Worried about Common Core?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I know many of my Christian friends have issues with the new Common-Core coming down the chute, and this past year was my first experience with it in the classroom. Prior to this year, I was hesitant to make any comments one way or another, because I could not comment first hand.

I have seen posts, or shares, and the majority are expressing frustration with the math and language arts. Some statements have concerned me, and a few may have been well meaning, but were obviously ignorant out of the gate. I tend to let things go, but some were so blatantly false it was laughable. So I want to briefly touch on a positive element that I came across.

Some elements within the Common Core State Standards, (CCSS), when viewed from a Christian apologist stand point, are worth sitting up and taking notice of.

Wordleapologetics6For example, students are to consider primary source documents and artifacts in their arguments.
This opens the door wide to the historicity of the gospel accounts. This is what apologists do when defending the testimony of the apostles. Primary sources are eye-witnesses, and eye-witness accounts hold much more weight than other sources.

Anyone can die for what he believes to be true, and Christian martyrs are strewn throughout history. Muslim martyrs are no different, but the apostles stand apart from all others. After witnessing the resurrected Christ first hand, the apostles died for what they knew was true; what they had seen and touched first hand; no other religion can make that claim.

Also CCSS encourages students to write in the form of arguments and to avoid ad hominem, (personal attacks/insults), and appeals to emotion. I can’t count the number of times I have seen arguments against a Christian world view that was littered with ad hominem and appeals to emotion.

Here are a few examples, (took me 5 minutes), I just pulled off Youtube in response to Ray Comfort’s Evolution VS God.

-This film is a complete fraud. Forms of this filming and editing technique have been used in the entertainment industry for years, especially in the reality shows. Don’t get sucked into this pack of lies.
-Ray is a fool …period.
-I think he is an outright liar and a con-artist.
-A lot of you religious-fanatic people have the wrong idea of evolution and do not understand it.
Facts & evidence > belief & faith.
-So pathetic it is embarrasing and amusing – he (comfort) hopefully will soon be an endangered species (or kind). 1

Both sides of the aisle are guilty of these kinds of comments, but if our education system wants to point out logical fallacies, and how pathetic insults and appeals to emotion can be in an argument, I will stand by it. So let’s look at some CCSS standards. Here are some excerpts from the 8th Grade Reading Standards.

“Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” 2

“Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning
is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.” 3

Then this out of the Writing Standards for 6-12
“Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.” 4

“Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible
sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.” 5

Finally, Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
“Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning
is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.” 6

LFI could quote more, but I think my point is clear. If your child uses logic, reasoning, relevant evidence, accurate and credible sources to investigate the claims of the gospel accounts, they build their faith and satisfy 1 Peter 3:15.

Typically, when I would teach language arts, my students would write three term papers a year. One in history, one in science, and the final term paper would be one of their own choosing. Can you imaging a self-generated question about their Christian world view under the writing standards for 6-12?

Karen Prior wrote, “The Christian obsession with text is not only a part of our history—but something that continues to shape contemporary Christianity. We readily engage questions around biblical interpretation in deep ways, as we consider infallibility, inerrancy, context, hermeneutics, canonicity, and scriptural authority.” 7

Often middle school students begin to look at evidence, and not just parrot the views of their parents in the Jr. High years. Involved parents could encourage their children to write a paper or papers on a host of topics that, if investigated with apologetic materials, would help ground their faith prior to high school and college. With a 43% drop off between the teens and twenty somethings who attend church, parents should be concerned about their children having reasons, evidence, and materials to support their faith. 8

If parents did encourage their teen to write a paper about his or her faith, here are a few example topics to consider:
Are all religions the same?
Can all religions be true?
Was Jesus a real person?
What evidence do we have for Jesus outside of the gospels?
What evidence do we have for God?
Does evolution explain how life began?
Does evolution have good evidence?
Does science explain how the universe began?
Does science support a belief in God?

Those are just off the top of my head, but with a little effort you could come up with three or four times that many to have your child choose from, which would require some research and exploration. Could your teen answer those questions and explain their response with reason, details, evidence?

