What happens if young people stop caring about truth?

Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?
Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?

I noticed that young people are often unwilling to accept anything as true, especially when it interferes with their desire to seek happiness through an anything-goes sexuality. Often, opposition to abortion and/or homosexuality is an immediate deal-breaker. Nothing can be true if it contradicts the Sexual Revolution, including abortion and homosexuality.

Sean McDowell interviewed Abdu Murray about this problem.

Excerpt:

SEAN MCDOWELL: Why did you write a book called “Saving Truth”? What makes you think truth needs saving?

ABDU MURRAY: Thanks for the opportunity to share about the book, Sean. The title is meant to be a double-entendre. In and of itself, truth doesn’t need saving but it does need to be saved in the sense that we’ve lost our emphasis on it as a culture. We’re in a “post-truth” society, which elevates personal preferences and feelings over facts and truth. We don’t deny that truth exists, we just subordinate it to our preferences. We think that this will lead to freedom and human dignity and flourishing. But it won’t. It will lead to chaos because truth no longer serves as the standard by which to judge human preferences and opinions. That’s why we’re seeing such vilification of “them.” Whoever disagrees with our preferences is automatically a villain, even if the truth is on their side. We need to recover our love of the truth and its primacy if we’re to escape the chaos that so laces our cultural climate. When we see that truth is the lens through which we should shape and express our preferences, we’ll see the truth that we are made in God’s image and that Jesus redeemed that image at the cross. We no longer see “us” vs. “them.” Instead, we see each other as people in need of redemption. That’s when we come to a knowledge of the saving truth – the truth that saves.

In my 20s and early 30s, I spent a lot of time reading about marriage, specifically studies on what decisions and factors were more likely to avoid divorce. This is because I wanted my future marriage to last and to have an impact. So, I would read studies on how delaying sexual activity makes the relationship more stable. And how cohabitation undermines the stability of any future marriage. And how regular church attendance improves marriage stability. I was interested in the truth. And whenever my desires for something right now (e.g. – premarital sex) conflicted with the truth in the studies, I just went along with the truth. What we’re seeing today is that people don’t care about truth when they are making decisions, especially when it comes to relationship quality and stability. Happiness is number one, and character means nothing. Somehow, things are just supposed to “work out” if you find the “right person”. Good luck getting anyone to care what the Bible says about love and marriage, if it conflicts with sexual autonomy.

Here’s a quote from agnostic Aldous Huxley that illustrates the point:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves… For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”
Aldous Huxley in “Ends and Means“, 1937

Before I saw this interview, I tweeted another interview with Abdu Murray posted on Bible Gateway.

Excerpt:

What do you mean that “autonomy is confused for freedom”?

Abdu Murray: The seed for the post-truth mindset is the human desire for autonomy. We’ve confused autonomy with freedom, thinking they’re synonymous when they’re not.

Autonomy is the state of being a law unto one’s self (“autos” meaning self and “nomos” meaning law). Someone who’s autonomous is a law unto themselves and so he has no restraints whatsoever. An autonomous person can do or be whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. That ultimately leads to total chaos because if I’m a law unto myself and another person’s “law unto themselves” conflicts with my law, who will decide who’s right? It won’t be truth, it’ll be chaos (see Judges 17:6; 21:5: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”).

But true freedom is different. It requires boundaries; specifically the boundaries of truth and facts. As Chesterton pointed out, we don’t have the freedom to draw a giraffe with a short neck. Freedom entails limits. True freedom is not the unfettered ability to do, say, or be whatever we want in any way we want. True freedom is the ability to do what we want, in accordance with what we should, based on what we are. What we are is children of the Most High. That’s exactly why Jesus says that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free.

Abdu has written a book about how to deal with this. I’m not sure right now what his approach is. It’s probably important to make some sort of defense of truth to young people, so that they understand why the boundaries help them. If they think they can break all the moral laws and that it will not close off some good outcomes to them later, then we need to correct that. We need to use evidence to show them that some decisions will increase or decrease their ability to get the best outcomes. Moreover, we somehow have to get them to accept that God, if he exists, might have something to say about their moral choices. And if God exists then they ought to care what he thinks they should be doing.

