Russell and Duenes

Archive for March 2013

Jesus Died to Destroy in Our Lives The Little False Gods, and The Big Ones

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goodfridayThe social and behavioral sciences have a long history of being shaped and driven by politics and ideology. – Leon Kass and Harvey Mansfield, Amicus Curiae Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hollingsworth v. Perry, January 29, 2013.

But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology. – President Obama, signing statement while signing the Executive Order to lift the federal ban on funding for Embryonic Stem Cell research

History is littered with notorious examples of false theories gaining wide acceptance among respected social and behavioral scientists, some of which supported pernicious public policies. – Kass and Mansfield, Id. at 2.

What should you think when you start hearing phrases like, “there is no doubt,” “the evidence is beyond question,” “there is no longer any room for debate,” “this is based on science, not ideology” and the like. When one has to tell you that what he or she is doing is “based on science,” you can be pretty sure that it’s based on ideology and preference masquerading as science. This is certainly true in the area of Darwinian evolution. One learns rather quickly there there “is no debate” when it comes to views of human origins “based on science.”

Yet “science” is used as a cudgel to bludgeon dissenters in a range of topics. Kass and Mansfield point to “global warming” as a prime example. Id. at 7. Further, it has been apparent in all of the legal and political maneuverings surrounding “same-sex marriage” that “science” is the hammer that will destroy anyone who questions the “established fact” that there is no difference in outcomes between children who are raised by two parents of the same sex or raised by a father and a mother.

This is the way it works: A certain social, political or moral viewpoint gains cultural ascendancy. It may do so for various reasons, but typically it will need some source of authority to support it other than God. That authority in our culture is going to be the “little false god” called “science.” Thus, very quickly one begins to hear through all of the usual cultural mechanisms that, wouldn’t you know it, “science is showing” the favored view to be true. As Kass and Mansfield point out, this is often said when nothing by way of scientific evidence could possible show what the claimant is arguing for. Id. at 3. In the case of “same-sex marriage,” they bluntly assert that “[t]he effects of same-sex marriage on family life are unknown, and currently unknowable.” What a refreshing statement. You mean “science” doesn’t know something? Incredible!

But of course, that’s not what we’re told. At one point in American history “psychiatrists almost universally considered homosexuality a mental disorder.” Kass and Mansfield, at 2. Yet in 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM as a mental disorder. Id. at 3. “The historical record shows that the change was not made because of new scientific findings, but rather in response to external political pressure and to political maneuvering within the [American Psychiatric] Association.” Id. The change may have been justified, but it was manifestly not justified by any new scientific discovery.

Kass and Mansfield are also clear in stating that the studies might one day, indeed, show that being raised by two same-sex parents has no appreciable effect on children. They are not making the argument one way or the other. They are saying that no one can credibly make the argument one way or the other based on anything claiming to be a “scientific study.” The studies are simply not possible at this point in time. Id. at 3-4.

But we are not apt to ascribe the modest modicum of authority to scientific evidence that it actually deserves. We must have an authority to supplant God. And we must have high priests that will defend our new god and punish dissenters. And woe to the dissenter on the topic of gay parenting. As one wag parodying Al Capone has remarked: “Nice academic career you got there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

But “science” – as that term has been mangled by the high priests – is only the “little false god” being worshiped in the service of same-sex marriage. The “big false god” is one, in the worship of which, heterosexuals are much more complicit, including us Christians. This “big false god” is called radical, autonomous individualism. I wish I had a better one-word name for this idol (perhaps someone will aid me in the quest for a name); yet I have spoken of this god on many occasions.

In other words, “science” is only the god that allows us to get to the bigger prize, namely, the “freedom” to do whatever we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want, so long as there is “consent” and perhaps so long as it is “not hurting anyone else.” This is the god we want. This is the god we embrace. This is the god the “sexual revolution” has put at the pinnacle of our cultural temple to be worshiped. You touch him, and you have big problems. We worship him . . . I worship him, in our churches too. We want radical individualism. We want our options always open. We want to be unencumbered by authorities over us, constraining our “freedoms.” We don’t want to be inexorably tied and connected to others, whether it be our spouses, our children, or our brothers and sisters in Christ, in ways that will put the clamps on us. I’m generalizing, of course, but I think the general characterization fits. As Ramesh Ponnuru writes: “The logic of the argument against homosexuality now implicates the behavior of a lot of heterosexuals. If the argument is made openly, and cast as a case for traditional sexual morals in general, a large part of the public will flinch. If the argument is made so as to single out gays, the logic vanishes. Social conservatives begin to look as though they are motivated not by principle but by the desire to persecute a minority. If no effective public argument can be made, the prohibition on gay marriage must survive based on tradition and unarticulated reasons. These are weak defenses in a rationalistic and sexually liberated era.” (emphasis mine). Right, “in principle” we are not against sexual libertinism.

