Posted in Truth and Error, Uncategorized

Warring for Truth: “I AM A CHRISTIAN”

John MacArthur writes,

“Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Scripture says one of the key characteristics of ‘those who perish’ (people who are damned by their unbelief) is that ‘they did not receive the love of truth, that they might be saved’ (2Thessalonians 2:10). The clear implication is that a genuine love for the truth is built into saving faith. It is therefore one of the distinguishing qualities of every true believer. In Jesus’ words, they have known the truth, and the truth has set them free (John 8.32).”1

Though MacArthur’s words ring true the tendency of some is to position the concept of truth into the spiritual realm. That is to say, they make it an issue regarding religion rather than something that pertains to all of life. This attitude is prevalent even within the domain of the Church; the body of Christ.

As seen in the words of Pilate during his interrogation of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion:

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews? ...Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm. Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18.33-38; NASB; emphasis added).

Pilate’s response was based on the pluralism and relativism of Rome. There were many roads to “god” all of which measured the “truth” as the individual saw it. Pilate’s rhetorical question demanded a negative answer: “There is no truth.” For truth is what we make it, nothing else. And so, many who profess the name of Christ compartmentalize the concept of truth to fit their own preconceived scheme. Their own view of reality. One that does not encroach upon their freedom to determine what truth is, and what it is not.

And yet, we are confronted with the reality as God sees it. Truth is defined by Him, because He is the author of reality. What things are, what things come to be, they are what they are because God has determined them so. It is said of Jesus that “in [Him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2.3). Consequently then, we are commanded to “…examine everything carefully; hold[ing] fast to that which is good [or true]” (1Thess 5.21). Notice that both Colossians and Thessalonians stress two universal categories of truth: all and everything. The believer is to take into consideration all things that are presented as truth and to examine them thoroughly, and retaining only that which is good. Meaning that in our effort to examine the “thoughts of men” we are to cast aside the “vain” ones in our desire “to bring all” teachings under Christ’s feet (cf. 1Cor 10.3-5).

Responses…2

Typically there are various responses given when one is confronted with the truth. We have various examples from Scripture that we might draw from on this point. We’ve already looked at one. I would classify Pilate’s as the passive denial: “It may or may not be a truth, but either way I am going to ignore it for who can truly know?”

Another is the denial of sorrow:

And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18.18-23; ESV).

When confronted with the truth, when confronted with the reality that he still was not serving God with all his heart, the man went away sorrowful. Why? Because the truth was presented that it was either all for Christ or none. There cannot be any other ties that bind us to this world. It is not that wealth is wrong. Nor, is it that we must be poor in order to be saved. But, if we are to have Jesus, if we are to follow Him, then we must be willing to lose it all for His namesake. This, the ruler could not do. When confronted with the truth he went away sorrowful, having denied what he’d heard.

Then there is the response of pride:

Jesus heals a beggar who was born blind. When news spreads of the sign performed in their midst, the man is questioned by the religious leaders. Some of the Pharisees denied that Jesus was from God. However, when they asked the man about what had occurred, how he received his sight they refused to believe what was reported to them. After questioning the man’s parents (for they did not believe he was really born blind), they once again brought him before them to challenge him.

So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He then answered, ‘Whether [Jesus] is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ So they said to them, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples, do you?’ They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hear him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and you are teaching us?’ So they put him out.” (John 9.24-34).

When confronted with the truth—right before their eyes, pun intended—they failed to see it for their own foolish pride blinded them. How could a man born blind, a man who begged for his living know anything about God or His Word since they were teachers in Israel? Men who had been weaned on the Word from their youth.

There is the response of blind and deafening rage:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7.51-58; ESV).

Rather than hear the truth. Rather than see it as it was laid before their eyes. They shut their ears and eyes in anger. How dare they be challenged. How dare they be confronted. And so in rage against the clear testimony of Stephen, they murdered him.

Finally, let us look at the response of humility:

There are several examples that we might draw from in Scripture that illustrate this point. We might point to the man who beat his chest, refused to look towards heaven because of his shame, and cried out for the mercy of God to fall on him a sinner (cf. Luke 18.13). We may look at the disciples confronted with a truth that caused many in their numbers, many in Israel, to grumble against the clear teaching of Jesus, but in humility of heart they confessed with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6.68; ESV). Or we might turn to a man caught in his sin that he had covered up so long, who was confronted by a cunning word from the prophet Nathan. Nathan tells the story of a richer man stealing his neighbor’s little lamb. A lamb that was dear to the previous owner, for he loved it. But the rich man was not satisfied with the life God had given him, and so sought the life of another. When David first hears the story he is filled with indignation. Who would dare do such a thing? How vile! How evil! To take the life of another so that your life might be blessed!

Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hands of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites…David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’” (2Sam 12.7-9, 13a; ESV).

If we want to see how contrite of heart David was, then all we need to do is turn to Psalm 51 where a song and prayer shows the misery of heart that brought him to his knees before the Lord of Hosts.

David, like so many of us at times, failed to see his sins in the proper light because he had hidden them in the dark. We are tasked with bringing such things into the light so that they may be repented of. Do not think that this is limited to our personal sins, but the sins of a nation as well (cf. Dan 9.1-19).

