Tuesday, June 19, 2018

United by “Victim Status”. Where does your “victim status” rank?

In this approximately four-minute video, Ben Shapiro shines the light on “the multiple avenues through which racial and gender expression are experienced”, and how various victim statuses now work together under the umbrella of “intersectionality”, to enhance the political impact of the various victim groups that have been and are continually being created:

Monday, June 18, 2018

"Trump's" immigration policy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ June 14th statement about immigration policy is actually well thought-out and makes sense. The persons who are endangering children are those who are advocating for policies that will encourage massive increases in such attempts across the border. The greatest risk to children lies not in short-term family separations (separations from parents were a particularly common feature of life in earlier eras) but in the hazardous journey to cross the US border in between legal ports of entry, where children are often at the mercy of criminal elements. Here is Sessions’ statement, which I have reordered somewhat for smoother arrangement, paying special attention to the question of what to do with illegal immigrants who come with children.
First, those who seek to retain the Obama administration’s policy of not detaining illegal immigrants with children but releasing them with a court date (1) makes mush of US immigration law and (2) poses a greater danger to children.
(1) “The previous administration wouldn’t prosecute illegal aliens who entered the country with children. It was de facto open borders. The results were unsurprising. More and more illegal aliens started showing up at the border with children. To illustrate, in 2013, there were fewer than 15,000 family units apprehended crossing our border illegally between ports of entry. Five years later, it was more than 75,000—a five-fold increase in five years.” To this can be added that 80% of those released don’t return for their scheduled court date.
(2) “It should be noted the perils to which these parents subject their children.” “Importantly, children are far more at risk attempting entry in remote areas.” “Hundreds of aliens die every year trying to make it to the border to illegally enter this country. In many cases, children are trafficked, abused, or recruited by criminal gangs. No one should subject their child to this treacherous journey—and yet the open borders lobby encourages it every day…. The open borders, pro-amnesty crowd encouraged that—and they have the gall to attack those of us who want to end this lawlessness and the dangers these children face…. Criminal networks spread the lie that kids could get amnesty. As a result, tens of thousands of vulnerable children made the dangerous journey North—with terrible humanitarian consequences.”
“But the Trump administration is ending the Obama-era incentives to bring children here illegally. Last September, the Trump administration ended DACA. And now that DACA is over, the criminals can’t spread the lie that kids can get amnesty. Our policies are discouraging people from making children endure that treacherous journey. Everything the open borders lobby is doing is encouraging that and endangering these children. It’s that simple.”
Second, separation of children from parent(s) is common for criminal offenses and, in the case of illegal immigration, normally of short duration.
“Our policies that can result in short term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified. American citizens that are jailed do not take their children to jail with them. And non-citizens who cross our borders unlawfully —between our ports of entry—with children are not an exception.” “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution. It certainly doesn’t give immunity to American citizens.” In an oral, parenthetical remark to his formal speech, Sessions noted: “Normally the adults are only held in custody for a week or two before they enter a plea of guilty for time served and allowed to go home with their children.”
Children can’t be, shouldn’t be, and aren’t jailed with a parent but protected during a parent’s short detention period: “We are not sending children to jail with their parents. The law requires that children who cannot be with their parents be placed in custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. We currently spend more than $1 billion a year in taxpayer dollars taking care of unaccompanied illegal alien minors. Most are in HHS custody. They are provided food, education in their native language, health and dental care, and transported to their destination city—all at taxpayer expense.”
“[The parents] are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek. The United States on the other hand, goes to extraordinary lengths to protect them while the parents go through a short detention period…. If the adults go to one of our many ports of entry to claim asylum, they are not prosecuted and the family stays intact pending the legal process. The problem is that it became well known that adults with children were not being prosecuted for unlawful entry and the numbers surged.”
Third, the Obama administration encouraged abuse of claims of asylum, which now needs to be pulled back.
“Beginning in 2009, the previous Administration released most aliens apprehended at the border who requested asylum into the United States with a document asking them to show up for a hearing at some later date. Word spread quickly that by asserting a fear of returning to one’s home country, one could remain in the United States. The results are just what one would expect. The number of illegal entrants has surged. Asylum claims skyrocketed…. The number of these aliens placed in immigration court proceedings went from fewer than 4,000 [in 2009] to more than 73,000 by 2016—nearly a 19-fold increase [in only seven years].”
“We have also returned the asylum process to what Congress intended it to be. If you don’t meet the requirements for asylum in this country, then you do not receive asylum here. That should not be a controversial idea.” “Under the INA, asylum is available for those who leave their home country because of persecution or fear on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum was never meant to solve all problems—even all serious problems— that people face every day all over the world.”
