This Election Would Matter Less If We Respected the Law More

The Constitution

On both the left and the right, the 2016 election is promising to be the most intense, passionate, and fearful in recent memory—which is saying something, because the sense of potential catastrophe and dangerously high stakes seems to grow with each new election. Every four years, both sides dread the possibility that the other will get hold of the levers of presidential power, with their potential to massively shape economics, immigration, education, foreign policy, the courts, and a thousand other things. It feels as if we have quadrennial mini-revolutions, as conservatives and liberals skirmish over who gets to set the course for our nation.

To some extent, this political tension and conflict are an unfortunate byproduct of democracy. No system is perfect, and democracy’s regular elections stir up partisanship and politicization in a way that a more authoritarian system (for all its other faults) would not. But our fraught elections aren’t just the fruit of democracy; they are what happens when a democracy forgets the importance of the rule of law.

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Evidence for God, Part 2: The Universe Exists

Image of space

Last week I promised that I would be starting a short series on the arguments for God’s existence which are sometimes referred to collectively as natural theology. These are arguments which do not depend upon God’s “special revelation” in Scripture, but instead on his “general revelation” in the created world. Last week’s article discussed why such arguments are useful and what we can expect from them. Because they are rooted in inductive scientific observation, they cannot yield absolute certainty. And because they do not incorporate the Bible’s more specific revelation, they cannot bring someone to saving faith by themselves. But they can highlight the strong evidence that there is more to reality than materialistic atheism can explain; that, in fact, there is some sort of super-powerful, supernatural being who is the cause of everything around us. As a starting place for further evangelism, that’s not half bad!

Today I want to consider one of the simplest and most compelling arguments for God’s existence. It is called the cosmological argument and it comes in many different flavors, all of which center on a simple question: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” as the philosopher G.W. Leibniz put it. Unlike arguments we will consider later, the cosmological argument does not require that we demonstrate any particular characteristic of the universe (that it appears to be designed, for example). All the cosmological argument needs as a starting place is something; something, rather than absolute cosmic nothingness.

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Romantic Pagans, True Religion, and True Love

Whitney Houston album cover

“I have nothing, nothing, nothing
If I don’t have you…”

I was listening to the radio the other evening when Whitney Houston’s 1993 hit “I Have Nothing” came on. I would gladly listen to Whitney Houston sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” so I always smile to hear her voice come through the speaker, but I could not help being struck as the singer’s amazing voice soared out the chorus, “I have nothing, nothing, nothing / If I don’t have you…”

It’s a line that could have come from a million different songs, movies, and books in a world where romance is one of our favorite idols. How many movies have you watched where the essential struggle and the key to lasting happiness is whether he ends up with she? How many songs mourn lost love, celebrate new love, or narrate the search for love?

Now, a good romantic story is a wonderful thing, but even a good thing can turn unhealthy. The lines in Whitney Houston’s ballad caught me because they hint at the sad, cold side of Hollywood-style romance: I have nothing if I don’t have you. I don’t want to read too much into a lyric that does capture well the breathless and passionate single-mindedness of being in love, but I wonder if the songwriter didn’t accidentally capture something else too—the grey emptiness of being out of love when romance is your god.

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‘The Heavens Declare’: Evidence for God in Creation

Starry sky over a field

Why are you a Christian? On one level, you are saved because God turned your heart to him. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But on another, equally true level, you are saved because you put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul could simply tell the Philippian jailer who wanted to know how to be saved, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). And on the human level of belief and unbelief, good arguments are one tool the Holy Spirit uses to cultivate saving faith in our neighbors.

With that in mind, I’m going to be writing a brief “Evidence for God” series, looking at what theologians call natural revelation. Natural revelation is distinct from special revelation, which is God’s direct, inspired communication to man; in other words, the Bible. Special revelation is needed to communicate important truths about God and his relationship to man: things like how to be saved, or God’s trinitarian nature. But the Bible is not the only thing which can tell us about God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” and Paul tells us “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:18-20).

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Technology and the Lure of the Easy

Man relaxing with laptop

Since I spent the weekend away with my wife, I decided to revive one of my favorite posts from back in 2012 for today’s article. –David

From the moment of the Fall, when the forbidden fruit promised an earlier and easier entrance into bliss, growth, and knowledge, one of Satan’s favorite strategies has been to take some promised good and offer his own version; easier, simpler, and always, in retrospect, somehow diminished and corrupted. The golden calf offered Israel a safer, less demanding God. As Abraham waited for the promised son, Hagar seemed a simple solution to his wife’s infertility. Even Jesus himself was offered a far easier path to dominion if he would only bow before the Evil One.