Where evidence leads…

Evidence can lead no further than the mind that is dragging it in the direction they seek. It is akin to asking “Let us follow where this rock leads us” and yet, we are the ones tugging on the rock with an invisible string made up of our own presuppositions. Evidence does not lead because it cannot. Neither does evidence speak, for it does not have a voice.

The reality is that we follow people, not evidence. It is the interpretation provided that offers a voice to our ears. It is the interpretation given by a person or persons that makes us see this or that. Facts are what they are. Our conclusions about them are derived from the governing worldview that directs our thoughts in this life.

Greg L. Bahnsen wrote,

“The problem is not that we…believe things without evidence, the problem is that the [person in question] doesn’t like the kind of evidence we have.”3

Gary DeMar adds,

“The mind is designed by God to (1) reason, (2) test, (3) investigate, (4) examine, and (5) accumulate knowledge through the study of the Bible, creation, history, experience, and everything else but with certain interpretive first-principles called presuppositions.”4

God has blessed mankind with the ability to think and draw conclusions about reality. This is meant to be done in a God honoring fashion, which requires a Scripture first approach. If reality is God’s then all of reality is what God says it is, and it the human’s responsibility to learn after God; to think His thoughts after Him. We see this in the beginning with Adam in the naming of the animals. Adam did all the things mentioned above as he viewed the evidence of God’s other creature made on the 6th day of creation. He observed the details before him, he reasoned through them, he tested certain characteristics he witnessed through his five-senses, he investigated and examined the animals thoroughly, and then after accumulated as much knowledge as possible from what God had given, he named each animal according to its kind.

We live in a world where we are told that we need to follow the facts. We are currently living in a time when we are also being told that certain information is false and should not be looked into. “MISINFORMATION” is the scare word of our day. If you don’t follow who the government deems as experts, then you are in a world of hurt. You will hurt yourself, others, even your country, and quite possibly every one else in the known world. You are being told to submit to the reasoning, testing, investigation, examination and knowledge of others, rather than trusting your own ability to do these things in a God-honoring fashion. You are being herded to think according to an accepted paradigm (worldview), and to throw out all other considerations as heretical.

There is a war for the truth going on in our nation.

“The war is not between reason and faith; it is between faith and faith…one which admits a word from God while the other does not.”5

What we must remember is that

“There are high level emotional stakes here because, depending on the answers, people will have to change their lives and maybe their professions. They’re going to have to see the world differently. And when it comes to those sorts of things, the facts don’t always move people.”6

But, Christ’s people are called to maturity. To carry one’s cross also means to not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. We are to weigh all teaching, all evidence, all presuppositions under the light of God’s Word. We are to be slaves of Christ, not the powers that be. We are to bring every idle thought under Jesus’ feet, regardless of where the thought might originate. The war for truth is a war for God’s reality…not man’s.

I want to close with the following excerpt from John MacArthur’s book Slave:

“As one historian explained about the early martyrs [Christian witnesses]:

‘They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, ‘I am a Christian.’ Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, ‘Who are you?’ and they replied, ‘I have already said that I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things else besides.’

Following Jesus Christ was the sum of their entire existence. At the moment when life itself was on the line, nothing else mattered besides identifying themselves with Him.”7

ENDNOTES:

1John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Christianity in an Age of Deception (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xi.

2This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of responses, but is illustrative of typical reactions by persons when confronted with truth.

3Greg L. Bahnsen, Against All Opposition: Defending the Christian Worldview (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2020), 31, PDF e-book. This work is the transcribed work of the late Dr. Bahnsen’s lectures at “American Vision’s first Life Preparation Conference entitled Pushing the Antithesis” (p. xxi; italics in original).

4Ibid., xiv.

5Ibid., 34.

6Ibid, 53.

7John MacArthur, Slave: The Hidden Truth about Your Identity in Christ (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 8-9.

Posted in Apologetics

Arguing from the Impossibility of the Contrary – The American Vision

During a “Gay Rights”/Juneteenth Parade in Fort Lauderdale, a man drove his pickup truck into a crowd killing one and injuring another. It was immediately denounced as a “terrorist attack” against the LGBTQ+ community. Here are some of the comments:
• 2 hit by truck that was aiming for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s car, a person is dead. “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community…deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person,” say authorities.
— Read on americanvision.org/posts/arguing-from-the-impossibility-of-the-contrary/

Posted in Apologetics

Verification Needed: The Question of Certainty

My Niche…

Like most people I have my particular areas of interest (my little niches), but I try to stretch myself beyond my passions from time-to-time. If you will, I try to be a connoisseur of various subjects. One area that tends to hold my attention is Christian apologetics. There is a plethora of subdivisions under the heading “Christian Apologetics.” Some examples would be Classical/Thomist Apologetics, Evidential Apologetics, Historical Apologetics, and my personal favorite Van Tilian Presuppositional-Reformed Apologetics.

One area of disagreement that I have with those forms of Christian apologetics that use a methodology not founded on biblical presuppositions is that they differ very little from the skeptic. How so? They share a false sense of neutrality when looking at facts and evidences. That is to say, there is a pretended form of neutrality that says we can look objectively at “A,” and “B,” and “C” in order to come to a correct conclusion. Tied with this, both the skeptic and the non-Reformed, non-Presuppositional Apologist deny that a person can really be certain about anything.

