Saturday, May 25, 2019

Love & marriage

An evangelical Christian publicly solicits advice about whether he should break off his engagement to a woman who believes abortion and homosexuality are morally licit. My response, though I'm sure others can do better:

1. I'm assuming you and others (e.g. friends, family, pastors) have already attempted to reason with her, but she still won't change her mind. If you haven't, of course, then this is something you should try to do if you wish to salvage the relationship. Try to graciously win her over to the truth. If you have tried, time and time again, but she remains unconvinced, then what more can you do? You can't reason with her if she doesn't wish to listen to reason.

2. Romantic love that motivates people toward marriage is wonderful. However, a good marriage can't be built solely out of romantic love. If romantic love is all there is, a marriage simply won't last. It'll be like fireworks fizzling out after all the champagne, toasts, kisses, and celebrations are finished. After the honeymoon period, there needs to be something that will give a marriage staying power. Staying power to last a lifetime. In short, what's most needed is fundamentally shared beliefs and values about the most important things in life. And nothing is more important in life than God. The God of the Bible, who is the one, true, and living God.

3. There are central issues and peripheral issues in Christianity. There are issues which Christians can agree to disagree on and issues which they can't or else it'd undermine what it means to be a Christian. Abortion and homosexuality are central issues.

a. Abortion is, at heart, about life, about neighbor-love, about loving and protecting life in the weakest and most vulnerable, i.e., babies. This reflects the character of the God of the Bible who protects the helpless, the weak, and so on. If she's willing to put her "right to choose" over and against the baby's "right to live", to prioritize personal autonomy over what's moral, then is that the kind of person you want to be your wife and the mother of your children? For example, wouldn't you be concerned she might abort your child behind your back if she decides it's inconvenient for her?

(By the way, I can cite medical and scientific literature demonstrating a zygote-embryo-fetus is a human life. All these terms are different stages of development but the same baby. It's like saying newborn, infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult, elderly. Just different terms for different stages in life but the same human being.)

b. As for homosexuality, as well as transgenderism and other related issues, the problem is this dives deeply into what it means to be human. To be male and female. To have been created in the image of God.

That's something secular society is confused about because they don't really believe in God. Of course, if God doesn't exist, then there's no objective universal foundation for "being" a human being. Not that I can see. If God doesn't exist, or at least if God's thoughts don't matter, then humans don't have a fixed fundamental nature of what it means to be a human being. We can decide for ourselves who or what it means to be human if we don't need to hear from God what it means to be human.

Hence, in essence, almost anything goes. You're a man who wants to have sex with other men? You're a woman who wants to have sex with other women? You're a man, but you want to be a woman? You're a woman, but you want to be a man? No problem, do whatever makes you happy. That's the basic mantra in secular society.

However, one need only look at the lives of homosexuals who have had plenty of sex with other homosexuals. Not to mention the lives of transgendered men and women who have become what they always wanted. Sure, like everyone, they put on a happy front, but their lives are often hollow and miserable on closer inspection.

And read what Rob Gagnon, Rosaria Butterfield, Vaughan Roberts, Christopher Yuan, and Jackie Hill-Perry have to say about homosexuality. Some of them were former homosexuals who became Christians.

4. You're already doubting yourself, asking if you're a "silly fundamentalist", and so on. As such, it seems to me if you marry her, then it's far more likely she'll have a liberalizing effect on your beliefs and values than the other way around. It's a story I've seen more than once with my own eyes. A husband gradually accommodates to his wife. He believes whatever she wants him to believe. He does whatever she wants him to do. He lets her be the boss. He thinks she'll be pleased. However, in the end, how much does she really respect him for believing or doing whatever she thinks best?

5. By contrast, if you do break off the engagement, it might make her see that you really do have beliefs and values you're willing to stand up for, even at great personal cost to you. It shows her, as heart-breaking as this would be for you and her, and as much as you love her, that you have a higher love and duty to God. This may or may not make her reconsider her own beliefs. That's not something you can or should count on. However, she won't be able to disrespect you for living up to your beliefs and values. If anything, it'll likely be the opposite: she may be sad, angry, upset, or worse, but she'll have good reason to respect you.

The twilight of Jordan Peterson

I want to piggyback on a comment from redditor HillGrassBlueBilly:

I recently watched a dialogue between Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager. In the opening of the discussion, Dennis Prager start’s by expressing a high commendation for Jordan that he (Dennis) has an innate ability at recognising “Goodness” in people and regards Jordan as such. Jordan responds by disapproving the well-meaning compliment and instead says that it’s not that he’s inherently good, rather he recognises in himself the capacity for evil and how terrible he could be. Seeing and avoiding the pathway to the dark places people can go, is what motivates him to do “Good” rather than it being inherency.

This reminds me of what C.S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity regarding the increased awareness of all the evil in you.

"When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.

A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.

This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them, you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk.

Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either."

I’m not suggesting Jordan is a Christian (Although if I had to place a bet I’d say he’s bordering on conversion) but the more I walk with God, the more I also recognise just how utterly evil we humans are or capable of. This can often be looked at as overly cynical as it has been suggested to me before, but there would have been a time when I myself would regard Romans 3:10-12 as pessimistic.

I would not say my view on how absolutely reprehensible we are, is solely down to realizing how evil we are/could be (I’ve seen a fair share of evil), rather it concurs with a new perspective and appreciation for the Holiness of God and His goodness which is beyond comprehension. It’s this revelation of His goodness that becomes one of the cornerstones in my seeking for goodness.

1. Here is the discussion between Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager. I haven't watched it. I'll simply go off of the comments above.

2. On the one hand, that's good Jordan Peterson recognizes the evil within him. So, with respect to the evil within, sure, I suppose one could say he is "not far from the kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34).

3. On the other hand, I think the problem is Peterson teeters back and forth between this (biblical) recognition of our bent, twisted, and evil nature and the nihilistic moral abyss into which he fears his soul could plunge at any moment. I think Peterson is attempting to "rage, rage against the dying of the light", to choose goodness and light in the face of the torrent of moral darkness rising up and threatening to flood him and drown him beneath its heavy waves. He's like a Viking heroically facing down Ragnarök, though the twilight of the gods is upon him.

In short, I think Peterson echoes within his own soul: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Peterson sits on a knife's edge, knowing he must resist so he doesn't become a monster or be pulled into the abyss, but likewise suspecting resistance may be ultimately futile. Fearing that, at any moment, the monster could emerge or the abyss suck him down, down into its depths, forever lost.