“You may have heard that I have ‘restricted’ asylum eligibility or ‘denied’ asylum eligibility to certain people. But that’s not exactly right. I have not made new law—I have simply restated and implemented what Congress has passed: asylum is generally not for those who have suffered a private act of violence. It is for members of groups who are persecuted by the state or whom the state will not protect from persecution. Members of those groups cannot go somewhere else in their home country. Most victims of private crimes can. Think about it. There are victims of crime all over the world—1.2 million violent crimes are committed every year in this country alone. Are all 1.2 million of these victims automatically entitled to asylum in Canada, the United Kingdom, or anywhere else they choose?”
Fourth, US immigration policy is already generous.
“We allow in 1.1 million legal immigrants on a path to citizenship every year. Another 700,000 come here explicitly for jobs. Another half a million come here to attend our universities and colleges.” Implication: Opposition to *illegal* immigration is not an anti-immigrant position.
Fifth, illegal immigration has been so out of control for years that US immigration law has become a joke.
“President Obama used his pen and phone to do something he said he couldn’t legally do. In July 2012—a few months before he was up for re-election—President Obama announced that he would give legal status to 800,000 illegal aliens—along with work authorization and other benefits, like Social Security. Congress had rejected this proposal on multiple occasions—but President Obama did it anyway. Again, the result was not a surprise: the number of unaccompanied alien children arriving at our border nearly doubled in one year. The next year, it doubled again…. We agree with President Obama: he didn’t have the legal authority to give any legal status to illegal aliens without Congress. That’s why this unlawful policy is over.”
“And then, in 2014, the Obama Administration doubled down and attempted to expand its unlawful amnesty to any illegal alien here since 2010. Towards the end of the last administration, prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry both declined, and sanctuary policies were encouraged, eroding relationships with state and local law enforcement officers that had taken decades to build. Sanctuary policies are when cities or states refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. If they’ve got somebody in custody who is wanted for deportation—they release them back into the community. At their root, they are a rejection of all immigration law…. The question is whether cities and states have the right under the Constitution to actively undermine the supreme law of the land—a question that has been settled repeatedly in the negative since 1819….
“Meanwhile in Congress, efforts to end illegal immigration have been blocked at every turn. Any law enforcement policies are attacked by open borders radicals and well-paid lobbyists. Every time something is proposed that would end illegal immigration, it gets blocked. If it works, it gets blocked. If it doesn’t work—if it won’t end illegal immigration—then the elites and the Washington insiders are all for it.”
Sixth, Christians should support the lawful arrest, prosecution, and deportation of persons who enter the United States illegally and don’t wait their turn like law-abiding immigrants. The alternative is a disastrous policy of open borders.
“Under the laws of this country, illegal entry is a misdemeanor. Re-entry after having been deported is a felony. Under the law, we are supposed to prosecute these crimes…. If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. That is what the law calls for—and that is what we are going to do.”
“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime—as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
“I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our Church leaders. I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws. If we have them, then they should be enforced. A mere desire to benefit from entry to the nation does not justify illegal entry.”
“We have to make a choice: do we continue to allow the word to spread that you can come here illegally and there will be no consequences—or do we finally send the message that we enforce our laws? In the Trump administration, we enforce the law. There is no right or entitlement—legal or moral—to come to this country. Immigration is a privilege that the American people have chosen to grant in certain cases.”
“We’ve got a choice here. We either have open borders or we have laws. It’s one or the other. Some people in the media have chosen to attack us for enforcing the law. That doesn’t surprise me. But I’m not ashamed of the United States of America. I am not going to apologize for carrying out our laws. That is my duty.”
“President Trump made a generous offer to the Democrats in Congress. He offered to give DACA recipients true legal status if we can build a wall, close the loopholes, and switch from chain migration and the visa lottery to a merit-based system. The Democrats’ refusal of this offer is baffling. He simply asked that they agree to a permanent solution to the problem. Why wouldn’t you want to end the illegality?
“Our goal is not radical. What is radical is the open borders policies that have been pushed on us time and again by the elites and the Washington insiders. Our goal is that immigrants should apply, wait their turn, and that people stop making that dangerous trek across the desert rather than coming here unlawfully. If they meet the standards, then they can be admitted—and those standards should advance the national interest. If we succeed in this—if we finally get a system we can be proud of—then we will start a virtuous cycle of lawfulness, safety, and prosperity. The American people have been patient. We have been waiting for 30 years. They want us to seize this opportunity that we have right now. It’s time that we finally deliver a lawful system of immigration that benefits them.

