Charles and Larry Discuss “The Great Extinction”

The Great extinction

L: I just read that the 6th great extinction might be underway as we speak!

C: What do you mean?

L: Well, they said that for example the African elephant population has been cut basically in half since the early part of the 1900’s.

C: Should we be worried?

L: They said a lot of it is caused by humans. I think we should work really hard to stop it.

C: What should we do?

L: I think we need to cut back on carbon emissions, stop clearing so many forests, cut back on the number of kids we have, and so on.

C: And you think that would stop this extinction from taking place?

L: I think it would help.

C: Let me ask you a question. What caused the first five extinctions to take place?

L: I don’t know. It just happens. That’s the way evolution works. The earth changes, species come and go.

C: So why should we worry about this one?

L: Because if our species disappears, we’re doomed!

C: Yea… and what would happen then?

L: I guess new species would develop and…

C: Life would go on. What’s to worry about?

L: But part of this is our fault and we have the responsibility to take steps to slow it down, so that future generations will be able to live the kind of life we live.

C: Future generations of humans or just future generations of something?

L: Future generations of humans.

C: You don’t believe in God, right? You believe in evolution through totally natural causes.

L: That’s right. There is no God planning or guiding or directing what is happening. It just happens because of the laws of science.

C: So evolution of the planet and of life just goes on without any supervision or oversight. There is no ‘ought’ to any of it. Atoms bounce around in certain ways and come together according to nature and over enough billions of years we have the earth as we know it today. Right?

L: That’s right.

C: So my first observation is that the way the earth is today, then, is not necessarily the ideal. It just happens to be the way it is today. Over the course of evolution, let’s say when the dinosaurs were here, they went wherever they wanted and ate what they wanted and there was no God and no people to say, “You shouldn’t go there or do that.”

L: Right

C: Eventually evolution got to human beings. Humans decide to build houses and so they cut down trees. All of a sudden that is a bad thing. Beavers are never accused of destroying trees. It’s just what happens.

L: But we have intelligence.

C: So we chop down trees. We clear land so we can grow crops and we have extended our life span. We’ve invented products to make our work easier. It’s what we do.

L: But we need to do those things carefully and with thought and care for the environment.

C: Who says so?

L: We sort of agree to do that.

C: Not everyone.

L: I know but some people waste things and pollute the environment and it hurts other people.

C: Who says that is bad. Some animals do things that hurt other animals or other species and we never accuse them of ruining the environment.

L: That’s because they can’t think.

C: Thinking about things is an ability we have, but as soon as you suggest that there is an ought, I get nervous because that makes me think that you think that there are rules out there somewhere that we are all obligated to obey.

L: Well there are.

C: Who says so?

L: We just know it. We know that we shouldn’t harm the environment so that other people suffer now or at a later time.

C: Apparently not everyone knows that because if they did, they wouldn’t be doing things that you don’t like.

L: They might not know it, that’s why we need to educate them.

C: But who says your way of thinking is right, just because you believe it or say it.

C: Here’s the thing: If evolution is true, humans are currently the product. The earth is the way it is now, but that is not the ideal. It just is the way it is. So if humans bring a species of plants from China to the U.S., that shouldn’t cause everyone to freak out. It’s just what happens in the course of evolution. Evolution created us and evolution gets to deal with the results of our behavior.

C: There are no “oughts.” Any oughts are preferences of one group seeking to subjugate another group. Right now it seems like those of your point of view are trying to create oughts that people like me are required to agree to and follow just because you have more numbers or power. But that doesn’t make your preferences right.

C: Humans inherently have the notion that what I have just described can’t be right. We believe that people really ought to live in a certain way even if we’re not always sure what that way is. I maintain that the moral sense we have and the conscience we have is evidence that we are not really alone in the universe. We haven’t really just evolved from organic soup by chemical laws. There really is a creator God out there who has the list of oughts and has the right to tell us what to do. We need to find the list.

C: The reality of a creator God is a better foundation for environmental care than evolution. If there is a God who made all this, then we have the responsibility of handling his creation with care and treating all of it with respect.

Charles and Larry discuss Poverty

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. The conservative’s name is Charles. The liberal’s name is Larry. These are not real conversations. They are imagined and the conservative views are mine, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. The opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one person’s point of view. I am not claiming that these discussions are unbiased. I’m using them as a means of organizing my own thoughts as well as possibly helping others clarify their own point of view as well.

