Clinging to a False Narrative

While browsing YouTube today I saw a channel called TechReview (or something close to that) that had a review of a video game that, they claim, was created by a Christian. The game was called “Kill the Faggot”. The game was nothing more than a poorly drawn reticle on a static screen with persons running by. The player attempted to shoot the gay and transgender persons with the reticle.

The person reviewing the game believed that (1) the game was meant to be serious and (2) the game was actually created by a Christian. In the comments section of the video were hundreds of outraged persons who also believed the game was serious and that this actually revealed something about the way Christians are.

I’m actually more shocked by the gullibility of the persons who think this game is genuine and a genuine reflection of Christians than the game itself. How could they not realize that the creators of the game are trolling? Did the thought not even occur to them to do a little bit of fact checking to see if in fact the game is serious? If the thought would have occured to them they would have easily found the game creators’ twitter page where the game creators link to another review of their game which points out that the game is an obvious (bad) joke and the developers state:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.29.53 AM

So, yes, the game is nothing more than an attempt to gain media attention and troll the public. And this isn’t the first time these “developers” have pulled such a stunt. If you look just a bit further down on their twitter page (which doesn’t have many posts) you’ll see that they also were trying to pull a media stunt with another game called “On the Lam”–a game where you play as a psychopath fugitive.

Why this wouldn’t be immediately recognized by the angry commenters who are using it as an opportunity to rail against Christians goes to show how people will cling to something, no matter how absurd, to confirm their false narrative.

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Janitor Dreams: Tim Keller and Tom Schreiner

I had a dream that Tim Keller and Tom Schreiner belonged to the same church and their church hosted a weekly radio call-in show, that was helmed by Tim Keller. A guy called in asking about infant baptism and Tim Keller was trying to tell the guy that infant baptism was biblical when Tom Schreiner interrupted him (on the phone, for some reason) and tried to start saying how Tim Keller wasn’t being fair because he wasn’t telling the caller about the Baptist alternative. Keller was upset about being interrupted and just tried to talk over Schreiner as Schreiner kept saying “No, he isn’t being fair!” then Keller got really frustrated and said “God” and I thought “Did Keller just use the name of God in vain?”

What do you think? Was Keller obligated to inform the caller of the Baptist position?

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Advice to Young Christians

1. Avoid intellectual myopia.

Intellectual myopia occurs when you latch onto one idea too strongly. That one idea either becomes the prism through which you filter all other issues or it becomes the only issue you devote your time to.

How do you know whether you’ve fallen victim to intellectual myopia? One of the most common symptoms of myopia is the lurker mentality. The lurker is a person who frequents websites only to see if those websites are posting on their pet issue. This is the guy who latches onto a particular scientific theory and lurks around websites, sometimes hiding quietly in the shadows for months, just biding his time until the subject comes up or is at least skirted around enough so that he can pounce out of the shadows and wage his war against all nay-sayers. You can find these guys lurking around the Gospel Coalition or Challies.

Another symptom of intellectual myopia is the call to arms brigade. These are the persons who usually spend their internet time loitering around a website or group of websites that are devoted to their pet issue. When they find that some other site has said something regarding their issue there is a call to arms and suddenly defenders of said issue are crawling out of the wood work. Annihilationists tend to fall into this category, in my experience. Maybe a better example would be the homosexual activists.

While myopia can manifest itself regarding almost any issue, it can be especially pervasive among people who adopt heretical or at least heterodox positions. For instance, there is a well known blogger and lurker who we’ll call Tale Duggy who seems to have it as his sole goal in life to argue for Unitarianism. He will randomly appear at websites only on the occasion that those websites mention something about the deity of Christ.

Another symptom of intellectual myopia is the doomsday mentality. If you think Christianity is going to go the way of the dinosaur unless Christians come to embrace your issue (e.g., acceptance of gays, acceptance of an old earth, acceptance of evolution, works based salvation) then you might be suffering from intellectual myopia. Conversely, if you think Christianity would experience unprecedented revival if Christians just came to embrace your view then you might be suffering from intellectual myopia.

Myopia is problematic because ideas tend to be interconnected. Developing the skill of critical thinking is aided by thinking about a variety of issues and not just by thinking about one thing intensely. A good idea in theology may carry over to politics and vice versa. A good argument about one ethical issue may have applicability to constructing or deconstructing an argument in a different ethical issue or in a political issue. People who only know one issue often have blind-spots even regarding the one issue that they are intensely focused on.

2. Avoid intellectual isolation.

Intellectual isolation can occur independently of intellectual myopia. One can have a balanced set of interests (which does not mean everything is found to be equally interesting) and still be intellectually isolated. This occurs when the person never interacts with arguments from the opposing side and never engages colleagues in discussion or debate.

