Atheists and Agnostics often will say they’re open to evidence for God, but they just don’t see any. When Chelsea on Netflix asked celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson if he believed in God, for example, he skirted the question, implying (but never actually saying) “No,” and then wrapped up his response this way. “If you have good evidence, I’m good for it. But I’m evidence-driven, more than I’m faith-driven.”
Tyson’s vague response satisfies (at least temporarily) people who look to celebrities to supply answers to life’s big questions. For the rest of us, though, the burden of evaluating evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions remains. And I don’t know of anyone putting together evidence and making it accessible to us on video better than Illustra Media.
Illustra’s latest, The Call of the Cosmos: What the Universe Reveals about God, is stunning. Through a combination of actual video and CGI animations, The Call of the Cosmos lays out before us features of the universe that reveal its vast size (Did you know scientists estimate there are ten times more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the earth?) and complexity (Or that a single grain of sand contains more atoms than grains of sand on the earth? Or that the human brain houses a million trillion synapses?), along with several features unique to our planet that come together to make it habitable while also making it an ideal platform from which to observe and study the universe. Who or what could have arranged such a marvelous confluence of conditions?
Does our planet just happen to be a place where life can flourish? Or was it intentionally designed to be that way? If we begin with a worldview of philosophical materialism, then the former is the only allowable option. Robert Jastrow, for example, former Director Emeritus of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, concedes that evidence from Big Bang cosmology and human life imply a Creator. But as a materialist limited to material explanations for everything, he can’t accept that as a possible explanation for the evidence he clearly sees. And this leaves him, he admits, “in a completely hopeless bind,” which he finds “unsatisfactory.” “I feel as if I am missing something. But I will not find out what I am missing within my lifetime.”
For the non-materialist, though, or anyone open to the possibility of a transcendent mind behind the universe, it becomes possible to discern an Artist and Engineer Extraordinaire behind it all. I like the way that Paul Nelson of Biola University puts it in the film.
“God as our Creator has this infinite array of possible ways of communicating with us. One of them could be, he just comes down here and grabs us by the shoulders and says, ‘Wake up! You’re in trouble!’ Right? But God’s a lot more subtle than that. And, in particular, he doesn’t bend our wills to his. In a way that’s really mysterious and hard to understand, he puts things in front of us and says, ‘Now, you, respond.’”
And one powerful way for him to communicate with us, at least those of us open to hearing from him, is the beautiful and marvelously complex world he made for us to inhabit.
I hope you’ll check out this great new film. And the next time someone says to you, “I don’t see evidence of God,” remind him that he hasn’t made any statement about the universe or the evidence but has rather made a statement about his vision. Pray for him, and if he’s open to it, point him to the marvelous array of resources at Illustra.
At the time of the Gosnell story, I remember that there was a nationwide, wall-to-wall media blackout. Every single mainstream media source was colluding with the others not to report on the story. It was impossible to get news for weeks, until finally the mainstream media’s pro-abortion, pro-infanticide bias became the story, and they had to start reporting on the trial.
For example, Life News reported that it took ABC News 56 days to begin covering the story, and they only did it because pro-lifers marched on their headquarters:
Fifty six days after the grisly trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell began, ABC broke its self-imposed blackout and finally offered coverage.
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It’s probably not what you think.
Saving Truth on Human Sexuality
“Sorry if this is off topic,” the young woman stammered into the microphone, “but, um, I’ve searched for answers and I can’t seem to find any, so I thought I’d come tonight and ask you guys. Where does Christianity, if it does at all, differ on homosexuality as opposed to other religions, and if so, how?” Her quivering lips and trembling hands revealed the magnitude of struggle it had taken just to voice the question.
The auditorium fell silent as all eyes turned to Abdu Murray, who had just taken part in a university open forum on major world religions.
