Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Paul Copan explains some responses to postmodernism

Four articles from Paul Copan over at the UK site “BeThinking”. Each article responds to a different slogan that you might hear if you’re dealing with non-Christians on the street.

“That’s just your interpretation!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Gently ask, ‘Do you mean that your interpretation should be preferred over mine? If so, I’d like to know why you have chosen your interpretation over mine. You must have a good reason.’
  • Remind your friend that you are willing to give reasons for your position and that you are not simply taking a particular viewpoint arbitrarily.
  • Try to discern if people toss out this slogan because they don’t like your interpretation. Remind them that there are many truths we have to accept even if we don’t like them.
  • ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’ is a statement that is presented as a fact. If it is just an interpretation, then there is no reason to take it seriously.

More responses are here.

“You Christians are intolerant!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If you say that the Christian view is bad because it is exclusive, then you are also at that exact moment doing the very thing that you are saying is bad. You have to be exclusive to say that something is bad, since you exclude it from being good by calling it bad.
  • There is a difference, a clear difference between tolerance and truth. They are often confused. We should hold to what we believe with integrity but also support the rights of others to disagree with our viewpoint.
  • Sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true. You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. If I get onto a plane and sincerely believe that it won’t crash then it does, then my sincerity is quite hopeless. It won’t change the facts. Our beliefs, regardless of how deeply they are held, have no effect on reality.

More responses are here.

“That’s true for you, but not for me!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do?
  • You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.
  • You’re making universal claims that relativism is true and absolutism is false. You can’t in the same breath say, ‘Nothing is universally true’ and ‘My view is universally true.’ Relativism falsifies itself. It claims there is one position that is true – relativism!

More responses are here.

“If you were born in India, you’d be a Hindu!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Just because there are many different religious answers and systems doesn’t automatically mean pluralism is correct.
  • If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?
  • If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

More responses are here.

And a bonus: “How do you know you’re not wrong?“.

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

Narendra Modi (BJP) election win good for Indian economy, but scary for Christian minority

Map of India

Map of India – Modi was the leader in Gujarat state

From Asia News.

Excerpt:

“The electoral result, declared so far, indicates a landslide win for the BJP, which should propel the stock markets to new heights,” said Clifton Desilva, director of Altina Securities Pvt Ltd, as he spoke to AsiaNews about India’s election results and the BJP victory.

According to the latest projections, Modi’s party has 277 seats out of 543. The BJP and its coalition partners together now hold 336 seats. However, “Now that the BJP is likely to attain a sweeping mandate it does not have to depend on allies as was the case with the UPA government,” Desilva said. The UPA or United Progressive Alliance was the Indian Congress Party-led coalition that lost the election.

What is more, the BJP “has the reputation of being a business-oriented party,” Desilva noted. Thus, “all the big reforms that the UPA could not implement it is hoped that the BJP will implement them. [. . .] In fact the last five to six years we have seen the stock market sliding to new lows with the GDP [growth] slipping from 9.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent”.

Under a BJP administration, “it is expected that the investment cycle, which was stalled for various reasons, will get a kick start.” As a result, “projects worth over Rs 6 trillion (US$ 100 billion) that were stalled are likely to be revived, which will have a positive impact on reviving the growth of the Indian economy”, especially in terms of infrastructure, capital goods and banking sectors.

As soon as the BJP victory appeared to be a foregone conclusion, foreign governments rushed to congratulate the new leader.

But, Religious Freedom Coalition reports a concern.

Excerpt:

Advocacy officials say policies of the influential Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred towards Christians. The BJP is the ruling party in three of the five Indian states with laws that forbid forced religious conversions.

The legislation is frequently used to shut down churches or intimidate Christians who speak about their faith, according to rights activists.

The party has proposed stiffer penalties in one of those states, Madhya Pradesh, India’s second-largest.

Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, another BJP-ruled state with anti-conversion laws on the books, is “the poster child for India’s failure to punish the violent,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Commissioner Mary Ann Glendon in a joint November opinion column.

While under BJP rule, Karnataka state had the country’s highest rate of attacks against Christians from 2010 through 2012, according to Christian estimates.

[...]National parliamentary elections are scheduled for May, and Narendra Modi is the BJP’s candidate for prime minister.

Hindu militants have expressed anger over the spread of Christianity in India, a predominantly Hindu nation of over 1 billion people.

In a reaction, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) made clear it was closely monitoring the situation saying it had urged believers to “Pray for God’s protection over all Christians living in Andhra Pradesh” especially “for pastors and Christian workers…that they would continue to place their trust in the Lord and engage in missions in spite of the present situation.”