Lite Listening…

Historical Apologetics is one such field. It focuses on the authenticity and reliability of the biblical text (Holy Bible/Holy Scripture). The problem with “historicity” is the inability to verify every fact recorded as a definite fact recorded. As I was striking some items off of my wife’s “Honey Do List” I had YouTube on playing in the background. I had stumbled upon an interview with Laura Robinson, a PhD candidate at Duke who was identified in the heading as a New Testament scholar.[1] She was offering a critique of historical apologetics and used Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Christ as an example of an error not to mimic.

In the book Strobel uses his former experience as an atheist that was eventually converted to the Christian faith as a platform. He lays out the work as an investigative reporter interviewing various expert witnesses to come a conclusion. The person interviewing Robinson admitted that he’d not read the book, but was somewhat troubled by the problems she’d highlighted in Strobel’s writing. She used this as a stepping stone of sorts to show the limitations of the historical apologetic approach.

The Subject of Certainty

What caught my attention in the dialogue with her interviewer was her comments regarding the level of certainty we have in investigating historical events. She was concerned that many of the historical events recorded in the Bible sometimes become a stumbling block of sorts to individuals that learn that the percentage of certainty from a historical standpoint is only about 30-60% certainty (perhaps in some cases 80-90%). Which she notes is troubling to some, evidenced by their leaving their profession of faith.

Limitations of historical analysis…

The problem when looking at historical documents she noted was that we are unable to get the source of the information. We cannot meet the eyewitnesses. We weren’t there, and so we cannot verify with absolute certainty the claims of Scripture on every given point.[2]

And so, for her the method that she identifies as the best method is not in trying to reconstruct historical occurrences in the past recorded for us in (or even outside of) Scripture, but in recognizing the Living Savior—Jesus.

Tickling our hearts…

I will admit that on the surface such statements seem profound. The truth of Christ Jesus resonates in us. We know Him, we cannot deny Him, and so this type of declaration is often met with an “amen” from many professing believers. Robinson goes on to say in her interview that she does not need historical evidences that her husband is real. She doesn’t look at his birth certificate to know he’s her husband, she says. This analogy of sorts is then applied to the Christian’s knowledge of the Living Savior. He, being the premiere revelation of God, knowing the resurrected Jesus and His followers (He lives through us) is all the certainty that Christians need. In fact, she seems to lean in the direction that this is really the only certainty that we will get.

Trouble stirs beneath the Surface…

So, if I understand the argument presented (and its not the first time I’ve heard it offered up as a silver bullet of sorts) we cannot be certain about the biblical text, but we can be certain about the risen, crucified Jesus. We don’t need to overly stress the reconstruction of various historical details recorded for us in the Bible, but we ought to put overarching stress on Jesus as our personal savior. This is popular in “red-letter” Christian camps. It may in fact be the reason that men like Andy Stanley don’t want to worry about the Old Testament, prefer to focus on the New Testament writings, and lean heavily on just one aspect of the Christian faith—the Resurrection—in their witness to others.

Analogous Thinking

As human beings we think analogously. This is why we preachers (**not limited to preachers) like to use illustrations when we communicate. Sometimes an analogy helps illustrate a truth that we might be slow in getting. Knowing this I don’t want to be overly harsh in my treatment of Robinson’s analogy of her husband and his birth certificate. But I do want to probe the analogy a bit.

Tentatively Scrutinizing the Claim…

Robinson claims she is absolutely certain that he is her husband because she is able to come into personal contact with him. Okay, that is true in so far as it goes, as long as her husband is not a doppelganger. But in order to marry him he needed to verify who he is to the proper authorities. How does he do this without the proper papers? Moreover, before he became her husband, he had to introduce himself to her (and she to him). There was a point in their past when the two did not know each other. Suppose he lied about his identity; how would she know if not for those documents that she so blithely dismisses in an effort to diminish the importance of the biblical record. (Perhaps “diminish” is too harsh of a word, maybe “skate” is a better one? You know, like skating around the issue, in preference for another.)

All Share a Personal Status…

There is no question that Jesus is personal to us. Either we see Him in a good light or one where we view Him with disdain, but in either case Jesus is personal to all people. All people have a relationship with Jesus, but not all who have a relationship with Him are on good terms. But how do we know who Jesus is?

We Need Something to Verify (give Certainty) to the Identity of Jesus

This is something that I encounter more often than you would think. A form of reasoning about Christ as Lord and Savior that is very inconsistent with reality. Unfortunately, there are Christians blissfully ignorant of the fact that you cannot know Jesus the person, unless you know Jesus in Scripture.

Are we to believe that we cannot be certain what the Bible says about this or that historic event, but we can be certain of the historic Jesus because He is personally alive today at the Father’s right hand? That I may have uncertainty with who and what is revealed to me in Scripture because I cannot verify it, but I can have absolute certainty with Him who I cannot observe with any of my five senses?

“But you have all these other Christians that may be used as verification for the living Jesus,” the observation comes. How can this help me in verifying who Jesus really is apart from Scripture? How am I able to recognize what Christianity (those that bear the name of Jesus) is without first referring to the standards provided in God’s Word? It is not possible.

