Is Homosexuality Natural?

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I don’t shy away from tough topics. I began reading the book of Romans this week. Just the first chapter is chock full of things I’d like to discuss, but in my Apologetics Study Bible is this article that is too interesting not to share. (You can also check out my previous “Something to Think About” post on this topic.)

Is Homosexuality Natural?

The answer to this question depends on how you define natural. If natural means “genetic or biologically determined,” then homosexuality is not natural. Decades of scientific research have failed to find a “gay gene” or a sole biological cause for same-sex attraction. The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and even gay researchers all recognize that homosexuality cannot be reduced to biology alone. Instead, they acknowledge that social factors seems to play a key role in the development of homosexuality. No evidence suggests that it’s natural for homosexuals to be “born gay.”

Sometimes natural refers to design. Something is natural if it is functioning the way it was designed to function. But homosexual behavior isn’t natural in this sense, either. It goes against the natural function of the body. Male and female bodies have a “natural” fit because their genes have fashioned sexual anatomies to complement each other. Their reproductive organs work together harmoniously to produce another human being–a clear indication that natural design favors heterosexual rather than homosexual unions.

Romans 1:26-27 follows this same reasoning. Paul says that men abandoned the natural sexual function of women and engaged in unnatural sex with men [and vice versa]. His words make it clear that homosexual behavior is unnatural, because it is a rejection of God’s design for sex. Homosexual desire, then would also be unnatural for the same reason: It drives people to abandon the natural design and function of human sexuality.

Some argue that homosexuality is natural in the sense that God created people that way. But there is no reason to believe this. No major religious tradition teaches or affirms that homosexuality is natural or moral. Though some gay advocates deny that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior, they must resort to interpretive gymnastics that distort the clear and obvious meaning of the biblical text.

Homosexuality is “natural” in one sense, though. It “occurs in nature” in the sense that some human beings engage in homosexual behavior. Gay advocates argue that if it occurs in nature, then it’s morally appropriate. But to conclude that homosexuality is moral simply because it happens with some frequency commits an error in thinking known as the is-ought fallacy. Just because a behavior is occurring in nature doesn’t mean it ought to be considered moral. After all, if you accept the natural status quo as moral, then every behavior seems to pass the morality test. Murder, rape, and theft all “occur in nature.” Some animals kill their young or abandon wounded family members. Others cannibalize their mates. These behaviors occur more frequently than homosexuality, yet we wouldn’t give blanket approval to them just because they’re natural in this sense. Morality is often the opposite of doing what comes naturally, and the ability to overcome natural impulses is one of the things that separate humans from animals.

In summary, homosexuality is not a natural behavior if by natural you mean something that fits our anatomy or God’s design for sexuality and reproduction.

Shlemon, A. (2009). Is Homosexuality Natural? Apologetics Study Bible for Students, 1201. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

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What Do Mormons Believe?

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest and say, I read this one a few weeks ago and I have been wanting to share it, but the timing was off because of elections. So, I’m sharing it now…

Members of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are nicknamed Mormons after one of the main characters in the Book of Mormon. Mormons follow four books as Scripture: the Bible (officially, the King James Version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), and the Pearl of Great Price (PGP).

The church’s leaders teach that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a teenager named Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1820, telling him that all the teachings of existing Christian churches “were an abomination in [God’s] sight” because their “professors” had changed the original gospel message (see “Joseph Smith–History,” PGP 1:19). Three years later Smith said an angel named Moroni led him to unearth a set of gold plates inscribed with strange writings from a hillside in rural New York. Moroni said that he himself had buried the plates there 14 centuries earlier, before he was transformed from a man to an angel.

Smith claimed the ability to translate the plates, which he said were written in “Reformed Egyptian.” No one else was allowed to see the plates. The results of his “translation” is the Book of Mormon, published in 1830. It tells tales about ancient Israelites coming to the American continent, Jesus visiting here after His resurrection in faraway Israel, and about evil, dark-skinned Lamanites destroying the righteous Nephites. After moving his followers to three different states, Smith was killed by an Illinois mob in 1844. Three years later, the second prophet (Brigham Young) let most of the church members to the Utah Territory. Mormons believe their church is guided by a living prophet as well as two counselors, twelve apostles, and several quorums of the “Seventy.” These men are called general authorities.

