Category Archives: News

The Thoroughly Rational Conversion of Michael Minot

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

One of the things I’ve noticed hanging around in church on and off the last 20 years or so is that it often seems to be the case the church leaders seem to value some people as leaders more than others. Specifically, it seems to me that church leaders prefer to put athletes and cheerleaders into leadership positions, and they tend to be skeptical of people who have intellectual conversion stories, and intellectual interests. I think I actually got the phrase “jocks and cheerleaders” from Dr. John Mark Reynolds when describing who churches tend to prefer, so I’m not just making this up.

But not everyone sees things that way. Of all the people I’ve met or read, I probably agree with Terrell Clemmons the most. And if I disagree with her, then I usually find out that she is right later on. Pretty much everything she writes about is not only relevant, but practical, which is amazing for a person who writes about topics related to Christian belief and practice. One of the things she likes to write about is the background stories of people who were intelligent and successful as non-Christians, who then went on to become Christians through a careful study of the evidence, and then went on to make a difference through outward-focused enterprises.

Let’s start with this article from Salvo Magazine about a successful atheist lawyer named Michael Minot.

Terrell writes:

Never in his 28 years did Mike Minot imagine he would entertain this unthinkable thought, yet lately of an evening he might easily be found pacing around his house like an awestruck research scientist muttering things like, “It just can’t be! . . . Can it?”

The seismic shift had started quite unexpectedly just a few months prior. He was three years out of law school, and life was great. After years of living on beans and weenies as a student, he had arrived on the scene of success. He had a growing law practice, money in his pocket, and a teeming social life. The world was his oyster.

Then he had received an odd phone call. Normally confident and well-spoken, Jim, whom he’d met while studying for the Florida bar exam, spoke awkwardly, struggling uncharacteristically to get his message out. Finally he got to his point. “Sharon and I have been watching what’s been going on in your life. And we decided we would give you a call and invite you to do something. We believe the Scriptures are very important. They’re very important to our lives, and they’re helpful to us. We know what you think about spiritual matters, but we want to challenge you to take some time at this point in your life and reexamine these things.”

To say Mike was taken aback would be an understatement. He was a perfectly contented atheist, and he had no interest in interrupting his prosperous life to look at anyone’s answers to questions he wasn’t even asking. But he did value the relationship he had with Jim, Sharon, and their two adorable kids. If he were to summarily dismiss this suggestion, what would that do to their friendship? It seemed he should at least put forth a cursory effort, if for no other reason than for the health of the relationship.

First thing to note is that the people who ask Michael to give Christianity a look are successful and intelligent themselves. Not only is Jim studying for the Florida bar exam (so that he has credibility to another lawyer), but Jim’s wife has also given him more credibility by marrying him. Married couples are typically more “grown-up” than singles, and I’m saying that as a chaste single myself who has been successful in education, career and finances. Marriage requires a whole set of behaviors from people that singles don’t have to perform. The point is, though, that Michael is being approached by people from the same professional and social background. He is not being approached by a missionary or a street preacher, but by someone who has been effective in their education, career and marriage.

This really does matter – Christians are often perceived (rightly) as over-emotional, irrational, impractical, and driven more by community than by truth-seeking. It’s very important for Christians who want to produce a return that they not be living with their parents in their 20s, have gap-filled minimum-wage resumes, have $20,000 in student in outstanding student loans from an easy, unused non-STEM degree, and no achievements except zip-lining, skydiving, surfing, and fear-of-missing-out travel.

The journey starts with science:

With no predetermined plan, he delved into both the Scriptures and science. The Scriptures felt intimidating, though, and he was more comfortable with science. Not two weeks in, he found something that totally blew his mind. Ironically, it was something that had been there all along: the solar system—and the mind-boggling precision by which it operates. He marveled at the elegant complexity of it. It appeared way too precise, statistically speaking, to be an accident.

Suddenly, this was no longer a casual exercise. He had to find the natural explanation for the solar system. If he continued on his merry life without it, he would forever live plagued by lingering thoughts that he could be living a lie. Never did he want to go in for a lie, and intellectual honesty demanded that he keep searching.

So he put on his miner’s lighted helmet, so to speak, and went to work. But instead of locating the natural explanation for the solar system, he found himself turning up all manner of equally troublesome phenomena—the fine-tuning of the earth for supporting life, with its balance of nitrogen to oxygen ratios and plate tectonics; the information content of DNA; and the complexities of animal and human life, to name a few. The perplexities mounted, and the whole project snowballed. He would go looking for the explanation for one natural marvel, only to encounter two more crying out for explanation.

If I could communicate one thing to the church, it would be this: whether you agree with the old universe and old Earth timelines or not, everyone who attends church for a decade should be able to state the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the intelligent design argument, the fossil record argument, and the habitability argument, to the degree where they are naming scientists, discoveries and specific books where the evidence for these arguments are laid out.

Unfortunately, thanks to the “leadership” of many prominent fideist pastors, many Christians have adopted an attitude of outright suspicion to science, preferring instead to pre-suppose the truth of the Bible by blind faith (“the burning of the bosom”, as the Mormons say), and refusing to study anything outside the Bible that might establish the necessary prerequisites to taking the Bible seriously. Successful non-Christian professionals looking to evaluate Christianity, this blind-faith approach is rightly seen as anti-intellectualism.

More:

Other complications did follow, though. He had trustingly believed teachers and authorities who had taught that everything could be explained naturalistically. What else, now, needed to be reexamined? This went beyond science and philosophy to sociology, psychology—everything had to be rethought according to this completely new paradigm. He would later liken it to being planted on a whole new planet.

And his entire social life collapsed in a matter of weeks. But he joined a church, and it became his new social center as well as his spiritual lifeline. He volunteered to serve as a jail chaplain in the evenings, a post he filled to great satisfaction for fifteen years. He met his wife Nichole at church, and they went on to adopt five children. Life settled into a richly rewarding concert of family, jail ministry, and law. Nothing he’d ever envisioned back in his atheist days could match the prosperity of these blessings.

At first glance, it may seem ironic that an atheist committed to seeing everything through the “lens of science” would come back around to see God through the lens of science. But the truth is, it wasn’t science per se that had hidden his Creator from view. Rather, it was the lens of philosophical naturalism imposed onto science—both in education and throughout the broader culture—that had fostered and fueled Mike’s unchallenged atheism.

Naturalism is a philosophy – a philosophical assumption. It’s not science. The origin and design of the universe are science. DNA is science. Habitability constraints are science. The sudden origin of major body plans in the fossil record is science. There are no scientific arguments for atheism. There’s just speculation driven by naturalistic philosophy.

In the end, Minot turns his life around 180 degrees, and puts his intellect and professional abilities to work for the gospel. You can read about all the ways he is making an impact in Terrell’s article in Salvo Magazine. Always remember stories like these when you are making decisions about your own education and career. God is still working, still reaching out to people through science and history, appealing to their minds for a fair hearing, and then asking for their best efforts for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Duquesne university student government wants to ban Chick-Fil-A from campus

Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties
Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties

This story from Campus Reform is worth considering, especially for people who think that it is safe to support traditional marriage in public.

Excerpt:

Student senators at Duquesne University are lobbying for the cancellation of plans to bring Chick-fil-A to campus in the fall, saying they “fear” for the safety of their peers.

The popular fast-food chain came under fire in 2012 after its president, Dan Cathy, admitted his company was “guilty as charged” for donating to organizations opposed to same-sex marriage, prompting years of protests by LGBT activists, especially on college campuses.

Now, however, Duquesne University Student Senator Niko Martini has reignited concerns over the company’s past by proposing a resolution at the Student Government Association’s (SGA) March 26 meeting to nix the restaurant from a list of proposed overhauls to the school’s dining options.

“Chick-fil-A has a questionable history on civil rights and human rights,” Martini remarked in a statement to The Duquesne Duke. “I think it’s imperative [that] the university chooses to do business with organizations that coincide with the [university’s] mission and expectations they give students regarding diversity and inclusion.”

He hates the chicken, because the chicken is pro-natural-marriage, and he can’t deal with that. He has to silence anyone who disagrees with him on the definition of marriage.

This reminds me of the time that the gay activist Floyd Lee Corkins entered the Family Research Council building in Washington D.C. with several Chick-Fil-A sandwiches – and a handgun.

The radically leftist Washington Post wrote about what happened:

The man convicted of shooting an unarmed security guard at the Family Research Council last summer was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison.

Floyd Lee Corkins II had plotted to kill “as many people as possible” at conservative organizations that he viewed as anti-gay before he was stopped by the guard, Leonardo Johnson.

U.S. District Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts called Corkins’s crime “horrific” and praised Johnson, who was shot in the forearm while subduing Corkins and taking his gun.

“The carnage you wanted did not happen only because an ordinary man showing extraordinary courage stopped you,” Roberts told Corkins before announcing his prison term. “Killing human beings is not political activism. It is criminal behavior.”

[…]In February, Corkins pleaded guilty to three felony charges: a federal charge of transporting a firearm and ammunition across state lines, and D.C. charges of assault with intent to kill and committing an act of terrorism while armed.

Corkins, who volunteered at a gay community center in the District, told investigators that he was angry with organizations he considered anti-gay, such as the Family Research Council and the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The head of the restaurant chain had spoken out at the time against same-sex marriage.

In a multimedia presentation in the courtroom, federal prosecutors described Corkins’s planning of the shooting as “deliberate and clear-headed.”

The day before, Corkins had purchased 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches that he carried in his backpack along with the 9mm SIG Sauer pistol. He planned to “smear” the sandwiches in the faces of his victims to make a political statement, according to court documents.

Is Corkins any different from these other anti-marriage campus radicals? He opened fire, I guess, and was convicted of domestic terrorism. The campus radicals haven’t shot anyone who disagrees with them so far. But the same hate is there in both.

What scared me the most during 8 years of the Obama administration

Is Barack Obama focused on protecting the American people?
Is Barack Obama focused on protecting the American people?

Progressives (especially liberal white women with non-STEM degrees) often ask me how I can be a conservative since I don’t fit their preconceived notion of a white male Republican. I could talk about how conservative policies are better for my life plans, but usually I just start with a story of something that the Obama administration did that scared me personally – namely, using the IRS to attack conservative groups right before the 2012 elections, so that Obama would win re-election.

Nothing was ever done to the IRS leaders who persecuted this conservative groups under the Obama administration, of course.

However, there might be a happy ending to this story under a Republican administration, as the Daily Signal reports:

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and tax policy subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday, noting the Obama administration refused to review the information the committee gathered in its extensive investigation into the matter.

According to the congressmen, there is clear evidence Lerner willfully partook in criminal activity during her tenure as the Exempt Organizations division director, yet former President Barak Obama insisted there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the agency.

“On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution,” Brady and Roskam wrote. “As indicated in the attached letter, the Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner. Despite this fact, and for what many believe were purely partisan reasons, the prior administration refused to review Ms. Lerner’s misconduct.”

The lawmakers cited evidence showing Lerner provided misleading information to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s questions and the use of her personal email, which put taxpayers’ confidential information at risk of exposure, as reasons for reopening the investigation.

The DOJ announced in October 2015 it would not pursue criminal charges against Lerner at the close of its two-year probe. The investigation faced challenges due to Lerner’s crashed hard drive, the absence of email archives, and the destruction of over 400 electronic backup tapes, and it was unable to prove the IRS official “intentionally discriminated against an applicant based upon viewpoint” and cited line-employees’ “ignorance, inertia” and “negligence” for delays in tea party applications for r 501(c )(3) status.

“It is clear that when the DOJ announced in October 2015 that it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner, the agency was following President Obama’s signal on how he wanted the investigation to be handled,” they continued. “Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics.”

For now, thought conservative lawmakers are at least trying to get some mony taken out of the IRS budget.

Jim Jordan, my favorite Congressman, explains in USA Today:

Part of my time in Washington has involved investigating the IRS targeting of conservative groups. For a sustained period, the IRS systematically targeted Americans based on their political beliefs.

Congressional efforts to investigate the matter were thwarted. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was brought in to clean up the mess, but under his watch, 422 back-up tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails relevant to the scandal were destroyed. Such actions leave the American people with little trust in the IRS.

Not only did the IRS violate the First Amendment with its targeting, the agency may have violated the Fourth with the use of “Stingray” surveillance technology. Last year, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing about the technology, which tricks cellphones into pinging off a Stingray device to reveal the phone’s location. Such technology might have a place at the FBI, but why does a tax collecting agency need a device that can track citizens’ whereabouts?

These issues, along with other egregious examples of wasteful spending (one IRS employee spent $43,726 at a Ritz Carlton near Washington, D.C.) warrant the Congress to use its power of the purse to demand accountability.

Likewise, it’s up to leaders at the IRS to prioritize their budget on the agency’s core mission: collecting tax revenue and serving its customers, the American taxpayers. Instead of using taxpayer dollars to violate constitutional rights, the agency should refocus on its priorities. Applying budget cuts in a way that hurts its core mission is just another in a long line of poor decisions by IRS leadership.

