Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jesus on Hell

[Given the discussion on the last post about hell, I thought I would post some pages from my book, "On Jesus" (Wadsworth, 2003), that discuss Jesus' view of hell. This is from chapter four, "Jesus' Metaphysics." It does not include the footnotes.]

Beyond history, Jesus speaks of a postmortem existence either with God in blessing or outside of God’s blessing in a state of regret, loss, and forfeiture. Jesus announces to the criminal crucified next to him that the man would be with Jesus in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus contrasts the beggar Lazarus, who “died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side,” with the oppressive rich man who died and found himself in “hell, where he was in torment” (Luke 16:19-23). Jesus also warns of a day when he will separate the “sheep” from the “goats” eternally on the basis of how people lived their lives in response to him and to their neighbors (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus implicitly builds on certain passages in the Hebrew Scriptures to this effect (Daniel 12:2; etc.), but he makes himself the key agent of eternal judgment.

Jesus teaches that one passes from death into a disembodied intermediate state—either into God’s presence or away from it—and that at some future time this will be followed by Jesus’ own return to earth in final judgment. After this the permanent resurrection of the body will occur.

"For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [the Son of God’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).

Jesus claims to have the authority to render final judgment.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers’" (Matthew 7:21-23).

Hell on Trial

Such statements by Jesus have led some to reject Jesus as a sound thinker or a moral teacher. Bertrand Russell in his famous essay, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” is illustrative.

There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.

Russell claims that Jesus demonstrated “vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching.” Moreover, Jesus’ teaching that it is possible to sin against the Holy Spirit such that one is never forgiven “has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world.” A kind person would never have unleashed such worries upon the world. Furthermore, Jesus took “a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often.” Lastly, Russell claims that the doctrine of hell “put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as his chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partially responsible for that.” If Russell’s charges stand, Jesus falls morally and philosophically. They may be questioned, however.

First, Jesus did not engage in “vindictive fury” when predicting divine judgment. He issues strong warnings at times, but shows no “pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Moreover, after pronouncing seven charges (or “woes”) against “teachers of the law and Pharisees” (Matthew 23:15-32), Jesus laments over Jerusalem for not accepting his offer of redemption.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37).

While dying on the cross, Jesus prays concerning those responsible for his crucifixion, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This is not vindictive, but forgiving and compassionate. Rather than being spiteful, Jesus issues warnings precisely because he believes in both heaven and hell. That he warns of eternal loss repeatedly does not entail that he takes any enjoyment in it, any more than a physician enjoys repeatedly warning an asthmatic patient that she will die if she doesn’t stop smoking. If Jesus did, in fact, believe that an eternal sin against the Holy Spirit were possible, it would only behoove him to warn others against committing it (Mark 3:20-30). The fact that some have worried unnecessarily about committing this sin should not be credited to Jesus any more than pathologists should be blamed when hypochondriacs think they have contracted diseases they do not have.

Second, Russell’s claim that the very idea of hell induced generations to cruelly torture others is terribly overstated. We can cite a few Inquisitors who tortured heretics in hopes that early torment might spare them eternal punishment, but this is but a small and deeply aberrational percentage of Christians throughout the ages. The majority of those who purport to follow Jesus have adopted the attitude of warning and invitation with respect to Jesus’ message of redemption, not the practice of torture. Torture is nowhere commended by the Jewish or Christian Scriptures (or any Christian Creed) as a method of conversion or purgation or retaliation.

Third, while some regard the very idea of hell as utterly repugnant, philosophical arguments have been marshaled in support of the doctrine of hell. If one can rationally support the idea of God’s perfect and infinite holiness and justice in relation to the reality of human sin and moral responsibility, the idea of the perpetual punishment of one who rejects God’s offer of redemption is not without warrant. As Milton’s Lucifer put it in Paradise Lost:

So farewell Hope, and with Hope farewell Fear,
Farewell Remorse; all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good. . . .
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Moreover, there are biblically tenable and philosophically defensible models of hell that are not vindictive at all.

