There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.

Until then biblical obligations will seem strange, strenuous and impossible to unbelievers.

Until then people who attempt to kill sin without Christ will endure the punishment like that of king Sisyphus: rolling an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, ad nauseam.

By the way, if you liked what you read please . Then share this post on Twitter and Facebook.

“The Definition of Marriage in the US Is Dead and It Was Killed by Christians”

That’s a quote from a discussion I started on Reddit. I asked the question ““

The answers fell into two general categories: one, without question, sharing the gospel was more important. And two, the two are not mutually exclusive. They are the same thing.

My own bias leans toward sharing the gospel. In the introduction to the question I gave a 300-word reason why.

But I have to say that the arguments from those who said the two were the same thing were persuasive.

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are the Same

Keep in mind that this discussion occurred in a thread where users affirmed the teachings of Calvin and embraced the ideas behind TULIP. In other words, the group as a whole were opposed to same-sex marriage. We did have one dissenter, an Episcopalian. I thanked him for joining our discussion.

The arguments for those who defended the notion that saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel were the same thing centred around the premise that we were given two commissions: the great commission and the cultural mandate.

As a previous student of the cultural mandate to subdue the earth, I understand where those who use this argument stand, and where they were going with it.

We were to create and cultivate civilization by building schools, businesses, art, laws and communities…and raising families, which are the bedrock of civilization. If the family unit is broken, then civilisation is broken.

As many pointed out this is equivalent to Jesus’ statement to .

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are NOT the Same

While I can buy that, I’m stuck on this: the gospel is a story about what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished for us, namely peace with God.

To say that sharing the gospel is equivalent to defending biblical marriage I think is tantamount to saying we can live out the gospel, which is impossible.

How do you live out the narrative of redemptive history?

Certainly I believe that our lives can be a testimony to what the gospel can accomplish. While the gospel can save a marriage that is headed for divorce–and that testimony of its power can lead to a discussion about the gospel–a saved marriage is not the same thing as the gospel.

Why is this even important? Because God commanded us to , and through that method people are saved by the Holy Spirit.

So when energy is invested, at the expense of sharing the gospel, in preserving an institution that some people in a free nation don’t want then we look bad. Furthermore, we then start to look like we believe that we can create a utopia by preserving this nation through legislation…not salvation.

There was one key comment for me in this discussion. The one that said marriage is dead in the U.S. Here is the comment in full :

The definition of marriage in the US is dead and it was killed by Christians and non-christians alike long before the homosexuality issue. So when people see us yelling about the definition of marriage they see us yammering over something which does not exist.

It was killed by divorce and abusive and neglectful parents. Marriage is seen as just so easily breakable, by Christians and non-christians. Parenthood is defined by what the parents want to do, not by what is best for their children. These sorts of marriage and parenthood are just as displeasing to God as gay marriage.

As long as these issues are not taken seriously, there is no reason for seculars to view us as anything but anti-gay idiots, because it is what we are. We are rightfully labeled as hypocrites. Not that confronting those problems will solve everything, but I find it much more important to fix Christian marriages than nonchristian.

I think that last line is sublime, and reminds me of

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The statement made by bygrace-faith is a strong statement. However, is there any proof that marriage is dead in the U.S.?

Proof That Marriage in the U.S. Is Dead

Well, you have the that from 2000 to 2010 nonfamily households doubled in growth over family households. A common nonfamily household is a person living alone, with an increase of 25.8 percent in 2000 to 26.7 percent in 2010.

In addition, the number of non-married partners living together grew by 41 percent.

However, the divorce rates actually declined in 2009. So, is America on a moral slide?

I’d argue that it is. But that’s debatable. And misses the point. Because regardless of our moral condition, we desperately need Jesus.

Clearly as Christians we are to take the biblical idea of marriage very seriously. But we can’t expect the culture around us to do the same thing.

So do we acquiesce? Do we let civilisation crumble around us?

No, I think we attack these issues head on. But there are better ways to do this than by legislation.

Mentoring young men who are at risk of abandoning their families. Supporting single mothers who are struggling to raise a family. Adopting children who are abandoned or abused by a family.

It’s a bottom-up approach versus a top down.

History is full of instances where Christians make very bad politicians. History, however, is abundant with examples of charity that have saved the lost, protected the forgotten, healed the wounded, visited the prisoners and fed the hungry.

Christianity didn’t spread because missionaries like Paul and Barnabas changed Roman law. It spread because of their relentless efforts to obey Christ. In that wake civilisations and their laws grew based upon Christian principles. And this is the appropriate way I believe in which we redeem the earth.

