Thought of the Day 06.01.09

View 1: Social institutions should be designed to conform with human nature. In the case of marriage, this nature is best suited to a permanent covenant between one man and one woman for life, for both personal development and the creation and nurture of children. This is the Natural Law view.

View 2: God made human beings, and He has ordained marriage between one man and one woman, as long taught by both Judaism and Christianity. We must honor God’s Will both because He has authority over us and because He is wise. This is the Divine Command view.

View 3: Human beings can do anything they want to do. They have neither a nature to align with nor a God to obey. Thus, marriage may be anything anyone wants it to be, and we should allow others to define it for themselves. This is the Relativist view.

Ultimately, the structure of marriage will simply reveal which of these three views is at the heart of our civil society.

Thought of the Day 05.29.09

As most of you know by now, our state Treasurer, Dean Martin, this week lost his wife in childbirth and then also their first son three days later. In a press conference yesterday, Dean shared both his pain and also the comfort which the Holy Spirit has been giving him. In fact, it was this assurance which motivated him to encourage expectant moms not to be distressed by what happened to his beloved Kerry.

But how is it possible that a man could be peaceful, even grateful, in the midst of such a heart-wrenching loss? This paradox must be incredibly perplexing to anyone who hasn’t yet really embraced the Gospel.

Yet it’s precisely the assurance of his family’s eternal salvation and the presence of a tangible Savior in his life that makes it possible for Dean to both grieve fully and celebrate fully.

To everyone who doesn’t yet know Christ to this degree, his example will either seem the most monstrous thing they’ve ever seen or else the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. If the latter, it is because they are already being drawn toward the same magnificence by God’s Spirit.

Thought of the Day 05.28.09

The Bible teaches us that suffering is one of the key ways we come to understand our Savior and gain intimacy with Him. Yet, because we commonly think of suffering as being imposed upon us from without, we easily overlook the suffering we experience in having our strong desires thwarted as we obey Christian morality.

See, pain is caused any time reality and our desires don’t match. A loved one dying, an investment failing, and even a sports team losing all follow this pattern. But the suffering of obedience is different because it’s self-imposed. Unlike the pain caused when a tornado strikes, which you had no power to stop, the pain threatened when morality strikes can be difficult to endure precisely because you do have the power to stop it.

But if we begin from the premise that God allows suffering for our benefit, it becomes possible to see the suffering of desire denial as a gift from Him, too…a gift which He generously allows us to inflict upon ourselves.

Thought of the Day 05.27.09

“Mr. Congressman, I want you to support the new social program. See, I am a lazy man who would prefer to have the government fund my lifestyle by taxing other people, and I hope to take advantage of the services you are trying to target to the truly needy. If you come through for me, I will vote for you next election, and, if your assistance is sufficient, I may even give some back to your campaign.”

“Mr. Congressman, I want you to oppose the new social program. See, I am a Christian who believes families and the local church should be responsible for helping the needy. When people come to our soup kitchen, we share food and the Gospel with them, but I worry your program will replace our efforts and keep people from hearing our Lord’s message. I also worry people will be less generous with their time and money to us if they see the government doing charity for them. I hope you’ll agree with me that it’s better for the church to help people than government.”

See, here’s the funny thing about our current notions of the separation of church and state. Man 1 is engaging in acceptable political lobbying because his motives are merely selfish, but Man 2 is doing something illegitimate because his motives are religious. Does that conclusion seem right?

Thought of the Day 05.26.09

“I’ll believe God exists when you prove it to me.”

At first this sounds like a fairly reasonable demand, especially since we live in an age where demonstrable proof is valued so highly and also considering that the consequence of faith are so substantial. But what exactly is the speaker demanding here? Is he saying he’ll reject God if there is any possibility the hypothesis could be wrong? Is he demanding tangible evidence of the sort he would need in a criminal trial?

Unfortunately for him, neither of these standards is appropriate to the question. To see why, we must realize that doubt is a position, too. And certainly neither standard has been satisfied in establishing the atheist view. What we really need is a better standard, such as, “Which hypothesis best explains all the data we have and has the most moral, intellectual, and aesthetic appeal?”

See, some beliefs are like dilemmas. You may feel like there aren’t any ideal options, but the situation demands a choice. In such cases, merely noting the flaws in an option doesn’t justify rejecting it unless an alternative with fewer flaws is offered to replace it.

