Apologetics, In the News

Unproven Assumptions with the Story about the Universe Teeming with Life

Hanegraaff-Hank-Universe-Teaming-with-Life-Story

I wrote the forward to Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design by Thomas Woodward. In the forward, I point out that it was Thomas Kuhn, who was the philosopher of science that popularized the concept of paradigms. A paradigm is a way of seeing reality. What Kuhn showed is that dominant paradigms, prevailing metanarratives, or master stories, appear to possess infallibility in their fields. The difficulty whether for scientist, philosophers, theologians or laypeople is that we do not think about our paradigms nearly as much as we think with our paradigms. In subtle, powerful, and almost always unconscious ways our paradigms filter and frame our perceptions, and that ends up blinding us to disconfirming data.

Imagine in this context the audacity of Michael Denton, who was the founder of what became known as the Intelligent Design Movement. He dared to attack Darwinian dogma as an empirically empty shell propped up by the sociological forces of a paradigm. The reality is this: neither pf the two fundamental axioms of Charles Darwin’s macroevolutionary theory—the concept of the continuity of nature and the belief that all of the adaptive design of life has resulted from a blind random process—neither have been validated by one single empirical discovery since 1859, the time of Darwin.

I say all of that because I was reading a guest blog in Scientific American. It was titled “Maybe Life in the Cosmos is Rare After All.” It got my attention because the narrative you read not only in academic journals but also in popular media is that life is teeming in the cosmos. But this piece written by Paul Davies, a theoretical physicists at Arizona State University, specializing in applied quantum physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology, points out as the title of the article indicates that maybe life in the cosmos is rare after all. The conclusion being that the universe is teeming with biology only on the basis of theory and unproven assumptions. He is an agnostic, concerning the existence of God, he has no qualms whatsoever about Darwinian Evolution, once life begins, but he’s questioning how life can begin in the first place. He thinks that is a significant obstacle. He writes,

When I was a student in the 1960s almost all scientists believed we are alone in the universe. The search for intelligent life beyond Earth was ridiculed; one might as well have professed an interest in looking for fairies. The focus of skepticism concerned the origin of life, which was widely assumed to have been a chemical fluke of such incredibly low probability it would never have happened twice. “The origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle,” was the way Francis Crick described it, “so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Jacques Monod concurred; in his 1976 book Chance and Necessity he wrote, “Man knows at last that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe, whence which he has emerged by chance.”

Today the pendulum has swung decisively the other way. Many distinguished scientists proclaim that the universe is teeming with life, at least some of it intelligent. The biologist Christian de Duve went so far as to call life “a cosmic imperative.” Yet the science has hardly changed. We are almost as much in the dark today about the pathway from non-life to life as Darwin was when he wrote, “It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter.”

A common argument is that the universe is so vast that there just has to be life out there somewhere. But that argument is dwarfed by the odds against forming even simple organic molecules by random chance alone. “If the pathway from chemistry to biology is long and complicated it may well be less than one-in a trillion trillion planets ever spawns life,” thus concludes theoretical physicists Paul Davies, “If life really does pop up readily, as [Carl] Sagan suggested, then it should have started many times on our home planet” and “It would take the discovery of just a single “alien” microbe to settle the matter.” But, we don’t have that.

I salute Scientific American for publishing this guest blog by Paul Davies. It’s honest, forthright, and really calls into question the evolutionary paradigm. That’s one of the reasons we offer Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design because Intelligent Design as a movement wants truth to lead wherever it will.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please consider the following:

Ten Urgent Questions and Answers about Origins (Hank Hanegraaff)

JAF9351 – Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity? (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Thinking Clearly About God and Evolution (Jay Richards)

Objections Overruled: Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design (William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell)

Unlocking the DNA Enigma (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Doubt and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

God and the “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” (William Lane Craig)

See also these recommended e-store items:

The Creation Answer Book (Hank Hanegraaff)

Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Dilemma DVD (Illustra Media)

The Privileged Planet DVD (Illustra Media)

Unlocking The Mystery Of Life DVD (Illustra Media)

Icons of Evolution DVD (Illustra Media)

This blog was adapted from Hank Hanegraaff’s monologue on the May 27, 2016 edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics, In the News

About Barack Obama’s Bathroom Edict

Hanegraaff, Hank-Barack Obama’s Bathroom Edict

May 17, 2016

I was thinking today of President Barack Obama’s bathroom edict. Do you remember John F. Kennedy envisioned a man on the moon? Obama envisions a man in a woman’s bathroom.

Think about the paradoxes, in our crumbling post-Christian culture, we’re steeped in a naturalistic worldview; therefore, on one hand, children are told that human beings are mere molecules in motion. In other words, there is no room for a subjective first person point of view. Yet, in an ironic twist, children are now to walk lockstep in the belief that they are not determined gender wise by objective biology but by an individual first person subjective conscious feeling regarding gender. Think about it? It is a mind warp.

