[SERMON] Sex & Creation — Genesis 2

The Sunday Conversation at Reunion Church led by Joe Miller, Elder — Genesis 2. The message is titled, “Sex & Creation.”

Here are the questions we discussed at our tables.

1 Why is there so much confusion today about “gender identity”?
2 Why do you think so many people and cultures struggle with seeing men and women as equal?
3. How can the Creation story help us resolve our confusion?
 

Here is a summary of the main points that jumped out to me.

1. Male & Female TOGETHER reflect the Goodness of God. (e.g. Our “gender” ID is objective, not subjective.)
2. Male & Female TOGETHER reflect the creative power of God. (e.g. A triune God is reflected in the triune nature of conception).
3. Male & Female TOGETHER fulfill God’s Divine purpose (e.g. We must care for all creation).
What have we wrought?

What have we wrought?

Is God real? Is faith in God delusional? Ravi Zacharias argues three approaches to fashioning a reasonable worldview; Total Objectivity/Transcendence, Total Determinism, and Semi-Transcendence. Only the latter is the hope of producing a systemic coherent scientific and religious worldview. Following are some quotes to consider.

We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends.
Aldous (Leonard) HuxleyEnds and Means: an Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into Methods Employed for their Realization (1937), 310.
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.”
Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means
Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. … Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
 Richard C. Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons” in: The New York Review of Books, 9 January 1997, p. 31
“Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close. Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close. Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough. Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”
David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society
When a general principle is advanced, it collapses quickly into absurdity. Thus Sam Harris argues that “to believe that God exists is to believe that I stand in some relation to his existence such that his existence is itself the reason for my belief” (italics added). This sounds very much as if belief in God could only be justified if God were to call attention conspicuously to Himself, say by a dramatic waggling of the divine fingers.
If this is so, then by parity of reasoning again, one might argue that to believe that neutrinos have mass is to believe that I stand in some relationship to their mass such that their mass is itself the reason for my belief.
Just how are those neutrinos waggling their fingers?
A neutrino by itself cannot function as a reason for my belief. It is a subatomic particle, for heaven’s sake. What I believe is a proposition, and so an abstract entity—that neutrinos have mass. How could a subatomic particle enter into a relationship with the object of my belief? But neither can a neutrino be the cause of my belief. I have, after all, never seen a neutrino: not one of them has ever gotten me to believe in it. The neutrino, together with almost everything else, lies at the end of an immense inferential trail, a complicated set of judgments.
Believing as I do that neutrinos have mass—it is one of my oldest and most deeply held convictions—I believe what I do on the basis of the fundamental laws of physics and a congeries of computational schemes, algorithms, specialized programming languages, techniques for numerical integration, huge canned programs, computer graphics, interpolation methods, nifty shortcuts, and the best efforts by mathematicians and physicists to convert the data of various experiments into coherent patterns, artfully revealing symmetries and continuous narratives. The neutrino has nothing to do with it.
[In Semi-Transcendance] humanity is able to move outside of itself to a legitimate degree and what it ends up doing really in the ability to move out of itself to a legitimate degree it is then able to measure its pronouncements by external testing, external verification for correspondence and coherence. When you make a statement you can check it out correspondingly to be true. When you build a system, you can look at it as a systemically coherent worldview. This is the way it is in our courts of law. This is the way it ought to be in a scientific lab itself. When you make a statement it is measured against a referent. When you put together a system it ought to be coherent and brought together. Total Transcendence is logically, biologically, and ideologically impossible. Total Determinism is self-defeating. The Semi Transcendent way is the only way we are able to half rise outside of yourself make meaningful statements about reality and measure them up against the truth as they really correspond.
A Prayer for my President: Donald J. Trump

A Prayer for my President: Donald J. Trump

As I did with President Obama, today on inauguration day I am lifting up a prayer for my President Donald J. Trump. I must admit, these are words that I never imagined I would write. Like most Americans, I never thought Trump stood a chance of winning, but here we are in 2017 looking toward the unknown of the next four years.

Today, my biggest prayer is for healing. The rhetoric of the 2016 campaign was extremely divisive from leaders in both parties. In 2008, one of my biggest prayers was that Obama’s Presidency would increase racial unity in America. I wrote at that time,

Now, less than 50 years [after the civil rights movement of the 1960’s], we stand at the edge of a new era when the fullness of our constitutional promise that “All Men are created equal” will  be achieved.  On January 20th, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in is as the first non-white President of the United States of America.

