The Latest from Bruce

Jessa Duggar Seewald: Preaching Hellfire and Brimstone

jessica duggar ben seewald

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald getting it on in public

Several days ago, Jessa Duggar Seewald, one of the Duggar 19 and counting clan, took to Facebook to express her righteous indignation over people using human logic and reason to determine how to live their lives. In Jonathan Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God fashion, Duggar Seewald blasted all those who live their lives by any other standard than hers:

One of the most quoted verses from the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not!” Whenever someone speaks out against something that God calls sin, “Don’t judge!” can be heard coming from a thousand lips. People don’t like to have other people disapprove of the way they’re choosing to live their life.

I will speak to you a hard truth. I do not write this because I think that it will bring me popularity. It won’t. But it is Truth from the Word of God: the Bible.

To not tell people this is to hide the truth from them. To keep silent is to not care for their eternal destiny! I care about you, and this is why I am speaking out!

In this world, people have seared their consciences. The standard of what is “ok” or “permissible” in our society today, hardly reflects God’s standard.

People are content to live on in lying, cursing, pride, anger, bitterness, disrespecting of parents, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins– and if anyone tries to confront them, their attitude and response is, “You live your life, I’ll live mine. Don’t you tell me what to do! Only God can judge me!”

They don’t even realize what they’re saying. God’s judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly! It should scare you! Man’s “judgement” is a 1000x lighter… usually just a voicing of disapproval. But when unbelieving, sinful men die and stand before God, He justly condemns them to hell.

But people disregard the Bible, and instead use all kinds of human logic to try to justify their way of living:

Person #1: “I’ve been living this lifestyle for years, and I’m a ‘Christian.’ I don’t feel that God is angry with me. I believe in a loving God, not one who would send people to hell.”

The person speaking this is right– their god is not angry with them. He can’t be, because he doesn’t exist. They are not talking about the God of the Bible. They have created a god in their own mind to suit themselves. They have removed any notion of the Justice of God, and have created a god of their imagination that they can be comfortable with.

The Bible teaches that God is a Just Judge, and He must punish sin. Every one of us have broken God’s law, and hell is our deserved punishment. (Unless you’re reading some very distorted “translation” of the Bible, you cannot get around the fact that there is a hell).

Person #2: “I have a ‘peace’ about this, and I’m listening to my heart. God doesn’t seem to be judging me. If God didn’t approve, why wouldn’t He strike me dead right now?”

First off, our human hearts are bent toward sin and not righteousness. We shouldn’t follow the inclinations of our heart, but rather we know what is right and wrong according to what we find in God’s Word: the Bible.

Secondly, God isn’t slacking to fulfill His promised Judgement on sin–it’s coming. And the only reason you’re are alive right now is because He is merciful and has kept your heart beating for another day. He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. But He will not hold back forever. The hours of your time here on earth are ticking away. You’re not promised another day, or even another breath. God’s Day of Judgement draws near. It will come as a thief in the night–when you least expect it. Everything that you have done in secret will be exposed. Nothing we do is hidden from God’s view. (1 Peter 3:9&10)

This should be concerning to you. I know it was for me! When I saw myself in light of God’s standard, and I knew that I fell short. But I found hope in the Gospel– the “good news” of Jesus Christ! I would still be lost today were it not for His grace!

Read what God has done so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and saved from the punishment we deserve:

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

Repent! Turn away from sin, and to Jesus Christ today! Be saved from the wrath to come.

The believing man has Christ’s perfect record put to their account.

God gives him a new heart and new desires.

If you find yourself a sinner in need of Jesus, then open your Bible today and begin to read the books of John and Romans. Let the Word of God root out the sins of your heart. Do not let up until you have found Salvation for your soul!

Standard, Evangelical scare tactics. God is gonna get you for sinning. He may not get you in this life, but, Duggar Seewald promises, he will get you in the life to come.

Duggar Seewald lists ten sins:

  • Lying
  • Cursing
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Disrespecting of parents
  • Lust
  • Pornography
  • Fornication
  • Adultery
  • Other sexual sins

Four of the eleven sins have to do with sex. It seems that the Duggar clan spends an awful lot of time talking about sex. Why is that? Why are Evangelicals, in general, obsessed with who is sticking what, when, and where? Inquiring minds want to know, what exactly is “o-t-h-e-r sexual sins? Kissing before marriage? Copping a feel on a Friday night date? And why didn’t she mention the sexual sin above all sins, the sin Evangelicals love to call sodomy?

Here’s the good news. We all get to watch the Duggar children grow up. Some day, researchers and reporters will delve into the lives of the Duggar clan and I suspect they’ll find that the Duggar family is not quite as pure as the driven snow. Perhaps, as a commenter mentioned, we’ll find out one of the Duggar children is gay. Wouldn’t THAT be sweet? Or worse yet, we’ll find out that several of them fornicated (held hands, you know the way Martians have sex) before marriage. Perhaps one of the Duggar boys wills will finally admit to spanking the monkey/choking the chicken/beating the meat, depriving the world of potential little Duggars.

