As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I saw an interesting response to a pro-life Twitter thread. The pro-life tweet had pointed out that the baby had separate DNA and was not part of the mother’s body, and therefore was a separate life that needed to be respected. An abortion supporter agreed that the baby was indeed a separate body, but then proceeded to say that abortion was still acceptable because the baby’s body was dependent on the mother’s body. Did she have a valid point? Let’s work through that today.
I was recently involved in a strange Twitter debate with an abortion supporter who argued that the fetus was a part of the mother. I suppose this was based on the silly “my body, my choice” mantra, but it surprised me that someone would actually consider that slogan a serious reason, particularly in this age of increasing medical knowledge. But despite all evidence to the contrary, she insisted on believing that abortion was a matter of “healthcare” for the mother because the mother was the only individual involved since the fetus was a part of her body. Abortion supporters have even tried saying that the baby was part of the mother’s body because of the umbilical cord (which only connects the two together to provide nourishment to the baby’s separate body). Sadly, this level of scientific ignorance is rampant in our culture, so let’s see what medical experts have to say. And, as always, don’t just take my word for it; do the research for yourself. Now, let’s get to work.
Does objective truth – and specifically objective moral truth – matter for Christians? In a survey of teenagers conducted by Barna Research on Feb 12, 2002, 83% of those teenagers said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% overall said moral truth is absolute. Of those who identified as born-again Christians, only 9% agreed that moral truth is unchanging and not relative to the situation. Those teenagers of 17 years ago are now the middle-aged backbone of our working society, as well as parents raising the next generation. But does that dim view of objective moral truth even matter in our time? Let’s work through that today.
The NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently interviewed Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, in an op-ed entitled “Reverend, You Say the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim’?” The responses, like the one referenced in his op-ed’s title, can only be described as bizarre to hear coming from someone claiming to be a Christian. But this is what is being held up as Christianity to a watching world in the pages of a major media outlet, so it warrants a response. I encourage you to click the link above to read the whole article for yourself. Then let’s work through some of the more glaring issues and see how this stacks up against actual Christianity.
As we have just celebrated Palm Sunday, and are looking forward to Easter next Sunday, I am reminded of the strong historical emphasis in the Bible. Why is that significant? Let’s work through that today.
Palm Sunday is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while people honored Him like a king by putting their cloaks and palm branches in the road before Him [Mt 21:8]. Good Friday commemorates the day later that week that Jesus was crucified and buried [Jn 19:41-42]. Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is the day He rose from the dead, accomplishing the mission He came here for [Mk 16:1-8]. Notice that these are all public, rather than private, events. For instance, when Moses beheld the burning bush in the desert, and heard God speaking to him from it, that was a private event; Moses was the only human there to tell what happened. However, God later confirmed that He was working through Moses via some very public events in Egypt in the form of the plagues He brought on the Egyptians. And while the Bible records a variety of private events like dreams and visions, it is interesting how often God points us back to public events that could be confirmed by multiple witnesses as testimony of His trustworthiness in the present and future. For instance, the apostle Paul refers to the Resurrection as having provided proof to all men that Jesus is the one chosen by God to judge the world [Ac 17:31]. And as Paul told King Agrippa at his trial, these things weren’t “done in a corner” [Ac 26:26]. Indeed, Paul writes to the Corinthian church listing the various witnesses of Christ, and mentions the fact that over 500 people saw Him at one time after His resurrection, many of whom were still alive at that time [1Co 15:3-8]; his readers could fact-check him if they wanted. The apostle John consistently refers to the fact that he and the other disciples had been present during Jesus’ life, and had witnessed His message and His miracles [Jn 19:34-35, 21:13-14, 1Jn 1:1-3]. Luke wasn’t a direct witness, but sought to compile a more orderly account of all the initial eyewitness reports of what happened [Lk 1:2-3], and noted that the witnesses had seen, heard, and touched Jesus after the Resurrection (i.e. Jesus was alive in the flesh and not simply a ghost or vision) [Lk 24:37-43]. And God Himself repeatedly pointed the Israelites back to the historical fact that He had miraculously rescued them out of Egypt [Ex 20:2, Lv 11:45, De 7:8, Am 2:10, etc]. In fact, He established a yearly ritual (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) to remind them of this Passover event [Ex 12:14, 25-27]. Later, when Joshua led them across the parted Jordan River, he had a monument erected with stones from the bottom of the river specifically to remind their descendants of what God had done for them in the past [Jos 4:6-7].
