It has been said that if you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. Many teenagers today have been turned off by religion. For a large number of these kids, the problem is that religion doesn’t make sense. They see adults preaching one thing and living in diametric opposition to what they are preaching. They find that when they ask questions, those questions are not being answered.
Recently someone sent us a copy of a teen magazine which is also on the web. One of the articles that caught my eye was highlighted with “people are trying to grasp on to something higher than themselves.” The article then quotes the Pew Research Center data we have discussed in this journal saying that Americans are becoming less religious. They then promote “rock stars” which are crystals which they say will “de-stress, boost energy, and brighten your mood.” The minerals they list are hematite which they say will help you sleep and rose quartz which they say “will open you up to platonic and romantic love” (and they don’t explain how love can be both platonic and romantic). They also have amazonite which has turquoise which they say will help with accountability, and amethyst which will cure addictive behaviors. These, of course, are all common minerals which you could find in your backyard. To call them “magic stones” and promote their use as a solution to teenage issues in the twenty-first century is an out and out lie.
For several years now we have talked about the morality of fetal stem cells and what they can be used for and where they come from. The original fetal stem cells came in many cases from aborted babies. The concern of many people was that if the medical establishment paid for fetal stem cells that women might find it financially lucrative to get pregnant, have an abortion, and sell the fetal stem cells. As research continued, it was discovered that a large percentage of stem cell treatments could be done successfully with adult stem cells. All of this was carefully controlled by the Food and Drug Administration and was based on good science.
A study released on June 30, 2016, by University of California stem cell scientists reports that 570 clinics are now offering stem cell treatments for things that in many cases have poor scientific support. An extreme example is the offering of cosmetics that will make your face look like a baby’s “because the stem cells came from the umbilical cord of a baby.” Not only are some of these claims probably not true, but they can be dangerous. Stem cells are cells that can grow into almost any kind of cell, and that makes them useful for medical purposes. The problem is that they can also grow into tumors and the tumors can migrate to other parts of the body.
It is incredible what men and women have done over the centuries to show their love. People have fought wars, done incredible feats of strength and endurance, and written beautiful poetry and music as an expression or demonstration of their love. The story of one well-known expression of love goes like this:
In the early 1600s, the ruler of India was a man named Shah Jahan. The love of his life was named Mumtaz Mahal. The love, support, and advice that Mumtaz Mahal gave the ruler were so great that he discussed all state affairs with her and had her affix the royal seal to all state documents before they were released. She even accompanied him to military battles. In 1629, Shah Jahan set out for battle with Mumtaz Mahal, but on June 7, 1631, Mumtaz Mahal suddenly died while giving birth to her fourteenth child. The emperor devoted himself to building a monument to his wife. It was given the name which is a colloquial abbreviation of her name–Taj Mahal. The structure was finished in 1648 and Mumtaz was buried under it. On January 22, 1666, Shah Jahan died and was buried beside his wife.
People have marveled at the beauty of the construction of the Taj Mahal, and the love story it expressed has superseded language and political boundaries. There is a still greater love story that needs to occupy our attention. It is not the love of a man and a woman that dominates this love story, but rather it is the greatest apologetic for the Christian faith. Unlike all other religious systems, pure Christianity made love the number one priority. Consider the strength of the following biblical teachings:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23).
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The thing that sets Christianity apart and causes it to radiate a new way of living for all people is its emphasis on love. Only Christianity has the potential to eradicate national, political, and ethnic barriers to love and peace. Only Christianity can lift women to the level of dignity and importance that they deserve and eradicate racial prejudice. These things can never be accomplished by force or violence. No amount of political rhetoric or physical effort can change greed, selfishness, or inflated egos because they lie protected in the recesses of attitudes. When men and women allow their attitudes and values to be shaped by love, meaningful, positive change can occur.
In our age of scary stories about global warming when alarmists are warning that humans are destroying the Earth by our huge carbon footprint, it is always good to hear something positive. That is especially true when that positive thing is something people have held up as negative for a very long time. I have stood on the edge of a huge swamp in the southern part of the United States and wondered what possible use an area like that would have. You can talk about providing a home for insects, birds, or rare tropical plants, but the swamp still looks like a wasteland with its mile after mile of muck and dead vegetation.
Imagine a swamp that covers 56,000 square miles and has a depth of 20 feet of ugly black muck. Why would God create a place like that? What possible use can it have? That huge swamp is the Cuvette Centrale peatlands in Africa’s central Congo Basin, and it has been accumulating for nearly 11,000 years. We now know that this particular swamp is a huge carbon sink. Recent measurements by scientists show that this one swamp holds about thirty billion tons of carbon. That’s the equivalent of 20 years of United States fossil fuel emissions. Satellite measurements have shown this swamp is sixteen times larger than previous estimates. Chemical studies show it is highly acidic and devoid of oxygen so it traps carbon that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.