If there is one thing I know for certain it is this; those who pride themselves in being morally superior to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the “world” will some day be exposed as hypocrites and frauds. As the Duggar family Bible says, Pride goeth before a fall.

Amy Duggar and the Duggar Virginity Index

amy duggar dillon king

Amy Duggar and Dillon King

Count me as one person who is tired of all the news reports about this or that Duggar being a virgin and saving themselves for marriage. Amy Duggar, a cousin to the 19 and counting crowd, is the latest Duggar to inform the world that she ain’t putting out until her wedding day.

The Christian Post reports:

The famous Duggar cousin, Amy, and her boyfriend of three months, Dillon King, are shopping for wedding rings but still planning to abstain from intimacy before marriage.”We’re both committed. There is no time frame. I have no idea when it’s happening,” Amy told Radar Online. “I don’t want to be involved in the actual engagement, so it’s going to be a huge surprise!”

The two were friends for five years before they actually began dating and she described their first kiss as a “magnetic force.” It’s yet another difference between Amy and her famous cousins who abstain from all physical contact, except holding hands, until exchanging vows. Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald did not even share their first kiss in front of people but instead saved that moment private…

…One way they’re expressing their love is by abstaining from intimacy until their wedding night. It’s a mutual decision they came to in order to show respect to one another. Amy admits that “it’s hard” to wait to be with Dillon, though one thing that is seemingly helping is Dillon breaking his leg, which has “put a big chastity belt” on the relationship.”He’s doing better,” she joked. “He can hobble. I call him Mr. Hobble! He can’t really work that much right now, so I’m helping him out when I don’t work. I help him put his socks on, make him dinner, little things he appreciates. It’s growing us closer together.”

The two have not set a date yet but know that God is watching over them, guiding them in their future together. Amy has been very vocal about her faith and through it all has placed her trust in God.

Pleeeezzee, God, will you let one of these Duggar girls commit fornication so we can stop reading stories about their virginity, dating life, and first kiss? Amy and Dillon sound like a good candidate, God. Unlike their cousins, Amy and Dillon have already committed the mortal sin of pressing their lips together. If you’d hormonally encourage them, God, to round third and head for home, I’d really appreciate it.

And the FAMOUS Duggar cousin? Famous for what? Being born out of wedlock? Her singing, which one Nashville producer called horrifically awful?

Pleeeezzee.

Only in America.

 

Has the Spanking Ban in Sweden Led to a 500% Increase in Child Abuse?

michael pearl

Michael Pearl

In today’s mail came the March-April 2015 edition of Michael and Debi Pearl’s No Greater Joy Magazine. This issue featured an article written by Michael Pearl titled Attack on Traditional Child Training. In the article, Pearl gives numerous statistics that are meant to bolster his, if you love your children, you’ll beat them” viewpoint.

On page 13, Pearl writes:

Jason M. Fuller of the University of Akron Law School says that Sweden is”. . . an ideal laboratory to study spanking bans,” for a generation ago it became the first nation to impose a complete ban on physical discipline.

According to Fuller, police reports indicate that since the spanking ban, child-abuse rates in Sweden have exploded over 500 percent. Even just one year after the ban took effect, and after a massive government-run public education campaign, Fuller found that “not only were Swedish parents resorting to pushing, grabbing, and shoving more than U.S. parents, but they were also beating their children twice as often.”

After a decade of the ban, “rates of physical child abuse in Sweden had risen to three times the U.S. rate,” and “from 1979 to 1994. Swedish children under seven endured an almost six-fold increase in physical abuse,” Fuller’s analysis revealed.

More than half of Swedish schoolchildren are undergoing some sort of therapy in an effort to solve learning problems.

Something smelled quite fishy to me, so I decided to check out Pearl’s claims about Sweden. Come to find out, the increases are likely to be the result of increased reporting of child abuse and violence against children. According to Joan E Durrant, a “Child-Clinical Psychologist and Professor in the Department of Family Social Sciences at the University of Manitoba”:

…The claim that child abuse has increased in Sweden is primarily based on misinterpretation of assault report statistics. It is the case that reporting of child physical assault has increased in Sweden since the 1970s – as it has in every nation that has raised awareness of the issue of child abuse. Reporting rates are by no means equivalent to rates of actual abuse. They are sharp reflections of, and strongly tied to shifts in public awareness.

For example, in the early 1960s, it was estimated that about 300 children were being maltreated in the U.S. By 1990, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect had officially recorded 2.4 million reported cases. By 1993, they had recorded almost 3 million cases. It is highly unlikely that actual child maltreatment increased by a factor of 10,000 in that period. It is also highly unlikely that only 300 children were maltreated in the U.S. in the early 1960s.

