Pastor Todd of Crossroads Community Church deals with a very tough theological thorn of free-will and God’s sovereignty. Yes. I have believed this for years and consider it somewhat of a mystery, just like the Trinity. I added some graphics (Scripture verses read) for the casual viewer so they can follow along with Todd. As an unimportant aside, the first time Scripture explicitly mentions Pharaoh hardening his heart is in Exodus 8:15.
Here are two quotes that came to mind during the sermon:
4:21 The Bible teaches that human beings are free to make choices (Gn 2:19; 4:7; Ezk 18:2–32). God is good (Ps 25:8; 34:8; 100:5) and always acts consistently with His nature. Yet people can choose to rebel against God’s goodness, and consistent rebellion can lead to their hearts being “hardened.” As the saying goes, “The same sun that melts butter also hardens clay.” Egyptian pharaohs believed they were divine, and Pharaoh would never have been inclined to submit to the Israelites’ God. Each time God placed a demand on him, he became more determined to resist. Thus it was both God’s demands and Pharaoh’s own pride-motivated stubbornness (Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34) that led to his hardened heart. God would use Pharaoh’s stubbornness for a good end, to demonstrate His power and extend His reputation (9:16).
The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 91–92.
partII. GOD THE REDEEMER OF SINNERS
While reiterating the teaching of nature as to the existence and character of the personal Creator and Lord of all, the Scriptures lay their stress upon the grace or the undeserved love of God, as exhibited in his dealings with his sinful and wrath-deserving creatures. So little, however, is the consummate divine attribute of love advanced, in the scriptural revelation, at the expense of the other moral attributes of God, that it is thrown into prominence only upon a background of the strongest assertion and fullest manifestation of its companion attributes, especially of the divine righteousness and holiness, and is exhibited as acting only along with and in entire harmony with them. God is not represented in the Scriptures as forgiving sin because he really cares very little about sin; nor yet because he is so exclusively or predominatingly the God of love, that all other attributes shrink into desuetude in the presence of his illimitable benevolence. He is rather represented as moved to deliver sinful man from his guilt and pollution because he pities the creatures of his hand, immeshed in sin, with an intensity which is born of the vehemence of his holy abhorrence of sin and his righteous determination to visit it with intolerable retribution; and by a mode which brings as complete satisfaction to his infinite justice and holiness as to his unbounded love itself. The biblical presentation of the God of grace includes thus the richest development of all his moral attributes, and the God of the Bible is consequently set forth, in the completeness of that idea, as above everything else the ethical God. And that is as much as to say that there is ascribed to him a moral sense so sensitive and true that it estimates with unfailing accuracy the exact moral character of every person or deed presented for its contemplation, and responds to it with the precisely appropriate degree of satisfaction or reprobation. The infinitude of his love is exhibited to us precisely in that while we were yet sinners he loved us, though with all the force of his infinite nature he reacted against our sin with illimitable abhorrence and indignation. The mystery of grace resides just in the impulse of a sin-hating God to show mercy to such guilty wretches; and the supreme revelation of God as the God of holy love is made in the disclosure of the mode of his procedure in redemption, by which alone he might remain just while justifying the ungodly. For in this procedure there was involved the mighty paradox of the infinitely just Judge himself becoming the sinner’s substitute before his own law and the infinitely blessed God receiving in his own person the penalty of sin.
B.B. Warfield, Selected Short Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970), 71-72.
We ARE programmed to believe one way and through the creative power (and infinite genius) of God, get to choose this natural tendency or to cover it up with our sinful, selfish nature that Romans 1 alludes to by numbing our faculties with an whole array of options.
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.
Blaise Pascal (Pensees 10.148)
Deborah Keleman studies cognitive development in children and Josh Rottman is a PhD student working with her. In a chapter in “Science and the World’s Religions.” they write (p. 206-207):
…religion primarily stems from within the person rather than from external, socially organised sources …. evolved components of the human mind tend to lead people towards religiosity early in life.
Before continuing I just want to make a point, none of them by myself but brought here to review by myself. It has to do with merely assuming the evolutionist position, if true, makes theism true and atheism anathema to the survival of the species. For instance, Patricia Churchland notes what the brains primary chore is:
And this is the main point… okay… if I assume evolution is true, then, out of the choices of “religion” and “non-religion” — which of the two provide a better survival rate of the species? To wit:
Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.
The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.
This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.
It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).
Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.
Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.
You’ve got to wonder.
Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.
While I am not a fan of Charisma… as of late they have posted a few good articles. This being one of them:
Remember, there was much discussion about destroying or harming parts of the brain that decrease belief in God:
This has to be embarrassing… if you’re an atheist. A new study performed at the University of York used targeted magnetism to shut down part of the brain. The result: belief in God disappeared among more than 30 percent of participants.
That in itself may not seem so embarrassing, but consider that the specific part of the brain they frazzled was the posterior medial frontal cortex—the part associated with detecting and solving problems, i.e., reasoning and logic.
In other words, when you shut down the part of the brain most associated with logic and reasoning, greater levels of atheism result.
You’ve heard the phrase, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? Apparently we can now also say, “I have too many brains to be an atheist.”…
I also posit that person’s who use illicit drugs, such as marijuana, are less likely to believe in the Judeo-Christian God due to deterioration/destruction of sections of the brain. Parts of the brain most affected are memory and cognitive or parts of the brain that use logic and reason). Whereas, it seems, we see that a healthy brain is ready to receive faith:
…In a piece for the Washington Post, atheist Elizabeth King writes that she cannot shake the idea of God’s existence.
★ “The idea of God pesters me and makes me think that maybe I’m not as devoted to my beliefs as I’d like to think I am and would like to be. Maybe I’m still subconsciously afraid of hell and want to go to heaven when I die. It’s confusing and frustrating to feel the presence of something you don’t believe in. This is compounded by the fact that the God character most often shows up when I’m already frustrated,” King writes.
Neurotheologian Newberg says this is because science does back the reality of religious experiences.
This supports another study of Japanese kids raised with no thoughts of a monotheistic God
For example, researchers at Oxford University (at which Dawkins himself was until recently the holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science) have earlier reported finding children who, when questioned, express their understanding that there is a Creator, without having had any such instruction from parents or teachers. As Dr Olivera Petrovich, who lectures in Experimental Psychology at Oxford, explained in an interview with Science and Spirit:
My Japanese research assistants kept telling me, ‘We Japanese don’t think about God as creator—it’s just not part of Japanese philosophy.’ So it was wonderful when these children said, ‘Kamisama! God! God made it!’—Dr Olivera Petrovich, Oxford University.
“I tested both the Japanese and British children on the same tasks, showing them very accurate, detailed photographs of selected natural and man-made objects and then asking them questions about the causal origins of the various natural objects at both the scientific level (e.g. how did this particular dog become a dog?) and at the metaphysical level (e.g. how did the first ever dog come into being?). With the Japanese children, it was important to establish whether they even distinguished the two levels of explanation because, as a culture, Japan discourages speculation into the metaphysical, simply because it’s something we can never know, so we shouldn’t attempt it. But the Japanese children did speculate, quite willingly, and in the same way as British children. On forced choice questions, consisting of three possible explanations of primary origin, they would predominantly go for the word ‘God’, instead of either an agnostic response (e.g., ‘nobody knows’) or an incorrect response (e.g., ‘by people’). This is absolutely extraordinary when you think that Japanese religion — Shinto — doesn’t include creation as an aspect of God’s activity at all. So where do these children get the idea that creation is in God’s hands? It’s an example of a natural inference that they form on the basis of their own experience. My Japanese research assistants kept telling me, ‘We Japanese don’t think about God as creator — it’s just not part of Japanese philosophy.’ So it was wonderful when these children said, ‘Kamisama! God! God made it!’ That was probably the most significant finding.”
Today, nearly a decade since Petrovich’s study, there is now a “preponderance of scientific evidence” affirming that “children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them”.