Today I was reading an article by David French titled “President Obama’s Transgender Proclamation is Far Broader and More Dangerous than You Think.” He’s absolutely right. French points out that on May 9th Vanita Gupta , head of the Civil Rights Division of Justice, said,

Here are the Facts. Transgender men are men—they live, work, and study as men. Transgender women are women—they live, work and study as women.

In other words, according to the Department of Justice, it is a simple fact that a man can have a menstrual cycle, and a woman can have a penis, and that men can get pregnant.

Then 3 days ago, May 13 the administration threatened

Every single public school in America with the loss of federal funds unless it adopts the administration’s point of view that gender is defined not by biology but instead by personal preference.

French makes a number of points. First of which is that

Teaching biology and human physiology will be hate speech unless it’s modified to conform to the new transgender “facts.” Teachers will have to take great pains to note that chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormonal systems, and any other physical marker of sex is irrelevant to this thing called “gender,” which, “factually,” is a mere state of mind.

At least according to this narrative! Secondly,

Any statements of dissent — from teachers or students — will be treated as both “anti-science” and “discriminatory.”

In other words, it’s against science and it’s discrimination.

The argument that a “girl” with a penis remains a boy will be treated exactly the same as an argument that blacks are inferior to whites or Arabs inferior to Jews.

Third point is,

Public schools will now be even further opposed, doctrinally and legally, to orthodox Christianity.

Children are going to be taught, not only that their churches are factually wrong in their assessment and gender but they’re actually bigoted and hateful, kind of like White Supremacist.

Because the Administration’s edict is tied to funding not even civil disobedience can block the enforcement.

Unless schools can declare their full and complete independence from federal funding, they will continue to face escalating pressure from the federal government to use their classrooms to transform American culture and values.

Think about a remark on May 9th of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She

Very deliberately compared the DOJ’s aggressive actions to guarantee male access to women’s restrooms (and vice versa) to the fight against Jim Crow. These words were an unmistakable declaration of political war against people of orthodox faith.

When she uttered those words she didn’t just grotesquely exaggerate the plight of the transgender, she minimized the reality the memory of past discrimination.

No one understands this subject in my view as well as Joe Dallas, who has an incredible article, “The Transsexual Dilemma” He points out

Traditionally, if a man felt like a woman yet inhabited a male body, his feelings, not his body, were viewed as the problem. They were considered something to be resisted, modified if possible, and contrary to what was. Currently, what one is is being determined by what one feels—an ominous trend when one considers its implications. It is, in essence, an attempt to define reality by desire, knowledge by intuition.

Then Joe talks about a counseling session with a person named Kim.

“I know I’m a man because I feel like one!” Kim screamed at me as our session continued, leaving me stunned that an intelligent, educated woman subordinated a verifiable truth—her born, inalterable state—to subjective (though strongly held) perceptions.

The only way in which we ultimately change culture is by changing the hearts of people. So many people look at the Presidential race that we have going on right now and I heard one key evangelical voice say that now we have a choice of the lesser of evils and therefore we shouldn’t vote in this election. We should abstain from voting. The truth of the matter is the Presidential candidates reflect our culture. That’s the reality. They always will. We should still be involved in voting because our vote is going to have enormous implications for the years that lie before us as yet.

We have to ultimately recognize our responsibility as Christians to be able to give cogent, clear, concise, and compelling answers to the questions that the culture is asking. We need to learn how to reach rather than repel.

When Christians do not understand how to think clearly about these issues they lose by default. The bathroom edict narrative, as I pointed out, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The minute you start thinking about it you see the ironic twist. You see the self-stultifying statements. The problem is the narrative is repeated over and over with such dogmatism that unless you can respond with gentleness and with respect but clearly the thought is that there is no cogent response on the other side of the ledger.

So we as Christians must learn discernment skills and must take seriously our responsibility to train our children in such a way that they themselves can think. They need to learn discernment skills.

—Hank Hanegraaff

(Adapted from the 5/17/2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast)

In the News

Concerning My Recent Travel to Iran…because Truth matters

In an age in which internet fabrications travel half-way around the world before truth has had a chance to put its boots on, the apostle Paul’s words ring through the centuries with added urgency: “Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14). As the waist is the center of your body, so truth is central to the full armor of God. Without the belt of truth, the covering that protects you from the devil’s schemes simply crumbles to the ground and leaves you naked and vulnerable. Truth, like all other pieces of the armor of God, is in actuality an aspect of the very nature of God himself. Thus, to put on the belt of truth is to put on Christ—for Christ is “truth” (John 14:6). And Christians are called to be bearers of truth.

As Os Guinness has so wonderfully explained, Christianity is not true because it works (pragmatism); it is not true because it feels right (subjectivism). It is not true because it’s ‘my truth’ (relativism). It is true because it is anchored in the person of Christ. Thus, “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true. It is not true because we experience it; we experience it—deeply and gloriously—because it is true. It is not simply ‘true for us’; it is true for any who seek in order to find, because truth is true even if nobody believes it, and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it.”

Unfortunately, I’ve recently encountered further personal examples of how the internet can be used as a means of propagating falsehood.  

FALSE ACCUSATION: Hank Hanegraaff joins Occupy Wall Street and Muslims in anti-Israel conference in Tehran, Iran.