Abdu was silent for a moment. He could tell she was not just looking for another opinion. She needed an answer that would validate her as a human being. What could he say that would not compromise biblical sexuality yet would show her that God cares for her beyond measure?
“There are only so many worldviews to choose from,” he began. And none of them would provide an answer that unconditionally validates her humanity. None, that is, except for one. But before getting to that one, he surveyed the others.
Consider naturalistic atheism, the worldview driving progressive secularism. According to naturalistic secularism, human beings are highly evolved animal life. This worldview is doubly dehumanizing in regard to homosexuality. First, according to the Darwinian evolutionary narrative, there is nothing especially significant about human beings at all. “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” in the words of Ingrid Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), such that the only thing distinguishing us from the flies in our windowpane is that we’re above them on the food chain. Second, if, as we are told, Darwinian evolution proceeds via the evolutionary process, then homosexuality fails evolutionarily because same-sex sex does not reproduce. So, in a naturalistic worldview, people practicing same-sex sex are, just like everyone else, nothing special, and Darwinian failures to boot.
What about the Eastern pantheistic systems, such as Hinduism or Buddhism or a Deepak Chopra-esque spirituality? Well, the ethical foundations of these worldviews are ambiguous at best, as they teach that morality is relative. And so, none of them provide any objective grounding for human value or identity. Worse for the struggler looking for solid answers, they hold that suffering is an illusion, which is flat out insulting to a person in pain. They offer nothing beyond self-referential psychobabble for the one struggling with his or her identity.
What about Islam? While it does offer solidity, with its monotheistic foundation and clear rules circumscribing sexual behavior, Islam is openly hostile to homosexuality. In some Islamic countries, homosexual acts are punishable by prison, flogging, and in some cases death.
Finally, then, Abdu came around to Christianity. He made two points about it. First, we all intuitively know there is something about sex that makes it more than just a physical act. Why is sexual assault treated differently from a mere physical assault? Because, he said, there is something sacredly fragile about sexuality, and sacred things are so special, they are worthy of protection. God wants to protect the sacredness of sexuality from becoming common, and the boundaries given through the biblical sexual ethic guard the sacred specialness of sexuality.
But, he conceded, that doesn’t explain the proscription limiting sex to opposite-sex marriage. That was the subject of his second point. To address the principle of male-female marriage, he referred to the biblical creation account in Genesis, where we are told that God created man and woman in the image of God. Man and woman being created in the image of God is a blasphemous concept to Islam, a foreign concept in any pantheism, and an absurdity in any naturalistic secularism. Only the biblical worldview, which holds that all men and all women bear God’s divine image, gives any objective grounding for inherent human dignity and value.
And this leads to the reason why human sexuality is worth limiting to male-female marriage: It’s because sex is the way human life comes into the world. “Sex between a man and a woman is the only means by which such a precious being comes into this world,” he said. “And because a human being is the sacred product of sex, the sexual process by which that person is made is also sacred.” The biblical ethic limits sexual expression to monogamous, male-female marriage because “God is protecting something sacred and beautiful.” As we submit ourselves to the creational guideline, “We are given the honor of reflecting an aspect of the divine splendor.”
He wrapped up his response to the troubled young woman by telling her that God anchors all human dignity, including hers, and sacredness in his unchanging, eternal nature. We are granted the supremely high dignity of reflecting the glory of God in the world.
So, where does Christianity differ from other religions when it comes to homosexuality? As it turns out, it differs quite profoundly from all others, but not in the way the dominant cultural voices say it does. Abdu relates this scene in his recently released book, Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World. Although he had much more to say about the uniquely sublime nature of sexuality within natural marriage, Saving Truth is not just about sexuality. That’s only the subject of one chapter, but I hope it will give you an idea of the beauty biblical clarity can bring to an area rife with confusion.
Saving Truth surveys a whole landscape of cultural confusion, offering refreshing doses of clarity so that we may make sense of many other confusions:
- What does “post-truth” even mean?