4. My hope is Peterson realizes if nihilism is true - such as (if I'm not mistaken) the nihilism of Peterson's mentors across time and space like Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche - then there are fundamentally speaking no objective moral values let alone duties or obligations. If there are no objective moral values or duties, then Ragnarök is inevitable. The death of all must come. If nihilism is true, then life is absurdity.

As Shakespeare puts into the mouth of his guilt-ridden MacBeth upon hearing about the death of his queen:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

5. However, if Peterson doesn't wish to succumb to the perpetual night and the frozen waste land, wherein lie absurdity and madness, then his only real or viable option is to embrace the faith of his father and mother: the God of the Bible, whom alone imbues life with ultimate value, meaning, and purpose. Why is Christianity the only real or viable option? I'd recommend a book like James Anderson's Why Should I Believe Christianity? for the case.

God of life and truth

The ultimate reality of which Moses was the shadow, the archetype of which Moses was the ectype, now appeared. The true light (John 1:9), the true grace were now manifested.’ It is in this sense that we are to understand our Lord when he said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’...He is the God of truth and all truth derives its sanctity from him. This is why all untruth or falsehood is wrong; it is a contradiction of that which God is... The necessity of truthfulness in us rests upon God’s truthfulness. As we are to be holy because God is holy, so we are to be truthful because God is truthful. The glory of God is that he is the God of truth; the glory of man is that he is the image of God and therefore ‘of the truth’ (cf John 18:37). It is not without significance that the arch-enemy of God and his kingdom is the father of lies; ‘he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, because he is a liar and the father of it’ (John 8:44).

There are some problem with this inference:

i) Not only is God the exemplar of truth, but as Murray mentions, the exemplar of life. Conversely, Satan is not only the archetypal liar, but the archetypal murderer. 

Likewise, humans are life-givers, through the power of procreation. In that respect, we emulate God–at a finite, derivative level. 

But where does our duty lie if we can save innocent life through an altruistic falsehood? Which of God's exemplary attributes provides moral guidance in that situation: the God of life or the God of truth? Is our primary obligation in that situation to safeguard truth or to safeguard life? Does the preservation of truth take precedence over the preservation of life? So Murray is arbitrarily selective in his appeal to God's nature. 

ii) I don't think we can automatically extrapolate from what's right for God to what's right for us. God is not exposed to the vulnerabilities that lead human agents to lie, to get out of the situation. Of course, that doesn't justify lying in general. But we can find ourselves in dangerous or unjust situations through no fault of our own, where a lie may be the only escape. God is never in that desperate position or predicament. So it's not analogous. God is not in every respect our role model. In some respects he's a radically different kind of being, with some unique prerogatives. 

Why didn't God create us in heaven?

Some people ask why God didn't begin at the end. Begin with the goal. The question is ambiguous.

1. Technically, "heaven" is the intermediate state, a disembodied, postmortem state between death and the general resurrection. So is the question why didn't God create us after we died? But of course, God can't create us after we die, inasmuch as we must already exist in order to die.

2. Is the question why didn't God created us in a disembodied state? But that's not an ideal condition. There are many benefits to embodied experience. 

In that respect, the question suffers from popular confusion by theologically illiterate people who think heaven is the ultimate goal of human existence. You die, go to heaven, and live there forever. But that's not Christian eschatology. 

3. Is "heaven" being used as a synonym for the final (earthly) state, i.e. the new Eden/new Jerusalem? But God already created Adam and Eve in an Edenic earthly state. They fell.

4. Perhaps the question is why didn't God create us perfect? Skip the journey and cut straight to the destination. 

i) If so, that assumes the process is dispensable. And the end-result is achievable without experience. But is that realistic? Take forgiveness. You can't experience forgiveness without prior wrongdoing. The sense of guilt, gratitude, and relief. So that condition can't be directly created. It's a nested effect, internally related to something prior. An intervening history is necessary prerequisite. 

ii) In addition, creating everyone sinless and impeccable would preempt the lives of many people whose existence is contingent on a fallen world. They are products of chains of events involving sinful agents. 

The privilege paradigm

The status of white privilege is a big issue in Democrat politics. But before we can analyze white privilege (assuming that's a meaningful category), we need to grasp the concept of privilege in general. Let's consider a few examples of what might constitute people from a privileged background. Terence Tao is on the short list of greatest living mathematicians. His mother received a first-class honors degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Hong Kong. Actress Anjelica Huston is the daughter of renowned American director John Huston. Harpsichordist Igor Kipnis was the son of renowned opera basso Alexander Kipnis. The father of mathematical physicist Roger Penrose was a geneticist and Fellow of the Royal Society. Ed Witten was the son a theoretical physicist.

What these example have in common is how the background of these individuals contributed to their success in their chosen field. It's not coincidental that they had that kind of background. Their background proved to be advantageous in their career choice. In that respect we might say they were privileged kids.

Suppose we compare that to a cowboy in Montana. Let's say he grew up on a ranch, adjacent to a small town. He was cut off from "civilization" growing up. So it might well be said that he's underprivileged. He never had the advantages enjoyed by the individuals I just mentioned.

But here's where the definition of privilege becomes relative or circular. The privilege paradigm is goal-oriented. It reasons back from success in a particular field to the background of the individual, which in some cases gave them an unearned competitive advantage.

So our cowboy is underprivileged, at a disadvantage, provided that his dream is to become a movie star, physicist, mathematician, or classical musician. Suppose, though, that was never his ambition in life. He hates big cities. He loves horseback riding. Loves the out of doors. He drinks in natural beauty. Rivers. Fields and streams. The Grant Tetons. The starry night, undiminished by light pollution from the big city. He relishes the freedom to make his own schedule, rather than punching a clock.

So in that respect we can reverse the comparative advantages. In relation to what he cares about, what he finds fulfilling, he has a privileged background in contrast to Kipnis, Penrose, Witten, Huston, and Tao, who–by comparison–are underprivileged. If the aim is to enjoy the lifestyle of a Montana cowboy, then their background puts them at a nearly insurmountable disadvantage, by prejudicing them against ever considering that alternative.

Put another way, your background often has a conditioning effect, not only on what you're likely to succeed at, but on what you wish to succeed at. They'd have to overcome their background to appreciate ranching in Montana. And they wouldn't have any skills, honed from childhood, suiting them to that lifestyle.

It's striking how much of the American mythos is bound up with what progressive academics would regard as an underprivileged background. Take Mark Twain's valorization of his childhood as a country boy. Nostalgic memories of summers at his uncle's farm. Life on the Mississippi. Exploring the local caves. Or consider the Western in American mythos. Admittedly, that's often romanticized. 

