Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace: important differences between Christianity and Mormonism

Here’s a podcast featuring J. Warner Wallace. This is an after action report from Wallace’s recent missions trip to Utah to evangelize Mormons.

The MP3 file is here. (74 minutes)

Topics:

  • Mormons disagree with Christians about the nature of God, Jesus and salvation
  • The differences are so dramatic that the two religions are completely different views
  • Mormons try to portray themselves as a denomination of Christianity
  • The Utah missions trip: how Christians were trained to engage with Mormons
  • Mormonism is a works-based religion – you earn your way to eternal life by doing works
  • In Christianity, eternal life is a free gift from God to anyone who accepts Jesus as their leader and redeemer
  • Mormons believe that doctrines can change from generation to generation (progressive revelation)
  • Mormons commonly make the case for a works-based theology by appealing to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
  • Mormons believe that you have to be perfect in order to get “exalted” eternal life
  • Christians are perfect because Jesus has paid the price of our rebellion against God
  • Christians: Jesus’ sacrifice pays for anything evil that we have done and could do
  • Christians are made perfect because Jesus’ perfection is applied to them
  • Christians are not practically perfect, but they are perfect by accepting that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross
  • God credits righteousness to Christians because Jesus has already died to pay off the punishment for their sins
  • The good works that Christians do are a voluntary response to this free gift of salvation
  • The good works do not secure a Christian’s salvation, they are the natural outworking of accepting the gift of salvation
  • The Mormon view of the afterlife is different from the Christian view
  • The best Mormon afterlife (“exaltation”) requires continued righteousness to the end of one’s natural life
  • This is not compatible with Christian teaching about salvation being by grace and not by doing good works (Gal 3:10-14)
  • Mormons can never know whether they are saved or not until the day they die
  • Christians can be sure of their salvation from the moment they accept Jesus as their leader and redeemer
  • The Bible is clear that we can know whether we are saved or not (John 5:9-14)
  • It is inconsistent for Mormons to claim to be Christians and then try to convert Christians to Mormonism
  • The reason why Mormons go door to door is because they think Christians are wrong
  • The Mormon view of Jesus is nothing like the Christian view of Christ (from the Bible)
  • Mormonism is polytheistic, whereas Christianity is monotheistic
  • Mormon “gods” are just beings who have a human nature who were “exalted” for doing good works
  • When debating Mormons, they will try to argue that Mormonism is true because it results in good works
  • The Biblical standard for a good prophet is to see whether his prophecies come true
  • The Mormon view is that Joseph Smith is reliable because he did good works
  • But good works are not a good way to test truth claims – a person could be “good” and still say false things
  • A good question to ask Mormons: is the Book of Mormon ancient? It claims to be ancient, but is it?
  • They may try to answer this question by appealing to fideism: praying for confirmation by burning bosom
  • But this is not a question that can be assessed by subjective feelings (just pray about it)
  • This is a question that needs to be assessed by historians using historical evidence
  • There is no historical or archaeological support for the claims in the Book of Mormon
  • In contrast, we have direct eyewitness testimony about the life of Jesus in the New Testament
  • We have fragments of NT manuscripts dating back to first century so we know that the New Testament is ancient

You can find lots more awesome J. Warner Wallace podcasts here. Also, I know a secret – his new book is coming along well, and he actually posted a picture of all the books he read preparing for it on Facebook. It’s a lot! The title is “God’s crime scene”.

Previously, I posted my refutation of Mormonism which used two evidential arguments. And J.W. Wartick has posted two philosophical arguments against Mormonism as well.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pastor Franklin Graham tells Obama: Islam “is a false religion”

When a pastor does the right thing, I have to feature it.

This is from CNS News.

Excerpt:

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of world renowned evangelical pastor Billy Graham, said that President Barack Obama was “fundamentally mistaken” about radical Islam; questioned why peaceful Muslims do not collectively condemn jihadist terrorism; and argued that Islam “is a false religion” and that “it is impossible for a false religion to be a true religion of peace.”