TRUTH: First, I have never joined or, for that matter, endorsed Occupy Wall Street (OWS). I have simply defined it as spontaneous activism fueled by social media.  Instead of blaming the government for social ills, OWS is bent on blaming the prosperous. Instead of awakening the political right, as the Tea Party did, OWS appeals to the political left who want equal distribution of wealth. I communicated my doubts that the OWS movement would have staying power. Although the Tea Party’s message is codified in two words, “smaller government,” which is comprehensible and can serve to galvanize a following, by contrast OWS’s message seems unclear: Are the banks to blame? Is it Wall Street? Is it Failed bureaucracies? Is it Capitalism?  As former President Bill Clinton said when interviewed by Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel, “They knew what they were against, but they didn’t quite know what they were for….They had a vision. They had no program and they had no organized political party. That’s the problem that the Occupy Wall Street people have.”

Furthermore, rather than joining Muslims at what is being characterized on the Internet as an anti-Israel conference, at both the University of Tehran and Allameh Tabatabai University I publicly opposed the radical socialist views of Imam Abdul Alim Musa of The Islamic Institute for Counter Zionist American Psychological Warfare.

Finally, I should also note that I engaged in spirited debate with Rabbi Weiss, whose calling card contains the moniker, “Pray for the speedy, peaceful dismantlement of the State of Israel.” From his perspective, the Jews were exiled for covenant unfaithfulness and therefore the notion of Zion prospering is reserved for the coming of a future messianic figure. While I strongly disagreed with the rabbi’s anti-Israel stance, I think he would readily agree that I engaged him with gentleness and with respect, in both public and private communications.

FALSE ACCUSATION: Hank Hanegraaff is a “Jew-hater.”

TRUTH: This is a patently false and slanderous accusation. I am against racism in any form. Far from facilitating race-based discrimination on the basis of eschatological presuppositions, Christians must be equipped to communicate that Christianity knows nothing of dividing people on the basis of race. Just as evangelicalism now universally repudiates the once-common appeal to Genesis 9:27 in support of slavery of blacks, we must thoroughly and finally put to rest any thought that the Bible supports the horrors of racial discrimination wherever and in whatever form we encounter it, whether within the borders of the United States or in the hallowed regions of the Middle East. Indeed, during WWII, my family was devoted heart and soul to the Dutch Resistance Movement, refusing to give in to either racial discrimination against Jews or the Nazification of the populous.

Furthermore, as delineated in my book The Apocalypse Code, I am anything but anti-Israel and consistently oppose anti-Semitism: “There is no precedent for supposing that God favors Jews over Palestinians or vice versa. At the end of the day, our heavenly Father is not pro-Jew—he is pro-justice; He is not pro-Palestinian, he is pro-peace. In fact, the priceless material with which our feet are fitted for readiness in battle ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12) is nothing less than a gospel of peace that works inexorably toward justice and equity. Only a gospel of peace and justice through faith in Jesus Christ is potent enough to break the stranglehold of anti-Semitism and racism fueled in part by bad theology. This is made explicit through a vision to unclean food that Peter experienced in Joppa. Only after he encountered the gentile centurion Cornelius did Peter fully comprehend the import of the vision. ‘I now realize how true it is’ said Peter ‘that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all’ (Acts 10:34–35).” 

Finally, I am not anti-Israel; I am anti-Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism supposes that the Jews are going to be herded back in the Holy Land where two-thirds will be killed. Christian Zionism is not only anti-Semitic with respect to the Palestinians, it is detrimental in that the Jews are going to suffer for the sins of their fore-fathers.

As I pointed out in The Apocalypse Code,

The Dispensationalists’ theory of two peoples of God has had chilling consequences not only for Jews, but for Palestinian Arabs as well. Unlike early dispensationalists, who believed that the Jews would be regathered in Palestine because of belief in their Redeemer, Many contemporary Dispensationalists hold to the theory that Jews must initially be regathered in unbelief solely on the basis of race. Such unbiblical notions put Christian Zionists in the untenable position of condoning the displacement of Palestinian Christians from their homeland in order to facilitate an occupation based on unbelief and racial affiliation.

The tragic consequence is that Palestinians today form the largest displaced people group in the world. As Dr. Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School, explains, “Israeli historians now talk about the mass and planned expulsion of the Palestinians, an early form of ‘ethnic cleansing.’ The most troubling national confession has been the destruction of at least four hundred Palestinian villages, the ruin of dozens of Arab urban neighborhoods, and several massacres that would motivate the Arab population to flee.” If America required people of African descent to carry special ID cards or to leave the country to make way for people of European ancestry, we would be condemned as a nation that promoted racism and apartheid. Attempting to justify our actions on the basis of biblical proscriptions is even more unthinkable. Says Burge, “Any country that de facto excludes a segment of its society from its national benefits on the basis of race can hardly qualify as democratic.”

This is precisely why Zionism has been labeled a racist political philosophy. As Burge notes, “In 1998, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel accused the government of race-based discrimination and ‘creating a threatening atmosphere that makes violations of human rights more acceptable.’”