(Check for further conversations like this on Fridays. Whenever I have a CL discussion, I’ll post it on Friday.)

C: Thanks for meeting me for coffee, Larry. It’s good to get out and have real conversation and discussion. So much of the debate and argument occurring today in politics and other corners of culture are so vitriolic and combative. One of the things I like about our conversations is that we can debate intensely, hold our ground and yet give each other space to think differently.

L: Agreed! You don’t find much of that kind of discussion going on anywhere anymore.

C: What have you been reading or thinking about lately?

L: Not really been reading much. I’ve been thinking a lot about poverty and its causes. Some people are at a real disadvantage in our economic system. The system seems to favor some people and penalize others.

C: What do you mean?

L: Well, some people grow up in homes where they don’t value education or where the parents are on drugs or something and the kids just grow up not wanting to learn or work hard or anything. They don’t develop a lot of skills and so they can’t find work and the cycle just repeats itself.

C: In all your thinking have you been able to come up with any solutions?

L: I don’t know, I just think we have to help people like that a little more

C: Are you?

L: Am I what?

C: Have you found some family like that that you’re helping?

L: No, not personally. I meant as a society our government should help people like that.

C: Where would the government get the money to do that?

L: I guess through taxes.

C: Do you think that would help the skill problem? I mean it might enable them to buy food and  clothes or keep the heat on, but I don’t think it would really get to the root of the problem.

L: There must be something that could be done to stop the cycle. Maybe there’s something our schools could do more. You were a teacher weren’t you. What are the schools doing to help?

C: I’ve thought a lot about this. I used to teach math and science to middle and high school kids. It was a poorer district. There were a lot of kids who received free lunch and so on. A higher percentage of those kids did not want to work in school and they really didn’t want to do their homework.

L: That’s because nobody at home modeled that for them. How would you expect them to do any homework when maybe their folks were high or maybe it was just a single mom at home who tried her best, but didn’t know how to make sure her kids had time to do their school work. Maybe she didn’t even realize how important it was.

C: So if one of those scenarios was the case, what should the school do about it?

L: Maybe keep the kids who needed help after school so that the teacher could work with them more.

C: You could do that, but then you’d have to hire more staff, but it could be done. What usually happened though is that the parents didn’t want to have to come to school to pick them up or perhaps they didn’t have a working car or something like that and so they relied on the school bus to take their children home.

L: They could do that, couldn’t they?

C: Sure. The buses sometimes took athletes home later. What I found though is that in most cases the kids really didn’t want to spend more time in school. They already didn’t like school. Their parents weren’t always willing to fight that battle against their kids. It worked for some kids certainly, but not for the majority. There was something about the climate in those homes that made it very difficult to overcome.

C: Realistically, it seems to me that what has to happen is for someone — now this is going to sound extreme, and it can never really happen – someone needs to basically move in to the home and assist the family to know how to set priorities, budget their time and money, educate them on the importance of learning a skill and teaching them that it takes persistence and daily effort and self-discipline to change into patterns that would be productive for them and their children.

L: Wow, that really is extreme!

C: Or you could have something like a working farm where the kids could go and learn how to get up early and do chores and live a disciplined and organized life with time for chores, school work and fun too of course. I’m not talking about a military camp or a slave farm. I’m talking about a place where kids could learn to be self-reliant and productive and realize the pleasure that comes from being successful at something. So many kids never have that opportunity.

L: But since your ideas are really extreme and are not really going to happen for the majority of kids coming from dysfunctional situations, isn’t the next best thing to provide the family with some assistance financially to get them out of poverty?

C: It doesn’t work. If you gave a family $50,000 a year and the family had no experience in budgeting, bargain hunting, saving for the future, prioritizing purchases, etc., that money would be basically wasted. Don’t you think?

L: Probably. But could we have required instructional classes that go along with it that they have to attend. Maybe somebody could go shopping with them to show them how to do it.

C: Where are you going to get that kind of staff?

C: And what happens when they don’t meet the requirements, miss meetings or whatever? Cut off their support? Then you’re right back where you started.

L: What does your Christian faith teach about all of this. Aren’t we supposed to have compassion on the poor?

