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 Sexual Sin, Jesus’ Compassion and Hell

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.

Charles and Larry have met for breakfast and have been discussing a wide range of topics when Larry changes the subject…

L: I agree with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. And I think Jesus would have agreed. He was one to show compassion and not condemn people, don’t you think?

L: Think about the woman who was arrested while committing adultery. Jesus rebuked people for judging saying, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”

C: When all of her accusers had left her, Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either.”  This is just what you said. Somewhere else in the Bible Jesus said, “I have not come to condemn the world but to save it.” But Jesus said more than this to the woman. After he told her that he didn’t condemn her, he told her to go and don’t sin anymore.”

L: Yes, but he wasn’t condemning. And that’s the point. Christians today are so condemning. They’re no better than anyone else and yet they are often so condescending.

C: You’re right. Many of us are. But I think you’re missing an important point in what Jesus is saying. Jesus is not willing to let her go and continue in the life style she was engaged in. He called her adultery a sin. That’s different from the way modern people think. To most people today, adultery is not a sin. It’s a life style choice. But Jesus is telling her to stop. Jesus, the person who loves sinners the most does not want people to continue sinning because doing so will lead to eternal destruction.

L: First of all, I don’t believe adultery is a sin. I don’t really believe in sin as such unless you’re talking about abusing the most defenseless among us. That is sin. It is a sin to not pay people a fair wage and keep people in poverty. But whether someone has sex with someone he’s not married to is a personal matter and I certainly wouldn’t call it a sin. As long as both people are consenting and no one gets hurt, it can’t be a sin.

C: But Jesus thought so, didn’t he?

L: But Jesus lived at a different time. He was under different expectations from his culture.

C: Jesus went against the teachings of his Jewish culture all the time and he certainly went against the pagan culture of his time. And if Jesus was just acting out a part, and if he wasn’t giving actual true truth, then he must not have been God. Because I don’t think God would have played along with either the religious or the secular culture. God would tell it like it is.

L: Maybe so, but at least he had compassion on this woman and didn’t condemn her.

C: But I think you’re missing the point. He had compassion and so should we. But it is not compassion to let someone go without telling them that the path they are on is sinful. The path of sinning leads to eternal judgment in hell.

L: I don’t believe in hell and Jesus didn’t either.

C: Jesus said that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment and whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of hell fire (Matt 5:22).

  1. I don’t believe Jesus said that. He was too loving to have said something like that.

C: It’s in the Bible.

D: But the Bible must not be right at that point. Jesus would not say that!

C: How should we know what Jesus actually said and what he didn’t? Just accept the parts we like and agree with? How are you going to know if any of it is true with that method?

D: No, but I just don’t believe Jesus would threaten someone with hell for calling someone a fool.

C: Jesus also said that if someone causes one of the young believers to stumble, it would be better for that man that a heavy stone be tied to him and be thrown into the sea rather than suffer what he was going to suffer. He went on to say that if your hand causes you to sin, it would be better to have it cut off than to go to hell where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:42 and following).

C: So it doesn’t sound to me like your Jesus is compassionate in the same way you imagine. Jesus knows that sin is destructive. Sin will keep a person from God. God pleads with people saying, “Turn from your evil ways. Why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

C: That is true compassion. Someone who knows a course of action will lead a person to certain death and doesn’t do anything to warn them doesn’t love them very much.

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?

CL Discussion – Absolutes

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: Yesterday you said that there is nothing that is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Would you agree that it is wrong for a man to break into a home and rape a 4 year old girl?

L: Of course.

C: Should it be absolutely wrong in France?

L: Yes

C: Should it have been wrong in 1705 in Sudan?

L: Well, I don’t know what their culture was like.

C: So you can visualize a civilization where it might be acceptable to rape a young girl?

L: Yes, but I’m not saying it would be right. I’m saying that maybe that culture would think it was right.

C: But would they be right or wrong to have such a practice as a normal and accepted practice in their culture?

L: Since they are self-determining I guess it would be ok.

C: If such a thing were going on today in some country and you had the opportunity to intervene, would you?

L: Of course.

C: Even if that culture was fine with the practice?

L: I would intervene, because I think that even though the culture is fine with it, it seems abusive to me and so I would try to stop it if I could.