I often hear atheists exude confidence in natural selection and evolution and all that it entails. However, when natural belief in God emerges… they reject this as fantasy rather than a superior survival mechanism. It is important to understand that I am not arguing for evolution but showing that it is self-referentially false:
NOTE: if you believe in evolution and are an atheist, you would root forand support neo-Darwinian evolutionary “natural selection” in choosing religious belief as superior to that of non-belief!
In a debate during the Q&A session between a theist and atheist/evolutionist, a student asked this great question… and while he did not have the answer to Dr. Pigliucci’s challenge, I do:
Assuming the validity of the “underlying instinct to survive and reproduce” then, out of the two positions (belief and non-belief) available for us to choose from which would better apply to being the most fit if the fittest is “an individual… [that] reproduces more successfully…”? The woman that believes in God is less likely to have abortions and more likely to have larger families than their secular counterparts. Does that mean that natural selection will result in a greater number of believers than non-believers?
 From my son’s 9th grade biology textbook: Susan Feldkamp, ex. ed., Modern Biology (Austin, TX: Holt, Rineheart, and Winston, 2002), 288; “…organisms that are better suited to their environment than others produce more offspring” American Heritage Science Dictionary, 1st ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), cf. natural selection, 422; “fitness (in evolution) The condition of an organism that is well adapted to its environment, as measured by its ability to reproduce itself” Oxford Dictionary of Biology, New Edition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), cf. fitness, 202; “fitness In an evolutionary context, the ability of an organism to produce a large number of offspring that survive to reproduce themselves” Norah Rudin, Dictionary of Modern Biology (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1997), cf. fitness, 146.
 Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great About Christianity:
Russia is one of the most atheist countries in the world, and abortions there outnumber live births by a ratio of two to one. Russia’s birth rate has fallen so low that the nation is now losing 700,000 people a year. Japan, perhaps the most secular country in Asia, is also on a kind of population diet: its 130 million people are expected to drop to around 100 million in the next few decades. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand find themselves in a similar predicament. Then there is Europe. The most secular continent on the globe is decadent in the quite literal sense that its population is rapidly shrinking. Birth rates are abysmally low in France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Sweden. The nations of Western Europe today show some of the lowest birth rates ever recorded, and Eastern European birth rates are comparably low. Historians have noted that Europe is suffering the most sustained reduction in its population since the Black Death in the fourteenth century, when one in three Europeans succumbed to the plague. Lacking the strong religious identity that once characterized Christendom, atheist Europe seems to be a civilization on its way out. Nietzsche predicted that European decadence would produce a miserable “last man’ devoid of any purpose beyond making life comfortable and making provision for regular fornication. Well, Nietzsche’s “last man” is finally here, and his name is Sven. Eric Kaufmann has noted that in America, where high levels of immigration have helped to compensate for falling native birth rates, birth rates among religious people are almost twice as high as those among secular people. This trend has also been noticed in Europe.” What this means is that, by a kind of natural selection, the West is likely to evolve in a more religious direction. This tendency will likely accelerate if Western societies continue to import immigrants from more religious societies, whether they are Christian or Muslim. Thus we can expect even the most secular regions of the world, through the sheer logic of demography, to become less secular over time…. My conclusion is that it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. Atheism is a bit like homosexuality: one is not sure where it fits into a doctrine of natural selection. Why would nature select people who mate with others of the same sex, a process with no reproductive advantage at all? (17, 19)
And churchgoing women have more children than their nonreligious peers, according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Survey of Family Growth, an ongoing survey spanning 2011-2015. The survey involves about 5,000 interviews per year, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Women between the ages of 15 and 44 who attend religious services at least weekly have 1.42 children on average, compared with the 1.11 children of similar-age women who rarely or never attend services. More religious women said they also intend to have more kids (2.62 per woman) than nonreligious women (2.10 per woman), the survey found. (Baby Boom: Religious Women Having More Kids ~ LiveScience)
In fact, Blume’s research also shows quite vividly that secular, nonreligious people are being dramatically out-reproduced by religious people of any faith. Across a broad swath of demographic data relating to religiosity, the godly are gaining traction in offspring produced. For example, there’s a global-level positive correlation between frequency of parental worship attendance and number of offspring. Those who “never” attend religious services bear, on a worldwide average, 1.67 children per lifetime; “once per month,” and the average goes up to 2.01 children; “more than once a week,” 2.5 children. Those numbers add up—and quickly. Some of the strongest data from Blume’s analyses, however, come from a Swiss Statistic Office poll conducted in the year 2000. These data are especially valuable because nearly the entire Swiss population answered this questionnaire—6,972,244 individuals, amounting to 95.67% of the population—which included a question about religious denomination. “The results are highly significant,” writes Blume: “…women among all denominational categories give birth to far more children than the non-affiliated. And this remains true even among those (Jewish and Christian) communities who combine nearly double as much births with higher percentages of academics and higher income classes as their non-affiliated Swiss contemporaries.” (God’s little rabbits: Religious people out-reproduce secular ones by a landslide ~ Scientific American)
Another value that is both measurable and germane to fertility is the importance of religion. People who are actively religious tend to marry more and stay together longer.To the extent that time spent married during reproductive years increases fertility, then religion would be a positive factor in fertility rates. For example, in Canada women who had weekly religious attendance were46percent more likely to have a third child than women who did not. (The Northern America Fertility Divide ~ Hoover Institute)
Religious Belief Reduces Crime Summary of the First Panel Discussion Panelists for this important discussion included social scientists Dr. John DiIulio, professor of politics and urban affairs at Princeton University; David Larson, M.D., President of the National Institute for Healthcare Research; Dr. Byron Johnson, Director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy at Vanderbilt University; and Gary Walker, President of Public/Private Ventures. The panel focused on new research, confirming the positive effects that religiosity has on turning around the lives of youth at risk.
Dr. Larson laid the foundation for the discussion by summarizing the findings of 400 studies on juvenile delinquency, conducted during the past two decades. He believes that although more research is needed, we can say without a doubt that religion makes a positive contribution.
His conclusion: “The better we study religion, the more we find it makes a difference.” Previewing his own impressive research, Dr. Johnson agreed. He has concluded that church attendance reduces delinquency among boys even when controlling for a number of other factors including age, family structure, family size, and welfare status. His findings held equally valid for young men of all races and ethnicities.
Gary Walker has spent 25 years designing, developing and evaluating many of the nation’s largest public and philanthropic initiatives for at-risk youth. His experience tells him that faith-based programs are vitally important for two reasons. First, government programs seldom have any lasting positive effect. While the government might be able to design [secular/non-God] programs that occupy time, these programs, in the long-term, rarely succeed in bringing about the behavioral changes needed to turn kids away from crime. Second, faith-based programs are rooted in building strong adult-youth relationships; and less concerned with training, schooling, and providing services, which don’t have the same direct impact on individual behavior. Successful mentoring, Walker added, requires a real commitment from the adults involved – and a willingness to be blunt. The message of effective mentors is simple. “You need to change your life, I’m here to help you do it, or you need to be put away, away from the community.” Government, and even secular philanthropic programs, can’t impart this kind of straight talk.
Sixth through twelfth graders who attend religious services once a month or more are half as likely to engage in at-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual excess, truancy, vandalism, drunk driving and other trouble with police. Search Institute, “The Faith Factor,” Source, Vol. 3, Feb. 1992, p.1.
Churchgoers are more likely to aid their neighbors in need than are non-attendees. George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, 1991, p. 226.
Three out of four Americans say that religious practice has strengthened family relationships. George Gallup, Jr. “Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century,” The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.
Church attendance lessens the probabilities of homicide and incarceration. Nadia M. Parson and James K. Mikawa: “Incarceration of African-American Men Raised in Black Christian Churches.” The Journal of Psychology, Vol. 125, 1990, pp.163-173.