Thought of the Day 05.22.09

Jeff: Hey, Mark, somebody told me you were against gay marriage. Is that true?
Mark: Yes. I don’t think that gays should be considered spouses.
Jeff: That’s pretty closed-minded of you, isn’t it?
Mark: How so?
Jeff: Well, you seem completely closed to the possibility that gay relationships might be every bit as legitimate and good as straight ones. That’s being closed-minded.
Mark: So you’d like me to be more open-minded?
Jeff: Yeah, you usually are.
Mark: Like you?
Jeff: Well, yeah, like me.
Mark: Okay. But I have a question for you.
Jeff: Shoot.
Mark: Are you open to the possibility that gay relationships should not be endorsed by the government?
Jeff: No, not really.
Mark: Then aren’t you being just as closed-minded as I am?
Jeff: How’s that?
Mark: I say that gays should not get marriage licenses, which means I’m closed to the possibility that they should.
Jeff: Yeah.
Mark: And you say that they should get marriage licenses, which means you’re closed to the possibility that they shouldn’t.
Jeff: I guess so.
Mark: Well, that makes us equally closed-minded. We each have a view which is closed to its alternative. It seems a bit devious for you to say that your particular form of closed-mindedness is actually open-mindedness but that mine isn’t. How about if we both just agree that we have strong beliefs, neither of which is particularly open-minded.
Jeff: I suppose that is more accurate. Sorry for the mistake.
Mark: That’s okay. Most everybody makes it.

Thought of the Day 05.21.09

Many of us think that persuasion means mentally coercing others into accepting ideas they don’t really want. Whether we embrace this view and proceed like mental bullies or revolt against it and keep our beliefs to ourselves, we have really started from the wrong beginning.

The reality is that most people want to have right beliefs. Oh, sure, they may resist change, have ego investment in their current beliefs, and avoid ideas that entail lifestyle costs they’d prefer not to pay. But most people want to believe they have the truth. The real trick is figuring out how to avoid stimulating the resistance mechanisms while you help them see the better ideas you have to offer.

Once you realize this is the real nature of persuasion, you can stop feeling like a huckster pushing snake oil no one really wants and you can start feeling like a consultant who helps people discover new and beneficial truths…truths that they already want in the abstract and just don’t yet know they want in particular.

Thought of the Day 05.20.09

We often hear that public policy must not be based on religion because religion is a private matter and therefore must not be imposed on other people. Instead, we should look to science for guidance about what we should do because science is a superior epistemological alternative to religion. But let’s investigate a bit more.

Logically, there are three possibilities about the relationship between science and religion: they’re redundant to each other, they’re compatible, or they’re incompatible. Obviously, if they are redundant or compatible, then there is no reason to exclude religion from the discussion. But if they’re incompatible, now we suddenly have a different problem.

See, incompatibility is just a nice word for hostility, and if science is hostile to religion, then science is actually an anti-religion. But the only way something can be an anti-religion is if it’s a competing religion. And if science is an alternative religion, then the argument that our public policy discussions must be religion-free would entail that they also be science-free.

This might sound absurd, but at least it’s no more absurd than the idea that science can displace religion without being a religion itself.

Thought of the Day 05.19.08

The other day at the park with my sons, I had an interesting opportunity arise. As we were playing in the sand, some Junior High age boys were playing basketball nearby. Basketball wasn’t the issue. Their constant profanity was.

Before acting, I pondered briefly whether to issue a command or to make a request. In the end, I think my realization that this question wouldn’t have even occurred to a man my age forty years ago answered it for me.

See, it’s not so much that my boys were being polluted by filthy words. I don’t think they were even listening. It’s that the community has an interest in clean public spaces. So there I was, representing the community. And the next time a couple choice words came out, I turned and sternly said, “Hey. Watch the language!” which elicited a sheepish “Yes, sir,” from the most obvious offender.

And that’s when I recognized the real issue. Teenage boys have a God-given need to be regularly scolded by older men. And if they don’t get it, they’ll never become men, no matter how old they get.

Thought of the Day 05.18.09

Every good thing has two dangers affiliated with it: that of loving it too little and that of loving it too much. Consider parenting. At some point in most mother’s careers, her child will become so angry and frustrated that he will say, “I hate you.” How she responds will reveal a lot.