Sexual libertinism, based on radical individual autonomy to do as we choose, is the sustaining energy behind the drive for same-sex marriage. The drive is just a branch growing out of the larger tree, and the larger tree is sustained by heterosexuals who do not want to repent and obey God’s prescriptions for holiness, fostered and sustained in genuine Christian community. We are not set up for it. Our lives are not ordered to live in the way that God has called us, and frankly, I am not sure how they would or could be. But I suspect that others feel like me, which is to say, even if we knew the answer, we might not go for it. It would mean too many changes. It would look too odd. It would really cast us as “aliens and strangers” on the earth. (1 Peter 2:11). We would have to “consider others more important than ourselves.” We would have to “lay down our lives for each other,” including all of the personal and financial resources it takes to do that.

But didn’t Jesus die to kill our sin? Isn’t that what’s “good” about “Good Friday?” Jesus died to slay the false gods – big and little – in our hearts, and in our communal lives as the Body of Christ. Perhaps we ought to reflect in a more sustained way, as God’s people, on what it would mean to slay “the big god” called radical, autonomous individualism, particularly as it pertains to our sexual lives. Maybe we should, maybe I should, expend some energy contemplating the beauty of holiness within the shared life of God’s people, bound by God’s authority; the beauty of holiness, consecration, generation of new life within marriage, and reflection of Christ’s love for His Church. I ought to consider the witness this would then present to the world: the generosity of God Himself. I think it would be good to turn my thoughts to these things, and to encourage others to do so as well.

-D

Definitely Don’t Start With the Bible

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jayrichards“You’re in an elevator and a secular liberal asks you, ‘Why should the state recognize marriage as between a man and a woman?’ What would you say? Most people don’t know what to do, or they think, ‘Well, I will talk about Genesis 1 or I will talk about what marriage means in the Bible.’ Well, we ought to see why that’s a problem. We know that if we’re trying to persuade someone that God exists, you don’t start by saying, ‘Well, it says right here in the Bible that God exists.’ You know, if it’s going to be a good apologetic argument, what you do is you appeal to something that the person already believes or has reason to believe is true, and then you show them that, if in fact they are consistent, it should lead to belief in God in this case. That’s just good apologetics. You don’t appeal to something that people don’t believe. . . Same thing is true when it comes to marriage. . .  If we want to say that the state and society should recognize marriage as between man and woman, we’ve got to provide public arguments for that particular position.”       – Jay Richards on the Bible Answer Man, March 25, 2013, explaining his view of how Christians should defend biblical marriage in public

Ten years ago, I would probably have agreed with Jay Richards’ approach to apologetics and public arguments in defense of marriage. I’m no longer convinced. Unfortunately, I think a good number of Christians follow his advice, and in so doing, I believe we have shortchanged not only marriage, but the gospel.

In other words, let’s play out Jay Richards’ scenario. I’m talking with the “secular liberal” who is convinced that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, and that it is bigoted and wrong to deny gays the right to marriage. I’m now looking to appeal to something the secularist already believes so that I can show him that, if he’s consistent, he will see that the same-sex marriage position is untenable. I’m casting about for arguments. How about this one: Same-sex marriage harms traditional marriages? He definitely won’t agree to that, and will likely say that heterosexuals have done quite enough to damage marriage themselves. How about: Same-sex marriage will be bad for children raised by gay couples? The likely response will be that studies show that gay couples do no worse in raising children, and frankly, there are a ton of heterosexual-couple homes where children are abused and treated horribly. Lets see, what else have I got? How about: Traditional marriage is shown to be better for people’s emotional health? Their answer: Shown by whom? Not by gay couples. The gay couples are being discriminated against and hated, and this cannot be good for them. Heterosexuals can do what they want and be happy, why not give gays the same chance? Uh, I’ve run out of “public arguments.” Turns out the secular liberal and I have no common ground on this one. That’s a problem.

But the bigger problem, I believe, is that when we don’t lead with the Bible, two things happen: 1) We miss out on a chance to bring the gospel into the conversation, and 2) Christians become further embarrassed by their biblical beliefs and retreat further into the privatization of their faith, so that the “public” sees Christian faith as something akin to a hobby, like fly fishing. Nice if that floats your boat, but it has no public value.

