Truth Project 12: Community & Involvement (God Cares, Do I?)

Now we have reached the final “tour” of the Truth Project, on Community.

Del begins by quoting Matthew 22:33-40, wherein a Pharisee asks Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Law is. Jesus responds (referring to Deut. 6:4-9), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Del also quotes a similar passage from Luke 10:25-29, in which the Pharisee, wanting to “justify himself,” asks, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Del takes us back through the “spheres” that he has introduced in the last several tours: God, the family, the church, the state, the general economic model and the labor sphere, saying that God has stamped his divine image on each one. Then he says that the sphere of community looks a little different because it doesn’t have any “authority” roles, but only “responsibility” roles. He says maybe this is why we neglect this sphere, because there’s no power in it.

Returning to the passage in Luke, Del says that the Pharisee, in asking who his neighbor was, was looking for a checklist. Instead, Jesus told him what we think of as the parable of the Good Samaritan. Del calls it the “Story of the Good Neighbor.” In telling the story, Jesus didn’t answer the Pharisee’s question; he responded with what the man needed to hear. “He said what a neighbor was, and told him to go be a neighbor.” Del draws the “sphere” of community on the board, with Christ at the top, the neighbor below and to the right, and the needy below.

Del quotes a series of passages from the Old Testament (1 Sam. 2:8, Job 5:11, Ps. 12:5, Ps. 72:4, 138:6, 12:5) and sums them all up by saying that “God has a deep heart for the needy.” Then he asks, “Who are the needy?” It’s the poor, orphans, widows, the sick and prisoners, but it’s also outcasts, the unpopular, the neglected, the left out, the homely, the last and others. Del tells two stories to illustrate how the needy are everywhere: the first is of a girl who everyone made fun of when Del was in school, and the second is of his first school dance, where Del’s dad called his attention to the fact that there were girls whom no one was asking to dance.

Del then quotes another series of Bible passages, and ends by asking, “What other gods have a heart for the lowly?” This causes him to focus on the nature of God. He quotes Matt. 11:28-9, and says that for him, it was easy to think of God as powerful but the idea that God was humble was foreign. This is hard to miss in Jesus, though. At the Last Supper, he washed his disciples’ feet, and in John 14:4-9, he says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

But Del hastens to point out that humility is not timidity. He read a book about Jesus once called Man of Steel and Velvet. This is what Jesus is like.

Then Del plays two videos. The first is of Fr. Robert Sirico, who says that Christian charity is different from philanthropy because of its view of the person as sacred. He quotes C.S. Lewis as saying, “You’ve never met a mere mortal.”

The second video is of Flash, a tattoo artist who has made several appearances in previous video segments. In previous segments, he has come across as rough-edged and hostile to Christianity, but in this one he tells his story of abandonment and abuse, of pain and rejection by the church. He says, “I’ve only met a few Christians who act like what they say they are.”

Del then asks why we are not involved. Sometimes it’s because we don’t care. But if you want to follow Jesus, you must get involved. If we don’t engage the culture, he says, how are we going to understand where people are coming from, their needs? “We have a serious credibility gap.”

Then Del turns to the book of Jonah, in which God calls the prophet to go to Nineveh and prophesy but he runs away. Del says the focus of the story is on Nineveh. God cared about it and wanted to save it. “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Del asks, “Do you think God’s not concerned with our culture?”

Del says that we are called to transform culture. He says that Christianity changed the world through involvement. He points to the British anti-slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce as an example. He points to five characteristics that Wilberforce had that we can learn from:

1. HIs whole life was animated by a deeply held, personal faith in Jesus Christ.
2. He had a deep sense of calling that grew into conviction that he was to exercise his spiritual purpose in the realms of his secular responsibility.
3. He was committed to the strategic importance of a band of like-minded friends devoted to working together in chosen ventures.
4. He believed deeply in the power of ideas and moral beliefs to change culture through sustained public persuasion.
5. He was willing to pay a steep cost for his courageous public stands and was persistent in pursuing his life task.

There have been many Christians like him, Del says, and we are in good company. So what do we do? What is the next step? Del says that he has no clue. He isn’t going to advise people on what to do. But he does know the one who does: God.

I thought that this was a great “tour” to end on. It would be easy for people to go through this whole curriculum and say, “Well, now I have a Christian worldview. Good for me,” instead of actually having it change the way they live. I liked the way that the title frames the question: “God Cares, do I?” God is not content to sit comfortably in church and scoff at the world; should I be?

I also thought that the video of Flash was very powerful. As noted above, he comes across as being pretty rough around the edges, and in earlier tours he said some harsh and disturbing things. It was important to see the story behind who he is, and show that he is a human, made in God’s image, who God calls us to love and respect.

And finally, I think on the one hand that Wilberforce is a great example of Christian cultural involvement, and on the other it was wise for Del to refrain from saying what people should do next. They should look for God to call them to what he wants them to do.

There are just a few nitpicky things about this tour to point out. The first is that Del again bases a “sphere” on God’s internal relationships, saying that “He stamped that divine image on each [sphere].” I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, especially in Tour 7: Sociology, that I think this is a mistake and unbiblical. We can say that God wants our relationships to be a certain way, but I don’t think there’s enough biblical warrant to say that he wants our relationships in these “spheres” to look like the Trinity.

Second, I liked that Del came across in this tour as concerned about where people are coming from. But I wonder whether this is enough to counteract the scoffing and dismissive tone he adopts elsewhere in the Truth Project. For example, in tour 10, he scoffs at people at Harvard, saying, “I’m not even sure they know what [truth] means.” In an earlier tour, he scoffs at his college philosophy professor, dismissing him by saying, “How foolish!” Del appears conflicted. On the one hand, he seems to have a real heart for people, and knows that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). On the other, he seems at times to get carried away into an “Us vs. Them” mentality. I wonder which Del watchers of the Truth Project will listen to more?

Finally, Del says that “we’re called to transform culture.” I don’t think this is the best way to frame things. Culture is a big thing (within our society, you could even speak of several different cultures), and transforming it is really out of our control (I get this idea from Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making, which I read recently). Even making laws can’t transform culture; laws are downstream from culture. Instead of talking about “transforming culture,” I would be more partial to the language of “being faithful” – listening to God’s call, and following him as faithfully as we can. We can make culture, but we can leave the culture transforming up to him.


Truth Project 11: Labor (Created to Create)

My group finished the Truth Project two weeks ago, but I’ve still got a couple of tours to review. This one is on Labor, and the last one is on Community.