- What is the difference between autonomy and liberating freedom?
- How does one navigate the alleged conflict between science and faith?
- And what about religious pluralism? Can all religions really coexist?
Abdu never gave the name of the young woman asking the profound question about sexuality, but he did conclude the story by noting that. after he answered her question, “she seemed to know she was ‘understood.’ The tears began to flow, and she afforded me the honor of praying with her.” Truth has a way of quieting clamor and provoking profound moments. I hope you will check out Abdu’s new book Saving Truth, and even more that, I hope that you will seek truth right where you are. Whatever it may cost you, whatever tears it may provoke, seek clarity, seek the truth. There is where you will find your meaning.
Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body and Integrating Truth about the Body
Have you heard of intersectionality? Unless you’ve been hanging around the rarified halls of academia lately, this may be a new term to you.
Intersectionality theory was introduced by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in a 1989 paper with the unwieldy title, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”
Ms. Crenshaw is an African American law professor who identifies as both a feminist theorist and critical race theorist. In political theory, feminism says laws need to change because men oppress women, while critical race theory says laws need to change because whites oppress blacks.
If you’re a black woman then, how do you balance the competing demands of anti-sexism and anti-racism? The question does present something of a quandary, and in the paper, Crenshaw introduced the concept of intersectionality, which effectively said the two concepts should remain independent and be seen as forces that interact with one another.
To be fair, I have not read the full paper, but what this seems to imply is, somewhere within the identity of women of color like her, there is – and should be – an intersect, a division, a point at which the two aspects of the self collide.
The paper was published in 1989, roughly a decade before LGBT politics added four more identity categories based on sexuality. With these added identity categories, you can see how the intersections rapidly multiply. At what point, we might ask, does a cluster of multiplying intersections disintegrate into a chaotic, confused inner mess?
Welcome to the modern millennial mind.
Thoughtful Christians must learn how to navigate all this, sorting out our culture’s manifold incoherencies with clarity and compassion. I don’t know of anyone doing a better job of helping us do that today than Nancy Pearcey, whose newest book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, shines much-needed light on the most pressing category of confusing ideologies today, the sexual ones. Think of it as a training guide for comprehensive, clear thinking about the biological and sexual deconstructivist movements of our day – abortion, euthanasia, casual sex, homosexuality, and transgenderism.
“Every practice comes with a worldview attached to it,” she writes in the first chapter, “one that many of us might not find true or attractive if we were aware of it. Therefore it is important to become aware.”
Love Thy Body is about a lot more than just awareness, though it will give you that. Returning to the concept of intersectionality, you should be able to see how intersectionality fragments one’s own identity, looking inward, and view of the world, looking outward. By contrast, as Pearcey writes, the biblical view of the human person is wholly unifying. Grounded in our identity as human beings created by God, who made us, knows us, and loves us, this understanding of the human person leads to a wholistic integration of identity and personality. It fits who we really are.
Rather than shake our heads at the incoherence of a man being elected a city’s first female mayor or a man winning a women’s weightlifting title, Christians need to learn how to respond helpfully in order to engage with secular culture in terms it can relate to. In ancient times, ministers of the gospel traveled to foreign lands geographically. Today we may have to go where they are conceptually in order to offer them the gospel that sets people free. “In the wasteland,” Pearcey writes, “we can cultivate a garden.”
In a fragmented world where people are desperately in need of answers to hard questions about life and sexuality, Love Thy Body brings clarity, coherence, and integrity.
Love Thy Body is available for pre-order now and releases January 2nd. Click here to pre-order.
Been a while since I posted anything. But I have not gone away. I’m passing this on because I always like what my friend WK has to say. And when WK gives the shout out to me, well that’s all the better.
I tweeted and shared Dr. Helen Smith’s book “Men on Strike” this week multiple times, and I finished reading it myself. The reason was that it was on sale for $3.29 for the Kindle edition. The book explains a few of the developments that have led to men underperforming in school and in the workplace, and opting out of marriage and fatherhood.