We live in an age of pluralism. While the word “pluralism” is applied to religion and the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God, the concept also applies to other areas of life. There is a push in intellectual circles now to say that democracy is not the only path to political stability, that even dictatorships may be equally valid. The current rage in the popular media, however, is to say that “gender is a spectrum”–a plurality of sexes. That was stated in National Geographic‘s January issue (page 61) which was totally dedicated to what it calls “the gender revolution.” Television specials and documentaries on transgender cases have become a major feature of the media, and people are flooded with a pluralistic view of the whole gender question.
The biblical position on this issue is quite clear. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female and blessed them. Genesis 2:21-24 tells us that woman and man were distinct with the Hebrew issa being used to differentiate woman from man who is identified by the Hebrew word is. These terms indicate how close man and woman were, but the wording leads to the conclusion that woman was taken out of man to meet a specific need–to be a “help meet.” So what do we make of the current situation where we have boys claiming they are really girls and girls claiming they are boys?
Let us say from the outset that it is not our job to judge or condemn those who are transgenders. We do want to suggest some causes to the gender issues and suggest that God has given us tools to deal with the issue whether it is in our bodies, families, communities, or culture. As you read through the National Geographic issue on “The Gender Revolution,” you have to be impressed with the fact that culture has a huge effect on the gender issue. The magazine has gone to one culture after another to show how the culture impacts and forces sexual identity and sexual roles on their people. As Westerners, we may be appalled at what is forced on children in other cultures, and yet in our own culture drugs are used to control and facilitate sexual identity. It may also be true that human pollution of our environment has caused some changes in our genome and in the chemistry of human hormones.
God gave us the ideal sexual arrangement. Not only is there a unity with woman being taken out of man, but we also see a combined oneness in Genesis 2:24 where man and woman were to become “one flesh.” That isn’t just a sexual reference, but a stable platform from which man and woman could live, make decisions, and build a family. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes this oneness in very clear terms. In Romans 1:24-32 he castigates those who consciously reject God and His plan by deliberately corrupting God’s ideal sexual arrangement. There are adults who would be condemned by these verses for their attitudes and practices. However, that certainly does not apply to innocent children who are struggling with sexual identity due to culture or perhaps by drugs forced upon them.
One of the most contentious issues in our culture today is the challenge of the LGBT community to biblical Christianity. We use the term “biblical Christianity” because many denominations have denied that the Bible opposes homosexuality by either denying the inspiration of the passages that condemn homosexuality or by explaining them away. One might explain Genesis 19 and the story of Lot and the men of Sodom by saying that God condemned homosexual rape, but It is difficult to read Romans 1:24-27 and maintain that it refers only to rape. Various Old Testament laws condemned sexual behavior outside of marriage, and twisting Scripture to justify the current values of our society does violence to biblical Christianity.
The question then becomes, “Why would God create men and women with strong biological drives and only allow those drives to be satisfied in marriage to a single member of the opposite sex?” The companion issue is, “Why would God create a person with a strong attraction to people of their own sex and then condemn that relationship?” This question has led to a wholesale rejection of the Bible as the literal God-breathed Word of God by many, and to complete atheism by others. We have addressed this issue in the past, but new challenges are arising that make it important for us to answer the current situation.
The causes of LGBT are complex, numerous, and debated. Two renowned scientists at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul McHugh and Dr. Lawrence Mayer released a study last year showing that people are not born “gay” and that sexual orientation can change over a lifetime. Many years ago a study by Dr. Simon Levy and Dr. Dean Hamer seemed to support the idea that same-sex desires were inherited and a product of one’s genes. David Nimmons writing in Discover magazine (March 1994, pages 64-71) raised questions about the validity of the sampling used in that study, and Scientific American printed a discrediting article on the studies in November of 1995, page 26. In the twenty-plus years since all of this, there have been studies on all sides of the question of whether or not homosexual behavior is genetic. Reading through all of this contradictory research one is reminded of the old graduate student mentality, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.”
It seems that the causes of homosexual tendencies are very much like the causes of cancer–there are multiple contributing causes. There is no question that sexual abuse in childhood can be a major contributing factor. There is some evidence that contamination from hormones being discharged into the environment as wastes may be a factor. The lack of a father figure in a young person’s life can be a factor. Chemical imbalances can also be an issue.
In spite of all the unknowns, there are several things that seem to be quite clear:
1) Same-sex attraction is not always, if ever, chosen. Many of the causes are things the person had no control over.
2) There is a difference between same-sex attraction and practicing homosexual behavior. We would refer you to page 22 of the September/October 2015 issue of our printed journal for the review of Guy Hammond’s book and our comments on it. (Available online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/PDF-Files/Bulletins/2015/SepOct15.pdf) You can be attracted to people of the same sex, but you can choose not to engage in sexual acts to support that attraction. We are not programmed by God to practice homosexuality or anything else. We have free will.
3) LGBT lifestyles are unhealthy. Studies on the life expectancy of “gay” men have consistently shown a much lower rate than the general population. HIV infections are far more likely in homosexual relationships. We have published data in our journal for many years giving the current statistics. Similarly, unhealthy lifestyles involve alcoholism, obesity, and indolence.
4) Blaming God for human choices is illogical. We don’t blame God because of the devastating effect of alcohol on humanity, and we should not blame God for the damage humans have done environmentally and socially. It is equally illogical to blame God because of our choices on sex.