My father grew up in small-town Yakima, in the 20s-30s. He was dying to escape that and make it to "civilization" in Seattle. Because we had relatives in E. Washington, we made frequent trips there. It was a nice change of pace. Stretches of E. Washington are bleak and barren, but it also has some majestic landscape, like the Columbia river gorge. Spokane is a handsome town. 

I was once talking to a cousin who grew up in E. Washington. He waxed wistful about hunting and horseback riding. A different lifestyle. But for him, that was good.

I didn't grow up in Seattle, and I dislike the urban lifestyle. On the other hand, some folks revel in the urban lifestyle. So there's no one-size-fits-all ideal. "Privilege" is person-variable. 

So the privilege paradigm is analogous to the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, where you begin with the outcome, where the dart lands, then draw a circle around the dart, exclaiming that it retroactively hit the bullseye. By the same token, the privilege paradigm begins with a hypothetical ideal outcome, then reasons back to an advantageous or disadvantageous initial conditions, where achieving or missing the outcome is impeded or facilitated by one's background. That, however, typically trades on a provincial and elitist preconception of what is best in life. If, to get the best out of life, it's be better to be a movie star or physicist than a cowboy, then a boy with a rural background is underprivileged. But the assignment of what's ideal is arbitrary. It tacitly mirrors the values of academics who formulate the privilege paradigm.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Men should shut up–unless we need their votes

Delphinid existentialism

French existentialist dolphins are prone to ennui. They realize that in a godless ocean they have no ultimate porpoise in life. So they drown their anomie by swimming in chablis. 

Out with the old and in with the new

The Failure of Biblical Unitarianism: Part 1 - History

Walking into a self-induced ambush


Exorcists are associated with expelling demons from the possessed. A related, but neglected category, is ghost-layers. Unlike an exorcist, a ghost-layer is associated expelling ghosts or poltergeists from a haunted house. Traditionally, exorcists are associated with Roman Catholic priests while ghost-layers are associated with Anglican country parsons. My immediate point is not to comment on the merits of ghost-laying, but draw attention to a neglected designation and curiosity of church history. 

A Reassessment Of The Warrens And Enfield

Lorraine Warren's death last month has been getting a lot of media attention. The stories I've seen often mention the Conjuring series and the movies associated with it, including The Conjuring 2 in particular, and the Warrens' involvement in the Enfield Poltergeist. Given the success of the Conjuring series and affiliated movies (another one's coming out next month), we'll probably be hearing a lot about the Warrens over the next several years. And they'll be discussed for many years to come for other reasons. I don't know much about the other paranormal cases they've been involved with, but I do know a lot about Enfield. I recently finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes, and some of those tapes include discussions with or about the Warrens. To my knowledge, much of the material on those tapes has never been discussed publicly, and some of it is highly significant. Since the Warrens are getting so much attention, this is a good time to address those tapes.

Some of the coverage of Lorraine's death has portrayed her positively. See, for example, this article by the Horror News Network that includes a lot of references to her kindness, generosity, and such. By contrast, a Hollywood Reporter article in December of 2017 noted:

Dr. McGrew on extraordinary claims

Muslim bus drivers refuse to let guide dogs on board

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The modern-day imperial cult

I've been getting some inquiries about Gene Bridges. I believe that's prompted by James White's 5/21 DL riposte. A few preliminaries before I talk specifics:

i) I don't have the original statement by Gene. A friend of mine transcribed what White read on the DL. So I'm going to be commenting on (most of) the excerpts from the DL. Some of Gene's remarks seem to be directed at White in particular. I don't know the original context. I'm guessing that he's miffed by White's role in The Statement on the Gospel and Social Justice–among other things. 

ii) Gene used to be a guest blogger at Triablogue. His posts are still up. He stopped posting 10 years ago. He wasn't asked to leave. He just dropped out, of his own accord, for whatever reason. I never asked. Somewhat later, for reasons I won't discuss, his connections with Triablogue were formally severed. That was a team decision. 

iii) If memory serves, Gene used to work at a gay health hotline. If so, I think his background in the gay community is skewering his analysis of the culture wars.

Is protecting babies unchristian?

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made the claim Thursday that the slew of anti-abortion laws passing multiple states are “against Christian faith.”

“If you are a person of the Christian faith, one of the tenants [sic] of our faith is free will,” Ms. Gillibrand told reporters following a discussion with lawmakers, physicians and abortion rights activists at the Georgia state house, CBS News reported.

“One of the tenants [sic] of our democracy is that we have a separation of church and state, and under no circumstances are we supposed to be imposing our faith on other people,” the New York senator said. “And I think this is an example of that effort.”

Ms. Gillibrand made the trip to Georgia after the state last week banned abortions after about six weeks or when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio have recently passed similar measures. In Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill yet, outlawing virtually all abortions in the state, including in cases of rape and incest.

i) Along with presidential hopeful Pete Buttboy, this is another example of a Democrat candidate attempting to co-opt Christianity. To replace it with something contrary to Christianity, but act like that's the real Christianity. 

ii) Christianity is not equivalent to freewill theism. That's a tradition within historical theology. But historical theology includes predestinarian traditions. 

iii) I doubt she has a philosophically informed concept of freewill, but she sets it in contrast to "imposing" one's views on others. Since, however, she's not an anarchist, her position is nonsense. She's a lawmaker. She believes in passing laws that tell people what they can and cannot do. Laws that impede their freedom. That's what most laws do, after all. Most laws mandate or forbid various behavior. Most laws curtail liberty. 

iv) Separation of church and state is not a tenet of "our democracy". The first amendment prohibits the federal gov't from establishing a national church. That's it.

v) But suppose, for argument's sake, that separation of church and state was a tenant of our democracy. That would mean local, state, and federal gov't must never mandate or forbid conduct that violates an individual's religious faith. Yet she supports the Equality Act, which is a massive gov't intrusion into the religious freedom of Americans. 

vi) She commits the genetic fallacy. The relevant consideration is not whether an idea is religious or secular, but whether it's good or bad, true or false. Unless she takes the position that religious values are automatically wrong, there's no reason why religious values shouldn't figure in law and public policy so long as they are good.

vii) We have a system based on popular sovereignty. If a majority of voters wants law and public policy to exemplify Christian social ethics, they have the Constitutional right to elect officials who will enact such policies. 

viii) Naturalism is unable to justify moral realism. So unless laws are just an exercise of arbitrary power, they must have theological underpinnings. 