Religious practice lowers the rate of suicide. Joubert, Charles E., “Religious Nonaffiliation in Relation to Suicide, Murder, Rape and Illegitimacy,” Psychological Reports 75:1 part 1 (1994): 10 Jon W. Hoelter: “Religiosity, Fear of Death and Suicide Acceptibility.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol. 9, 1979, pp.163-172.
The presence of active churches, synagogues… reduces violent crime in neighborhoods. John J. Dilulio, Jr., “Building Spiritual Capital: How Religious Congregations Cut Crime and Enhance Community Well-Being,” RIAL Update, Spring 1996.
People with religious faith are less likely to be school drop-outs, single parents, divorced, drug or alcohol abusers. Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Roland, “Correcting the Welfare Tragedy,” The Center for Public Justice, 1994.
Church involvement is the single most important factor in enabling inner-city black males to escape the destructive cycle of the ghetto. Richard B. Freeman and Harry J. Holzer, eds., The Black Youth Employment Crisis, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p.354.
Attending services at a church or other house of worship once a month or more makes a person more than twice as likely to stay married than a person who attends once a year or less. David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, “Is Divorce Hazardous to Your Health?” Physician, June 1990. Improving Personal Well-Being
Regular church attendance lessens the possibility of cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema and arteriosclerosis. George W. Comstock amd Kay B. Patridge:* “Church attendance and health.”* Journal of Chronic Disease, Vol. 25, 1972, pp. 665-672.
Regular church attendance significantly reduces the probablility of high blood pressure.* David B. Larson, H. G. Koenig, B. H. Kaplan, R. S. Greenberg, E. Logue and H. A. Tyroler:* ” The Impact of religion on men’s blood pressure.”* Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 28, 1989, pp.265-278.* W.T. Maramot:* “Diet, Hypertension and Stroke.” in* M. R. Turner (ed.) Nutrition and Health, Alan R. Liss, New York, 1982, p. 243.
People who attend services at least once a week are much less likely to have high blood levels of interlukin-6, an immune system protein associated with many age-related diseases.* Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen, The International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine, October 1997.
Regular practice of religion lessens depression and enhances self esteem. *Peter L. Bensen and Barnard P. Spilka:* “God-Image as a function of self-esteem and locus of control” in H. N. Maloney (ed.) Current Perspectives in the Psychology of Religion, Eedermans, Grand Rapids, 1977, pp. 209-224.* Carl Jung: “Psychotherapies on the Clergy” in Collected Works Vol. 2, 1969, pp.327-347.
Church attendance is a primary factor in preventing substance abuse and repairing damage caused by substance abuse.* Edward M. Adalf and Reginald G. Smart:* “Drug Use and Religious Affiliation, Feelings and Behavior.” * British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 80, 1985, pp.163-171.* Jerald G. Bachman, Lloyd D. Johnson, and Patrick M. O’Malley:* “Explaining* the Recent Decline in Cocaine Use Among Young Adults:* Further Evidence That Perceived Risks and Disapproval Lead to Reduced Drug Use.”* Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 31,* 1990, pp. 173-184.* Deborah Hasin, Jean Endicott, * and Collins Lewis:* “Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Patients With Affective Syndromes.”* Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 26, 1985, pp. 283-295. * The findings of this NIMH-supported study were replicated in the Bachmen et. al. study above.
…A survey of 1,600 Canadians asked them what were their beliefs about God and what moral values they considered to be “very important.” The results of the survey are shown below:
Although the differences between theists and atheists in the importance of values such as honesty, politeness, and friendliness are generally small, moral values emphasized by religious beliefs, such as Christianity, including patience, forgiveness, and generosity exhibit major differences in attitudes (30%+ differences between theists and atheists). (Source)
The strength of the family unit is intertwined with the practice of religion. Churchgoersare more likely to be married, less likely to be divorced or single, and more likely to manifest high levels of satisfaction in marriage.
Church attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
The regular practice of religion helps poor persons move out of poverty. Regular church attendance, for example, is particularly instrumental in helping young people to escape the poverty of inner-city life.
Religious belief and practice contribute substantially to the formation of personal moral criteria and sound moral judgment.
Regular religious practice generally inoculates individuals against a host of social problems, including suicide, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime, and divorce.
The regular practice of religion also encourages such beneficial effects on mental health as less depression (a modern epidemic), more self-esteem, and greater family and marital happiness.
In repairing damage caused by alcoholism, drug addiction, and marital breakdown, religious belief and practice are a major source of strength and recovery.
Regular practice of religion is good for personal physical health: It increases longevity, improves one’s chances of recovery from illness, and lessens the incidence of many killer diseases.
So we can see that the above are important factors in a healthy, stable, family which would have the highest percentage or chance in a family situation to create “family values.” What about divorce rates and the 2009 data. This is dealt with well at Christian Action League, and shows how Barna and the Government can miss-categorize whole swaths of people and their affiliations:
...Party of the Rich?
Only one of the top 25 donors to political 527 groups has given to a conservative organization, shedding further light on the huge disparity between Democrats and Republicans in this new fund-raising area. The top three 527 donors so far in the 2004 election cycle – Hollywood producer Steven Bing, Progressive Corp. chairman Peter Lewis and financier George Soros – have combined to give nearly $24 million to prominent liberal groups. They include Joint Victory Campaign 2004, America Coming Together, and MoveOn.org.
Dems the richest five senators?
Financial statements revealed the five richest members of the United States Senate are Democrats. The annual disclosure allows senators to represent their net worth inside a broad range.
Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is far ahead of his colleagues with $163 million, most of it coming from his wife’s inheritance of the Heinz fortune. The actual estimate is over $400 million.
Lagging behind is Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) at $111 million. The Wisconsin senator’s family owns a department store chain. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV) comes in third with a personal fortune reported to be $81 million.
Former Goldman Sachs chairman Sen. John Corzine (D-NJ) weighs in at $71 million, with Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) rounding out the top five at $26.3 million. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) breaks the string of Democrat multimillionaires in sixth place at $26.1 million. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bill Frist (R-TN), John Edwards (D-NC), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) complete the top ten.
…Wright did his own research using the General Social Survey; a huge study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that folks who identify as Christians but rarely attend church have a divorce rate of 60 percent compared to 38 percent among people who attend church regularly. More generally, he found that Christians, similar to adherents of other traditional faiths, have a divorce rate of 42 percent compared with 50 percent among those without a religious affiliation.
And his is not the only research that is showing a link between strong faith and increased marriage stability.
University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, concluded that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce than are those with no faith affiliation. He used the National Survey of Families and Households to make his analysis.
Glenn Stanton, the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been writing articles to spread the truth about the lower divorce rate among practicing Christians.
“Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples — enjoy significantly lower divorce rates that mere church members, the general public and unbelievers,” Stanton wrote in the Baptist Press early this year.
At issue in Barna’s studies is how he defined “Christian” and to what other groups he compared the “Christian” divorce rate. Apparently, his study compared what he termed “born-again” Christians — those who described their faith in terms of “personal commitment,” “accept as savior” and other evangelical, born-again language to three other groups, which included self-identified Christians who do not describe their faith with those terms, members of other, non-Christian religions and people of no religious beliefs.
Because his second group would have included many Catholics and mainline Protestants, Wright points out that Barna was, in many ways, “comparing Christians against Christians.” No wonder the rates were similar….
In USA Today, David Kinnaman, Barna’s president, said that “the statistical differences reflect varied approaches, with Wright looking more at attendance and his research firm dwelling on theological commitments.” Duh! The bottom line seems to be that the more seriously couples take their faith, the less likely they are to get a divorce. That seems like a self-evident truth, but it appears there is also evidence for it. In other words, this is a nominal, vs. committed Christian vs. secular person battle.
I can go on-and-on, but lets shorten what we have learned, and it all revolves around this:
“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life.”
