Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Effects of a Contraceptive Mentality

The topic of contraception is a controversial one in Christian circles. There are a number of common "contraceptives" that have the real potential of ending a new human life and thus can act as abortifacients. There are other methods that do not, but that some still claim are immoral. Some believe you can use some forms of contraception morally while others believe that any type of pregnancy prevention is sinful. And there is much to be said on that topic which I will not discuss here.

But even if someone has no problem with contraception per se, there is a real danger in having a contraceptive mentality - a mentality that children are burdens to be avoided, that sex has no link to procreation, and that our fertility is and should be completely under our control.

This contraceptive mentality is not only a false view in that it does not match reality, but it leads us astray from God's plans in many ways. Here are just a few of them.

-It teaches us to think of children in terms of what they can do for us or how they fit into our plans instead of what they can do for the world and for God.

-It causes us to think that children are commodities - to be obtained when we want them for our own personal happiness - instead of the precious gifts from God that they are.

-It prevents us from fully embracing the procreative potential of the marital act and the blessing that comes from being open to new life.

-It encourages immoral sex by taking away one of the major consequences that often caused previous generations to think twice before engaging in an act that can create a child.

-It leads to a culture that sees babies as the enemy of sex and encourages disposing of them to avoid the responsibility of parenthood.

-It gives women a false sense of security about their own fertility, leading them to delay marriage and childbearing, with often tragic results.

-It separates dating and marriage from parenthood such that many people neglect to choose their dating and marriage partners according to criteria that would make them good parents.

-It produces many unplanned, and even crisis, pregnancies from people engaging in sex when a pregnancy would be difficult or in situations where there is no stable home to raise a child.

-It harms children born out of wedlock and raised without married parents.

-It removes the norm of openness to new life within marriage and makes decisions around childbearing and parenting more complicated.

-It causes married couples to see their fertility as a liability and their intimacy as something that must be medicated instead of a gift.

-It prevents people from planning properly to be able to afford children, leading them to make life decisions that would make providing for and caring for children difficult.

While contraception is not necessarily inherently immoral in that it is possible to prevent pregnancy without sin, a contraceptive mentality is extremely destructive to individuals and to society at large. And once it has become culturally entrenched, it is so often accepted without thought by even those, such as Christians, whose worldview would normally contradict this mentality. That is why it is so important to examine our views in the light of scripture and develop a comprehensive Biblical worldview rather than uncritically accepting the prevailing views of the culture.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Apparent Age versus Mature Creation

There is an important difference between a mature creation and apparent age. God is not deceptive and would not create things with a false appearance of age. But he did create things mature. Careful study can show the difference.

For example, while Adam was created as an adult, and adults usually have to go through the childhood stages to reach adulthood, Adam didn't. He was created mature. However, he was not created with false signs of aging. Thus, on first glance, a doctor examining him right after his creation would think he was 20 or 30 years old due to the body size, ability to grow a beard, sexual maturity, etc. But on closer inspection, the doctor would notice something peculiar. There would be no wrinkles, no scars, no callouses, no belly button. Adam wouldn't show signs of actual aging or having lived years on the earth or having been injured in events that never happened or having been born. If he had, that would be apparent age, not merely a mature creation. Close inspection would be needed to indicate the difference. Whereas a cursory inspection and initial conclusion might point to a man who had lived a couple decades or more, closer and more detailed inspection would give reason to think he hadn't actually started as a baby and grown to adulthood, and thus the appearance of age would disappear.

Much the same thing is true when we study our planet as well. On first glance, there are a number of features that look, superficially, to be signs of great age. On closer inspection, there is evidence that they did not actually take a long time to develop.

One might look at the amount of sedimentary rock on the planet, which would indicate millions of years of slow sediment deposition (which is the way we usually get such sediment deposition), and think the earth is millions of years old. But on closer inspection, we see that there is little or no erosion between most of those layers and there are animal and plant remains in the layers that appear to have been buried very rapidly and are well preserved and in positions that indicate catastrophe. There are fossils that extend between more than one layer. There are soft tissues found in some of these fossils, including in the remains of dinosaurs, in which individual cells and their parts can be distinguished quite clearly. These features and others lead one to believe that the sediment did not actually take millions of years to deposit and that another, more rapid and catastrophic explanation fits the evidence best.

Perhaps the most problematic use of apparent age is to explain away distant starlight by suggesting that it might have been created in transit rather than originating at the actual star. Yet this would be apparent age, not merely a mature creation. Mature creation is creating an actual star instead of a dust cloud that must condense into a star. Saying that the starlight we see that appears to tell us chemical composition, location, distance, motion, and also events that have happened to that star (such as exploding into a supernova) did not actually come from an actual star or actual events would mean that starlight serves only to deceive through apparent age. What's more, if that were true, then the night sky is all a sparkling facade - a light show with no substance - and we have no ability to know what is actually out there in space or to study it. There are several potential explanations for distant starlight reaching a young earth, but apparent age is not one of them.

The fact that God created Adam as a grown man and trees that never grew from seeds and animals that were never juveniles does not allow us to ignore evidence of age like celestial events or to fail to seek good explanations for things like rock strata that might look superficially old. We can't lump all those things together as if they were all the same kind of thing. That's lazy and ignorant thinking. It's important to distinguish between apparent age and a creation that was simply created mature. We should not attribute deception to God or offer simplistic explanations that fail to account for the facts. Neither of those bring glory to God.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Celebrating Christian Holidays

It has been a growing trend for several years for certain groups of Christians to refuse to celebrate holidays like Christmas or Easter because they believe those days have pagan roots.

I think it's misguided to think the actions of some group of pagans in the past has corrupted a day God made for all eternity such that Christians can never celebrate anything on that day for fear of inadvertently celebrating something pagan. The same thing goes for inherently harmless activities like decorating a tree or having a game to find hidden eggs. The fact that these things might once have had a connection to some sort of pagan activity doesn't mean that people today have any sort of evil in their hearts or are worshiping a false god in doing them.

So, yes, it's somewhat true that many Christian holidays and traditions had some sort of pagan association at one time (though not all the rumors about this are true). That's not a problem. Christians went into new cultures and used their existing traditions to tell the Christian message instead of a pagan one. They redeemed days of celebration, as they redeemed the people, by converting them to worship the one true God.

Something similar was done by John and Charles Wesley when they took bar songs and used the tunes for hymns. The people were familiar with the tune, but now the song taught them about God and encouraged them to worship Him. Christians changing traditions of a pagan people to instead celebrate and teach about Christ is a good thing. A former pagan association to a day or activity doesn't contaminate the hearts of those who are actually worshiping and celebrating Christ.

Of course, if someone's conscience prevents them from celebrating Christmas or Easter because they believe it is wrong, then they should not violate their conscience. However, they can inform their conscience if they choose to. We are free in Christ and do not have to be bound by ideas of spiritual contamination by association. To the pure, all things are pure.

Christ came to earth as one of us and died in our place so that we can be reconciled to God. That's something worth celebrating. If that's what is in our hearts at Christmas or Easter or other holidays, then that's what we're celebrating, and no other tradition that may or may not have ever occurred on that day can corrupt it for us.