Friday, April 29, 2016

Do Humans Own Themselves?

A recent article by Walter Williams, the well-known conservative economist, provides an important opportunity for illustrating and explaining the basis for inalienable rights. I usually agree with Walter Williams, but not this time. He does have some good reasoning, but his underlying premise is deeply flawed.

Williams argues in his article that humans have self-ownership - that they own themselves. He then makes several arguments that flow from this premise. Unfortunately, so many people have forgotten the true basis for inalienable rights and thus don't even recognize the terrible flaw in this thinking.

The proper viewpoint is that humans are owned by their Creator - God. Thus, murder is definitely a matter of destroying someone else's property, as Williams points out, but it is destroying God's property.

If we own ourselves, then suicide (assisted or otherwise) should be legal. We obviously can't provide criminal penalties to someone who killed himself, but we do stop people from committing suicide, and we do penalize those who help others commit suicide. That makes sense if committing suicide is an act of destroying God's property and thus wrong. It does not make sense to make suicide and euthanasia illegal and try to prevent people from committing suicide if people own themselves.

The idea that a person owns himself is also behind much of the pro-abortion position. The idea seems to be that the woman owns herself and can decide what to do with her body, but the child in the womb can't own himself because he has no concept of ownership - no personhood - and thus is either owned by no one (meaning killing him causes no crime) or is owned by the mother (meaning she can do with him what she pleases). On the other hand, if all human beings are property of God, murder of the unborn - whether committed by the mother or someone else - is a crime against God and violates His right to that child's life.

Williams is correct that if humans own themselves, they should be able to sell their organs. But this idea of selling one's body parts, before or after death, introduces a big can of worms and a lot of ethical problems. The root of the problem, however, is the starting premise. People don't own themselves, and thus have no right to sell their organs. They are God's property, and thus to place a price on their parts and sell them is to usurp God's ownership and sell what does not belong to them. The current ban on buying and selling human body parts is the correct one, though we have apparently forgotten the basis for it.

While animal and plant life does belong to mankind (because God gave them to us), the ownership of humans is retained by God and only He can rightfully transfer or give up those rights. We humans have no ability to give up or transfer certain rights (such as the rights to life or liberty), which is what it means to have inalienable rights. If I own myself, then I can give up that right of ownership to another (slavery), sell my body parts, or kill myself. My rights to life and liberty (along with all other rights which come from these) would be alienable rather than inalienable.

It is because humans belong to God that we have truly inalienable rights, which is really just our perspective of God's ownership of us. We can't give up or transfer those rights because they aren't actually retained by us. The premise that humans own themselves is contradictory to the concept of inalienable rights. Both can't be true. The idea of self-ownership is very popular today and sounds good on the surface, but actually creates a cancerous thinking that destroys the concept of inalienable rights and with it the basis for our entire form of government and many of the protections that we have put in place to guard those inalienable rights.


For more information on inalienable rights, read my 5-part series:

Part 1: What are Inalienable Rights?
Part 2: The Source of Inalienable Rights
Part 3: Liberty in Society and Government
Part 4: Government by Consent of the Governed
Part 5: Some Common Misconceptions

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why Can't God Just Forgive Everyone?

A question that some skeptics ask about Christianity is why God doesn’t just forgive everyone. Why couldn’t He just let it go? Why did Jesus have to come and die? Why require people to ask forgiveness and follow Christ in order to be saved from eternal punishment? Is God just making up arbitrary rules and having us jump through pointless hoops to get forgiveness?

It’s important that we Christians have an answer for this, because it’s a foundational matter. Here is my reasoning on the topic.

A God that simply "forgives" everything that people do has no standards and cannot be said to be good, or even a moral authority. Because God, as the Creator, is indeed a moral authority, it is impossible for Him to have no standards, and thus He must punish evil, not ignore or "forgive" it as standard policy.

