Book Reviews, Children’s picture books
Henry says good-bye
When you are sad by Jocelyn Flenders edited by Edward T. Welch 32 pages / 2019 This book is part of an excellent series put out by the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) called "Good News for Little Hearts." Each title addresses an area of counseling that might be of use to "little hearts" and in this one the issue is grieving the loss of a loved one. Of course, they don't tackle it head-on – that would be abrupt, and too distressing for the very children the book is intended to help. So instead of a person, we have Henry, a little hedgehog, and instead of the loss of a relative, he is trying to deal with the death of his pet ladybug Lila. Sad and angry, and he doesn't want to be around his other friends, whose pets are all still alive. But what his parents model is how to take our grief to God. Henry's dad shares relevant Bible passages, pointing his son to the God who has promised to one day dry every tear. It is a wonderful book, and brilliantly illustrated. It would probably be most useful if read before there was a need, but even after the death of a pet, or of a loved relative, the book's Scripture citations, and instructions for parents found in the back, will be incredibly helpful. Overall I would recommend it to parents of children 5-10.
Ready to reason: is apologetics even necessary?
A surge of pious agreement overcame me the first time I heard someone confidently assert that: "The word of God no more needs defense than does a lio...
Animated, Movie Reviews
The Boxcar Children
Animated / Children's 2013 / 81 minutes Rating: 7/10 The Boxcar Children is the first title in a popular and still expanding children's series of...
Saturday Selections - August 8, 2020
Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators & How to Keep Them Safe A new documentary making the rounds is an eye-opener and can be rented for $5 US at the...
Documentary, Movie Reviews
GOODBYE HOLLAND: The destruction of Dutch Jewry
Documentary 90 minutes / 2004 RATING: 8/10 I grew up reading Piet Prins’ Scout books and Anne DeVries’ Journey Through the Night, learning about the courage of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I also heard stories about how my grandparents and my friends’ grandparents hid Jews from the Nazis. So it with shock that I learned three-quarters of the Jews in the Netherlands didn’t make it through the War alive. This was not the story as I had understood it! But it turns out that the heroes I read and heard about growing up were the exceptions, not the rule. That courage was so rare overall, but more common among our Reformed relatives, says something about the love they had for God. They were willing to risk their lives because they knew that whether they lived or died, they were the Lord’s (Roman 14:8). However there were not many like them. Along with Anne Frank, more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to concentration camps, and they were often rounded up by Dutch policemen, whose work was overseen by Dutch officials, and they were shipped off on trains run by Dutch engineers. The Dutch weren’t merely silent; many were among the Germans’ most helpful allies. It wasn’t simply apathy; it was betrayal. That’s the point that director Willy Lindwer makes in this documentary. A son of one of the few Jewish survivors, he set out to discover why the Dutch allowed the Holocaust to happen in their country. He interviews both those who had the courage to help, and those who felt they had no other option but to go along with what the Germans were demanding. It is with this second group, those who went along, that some of the most compelling discussions happen. This film was made in 2004, so six decades has passed since the War’s end, and yet some had still not learned anything from it. One 70-something-year-old described his wartime boss as a “righteous man” – this same boss had been a police chief who rounded up thousands of Jews for the Germans. Though about half the film is subtitled (because the interviewees are speaking Dutch) it’s conversations like this that make the film so gripping. Evil men are supposed to look like Hitler, or Saddam – raving, shouting maniacs. But this man looks like your grandpa. LEST WE FORGET The Remembrance Day phrase “Lest we forget” speaks to how we must learn from the past. The value in this film – the reason it is a must-see – is precisely because the evil it uncovers is not at all dissimilar from the sort we see today. Long before orders were given to deport Dutch Jews, they were excluded from government jobs. Then they were kicked out of public schools, and a few months later they were ordered to publicly identify themselves by sewing a Star of David on their coats. It continued step by step. Why didn’t more of the Dutch resist? Maybe it was because each step, on its own, didn’t seem quite so objectionable. When the Dutch restaurant owners were told they had to exclude Jews or risk having their businesses