The Muslim Conundrum

Wesley Huff
Ramadan is in full swing this month and with it continue my conversations with Muslims. Over the last month I have been communicating with a number of Muslims about various subjects relating to the interaction of Christianity and Islam. In the course of these correspondences we have gotten on the topic of the authenticity of the Bible often. The following is what I routinely present to Muslims as an argument commonly referred to as the Qur'anic Conundrum:
1. The Qur'an routinely refers to the "previous Scriptures," identified as the "Torah" (توراة‎ - Tawrat, mentioned 18 times) and the "Gospel" (إنجيل - Injil, mentioned 12 times). These books are prefaced with the descriptors of being "sent down by God," as seen in places like Surah Ali 'Imran 3:3 and urah Al Ma'iadh 5:68: :

"He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel;"

"Say, "O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord." And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. So do not grieve over the disbelieving people."

2. Muhammad is told by Allah in Surah Yunas 10:94, that if he has doubt he should look to the Jews and the Christians because they have the previous Scriptures:

"So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters."

3. In context to mentioning the previous Scriptures the Qur'an declares that Allah's words cannot be changed in Surah Al-An'am 6:114-115:

"[Say], "Then is it other than Allah I should seek as judge while it is He who has revealed to you the Book explained in detail?" And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture know that it is sent down from your Lord in truth, so never be among the doubters. And the word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can alter His words, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing."

4. Christians in Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:46-47 are told to judge by the Gospel and if they do not do so they are "defiantly disobedient":

“And we sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.

And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.”

Conclusion: If the previous Scriptures sit in a chain of succession (as is alluded to by verses like 4:46) then it makes logical sense that you cannot remove one of the links of the chain without compromising the others. If indeed the Torah and the Gospel are corrupt, as modern day Muslims would have us believe, then the author of the Qur'an seems to have no knowledge of it. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary that the author of the Qur'an actually articulates their trustworthiness and authenticity as God's word.

Similarly, if the Gospel and Torah are God's word and no one can change God's word then how have these previous Scriptures become corrupted? Did Allah not know they would be corrupted - in which case he is not all-knowing? Could he not stop individuals from doing so - in which case he is not all powerful? Or is what we have in Surah 6:115 incorrect, in which case the Qur'an itself has been compromised?

In conjunction with accusations of change, why would Muhammad be encouraged to talk to a people who had corrupt Scriptures in 10:94? Would this not only confuse Muhammad as there are clear teachings being revealed to him for the Qur'an that inherently contradict what is in the Torah and Gospel?

We know exactly what "the Torah" and "the Gospel(s)" looked like during the late 5th and early 6th centuries of Muhammad's lifetime. We even have manuscripts from the areas near Syria and the Arabian peninsula from this specific time period. They are virtually identical to the modern Gospels and Torahs we have in translation today. Thus, if these commands had any application for their original audience then what was "the Gospel" and "the Torah" being discussed in Surah 10:94? If we know what these documents looked like in the time period that these verses have application then the evidence shows no serious difference from what we have today.

Finally, why would Allah tell Christians to judge by the Gospel if it had been corrupted? If the Torah and Gospel the Qur'an is continually talking about are not the Torah and Gospel(s) we have today then how is the eternal revelation of the Qur'an to speak to modern day Christians? Why bother making the statement that Christians are to "judge by what Allah has revealed therein" lest they be "the defiantly disobedient?" Why not simply tell the Christians outright that these former revelations were corrupt and to get rid of them in place of the more perfect Qur'an?

If I take the Qur'an at its word as a "person of the Gospel" and I judge the Qur'an by the Gospel that has been revealed to me, in accordance with the command in Surah 5:47, I find it wanting. I see no interaction with any of the discussions taking pace in the Gospel nor any indication regarding knowledge of what Jesus is recorded saying there. In fact, what I do see are continual contradictions and misunderstandings regarding what the Gospel says and teaches and therefore, if the Qur'an is true and I obey its command to me then I have to conclude that it is false.

At the door step of JW

NPR propaganda glossary

Is preaching an exercise of authority?

i) One complementarian or patriarchal argument I sometimes run across is that women shouldn't preach in church because preaching is an exercise of authority, in which case female preachers are exercising authority over men. But that's a very strained argument. In what respect am I putting myself under the authority of the preacher by my physical presence and merely hearing the sermon? I've heard thousands of sermons. When I sit in church and hear the sermon, sometimes I agree, sometimes disagree, sometimes agree in part and disagree in part. In what respect did I put myself under the authority of the preacher? How is he exercising authority over me? 

ii) One problem is the definition of authority. It reapplies to prooftexts (e.g. 1 Tim 2:12) a diluted concept of authority which is not, insofar as I can tell, how the concept was understood in the ancient world–where the concept of authority was more coercive. Take the authority of kings, slave masters, commanding officers. Or the authority of a Roman father over his family. The power to impose your will on someone else. 

ii) Suppose we define authority as obligating belief and/or action. But surely the mere act of preaching doesn't obligate belief and/or action. The preaching of John Spong, Benny Hinn, Jeremiah Wright, or Pope Francis isn't authoritative. 

iii) We could say a sermon is authoritative insofar as it is true. But that wouldn't single out male preachers.

iv) Here's a more principled argument:

There are natural stereotypical physical and psychological differences between men and women. These are normative differences because they exist by divine design. As Jordan Peterson puts it, "Men are less agreeable (more competitive, harsher, tough-minded, skeptical, unsympathetic, critically-minded, independent, stubborn)"

As a result, women are less naturally suited to be doctrinal guardians. They are generally less interested in doctrinal disputes. Less likely to get into theological fights. Less likely to enforce standards of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 

That's why God reserved eldership for men. It's hard enough to find faithful men who hold the line, and much harder to find women who do that. Women make an indispensable contribution to the life of the church, but when feminine values dominate the direction of the church, there's a loss of fidelity to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. There are exceptions, but a general policy shouldn't be based on exceptional situations or individuals–although it can make allowance for exceptional situations and individuals. The argument could be fleshed out, but it lays a deeper foundation than ad hoc arguments about preaching as a male domain because preaching is allegedly an exercise of authority.

A progressive against abortion

A progressive supports Trump

Dude looks and sounds like a hipster Jesus, but he makes a reasonable case for Trump! Granted, he made this case in mid-2017, but at least from what I can tell he hasn't significantly changed his mind about Trump.

We have a moral right to own guns

Hsiao, Timothy. (Oct 31, 2018). "Natural Rights, Self-Defense, and the Right to Own Firearms". Public Discourse: The Journal of the Witherspoon Institute.

