We shouldn’t be here. And, if any one of dozens of parameters had been different by a smidgen, we wouldn’t be.
For instance, the formation of stars, planets, and matter itself hinges on the relative masses of the proton, neutron, and electron, and on the relative strengths of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces. The habitability of Earth depends on precise values for the sun’s size, mass, and intensity; the Earth’s size, tilt, orbit, and rotation; and the distances from the sun to the Earth and Earth to the moon, as well as the size and number of Earth moons. The viability of a biological gene—the smallest thing nature can “select” in the Darwinian struggle for survival—is determined by hundreds to hundreds of thousands of base molecules arranged in a particular sequence. And that’s just for starters.
The chance of all these properties coming together in the “just-right” proportions for our arrival is, objectively speaking, against all odds. As physicist Steven Weinberg puts it, “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.”
Indeed, it could lead the rationally inclined person to reasonably conclude that the whole thing is staged, something of a set-up job. But not so fast.
Making the improbable, inevitable
Turning rationality on its head, the philosophical naturalist starts with a bit of Sherlockian logic: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Then, after defining the “impossible” as anything supra-natural, he concludes that life is not improbable, it’s inevitable—our existence is Exhibit “A.” Clever.
His favored explanation as to how is the “multiverse,” a supercosmos consisting of an infinite number of universes where anything can and does happen, somewhere. As he spins it:
Out of the pre-cosmic nothingness, a blast of energy suddenly appeared, setting off an explosion of cosmic “bubbles” (think what happens when you pop the top on a dropped bottle of soda). By a singular event called “inflation” (think anti-gravity), each bubble ballooned at a rate faster than the speed of light into a separate universe with its own unique physics.
In short, our Big Bang was one of many “bangs” produced from nothing by nothing, resulting in a multiplication of universes guaranteeing the actualization of every imaginable and unimaginable outcome, including the appearance of beings who can dream all this stuff up.
The tale has undeniable flair, but with problems aplenty, not the least of which is an air of contrivance that oozes desperation.
Technically speaking, the theory includes exceptions to thermodynamics (mass-energy conservation) and special relativity (the inviolability of light speed); phenomena (inflation and other universes) that have never been observed or replicated; and untestability, such that if another world did exist with its own unique set of physical parameters, it would be undetectable with instruments constrained by the distinctive parameters of our universe.
Collectively, these novel devices and exceptions violate Occam’s Razor, a cardinal principle of science that holds that when various solutions are offered to a problem, the simplest is the preferred. What’s more, for a scientific theory, the multiverse makes no predictions, has no technological cash value, and holds no promise for the betterment of man or the planet.
But what should raise even the least skeptical eyebrow is that... Continue reading here.
That’s the question that occurred to me after viewing the trailer for “Seventh-Gay Adventists,” a documentary about homosexuals in the church. The answer I gave on the BreakPoint Blog and a Facebook page promoting the film was as follows:
“The same way they should have been [receiving] heterosexual individuals and couples whose lifestyles are at odds with Scripture and church teaching: For non-members, enthusiastically welcome them and invite/include them in all programs, events, and services the church has to offer (Matt. 11:29); for those seeking membership, call them to repentance (Acts 2:38); for those who are already members, invoke church discipline for the purpose of restoring them into the fellowship (Matt. 18, Gal. 6:1); and for those who willfully remain in unbiblical lifestyles, disfellowship (1 Cor. 5)."
I also shared my suspicion, given the endorsement of gay advocacy groups and statements made by the filmmakers, that the purpose of the documentary is to convince Christians “to ‘get over’ their fetish with biblical teaching and ‘get on’ with the full integration of non-celibate homosexuals in all aspects of church life, including leadership, lay and ordained.”
In retrospect, I could have worded that more delicately. One of the filmmakers who read my comments took me to task for rushing to judgment on her work without seeing it. She offered to send me a complimentary DVD, which I accepted and recently viewed.
“Seventh-Gay Adventists” chronicles the lives of Marcos, Sheri, David, and their respective same-sex partners as they yearn to find their place in the church. It is a raw depiction of the hopes, fears, and struggles of real homosexuals, with an emotional tug sure to convince many Christians wondering “What Would Jesus Do” that anything less than full, unconditional acceptance of non-celibate homosexuals into the church is un-Christlike. Continue fading here.