C: Yes, of course. It’s too big a topic to go into in detail, but the Bible teaches a lot of things. Helping the poor is to be an individual or church matter, not a government function. Individual people and churches are to help the people in their communities, people that they have contact with and can follow-up with easier. The Bible teaches that one’s property belongs to the individual. If it is to be shared communally, it is done so voluntarily, not by voting to take more taxes from everybody in the community.

C: One of the things the Bible teaches is that poverty is often a result of individual decisions that arise from thinking or acting foolishly, without regard to wisdom. The Bible also teaches consequences. It says for example that someone who will not work should not eat. It’s not talking about people who are unable to work because of physical difficulties, but if someone is just sitting around all day and is unwilling to work, then they shouldn’t eat. I think we make it too easy for people to do that today. We give them support so that they don’t have to work but still get to eat. And besides that, most poor people in this country have television, a phone, a microwave, air conditioning, etc. That’s not what the word poor used to mean.

L: Now you’re starting to sound kind of mean and unsympathetic to their plight.

C: Not at all. We’ve removed the motivation to work.

L: But sometimes there isn’t a job for everyone.

C: I see help wanted signs all of the time in my county where there is still a lot of unemployment.

L: Maybe people don’t have the skill.

C: To work at Subway?! The thing is you have to follow a schedule, get to work on time, show up every day, and work. There are a lot of people who don’t want to do that.

L: I think most people want to be productive.

C: Then why don’t they take those jobs?

L: I don’t know.

C: Another thing that has happened is that because of all the lawsuits, people can’t really help out around their own government-assisted housing. What if people who lived in a low-rent situation had to help out by washing windows, keeping a garden, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, etc. But you can’t require them to do that or even allow them to volunteer to do some of that because what if they fall from a ladder while washing windows? Then you have a lawsuit on your hands. So then people who are on government assistance have nothing to do with their time. There is no productive work and so they sit around a lot. Sometimes people like this don’t realize what they’re missing and they get depressed because they don’t understand that what’s missing from their life is meaningful, productive activity.

C: We’ve completely lost God’s plan for work and the reward that comes from working hard and seeing the fruit of your labor. I don’t know how to get it back.

L: Wow! The time has flown by. Speaking of work, I had better get there. See you later, Charles.

C: See ya!

Charles and Larry Discussions con’t

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. The conservative’s name is Charles. The liberal’s name is Larry. These are not real conversations. They are imagined and the conservative views are mine, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. The opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one person’s point of view. I am not claiming that these discussions are unbiased. I’m using them as a means of organizing my own thoughts as well as possibly helping others clarify their own point of view as well.

(Check for further conversations like this on Fridays. Whenever I have a CL discussion, I’ll post it on Friday.)

C: The other day we were talking about whether it was right or wrong for a man to break into a home and rape a 4 year old girl. Somehow we transitioned over to abortion, but I want to stay on this topic for a bit.

L: I’ve been thinking about our conversation and you are just bringing up extreme hypotheticals in order to prove your point.

C: I suppose I am, but sometimes men rape young girls and I am trying to figure out if that is wrong just in certain cultures or if it is wrong in all cultures and at all times.

L: It should be wrong in all cultures at all times, but unfortunately some cultures are more backward or less civilized and so they haven’t come to see that such abuse of children is wrong.

C: That’s what I’m trying to think through. So you think that as cultures develop and become more civilized and more sophisticated, they will see that abusing children is wrong? Is it wrong or is it just uncivilized?

L: I’d say it’s wrong. Cultures that allow such things are doomed to self-destruction.

C: So is child abuse wrong because of its impact on society and the culture or because it’s wrong?

L: I’d say both. It’s wrong because it hurts the civilization and culture. Just like murder is wrong for the same reason. You can’t have a successful culture when people go around abusing and killing each other.

C: So what you are saying is that there is nothing actually wrong with murder or abuse in and of itself. It’s wrong because it is detrimental to the culture and civilization. Do I have that right?

L: That’s right.

C: So purposefully inflicting pain on a child is ok as long it helps a civilization thrive. Isn’t that sort of what was going on with the Nazis?  The world reacted as though there was something wrong with what they were doing.

L: They were wrong.

C: I’m confused. Let me tell you what I think. I think there is a “list” of things that are wrong. They are sins.

L: I don’t believe in sin.