I realize that much of this can be classified broadly as “The Ecological Fallacy” — but it is an amassing of stats to show that in fact the committed Christian understands the totality of “family values” and commits to them more than the secular person.
1a) Those who attend church more are to be found in the Republican Party; 1b) Those who do not, the Democratic Party; 2a) Those in the Republican Party donate much more to charitable causes; 2b) Those in the Democratic Party, are much more stingy; 3a) Republicans earn less and give more; 3b) Democrats earn more and give less; 4a) Conservative Christians and Jews (people who believe in Heaven and Hell) commit less crimes; 4b) Liberal religious persons (universalists) have a higher rate of crime; 5a) Regular church attendees have a lower drug use rate; 5b) Irreligious persons have a higher rate; 6a) Moral “oughts” are answered in Christian theism (one “ought” not rape because it is absolutely, morally wrong); 6b) Moral “oughts” are merely current consensus of the most individuals, there is no absolute moral statement that can be made about rape; 7a) Republicans are happier than Democrats; 7b) Democrats are more depressed; 8a) The sex lives of married, religious persons is better/more fulfilling — sex is being shown to be a “religious” experience after-all; 8b) The sex lives of the irreligious person is less fulfilling; 9a) The conservative is more likely to reach orgasm [conservative woman I assume]; 9b) The liberal woman is not; 10a) They are less likely to sleep around, which would also indicate lower STDs; 10b Democrats are more likely to have STDs through having more sex partners; 11a) Republicans are less likely (slightly, but this is so because of the committed Christians in the larger demographic) to have extra-marital affairs; 11b) Democrats more likely; 12a) Republicans over the last three decades have been reproducing more… 12b) Democrats abort more often and have less children through educational/career decisions 13a) Christians are more likely to have children and impact the world; 13b) Skeptics replace family with pleasure and travel.
...Happiness Is A Moral Obligation
Forty-three percent of people who attend religious services weekly or more say they’re very happy, compared to 26 percent of those who go seldom or never. The Pew analysis does not answer the question of how religion, Republicanism and happiness might be related, however.
Most young people start out as naive, idealistic liberals. But as they get older, that changes. They get more conservative, usually because they grow up. But just imagine that you never get out of that liberal mindset. You go through your whole life trying to check people into a victim box, always feeling offended, always trying to right all of the wrongs in the world, and always blaming government for it. It’s no wonder you’d end up miserable when you get older! Going through your entire life feeling like that would make you a very angry, bitter, jealous, selfish person — and often, that describes aging liberals to a T.
All in all, being a Republican gives you a 7% edge in the happiness department, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a greater factor than race, ethnicity, or gender. And just a reminder — Republicans have the advantage across all class lines as well, from upper class to middle class to lower class. Lower class Republicans are happier than lower class Democrats. Middle class Republicans are happier than middle class Democrats. And upper class Republicans are happier than upper class Democrats.
And I’ll say it again. It’s because of the difference in world view.
“Since women that believe in God are less likely to have abortions, does that mean that natural selection will result in a greater number of believers than non-believers.” Assuming the validity of the “underlying instinct to survive and reproduce” then, out of the two positions (belief and non-belief) available for us to choose from which would better apply to being the most fit if the fittest is “an individual… [that] reproduces more successfully…”? The woman that believes in God is less likely to have abortions and more likely to have larger families than their secular counterparts. Does that mean that natural selection will result in a greater number of believers than non-believers?
Divorce. Marriages in which both spouses frequently attend religious services are less likely to end in divorce. Marriages in which both husband and wife attend church frequently are 2.4 times less likely to end in divorce than marriages in which neither spouse attends religious services.1
Mother-Child Relationship. Mothers who consider religion to be important in their lives report better quality relationships with their children. According to mothers’ reports, regardless of the frequency of their church attendance, those who considered religion to be very important in their lives tended to report, on average, a higher quality of relationship with their children than those who did not consider religion to be important.2
Father-Child Relationship. Fathers’ religiosity is associated with the quality of their relationships with their children. A greater degree of religiousness among fathers was associated with better relationships with their children, greater expectations for positive relationships in the future, investment of thought and effort into their relationships with their children, greater sense of obligation to stay in regular contact with their children, and greater likelihood of providing emotional support and unpaid assistance to their children and grandchildren. Fathers’ religiousness was measured on six dimensions, including the importance of faith, guidance provided by faith, religious attendance, religious identity, denominational affiliation, and belief in the importance of religion for their children.3
Well-Being of High School Seniors. Among high school seniors, religious attendance and a positive attitude toward religion are correlated with predictors of success and well-being. Positive attitudes towards religion and frequent attendance at religious activities were related to numerous predictors of success and wellbeing for high-school seniors, including: positive parental involvement, positive perceptions of the future, positive attitudes toward academics, less frequent drug use, less delinquent behavior, fewer school attendance problems, more time spent on homework, more frequent volunteer work, recognition for good grades, and more time spent on extracurricular activities.4
Life Expectancy. Religious attendance is associated with higher life expectancy at age 20. Life expectancy at age 20 was significantly related to church attendance. Life expectancy was 61.9 years for those attending church once a week and 59.7 for those attending less than once a week.5
Drinking, Smoking and Mortality. Frequent religious attendance is correlated with lower rates of heavy drinking, smoking, and mortality. Compared with peers who did not attend religious services frequently, those who did had lower mortality rates and this relationship was stronger among women than among men. In addition, frequent attendees were less likely to smoke or drink heavily at the time of the first interview. Frequent attendees who did smoke or drink heavily at the time of the first interview were more likely than nonattendees to cease these behaviors by the time of the second interview.6
Volunteering. Individuals who engage in private prayer are more likely to join voluntary associations aimed at helping the disadvantaged. Individuals who engaged in private prayer were more likely to report being members of voluntary associations aimed at helping the elderly, poor and disabled when compared to those who did not engage in private prayer. Prayer increased the likelihood of volunteering for an organization that assisted the elderly, poor and disabled, on average, by 20 percent.7
Charity and Volunteering. Individuals who attend religious services weekly are more likely to give to charities and to volunteer. In 2000, compared with those who rarely or never attended a house of worship, individuals who attended a house of worship nearly once a week or more were 25 percentage points more likely to donate to charity (91 percent vs. 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer (67 percent vs. 44 percent).8
Voting. Individuals who participated in religious activities during adolescence tend to have higher rates of electoral participation as young adults. On average, individuals who reported participating in religious groups and organizations as adolescents were more likely to register to vote and to vote in a presidential election as young adults when compared to those who reported not participating in religious groups and organizations.9
Ethics in Business. Business professionals who assign greater importance to religious interests are more likely to reject ethically questionable business decisions. Business leaders who assigned greater importance to religious interests were more likely to reject ethically questionable business decisions than their peers who attached less importance to religious interests. Respondents were asked to rate the ethical quality of 16 business decisions. For eight of the 16 decisions, respondents who attached greater importance to religious interests had lower average ratings, which indicated a stronger disapproval of ethically questionable decisions, compared to respondents who attached less importance to religious interests.10
Vaughn R. A. Call and Tim B. Heaton, “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36, No. 3 (September 1997): 382-392.
Lisa D. Pearce and William G. Axinn, “The Impact of Family Religious Life on the Quality of Mother-Child Relations,” American Sociological Review 63, No. 6 (December 1998): 810-828.
Valerie King, “The Influence of Religion on Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children,” Journal of Marriage and Family 65, No. 2 (May 2003): 382-395.
Jerry Trusty and Richard E. Watts, “Relationship of High School Seniors’ Religious Perceptions and Behavior to Educational, Career, and Leisure Variables,” Counseling and Values 44, No. 1 (October 1999): 30-39.
Robert A. Hummer, Richard G. Rogers, Charles B. Nam, and Christopher G. Ellison, “Religious Involvement and U.S. Adult Mortality,” Demography 36, No. 2 (May 1999): 273-285.