Not gay enough

Evidently, presidential hopeful Pete Buttboy isn't gay enough:

Poor guy–there's no niche for gay white boys in identity politics.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Babies are "parasites"

Robert P. George comments:

Scholars of the history of genocides observe that people who want to kill other people invariably develop and deploy forms of rhetoric designed to dehumanize the victims. A well-known example is the Nazis referring to the Jews as "vermin." In the debate over abortion, a similar rhetoric is deployed to dehumanize unborn children. Abortion advocates, such as those pictured here (with big smiles on their faces), label them "parasites." To justify killing them, they suggest that they are the moral equivalent of lice or leeches or tapeworms.

Black, white, and other

Mikel Del Rosario
Sure. Well, this is an area where I feel I could grow the most in terms of the things that we discuss at the Center because I was born in the United States but I grew up in the Philippines, so I’m Filipino American but grew up in the Philippines as a missionary kid. My parents were with Campus Crusade for a while, and really especially in the South, the conversation between the African American community and the Anglo community is something that I felt that, one, I didn’t really understand as much, and then secondly, I’m not entirely sure how I fit in to that conversation, and so is it something where I just help facilitate or do I stand back and watch? Is there something I can do to speak into that and help people with reconciliation or whatever?

So that was interesting for me to be part of that conversation with a little bit of an outside, but also now living here in Texas for a number of years, too.

Well, when we were going to move into this area, one, as I’ve mentioned already, this is one area where I feel like I could grow the most just because not having grown up in the United States, really when I went to college in Southern California was the first time that I know as an adult that I moved to the United States, and the conversation in Southern California is very different than what we have in the South [Texas] here where there’s lots of Hispanics. There’s lots of Asians and it’s unless you’re in certain pockets, you don’t have a white majority in a lot of places.

Possibly because of the history and the region, the area. When we were doing ministry in Southern California with Vietnamese refugees and Hispanics, the Hispanic and Vietnamese Asian gang, those were the concerns, gang warfare between Asian gangs and Hispanic gangs, and so there wasn’t as much of a black-white conversation in Orange County, where we were at, at least the ministry that we were doing, and so walking into this for me was something kind of new.

Well, I think kind of like Amanda, I learned that for a lot of my white brothers and sisters that there’s this feeling of there’s almost a reverse ethnocentrism that happens if they get into the conversation in a certain place where they feel like, “Now I have to apologize for being white and what can I do?” 

To go back to the privilege walk, another thing I learned is we have different perspectives on what privilege actually is. So for example, one of the questions said if you grew up in an urban environment, take a couple of steps back, and I thought, “I didn’t know I was not privileged ’cause I grew up in an urban environment ’cause I felt sad for people who had to grow up in the corn.” I had hotels, and malls, and all kinds of things.

Well, it’s not just something you read about in a book. What a movie does is it helps you enter into something emotionally and so that was helpful for me. And then when it came to the readings, one, when we started branching out beyond simply the black-white conversation, not that it’s a simple conversation but exclusively focusing on that, one, I felt heard. I felt like less of a ghost. I felt even though I personally, in my experience growing up in the Philippines and then moving to the United States as an adult, I have not felt held back in any way whatsoever by the fact that I’m not white...

In terms of identity for me, it solidified in my mind how strongly certain people hold to ethnicity as part of their identity. Now for me personally, that’s not something I hold very, very strongly. I’m cognizant that that’s a part of who I am but I hold much more strongly to other things about me, like being a Christian, for example, whereas for other people, it’s a lot higher on their values list than for me, so just an awareness of that. Also an awareness of whenever someone looks at you, before you even open your mouth about the gospel or anything else, they’ve already formed some kind of an idea about who you are, and what you believe, and especially if you’re from different ethnicities, there may be an unspoken communication thing that’s already going on there that you need to understand, a pre-understanding that you need to know where they’re coming from so that you can engage better.

The world to come

In the world to come, the saints were free to live wherever they wanted, and they moved around for variety, although they might have one favorite place they came back to. One spot to call "home". 

Some saints preferred living in town while others preferred the countryside. Towns replicated period architecture. Some towns were Roman, or Romanesque, or Byzantine, or Gothic. A few towns had fantastic, futuristic architecture. 

Some saints preferred living in a replica of the time and place where they grew up. Say a small town surrounded by rivers and mountains, with ranches and horseback riding.

The saints hung out in groups, often comprised of friends and family they knew in this life. But, of course, you could meet people you never knew in this life, all the way back to Adam. 

Everyone appeared to be about 19 years old. They looked like brothers and sisters rather than parents, grandparents, and children. It took some getting used to. 

One group of saints resided on a tropical fluvial island. They had a simple "primitive" life. Fishing. Fruit trees. Livestock. 

They composed music which they played on flutes. Sometimes played duets. Sometimes danced to drums. 

They composed poems. Sang hymns, and waded in the river. 

They dreamed happy dreams. Never had nightmares. And they remembered their dreams. 

In the world to come, the saints had moderate supernatural abilities. They could light a campfire using pyrokinesis. They could fly using levitation. They weren't technophobes, but having supernatural abilities mooted the value of most technology. 

One of their favorite activities was making telepathic movies. A telepathic movie was like a collective lucid dream. You could imagine a movie in your mind, then share it with your friends by inviting them into your mind. Telepathic movies were more immersive and interactive than conventional movies. Instead of just watching a movie, you could project yourself into the locale. It was both more surreal and realistic than conventional movies. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Anglican exorcism

Suffering role models

Many Christians undergo great suffering. Some of them are well-known within the Christian community (e.g. Joni Eareckson Tada). On top of the ordeal itself is the added burden of having to set an example. They're not at liberty to publicly express anger or despair over their situation. 

It's very hard to live up to that expectation 24/7. To put on a brave face all the time. To be an encouragement to others when they are deeply discouraged. 

I hope they have friends it's safe to confide in and let their guard down around, instead of constantly having to be an inspirational example to others. As we know from reading OT prophets and psalmists, it's okay to be angry and depressed sometimes. To be at a loss. One doesn't always have to model saintly submission and fortitude for the good of the team. One doesn't always have a duty to be strong for everyone else. We should allow them to feel what they really feel. We should be strong for them when they are weak. 