C: Just a minute, hear me out. I believe this because I believe there is a creator who made everything including us and because he made us, he knows what is best for us. Similar to a car manufacturer who gives you a manual that tells you how often to change the oil and so forth. These things are good for the operation of the car. The creator knows what things are good for the flourishing of human beings and he knows what things are damaging to that flourishing.

C: If there is no creator, then there is no list, no operating manual. And if there is no creator, there is nothing that is right or wrong, just as you have been trying to say. But the problem is, we can’t live that way. We all know down deep that there are some things that are just plain wrong and immoral and unjust. We’re all the time demanding that there be justice for certain people who have been wronged or committed wrong. We think there ought to be justice for those who had been in slavery because we believe that slavery is wrong, not just against our preferences. If there is not creator, these ideas are just preferences.

L: I can understand what you are saying, but I’m not sure I agree.

C: That’s fine. I’m just trying to explain my point of view. If there are truly rights and wrongs, then there is a creator somewhere who has the list and we need to find it because there might be things on that list that aren’t on our list. There maybe things that aren’t as clear to us as child abuse and murder. We need to know what’s on that list!

L: So where do we find the list?

Biblical Thinking in Troubled Times – Answer Key

Last week I gave you a Bible study to help us learn how to think biblically in the midst of times which are troubling. You can find a printable version here.

Here is the same study with the answers filled in.

Biblical Thinking in Troubled Times

Answers and comments


  1. Commit yourself to thinking about what is _true, good and beautiful________

John 8:32

Phil 4:8


  1. God is in control of __everything____, not just aware.


Daniel 4:31                 Ps 75:6-7                     Prov 21:1

Isa 45:1-7                    Is 7:17, 18                   Isaiah 40:15-17



Job 38:8-11                 Luke 8:25

Matt 10:29


  1. God works all things for —ALL THINGS!

Our __good_ – Romans 8:28

Rom 5:3                      James 1:2


His __glory

Isaiah 48:11                Psalm 46:10                Rev 11:13


According to His _will

Dan 11:25-30              Romans 5:6                 Gal 1:15


  1. Sin______ and the Curse____ are behind much of what happens. After all, nature and the physical world have been cursed. Suffering is part of the consequence of sin.

Even suffering is ordained by God for our good and His glory. The Son of God suffered the curse. We are not better than He is.

Romans 8:18-22

But don’t try to connect specific events to specific sins:

John 9:2                      Ecc 9:1-3

Trials and tribulations cannot be avoided.  John 16:33

  1. What to do and not do.

Maintain watchfulness while avoiding “last days” mentality

1 John 2:18                 Rom 13:11                  2 Peter 3:4 ff

It’s been the last days since the New Testament days so it’s not good to have the Eeyore mentality that “we’re doomed” so let’s just give up. It’s not wise to say the old days were better. See Ecc 7:10

Avoid Cynicism – The view that everything is negative and will have a bad outcome or that God is out to get you and make things bad.


Avoid Fatalism – The belief that all events are predetermined and unalterable

For God this is true, but He asks us to participate by prayer and work to accomplish good in the world.


For leaders -1 Timothy 2:1, 2;  Confess our corporate sins – Daniel 9                                                Meditate on the Word – Example: Psalm 33

CL Discussion – Abortion

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. The conservative’s name is Charles. The liberal’s name is Larry. These are not real conversations. They are imagined and the conservative views are mine, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. The opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one person’s point of view. I am not claiming that these discussions are unbiased. I’m using them as a means of organizing my own thoughts as well as possibly helping others clarify their own point of view as well. Let me know what you think.

(Check for further conversations like this on Fridays. Whenever I have a CL discussion, I’ll post it on Friday.)

C: What do you think of this political campaign. It’s really something, isn’t it.

L: Yeh, I’ve never seen anything like it. But I agree with Hillary. It’s not right to tell women what they should do about their own body when it comes to pregnancy.

C: You think it’s wrong then to pass laws that would prevent a woman from having an abortion?

L: That’s right! Legislators have no right infringing on a person’s right to choose whether to terminate their pregnancy or to go ahead and have the baby.

  1. So you’re saying that it is wrong to pass such laws.

L: Yes, it’s wrong.

C: Do you mean wrong as in personal opinion “wrong”? Or do you mean it’s wrong like it’s wrong to steal or murder someone?

