Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Bible is NOT a Book

Many times, when I engage in discussion with atheists, I get some sort of dismissive remark about how I get my morality from some 2,000 year old book or ridiculing the idea of depending on an ancient book for knowledge about God. Even many Christians speak of the Bible as “a book.”

But we need to get away from referring to the Bible as a book. The Bible is NOT a book. It is a collection of books and other writings, written by roughly 40 different authors over the span of about 1,600 years. There are 66 distinct documents in the Bible, some of which are actually collections of works themselves (such as the Psalms).

Thus, referring to the Bible as a book is incorrect. It is more like an anthology. It may be printed as a single volume, but it is not a book.

Realizing that the Bible is not a single book is important for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, the real nature of the Bible as a collection of works from multiple authors means that the books of the Bible are independent sources that confirm one another. This cannot be overemphasized.

In many cases, during a discussion of the Bible’s accuracy, I have had people ask me what evidence I have “outside the Bible.” Of course, I can and do provide evidence for the claims of the Bible from outside sources. There are many, many evidences from multiple sources that support the accuracy and historicity of the Bible. Archaeology and various written records throughout history have confirmed details written in the Bible. Science sheds light on some aspects of the Bible. There are many kinds of evidence one could use. Christians should be informed of these evidences and use them to defend their faith.

However, the books of the Bible also confirm one another. And because the books in the Bible are independent documents, this is important evidence for the Bible’s accuracy.

If the Bible were a single book, it would be far easier to dismiss. If one person were making all these claims which were not backed up by any other source, it would be easier to ignore them. But when you have 40 different writers, in different places and times, with different backgrounds and purposes, and recording different events, but whose writings remain consistent with each other and, in many cases, confirm and support one another – that’s powerful evidence that what they wrote was true.

As an example, take the life of Jesus. People often ask what evidence we have of Jesus’ existence or of certain things He did. There is certainly evidence outside the Bible that Jesus existed from Josephus and several other writers of the first few centuries AD. But the Bible itself contains four independent testimonies about Jesus that confirm one another. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written by different people. Matthew and John were actual disciples of Jesus who were there during His ministry and crucifixion. Mark was a protégé of Peter, another disciple. Luke was a historian and scholar who compiled accounts of Jesus from eyewitnesses. All of them verify each other’s accounts in multiple places.

In addition to the gospel accounts, the writings of Paul, Peter, John, and others in the rest of the New Testament, though they aren’t specifically written to give the account of Jesus’ life, often refer to details of Jesus’ life and teachings that agree with what the gospels tell of Him.

Considering that the books of the Bible are separate and independent documents, dismissing them as a unit is erroneous. One might be able to claim that the authors all had a bias or ulterior motive for what they wrote, but so did most of the people who wrote documents from which we piece together history. The point is that there are multiple, independent sources which confirm details of the Christian faith and the historical timeline associated with it. The fact that we often collect these documents into one volume and call it “The Bible” does not in any way reduce the importance of this confirmation.

As an analogy, suppose people were to collect all the books, letters, diaries, and news articles that have been written about the events of 9/11 into a single volume called “The Attack of 9/11.” Then, in a couple thousand years when a skeptic is doubting that 9/11 ever happened, someone shows this volume to him. The skeptic says to the other person, “Yeah, but that’s just one book. What evidence do you have outside this book?”

Obviously, the 9/11 skeptic would be ignorant and incorrect to say that. While there might be other evidence outside “The Attack of 9/11” that could be used as confirmation, the skeptic would be ignoring the many evidences “inside” the volume which record and confirm the events. The individual news articles from different parts of the country which all portray the events in the same way, the diaries of people who remember it, and the books written about it by people who talked to eyewitnesses are all independent sources, even if they are published as a single volume. It is the same for the books of the Bible.

In our society, there are many attacks upon the Christian faith and the historicity of the Bible. One of the ways to help combat these is to point out that the Bible is not a single book, but an extensive collection of documents that support one another. This “internal” verification and consistency is important evidence of the Bible’s authenticity that should not be overlooked or ignored.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Some Tips for Having a Strong, Happy Family

I recently read an interesting article on 6 Things the Happiest Families Have in Common. I don't find any of them surprising, though many in our hectic and fractured society might. Research keeps showing that the traditional family activities that people used to do were best after all.

Here's my take on the article:

1. The #1 predictor of a child's emotional well-being is knowing their family history. This is one of the reasons it is so important to have intact families and for children to live with and be raised by their married parents. Having a stable home with married parents gives children the family history and sense of belonging they need for their well-being.

2. Families need goals and to share these goals with their children. They need a mission statement - something they are all on board with and working toward. This brings families together and gives them a sense of purpose. Men are especially good at having overarching goals and working to achieve them, and that is one of the reasons we need men leading their families, not absent. It is especially important in Christian families for men to lead the family toward the goal of obeying and serving God.

3. Family meals together are very important. Not only is it a health issue (healthier food and slower eating), but the socialization of families eating and talking together is vital.