Also, forgiving evil without requiring anything is no different from accepting evil. And acceptance of evil is evil itself. God's character does not allow Him to accept evil. God is inherently good and does not change, thus He cannot accept evil. Because God cannot accept evil, sin inherently and unavoidably separates mankind from God.

Full forgiveness includes reconciliation and thus cannot be one way. God forgiving someone's sins without them seeking forgiveness and restoration would not result in reconciliation. They would remain enemies of God. God wants us to be reconciled to Him, and thus requires our actions in seeking forgiveness so that full reconciliation can occur.

Providing forgiveness that does not involve reconciliation would encourage people to remain enemies of God instead of reconciling with Him. Since we were made to be in right relationship with God, a relationship with God is the highest good for us. Providing automatic forgiveness would actually encourage that which is not for our good. It would not be loving of God to encourage us not to seek relationship with Him when that relationship is our highest good.

Because God is both just and loving, He wishes to extend mercy to those He loves and be reconciled to them. But these two attributes – justice and love – are both integral parts of God's character and cannot be satisfied alone. The solution to man’s sin and separation from God had to involve both justice and mercy. The debt had to be paid, not merely ignored, for justice to be satisfied. And yet if the debt were to be paid by the one who owed it, it would result in their separation from God forever, denying God the relationship He desires with them and which is for the person's good. Thus, there had to be a substitute who could pay the debt on behalf of each person.

Not just any substitute will do, however. The sin was against an infinite God, which requires infinite payment. And thus only God Himself could pay the debt. Yet the sinner was human, and being a substitute for a human requires being a human also. The debt had to be paid by one who could actually represent mankind because he was one of them. Also, only someone sinless could pay the debt, because if he had sin of his own, his payment would only cover his own sin. For a substitution to work then, the substitute had to be a sinless man who was also infinite.

Only God in human flesh could pay the infinite debt for mortal man and satisfy both justice and mercy. And yet to partake in the plan of substitution, each person must opt in by willingly choosing to seek forgiveness so that full restoration can occur with God and relationship can be restored between them. There is no other way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Problem with Public Schools

Many Christians are extremely concerned about the worldviews that are being taught to children in public schools. We commonly see headlines about children being taught in schools to say a Muslim prayer, that boys and girls can be whatever gender they feel like, that humans evolved from an apelike ancestor, that sex is for people who “feel ready,” regardless of their age or marital status, and many other false and very upsetting things. These are all very serious problems in which the schools are teaching a false worldview.

But some people claim these are isolated incidents, not the kinds of things that happen in their own local public schools. Nothing like that happens in the schools where their children attend. It’s just academics and they’re very involved as parents, and it’s not a problem.

I suspect that, for many Christian parents, they’re simply not aware of the influence of wrong worldviews because they haven’t studied them and don’t think on a worldview level. A teacher doesn’t have to say “Christianity is false” in class for your children to be absorbing false ideas that will one day undermine their Christian beliefs. The teaching of false worldviews is often subtle, not blatant, but it has a cumulative effect over time as children eventually come to realize that the ideas they are being taught as fact in school (or, in many cases, that they have absorbed without thinking about) are not compatible with the Bible. We’ve seen the damage caused by this as a large percentage of children raised in Christian homes have abandoned the faith in their teen or early adult years due to doubts about the truth of Christianity. This is a widespread problem, not an isolated handful of cases.

It’s certainly true that many local public schools may lack the kinds of blatant indoctrination into false religions that have made the headlines recently, but that doesn’t mean they’re free of false worldviews altogether. If you wait until it’s so blatant that they’re teaching a Muslim prayer or telling your elementary child how to try oral sex to be concerned, you’re missing a whole lot of problematic teaching that is slipping right under your radar.

Thus, I’m extremely skeptical that even the best of local public schools is really free of faulty worldviews. Actually, I don’t believe it at all, and I challenge parents who believe this to learn more about the common false worldviews of our culture and do a careful evaluation of the ideas their children are being taught to see if they line up with scripture. Parents have to think on a worldview level if they want to catch all the false ideas.