Dr. Helen comes to this problem as a secular libertarian, not as a Christian conservative.
A review of Dr. Helen’s book appeared in Salvo magazine. The review is written by Terrell Clemmons, who has the best Christian worldview of any woman I know – I frequently rely on her advice.
While the feminist movement may originally have been about equal respect for both sexes, what it has morphed into, she argues, is…
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There’s a little picture meme floating around social media these days, especially since last Tuesday when Indiana voters effectively made Donald Trump the GOP presidential candidate. Although it doesn’t mention him, it’s clearly a set of questions meant to challenge the Trump slogan about making America great again.
It’s nothing more than a rapid-fire attack litany, the kind that usually issues from the mouth of someone who would never support a GOP candidate anyway. It holds the potential to provoke a reasoned, intelligent discussion of what exactly is good about America, but generally that’s not what people who post and repost these kinds of pictures are interested in. Or perhaps even capable of. Here it is:
Do you feel wise after reading through that? Or do you feel attacked?
Don’t feel either. Be smart. Ask the rapid-fire wise-guy two questions:
- Do you have any principles by which you evaluate political agendas?
- What are they?
Chances are, this will stop a verbal brawl before it gets started because people who derive emotional satisfaction by issuing smart-sounding, rapid-fire attacks are rarely able to articulate their own first principles. They will not want to answer these questions.
Chances are, the next six months of general election campaigning are going to be very, very ugly. Be above it. If there’s ever going to be a respectable, intelligent dialogue about American political movements from here on out, it’s going to have to start at first principles.
So think about what yours are. Where do they start? Do they start with some objective standard of right and wrong? Or do you go by your feelings?
For a good start at actually responding to the rapid-fire questions in the picture, I would highly recommend Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine the World Without Her. It’s very good, and it will set these kind of silly questions in a broader context. And if there’s anything shallow thinkers need, it’s context.
Conservative thought can trace its political positions to principles grounded in objective reality. Political progressives? Not so much.
But they should be pressed to try.
Call it my “Make America Think Again” campaign.
“Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” ~ Proverbs 26:5
A Review of What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy
Philippe Sands, an international human rights lawyer, was doing research for a book on the Nuremberg trials, when he met Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter. Niklas and Horst, both born in the spring of 1939, had known each other as boys. Their fathers were both prominent Nazis all through World War II, and this was the common thread that tied the three men together.
Niklas’s father, Hans Frank, was a highly cultured and educated man. He knew Goethe and Shakespeare. He was the personal lawyer of Adolph Hitler, and then rose to the position of governor general of all of Poland. After the war, he was dubbed The Butcher of Poland. He was hanged at Nuremberg for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Horst’s father, Otto von Wächter, was one of Hans Frank’s deputies. He was named SS Oberfuhrer on Kristallnacht and went on to run the transportation system that moved people from German-occupied cities and ghettos to the concentration camps. After the war, he was indicted of mass murder, but having fled and sought protection from the Vatican, he died in 1949 in Rome. Horst’s parents, both proud Nazis, had named him after Horst Wessel, the erstwhile martyr/mascot of Nazi Germany.
For Sands, a Jew, meeting the two septuagenarians was deeply personal, as a large branch of his family tree – more than 80 of them from one Ukrainian city alone – had been summarily executed under the personal direction of Otto von Wächter. Nevertheless, with much trepidation, he brought the men together to make a documentary about their reflections on their fathers.
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy is loosely structured around Sands’s questioning Niklas and Horst about their attitudes toward their fathers and the crimes they committed. To be sure, Niklas and Horst were mere boys – age six when the war came to an end. Of course they’re not responsible for their fathers’ crimes. But what are their thoughts today, Sands wanted to know, about their fathers?