Del begins this penultimate tour by asking what the fourth commandment is. Anyone who knows the Ten Commandments would probably call it the Sabbath command, but Del calls attention to the fact that it begins with a command to work for six days (Exodus 20:9-11). He calls it instead the “labor command.” He goes on to say that the reason why God gave this command is because of his own nature: he rested on the seventh day and made it holy.

The world’s view of work, according to Del, is that it is a “four-letter word.” It’s just something people do because they need the money. He says that “we’re seeing an increase in a negative view of work, corporations and this whole sphere.”

Del then asks if God is concerned with economics, and whether he has spoken in this area. He refers us to James 5:4, which says, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” He also refers us to Proverbs 22:29, which says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings…”

Next Del turns to the historical example of Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press – arguably the most significant event of the last thousand years. Gutenberg worked, and his work changed the world. The world has certainly used the printing press and other inventions for evil, but the kingdom has been advanced by this and other inventions as well.

Then Del returns to the Bible. In the early chapters of Genesis, God is depicted as the original worker, who placed Adam in the garden and told him to work it. This, says Del, shows that work was not originally a negative thing. Now it is often seen that way. What happened? Del’s answer is the curse of the Fall. His image of work before the Fall is of us in a canoe, paddling downstream. Now we are asked to paddle upstream. Work is still a good thing, but it is harder.

Del stresses the importance of this sphere, but says that we (as Christians) don’t talk about it much. He gives us a general economic model in the style that he introduced to us in Tour 7: a circle with three actors in it. In the economic model, God is at the top, below and to the right is the steward, and at the bottom are material things. The important thing to remember in the general economic model is that God owns everything, and people are asked to take care of material things for him.

After introducing us to the general economic model, Del lays out seven economic principles:

1: All things belong to God (Ps. 50:7-12)

2: God appointed man to be a creative steward of his goods with “ownership” rights. (Gen. 1:28) Under this principle Del defines economics as “management of the property that ultimately belongs to God over which He has placed a steward and over which that steward will be held accountable.” He also gives us a picture of the labor sphere: the Owner at the top, the worker below and to the right, and material things at the bottom. He refers to Ephesians 6:5-8 (“Slaves. obey your earthly masters…”) in this connection.

3. Theft of another’s goods is wrong, (Ex. 20:15) and coveting another’s goods (like class envy and demand for redistribution) is wrong (Ex. 20:17).

4. Skills and abilities to work come from God (Ex. 35:30-33)

5. Work is profitable, good, and to be pursued; laziness is not (Prov. 14:23, 2 Thess. 3:10).

6. Love God and not your goods (Matt. 6:19-20).

7. Be compassionate and generous with your goods to those in need (Lev. 19:10). Del says that one of our responsibilities is to the poor: not to give them a handout, but to employ them. After quoting the verse in Leviticus, he says, “We need to ask ourselves, ‘What are the gleanings of our work?'” He says that the poor need a job. Where do those jobs come from? Not from the state, but from the sphere of labor.

Del then shifts gears and starts talking about the arts and media. The presence and power of the arts and media are overwhelming, and Del quotes Francis Schaeffer as saying, “Whoever controls the media controls the culture.” Del asks whether truth applies to this area, and answers with an emphatic “yes.” If it doesn’t, he says, we will continually find ourselves persuaded by what is vile. He shows an interview with Gordon Pennington of Burning Media Group, who says that we ought to pursue truth in the area of the arts and media. We ought to approach work the way J.S. Bach approached his: at the end of most of his manuscripts, even his “secular” work, he wrote the initials SDG – Soli Deo Gloria, “For God’s Glory Alone.”

Finally, Del shows an interview with Makoto Fujimura, an artist who argues that all art forms belong to God and urges Christians to leave behind their suspicion of the arts and pursue creative fields.

I found this tour a welcome change from the previous tour, on the United States, in which I thought Del made some major errors. I think Del is correct in thinking that many Christians do not think about their work as Christians, and instead see it as just a way to earn money. Del’s call for Christians to devote more attention to the sphere of labor, and to think about work in terms of calling, is something that the church needs to hear.

I also liked it that Del stressed Christians’ responsibility to the poor, not just to give them a handout, but to give them meaningful work. I was challenged by his question, “What are the gleanings of our work?” That is, what are the areas in which we can refrain from maximum wealth production for ourselves and instead provide the poor with work?

I didn’t like Del’s implication that the relationships within this sphere are Trinitarian – but then, I expressed that objection during his tour on Sociology, so I don’t need to repeat it here.

I also didn’t like it that Del laid the problems of this “sphere” at the feet of the world. Non-Christians are not the only ones who make work into a four-letter word. In fact, there are many non-Christians who love their work so much that it becomes an idol. I thought that Del was making a vast oversimplification here in saying that the “culture” thinks work is a bad thing. Some do. Some don’t. Del doesn’t help us relate to our neighbors when he paints with such a broad brush. Instead, he encourages us to think in caricatures.

Truth Project 10: The American Experiment (Stepping Stones) – My Thoughts

These are my reflections on tour 10 of the Truth Project. For a summary of the tour itself, go here (or just look below this post).

This was one of the most difficult tours to watch. The reason is that I am familiar with the argument that Del proposes about the founding of the United States, have spent time studying it, and have found it historically inaccurate, misleading to a lot of Christians, and damaging to the church.

Del’s thesis, broadly stated, is this: the United States was founded as a Christian nation. He is not saying that the people of the United States used to be all or even mostly Christians. He is not saying that the founders who crafted our founding documents were all or even mostly Christians. He’s not even saying that the United States has ever acted in a “Christian” manner. He is saying that the founders “tried to lay down biblical principles in the founding of this country.” If this thesis is true, then there is no problem with Del’s presentation. But if, as I will argue, Christianity was not the only influence in the founding of the United States, but one of many, then when we say the United States was founded on “biblical principles,” we are in fact combining Christianity with non-Christian influences, watering down the gospel, and neutering the church. Let’s examine Del’s claim, looking at his presentation chronologically.

Del begins his argument by looking at the history of education in the United States. What he says does show that Christianity certainly had a greater cultural influence during the colonial era than it does today. His quotes from prominent founders show that they thought religion was very important for fostering virtue and morals. But does it prove that they were trying to lay down “biblical principles” in the founding of this country? I think that we shouldn’t go farther than the evidence suggests. All we can say from these quotes is that Gouverneur Morris, Sam Adams and Benjamin Rush thought that a virtuous people were the best kind of people to preserve a republic. Adams and Rush think that Christianity is the best source of virtue. I don’t see any official state recognition of Christianity here. I just see wise politicians placing a high value on virtue in the populace, and seeing that religion, specifically Christianity, is the best source of virtue. It seems to me that the emphasis in these quotes is not necessarily on Christianity, but on fostering virtue.