Your Turn

Do you think I’m off my rocker? Do you think that America is on a moral slide? Is there evidence? Is marriage dead in the U.S.? Did Christians kill it? Am I off with my bottom-up approach? Is there any room for a bottom-up and top-down approach? Is saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel the same thing?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Feeling Sorry for That Poor Man in Sierra Leone? Don’t

Talk about flawed. Read the following verses from :

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall sthis wicked congregation grumble against me? tI have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, u‘As I live, declares the Lord, vwhat you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 wyour dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and xof all your number, listed in the census yfrom twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I zswore that I would make you dwell, aexcept Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

What was your reaction to reading that? Sorrow? Sorrow for the rebellion of a people toward their gracious God?

Want to know mine? I was sad. I was sad that that generation was forgotten. It was erased off the face of the earth. Erased out of collective memory.

I was sad that no one’s name–except for Caleb and Joshua–was preserved in history. And that that fate was more than likely my fate.


The Man in the Sierra Leone Village

I am obsessed with obscurity. I fear falling out of earshot with the literary elite–both living and dead.

I fear if my name is not embedded for AT LEAST four hundred years in our anthologies that I will have failed.

As you can imagine, this has created massive and unnecessary grief in the mornings spent agonizing over my future. Stupid attempts at attention.

Strangely enough, I used to feel sorry for the anonymous of the world. The man in the small village in the hills of Sierra Leone.

I used to feel guilty for my fortune of growing up in a country where opportunities are abundant. Where fame is at arms reach. While they were damned to obscurity.

Then it dawned on me: if not for the grace of God, those forces are at work on everyone.

Including me.

How I Have It Backwards

But that scheme is all wrong to begin with. I am elevating popularity in this life over popularity in the next life. On this note, the Bible is clear: popularity in this life equals .

However, obscurity–anonymity–in this life equals popularity in the next. Every advantage I have over that man in Sierra Leone in this life amounts to a disadvantage in the next life.

He will be honored beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And that is the more precious prize.

Truth (A Quick and Dirty Guide)


In which we try not to argue over our differences about the truth on truth.

What is truth?

And does anybody have a lock on it?

The preacher? The scientist? The scholar? The engineer? The psychologist? The shaman?

Furthermore, can you trust them?

Not easy questions to answer.

There are so many competing claims and different approaches.

Can we REALLY know the truth? I think we can. And to help me answer that question, a while back I asked my friend Rob Powell to help.

He agreed and knocked out three posts on truth: Absolutism, Pluralism and Scientism. [See below.]

I then pulled together some more posts dealing with the question “what is truth?”

Perhaps you’ve seen them before. If so, skim through each for a little refresher course on truth.

If you haven’t seen these posts before, walk through them slowly and then let me know what  you think.

In the end, we might disagree. My hope is that I at least get you to think. And I promise to do the same for you.

Enjoy the list!

Absolutism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

Is truth absolute? Or is it relative and merely based on personal preferences? There has to be a right answer, right? There is.

Pluralism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

On the surface pluralism seems like a reasonable explanation for the diversity of faiths we see. Look below the surface and it’s not.

Scientism (When You Shouldn’t Trust a Scientist)

Science is awesome. It provides us with great party tricks and is the most predictable way to study the world. But what is it? And can it ever go wrong?

Pragmatism (Where It Breaks Down and Why You Should Care)

Pragmatist argue that it’s necessary to check our religious beliefs at the door when we debate issues. Unfortunately, that can’t work.

The Blind Men and a Queer Animal

In an ancient parable, dozens of hermits and scholars are making conflicting claims about reality. Who was right? D. None of the above.

The Blissfully Plastic Moral Base of Humanism

What does the meaningless, value-absent creed of humanism have to offer? It might surprise you.

How to Answer “That’s Just Your Interpretation

What are we to do when people say, “Well, that’s just your interpretation?” when we present them with moral or biblical truths? Here’s what you say.

How to Deal with Religious Conflict

What beliefs create peaceful behavior and deal with the discord of religion? Here’s the answer.

Hard Questions: How to Make Sense of the World

Answer these seven questions and you’ll discover what’s at the bottom of all your thoughts about God, yourself and the world.

What Camus and Frankl Can Teach You about the Meaning of Life

Is it possible to find meaning in life without God? Albert Camus and Victor Frankl think so.