Many teachers and parents are up in arms over the new Common-Core Standards. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants his state to throw out the Federal Common-Core standards. 9 Many of the teachers I talk to are split on CCSS, and there is no question some difficulties can be found. Yet like a difficult student in the class room, you don’t want to focus on the negative elements, but encourage the positive character traits.

CommoncoremapThree states, Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, have dropped the standards. From the looks of things, other states will follow suit, but until California does the same, we are stuck implementing the CCSS. 10 So if I have to use it, then I will make the best of it.

If you are a parent of a teen, you can also make use of the new standards. Talk to your teachers and see what the possibilities are for research papers or extra credit. Some of the new standards dovetail nicely to apologetics, and students should be encouraged to build faith by researching some tough questions they might not be able to answer on the fly.

 

 

Sources:
1. Living Waters. “Evolution Vs. God Movie”. August 2013. YouTube video, 38 minutes 26 seconds. August 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ
2. California State board of Education. California Common Core State Standards California Department of Education . 1 Mar. 2013. 23 July 2014 <http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf>.
3. Ibid., 52.
4. Ibid., 59.
5. Ibid., 56.
6. Ibid., 60.
7. Prior, Karen S. “The Good News of Common Core.” Christianity Today 20 June 2013: christianitytoday.com. Web. 23 July 2014.
8. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print.
9. Daily Herald Media Editorial Board. “Gov. Walker wrong on Common Core ‘repeal’: Our View.” USA Today. wausaudailyherald.com 22 July 2014. Web. 24 July 2014.
10. Bidwell, Allie. “Common Core in Flux as Sates Debate Standards, Tests.” US News 15 July 2014: usnews.com. Web. 24 July 2014.

 

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Worried about Common Core? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Illusion of Legacy

Illusion of Legacy

Reading Time: 7 minutes

So many, myself included, as they become older, spend time reflecting on their life and the path they chose. I think it is fair to say everyone has regrets. Many of us can relate to marriages that did not work out, children we wished we had raised differently, or friendships lost over trivial matters. I certainly see some things in my own life I wish I could change. Careers that became dead ends, broken relationships, illness, disease, and death surround many lives. Others who walk a golden path, only need to watch the news for a few minutes to see the poverty and war that engulfs our world, even if only a little pain has touched their own life.

Surely I have become more reflective in recent years, especially with both my parents having passed away. My father passed when I was young, but my mother just a few years ago.

This reflective state was heightened recently when my family drove to Reno to the grave site of my father-in-law. As his wife and children gathered around his gravestone, I spent a few minutes walking by myself taking in the grave markers and their inscriptions.

It was a Catholic cemetery, and three things became obvious in short order. There were quite a few Hispanic names, and many stones just had one spouse listed. It was usually the father and then a blank space for the wife, who I can only assume was still living. I also noticed the most common dates of birth fell into the 1920s. The final common observation was the abundance of gravestones that recognized World War II veterans. One particular headstone with the name of Edward “Eddie” Nelson, caught my attention because, along with “Beloved Husband and Father”, it said he was a former Flying Tiger.

The Flying Tigers

The Flying Tigers were a group of American volunteers who flew against the Japanese in China, (paid by the Chinese government), prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since I was a boy, anything aviation was of great interest to me, consequently, the pilots and their planes in WWI and WWII were something I read volumes about. You would only have to walk into my study to see my historical pastime hobby. World War II veterans, especially pilots, were my heroes, and their legacy was something I greatly admired.

As I gazed at this gravestone, and dozens of others, I could not help but think about how many believe their legacy is all that will be left when they are gone. As if their legacy will carry on for time and eternity. After the children and grandchildren are gone, who will remember Edward Nelson? Sure, he may be mentioned in some history books, and possibly some distant grandchildren can brag about their past relatives, but beyond that, what does a legacy amount to?

Once my wife and her siblings are gone, and the grandchildren, who are left to remember Joe Havlick? Frankly, it is depressing when you are only left with a legacy and nothing beyond the grave. After a few decades, without a family historian, the photo albums become pictures of people no one knows. How many of us have viewed old black-and-white photos of past family, or friends of the family, and have no idea who they are. Finally, the last to recall a loved one, or remember a name on a picture passes away, and with them passes the all-important legacy we leave behind. Even famous names mentioned on the history pages fade and turn to dust.