It is a well-known fact that when mandatory reporting laws, public education campaigns, and other measures are implemented to increase awareness, reporting will increase. This is the goal of such measures. The Swedish reporting figures have been cited as if they are actual rates of abuse, which they are not.

The Swedish National Crime Prevention Council examined 434 cases of assaults on young children within the family that were reported to the police in 1990 (all cases) and 1997 (every other case). It was found that the proportion of cases involving serious injuries sustained by children in this age range had decreased substantially. The majority of reported assaults result in minor injuries or no injuries at all. On the basis of an extensive analysis of the data, the National Crime Prevention Council concluded that there has been an increase in the propensity to report cases of assault on young children, and that it is this increase that is responsible for most, if not all, of the rise in the number of such offenses reported to the police. (Nilsson, 2000, p. 68)…

Child Abuse in Sweden by Joan E Durrant

It came as no surprise to me that Michael Pearl cherry-picked and manipulated statistics to bolster his pro child abuse agenda. What did surprise me is Pearl using a passage from a January 7, 2010 NewsMax article by Theodore Kettle  According to the No Greater Joy article, Attack on Traditional Child Training is “taken from a new chapter in the upcoming 21st anniversary edition of To Train Up a Child.” Here’s the paragraph from Kettle’s article:

A key focus of the work of Jason M. Fuller of the University of Akron Law School was Sweden, which 30 years ago became the first nation to impose a complete ban on physical discipline and is in many respects “an ideal laboratory to study spanking bans,” according to Fuller.

Since the spanking ban, child abuse rates in Sweden have exploded over 500 percent, according to police reports. Even just one year after the ban took effect, and after a massive government public education campaign, Fuller found that “not only were Swedish parents resorting to pushing, grabbing, and shoving more than U.S. parents, but they were also beating their children twice as often.”

After a decade of the ban, “rates of physical child abuse in Sweden had risen to three times the U.S. rate” and “from 1979 to 1994, Swedish children under seven endured an almost six-fold increase in physical abuse,” Fuller’s analysis revealed.

Is this plagiarism? I don’t know. Maybe Pearl used a paragraph he had written before Kettle’s article. Maybe it is Kettle plagiarizing Pearl. At best, the two paragraphs are quite similar. At worst, someone lifted a paragraph without giving attribution.

My position on spanking is clear. While I highly doubt that a smack of a toddler’s hand or a swat on their diaper padded rear end will harm them, I think using violence to discipline children sends the wrong message, is unnecessary, and can, in the wrong hands, lead to child abuse. There are better ways to discipline children than beating them with a paddle, switch, hairbrush, belt,wooden spoon,hand, or whatever is handy. (my next to oldest son is fond of telling the story about his Dad spanking him with John R. Rice’s book, The Home)

Michael and Debi Pearl’s version of “proper” punishment is much more violent than  “a smack of a toddler’s hand or a swat on their diaper padded rear end.”  The Pearl’s promotes child abuse. If you doubt this, here’s a  quotes complied by Libby Anne from Michael and Debi Pearl’s  book To Train Up a Child:

The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of “every child” (p.2) for “Christians and non-Christians” (p.5) and for “every transgression” (p.1). Parents who don’t whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are “creating a Nazi” (p.45).

On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.” On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard “a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside.”

On p.44 they say not to let the child’s crying while being hit to “cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And “if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher.” “Defeat him totally.”  On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum “a swift forceful spanking.” On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. “Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same.” They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper.”

On p.47 they recommend their various whips, including “a belt or larger tree branch” to hit children.

The Pearls  recommend pulling a nursing infant’s hair (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.67).  They recommend ignoring an infant’s bumped head when he falls to the floor, and ignoring skinned knees (p.86). They also say “if your child is roughed-up by peers, rejoice.” (p.81)  And on p.103 the Pearls say if children lose their shoes, “let them go without until they (the children) can make the money to buy more.”

Note

There seems to be a lot of contention over the aforementioned statistics.

Professor Robert E Larzelere says that Joan E Durrant is misinterpreting the data. (Found on The Christian Institute website)

Another study by Robert E Larzelere, published online 2010

Link to Joan E Durrant’s study, Evaluating the Success of Sweden’s Corporal Punishment Ban (PDF)

Link to Jason M. Fuller’s article,The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment are in the Best Interests of the Child

Bruce, you subscribe to No Greater Joy Magazine? Yep, it’s free. Know your enemy!

Thank You God for Blowing My Leg Off

rebekah dimartino

Rebekah DiMartino’s Amputated Leg

Many Christians are taught to give thanks for everything. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

No matter what, the will of God is for them to always, in every circumstance, give t-h-a-n-k-s. When tempted to whine, complain, or pity themselves, the Christian is reminded of the pain and suffering Jesus endured on their behalf. No one has ever suffered like Jesus, or so Christians are told by their pastor.

