You Keep Using That Word

Marie Solis has a post over at Jezebel (H/T, Memeornadum) titled Republicans Are Trying To Make Abortions Dangerous. Her article decries Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive order restricting prescribing and delivery of abortion pills. Here are a couple of quotes from the post.

As a result, Noem has banned one of the safest, easiest forms of abortion.

Studies have shown that mifepristone and misoprostol are overwhelmingly safe and effective, even when administered outside of a traditional clinic setting.

Safe? One or more (twins) of the people “treated” with these pills winds up dead as a result. Of course, what Ms. Solis and other pro-abortion folks want “safe” to mean is not causing harm to a woman whose pregnancy is being terminated (“pregnancy is being terminated” being a euphemism for “baby is being killed”). This sort of thinking requires viewing children in utero as parasites rather than human beings. But such children are human beings, innocent and deserving of protection.

Safe—I do not think it means what she think it means.

Today’s Text Is From The Book of Second Opinions

UPI has a story up titled New Texas abortion law spurs churches to espouse ‘reproductive freedom’ which reads in part—

Leaders of Just Texas: Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice announced at an Aug. 25 news conference at First Unitarian Church of Dallas that 25 churches have earned the designation of Reproductive Freedom Congregations since 2016 and about 70 more are in the process of getting it.

The program teaches clergy about reproductive healthcare and encourages them to talk about the subject, including abortion, from the pulpit and individually with members of their congregations.

There is no indication that the Reproductive Freedom Congregations will be using Exodus 20:13 as a basis for their teaching.

Quote of the Day

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Updating An Earlier Post

On Monday, I put up a post about getting The Right Answer from the Wrong Argument. I received this comment in a email from one of the Gentle Readers named Mary Pat Campbell, and I believe it’s worth sharing:

I am happy that you address what Stacy wrote. I have the same perspective as you, being a run-of-the-mill Catholic. My own degrees are in math & physics, and I loved quantum mechanics… and some asked me how I could reconcile that with being a believing Catholic. My response: who am I to tell God how to order the universe?

We were given reason to figure out how God has ordered creation, not to make aesthetic critiques of those choices.

Separately, I do find it grimly amusing that those who take the (translated) words of Genesis literally usually don’t do the same thing when considering Jesus saying “This is my body”.

Ms. Campbell and I most likely have different understandings of what Jesus meant when He said, “This is my body,” but I bet we both are thankful that God is doing something wonderful for us in ways we can’t completely understand.

The Right Answer from the Wrong Argument

My podcasting partner Stacy McCain has a post up at The Other McCain titled
Of Course, Evolution Is Racist. I believe his concluding paragraph is absolutely correct.

God rules the universe, all men will be judged by Him, and “there is no respect of persons with God.” The high and the low, the rich and the poor, men of every race and tongue — all shall acknowledge God’s authority at the final day. Never doubt that for a minute. Selah.

However, much of his post is simply wrong, based on a lack of understanding of Darwin, Nietzsche, and Genesis, compounded by a century-and-a-half of pseudoscientific and pseudotheological spin.

Properly understood, evolutionary biology does not address the existence or non-existence of God. As I show in the essays found under the Science and the Bible tab in the Menu above, nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis limits how God exercised his power creating the Universe. Moreover, what we know from Science is fully compatible with what is revealed in the Bible. There’s no reason to be drawn into a false contest between two strawmen, one created to attack religious faith and the other created to defend a particular limited understanding of the Bible.

Indeed, being wrong about the commonly understood facts of the natural world tarnishes one’s credibility. As Augustine wrote,

If they hear a Christian embracing error in a thing that they know well, and hear him defend in the same way our Scriptures, how will they believe those books concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of life eternal, and the kingdom of heaven, when they believe they are full of lies about facts they themselves have learned from experience and the light of reason?

Here are some snippets from those essays.

I’m not a scientist or a theologian.  I’m an engineer.  In practicing my profession, I’m often presented with a problem that is too complex to be solved all at once.  When this happens, my usual approach is to try to break the problem in to smaller chunks and to go after each simpler piece using what I know about the basic laws of Physics.  These first principles include such things as Newton’s Laws of Motion or the Laws of Thermodynamics.  It should not be surprising that I would take a similar approach to my understanding of how what we know of God from the Bible squares with what we know of God from the fingerprints He has left on His handiwork in creation.

What are the first principles that apply to this inquiry?