shuttered, how did these businessmen think through their decision? Perhaps they thought, “I have to feed my family. And surely the Jews can…just buy their food at the grocery store, right?” So the Voor Joden Verboden (“For Jews Forbidden”) signs went up. Today we also face a step-by-step mounting pressure to conform to evil. Abortion is the biggest evil of our time, of course. But remember Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Oregon couple who were asked to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple? They were fined $135,000 for refusing. So the message the government sent was that Christians bakers can either bake the cake or lose their business. They can spend a few hours making a cake – just flour, sugar, eggs, and some icing – or lose the business that it took them years and piles of money to build. It’s no coincidence that so much pressure was brought to bear on something quite inconsequential – a $135,000 fine for not baking a cake that the same-sex couple could have easily purchased at any number of other bakeries. But the Devil wants to present the first compromise like it’s the only logical course to pursue. BEST TIME TO SPEAK IS NOW We can ask, as one of the film’s interviewees does, why didn’t someone just throw sand in the engine of one of those Nazi’s transport trains? It wouldn’t have taken much to slow down the Jewish deportation if only someone had being willing to sabotage the trains. But the film also acknowledges the fears that drove many to inaction and collaboration. The Jews weren’t the only ones being shipped away to concentration camps – if you helped them, you risked being deported along with them. And yet…there was a time when action wouldn’t have been so costly. There was a time when speaking out might have, yes, cost someone their job, but it wouldn’t have cost them their life. And we can only wonder what might have happened if more had spoken up then. Could the Germans have killed nearly so many if there had been a loud early voice arguing against Dutch collaboration? What we must never forget, then, is that we shouldn’t delay in speaking up for what is right. We need to resist now, because if we wait, the pressure to stay silent and to go along will only increase. We need to speak now, because it is easier to turn things around before we’re heading full speed in the wrong direction. Speaking up doesn’t guarantee success, but it is obedient. It does bring God glory. And because God has chosen to work through us, we never know what changes God might effect through us, if we’re willing to act in obedience. We can shake our heads at the state of our culture, or we can ask, like Paul, how can the world respond to God’s Truth if we’ve never shared it with them (Romans 10:14)? There are so very many reasons to speak now. CAUTIONS The only caution to consider in this film is a perspective it offers on Jewish orphans being adopted by Christian couples. There were more than a thousand Dutch Jewish orphans at war’s end, and a well-meaning Christian group wanted to ensure they all went to Christian homes. They wanted to save these children’s souls, and planned to use adoption as a conversion tool. What this overlooks is that God places us with parents, and He has also gives our larger families a role in raising us too. So should a child’s parents die, then it is because we are Christians and respect the God-given role of the family, that we would arrange for a Jewish child to go their closest relatives, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever it might be. But the director pushes for more than that. He thinks that a Jewish orphan, one with no relatives to adopt her, should still be sent to a Jewish family. But this elevates ethnic ties to the level of family ties. And that is giving ethnicity a status it doesn’t deserve – God doesn’t say we have to stay with people who look and act like us. CONCLUSION One hundred thousand Jews were deported from the Netherlands. It is a shocking figure. It took three years and 93 trains loads to take them all to Germany. And very few did anything to help them. One hundred thousand is also the number of unborn children killed each year in Canada. What are we doing to stand up to the great evil of our time? One place to start might be watching this film together with your family, or in a high school history class, and discussing the place of courage, fear, and apathy in our day-to-day conversations and interactions with the world. Many of our Christian grandparents didn't see the matter of hiding Jews as a question to be weighed and considered - they simply did it because they knew God wanted them to love their neighbors (Mark 12:31). And they were comfortable with placing their families, their fortunes, and their lives in His hands. We have the very same faithful God. Do we have the very same faith in Him? "Goodbye Holland" can be borrowed from many libraries, and US Amazon Prime members can view it for free here. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....