Like all of us, bad shit happens to Christians. They get sick, they have accidents, they are at the wrong place at the wrong time, or any of the other countless 1,000 ways to die.  They contract sickness and disease, so much so that it makes an outsider wonder if the Great Physician has lost his license to practice medicine.

When it comes to physical, emotional, and mental maladies, Christians are in the same boat with the rest of us. The difference is they have to pretend that what is going on in their life is good for them, that God had a wonderful, awesome, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious plan for their life. They must always look on the bright side. They know every word of the Footprints in the Sand Poem by Mary Stevenson:

 One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Jim Steinhauer speaks for many of us when he wrote:

Sorry to have to break it to you, Jesus, but those are obviously my footprints.

Look closely. See how those footprints have that wavy tread pattern on the bottom, just like my docksiders? If they were yours, they’d make a sandal mark, like the footprints next to mine a little farther up the beach when I was going through better times.

See the footprints at the time of my divorce? You’ll notice that the sandaled footprints drift off from the docksider ones. They lead to that picnic bench over there, the one with the cigarette butts scattered all over. It appears that in my darkest hour, instead of carrying me, you sat on a stump and had a couple of smokes. Real helpful, Jesus. Real helpful.

Sure, the sandal footprints came back when I got that big job promotion, but right at the point where my son Tommy died, they veer off again. Actually, now that I look again, it seems like there’s an unusually large distance between each of the sandal-wearer’s footprints around the time of my son’s death, as if the person were actually running away.

I’m sorry, Jesus, but your whole story about carrying me during my worst moments just doesn’t gibe with the facts. Besides, you’d certainly think a person would remember being carried by the Son of God, right? That’s a pretty memorable thing, wouldn’t you say? Well, either I’ve got amnesia, or you’re a liar, because I don’t recall ever being toted around by the Messiah. The only thing I do remember about my worst moments on the path of life is the horrible feeling of plodding along the cold sand all alone while icy rain fell in sheets and chill winds assailed me.

So thanks, Jesus. Thanks a bunch. You were really there for me when things got tough.

I realize that thanking God in the midst of adversity and suffering can be a coping mechanism. One night, in the midst of a bout of horrible pain, I found myself crying out to the God of Ceiling®. While my utterance brought no answer from the Great Physician, it did help to distract me for a moment from the pain. My utterance also  caused me to chuckle and say, hey, Bruce who ya taking to? Dumb ass!

I don’t want to rob anyone of anything that helps get them through the rough times of life. But, when I read news reports of someone praising God for their sickness, disease, or accident, it does cause me to wonder if the person is living in denial or has been so conditioned by their religious training, that they cannot see life as it is. Such is the case of Rebekah DiMartino.

On April 15, 2013, DiMartino was standing 3 feet away from the Boston Marathon finish line when a bomb went off. The blast caused severe damage to DiMartino’s left leg. Weeks later, the leg had to be amputated. She now has a prosthetic leg with the word BLESSED embroidered across the front of it.

Recently, DiMartino told her story at St Matthew’s Baptist Church in Louisiville, Kentucky:

“Whatever you are going through in your life, don’t give up because God has got a plan for everything. And everything that we go through, it ultimately works together for your good.””I took everything in the back of the legs so that Noah [her son] would be saved. That is God’s purpose [for me]. I cannot feel sorry for myself in the least bit because I know my son is running around like normal today. … I thank God every day for my little boy still being here.”

While I certainly sympathize with DiMartino and I appreciate her positive outlook on her life after the bombing, I cannot accept or embrace a God who uses a terrorist and a bomb to blow someones leg off . Using DiMartino’s God’s got a purpose for everything logic, the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard, all victims of the same bombing, happened because God had a purpose and plan for them. And the same could be said for policeman Sean Collier who was shot to death by the bombers. 264 people were injured in the bombing. Like DiMartino, 16 people lost a limb and 3 people lost multiple limbs.  Is this really God working out his plan for all of these people?  (see my post God Gave Me Breast Cancer Because He Loves Me)

I understand the religious conditioning required to think like this. I used this same thinking for years to “explain” my own health problems. God has a plan for my life. God is working all things out for my good. God is teaching me to trust him more. God is drawing me closer to him. God is testing my faith. God is chastising me so that I might draw closer to him. Christian clichés, that’s all these are. The truth is, for Rebekah DiMartino, she was the victim of a terrorist bombing. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and her son fortunately was at the right place at the right time.

These kind of stories should remind us that our lives hang by a slim thread. An accident, a genetic abnormality, a stray bullet, a moment of clumsiness or inattention, along with a plethora of diseases, can snuff out our life in the blink of an eye. As an atheist, I have no intention of praising an absent or fictional God for the suffering and pain I must live with every day of my life. Instead, I embrace the pain and suffering and do my best to make the most of it. Certainly, that’s what DiMartino is doing. The only difference is that she thinks the Christian God is behind the wizard’s curtain orchestrating the events of her life.