Two Moral Responses
The short answer to that question for Niklas, who is eager to criticize his father in public settings, is that he unequivocally repudiates his father’s actions. He says that his father deserved to die for what he did. He was raised Catholic, Niklas points out, so he knew right from wrong. Niklas says he himself has peace now about his father because he has acknowledged his father’s crimes.
Horst, on the other hand, has responded quite differently. “I must find the good in my father,” he says. Citing loyalty, Horst intractably resists ascribing any guilt to his father. “I’m very sorry about this,” he says, but the charges against my father are “very general suppositions … all generalizations. … I have so many documents from people who knew him personally, who said he had a decent character.”
When presented with evidence of Otto von Wächter’s command responsibility over tens of thousands of death en masse, Horst replies, “He had no influence. He tried everything he could do to prevent the things that have happened.”
The discussion is civil, but tension mounts over the course of the film. Sands and Niklas want him to condemn the crimes, but Horst excuses, evades, and/or relativizes every charge they present. “The system was something [that we today] can’t imagine,” he says. “Death was so near to everybody. Life was just nothing.” Bad things happen still today everywhere, he says, and “we have no means to stop them. We have to accept them.”
A scene with a similar dynamic takes place in the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, where Ben Stein, also a Jew, visits the Clinic for Forensic Psychiatry/Centre for Social Psychiatry in Hadamar, Germany, where thousands of people deemed unworthy of life were put to death. The curator of the Hadamar museum declines to pronounce any judgment, though, when Ben probes her thoughts about it. “They had purposes,” she said. “I don’t think that it’s my role to tell him something,” she says regarding one of the lead doctors who oversaw the killing.
Ben doesn’t press her. Similarly, in the end Philippe Sands and Niklas Frank give up all hope of getting a moral judgment out of Horst. Clearly, it’s not going to happen, and the film ends with the three men at an impasse, Sands and Niklas on one side and Horst on the other. “I despise him,” Niklas says bitterly, about Horst.
To his credit, Sands displays no animosity toward Horst. He and Niklas just want to hear Horst condemn the crimes. Because, to Philippe Sands at least, those lives were not “just nothing.” They were his family.
The Question of “Ordinary-Looking” Evil
Niklas predicts that Horst – or at least those who live in the same spirit as Horst does – are the seeds of a new Nazism. He may well be right, and I think this is a large part of what motivated Sands and others to produce this film. There is yet evil in our midst. And it can look disturbingly, alarmingly ordinary.
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy, is gripping viewing. How could these men, Sands asked early on, meaning Hans Frank and Otto von Wächter, participate in mass murders by day and then spend an evening with their families at night?
As it turns out, we learn from their sons that they didn’t spend many evenings at home with their families (Niklas says his parents hated each other). We do however get a rare look at some of their home movies and family photos. Viewers with a working moral compass may feel a dark disquiet at the sight because Hans Frank and Otto von Wächter look to all appearances like fine, upstanding citizens, certainly not moral monsters capable of mass murder.
So the question lingers. How could such ordinary looking men be capable of such evil? Watching Horst’s home movies and looking at family photo albums, Sands noted, “felt dirty” to him, as if in some way he was “looking on the inside of horror.”
It’s a poignant observation, for which the film itself provides no answer.
Only the Judeo-Christian worldview gives us a comprehensive answer to that question. It presents man as created in the image of God but desperately fallen and capable of great evil. It also presents man as a moral being, capable of choosing between good and evil. Some choose to turn toward God, owning their own fallenness. Others choose to turn away. In the end everyone receives what he has chosen.
The biblical worldview also explains that angst Niklas and Sands expressed over Horst’s stubborn denial, that palpable (and right!), gut-level inability to “be okay” with his moral blindness. Human lives are not nothing, and they all know it. Mass murder, even if it is sanctioned (or ordered) by otherwise legitimate governing authorities, is not excusable.
And, no Horst, we do not have to accept it. There is an objective standard of right and wrong to which we are all bound. And we all know it on some level.