Rev. Franklin Graham also cited examples from a speech he recently gave outside the White House, decrying the actions of followers of a “peaceful religion” who practice “female circumcision,” hijacking, kidnapping, “honor” killings, and decapitation.

Rev. Graham commended President Obama for sending some U.S. troops to fight the Islamic State but, citing Obama’s Sept. 24  speech at the United Nations where the president said “Islam teaches peace,” the reverend said, “I also believe our president is completely and fundamentally mistaken about the intolerant and violent nature of hardened Islamic followers.”

“For Muslims, peace comes only through submission to Islam,” said Rev. Graham in his November commentary for Decision magazine,  published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  “When they speak of peace, they mean submission to their religion. Worldwide, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been slaughtered in the name of Allah, under the bloody flag of Islam.”

Persecution of minorities:

Rev. Graham noted the case of Pastor Saeed Abedeni, an Iranian American who is in prison in Iran “simply because of his Christian faith, beaten and tortured for the sake of Christ by the hostile Islamic regime.”

Executions:

“Mr. President, followers of a peaceful religion do not cut off the heads of innocent people in the barbaric fashion the world has watched recently,” Rev. Graham had said over the loudspeakers, addressing the president and the White House.

Kidnapping and sex-trafficking:

“Mr. President, believers in a peaceful religion do not kidnap 300 young schoolgirls as Boko Haram did in northeastern Nigeria in April and reportedly [sell] them to men to be sex slaves,” he said.  “Mr. President, no peaceful religion would tolerate, let alone practice, female circumcision, require a woman to have her husband’s permission to leave her home and take up employment, and restrict her ability to receive justice in the case of sex crimes.”

“Honor” killings:

Rev. Graham continued, “Mr. President, a peaceful religion would not condone and allow a father to drown a daughter in a swimming pool in front of the family in the name of family honor because she might have stayed out late in the evening with her boyfriend.  Mr. President, why haven’t the 3.5 million Muslims in North America rejected this gross, barbaric and despicable behavior by their fellow Muslims on American soil?”

And there is no widespread outrage among Western muslims over these actions:

Rev. Graham went on to note that the “terrible acts” he cited had not been carried out by “peaceful Muslims, but by radical extremists,” but he questioned why many, “if not most” of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world have not condemned these violent acts. If a so-called Christian commits an act of terrorism, mainstream Christians “quickly and unanimously rise together to condemn it,” he said.

I don’t think Franklin Graham is right 100% of the time, and I don’t agree with him 100% of the time. But it takes balls of steel to say things like this in today’s politically correct culture. Got to tip my hat to him. But then again, he’s not running for office, so he can say what he really thinks. And I have to say I agree that the examples of behavior by Muslims are outrageous and immoral. And I think a lot of non-Christians are going to agree with Graham, too.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

New study: being raised by married parents has huge positive effect on economic well-being

Here’s some of the findings from the Institute for Family Studies.

Excerpt:

Wilcox and Lerhman found that growing up in a two-parent family correlated with many positive outcomes for kids, well into adulthood. For example:

  • Growing up with both parents reduced the probability for dropping out of high school by 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women.
  • Growing up in an intact family reduced women’s chances of becoming single mothers by 12 percent and men’s chances of being nonresidential fathers by 5 percent.
  • Both men and women who grew up in intact families enjoyed substantial marriage premiums. Young men who grew up in intact families earned, on average, more than $6,500 more in personal income and more than $16,000 more in family income than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Young women from intact families earn more than $4,700 in personal income and more than $12,000 more than their peers from single-parent families.
  • Growing up with both parents also increased young adults chances of marrying themselves. Men who grew up in intact homes were 10 percent more likely to get married than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Women who grew up in intact homes were 12 percent more likely to marry.

Individuals who grow up in intact homes are more likely to marry and once they do, they are the recipients of a host of benefits associated with being married.