It was also important to “Pray that the Lord would grant repentance to those who are instigating violence against Christians,” stressed the WEA, which claims to represent some 600 million evangelical Christians in 128 countries.

I want India to do well, and Modi’s pro-business record in Gujarat cannot be questioned. However, I am worried about his Hindu Nationalism and the price that Christians might pay for evangelizing, which is a normal part of the Christian faith. Hinduism is a non-cognitive religion, so they are not used to arguments and evidence. It’s a community/family/culture thing. So they don’t understand how a person can evangelize except by non-cognitive means, e.g. – bribes. I am worried especially for the Dalits and other low-caste Indians in this environment.

Please pray for Christians in India. Do it now.

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

Gang-raped teen burned to death in India, corrupt police try to cover it up

Map of India

Map of India

From the UK Daily Mail. Excerpt:

The body of a gang-raped teenager who was burned to death after her attackers threatened her family was ‘hijacked’ by police who attempted to forcibly cremate it, reports today suggest. The girl, 16, was gang-raped in October in Madhyamgram, near Calcutta, by a group of six men – who are believed to have links with West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress. They again attacked her the following day as she returned from reporting the crime to police with her father, it is claimed. The group were arrested – but the teen and her family say they received a series of threats from the men. The alleged threats included one saying the girl’s taxi-driver father would be killed if she continued to pursue charges. The family’s landlord, who is reportedly related to one of the gang, allegedly told them they must leave their one-bedroom property also. On the morning of her death, two friends of the accused allegedly visited the girl’s home and verbally abused the girl. The teen victim was set alight on December 23 and died from her injuries on New Year’s Eve. Doctors said the victim – who had 40 per cent burns – had suffered severe damage to her throat and face, making it difficult for her to breathe. Earlier reports suggested the victim had committed suicide – a story that initially came from police – but today it was revealed the girl said two men poured kerosene over her and burned her before she died. Doctors have also said the girl was pregnant when she died. Reports today suggest police ‘hijacked’ the hearse carrying the girl’s body and attempted to have it cremated despite the family’s wishes to wait to give her a proper funeral. On Tuesday evening police are alleged to have intercepted the hearse, which was travelling from RG Kar Hospital to a mortuary. They took it to a crematorium where the body remained for three hours, it is claimed. Officers are then said to have gone to the home of the bereaved family at around 2am and threatened to break down the door if they did not give them the death certificate needed for the cremation. The girl’s father refused, but officers allegedly tormented the family all night. In a letter written to Govenor M K Narayanan the father said: ‘The superintendent of police and other officers reached our house in the dead of the night and asked us to open the door.

I think it’s very important in cases like this to let them break down the door so that there is evidence of what they did. They will not want to do anything like that, because it can be photographed. It leaves a trace.

The fact that this went right up to the superintendent of police just chills my blood. Imagine living in a country like India where people who gang-rape and murder a child can go to the police and get support in covering it up because of corruption and connections.

I remember my Indian co-workers telling me how surprised they were not to have to bribe American police officers when they got pulled over for speeding. I think there is something to that. In Judeo-Christian America, we still believe that God is watching what we do, by and large. So we tend to do the right thing, especially conservatives. But Hinduism and Islam seem not to have the same requirement.

Even if religion played no role in this, the culture as a whole seems to condone corruption to the level where you cannot expect basic honesty like you can in Western countries. I have heard horrifying stories about what it is like to be a woman and ride on public transportation in India. For the Islamic religion, there seems to be an epidemic of gang rape and sex-trafficking going on in Western countries from Muslim men. The idea of chastity for men seems to be more of a Judeo-Christian value.

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

How to respond to postmodernism, relativism, subjectivism, pluralism and skepticism

Four articles from Paul Copan over at the UK site “BeThinking”. Each article responds to a different slogan that you might hear if you’re dealing with non-Christians on the street.

“That’s just your interpretation!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Gently ask, ‘Do you mean that your interpretation should be preferred over mine? If so, I’d like to know why you have chosen your interpretation over mine. You must have a good reason.’
  • Remind your friend that you are willing to give reasons for your position and that you are not simply taking a particular viewpoint arbitrarily.
  • Try to discern if people toss out this slogan because they don’t like your interpretation. Remind them that there are many truths we have to accept even if we don’t like them.
  • ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’ is a statement that is presented as a fact. If it is just an interpretation, then there is no reason to take it seriously.

More responses are here.