We live in a time of moral confusion, but every generation has felt that the question of morality was confused in their day. I can remember as a teenager in the 1950s feeling very confused about what was right and what was wrong. As an atheist, I had no real reason to bring my life into conformity with anyone else’s ideas of right or wrong, but I found that most of my friends who claimed to be religious were not a whole lot different than I was. In recent years we have seen an increasing number of religious/political figures involved in incredible moral turpitude. Atheists capitalize on these incidents to claim that religion has no relationship to morality.
Why should there be such a thing as morality? The more you investigate this question, the more you realize that the issue is rooted in the uniqueness of humans as being created in the image of God. Animals do not have a sense of right ideals or principles. Animals are controlled by instinct. A lion does not think of the morality involved in eating another animal. A beaver does not consider the moral issues involved in building a dam that floods a meadow and drives hundreds of other animals from their homes. On the other hand, humans may oppose a dam on the moral grounds of environmental impact.
The first step in discussing this issue has to be a consideration of the existence of free moral choice in humans. It is our freedom of moral choice that gives us the ability to change the direction of our future. Given a set of rules to govern life, every person must decide whether or not to conform to those rules. A burglar is not controlled in his criminal activity by the lock on the door or the presence of the police. These deterrents may temporarily delay the activities of the burglar, but they will not stop him from breaking into a house. The choice is up to the burglar. If his inner restraints do not stop him, he will break in and steal. Building jails and increasing police department rosters will never completely stop crime.
Free moral agency is one of the most important and most underrated capacities of humans. It is our freedom of choice that allows love to exist. I can enjoy the love of my wife because she has the option of not loving me. If she had no choice in the matter, there could be no love. Sexual love without choice is called rape and is recognized as a perverted, distorted, ugly substitute for love that bears no resemblance to the real thing. Without the freedom of choice, we become animals operating totally by instinct to fulfill our own selfish needs and desires.
If you think through this to any depth at all, you begin to see why we are having a difficult time establishing moral guidelines in our day. If we accept the idea that we are merely animals, totally and completely driven by those instincts and drives that govern all other animals, then morality does not exist! Belief in mechanistic, opportunistic evolution of human beings removes morality and all that goes with it. That includes the family, marital fidelity, family responsibility, integrity, and responsibility toward others. Even the most vociferous atheist will attempt to deny this assertion because we all realize it leads to a dog-eat-dog, jungle aspect of existence.
The starting point of morality is recognizing that we were uniquely created by God with an eternal soul created in God’s image. The consequence of that is free will which has implications in all areas of our lives. Human suffering, the proper standards of how we should live, and our view of how we fit into God’s plan are all rooted in our understanding of who we are and the value we have. The “naked ape” hypothesis cannot adequately deal with this aspect of our existence which is so vital to social order and peace.
There is probably no flower in America that gets more notoriety than the rose. Our music is full of songs about roses–“I Want Some Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Paper Roses,” etc. We send roses to people for virtually all special occasions and to convey and emphasize all kinds of messages.
Those of us who grow roses are keenly aware of another side of roses–they have thorns. I love to grow roses because they are so easy to grow. Roses are very forgiving to “klutzy” gardeners like me. They do fairly well even when you forget to fertilize them. Even when you forget to spray them until the bugs have eaten off all the leaves or the black spot has covered the foliage, they seem to rebound and carry on. The only thing I do not like about caring for roses is weeding them. Every time I reach to get the weeds out of my rose garden, one of those treacherous thorns catches me and penetrates even my work gloves to draw blood. There is a tendency to castigate the plant for stabbing you when all you were trying to do is help it.
Many things in life are like roses–children, for example. They are beautiful in many ways, and in many ways a joy to help them grow and nurture. When you try to weed out the things you know may strangle and hurt them, you frequently get wounded by the child. Marriage is another beautiful thing that can bring incredible joy, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment into one’s life. But there is always some pain in marriage too. The Church is beautiful and a joy to work with, but it is almost impossible to get involved in helping the Church grow without getting hurt in some way–usually by the ones you are trying to help.
The skeptic might look at this circumstance as an illustration of God’s ineptness. If God exists, why should there be thorns among the roses? It is the thorns in marriage and child raising and the Church that cause many to abandon these institutions. Even in our limited ability to understand, I believe we can see the answer to this question which, on the surface, seems to be a flaw in the design. The rose is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also an excellent source of vitamin C. One of the frustrations of growing roses is the fact that a variety of animals and birds like to eat the flowers. It is only the thorns that protect the plant from predation that would destroy it.
In the same way, our dealings with one another have to be conducted so that each person has a certain amount of protection. When I hear a parent bemoaning the independent streak in their teenager, I sometimes ask them if they really want a child who is dependent on them for life. When someone is complaining about their spouse having a different viewpoint on things, I wonder if perhaps their spouse may be right at least part of the time. Sometimes a different perspective prevents us from making foolish mistakes. When I see struggles in the Church over whether my choice of an action or activity is best for another person, I have to ask whether I want the responsibility of always having to have the right answer for every situation.