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Friday, December 22, 2006

There's Nothing Magical About Science (Or: Joan King's Science Fiction)

At the beginning of the movie “Van Helsing” Dracula exclaims to Dr. Frankenstein that his monster, just brought to life, is a “victory of science over God.” I suppose Joan King would agree. It’s a bit silly to refer to fantasy when writing of such serious matters as faith and science, but Ms. King seemed to spend most of her 12/5 article confusing fact with fantasy. One good turn deserves another. I think Ms. King has watched too much “Star Wars.” (She certainly seems to be a fan of “science fiction.”) She writes of science as if it were “The Force,” some magical power that needs only to be understood and properly used and all of our problems will be solved.

Then again, maybe Ms. King sees “science” as some sort of superhero; one who is destined to defeat its arch enemy “religious fundamentalist,” all the while providing us with everything needed for our modern lives.

Answers In Genesis (AIG) (www.answersingenesis.org) notes that, “Many historians (of different religious persuasions—including atheistic) have shown that modern science started to flourish only in largely Christian Europe. These historians point out that the basis of modern science depends on the assumption that the universe was made by a rational Creator. An orderly universe makes perfect sense only if it were made by an orderly Creator.” Many “fathers of modern science” were what Ms. King would consider “fundamentalist Christians.” They took a quite literal view of the Bible. From Pascal to Newton to Faraday to Pasteur to Carver, history is littered with committed Christians whose work has given us many of the advances we enjoy today.

To see “science” and “religion” pitted against one another in some epic battle is just plain silly. When I speak out against something such as embryonic stem cell research, it is not because I wish to halt the march of science. It is because I believe that “progress” can never come at the expense of truth. (In the case of embryonic stem cells, the truth is that life begins at conception.)

Ms. King’s references to evolution are the same tired old weak arguments that have been proven false many times over, but here I go again. Darwinian evolution (defined as the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source, which itself came from an inorganic form) is no more “the foundation of modern biology and modern medicine” than it is the foundation of rocket science and astronomy.

Operating from a biblical worldview (rejecting Darwin’s theory), Louis Pasteur did amazing work in a variety of scientific areas. Pasteur, a microbiologist and chemist, who, along with giving us the process of pasteurization, disproved the theory of spontaneous generation (which put him at odds with Darwin and his work) and was a pioneer in the battle against infectious diseases (leading us to the process of vaccination). Ann Lamont of AIG notes that, “Pasteur was a strong opponent of Darwin’s theory.” As I have pointed out before, (giving specific examples) a person today can totally reject Darwinian evolution and operate well in any scientific arena.

It is incredibly insulting and ignorant that Ms. King would associate fundamentalist Christians with radical, murderous, holocaust denying, Islamic fascists. It is true that Christians believe that heaven awaits us when we die, but not by doing “God’s bidding” will we be saved. Christians believe that salvation comes only through faith in Christ.

It’s interesting that Ms. King would refer to the recent book The God Delusion by noted atheist and evolutionist, Dr. Richard Dawkins. In chapter 7 of his book he mocks and criticizes the account in the book of Genesis of The Flood. However, he correctly points out that many theologians today, in an attempt to compromise the biblical record with evolution, “don’t take the book of Genesis literally anymore.” He continues, “that is my whole point! We pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, which bits to write off as symbols or allegories.” In other words, if you can’t trust the Bible on one topic, why should you trust it on any topic? Here we have a committed atheist correctly pointing out the hypocrisy of those who would hold up the Bible as the authority in one area but completely write it off in other areas. Neither Ms. King’s, nor anyone else’s, faith can rest on that. Either the Bible is what it claims to be, or we have nothing.

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, December 8, 2006

The Sad State of Marriage

“The best single indicator for how well marriage is faring in American society is: What proportion of American children are being born to and raised by their own married mom and dad in a reasonably harmonious union.” This quote is from a recent document called, Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and signed by over 100 family and legal scholars. Given that the statement is fairly accurate, what a mess Americans are making of marriage.

As a defender of traditional (biblical) marriage, my heart aches for the number of men and women who are now ending their marriages, and for the number of children born out of wedlock. Recent government reports show that both events are occurring at the alarming rate of nearly 4 out of 10. Given all the current attacks on traditional (biblical) marriage, these statistics are not so surprising.

Too many Americans are failing to understand the significance of the union between a man and a woman, and our society, especially children, is paying a heavy price. This lack of understanding of marriage should come as no surprise either. Everything from the entertainment industry, to academia, to the church has, to a great extent, failed in teaching what marriage is really about.

From the Murphy Brown sitcom of the early nineties to the sitcoms, dramas, and movies of today, Hollywood regularly mocks and ignores traditional marriage. Take note of the number of couples who are portrayed as “shacking up,” or how often sex outside of marriage is shown as the norm. Our culture has grown so accustomed to these displays that we have become, as the author of Hebrews put it, “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)

In the late 1990s the Institute for American Values surveyed twenty of the most popular college textbooks used in undergraduate courses on marriage and family. Their research revealed a dreadfully negative outlook on marriage. One text shockingly (and deceitfully) states that marriage, “has an adverse effect on women’s mental health.” One can all too easily find even children’s books that downplay the importance of marriage. A book aimed at preschoolers talks of the “different kinds of daddies,” the ones who go away and the ones who stay.