In 1977 George Lucas struck box-office gold with the epic adventure “Star Wars.” Mystic luminaries, anthropomorphic androids, light sabers, and computerized special effects captured the imaginations of young and old alike. But perhaps the most lasting impression was left by Obi-wan Kenobi’s Delphic disclosure: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. . . . It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."
An invisible source of staggering energy, permeating the cosmos that common folk could summon for noble or ignoble ends, was the perfect hook for audiences brought up in the dawning age of high technology and Western mysticism. At the height of the film’s popularity I was playing on a community soccer team named “The Force”; we co-opted the film tagline, “May the Force be with you,” for our game whoop.
That tagline may have contained more truth than Lucas and Co. realized.
A startling discovery
Over 20 years after the first “Star Wars” film, the astrophysics community stumbled on an extraordinary revelation.
Although the outward expansion of the universe had been a well-established fact since 1929 when Edwin Hubble detected redshifts in light emitted from distant stars, measurements from supernovae in the late 1990s revealed that galaxies and stars are receding from each other at an ever-increasing rate. In other words, the universe is not only expanding, but accelerating.* Physicists, scrambling to identify the source of this phenomenon, dubbed it “dark energy,” because of its mysterious, hidden nature.
Subsequent measurements revealed that this invisible force, suffusing the cosmos, accounts for an amazing 70 percent of all the stuff in the universe. If you add to that, all of the dark matter in the universe—matter that is not visible—then dark “stuff” makes up 95 percent of the known cosmos.
The unexpected appearance of dark energy, and its implications for understanding the universe, has led prominent physicists to call it the biggest question in all of physics. As University of Chicago physicist Michael Turner put it, “Dark energy holds the key to understanding our destiny . . . [and] could well be the number one problem in all of physics and astronomy.” It is a mystery they are obsessed with unraveling.
As a starting point, I suggest that they ponder an insight from antiquity: “The universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Somehow, I doubt they’ll take me up on that.) Continue reading here.
A newly released documentary, “Seventh-Gay Adventists,” chronicles the struggles of several homosexual couples who are Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) yearning to find their place in the church.
On a Facebook page promoting the film, David Neff, himself a former SDA pastor and past editor of Christianity Today magazine, posted, “Conservative churches need to think in advance how to relate to families and committed couples who long to be part of their fellowship.” Neff went on to say the film features some friends, a lesbian couple and their daughter, who “help a congregation adjust to [their] presence.” Telling word, “adjust.”
I responded to Neff’s post: “How should churches relate to same-sex couples? The same way they should have been relating to heterosexual individuals and couples whose lifestyles are at odds with Scripture and church teaching: For non-members, enthusiastically welcome them and invite/include them in all programs, events, and services the church has to offer (Matt 11:29); for those seeking membership, call them to repentance (Acts 2:38); for those who are already members, invoke church discipline for the purpose of restoring them into the fellowship (Matt 18, Gal 6:1); and for those who willfully remain in unbiblical lifestyles, disfellowship (1 Cor 5).”
That sparked an online exchange with one of the filmmakers, Daneen Akers, a Seventh-Day Adventist who made the film, in part, because of untoward behavior she witnessed by certain church people during California’s Proposition 8 debate. Here are some excerpts of our discussion.
Daneen: I very much hope you'll watch this film, Regis, just to get a chance to walk in the shoes of deeply faithful Christians who are also gay or lesbian…One couple has two lovely daughters that they want to raise in the church. How should a church welcome them and make sure their daughters don't grow up feeling that their family isn't okay? How do we balance the fact that we no longer shun or ostracize divorced and remarried heterosexuals, the vast majority who are remarried on grounds that aren't according to Biblical standards? …I wonder when the church became about who is in and who is out? I wonder if this one topic is helping Christians witness to the radical and inclusive love of Jesus, whose ministry and words about how the religious establishment of the day excluded those they felt were clearly in violation of the Torah managed to get him executed? I wonder how we change the status quo that has LGBT youth at four times the risk of suicide--and LGBT Christian youth even more so? I wonder how we love even if we have differences?
Regis: Daneen, you’ll recall that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Among his commands is the prohibition of sex outside of marriage. As he gave no expressed or implied allowance for same-sex “marriage,” his prohibition includes indulging homosexual desires, regardless of a “committed” relationship, church blessing, or legal union.