So here’s how I imagine a conversation might go if one leads with the Bible:

I say: I think the government should recognize marriage as between a man and a woman because God thought of marriage, not people, He created it, and doing what He says will be best for everyone. To which the reply might be: But I don’t believe in the Bible, nor do most people, so I think we should keep religion out of it. Keep your religion in your churches. The State should be secular. To which I might reply: I see, the State should be secular. Why do you say that? Do you have some authority that says that the State should be secular? To which they might reply: Clearly that’s what the people want? To which I might respond: That may be true, but what about what God wants? Is it best to do what God wants, the One who invented marriage, or what people want, for after all, people can be quite fickle, wanting something I like today and something we I don’t like tomorrow. To which they might reply: But I don’t believe in God, and I don’t think we can know God, so the government shouldn’t be in the religion business, basing laws on religion. To which I say: But the government is going to base laws on something, some authority, what authority should that be? And why do you think it’s impossible to know what God wants when it comes to marriage? Upon what basis do you believe that?

And . . . you get the picture. But notice that in the second dialogue, we’re talking about God, and God’s reality, and what God wants. We’re not simply discussing who has a better social policy argument. Perhaps we will even get off the marriage issue altogether and get to the real issue: Who is God and what has He said? But Christians have given this up, all in the hopes of having a “good apologetics,” as Jay Richards says. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jay Richards. I loved the book he wrote defending capitalism. But I absolutely think that Christians should start with the Bible in their public arguments, for God is a public God. He made everything, reigns over everything, and His truth is always relevant. We can certainly get around to extrabiblical arguments, and they are good and proper in their place. Yet we cannot decry the marginalization of Christianity in the public square and then hold that it’s a good apologetic to keep the Bible out of our public arguments. That just won’t do. I’m convinced this is one of the most important issues in Western Christendom today, and the church should be training its people, from a very young age, to begin and end with the Bible, and put to the secularist the question of where he or she thinks we should begin and end in such matters, and why.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Health Regimens: The Doctor’s Prescription

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prescriptionFrom of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen, a God besides you, who works for those who wait for Him. – Isaiah 64:4

For the same Lord is Lord of all, richly blessing all who call upon Him. – Romans 10:12

Daniel Fuller, author of The Unity of the Bible (which, in my opinion, should be read by every sentient Christian), argued that our discipleship to Christ must be viewed as a doctor’s prescription, and not as a job description. For the doctor-patient relationship appropriately mirrors the way we must come to Christ – as needy clients and supplicants of mercy – rather than the boss-employee relationship – where the boss is the needy one, and we provide services to him or her in return for wages. In Fuller’s opinion, too many Christians conceive of their service to our Lord as a boss-employee relationship, where God is our boss and we work for him in return for wages (“blessings” in biblical terms). And no wonder, for God is indeed “in charge” and He rightfully calls the shots. Further, the Bible tells us at every turn to “serve the Lord,” and so we naturally think in terms of servants who work for someone.

Yet the prophet Isaiah tells us that our God is not like the other gods, indeed, our God is of a kind which “no one has heard or perceived by the ear, nor seen by the eye.” (Isaiah 64:4). Why is God unique? Because He Himself “works for those who wait for Him.” Id. Thus, we properly serve God by waiting for Him, just like we wait upon a doctor or a lawyer. When we go to the doctor’s or lawyer’s office, we do not presume to “work for” the doctor or lawyer. Rather, we are the needy clients, and we put ourselves at their disposal, asking them what action they recommend for our healing and well-being. They are the ones with the knowledge and wisdom. We call upon them in order to give us “the doctor’s prescription.” And then, if they are competent physicians, we diligently take the prescription they have given us. We obey their orders and let the healing occur.

A boss, by contrast, is lost without his employees. He is the needy one. He pays us wages because, without us, he is sunk. Yes, he may have wisdom and power, but his power comes from those who work for him. It is a derivative power. We are doing something for him “as though he needed something.” See (Acts 17:25). And we must constantly labor under our burden, lest we get fired and lose our wages. And the boss must constantly keep us happy, lest he lose his workers. This is not the proper way to think of our service to Christ.

Jesus echoes Isaiah’s theme when he says, “the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). The author of Hebrews says that we ought not be afraid of other people, for “the Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 12:5). We do not help the Lord; He helps us, the needy clients. The Psalmist tells us to “call upon the Lord in the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15). Why is God honored when we call upon Him, rather than trying to “work for” Him? Because we are then shown to be the supplicants of mercy, the needy clients, and He is shown to be the one with all the power, wisdom and resources. His strength is the strength by which we then serve. See (1 Peter 4:11).

So, is there a prescription for healing when it comes to the sickness of impatience? Indifference? Ingratitude? Self-adulation? Arrogance?  Greed? Adultery? Jealousy? Laziness? Anger? Moral blindness? Dishonoring God? Is there a health program for attaining love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, courage, gratitude, contentment, faithfulness, and self-control? Indeed there is. Jesus is the Great Physician. We dare not “work for” Him. Rather, we must obey His commands and rely on His promises, just as we would obey a doctor’s commands to take our anti-biotics three times a day, with the promise that we will then feel better. We must be careful to apply the wisdom God gives us in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Fuller even suggests we must look to the wisdom of men that is consistent with God’s wisdom (giving Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People, and Mortimor Adler’s How To Read a Book as examples). All of life becomes part of God’s health regimen, and when we think of His commandments as our health prescription, His commandments then are “not burdensome for us,” as the apostle John says. They are for our good.