Russel’s Tea Post, Snuggies and Talking Frogs

What’s the difference between God and an imaginary teapot–and where does this cute little analogy ultimately break down? Take a look.

Scientism [When You Shouldn’t Trust a Scientist]

Guest post byRob Powell. Part of a series on truth.

Science is awesome.

It provides us with , , and is the most predictable way to study and .

But other than a seven letter word, what exactly is science?

And more importantly, why for the last 300 years have some people thought it to be the ?

Defining Science

Stealing a page from Theodore Beale and PZ Myers let’s define science as such:

Scientage: the body of transparently obtained testable knowledge

Scientistry: what scientists learn to do at universities

Scientody: the method of exploring the world, observing, inferring, and testing with experimentation

Conversely here’s what science isn’t: an all encompassing worldview that can explain everything and should as such rule with an iron caliper over all other information.

That is scientism.

And oddly enough it fails just like it’s pals relativism and pluralism.

See, the proposition that one shouldn’t believe something unless it can be proven scientifically can’t itself be proven scientifically.

So where might dogmatic faith in these three forms of science lead us astray? It’s easiest to show the inherent bias of scientistry because all of us have had a professor with a chip on his or her shoulder.

Let’s take a look.

When Scientistry Fails

The Achiles heel of scientistry is that it’s carried out by fallen and flawed people. People who want fame. People who want to make  and  happy so they can keep their grant money. People who are ideologues. People who will  or select for the data that proves their point…

And professors who will  because they’re blonde and cute and have incriminating evidence against them.

Unfortunately confidence in the scientific method can’t lead to confidence in the scientist who claims to have used it.

The failure of scientistry leads to the fallibility of scientage.

The Collapse of Scientage

The scientific body of knowledge is supposed to be verifiable and transparent, but…is it always?

What if a paper submitted for publication refutes the chief editor’s research?

Science often turns a corner based on rogue ideas but what if it goes against the popular consensus? Will something novel get a hearing on it’s merits or be dismissed as pseudo science?

What if the data gets lost? What if there are a few idiot scientists all patting each other on the back approving each other’s work but nobody is guarding the hen house?

The failure of scientistry and scientage leave us only with scientody, which fortunately is very predictable. But the fact that scientody works at all is good evidence for a designer to the universe.

The Limits of Scientody

Christianity’s framework of an orderly and testable world led to .

Furthermore, scientody is good at answering the why and how questions of life. Unfortunately it’s completely silent as to the “so what?”

It will answer what happens if saline is injected into amniotic fluid but says nothing about whether that action is moral.

It lets you know what to expect if you create a supercritical mass of enriched uranium but could care less if you do that on Bikini Island or NYC.

It tells us predictable ways to build bridges–but not where those bridges should go.

What is the purpose of life? Is it better to give or receive?

Why are waffles so delicious?

The important questions of life that you ask your mom and best friend advice for cannot be put in a test tube.

Which brings us to another point. Science by definition has nothing to say about the supernatural.

Science Silent on the Supernatural

It would be scientismific! to demand scientific proof for God.  However, the truth is that if Jesus was raised on the third day there is no way to go back and repeat the experiment to verify.

We are going to have to use other means of investigation to find that truth.

But aren’t scientists really smart with their thick glasses, pocket protectors, and such?


But just because you invented the internet doesn’t mean you’re right about climate change, ultimate reality or same sex marriage.

Here’s a hint of when science is heading toward questionable grounds: Emotion.

There’s no emotion available in scientody.

Why All the Hatred, Guys?

The vitriol displayed toward religion by the likes of Dawkins, Harris, and other militant atheists is just misguided scientistry. It betrays their biases.

Science doesn’t go from a useful tool to a world view without introducing bias, presuppositions, and error.

The farther you get from scientody into scientistry the more emotion rules. For example, physicists are using the  on the border of France and Switzerland to among other things find the .

If they can’t find one it will undermine 100 years of particle physics thinking.

But why haven’t we seen any physicists writing lay books or giving snarky interviews on the Today show? Because the LHC might create a  that destroys the earth.

But if it fails to find a Higgs Boson it won’t point to God.

Joseph Stalin’s Spin on Religion

Now consider the theories of anthropogenic global warming and evolution by natural selection. In some circles just calling those things “theories” and not “facts” is fighting words!

But why all the acrimony?

If evolution via natural selection [not as a process where giraffes get longer necks but whereby every living thing came to be] is NOT true then the world must have a designer.