"A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. ...[T]he amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems."

Parents also get a chance at sit-down mealtimes to assess their children's health, behavior, and attitude and engage them in conversation on a wide variety of topics. This provides parents with information about their child's well-being, a connection to their children, and a pleasant way of imparting knowledge, among other things.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Need-Based vs. Value-Based Wages

I hear a lot of people advocating for a raise in the minimum wage (usually to $10 or $15 per hour) so that people can "make a living wage." Here is my response to that.

If you think we need a higher minimum wage to ensure that we take care of everyone's needs, you are advocating for wages to be paid based on need, not the value of their work. That sounds nice, but there are some serious problems with that view. For one, it's unfair. (Yes, I just used the code word of the liberals in favor of my conservative viewpoint. I love turning the tables like that.) Paying wages based on need is inherently and unavoidably unfair.

Let's use an example of two men doing exactly the same job at the same company. One is a married man with 3 children. The other is single with no children. Should the company pay the married man more than the single man, even though they do exactly the same work?

If you believe that people should be paid based on their need rather than the value of their work, then you must say that the married man should receive more pay for his work because his need is greater. Yet very few would agree that a married man should be paid more for the same work. We instinctively realize that it is unfair and unjust to pay two people differently for the same work.

Let’s go a bit further. If people should be paid based on their needs, then why not do away with a set wage altogether? Instead, employers should simply meet all the needs of all their employees in exchange for work. So, if an employee’s car breaks down, rather than pay for the repairs himself, he would turn in the bill to his employer. Likewise, all food bills, rent statements, utility bills, hospital bills, and all receipts for any need are paid or reimbursed by the employer in exchange for working at the company. That way, we can ensure that everyone can live on what they make. Of course, that also means that many employees will make much more than other people doing similar work. It also means that employees become, not masters of their own destiny, but more akin to slaves – being fed, housed, and clothed in exchange for working for the master. Is this what we want? It is if we think that wages should be based on need.

Instead of basing wages on need, a much better way is to base wages on the value of the work being done. In this view, a person who provides more value to the company should receive more pay while someone whose skills are less valuable receives less pay. This seems heartless on first glance, but actually has several advantages to both the company AND the worker.

The advantage to the company is obvious. Basing wages on the value of the work produces incentive for employees to do better quality work in order to receive better compensation. Plus, the burden of deciding what constitutes actual needs (as opposed to wants) is removed and the overhead involved in doling out welfare to all employees is gone. No one debates that paying for the value of the work is better for companies.

What many don’t realize is that a system where wages are based on the value of the work is actually better for employees.

For one thing, when compensation is based on need, it is nearly impossible to have anything more than the most basic needs met. No matter how hard you work in such a need-based system, you can’t get any more. The employer is only obligated to provide for your needs. If you want nicer things, you’re out of luck. No amount of harder work, increased skill, or better efficiency will get you more than the basics you need to survive.

What’s more, you can work your hardest and still get less than someone who doesn’t put in much effort, but has more need. This is tremendously disincentivizing and demoralizing. How can anyone have pride in their work when it doesn’t matter how hard they work? They will still get the same compensation as if they had barely done the minimum. And how depressing would it be to work very hard and have the guy at the nest desk, who does practically nothing, getting the same or better than you. It’s simply not fair or right to pay different amounts for the same work or give the same pay for different amounts of work.

In a system where wages are based on the value of the work, a person can get ahead by working harder, developing new skills, or becoming more efficient. Their future is in their own hands. That is empowering. That gives people hope. It gives them reason to produce something of value that is useful to society because it is also useful to themselves personally.

Paying for the value of work rather than need gives people the opportunity to better themselves. It gives them incentive to do better and to have hope because they are masters of their own destiny, not slaves to a system.

A value-based system of wages is not only better for businesses and workers, but it is better for society as a whole. A society where everyone works to better themselves in order to provide more value, and thus earn a better wage, is a prosperous and thriving society. New inventions are made, new services offered, new businesses opened, new technology developed – all for the purpose of allowing individuals to better their lot in life. There is no incentive for developing these things in a need-based system. There is far more total production when everyone is working to provide more value in order to get more for themselves.

A system where people are paid based on need has no hope or future. A system where people are paid based on the value of their work is empowering to individuals and allows them to better themselves, provide for themselves and their families, and make their society more productive.

So, should we pay wages based on need or on the value of a person’s work? We can't have both.

If wages should be value-based, then we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage. We should allow individuals to be paid based on the value of their work. Those wishing to earn more must either work more hours or increase their skills. But they have that opportunity to decide for themselves and control their own destiny.

On the other hand, raising the minimum wage to a “living wage” simply means that those not providing enough value to be worth that minimum wage will have no jobs. It means cutting off hope for those of low skills who cannot make it into the job market. It means keeping a permanent underclass who have been priced out of jobs. It might sound compassionate to want to pay everyone enough to live on, but the results actually hurt those with poor job skills. And that isn’t good for anyone.