As a closing thought, may I simply say that while the lack of discernment and civility displayed on the internet is astonishing, it becomes all the more appalling when those who claim Christianity propagate that which is untrue in an unloving fashion.  

—Hank Hanegraaff

In the News

A MONUMENTAL CONNECTION BETWEEN KIRK CAMERON AND CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION?

March 27, 2012 marked the debut of actor Kirk Cameron’s latest movie Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, which is a documentary on “the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known.” Julie Ingersoll, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida, in an op-ed piece for Religious Dispatches believes viewers shall find “new, more extreme Cameron,” whose views have been influenced by Rousas John Rushdoony and David Barton. In essence she finds in Cameron a “shift from the larger premillennialist evangelical world that he depicted in Left Behind to the postmillennialist dominion theology of the Reconstructionists.” Cameron, however, has not made any formal statement on whether or not his eschatology changed. Nevertheless, Postmillennial Reconstruction is well within the pale of theological orthodoxy.

Postmillennialists anticipate that the advancement of the Gospel will bring forth a semi-golden age before the Second Coming of Christ. Christian Reconstruction is a movement within the postmillennial tradition, which holds to a particular view on the Old Testament Law called theonomy. Kenneth Gentry explains, “The theonomic postmillennialist sees the gradual return to biblical norms of civil justice as a consequence of widespread gospel success through preaching, evangelism, missions, and Christian education. The judicial–political outlook of Reconstructionism includes the application of those justice-defining directives contained in the Old Testament legislation, when properly interpreted, adapted to new covenant conditions, and relevantly applied” (italics in original). [1]

Postmillennialism in all its varieties stands in contrast to premillennialism, the belief that Jesus Christ shall return to establish a future Millennial Kingdom. The most popular form of premillennialism is of the dispensational variety, which affirms two peoples of God (i.e. the sharp distinction between Israel and the Church), and two phases of the Second Coming (i.e. a secret Rapture of the Church, a seven year Great Tribulation brought on by the Antichrist, and a visible return of Christ, which begins the 1000 year reign). Many within the dispensational tradition have become drunk with millennial madness, using newspaper eschatology to make false predictions concerning the time of the Rapture. Some but not all dispensationalists even advocate a type of Christian Zionism which has monumental socio-political implications on the sensitive relations between modern Israel, Palestine, and other nations in the Middle East. John Hagee is an influential teacher advocating Christian Zionism.

Postmillennialism also stands distinct from amillennialism, the belief that the millennium is a present reality for believers between the two advents of Jesus Christ.

Hank Hanegraaff, in The Apocalypse Code, briefly discusses the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 as a type of vindication language, wherein God vindicates those having suffered  for Christ during a short period (i.e. “ten days”) in that they reign with Christ forever (i.e. “a thousand years”). He writes, “though mistaken by many as a semi-golden age of Christian history—leading to much debate over whether the return of Christ will happen before (premillennialism) or after (postmillennialism) the millennium, or whether the millennium is symbolic of the period of time between Christ’s first and second advents (amillennialism)—the thousand years of Revelation are symbolic of the unique and ultimate vindication (qualitative) that awaits the martyrs who died under the first century persecution of the Beast.” [2] Moreover, Hank holds that the proper grammatical principle of biblical interpretation reveals that the great tribulation, spoken of by Jesus Christ in the Olivet Discourse and depicted in apocalyptic images by John in the Book of Revelation, concerns mainly the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70—albeit the Apocalypse also points forward towards the final future to the new heaven and new earth.

Hank and CRI also recognize that the millennium is a secondary issue of eschatology that Christians can debate but not divide over. Nevertheless, ideas have consequences, and what one believes about the end time, whether Left Behind eschatology or Christian Reconstruction, determines how they live, and these are more than just harmless theological concepts relegated to the mind. Moreover, we encourage Christians to study the various positions and, using sound principles of hermeneutics come to a conclusion deemed most biblical (See “Practical Hermeneutics: How To Interpret Your Bible Correctly Part 1,” and “Practical Hermeneutics: How To Interpret Your Bible Correctly Part 2”).

The Christian Research Journal has also addressed R.J. Rushdoony’s views on the Christian family and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Christians should think deeply about the most pressing social issues of the day. When one does examine the source of all the great innovations of the West (i.e. monogamy, women’s liberation, hospitals, public education, capitalism, etc.), one finds it was the result of minds deeply influenced by the Word of God. Whether or not one adopts all the tenets of Christian Reconstruction, all Christians still must come to grips with thinking christianly about every aspect of life.