Why is the distinction between private and public events important? Private events depend on the truthfulness of the one recounting the event, while their account of a public event can be refuted by other witnesses if it doesn’t correspond with reality. For instance, Islam hinges on Mohammad actually being visited by an angel while he was alone in a cave. Mormonism depends on Joseph Smith actually being visited by an angel. Appealing to the actual occurrence of historical events is problematic for scammers (such as Smith’s supposed “Reformed Egyptian” that he tried claiming he had translated), but not for those telling the truth.
So, as we Christians have just celebrated one historic event and prepare to celebrate the turning point of all human history, I am grateful that God has established a public record to remind us of His actions throughout history. While there is revelation given to certain individuals directly in the Bible, God also often provided public signs and miracles to attest to the authenticity of their prophecies. We memorialize things with monuments so that we “never forget”, and God has likewise set up a string of historical events to serve as markers of His faithfulness – monuments to remind us lest we forget what God has done.
I was recently watching a series of classroom videos on Finite Element Analysis (FEA), and the professor mentioned that FEA is not a classical closed-form solution, but rather an iterative, open-form solution. What on earth does that mean, and how could it possibly relate to looking at the case for God? Let’s work through that this week.
First, let me give some background so you can maybe see why a nerd like me would make that connection. A closed-form solution, in this context, is where you can simply solve an equation to find the unknown variable. For instance, in my practice of structural engineering, the deflection of a cantilever beam may be something I need to know as I’m sizing the beam. If the beam conforms to certain assumptions like a constant cross section, constant material stiffness, a uniform load, and so forth, I have a simple equation: . If it’s a concentrated load at the end, there’s a slightly different equation. These equations are each derived from beam deflection theory for a specific boundary condition, like a cantilever, or a simple span beam, and they provide exact answers. We engineers like exact answers. It’s nice to be able to say “this beam will only deflect 1.21 inches under that load, which is still acceptable.” I like closed form solutions because they are directly solvable for the variable I’m looking for, but sometimes, even with tables of equations for dozens of different conditions, there are no closed-form solutions, or they are too complex to use, or it would take a while to derive the equation from scratch. An open-form solution like the approximation methods used in FEA is iterative and relies on the results of previous attempts. FEA models a component like a beam with lots of little pieces that can each respond differently, so I’m not quite as limited by simplifying assumptions. Think of a beam made out of lots of LEGO® bricks. Each brick (a “finite element”) is connected to multiple other bricks, and the total strength of the beam depends on the behavior of all of those individual connections. In general, the smaller the bricks, the more accurately you can represent the beam. But as the number of LEGO® bricks increases, the time to calculate all of those interconnections increases exponentially. That type of solution gets complex pretty quickly, and requires a computer for any problem worth solving. But it also doesn’t produce an exact solution. It iterates, or repeats the calculations with different input values until the successive estimates begins to converge. In other words, it runs through the thousands of equations over and over until the results aren’t changing much with each pass, and are within a tolerance the user sets for what is “close enough”. And what is “close enough”? That’s going to vary with the user and the type of problem being solved. Also, another engineer could try solving the exact same problem with a different mesh size (i.e. bigger or smaller LEGOs) and arrive at different results since it’s not just the beam properties that determine the answer now, but the modeling choices like mesh sizes, convergence tolerances, and iteration method. So why would I want to use a complicated, inexact, and sometimes difficult to verify process like that? FEA lets me solve things I couldn’t otherwise. Some problems get far outside the simplifying assumptions of our various formulas, and FEA (done correctly), is the best option for finding a solution, even if it isn’t exact.