But what about…

Now I know that Jesus told Thomas the following truth:

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20.29b).[3]

And yet we are told that those things which are written down for us—the very historic events that skeptics and nominal Christians wring their hands and scratch their heads over:

“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10.11)

Things that cannot be verified by human means (historicity) with absolute certainty, and yet these things (such as the crossing of the Red Sea, the eating of manna, water coming from a rock struck by the staff of Moses, and the golden calf incident, being killed by fiery serpents; see 1Cor 10.1-10) are given for our benefit.

In what way? That we may know with certainty that these events did occur and God did judge between the faithful and unfaithful, blessing the obedient and cursing the disobedient. These things the Israelites were commanded to teach their children as a witness to them for their good. Did they have a way to verify them other than by God’s Word being shared through the mouth of His servants? No.

The Old Standard Stands…

The standard that Jesus gives is merely a repeating of the standard of old:

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets [idiom for God’s Word], they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16.31).

I realize the weight of those words might not have the impact I’m looking for. You may be unfamiliar with why this truth is important, let alone applicable. Some may try to dismiss it altogether saying, “that’s just a parabolic teaching.”

Who were Moses and the Prophets? They were God’s mouthpieces. They said what God told them to say. They confronted the people with what had been recorded as things God said and did. Starting with Moses we find that he is called to represent God—to testify on His behalf—to Pharaoh, the Egyptian people, and the Israelites (Exod 3.9-11). In response Moses says to the Lord God:

“Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (Exod 3.13)

God answers Moses with the following statement:

“I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you” (Exod 3.14).

“What sort of certainty Moses are you providing for us? You say that God sent you. That He is the God of our fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but how can we be certain?” Supposing that this is what Moses was anticipating would happen when he showed up back in Egypt forty years after he’d left. The answer is the same here, as it is in Jesus’ teaching about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Either you will take God at His Word, what He has spoken, or you will not.

Point being you cannot know for certain God exists if you fail to take Him at His Word. You cannot know for certain who the living Jesus is, without the documents that identify Him to you. While I agree with Robinson that historical apologetics is limited in its ability to provide absolute certainty of all elements of the Christian faith, I disagree that the way we come to certainty is bypassing or passing over the historical elements of the Bible in light of a mystical experience with Jesus.

The Biblical Testimony is necessary for Certainty on Both Counts

For only those who “…receive the kingdom of God like a child…” will enter in (Luke 18.17). Thus, Jesus’ prayer for His people is that they would be set-apart by the truth, which is the Word of God (John 17.17) in order to know truth from error. How can you worship Christ, how can you be for certain who He is, if you do not first see or hear Him as declared in Scripture (cf. Rom 10.13-17)? How are we to know who the Christ is, if we first do not “examine everything carefully” (1Thess 5.21), and second, do not test the spirit of every teaching (1John 4.1)?

In short, we better know who it is we Love as God in the flesh, lest we love one who is not God. We need to check the Lord and Savior’s “birth certificate” (identification papers) we claim lest we passionately serve one who is not:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord…And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practices lawlessness” (Matt 7.21-22a, 23).

While this particular concept (certainty vs. uncertainty) is often proliferated and is not unique among various biblical scholars, Christian philosophers and apologists, it is nonetheless false. If you cannot be certain of what the biblical record provides, then to be consistent you cannot be certain of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nor is it right to assume that you can logically separate the Living Christ from His Living Word. The Christ of Scripture is one and the same as the Christ who is Lord and Savior. We must have an objective standard to appeal to, unless we desire to hold our subjective opinion up as the true litmus test.

 


ENDNOTES:

[1] Laura Robinson, “Laura Robinson: A New Testament Scholar Critiques Apologetics,” interviewed by Haden Clark, Help Me Believe, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hpdUsUpEoR8

[2] It should be noted that she does divide into two categories (1) historical evidence from those that would fall under the category of (2) miracles, signs, etc. as these would be only “spiritually” understood and accepted (ref to 1Cor 2.14). This is a helpful admission, but I would argue that you cannot truly separate category (1) apart from category (2) for even those elements of Scripture that we define as historical narratives, events, need to be spiritually discerned. For apart from this they are just foolish stumbling blocks to the unbelieving (1Cor 1.18, 23). Meaning that the teachings of Scripture (both categories) are only accepted as absolute facts pertinent to the historic record and not wild-eyed embellishments by religious zealots, by the household of faith. Regardless of the literary style (e.g., signs vs. genealogies), only those who have the Spirit will truly respect them as genuine truth: see 1Cor 2.)

[3] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible 95’ (NASB).

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Why Ignore the Data: An Analysis of Scientific Consensus in Relation to Current Pandemic

What It’s Supposed to Be

Any time I hear the phrase “scientific consensus” I get a bit wary. Science is supposed to be based on a study of the evidence. An argument for the correct interpretation of the facts. Science is meant to be practiced objectively. Science ought to be performed in such a way to test all things and adhering to only that which is good—i.e., the truth vs. error (cf. 1Thess 5.21).