Considering the disproportionate incidence of substance abuse, mental health problems, disease, mortality, and suicide among homosexuals, loving them as Christ loved is not affirming their choices and practices, but challenging them to live in accordance with the created purpose of sexuality and encouraging them in their efforts to do so.
As to inclusion, while it is true that Jesus extended his invitation to all, his call was not without conditions: Nicodemus was told he needed to be born again; the disciples were told to deny themselves and carry their cross daily; a rich man was told to give up all his possessions; an adulteress and a lame man were both told to stop sinning; and, in a parable about the kingdom, a man was turned out for wearing the wrong clothes, of all things. The good news is that “many are called” to enter the kingdom, but Jesus’s call to repentance means that “few are chosen.”
You’re right, Daneen, we need to put a human face on it -- walk in their shoes, hear their stories, listen to their hearts, and learn about their experiences. I’ve had a number of gay and lesbian people in my life that I have tremendous empathy for because of the struggles they endure and the treatment they too often receive. However, putting a human face on homosexuality does not change the moral truth about homosexual behavior, any more than hearing about a climber’s difficulty scaling Mt Everest changes the truth about gravity. Nor does it relieve us from the hard and inconvenient call to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Let me say up front that I have not viewed the film. However, given its endorsement by an alphabet soup of homosexual advocacy groups from sea to shining sea, I strongly suspect that the not-so subliminal message to be taken from what I am sure are the film’s heart-rending stories is: churches need to "get over" their fetish with biblical teaching on sexuality and "get on" with the full integration of non-celibate homosexuals in all aspects of church life, including leadership, lay and ordained.
Ms. Akers tells me I’m wrong in my suspicion, so I asked her, “Then what’s the answer to your own question: ‘How should a church welcome them [the lesbian couple] and make sure their daughters don't grow up feeling that their family isn't okay?’ As I see it, unless their caregivers can become members, leaders, and even pastors without reference to their lifestyle, nothing will quell that feeling. Am I wrong?”
As I waited for her response (which I have yet to receive), I made one last point.
Regis: Daneen, let me suggest that it is not the job of the church to make children of same-sex couples feel that their family is okay. Why? Because, while the church may be able to shield them from the truth of Scripture, it cannot shield them from the truth of Nature. Eventually, they will come face-to-face -- whether in a visit to the zoo, a trip to the aquarium, a chapter reading in biology, or an observation in the backyard of a pair of birds, dogs, cats doing what such pairs are wont to do – with the fact that Nature multiplies, diversifies, and flourishes not from sameness, but complementarity. That happened to a friend of mind after 20+ years in the lesbian lifestyle, twelve of which were spent in a “committed” relationship.
Despite being told by three different “Christian” pastors that there was nothing wrong with her or her relationship (instead, each assured her it was a “blessing from God!”), an afternoon in the park, watching couple after couple pushing strollers was all it took to begin unraveling everything she had allowed herself to believe. She eventually left her partner and the lifestyle, purposed to be defined not by her desires but her design. Although life after lesbianism has not been without struggle and some defeat, it has been marked by growing confidence in her true identity with increased ability to overcome the “old ways.”
Daneen, as I’m sure you know, homosexuality affects less than two percent of the population, according to the CDC. That means that a child raised in a homosexual home will be, most likely, heterosexual. But same-sex parents cannot credibly teach their heterosexual children how to understand their sexuality or experience it in a manner consistent with their design. They cannot model how they should relate to the opposite sex in courtship, dating, and marriage. They can only mimic a version of romantic love that puts their children at risk for sexual confusion, confliction, and dysfunction. No wonder that the American College of Pediatrians reports that children raised in homosexual homes “are more likely to experience sexual confusion, engage in risky sexual experimentation, and later adopt a same-sex identity.”
The church’s duty to such children – as for children of foster homes, single-parent families, blended families, or “intact” nuclear families -- is not to assure them that their family is “normal”, but to help them overcome whatever challenges they face at home, school, or elsewhere so that they can develop spiritually, emotionally, and holistically.
As for their parents -- The church is to be a place where they, and the rest of us, are neither affirmed in our sins (whatever they may be) nor condemned for them, but a place where we are joined together on the life-long journey of transformation, overcoming sin’s gravitational pull, if incrementally and incompletely, through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and the caring community of faith.
How will your congregation adjust to same-sex couples and their families? Have you thought about it? You better, because it's a question your church will face, sooner or later.