“He is not here, for he has risen.”

Three empty crosses

Three empty crosses

“He is risen!”

Countless Christians around the world hear these words and say them to each other on Easter Sunday. They aren’t meaningless, nor are they some spiritual mumbo-jumbo. They have a very specific, very concrete, very real-world meaning. They mean that Jesus—a man brutally and very thoroughly put to death with all the efficiency that the Roman empire could muster one Friday afternoon—got up on Sunday morning… and simply walked out of his tomb.

These words are stunning. And they are absurd. They are, on their face, not just implausible; they are crazy. After all, when someone tells you that a dead person just got up and walked away under his own power, the normal reaction is to conclude that this person has lost his or her mind.

But it turns out, the words themselves aren’t the craziest part. The truly crazy thing is that they’re true.

The beaten, whipped, nail-punctured, spear-pierced man who died a painful, bloody, horrible, and very public death in front of countless witnesses really did just get up and walk away on the third day. Without medical attention, without help from anyone on earth, his heart, his lungs, his brain, and all his other organs started up again. And he stood, stepped out of the tomb, and in that moment split all of history in two.

Hundreds of people saw him walking, talking, eating, and drinking long after he was supposed to be—no, really was—dead and buried. The people who knew him best were so certain that he had risen from the dead they were willing to die horrible deaths of their own rather than deny that Jesus was still alive.

He is risen. This one fact changes everything about how we understand the world around us. It must. The only question is: what will you do about it?

He is risen!

Happy Easter.

Post-Mortem, Episode III

After every presidential election since the first one in which I got to vote, I have posted some thoughts on this blog or in various other places on the ‘net. You can read the 2004, 2008, and 2012 posts on this site; the 2000 post and a longer 2004 post have apparently been lost to the mists of time. This is my 2016 wrap-up.


Like most of the country, I was stunned by the candidates’ reversals of fortune over the course of the evening. Like many others, I sat and watched the live forecast by the New York Times update, amazed as the needles on the win-probability, popular-vote, and electoral-college gauges ticked slowly, inexorably to the right. And like many others, I am now exhausted physically from a late night and exhausted emotionally from witnessing what will surely be remembered as one of the most amazing political events in American history.

Beyond that, though? I really don’t have much to say. I’m not happy about many of the results that we saw last night, but it has been almost a year since I had much hope of that. My musings won’t add much to anyone’s ability to process what has happened.

So, instead of waxing on, I’ll point everyone to some essential reading material as we all try to move forward, to comprehend what just happened, and to continue to function as a people. Some of it addresses Christians, some the broader “right,” and some attempts to speak to everybody. Regardless of a particular piece’s target audience, if you want to understand what is motivating millions of Americans, including those you don’t know and don’t see everyday, I’d suggest reading everything below.

Required reading:

Please pray for America and all her leaders. They need it.

Votes and Prayers

I voted today, on the first day of early voting in Texas. Now, don’t worry; I’m not going to tell you in this post how I think you should vote. (I literally am not allowed to endorse candidates for any office because of my job.) I’m also not going to tell you how not to vote. Instead, I’m going to tell a little story. Actually, I’m going to preach a little sermon to myself. And I’m asking you to read it, so you can preach it back to me when I need it.

Continue reading “Votes and Prayers”

Election 2016: Why I Cannot Vote for Trump

I have mostly kept quiet this year about the election, for a variety of reasons. For those reasons and other reasons, this may well be my only election-related post during this presidential election. But, I have something to say and want to get it on the record now, before Super Tuesday and the Texas primary. So, here goes.

This year is likely to result in the most distressing lineup of general-election candidates to be President of the United States that we have seen during my lifetime. It seems highly likely that, come November, we will be asked to choose between two or more candidates who, apparently, either do not understand or do not take seriously the office of President and its duties and limitations as set out in the Constitution.

As Americans—regardless of where we fall on (or off) of the left-right spectrum—we should expect and demand that a President, or even a candidate for President, do certain things and uphold certain values. After all,

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, [the President] shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

This is not a mere formality or afterthought. It’s a formal, explicit requirement in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. In other words, it’s important.

And, as you know, the Constitution of the United States includes, among many other things, a Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. These Amendments protect and codify—but do not create—certain fundamental human rights, which any American government and any American President must—legally must and morally must—respect. These include the free choice and exercise of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom “peaceably to assemble;” freedom to petition the government to redress grievances; “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms;” security against unreasonable searches, seizures, and arrests; the right to a jury trial; the right not to testify when doing so would incriminate oneself; and many others.

In electing a President, only two things are of first importance to me (or should should be to anyone else): (1) God’s claim on my conscience and (2) the Constitution. For this reason, I look for candidates who respect free speech and freedom of religion, who are not afraid of a free citizenry, and who will, above all else, respect the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from the weakest and smallest to the strongest and more powerful among us. I certainly look for conservatives and people of faith, but even those criteria are secondary to respect for human life and the rule of law. I cannot and will not vote for any candidate who does not respect humanity or human liberty or whose personal history and moral character reveal that any such respect may be no more than a political and rhetorical device.

