Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Reflections on El Paso and Dayton

Short of an apocalyptic event or a total sociopolitical revolution, mass killings will not likely cease or significantly diminish. Without fundamental change, there is little hope.

Why? Because complex problems requires complex solutions, and complex solutions are rarely if ever satisfactorily offered by one or the other faction, alone. Consider just four of the explanations typically offered, all of which have (at least on occasion) some merit:

1. Nihilism/Disbelief (conservative explanation - in my view, this is the root from which the remaining problems sprout)
2. Gun accessibility (liberal explanation)
3. Racism (liberal explanation)
4. Fatherless children (conservative explanation)

Aside from corruption in our political system, a huge impediment to a holistic solution is ideological dogmatism, which prevents each side from recognizing the merits of the other's diagnoses and prescriptions.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On the Peculiar Way Christ Saved the World

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The Politics of Suicide in Post-Christian America


I recently discovered a depressing statistic. While analyzing data from the World Bank, I learned that the U.S. was among the 10 countries that experienced the largest increase in the number of reported suicides throughout the 2005-2015 period, from 11.7 to 14.3 per 100,000 people. There is no shortage of possible causes to which one could attribute this 22 percent increase. As a political scientist who studies the intersections between faith and politics, I was naturally curious about (a) whether religious decline in the U.S. could be among the plausible explanations, and, if so, (b) what political factors might account for this decline.

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Human Suffering and the Reality of a Loving God

There are two kinds of Christians: those of experiential faith, and those of theoretical faith. Those in the former category encounter God directly, and know - not merely believe - that He exists, even if they encounter things that are troubling and contradict their preconceptions of God.

If you are like most Christians, you fall in the latter category; in other words, you are not a mystic. For you, God’s existence is a persuasive theory, not a personally-experienced truth. You may have been swayed by the arguments of philosophers like William Lane Craig, but you have yet to attain the direct insight of mystics like St. Seraphim of Sarov. 

As a corollary, your faith has probably been shaken at least once in your life by the reality of human suffering.  This is understandable; any theoretical Christian with a shred of compassion will acknowledge that such heartrending manifestations of suffering as the dying child can be a huge stumbling block to one’s faith. Indeed, I would prefer the atheist whose compassion for others drove him to disbelief to the theoretical Christian whose indifference to suffering explains why he has remained steadfast in his faith in spite of it.

From a strictly rational perspective, however, suffering cannot be taken to be a stand-alone reason to doubt God's existence.

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Atheism and Close-Mindedness


When I was first exposed to the Christian faith, I was introduced to a belief system replete with claims of extraordinary events. But that didn’t deter me from investigating it. True, science cannot account for, say, the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection. But does this necessarily mean that these events did not or cannot occur (click here for my piece on the Virgin Birth and miracles, in general)? The discipline of science is defined by a particular method used to acquire knowledge. To say that something is “scientifically impossible” is merely to say that it is methodologically impossible; not that something has been disproven, but that it can’t be proven through methods proper to that discipline. But scientific impossibility doesn’t mean phenomenological impossibility; if we were to unwittingly equate the two, then we must also be prepared to say that the burning of Sardis – along with countless other historical events – never occurred.

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