One of my best friends is a Christian woman who had an abortion after living with an atheist when she was younger. Looking back on her life, she did not have good guidance about what to look for in a man. Her mother married (and re-married) poorly, and so there was never a good role model around for her. She would often complain to me about how she was lied to by the culture. About what men to prefer. About how far to go with a man. About delaying marriage. About delaying children. About how much abortion would hurt her. About guarding her heart from men who had not demonstrated ability at husbands and father skills. When I met her, I wasn’t very impressed with her education (English! Yucky!) and her career. But she had this hatred of lies, and a desperate desire to know how the world really worked.

More than almost any of my friends, she was utterly devoted to pursuing truth. I remember finding books that I had bought for her by really advanced writers like Stephen C. Meyer absolutely covered in underlining from cover to cover. Basically, she didn’t trust her ability to make decisions because she felt she had been lied to. She wanted a true worldview, so that when she took some action X, she knew that it was likely to lead her to result Y. That’s the love of truth that we need to teach the young people. Without a true worldview, (a Christian worldview, since Christianity is true), they will always be attempting to get to outcomes that have been closed off by their own poor decision-making and rebellion against God. I wish all of you could meet someone who had been raised without good leadership and good role models, and see how much some people at least really thirst for the truth and are anxious to make good decisions that honor what is true.

What is the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence, and does the multiverse counter it?

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

One of the best arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe is the cosmic fine-tuning argument. The argument argues that individual constants and quantities in nature cannot be much smaller or larger than they are, because it would remove the ability of the universe to support life of any kind. Dr. Michael Strauss, an experimental physicist, explains some examples of the fine-tuning in a recent post on his blog.

He writes:

I liken the finely-tuned universe to a panel that controls the parameters of the universe with about 100 knobs that can be set to certain values. If you turn any knob just a little to the right or to the left the result is either a universe that is inhospitable to life or no universe at all.

Consider the knob that controls the strength of the strong nuclear force that holds quarks inside the neutrons and protons and binds the nucleus of the atom together. If the strength were increased by 2%, the element hydrogen would be either non-existent or very rare. Without hydrogen there would be no water (H2O) or stars that burn hydrogen as their nuclear fuel like our sun.  Without hydrogen there would be no life. If the strength of the strong nuclear force were decreased by about 5%, then hydrogen would be the only element in the universe. That would simplify the periodic table and make Chemistry class very easy, but it would render life impossible.

All known life in this universe is based on the element carbon, which is formed in the final stages of a star’s life. The carbon you and I are made of is the result of the nuclear processes that occurred as previous stars ended their lives. One nice recent study showed that if the mass of the quarks that make up neutrons and protons were changed by just a few percent, then the process that makes carbon as stars die would be altered in such a way that there would not be sufficient carbon in the universe for life. The masses of the lightest sub-atomic quarks are the precise value that is required for carbon to form and for life to exist.

Regarding the multiverse, let me just quote from MIT physicist Alan Lightman, writing in Harper’s magazine about the multiverse:

The… conjecture that there are many other worlds… [T]here is no way they can prove this conjecture. That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

The multiverse is not pure nonsense, it is theoretically possible.But even if there were a multiverse, the generator that makes the universes itself would require fine-tuning, so the multiverse doesn’t get rid of the problem. And, as Lightman indicates, we have no independent experimental evidence for the existence of the multiverse in any case. Atheists just have to take it on faith, and hope that their speculations will be proved right. Meanwhile, the fine-tuning is just as easily explained by postulating God, and we have independent evidence for God’s existence, like the the origin of biological information, the sudden appearance of animal body plans, the argument from consciousness, and so on. Even if the naturalists could explain the fine-tuning, they would still have a lot of explaining to do. Theism (intelligent causation) is the simplest explanation for all of the things we learn from the progress of science.

It’s very important to understand that if these values were any different, then it’s not like we would bridges on our foreheads, or have green skin, or have pointy ears, etc. That’s what science fiction teaches you. And many atheists form their view of science by watching science fiction entertainment. But the truth is that the consequences of changing these values are much more consequential: no stars, no planets, no hydrogen, no heavy elements, the universe re-collapses into a hot fireball. You’re not going to have complex, embodied intelligent agents running around making moral decisions and relating to God in a world like that.

Questions like the existence of God should be NOT decided by feelings and faith and superstitious nonsense. They ought to be decided by evidence. Specifically, scientific evidence. Everyone has to account for this scientific evidence for fine-tuning within their worldview, and they have to account for it in a way that is responsible and rational. Punting to the multiverse, without any evidence for it, is neither rational nor responsible. Holding out hope that the evidence we have now will all go away is neither rational nor responsible.