Now, what if our search for “proof” of the existence of God is like that open-form calculation? I often read forum comments from skeptics wanting “proof” of God’s existence: an end-all silver bullet that would provide a 100% certain, undeniable answer. And until they get that 100% certainty, they refuse to believe. But that’s like wanting that exact, closed-form solution to some complex engineering problem for which there is no formula. Also, even if I had a nice formula for something, those “exact” answers are often based on simplifying assumptions, such that the “approximate” solution from my finite element model of a complex design may actually match up better with reality. If I held out for an exact solution, I might never get my answer even though maybe a minute of my computer working through Newton’s Method will get me close enough to finish designing that component and move on to the next task. Moreover, we don’t normally expect anywhere near 100% certainty about anything else in life. Most decisions in life are made with far more uncertainty because, whether we know it or not, we use a process called “abductive reasoning”, or “reasoning to the best inference,” to arrive at a reasonable answer in the face of uncertainty or missing information. In the case of the existence of God, there isn’t one knockdown argument that yields certainty for everyone, but there are a host of different arguments that all converge on the same answer: the world we observe is the result of intentional, purposeful, goal-oriented interaction best explained by the God revealed in the Bible. It’s a cumulative case that becomes more and more certain as we see more lines of evidence and reasoning trending toward the same result. And at some point, which varies from person to person, the convergence of the objective evidence gets within our subjective tolerance where we finally have to either accept where the evidence is leading and bow the knee to our Lord, or deny reason itself to maintain our rejection of Him.
If you’ve been a skeptic toward God, I encourage you to look at your expectations. Have you set an unreasonable standard? Let me ask you, if Christianity were true, would you believe it? If not, that should concern you. If you’d answer “Of course, but it’s not true,” think about what evidence you would accept. Don’t be content with “I just need more”, but seriously contemplate what your “convergence tolerance” is. What kind of evidence will you accept? How much is enough? Why do you discount some types of evidence, and are those really good reasons to do so? Will you gamble with your eternal soul over a 10% uncertainty? How about 1%? Or 0.01%? Interestingly, in FEA, a sufficiently accurate result for most structural problems can be had in seconds to minutes, while asking for more accurate approximations can make the solution time increase exponentially, requiring hours to days, and often with only marginal differences that don’t change the final design and don’t justify the extra time. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed for any of us, so don’t waste your life demanding the nth degree of proof when the evidence you’ve already seen is sufficient to know the truth and decide accordingly. As the Bible warns, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Heb 4:7]
I don’t get out to the movie theater very often, but this past weekend was an unusually good reason to go. Instead of the more typical brain rot on the big screen, a rare message of life, redemption, love, and forgiveness was premiering. Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson, a young rising star in the ranks of Planned Parenthood who had become their youngest clinic director and been selected as employee of the year. That all changed, however, when she was asked to help the abortionist in an actual procedure by holding the ultrasound transducer so he could see the fetus he was about to kill. Talking points about “reproductive health” and “women’s rights” with regard to abortion are unmasked as the lies they are when it comes to actually seeing another human’s body getting its limbs ripped off and sucked down a suction tube as a result of those “rights”. That critical scene in the movie highlights why ultrasound, and the knowledge it brings, are so useful to the pro-life side of the debate, and so devastating to the pro-abortion side. Hence, abortion supporters must make strange claims like the one in The Atlantic in 2017 (here) that tried to paint ultrasound as a bad thing used by male doctors to focus on the fetus and bypass their women patients. Rather than being a tool of some conspiratorial patriarchy, ultrasound is simply a valuable tool that dramatically increases our knowledge when we can’t directly see something, whether that’s a doctor looking at a human fetus, a veterinarian looking at a dog’s stomach, or a weld inspector using very similar equipment to find hidden flaws in welds (like I’ve personally done). Honestly, some of the defenses of abortion would be funny if they weren’t so sad.
Now, for the review. This movie has had an uphill struggle, from getting an R rating, to a very limited opening in only 1,059 theaters nationwide, to TV and radio networks refusing to air advertisements for the movie, to Twitter suspending their account on opening weekend (just a coincidence, nothing to see here people, keep moving), to Twitter mysteriously decimating their follower count the next day before restoring it again. And yet, the film doubled its expected opening weekend revenue of $3M with a final tally of $6.1 million. That was enough to put it at #4 in the nation for the weekend. Not bad for a low budget film ($6M budget) opening in only a third to one quarter of the theaters of the next 3 films above it.