To be certain, this does not mean the end of all racial problems.  As noted in the February 2001 article in Time, there are some who say “Obama Is Not Black Enough.”  For others, Obama is not white enough.  In a country of this size, with a great diversity of cultures, there will always be some racial hatred and bigotry.  But look how far we have come!

Sadly, the last 8 years our leaders have helped foment racial division, weakened traditional institutions of moral strength, and fractured many once strong relationships.

  • I pray against any leader who tries to advance the culture of fear as a way to keep their power and wealth.
  • To those who chose violent protest and riots as their path of dissent, I pray they would abandon these immoral tactics.
  • My prayer for President Trump is that he would elevate his rhetoric, lead with integrity, appoint godly people, and be a source for reconciliation in American politics.

1 Timothy 2:1–6 (ESV)

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The Reporter Who Cried Trump

The Reporter Who Cried Trump

I do not share Trump’s underlying value system. I will wait and see what policies he actually proposes, but I do not have high expectations for the Trump Presidency. I have a feeling it will be an unpredictable bag of some positive and some disastrous policies. That being said, one major reason Trump won the Presidency in 2016 is because people do not know what “news” to trust so they end up picking the news that fits their preferred worldview. The “Trump is a stooge for Russie” narrative propagated by CNN ideologues is one recent example explained well by CBS46’s Reality Check.

This is a dangerous situation when ideology trumps truth in reporting. It is simply the classic Aesop’s Fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf;” too many false alarms and the people don’t know when the alarm is real. Below is my retelling of this fable for our modern world.

The Reporter Who Cried Trump

There once was a reporter who was bored as she sat in front of her computer checking her social media rankings. To increase her followers she took a great breath and typed out, “Trump! Trump! Trump is a racist!”

The American people took to twitter to help the reporter spread the fearful message and drive Tump away. But no sooner did they reshare the warning, they found the news was fake. The reporter laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

“Don’t cry ‘Trump’, reporter,” said the American people, “when there’s no evidence of your charge!” They went grumbling and complaining back to their Facebook accounts.

Later, the reporter cried out again,”Trump! Trump! Trump is a Russin stooge!” To her naughty delight, she watched the American people take to twitter to help spread the fearful message and drive Tump away

When the American people saw the news was fake they sternly said, “Save your frightened tweets for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘Tump’ when the news is fake!”

But the reporter just grinned as her twitter shares soared and watched the people go grumbling and complaining on Facebook.

Later, she saw a real danger when Trump proposed a terrible law. Alarmed, the reporter jumped on twitter and cried out as loudly as she could, “Trump! Trump!”

But the American people thought the reporter was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t reshare and many more unfollowed her.

During the next 24-hour news cycle, some people wondered why the reporter hadn’t returned to twitter to share more salacious news. They scoured social media to find the reporter’s latest news. They found her unemployed.

“There really was a Trump scare this time! But, the American people have scattered! I cried out, “Trump!” Why didn’t you reshare?”

An old man tried to comfort the reporter as they walked to the unemployment office.

“We’ll help you look for a new job in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the reporter, “Nobody believes a liar…even when she is telling the truth!”

The Electoral College and the End of Slavery

The Electoral College and the End of Slavery

Electoral College vs. Popular Vote

I have been hearing a lot this past week about how the Electoral College is outdated and we should just go by the popular vote. Most notably political supporters of Hillary Clinton say, “she won the popular vote, so let’s use that to make her President.” But there are a few problems with this idea. The most obvious being that changing the rules after the election is an intellectually corrupt idea.

The best analogy I heard is that the Cubs won the world series which was the best of 7 games. However, the Indians scored more runs during the series. Did the Indians really “win” the World Series? After all, they scored more total runs? Of course, we can’t say the Indians are the real winners because that is not how the rules of the 7 game series were set up. The Electoral College is like the 7 game series. The votes are like runs. The total vote only counts in each state and then each state is given a number of votes based on population. This means each state (like each game in the World Series) is equally valued regardless of how disproportionate the popular vote might be in any one state. Or think of it this way, Trump won the popular vote in 32 of 50 states.