— Warren Nozaki

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

How Christianity Changed the World (B758)
by Alvin J/ Schmidt

Must the Sun Set on the West Audio CD Set (CD955)
by Vishal Mangalwadi

The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (B115)
edited by Robert G. Clouse

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (B580)
edited by Darrell Bock

Four Views on the Book of Revelation (B581)
edited by C. Marvin Pate

Revelation: Four Views : A Parallel Commentary (B793)
by Steve Gregg

Notes:

  1. Kenneth Gentry, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell Bock (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 19.
  2. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 274-275, cf. also ibid, 256-257n.
In the News

On The Kony 2012 Campaign

Just a little over week ago the KONY 2012 video began airing on social media sites and since then has gone viral, having 75,150,482 hits on YouTube as of March 13, 2012. The movie was produced by Invisible Children, which is a non-profit organization setup in 2006 to use “film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity.” The video is narrated by Jason Russell, one of the co-founders of Invisible Children. Since Kony’s atrocities are relatively unknown, particularly in the United States, KONY 2012 seeks to launch a grassroots campaign to inform each and every member of the global community and ultimately bring the warlord to justice by December 31, 2012. Part of the campaign includes appealing to 20 culture makers (celebrities, athletes, and billionaires) along with 12 policy makers to address the problem, and among other things a mass poster campaign set for April 20, 2012.

Criticisms that the KONY 2012 video oversimplifies a very complex situation have also been raised. For example, Michael Wilkerson, a freelance journalist who has lived and reported in Uganda, explains, “Well, the biggest issue that I’ve raised or perhaps the easiest to understand to begin with is that the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, was actually forced out of Uganda by the Ugandan military in 2006. So I came to start paying attention to this ‘Kony 2012’ campaign because all of a sudden on all of the places that I monitor—things happening in Uganda—there were these hordes of people saying stop the war in northern Uganda. Let’s go to northern Uganda and get rid of Kony. And there is no war in northern Uganda anymore, not since 2006,” but qualifies, “The LRA is still what I like to call a regional wrecking ball. It’s still raiding and massacring and abducting in neighboring countries, but northern Uganda itself is peaceful.” Ishaan Tharoor, in an op ed piece entitled “Why You Should Feel Awkward About the ‘Kony2012’ Video,” blogged that “the LRA is no longer thought to be actually operating in northern Uganda….Moreover, analysts agree that after concerted campaigns against the LRA, its numbers at this point have diminished, perhaps amounting to 250 to 300 fighters at most. Kony, shadowy and illusive, is a faded warlord on the run, with no allies or foreign friends.”

There are also responses to the critics. Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, who also appears in Kony 2012, noted in a BBC interview that Invisible Children had “mobilised the world,” and that “they’re giving a voice to people who before no-one knew about and no-one cared about and I salute them.” Invisible Children has also posted responses to their critics.

CRI has been aware of the activities of Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army for quite some time, and published the 2005 News Watch piece “Terrorizing the Innocents in Uganda: Religion Plays a Deadly Role in the Lord’s Resistance Army” by Steve Rabey. The article highlighted the cultic tactics used by Kony to indoctrinate children, turning them into brutal killers.

I believe Christians are to pray for the Lord to work through people and circumstances to bring Kony to justice and end the terror of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They are to pray for what the Lord would have them do in response to this. Most of all, I believe Christians must prayerfully consider specific ways to strengthen the church in Uganda, so that the Gospel may continue to be proclaimed, for it is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). Moreover, it is on account of hearts and minds transformed by the Word of God that one gains solid theological and spiritual foundations for effective social transformation. There is corruption in the world, but the Christian is the salt and light (Matt. 5:13-14).

— Warren Nozaki

In the News, Journal Topics

Mormon Leaders Want To Stop “Unauthorized” Baptisms for the Dead

Howard Berkes for National Public Radio reported that this coming Sunday (March 11, 2012), Mormon leaders are formally warning followers to stop controversial baptisms for the dead, particularly of “unauthorized groups” such as “celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims,” and a letter will be read in every congregation stating: “Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors…Those whose names are submitted for proxy [baptisms] should be related to the submitter.” There is also concern over non-Mormons being offended in finding out their deceased family members had been baptized into Mormonism.

The complete letter to be read has been published in The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints Newsroom article “First Presidency Issues Direction on Names Submitted for Temple Ordinances.” It is as follows:

We would like to reiterate the policies first stated in 1995 concerning the submission of names for proxy temple ordinances:

Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter.

Without exception, Church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims. If members do so, they may forfeit their New FamilySearch privileges. Other corrective action may also be taken.

Members are encouraged to participate in FamilySearch indexing which is vital to family history and temple work.

Bishops are asked to post this letter on their meetinghouse bulletin boards. Church members may seek the assistance of the family history consultants in their area for additional information, if needed. Name submission policies are also clearly stated on New.FamilySearch.org.

We appreciate the faithful adherence to these policies by all members of the Church.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The First Presidency

Baptism for the dead is one of several Mormon Temple Rituals vital for attaining godhood, which Hank Hanegraaff contends have no biblical sanction. Although just exactly what the apostle Paul meant in speaking of the “baptism for the dead” in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is a matter of some debate, the Mormon interpretation and practice is clearly not consistent with the teaching of Scripture. The Christian Research Journal has well-critiqued baptism by proxy and set forth viable interpretations of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in the articles “The Mormon Doctrine of Salvation for the Dead: An Examination of Its Claimed Biblical Basis” by Luke P. Wilson, and “Baptism for the Dead: Discerning Historical Precedent from Mere Prose” by Steve Bright.