Note

Yesterday, People Magazine published a story detailing DiMartino’s separation from the man she married 10 months ago:

After 10 months of marriage, a couple injured in the Boston Marathon bombing and married in a “dream wedding” last April are separating……Gregory, who tied the knot with DiMartino in Asheville, North Carolina, in a ceremony and reception thrown by TheKnot.com, tells PEOPLE, “After the decision was made to amputate my leg in November, I found myself having to make an even more painful choice – to separate from my husband Pete. Over the last several months I’ve come to realize that going through such a horrific event together put a fast-forward on our relationship that we each handled differently.”While my heart is beyond broken, I have a certain peace knowing from day one, I truly gave it my all, and have been fully invested in keeping this marriage, and my commitment before God. I still love Pete with all of my heart and ask that everyone respect our privacy as we try to figure out our next steps. As for now, I am focused on doing what I feel is best for my son and I, and will concentrate my time on healing, both physically and emotionally.” …

I’m Not a Scientist but I Play One on Atheist Blogs

creationism cartoon

This is not a science blog. I have no training in science, outside of a high school and college biology class and whatever knowledge I have gained from the books I’ve read.  I don’t engage in long, protracted science discussions because I don’t have the education necessary to do so. I know my limitations. Theology, the Bible,Evangelicalism, and sex are my specialties and this is why I primarily write on these subjects. (OK , maybe not sex)

When I post a science article, I do so because I think it will either help readers or it illustrates the ignorance that is pervasive in many corners of the Christian and Evangelical world.   I don’t have the skill or knowledge to adequately defend evolution, but I do know people who do, and I trust  them because they have the requisite training, knowledge, and experience to speak authoritatively. All of us, to some degree or another, trust experts. No one knows everything.

The problem that arises when I post a science article is that it attracts young earth creationists. Armed with a limited understanding of science, colored by creationist presuppositions,  creationist want to debate and argue with me about the article I posted. Generally, I try to steer such arguments back to the Bible and theology because I think that is the best way to disembowel creationism. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you’ve seen a creationist abandon their beliefs as a result of a blog debate or discussion? It doesn’t happen and the reason is quite simple: abandoning their beliefs would require them to also let go of their faith. Until the creationist is willing to entertain the notion that they might be wrong about the inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration of the Bible, there is no way to reach them. Facts don’t matter because faith always trumps facts.

Young earth creationists love to come to blogs like mine because they can make themselves look like they are an expert in disciplines like biology, archeology, and cosmology. They know I am not going to engage them in a science discussion, and unless someone with a science background responds to them, that’s where the discussion ends. I’m sure they think they’ve won a mighty victory for God, but all that has happened is that no one wants to waste their time with someone who has no true desire to follow the evidentiary path wherever it leads.

I am content to let them play a scientist on this blog. If those of you trained in the sciences want to engage them, please do so.  I will stick to what I know, theology, the Bible, and Evangelicalism. And even with these things, I have backed countless Evangelicals into a corner only to have them throw their hands up and tap out by saying FAITH FAITH FAITH! Once someone appeals to faith, all discussion is over. (at least for me it is)

Going forward, I think I will point those who want to argue and debate science to blogs like Why Evolution is True, Exploring Our Matrix, The Sensuous Curmudgeon, God of Evolution, The Panda’s Thumb, or Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist. (if you know of other writers who have a good understanding of science, creationism, and Evangelicalism, please share the link to their site in the comment section)  Each of us have competency in certain subjects or disciplines. I know where my competency lies and I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know. Now, this does not mean that I have no understanding of science and the scientific method. I do, and my knowledge increases every time I read a science article, blog, or book. But, I could follow this path for the next 25 years and still not have the necessary expertise to pass myself off as an expert. I find it laughable that someone, anyone thinks they can read x number of books and be as competent and knowledgeable as someone who has spent 6-10 years in college training for a specific scientific field and now works in that field every day of their life. Such thinking is called hubris.

The good news about my areas of expertise: theology, the Bible, and Evangelicalism, is that rarely is there any new information. Outside of archeological finds that might have some connection to the Bible, there’s not much happening in Bible Town. Sure, there are small skirmishes going on over the historicity of Jesus and what the Bible really, really, really says about _______________, but, for the most part it’s just the same shit, different day.  I don’t wake up in the morning and say, Hey, I wonder what new and exciting story about the Bible, theology, or Evangelicalism awaits me.  (and this is one of the reasons Hector Avalos gives for the ending of Biblical studies programs. The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos)

Note

I am not suggesting that someone can’t become conversant and competent in a specific subject without going to college. I know firsthand the importance of study and hard work. That’s what I did for 25 years, spending hours and hours each week reading and studying the Bible and theology. Would I have been better off if I had gone to Princeton and not an Evangelical Bible college? Sure, but I did a pretty good job over 25 years of plugging up the lack of knowledge holes. I still have gaps in my knowledge, but that can be said of every person. None of us know everything, even when it comes to our particular area of expertise. I am a serious amateur photographer and I know a good bit about the craft. But, the more I read and practice my craft, the more I realize how much I still don’t know.  Wise is the person that understands their intellectual limitations and doesn’t try to pass themselves off as something they are not.