“You Christians are intolerant!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If you say that the Christian view is bad because it is exclusive, then you are also at that exact moment doing the very thing that you are saying is bad. You have to be exclusive to say that something is bad, since you exclude it from being good by calling it bad.
  • There is a difference, a clear difference between tolerance and truth. They are often confused. We should hold to what we believe with integrity but also support the rights of others to disagree with our viewpoint.
  • Sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true. You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. If I get onto a plane and sincerely believe that it won’t crash then it does, then my sincerity is quite hopeless. It won’t change the facts. Our beliefs, regardless of how deeply they are held, have no effect on reality.

More responses are here.

“That’s true for you, but not for me!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do?
  • You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.
  • You’re making universal claims that relativism is true and absolutism is false. You can’t in the same breath say, ‘Nothing is universally true’ and ‘My view is universally true.’ Relativism falsifies itself. It claims there is one position that is true – relativism!

More responses are here.

“If you were born in India, you’d be a Hindu!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Just because there are many different religious answers and systems doesn’t automatically mean pluralism is correct.
  • If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?
  • If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

More responses are here.

And a bonus: “How do you know you’re not wrong?“.

Being a Christian is fun because you get to think about things at the same deep level that you think about anything else in life. Christianity isn’t about rituals, community and feelings. It’s about truth.

In case you want to see this in action with yours truly, check this out.

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

Abortion debate: a secular case against legalized abortion

Unborn baby scheming about being only two months old

Unborn baby scheming about being only two months old

Note: this post has a twin! Its companion post on a secular case against gay marriage is here.

Now, you may think that the view that the unborn deserve protection during pregnancy is something that you either take on faith or not. But I want to explain how you can make a case for the right to life of the unborn, just by using reason and evidence.

To defend the pro-life position, I think you need to sustain 3 arguments:

  1. The unborn is a living being with human DNA, and is therefore human.
  2. There is no morally-relevant difference between an unborn baby, and one already born.
  3. None of the justifications given for terminating an unborn baby are morally adequate.

Now, the pro-abortion debater may object to point 1, perhaps by claiming that the unborn baby is either not living, or not human, or not distinct from the mother.

Defending point 1: Well, it is pretty obvious that the unborn child is not inanimate matter. It is definitely living and growing through all 9 months of pregnancy. (Click here for a video that shows what a baby looks like through all 9 months of pregnancy). Since it has human DNA, that makes it a human. And its DNA is different from either its mother or father, so it clearly not just a tissue growth of the father or the mother. More on this point at Christian Cadre, here. An unborn child cannot be the woman’s own body, because then the woman would have four arms, four legs, two heads, four eyes and two different DNA signatures. When you have two different human DNA signatures, you have two different humans.

Secondly, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the unborn that is not yet present or developed while it is still in the womb, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, it does not deserve the protection of the law.

Defending point 2: You need to show that the unborn are not different from the already-born in any meaningful way. The main differences between them are: size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. Once these characteristics are identified, you can explain that none of these differences provide moral justification for terminating a life. For example, babies inside and outside the womb have the same value, because location does not change a human’s intrinsic value. More at Stand to Reason, here.

Additionally, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the already-born that is not yet present or developed in the unborn, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, that it does not deserve protection, (e.g. – sentience). Most of the these objections that you may encounter are refuted in this essay by Francis Beckwith. Usually these objections fall apart because they assume the thing they are trying to prove, namely, that the unborn deserves less protection than the already born.

Finally, the pro-abortion debater may conceded your points 1 and 2, and admit that the unborn is fully human. But they may then try to provide a moral justification for terminating the life of the unborn, regardless.

Defending point 3: I fully grant that it is sometimes justifiable to terminate an innocent human life, if there is a moral justification. Is there such a justification for abortion? One of the best known attempts to justify abortion is Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “violinist” argument. This argument is summarized by Paul Manata, one of the experts over at Triablogue:

Briefly, this argument goes like this: Say a world-famous violinist developed a fatal kidney ailment and the Society of Music Lovers found that only you had the right blood-type to help. So, they therefore have you kidnapped and then attach you to the violinist’s circulatory system so that your kidneys can be used to extract the poison from his. To unplug yourself from the violinist would be to kill him; therefore, pro-lifers would say a person has to stay attached against her will to the violinist for 9 months. Thompson says that it would be morally virtuous to stay plugged-in. But she asks, “Do you have to?” She appeals to our intuitions and answers, “No.”

Manata then goes on to defeat Thomson’s proposal here, with a short, memorable illustration, which I highly recommend that you check out. More info on how to respond to similar arguments is here.

The best book for beginners on the pro-life view is this book:

For those looking for advanced resources, Francis Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University, published the book Defending Life, with Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Learn about the pro-life case

And some posts motivating Christians and conservatives to take abortion seriously:

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

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