Mormonism’s emphasis on families and moral values makes it attractive to may people. The young, clean-cut LDS missionaries who spend two years of their lives sharing the LDS message around the world are able to convince many people to convert to Mormonism. Yet while Mormons talk about God and Jesus as well as salvation by grace and baptism, they give different meanings to these topics. For instance, in contradiction to the Bible, Mormonism teaches:

  • God the Father was once a human and today has “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22). The Bible says, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
  • The doctrines of the Trinity and Jesus’ equality with the Father are false.
  • Men can become gods of their own worlds and have families that continue forever.
  • Living Mormons can do good works on behalf of the dead through rites in the LDS temples.
  • Undergoing water baptism, joining the LDS Church, and getting married in the temple are requirements for being exalted in the next life.

Many Mormons are wonderful people, but the gospel they follow is not biblical and their beliefs about America’s history are clearly false. Learning more about Mormon teachings will allow you to become effective at explaining the vital differences between biblical truth and the mistaken beliefs of the Latter-Day Saints.

Johnson, E. (2009). Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers.

How Do I Know Jesus Even Existed?

Good evening,

I was reading my Apologetics Study Bible and came across this article that I wanted to share…

Was Jesus an actual person  or just a legendary character? Philosopher Bertrand Russell spoke for radical skeptics everywhere when he said, “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed all, and if he did we do not know anything about him” (Why I Am Not a Christian). Is Russell correct? Is it doubtful that Jesus lived?

In reality we have very good proof that Jesus existed. First, we have writings from early non-Christians. Flavius Josephus, the prolific Jewish historian of the first century, reported about major historical events of the era, including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Josephus was not a follower of Christ. Nevertheless, he said the following about Jesus.

“At this time there as a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” ~ Josephus quoted by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek in  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

In an essay about evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi concludes that even if we did not have any Christian writings like those of the apostles, we would have the following facts from Roman sources such as Pliny the Younger, a philosopher, and Tacitus, a historian, as well as Jewish sources like Josephus and the Talmud:

  • Jesus as a Jewish teacher.
  • Many observers believed that He performed healings and exorcisms.
  • He was rejected by the Jewish leaders.
  • He was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.
  • His followers believed that He came back to life, and spread the news beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of Christians in Rome by A.D. 64.
  • All kinds of people (rich and poor, urban and rural) worshiped Jesus as God by the time the second century began (see “Jesus Outside the New Testament: What is the Evidence?” in Jesus Under Fire by M.J. Wilkins).

Second, we have reliable evidence about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from eyewitnesses. Some of the New Testament authors followed Jesus personally. Others, like Luke, wrote within a generation of Jesus’ life and were familiar with eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-4). These authors were well aware of popular myths and false teachings about Jesus. They wanted to set the record straight in their own writings. The apostle Paul said over 500 people saw the resurrected Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:6). The apostle Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). In conclusion, we have excellent, reliable, and abundant accounts that help us know who the real Jesus is.

Sterrett, D. (2009).  How Do I Know Jesus Even Existed?. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN.

Judgment

I came across this short statement a while ago, and it was recently brought to mind, so I thought I’d share it with you…

In our politically correct age, we are told that it’s not our right to point fingers and pass judgment on others. However, this is actually a judgment in and of itself, and thus it contradicts the principle that we should not judge others. So when someone tells you that it’s wrong for you to judge, ask, “So then why are you judging me?” Anyone who says Jesus prohibits all judgment in Matthew 7:1 has taken His words out of context. It is a self-righteous, hypocritical judgment that Jesus condemns (Romans 2:1-3). Elsewhere He actually commands His followers to “judge according to righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Paul said Christians are responsible to discern the actions of other Christians (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, 6:2-5). Of course our goal must be correction rather than scorn when we make righteous judgments. We must keep a humble, non-hypocritical spirit when we judge others, but we should never buy into the idea that it is wrong to practice and communicate discernment. (Apologetics Study Bible for Students. (2009). P 1010. Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN.)

Why Are There So Many Translations of the Bible?

Every once in a while I come across an interesting article, worth being shared. This one is by Eric Johnson.

The original manuscripts of the Bible were written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), with a few parts in Aramaic. In order to read the Bible as it was originally written, a person would need to learn these ancient languages. However, few people are able to invest in the time-consuming, difficult task of learning these ancient languages. In order for modern people to read the Bible, translators must take the ancient words and make them understandable in today’s language. Scholars have worked for several hundred years to translate the Bible into various languages, and yet even now, fewer than half of the 7,000 languages in the world have at least one translated book of the Bible.