The Human Element…

Here’s the problem though, the scientific method (which is operational science at its finest) is used by imperfect beings. A point acknowledged by Del Ratzsch highlighted in his book Science and Its Limits:

“…philosophers of science have begun to pay more attention to the human side of science, to see it as in some ways essential to science. The fact that science is done by subjective humans is no longer seen as the regrettable factor it was once taken to be. Science is increasingly taken to be an undeniably human pursuit.”[1]

Moreover, science tends to have a sociocultural flavor as a result. In this case then, science tends to be driven by “…various social preconceptions, philosophical outlooks and agendas in its very bones. Indeed, these would be its bones.”[2]

Worldview Awareness…

Interestingly enough, the majority of people never consider that “science” is practiced by “scientists” and those “experts” like the rest of humanity have a personal outlook on the world in which they live. That is to say, they like all people have minds that are operated under the governance of a worldview. They view the world, reality as a whole, from the bottom of their own philosophical foundations. What is often referred to in science as a paradigm.

Also called a Paradigm…

What’s a paradigm? If you were to look in a dictionary, you’d find the following definition, “An example that serves as a pattern or a model.”[3] Scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn produced a work in 1962 entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In this work, Kuhn identified the use of paradigms in scientific inquiry and how those patterns or models helped shape scientific outcome. Ratzsch points out that this was perhaps Kuhn’s most important conceptual observation about science:

“A paradigm is, roughly, a standard of scientific achievement in terms of which scientific work is conducted and evaluated.”[4]

This standard then serves, to explain how varying postulates (presuppositions or assumed truths) about reality fit in with the world in which we live. In short, the paradigm is what guides understanding and interpretation of so-called “facts and evidences” in the world in which we live.

The Evidence that is…

What happens when facts or evidence (i.e., data) seems to run counter to previously held norms found within the current sociocultural paradigm of scientific inquiry? What is done with these anomalies that go against current expectations? Again, Ratzsch insight is helpful,

“Sometimes they [Scientists] do not even seem to notice the anomaly, and sometimes they do, they simply ignore it. Usually, however, there is some attempt to show the apparent anomaly is not really an anomaly after all, that someone simply made a mistake…Sometimes such attempts are successful. But sometimes they are not, and the anomaly apparently stands as a fact contrary to the paradigm. What do scientists do then? Sometimes nothing. Despite it being contrary to the paradigm, scientist simply view it as being an unimportant violation of the paradigm.”[5]

Now, its possible that you may be wondering why scientists would ignore new data, new evidence, new facts if in the pursuit of science, they are really seeking to see the truth of reality in an effort to avoid error. You might find it strange to think that someone would ignore what is in front of their eyes, why they would doggedly hold to preconceived notions if those notions of reality were in some way wrong? This is due to the subjective nature of humanity.

Pesky Presuppositions…

Scientist, whether they dress like you or me, or whether they wear a fancy white lab coat, are just as biased as the next fellow. They are just as committed to their worldviews as you and I are. And so, when they look at the world, they see it as they see it primarily because of preconceived ideas. The paradigm that they’ve adopted controls the narrative. They assume that their

“…particular paradigm embodie[s] the correct approach to nature and  [are] not…particularly concerned with either verifying its correctness ( it [is] already taken as being correct) or with trying to falsify it (if it is correct trying to show it [is] incorrect seems pointless).”[6]

So, why all the technical verbiage? “What are you trying to do man…make me fall asleep?” No, that’s not my intention. I want to make you aware of something that far too many people are not. “Well, what is it?” I’m glad you asked.

In Light of COVID-19…

From the outset of the argument for the reactionary behavior we have seen from politicians, medical experts, scientists, and the media has supposedly been based on the science. The data they argued supported a severe lockdown and the restriction of the American citizenry. This was not only done here in the USA, but also in other parts of the world. Due to fear of the unknown, based off of projections from available (though insufficient) data being plugged into certain models, the strain on the health care system, the lack of necessary equipment and testing, and the rapid spread of an assumed deadly virus, we were told that the best thing we could do was “Stay-At-Home” in order to “Flatten-the-Curve.”

And by and large people accepted the testimony of those supposed to be in the know. We were led to believe that this pursuit was merely scientific and nothing else. However, if those things are true, then you would think that more data that we could gain regarding the spread and morbidity of this novel corona virus, the better.

Incoming Data by way of Antibody Testing

Recently, various studies have been done attempting to find out who in our population has already been infected with the virus but recovered. Antibody testing is the best way to determine the total number of cases by taking samples of the given population.[7] If the number of infected is significantly higher than the death toll, specifically per capita numbers, then the virus is more contagious than we thought, but far less deadly.

Should Result in…

This would tell us a couple of things necessary to getting back our lives. First, there ought to be less fear of overrunning our health care system (which hasn’t occurred). Second, the fear of not having a vaccine for another 18 months or so should be far less daunting (we still have vaccines for virus’ that kill tens of thousands every year). Third, keeping us at home is no longer necessary since there is no way to keep up with the easily spread, but less dangerous, virus (the norm of quarantining anyway is keeping the sick separated from the healthy).

Good News…

You would think that would be good news for the population at large. You would think that scientists and other “experts” would want that information. You would think that the media would be excited by this and tell the good news from every mountain top. But alas, this is not what we see being done. Rather than share new data being gathered about corona virus antibodies existent in a larger portion of certain populations than originally thought, there is an effort to suppress, belittle and mock such information.