William J. Strawbridge, Richard D. Cohen, Sarah J. Shema, and George A. Kaplan, “Frequent Attendance at Religious Services and Mortality over 28 Years,” American Journal of Public Health 87, No. 6 (June 1997): 957-961.
Matthew T. Loveland, David Sikkink, Daniel J. Myers, and Benjamin Radcliff, “Private Prayer and Civic Involvement,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, No. 1 (March 2005): 1-14.
Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide, (New York: Basic Books 2006), 31-52.
Michelle Frisco, Chandra Muller and Kyle Dodson, “Participation in Voluntary Youth-Serving Associations and Early Adult Voting Behavior,” Social Science Quarterly 85, No. 3 (September 2004): 660-676.
Justin Longenecker, Joseph McKinney, and Carlos Moore, “Religious Intensity, Evangelical Christianity, and Business Ethics: An Empirical Study,” Journal of Business Ethics 55, No. 4 (December 2004): 371- 384.
Just to temper the first point of the three via the above video, I wanted to add these explanations of Biblical patriarchy and the male/female relationship by Nora Hale:
God does not have a gender. He is neither male nor female. Gender is a biological characteristic, and God is not a biological being. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and spirit does not have flesh and blood (Luke 24:39). However, in the Bible God is always referred to in the masculine. This is most probably because of how God “the Father” relates to Jesus, who is the Son of God. He was born a male, and in the Biblical culture the male is the one who represents his descendants (1 Cor. 15:22) and has the authority in the family (Gen. 27:1-29, 48:13-14). When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, Eve sinned first, but sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12). This means it was the man Adam who possessed representative authority, not Eve. This phenomena is called Federal Headship…. (CARM)
Christianity Today explains well the main idea with this topic. While they have an excellent article as a whole, this doctrine of offices withing the Trinity and how we should revere these distinctions in the Godhead are what made the Jewish survival possible. Most ancient Near-East views of creation and of their sustenance were through fertility goddesses:
Not an Invention
Feminine images are used throughout Scripture to describe God’s compassionate and loving nature. Examples include the frequent images of God protecting and comforting his children (Isa. 66:12–13; Hos. 11:1–4). But it’s important to note that God is never addressed as Mother. This phenomenon is unique compared with the cultures surrounding the original biblical writers. Most ancient Near Eastern societies had a goddess as the main cult figure or at least to complement a male god—Asherah in Canaan, Isis in Egypt, Tiamat in Babylon. If patriarchy is responsible for cultures portraying God as male, then we would expect goddess worship to reflect a matriarchal society—one in which women are given superior status or at least are equal to men. But this is not the case. Even today, many societies devoted to goddess worship remain oppressive toward women. Devotion to the goddess Kali in Hinduism, for instance, has never resulted in better treatment of women, even among Kali devotees.
We could even say that Israel succumbed to an idea of God that was rather against her natural disposition. Left to themselves, the Israelites would have ended up worshiping the Baals and Asherahs—Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses. Israel’s prophets singled out idolatry for fierce denunciation because its people were constantly tempted to do just that. But Israel’s idea of God’s fatherhood bucked a common trend in the ancient world. Hence, it could not have been an Israelite invention, but rather the result of a long history of living under the revelation of God. It is the church’s continuity with this narrative of Israel that would lead eventually to the uniquely Christian doctrine of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the New Testament, God’s fatherhood conveys two distinct ideas. First, it refers primarily to the internal relationship within the Trinity. This is how the first article of the Apostles’ Creed puts it: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” Even as early as Paul’s writings, the phrase “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” had become commonplace. God is first and foremost the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not an invention of later church leaders, but comes directly from Christ, who refers to God as “Father.” In doing so, Jesus reveals a unique relationship between the Father and Son that constitutes the beginning of the Trinitarian doctrine.
Jesus taught his disciples to call God “our heavenly Father.” Therefore, the loving relationship he has with the Father from eternity now extends to those adopted into God’s family (Rom. 8:15). The father-son relationship is the most intimate personal relationship, one marked by reciprocal love and respect, and it is God’s supremely personal and loving nature that the term father is meant to underscore.
To claim, as many feminist theologians do, that the very presence of masculine metaphors for God excludes women simply does not square with the way Scripture uses them. Masculine images of God do not always convey exclusively “masculine” qualities. For example, Isaiah 54:5–7 refers to God as the Husband who with “deep compassion” (a stereotypically “feminine” quality) called estranged Israel back to himself (see also Isa. 49:13). The term father, then, excludes not feminine qualities, but rather the idea of a distant and impersonal deity, which is precisely the picture of the supreme being still seen in many primal religions.
Second, the father metaphor points to God as the Creator (e.g., Isa. 64:8; Mal. 2:10) “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph. 3:15). Father captures in one word two seemingly contrasting characteristics: God’s love for his creatures and his lordship over all creation. Here again, we see the difference between Israel and ancient Near Eastern cultures. In the Judeo-Christian faith, God the Father created the world as something separate from himself, whereas in Near Eastern societies, the mother metaphor pictures the mother-goddess giving birth to the world (which makes it an extension of the deity’s body). Calling God Mother undermines the Christian doctrine of creation by implying that God and the world are made of the same stuff and virtually indistinguishable. So, we need Father in order to get to the right doctrine of creation….
Apologetic Press (AP) goes on to quote CS Lewis’ excellent understanding of the larger idea at stake here. AP then quotes Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli book…. which I will include the entire section of after this quote:
But must we refer to God via masculine terms? The question has nothing to do with what we would like to do, but rather with what God tells us to do. C.S. Lewis addressed this point in his book, God in the Dock:
Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity…. Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He orShe, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?
Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable (1970, p. 237, emp. in orig.).
Scripture makes it clear: “O Jehovah, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand…. Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, ‘He made me not’; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, ‘He hath no understanding’?” (Isaiah 64:8; 29:16). Since when does the clay have the right to dictate to the potter or override his decisions? As a believer in God and His inspired Word, and yet as one speaking from an inherently masculine viewpoint, Lewis went on to say:
We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures…. It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer…. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles… (1970, pp. 237-238, emp. added).
It is not man’s (or woman’s!) place to question God’s sovereign authority or divine will; neither falls under mankind’s jurisdiction.
Here is the fuller quote via Kreeft & Tacelli:
Is God a “He”?
The hottest controversy today about God concerns the traditional exclusive use of the pronoun he. Nearly all Christians admit that (1) God is not literally male, since he has no biological body, and (2) women are not essentially inferior to men. Those are red herrings.
There are, however, two reasons for defending the exclusive use of masculine pronouns and imagery for God. One issue is whether we have the authority to change the names of God used by Christ, the Bible and the church. The traditional defense of masculine imagery for God rests on the premise that the Bible is divine revelation, not culturally relative, negotiable and changeable. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Christians believe God himself has told us how to speak of him.”
The other reason for calling God “he” is historical. Except for Judaism, all other known ancient religions had goddesses as well as gods. The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself.
Surely there is an inherent connection between these two radically distinctive features of the three biblical or Abramic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam): their unique view of a transcendent God creating nature out of nothing and their refusal to call God “she” despite the fact that Scripture ascribes to him feminine attributes like compassionate nursing (Is 49:15), motherly comfort (Is 66:13) and carrying an infant (Is 46:3). The masculine pronoun safeguards (1) the transcendence of God against the illusion that nature is born from God as a mother rather than created and (2) the grace of God against the illusion that we can somehow save our-selves—two illusions ubiquitous and inevitable in the history of religion.
Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1994), 97-98.
Below will be a couple theological expansions of this thinking on a level of the seminarian. Enjoy the input as I have:
Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 137-138.