It’s not that “easy” is necessarily or even usually bad; merely that the appeal of the easy is a powerful lure into danger. One of the best ways to draw us off the straight and narrow path is with a shortcut.

I bring this up because this feeling of an easier path to a lesser good is a theme of many of the problems and potential problems in our interactions with modern technology. The whole appeal of technology lies in its ability to make things easier, whether in communication, calculation, learning, shopping, or transportation. Of course, as I said, easier isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, it’s often good, allowing us to be wise stewards of our resources by saving time and money for other uses. (I certainly appreciate being able to type these observations on the keyboard of a handy laptop, rather than pounding away on a typewriter or scribbling with a pen.) With technology as with the rest of life, the danger lies in the appeal of the easier path to draw us away from the better.

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Working to Make Space for Delight

Hands forming a heart

I’m whisking my wife away to an undisclosed location for a few days before the school year starts, so I was all set to write a brief post explaining that my usual Thursday article would not be forthcoming. Then that brief explanation grew somewhat less brief and it appears we have something of a Thursday article after all. (This is one of the hazards of being a writer.)

With our rare and long-awaited weekend getaway fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about marriage and the kind of work that goes into cultivating delight. It seems like every stage of a marriage throws up some different barrier to staying in love. Leah and I are still in a relatively easy stage, but we have already discovered that the premarital advice was true and we do need to work to tend the spark which flared so naturally when we were dating. So we work at it. Which may not sound especially romantic—and frankly, it’s not. Planning and scheduling and prioritizing aren’t exactly the stuff of poetry, but then they aren’t supposed to be. They are about preparation, not poetry.

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A Practical Guide to Saving a Nation

Praying hands

I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say about the upcoming election, “2016 is our last chance to turn this thing around.” It’s the right instinct, the right sense of urgency, but the wrong focus. In the grand scheme of things, presidential elections just don’t matter that much. Yes, yes, I know: Supreme Court nominations, etc., etc. But in the grand scheme of things, the Supreme Court doesn’t matter that much either.

Take Roe v. Wade. It is true, more than 50 million unborn children have been massacred since 1973, but which is the bigger problem: That millions of mothers chose to kill their unborn children, or that the court let them do it?

We have to get out of the mindset which sleeps through the battle for hearts and minds and then tries to win a last-minute victory in the court system or the Oval Office. Secular liberalism controls education, entertainment, and media, but we imagine we’ll fix things by casting a ballot. Ultimately, the problem isn’t political at all—it’s a matter of cultural decay, because “the salt has lost its taste” (Matt 5:13). If you feel a sense of urgency about the direction of our country (and you should), the ultimate answer is gospel, not politics.

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Trusting God About Sin and Atonement

Statue with scales of justice

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come… he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

According to the Bible, human sinfulness cuts us off from a holy God, so he sent his Son to take on a human life and then die to redeem us from our sins. Through faith, Christ’s blood atones for us so we can come into the presence of God as children rather than condemned sinners.

For those raised in the church, such a summary of the gospel may seem natural and intuitive, but for many unbelievers it is a weird, incomprehensible idea. Some even see it as unjust and wicked. Why would God demand blood before he forgave? And how can one person’s blood, shed two thousand years ago, have any effect on my own, personal guilt anyway?

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The Minimum Wage: When Benevolence Hurts

Construction worker

The minimum wage has been the subject of much contention recently and is likely to draw more attention in coming months, as the Democratic platform endorses the “Fight for 15” campaign and Trump has come out in support of a $10 minimum. Their motivation is simple. As Trump put it, “You need to help people. I know it’s not very Republican to say.” (Thanks, Donald, the GOP replied.) But does the minimum wage actually help people? It’s worth digging into the subject both because it is not going away anytime soon and because it offers an example of how first glances can be deceiving when it comes to economics.

The case for the minimum wage is obvious. As the cost of living rises, it seems compassionate to mandate a “living wage” for all employees. Require businesses to shell out part of their profits to add a few dollars to each minimum-wage employee’s hourly wages, and they will be better able to provide for themselves and their families. In fact, the argument goes, raising the minimum wage can even help to pay for itself because it reduces families’ need for federal assistance through food stamps or similar programs.

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