Jesus articulated a robust metaphysics. He embraced a highly personal theism and God’s dominion over human and cosmic history, a dominion that was entering a new and decisive stage through his own ministry. Jesus was a mind-body dualist, who acknowledged the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. He often engaged the demonic realm through exorcism and healing, and he spoke of Satan, demons, and angels. However, his main focus was always on God and his own mandate “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reporting on an Evening with Atheists

On Friday, March 24, I received an email from Justin Bosch, who was sponsoring a screening of the film, “The God Who Wasn’t There” at the historic Oriental Theater in Northwest Denver. Mr. Bosch screens films related to media reform and social ethics, but he was venturing into the religious deep. Since the film is very critical of Christianity—claiming that Jesus never existed and that Christians are dangerous simpletons—he wanted to give some response time to a Christian, as well as to an atheist. So, at the last minute it was arranged that Will Providence, a local atheist of the Objectivist stripe (a follower of Ayn Rand’s philosophy), and I would make some brief comments after the film and then answer questions.

Although I seldom participate in highly-charged public forums with little notice, I was interested in doing this because without me there would have been no Christian response. Further, I was familiar with the basic arguments of the film and was able to mine quite a bit of material on it and the producer on line.

The event nearly filled the theater. The first half hour or so was taken up by an audio presentation of a comedian who recounted her loss of Catholic faith and her turn to atheism. It was the most uncharitable presentation of the teaching of the Bible I had ever heard in one sitting. The Old Testament is nothing more an amoral mess. Jesus isn’t as nice as he thought. After all, he was impatient with his disciples, and so on. The Catholic priest who taught her the Bible was a fideist, who said she had to have faith and that he would pray she had faith. That was not good enough, and eventually “God disappeared” for this poor soul. Then came the film. The best thing about it was that it was mercifully short: sixty-two minutes. The film advances the solidly refuted claim that Christianity was started by Paul, who invented a Jesus out of whole cloth—the cloth of mystery religions. There are so many inaccuracies that I don’t know where to begin, so I won’t. However, Mike Lacona has written a long and thorough piece on the movie. Christians were presented as rapture-bedazzled nincompoops who wanted to take over America and persecute as many infidels as possible.

After this torment was over, Will and I took the stage before about 125 people. I made an opening statement that focused on the films three basic arguments (if I can so dignify such propaganda): (1) the claim mystery religions influenced, (2) that Christianity leads to persecution, and (3) that Christianity is intrinsically irrational. Will spoke for just a few minutes on what atheism meant to him. He did not address the film at all. We then took questions from the audience for about 45 minutes. Most of the questions were aimed at me. The audience was largely made up atheists, it seemed; although a few Christian friends attended. I infer this because when Will or a questioner made a point against Christianity or God, people tended to applaud. I would sometimes interact directly with Will—a young and presentable Iranian man in law school—but he didn’t have too much of substance to say except that he based his philosophy on reason and not faith. He also made positive allusions to Saint Ayn Rand. The questions—or sometimes just accusations against Christianity—related to issues such as the concept of truth, the supposed sexism of the Bible, hell, and so on. They really started piling on about hell at the end. In some cases, people would yell things from the audience instead of going to the microphone. When I presented an egalitarian account of gender relations (with ample reference to Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’s books), someone yelled, “Read Paul!” I have, amazingly enough, and he was no sexist.

This was easily the most hostile group I have ever addressed in twenty-seven years of public speaking. I spoke after an hour and half of anti-Christian propaganda and was on stage with an atheist before an audience of many atheists. Nevertheless, I think my opening comments refuted important claims in the film—I needed several hours to respond to all the errors, many of which were absolute howlers—and attempted to fairly and calmly respond to all the questioners. I was not stumped by any of the questions or comments, but I always wanted to say more. (I am a professor, after all.) I tried to give Will ample time to respond, but he often wanted to move on to the next questioner. He seemed quite nervous. At several points, I was able to present the essential gospel message, once in response to a question on hell: Jesus came to save us from that fate.

I hope that people who attended this event will post comments. You are better judges of me than I am, and you may be able to add your own observations of the event as a whole. Nevertheless, I offer a few reflections. I solicited widespread prayer for this, which is my custom (and was the Apostle Paul’s custom as well). This makes a tremendous difference. Despite the antagonistic crowd, I did not feel threatened or panicked. Several questioners wanted to back me into a fideist corner, but I never said that Christianity was without reason or evidence. I provided arguments and no subjective testimony or “I just know in my knower.” The caricature was applied because most Christians do not give reasons for their faith, even though they are commanded to do so in the Bible (1 Peter 3:15). A philosopher defending Christianity as rational probably blew some of their materialist circuits. It was also heartening to talk with several people afterward who seemed to be genuinely interested in Christianity. One of the co-owners of the theater was every enthusiastic about having me there and complimented me on my ability to respond reasonably to questions. He had probably never seen such a thing before. I hope to follow up with him. I also received an email from a man who is an agnostic who would like to interact with me.