I thought the movie did a good job of not demonizing Planned Parenthood staff, but rather conveyed that they really did believe (even if wrongly) that they were helping women. The movie also explained that God offers forgiveness to those who repent of wrongdoing. His grace is freely available to all: the women who’ve had abortions like Abby; the men who’ve pressured women into getting an abortion; the doctors like Dr. Anthony Levantino,  who performed hundreds of abortions before becoming pro-life, forsaking killing to return to the doctor’s call to “do no harm”; and clinic directors like Abby, who realized the part she played in arranging the snuffing out of so many lives and asks at one point how God could forgive her. The movie shows through Abby’s story how overwhelming that guilt and grief can be when someone realizes what they’ve done, but also how freeing and life-changing it can be when they bring that sin before God and ask His forgiveness.
The film also did a better job than Christian films have in the past, I think, of showing the complexity of the people involved. Abby’s story is not a 1-dimensional caricature of the “evil abortion provider”. Rather, it shows her coming from a pro-life home, having considered herself pro-life growing up, getting involved with Planned Parenthood in college, and attending church services and having awkward dinner conversations with her family as she worked for the abortion chain. There is a lot of dissonance in her life as she tries to balance living in two different worlds, and Ashley Bratcher did a great job conveying the full spectrum of this story vividly. The supporting cast did exactly what they were supposed to do – support the story. No show-stealing or upstaging here like you sometimes get when there’s too many stars in a movie. In fact, if you’re looking for big names, you won’t find any here. However, to be honest, I’ve seen enough “star-studded” movies that were simply awful; I’ll take a good story over a big name any day.
While this movie delivers a good well-told story of redemption, it also delivers a very sobering reality check for a country that wants to yell at each other about abortion without really dealing with what abortion is. And just as seeing the grisly procedure up close and personal “changed everything” for her, it should for all of us as well. The movie ends with a number that viewers can text if they happen to work in the abortion industry and want out. Just as a clinic director like Abby was able to get out of Murder, Inc., so can others. I would just encourage everyone – pro-life, pro-abortion, and anyone on the fence – to go see this movie and think about it. If you’ve seen it, what did you think? And if you are one who doesn’t want to see it, I’d especially like to hear from you: why don’t you want to see it? Until next time, blessings, y’all!
 What would a movie review be without some trivia? Dr. Levantino actually plays the first doctor in the movie.
I recently heard a skeptic dismiss out of hand the idea that there is evidence of design in nature that supports the existence of God. He considered it an already-refuted argument that could be safely ignored. Can it? Let’s work through that today.
Despite the dismissals of skeptics, the argument for God’s existence based on evidence of design persists. Why is that? Perhaps it’s that detection of design is so intuitive. Design tends to stand out to us because we can recognize the twin hallmarks of design: choice and purpose. We can see that something is a certain way instead of an alternate way; and even when we can’t recognize the purpose of something, we can still often recognize that something has a purpose. If you’ve ever cleaned out an old storage shed and found some unidentified antique tool, you might have thought to yourself, “I can’t imagine what this was used for, but it clearly was made for some specific task.” We also see this in archaeology when people find artifacts and don’t assume they are natural formations. We see it in games of chance where we become suspicious when someone “happens” to make all the right choices and achieve the very beneficial purpose of winning lots of money. We begin to suspect a designed – or “rigged” – outcome. Crop circles were another instance of rightly suspecting design, whether you believe them to be of alien or human origin.
Recently, I was walking in the woods behind an old abandoned industrial facility, and came across the artifact in the picture above. Although it was in a wooded area, half-buried amidst tree roots and rocks, and partially covered in moss, I recognized it as definitely not being a natural element. Like William Paley and his famous watch example, I recognized the large metal gear as being the product of intelligent human design. Why is that? It didn’t fit in with its surroundings, but it was more than that. A piece of lava rock or ocean coral would have both been out of place in those woods, but still natural. Rather, it conformed to an independent pattern (that of gears) that are the result of design.