The very first principle is a belief in the existence of God and an understanding that He tells the truth.  I’ll take that as a given for this work.  If I’ve lost you at this point, let me suggest that you leave this post now and pick up a copy of a book such as C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity instead.

If you’re still with me, the next of these first principles is that, if God is who He says He is, then we ought to pay close attention to what He tells us—both the explicit things He tells us in the Bible and the implicit things we learn from our knowledge of the natural world.

The third of these first principles is that we will ask questions only where we can expect valid answers.  When we want answers concerning the general history of the universe or the laws of its mundane behavior, we will go to Science, but there are things for which Science cannot have an answer.  In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking asks

What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?  The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.  Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?

Science is about how; religion is about why.  Thus, if we wish to know about God’s governance of the universe or His relationship with man, we will look first to the explicit statements of the Scriptures.

* * * * *

The scientific evidence for common descent is quite strong.  Indeed, over the last century or so, no other hypothesis has been able to account scientifically for the unity and diversity of life on earth. Common descent has been verified so extensively that it is the currently accepted scientific “fact.” The common descent hypothesis makes predictions that have been confirmed not only in genomics and molecular biology but also in other areas such as paleontology and anthropology. No significant contradictory physical evidence has been found. Competing proposals either have been contradicted by the evidence or are not testable using the scientific method. No other scientific explanation competes with common descent.

* * * * *

No serious biologist doubts the theory of evolution is the best explanation we have thus far for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Given the genetic relatedness of all known organisms, it is hard to imagine how one would go about understanding biology without the foundation that evolution provides. Oh, one could do what was once called natural history and classify living things in various ways, but one could not engage in modern biology.

* * * * *

Notice also that God commanded that the earth and the waters “bring forth” the living things He created. The text doesn’t say how, it just says that God commanded and that it was so. Thus, when I look at what Scripture really says and the evidence of God’s handiwork in creation, I am led to believe that He was wise enough to create a universe that would use the natural processes He provided from the beginning to work its way toward producing the creatures God wanted. Of course, God may have created each species or group of species separately, but there is nothing in Genesis that requires us to say that God used any particular means other than His commands for the universe to be as He willed. But His fingerprints seem to be on one particular method—evolution through natural selection.

* * * * *

I wrote in the Introduction that Science and Theology are both attempts to learn true things, but they usually use very different methods. As we’ve gone down the Science-side of the street, we’ve looked at what Science and the Bible have to say of about the origin of space and time. We’ve considered the spectrum of beliefs about the origins of the universe, the Earth, life, and man, and the nature of time and its relationship to God. We examined what our own DNA and the Bible reveal about the origin and nature of man, and at what physics, geology, chemistry, biology, and Genesis tell us about how the earth got to be like it is today. We looked at how astronomy reinforces the New Testament’s record of the life of Christ.

On the Bible-side we’ve seen how the truth of the Scriptures can inform our interpretation of Science. Science and the Bible are not to opposing ways of looking at the world. They are complementary ways of understanding different slices of God’s truth.

A God Who can say “Let there be …” and have things of unimaginable complexity happen is an awesome God. I hope that you leave this series of posts with a deeper sense of awe of the Almighty.

* * * * *

Selah.

One more thing … Evolution isn’t racist, but many so-called Social Darwinists used it as a false foundation for their racism just as some religious folks tried to use various misinterpretations of the Bible to support their racism.

UPDATE—There really isn’t a philosophical connection between Darwin and Nietzsche. In fact, Nietzsche was dismissive of Darwin. He wrote this in Beyond Good and Evil

There are truths best perceived by mediocre minds, because they are most suited to them; there are truths that have charms and seductive powers only for mediocre spirits: we are being forced just now to embrace this perhaps unpleasant tenet, ever since the spirit of respectable, but mediocre Englishmen (I am thinking of Darwin, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer) has begun to gain the upper hand in the middle region of European taste.

Nietzsche’s posthumous Writings from the Late Notebooks contains this—

What surprises me most when surveying the great destinies of man is always seeing before me the opposite of what Darwin and his school see or want to see today: selection in favor of the stronger, in favor of those who have come off better, the progress of the species. The very opposite is quite palpably the case: the elimination of the strokes of luck, the uselessness of the better-constituted types, the inevitable domination achieved by the average, even below-average types.