Illegal immigration and human trafficking


Separating kids from parents

Trump's immigration policy of separating kids from parents has come under fire from evangelical "leaders" (e.g. Roger Olson, Russell Moore, Albert Mohler). A few quick observations:

i) It's not really Trump's policy. The difference is that he's actually enforcing preexisting immigration law–unlike the lawless Obama administration. 

ii) This is using kids as emotional blackmail to extort chain migration. I'm unsympathetic to cynical tactics masquerading as lofty idealism. But you always have dupes who are easily taken in by that ploy. 

iii) Given the phenomenon of Latin American child traffickers, how do we determine if the child is actually accompanied by a parent?

iv) This shouldn't be the responsibility of US taxpayers in the first place. It's not our duty to provide free accommodations for illegal immigrants. American wage-earners have no obligation to make the USA a haven for looters. 

America can't host all the poor, desperate people of the world. It would turn the USA into just another dysfunctional third world hellhole. It would destroy the very thing they come for. 

In general, those who pay into the system have the right to tap the system. It shouldn't be siphoned off by people who come here to get on the social services gravy train. 

iv) It is of course true that the rule of law isn't absolute. It's easy to cite examples of civil disobedience in Scripture.  

v) I'm sympathetic to some illegal immigrants who want to make a better life for their kids, but breaking the law is a gamble, and when you gamble, sometimes you lose the bet. If you cut into line, don't complain if the bouncer ejects you. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Weathercock apologetics

Recently I was reading two newer books on Catholicism, which I intend to comment on in the near future: Trent Horn: The Case for Catholicism and Thomas Joseph White, The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism

I was curious to sample cutting edge Catholic theology and apologetics. I think Horn is considered by some to be the best of the up-and-coming generation of Catholic apologists. His book has endorsements by fellow apologists.

White moves in a higher orbit. He has a fancier education. His book carries endorsements by Bishop Barron, Bishop Chaput, Ed Feser, and papal biographer George Weigel. 

In terms of the current crop, this seems to be as good as it gets. But more on that for later posts. 

For now I'd like to make a general observation. One reason (among many) that I'm not Catholic is that a 21C Catholic apologist has to be like a lawyer: prepared to argue both sides of the case. That's because the Roman church makes dramatic midcourse changes. 

When that happens, it nullifies the arguments for the status quo ante. A 19C Catholic apologist marshals arguments for what Catholicism represented in the 19C. But when the ground shifts in the 20-21C, that cancels out his arguments. A new set of arguments, contradicting the previous arguments, must be put forward to defend the latest "development" in Catholic theology.