Christian Fundamentalists are Right about Genesis 1-3

6 days of creation

“I think that if the data is overwhelming in favor, in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world. . . . And to deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death if we stopped loving God with all of our minds and thinking about it, I think it’s our spiritual death. It’s also our spiritual death in witness to the world that we’re not credible, that we are bigoted, we have a blind faith and this is what we’re accused of. . . . And I think it is essential to us or we’ll end up like some small sect somewhere that retained a certain dress or a certain language. And they end up so . . . marginalized, totally marginalized, and I think that would be a great tragedy for the church, for us to become marginalized in that way.”

Christian Hebrew scholar Bruce Waltke

Cameron Buettel, a student at The Master’s Seminary, a fundamentalist institution connected to John MacArthur, recently wrote an article on the Grace to You website about the importance of believing in a literal six-day creation. Here’s what he had to say:

Most of us are familiar with politicians who obfuscate simple questions with complex political answers. Who can forget Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Unfortunately, obfuscation exists in the realm of theology as well. God may not be “a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), but there are scores of biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors who insert plenty of it into the first few chapters of Genesis.

Evangelicalism abounds with theologians who don’t know what the meaning of the word “day” is. The Hebrew word for day, yom, appears more than two thousand times in the Old Testament and would attract virtually no debate were it not for six specific appearances in Genesis 1. But those six days of creation are now at loggerheads with modern scientific dating methods. Rather than stand firm on the biblical account, church leaders acquiesce to unprovable theories and confuse the clear and consistent biblical teaching on origins…

Buettel is correct when he says the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is at odds with modern scientific dating methods. The gap between the two is so vast there is no possible way to reconcile the two viewpoints. Both could be wrong but both can’t be right.If you accept that universe is about 14 billion years old, then the idea that God created the universe in 6 literal 24 hour days is false.

Later in the article, Buttel addresses the implications of the 6 days of creation being anything other than literal 24 hour days:

…There are only two ways to deny a six-day creation: ignore the text or reject the text. Scholars ignore the actual text by blinding themselves to the genre, grammar, and layout in order to insert their own. Skeptics simply reject the text as erroneous. Either way, the result is the same—a clear text becomes a confused text.

Some people like to dismiss this debate as a secondary issue, not directly related to the gospel. But it is clearly an issue that goes to the authority of Scripture. And furthermore, as MacArthur rightly points out, it has massive repercussions for the gospel:

“If Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world makes no sense. Moreover, if we didn’t fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ’s position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam’s position as the head of the fallen race: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18–19). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life–giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13–14; Jude 14).

So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1–3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.”

The opening chapters of Genesis are not up for debate, nor are they negotiable. The academic credibility of our faith is meaningless if we’re so quick to sacrifice the meaning of Scripture at the altar of public opinion. Better to be counted a fool for the sake of God’s Word than to be embraced for our willingness to compromise it.

I think Buettel and MacArthur are correct. There is no textual or theological warrant for making the six days of creation mean anything other than six  24 hour days. The natural reading of the text demands that the word day=24 hours. Revisionists, desperately trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis 1-3, need to stop with the intellectual and theological gymnastics. The text says what it says. There are no gaps, no alternative explanations.

The only question that remains is whether to accept or reject what Genesis 1-3 says. If a Christian goes with science and the universe being 14 billion years old, they must explain what they plan to do with Adam and Eve and the fall. Earlier this year, biologist Jerry Coyne had this to say about Adam and Eve:

…The problem, as you’ll know if you’re a regular here, is that genetic data show clearly that the genes of modern humans do not descend from only two people (or eight, if you believe the Noah story) in the last few thousand years. Back-calculating from the genetic diversity seen in modern humans, and making conservative assumptions, evolutionary geneticists have shown that the human population could not have been smaller than about 12,250 individuals: 10,000 in Africa and 2,250 in the group of individuals that left Africa and whose descendants colonized the rest of the world.  There was a population “bottleneck,” but it was nowhere near two or eight people.

This shows that Adam and Eve were not the historical ancestors of all humanity. And of course that gives theology a problem: if the Primal Couple didn’t give rise to everyone, then whence our affliction with Adam and Eve’s Original Sin? That sin, which the pair incurred by disobeying God, is supposed to have been passed on to the descendants of Adam and Eve, i.e., all of us. And it’s that sin that Jesus supposedly came to Earth to expiate. But if Original Sin didn’t exist, and Adam and Eve were simply fictional metaphors, then Jesus died for a metaphor. That’s not good!