But then what do you do when you find the same obviously designed structure (gear teeth) serving a similar function to what humans often use gears for (synchronizing motion), yet in something clearly not designed by humans? There’s a fair bit of precise design required to make gear teeth mesh well and not interfere, but how do you explain that amount of specified information content in something that predates any human invention of gears?
Here is a picture of the gearing used by the Issus coleoptratus nymph to synchronize its powerful hind legs when it jumps. In fact, Cambridge researcher Malcolm Burrows notes that the 10-12 gear teeth on each leg synchronize the 2 powerful legs more precisely than signals from the nervous system could. If one wasn’t told beforehand that it was part of a living insect, one would reasonably assume it was something man-made. Even if one noticed the 20 micron scale in the photo and realized how small the gears pictured were, one would be quite justified in thinking the photo was of some exciting development in human-designed nanotechnology. And yet it’s not. In fact, unlike biomimetics, where humans make useful inventions by copying nature, the human invention of gearing and this naturally-occurring gearing are completely independent. Yet man-made gears are assumed to involve careful design, while the planthopper’s gears are assumed to be the result of gradual development over many, many successive generations. However, gearing is something that is particularly difficult to imagine developing gradually. One gear is not only useless, but rather a hindrance. Poorly formed pairs of gears can lock up, which would hardly be a survival advantage. For these gears to really be useful, they need to function well as a system from the start, and that leads us back to those hallmarks of design: choice and purpose. There are a lot of wrong ways to make gears, but the right way seems to have been chosen. Moreover, the gears on its exoskeleton are only used for one stage of the planthopper’s life cycle. Once it matures and develops wings, it no longer needs the precise coordination of intermeshing gears to control its jump trajectory. They have served their purpose and are discarded with the final molt.
We recognize design by intelligent free agents by its traits of choice and purpose. We look for these things when we search for the remains of ancient cultures buried in the sand, or when we sift through surveillance footage looking for cheating gamblers, or even when we analyze radio signals searching for aliens. And yes, we can apply the same tactic in searching for God. Rather than a safely-ignored argument, evidence for design in nature consistently and relentlessly points us to the Master Designer, who has left His calling cards everywhere for us to find, if we are open to follow the evidence where it leads.
See the original LiveScience article from Sept. 12, 2013 here: https://www.livescience.com/39577-insects-with-leg-gears-discovered.html.
I have a small book on my bookcase with one of the more unusual titles of any I own: “Jesus, Friend to Terrorists”. Yes, you read that right. The book was addressed to the terrorists, rebels, and revolutionaries around the world who want to change the world, albeit in very misguided and tragic ways. The book applauds their zeal and commitment to a cause, but encourages them to reconsider their brutal methods, consider what will happen if they succeed in overthrowing their oppressors only to become the oppressors the next generation seeks to overthrow, and instead commit themselves to the much better cause of Christ. In the end, it asks them to trade in the hate and envy of political revolutions, and the bloody violence of terrorism, for the love and hope brought by the most amazing revolution known: the divine transformation of a human soul. Last week, I offered some reasons why I think humanism, like so many other ideologies (including those of terrorists), is the wrong tool for solving the world’s problems. This week, I’d like to explain why I am persuaded that Christianity is the right tool for the job.
- “Out There” vs. “In Here” Problems. Last week I noted that some of the goals that humanists aspire to, like ending war and poverty, are admirable. Yet they are only looking for an external problem to fix, like an allergen “out there” in the world, when the problem is more like a disease “in here”, inside each of us. Too often, we want to lay the blame on an array of external factors like how we were raised by our parents, the culture we grew up in, and on and on. The Bible shows us that the problem is an internal one called sin. But the Bible doesn’t simply diagnose the real problem; it points us to Christ, who removes the hatred and selfishness and pride in me and you, which ultimately addresses the symptoms that manifest themselves in society as a whole. Transformation inside is what’s required to fix the problems we see outside.
- Collective vs. Individual Remedies. It’s far more comfortable to talk about “people” or “society” needing to change, but God commands us individually to change, and that can get uncomfortable quickly. But what is needed for a society to change? The individuals that form that society must change. And when numbers of individuals are radically transformed on the inside, their outside actions necessarily follow suit, and whole empires are changed.