Just a Generation Later

If you think about it, we are really in competition with each other for a legacy. Current Hollywood movie stars and sports figures are known for their respective successes. Yet those that were famous on the big screen or in sports fifty years ago, are no longer household names. In another 50 years, only their own family, or movie and sports historians, will know who they were.

As time rolls on, we each leave a legacy, and some of us only have a legacy noted by family and friends. Others, because of notoriety, move outside the community they grew up in, and are known by their state, nation, or even world. Yet, just a generation later, they are only known by related family or historians who specialize in a field related to their success.

How many of you have heard of Franklin Pierce or Chester Arthur? Yet everyone has heard of Barack Obama, and all of them have held the position of President of the United States. Pierce and Arthur are just names in a long, continually growing, list of Presidents. The competition to be the president everyone remembers is more difficult every election.

Even within our own families, we compete to be the favorite aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Sure, the competition may not be intentional, but those who impact the lives of their family, (for good or bad), are the ones who are remembered for a generation or two. Beyond that, even the favorite grandparent becomes nothing more than a faded photo, remembered by the now-old grandchild. Once the memory of the grandchild is gone, or they pass away, so goes the legacy.

Beyond an Earthly Legacy

Can someone hope that there is something beyond the grave, or do we simply become part of the Lion King’s circle of life? What can someone hope for? What evidence do we have that would even suggest there is something beyond what we experience in this life? Is there hope for us, or will our bodies, and legacy, just slip away under the earth, never to be thought of again?

I believe there is something beyond the grave, unfortunately, most don’t really give it much consideration. I will offer you one piece of evidence that suggests there is something beyond the grave.

If you conclude there is something beyond our few years here, then it would be wise to consider exactly what there is and make sure you don’t jump into enemy territory when it is your turn to depart. For myself, the day I die, to quote the American Authors, (one of my favorite songs), “This is gonna be the best day of my life!”

A Small Piece of a Large Cumulative Case for Life After Death

Where did everything come from? Thomas Aquinas may have been the first to ask, “How come we have something instead of nothing?” Has the universe always existed, or does it have a beginning, and if it has a beginning, what caused it?

In the last 60 years, science has come to our aid in the realm of cosmology or the first cause. I am sure you have heard of the Big Bang theory. This theory is something a few Christians are uncomfortable with, but actually, the Big Bang theory supports a theist’s view that God created everything. In fact, if not for the Big Bang theory, the next most popular theory would be that the universe has always existed. If the universe did not have a beginning but always existed, then you have no need to explain its existence. To quote Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” You certainly don’t need some ‘God’ to have created it and to be considered the first cause of something so fantastic.

The Portable Atheist explains it this way, “Think binary. When matter meets antimatter, both vanish, into pure energy. But both existed; I mean, there was a condition we’ll call ‘existence.’ Think of one and minus one. Together they add up to zero, nothing, nada, niente, right? Picture them together, then picture them separating–peeling apart. … Now you have something, you have two somethings, where once you had nothing.” 1 So how does that explain something from nothing? If you start with matter and antimatter, then you start with something. If you think binary and one minus one, that is something, even if it is in the abstract or conceptual.

These kinds of illustrations litter the Internet and do nothing to explain how something can come from nothing.

The Big Bang Requires a Big Banger

As it stands, the Big Bang theory is the best and most widely accepted theory to explain our beginnings. As far back as 1917, the General Theory of Relativity was confirming an expanding universe, even though Einstein assumed, as most everyone did, that the universe was static and always existed. Then in 1927, Hubble was able to observe the expansion at the Wilson Observatory and shared his discovery with Einstein a short time later, confirming for Einstein the expansion. Throughout the 20th century, science has continued to confirm the Big Bang Theory, and only those on the extreme ends dismiss it.