Nietzsche didn’t see how Darwin’s views lead to the Übernensch. The imagined connection between Darwin and Nietzsche comes from the writings of late 19th- and early 20th-century pundits who had no real understanding of either the Englishman’s or the German’s work.

Some Basic Christian Doctrine

I found this on Twitter, and it shows a lack of understanding of one of the most basic doctrines of Christianity.“If Jesus were alive today …”

It is a basic tenet of Christianity that Jesus is now alive. Christians believe that He “was crucified, died, and was buried, descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

If Ms. Clinton has a Bible, she can read about Jesus for herself.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

The Left can’t meme, so it shouldn’t be any surprise when it turns out when Team Kimberlin (leftist all) winds up being the butt of the joke they try to tell about someone else. Five years ago today, one of Bill Schmalfeldt’s memes was Presented With Comment.

* * * * *

SRUs201604300523ZThe link in the Cabin Boy’s™ tweet takes you to a post at his site which does include a comment asking the visitor to meet Dave and David.

BTW, the image that Schmalfeldt has defaced is Rembrandt’s painting Balaam’s Ass, so the critter in the picture isn’t even a horse.

The story of how Balak, the king of Moab, tried to hire the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites and how Balaam wound up blessing them is found in Numbers 22 and 23.

He answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD puts in my mouth?”

—Numbers 23:12

You know, a story about how a bad guy’s plans backfire seems fitting in this context.

UPDATE—Those Gentle Readers who have not yet met Dave and David should check out their work over at the Artisan Craft Blog.

* * * * *

The phrase battle of wits with an unarmed man comes to mind.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

Seven years ago, Karoli Kuns had a long piece up at Crooks and Liars that spun a false tale about how I was using Maryland’s peace order statue to harass and oppress Bill Schmalfeldt. Of course, her story was utter nonsense, an inversion of what Brett Kimberlin had done to Aaron Walker and would later try to do to me. I responded to her and to Matt Osborne (who made the mistake of trying to pile on too) with a post titled On Justice.

* * * * *

“No fair!”

Every one of us has said it beginning from the time we were small children. Human beings seem to be wired with a predisposition to fairness. Indeed, evolutionary psychologists like Jonathan Haidt believe that the moral sense of fairness is a universal human trait. Outrage is a normal, heathy response to unfair treatment. We want the world to be set to rights. We want justice in what seems to be an unjust world.

As a Christian, I believe that the source of justice is God. It says in Genesis that we were created in His image, so it makes sense to me that more we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit to be what God intends for us to be, the more we would desire justice. Sometimes Christians are called to deal with the grander problems of the world—think of William Wilberforce, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King, Jr.—but, most of the the time, most of us deal with the seemingly smaller injustices of the world. Sometimes a Christian is called to stand up to a bully.

Bill Schmalfeldt is a such a bully. For years, he has harassed others on the Internet, and no one was able to bring him to justice. That task seems to have fallen to me.

Schmalfeldt’s surprised reaction has been to whine, “No fair! You hit me back.” However, even that’s not strictly true. I haven’t taken personal revenge on him. I’ve reported him to the proper authorities and left any action taken to them.

The real question I face is not what Jesus thinks of my allegedly sadistic treatment of Bill Schmalfeldt. That question is based in the false premise that I am the sadist in the interactions between us. No, the real question is what Jesus would think of my failure to stand up a thug like Schmalffeldt who is bullying others.

Has my response to Schmalfeldt been perfect? Probably not. But my conscience is clear. It would not be if I had failed to step in between him and some of his victims.

* * * * *

Karoli still has me blocked on Twitter.

A Supreme Bench Slap

The Supreme Court has struck down California’s covid regulations limiting home Bible studies and prayer meetings. The per curium opinion closes with these words—

This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. … And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further “interests of the highest order” by means “narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). That standard “is not watered down”; it “really means what it says.”

The decision was 5-4, with Roberts in the minority.

It All Depends On What You Mean By “Equality”

The House has passed a legislative nightmare called the “Equality Act.” If it passes the Senate and becomes law, it would amend federal statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and it explicitly will destroy religious freedom protections related to sexual and gender identity. The bill explicitly states: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”

Stephen Kruiser has suggested that the Equality Act is proof that the Democrats are clinically insane. OTOH, The Party may need the words “equal” and “equality” to have different meanings. Sometimes  two plus two equals four. But not always.

Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.