The prophecies of John Knox

I haven't researched the sources, but assuming the sources are reliable, this is very striking:

Prophecies Of John Knox

John Knox
By Ron Smith
John Knox was the great Reformer and apostle of the reformation in Scotland during the 16th century. He prayed, “God give me Scotland or I die!” God answered that prayer with the greatest reformation of any country.
Modern day Reformers, being influenced by the Enlightenment, would not be comfortable with such a charismatic prophet today. They would say that these gifts passed away when the New Testament was completed. Let us observe with an open mind what the witnesses of that day recorded. May God give us another to come in the spirit and power of Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord.
In 1572 Charles IX of France had the godly Admiral of France murdered. This was followed up with the general massacre of the Protestants throughout France. Seventy thousand were murdered. “For several days the streets of Paris literally ran with blood. The savage monarch, standing at the windows of the palace, with his courtiers, glutted his eyes with the inhuman spectacle, and amused himself with firing upon the miserable fugitives who sought shelter at his merciless gates.” “Hired cut-throats, and fanatical cannibals marched from city to city, paraded the streets, and entered into the houses of those that were marked out for destruction. No reverence was shown to the hoary head, no respect to rank or talents, no pity to tender age or sex. Aged matrons, women upon the point of their delivery, and children, were trodden under the feet of the assassins, or dragged with hooks into the rivers; others, after being thrown into prison, were instantly brought out, and butchered in cold blood.”
“The intelligence of this massacre (for which a solemn thanksgiving was offered up at Rome by order of the Pope) produced the same horror and consternation in Scotland as in every other Protestant country. It inflicted a deep wound on the exhausted spirit of Knox. Besides the blow struck at the whole Reformed body, he had to lament the loss of many individuals eminent for piety, learning, and rank, whom he numbered among his acquaintances. Being conveyed to the pulpit [in his old age], and summoning up the remainder of his strength, he thundered the vengeance of Heaven against that cruel murderer and false traitor, the King of France, and desired Le Croc, the French ambassador, to tell his master, that sentence was pronounced against him in Scotland, that the divine vengeance would never depart from him, nor from his house, if repentance did not ensue; but his name would remain an execration to posterity, and none proceeding from his loins would enjoy that kingdom in peace. The ambassador complained of the indignity offered to his master, and required the Regent to silence the preacher; but this was refused, upon which he left Scotland.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
This prophecy was fulfilled less than two years later when Charles IX died at the age of 24 and left no heir to the throne.
The Prophecy Concerning Thomas Maitland
Shortly after a godly friend of Knox had been murdered, Knox entered the pulpit and found a note. Thinking it was probably a prayer request he silently read it. It was a slanderous note referring to the murdered friend. Not knowing who had written it, Knox said, concerning the author of the note, “That wicked man, whosoever he be, shall not go unpunished, and shall die where there shall be none to lament him.” The man who had written it went home and told his sister “that the preacher was raving, when he spoke in such a manner of a person who was unknown to him; but she understanding that her brother had written the line, reproved him, saying with tears, that none of that man’s denunciations were wont to prove idle.” That man (Thomas Maitland) later died in Italy, “having no known person to attend him.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
The Queen’s Testimony
“John Knox was an eminent wrestler with God in prayer, and like a prince prevailed. The Queen Regent herself had given him this testimony, when upon a particular occasion she said that she was more afraid of his prayers than of an army of ten thousand men. He was likewise warm and pathetic in his preaching, in which such prophetical expressions as dropped from him had the most remarkable accomplishment. As an instance of this, when he was confined in the castle of St Andrews, he foretold both the manner of their surrender, and their deliverance from the French galleys; and when the Lords of the Congregation were twice discomfited by the French army, he assured them that the Lord would ultimately prosper the work of Reformation.” (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
When Queen Mary refused to attend Knox’s preaching, he sent word that she would yet be obliged to hear the Word of God whether she like it or not. This was fulfilled when she was arraigned in England.
On another occasion, Knox told the queen’s husband, “Have you, for the pleasure of that dainty dame, cast the psalm-book into the fire? The Lord shall strike both head and tail.” Both King and queen died violent deaths. (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
The Prophecy Concerning William Kircaldy of Grange
“He likewise said, when the Castle of Edinburgh held out for the Queen against the Regent, that ‘the Castle should spue out the captain (meaning Sir William Kircaldy of Grange) with shame, that he should not come out at the gate, but over the wall, and that the tower called Davis Tower, should run like a sand-glass [an hour glass]; which was fulfilled a few years after – Kircaldy being obliged to come over the wall on a ladder, with a staff in his hand, and the said fore-work [front] of the Castle running down like a sand-brae [sandy hill].” .” (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
Knox’s Defense of His Predictions
Thomas M’Crie tells us that John Knox has been “accused of setting [himself up as] a prophet, presuming to intrude into the secret counsel of God, and of enthusiastically confounding the suggestions of his own imagination, and the effusions of his own spirit, with the dictates of inspiration, and immediate communications from heaven. Let us examine the grounds of this accusation a little. It is proper to hear his own statement of the [basis] upon which he proceeded in many of those warnings which have been [called] predictions. Having in one of his treatises, denounced the judgments to which the inhabitants of England exposed themselves, by renouncing the gospel and returning to idolatry, he gives the following explanation of the [basis] which he had for his threats. He told them if they wanted to know the grounds of his assurance, he hoped they would understand and believe. He said, ‘My assurances are not the marvels of Merlin, nor yet the dark sentences of profane prophecies; but the plain truth of God’s Word, the invincible justice of the everlasting God, and the ordinary course of His punishments and plagues from the beginning are my assurance and grounds. God’s Word threatens destruction to all the disobedient; his immutable justice must require the same; the ordinary punishments and plagues show examples. What man then can cease to prophesy?’ We find him expressing himself in a similar way in his defenses of the threats, which he uttered against those who had been guilty of the murder of King Henry, and the Regent Moray. He denies that he had spoken ‘as one that entered into the secret counsel of God.’ And insists that he had merely declared the judgment which was pronounced in the divine law. In so far then his threatenings, or predictions (for so he repeatedly calls them) do not stand in need of an apology.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
“There are, however, several of his sayings which cannot be vindicated upon these principles, and which he himself rested upon different grounds. Of this kind were, the assurance which he expressed, from the beginning of the Scottish troubles, that the cause of the Congregation would ultimately prevail; his confident hope of again preaching in his native country [when he was a galley slave], and at St Andrews, avowed by him during his imprisonment on board the French galleys, and frequently repeated during his exile; with the intimations [predictions] he gave respecting the death of Thomas Maitland, and Kircaldy of Grange. It cannot be denied that his contemporaries considered these as proceeding from a prophetic spirit, and have attested that they received an exact [fulfillment]. The most easy way of getting rid of this delicate question is, by dismissing it at once, and summarily pronouncing that all pretensions to extraordinary premonitions, since the completing of the canon [the Bible], are unwarranted, that they ought, without examination, to be discarded and treated as fanciful and visionary. Nor would this fix any peculiar imputation on the character or talents of our Reformer [Knox], when it is considered that the most learned persons of that age were under the influence of a still greater weakness, and strongly addicted to the belief of judicial astrology. But I doubt much if this method of determining the question would be consistent with doing justice to the subject. I cannot propose to enter into it in this place, and must confine myself to a few general observations. On the one hand, the disposition which mankind discover to pry into the secrets of futurity, has been always accompanied with much credulity, and superstition; and it cannot be denied, that the age in which our Reformer lived was prone to credit the marvelous, especially as to the infliction of divine judgments upon individuals. On the other had, there is great danger of running into skepticism, and of laying down general principles which may lead us obstinately to contest the truth of the best authenticated facts, and even to limit the Spirit of God, and the operation of providence. This is an extreme to which the present age inclines. That there have been instances of persons having presentiments and premonitions as to events that happened to themselves and others, there is, I think, the best reason to believe. The strong spirits, who laugh at vulgar credulity, and exert their ingenuity in accounting for such phenomena upon ordinary principles, have been exceedingly puzzled with theses, a great deal more puzzled than they have confessed; and the solution which they have given are, in some instances, as mysterious as any thing included in the intervention of superior spirits, or divine intimations. The canon of our faith is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; we must not look to impressions or new revelations as the rule of our duty; but that God may, on particular occasions, forewarn persons of some things which shall happen, to testify His approbation of them, to encourage them to confide in Him in peculiar circumstances, or for other useful purposes, is not, I think, inconsistent with the principles of either natural or revealed religion. If this is enthusiasm, it is an enthusiasm into which some of the most enlightened and sober men, in modern as well as ancient times, have fallen. Some of the Reformers were men of singular piety; they ‘walked with God’; they were ‘instant in prayer’; they were exposed to uncommon opposition, and had uncommon services to perform; they were endued with extraordinary gifts, and, I am inclined to believe, were occasionally favored with extraordinary premonitions, with respect to certain events which concerned themselves, other individuals, or the Church in general. But whatever intimations of this kind they enjoyed, they did not rest the authority of their mission upon them, nor appeal to them as constituting any part of the evidence of those doctrines which they preached to the world.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
These blog posts are imported to this site from Pastor Ron's blopspot account. If you wish to engage in discussion with him over any of the topics posted here, please head over to his blogspot page to leave a comment. 