Therefore, let us do what God commands, which is simply to “call upon Him,” to “wait upon Him,” to “hope in Him,” and then let Him work for us as we obey His commands. Let us encourage each other to do this. Let us constantly remind ourselves that “serving the Lord,” does not mean laboring for wages, but “offering ourselves to Him as living sacrifices,” so that He may do with us as He pleases, for our good and His glory.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

Health Regimens

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prescriptionHave you ever taken the wrong prescription for health?  I have, and it could’ve killed me.  When I was at UCLA I came down with a pretty bad cough, so I went to good ‘ol Dr. Martel, my pediatrician.  He’d been my doctor since before I was born, and I’d not yet gotten myself an adult physician.  Knowing me as he did, he probably assumed that he’d seen this kind of thing in me before, and gave me the requisite antibiotics.  Dutifully I took the prescription, but in less than a week, I had deteriorated considerably.  Finally, when I couldn’t sleep and was too weak to get out of bed, I knew both the diagnosis and the prescription were dead wrong.  When I arrived at the hospital, it was clear that the drugs I was taking were doing nothing for the pneumonia that had taken over 2/3 of my one lung and 1/3 of the other.  Had I kept taking the wrong prescription for another several days, I think it might’ve been too late.  I needed the right doctor to give me the right diagnosis and the right prescription.

Is there a prescription or ‘health regimen’ for attaining “the good life?”  Is there a doctor who can help me become truly “well off?”  Is there a place I can go?  What health regimen is there for the sickness of impatience? Indifference? Ingratitude? Self-adulation? Arrogance?  Greed? Adultery? Jealousy? Laziness? Anger? Moral blindness? Dishonoring God?  What program might I get on to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, courage, gratitude, contentment, faithfulness, and self-control?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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“All Arguments Are To Be Treated Equally in the Public Sphere”

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bloombergsodabanThis is an argument that one of my readers has made to me, and I would rather respond to it here than in my comments section. The above assertion was made in an attempt to persuade me that arguments based on biblical morality have no place in public law, and therefore, “all arguments are to be treated equally in the public sphere.” But is this true?

Is the argument that whites should be supreme over other races “treated equally in the public sphere?” Even if a huge majority of people believed that whites are superior, could that majority enact “white supremacy” into law? The answer is obvious.

Is the argument that a brother should be able to marry his sister “treated equally in the public sphere?” Do we get to vote on it?

How about the argument that people should be able to engage in exhibitionism in public, or be able to walk around nude in public? Are we “forcing” people to not engage in these activities because these ideas are not “treated equally in the public square?”

Or what about Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who enacted a ban on large soda drinks in New York City? Wasn’t he depriving me of my freedom to buy any sized cola I want to buy? Were New Yorkers’ objections to Bloomberg’s idea “treated equally in the public sphere?”

I could continue to produce example after example. Fact is, the whole notion of having laws and ordinances presupposes that no ideas will be treated equally in the public sphere. Some ideas will prevail, and those ideas will be the basis for our laws. We exalt some ideas and disparage others. And we do this upon various rationales and justifications. We have laws against stealing. Yet why do we have them? What’s so wrong with me wanting to take something from someone else, if I can get away with it? My reader will no doubt respond that “it’s wrong to steal.” But upon what would he base such an argument? Would it be based on a “biblical morality?” Some other moral system? The idea that it “hurts others?” Who decides, and upon what basis does one decide, what “hurts others?” Is the pro-stealing argument “treated equally in the public sphere?”

The point is, the very word “equal” has to be carefully defined according to the contexts in which it is used. Everything that is sinful is not going to be made illegal. Yet when we make something illegal, we have to produce some kind of rationale for it; and sometimes our rationale will be based on a “biblical morality.” Sometimes it will be based on convenience. Sometimes it will be based on scientific discovery. But the notion that ideas will all be treated equally in the public sphere is simply not accurate. Nor is it even possible. Laws are going to curtail someone’s “freed0m” to engage in some kind of behavior. That’s the nature of laws. The question then becomes, when is it good and proper to curtail someone’s ability to act in a certain way, and upon what basis will we decide that it’s good and proper? The idea that we can never decide this based on biblical notions of sin and wickedness is historically naive, and frankly, troublesome. In the western world, it’s never really been tried. Ultimately, it would be no good for human beings.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm