Why Do So Many Christians Favor “Small Government”?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

– C.S. Lewis

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Anyone who tries to claim that the Bible prescribes his or her specific political opinions should be met with a certain degree of skepticism. The Bible does, however, hint at how Christians should interact with the societies in which they live (go read Acts 5:29 and Luke 20:25). It also provides strong caution against placing one’s confidence in Earthly governments (go read I Samuel 8 and Judges 8:22-23).

My purpose here is to address the common (and erroneous) claim that Christians who favor “small government” are, by definition, being hypocritical. Or as Jimmy Carter puts it,

jimmy carter

For one thing, I only know of maybe 2 or 3 people who oppose tax dollars going to help the poor. All of them are anarchists. So it’s not entirely clear who, exactly, Carter is addressing. But I’m pretty sure he’s just addressing anyone who favors a more limited welfare system than he does.

The real debate, if we’re being honest, is the extent to which – and the means by which – public assistance should be directed to the poor. The question is whether primary responsibility for assisting the poor should rest with government, or with individuals, churches, and private charities.

To many on the Left, conservatives who attempt to reduce the size of the welfare state are either acting out of greed, malice, or a lack of empathy for the poor. In reality, the conservative’s goal is to limit and decentralize power. The conservative understands that power leads to corruption, and that powerful, centralized governments have a long history of abusing human rights.

The conservative also recognizes the importance of individual responsibility and the dignity of providing for oneself and one’s family. In this sense, the conservative is concerned not only with the poor man’s physical needs, but also with his spiritual, non-material needs. Any form of government assistance should therefore have the aim of making the recipient self-sufficient, rather than perpetually reliant on public assistance.

Unfortunately, there’s an epidemic of young, progressive, “enlightened” individuals in this country who eagerly vote to expand the welfare state, and conclude that this makes them champions of the poor. Yet when asked, directly, what they’ve personally done for the poor, the only things they can come up with are Holding Benevolent Opinions, paying taxes, and maybe attending a charity walk.

I realize that sounds a tad anecdotal…but as it turns out, there’s solid data to back it up. According to research out of Syracuse University, “people who reject the idea that ‘government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality’ give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.” In the U.S., conservative states consistently see higher levels of charitable giving than liberal states.

In short: when a person considers his taxes to be a legitimate form of charity, he becomes less charitable.

The modern progressive, unwilling to recognize mankind’s fallen condition, sincerely believes that the State provides the means of realizing his egalitarian utopia. The Christian should know better. Those who place their faith in the strong arm of government walk a fine line between folly and idolatry.

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See also:

“Why Christians Make Great Libertarians” (part 1, part 2, part 3)

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Quotes on Religion, Philosophy, and Politics

This is a collection of quotes that I’ve recently posted on the WSJ Facebook page.

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“Isn’t it ironic that after 70 years Russia wants God back while we are trying to kick him out?”

– Ravi Zacharias

“Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between man and man. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between man-God-man, that is, that God is the middle term.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

“In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.”

– Roger Scruton

“We have the worst of both worlds: a Prohibitionary State that gives license to all kinds of evil, but that regulates and restricts actions that are not evil, to manage the chaos that results from the license.”

– Anthony Esolen

“For all of higher civilization’s recorded history, becoming a man was defined overwhelmingly as taking responsibility for a family. That notion — indeed the notion of masculinity itself — is regarded by feminism as the worst of sins: patriarchy.”

– Dennis Prager

“A God who did not abolish suffering–worse, a God who abolished sin precisely by suffering–is a scandal to the modern mind.” 

– Peter Kreeft

“If there is any verse that you would like left out of the Bible, that is the verse that ought to stick to you, like a blister, until you really attend to its teaching.” 

– Charles Spurgeon

“It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity…as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself above human frailty.”

– Francis Bacon

“The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books – a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.”

– Albert Einstein

“While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries. The same is true of many people in the Western world. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity; they live immersed in the waters of its benefits. And yet it has not penetrated their hearts; they do not love it. The fault is not in Christianity, but in men’s hearts, which have been hardened by materialism and intellectualism.”

– Sadhu Sundar Singh

“A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.”

– GK Chesterton

“Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.”

– GK Chesterton

“He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative.”

– GK Chesterton

“Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative. Liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God…. Liberalism regards Christ as an Example and Guide; Christianity as a Savior. Liberalism makes Him an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith.”

– J Gresham Machen

“The modernist – the extreme modernist, infidel in all but name – need not be called a fool or hypocrite because he obstinately retains, even in the midst of his intellectual atheism, the language, rites, sacraments, and story of the Christians. The poor man may be clinging (with wisdom he himself by no means understands) to that which is his life. It would have been better that Loisy should have remained a Christian: it would not necessarily have been better that he should have purged his thought of vestigial Christianity.”

– CS Lewis

“Indecency is not wild and lawless. The danger of indecency is exactly that it is tame, dull, direct, inevitable; a mere law in the members. It is automatic evil. Pride makes man a devil; but lust makes him a machine.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

“… children are simply human beings who are allowed to do what everyone else really desires to do, as for instance, to fly kites, or when seriously wronged to emit prolonged screams for several minutes.”

– GK Chesterton

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

– CS Lewis

“Any restoration of persons to the divinely intended norm of being valued as image-bearers will threaten a social order that promotes marginalization of the vulnerable. Healing is always destructive in some way. To declare that persons with disabilities are part of the divine moral norm (that they ‘count’) or to claim that the unborn deserve a right to life even though such does indeed impede the free choice of the mother is to challenge a social order that discounts the validity of humans. Such discounting of individuals usually occurs in order to maintain or to establish power and control by taking advantage of the socially weakest.” 

– James R Thobaben

“I want Atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are Religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

-Thomas Nagel

“Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way this country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”

– Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men”

“It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.”

-Fulton J Sheen

“For true pleasure, the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For false pleasure, the price is paid after it is enjoyed.”

-Ravi Zacharias

“I hope no reader will suppose the ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.”

– CS Lewis

C.S. Lewis’s Argument from Nostalgia

(or, “Why you sometimes feel like you can remember something, sometimes, from even before your childhood”)

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C.S. Lewis often wrote about (and alluded to) the sense of “nostalgia” that comes with beholding a beautiful landscape.

One of my recent backpacking trips

One of my recent backpacking trips. Observe the bursting sense of nostalgia.

I’ve always thought that the Christian argument from beauty/awe/nostalgia is one of the most difficult to convincingly express, yet one of the most powerful when properly understood. It shares some commonality with the Argument from Religious Experience, in that it relies on personal revelation rather than hard evidence (historical & scientific data) or soft evidence (formal philosophical arguments).

Rather than relying upon another person’s (oftentimes unreliable) testimony, however, the argument from nostalgia encourages self-reflection by identifying a peculiar sensation – almost like déjà vu, or a lost memory, or a half-forgotten dream – that seems to be shared by most people. C.S. Lewis described this sensation as follows:

“In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

When I first encountered that passage, I remember being stunned. I had to re-read it several times. It almost seemed as if Lewis had ripped something from my own mind and memories, and put it to paper half a century before I was born.

The association between nostalgia and childhood is particularly intriguing. While childhood clearly isn’t the source of this particular type of nostalgia, the sensation seems to be strongest in the context of one’s childhood. Something to do with innocence, maybe? Lewis goes on:

“Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.”

And here is where we make the leap from “peculiar shared sensation” to “argument for Christian theism”. Lewis again:

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

C.S. Lewis on the Efficacy of Prayer

Can the efficacy of prayer be measured scientifically?

Personally, I would be a bit skeptical of any scientific study that claimed to have found a clear relationship between prayer and “desired outcome”. I’m of the opinion that this understanding of prayer (a mere tool for getting what we desire) is fundamentally flawed.

This is the same misunderstanding that Dawkins makes with his “God Hypothesis” paradigm (i.e. “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other“). This viewpoint takes a very small view of God (and, by extension, of prayer). Rather than acknowledging God as the ultimate Source of all knowledge and human experience, it seeks to detect the existence of God as an entity within the physical universe – like one might detect dark matter or alpha particles. It regards God as a variable within a system rather than the Creator and Sustainer of the system itself.

CS Lewis Not Impressed

In his book “Miracles” (buy it HERE, or check out my review HERE), C.S. Lewis offers the following commentary on free will, divine foreknowledge, and the efficacy of prayer. His model includes some important qualifiers and details that I’ve glossed over, but this excerpt conveys the basic idea:

“Suppose I find a piece of paper on which a black wavy line is already drawn, I can now sit down and draw other lines (say in red) so shaped as to combine with the black line into a pattern. Let us now suppose that the original black line is conscious. But it is not conscious along the whole length at once – only on each point on that length in turn.

Its consciousness in fact is travelling along that line from left to right retaining point A only as a memory when it reaches B and unable until it has left B to become conscious of C. Let us also give this black line free will. It chooses the direction it goes in. The particular wavy shape of it is the shape it wills to have. But whereas it is aware of its own chosen shape only moment by moment and does not know at point D which way it will decide to turn at point F, I can see its shape as a whole and all at once. At every moment it will find my red lines waiting for it and adapted to it. Of course: because I, in composing the total red-and-black design have the whole course of the black line in view and take it into account. It is a matter not of impossibility but merely of designer’s skill for me to devise red lines which at every point have a right relation not only to the black line but to one another so as to fill the whole paper with a satisfactory design…

line-man

It is never possible to prove empirically that a given, non-miraculous event was or was not an answer to prayer. Since it was non-miraculous the sceptic can always point to its natural causes and say, ‘Because of these it would have happened anyway,’ and the believer can always reply, ‘But because these were only links in a chain of events, hanging on other links, and the whole chain hanging upon God’s will, they may have occurred because someone prayed.’ The efficacy of prayer, therefore, cannot be either asserted or denied without an exercise of the will – the will choosing or rejecting faith in the light of a whole philosophy. Experimental evidence there can be none on either side. In the sequence M.N.O. event N, unless it is a miracle, is always caused by M and causes O; but the real question is whether the total series (say A-Z) does or does not originate in a will that can take human prayers into account.

This impossibility of empirical proof is a spiritual necessity. A man who knew empirically that an event had been caused by his prayer would feel like a magician. His head would turn and his heart would be corrupted. The Christian is not to ask whether this or that event happened because of a prayer. He is rather to believe that all events without exception are answers to prayer in the sense that whether they are grantings or refusals the prayers of all concerned and their needs have all been taken into account. All prayers are heard, though not all prayers are granted. We must not picture destiny as a film unrolling for the most part on its own, but in which our prayers are sometimes allowed to insert additional items. On the contrary; what the film displays to us as it unrolls already contains the results of our prayers and of all our other acts. There is no question whether an event has happened because of your prayer. When the event you prayed for occurs your prayer has always contributed to it. When the opposite event occurs your prayer has never been ignored; it has been considered and refused, for your ultimate good and the good of the whole universe. (For example, because it is better for you and for everyone else in the long run that other people, including wicked ones, should exercise free will than that you should be protected from cruelty or treachery by turning the human race into automata.) But this is, and must remain, a matter of faith. You will, I think, only deceive yourself by trying to find special evidence for it in some cases more than in others.”

On Raising Children Without God

I read something on CNN today that I found really unfortunate (crazy, right?). It was written by a blogger, TXBlue08, who is the mother of two teenagers. The essay is entitled, “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, and you can read it HERE.

The author begins,

“When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven…One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.”

The parental tactic of “making up stories” is probably pretty common – even among parents who DO believe in heaven, but who take artistic liberties with the details. So I support the author’s (eventual) realization that it isn’t wise to lie about spiritual matters to our children. (Quick aside: the mention of Santa Claus raises another interesting question for Christian parents.)

Once we get past the issue of being honest with our children, the author begins listing reasons for why she now raises her children without God.

“God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.”

The problem of evil is one of the oldest and most common objections to the existence of God. I wrote a brief post on the issue over a year ago, but there are plenty of other great resources out there.

The author correctly provides the most common Christian response. Christians believe the existence of evil is compatible with an all-powerful, all-loving God…IF God has sufficient reason to create creatures with free will (and thus, the ability to rebel against Him by committing evil acts).

The author’s response to the “free will defense” is perplexing, however. It’s true that our children have free will, and it’s true that we still step in and guide them. But that isn’t the same as depriving them of free will! As C.S. Lewis points out, “free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.”

“God is not logical…”

“…If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?”

Not really, no. Check out what Jesus says in Mattew 24:6-9 (NIV): “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

Christ tells us – rather bluntly – that life will involve suffering.

He tells us to persevere despite these trials and tribulations. He promises that good will ultimately prevail over evil. But He doesn’t say anything about intervening, in the meantime, to actively prevent all evil by overriding man’s free will.

Continuing on:

“God is not fair…If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.”

The author again appeals to the problem of evil – this time citing a couple examples of natural evil (i.e. birth defects). For a quick overview of how Christians handle the question of natural evil, I recommend THIS POST from Clay Jones.

The author’s view of “fairness” completely fails to account for the existence of sin. Evil (including natural evil) exists as a product of man’s rebellion against God. If it seems “unfair” that we suffer the consequences of our sin, perhaps the problem might be that we’re failing to confront the seriousness of our own, personal rebellion against God.

“God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.”

This paragraph only makes sense if one begins with the assumption that God doesn’t exist. If He does exist, then using His physical absence as a reason for not telling our children about Him is simply preposterous. Consider the young children of soldiers serving overseas (or detained as prisoners of war). Should these children not be taught to love the missing parent, merely because they cannot “see, smell, touch or hear” him?

“God does not teach children to be good. A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents.”

Here the author reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian’s motivation for doing good. The idea that Christians act morally simply to avoid God’s wrath is woefully incomplete. If it’s true that Christ – the second person of the Trinity – actually entered into the world to destroy sin by sacrificing Himself on our behalf, then we have a multitude of reasons (aside from eternal punishment) to live morally.

1. Christ, being sinless, stands as our model of moral perfection. We’re specifically called to “live as Jesus did”. (I John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21)

2. Aside from just making us “feel good”, following God’s moral commands becomes an act of love and gratitude. (John 14:15)

3. Also…yes. Acting morally comes with perks. (Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 11:8)

Furthermore, I think it’s fair to question how one can derive a meaningful system of morality in the first place if one rejects the existence of God. In the absence of an ultimate Moral Lawgiver, doesn’t “right” and “wrong” simply become a matter of social convention and/or personal preference? While attempts have been made by the likes of Sam Harris and Michael Shermer to ground moral values in “science”, they’ve failed pretty badly.

The author continues:

“God teaches narcissism…”

skeptical baby

“…Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control.”

That’s…no. Not what the Bible teaches.

The author closes by arguing that belief in God is illogical, and that religion should be “kept at home or in church where it belongs.” Obviously I disagree with her sharply regarding religion’s place in the public square…but that issue probably deserves its own post. Instead, I’ll close with an insightful quote from a friend of mine:

“A mind capable of forming an argument against God is itself compelling evidence of Him.”

Ten Questions to Ask a Christian: My Responses

Not long ago, I received an invitation from Marcus at The BitterSweet End to respond to his Christian (Theist) Challenge. It’s my understanding that he’ll also be responding to my own list of Twelve Questions to Ask an Atheist, so stay tuned. (For those who remember, I also compiled the numerous responses I received from atheists in another post).

Now, the questions:

1. Do you feel like Religion, God and The Bible conflict?

I don’t believe God and the Bible conflict. I do recognize that religion, defined as “imperfect people seeking to follow a perfect God”, can sometimes conflict, in practice, with God and the Bible.

2. If God told you kill someone, (And you are 100% it’s God).  Would you kill that person?  Why or Why Not?

If you’re asking whether or not I ascribe to some version of divine command theory, the answer is yes.

At the same time, God obviously can’t contradict His own nature…so it’s difficult for me to answer this question without additional context. In many ways, it’s like asking, “Can God make a rock so big He can’t pick it up?”

Until God begins recruiting unsuspecting Christians as His personal hit men, I wouldn’t be too worried about this kind of hypothetical question.

3. Who created God; if he came from nothing or has no creator doesn’t that violate The First Law of Thermodynamics?

The First Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but it doesn’t address the question of “where all this energy came from in the first place”. It specifically describes energy within the universe, so it’s not clear why it should be applied to the state of things before the universe began.

I touched on this issue in a previous post, but the main idea is that God is defined by Christians as the Prime Mover; the “first cause” of all that exists.

4. If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; do you believe it to be inerrant or infallible?  And, If the Bible is found errant, does God still exist and is the Bible still a trustworthy source?

I hold to the inerrancy of the autographic text of Scripture. Obviously not all manuscript copies are perfectly preserved.

As to the second question, it would really depend on the circumstances (and more importantly, what one means by “errant”). I don’t generally draw a distinction between inerrancy and infallibility.

On a side note, there is sometimes confusion between inerrancy and strict Biblical literalness. To borrow a line from the Chicago Statement: “history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth.”

5. In the Bible their are stories of God telling the Israelites to kill innocent women & children and children being punished for the sins of their father.  Is this morally right or morally justifiable?

I hope this isn’t too much of a cop-out, but I would recommend checking out this Q&A post from Dr. William Lane Craig. It’s also relevant to question #2.

6. If God is perfect, how can something imperfect come out of something that is PERFECT?  Did God make a mistake?

This question touches on the problem of evil, which I’ve written on previously.

Briefly: I don’t see any reason why God’s perfection and omnipotence should be incompatible with the existence of evil, provided He has sufficient reason to create creatures with free will (the ability to rebel against Him).

7. If a Christian goes into a forest and gets lost.  And he prays to God to be saved and not die.  Does a God still hear him?  How do you know?  And, how can you be sure?

God hears him, yes. [Psalm 116:1-2, Proverbs 15:29, I John 5:14]

8. If you were to die, and when you go before God; it’s some other God you have never seen or heard of nor worshiped?  What would you do?  Would you plead for him not to judge you harshly and what would you say?

Assuming the God you refer to is singular, it couldn’t really be “some other” God. In this case, your question becomes, “What would you do if it turns out that your understanding of God is largely incorrect?”

According to the beliefs that I already hold, my sins in this life leave me deserving of nothing less than eternal punishment. As it stands now, my solitary hope rests on an act of divine mercy.

So the worst-case scenario – in your hypothetical situation – is that I end up receiving the punishment that I already rightfully deserve.

Would I plead for mercy? I don’t know. Maybe. But that seems more a question of personality than theology.

9. What is something that would convince you that Christianity is wrong and that there is no God?  (If your answer is NOTHING, than please explain WHY?)

Christianity is certainly falsifiable. It would require showing that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. [I Corinthians 15:17]

Of course, even if one were to disprove the resurrection, this wouldn’t disprove God – only Christianity. I’m convinced that the moral, scientific, and philosophical arguments for God are entirely sound. If I were to abandon a belief in God, it would have to be for emotional or existential reasons – not intellectual ones. It would have to be a matter of personal rebellion against God (and the idea of God).

I don’t anticipate that happening, fortunately.

10. This is a quote by the atheist Richard Dawkins…”We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go ONE god further.“-Richard Dawkins. Why does the Christian reject all other gods, but not their own?  Why are you Christian?  Why do you believe in only the Judo-Christian God?

In response to your quote from Richard Dawkins, allow me to provide a quote from CS Lewis:

“If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.”

I am a Christian because I believe Christianity provides the most comprehensive, coherent understanding of God. For more details, see points 4, 6, 7, and 8 on my “Evidence for Christianity” list.

Book Review: “Miracles”

My wife and I recently finished reading “Miracles” – one of the many classics from C.S. Lewis.

The book begins by poking some holes in naturalism. By comparing the assumptions of naturalists with those of supernaturalists, Lewis effectively undermines the modern belief that naturalism is somehow more “rational”.

CS Lewis

For the remainder of the book, Lewis methodically builds a case for the miraculous. One of his central arguments is the idea that miracles, while apparently violating the laws of “nature” (defined as the observed universe) actually fit within a broader definition of “nature” (defined as the entirety of God’s creation, both observed and unobserved). In the last few chapters, it is further explained how Christianity – via “The Grand Miracle” – radically differentiates itself from other religions.

I highly recommend this book not only to Christians seeking to defend their belief in miracles, but also to anyone who is simply curious to learn why some of us continue to hold these beliefs in this modern, scientific, “post-miraculous” age.

I’ve collected below a few of my favorite passages:

“When a thing professes from the very outset to be a unique invasion of Nature by something from outside, increasing knowledge of Nature can never make it either more or less credible than it was at the beginning. In this sense it is mere confusion of thought to suppose that advancing science has made it harder for us to accept miracles. We always knew they were contrary to the natural course of events; we know still that if there is something beyond Nature, they are possible.” 

“It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.”

“If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform. It can be trusted only if quite a different Metaphysic is true. If the deepest thing in reality, the Fact which is the source of all other facthood, is a thing in some degree like ourselves – if it is a Rational Spirit and we derive our rational spirituality from it – then indeed our conviction can be trusted. Our repugnance to disorder is derived from Nature’s Creator and ours. The disorderly world which we cannot endure to believe in is the disorderly world He would not have endured to create.”

‎”In the Christian story God descends to reascend…He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”

“I do not think that it is the duty of a Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records, nor of a Christian man to disbelieve them. I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans or never permitted created supernatural beings to do so…But I claim that the Christian miracles have a much greater intrinsic probability in virtue of their organic connection with one another and with the whole structure of the religion they exhibit.”

“Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?”