But where are the scientists painting cheetah’s day glow orange and seeing if they can still bring the thunder down on a gazelle and make baby cheetahs?

It may be a grand theory produced by scientistry but it’s not really subject to scientody.

So why is science so mad at and scared of Christianity? Consider what  had to say: “The Party cannot be neutral toward Religion because Religion is something opposite to Science.”

Unfortunately, I just don’t see the grand battle that Joe did.

Heck, if anybody ought to be mad around here it should be Pluto (Chin up little buddy, you’re still a planet to me).

Final Thoughts

Adam’s first job was to classify all the living creatures. And the author of Ecclesiastes had a handle on the water cycle  but still .

An orderly and predictable world is a necessity for science. As long as science does what it does well (and the same must be said for religion, too) I see no conflict at all.

It’s when these boundaries are crossed and science is seen as the only arbiter of truth that conflict arises.

Science can be a useful tool in subduing the earth. When it goes from being a tool to a worldview it steps in to territory it’s not designed or equipped to handle.

In the end, when people turn to scientism it’s usually an attempt to justify one’s own belief, which is pride and needs to be repented of.

Pluralism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

Guest post by Rob Powell. Part of a series on truth.

In continuing our discussion about truth and absolutism let’s move to how that idea intersects with the wide diversity of faiths represented in our world, specifically in the concept called “pluralism.”

We’ve all heard the allegory of the blind men feeling different parts of an elephant.

Each man describes a completely different animal based on what part they are feeling.

The moral of the story is that each is relating just a small but true part of a larger truth.

This parable is a feel good way to reconcile the differences between the thousands of different religions in society.

In fact, somebody should make a song out of it so they can add a verse to It’s a Small World.

Pluralism: The Good and the Bad

On the surface pluralism seems like a reasonable explanation for the diversity of faiths we see.

Nobody gets their feelings hurt by being told they are wrong and everybody gets to do what they think is true.

A little deeper inspection though shows that just like relativism this view falls apart under it’s own weight.

To allow all these discordant faiths to agree the pluralist has to do a few things, but first let’s take a look where faiths disagree.

Do All Religions [Basically] Agree? Eh, No.

To make that less than a 2 year doctoral thesis we’ll limit our discussion to the most populous religions.

Not that numbers equals truth but even the most PC pluralist isn’t going to say that the Heaven’s Gate Cult or the Branch Davidians has a truth claim equally as valid as Buddhism or Islam.

Bottom line: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all have a diagnosis for what is wrong with humanity and a cure to fix it.

It’s past the scope of this article to delve into all the differences but they are not insignificant. Here are a few:

The number of gods. Some religions believe there is no God while others believe in only one and still others embracing many.

The problem of sin. All religions describe a very different program to curing sin.

The body and mortality. Each religion seeks to explain the purpose behind our bodies and solve the riddle of death.

In all these examples, the cures range from faith in Christ, to an esoteric experience where we see we are immaterial self aware beings with all knowledge or to realizing that all we are is fleeting conscious states.

The pattern here is clear.

There are a diversity of perceived spiritual problems–and a myriad of just as diverse solutions.

What We Must Avoid

To try and boil all this down and just say that people are broken and need a cure would be as silly as saying a person has “sick” and needs “better”.

If your appendix has ruptured you will not find a doctor that recommends in vitro fertilization.

Each specific diagnosis needs a specific remedy.

Maybe the pluralist believes that God will save those not of a certain tradition based on how they responded to what knowledge they had accessible to them. For example, the Christian God might save Buddhists because they were sincere in their belief.

Unfortunately this is not what ANY of these individual faiths teach. Also, past just the general diagnosis, religions disagree on what makes up a human.

What the Pluralist Must Do to Make Religions “Agree”

Do we have an enduring soul or are we merely a collection of momentary states? Either people come in two (or more) distinct flavors or you have to believe these both of these self contradicting things to be true at the same time.

So how does the pluralist make all of this work for them?

For example, there is no mechanism in the Christian worldview where the Buddhist’s sin problem is resolved outside of faith in Christ. Nor is there is no mechanism in the Buddhist tradition whereby the Christian becomes enlightened.

So the pluralist must create their own system whereby the two are compatible and neither can hold the other as incorrect.

This involves either treating all religious exclusive claims as either being non-literal (mythical) or having limited importance.

This would include any claims to miracle which would seem to add credence to one faith over another. What really matters to the pluralist is harmony, love, justice and unity.

In other words, how you live your faith (orthopraxy) is more important than what how your faith says you should live (orthodoxy).