I’ve emphasized the word “interacts” because intellectual isolation can occur even when a person does read some of what the other side is saying and even occasionally ventures forth to engage the enemy. One symptom of such isolation actually manifests itself on the occasion of an intellectually isolated person attempting to engage opponents: self-refutation. This is the use of arguments against a position which in fact end up refuting one’s own position. Again homosexual activists provide a common example. They often use arguments and rhetoric in favor of same-sex marriage that would undercut their own opposition to other forms of marriage. I commonly run into the intellectually isolated theistic evolutionist: the person who uses the God-is-a-deceiver argument against YEC, while holding to a reading of Scripture that opens themselves up the exact same charge.

Another symptom of intellectual isolationism is hyper-sensitivity. If you find yourself constantly being offended by perceived insinuations in analogies to incest, you might be an intellectually isolated homosexual activist. If you find the very statement of the opposing argument is offensive or bigoted or racist or sexist, you might be intellectually isolated. If you think everyone who disagrees with you is either (a) intellectually dishonest or (b) suffering from some phobia (e.g., homophobia), you might be intellectually isolated.

Isolationism is problematic because people who think differently than we do can help us see both the weaknesses and the strengths in our position. No one has the market cornered on reason (with apologies to New Atheists) and interacting with other rational agents can help us see where we’ve failed to be reasonable.

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Count the Cost

“When people raise questions about Christianity, often the best response is not to shut them down, but precisely the opposite. Start by pressing them to take more seriously the implications of their own position. As a matter of intellectual integrity, they should stop free-loading and take a fearless inventory of the logical and practical conclusions of their own convictions.” (Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth p. 249)

That’s good advice, but sometimes apologists give the opposite advice when it comes to considering joining Christianity. For instance, I’ve heard William Lane Craig take a sort of bare-minimum approach to becoming a Christian. If you’re struggling with the doctrine of inerrancy or if you’re struggling with the doctrine of original sin then just park those issues and realize that you can be a Christian without affirming those things. What is the bare minimum that I need to believe in order to get into heaven? I’ll just do that and ignore the rest for now. But that approach flies in the face of the Scriptural advice:

Luke 14:28-32 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Pearcey says that doubters should consider the cost of leaving Christianity. Jesus says the non-Christian should consider the cost of joining Christianity. Recently I was listening to an Unbelievable? program where a Christian was talking to an atheist, Tony, about what it would take for Tony to become a Christian. Tony has a daughter that is a lesbian and is getting married soon. How many apologists would want to tell Tony the hard truth that the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus might mean losing his relationship with his daughter?

The sort of bare-bones Christianity approach that some apologists take seems to go against Jesus’ advice of counting the cost.

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Muslims, Muhammad, and Jesus

Radical Muslims commit acts of violence when the prophet Muhammad is slandered. But did you ever notice that radical Muslims don’t feel compelled to commit acts of violence when the prophet Jesus is slandered? Why not? Both involve slandering a very important prophet of God.

Now obviously I’m not saying that radical Muslims should feel compelled to commit acts of violence when the prophet Jesus is slandered. Rather, just as radical Muslims are willing to overlook slander of the prophet Jesus, so too radical Muslims should be willing to overlook slander of the prophet Muhammad.

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Check your privilege, baby!

Yesterday Albert Mohler’s podcast, The Briefing, mentioned an article that reported that white babies and black babies prefer looking at the faces of people who share their race. From the article:

“Racial bias also begins astonishingly early: Even infants often show a preference for their own racial group. In one study, 3-month-old white infants were shown photos of faces of white adults and black adults; they preferred the faces of whites. For 3-month-old black infants living in Africa, it was the reverse.”

Researchers concluded that the babies living in Africa are most likely exhibiting a preference for what is most familiar to them (black faces) but, according to researcher Agnes Hunt, “the white babies are probably just racist.”

Just kidding. In fact the article says “This preference reflected what the child was accustomed to. Black infants living in overwhelmingly white Israel didn’t show a strong preference one way or the other, according to the study, published in Psychological Science.” That’s not surprising. Other research has also suggests that babies prefer things they are familiar with.

Near the end of the article we read the following:

Many of these experiments on in-group bias have been conducted around the world, and almost every ethnic group shows a bias favoring its own. One exception: African-Americans.

Researchers find that in contrast to other groups, African-Americans do not have an unconscious bias toward their own. From young children to adults, they are essentially neutral and favor neither whites nor blacks.

Banaji and other scholars suggest that this is because even young African-American children somehow absorb the social construct that white skin is prestigious and that black skin isn’t.

But why would Banaji and others suggest that explanation rather than the explanation they found in regard to black children in Israel: since the black children in Israel were a largely surrounded by white people they didn’t exhibit a familiarity bias. Likewise, since black people in the U.S. are largely surrounded by white people, they don’t exhibit a familiarity bias.

One reason researches might not favor this explanation is because of the existence of black communities in the U.S. that are (for all I know) absent in Israel. But through music, television, games, and school black people in the U.S. can still become familiar with white people at a very early age.

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A sketch of how theology and philosophy interact

This is a brief sketch of the interaction that I think should occur between philosophy and theology. It’s not intended to be complete. Obviously there are options I’m excluding. I’m also painting a very black and white picture. There will be other factors that come into play or qualifications that should be made.

Theology and Philosophy

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