Given the history of waste, disregard for civil liberties and lack of internal controls at the IRS, it is no surprise that the Trump administration would like to cut the budget. Doing so sends a signal that this Congress and administration will not reward unlawful behavior.

It seems pretty to me at least that the previous administration repeatedly used government power to target and attack those who disagreed with their communist – pacificist policies. I’d like to see Jeff Sessions punish the progressives from the last administration so that they learn the hard way to obey the law, even if they have no sense of morality. If we had electe Ted Cruz, then he would have just abolished the IRS outright, and that would be a wonderful thing.

UT Arlington student commits suicide after being disciplined for rejecting gay man

Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties
Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties

This is from David Fench in National Review.

On June 2, 2016, Klocke committed suicide — mere days after learning that he’d been disciplined for allegedly “harassing” a gay student. Last week, his family filed a lawsuit, laying out claims that — if proven true — should send chills down the spines of parents of male children.

[…]He claimed that the gay student called him “beautiful.” Klocke then typed into his web browser, “Stop, I’m straight.” The gay student replied, “I’m gay” and then allegedly kept glancing at Klocke, who eventually got up and moved seats.

[…]After the class, the gay student allegedly approached a senior administrator he knew, the university’s vice president of student affairs and dean of students. Rather than launching the school’s Title IX process for resolving complaints of sexual harassment or gender discrimination, the dean assisted the student in preparing a claim that circumvented normal procedures entirely.

The dean then allegedly assigned the case to the school’s associate director of academic integrity, who promptly issued an order prohibiting Klocke not only from contacting his accuser, he also prohibited him from attending the class where the incident occurred, and — crucially — from contacting any member of the class, directly or through any other person. Later, he reportedly barred Klocke’s father, an attorney, from attending a meeting regarding the case, and then “decided” the dispute without following university-prescribed procedures, without giving Klocke the opportunity to contact or call witnesses, and indeed without hearing from any witness who could corroborate either student’s claims. The school, for its part, denies that it departed from mandatory processes and asserts that it “followed its policies and procedures.”

The associate director of academic integrity found Klocke responsible for “harassment,” placed him on probation for the remainder of his academic career at the university, and prohibited him from returning to the class where the incident occurred, though he could work on “group projects outside the classroom.”

It is important to note that there are two competing accounts of what happened, and those are laid out fully in David French’s article.

The College Fix has more on the lack of evidence from the gay student, and the actions of the university:

Here’s a list of UTA violations of Klocke’s rights under its own rules, according to the suit:

Not letting him go back to his class or contact anyone in class to find potential witnesses

Never telling him he was under Title IX investigation

Never telling him a student affairs official, who was advising the accuser, was running the investigation

Charging him with “physical abuse” (a claim never made by the accuser) and a “non-specific” harassment violation, without giving him the required hearing and opportunity to present witnesses

Withholding a list of witnesses and describing the accuser’s report as a neutral “statement of evidence”

Refusing to tell Klocke that his father, an attorney, could accompany him in a meeting with Moore if they “waived confidentiality”

Even when both Snow and Moore privately agreed they couldn’t keep Klocke out of his class based on the evidence, Moore told Snow he had “worked it out” to keep Klocke out, the suit claims.

The next day he received a letter stating he had been found responsible for harassment, putting him on disciplinary probation through graduation.

Schow concludes:

Klocke had no prior history of mental health problems, and by all accounts was happy and looking forward to the future after graduation.

Personally, I believe the account of the student who committed suicide, that seems more in line with what universities are doing to straight white male students these days. Progressives are constantly faking hate crimes against themselves in order to punish those who refuse to approve or participate in what they are doing. They can’t live and let live, they have to crush and overpower all dissent. It really makes me wonder why you hear so little about the corrupting effects of sin in churches today. People who sin can become dangerous to people around them, because they seek to stifle out any dissent or disapproval to what they are doing, by any means necessary. Sin can cause intolerance, in short.

N.T. Wright lectures on the seven mutations caused by resurrection of Jesus

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let's take a look at the facts
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let’s take a look at the facts

Here’s a lecture from N.T. Wright, whose multi-volume case for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus seems to be getting a lot of respect from the other side, (although I strongly disagree with his economic and political views, which are naive at best). Wright has taught at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Duke University, McGill University, and lectured on dozens of prestigious campuses around the world. He’s published 40 books.