2.3.2 DOES GOD HAVE A GENDER?
Does the fact that God is depicted as male in the Scriptures create an androcentric conception of God that is oppressive to women? Is God really male in his essence? Are men more in the image of God than women because they are male? Does describing God as male provide religious sanction to patriarchal oppression and cultural imperialism? These are the questions about God and gender raised by feminist theologians. A few thoughts to consider here.
We can readily admit the sociolinguistic link between language and power. We can also recognize the injustices and inequalities in society perpetuated by gender discrimination. Yet retaining the maleness of God language as given in Scripture is not an automatic validation of an oppressive and abusive patriarchalism. The God who reveals himself as Father is the loving Father of all men and women. Those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior become “sons of God” (Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26; 4:6 NIV ) but also more generally “children of God” (John 1:12; Rom 8:16-17, 21; Phil 2:15; 1 John 3:10; 5:2). God will always remain a “he,” since God is a personal being, and the substitution of the noun “God” for the personal pronoun inevitably makes him impersonal in his speech and actions. The fact that God is described as “he” does not mean that God is intrinsically male, but he relates to us primarily in the masculine mode, as Father, Son, and Lord.”
It is notable that it is maleness and femaleness that constitutes the image of God according to Genesis 1:26-27. It is humanity created as male and female that marks the image and likeness of God. That means that God’s being cannot be confined to masculine qualities. Our humanity has a divine character expressed in the union of male and female. God is the sum of both genders because humanity as male and female are equally rooted in God’s divine being.
What is more, God is also described with maternal language and feminine imagery at several points in Scripture. Moses indicts the Hebrews for their rebellion in the wilderness: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth” (Deut 32:18). God is depicted like a nurse or mother in his care for his people (Ps 131:2). The love of God is compared to the love of a mother for her child (Isa 49:15; 66:13). God’s wisdom is considered one of the primary personifications of his work in the world (e.g., Prov 8:1-12; Jer 10:12; 51:15), and it is expressed in words that are grammatically feminine in both Hebrew (hokmâ) and Greek (sophia). Jesus could even depict himself like a mother hen protecting her chicks from a barnyard fire (Matt 23:37).
In the biblical witness, God’s fatherhood is not an oppressive or authoritarian persona that he adopts to force his will on others. Instead, we are to see the imagery of a father’s deep love for his children. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the Father with the intimate term of abba (Matt 6:9; Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Jesus declared that God’s fatherhood is why he is so eager to answer prayer (Matt 7:9-11), for God’s love is like a father’s love for his children. And this is why the image of being “children of God” is so powerful. The God from whom we were formerly estranged on account of our sin has adopted us into his own family (John 1:12-13; Rom 8:13-17; Gal 3:26). If there is something good about a human father’s love for his children, then there is something infinitely good about the heavenly Father’s love for his children too.
I think it worth pointing out as well that all theological language is analogical since the finiteness of human language cannot contain the entirety of God in all his infinite being. Human language for God brings us only partial and incomplete analogies, parables, similes, and images of what God is like. All God language, including that freighted with connotations of human gender, male or female, and sonship, is only analogous to God’s being and not an absolute description of his person. Shirley Guthrie writes:
With respect to the doctrine of the Trinity … when we speak about God as “Father,” when we speak about the eternal “Son” who comes to us in the man Jesus (who taught us to call his Father “our Father”), and when he speaks about the “Spirit” who is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, we are not talking about the gender of God (for God is neither male nor female). We are using analogical language from human experience to talk about the kind of relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity and between the triune God and us human beings—a relationship that is like the intimate relationship between parents and their children.
William G. T. Shedd, edited by Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd Edition (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2003), 253-257.
Deity of God the Father
The deity of God the Father is undisputed, and hence there is less need of presenting the proof of it. Divine names, attributes, works, and adorableness are ascribed to him.
The term father denotes an immanent and eternal relation of the first trinitarian person. God in himself and irrespective of any reference to the created universe is a father: the Father of the Son. Were God primarily the Father because of his relation to men and angels and not because of his relation to the second person in the Godhead, his fatherhood would begin in time and might consequently end in time. If there was once a time when God was not the Father of the Son, there may be a time when he will cease to be so. “It is the greatest impiety,” says Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses 11.8), “to say that after deliberation held in time God became a Father. For God was not at first without a Son and afterward in time became a Father.”
The hypostatic or trinitarian paternity of God the Father as related to the Son must not be confounded with the providential paternity of God the Trinity as related to the creation. Only one of the divine persons is the trinitarian Father; but the three persons in one essence constitute the providential and universal Father. The triune God is generally the Father of men and angels by creation and specially of the elect by redemption. Hence, the term father applied to God has two significations. It may denote divine essence in all three modes or in only one mode. The first clause in the Lord’s prayer is an example of the former. When men say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” they do not address the first person of the Godhead to the exclusion of the second and third. They address, not the untriune God of deism and natural religion, but the God of revelation, who is triune and as such the providential Father of all men and the redemptive Father of believers. If a man deliberately and consciously intends in his supplication to exclude from his worship the Son and the Holy Spirit, his petition is not acceptable: “He that honors not the Son honors not the Father” (John 5:23). A man may not have the three persons distinctly and formally in his mind when he utters this petition, and in this case he does not intentionally exclude any trinitar-ian person or persons; but the petition, nevertheless, ascends to the divine three, not to a single person exclusively; and the answer returns to him from the triune God, not from any solitary person exclusively. Says Witsius (Lord’s Prayer, diss. 7):
It is a doctrine firmly maintained by all orthodox divines, that the Father cannot be invoked in a proper manner, without at the same time invoking the Son and Holy Spirit, because they are one in nature and in honor. Nor can it, I think, be denied that, laying out of view the distinction of persons and looking only at what is common to all three persons in the Godhead, God may be denominated our Father. Yet I cheerfully concur with those interpreters who maintain that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is particularly addressed in the first petition.
Says Augustine (On the Trinity 5.2), “That which is written, ‘Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,’ ought not to be understood as if the Son were excepted or the Holy Spirit were excepted. This one Lord our God, we rightly call, also, our Father.” (See supplement 3.4.10.)
The term father denotes the Trinity in John 4:21, 23-24: “The hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Here the term father is synonymous with “God” who “is a Spirit,” the true object of worship. But Christ, in mentioning the object of worship, had in his mind the God of revelation, not of deism—trinal as he is in Scripture, not single as he is in natural religion—the very same God in whose trinal name and being he commanded all men to believe and be baptized. Christ’s idea of God as the universal Father was trinitarian, not deistic. In intuition and theology, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God and the heavenly Father of angels and men:
The appellation father, descriptive of the connection between God and his creatures, is true of every one of the divine persons and of the three divine persons, one God. The [paternal] relation to the creatures is as true of the Son and Holy Spirit as of the Father in respect to divine nature; for all these persons are respectively, and in union, the Father of the universe; the Father in creation, in government, and in protection. The Son as Messiah is foretold in his protecting kindness and mercy as “a Father to the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5-6; Isa. 9:6). (Kidd, Eternal Sonship, chap. 13)
A believer in the Trinity, in using the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, may have the first person particularly in his mind and may address him; but this does not make his prayer antitrinitarian. He addresses that person as the representative of the Trinity. And the same is true whenever he particularly addresses the Son or the Spirit. If he addresses God the Son, God the Son implies God the Father. Each divine person supposes and suggests the others. Each represents the others. Consequently, to pray to any one of the divine three is by implication and virtually to pray to all three. No man can honor the Son without honoring the Father also. Says Christ, “He that has seen me has seen the Father also” (John 14:9). In like manner, he that prays to the Son prays to the Father also. Says Turretin (3.25.27):
The mind of the worshiper will not be distracted by the consideration that there are three divine persons, if he remembers that the whole divine essence is in each of the persons, so that if he worships one he worships all. With Gregory of Nazianzus, he may say: “I cannot think of the one Supreme Being without being encompassed with the glory of the three persons; and I cannot discern the three persons without recurring to the unity of the essence.”