The Going on in Santa Clara County…

One study conducted by Stanford University’s medical/research staff “reveals between 48,000 and 81,000 people in Santa Clara County alone may have already been infected by corona virus by early April—that’s 50-85 times more than the number of official cases at that date.”[8] The weekend after this reporting was done a social media kickback on Twitter ensued. Krieger writes, “Critics claim the study’s methodology is dangerously flawed and question the political motives of the Stanford-led team.”[9]

Another study was done in Los Angeles, CA by the University of Southern California. Their initial antibody testing revealed similar results to the one performed by Stanford. Though somewhat lower in terms of total apparent infections being unreported, their high threshold of estimated infections extrapolated from the data “…is 55 times more people than have been confirmed via testing.”[10] However, the author warns that though this reveals a discrepancy in the total number of confirmed cases and appears to indicate a lower morbidity rate “…this new info just means that COVID-19 is much more effective at moving through a population without raising early warning signs than we previously understood.”[11]

Observations Worth Noting

So, what does all this mean? Or at the very least what does all this imply? One of the things that I think is absolutely necessary for us to take note of is the manner in which any new data is taken by those who adhere to the current sociocultural paradigm regarding this new strain of corona virus.

The Everchanging Non-Changing Narrative…

The narrative from the beginning has been very dire. Although sufficient data was lacking, models were presented with hypothetical worst-case scenarios. The projected numbers for the U.S. alone based off of the models was that nearly 2.2 million Americans would lose their lives. Those projections have been somewhat dampened to around 60 thousand deaths around the peak, which was supposed to be Easter weekend. That number wasn’t reached and so now we are talking about a potential second wave this fall that will meet those numbers.

On one hand the narrative has changed in that the “goal-posts” are constantly being moved in order to justify current actions and new proposals for a “new normal.” On the other hand, the narrative hasn’t changed. The virus that was guessed to be more deadly than the seasonal flu is still being propagated as such even when the models are shown to be inaccurate and the experts wrong.

Now we have new data coming in from places like Stanford and the University of Southern California that are showing that the current infection rates were/are apparently way off. It seems as if this novel virus is much more contagious than originally thought, but far less deadly. As more data comes in, I’d imagine that we shall see this virus is probably on par with the seasonal flu, even without a vaccine. (Remember, we have a vaccine for the seasonal flu but deaths are on average still in the tens of thousands every year in the U.S. alone).

Kuhn was right…

However, the kickback against the new data affirms what Thomas Kuhn observed as a philosopher of science. Scientific data is governed by the paradigm (the accepted narrative) held by the “scientific community.” When data is presented that offers problems with the current paradigm that data will either be ignored (this is being done right now), or it will be attacked as a mistake or found at fault due to human error (this too is being done right now), or it will be grafted in and the paradigm will have to evolve to include this new data. This will result in a paradigm shift. Which means that the scientists and medical experts along with the greedy politicians will have to admit that they were wrong, that the virus while new was not as threatening as supposed.

A Generation or So…

How long do you think that will take? Normal people in day-to-day life don’t like to admit that they were/are wrong. So, do you really expect those “experts” who have deemed themselves as “essential” will admit that they might have been wrong about anything? Millions of lives have been devastated from following their lead. To admit they are wrong would be to admit that they are responsible. It’ll take a few generations, after those people have long passed before we see that day coming. But you…yes YOU…need to be aware of these things and start governing your life accordingly.

I’ll leave you with a meme that I find most enjoyable.  Have a great weekend!

IMG_0456


ENDNOTES:

[1] Del Ratzsch, Science and Its Limits: The Natural Sciences in Christian Perspective, 2nd Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 62.

[2] Ibid., 53. Italics in original.

[3] American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition (New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2007), 612, s.v. “paradigm.”

[4] Ratzsch, Science and Its Limits, 41.

[5] Ibid., 43. Italics in original.

[6] Ibid., 42. Italics in original. Brackets added for clarity of thought.

[7] “Antibody, or serological, tests are designed to identify people who may have overcome covid-19, including those who had no symptoms, and developed an immune response…Some officials tout the blood tests as a way to reopen the economy by identifying individuals who have developed immunity and can safely return to work.” Laurie McGinley, “Dozens of coronavirus antibody tests on the market were never vetted by the FDA, leading to accuracy concerns,” The Washington Post, April 19, 2020, https://www.boston.com/news/health/2020/04/19/dozens-of-coronavirus-antibody-tests-on-the-market-were-never-vetted-by-the-fda-leading-to-accuracy-concerns.

[8] Lisa M. Krieger, “Coronavirus: Santa County has had 50 to 85 times more cases than we knew about, Stanford estimates,” Bay Area News Group, last modified April 20, 2020, The Mercury News, https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/04/17/coronavirus-2-5-to-4-2-of-santa-clara-county-residents-infected-stanford-estimates/.

[9] Lisa M. Krieger, “Feud over Stanford coronavirus study: ‘The authors owe us all an apology,’” The Orange County Register, last modified April 21, 2020, https://www.ocregister.com/2020/04/20/feud-over-stanford-coronavirus-study-the-authors-owe-us-all-an-apology/.

[10] Darrell Etherington, “LA COVID-19 antibody study adds further support for a higher-than-suspected infection rate,” TechCrunch, April 20, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/l-covid-19-antibody-study-205912221.html.