New euthanasia code illustrates Dutch slippery slope
Doctors in the Netherlands are getting mail. Every single general practitioner in the country – some 14,000 – will receive their own copy of the new national code of practice for euthanasia. An updated edition of the code was published in May by the Dutch committee that oversees euthanasia. The committee reviews each reported instance of euthanasia to ensure the doctor followed the law. This new code of practice is supposed to help doctors understand how they will be evaluated. However, the new code also illustrates how quickly the Netherlands has gone down a slippery slope The Dutch government’s Minister for Public Health, Hugo de Jonge, inadvertently hit the nail on the head when he told a Dutch newspaper, “The new code of practice has to offer guidance because for many doctor it feels unnatural to administer euthanasia.” The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002. The law was written to permit euthanasia for patients with “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.” Thus, it was not strictly limited to patients with a terminal illness. At the time, critics pointed out that this wording was highly problematic and would eventually lead to euthanasia for people who are still years or even decades away from their natural death. How right these critics were. The new code of practice devotes considerable attention to euthanasia for patients with an "accumulation of old age complaints.” These complaints are described as things like “sight problems, hearing problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, balance problems, cognitive decline.” In other words, these are the degenerative conditions that are a normal part of getting older. The patient does not need to have a terminal illness. In fact, there is not even a minimum age requirement. The only consideration is that the patient has unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement. And the code of practice readily admits this can be subjective. “The unbearability of the suffering is sometimes difficult to determine because the experience of suffering is deeply personal. “ Doctors are instructed to look at “the medical history, biography, personality, values, and pain threshold of the patient.” From there, a doctor should place himself “not only in the situation but also in the perspective of the patient.” The code of practice also talks at length about euthanasia for patients with advanced dementia, even though this practice is highly controversial and many doctors refuse to participate. In January, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from the oversight committee because, as she told a Dutch newspaper, she considers it to be “indefensible.” The new code of practice also discusses euthanasia for psychiatric patients. They are eligible if their suffering meets the criteria of “unbearable with no prospect for improvement” – even if they’re still very young. In January, psychiatric patient Aurelia Brouwers was euthanatized. She was 29-years-old and had no terminal illness. The code of practice says doctors must consider carefully whether there are further treatment options for the psychiatric patient, but it also says the patient is not obligated to try every option. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the oversight committee, told a Dutch newspaper, “You can always argue that there’s another treatment to try. But the question is – given strength of the patient and the odds of seeing improvement – whether it is worth it.” Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has grown at an astonishing rate. In 2011, there were only 13 reported instances. In 2017, that number had shot up to 83. Euthanasia in general has increased enormously in the Netherlands. In 2010, there were 3,316 reported instances. In 2017 there were 6,585. Thus, death by euthanasia has doubled in less than a decade. The chairman of the Dutch Royal Medical Association recently asked the Dutch Ministry of Public Health to communicate to patients that euthanasia not a “right” and that doctors are never obligated to administer it. Even if this is successfully communicated, rates of euthanasia are unlikely to decrease any time soon. As the new code of practice illustrates, the threshold for euthanasia in the Netherlands keeps getting lowered....
Documentary, Movie Reviews
Our Kids Online...how to keep them safe
Documentary 88 minutes / 2020 RATING: 8/10 Our Kids Online begins with a wake-up call: kids aren’t just seeing graphic, dehumanizing pornograph...
Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free
FREE FILM: Babies are still murdered here
Documentary 2019 / 102 minutes Rating: 8/10 If you were told the pro-life movement is made up of two groups that don't always get along, who woul...
Documentary, Movie Reviews
American Gospel: Christ alone
Documentary 2018 / 139 minutes RATING: 8/10 In one of the documentary's many memorable moments Costi Hinn, the nephew of televangelist and faith...