To take a few examples, historically the Roman church supported capital punishment. But to my knowledge, John-Paul II initiated a sharp left turn. That's been continued by his successors. 

If you were a Catholic apologist c. 1970 or before, you'd dutifully marshall arguments in support of Rome's traditional position. But now we see the papacy pulling the rug out from under the status quo ante. So what's a Catholic apologist to do?

To take another example, traditionally, suicide was treated as a damnatory sin. According to the Baltimore Catechism: "It is a mortal sin to destroy one's own life or commit suicide, as this act is called, and persons who willfully and knowingly commit such an act die in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of Christian burial."

But the post-Vatican II Catechism of the Catholic Church introduces eventuating circumstances that mitigate the guilt of suicide. 

By the same token, the 1917 code of canon law forbad Catholic funerals for suicides. But that was reversed in 1983. 

Traditionally, suicides were denied burial in church graveyards. From what I've read, the rationale is that their presence defiles hallowed ground. By implication, it defiles the mortal remains of Catholics who were buried in good standing with the church. 

Once again, a loyal 19C Catholic apologist would vigorously defend the stern policy of Rome. But his justifications have been mooted.

If you were to ask a Catholic apologist ten years ago about the admissibility of divorced Catholics to communion, you'd get an unequivocal answer, along with an argument about how this was verboten as a matter of principle. But what's the answer today? 

The upshot is that a Catholic apologist can't trust his own arguments. He will give the reader reasons in defense of current Catholic teaching, but he can't have any real confident in his reasons since, when his denomination changes positions and policies, his reasons are defunct. Why should an evangelical reader have any more confidence in the supporting arguments a Catholic apologist provides than the apologist is in a position to abode in his own arguments? 

Like a lawyer, the arguments shift according to the needs of the client. If the client is innocent, his attorney uses one set of arguments, but if the client is guilty, his attorney uses a divergent set of arguments. A Catholic apologist must be ready to turn on a dime, ditching all his carefully-honed arguments and inventing new arguments to defend the latest swerve in Catholic theology. 

The last things

An interview with Christian philosopher Paul Helm about "the last things": death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

It looks like Helm's The Last Things is currently unavailable at all the other major online bookstores I'm familiar with (e.g. Amazon), but it can still be purchased from the Banner of Truth. It's the final book in a trilogy. I've read the other two books, The Beginnings and The Callings, and I would highly recommend them too.

As many already know, Paul Helm has a weblog here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

What About Violence in the Bible?


Apologetics glossary


The "Johannine Pentecost"

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22).

1. Lydia McGrew has been conducting a series on the historicity of John's Gospel:

2. I'd like to focus on one particular issue. Scholar routinely label Jn 20:19-22 the "Johannine Pentecost". The question is how the incident in Jn 20:19-22 relates to the account of Pentecost in Acts 2. Obviously, these two accounts don't bear much resemblance to each other. So the question is whether these are two actual, separate events that happened at different times, or whether the Johannine narrator took historical liberties to craft an incident that never actually happened, but is a theological equivalent to the Lukan Pentecost. 

3. There are two issues: how does this incident relate to the rest of John's Gospel, and how does it relate to Acts 2, if at all?

i) Beginning with the first question, is this an anomalous incident in John's Gospel? Commentators often draw attention to the divine creative/recreative breathing motif in Gen 2:7 (LXX) and Ezk 37:9 (LXX). Assuming that's right, an allusion to Jesus as the Creator God in Jn 20:22 forms an inclusio, which circles back to the Prologue (Jn 1:1-4).

Likewise, an allusion to Ezekiel is consistent with other such allusions. For instance, commentators often think Ezk 36:25-27 supplies the primary background for Jn 3:5–as well as Ezk 34:15-16,23 for Jn 10. Likewise, Jesus as the new temple (Jn 2:19-22) may evoke Ezk 40-48. 

ii) In addition, this incident reconnects with the promise of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever (Jn 14:16).