My final blast is this (although I’ve said it a thousand times): We need more thoughtful and well-informed Christians in the market place of ideas, even in the hot spots. As Os Guinness as stated, most of American Christian evangelism in America is aimed at those already very interested in Christianity, but don’t know how to become Christians. This leaves out a vast number of souls who are hostile to Christianity or have no interest in it at all. We are called by Jesus Christ to engage these people as well.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Discussion after "The God Who Wasn't There"

Susan Arnold has a post on the event I spoke at Sunday night. It is very insightful, I think. My link function isn't working (!), so here it is:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

"The God Who Wasn't There"

I will be speaking (along with an atheist named Will Providence) at the end listed below. We will both make brief comments after the film and then respond to questions and comments from the audience. This came together at the last minute, which is why I am only now posting it.

The God Who Wasn't There

Sunday, March 26

7:00 PM

Oriental Theater

4335 W. 44th Ave, Denver

(44th & Tennyson)

Tickets: $8 available at the door

Holding modern Christianity up to a bright spotlight, this bold and often hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask.

Your guide through the world of Christendom is former fundamentalist Brian Flemming, joined by such luminaries as Jesus Seminar fellow Robert M. Price, professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and historian Richard Carrier.

Hold on to your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride. In this provocative, critically acclaimed documentary, you will discover:

• The early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea of a human Jesus

• The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults

• Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their religion

• Fundamentalism is as strong today as it ever has been, with an alarming 44% of Americans believing Jesus will return to earth in their lifetimes

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Frank Flunked: Francis Beckwith Denied Tenure at Baylor

Prolific author and professor Francis Beckwith has been denied tenure at Baylor University, where he has taught for three years. Despite Professor Beckwith's prodigious achievements in publishing and lecturing, Baylor has refused to grant him tenure. Beckwith will be challenging this decision according to his schools appeals policy.

My only conclusion is that this is a purely political move, and one that sadly fits a pattern at Baylor. The leadership at Baylor had been attempting to move it toward a solidly evangelical identity in which the Christian worldview would be at the center of the curriculum. This was called the Baylor 2012 program, instituted by then President William Sloane. (For a marvelous statement of the vision of a truly Christian college by Wheaton College's president, see "Conceving the Christian College" by Duane Litfin.) In recent years, Baylor courted and won many notable evangelical scholars, such as C. Stephen Evans, Beckwith, and William Dembski. Dembski's contract was not renewed after a three-year research (no teaching) position. With the departure of the President and Provost who led this vision, the school seems to be reverting to its provincial and traditional Southern Baptist ethos, which tends to separate faith and scholarship in unhealthy ways.

This is tragic for many reasons, but one looms large. There is no major evangelical research university in America, as Mark Noll pointed out in "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" in 1994. We spend our money elsewhere. Our theology does not make room for it. Neither will Baylor support this grand vision, apparently.

Against Personality Stereotyping

Every once in awhile (and always too often) I hear someone or oneself described in a serious of four letters. This is from a personality test, the Myers-Briggs, which is Jungian in its assumptions. Jung's psychology is not to be trusted for many reasons (first and foremost because he was a gnostic), but I absolutely rebel against personality typecasting. We are individuals, not abstractions, which are created by so-called experts who have never met us. This personality stereotyping goes very deep in American culture: ministries use these tests, as do many other organizations. It is but another attempt to quantify the unquantifiable, to make the qualitative and unique into a faceless category to be manipulated and processed by pundits.

Yes, there are broad generalizations that can be made about people, but often they are constricting. For years, I viewed myself as an introvert. That is, until someone challenged that view after noting my behavior in a group. It turns out that he (Jim Howard, thank you) was right. I enjoy the presence of people, or at least the right kind of people, although I also need time alone, especially to study. I don't fear being alone; but I don't dislike certain social settings either. So hang the "introvert" and "extrovert" categories--as well as strings of letters to describe individuals made in the divine image. This labeling another sad case of a technology usurping the need for spiritual discernment--testing the character of oneself and others--which comes through conversations, prayer, and just being-with another qua another, not the other as the instantiation of an abstract category dreamed up by a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am a human being. Do not label me--or anyone else, especially in psychological categories. Think up your adjectives after divining the character of your neighbor (if you can). If not, hold your peace.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"I am the Slime"

I'm The Slime
by Frank Zappa
I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed 'n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't got for one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That's right, folks..
Don't touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin'room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

TV Turn Off Week

TV-Turnoff Week 2006 will take place April 24-30, 2006 - and it's not too soon to get ready! See: (The link function is not working on this blog right now.)