In 1948, scientists predicted there would be leftover heat from the Big Bang. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson won the Nobel Prize for discovering this afterglow. This afterglow had very precise variations, and this precision allowed early galaxies to form; if you can imagine a finely tuned explosion. This was confirmed in 1989 when NASA launched COBE – Cosmic Background Explorer. In 1992, George Smoot announced, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.” 2

Finally, the Second Law of Thermodynamics gives us evidence of the beginning of the universe. The universe has a finite amount of energy. If it had always existed, it would have run out of energy long ago. The Second Law is also known as the Law of Entropy, which means that nature tends to bring disorder rather than order. We have energy left and order left, so if the universe had always existed, then we would have run out of energy long ago. The Second Law of Thermodynamics demands that the universe had a beginning.

If the universe had a beginning, as science suggests, then who caused it? You see, logic tells us that “no thing” is the cause of its own existence. So if the universe had a beginning, there must be a cause outside of the universe to have caused it.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument, states the following premises and conclusion:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Does this post depress you? If so, then put your legacy in the First Cause and move beyond the generation or two that will remember you. If you work toward an earthly legacy, then not only will it be temporary, but it will disappear just as the tracks do into the sand, never to be seen, heard, or even thought of again. Revelation 22:13   Colossians 3:1-4

Sources:
1. Hitchens, Christopher. The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press. 2007. Print.
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.

 

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Illusion of Legacy by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

47 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 7 minutes

This is a continuation of the 50 supposed questions Christians could not answer. You can find the full list here.

4. Why did the little old lady that God healed one Sunday need her walker to get around again next Sunday? Was she only temporarily worthy of a healing?

Assumptions:
*Healings we do see are faked
*God can’t really heal anyone
*God does not exist

My initial reaction was to ask, “Exactly what little old lady are you talking about? What church was this. Give me a date, time, witnesses to back up what your implying.”

Unfortunately, those kinds of faked healings do take place, and aside from putting money in the pocket of some dishonest people,  they do nothing to give credence to miraculous healings that do occur. Understandably, those who are skeptical of miraculous healings ask for specific documentation that would ‘prove’ the healing actually occurred. They want x-rays that show the broken bone or cancerous tumor. They want proof that the x-ray they are viewing is of the person who was healed, and want to see the evidence that shows the ailment just prior to the healing. Frankly, I am no different.

Skeptics want eyewitness testimony from the nurses and physicians, and documentation from the x-ray technician and the radiologist that confirm what took place. Who can blame them for asking? The lame can walk, the blind can see, those stories are a dime a dozen and rarely have any documentation to back them up. Couple that with the infrequent times they do provide any documentation, more often than not, its creditably comes into question, so who can blame them for doubting?

Even as a believers in miraculous healings, when we hear of one, we want to see proof with our own eyes. And if we become convinced, only those who know us well will believe us. This has become an unmistakable necessity for twenty and thirty somethings, due in part to the Internet.

Electronic Arts or EA Games had a motto for years: “Challenge Everything”. A generation of teens grew up seeing and hearing that slogan whenever they started to play Battle Field, or any one of a dozen other EA titles that sold millions, despite the fact that they were voted the worst company in America in 2012, just beating out Bank of America. 1 I am not a fan of EA games, but I have spent many hours playing some of their titles with friends online.

With messages like that pixilized into the brains of a generation, coupled with photo shopped images covering Facebook, the YouTube phenomena with illusionary and deceptive video graphics, (here is a great example), it should not be surprising we have a generation of skeptics who doubt everything. Or worse, believe everything they see on the Internet. I would imagine thousands of gallons of water were cleaned up in kitchens as unsuspecting teens tried over and over to do the above water trick.

Whether or not healings actually do take place is not only a debate between Christians and atheists, but a debate between Christians themselves. Much like the young earth vs. old earth in-house debate, Christians find themselves divided over the topic of cessationism, which is the view that miraculous gifts ended when the apostles passed away. Most cessationists believe that God can still act in miraculous ways, and does at times, but individuals are no longer used, or are able to perform miracles. 2

We live in a universe where miracles are not only possible, but actual. Norman Geisler pointed out that, “Indeed, the greatest miracle of all – creation of the universe out of nothing – has already occurred.” 3 So raising someone from the dead is small fries compared to creating the universe out of nothing. When you raise someone from the dead, at least you have a dead body to start with, but something from nothing, that is a real trick.