That doesn’t sit well with theologians, of course, who, if they accept the science (and most of the smarter ones have), must then explain the significance of Adam and Eve, and whether they really existed. I discuss this in the Albatross as well; suffice it to say here that there are several interpretations of Adam and Eve as both historical and metaphorical, many of them funny and none of them coming close to solving the problem of Original Sin and the coming of Jesus…

It’s the slippery slope. Abandon a literal six-day creation results in abandoning a literal Adam and Eve. No Adam and Eve? No original sin. No original sin? No need for Jesus to die on the cross.

Fundamentalists are right on this one. So what’s a Christian to do? Simple, use the brain you say God gave you. Based on the available scientific evidence, is the universe 6,000 years old or 14 billions years old? Does evolution best explain the biological world or does a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3? If you answer 14 billion years and evolution, then a greater intellectual task awaits you: reconciling what you believe about sin, Jesus, and redemption with what you know about the universe.

I don’t think it can be done, though I admire and appreciate those who try. I know many Christians want to embrace what science says about the universe and hang on to the Bible and what it says about sin, Jesus, and redemption, but I think this is a match made in hell, one that requires a good bit of cognitive dissonance.

It’s not up to me to tell people what to believe about God, but I do think Christians should be honest about the dilemma science poses for them. How is it possible to reconcile a 14 billion year old universe and evolution with what the Christian church has historically taught about creation, Adam and Eve, original sin, Jesus, and redemption?

six days of creation 2

Note

Of course, young earth creationist Ken Ham thinks Cameron Buettel’s article is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

 

 

Isaac Latterell and The Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015

dismemberment lattrell

This is the graphic Isaac Latterell used in 2014 on a blog post about child dismemberment.

Like red meat to a hungry lion, state and federal politicians regularly introduce bills sure to arouse the passion of those opposed to abortion. Recently, South Dakota State Representative Isaac Latterell introduced HB 1230, the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015. The bill states:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit the beheading of certain living unborn children and to provide penalties therefor.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

  • Section 1. No licensed physician may knowingly behead a living unborn child with the intent of endangering the life or health of the child. A violation of this section is a Class 1 felony.
  • Section 2. For purposes of this Act, behead, means to separate the skull from the spine. The term, behead, may not be construed to include the curettage abortion procedure or the suction aspiration abortion procedure.
  • Section 3. The provisions of this Act do not apply to any medical treatment for a life-threatening condition provided to the mother by a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state which results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death of the unborn child.
  • Section 4. This Act shall be known, and may be cited, as the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban.

Recently, Latterell wrote a blog post that stated Plan Parenthood is worse than ISIS:

Most states including South Dakota allow for the death penalty for murderers. There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims. It is this revulsion that leads us to rightly condemn the beheadings committed by unconscionably violent soldiers in the Middle East…

…Planned Parenthood abortionists in Sioux Falls are similarly beheading unborn children during dismemberment abortions. This method has been described by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart as a procedure that is: “laden with the power to devalue human life,” and is as brutal, if not more so, than Intact Dilation and Extraction (D&X or partial birth) abortions.”

Most people are unaware that this is happening, because Planned Parenthood of Sioux Falls denies that they behead or otherwise dismember unborn children…

…But South Dakota’s Department of Health’s website shows at least 7 such extreme and dangerous abortions have been done since 2008. There are probably many more where the method used was unstated or stated incorrectly. Considering Planned Parenthood is the only clinic that does abortions, it is clear that they are lying either to the media or to the department of health.

I am beyond angry at what Planned Parenthood is doing to us and to our children. In the words of David Brooks, their actions and their lies “show contempt for us and our morality”, “deny the slightest acknowledgment of our common humanity”, and “take the bully’s maximum relish in their power over the weak and innocent”.

This is why I have introduced House Bill 1230, the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015. It passed the House Health and Human Services Committee today with a vote of 11-2.

It simply states: “No licensed physician may knowingly behead a living unborn child with the intent of endangering the life or health of the child.”No state, no religion, and no organization should ever be allowed to use this unspeakably horrifying method. While we rightly take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye by holding ISIS accountable, let us be sure to take the plank out of our own eye by holding Planned Parenthood accountable.

There were 601 abortions performed in South Dakota in 2013. 73% of the women having an abortion were 29 years old and younger, 16% were ages 30-34 ,and 11% were 35 and older. Of the 601 women who had an abortion in 2013, 545 of them paid for the abortion out-of-pocket. Only 56 abortions were covered by some sort of insurance.