Turning to the election strategies of 2016, neither candidate campaigned in such a way to win the popular vote. Both Trump and Clinton spent time in small states with small populations because that is how they strategized to win the Electoral College. If at the beginning of the election they knew the goal was to win the popular vote, then both candidates would have run a very different kind of election; set policies to attract the largest numbers of people, spent advertising dollars to appeal to large population blocks, and physically campaigned only in the largest cities.

I realize people are upset (and, for the record, I never endorsed Trump or Clinton), but suggesting that we should change the outcome of the election based upon a new set of rules that we invent after the election is over is both irrational and silly.

But what of the larger issue… is the Electoral College (EC) outdated and a bad system? Should the United States of America switch to a popular vote election for President?

An Imperfect System

First, I think everyone can agree that there is no perfect system, but to suggest the EC is bad in every way is an exaggeration that demonstrates a lack of any real understanding of the issue. The founders were rightly concerned with what they called the Tyranny of the Majority and implemented the EC to mitigate that concern.

The founders of our government were fully convinced that no despotism could be more intolerable than a pure democracy, where the majority had unrestricted power. Our national legislature is restricted within very narrow limits by the Constitution. It has not the political omnipotence of the Parliament of Great Britain, which can change the dynasty, abolish the peerage, or the church establishment, and model at pleasure the institutions of the country. Our Congress has no such power. Its authority is limited by a written Constitution. It is held in check by the distribution of power, and by the legislative authority being vested in two houses—the one composed of the representatives of the states without regard to their relative size or importance. In every way, therefore, that human wisdom could devise, the minority is protected from the tyranny of the majority.

“Review of The State of the Country,” The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review XXXIII, no. 1–4 (1861): 24–25.

The founders hoped the EC would protect the rights of the minority from a majority only concerned with their own right. I defer to Mills on this issue,

“Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” in The Harvard Classics 25: John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909), 206–207.

Alexander Hamilton warned of the dangers of electing a person who could campaign only to win the popular vote, but lack the ability to represent all people, from every diverse state in the union, equally.

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1998).

So while the EC may have its flaws, I have yet to read any compelling argument from reason or history that supports the idea that a pure democracy would resolve those difficulties without creating a new tyranny of the majority.

An End to Slavery

Still, some argue, the EC has never in the 200+ years of American history shown itself to protect the minority from the majority. This, however, is not true. In fact, history shows that the Electoral College was a significant factor leading to the abolition of slavery. Lincoln won only 39% of the popular vote but was elected by an Electoral College landslide. Allen Guelzo and James Hulme write,

[I]t was the electoral college that made it possible to end slavery, since Abraham Lincoln earned only 39 percent of the popular vote in the election of 1860, but won a crushing victory in the electoral college. This, in large measure, was why Southern slaveholders stampeded to secession in 1860-61. They could do the numbers as well as anyone and realized that the electoral college would only produce more anti-slavery Northern presidents.

"Both Minnesota and Oregon become states during this election cycle which meant that the original 13 States controlled fewer than 50% of total Electoral Votes for first time. Lincoln received only about 39% of the popular vote in a divided nation on the brink of Civil War. The New Jersey Electors split their vote: 4 for Lincoln, 3 for Douglas; Douglas had won popular vote." —270towin.com

“Both Minnesota and Oregon become states during this election cycle which meant that the original 13 States controlled fewer than 50% of total Electoral Votes for first time.
Lincoln received only about 39% of the popular vote in a divided nation on the brink of Civil War. The New Jersey Electors split their vote: 4 for Lincoln, 3 for Douglas; Douglas had won popular vote.” —270towin.com

The EC has protected us from the Tyranny of the majority. The Confederate South, much like modern Leftists who reject Trump and Bush, saw Lincoln as “unjustly” elected because while he won the EC, he did not have the majority of votes.

“In November, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States by a sectional vote and upon strictly sectional issues. The platform of his party, upon which Mr. Lincoln stood, asserted that ‘the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom.’ It further declared that no legislative body could ‘give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.’ This claim ignored, or rather set at defiance, the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court, and indeed the personal liberty bills of many of the Northern States had already nullified that decision and the laws of which it was the interpretation.