This is the gist of what’s called the moral argument for God, which goes like this:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
- Objective moral values do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
People have attempted to muster arguments for moral relativism, but those who really adhere to it end up excusing great evil.
Horst is a very sad specimen of lost humanity. He could, if he would, still find the good in his father while also condemning his crimes, if he would allow the Moral Lawgiver to set his moral compass. But if he hasn’t by now, it’s hard to see how he ever will. That is a great tragedy.
For the rest of us in the free world, we would do well to watch this film and grapple with the question of objective morality and evil in our midst. Those who refuse to see and identify evil not only allow it to spread unchallenged, but inevitably end up succumbing to it and participating in it.
- What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy – click here to see the trailer and for information about screenings.
- A Time to Judge: Nazi Germany and the Peril of Moral Weakness
- The Moral Argument for God from Reasonable Faith
A Review of How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity
by Rodney Stark
Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant of how the modern world came to be what it is, says Rodney Stark. A generation ago, most college curricula included a course in Western Civilization that covered Western achievements in art, music, literature, philosophy, and science. Today those courses have all but disappeared on the spurious grounds that the West is but one of many civilizations and that it is ethnocentric and arrogant for Westerners to study it. So Stark is out to educate us, its beneficiaries, in the “remarkably unfashionable” story of our own heritage.
The most important thing to know on this subject is that “modernity is entirely the product of Western Civilization.” By modernity, he means, “that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living.”
In How the West Won, the Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University goes beyond the old “Western Civ” courses, which usually merely described the rise of the West. Stark tells the neglected story of why these monumental contributions to human good grew out of the West, and not out of Asia or the Islamic world. To explore this panhistoric phenomenon – as a set of explicable effects produced by discernible causes – is not ethnocentric, but is rather, “the only way to develop an informed understanding of how and why the modern world emerged as it did.”In the process, Stark refutes much of the “received wisdom” about Western history. Here are a few examples:
- Dramatic changes in climate, including a four-century-long warming trend followed by a “Little Ice Age” played major beneficial roles in the rise of modernity.
- There were no “Dark Ages.” The Dark Ages myth was made up by “eighteenth-century intellectuals determined to slander Christianity and to celebrate their own sagacity.” In reality, the entire era was one of remarkable progress and innovation.
- The brilliant achievements of the “Scientific Revolution” (which is also a misnomer) were the culmination of centuries of step-by-step progress.
- Europe did not grow rich by exploiting its colonies. Rather, the colonies drained European wealth – even as they became the beneficiaries of European advances.
Throughout, Stark gives primacy to ideas. He does so because it was certain, specific ideas that gave rise to all those desirable societal traits – democracy, science, free enterprise, etc. – that have characterized Western nations and that are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world.
Ultimately, Stark says, those potent – and truly revolutionary – ideas are the product of Christianity. “The most fundamental key to the rise of Western Civilization has been the dedication of so many of its most brilliant minds to the pursuit of knowledge. Not to illumination. Not to enlightenment. Not to wisdom. But to knowledge. And the basis for this commitment to knowledge was the Christian commitment to theology” – the highly rational discipline of formal reasoning about God, with an emphasis on discovering his nature.
With lively, in-depth narratives, Stark demonstrates how Christian ideas drove everything that is good and desirable about Western modernity. Yes, Western Civilization has seen its failures, limitations, and discontents. Nevertheless, it far surpasses every known alternative, and is, in a very real sense, God’s gift to the world.
This article first appeared in Salvo magazine, Issue 30, Fall 2014
The Man for Whom Science Proved Religion
Dennis Garvin grew up the second of three sons born into a Norman Rockwell setting in the Berkshire Mountains of upstate New York. After graduating valedictorian of his class at The Citadel military college in South Carolina, he went on to graduate with honors from VCU School of Medicine in Virginia and serve thirteen years in U.S. Air Force. By the time he reached his mid-30s, he’d met every one of his life’s goals. He had a family with children he loved. He was a successful physician with a good practice in Roanoke, Virginia. And, much to his own delight, he’d acquired a nice, four-degree-long, academic tail that certified him as a really smart dude. So why, having achieved so much, did he feel so empty?