At one extreme, a mother who cares too little will be indifferent to his verbal assault. Thankfully, this is rare. But at the other extreme, a mother who cares so much that motherhood has actually become her idol will be furious with him for jeopardizing her sense of identity. Her need for his approval has overpowered her natural desire merely to see him be happy. So what’s the healthy response?


When a mother’s identity is secure, her heart is free to melt in sympathy for a child experiencing such anguish that he’d lash out this way. Her full acceptance by Christ renders her son’s momentary rejection just a minimal threat to her being.

Now if that’s the proper response of a healthy parent to an extremely hurting child, what might we expect from God when we are angry at Him?

Thought of the Day 05.15.09

I was recently reading about a woman from New York who last year let her 9-year-old son ride the subway home by himself at his request. Apparently, people were universally horrified by this, but to be honest, I don’t understand why.

When I was six or seven, we played outside unsupervised, rode our bikes anywhere we wanted, and walked ourselves to school. So the idea that modern parents would consider a child of nine incapable of navigating his natural habitat astounds me. But I guess I’m just lucky.

See, one thing I have noticed in myself recently is the impulse to consult my own parents’ example with me. Whether this is my way of honoring my deceased mother in absentia or just a way of checking my intuitions against a non-contemporary standard, all I know is that I am grateful to my parents for having done a decent enough job with me that I feel comfortable trying to give my children about as much freedom and responsibility as I was given.

Thought of the Day 05.14.09

If you walked into my house and looked around at all the toys my children own, you might draw the conclusion that I am a very wealthy man. But in reality, around 90% of those toys were either given to us by friends or else purchased on closeout, in a used store, or at a garage sale.

See, when those who earn more than I do buy new things and eventually sell or donate them, that creates the opportunity for my kids to own them. So even though I’m not particularly rich on my own, the fact that I live in a society so overwhelmed with material excess means that my children enjoy a quality of life enrichment from toys higher than virtually any other child in the history of the world.

That’s why it baffles me when people complain about other people making more than them. Secondary markets fueled by people who earn more allow the rest of us to have standards of living well above whatever we could afford to purchase on our own at retail. That’s a form of wealth people rarely give our society credit for.

Thought of the Day 05.13.09

Recently on the program, we had a discussion about whether the government should be trying to help the poor. Most people seemed to think that the government is justified if it can have a truly beneficial effect. And this help is especially right if it goes primarily to the people who suffer loss and poverty due to circumstances beyond their control, such as children.

Although I sympathize with this distinction, part of me isn’t yet convinced. On the one hand, I fully understand the preference to give aid to those who suffer unjustly. But is suffering any less painful just because you deserve it? Isn’t it actually more painful because you have only yourself to blame?

I realize that helping people out of a pit they’ve behaved themselves into may hinder them learning to change. But at the same time, I notice that Jesus extends His love and salvation to sinners who don’t deserve it, all of whom have behaved ourselves into the suffering He rescues us from. And if His government applied our distinction as a guiding standard, where would any of us be?

Thought of the Day 05.12.09

I had the unique privilege of preaching the Mother’s Day sermon at my church, an experience I found refreshing and instructive. See, when you do radio, you have to imagine how people are reacting, but in person, you get to see for yourself.

At most points, people reacted as expected, which was good. At some points, they reacted more enthusiastically, which was even better. And at other points, the reaction was notable mostly for its absence, which was less pleasant to see, but normal.

Afterward, lots of people wanted to tell me how much they appreciated it, although, as my wife wisely pointed out, it’s unlikely that someone who really dislikes your guest sermon is going to tell you the fact.

But one thing I know for sure. Despite delivering a fairly engaging message, I also saw firsthand that, by the end, several audience members were either asleep or well on their way.

So what did I relearn? That different people react differently to the very same thing.

Thought of the Day 05.11.08

Motherhood is tough. Grueling, frustrating, disappointing, and, at times, mind-numbingly repetitive. But, as the saying goes, somebody’s gotta do it. In fact, motherhood is such a vital part of the human race existing that it barely seems adequate to only celebrate it one day out of the year. But just as we honor veterans, I’m proud of a country that acknowledges the beauty and value of motherhood.