The vote by which Mr. Lincoln was elected was a large minority of the popular vote—nearly one million—yet he had a considerable majority in the electoral college. In the Southern States he had no electoral ticket at all; and there, too, was food for grave thought. If, adhering to the mere forms of the Constitution, a man could be elected to the Presidency by a vote strictly sectional and upon one issue, avowedly sectional, why not upon any other, however regardless of the rights and interests of another section? Mr. Lincoln had three competitors for the office of President, and it has often been claimed that his opponents could have defeated him by combining upon a single candidate. This is a great error, and therein is the defect of the electoral system, and it was a threat to the Southern States. The Electoral College at that time consisted of 303 members, making 152 votes necessary to a choice. Mr. Lincoln received 180 votes in all, though in a minority of nearly a million in the popular vote. But in fifteen of the Northern and Western States, having 167 votes in the Electoral College, he had also clear majorities of the popular vote over the combined votes of the three opposing candidates; so in any case he would have had a majority of fifteen in the Electoral College even if there had been but one competitor. Examination of the official figures will prove the correctness of this statement.”

J. William Jones, ed., Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 32, Southern Historical Society Papers (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.), 279–280.

I have seen signs and tweets from today’s protesters calling for someone to assassinate Trump and petitions calling for the Electors to honor the popular vote and reject their Constitutional mandate. This idea is not new. Some people in Lincoln’s day plotted to overturn the results of the EC to ensure a pro-slavery Democrat could take over.

“A plan was unfolded to me last night by which the election of Lincoln by the Electoral College may be prevented, and a prominent Southern Senator put in his place, If I thought the plan at all feasible, I would give it now.–Perhaps I may do so to-morrow.”

Richmond Dispatch, The Daily Dispatch: 1860, Richmond Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia: Perseus Digital Library, 1860).

And here details of the plot were outlined.

“(Washington, Dec. 12, 1860) The plan hinted at in my letter of day before yesterday, is, in brief, this: So to manage when the Electoral College declares Lincoln elected, that there shall not be acquirer of the Senate as required by law. Breckinridge having resigned his seat as President of the Senate, a President protem, is put in his place, and there being no legal election of President, the Senate declare the then occupant of the Chair to be the President of the United States for the next four years. This plan, it is said, requires only five Northern Senators to carry it into effect, and the name of the man who is to be elected President by this manœuvre has been mentioned to me. He would never consent to such a trick, nor would the people either of the North or South accept it. Therefore, I merely give it as a sample of the plots and intrigues now going on here.”

Richmond Dispatch, The Daily Dispatch: 1860, Richmond Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia: Perseus Digital Library, 1860).

The Confederates despised the EC because it limited their ability to control the Election of Lincoln. Here, just like the protesters and rioters on the streets today, they dreamt of overthrowing the EC because it did not meet with their personal preference.

“(Washington Jan. 31, 1861) A lovely morning, and glorious news. Lincoln resolutely, inflexibly holds on to the Chicago platform.Not a jot, not a tittle of it will he abate, though all creation go to wrack. –This we have by telegraph, and I hope sincerely the news went South last night. Virginia has no excuse for remaining in bondage to the Abolitionists. Her submission must be flat, abject, complete. Nor can she hope to obtain any pretext for submission from the Peace Congress which meets here next Monday. The Republicans will have plenty of Commissioners of their own stamp on hand.–to block that game. The people of Virginia may as well make up their minds to back square down to the nigger equality Despot, or to join heart and soul with the South.

The private interview between a distinguished New York member and a no less distinguished Western Senator, which occurred last night, inclines me to the belief that there is something in the wind, probably in the nature ofcoup d’etat when the time for counting the vote of the Electoral College arrives. But the aforesaid Senators will hardly be a party to it.”

Richmond Dispatch, The Daily Dispatch: 1861, Richmond Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia: Perseus Digital Library, 1861).

Because the majority is not always right, we need the Electoral College to preserve the rights of the minority. It may seem convenient in our modern context to reject the EC in favor of the popular vote, but remember this majority only vote will not always run in your favor. If you lived in the South, would you have accepted slavery just because the majority of people accepted it? Lincoln did not win the “popular” vote in the South, but the EC guaranteed he would become president and help end slavery.The issue at hand is the EC and is there a “better” way. Other than your opinion, you have not made any argument why a majority vote would be an improvement. I

The issue at hand is the EC and is there a “better” way. Other than political opinion, I have not read any transcendent argument why a majority vote would be an improvement. I am loath to embrace such a significant change without a strong argument rooted in both reason and history. Until that time comes, it seems the Electoral College is still the best possible system in a flawed and broken world.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana

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