[11] Ibid.

Posted in Musings

Fear Blind: Sacrificing Freedom for False Security

 

Although I would imagine that a lot of COVID-19 material has been written on WordPress and other blogospheric sites, I find myself compelled to speak on the matter at least one more time. I do not do this out of anxiety or fear (although, I am well aware of how quickly and easily such things can grip your heart), but out of a desire to point out something that people need to seriously consider: The Unknown.

My concerns…

As a pastor, I’ve had to keep up-to-date on the daily news briefings related to this particular virus. I will admit up front that I am a conservative, and as such I prefer Fox News over other media sources. However, that is not to say that I take whatever Fox News says for granted. In my relatively short life, I have learned that I need to be critical of all teachings regardless of their proposed source. Therefore, I also watch other personally less than desirable media outlets like CNN and MSNBC, and I have been known to read the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, as well as the NY Times. Not from enjoyment, but I find it necessary to hear what the other side has to say.

In particular, I have paid attention to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) websites and their running number of verified cases vs. deaths. Why? To familiarize myself with the actual data, rather than extrapolated data based on models created with variable assumptions ingrained in them.

Two Important Articles put the Issue to Light

Last week I read an article by John Ioannidis an “influential Stanford University epidemiologist.”[1]  You can read his article HERE, but the gist of the argument provided by this highly respectable and cited researcher questions whether or not our response is akin to an elephant running from a cat and then subsequently falling off a cliff, due to fear of the unknown. In this humorous analogy the cat represents the data present on COVID-19, the elephant represents the totality of our response, and the cliff represents the unforeseen danger or unthought about consequences of acting without all the facts.

There was an immediate rebut of Ioannidis article provided by “prominent Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch” which you may also read HERE. Lipsitch argues that,

“if we don’t apply control measures, the number of cases will keep going up exponentially beyond the already fearsome numbers we have seen. Scientists have estimated that the basic reproductive number of this virus is around 2. That means without control, case numbers will double, then quadruple, then be eight times as big and so on, double with each ‘generation’ of cases.”[2]

Knowing How to Read

When we read our reading will vary depending on what type of literature it is. We all do this to some extent. No doubt some are better at this than others, but for the most part we do not read every piece of literature with the same interpretative lens.

For example, you read the comics for enjoyment. You’ll read the obituary to see who has passed on (either for a sentimental value or just curiosity). You read a sports section to see where your team (if you have one) has been competing against the other, etc.

When it comes to reading, I can get through a nice entertainment piece (novel, short story) very quickly. If my reading is research oriented then this take considerably more time. I highlight, draw lines, and scribble notes on any anything available. Recently, I started using “sticky notes” on my computer and was mildly impressed with their simplistic value for keeping my notes on various works organized. When I study my Bible I’m slower still.

An Appeal to Ignorance…

One of the things that I look for when perusing articles like the two I’ve mentioned thus far is identifying certain key terms. I do the same thing when I’m listening to various media outlets. Or, even when in conversation with others (much to the chagrin of my wife). When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis what I am constantly hearing is “…we don’t know how bad this thing will get,” “…we don’t know how many people have it, carry it, or will die from it.” In short, while the virus is certainly novel (new) there are many unknowns about it. What seemingly has people in a stir is the possibility of danger.

To be quite frank, I hate “What if…?” scenarios. Why? Because they are mere conjecture. The only person influenced by them are those invested in them. When a person or a group “makes a statement of ignorance about their respective [subject], and yet proceeds to draw a definite conclusion based on their non-evidence”[3] they have just committed a fallacious (false) argument; an Appeal to Ignorance. That is to say they have taken an “unknown” and then reasoned to a supposed known. This argument can be used in the same way from the opposite position; thus, it proves nothing.

Guessing Game…

Lipsitch in his article uses the terms “estimate,” “perhaps,” “unknown,” “nearly certain.” All of which amount to what? They are guesses, educated guesses…sure, but guesses nonetheless. How then can he claim that without the current measures enacted upon much of the current population that this virus will burn out of control doubling, quadrupling, even multiplying by a factor of 8? These are “what if” scenarios that may or may not occur.

This is what spurred Ioannidis to write the article he did. We are making decisions, in some cases radical ones, in order to fight an uncertainty…all the while pretending that we are certain our efforts will give a good outcome. This seems to be a wonderful case of the shifting sands argument. No foundation, but we keep building as if we are firmly established in our convictions on a rock. Assuming that our house will stand, when in fact it is near collapsing in on itself.

Current Data…

If you look at the current data, even as it seemingly grows as more and more cases/death totals come in, what do we find? That on average the mortality rate is about 1.2-1.5% in the U.S., and if we take the grant totals from around the world, we see about a 4.4-4.8% rate. There is no apparent rise. This does not remove a possibility of drastic increase, but it does seem to offer further support to arguments presented by those of the same mind as Ioannidis. Moreover, it highlights that one ought to make effective, logical arguments based on the data we do have. Not a mirage of data that is yet to be seen. If you argue, “Yes, but it could be worse,” then the rational questioner retorts “on what basis?”

A couple days ago, the president mentioned that on average 37,000 American citizens die every year from the flu (influenza). In 2017, it was nearly 80,000. Influenza is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States of America in 2018.[4] His point was that we’ve never done anything like this before; shutting the entire nation down out of fear. He didn’t say that last part, I did.