However, even if it were the case that a particular school did not teach any false worldviews, there’s still a problem. Even IF a public school is completely and totally "neutral" on religion and worldview – the absolute best we can hope for in any public school – that's actually a very serious defect that no Christian parents should accept.

Here’s why.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Ephesians 6:4
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 4:10
Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

It sounds like teaching our children the ways of the Lord is to be an all day, every day thing. We are commanded – not encouraged or suggested, but commanded – to diligently teach our children the commandments of the Lord all throughout our day and wherever we go. Having our children spend the better part of their waking hours in an environment that does not teach them about God and the Bible leaves a gaping hole in their education far worse than any other.

It's simply impossible to provide the kind of Biblical training the Bible commands that we give our children if they spend 8 hours or more, 5 days a week, in a facility where teaching about Christianity is not allowed. If you wouldn't dream of sending your child to a school that doesn't teach math, how much more should you be appalled at sending your children to a school that doesn't teach them the ways of the Lord. The latter is far more important than the former because it impacts, not just their life here on earth, but their eternity.

This lack of teaching about God is a huge problem with public schools, quite apart from the false teaching they include and the peer pressure to do wicked things. Even if all the teachers were Christians in your local school, and even if they didn't teach gender theory and moral relativism and evolution and promiscuity and so on, they aren't teaching the ways of God.

Of course, as I have pointed out, public schools today are NOT religiously neutral and actually do a lot of indoctrination into false worldviews like humanism, secularism, atheism, moral relativism, hedonism, and scientism that parents may not detect unless they have studied these things. But even if your local public school contains many good Christian teachers and doesn't push false worldviews, it is still a far cry from the consistent, daily immersion in the things of God that we are commanded to provide our children. And that's why it isn’t a proper place for the children of Christian parents.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Genesis is Both History and Theology

A number of Christian theologians and apologists who do not accept a young earth view of creation teach that the first part of Genesis is not actual history. One of their common arguments is that Genesis 1 needn't be an accurate chronology of creation since the purpose of the passage was to show God as Creator and nature as not divine, but created, and that it was also intended to give the children of Israel a sense of history and purpose - a view of their place in God's plans.

I totally agree that those are purposes of Genesis 1. However, the Genesis creation account was also intended to give an accurate chronology of what happened at creation. This is true of pretty much all of the Old Testament. It tells an accurate historical account of what happened and also teaches the character of God and contains foreshadowings of Christ and God's plan for the redemption of mankind. These things go hand in hand throughout the entire Old Testament.

For example, take the story of Jonah. We know that Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish was a foreshadowing of Jesus' three days in the tomb. Jesus Himself alluded to this. We also know that God's change of heart toward Nineveh shows us God's mercy when people repent. The entire story of Jonah was really about redemption. It's a picture of Christ and salvation. But, that doesn't mean that Jonah wasn't a real person who really spent three days inside a real fish. The history is real, even though the story has many other purposes besides simply chronicling the history.

Another example is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Again, it's amazing to see the parallels to Christ - the sacrifice of an only son, the substitute sacrifice of a ram, even Abraham's statement that God would provide the sacrifice. It's very obviously a picture of Christ's substitutionary atonement. But, Abraham was a real man who really took his actual son to the top of a mountain to sacrifice him and who really found a ram to sacrifice in his son's place. The history is real, even though it means more than just history.

I could give many more examples. But the point is this: Why should Genesis 1 be any different than the rest of the Old Testament? Coming up with another purpose, or even multiple other purposes, for Genesis 1 doesn't mean it wasn't also intended to be real, chronological history. In fact, I would argue that this is an understanding of Genesis that is more straightforward, more in keeping with the genre and language of the Genesis text, and more in keeping with the nature of the rest of the Old Testament. The rest of the Old Testament is dual-purpose - history and theology. It would be quite singular and surprising if Genesis 1 was an exception, meant only to be taken as theology and not as chronology.