Misleading Statement #1: Noah Webster was not, as Del would have us believe, a “founder” of the United States. He did not attend the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention. He did not hold public office until 1800. He was certainly a prominent citizen in the early days of the republic, but was not a founder.

Del then recounts his own journey, saying that the history he learned as a young man is history that has been rewritten to exclude Christianity. It may be that the role of Christianity has been downplayed in some circles (though examples of this would have helped). But does that give us carte blanche to retaliate by ignoring non-Christian influences? This eye-for-an-eye method of history, it seems to me, is bound to leave everyone blind.

Not only Del’s method of doing history, but also his biblical interpretation (which is often good in the other tours), is suspect. He quotes Revelation 2:5, which is Jesus speaking to the church at Ephesus, and says, “When Jesus removes his lampstand from a place, that church, that nation, becomes very dark.” Where in this verse, or this section of Scripture, is a nation mentioned? From the context, is Del justified in blurring the lines between church and nation? I don’t think so. This interpretation, which equates the United States with the church of Jesus Christ, is absolutely unjustified.

Del continues to quote Founding Father after Founding Father, including George Washington, but if you look at the quotes closely, all you can come away with is that these men apparently thought religion and morality were important for preserving freedom. Again, as in the first round of quotes, their emphasis seems to be on fostering virtue. Christianity seems like just a means to the end of fostering a virtuous people. Del says during this round of quotes that “they [the founders] came here with a fundamental biblical worldview.” It is probable that some of them did (although it couldn’t really be said that the Founding Fathers “came here.” With the exception of a few, like Alexander Hamilton, they were born here. Perhaps Del is confusing them with the Puritans, who did come – 150 years earlier). Benjamin Rush certainly seems to have positive words for Christianity in particular (though if you read more about him, you will find that he was a Universalist). But all this is far from proving that the founding principles of the United States are biblical. All it proves is that several Founding Fathers thought Christianity was important for fostering the virtue that a republic requires. This does not mean that the United States is or was distinctly Christian or founded on “biblical principles.”

The quote from Alexis de Tocqueville is an interesting one, because it shows the fusion of Christianity with other ideas in the founding era. Christianity and political liberty had become fused together in the United States, indicating that Christianity was in fact, as I am arguing, combined with other influences.

Then Del turns to the Declaration of Independence. He says that human rights come not from the state, but from the Creator. I suppose if you want to talk about rights, then it’s better to have them come from someplace other than the state, because the state is prone to abuse them. But the idea of inalienable human rights, technically, is not something found in the Bible. They sure are found in John Locke, though, as well as the English common law tradition. This is another example of how Christianity was blended together with other influences in the founding of the United States.

Del then says that he has heard over and over that the term “nature’s God,” used in the Declaration, is a Deistic term. So he quotes Edward Coke. But Coke’s quote, if anything, reinforces the idea that “nature’s God” is Deistic. Coke doesn’t talk about God’s intervention in history. He doesn’t talk about the history of Israel and the church. He doesn’t talk about Jesus. All he talks about is God putting the law of nature into man’s heart “at the time of creation.” Here is a definition of Deism from Wikipedia: It

is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme god created the universe, and that this and other religious truth can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for faith.

Coke’s quote looks a lot more like Deism to me than orthodox, biblical Christianity.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that orthodox Christians used the term “nature’s God” too, and that it’s impossible to tell just from the fact that it is used whether it is meant as a Deistic or a Christian term. Even the fact that there is confusion, that there is a co-mingling, that there is a vagueness in language is troubling. Because if it isn’t entirely clear what Jefferson meant by the term “nature’s God” in the Declaration, when we take that term and say it is Christian, we’re taking a vague, amorphous conception of God and saying this is the God of the Bible. At best, it’s confusing, and at worst, it’s watering down the faith.

I’ll skip over Del’s discussion of legal positivism, because I actually liked what he had to say there. But when he mentions that “virtually all” of the 13 colonies had religious tests for the holding of public office, I sat up and took notice.

Misleading Statement #2: Del says that “virtually all” of the original 13 states had religious tests for office. Many of them did, but not all. Virginia and New York did not. Also, though Pennsylvania’s constitution originally contained a religious test, it was struck down before the Constitutional Convention in 1787. So it is not “virtually all,” but 10 out of 13. 77%

It seems that the founding generation was not of one mind regarding religious tests. On the one hand, it is true that, as Del said, many of them wanted religious tests in order to ensure that those in public office were God-honoring men. But on the other hand, there were also many who were wary of religious tests because they were all too familiar with the religious tyranny caused by national churches in Europe. Most importantly for our present examination of Del’s claim that the nation was founded on biblical principles, Article VI of the Constitution contains the phrase, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” In the debate over the ratification of the Constitution, this very clause was brought up time after time in the state ratifying conventions. Many people wanted it taken out, and a religious test inserted in its place. But the Founding Fathers prevailed, and it stayed in -thus ensuring freedom of religion.

Del then goes farther back than the founding generation, to the mid-17th century. He quotes the Constitution of the New England Federation of 1643.

Misleading Statement #3: It is anachronistic to call a confederation of colonies in the 17th century “the United States.” The United States came 130 years later.

The quote from this Constitution indicates that the people drafting it came to New England in order to advance the kingdom of God. That is all well and good, but the Puritans didn’t found the United States. As mentioned above, there were 130 years between this document and the United States Constitution. Over the course of that time, the influence of the Puritans waned and was combined with other influences, such as classical republicanism, radical Whig thought, English common law and the Enlightenment liberalism of thinkers such as John Locke.

Del then quotes Ben Franklin’s plea for prayers to be offered during the Constitutional Convention.

Misleading Statement #4: Although Franklin did make a public plea for prayer during the Constitutional Convention, it is worth noting that that plea was not acted on during the course of the Convention. Franklin’s proposal was not voted on, and no prayers were offered.

Del closes with three more biblical passages, in addition to Revelation 2:5, mentioned above: Hosea 13:6, Deuteronomy 8:10-20 and 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. This is the most troubling part of this tour. He takes passages which are God speaking to his people (in the Old Testament examples, Israel; in the New Testament example, the church) and applies them to the United States. This is wrenching texts out of context, and results in blurring the lines between the church and the world. There were nations that thought of themselves as God’s Chosen Nation before the United States, and there probably will be after we’re gone. But we don’t have any biblical evidence that suggests God planned to choose a modern nation-state as his special people. To suggest otherwise is frankly unbiblical.