Saturday Selections - May 23, 2020
Surfin is illegal in the USA: A Beach Boys parody (2 min) There's no better way to kill the funny than to discuss a joke. But with all the vicious memes, and cruel editorial cartoons circulating the Internet, before I pass along this bit of parody it's worth considering what Christians can, and must not, say about our elected officials. Romans 13:6-7 instructs us: "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." That rules out the careless insult, and the casual disobedience. We can't call our Prime Minister names, and can't disobey his lawful orders without being able to show how those orders violate God's commands. But in our democratic system, our elected authorities are also our employees, and one of our roles is to evaluate their performance – we could even describe that as an authoritative role God has given to the electorate. So there may well be a time when, in the process of a"performance review" on our authorities, we have to use language they'd rather not hear. But it isn't disrespectful or dishonoring to explain why Joe Biden is a hypocrite for insisting we should believe women except when one accuses him. And it isn't violating Romans 13 to question the intent of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent gun ban. That's legitimate job performance review material, even if the "interviewee" might prefer we don't go there. When it comes to our current COVID-19 crisis, we also aren't violating Romans 13:6-7 when we highlight governmental excesses, even when we do so with a dose of humor. The fellow behind this video below may or may not be a Christian, but his Surfin USA parody illustrates an important point: some of our authorities are not exercising their powers with restraint. These are the questions I asked about the viral "Plandemic" video An investigative journalist tracked down the documentary's producer and asked him some key questions. Michael Cook offers some sage advice as well, in his "How should we tackle conspiracy theories about COVID-19?" UN provides us some unintended comedy This week the United Nations tweeted out a request to have folks ditch the words "husband" and "wife" to "help create a more equal world." As Jonathon Van Maren shares, "the global community united in side-splitting gales of laughter." Why surrogacy is oppression "...surrogacy exploits the vulnerable....Increasingly, surrogacy is about two wealthy men using a woman for her body, while appropriating a role that only she can fulfill." John Stonestreet and Maria Baer followed up their article above with: "Adoption is beautiful; surrogacy isn't." Frog fossils found in the Antarctic Does a warmer earth spell our doom? Frog fossils in the land of ice and snow would seem to say no. Parents: slow down and listen Tedd and Margy Tripp with important advice for parents: "If your children are saying 'You never listen to me,' it is because they feel you never listen to them. Slow down and listen." The spread of the Gospel (2 min) "Every frame is one year in the last 2000 years of the Great Commission....It shows everywhere the Gospel has been preached, where churches and Christian gravestones first show external evidence of that work, and where churches and Bibles are accessible today." ...
The JFK assassination and apologetics: the facts don't speak for themselves
Movie director, Oliver Stone, unleashed a Pandora's Box at the box-office in 1991 with the release of his controversial film, JFK. The movie, which was a technological marvel and starred Kevin Costner along with a host of well-known actors, explored the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Warren Commission Report regarding the tragedy, and a complex conspiracy theory which sought to "get to the real truth" behind an alleged cover-up. The Stone movie provoked a phenomenal response. Some people were outraged at its ugly implications, or at its own distortion of testimony, or at its white-wash of questionable sources, or even at its amazing editing and weaving of soundbites, visual images, changing angles, flashbacks and anticipations, documentary coverage and interpretive re-creations. Other people are equally outraged at finding out how poorly the subsequent investigation into the assassination was handled, and how many disturbing pieces of evidence or testimony were squashed or ignored, and how outlandish the explanations of the single-assassin theory had to become, and how our own government agencies may have been entangled or willing to look the other way. Newsweek magazine was so egged on by the movie that it decided to throw rotten eggs in return, giving it prime attention on its front cover with the heading: "The Twisted Truth of 'JFK' - Why Oliver Stone's New Movie Can't Be Trusted" (Dec.23, 1991). On the other hand, the local bookstores have been doing a rousing business in selling books which are relevant to rebutting the Warren Commission conclusions and exploring theories which, despite their conspiratorial character, pay compelling attention to details. Among the most important are the two books by lawyer Mark Lane: Rush to Judgment (a 1966 cross-examination of the Warren Commission, both thorough and sober) and Plausible Denial (a more recent book purporting to show C.I.A. involvement to some degree in the assassination). The massive analysis of Jim Marris (who teaches a college course on the subject) runs over 600 pages in length, and is entitled Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy. Also worthy of