On July 22nd, 2013, the Bishop of Pavita made official the 69th miracle had taken place at Lourdes. Lourdes is a town in Southern France where, in the 1950’s, the Virgin Mary was supposedly seen by a peasant girl multiple times. Since then, this small town of about 15, 000, is host to over five million visitors every year.

Many visit with the hopes of being healed from just about every ailment you can think of. The Catholic Church has investigated over 7000 cases of healings, with most taking over 20 years to investigate. Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis, head of the medical branch, stated in the final meeting with more than 100 physicians and nurses, they finally approved Danila Castelli’s cure as being miraculous. He said ,“This lady was judged, indeed certified cured in a way unexplained by current medical scientific knowledge.” 4

Some may point out, and rightfully so, that the illustration of the Catholic church might not be the best source for an example of healing. Yes, I get that, but one only need to do a little research to see the great lengths the church goes to verify the healings at Lourdes. It would be fair to say they already challenged everything prior to claiming that a healing took place. Now I am not saying the waters themselves have healing power, or it has to do with the location, or even the appearances of the Virgin Mary, but I am saying I believe healings have taken place. Healings that can’t be explained by the natural world.

Every day unexplained events of healing take place, and most do not go beyond family or close friends. My own daughter Sarah, when she was an infant, had a period of months where she was sickly. Coughs, colds, and croup. She began to look sickly, was not sleeping well, and lost all of her baby fat. We took her to the doctor more than once, but she never improved.

I remember once he prescribed albuterol, which we gave her. A short time later she literally began running from one wall to the next, totally wired. Sure enough her cough went away, but she was acting as if we gave her crack. For hours, she just ran around the room unable to control herself. I called the doctor, and had a brief conversation I will never forget. Without going into the details, we never went back to him.

At the end of our rope, we had an elder from church come pray over Sarah. Larry Briney, the same dear gentleman who married Gloria and I. After a brief conversation and a simple prayer, he left. That night Sarah slept for hours, and so did Gloria and I. She quickly improved and has not had any lengthy illness since then.

I have no other explanation for her healing, nor do I offer one. Skeptics can claim it was a matter of coincidence, but after several months of illness, I find it a bit of a stretch to claim it was simply coincidental with the prayer of Larry Briney. It could not have been the albuterol because it is not an antibiotic. It is used to open airways for a few hours to aid breathing. After the prayer, she was healed of what ever ailment she had.

Craig Keener wrote a book titled Miracles. He wrote it to fill a void in biblical academia which was lacking work on the subject of contemporary miracles. It is over flowing with accounts of miraculous healings in third world countries, and in the western world. One account of hundreds he offers was from a Carl Cocherell. In 2006, while working on his car he broke his ankle. X-rays confirmed the break and he was ordered, due to the severity of the break, to stay over night in the hospital by the orthopedist and he would need months of therapy.

During the night, he said the Lord told him it was not broken. The next day Carl had more x-rays, which were requested by his family physician. After the x-rays, his physician’s office called him in, and his physician told Carl there was no break, showing him the x-rays. In fact, there was not even a sign of a break. Carl offered the first x-rays, which were confirmed to be a broken ankle, but Carl was healed. 5

James Spiegel, author of The Making of an Atheist, has an interesting take on the atheist world view. He pointed out that the popular position of scientists being objective in their research and having a Spock-like view, who just report the information, facts, and statistics, without any bias or preconceived notions, is far from the truth.

Muslims, Christians, atheists, and scientists all hold onto views of the world that are reinforced by family, friends, and culture. Shifting out of a strongly held view that often influences our daily lives, can be likened to the duck/rabbit illustration of the ‘gestalt switch’.

rabbitduckHe wrote, “Notice that while you can see the figure as a duck or a rabbit, you cannot see it simultaneously as both. A wholesale conversion of perspective is necessary to shift from one to the other.” 6 Christian’s are not above having a bias toward their world view, but too many have a faith that is easily swayed.