The Pluralist’s Sleight of Hand

But did you see what just happened there? The pluralist in attempting to negate all the exclusive claims of different religions created an exclusive claim of their own.

The pluralist denies the Muslim a chance to define his or her own religion with exclusive claims but is completely free to do so themselves.

Pluralism fails pluralistically. Which brings us back to the elephant.

A pluralist takes each person describing their religious truth and enlightenment and says “Yes but what you don’t know is that you are blind and only see in part.”

That’s perfectly laughable because the implication is that the pluralist can see just fine and in whole–and you can’t.

In the end, he’s more than happy to make a claim to exceptional knowledge that he won’t let any single faith make own their own.

The Pluralist Is Just as Blind

As you can see, pluralism isn’t an overarching view that combines all faiths in one big bubble bath of goodness. It’s just one more view claiming special enlightenment and truth–which isn’t very pluralistic, don’t you think?

So when someone says “What matters is that it makes sense to me and enables me to grow spiritually,” it’s easy to see the benefit to this claim even taken at face value and not applying it to itself.

It allows everyone to do what they want how they want to do it.

But if there is no objective truth to be found outside of one’s belief then you can never be wrong in what you believe.

In essence you’ve created a Stepford God that is made in your own image–he’s a robotic butler who will never contradict you but always please you.

Unfortunately this approach destroys the distinction between the terms “truth” and “belief” and implies that something is true because “I believe it.”

Where Pluralism Threatens the Christian Church

So where does pluralism affect the Christ follower and it’s church. Here’s a quote from JP Moreland’s book  that I think says it well:

[Such] a church . . . will become . . . impotent to stand against the powerful forces of secularism that threaten to bury Christian ideas under a veneer of soulless pluralism and misguided scientism. In such a context, the church will be tempted to measure her success largely in terms of numbers—numbers achieved by cultural accommodation to empty selves. In this way, . . . the church will become her own grave digger; her means of short-term “success” will turn out to be the very thing that marginalizes her in the long run.

The call is clear to preach the obnoxious and offensive gospel to a world and church that most of the time doesn’t want to hear it.

The Blissfully Plastic Moral Base of Humanism

“What does the meaningless, value-absent creed of humanism have to offer? It might surprise you. Part of a series on truth.

One of the reasons I’m enormously disenchanted with humanism is due to it’s inevitable, blissful slide into subjectivity.

I mean blissful in two senses:

1. It changes without much fuss or notice.

2. And it changes on man’s will.

What a Humanist Can Say

Recently I heard someone assert that he has the same morals as another person, although he was an atheist and the other was a Christian.

I don’t dispute that can be true. In fact, you don’t need to believe in God to be moral.

However, what a humanist can’t say is that they have an objective standard for their morality. Let me explain.

What a Humanist Can’t Say

Humanists can’t claim objectivity, because you can manufacture all the morals you want, but at the end of the day you have no mechanism to declare why we should choose one over the other.

If we are nothing more than naked apes who will decompose in the ground…why not lie, cheat and steal till your heart is content? Why not murder, gang rape and pillage just like apes, sharks and baboons?

Naturally, we won’t slip into that behavior overnight. But over time, yes.

An Honest Humanist

That’s because a humanist’s moral base is built on what’s appropriate for our culture or situation, which, as we all know, can change.

Sometimes drastically.

The Puritans departed England to reject religious oppression and bring to America core objective moral standards. And as any one who is breathing can attest…we’ve shed much of their vision on family, sex, possessions and government.

Why is that? The lawless, content-less creed of humanism is prevailing.

One reason I like Peter Singer is because he’s honest. He understands materialism cannot support morals. Or even the rights to morals.

See, any true materialist would say that we are nothing more than chemicals firing. And if that’s the case, then my parents love for me is really not “love” any more than two dragonflies “making love” or a  soda machine “obeying” me cause I put money in the slot.

In the end, what’s important or not important comes down to power. Like  said, “Truth is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”

What I Mean by “Plastic”

A humanist has no real boundary for what he should do. He is left with only what he can do. That’s why  young lawyers that a pliable sense of morals is necessary to successfully practice law.

What this means is that anything a humanist suggests is subjective to change.

That’s what I mean by “plastic.” Morals can be melted down and moved. They shift with our decadence. And our decadence always follows one path: please the self versus please the Creator.

Too often, humanists want to throw off the moral base for moral duty and accountability by claiming we are nothing but machines…yet in the same breath declare themselves aware enough to be worthy of respect, honor and love.

