Taking on Dawkins. The most vocal academic atheist in the world today is probably Richard Dawkins. He has written several books and is widely quoted and featured on atheist web sites and articles in the media. Dr. Alister McGrath, a former principal of Oxford University's Wycliffe Hall and a well known philosopher, has written a great deal of material pointing out errors in Dawkins' material. A good source for this is an interview with McGrath on www.stnews.org.
Exciting new archeological finds. Israeli archeologist Eilat Mazar believes she has found David's palace. A seal impression with the name of Jehudi, a palace officer, has been found in the ruins. Jeremiah 36 records a man by the same name. There will be great debate about this for a while, but it would be a monumental find if it holds up to further investigation. Another incredible find is the Siloam Pool described in John 9:1-11 where Jesus healed the blind man. Ronny Reich, the leading archeologist specializing in Jerusalem, was the first to identify the steps leading into the Pool of Siloam from the time of Jesus. There is a wonderful article with numerous pictures by Hershel Shanks in the September 2005 issue of Biblical Archeology Review, pages 16-23. Much of archeology is dominated by biblical minimalists, but in spite of that there seems to be a constant flow of discoveries that support the biblical account. These two are particularly interesting.
Kids Programs Drop. One disturbing trend in churches today is the decrease in available programs for children. We have noticed this in our lectureships, and a new study from Barna Research shows it is widespread. They report that since 1997 there has been a drop of 38,000 denominational churches that offer a Vacation Bible School program. They also report that there has been a drop of 20,000 in the number of churches that offer midweek programs for children. The need for having spiritual and biblical education programs for children has never been greater, and yet churches seem to be disengaging from that kind of program--perhaps because of the aging of the population of many congregations. --Source: Christianity Today, October 2005, page 24.
Hurricane questions. The tragedies associated with the hurricanes of 2005 are fresh in our minds, and we want to express our concerns and sympathies for those who have been so brutally ravaged by these terrible storms. Skeptics try to use any natural disaster as a means of discrediting God, but like most disasters, hurricanes are a consequence of man's greed and stupidity, with innocent people frequently bearing the consequences of these selfish acts of others. Hurricanes carry large amounts of water inland from the ocean. The dry latitudes around 30 degrees latitude are kept watered by the stored waters that came from hurricanes. Before man settled in coastal areas, there were natural barriers to the winds and surges associated with hurricanes. Mankind has stripped away the barriers by removing the vegetation and straightening the channels and building levies, and has even built cities below sea level after removing these barriers to the storms. As barrier beaches and natural vegetation vanished, the area became vulnerable to the waters that would have normally benefitted the ecology of the area. The classic example is how hurricane Wilma ravaged Miami, but increased the viability of the Everglades. It is important for man to work with nature, not against the design built into the natural world. A good report on this problem is in Time, October 10, 2005, pages 32-37
Media irresponsibility and hurricanes. Not only has there been an uninformed bias against God in the media, but also an inability to accurately report what is taking place. Reports of "a toxic soup" turned out to be totally untrue. The journal Environmental Science and Technology reports that toxic levels found in samples of water were slightly raised, but not hazardous. Headlines said that there were 10,000 dead in New Orleans, but the actual count was 1,003, according to USA Today, October 11, 2005. Claims of crime sprees at the Superdome and Morial Center turned out to be untrue. Statements that it would take three months to drain the city were off by a factor of at least two. The media seems to feel it has to make the news spectacular to get it read, and many times the news is interpreted, not reported. It is important not to accept any news report on the surface, and especially not to form opinions based upon what you hear in the media.
Stem cell breakthroughs clarify issue. We have reported consistently in this journal that the use of embryonic stem cells for stem cell research was misguided and unnecessary. Two new methods of producing stem cell colonies have been developed that do not involve embryonic tissues. One method from researchers at MIT involves a gene blocking method, and the other takes a single cell from an embryo without disturbing the embryo. In the October 2005 issue of Christianity Today (page 64) is a list of adult stem cell treatments now available, none of which has come from embryonic stem cells (also available on www.stemcellresearch.org). Like most problems, if humans look for the most ethical and moral way of doing things, it will turn out that those methods are also the most productive. --Source: USA Today, October 17, 2005, page 3A.
Religion and morality. A religious society is usually thought of as being a moral society, but atheists are citing a study by Gregory Paul which says that the more religious a society is, the more social problems it has. Paul's study shows that the highest rates of abortion, murder, divorce, and teen pregnancy in the United States are in the Bible Belt, and similar international data shows this is a world trend. We would suggest that religious attendance and spirituality are not necessarily related, and that sampling can be a huge problem in a study like this. The fact is however, that the way people who claim to be believers live is a better argument against the existence of God than any scientific data. The scientific data strongly supports the existence of God, but human institutions that claim association with God are not much of a deterrent to selfishness. This is another case of how organized religion does not mean much, and is unrelated to the real evidence for the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible. --Source: The Week, October 14, 2005.
Secular humanists get U.N. Recognition. The Center for Inquiry has been granted "special consultative status" as a non-governmental organization under the United Nations Economic and Social Council. This will allow it to express its views on various issues to the international community. The Center for Inquiry is dominated by atheists and has been able to construct a pool of resource people who are well known. Carl Sagan, Isaac Azimov, Steve Allen, Richard Dawkins, Randi, David Koepsell, and Paul Kurz have been the major news makers over the past 20 years or so and the media has promoted these public figures in a special way. We would suggest that there is a huge need for people who have religious values to prepare to answer the challenges of skeptics on all levels, including the international level. --Source: Center for Inquiry Report, Fall 2005, page 1.
Flap over prescriptions. What does a pharmacist do when a person comes in with a prescription to be filled that, in the pharmacist's view, is immoral? Suppose you are a pharmacist and a person has a prescription from a doctor that you know is going to be used for the person to commit suicide or murder. What is your response? A major battle is brewing over this issue, and congress is being asked to consider a bill that would make it impossible for a pharmacist to not fill a prescription, no matter what. "Morning after" pills to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus is one of the concerns of those wanting a bill to force complete filling of all prescriptions. Like most issues, education is the only ultimate answer to this problem, but it will be a major concern for many pharmacists who have strong religious views. --Source: Scientific American, October 2005, page 6.
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