Law vs. grace

A Law-ve Like No Other

The orthodox Christian position on the Old Testament is complicated at best. The standard narrative is that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from a life under “the Law” and ushered in an era of grace. As Paul states, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast…. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups [Jews and Gentiles] to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it” (Ephesians 2:8-9,15-16).

As a result of verses like these and the teachings of various denominations, most Christians today do not believe that they are obligated to obey the laws as laid out in the Old Testament. However, this causes some problems, which I would like to explore briefly. In short, I think that this view is inherently inconsistent.Continue Reading

Evolution and Morality

Errors, Evolution, and Ethics

Every week during the school year, I get a newsletter from my former high school. It’s a Christian school, with a conservative Baptist principal, so the content is almost always something with which I now disagree. I generally skim through it to see what diatribe he’s on this week (it’s virtually always about the importance of Christian education…how unexpected!). But the newsletter from a couple weeks ago (Sept. 30) was about bullying in particular. The topic was sparked as a result of the recent tragic news of the suicide of an 11-year-old boy. But instead of pointing the blame at the bullies themselves, possible neglectful attitudes of school teachers and staff, or the social stigma surrounding persons with disabilities (the boy had muscular dystrophy), my former principal decided to pinpoint a different cause. I’ll let him explain:Continue Reading

Street signs for Church St. and State St.

The Sacred and the Secular

One of the common themes that arises when discussing politics is the issue of religion within political discourse and legislation. For every person who argues for the separation of church and state, there’s another who decries the removal of prayer from schools. There is a lot of debate over the level of influence that religion should have within the political realm—whether the government should be strictly secular or not. But I would like to argue that secularism is a cause that everyone—religious folks included—should support.Continue Reading

Demon and goat

Strange Spirits: The Demons All around Us

I was raised in a conservative evangelical household. The denomination in which I grew up, Pentecostalism, takes the Bible to be literal truth. But the Bible was written thousands of years ago, before there was any systematic scientific understanding of the world. Thus, a literalist Christian holds to a belief system based on a book written in the Iron Age. This has led to the perpetuation of beliefs which have no place in the modern world (ones that have absolutely no scientific credibility). One of those beliefs is a literal acceptance of demons and other spirits.Continue Reading

Free Will

Focusing on Free Will

One of the most common responses to the ‘problem of evil’ is the notion of free will. Very briefly, the problem of evil is this: If there exists an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God, why is there so much evil in the world? Although various attempts to answer this question have been made throughout the centuries, free will remains the one of the most prevalent. Free will, in this context, is the ability of human beings to make choices free from the constraints of prior causes. As the response goes, free will is important, or a great good, or necessary, such that the creation of beings with free will outweighs the evil in the world that necessarily follows as a result of the existence of these beings. We can’t take the good without the bad, but in this case, the good far outweighs the bad.

However, for orthodox Christians who believe the Bible, this response poses some strange dilemmas. I’d like to point out a few of these and explain why they are so problematic.Continue Reading

The Null Hypothesis

Religion, Science · · 12 comments

One of the most accurate ways to describe my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) is by way of a concept known as the “null hypothesis”. Like most atheists, I do not claim that I know God does not exist. I merely claim that there is not enough evidence to justify belief in God. And the best way to illustrate this claim is through the null hypothesis. This is a statistical concept that is used for hypothesis testing in science. Because statistics is not a strong point for many people, I will try to explain it using a minimum of stats jargon; however, some will be required, and I will try to explain what each term means the best that I can. I really feel that this is an important concept to understand when one is trying to assess evidence claims (which happens to us all the time). So hang on for the ride!Continue Reading

Helpless

The Divine Debasement

Religion, in all its diversity, has a vast range of effects on people. For some, the interaction between religion and the individual is very positive. Religious beliefs bring them hope, peace, and a stable optimism that helps them to become caring and compassionate people. There are many ways to explain this, of course. It may be that these people are just kind people, and would be so with or without religion. Or, it may be that religion creates this kindness and stability within them. What is most likely, though, is that it is a combination of both: These people are naturally predisposed to being kind people, and religion both encourages this and provides ways to manifest these positive qualities. If this is the case, religion can have very positive effects for these people.Continue Reading