Minding Our Own Business

I’m a Christian, and I base my beliefs solely on my understanding of the teachings I find in the Bible. I try to steer clear of extra-biblical doctrines and traditions. The Apostles’ Creed is a brief summary of my core beliefs, and I see myself in fellowship with any baptized follower of Jesus who can say, “Amen,” to that statement of faith. This post is about an extra-biblical doctrine that has led to a heresy which has had unfortunate consequences in America. That doctrine is an eschatological view called Postmillennialism. The heresy is a belief that ties the Church too closely to the State.

Postmillennialism holds that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved through evangelism and that the success of the gospel will produce a time in history when faith, righteous, and peace will prevail on Earth. After the Church has cleaned up Humanity’s act, Jesus will then return to a world fit to be ruled by Him. Postmillennialism was a dominate belief among various reform movements that did much good during the 19th Century, abolitionism, for example. On the other hand, it was also behind movements such a prohibitionism. Jesus told us that we will know people doing His work by the fruit of their labor. Given the enabling of criminal networks that resulted as unintended (I hope) consequences of the Eighteenth Amendment and the War on Drugs, I feel safe in suggesting that it may not have been God’s hand behind those uses of the State’s power.

My point doesn’t rely on whether Postmillennialism is a correct interpretation of Revelation 20. It may be, but I don’t think so. The problem is rather that too many of its adherents have become willing to use the power of the State to affect change in areas that are not the State’s business. The Bible is clear that God empowers the State to maintain order in secular affairs, and even the most corrupt modern governments do that to some extent. The Soviet Union, for instance, maintained a civil police force and courts to apprehend and punish thieves and other common criminals. However, it is the Church that is empowered to call men and women into relationship with God and to nourish God’s people spiritually. While the State may have a reasonable concern with behavior that affects public order, such as theft, it’s the Church that should deal with the moral and spiritual aspects of our behavior. We’re supposed to remember that some things are Caesar’s, and some thing’s aren’t—they’re God’s alone.

My reading of Daniel and Revelation lead me to believe that the State exists to maintain the secular order, but it isn’t always trustworthy. Indeed, it is often led by evil people.

If Postmillennialism is correct, we Christians should be evangelizing our neighbors and nurturing one another in order to bring about that world of righteousness. We don’t need to worry about the State because it will follow as a matter of course. However, if Postmillennialism is wrong, then we still need to be evangelizing our neighbors and nurturing each other, but perhaps in opposition to the State. In either case, the State is not the Church. It’s a part of the fallen world that God is in the process of redeeming through the work of Christ in His Church.

So what?

I’m seeing too many of my fellow Christians engaging in a circular firing squad over politics. May I suggest that probably isn’t what God is calling us to do as part the work of the Church?

Because we are called to be a light to the world, I believe Christians have a place in politics, if for no other reason than to encourage the State to do good rather than evil. However, we shouldn’t conflate our understanding of good politics with the Gospel. There are fellow Christians who I admire and respect who I believe are mistaken in their politics. We can agree on Who is ultimately in charge without supporting the same candidate for President. We can agree on the truth of the Gospel without drawing the same conclusions about public policy. We can love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and still have honest disagreements.

We need to focus on what’s really important. As the song says, “And they’ll know that we are Christians by our love.”

I’m Not Making This Up, You Know

A Democrat representative who is allegedly an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church concluded a prayer he led in the House of Representatives with the word “awomen.” [Note: The term is so wrong that I’m having to fight with autocorrupt to get it typed into this post.]

I’m so old, I was taught to conclude my prayers with the word “amen” (Hebrew אָמֵן). The English word amen can be an adverb, interjection, or verb, and those parts of speech are genderless in English. It can also be a noun (a synonym for truth), and as a noun, its gender is neuter.

Grammar is hard.

The Star of Bethlehem

Roughly every twenty years, the paths of Jupiter and Saturn line up in the night sky, and the planets appear close together, an event called the Grand Conjunction. One occurs this evening. Look toward the southwest just after sunset, and if the sky is clear, you’ll see Jupiter and Saturn almost perfectly aligned, only about 0.1 degree apart. They haven’t come this close since 1623, but they were nearly aligned with the Sun and hard to see that year. The last time they were this close and relatively far from the Sun was in 1226.Grand Conjunctions occurred three times in 7 BC and again as a triple conjunction with Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in early 6 BC. You can find more about those conjunctions and the Star of Bethlehem here.