In How Now shall We Live, Chuck Colson notes sadly that even the church has not been very effective in stemming the tide against the decline of marriage. He states that, “Few clergy have been equipped to put the brakes on the destructive trends that have torn marriages apart at ever increasing rates, even within their own congregations.” One program he suggests that local churches look into is called Marriage Savers (www.marriagesavers.org). It has a comprehensive strategy aimed at engaged couples, marriage enrichment, and rescuing seriously troubled marriages.

When questioned about divorce, Christ spoke of the hardness of our hearts, and declared that “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). On the issue of divorce C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is more like having your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment.” Writing in the 1940s Lewis bemoaned the “modern” view of divorce, that it is “a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else.” The “modern” view of divorce in the forties certainly seems to mirror the 21st century view.

Writing as a single man about marriage, Lewis displayed a wonderful understanding of how marriages begin and what makes them last until “death do us part.” Interestingly, he did this mostly by discussing marriage in relation to justice and distinguishing “loving” with “being in love.”

Justice, he notes, includes the keeping of promises. Most everyone who has married makes a promise to stay with their mate until death. If “being in love” is the only reason for remaining married, Lewis continues, then this “really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.” In other words your promise to remain married cannot rest upon your feelings of being “in love.” He continues, “A promise must be about things I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling a certain way.”

But, he concludes, “ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.”

May God help all of us who are married to keep the promises made to our spouses. And may those considering marriage, or divorce, weigh carefully what those promises mean and all the consequences of breaking them.

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, June 23, 2006

Marriage Under Fire

Last year I wrote an article on same-sex marriage that was not published (in the Gainesville Times). Given the current action in congress, and Mike Freeman’s piece, I thought I’d give it another shot. I think Mr. Freeman is correct in assuming that there are two faces to this debate: the religious and the political. Although I think that the political arguments are mostly rooted in religion, I will deal here with the political, or more accurately, the legal side of this debate.

In the last paragraph of the article I wrote last year I stated, “If marriage, as God gave it to us, is perverted to mean whatever we want it to mean, I think the results eventually will shake every conceivable institution in the world—in ways that many have not yet imagined.” It seems I was not far off.

In December of 2005 The Becket Fund, a nonprofit institute dedicated to protecting freedom of religion, held a conference to discuss the legal ramifications of same-sex marriage. Ten of the nation’s top First Amendment scholars, liberal, conservative, and moderate, were brought in to present their views of same-sex marriage and the likely outcomes if it is legalized. As a result of the conference a series of papers was published.  These papers have been widely reported on in the last month. Publications such as The Weekly Standard, World Magazine, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, and many others have covered the results of this conference.

The conference focused on four topics: Can the government force religious institutions to recognize same-sex unions? Can the government withhold benefits, such as tax exemption, from religious institutions that refuse to recognize same-sex unions? How will freedom of religion arguments fare against legal same-sex marriage? What are the effects on biblical (traditional) marriage?

Mark Stern, general counsel for the liberal leaning American Jewish Congress and a supporter of gay marriage, writes in his paper, “No one seriously believes that clergy will be forced, or even asked, to perform marriages that are anathema to them. Same-sex marriage would, however, work a sea change in American law. That change will reverberate across the legal and religious landscape in some ways that are today unpredictable.” According to Peter Steinfels, writing for The New York Times, what Mr. Stern has in mind are “schools, health care centers, social service agencies, summer camps, homeless shelters, nursing homes, orphanages, retreat houses, community centers, athletic programs and private businesses or services that operate by religious standards, like kosher caterers and marriage counselors.”

If you think this is far reaching, consider what recently happened in Massachusetts, the only U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities of Boston is one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies. It recently announced it was getting out of the adoption business. What was the reason? Catholic Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples. With Massachusetts now recognizing same-sex marriage, the charity found itself on the wrong side of the law. With Massachusetts requiring a state license to operate an adoption agency, Catholic Charities was forced to compromise their beliefs or get out of the business. They chose the latter.

George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley, also a supporter of gay marriage, in his Becket paper noted that, “As states accept same-sex marriage and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, conflicts will grow between the government and discriminatory organizations. There will be many religious-based organizations that will refuse to hire individuals who are homosexual or members of a same-sex marriage. If those individuals are holding a state license of marriage or civil union, it will result in a discriminatory act that was not only based on sexual orientation, but a lawful state status.”

Doug Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, and an opponent of gay marriage, participated in the Becket conference and wrote, “Were federal equal protection or substantive due process to be construed to require states to license same-sex marriage, those who have profound moral or religious objection to the social affirmation of homosexual conduct would be argued to be the out-liers of civil society.” Therefore, he argues that churches could be targeted for legal penalties and disadvantages as were universities that participated in racial discrimination decades ago. He adds that, “This is hardly a far-fetched (idea), as apparently one of the main aspirations of the homosexual movement is retaliation against the defenders of traditional marriage.”

I hope Mr. Freeman, and others, can see that there are serious consequences if marriage, even as only the state views it, is redefined. One other point needs to be made. I think (or hope) that Mr. Freeman is wrong when he implies that those of us opposed to gay marriage would otherwise have no problem with homosexual relationships if they stayed “in the closet.” Admittedly, the view of many on both sides of the debate is that what goes on between consenting adults is no one else’s business. (It is noteworthy that we currently have many laws that restrict acts between “consenting adults:” laws against prostitution, polygamy, drug abuse, and so on.) The perils of homosexuality should be openly discussed whether or not we are talking about marriage.

There are other points to be made, especially the “religious” ones, but those must be for another time.

Copyright 2006, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World