L: Well, obviously your examples are way extreme, but yes, it’s wrong in that sense. It shouldn’t be done.

C: So other countries where they pass laws supported by a majority  of their people blocking abortion, those people are wrong. Right? Or do you mean it’s wrong here because a majority support women’s right to choose, but it’s ok there because those people see it differently?

L: No, they’re wrong too and eventually they will understand and make their law match what is right.

C: So how do we know your opinion is the right one?

L: It’s common sense. Anybody can see that you shouldn’t tell a woman what she should do regarding her pregnancy.

C: It can’t be that common sense because for most of the history of our country and in many other countries, the laws prohibited abortion. So it can’t be because of common sense.

L: Well, no. People who are sort of uneducated and sort of backward in their thinking can’t see it.

C: So there is a certain group of people who are able to see it, but not everyone can?

L: that’s right.

C: How are we able to tell who are the people who have it together enough to know the truth and which ones don’t. By seeing if they agree with you? That’s not the proof of anything. If you’re claiming that some position you are taking is absolutely right and not just an opinion of some people at some particular time in history, then we need to look outside of ourselves somehow to determine what is absolutely right.

L: There’s nothing outside of ourselves. We just have to work it out from within ourselves as a people. You’re trying to get me to admit that there is some absolute standard of right and wrong outside of ourselves. That list of truth doesn’t exist.

  1. If that’s the case, you can’t say it’s wrong to prevent a woman from having an abortion if she wants one. All you can say is, “There are a lot of us who want it to be this way and we’re in the majority.” And you can do that, but it doesn’t make it right or wrong. What if we all agreed it was right for people below the poverty line to go into other people’s homes and take what they want. Would it be right then?

L: I can see what you’re saying, but in this country we base our laws on the constitution and how the supreme court interprets the constitution.

C: Do you agree with all of the supreme court’s decisions?

L: No.

C: When you disagree with them, do believe it’s just a difference of opinion, or do you believe they were wrong?

L: Usually that they were wrong.

C: But they’re not wrong if there’s no list somewhere to tell you what is right or wrong.

L: We’ve already been around this circle. They are interpreting the constitution. It’s the constitution that is what is right and wrong.

C: But you said you don’t always agree they are right. And besides that, it only applies to our country and I would bet that there are things that you think are right or wrong everywhere and not just  because some judges in the U.S. say so.

L: That’s true.

C: So why do we think there are some things that are absolutely true or right or wrong?

L: I don’t know, but I do know that there is nothing that is absolutely right or absolutely wrong at all times and in all places.

C: Was that last statement absolutely true at all times?

Check next Friday for another exciting CL discussion.

Who Will be Our King?

When I listen to and watch what is happening during this debate and legal challenge to the traditional definition of marriage, I’m reminded of what the Bible says regarding our basic problem as human beings. We are in fundamental rebellion against God and against His right to reign. Jesus told a parable in which He describes Himself as a nobleman who goes away to receive a kingdom and in the meantime places His estate in the hands of some servants. The citizens rebel saying, “We will not have this man reign over us” (Luke 19:14). That’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s not a matter of whose preference wins in some legal debate. It is a matter of submitting or not submitting to the Lord and Creator of the universe as the rightful ruler.

The writer of the Psalms describes this same thing in Psalm 2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'” (Psalm 2:2-3). We are in revolt. We will have our way! We will sever the bonds that tie us down and keep us from having the total freedom we want and believe we deserve.

What’s God’s response? He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure” (Psalm 2:4-5). The passage goes on to explain that the God of the Universe has installed His Son as Lord and has given Him the nations as His inheritance. The earth is the Lord’s, not ours and He will govern it in any way He pleases and establish any laws and rules He chooses. Who can say to Him, “What are you doing?” (Job 9:12). Our responsibility is to find out what the King wants and do it.

What does the Psalm writer say is going to happen when God’s Son receives the nations as His inheritance?

“You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:9-12).

Notice what the prudent course of action is for the kings and the judges of the earth. Submit to the King of the universe, the one who made the earth and everything and every person in it. But people scoff. They say these are archaic beliefs to be relegated to the past. It reminds me of something St. Peter wrote,

“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

We cannot flagrantly violate God’s created order without paying the consequences– if not now, later. Peter tells us why there is a delay in the judgment, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It’s time to repent!