—Warren Nozaki, Research

For further study on Mormonism, CRI recommends the following bookstore resources:

Memorable Keys to the M-O-R-M-O-N Mirage by Hank Hanegraaff

Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church by Richard Abanes

Mormonism’s Greatest Problems Package featuring Bill McKeever, Eric Johnson, and Sandra Tanner

Apologetics, In the News

The Dalai Lama, Martin Sheen, and Beyond Religion

In a recent Reuters “Book Talk,” Bernard Vaughan interviewed actor Martin Sheen on his recent project as narrator for the audio book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) is the spiritual leader of Tibet and the purported fourteenth reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet, within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is also the author of The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. The Dalai Lama undoubtedly has also a great influence upon many outside Buddhism.

Sheen, a professing Roman Catholic, shared that it took three days to record Beyond Religion, and “each day that I went back I was more nourished by what I was learning.” With respect to the general philosophy of the book, Sheen says, “It doesn’t say drop your religion; you can’t go this path and remain a Catholic or a Protestant or a Muslim or a Jew. On the contrary, it’s about your humanity. That’s where we’re all united. I think what he is trying to do is enlarge the circle. He’s trying to ensure people that they don’t have to give up anything that they believe in order to enlarge their possibilities.” In Beyond Religion, the Dalai Lama argues that “religion is not a necessity for pursuing a spiritual life. Rather he proposes a system of secular ethics grounded in a deep appreciation of our common humanity.”

The Dalai Lama, in a Huffington Post blog, explains, “In today’s secular world religion alone is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. One reason for this is that many people in the world no longer follow any particular religion. Another reason is that, as the peoples of the world become ever more closely interconnected in an age of globalization and in multicultural societies, ethics based in any one religion would only appeal to some of us; it would not be meaningful for all.” The solution, in his opinion, is “secular ethics,” or “an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without.”

The idea of secular ethics is certainly consistent with Buddhism for its philosophy for the most part is agnostic. As for the Dalai Lama, he dismisses the existence of a divine creator. When LifePositive inquired about why Buddha said nothing about God, the Dalai Lama replied, “Because he talked about the law of causality. Once you accept the law of cause and effect, the implication is that there is no ‘creator,’ ” and “Talking of God, who created God? There is no point arguing. Dharmakeerti and Shantideva [Buddhist scholars] debate the existence of God and reach the conclusion that if we believe in a benevolent creator, how do we explain suffering?”

A Christian can agree that in a world filled with diverse people with disparate beliefs there still exist common ground ethics for dialog in resolving conflicts. There are indeed moral absolutes that are true for all. Paul writes, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or defending them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:14–16). There is then a natural law written upon the heart’s of people, which allows for dialogue on ethics.

Christians can also agree to stand up against injustice, and rightly condemn evil done in the name of Christ. Moreover, Christianity, alone among the possible worldviews, has a satisfying explanation for why suffering and evil exist in the world (see, for example, “Addressing the Problem of Evil” by Douglas Groothuis,” and “How Should Christians Approach the Problem of Evil?” by E. Calvin Beisner and Chad Meister).

The idea of segregating faith from the public forum still poses a problem for the Christian. It is true that we possesses moral sensibilities; yet, we are much like blind men inside a room with an elephant, groping around, and trying to describe the creature, but only sensing bits and pieces of the whole. We are in need of someone who can see, and say, “You there, you are feeling only its leg, if you keep moving to your left, you will feel the belly, another leg, an ear, and its head, then you will have a better idea of what this animal is like.” Christianity holds that God revealed Himself to mankind through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament then through Jesus Christ, the very incarnation of God, and the apostles in the New Testament. It is then through divine revelation that people get a better understanding of moral truths.

Is living in a diverse world of people with disparate beliefs reason for leaving faith out of conversations on ethics? No! Christ’s followers emerged out of Judaism but they also took their message to the ends of the earth. They went out to share Christ with a world influenced by Caesar cults, Greek philosophies, mystery religions, and magic. The reason is that Christians had a message that could transform people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Moreover, as the apostles also taught, “Salvation is found in no one else [than Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

It can also be pointed out that Christianity provides the world with spiritual resources for social transformation. People through deep reflection upon God’s Word came to understand their own dignity as persons created in the image of God both male and female (Gen. 1:26–27), and this was underscored in the reality of the gospel message of how God loved humanity such that He sent the Son to be incarnated—Jesus Christ—to die upon the cross on behalf of sinners so that those whosoever believes can have everlasting life (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). The Scriptures would also form the basis for values such as the sanctity of life, charity, women’s equality, and slave emancipation. They would also influence development and innovations in art, science, jurisprudence, and economics (for further study, please see The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt).

— Warren Nozaki

In the News, Journal Topics

Biblical Misconceptions?

I came across a CNN Belief Blog op-ed piece entitled “My Take: The 3 Biggest Biblical Misconceptions” by former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong. In it he purports three misconceptions  people have about the Bible that make it hard to understand.