The Unseen Enemy

This fight against COVID-19 is caricatured as a war against an invisible enemy. Okay, but what “invisible” enemy are you truly fighting? A virus or the unknown?

When you attempt to argue from ignorance (i.e., Appeal to Ignorance) you are essentially building your position on fear (i.e., Appeal to Fear, a subset of Ignorance argument above). This is where a person or a group of persons “[argues] for a position on the basis that negative consequences will follow if a person [or group] does not accept the position.”[5]  Which is precisely the manner in which the current media storm, along with members of the medical community, and other “experts” argue.  If you don’t do “this” (and you can fill in the list of demands already being placed upon the American people), then “that” will happen. But “that” is unproven because “this” is not really known.

Who is this Enemy…?

I do agree that we are fighting a war against an “invisible enemy,” and not I’m not talking about the devil although I do not deny that he is invisible to the naked eye, and a truer enemy one will not find. But the real enemy we are fighting against (and we are losing) is our own hearts/minds.

Just another day…

Every day we face death. Every stinking day. We do not know when our deaths will come. I’m deathly allergic to all forms of bee venom (all manner of bees, wasps, and hornets). According to my allergist 1/10th of a normal injection of bee venom from say a “yellow jacked” would more than likely cause anaphylactic shock. Back in 2011 I circled the drain once.

“So what,” you say. “What’s the big deal? What’s that got to do with the current COVID-19 discussion?” you ask. My bee allergy is not relatable to COVID-19 as one is a virus and the other is a reaction to venom. Its not that type of analogy. What I am arguing is that I do not let that truth of the deadliness of the venom rob me from my way of life.

My family lives in the country. We live on a wooded 5-acre lot next to other larger wooded chunks of land. Bees, wasps, and hornets are everywhere. About every other year I have to have an exterminator come out and destroy a bald-faced hornet’s nest. Last year, the kids noticed one at the end of our long driveway. It was the size of a basketball, and there were huge hornets everywhere. They are extremely aggressive.

I cut over 2 ½ acres of grass every week. I also run 3 to 4 times a week on our property doing 5-K’s. We have an above ground swimming pool that attracts every type of bug around, including all of those that I am allergic to.

If I were to get stung, I run the risk of dying. The mortality rate for a bee sting for me even with an Epi-pen and antihistamine meds is very high. Much higher than the current death rate of this virus that has so many in a frenzy. But I do not let that dictate my everyday life. If you drive a vehicle, you likewise do the same thing; you put your life and the life of others at risk. Should we ban the use of automobiles because they are the 3rd leading cause of death of American citizens (around 163,000 in 2018).

Freedom or Slavery…

My question is this? Are you really willing to give up your freedom to live in order to grapple with a false sense of security? Because guess what, you can still die at home. You can still get an illness at home locked up in quarantine. You can still break your neck, have a blood clot travel to your heart, lung or brain. Death is around the corner. It is the invisible enemy that is always hunting you (in a figurative sense). You will die, but it seems to me that an important question is “How are we going to live?”

If a depression does hit this nation, what will the ripple effect look like here in the U.S. and the rest of the world? Will we see parents destitute in poverty unable to take care of themselves or their families? Will we witness suicides rates rise as depression begins to set in? What about pillaging or war as people try to fight for resources? Will famine and other diseases see an increase? Do you think that is just an example of fear mongering?

What about the next time an unknown enemy descends upon us? Will the response time of governmental takeover be shortened? Are we really willing to sacrifice our freedoms for a false sense of security? I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I find them laughable. But do you really suppose that these scenarios are somehow less realistic than the one so many are holding to now in blind fear?

Please think…

Currently, we are pretending the cat in the room is more dangerous than the unseen cliff that we were precariously dancing around? I’m not fear mongering here. These are real realities. This situation we find ourselves in regarding COVID-19 needs to be examined from more than one angle. It reminds me of the part in Jurassic Park where you see the one velociraptor straight ahead, all the while you’ve missed the other two about to pounce on you from their hiding spots.

Our field of vision has become so narrowed that we are missing other life-threatening realities. Are you really willing to sacrifice your freedom for a false sense of security? Sadly, I think many people just might be. Time will tell.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Kelly Crowe, “Prominent scientist dares to ask: Has the COVID-19 response gone to far?” CBC News, modified March 19, 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/coronavirus-covid-pandemic-response-scientists-1.5502423.

[2] Notice that Lipsitch does not know this, but assumes it. This will be identified later in the article by pointing to certain key terms in his writing. He argues from what is not known, and then makes a definite statement of what is known (or what he states is known) although this is not proven, but merely taken for granted. By stating this will happen, although the data to support his conclusions is lacking, is to appeal to the fears of people; evidently fears that Lipsitch personally has. Unfortunately, he is not alone.

[3] Joel McDurmon, Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice: Refuting the Fallacies of Humanism, Darwinism, Atheism, and Just Plain Stupidity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2011), Kindle Edition, loc 6176.

[4] This information is not hard to find if you are willing to set aside your social media accounts and do a little research on some reputable sites.

[5] Jason Lisle, Discerning Truth (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 20  ), 54, Adobe Digital Editions.