mention is On the Trail of the Assassins, written by former New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, whose investigation and eventual trial of Clay Shaw for alleged participation in a scheme to kill the president was the organizing plot of the Oliver Stone movie. On the downside of credibility for the conspiracy theorists is the large number of such theories which have been advanced. Granted, some are more plausible and well-reasoned than others, but the fact that there are so many of them is disturbing, each offering somewhat convincing evidence. Who should be fingered for the crime? The C.I.A.? Military intelligence? The mafia? The F.B.I.? The Vice-President? Anti-Castro Cubans? Pro-Castro communists? Right-wing extremists? Pro-Soviet communists? All of the above? None of the above? For years the thesis that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who shot President Kennedy, and that he acted alone, has seemed relatively easy to accept. The public was told that an eyewitness saw Oswald in the book depository building window. A rifle was discovered there which not only had Oswald's palm-print, but had been purchased by mail order under an assumed name, identification for which Oswald was carrying on him. His own wife said she believed he was the killer. The FBI found incriminating photos at Oswald's home, later published by Life magazine. The man had previously renounced the United States and lived in the Soviet Union! No, the case against Oswald was not hard to believe. Yet there always had been disturbing elements in the story. Why was Oswald deprived of legal counsel, and why was no record made of police interviews with him? How did a man (Jack Ruby) simply walk in off the street, stride right up to Oswald in the presence of dozens of officers, and shoot him point blank? What do we make of eyewitnesses who said they previously saw Oswald and Ruby together in Ruby's nightclub? Why did the people who were present in Deleay Plaza when Kennedy was shot run forward toward the fence on the grassy knoll, seeking the shooter, instead of running back toward the depository building? Fifty-one witnesses claim to have heard shots from the direction of the grassy knoll! Why did the medical doctors initially report an entry wound to Kennedy's throat, if he had been shot (only) from behind? Why do films show his head recoiling from a frontal (and from the right) shot? The Oswald theory would require that no more than three shots were fired – although ballistics experts were unable to replicate even that feat within the relevant time restraint (5.6 seconds) with a bolt-action rifle like Oswald's. However, acoustics evidence now proves there were at least four shots. On the Oswald hypothesis, one of the assassin's three bullets needed to inflict seven wounds in two bodies (Kennedy's and Governor Connally's) – some at nearly right angles – and emerge in almost pristine condition! Photographic experts have discredited the Life magazine pictures of Oswald as edited composites. Marina Oswald's opinion of her husband's involvement actually changed (following virtual house-arrest for weeks with the FBI) from an initial disputing of it. Paraffin tests performed on Oswald's cheeks the day of the assassination demonstrated that he had not fired a rifle that day. When the FBI turned over the alleged murder weapon, it reported that there were no prints (where the palm print later appeared). Initial autopsy reports on Kennedy were destroyed... The case against Oswald looked strong for a time (and still does for many people), but now that case begins to appear rather weak (if not being fully refuted according to some people). So what? For our present purposes, it is not really relevant whether the Oswald-as-lone-assassin theory regarding Kennedy's assassination is accurate or not. It is not my intention to take sides on this troubled question here. Rather, it is the controversy itself that is raging over this question which should interest us, for this dispute provides a very fruitful education into the real character of what we sometimes call "factual investigation" and illustrates the nature of historical (and forensic) argumentation. Oddly enough, the controversy over the Kennedy assassination provides an opportunity for Christians to learn something valuable about apologetical method - the defense of their faith. Popular and widely published apologists for the Christian faith often tell us, for example, that the most persuasive way to practice the defense of the faith is simply to provide unbelievers with "the facts" of history (the raw evidence of eye-witness testimony) and challenge them that any "rational" man would have to conclude that this evidence "proves" with practical certainty that Jesus rose from the dead – as the most astounding miracle of history. This approach has always seemed more than a bit naive. And the controversy surrounding the Kennedy assassination makes that naiveté stand out all the more prominently. The facts don't speak for themselves Evangelical apologists who think that a presentation of "the fact" of history is enough to vindicate the truth of Christianity against the skeptical challenges of unbelievers overlook the way in which people reach – and critically maintain – their personal conclusions about fundamental and important issues. Those who think that unbelievers would become believers if only they were made aware of the observational "evidence" (the testimony of alleged eyewitnesses) do not fully grasp the