First, he contends “people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.” One reason Spong offers for this assertion is a liberal presupposition that the Gospels were written late, between AD 70–90, making them subject to mythological corruption. The fact, however, that the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament make no mention of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70is one of several compelling reasons for dating the entire New Testament prior to AD 70. Moreover, even if we were to grant the liberal dating, there still would be no justification for worrying over the accuracy of the New Testament given the remarkable reliability of the oral culture within which the New Testament was produced to transmit history and teaching accurately.

The second misconception, according to Spong, is “the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense ‘the word of God,’ ” which he bases upon the apparent evil of Yahweh ordering the “genocide” of nations, and a fundamental misunderstanding of Old Testament imprecatory psalms.

Finally, Spong suggests people are under the misconception that “biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging,” which he bases upon the apparent difference between the “tribal deity” in Exodus who orders the death of every firstborn male and the God who commands people to love their enemy. The God of the Bible, however, does not change; rather, He progressively reveals different aspects of Himself in biblical history. He is both just, sending wrath upon sinful Egyptians for their mistreatment of others, but also merciful in teaching His people to love their neighbor.  

Is there any basis for Spong’s assertions? None at all. He is, as Hank Hanegraaff puts it, a “fundamentalist on the left.” Hank addresses and refutes Spong’s claims in his recent book, Has God Spoken: Memorable Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

— Warren Nozaki

For further refutation of Spong’s claims,  see the following equip.org resources:

Is The Bible Myth?

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims

Was Revelation Written Before or After the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70?

Moses: The Author of the Pentateuch

How Do We Know That The Bible Is The Word Of God?

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

Facts for Skeptics of the New Testament

Does Homosexuality Demonstrate that the Bible is Antiquated and Irrelevant?

When Literal Interpretations Don’t Hold Water

Hateful Vindictive Psalms?

We also recommend the following bookstore resources:

Has God Spoken
B1045/$22.99

Is God a Moral Monster?
B1030/$14.99

The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ
B387/$18.00

Apologetics, In the News

Hank Hanegraaff’s Response to MSNBC’s “Mind over Mania”

Summary Critique: Mind over Mania, MSNBC, aired Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teen Mania Ministries (TMM), the youth organization founded by Ron Luce, was portrayed as a mind control cult in a November 6, 2011 MSNBC exposé titled Mind over Mania. In reality, the MSNBC piece is a case study in sophistry, sloppy journalism, and sensationalism.

In Mind over Mania, Doug and Wendy Duncan, billed as experts specializing in recovery from mind control, seek to establish the allegation that all eight criteria of Robert Jay Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China are active in the teachings and practices of TMM [1]. In reality, the anecdotal evidence they provide clearly fails to establish the outrageous brainwashing” allegations. Moreover, many of the arguments proffered against TMM could just as easily be used to establish historic Christianity as a thought reform cult. Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited. If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.

Furthermore, while it is viscerally arresting to watch sensationalistic images of teenagers gagging on organic worms, it should be noted that footage hyped ad nauseum by the MSNBC promotion machine was recorded during the heyday of NBC’s Fear Factor, a TV program that elevated consumption of worms to veritable cult status. Nonetheless, Teen Mania leadership readily acknowledges that such practices were unwise and thus have rescinded them. As well, participants were clearly warned that the ESOAL event was designed to be physically and mentally challenging and were free to end their participation at will.

Finally, on a personal note, I have been acquainted with Ron Luce and TMM for over twenty years. I have found Ron to be a passionate father, husband, and ministry leader. Indeed, I still remember how impressed I was upon initially meeting one of his daughters. Since then I have recognized him to be thoughtful, teachable, and thoroughly committed to the essentials of historic Christianity. While I strongly disagree with Ron on various secondary matters, I stand shoulder to shoulder with him on the doctrines that form the line of demarcation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the cults. It is likewise noteworthy that TMM is a member in good standing with the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) and operates under the oversight of a credible board of directors, which includes Paul Nelson, former director of ECFA [2].

—Hank Hanegraaff

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute, host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, and author of many bestselling books, including Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century.

Notes:

1. The following are Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as presented in Mind over Mania:

Milieu Control. Control of information and communication from without and within the group environment resulting in isolation.

Mystical Manipulation. The claim of divine authority or spiritual advancement that allows the leader toreinterpret events as he wishes.

Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and group members are constantly exhorted to strive for perfection.

The Cult of Confession. Serious sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either privately to a personal monitor or publicly to the group at large.

The “Sacred Science.” The doctrine of the group is considered to be the ultimate truth, beyond all questioning or dispute.

Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.

Doctrine over Person. The personal experiences of the group members are subordinated to the Truth held by the group.

Dispensing of Existence. Those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” and they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost.

2. See http://www.ecfa.org, http://www.teenmania.com/finances/, and http://www.teenmania.com/staff/.

Apologetics, In the News

Myths and Truths about Mormonism

Mormon journalist Joanna Brooks recently published an op-ed piece for the Washington Post entitled “Five Myths about Mormonism.” What Brooks purports to be myths are, for the most part, facts spun in favor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

The idea that “Mormons aren’t Christian” is for Brooks a myth, who contends millions of members of the LDS pray in the name of Jesus Christ, receive “a bread-and-water sacrament memorializing the body and blood of Christ,” and discuss Christ’s teachings in Sunday school. In her youth, she remembers being accused of belonging to a “cult,” knowing about “anti-Mormon films” being screened at local churches, and receiving “anti-Mormon notes” taped to her school locker. But she resolves, “Ask my Jewish husband if he thinks his Christmas-celebrating, New Testament-reading Mormon wife is Christian, and his answer will be absolutely yes.”