This post has been rather long, and I haven’t even gotten into the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, which is often brought into these discussions about whether the United States was founded on “biblical principles.” But in case you missed why this tour was so troubling to me, I’ll close by saying it as clearly as I can:

There are some quotes that show several Founding Fathers thought that religion and morality made a better republic. Some (like Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams and John Jay) had kind words for Christianity in particular and could be described as Christians. I do think that Christianity did have an influence in the founding of the United States, and that should not be ignored or minimized. But Christianity was certainly not the only influence. It was combined with other, non-Christian influences. The God mentioned by our Founding Fathers was in many cases a vague deity. When modern Christians take these vague references to “nature’s God,” or “Providence,” or “The Deity,” and claim that they are really references to the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ, they dilute Christianity. And when Christians take Bible passages about Israel or the church and apply them to the United States (or any nation), they dishonor Jesus by saying his bride and his body are not really who the Bible says they are.

But don’t just take my word for it. Read the sources for yourself. In addition to the original source documents, which I recommend most highly, I’d recommend The Search For Christian America by Mark Noll, George Marsden and Nathan Hatch (Christians all, by the way), Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? by John Fea, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn, and The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America by Frank Lambert. Any of them are more fair-minded than the historical revisionism that Del gives us in this tour. Del’s definition of historical revisionism is “fiddling with the past to control beliefs in the present,” and that is exactly what he does. Ignoring non-Christian contributions to the United States for the purpose of making people believe that our founding was more Christian than it was is historical revisionism.

My guess is that the main motivation for using selective quotes to make the founding of the United States seem more Christian than it was is to hang on to whatever influence Christianity had (real or imagined) in our society. My advice is: it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it to turn God into a vague deity, old and toothless, who does nothing but bless America. It’s not worth it to neuter the church by trying to merge it with the state. That has never worked. Forget about clinging to influence in society and trying to restore us to a mythical golden age. It won’t work, and it only alienates people from Jesus and the church. Instead, we should be faithful to the dangerous but good God of Jesus, and the church will turn the world upside down, the way the early church did.

Truth Project 10: The American Experiment (Stepping Stones) – Summary

I’m going to warn you right now that this might be one of the longer entries in this series of reviews of Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. What follows is my summary of the tour, and since the summary is so long, I will post my response separately.

Tour ten of The Truth Project begins with Del issuing a disclaimer (much like he did before tour five). He says that he has three rules: we are not here to deify America, we are not here to deify the founding fathers, and the third is that we will not cast stones at the unbeliever.

He begins the session proper with a question: what should the state (“the King”) look like? Whoever he is, he must see himself in relation to God. Del says that we are looking at America not because he (Del) is an American, but because he thinks that those who founded it had a comprehensive biblical worldview. The founders were sinful people like anyone else, but “I’m convinced,” Del says, “they tried to lay down biblical principles in the founding of this country.”

Del then looks at education in America. He says that there is a great hatred for America within “liberal academia.” It is a country that people love to love and love to hate. He shows the difference in American education between the time that the states were colonies and now. The second best-selling book in the colonies (behind the Bible) was the New England Primer, which contained Bible lessons and catechisms. Now, Del quotes educational reformer John Dewey as saying that faith in God is outmoded and there is no natural law and no absolutes. Del also notes that at their foundings Harvard, Princeton and Columbia were all explicitly Christian, but now none of them are. He then quotes several “founders” (I’ll explain later why I put this in quotes) on education: Gouverneur Morris, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Rush and Noah Webster. They were all of the opinion that religion (specifically, Christianity) is of foremost importance for education of young people. He also cites Article 3 of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance to this effect.

Del then asks, “How do we reconcile these statements with the idea that America was founded as a secular country?” Del himself was taught this, and he tells the story of how he came to change his mind. He worked in Washington, D.C. in the early ’90s, and while he was there he got to know more about the murals that decorate the walls in the Capitol. One is of Christopher Columbus, the second is of the baptism of Pocahontas, and the third is of the Pilgrims on the ship Speedwell. All three of these are religious, Del says, and profoundly Christian. Del then quotes Revelation 2:5, which is Jesus speaking to the church of Ephesus:

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Del explains this quote by saying, “When Jesus removes his lampstand from a place, that church, that nation, becomes very dark.”

His transitional moment, he says, came on a Saturday morning when he attended an event where someone dressed as George Washington reenacted his farewell address from 1796:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…

Del then quotes John Adams and Benjamin Rush to bolster the same point made by Washington: religion and morality are the foundations of freedom (Adams) and of republican government (Rush). He returns to Washington’s Farewell Address to make the point that morality can’t be maintained without religion. He cites Charles Carroll, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry in quick succession to reinforce this claim. He also cites Rush again to show that it is not just religion in general, but Christianity:

Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.

Del then turns to Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, to argue that religion and politics, at the beginning, were closely tied to one another in America:

The Americans combine the notions and Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive one without the other.

Del interjects that this is no longer true; we are taught that religion and politics don’t mix. He then cites Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster, John Adams and Daniel Webster to the effect that laws are inadequate to govern people who are not already governed internally. Here is Adams:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

“The foundation of this country is not the Constitution,” Del says. “It is much deeper than that.” He doesn’t say exactly what it is, but one can reasonably assume that he means religion (specifically Christianity) and morality.

Del revisits Romans 13 (which he looked at in the previous tour, on the role of the state), saying that the role of the state is to punish evil and condone good. This means that the state must know the basis for calling something good or evil. What do the founding documents of the United States say about the basis of calling something good or evil? Del quotes the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…

The rights of man do not come from the state, but from the Creator, Del says. He quotes the Declaration again:

… and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them…

Del says that he has heard the term “Nature’s God” is a Deistic term. He claims that it is not, and quotes Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634):

The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction… the moral law, called also the law of nature.

He also quotes William Blackstone, an English jurist who wrote an influential treatise on the common law called Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.

Del says that “laws of nature” is a legal term that comes from Coke and Blackstone. However, Del says, something has happened in the concept of law in America, as a result of the theory of evolution. Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859. In 1869, Charles Eliot was appointed president of Harvard. In 1870, he appointed his friend Christopher Columbus Langdell as the head of Harvard Law School. Eliot and Langdell both believed that evolution was true. Langdell, Del says (supporting this with a quote), approached law the same way evolution is approached in biology. Law is, said John Chipman Gray, one of Langdell’s colleagues in changing the view of law in America

a living thing, with a continuous history, sloughing off the old, taking on the new.

This new legal philosophy was called legal positivism, which Del defines as “the claim that the state is the ultimate authority for creating, interpreting and enforcing law. All legal truth is based on the decision of the state.” Del quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes as a proponent of this view of the law.