By the way, if you are looking for a good book on the cosmic fine-tuning, especially for evangelism and debating with atheists, you really need to get a copy of “A Fortunate Universe“. Although it is from one of the most prestigious academic presses, it is pretty funny to read, and the main points are made clearly, even if you don’t understand the science. Two astrophysicists wrote it – one who believes that God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning, and one who doesn’t. I really think that Christians need to get used to the idea that evangelism can be pretty easy, so long as you are arguing from peer-reviewed facts. When you get a good book on evidence for God that is not in dispute, then you are invincible. Everybody ought to believe in God in a universe with this much overt scientific evidence spilling out everywhere. Whether this Creator and Designer is the God of the Bible, who visited us as Jesus of Nazareth, takes more work to establish. Working through the emotional objections people have to God, and coaching them to take on the difficulties of living out a authentic Christian life (very unpopular!), is even harder.

Trump will cut $60 million of taxpayer-funding of Planned Parenthood

Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood

The money will instead be given to women’s health care providers who do not perform abortions. I looked around to find an article that didn’t just report the decision, but also what PP would do about it, and how that was likely to work out for them. In cases like this, it really matters how the policy is phrased. That determines whether it can stand up to a court challenge.

Life News reports:

The Trump administration is announcing new regulations today to partially defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses of tens of millions of tax dollars. This is the second time Trump has taken steps to revoke taxpayer funding for the nation’s biggest abortion business — after yanking taxpayer from from International Planned Parenthood during his first week in office.

The United States spends about $260 million in Title X funds annually for family planning for low-income individuals, and Planned Parenthood is a huge recipient of those funds, as much as $50-$60 million annually.

But under the proposed “Protect Life Rule,” Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses would not receive any of those tax dollars unless they completely separate their abortion business from their taxpayer-funded services, The Washington Examiner reports. That would mean housing their family planning services elsewhere — potentially in separate buildings and coordinated by separate staff and organizations from its abortion enterprise.

“This proposal does not necessarily defund Planned Parenthood, as long as they’re willing to disentangle taxpayer funds from abortion as a method of family planning, which is required by the Title X law,” a Trump administration official said. “Any grantees that perform, support, or refer for abortion have a choice – disentangle themselves from abortion or fund their activities with privately raised funds.”

Of course, Planned Parenthood is unwilling to do so. Abortion is its primary focus, and it already is threatening a lawsuit to stop the defunding. However, the proposal is modeled after similar Reagan administration rules that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in Rust v. Sullivan in 1991.

The Life News article also had some helpful paragraphs about how this new policy builds on the previous pro-life policies of the Trump administration:

The Trump administration has cut several other streams of funding to Planned Parenthood as well. Soon after Trump took office, he signed the Mexico City Policy to prevent the funding of groups that promote or perform abortions overseas. This includes the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which received tax dollars under the Obama administration.

In addition, in 2017, the Trump administration cut millions of dollars in grants to Planned Parenthood through the failed Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. HHS spokesman Mark Vafiades told the New York Times last year that there is very little evidence that the program was successful. However, the abortion chain recently filed a lawsuit challenging the cuts.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion business in America, aborting approximately 320,000 unborn babies every year. Its most recent annual report showed a record income of $1.46 billion, with about half a billion dollars coming from taxpayers.

In addition to reversing the Obama administration’s funding of abortion, the Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s policy of forcing Christian organizations to provide health insurance coverage for abortion.

Life News reported on that, as well:

A federal district court issued an order Tuesday that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare abortion-pill mandate against four Christian universities in Oklahoma represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Obama-era mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. The Department of Justice, under the Trump administration, abandoned its defense of the flawed mandate, which the Department of Health and Human Services implemented during the previous administration.

“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government. Today’s order fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.

“These universities no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs,” Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these drugs without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”

ADF attorneys represent Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University, all of which specifically object to providing abortifacients.

I don’t think most Democrats realize just how pro-abortion the Obama administration was. But they should have been able to predict it from the multiple times that Obama voted for abortion born-alive infants when he was a state senator in Illinois. Although Trump’s record on abortion was mixed before the election, he’s been good at canceling out some of Obama’s pro-abortion policies. Good for him.