- Love. Two things that were noticeably absent in the Humanist Manifestos I read were the love and forgiveness that the Bible emphasizes so much. There seems to be a significant difference between helping the poor because it will supposedly help society flourish and helping them because one genuinely loves the person being helped. But the term “love” has become rather diluted in our culture, so what do I even mean by love? And what shall we base it on? Christian love isn’t a mere feeling of affection, for we are called to love even our enemies [Mt 5:44]. And it’s not “reciprocal altruism”, for we are also called to love those who could never return the favor. Rather, it is the willing of good for another and the giving of oneself to realize that good. While it is thoughtful, love is not only thoughts – it is action. While it can be spontaneous, it is also committed and enduring. And above all, it is unconditional. After all, what condition could an enemy satisfy to warrant such love and still be an enemy? Yet there are many examples over the last 2,000 years of Christians asking God to forgive the very people brutally torturing and killing them. Why should we go to such extremes? Because we were each enemies of God, yet He loved us first [Rom 5:8-10, 1Jn 4:19]. So then Christian love is grounded not in the ever-changing state of our emotions, but in the very nature of God [1Jn 4:8-11]. In fact, while the law is normally seen as cold and unloving, Jesus said that all the Mosaic Law could be summed up in 2 commandments: to love God with all that you are, and to love others as yourself [Mk 12:28-31]. The revolutionary, transformative love of God can change the vilest sinners into saints.
Do you want to see the world changed for the better? Forget humanist panaceas, cultural paradigms, economic schemes, and political solutions. Instead, recognize the problem of sin in yourself first, freely take of the remedy graciously provided by your Creator, and then go live out that love you’ve received, bless others as you’ve been blessed, and share the good news you’ve learned so others can experience the same joy. Do that and see if you don’t “turn the world upside-down” like the Jesus’ apostles [Ac 17:6 ESV].
This last weekend, I spent far more time than planned installing a new hot water heater at my house. But frustrating experiences can often be good teachers, and that project reinforced the importance of having the right tool for the job. Some tools are woefully inadequate for the task at hand, while the more appropriate tool makes quick work of it. The worldview we filter life through is similar in that the wrong worldview makes life less comprehensible and more difficult – or even impossible – to live out consistently; but with the right worldview, everything falls into place. Let’s work through an example of that today.
After finishing the home repairs, I read through the three Humanist Manifestos maintained on the American Humanist Association website. The first was published in 1933, with a second in 1973, and the latest in 2003. Other than the rejection of God, they have some admittedly admirable goals like the elimination of war and poverty, and the security of freedom. Some “freedoms” advocated aren’t so admirable, like unrestricted abortion and euthanasia. After all, killing another innocent human being is murder no matter what euphemism is attached to it. But the general intent seems to be one of sincerely wanting to improve the world they live in. Yet, you can sincerely wear yourself out trying to use a screwdriver on a 16 penny nail and never accomplish anything. Might I suggest, that despite all their sincerity, humanists are trying to use the wrong tool for the job when it comes to building a better world?
Humanism, according to their manifestos, has some views and goals worth comparing to Christianity. Here are just a few:
- All 3 manifestos regard the universe as self-existing, in spite of the evidence pointing more and more over the last century to a beginning of the universe at a finite point in the past. Interestingly, the evidence that humanists are uncomfortable acknowledging points to what the Bible has said all along: “In the beginning, God created….”[Gen 1:1]
- Unguided evolution is supported in all 3 manifestos, even though genetics and information theory has been steadily chipping away at that as a viable option. Science is already confirming what the Bible has said all along: we are fearfully and wonderfully made”[Ps 139:14].
- But the idea that mankind can evolve socially and become better and better was evident in the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, in spite of the horrors of the “war to end all wars” (World War I) that had destroyed that utopian idea for many already. With two world wars in its rear view mirror, the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II noted in its preface that the previous manifesto had been “far too optimistic”, and recognized “the depths of brutality of which humans are capable”, and that “science has sometimes brought evil as well as good.” Even so, the Manifesto still advocated the same optimism and blind faith in the power of humans to change themselves (to the point of being able to “alter the course of human evolution”). For those who have read the Bible, the preponderance of evidence of human depravity, both historically and in the dark recesses of our own hearts, is no mystery. Humanists may not want to admit that they (and every other human) are sinners, but it certainly does explain the world around us better than the naive optimism of humanism. That we are created in the image of God, but marred by sin explains why we humans seem capable of so much good, and yet still do so much evil.