As far as English is concerned, many different translations have been produced over more than six centuries. The first complete English translation (from the Latin Vulgate) was put together by John Wycliffe at the end of the fourteenth century. The Roman Catholic Church opposed his efforts. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable type printing press in the fifteenth century, the literary world was forever changed. Instead of having to copy the Bible letter by letter, copies could now be printed by whole pages. As a result, a number of sixteenth-century English translations were produced. For instance, William Tyndale–the first to translate the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts–smuggled his Bibles into England. Believing that common people deserved the Bible in their language, Tyndale famously said, “I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.” He was paid for his trouble by being burned at the stake.  Other English translations from this era include the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Version.

First published in 1611, the King James Version established itself as the standard translation in the English world for more than four centuries. In the nineteenth century, ancient biblical  manuscripts were made available that earlier translators could not access, including Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Alexandrinus. Starting in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Israel and were dated as early as 150 B.C. Before this, the earliest Old Testament (OT) manuscripts available to translators were dated in the tenth century A.D.

With the wealth of these more reliable manuscripts, a number of excellent Bible translations have been produced since the second half of the twentieth century. Some of the more popular modern versions are the New American Standard Bible (1971), the New International Version (1978), Today’s English Version (1992), the Contemporary English Version (1995), the English Standard Version (2001), the New Living Translation (2004), and …the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Some translations place greater emphasis on contemporary readability, some emphasize a literal approach more, and others aim to balance these approaches. With the wide variety of translations available today, readers have many good choices for studying God’s Word.

We can trust that throughout the centuries, God has watched carefully over His Word and those who have taken on the task to translate it so that people in every place in every time can read and understand it. As Isaiah wrote, “For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it do” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Johnson, E. (2009). Why Are There So Many Translations of the Bible? The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, 747. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Evidence for God: DNA

I came across this article by Frank Turek about DNA that I found to be really interesting and I’ve been dying to share it…

I once read of an atheist on the internet who was complaining that there was not enough evidence to believe in God. When a Christian asked him what kind of evidence he would need to believe, he said he would believe if he looked up right now and saw written in the sky, HEY, ROGER! THIS IS GOD. I CERTAINLY DO EXIST!

The immediacy and specificity of such a message would rule out a skywriter. Roger certainly couldn’t explain it away as a chance collection of cloud material or an unusual cloud formation, nor would he say that, given enough time, the clouds would form that way naturally due to some kind of cloud “evolution.” A message such as this would have to be the product of intelligence. Why? Because natural laws don’t create specific, complex messages. In all our experience, the only forces we see creating specific complex messages are intelligent minds. Natural forces never do it.

That’s why when you’re walking down the beach and you see John loves Mary scribbled in the sand, you know a human being had been there. You don’t assume a crab crawled out of the water and wrote that, or the lapping waves somehow produced the message. Only minds produce messages. This is why archeologists know that the inscriptions they dig up from the ground were made by ancient humans, not natural forces.

Well, it turns out that all life forms contain messages that are far more specified and complex than the message the atheist above says he’d like to see in the sky or any messages found scribbled on beaches or  ancient tablets.

How much more?

The simplest independent life we know about–the amoeba–is a miniature machine of astonishing complexity. Even the ardent Darwinist, Richard Dawkins, admits that the amount of information in this one-celled life form has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete sets of an encyclopedia–that’s 30 volumes x 1,000 in a cell that’s much smaller than a grain of salt. Now, believing that 30,000 books came into existence from non-living chemicals by natural law without any intelligent intervention is like believing  that an entire library resulted from an explosion in a printing shop! I don’t have enough faith to believe that.

This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument, which is a kind of argument that says God must be the explanation for things we don’t know or understand. We don’t simply lack a natural explanation for the complexity of DNA. Rather, evidence for the complexity of DNA is positive and empirically detectable, and it points to the work of an intelligent Creator. No natural force that can create such a message, especially one 30,000 books long. Messages only come from minds.

In summary, DNA points to a supreme intelligence. This is why Francis Collins, former head of the human genome project, calls DNA the language of God. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding” (Isaiah 40:28).

To paraphrase noted French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal: God never performed a miracle to convince an atheist, because His ordinary works provide sufficient evidence. One of those ordinary works is DNA.

Turek, F. (2009). Evidence for God: DNA. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, p. 728. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.