It wasn’t depression; his life was full and active. No, the existential ennui was more akin to that of Alexander the Great, who surveyed the breadth of his domain and wept that there were no more worlds to conquer. And when he looked within, he saw a life of black and white. His wife at the time, by contrast, seemed to have access to a joy he didn’t. Her life looked to him like it had color. What was with that?
Raised in a Unitarian Universalist household, Dennis was a committed atheist. But, having adopted the ethic of his liberal feminist mother, which dictated tolerance as the supreme virtue, he had no particular hostility toward Christianity. So, with a semblance of open mindedness that way, the rational scientist in him started getting curious.
This was, philosophically speaking, new territory for him. But the time was ripe. A lifelong Darwin devotee, he’d started to realize that there were a great many cracks in Darwin, chief among them for him being altruism. He could explain away just about any human behavior except that, and it bugged the ever-living snot out of him. Worse, it had begun to dawn on him that he’d long parroted the phrase “science disproves religion,” but never actually questioned it. This was downright shameful for a man who called himself a scientist.
So he set out in all honesty to reexamine his assumptions. The primary one he’d accepted a priori was atheism. Okay then, he started out, let’s just say that there is a God. How would he have gone about doing what he did? Since the Bible, the book of Christianity, had been the first thing he’d dismissed, that was where he went first in pursuit of an answer.
A Dangerous Book
As he read, he became increasingly and utterly astonished to find that the Bible – the book he’d dismissed out of hand as a stupid fairy tale – was probably one of the most precise books of quantum physics he’d ever run into. This was not at all what he had expected, and as a scientist knowledgeable in modern physics, it started to turn his whole epistemological orientation on its head. Dennis had long been fascinated with the study of light, and to him, the quantum physics of light precisely explained the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. That brought him to his knees.
There was an evangelistic factor at work during this time too. His wife had introduced him to some people with Campus Crusade for Christ. Now Dennis had a stockpile of well-honed verbal projectiles designed to destroy belief in God or revealed religion in any form. He wasn’t just your nice, garden variety atheist. He was a predator, the kind of atheist Christian parents don’t want their children to meet when they go away to college. He relished destroying the faith of the poor miserable souls, and with his scientific credentials and the academic tail to back them up, he was pretty darn good at it.
But the good folks at Campus Crusade for Christ took his infantile flak like fearless soldiers. He’d lob one objection. But what about Christ? somebody would say. He’d throw another. But what about Christ? He ranted and raved about Isis, Osiris, and the Christ figure mythologically reborn every winter and how Christianity was just mythology write large. Patiently, they listened. And then came back with, Okay, but what about the God who loves you? Eventually, he ran out of arguments. The science had brought him to his knees. Through Campus Crusade, he became a new creature in Christ.
A Violent Man, Conquered by God
It’s highly unusual in America for anyone to come to Christian faith after the age of 35. For someone to do so on the burden of science is nearly unheard of. But for Dennis Garvin, that was how it happened. All that took place nearly thirty years ago, and since then some things about life haven’t changed all that much. He’s still a family man, though two grandchildren have been born into the mix. He’s still a physician, though medical missionary work has been added to the schedule. And still a pure scientist applying aspects of accepted scientific knowledge to biblical concepts, he’s taken up writing and teaching to disseminate the findings.
Another thing hasn’t changed. The good doctor still covets a good argument. Never one to do things by halves, the “really smart dude” who’s now fully graduated into an intellectually sound Christian compares himself in all humility to the apostle Paul, who had a confrontational style as the murderous Saul of Tarsus, then went on to preach the gospel with equal confrontational punch. But where Paul went on to preach the faith he once tried to destroy, Dennis takes pleasure in destroying the faith he once preached, aspiring to be the kind of Christian atheist professors and materialist scientists don’t want their students to meet.