C: Why is abuse wrong?

L: It just is.

C: Who said so.

L: Everybody know that. It’s internal.

C: Not everybody knows it because some people are abusive. Some people may even have fun being abusive.

L: They’re probably lunatics. You know what I’m saying. Most people realize that abuse is wrong and oppose it.

C: So it’s wrong because most people have a sense it shouldn’t be happening and should be stopped?

L: That’s right

C: What if most people have a conscience that babies shouldn’t be killed while they are still in their mother’s womb? What if they think that is abusive of the baby?

L: The mother’s right supersedes the baby’s right.

C: So if it’s in my best interest to be abusive of a 4 year old, that is fine because I’m older and stronger?

L: No, we were talking about an unborn baby.

C: So the day before a baby is born, the mother has the right to take its life, but a day later after the baby moves from inside the mother to the outside, then at that point it takes on the right not to be killed?  That doesn’t make any sense to me.

L: But that’s the way it is. Before a baby is born, the mother has a right to an abortion. But after the baby is born, it has its own rights.

C: Is that absolutely true?

L: Yes

C: Here we go again. I thought there was nothing that is absolutely true.

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.

Is There Not a Lie in My Right Hand?

Is There Not a Lie in My Right Hand?
(Reprinted from April 2016)

Much has been said and written about modern logic from the Enlightenment forward and how ancient peoples, including those in the Bible, were superstitious and illogical. However, the God of the Bible is revealed as a logical being and those who spoke for this true God spoke with incredible logic.
I was reading from Isaiah 44 this morning. Isaiah lived and wrote about 700 BC which is nearly 3000 years ago. In this passage he is discussing the foolishness of idolatry and he write about the insanity of a person cutting a log from the forest and using half of it to have a fire for cooking and warming himself and using the other half to make an idol to worship. In verse 10 he asks this question, “Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing?” (Isaiah 44:10, NKJV).

Here is the way Isaiah explains the situation beginning in verse 14:
He cuts down cedars for himself, And takes the cypress and the oak; He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, For he will take some of it and warm himself; Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; Indeed he makes a god and worships it; He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; With this half he eats meat; He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”” (Isaiah 44:14–20, NKJV)

As a modern twenty-first century man, I am astounded by the logic of this ancient writing! The author is incredulous that someone would take a piece of wood and see plainly that it is consumable in a fire and with the other half make himself a “god” that he prays to and from whom he asks deliverance. He rightly asks the question, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

In our modern world we are not likely to carve and image and expect it to help us with our problems. But don’t we do the same thing when we trust in our stuff, our material possessions, to provide us with fulfillment, the esteem of others, and general well-being in life? Aren’t we doing the same thing when we do not give God praise and thanks for the air we breathe and the water we drink or when we do not acknowledge that every good thing we have is due to God’s grace and generosity?

Many are in the position of spending millions of dollars and countless hours of research to produce better cameras for our phones and at the same time argue that our eyes are the result of time and chance. Shouldn’t we as modern people be asking ourselves, “Am I believing and living a lie?  Am I as deceived as this ancient man?”

Psalm 96:4-5 says, “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens.

 

Is There Not a Lie in My Right Hand?

Much has been said and written about modern logic from the Enlightenment forward and how ancient peoples, including those in the Bible, were superstitious and illogical. However, the God of the Bible is revealed as a logical being and those who spoke for this true God spoke with incredible logic.

I was reading from Isaiah 44 this morning. Isaiah lived and wrote about 700 BC which is nearly 3000 years ago. In this passage he is discussing the foolishness of idolatry and he write about the insanity of a person cutting a log from the forest and using half of it to have a fire for cooking and warming himself and using the other half to make an idol to worship. In verse 10 he asks this question, “Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing?” (Isaiah 44:10, NKJV).