What they need to demonstrate is why we should accept their claim and not someone elses.

An Alternative to Humanism

What does Christianity have to offer in place of humanism? A 2,000 year old book founded on the timeless wisdom of an infinite, holy and unchanging God.

And like Tullian Tchividjian wrote in , “Trying to follow God’s lead without God’s light guarantees a life of stumbling.”

The questions is: Why stumble when it’s unnecessary?

Do You Make These Six Mistakes When Debating?

These six mistakes are arguments that are ambiguous. In other words, they stem from use of language having more than one meaning.

No doubt you’ve seen this yellow diamond road sign. You have a hunch you know what it means, but…

Is the City trying to tell you that the children playing on this street are moving in slow motion? Mentally handicapped? Or…

Merely you, as the car driver, need to slow down along this stretch of street because children live and play here?

Common sense tells you it’s the last one.

Why the confusion? Bottom line: Poor sentence structure. Insert a comma after “Slow” and the meaning becomes clear.

This mistake is known as a fallacy of amphiboly. And it’s part of a class of ambiguous arguments that are unsound because they contain words that can be understood in more than one sense.

Here are five more common fallacies of ambiguity.


Arises when there is ambiguity on stress or tone. Think email or blog comments taken the wrong way or out of context. If someone writes, “It’s impossible to praise this book too highly,” you have to wonder: are they being sarcastic or not? You just don’t know.


Occurs when you regard an abstract word as a concrete one. Commonly known as personification. “The City can do no wrong.” Only a person can do no wrong, not the City.


Stems from a shift in meaning of a key term during an argument. Here’s an absurd example to prove my point: “Only man is rational. No woman is a man. Thus, no woman is rational.” See the shift in meaning on the word “man?” That’s equivocation.


Results when you try to apply what is true of the individual to the whole group. The first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra maybe the best violinist in the country, but…that doesn’t mean that the CSO is the best symphony in the country.


Occurs when you try to apply what is true of the group to each part or member. The Chicago Symphony maybe the best orchestra in the world, but that doesn’t mean the first violinist in the orchestra is the best violinist in the country.

Why do I bring this up? I bring this issue up because I make these mistakes quite often on this blog and elsewhere. And I’ve seen others do the same. My goal is to help us all avoid these mistakes so we can exchange sound arguments as best as we can.

Got any other good examples of these mistakes? Things you’ve seen in your own experience? I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

Hard Questions: How to Make Sense of the World

Answer these seven questions and you’ll discover what’s at the bottom of all your thoughts about God, yourself and the world. Part of a series on truth.

At the base of your all your thoughts…all your contemplations about God, yourself and the world around you…is a worldview.

What’s a Worldview?

A worldview is nothing more than a set of assumptions which you hold about the basic makeup of your world.

So, what is YOUR worldview?

One way to get at it, according to James Sire in his book , is to see it as your essential, rock-bottom answers to seven basic questions.

You might find answering these questions rewarding. Even gratifying. Then again, you might find what you uncover puzzling…

Possibly even traumatic.

However, I believe it’s very important to take the time to carefully answer these questions. Self-analysis can lead you to a more vivid, meaningful life.

I mean, what could be more important than discovering what you believe about God, the universe, yourself and the world around you?

IS there anything more important? I don’t think so.

But you decide.

Seven Questions You Must Answer to Make Sense of the World

So, take some time right now to answer these questions–whether in the comments, on your blog or on paper–and get to the bottom of your worldview.

 1. What is prime reality–the really real?

2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

3. What is a human being?

4. What happens to a person at death?

5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

6. How do we know what is right and wrong?

7. What is the meaning of human history?

In the end, you’ll probably find you fall into one of two camps: super naturalist or naturalist. God exists or only the universe exists…

One pushes for a sufficient reason behind the universe. One is satisfied with the universe. (See, theist and atheist alike are theologians.)

During a debate with Christian philosopher F. C. Coplestone, agnostic Bertrand Russell said, “I should say that the universe is just there, and that’s all.”

And that’s just the way it is.

Brute reality.

Brute God

And even though theists like me who see God as the self-existent sufficient cause for the universe take it one step further and say, “God is just there…and that’s all,” like the naturalist I have to conclude, “That’s just the way it is.”

Brute God. Sort of.

Ultimately, our worldview doesn’t prove whether we are right or wrong. It just identifies the orientation of our heart. What’s yours? I’ll share mine next week.