Making sense of evil and suffering within a Christian worldview

One thing I’ve noticed in talking to atheists who grew up in Christian homes is that they often leave their Christian worldview behind because of a disappointment with God. For some reason, they get this idea that God is our cosmic butler. We can do whatever we want in order to be happy, and if we want any help in this, then we just ring for him. When we encounter disappointment, our tendency is to just leave God behind.

Paul Copan explains the high points of the problems of evil and suffering in 17 minutes. (H/T Apologetics 315)

The MP3 file is here.

The video is here:

Topics:

  • the question itself reveals that we are moral beings
  • the problem of evil is the great interrupter of human well-being
  • every philosophy of life has to address this question
  • is God required to give us a life that is easy and comfortable?
  • evil is a departure from good, i.e. – the way things ought to be
  • a way things ought to be implies a plan for what ought to be
  • human evil implies a plan for the way we ought to be
  • free creatures have the ability to deviate from the plan
  • where does this plan for the universe and us come from?
  • how can there be a way we ought to be come from?
  • evil is the flip side of good so where does good come from?
  • God’s own moral nature is the standard of good and evil
  • where does evil from natural disasters come from?
  • how dangerous natural phenomena preserve Earth’s habitability
  • there is a benefit from tectonic activity
  • similarly, God lets humans freely choose knowing harm may result
  • people are free to try to find meaning in something other than God
  • God is able to use negative things to bring about positive results
  • e.g. – when good people suffer, they can comfort and care for others
  • can people be good enough on their own without God?

I do think it’s worth thinking about whether the New Testament portrays God as our cosmic butler, just waiting on us hand and foot so that we can be happy. Personally, I think you’d have to be crazy to get that impression of God from the Bible. Especially from the life of Jesus, who suffers in order to do the will of his Father. Wouldn’t it be funny if atheists were disbelieving in a God of their own making? Suffering in the pursuit of goodness has always been the center of the Christian life. I’m not sure where people get this idea that God’s job is to make us happy, according to our own desires. Seems kind of shallow. Certainly not Biblical. Do people even read the Bible any more to find out what God is really like? Maybe that’s the problem.

If you want to read two good books for beginners on Christian Apologetics that cover a range of intermediate issues, then pick up “Passion Conviction” and the companion “Contending With Christianity’s Critics”. Awesome, awesome resources. The Kindle editions can often be had for $3 each on Amazon.

William Lane Craig lectures on the moral argument at Georgia Tech

Making sense of the meaning of atheism
Making sense of the meaning of atheism

This video has 3 parts, as well as questions and answers in individual clips.

For those who cannot watch the video, you can read this essay by Dr. Craig which covers exactly the same ground as the video. The essay is for Christians already familiar with basic apologetics.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Here’s a quick couple of quotes from the essay for those who cannot watch:

If there is no God, then any ground for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. After all, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Some action, say, incest, may not be biologically or socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo; but there is on the atheistic view nothing really wrong about committing incest. If, as Kurtz states, “The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,”5 then the non-conformist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably.

The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism. But if man has no immaterial aspect to his being (call it soul or mind or what have you), then he is not qualitatively different from other animal species. For him to regard human morality as objective is to fall into the trap of specie-ism. On a materialistic anthropology there is no reason to think that human beings are objectively more valuable than rats. Secondly, if there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of our five senses and our genetic make-up. There is no personal agent who freely decides to do something. But without freedom, none of our choices is morally significant. They are like the jerks of a puppet’s limbs, controlled by the strings of sensory input and physical constitution. And what moral value does a puppet or its movements have?

[…]Moreover, if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one’s actions. Even if there were objective moral values and duties under naturalism, they are irrelevant because there is no moral accountability. If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as a Stalin or as a saint. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky rightly said: “If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.”

If you want a much shorter, slicker version of this argument to share, Reasonable Faith has produced this nice 5-minute video that you can tweet or share on your Facebook page or whatever:

The moral argument is the easiest argument in the world to discuss with non-Christians, as everyone has to have an answer to questions like “what makes humans valuable?” and “why should I do the right thing when it goes against my self-interest?” and “will evildoers who escape justice in this life be punished when they die?” and “do humans have free will to make moral choices?” These are interesting questions, and people can just give their opinion and then think about it as they discuss it.

If you want to show this lecture and Q&A to your apologetics group, you can find the DVD here.

You can also read a debate transcript where Dr. Craig puts his ideas to the test, against Dr. Richard Taylor. I found this debate very helpful for answering the question that everyone should be able to answer: “why should I be moral?”

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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