To put it simply: a candidate for President must respect human life, human dignity, the Constitution, and the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men. All else is secondary.

The most notable development in this election cycle is the meteoric rise of Donald Trump as a contender for the Republican nomination. Trump, however, has long been a liberal supporter of Democratic candidates, not a conservative. He has long had no regard for the lives of the unborn or the rights of individuals to enjoy their property if it interferes with his plans (whether here or abroad). His supposed conversion to a conservative mindset that respects human life and dignity is very recent and poorly explained. His defense of critical liberties protected by the First and Second Amendments is spotty, at best. He flaunts his misogynyclaims not to know enough about the Ku Klux Klan to disavow an endorsement from former KKK grand wizard David Duke, and engages in daily bullying and name-calling on the internet. (I’m simply linking to his entire Twitter feed because it contains plenty of examples.) In short, he consistently disrespects those he would lead, even after his purported conversion to conservatism, and he falls far short of being the kind of person I could vote for to be President.

Regardless of how Trump stacks up compared to any other candidate he might hypothetically face in November, he doesn’t measure up and has not demonstrated to me that he possesses the personal qualities, convictions, or moral compass necessary to do the job. So, if Trump is the Republican nominee, conservatives will not be tasked with choosing the “lesser of two evils” or the least ill-suited candidate. We will face a choice between one form of unqualified, irresponsible, unconstitutional governance and another. As a Christian, an American, a lawyer, and a citizen of this great nation, I cannot vote for anyone who lacks respect for human dignity or the law of the land simply because some opponent of his seems to share the same failings.

As any reader of this site over the 17 years I have run it will know, I am a conservative, in the sense that Burke, Kirk, and Reagan (among many others) were conservative. That does not mean I am a Republican. In fact, although I would have called myself a Republican in the past, I don’t consider myself one anymore. It’s one of those “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me” situations. I, like so many other people, am incredibly frustrated by both major parties, “politics as usual,” and the moral malleability of many career politicians. So while Republicans may often get my vote, they are not entitled to it simply because of the initial after their names. They, like anyone else, have to earn it on the merits of their convictions and their actions.

I will vote in the Texas primary elections tomorrow, and I will vote according to my conscience. When I vote in November, I will vote the same way, guided by the same conscience and the same principles. Therefore, I will not vote for Donald Trump tomorrow. He fails on the most basic criteria: respect for human life and dignity, and respect for the Constitution.

And if common sense fails and Trump is the Republican nominee, I will not vote for him in November, either. My conscience will not allow it. I would love to see a constitutionalist President who is conservative, reverent, humble, good, fair, and courageous. Simply electing a Republican because he obtained the Republican nomination, however, does not guarantee any of those things.

If your state has not yet held its primary or caucus, I hope you will take seriously your civic responsibility to vote. I hope that you will vote, and that you will vote according to your conscience. And I hope that, when you do so but before you cast your ballot, you ask yourself: “Does this person respect human life at all ages, in all conditions, and in all times and places, and will this person preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

Please vote for someone who loves life and loves the Constitution. We are all counting on you.

Faith-Based Physics

theory-of-relativity-486718_1280When I enrolled at Rice University, I thought I would dual-major in math and physics en route to a Ph.D. in physics, a university professorship, and a career relishing the life of the mind in the esoteric realms of the subatomic. No, I had known that I would do that since sometime in middle school.

Within a semester, I had doubts that my career path lay in academic physics. By the end of my freshman year, I knew pure physics was not for me; I was considering biophysics, physical chemistry, and other, physics-adjacent disciplines. By the end of my third semester, no majors involving the name “physics” were even on my radar. I ended up, after some soul-searching and a year of exploration and reflection, settling on majors in math and religious studies, the latter with a concentration in Judaism.

Why? It wasn’t that I had lost my interest in physics as a subject; I still haven’t. It wasn’t my grades. It wasn’t even that I was unhappy with the work I was doing.

What really drove me off was this: I found that the kind of physics I wanted to do—the cutting-edge, theoretical stuff—was disturbingly full of hand-waving. That is, the really tough problems were either ignored entirely or roundly dismissed as inconsequential, even if they had potentially huge significance for the entire field. These were problems in which no one was doing any serious investigation—indeed, serious investigation might not even be possible under the current state of the art—but “we” supposedly “knew” something was true. Nine times out of ten, statements of this sort were literally accompanied by hand-waving by the professor or teacher’s assistant making the statement. In at least one incident, I witnessed a Nobel laureate brush off a series of hard-hitting questions in precisely this manner.