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name... (Jn 14:26).

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (Jn 15:26).

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (Jn 16:7).

The Spirit comes from the Father through the Son. The Son mediates the Spirit, because the Spirit is sent in Jesus name, at the Son's behest. 

So the action in Jn 20:22 is another way of indicating that Jesus is the source of the Spirit (economically speaking). The Spirit cannot be received apart from the Son. One must go through the Son to receive the Spirit. The Spirit is indirectly from the Father, and directly from the Son. The Son will send the Spirit in his place to take his place. 

That the Father sends the Spirit demonstrates the authority of the Father. That the Father defers to the Son demonstrates the authority of the Son.

iii) The difference between the promise in the Upper Room and the post-Resurrection gesture is the difference between saying and showing. In the Upper Room, Jesus says what will happen. After the Resurrection, Jesus illustrates what will happen. 

That's a good communication style. Say something, then give a graphic sign or example of what you mean. Verbal and nonverbal communication reinforce each other.

iv) On this analysis, Jn 20:19-23 is firmly integrated into the overall Johannine narrative. There's no reason to think it didn't happen, as described–unless you regard the genre of John's Gospel as pious fiction. 

v) And how does that relate to Acts 2? I view the action in Jn 20:22 is an enacted parable. A symbolic, proleptic action. I tend to doubt they received the Spirit at that moment. I think there's likely a suspenseful, delayed effect. 

vi) There's some interplay between the few and the many in Acts 2. The Spirit falls upon the Eleven. However, the Eleven are a kind of synecdoche inasmuch as the gift of the Spirit is not confined to the Eleven. Rather, that's common property of converts. That's already clear on the same occasion, in Peter's sermon (Acts 2:16-18,38-39). And that's illustrated throughout the Book of Acts. 

vii) So there's no inconsistency between these two accounts. There's not even a prima facie point of tension. 

You distinguish "gutter humor" by what faculty?

Not unlike Emperor Palpatine, I continue to follow the debate between Dr. David Wood and Dr. James White (and others) with great interest:

  1. I'm afraid I'm still not clear what fundamental criterion (or criteria) Dr. White is using to adjudicate what constitutes unethical or illicit "gutter humor"?

    It does not appear to be the Bible, or at least it has not been satisfactorily established. Dr. White claims he has evaluated the relevant Scriptural passages according to "the fundamental rules of exegesis and hermeneutics", while Dr. Wood claims: "Nonsense. You apply scriptures in ways that the Apostles could never have meant them (unless they were utter hypocrites), all to justify your personal preferences and feelings. Awful exegesis. Requires careful refutation." Likewise, it's been pointed out that the Bible itself does seem to use both gutter humor as well as mockery (e.g. Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a paradigm case to consider in more detail than Dr. White appears to have considered it; my own argument from analogy about watching the Islamicize Me videos and God revealing to biblical prophets dreams and visions arguably containing "crude" content). Both Dr. White and Dr. Wood believe they're behaving consistently with Scripture and argue as much. (It sounds like Dr. Wood may have a more detailed argument from Scripture in the works too.)

    So I would have to (continue to) agree with Dr. Wood. I don't see how Dr. White has established his argument that the Islamicize Me videos are illicit "gutter humor" from Scripture or, indeed, from anything else save for his personal offense at or distaste for the Islamicize Me videos.