key issues in the philosophical study of the theory of knowledge (epistemology). What they do not realize is that, contrary to a popular aphorism, the "facts" do not "speak for themselves." What people see (or hear) will be unavoidably interpreted according to their other beliefs, their personal expectations and values, and their governing presuppositions. "The facts" do not simply stand "out there" with their meaning inherent in them, waiting to be seen for what they are regardless of what the commitments and beliefs may be of those who find "the facts." What a person will take to be a "fact" and how that fact is interpreted and related to other beliefs is not determined alone by the perceptions or observations (or observation-reports) which a person has. His thinking will be guided by various assumptions or controlling presuppositions. There were plenty of eyewitnesses at the very scene of the crime when President Kennedy was assassinated. In our day we enjoy incredibly advanced techniques and technologies for investigation of evidence, physical and personal. Hundreds of people have been hard at work dealing with the relevant clues and testimony concerning the killing of JFK. Do "the facts speak for themselves"? Do they? The fact that advocates of the Warren Commission's theory debate ferociously with critics of the Commission tells you that much more is involved here than a simple look at "the facts and nothing but the facts" concerning a particular event which transpired in 1963. The fact that critics of the Warren Commission disagree widely with each other in proposing other theories about the assassination of Kennedy tells you that there is much more involved here than a simple amassing of "the facts." This is even more the case with respect to Christ's resurrection. Here we do not have an event which took place merely thirty years ago, but almost two thousand years ago. We do not have any hard physical evidence to investigate and no living witnesses to cross-examine. We do not have a great number of extant testimonies (although some we have do speak of others as well). The event in question was no ordinary natural event (as the mere shooting of a man is, although he was a politically important man), but rather an awesome and extraordinary resurrection from the dead – a miracle. If the dispute over Kennedy's assassination shows us that the facts do not speak for themselves – that the question is not settled simply over alleged evidences – how much more should Christian apologists realize that our debate with unbelievers over the resurrection of Christ (and other matters of Biblical truth) is not simply a matter of "evidences." It must eventually involve a challenge to the heart-commitment and intellectual presuppositions of the non-Christian. Jesus said it long ago: "If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if one should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31). This article was first published in the May 1992 issue of Penpoint (Vol. III:3) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many other Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....
Saturday Selections - August 8, 2020
Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators & How to Keep Them Safe A new documentary making the rounds is an eye-opener and can be rented for $5 US at the...
Saturday Selections - August 1, 2020
Why this valedictorian regrets finishing on top (6 minutes) It took him a whole year to learn this lesson, and he's happy to share it. Free epis...
Gender roles, News, Sexuality
Netflix’s "The Baby-Sitters Club" sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience
Science - Creation/Evolution
Evolution as a gravedigger
Theistic evolution undermines God’s Truth, but it’s only continuing what Old Earth Creationism began *** Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland has recently published an excellent article, "Theistic evolution, Christian Knowledge and Culture's Plausibility Structure", in the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies (Volume 2, Issue 1:1-18, 2017). In it he reflects on the broader cultural implications of adopting theistic evolution as a means to integrate Christianity and science. Knowledge and plausibility structures Dr. Moreland notes that our Western society is highly empirical. Our culture presumes that valid knowledge can be acquired only through science (scientism), whereas non-empirical claims concerning values, ethics, spirits, and the like, are merely personal opinions (cultural relativism). Today, the central issue is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it can be known to be true: Does Christianity have a valid source of knowledge? Knowledge is defined by Dr. Moreland as "true belief based on adequate grounds". He contends: The deepest issue facing the church today is this: Are its main creeds and central teachings items of knowledge or mere matters of blind faith–privatized personal beliefs or issues of feeling to be accepted or set aside according to the whim of individual or cultural pressures? Do these teachings have cognitive and behavioral authority that set a worldview framework for approaching science, art, ethics–indeed, all of life? Or are cognitive and behavioral authority set by what scientists, evolutionary biologists, or the members of BioLogos say? Are the church’s doctrines determined by what Gallup polls tell us is embraced by cultural and intellectual elites? Do we turn to these sources and set aside or revise two thousand