This is not to say that no one ever attempted to explain such things. Usually, the explanation was a deus ex machina based on the “standard model” or an appeal to authority. The thinking seemed to be this: If you don’t know the answer, just refer vaguely to the standard model, Einstein, Heisenberg, or Feynman, and the troublesome freshman/sophomore/high-schooler will get the idea that he or she is out of his or her depth and leave you alone. Even if the question was perfectly reasonable. There’s no grant money for investigating pesky “side effects” that show up in 200-level labs but that we can’t explain. “No grant money” means “forget about it.”

With all of the latest buzz about the so-called “multiverse” and, relatedly, parallel universes, at least a few of my beefs with academic physics have gone mainstream. In particular, Rod Dreher has posted an excellent piece about the faith of the physics academy. Some key quotes:

Physicists have a nerve. I know one (I’ll call him Mark) who berates every religious person he meets, yet honestly thinks there exist parallel universes, exactly like our own, in which we all have two noses. He refuses to give any credit to Old Testament creation myths and of course sneers at the idea of transubstantiation. But, without any sense of shame, he insists in the same breath that humans are made from the fallout of exploded stars; that it is theoretically possible for a person to decompose on one side of a black hole and recompose on the other, and that there are diamonds in the sky the size of the moon.

. . . .

I have never quite understood why the “many-universes” theory is considered science, not religion. How could you ever falsify the thesis?

. . . . We assume that the Scientist must know what he’s talking about no matter what he says, because he has studied his field, and is committed to a rigorous methodology and epistemology that rules out what cannot be known empirically. If a Scientist says it, it must be true, because it has either been proven experimentally, or can be.

. . . .

. . . . [C]ertainty in the sense of probability is not the same thing as necessary being: If I toss a coin, it is certain that I will get heads or tails, but that outcome depends on my tossing the coin, which I may not necessarily do. Likewise, any particular universe may follow from the existence of a multiverse, but the existence of the multiverse remains to be explained. In particular, the universe-generating process assumed by some multiverse theories is itself contingent because it depends on the action of laws assumed by the theory. The latter might be called meta-laws, since they form the basis for the origin of the individual universes, each with its own individual set of laws. So what determines the meta-laws? Either we must introduce meta-meta-laws, and so on in infinite regression, or we must hold that the meta-laws themselves are necessary — and so we have in effect just changed our understanding of what the fundamental universe is to one that contains many universes. In that case, we are still left without ultimate explanations as to why that universe exists or has the characteristics it does.

When it comes to such metaphysical questions, science and scientific speculation may offer much in fleshing out details, but they have so far failed to offer any explanations that are fundamentally novel to philosophy — much less have they supplanted it entirely.

Read the whole thing.

 

 

Logos

I am a huge fan of Logos Bible Software.  For those who aren’t familiar with them, Logos makes the leading software for reading and analyzing the Bible, along with hundreds of other materials, including ancient texts, commentaries, and more.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Scholar’s Library — dozens of resources, worth thousands of dollars in print versions — more than a decade ago.  Sadly, somewhere in the past few years, my installation broke, and I could never get it to work properly on the last couple of computers I have owned, nor would it recognize the many resources that came with the Scholar’s Library.  Logos has gone through many versions since then, and the latest versions didn’t even recognize my license key.

Thanks to a very helpful Logos staffer named Hunter Clagett, I now have access to all of these materials again, and could not be happier about it.  Thanks, Hunter, and thanks, Logos!

If you are experiencing similar difficulties, this link may be helpful.

Musings on History

Never assume that a logical connection exists between some instance of what is and some ideal of what could be. Some things cannot be redeemed, but are best destroyed or simply left alone. Indeed, many of history’s saddest chapters began with efforts to turn a present but dying evil into a lively engine for good.

From The Shack to the Courthouse

Since I’ve mentioned the popular novel The Shack in a number of posts, it seems worthwhile to mention the latest real-life twist in the novel’s story. According to the LA Times, The Shack‘s author, William Paul Young, has sued pastors Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings; the start-up the three created to publish the book initially, Windblown Media; and the book’s current publisher, Hachette. Young alleges that he is owed $8 million in royalties through December 2008, as well as other relief. Windblown has counterclaimed for $5 million. Meanwhile, Jacobsen and Cummings have filed an amended copyright filing with the Library of Congress.

I will refrain from commenting on the legal issues (or the legal posture of these cases, which is more than a little muddled in the article), but am posting this merely for general interest.

h/t: Tim Challies

Another Great Review of The Shack

Scott Lindsey has a great review of The Shack.

For my earlier review, see here or this collection of information on The Shack.

EDIT: Don’t miss the scathing review of The Shack from James DeYoung, a good friend of the author (William P. “Paul” Young). Also check out Chuck Colson’s review, Al Mohler’s radio broadcast on the book, and Tim Challies’s booklet.

(h/t Tim Challies)

More Thoughts on The Shack

Joe Holland has posted an altogether excellent review of The Shack (hat tip: Tim Challies). Meanwhile, my blog has attracted a couple comments on the topic. Granted, there are not too many comments, but they contain themes worth a little discussion.

Continue reading “More Thoughts on The Shack”