  2. Also, I don't think it's fair to make "gutter humor" and "mockery" equivalent to one another which is what it reasonably seems Dr. White meant when he typed "gutter humor/mockery". It's the very point of dispute whether mockery is tantamount to gutter humor. The fact that gutter humor and mockery are equivalent must first be established; it can't simply be assumed to be the case by Dr. White.
  3. What's more, even if Dr. White can establish mockery is equivalent to gutter humor, and that the Islamicize Me videos' mockery of Islam or Muhammad is equivalent to gutter humor, that still does not get us to the conclusion that therefore "gutter humor/mockery" is biblically unethical or illicit. But this is the very conclusion Dr. White needs to arrive at if he is to justifiably condemn Dr. Wood for the Islamicize Me videos, in light of Dr. White's condemnations of Dr. Wood from Scripture.
  4. All this correspondingly brings to my mind the classic debate between the Catholic philosopher Frederick Copleston (C) and the atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell (R):

    R: You see, I feel that some things are good and that other things are bad. I love the things that are good, that I think are good, and I hate the things that I think are bad. I don't say that these things are good because they participate in the Divine goodness.

    C: Yes, but what's your justification for distinguishing between good and bad or how do you view the distinction between them?

    R: I don't have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow. What is my justification for distinguishing between blue and yellow? I can see they are different.

    C: Well, that is an excellent justification, I agree. You distinguish blue and yellow by seeing them, so you distinguish good and bad by what faculty?

    R: By my feelings.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Got milk?

This is a brief sequel to my earlier post:

This verse is often quoted out of context:

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Heb 13:17).

However, the author who wrote that is the very same author who wrote this:

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:11-14).

i) So the role of elders isn't to keep laymen in a perpetual state of subservience. Rather, their duty is to teach laymen to become teachers. Teachers teaching the next generation of teachers. 

Of course, that doesn't mean every laymen will become an elder. Yet laymen supply the recruiting pool for elders. Elders are supposed to be grooming their successors. Teaching the next generation. Educating "students", some of whom will replace their teachers. 

Presumably, that's the mentoring relationship between the former leadership in v7 and the current leadership in v17. Laymen are supposed to grow in theological understanding and spiritual maturity. Not remain in a state of arrested development. 

The author compares laymen who haven't made the transition to overgrown children who haven't been weaned. That's quite a slap in the face. The image isn't drinking a glass of milk. Rather, in ancient culture, it conjures the image of adult men who are still sucking a wet nurse or their mother! 

Wrapping Up A Few Things

Unless Dr. White gives some kind of response in the future or something unusual pops up in any other context, this is probably going to be my last post on the White v. Wood controversy.  Therefore, I want to just wrap a few things up.

In my first post, an eternity and a half ago, I spent a deal of time discussing how the Bible speaks a great deal via stories.  There’s still didactic teaching all throughout, but I would estimate that more than half the Bible is in story format.  As I’ve been musing things over, I think that this distinction—the distinction between didactic and story-telling—might be driving quite a bit of the confusion from White and those who support him here.

For example, the one episode that White has said he might show others—the only episode he has given any bit of praise toward at all—is the adoption episode, and even then White’s complaint is that it doesn’t go far enough because it relies on “emotion” instead of teaching the Gospel.  You know what other story I think doesn’t go far enough?  The book of Esther.  It doesn’t even mention God anywhere in the text.  Imagine how much better Ester would have been if just once the author had said that Yahweh was behind the events, protecting His people!  Perhaps God should have talked to me before He inspired that one….

This issue bugs me a great deal in part because I love to write my own stories.  And because of that, I’ve had to deal with many of these topics.  If you’re representing a real story, how realistic do you make it?  When an atheist gets out of bed in the middle of the night to go use the bathroom, if he trips over his cat and smacks his face against the coffee table, he’s not going to say, “Drat, that wasn’t very fun.”  But by the same token, do you really want to write down what he would have screamed out?

When you are writing a story, you have to take into account the purpose of the story.  Your story cannot be everything for everyone—it’s literally impossible.  So you have to have your focus, pick your target audience, and go for it.  Part of why so much horrible fiction is out there is because some writers try to be everything to everyone at the same time, and the story suffers because of it.

But then you have Christians who insert themselves into the fictional works of other Christians.  (And it’s amazing how many people are making the mistake with the video series from Wood, in that they don’t even realize that there are fictional characters involved.  The videos are not about David, Jon, and Vocab—they are about Dennis, Jamar, and Giovanni, three fictional characters played by David, Jon, and Vocab.)