99.8% of the abortions performed in 2013 in South Dakota would NOT be subject to Latterell's HB 1230. That's right, for all the noise he is making about ISIS and Planned Parenthood of South Dakota beheading babies, his bill would cover .2% of the abortions in 2013. How many abortions is .2%? Two. That's right, two. (I rounded up to the next whole abortion)

I suspect that the 7 ISIS-like abortions since 2008 Latterell mentions in his blog post were determined by a physician to be medically necessary. If they were, then these abortions would fall outside of the prohibitions in HB 1230. The bill states:

The provisions of this Act do not apply to any medical treatment for a life-threatening condition provided to the mother by a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state which results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death of the unborn child.

Latterell would likely argue that if his bill saves the life of one, just one baby, then it's worth it. OK, let's run with this logic. In 2013, over 500 times more South Dakota residents died from alcohol and smoking than from the abortion procedures outlawed by HB 1230. If Lattrell is serious about saving lives then he should introduce the Alcohol and Tobacco Ban of 2015.

Lattrells' bill is nothing more than political smoke and mirrors meant to convince pro-lifer's that he is doing something about the evil abortion plague in South Dakota. Elizabeth Nash with the Guttmacher Institute summed up HB 1230 this way:

“What this bill is really about is the inflammatory language and riling up people to be opposed to abortion. This language is pretty gruesome. It's inflammatory. It's designed to get the political juices flowing. It is not really about what medical practice is like.”

The end game for people like Isaac Lattrell is the banning of ALL abortion procedures and some forms of birth control. The pro-life movement, realizing that they cannot overturn Roe v, Wade with a frontal attack, use incremental attacks meant to make it harder for a woman to get an abortion. Like the Koch brothers, the pro-life movement has become quite skilled at surreptitiously advancing their agenda with legislation like HB 1230. This is why those of us who support a woman's right to choose must push back EVERY time someone like Isaac Lattrell attempts to push his religiously driven anti-woman agenda on American women.

 

Frank Turek Says the Most Important Question is Does God Exist?

frank turek

Frank Turek

In a recent World Magazine interview, Frank Turek, author of Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, stated that the most important question any of us will ever face is, Does God Exist? Here’s what Turek had to say:

Early in your book Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, you say that there is one core question every human being needs to ask and answer. What’s that question? “Does God exist?” is the primary question because if God exists, then there is a real purpose to life and we live a certain way. If God doesn’t exist, there is no real objective purpose to life and you can do whatever you want. “Does God exist?” is literally the most important question every human being should answer. Unfortunately, most of our education system, particularly our public education system, assumes the answer to that question is no without even examining the evidence.

Shouldn’t Turek’s question really be, Does the Christian God exist? Turek, like all fundamentalists, presupposes the Christian God is the God that we must determine exists. Isn’t Turek doing exactly what he condemns the public education system for doing? Let me reword Turek’s last sentence:

Unfortunately, most Christians, particularly fundamentalist Christians, assume the answer to that question is the Christian God without even examining the evidence.

Most Christians embrace the religion and God of their culture and tribe. This is why most Americans self-identify as Christian. Few of them have actually considered the evidence for the existence of the Christian God. They just believe because that’s what most Americans do.

No Christian has ever been able to successfully explain to me how one can look at creation and say a God created everything and then turn right around and say that that God is the Christian God of the Bible. What evidence gets us from A GOD to THE GOD? There is none. Believing that the Christian God is the creator requires faith not evidence. This is why atheists like me do not believe in God. It’s not so much about evidence as it is faith. We don’t have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Christian God created the universe in six days, six thousand years ago. We don’t have the faith necessary to believe in a virgin having a baby, a dead man getting out of the grave after he has been dead for three days, or a man walking on water or through walls.

If apologists like Turek have evidence for these things, by all means they should present it to the world. Pointing an ancient text that purportedly was written by men under the influence of God, is not evidence. Step outside of the Bible, where’s the evidence for the Christian God being the creator?

Turek seems to have forgotten Hebrews 11:3:

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Through FAITH not EVIDENCE we understand the worlds were framed (created) by the word of God.

As I have said many times before, Christians do a real disservice to their religion when they try to “prove” the existence of their God. Either people believe or they don’t. Either they have faith or they don’t.  Count me as one of the faithless. While I can appreciate the deist argument for the existence of a creator God of some sort, I don’t think the evidence is such that I am willing to abandon atheism. Since there is no threat of hell or judgment with the deist viewpoint, I am content to try to live a moral and ethical life, loving others, and helping those who are in need.

As an atheist, I have a lot of questions, but does God exist is not one of them. While I am technically agnostic on the God question, I am confident, based on my study and experience, that there is no God. Perhaps a God of some sort will reveal itself to us some day. If I am alive when that day comes, I will then consider whether that God is worthy of my worship. Until then, I am content to remain an atheist.

Note

Doctrinal statement for Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College, the school Turek received his PhD from.