Here is the way Isaiah explains the situation beginning in verse 14:

He cuts down cedars for himself, And takes the cypress and the oak; He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, For he will take some of it and warm himself; Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; Indeed he makes a god and worships it; He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; With this half he eats meat; He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”” (Isaiah 44:14–20, NKJV)

As a modern twenty-first century man, I am astounded by the logic of this ancient writing! The author is incredulous that someone would take a piece of wood and see plainly that it is consumable in a fire and with the other half make himself a “god” that he prays to and from whom he asks deliverance. He rightly asks the question, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

In our modern world we are not likely to carve and image and expect it to help us with our problems. But don’t we do the same thing when we trust in our stuff, our material possessions, to provide us with fulfillment, the esteem of others, and general well-being in life? Aren’t we doing the same thing when we do not give God praise and thanks for the air we breathe and the water we drink or when we do not acknowledge that every good thing we have is due to God’s grace and generosity?

Many are in the position of spending millions of dollars and countless hours of research to produce better cameras for our phones and at the same time argue that our eyes are the result of time and chance. Shouldn’t we as modern people be asking ourselves, “Am I believing and living a lie?  Am I as deceived as this ancient man?”

An Imagined Conservative Liberal Dialogue — 1

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. They are not real conversations. They are in my head and I’m the conservative Christian, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. I make no claim to neutrality and the opinions of the conservative are my own and the opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one persons’ point of view.

 

L: I agree with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. And I think Jesus would have agreed. He was one to show compassion and not condemn people, don’t you think?

L: Think about the woman who was arrested while committing adultery. Jesus rebuked people for judging saying, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”

C: When all of her accusers had left her, Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either.” This is just what you said. Somewhere else in the Bible Jesus said, “I have not come to condemn the world but to save it.” But Jesus said more than this to the woman. After he told her that he didn’t condemn her, he told her to go and don’t sin anymore.”

L: Yes, but he wasn’t condemning. And that’s the point. Christians today are so condemning. They’re no better than anyone else and yet they are often so condescending.

C: You’re right. Many of us are. But I think you’re missing an important point in what Jesus is saying. Jesus is not willing to let her go and continue in the life style she was engaged in. He called her adultery a sin. That’s different from the way modern people think. To most people today, adultery is not a sin. It’s a life style choice. But Jesus is telling her to stop. Jesus, the person who loves sinners the most does not want people to continue sinning because doing so will lead to eternal destruction.

L: First of all, I don’t believe adultery is a sin. I don’t really believe in sin as such unless you’re talking about abusing the most defenseless among us. That is a sin. It is a sin to not pay people a fair wage and keep people in poverty. But whether someone has sex with someone he’s not married to is a personal matter and I certainly wouldn’t call it a sin. As long as both people are consenting and no one gets hurt, it can’t be a sin.

C: But Jesus thought so, didn’t he?

L: But Jesus lived at a different time. He was under different expectations from his culture.

C: Jesus went against the teachings of his Jewish culture in many ways and he certainly went against the pagan culture of his time. And if Jesus was just acting out a part, and if he wasn’t giving actual true truth, then he must not have been God. Because I don’t think God would have played along with either the religious or the secular culture. God would tell it like it is.

L: Maybe so, but at least he had compassion on this woman and didn’t condemn her.

C: But I think you’re missing the point. He had compassion and so should we. But it is not compassion to let someone go without telling them that the path they are on is sinful. The path of sinning leads to eternal judgment in hell.

L: I don’t believe in hell and Jesus didn’t either.

C: Jesus said that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment and whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of hell fire (Matt 5:22).

  1. I don’t believe Jesus said that. He was too loving to have said something like that.

C: It’s in the Bible.

D: But the Bible must not be right at that point. Jesus would not say that!

C: How should we know what Jesus actually said and what he didn’t? Just accept the parts we like and agree with? How are you going to know if any of it is true with that method?

D: No, but I just don’t believe Jesus would threaten someone with hell for calling someone a fool.

C: Jesus also said that if someone causes one of the young believers to stumble, it would be better for that man that a heavy stone be tied to him and be thrown into the sea rather than suffer what he was going to suffer. He went on to say that if your hand causes you to sin, it would be better to have it cut off than to go to hell where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:42 and following).

C: So it doesn’t sound to me like your Jesus is compassionate in the same way you imagine. Jesus knows that sin is destructive. Sin will keep a person from God. God pleads with people saying, “Turn from your evil ways. Why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

C: That is true compassion. Someone who knows a course of action will lead a person to certain death and doesn’t do anything to warn them doesn’t love them very much.

More discussions to follow.