Del then quotes Noah Webster to the effect that it is important for people in political office to “rule in the fear of God.” Del says that virtually all of the constitutions of the early states had religious tests for office – that is, they had to make a statement before taking office that they were Christians or at least believed in God. He cites the original Delaware state constitution as an example. He says they did this because people wanted to make sure that if they gave the power of the sword to the civil magistrate, they wanted to make sure that he bore that power under the authority of God.

Going back to the larger story, Del cites the “first Constitution of the United States,” the Constitution of the New England Federation from 1643. It says

Whereas we all came to these parts of America with the same end and aim, namely, to advance the kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to injoy the liberties of the Gospell thereof with purities and peace, and for the preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the gospell…

Del thinks it is because of these roots that it is now in vogue to hate America. He has Fr. Robert Sirico, head of the Acton Institute, talk about how we got to this point. Sirico says that Judaism and Christianity invented Western civilization, and asks, How did we lose control? and How are we going to re-insinuate ourselves into it?

Del says that when he was young he was taught to believe, in contrast to Sirico, what Bishop Paul O’Brien says, that the United States was started by pagans and Deists. Del says that it was a Deist, though “not in the modern sense of the term” who stood up at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787 and proposed that the delegates have someone (a clergyman) pray for them and their deliberations every morning. Del responds, “That’s one of your least religious founders. A pagan? I don’t think so!”

Del then quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn as saying about Russia in the 20th century: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened,” and Del applies this to the United States. He also applies these three passages from the Bible to the United States:

When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me. – Hosea 13:6

Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonousb snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God. – Deuteronomy 8:10-20

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

After quoting Hosea 13:6, Del says, “The warning is to us.” After quoting 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, he says, “It is you and I that must go before the Lord.”

Del ends with the metaphor of light and darkness. It is very interesting, so I will quote it in full:

Darkness doesn’t overtake light; light overtakes darkness. Why this rise of hatred for America? Why is this historic revisionism going on? If the enemy can destroy the Christian’s passion for America, then he has won the major battle for the soul of this nation. If you do not have a heart for her , if you don’t have a passion for her, you can learn all you want about Christian worldview… but you won’t do diddly doo for her. [Quotes Revelation 2:5] If Jesus removes the lampstand, we will become a dark nation like many who have fallen before us.”

The above is just my summary of tour 10. Since I thought it was very important to include many parts of Del’s argument, it is long. So I will stop there, and leave my response to this tour until the next post.

Update: My response is posted here. And just to warn you, I probably disagreed with Del on this tour more than any other tour of the Truth Project.

Truth Project 9: The State (Whose Law?)

In tour nine of the Truth Project, Del looks at the State. He begins with a definition of politics from the first edition of Webster’s dictionary, 1828:

The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest … and the protection or its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals.”

Del then asks his audience whether the state can steal. He sets out to give his answer to this question by telling the story of a couple who had worked throughout their lives on a farm, and when the husband died the state took half of their property. He also gives an example from 1 Kings 21, where King Ahab and Jezebel had Naboth killed so they could take his vineyard. God, speaking through Elijah the prophet, calls this murder and theft. So, Del says, the state can steal.

Then Del gives another example from Daniel 4:29-35, telling the story of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar looks out over his kingdom and swells with pride at how he built it all himself, and God judges him for his pride by making him live like an animal for a while. Del asks, “Who is in control here?” The answer is that God is sovereign over kings, and he cites several Bible verses (Proverbs 16:9-10, Proverbs 21:1, Daniel 2:21, Romans 9:17) to that effect.

Del then turns to the question of what the sphere of the state is supposed to look like. He refers to 1 Samuel 8 and asks why Israel asked for a king. Del’s answer is that it was because their leadership (at that time, Samuel’s sons) was corrupt and they wanted to change their form of leadership. Samuel then warned them that if they got a king, that king would take what belongs to God. This is a warning, says Del, that they would become as slaves.

So is the king sovereign over every sphere? Del turns to Abraham Kuyper and Neo-Calvinism’s notion of “sphere sovereignty” to explain this. Basically, sphere sovereignty is the idea that each sphere of life (e.g. the state, the church, the family, labor) has its own responsibilities and authority, and stands equal to other spheres of life (to paraphrase Wikipedia). The question is whether the state has sovereignty over other spheres. Del cites 2 Chronicles 26, the story of King Uzziah going into the temple to burn incense (and being punished with leprosy for it), as an example of the state (the king) meddling with the church (the temple). “This idea of sphere sovereignty,” Del sums up, “is critical to God.” This is why, in cowboy movies set in the Old West, criminals running from a posse can run into a church and the posse can’t follow them in. The churches exist outside the state’s sovereignty.

Then Del cites Romans 13:1-6, pulling out three main ideas: authority, submission and purpose of the state. Del says that delegation of authority is found within the nature of God (John 17:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15:24, 27-28), and various forms of submission are found in the Bible (wives “subject” to their husbands, bondslaves “subject” to their masters, people “subject” to their rulers, all in Titus 2-3). Christians have the duty to pay taxes, respect and honor to the civil magistrate (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). The purpose of the state is to punish evil and condone good. The state (in the form of the civil magistrate), says Del, is an agent of God’s wrath. If the state doesn’t know the basis for calling something good or evil, then good becomes whatever is in the state’s best interests.

Del expands on this theme of the state doing what is in its own best interests by talking about pathologies that we have seen develop in various states throughout history. “The problem with pathologies in this sphere,” Del says, “is that they end in mass graves.” The one pathology that Del pays the most attention to is the rise of the state, when the state removes God and takes over sovereignty of other spheres. Del says that without God, this rise of the state continues until we have a global state.

Del concludes that one of the attributes that marked the Roman Empire at its end was an increased desire to live off the state. Del returns to 1 Samuel 8 to say that when we look to the state (or a king) for our salvation and guidance, we are rejecting God.

Del certainly covered a lot in this tour, and as is the case much of the time, I liked a lot of what he said. I agree with Del that God is sovereign over the state and that it is possible for the state to steal. I also agree that one of the effects of a loss of reliance on the transcendent God is that might makes right. There becomes no standard other than self-interest. And I also agree that in our sinful world, the state tends to aggrandize itself.