- Humanists want to “provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek,” give “personal meaning and significance to human life,” and provide “abundant and meaningful life”.  This is to come about from a selfless commitment to the greater good of “broad-based cooperative efforts”, “participation in the service of humane ideas” and “working to benefit society”, with a goal of “a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good.” But I have to ask, why should a person want to do this? Why, if this life is all I have (as the 3 manifestos clearly state), should I spend it working and sacrificing to improve the lives of others? Not that I disagree with their goal of cooperation and selfless service; rather, I question their foundation for it. Even if society as a whole benefits from my sacrifices, why should I care enough to forfeit any of my limited time on earth to enjoy life? After all, we must find our fulfillment in the “here and now” according to humanism. I don’t think they really have a good answer to that, but the Bible does. We love because He first loved us [1Jn 4:19]; we serve because Christ served those He came to save [Mk 10:45] and because in serving others, we serve Him [Mt 25:35-40]; we are blessed in order to be a blessing to others [2Co 9:11]; we value others because we recognize them as created by God [Ge 1:27, Ac 17:26], loved by God [Jn 3:16, Rm 5:8], and precious in His sight – so how could we not want to give of ourselves to show love to them, even if they be our enemies [Mt5:44]? And we really do get the abundant life humanist seek! [Jn 10:10]
- They want to “conquer poverty”, stating that “world poverty must cease.” Yet Christians, not humanists, have been the most generous force in human history by building hospitals, orphanages, schools, universities; donating food, clothing, services, money, and volunteer time to help those in need; translating languages and teaching native people reading and writing, basic hygiene, and life skills like improved farming; and working to end barbaric practices like slavery and suttee. We do it not out of commitment to an ideal, but out of genuine love for those affected by poverty. In fact, maybe the conspicuous absence of love in humanism is why Christians have traditionally given more to alleviate poverty.
- The manifesto claims that “war is obsolete”. Far from being “obsolete”, war has been made more efficient than ever. Now we have the power to destroy entire countries in an instant with nuclear weapons, or in an agonizing time frame of our choice with biological and chemical weapons. Or we can target down to the individual, remotely, from the other side of the world, as if we were simply playing a video game. Rather than naively saying war is obsolete because humans can learn to not be selfish and to cooperate instead, the Bible shows us that we are all selfish apart from the transforming work of God in our hearts, and as long as there are sinful humans on this planet, some people will hate others or covet what others possess. These are the root causes of any unjust war, and they both really come down to that most ancient of vices: pride. Christianity deals with the ultimate cause of war, and all other acts of aggression, and prevents war by preventing the pride that starts wars.
- Humanists claim to be “committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity”, yet their explicit support for abortion and euthanasia say otherwise. Some people’s lives apparently aren’t worth as much as others. The Bible is consistent in all human life having inherent worth because of our creation in the image of God [Gen 1:27, 9:6].
- Supposedly, in spite of the vast weight of history, “humankind has the potential, intelligence, goodwill, and cooperative skill to implement this commitment in the decades to come.” Sadly, but unsurprisingly, humankind has missed that goal by a mile. Maybe that’s why, 3 decades later, the 2003 Humanist Manifesto III was one-quarter the length of the 1973 version, and with less concrete statements. Humans have potential, but it is only realized in the regeneration wrought by God. Without that, our only potential is for continued decay.
I’ve taken excerpts from 3 manifestos written over a 70 year period. I’m not trying to mix and match to paint them in the worst light. Rather, I hope I’ve shown a few ways that humanism has consistently missed the mark in addressing what ails the world. In the end, the fatal flaw of humanism may be found in their statement in Manifesto II: “As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.” And that, my friends, makes about as much sense as grabbing a saw when you need a screwdriver.