Often Christians have been raised by well meaning parents who have gone to great lengths to ‘isolate’ their children from secular world views. I would recommend, as Greg Koukl has put it, to ‘inoculate’ your children. Provide them with evidence for their faith so that when they arrive in high school or college, the views from teachers and professors will not come as a shock. Rather, their faith, having been inoculated with reasons, grounded in facts, supported by science, will not be shaken loose. That is what apologetics can do for our youth. Challenges about miracles, about belief in God, will not trigger a gestalt switch in faith.

Why did the little old lady that God healed one Sunday need her walker to get around again next Sunday? I have no idea, but what does this generic question have to do with the miracles at Lourdes? Or with my own personal experiences, and experiences others share with us? With the unparalleled academic work by Keener? The miraculous accounts we hear about on a daily basis are far too many to be accredited with coincidence and greed.

Sources:

1. Morran, Chris. “The Voters Have Spoken: EA Is Your Worst Company In America For 2012” The Consumerist. consumerist.com, 4 April. 2012. Web. 7 June. 2014.
2. “Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?” Got Questions. gotquestions.org, 2014. Web.
3. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
4. “Lourdes shrine officially records 69th miracle. Catholic News Agency. Catholicnewsagency.com. 22 July, 2013. Web. 6 July, 2014.
5. Keener, Craig S. Miracles. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011. Print.
6. Spiegel, James. The Making of an Atheist. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010. Print.

 

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47 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

48 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This is a continuation of the 50 supposed questions Christians could not answer. You can find the full list here.

3. If God is so perfect, then why did he create something so imperfect allowing pain, suffering and daily atrocities?

The question that is really being asked is why would a perfect God allow evil if he is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving. To many atheists and skeptics, this would not be sensible. So conversely, if we have pain, suffering, and atrocities, there is no God.

Assumptions:
*God is not perfect
*God does not exist

The Greek philosopher Epicurus put it this way.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

The problem of evil is one many Christians have a hard time responding to, but if Christian’s recognize that it is impossible to have ‘evil’ without a base line to measure exactly what evil is, then evil is simply a matter of opinion. Simply put, evil is the absence of good. Let me give you three examples that will help you understand my point.

How do we gauge cold? Cold is the absence of heat, more specifically the absence of the kinetic energy in the molecules of a substance, or the motion of the molecules. In 2010, NASA data recorded a new record for cold here on earth at -135 in Antarctica. Absolute zero is defined to be -273 degrees. At -273, all molecular movement stops. No molecular movement and you have cold, our base line to measure heat.

How do we convey blackness? Blackness is measured by the absence of color. For those who are tech savvy, it is obvious in our everyday 24-bit computer monitors. All the pixels that make up a computer screen have a red, green, blue, (RGB), display and each RGB has a range of 0-255. If all three have a range of 255, 255, 255, you see white pixel your screen. Alternatively, if you have a value of 0,0,0 you have black pixel. So 0,0,0 is our base line to measure color.

How we we judge darkness? Darkness is measured by the absence of light. When you don’t have any electromagnetic waves, (light), you have complete darkness. Darkness is not a color, so complete darkness is without light waves. You can’t measure darkness, because there would be nothing to measure. Absolute darkness is void of light waves. Light and dark are not two separate things, just as hot and cold are not two separate things. Cold and hot are both a measure of temperature. You measure one by the absence of another.

Those three examples should give you an idea on how to deal with the problem of evil. Evil and good are not two separate things, they are both a measure of morality. The character of God, his perfect character, is the baseline to which we measure all evil. Anything which is not inline with His flawless character is evil.

Carl Gallups put it this way, “In the same way that cold, dark, and black only exist in the absence of heat, light, and color, evil only exists in the absence of good.” 1

Problems arise when fallen man starts to set the base line, or the standard to which we measure moral behavior. Michael Welner created the ‘Depravity Scale‘, which measures the degree of cruelty and wickedness that can be applied to a crime. His intention is for jurors to use it to measure the severity of a crime, just as we might use a ruler to measure the length of a 2 x 4 Doug fur.