But as one person in my discussion group put it, I like it when Del is speaking directly from the Bible, but when he doesn’t, not as much. In this tour, he tacitly endorsed the standard conservative American emphases of small government and property rights. In fact, much of this tour was standard conservative fare. Now, it may be possible to make a biblical argument for such things as property rights and limited government, but Del doesn’t make that argument. And any time Christianity is presented as being compatible with a non-Christian ideology (as conservatism is—and liberalism, too), red flags go up for me. Christians may well be on the same side of certain issues as followers of ideologies, but when Christianity is aligned with an ideology without tension and without remainder, that is a major no-no.

Also, he accepted it as a given that sphere sovereignty is there in the Bible and that this is the way all Christians should view various spheres of life. However, not all Christians think that sphere sovereignty is self-evidently the way Christians ought to view the world. Del’s example from 2 Chronicles 26, in particular, can be explained in another way than appealing to sphere sovereignty. Del implies that the reason why King Uzziah broke out in leprosy was because God wanted to keep the spheres of government and religion separate. But as 2 Chronicles 26:16 says, the great sin of Uzziah was pride. He was overstepping his bounds, for sure, but the reason God was angry with him was because he did not think he needed to be consecrated (as the priests were) to offer incense. I don’t think that this would have been a problem if it had gone the other way, or if Uzziah had not been proud. I think of Samuel, in particular, who was a priest but who was intimately involved in the governance of Israel. I also think of David, who was king but danced before the Lord wearing a linen ephod (a priestly garment). At another point in David’s life, he and his men ate consecrated bread that was meant only for priests (1 Samuel 21). David was not condemned for either of these ventures outside of his “sphere.” There doesn’t seem to be as much biblical support for sphere sovereignty as Del would have us believe.

Sphere sovereignty is certainly a legitimate concept through which Christians may interpret the world, but I’m saying that it’s not self-evidently the only biblical one (for example, Catholics have an idea called subsidiarity, which says that a matter should be handled by the smallest authority capable of handling it effectively). Del misleads us when he acts as if sphere sovereignty is the only game in town.

Other than that, this was a good tour. Del’s warning at the end about the dangers of the expansion of the state and the desire to live off the state being a mark of a dying culture was perhaps too apocalyptic for my tastes. I think, for example, about the context of Romans 13. When Paul was writing, the “state” that he was talking about was the Roman Empire. I doubt whether Paul agreed fully with its ideas of what was good and what was evil. If Paul can write “let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” about the Roman Empire, of all things, I think that Del’s apocalyptic language is a bit overblown. If Paul wants Roman Christians to submit to the rulers of the pagan Roman Empire, how come Del is so agitated about modern states, in many of which Christians at least have a political voice? I don’t want to speculate about what Del’s own politics might be, but I can’t help but wonder whether he has political interests that shape the stark language he uses at the end of this tour.

Truth Project 8: Unio Mystica (Am I Alone?)

In the eighth tour of the Truth Project, Del (the presenter) looks at the mystical union between God and humans. He begins by talking about mysteries, saying how much he loved Hardy Boys books when he was a kid, and referring to Ephesians 5:31-32, which says that the mystery of marriage “is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” God, Del says, have given us a mystery and has also written the end of that mystery.

Much of the early part of this tour consists of laying a biblical foundation for the doctrine of the mystical union between God and humans. Del cites Colossians 1:27, John 15:5, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, and John 14:16-17, all in the interest of showing that “the God of the universe dwelling inside us is the greatest mystery.” God has invited us into the Godhead.

Another aspect of this mystery is that the church is the body of Christ, and God is interested on oneness in that body (1 Corinthians 12:27, Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10:17). There is another aspect, which Del calls the “Mystery of Christ.” Citing Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 1:9-10, 3:6 and especially Galatians 3:28-29, Del says that this mystery is that there are no racial barriers in Christ, no economic or class barriers, and no gender barriers. God wants his church to be united in him and with one another (John 17:20-23). This, Del says, is why you see so many “one another” commands in the New Testament (e.g. 1 Peter 1:22, Galatians 6:2, James 5:16), especially “Love one another” (John 13:34-35).

After setting forth what our relationship with Christ and one another ought to be, Del looks at the pathologies that keep us from intimacy, fellowship and unity. The major pathology that Del mentions is our hunger for significance, for people to notice us. God has given us this hunger, but it needs to be satisfied within the covenant relationships God gives. Del gives a few biblical examples of how this hunger can become a pathology, like Saul’s jealousy of David and Jesus warning people to not do their “acts of righteousness” to be praised by others (Matthew 6:1-4). What keeps us from intimacy, Del says, is that we abandon God and prostitute ourselves. Our greatest desire should be for God (Psalm 42:1-2).

Overall, I liked this tour. There was a lot of scripture quoted in it, which for a Christian worldview curriculum like the Truth Project is very good. I had never seen the various mysteries mentioned in the New Testament rolled up into one the way Del did it. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I had just never seen it before.

Even though the title of the tour could appear individualistic (“I” rather than “we”), I found that the tour itself was not particularly individualistic.

I also liked that Del, in addition to telling about what God wants for us, talked about those pathologies that keep us from being what God wants us to be. If he had ended after the first part of the tour, viewers would have been left with the issue of how the church all too often doesn’t look how it is meant to look. As it is, we can see that God intends for his people to be united to him, but we fail to be what we are meant to be. The fault lies with us and our pathologies, rather than with God.

This was one of my favorite tours of the Truth Project. It lacked some of the things that have caused me to have a mixed reaction to several other tours. For one thing, it was saturated with scripture, and Del did not go farther than scripture warranted. It also did not include negative comments about people with differing worldviews, or who have other opinions. All in all, a very good tour.

Truth Project 7: Sociology (The Divine Imprint)

The beginning of the seventh tour of the Truth Project sounded like we were revisiting the topic of the fifth tour: science. Del began by quoting Psalm 19, about the heavens declaring the glory of God, and talked to his audience about the design of a chicken egg. The chicken egg, he said, poses a problem: the problem of order. What we have is an orderly cosmos, and “God is not a God of disorder” (1 Cor. 14:33). Del doesn’t just say that God is a God of order, but also says (quoting James 3:16) that disorder is a vice.

Here is where he makes the transition to the current topic. God is “displayed in great glory through the physical creation, but even more so in the order that He has created in the social realm.” God’s social system, Del says, is where “the real battleground lies.” Since God is triune, he is social by nature. And the way that he has ordered society is bound up in his Trinitarian nature. Del quotes the Westminster Confession:

In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; the Father is of none neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Del then looks at how this Trinitarian nature of God plays out in social systems, beginning with the family. In the family, the husband and wife are one in the same way that the Father and Son are one. The wife submits to the husband in the same way that the Son submits to the Father. Authority, submission, oneness and unity are shared by the Trinity and the family.