The hypostatic or trinitarian paternity of God, in distinction from the providential, is mentioned in John 17:5: “Now, 0 Father, glorify me with your own self.” Here, Christ addresses the Father alone, the first person of the Godhead exclusively. He did not address the Trinity, for he died not address himself or the Holy Spirit. Respecting this trinitarian fatherhood, the Son says “my Father,” not “our Father” (14:27; 15:1, 8; and other passages).
The baptismal formula and the doxologies indisputably prove that paternity is an immanent and eternal relation of God. The rite that initiates into the kingdom of God would not be administered in three names denoting only certain temporal and assumed attitudes of the Supreme Being. Neither would a divine blessing be invoked through three titles signifying only these. Baptism and invocation are acts of worship, and worship relates to the essential and eternal being of God.
The hypostatic or trinitarian character of the first person is that he possesses the essence “originally,” in the sense that it is not communicated to him by one of the other persons. Augustine (On the Trinity 2.1) thus speaks of the “original” or unbegotten possession of the essence by the Father: “We call the Son, God of God; but the Father, God only, not of God. Whence it is plain that the Son has another of whom he is and to whom he is Son; but the Father has not a Son of whom he is, but only to whom he is Father. For every son is what he is, of his father, and is son to his father; but no father is what he is, of his son, but is father to his son.” A common term applied to God in the patristic age to denote this peculiarity was “unbegotten”: “Next to God, we worship and love the Word, who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God”; “we have the unbegotten and ineffable God”; “we have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impassible God”; “he is the firstborn of the unbegotten God” (Justin Martyr, Apology 1.25, 53; 2.12-13); “there are also some dissertations concerning the unbegotten God” (Rufinus, Preface to the Clementine Recognitions). In the writings of Athanasius, the Father is denominated agennētos”‘ (ingenerate or unbegotten) and the Son gennētos (generate or begotten). (See supplement 3.4.11.)
The phrase unbegotten God implies and suggests the phrase begotten God. This denotes no more than the phrase God the Son, the latter containing the substantive, the former the adjective. Clement of Alexandria (Miscellaneous Writings 5.12) remarks that “John the apostle says no man has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” Irenaeus (Against Heresies 4.20.11) quotes this text in the same form: “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” This patristic employment of the phrase begotten God strongly supports the reading monogenēs theos in John 1:18, which has the support of א, B, C, L, Peshitta, Coptic, and Ethiopic and respecting which Tischendorf (8th ed.) says, “Without a doubt [this reading] carries the weight of the testimonies.” Westcott and Hort adopt this reading.
In the controversy between the English trinitarians and Arians, conducted by Waterland and Samuel Clarke in the beginning of the eighteenth century, a distinction made by the former between “necessary existence” and “self-existence” is liable to misconception and requires notice. The Father, says Waterland, is both necessarily existent and self-existent; the Son is necessarily existent, but not self-existent. In this use of terms, which is uncommon, the term self-existent was employed not with reference to the essence, as is usually the case, but to the person only. In this sense, self-existence denotes what the Nicene trinitarians meant by “unbegotten” or “ingenerate.” The Father is self-existent in Waterland’s sense because divine essence is not communicated to or with him; he has it of himself. The Son is not self-existent in Waterland’s sense because divine essence is communicated; he has it not from himself but from the Father. But the Son is necessarily existent, says Water-land, because he possesses an essence that is necessarily existent. The fact that the essence is communicated by eternal generation does not make it any the less an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable essence. In brief, according to Waterland, the Son is necessarily existent because the divine essence is his essence; but he is not self-existent, because his personal characteristic of filiation, his peculiar “self,” is not from himself but from another person.
If no distinction be made between necessary existence and self-existence, as is the case in the Nicene statements, Waterland would attribute both necessary existence and self-existence to the Son. He would concede self-existence in the sense in which it is attributed to the Son in John 5:26: “As the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself.” Here, “life in himself” denotes the self-existence of divine essence, which is also necessary existence. The Father has this uncommunicated. The Son has it communicated or “given” from the Father, by eternal generation.
The Father was sometimes denominated pēgētēs theotētos or rhiza pases theotētos. This phraseology is used with qualification by accurate trinitarians. Some orthodox writers employ the phrase fons trinitatis’ to denote the hypostatic character of the Father, which is better than fons deitatis. Says Howe (Trinity, lect. 14):
If we do suppose the Son and the Holy Spirit to be from the Father by a necessity of nature, an eternal necessity of nature, and not by a dependence upon his will, they will not be creatures, because nothing is creature but what depends upon the will and pleasure of the Creator. And if they be not creatures, what are they then? Then, they must be God, and yet both of them from the Father, too; for all that do assert the Trinity do acknowledge the Father to be fonts trinitatis, the fountain of the Trinity: and if from this fountain the Son be in one way, and the Holy Spirit be in another way, both from the Father; that is, the Son from the Father immediately, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and this not by choice, but by an eternal necessity of nature, here is this doctrine as easily conceivable as any that I know of whatsoever, the lies not within the compass of our manifest demonstration.
Turretin (3.30.1) says that the Father is fons deitatis “if the mode of subsisting is in view.”‘ Owen (Saints’ Communion, 3) remarks that “the Father is the fountain of the deity.” Hooker (Polity 5.54) quotes Augustine as saying that “the Father is the source [fountain] of the Godhead.”” In these cases, deitas is loosely put for trinitas. Strictly speaking, however, deity denotes the divine essence; and the first person is not the Father of the essence. But Trinity denotes the essence personalized by trinalizing. In this reference, the first person is the father and fountain. “We teach,” says Calvin (1.13.23, 25), “according to the Scriptures, that there is essentially but one God; and therefore that the essence of both the Son and the Spirit is unbegotten. But since the Father is first in order and has himself begotten his Wisdom, therefore… he is justly esteemed the original and fountain of the whole divinity [Trinity].”
(SORRY, I wanted to discuss how the “euthyphro argument” being an issue for Mormonism and not applicable to Christianity and Judaism. Dropped the ball on that one.)
Over the years I have noticed that Dennis Prager has an unhealthy view that Mormonism and Christianity worship the same God. This is not true… at all. In a recent show Prager talks about a minimalist approach to see if people worship the same God. I am a huge fan of Dennis’s, BUT, in this case he isn’t even close to being correct on an issue one would think is important for him to get right.
At any rate, I couldn’t figure out how to get some of the fade issues to sync up better, plus I need to work on the audio (a little “tiny” sounding).
Even according to thee simple parameters, the LDS god is vastly different than the Judeo-Christian concept of God. In the video I recommend two books, I will add my chapter as a resource as well:
This has to be embarrassing… if you’re an atheist. A new study performed at the University of York used targeted magnetism to shut down part of the brain. The result: belief in God disappeared among more than 30 percent of participants.
That in itself may not seem so embarrassing, but consider that the specific part of the brain they frazzled was the posterior medial frontal cortex—the part associated with detecting and solving problems, i.e., reasoning and logic.
In other words, when you shut down the part of the brain most associated with logic and reasoning, greater levels of atheism result.
You’ve heard the phrase, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? Apparently we can now also say, “I have too many brains to be an atheist.”…
Another article notes the other “liberal” side-affect of losing belief in God via brain-damage:
“Belief in God was reduced almost by a third, while participants became 28.5 per cent less bothered by immigration numbers.”
The articles author continues:
….We still haven’t answered the big question: why. Why did the authors design a study about belief in God and attitudes about immigrants? From their conclusion, written in the impenetrable prose typical of such “studies”:
History teaches that investment in cherished group and religious values can bring forth acts of both heroic valor and horrific injustice. Understanding the psychological and biological determinants of increases in ideological commitment may ultimately help us to identify the situational triggers of, and individuals most susceptible to, this phenomenon, and thereby gain some leverage over the zealous acts that follow.The results provide evidence that relatively abstract personal and social attitudes are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, opening the way for researchers to not only describe the biological mechanisms undergirding high-level attitudes and beliefs, but also to establish causality via experimental intervention.