Hoping for the best

There's a point of tension in Christian theology regarding the assurance of salvation. On the one hand, there are biblical promises about the certainty of salvation. On the other hand, there's the specter of apostasy–as well as the phenomenon of nominal belief, where someone might have false assurance. This creates psychological tension: should we hope for the best, fear the worst, or constantly oscillate between these two moods? 

In one sense, your attitude doesn't change the outcome. If you're heavenbound, then harboring the fear that you might be hellbound doesn't change the fact that you're heavenbound. Conversely, if you're hellbound, then false assurance doesn't change the outcome.

So, in a sense, if you're hellbound, you have nothing to lose by believing that you're heavenbound. Whether you have false assurance that you are heavenbound, or rightly suspect that you are hellbound makes no difference to the outcome. Mind you, most folks who are hellbound don't think they are hellbound. Paradoxically, anxieties about your eternal destiny are more far more likely to afflict the heavenbound. 

And in a material sense, if you're heavenbound, then you have nothing to gain by the nagging doubts about your salvation, because it doesn't change the blissful outcome. But in a psychological sense, you do have something to lose–peace of mind in this life. 

In a sense, if you're hellbound, you ultimately have nothing to gain or lose by false assurance. Yet if you're heavenbound, you have nothing to gain but something to lose by harboring anxieties about your eternal fate. It robs you of joy. So you might as well hope for the best rather than fear for the worst. 

Now, I say "in a sense" because I don't mean the outcome is fatalistically inevitable regardless of what you believe or do. The point, though, is that going to heaven doesn't depend on believing for sure that you're going to heaven. You must believe in Jesus, but you don't have to believe in yourself. You don't have to have faith in your faith. 

I'd add that even in Calvinism, to say someone is heavenbound or hellbound doesn't necessarily mean they can't change course. It doesn't necessarily mean they're on a heavenbound or hellbound path from start to finish, as if where they began predetermines where they end up. You can be lost, then God saves you. If you had continued along the original trajectory for the duration, you'd wind up in hell, but where you start doesn't predict for where you arrive. There are counterfactual trajectories. 

But the main point, making allowance for the codicils, is that you have nothing to lose by hoping for the best. If you're a Christian believer, it's pointless to fear the worst. 

The grandparent analogy

I know of grandmothers and grandfathers who are entirely dependent on their families to care for them due to senility and dementia as well as physical frailty. In fact, sometimes one wonders if the lights are still on or if anybody's even home, because their dementia is so advanced. They don't seem like "persons" anymore.

If their families stopped caring for them, they would die. If their families kicked them out of their homes, these grandparents would be lost. They'd wander around in the cold night alone and afraid until they died if no one cared for them.

So does that give families the right to force their grandparents out of their home? Grandparents who have dementia and who no longer seem like "persons"? Of course not. That'd be considered murder. And even euthanasia activists require informed consent before euthanization.

In short, these families have no right to murder their dependent grandparents who don't seem like persons by turning them out of their homes. So why should families have the right to murder their dependent babies who don't seem like persons by turning them out of their wombs? Or are the two disanalogous? How so?

Monday, May 20, 2019

How is abortion performed?

Some abortionists don't think the baby is literally torn apart, limb by limb, during an abortion. However, watch the following video from a physician (obstetrician and gynecologist) named Dr. Anthony Levatino. Levatino used to perform abortions as a physician but today is opposed to them.

For a simpler video of how to perform an abortion, Dr. Levatino speaks to students:

Dr. Levatino testifies before a House judiciary committee hearing about Planned Parenthood's medical procedures and how to perform an abortion:

The previous three videos are similar in that they primarily discuss how an abortion is performed by an obstetrician. However, the following video is a longer interview with Dr. Levatino which covers his background including how he became opposed to abortion:

Finally, Dr. Levatino has a website called Abortion Procedures that's worth perusing.

Blaming the losers

The "fetus"

In the debate over abortion, both sides have preferred language and labels. Prolifers prefer more personal, informal language like "mother" and "baby" while abortionists prefer more impersonal terminology like "woman" and "fetus". 

Now, there's nothing wrong with using medical terminology in its place. "Zygote, embryo, fetus" chart different stages in gestation. However, the medical jargon doesn't mean it isn't a baby. 