Here it is important for discerning Christians to scale the language barrier. Mormonism uses Christian terms like “Jesus Christ,” but twists them with a theologically cultic redefinition. It is important to remember that Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that all churches were wrong and all their creeds an abomination. In 1839, Smith purported seeing an angel named Moroni and receiving new divine revelation on gold plates written in “reformed Egyptian,” out of which came the Book of Mormon. Smith and other Mormon prophets received further revelations, which were then codified in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Yet, it does not stop with this “quad” of books, and Mormon prophets continually purport to receive new divine revelations. From these new extra-biblical revelations, the Mormon learns that God was once a man who progressed to godhood [1] and that people can likewise progress to godhood [2]. They also learn that the polygamous “Heavenly Father” has many wives who are collectively called “Heavenly Mother” [3]. They moreover learn that Jesus was the child of the sexual union between God the Father and Mary [4] and is the spirit brother of Lucifer [5]. Mormons, moreover, reject the essential Christian doctrines of the Trinity [6], original sin [7], and salvation by grace through faith [8]. These beliefs distinguish Mormonism as a pseudo-Christian cult (see “The Basics of Mormonism,” “A Different Jesus? Worse: A Different God, Gospel and Faith,” “Is Jesus Christ the Spirit Brother of Satan?Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine Part 1, Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine Part 2 and “Philosophical Problems with the Mormon Concept Of God”).

There may be a grain of truth to what Brooks’ labels as myths, such as “Mormons practice polygamy,” “Mormon women are second-class citizens,” and “most Mormons are white, English-speaking conservatives.”

Brooks also correctly points out that polygamy was practiced by Mormons, that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, that due to “political pressure” the LDS “phased out the practice,” that mainstream Mormons anticipate polygamy in the afterlife (the Mormon Millennial Kingdom), and that there are fringe Mormon “splinter-groups” maintaining the practice. Nevertheless, the Bible condemns polygamy on either side of eternity (see “Does the Bible Promote Polygamy?”).

The belief of a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother on the surface appears egalitarian; however, as mentioned above, the Mormon belief is in a polygamous Heavenly Father with many wives who are spoken of collectively as “Heavenly Mother.” One can even make the case that women are not really liberated in polygamous societies; rather, it is the uniquely Christian idea of monogamy coupled with the sexual ethics of the Bible that became a social structure contributing to the empowerment of women.

Mormonism even has a worldwide presence with converts from many different people groups; however, this is in spite of the fact that the LDS has through the years struggled with doctrines promoting discrimination and inequality, such as black skin being a curse on account of being less valiant people in their preexistence, and the former banning of blacks from the priesthood (see “LDS Church Acknowledges Anniversary’s Ban on Priesthood for Blacks”).

There are certainly a number of Mormons in public office, including Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney (R) and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), but also others including Senator Harry Reid (D). Brooks, however, considers the idea that “a Mormon president would blur the line between church and state” to be a myth and even notes that “for 2012, the church has asserted its neutrality and instructed employees and officers not to donate to, endorse or campaign for any candidate.” Still, it would be a mistake to think the religious beliefs of civic leaders have no influence on the policies they make, albeit a creed or confession is not a “deal breaker” when it comes to voting for a political candidate (see Is it Permissible for a Christian to Vote for a Mormon?).

— Warren Nozaki, Research

For further insights into the doctrinal errors of Mormonism, please consider Hank Hanegraaff’s latest resource Memorable Keys to the M-O-R-M-O-N Mirage

The following resources are also available through the CRI bookstore:

Mormonism 101
B587/$15.99

The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon
DVD725/$8.00

DNA vs. The Book of Mormon
DVD723/8.00

Lifting The Veil Of Polygamy
DVD736/$9.99

Mormonism’s Greatest Problems Package
PK904/$25.00

Notes:

  1. The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Book Company, 1979), 345.
  2. Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City, UT: 1958), 104.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), 516.
  4. McConkie, 546-547, 742; Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington, DC: n.p., 1853-54), 158-59; Brigham Young, Desert News, October 10, 1866; Ezra Taft Benson, The Teaching of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 7.
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, 1992), 17–19.
  6. The Mormon belief is polytheistic, seeing a plurality of gods from the beginning, and the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate gods, as opposed to the Christian concept of the Trinity, which is there is one God who is revealed in three in coequal coeternal persons (cf. Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. 6. [Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Books, 1978] 473–479)
  7. cf. McConkie, 550; James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, 1982), 476.
  8. cf. 2 Nephi 25:23; According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “to enter the celestial kingdom and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept” (Joseph Felding Smith, The Way of Perfection [Salt Lake City, UT: Desert Book Company, 1970], 206).