Did you catch that? These scientists hope that in the future belief in God, or in some other politically incorrect question that might — only might — lead to “zealous acts,” can be treated, maybe even cured, by magnet zappings. And there you have the real danger that follows from believing you can quantify the unquantifiable.
Can’t you see it now… re-education camps with MRI machines removing God and conservative values from people with a magnetic lobotomy. Every progressives dream.
This really should be combined with the excellent video at Prager University, “Is Evil Rational.” Great points. Love the deeper thoughts in my ear piece as I am tooling around the warehouse at my work.
For more clear thinking like this from Dennis Prager… I invite you to visit:
[p. 90>]When the Northwestern Regional Conference of the American Association of Theological Schools convened at the Theological Seminary in Princeton in May 1939, one of the few nontheologians invited to address the meeting was Einstein. The mimeographed transcripts of his lecture carried the title “The Goal.” 34 Einstein began his talk by recalling that in the last century it was widely held that scientific knowledge and religious belief conflict with each other and that the prevailing trend “among advanced minds” was to replace belief with knowledge. The function of education was therefore confined to the development of rational thinking and knowing. Although “the aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable… knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations.” Scientific thinking alone, Einstein continued, cannot lead us to the ultimate and fundamental purpose of our existence.
To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be [p. 91>]stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly. The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal, which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives us a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations.
Compared with his 1930 essay, this talk had a much more reserved tone and its ideas were acceptable even to orthodox theologians. It should be noted, however, that the topic of Einstein’s 1930 essay differs distinctly from that of his 1939 talk; while the former dealt mainly with the origin and nature of religious beliefs, the latter deals almost exclusively with questions related to the purpose and goal of our life, a subject on which agreement is more easily attainable than on the nature of religion. In fact, Einstein’s 1939 talk was sympathetically received by almost all participants of the conference.
This was probably one of the reasons that Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, a prominent religious leader, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and member of the organizing committee of the “Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion,” scheduled to convene on Sep-[p. 92>] tember 9-11, 1940, at the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, thought it appropriate to invite Einstein to address this conference as well. Einstein agreed to write an essay, “Science and Religion,” to be read at this conference.35 Neither he nor Finkelstein anticipated the serious controversies and harsh acrimonies that this essay would evoke.
Einstein agreed, not only out of respect for a distinguished leader of liberal Judaism but also because of his well-known magnanimity to respond to all requests he thought to be ingenuous. Thus, in 1936 when Phyllis Wright, a sixth-grade student in the Sunday school of the Riverside Church in New York, asked whether scientists pray and, if they do, what they pray for, he gave a reply that can serve as an introduction to his essay for the 1940 conference.
“Scientific research is based on the assumption that all events, including the actions of mankind, are determined by the laws of nature. Therefore, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, that is, by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being. However, we have to admit that our actual knowledge of these laws is only an incomplete piece of work (unvollkommenes Stuck-werk), so that ultimately the belief in the existence of fundamental all-embracing laws also rests on a sort of faith. All the same, this faith has been largely justified [p. 93>] by the success of science. On the other hand, however, everyone who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. The pursuit of science leads therefore to a religious feeling of a special kind, which differs essentially from the religiosity of more naive people. With friendly greetings, your Albert Einstein.”36
EINSTEIN’S CONTRIBUTION to the 1940 conference was presented to an audience of over five hundred participants. The article begins with the question of what, precisely, we understand by science and by religion. Science, says Einstein, can easily be defined as “the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization”; but to define religion is a much more difficult task. We can reach this definition by inquiring first what characterizes the aspirations of a religious person. “A person who is religiously enlightened,” says Einstein, “appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value.” What is important, according to Einstein, is “the force of this super-personal content…. regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being.” From these presuppositions, Einstein then derived the definition [p. 94>] of religion as “the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect.”
These definitions enabled Einstein to repeat what he had already said in his essay, “The Goal,” namely, that because science ascertains only what is, but not what should be, no conflict between the two can exist. Only intervention on the part of religion into the realm of science—if, for example, a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements in the Bible—can give rise to conflict, as has been the case in the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo or Darwin. Even though the realms of religion and science are distinctly marked off from each other, strong reciprocal relations exist between the two. Though religion determines the goal, science, in its broadest sense, shows the means for attaining this goal. However, “science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion…. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Had this statement been the final conclusion, the article probably would have been acclaimed by all the participants. But Einstein qualified his statements about the compatibility of religion and science “with reference to the actual content of historical religions.” “This qualification,” he continued, “has to do with the concept of God.” He then mentioned, though more briefly than in his 1930 essay, his theory of the three stages in the evolution of religion and the concept of God and declared that “the main source of [p. 95>] the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.” Although he conceded that the doctrine of a personal God could never be refuted, because such a doctrine could always take refuge where science has not yet been able to gain a foothold, he called such a procedure
not only unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission.
Some background is necessary to assess correctly the reaction that this article—in particular, its denial of a personal God—evoked among the theologians attending the conference and the wider public. Einstein did not anticipate that the denial of a personal God would be misinterpreted as the denial of God. That such a misinterpretation was not uncommon can be gathered from a 1945 encyclopedia of religion that defined the term “atheism” as “the denial that there exists a being corresponding to some particular definition of god; frequently, but unfortunately, [p. 96>] used to denote the denial of God as personal.”37 That Einstein was neither an atheist nor an agnostic—certainly not in the usual sense of the term coined in 1869 by Thomas Henry Huxley—follows not only from Einstein’s above-mentioned statements concerning his cosmic religion but also from statements made by all those with whom he had intimate discussions about his religious conviction. Thus, for example, his close friend Max Born once remarked, “he [Einstein] had no belief in the Church, but did not think that religious faith was a sign of stupidity, nor unbelief a sign of intelligence.”38 David Ben-Gurion—who visited Einstein in Princeton a year before inviting him to become President of Israel—recalled that, when discussing religion, “even he [Einstein], with his great formula about energy and mass, agreed that there must be something behind the energy.”39 With respect to religion, Ben-Gurion and Einstein had much in common. Like Einstein, Ben-Gurion was an ardent admirer of Spinoza. He also declared his belief “that there must be a being, intangible, indefinable, even unimaginable, but something infinitely superior to all we know and are capable of conceiving,”40 a belief not much different from Einstein’s belief in the impersonal God of his cosmic religion.
At a charity dinner in New York, Einstein explicitly dissociated himself from atheism when he spoke with the German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Hubertus zu Lowen-[p. 97>]stein: “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”41
 A. Einstein, “The Goal,” lecture delivered 19 May 1939, Ideas and Opinions, pp. 41-44; Out of My Later Years, pp. 25-28.
A. Einstein, “Science and Religion,” Transactions of the First Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life (New York, 1941); Ideas and Opinions, pp. 44-49; Out of My Later Years, pp. 28-33; Nature 146 (1940): 605-607.
 Einstein to P. Wright, 24 January 1936. Einstein Archive, reel 52-337.
V. Ferm, ed., An Encyclopedia of Religion (Philosophical Library, New York, 1945), p. 44.
 Born—Einstein Letters p. 203.
 M. Pearlman, Ben Gurion Looks Back (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1965), p. 217.
 Ibid., p. 216.
Prinz Hubertus zu Lowenstein, Towards the Further Shore (Victor Gollancz, London, 1968), p. 156.
Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 90-97.
Another good read on this can be found at Evidence for God. Similkarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?” Go to a previous post of mine where a paper, a video, and my Power Point presentation on the matter are.
The Signs of God’s Existence is an interesting high quality documentary that explains in an intellectual way why it is logical to believe in God. This documentary gives some good rational answers and food for thought.