years of Christian thinking and doctrinal/creedal expressions in order to make Christian teaching acceptable to the neuroscience department at UCLA or the paleontologists at Cambridge? The question of whether or not Christianity provides its followers with a range of knowledge is no small matter. It is a question of authority for life and death, and lay brothers and sisters are watching Christian thinkers and leaders to see how we approach this matter. And, in my view, as theistic evolutionists continue to revise the Bible over and over again, they inexorably give off a message about knowledge: science gives us hard knowledge based on evidence and with which we can be confident, and while theology and biblical teaching do not give us knowledge, they provide personal meaning and values for those with the faith to embrace them. Every culture, Dr. Moreland writes, has a plausibility structure – a set of background assumptions that determines what ideas people are willing to entertain as possibly true. Our current Western cultural plausibility structure elevates science, and bans Christianity from serious consideration. Such cultural bias makes effective evangelization difficult. Theistic evolution as a gravedigger Dr. Moreland contends that the acceptance of theistic evolution by many Christians has greatly contributed to the undermining of Christianity as a source of knowledge: In my view, there are certain contemporary currents of thought that risk undercutting Christianity as a source of knowledge, and I shall argue that by its very nature, theistic evolution is the prime culprit. It is one of the church’s leading gravediggers... The term "gravedigger" (from Os Guinness's 1983 book The Gravedigger File) refers to Christians who, though well-intended, adopt views that eventually undermine the church. Dr. Moreland raises three concerns: Theistic evolution reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. The most pervasive form of theistic evolution holds that God's involvement in evolution is undetectable, so that it is in practice indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. Most theistic evolutionists are opposed to Intelligent Design, the notion that God's hand can readily be discerned in nature. According to Dr. Moreland: Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture. ...Sometimes theistic evolutionists claim that by embracing evolution, they are actually contributing to the plausibility of Christianity by removing an unnecessary stumbling block – the rejection of evolution – before one can be a well-informed Christian. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. While there are exceptions, my experience with theistic evolutionists is that they have a weak faith, do not see many answers to prayer, and lack a vibrant, attractive Christian life. Ideas have consequences, and if one knows he had to revise the early chapters of Genesis, it will weaken his confidence in the rest of the Bible...After all, if we have to provide naturalistic revisions of the Bible over and over again, why take the yet-to-be-revised portions of scripture seriously? This approach significantly weakens the cognitive authority of the Bible as a source of knowledge of reality... Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids towards placing non-scientific claims in a privatized upper story in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined... Dr. Moreland expresses particular concern about the readiness of some Christian scholars to abandon belief in the historical reality of Adam and Eve. Given our culture's current plausibility structure, this contributes to the marginalization of Christian teaching. He comments: If I am right about the broader issues, then the rejection of an historical Adam and Eve has far more troubling implications than those that surface in trying to reinterpret certain biblical texts. The very status of biblical, theological and ethical teachings as knowledge is at stake in the current cultural milieu as is the church’s cognitive marginalization to a place outside the culture’s plausibility structure. Those who reject a historical Adam and Eve inadvertently harm the church by becoming its gravedigger. Finally, Dr. Moreland notes that evolution entails that we are purely physical beings, and that an immaterial soul is no longer considered plausible within our modern culture. He deplores the fact that a number of Christian philosophers have adopted a physicalist view of humans. Responding to cultural challenges How should Christians respond to our culture, with its anti-Christian plausibility structure? Dr. Moreland urges that we should not cave in to the prevailing contemporary currents of ideas. Instead, Christians should hold their ground, "eventually winning the argument due to hard-hitting scholarship and confidence in the Bible": Accordingly, it is of crucial importance that we promote the central teachings of Christianity in general as a body of knowledge and not as a set of faith-practices to be accepted on the basis of mere belief or a shared narrative alone. To fail at this point is to risk being marginalized and disregarded as those promoting a privatized set of feelings or desires that fall short of knowledge... I want to win people to Christ and to “bring down strongholds” that undermine knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), to penetrate culture with a Christian worldview and to undermine its plausibility structure which, as things stand now, does not include