Back to my point: there are Christians who do not understand how stories work, but who demand that every story be turned into some kind of specific Gospel message that they would approve of.  These people are the reason so few Christian productions make it through Hollywood.  The story itself is sacrificed for the sake of the propaganda.  You don’t like it when non-Christians do it; why do you think they’d watch it when you do it?  On the other hand, when you do a well-written story, you can get people to think about and discuss those Christian themes because the message is attached to something that works as a story first.

Now, you don’t have to do that if your videos are didactic.  Those are teaching videos.  Everyone knows what they are getting into with those types of videos.  But if you’re doing a story, like Wood was doing, then you have to get the story first, to get the plot in sync with the message you are conveying, and not to sacrifice the story for the sake of the message.  (If you’re doing that, just do a didactic video since story is clearly not for you.)  For those who are concerned about the propriety of producing something with a story-emphasis, message-second focus, I would point out once again that God inspired the book of Esther without once having His Name mentioned in the text...

But this does lead me to the next point.  I’ve read some tweets and comments on YouTube where people have said they wouldn’t use the videos to evangelize their Muslim neighbors.  To that I say: “WHAT?!”  It’s a complete fallacy that you should be using any video to evangelize at all.  Telling people, “Go watch this video series” is not evangelism.  Do you really think if you’re standing before the throne of God and He asks, “In what way did you observe the Great Commission?” that you will satisfy Him by saying, “Well, I sent some people to YouTube to watch a James White video”?

Evangelism was designed to be interpersonal and relational.  Yes, sometimes mass appeals work.  Some people actually did become saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, for instance.  But by and large, the primary method of evangelism is when people talk to other people about the Gospel.  You have to do so if you’re going to be able to address where people are.  Just throwing out a cookie-cutter video isn’t going to address the specific questions and issues that specific people have.

Does this mean that I think videos are worthless?  Clearly not, or I would not have spent time to defend Wood’s video.  Rather, videos need to be used intentionally for specific reasons—just like books, and even passages from the Bible itself.  For instance, if someone asks you to show how Jesus was divine, would you tell him to read Judges?  If they were confused about the Trinity, would you have them read about the Tower of Babel?  No, you would address the specific concerns they have and send them to those particular sections.  And in doing so, you are not belittling the rest of Scripture or considering it less important or worthless.

In the same way, videos are just tools that can assist you in evangelism but do not take the place of evangelism.  And if you’re going to use these tools for evangelism, you need to know if it’s the appropriate tool to use at the appropriate time.  Your friendly Muslim neighbor who’s grown up in the West might benefit by watching James White tackle an issue with gentleness and respect, while his seventeen-year-old son who is dabbling in ISIS chatrooms and has heard an imam say the very things that Wood lampoons might completely ignore White but take notice because of Wood’s presentation.  People are not all the same, and when you evangelize you have to know which method will work with each person.

How do you do that?  By listening to the Spirit, ultimately.  There is a time to destroy and a time to build, and if you’re in a genuine relational ministry with your Muslim friends and spending time with God in prayer, in His word, and in His Church, He will lead you to when you destroy the false worldview of your friend and when you build up the truth of Christ.

So you do not need David Wood’s videos to do everything for you, to evangelize on your behalf.   No, you need to evangelize and Wood is just providing a tool that fits the scenario that is needed when you run into the hardened Muslims who need their worldview knocked down a peg or two.  If you don’t need those videos when you’re witnessing to someone, guess what?  You don’t need to send anyone to them!  You use the tools you need at the time you need them, and only a fool would get upset that a circular saw isn’t a cement mixer.

Hmm.  Maybe someone should have told Paul to write a metaphor like that.  But I guess he wouldn’t have had power tools.  Maybe he could have used, I don’t know, body parts or something.