But I also think it’s important to tell the truth about how tough motherhood can be. That way, it’s not a surprise when things get rough. Also, young mothers who might otherwise mistakenly think their own troubles are unique would likely be more willing to ask for help when they need it.

Motherhood is an exquisite joy at times, and an exquisite agony at other times. And no matter how alone you might ever feel in it, rest assured that many humans and one particularly wise God understand your pains and are very much on your side.

Thought of the Day 05.08.09

I’ve always loved playing with Legos, and now that my boys are old enough, I finally have a decent excuse for regularly doing so. One of my real pleasures is making something at night to surprise Spencer with when he wakes up in the morning.

Well, given his affection for all things Star Wars, I recently constructed a Lego Death Star about a foot in diameter, an extremely difficult project which took about 4-5 hours to complete. Sadly, that’s not the tragedy.

The real letdown was that Spencer admitted to me that he didn’t really like it all that much. In contrast, a simple spaceship I can build in about two minutes usually thrills him for days.

Since he’s old enough to know that telling me this would disappoint me, I praised him for his honesty, a gift which is far more important to me than my own self-indulgent need to receive approval for having wasted so much time on something as trivial as a Lego Death Star. It’s also a good reminder that effort and value are not always the same thing.

Thought of the Day 05.07.09

Just yesterday, I happened to hear a Christian broadcaster say that a person’s origins beliefs matter because people who believe they evolved by chance from primordial soup will live morally worse lives than people who believe they were created by a loving God. Though I agree with his line of reasoning, in reality his claim just isn’t true.

The problem is he overlooked a simple fact: people are often irrational. This means they might well believe in evolution but practice a morality which would better fit and flow from a creation perspective. Such irrationality is why many people who believe in evolution still live morally virtuous lives.

And we must acknowledge such facts even as we explain the importance of origins views if for no other reason than that our hearers will readily think them if we don’t say them. Such nuance in how we express ourselves is both a matter of being accurate and also a matter of enhancing the chances that our accuracies actually get a fair hearing.

Thought of the Day 05.06.09

“Practice makes perfect.” Or, if not perfect, at least practice makes better, right? If this is true, what does it mean for parenting?

Simply put, it would seem that if I have five or six children, I will develop better parenting skills than if I stop at just three. How could I not? Parenting that many children will give me both much more practice and also practice in far more complicated situations. But what if I stop now?

Well, my parenting skills would remain underdeveloped. This means my children will suffer the effects of being raised by a lesser-skilled father. My subsequent children, the ones who would have benefitted the most from being raised by that better me, would never come to exist at all, thus depriving society of those better citizens. And my three sons will miss out on the example of better parenting, meaning they will be less equipped to be great fathers when their own time comes.

Since I don’t want any of that, I intend to have more than just three children.

Thought of the Day 05.05.09

In considering the following statements, try to imagine how an average American might respond to them.

“We’ve never had a credit card.”
“We don’t buy Christmas gifts or send Christmas cards.”
“We don’t owe any money on our house.”
“It’s been over ten years since I bought new clothes other than undergarments and socks.”
“We never take out loans to buy cars.”
“What’s E-bay?”

Unless I’ve seriously miscalculated, the reaction to any of these statements would likely be the same: astonishment. How could anyone in 2009 could so be completely out of step with the economic culture of this country? In fact, if you asserted more than one of these, you might even encounter something like contempt in addition to shock and disbelief.

What’s interesting is that sociologists actually have a word for rituals and value systems which are so dominant that people who do not participate in them are considered strangers or outsiders. They call them religions.

Thought of the Day 05.04.09

Have you ever watched a movie where you thought you understood everything up until the very end, when suddenly an interpretative key or “twist” was added which forced you to reevaluate the whole movie?

What’s fascinating about such movies is that they transcend the mere “gotcha” and create a cognitive moment of insight which revolutionizes your understanding yet leaves you feeling fulfilled by the shift rather than betrayed or embarrassed by it. In the best cases, you immediately want to watch the movie again to see it from this new perspective.

This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ does to the entire Bible. Any understanding of the Old Testament which does not originate in the revelation in Christ is thus less rich, less fulfilling, and, in a very serious sense, less true. That’s why for someone who has seen it this way, trying to discuss the Bible with those who haven’t is a bit like trying to discuss The Sixth Sense with someone who doesn’t believe Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time.