Here’s a video of his case for the resurrection:

You can read a written version of the lecture here.

N.T. Wright’s historical case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus

Wright basically argues that the resurrection cannot have been a myth invented by the early Christian community, because the idea of the Messiah dying and being bodily resurrected to eternal life was completely unexpected in Jewish theology, and therefore would not have been fabricated.

In Judaism, when people die, they stay dead. At the most, they might re-appear as apparitions, or be resuscitated to life for a while, but then die again later. There was no concept of the bodily resurrection to eternal life of a single person, especially of the Messiah, prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead on judgment day.

Wright’s case for the resurrection has 3 parts:

  • The Jewish theological beliefs of the early Christian community underwent 7 mutations that are inexplicable apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus
  • The empty tomb
  • The post-mortem appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups, friends and foes

Here’s the outline of Wright’s case:

…the foundation of my argument for what happened at Easter is the reflection that this Jewish hope has undergone remarkable modifications or mutations within early Christianity, which can be plotted consistently right across the first two centuries. And these mutations are so striking, in an area of human experience where societies tend to be very conservative, that they force the historian… to ask, Why did they occur?

The mutations occur within a strictly Jewish context. The early Christians held firmly, like most of their Jewish contemporaries, to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. ‘Resurrection’ is not a fancy word for ‘life after death’; it denotes life after ‘life after death’.

And here are the 7 mutations:

  1. Christian theology of the afterlife mutates from multiples views (Judaism) to a single view: resurrection (Christianity). When you die, your soul goes off to wait in Sheol. On judgment day, the righteous dead get new resurrection bodies, identical to Jesus’ resurrection body.
  2. The relative importance of the doctrine of resurrection changes from being peripheral (Judaism) to central (Christianity).
  3. The idea of what the resurrection would be like goes from multiple views (Judaism) to a single view: an incorruptible, spiritually-oriented body composed of the material of the previous corruptible body (Christianity).
  4. The timing of the resurrection changes from judgment day (Judaism) to a split between the resurrection of the Messiah right now and the resurrection of the rest of the righteous on judgment day (Christianity).
  5. There is a new view of eschatology as collaboration with God to transform the world.
  6. There is a new metaphorical concept of resurrection, referred to as being “born-again”.
  7. There is a new association of the concept of resurrection to the Messiah. (The Messiah was not even supposed to die, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to rise again from the dead in a resurrected body!)

There are also other historical puzzles that are solved by postulating a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Jewish people thought that the Messiah was not supposed to die. Although there were lots of (warrior) Messiahs running around at the time, whenever they got killed, their followers would abandon them. Why didn’t Jesus’ followers abandon him when he died?
  2. If the early Christian church wanted to communicate that Jesus was special, despite his shameful death on the cross, they would have made up a story using the existing Jewish concept of exaltation. Applying the concept of bodily resurrection to a dead Messiah would be a radical departure from Jewish theology, when an invented exaltation was already available to do the job.
  3. The early church became extremely reckless about sickness and death, taking care of people with communicable diseases and testifying about their faith in the face of torture and execution. Why did they scorn sickness and death?
  4. The gospels, especially Mark, do not contain any embellishments and “theology historicized”. If they were made-up, there would have been events that had some connection to theological concepts. But the narratives are instead bare-bones: “Guy dies public death. People encounter same guy alive later.” Plain vanilla narrative.
  5. The story of the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb cannot have been invented, because the testimony of women was inadmissible under almost all circumstances at that time. If the story were invented, they would have invented male discoverers of the tomb. Female discovers would have hampered conversion efforts.
  6. There are almost no legendary embellishments in the gospels, while there are plenty in the later gnostic forgeries. No crowds of singing angels, no talking crosses, and no booming voices from the clouds.
  7. There is no mention of the future hope of the general resurrection, which I guess they thought was imminent anyway.

To conclude, Wright makes the argument that the best explanation of all of these changes in theology and practice is that God raised Jesus (bodily) from the dead. There is simply no way that this community would have made up the single resurrection of the Messiah – who wasn’t even supposed to die – and then put themselves on the line for that belief.

And remember, the belief in a resurrected Jesus was something that the earliest witnesses could really assess, because they were the ones who saw him killed and then walking around again after his death. They were able to confirm or deny their belief in the resurrection of Jesus based on their own personal experiences with the object of those beliefs.