Friday, December 13, 2019

“Christian Sacred Cow” No. 1 — “God is in control.”

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a “sacred cow” as “someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question.” However, as Christian believers we need to follow the example of the people the apostle Paul met in ancient Berea (Acts 17:10-12) who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Sometimes we just repeat certain “sacred cows” that sound religious or pious without asking whether they’re really true in the light of Scripture. This is the first of several Christian “sacred cows” we’ll be taking a closer look at.

A favorite saying of Christians is that “God is in control.” When we say this, we usually mean that in spite of some kind of bad news, of whatever sort, God is working through it to achieve his purpose. It’s easy to extend this thought to the idea that everything that happens occurs because it’s God’s will that it should happen — even bad things we don’t like because they’re harmful. We think that if God is God, then nothing can happen that isn’t his will.

Actually, that’s not a Christian teaching; it’s a Muslim teaching. In Islam, Allah has total control of everything; his will overrides every other influence or purpose. In fact, “Islam” means “submission” — total submission to the will of Allah.

As Christian believers we understand that God has created all things by his Word, and his Word underlies and sustains the universe. That’s clear from the Bible’s opening chapters in the Book of Genesis. Hebrews reminds us that through Jesus God is “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3). But does that mean God controls everything? We need to look at the whole story.

Consider Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” In other words, the Creator has turned control of this earth over to people who are made in his image.

People are the Creator’s representatives or agents in the management of the world. If something goes wrong that’s not God’s fault; it’s usually because people have made sinful decisions contrary to his purpose. God has made all things, but he’s turned the management of those things over to us. As Psalm 115:16 says, “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.”

So claiming that “God is in control” is a “sacred cow” we need to question over against the full teaching of Scripture. When it comes to problems we deal with in life, for example, God isn’t responsible for them. Jesus declared that, as the Son of God, he came to give us abundant life, not problems and difficulties.

When something goes wrong, then, that’s not God’s doing; it’s the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) who is responsible; and we have the authority to oppose him because God has put us in charge and given us dominion. As James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We don’t need to ask God to change something he has given us the ability to change. As Gloria Copeland puts it, “If you need a change, make a change.” Don’t just wait for God to change things.

So when we say “God is in control” we’ve forgotten that he has entrusted to us the control of many aspects of our life and experience. Don’t let that religious-sounding expression be an excuse for accepting or tolerating situations or conditions you have the ability to deal with, as a creature made in God’s image.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Logical Fallacy of “Endangered Species”

The efforts to prevent certain “endangered species” from extinction are well known. One has only to recall the 1973 “snail darter controversy,” in which construction of a Tennessee dam was halted because of the threat to the habitat of a tiny mud fish. Since then such incidents have multiplied with an impact on agriculture, fishing and other industries, and recently on the use of river water in California to combat forest fires. For that matter, the proliferation of fires is itself the result of restrictions on forest management, supposedly in the interests of preserving botanical habitats.

Of course, the most “endangered species” is the human race, whose young are liable to be deprived of life while still in the womb — or even newly emerged from the womb. Human young, in the United States, enjoy less protection than the pre-hatched young of the bald eagle. But that’s another story.

The purpose of this essay is to point out the logical fallacy of protecting “endangered species.” We’re not opposed to such efforts. We only wish to expose the irony in the philosophical position of people who push for the protection of all species, whatever the cost to human industry and property rights.

It’s highly likely that proponents of protecting all species believe in the theory of unguided evolution — that life has arisen, and life forms have evolved and changed, without the intervention of a directing Intelligence, namely, God. In popular culture today there’s no room for the activity of a non-natural force in the emergence and development of life in its various forms. I surmise it would be rare to find anyone concerned about “endangered species” who’s not a believer in unguided evolution.

And this is where the logical fallacy we’re pointing out begins to appear. One of the principles of evolutionary theory is that life forms less equipped to survive in their environment are superseded, and eventually wiped out, by more successful life forms. The crass formula “survival of the fittest” (which really means only “survival of the survivors”) is a generally accepted maxim of the evolutionary viewpoint. Species exist today because they’ve successfully adapted to a particular environment and haven’t been driven out by another, more successful, species which has passed on its genetic information to succeeding generations.

Humanity, according to the evolutionary point of view, is simply another form of biological life having no inherent superiority over other species. Indeed, to regard human life as somehow having more worth than that of, say, the snail darter is to merit the epithet of “speciesism,” an accusation equivalent to “racism.” Logically, then, for human beings to drive out another species less able to cope with its environment is a perfect example of the evolutionary principle in operation. Someone with an evolutionary worldview, if looking rationally at the issue, should have no problem with extinction of the snail darter, bald eagle, or any other species when the human species proves more powerful, more “successful” in coping with its environment. That’s how evolution is supposed to work.

So the outcry for “animal rights” to take precedence over “human rights” is a logical fallacy, because any species has the evolutionary “right” to supersede another, less viable, species. To regard human life as simply another example of a zoological species means that when human activity adversely affects another species this is simply evolution talking its natural course.

There’s a better approach to the protection of “endangered species,” and that’s to abandon the religious faith of unguided evolution. That is a “faith” without evidence in natural history, for it ignores the presence of sequential information in the genetic code of living creatures — information which could have originated only in the mind of an Information-Giver. In other words, an Intelligence has been at work in fashioning each species, and that’s what gives them their worth.

There’s only one species that cares about the welfare of other species. That is people who, according to the Book of Genesis, are charged with managing and protecting the rest of the biological ecology (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). No one ever met a wolf, or a shark, concerned with “people rights.” The sea otter that people rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil slick, when cleaned up at a cost of $80,000 and released into the ocean, was immediately attacked by a killer whale. But there’s something unique about people, a trait that goes beyond what can be explained by the unfolding of blind, impersonal processes. People care about other living creatures in a way that’s unique to them, and can’t be explained by unguided evolution. Protecting supposedly endangered species is an activity appropriate only for people who believe, with the writer of Genesis, that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).