“I have a take-no-prisoners mentality,” he says about them – not meaning the garden variety atheists, for whom he feels a brotherly sympathy, but the profiteering and predatory wise guys who pass themselves off as intellectually superior in order to destroy. Certainly he recognizes the command to love our enemies, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into playing nice with people who aren’t nice.
“I know those SOBs because I was an SOB. And I know what makes them think. I’ve got street credibility. And I can tell them, based on my credentials and my study, that anybody who retains a faith in atheism is an idiot. And they’re welcome to be idiots, but don’t dress themselves in intellectual propriety.”
“The big secret about atheists, the big fear of all atheists, is that they fear looking intellectually stupid in front of their contemporaries. They don’t mind if you pull their pants down in front of a bunch of other religious Neanderthals or people that they can label as such. But if you can go into their cave and, in front of their contemporaries, pull their pants down, you have done something. And that’s what I want to do.”
It’s not about scoring a win. It’s about exposing and choking off a predator that comes to kill.
A Violent Man Conquered by God
André Trocmé was a Huguenot pastor in the French mountain village of Le Chambon when Germany invaded France in 1940. As far as the war was concerned, Trocmé was a non-combatant pacifist. But when the Nazis demanded loyalty oaths and complicity with the deportation of Jews, he defied them openly. “We have Jews. You’re not getting them,” stated an open letter to the Vichy minister dispatched to Le Chambon in 1942. A man who knew which war was worth dying for, he was often described as un violent vaincu par Dieu – a violent man conquered by God. “A curse on him who begins in gentleness,” the pastor wrote in his journal. “He shall finish in insipidity and cowardice, and shall never set foot in the great liberating current of Christianity.”
Like Pastor Trocmé, Dr. Garvin is by profession a servant of healing. Also like him, he knows which battle is worth taking a bullet for. That’s why, for the sake of a generation subjected to smug SOBs with big egos and long academic tails, he stands not only ready but eager to enter the ring and do violence for the sake of the Truth.
This post first appeared in Salvo 29, Summer 2014
In the wake of the Planned Parenthood videos, I thought I’d repost my thoughts after my first visit to Planned Parenthood.
And I would add two things:
(1) It was a very sobering, somber, convicting experience. I believe all of us in America share collectively in some way in the guilt of abortion on demand, whether or not we have participated in abortion. And that includes me.
(2) There is release from the pain and guilt of abortion for all of us, including those who’ve had them, participated in them, or even performed them. There are some outstanding organizations in post-abortion ministry (and men seek out post-abortion healing too; this is not just a woman’s issue). One I’m familiar with is Rachel’s Vineyard, but there are others.
If the revelations coming out about abortion prick your conscience, then here is my counsel for you: Take it to the cross of Jesus Christ. He claimed to be the savior of the world and the Messiah to the Jews who secures forgiveness of all sins, past, present, and future. I think he knew what he was talking about.
“Band of Brothers,” a 2001 ten-part miniseries based on the book of the same name, follows a group of WWII paratroopers, E Company (“Easy Company”), through basic training, the D-Day invasion at Normandy, into occupied France and finally into Germany. Author Stephen Ambrose based his narrative on interviews with Easy Company veterans.
In the ninth episode, “Why We Fight,” the soldiers encounter a whole new realm of evil. It’s April 1945, the war in Europe is all but over, and the men of Easy Company are stationed in the German town of Landsberg awaiting orders. One day a few of them venture out to explore the area. They come to the edge of a forest, and before them stands a high barbed wire fence with a locked gate. Behind it are hundreds, perhaps thousands of dazed, emaciated, starving prisoners.
The men of Easy Company have seen fierce battle, but this…
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