objective theological claims. He stresses the importance of apologetics, especially scientific apologetics, such as is done by the Intelligent Design movement (ID). The church should seek ways, such as a scientific critique of naturalist evolution, that may help to modify a person's plausibility structure so as to create space in which Christianity can be seriously entertained. How should conflicts with science be handled? Dr. Moreland advises that we should not be hasty to revise Scripture. Rather: No, we should be patient, acknowledge the problem, and press into service Christian intellectuals who are highly qualified academically, have respect for the fact that scripture presents us with knowledge (not just truth to be accepted by blind faith), and who want to work to preserve the traditional interpretation of scripture and avoid revisionism. These intellectuals should be given the chance to develop rigorous models that preserve historical Christian teaching, unless, in those rare cases, our interpretation of scripture has been wrong. These intellectuals are heroes because they value loyalty to historic understandings of scripture over the desire to fit in with what scientists are currently claiming. The Intelligent Design movement is just such a set of intellectuals... Rather than tucking their tails between their legs at the first sign of a conflict between the Bible and science, and standing ready (even eager) to let the scientists tell them what they must revise, the members of the ID movement have the intellectual courage and confidence in biblical teaching not to back down. Rather, ID advocates “deconstruct the pretentiousness” of truth-claims that go against biblical assertions that are properly interpreted (and they don’t grab for an interpretation that, all by itself, gives in to the other side of the conflict.) And they don’t make excuses for the Bible; they advance arguments in its support. Digging deeper There is much in this article that I can heartily endorse. I fully concur with Dr. Moreland that theistic evolutionists help dig the church's grave by promoting modern culture's plausibility structure, which has no place for Biblical knowledge. Allowing science to change our views on Adam and Eve is certainly a prime example of this danger. Further, it is commendable that the Intelligent Design movement exposes the weaknesses of naturalist evolution, and seeks to show that nature exhibits many marks of an Intelligent Designer. Yet, in stressing scientific argumentation, and rarely referring to Scripture, the ID movement itself may be contributing to scientism. Moreover, many proponents of ID do not consistently exhibit great confidence in the Bible as a source of knowledge. For example, most of them – including Dr. Moreland – accept an ancient age for the earth, as given by mainstream geology. This obliges them to revise the traditional reading of Genesis 1-11, regarding such things as the creation days, the physical extent of Adam's Fall, Noah's Flood, the genealogies of Gen. 5 & 11, etc. For more discussion on this issue, see my article The Cost of an Old Earth: Is it Worth it? Indeed, the plausibility structure reigning in most of Christian academia is such that it scorns those rare Christian academics who still promote traditional Biblical history. Old Earth Creationism is subject to the same concerns that Dr. Moreland raises regarding theistic evolution, namely: It reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. Moreover, the Biblical Adam, though an essential part of traditional Biblical history, becomes blatantly implausible when thrust into the setting of mainstream geology and paleontology, which traces modern humans back at least 300,000 years, with much earlier ancestors, exhibiting suffering and death from the beginning, etc. Consequently, a plausibility structure that includes mainstream geology, and correspondingly downplays Biblical ancient history, paves the way for plausibility structures that exclude further Biblical teachings, such as the historical Adam. I have a high regard for Dr. Moreland. He has written much worthwhile material, and made important contributions to Christian scholarship. Nevertheless, I believe that he has been inconsistent in upholding his own standards, thereby inadvertently contributing to grave-digging. Theistic evolutionists are merely deepening the grave already substantially dug by Old Earth creationists. In his article Dr. Moreland cautions: It should be clear that naturalism is not consistent with biblical Christianity. If that’s true, then the church should do all it can to undermine the worldview of naturalism and to promote, among other things, the cognitive, alethic nature of theology, biblical teaching and ethics. This means that when Christians consider adopting certain views widely accepted in the culture, they must factor into their consideration whether or not such adoption would enhance naturalism’s hegemony and help dig the church’s own grave by contributing to a hostile, undermining plausibility structure. Wise advice! Perhaps Dr. Moreland should heed it by reconsidering his own plausibility structure. This article first appeared in an Oct. 24, 2009 post on Dr. John Byl’s blog Bylogos.blogspot.com and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. John Byl is a Professor emeritus for Trinity Western University, and the author of "God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe" and "The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning.”...