  • Married men age 28–30 earn nearly $16,000 more, on average, than their single peers. Their family income is nearly $22,000 higher than their single peers. And the marriage premium for men extends to less-educated and minority men who are often at a disadvantage in the work force. Married young men with only high-school educations, for example, earned more than $17,000 more than their single peers.

I don’t like to blog about these things without solutions. I have some of my own (school choice, abstinence education funding, repeal no-fault divorce, defund Planned Parenthood, double the child tax credit for married couples, provide a carry forward tax credit to each married parent for ALL income earned by children before age 21, etc.).

But the new study has some solutions too:

Wilcox and Lehrman do make recommendations for strengthening lower and middle-class families. They recommend eliminating marriage penalties from the tax code, while increasing the child credit and the earned income credit maximum. They also recommend improving vocational training and launching a national campaign that encourages young adults to follow the ”success sequence”: education, job, marriage, children.

I think a lot of kids of my generation should be reading studies like this and wondering “what did the party of premarital sex, no-fault divorce, abortion and gay rights do for me?”. If your political party embraces policies that encourage people to see sex as recreational instead of a way of producing creatures who then become the responsibilities of parents, you are in the wrong political party. The Democrat party is the part of selfishness, and that’s why they attack marriage. Marriage is about restraining adults so that children benefit, and every selfish Democrat policy that damages marriage damages children.

As Dennis Prager says:

Even today, after decades of feminism, most Americans agree that it is better for women and men — and society — when women and men marry. Yet when women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party; and when women do not marry, even after — or shall we say, especially after — having children, it is quite wonderful for the Democratic Party.

Married women vote Republican. Unmarried women lopsidedly vote Democrat. It is both silly and dishonest to deny that it is in the Democrats’ interest that women not marry.

They have no reason to strengthen marriage, and their policies (sex education, no-fault divorce, single mother welfare, gay marriage, etc.) don’t strengthen marriage. It sounds like such a nice thing to want to not shame people for premarital sex and divorce. After all, we want people to feel good no matter what they choose, right? But there is a price to pay for this “tolerance” of adult selfishness – it’s paid by their children. That’s what happens when we put feelings about moral boundaries.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Will robots and machines ever have consciousness like humans?

There is a very famous thought experiment from UC Berkeley philosopher John Searle that all Christian apologists should know about. And now everyone who reads the Wall Street Journal knows about it, because of this article.

In that article, Searle is writing about the IBM computer that was programmed to play Jeopardy. Can a robot who wins on Jeopardy be “human”?Searle says no. And his famous Chinese room example (discussed in the article) explains why.

Excerpt:

Imagine that a person—me, for example—knows no Chinese and is locked in a room with boxes full of Chinese symbols and an instruction book written in English for manipulating the symbols. Unknown to me, the boxes are called “the database” and the instruction book is called “the program.” I am called “the computer.”

People outside the room pass in bunches of Chinese symbols that, unknown to me, are questions. I look up in the instruction book what I am supposed to do and I give back answers in Chinese symbols.

Suppose I get so good at shuffling the symbols and passing out the answers that my answers are indistinguishable from a native Chinese speaker’s. I give every indication of understanding the language despite the fact that I actually don’t understand a word of Chinese.

And if I do not, neither does any digital computer, because no computer, qua computer, has anything I do not have. It has stocks of symbols, rules for manipulating symbols, a system that allows it to rapidly transition from zeros to ones, and the ability to process inputs and outputs. That is it. There is nothing else.

Here is a link to the full article by John Searle on the Chinese room illustration.

By the way, Searle is a naturalist – not a theist, not a Christian. But he does oppose postmodernism. So he isn’t all bad. But let’s hear from a Christian scholar who can make more sense of this for us.

Here’s a related article on “strong AI” by Christian philosopher Jay Richards.

Excerpt:

Popular discussions of AI often suggest that if you keep increasing weak AI, at some point, you’ll get strong AI. That is, if you get enough computation, you’ll eventually get consciousness.

The reasoning goes something like this: There will be a moment at which a computer will be indistinguishable from a human intelligent agent in a blind test. At that point, we will have intelligent, conscious machines.