Then he turns to look at the church as social institution, comparing it to the Trinity and to the family. Christ he puts at the top (where the Father and the husband are in the other spheres), then he puts the leaders (in the place of the Son and the wife, respectively), and then he puts the flock (in the place of the Holy Spirit and the children). The flock is supposed to honor elders the way children honor their parents (1 Timothy 5:17).

Relationships are important, Del says, but at the Fall, relationships were severed: God and Man, Man to Man, Man and Creation, and Man internally. Social order is bound up in the nature of God because he created social institutions with the divine imprint of who he is.

Then Del argues that our culture attacks the sphere of family. Divorce is commonplace, though God says “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). Husbands are inconsiderate of their wives, though Peter says that their prayers will be hindered if they do that (1 Peter 3:7). The family, Del concludes, is serious business.

The way that Del draws parallels between God’s Trinitarian nature and various social systems is, I think, problematic. When he diagrams the Trinity, he draws a triangle within a circle with the Father at the top, the Son below that and to the right, and the Holy Spirit at the bottom. He draws the same diagram when he describes social institutions. The problem with this is that he gives the impression that, simply because the Son submitted to the Father in his earthly life, there is inequality within the Trinity. When he says that the Son submits to the Father the same way that wives submits to husbands, and the same way that elders in a church submit to Christ, he is coming dangerously close to the heresy of subordinationism. I say “coming dangerously close” because Del may not believe that the Son is eternally unequal with the Father. But what he says does give that impression.

I admire Del’s effort to show that God’s concern for order proceeds from his nature, but I think that he went about it in entirely the wrong way. When you see Trinitarian relationships in anything but the Trinity itself, I think that you are treading on very dangerous ground, because you are making a parallel that the Bible itself does not make. The Trinity is mysterious, so comparing it to things that we know more about can be helpful at times. But comparisons are only just that: comparisons. When we really start to think of the relationships within the Trinity in terms of relationships within the family, we have diminished the Trinity. I know that Del is only trying to show his audience that God is a God of order, but I’m afraid he does more harm than good here.

Truth Project 6: History (Whose Story?)

In the sixth Truth Project tour, Del turns to examine history. He introduces the subject by quoting biblical passages (Isaiah 46:9-11, Galatians 4:4-5) that depict God as being in control of history. Del says that he rebelled against this idea for a long time because he wanted to be in control instead.

Then Del puts several numbers on a screen one after the other, and asks his students what those numbers are. His point in doing this is to show that humans are taught to see things in a particular way. “911” is not “nine hundred eleven,” it’s “nine-one-one.” And “9/11” has a definite meaning that it didn’t have 10 years ago. “What you believe in the present is determined by the past,” Del says, and that makes history extremely important.

To illustrate how important history is, Del gives examples of “historical revisionism.” The first example is the book I, Rigoberta Menchu, which was written as an autobiography and later was shown by anthropologist David Stoll to have falsified events. The second example of historical revisionism that Del cites is the “New School Version” of the Mayflower Compact (Del does not give a citation of his source for this revision, but presumably it came from a textbook). The revision of the Mayflower Compact leaves out references to God. Del concludes, “If I can change your historical context, I can change the way you view the present.”

This, Del says, is not new. It is what the serpent did in the garden of Eden. It is what the authorities did after Jesus’ resurrection, saying that his disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15). But in contrast to historical revisionism, Del points out that the Bible is more reliable than any other ancient document based on the number and quality of manuscripts.

The objective behind historical revisionism, Del says, is control. He quotes Marx as saying, “A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.” In contrast, God commands his people to remember their history and what he has done for them. Our problem is that we remember things (like grudges) that we should forget and forget things that we should remember. Del then returns to his initial theme, saying that the thing we should remember is God’s providential ordering of history (Ps. 33:10-11, Acts 4:27-28).

Then Del pits this against postmodernism, which, as Jean-Francois Lyotard said, is “incredulity towards metanarratives.” Del says that this rejection of metanarratives appeals to us because we want to live our own little story. The Truth, on one hand, is that history is God’s story which he orders through providence, and the Lie, on the other, is that there is no metanarrative and that history is a tool. We all suffer from natural myopia, Del says.

He closes with the example of the Pilgrims, who were given strength to endure hardship because, as William Bradford said, “they rested on His Providence and knew whom they had believed.” “You can’t have this perspective,” Del says, “unless you’re caught up in the larger story of God.”

I agree with Del that history is important. I also appreciate Del’s pointing out that we often revise history because we would prefer to believe something else. One thing that came up in our group discussion afterward is that we all revise history at one time or another. The key is to be honest with ourselves when we are faced with that temptation, and ask why we are tempted to revise history. Why are we unwilling to be honest about history? Is it because we want control or power for ourselves? I also agree that for the Christian, remembering the story of God’s interaction with humanity is crucial. History is really his (God’s) story, and if Christians remember that we are part of a story, we are prone to make fewer mistakes.

However, I wish that Del himself were more aware of history. In the previous lesson, I wish that Del had mentioned, for example, B.B. Warfield or Asa Gray, two prominent 19th-century Christians who believed in evolution. If Del were aware of men like that, perhaps he would be less prone to believe that there has always been a conflict between evolution and Christianity, and less prone to demonize those who believe in evolution.

Also, although we have not gotten to it yet, one of the later tours in the Truth Project deals with the founding of the United States. In my review of that tour, I will attempt to point out some places in which Del himself engages in historical revisionism.

History is God’s story, as Del says, but this leads to two caveats: one is that if history is God’s story, we don’t have to be afraid of the truth, even if it contradicts our prejudices or makes us uncomfortable. The second is that if history is God’s story, God is the only one who knows the full story. We can know parts of it, but we ought to be humble because we know there will always be more for us to learn. I wish that Del had made those two things clear.

Truth Project 5: Science (What is True?)

The fifth tour of the Truth Project is a two-part lecture dealing with science. Del begins with the Bible’s statement, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19), and points out that there has been a tendency since the Fall to look at what is plain (i.e., God’s creation and ordering of the world) and ignore it. Del notes the difficulty of answering the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” from a purely naturalistic point of view. He also points out that if what we see in the world is random, then we would have no need to study it. But since we can see that the universe has order, that makes it difficult to claim that it is the product of chance.

Del then turns to look specifically at Darwin’s theory of evolution. He cites several sources as saying that evolution is a fact beyond dispute, then attempts to undermine it by appealing to William Paley’s argument for design. Such modern apologists for evolution as Richard Dawkins define biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose,” and Del thinks that he (and others like him) are ignoring the obvious: namely, that if the universe looks designed, then it must have been designed.