To take a comparison, a hand doctor or heart surgeon has technical, discriminating jargon for parts of the heart or hand. But the fact that he can use more specialized terminology doesn't mean he's not operating on the hand or heart. It's not contrary to science to say the organ or body part is a heart or hand, even though more exacting nomenclature is available. 

To take another comparison, I could call a woman my "wife" or I could use gynecological terminology to describe her. But it's not as if "wife" is an inaccurate and unscientific designation. 

"Forced birth"

Abortionists sometimes brand prolife legislation as "forced birth"–as though there's something inherently objectionable about that. Let's consider the permutations of that objection. What exactly is the objectionable principle?

i) Is the objection that no one should ever be forced to do anything they don't want to? Consider individuals who voluntarily incur a financial obligation, like using a motel, dentist, or rental car. Is it wrong if they are "forced" to pay for the goods and service they used? That's hardly plausible as a general principle.

ii) Is the objection that no one has a claim on the use of someone else's body? If so, consider some counterexamples: Suppose somebody in a wheelchair needs help getting over the sidewalk curb. Strangers have a moral obligation to help him (or her). In that sense, someone can lay claim to the use of another person's body. 

Likewise, if a child falls into a river and is about to drown, strangers who know how to swim have a duty to rescue the child. Once again, that's a moral claim on the use of someone else's body.

These are very limited examples, but they demonstrate that you can't rule out as a matter of principle a person in need having a claim on someone else's physical agency. 

iii) Is the objection that while we can be forced to do something or undergo something if that's a consequence of something we consented to, we can't be forced to do it or undergo it absent consent at the outset. If so, what about men who are drafted to fight in war? That's involuntary. Moreover, many of them die, are maimed or disabled as a result of military service. Surely that's at least as traumatic as a rape victim given birth. 

iv) Apropos (iii), is the objection, not to "forced birth" in general, but to "forced birth" in case of rape victims? Is the objection that it's grossly unfair to make pregnant rape victims carry the child to term. 

If so, I agree that it's unfair to make a rape victim go through that ordeal. However, it's possible for something to be unfair, yet still be a duty. 

Suppose I have a teenage brother who's disabled in a cycling accident by a reckless driver. It's unfair that he suddenly requires special assistance from me. I had my life planned out. Now I have to make adjustments and sacrifice my dreams. But it doesn't follow from this that I don't have an obligation to help out my disabled brother, even though the situation was forced on me (indeed, forced on both of us).

Suppose my wife cheats on me. She has a child by another man. At the time I don't know about the affair. I don't know the child isn't mine. 

Suppose I find out at a later date. Suppose, moreover, that when the child turns five, my wife leaves me with the child. She divorces me and moves in with another man. 

I'm "stuck" with a child I didn't father. That's "unfair". But at this stage, I'm the only father the child has ever known. It would be psychologically damaging to the child to put him up for adoption at the age of five. The child reminds me of my wife's affair. Should I withhold my love from the child because it's unfair that I was thrust into this situation? Surely not!

v) Admittedly, moral arguments have no traction if you're addressing a moral nihilist. There are people who will reject these examples because they're nihilistic. And that's one of the dangerous things about atheism. 

God the Father

What terminal cancer taught me about life

“I’m sorry,” said the doctor, “you have large tumours in numerous places. We can’t operate or cure you. You have 18 months to live”. With those words, I burst into tears. In that mundane hospital room, my life changed. The job I love – I worked as boss of a private bank – was gone. My priorities shifted immediately. Nobody on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office. When my time comes, I was determined I would not have that regret. I wanted to make the most of however long I had left.

Nearly four years on, I am still alive thanks to my wonderful oncologist and staff at the Royal Marsden hospital. My fight with cancer has not been easy. Problems with my eyes nearly left me blind. I’ve been through nine operations, radiotherapy and four complete rounds of chemotherapy.

But the hardest part of living with terminal cancer isn’t the treatment; it’s the grief I have caused to the people I love. I could hardly bear to tell my wife and children about my diagnosis. My mother, who is in her eighties, said: “I wish it was me”.

Living with cancer can be terrifying: the sword of Damocles dangles over my head. I have been fortunate in getting longer than my initial diagnosis suggested. Still, I know that my days are numbered. I have scans every couple of months. Each test brings with it an anxious wait for results.

Yet cancer also brings with it the unexpected; a simple joy at being alive. Each day that comes is a blessing. I have been fortunate enough to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding last month. This weekend I will watch my football team play in an FA Cup final.

Less remarkable days are wonderful too; going to the shops, walking the dog. Philip Larkin was right when he spoke of the ‘million-petalled flower/ of being here’. It took cancer to make me realise what he meant.

My faith has been important too. As a Christian, I ask myself: ‘Where is God in my suffering?’. I assure myself that I am not alone in confronting this dilemma.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who stood up for Jews under the Nazis. Shortly before he was executed in April 1945, he smuggled out of his cell this message ‘only a suffering God can help us’. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and he knows it first hand. In my fight with cancer, I find that immensely comforting.

There’s more: he also knows what it’s like to die. I recently gave a speech about cancer in Parliament and was struck by the consensus of the discussion: society doesn’t want to talk about death. Few subjects are off the table nowadays, but dying is surely one of them; it is one of our last taboos. In facing death, I know that it is a frightening thing. So why don’t we talk about it? After all, it’s cold comfort to be told by Richard Dawkins that ‘DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.’

I recently attended a funeral where the celebrant said mournfully: ‘There is no answer to death’.

But I believe there is – and it brings me great hope. In the short time left for me in this world, I can think of nothing more important than sharing that hope with others.

This yearning to find such hope is powerful. Eddie Izzard, who tragically lost his mother to cancer when he was six, says ‘everything I do in life is trying to get her back.’

He continued: ‘I have a very strong sense that we are only on this planet for a short length of time…it would be nice if just one person came back and let us know it was all fine… of all the billions of people who have died, if just one of them could come through the clouds and say ‘It’s me, Jeanine, it’s brilliant, there’s a really good spa’, that would be great.’

My heart goes out to him when I read those words. But I am convinced, because of my Christian faith, that someone – Jesus – did indeed come back. As I’m wheeled in for another operation – or when I have days of facing up to my imminent mortality – the words from Psalm 23 are on my lips: “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me”.

Perhaps it’s all just wishful thinking? It’s a fair point to make. It’s true that hope with no factual basis is nothing more than a delusion. Yet I am convinced that the Christian story is real – and it brings me hope, even in the depths of my despair.

Jeremy Marshall is former CEO of the UK’s oldest private bank, C. Hoare & Co. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016.

(The Spectator)