This does not follow. A computer may pass the Turing test, but that doesn’t mean that it will actually be a self-conscious, free agent.

The point seems obvious, but we can easily be beguiled by the way we speak of computers: We talk about computers learning, making mistakes, becoming more intelligent, and so forth. We need to remember that we are speaking metaphorically.

We can also be led astray by unexamined metaphysical assumptions. If we’re just computers made of meat, and we happened to become conscious at some point, what’s to stop computers from doing the same? That makes sense if you accept the premise—as many AI researchers do. If you don’t accept the premise, though, you don’t have to accept the conclusion.

In fact, there’s no good reason to assume that consciousness and agency emerge by accident at some threshold of speed and computational power in computers. We know by introspection that we are conscious, free beings—though we really don’t know how this works. So we naturally attribute consciousness to other humans. We also know generally what’s going on inside a computer, since we build them, and it has nothing to do with consciousness. It’s quite likely that consciousness is qualitatively different from the type of computation that we have developed in computers (as the “Chinese Room” argument, by philosopher John Searle, seems to show). Remember that, and you’ll suffer less anxiety as computers become more powerful.

Even if computer technology provides accelerating returns for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t follow that we’ll be replacing ourselves anytime soon. AI enthusiasts often make highly simplistic assumptions about human nature and biology. Rather than marveling at the ways in which computation illuminates our understanding of the microscopic biological world, many treat biological systems as nothing but clunky, soon-to-be-obsolete conglomerations of hardware and software. Fanciful speculations about uploading ourselves onto the Internet and transcending our biology rest on these simplistic assumptions. This is a common philosophical blind spot in the AI community, but it’s not a danger of AI research itself, which primarily involves programming and computers.

AI researchers often mix topics from different disciplines—biology, physics, computer science, robotics—and this causes critics to do the same. For instance, many critics worry that AI research leads inevitably to tampering with human nature. But different types of research raise different concerns. There are serious ethical questions when we’re dealing with human cloning and research that destroys human embryos. But AI research in itself does not raise these concerns. It normally involves computers, machines, and programming. While all technology raises ethical issues, we should be less worried about AI research—which has many benign applications—than research that treats human life as a means rather than an end.

When I am playing a game on the computer, I know exactly why what I am doing is fun – I am conscious of it. But the computer has no idea what I am doing. It is just matter in motion, acting on it’s programming and the inputs I supply to it. And that’s all computers will ever do. Trust me, this is my field. I have the BS and MS in computer science, and I have studied this area. AI has applications for machine learning and search problems, but consciousness is not on the radar. You can’t get there from here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Democrats spied on journalist who reported on gunrunning and Benghazi cover-up

Ex-CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson

Ex-CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson

I blogged about this before in May 2013, but this time it’s in the New York Post.

Excerpt:

A former CBS News reporter who quit the network over claims it kills stories that put President Obama in a bad light says she was spied on by a “government-related entity” that planted classified documents on her computer.

In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.

“This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America,” Attkisson quotes the source saying.

She speculates that the motive was to lay the groundwork for possible charges against her or her sources.

Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.

“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” she wrote in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

Attkisson says her source — identified only as “Number One” — told her the spying was most likely not court-authorized because it went on far longer than most legal taps.

But the most shocking finding, she says, was the discovery of three classified documents that Number One told her were “buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re a some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists.”

“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point,” Number One added.

In her book, Attkisson says CBS lost interest in her coverage of the deadly attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and killed her stories of the federal “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal.

Both CBS and the White House declined to comment.

Investors Business Daily has more on some of the other things they and her former employer CBS News did to her to get her to shut up. The funny thing about her is that I remember her going after the Bush-43 administration hard when Bush was in power. So she is basically doing her thing whether there’s a Republican or a Democrat administration in power. The problem is her bosses – they were willing to let her report on Republican scandals, but when it was a Democrat administration, it all had to be hushed up.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

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