In the second half of the science tour, Del continues to take aim at evolution. He questions it first based on molecular biology, then the fossil record. Before looking at molecular biology, he quotes Darwin as saying, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” This, Del says, is precisely what has happened through study of molecular biology. He cites Michael Behe as saying that the flagellum and the inner workings of the cell are “irreducibly complex,” meaning that they could not have come about through the kinds of modifications that Darwin wrote about.

Del then turns to question evolution through appeal to the fossil record. He points out the paucity of evidence gathered through the fossil record and scoffs at Stephen Jay Gould’s “punctuated equilibrium,” which was presented as a possible way around the lack of transitional forms. He also argues that the difference between the beaks of the varieties of the Galapagos Finch that Darwin observed can be explained as temporary differences that oscillate back and forth depending on the availability of certain types of food.

Del then wraps up by saying that statements like these made against evolution are met with derisive comments. Why? Because, Del says, we are not just dealing with a scientific truth claim, but a philosophical truth claim. Evolution, he says, is a worldview which people will desperately hang on to because the consequences of rejecting it turn them face-to-face with the reality of a creator. If evolution is true, then there was no Adam and Eve and original sin. If there is no original sin, then there was no reason for Jesus to be a redeemer. And if there was no reason for Jesus to be redeemer, then there was no reason for him to come, and Christianity is nothing.

To his credit, Del realizes that this is a controversial subject. Before the tour started, he included a statement to the viewer asking him or her to hear him out and weigh whether his argument is true. I hope that I was able to give him a fair hearing, and here is what I came away with:

I agree with Del that science has a great deal of difficulty explaining why there is something rather than nothing, and even how life came from non-life. And I agree with Del on the reason for this: namely, that science is not capable of addressing philosophical issues like that. Because of the success of science coming out of the Enlightenment, some began (and continue) to claim that science is omnicompetent – that is, that it can do anything, including providing explanations for philosophical questions like why we are here. Del is right to point out this shift and the difficulty involved in it.

I also think that Del is right to point out the willful ignorance of people like Dawkins and Francis Crick, who say that biology studies things that appear to be designed, but really are not.

However, I’m not so sure that Del is adopting the best strategy by taking on evolution lock, stock and barrel. One reason for this is that there are many intelligent Christians (including many Christians who work in the sciences) who find no contradiction between their Christian faith and a belief in evolution. I am no scientist – the only science courses I took in college were a biology class and a chemistry class, which were enough to satisfy the general education requirement – but if people like Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian, find no contradiction between their faith and their support of evolution, then I am all right with that.

58% of Catholics, 54% of Orthodox, 51% of mainline Protestants and 24% of Evangelical Protestants believe in evolution
58% of Catholics, 54% of Orthodox, 51% of mainline Protestants and 24% of Evangelical Protestants believe in evolution

Another reason that I’m not sure that attacking evolution by substituting Intelligent Design is the best strategy is that it seems to me like a “god of the gaps” way of viewing science. If we believe in a “god of the gaps,” we believe that those natural phenomena that we can’t explain otherwise must have been brought about by God. But what happens when we are able to explain those natural phenomena? Our “god” is diminished.

I think that Del is right in many of the things that he says about science, but he has unfortunately chosen the wrong “bad guy.” The bad guy here is not the theory of evolution, which, as I mentioned, many Christians who work in the sciences believe in. No, the bad guy is scientific naturalism, which says that the only real things are the things we can examine through science. This is the worldview that needs to be addressed. In this debate, evolution is just a red herring. Unfortunately, many young people who have been raised in the church are taught to believe that their faith is incompatible with evolution, and then go to college and become convinced that evolution must be true. Then they are faced with a false dilemma between science and faith, and guess which one loses?

Truth Project 4: Theology (Who is God?)

In this fourth Truth Project tour, Del shares that this is his favorite, and that he wishes he could do it first. The reason for doing it fourth is that in our culture, we need to take care of other things first. The only way that we can begin to answer the question, “Who is God?” is that he has revealed himself to us through his word.

In addition to “Who is God?”, Del looks at another question: “What is eternal life?” This he answers from John 17:1-3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” This is not just knowledge of God, but relationship with God.

Del then talks about his own journey of increasing knowledge of God through study of God’s various names. One example that he gives is El Qanna, the Hebrew word for “a jealous God.” God’s jealousy is not the same as our jealousy, however; God’s jealousy is zeal that arises when sin threatens a relationship. Names mean something, says Del. And this is what transforms us, so “should we be surprised that it is here we find the focus of the attack?” That is, God’s nature is being attacked in our culture, as well as God’s Word (i.e., the Bible). Del takes the rest of the tour to address attacks on the latter. He lists various people who have attacked the Bible, including Voltaire, Robert Ingersoll and the Jesus Seminar – which concluded that 82% of the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible were not really spoken by him.

Del’s final segment for this tour was relating a personal crisis that he had in relation to the trustworthiness of the Bible. He was looking at the dates that the kings of Israel and Judah ruled, and saw an apparent contradiction between 2 Kings 8:16 and 2 Kings 1:17. It looked like the Bible contradicted itself when it talked about the beginnings of the reigns of Joram and Jehoram. After reading a book by Edwin Thiele called The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, he concluded that the apparent contradiction was only apparent because Judah and Israel used different dating systems. He challenges his listeners to really believe that the Bible is God’s Word.

I admire Del’s willingness to tackle such a large subject in such a short amount of time. I agree with him that the only reason we can begin to know who God is is that he has chosen to reveal himself. I agree that knowledge of God is not just about intellectual knowledge, but it is about an intimate relationship. I agree with him that names mean something. I agree that God’s character and the Bible are being attacked in our culture, and that this has been going on for a long time. I liked his example of Joram and Jehoram, and I think it’s neat that studying the text in context takes away the seeming contradiction.

I was uneasy, however, at the end of this example of Joram and Jehoram, when Del concluded, “Hallelujah, you can trust the Bible.” It’s not that I don’t think the Bible can be trusted, but I worry whether, based on Del’s example, people will trust in the Bible based on their own ability to explain it. I wish that Del had used as another example a passage that Christians disagree on or are unsure about. This, it seems to me, would be an equally good teaching moment. It would show the audience that we can still trust God’s ability to speak through the Bible even if we can’t always trust our own ability to explain it precisely.

Also, I hate to bring this up again, but I chafed at the word “objective” when it was mentioned during this tour. This time, Del described relationship with God as objective. How, I wondered, could a relationship be objective? It seems that Del is trying to use “objective” as a synonym for “real,” which is confusing – and not the case.