As the system stands now, “you run the risk of what’s heinous to one person is not heinous to another person,” says Jack Doherty, head of the disciplinary board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a former defense attorney. He believes the Depravity Scale will bring the courts out of the “dark ages” of subjectivity in weighing particularly horrible crimes. 2

What they fail to realize is that they are only measuring the current culture’s definition of cruelty and wickedness. We live in a time that Francis Schaeffer, (founder of L’Abri), called ‘sociological law’. Our laws and entertainment change as our cultures change.

During the Roman Civilization, it was lawful and entertaining to throw people to wild animals, and to watch gladiators fight to the death. In the 1950′s, it was unlawful for homosexuals to be married, for women to have abortions, and for men to pay for sex. Sixty years later all are lawful, all are acceptable, and in some instances, celebrated, depending on the state or city.

In another sixty years, we might be shocked to the extent of our moral decay. Certainly someone who was transported from the 1950’s to 2014 would be appalled at what popular culture considers acceptable behavior and qualifies as moral or ethical mainstream.

And no, I don’t have naive Norman Rockwell view of the 1950’s, or even the 1850’s. Yes there was murder, rape, prostitution, and abortion in the 1950’s. I get that. But we have indicators which attest to the godless direction our country is heading. One example is the original motto of Harvard University which demonstrates how far we have slipped into moral decay.

“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3). 3 Harvard is now one of the most anti-god, secular universities in the U.S.

Timothy Keller wrote, “One of the most frequent statements I heard was that, ‘Every person has the right to define right and wrong, for himself or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, “Is there anyone in the world right now, doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?” They would invariably say, “Yes, of course.” Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is ‘there’ that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of that a person feels or thinks?” Almost always, the response to that question was a silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.” 4

Now we can come up with examples like the Holocaust, and hundreds of other historical events, that tug on our heart strings. Just about everyone would agree that the Holocaust, or the torture of young children ‘for the fun of it’ is evil, but there are a few who don’t see it that way. Yes, they agree it is wrong, in a natural sort of way. It is wrong because that kind of behavior does not aid in human flourishing. The atheist does not believe it is wrong because some higher being would tell us it is wrong.

What they don’t realize, or choose to ignore, is you can’t call something evil unless you have something to refer back to. Without the moral compass Christ provides, our actions as a culture sway with the wind of popular opinion.

If we just rely on opinion polls, (as politicians often do so they can be re-elected), to decide what kind of behavior is acceptable, then behavior is nothing more than a favorite flavor of ice cream. Those who don’t believe in right or wrong behavior, are firm in their convictions until someone cuts them off on the highway, or steals their wallet. Those who say they don’t believe in evil might think differently if you kidnap and torture their family.

Cold is our baseline to measure heat. Dark is our baseline to measure color. Black is our baseline to measure light. Each exist only in the absence of another. God’s perfect character is the baseline to measure evil.

You see, to measure anything you need to start somewhere. When you measure a 2 x 4, the beginning of the tape goes on one end so you can determine the length. Minus 273 is the point we begin to measure cold. RGB 0,0,0 for each is the point we begin to measure color on a computer screen. The absence of light waves provides us with a beginning to measure light. Finally, God’s perfect character is the starting point we begin to measure evil, the beginning of the tape measure.

Anything outside of God’s perfect goodness is evil, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the sin. Our fallen nature, our freedom to choose to do things outside the character of Christ, will always leave us short of the perfect base line God’s nature provides us to value morality.

So when atheists or skeptics bring up the problem of evil, and why a perfect and loving God would allow evil and suffering, they have already, unbeknownst, acknowledged that God exists. Because, without the starting point of good, you can’t weigh evil.

 

Sources:
1. Gallups, Karl. The Magic Man in the Sky. WND Books, 2012. Print.
2. Libaw, Oliver. “Creating a Scale to Measure Evil” ABC News abcnewsgo.com, 14 May 2014. Web. 29, June 2014
3. Roberts, Mark. “Harvard Ironies” Patheos. patheos.com, 2010. Web. 30, June 2014.
4. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.

 

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48 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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