Letter to the White House

[I sent this letter to the White House home page. Please pray about this terrible situation.]

Dear White House:

What is the Bush Administration doing about the man sentenced to death in Afghanistan because he converted to Christianity? America supposedly liberated this country from oppression in the hopes that it would be democratic and honor freedom of religion and speech. Yet an innocent man faces death for his faith. This is very wrong.

I encourage the White House to do everything possible to put pressure on Afghanistan to free this man and to reform its unjust laws.

Douglas Groothuis

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Bad Poem About a Tough Class

their epistemology...
for the uninitiated,
the community college.

Years of my study,
Three hours of our pain.

Is anyone home?

1. Matter of fact.
2. Relations of ideas.

What is the difference?
Does anyone know?

Kant, the intrepid revolutionary:
Synthetic a priori knowledge.
What is it?
Why think about it?
Who cares about it?
Is it possible?

Engaging ideas, raging teaching.
Blank stares.

And yet...
That ring-in-lip young women venturing answers to my many questions.
Sometime right, sometimes wrong, but sometimes!
Her expressions show concern.
Her pen is active.

Hume is wrong, I aver. Internal inconsistency.
Kant is wrong, I plead. Internal inconsistency!

Do they fathom "internal inconsistency" at all?
Have they made the law of noncontradiction their friend,
or is it an enemy or a stranger?

There is another way of knowledge, I suggest:
It is God-bestowed; it avoids skepticism;
it transcends transcendental idealism (Kantianism).

I offer "divine preformation" quickly as an alternative,
--with a reference to a book not required--just before the quiz.

Is anyone home, anyone here

--besides that frowning, nodding, and writing young woman?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tribute to my Father, Harold Fred Groothuis

[This is the revised version of my November 21, 2005 essay. I tried to update the essay on my blog for that date, but the changes are somehow not registering. So, I am reposting this essay here.]

What can I say about my father—so long gone, so impossible to forget? Harold Fred Groothuis was born on December 28, 1927 in New York. He died in a small plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska on this day in 1968. Walter Cronkite ended the evening news that day with a short comment to the effect that "Alaska labor leader, Harold Groothuis, was killed in a plane crash in Alaska today along with several others who were serving on a government commission to investigate labor abuses." I watched that in my bedroom on that dreadful, world-changing day. I was not quite twelve years old.

Dad was leaving Point Barrow, Alaska along with other volunteers who were part of the Governor’s Employment Advisory Commission, created by then Governor Walter J. Hickel. They where investigating charges of the mistreatment of Alaska native workers there. Only one of passengers of the propeller plane survived. Not long ago my mother sent me a letter from Alaska native leaders in Point Barrow, which expressed their sorrow and thanks for my father's commitment to their people. At Dad's funeral, a Presbyterian minister eulogized Harold Groothuis as a man who represented "people who worked with their hands." So he did. Many of these people were African-American, Native Alaskans, and Hispanics. First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage, Alaska was filled and overflowing with mourners.

Dad came to the territory of Alaska in the mid-1950s (it became the forty-ninth state on my second birthday—January 3—in 1959), worked as a laborer, and lived in a packing crate with a few other men. He then went back East for a visit to friends and family. There he met a young Italian woman named Lillian Cominetto, who would become my mother. It was love at first sight for both. He returned to Alaska, but wrote Mom love letters. They married in New York 1955 and then traveled back to the frozen north, leaving behind all their relatives.

Why write of my father now, thirty seven years after his tragic, unexpected, and unforgettable death? I am a man of many written words—too many, perhaps—but I have never written of my father in anything but personal letters. I want to pay a short tribute to his short life of forty years, without becoming maudlin or sentimental.

Dad was a big man—big in size (six feet, four inches and well over two hundred pounds) and big in personality. Many were drawn to his love of life, his strong opinions, and his commitment to causes and friends. As my mother said today on the phone, "He would do anything for his friends." He was a union man all the way, and a staunch Democrat. This, to my mind, was the right thing to do at that time. The Democratic party of that day—the party of Hubert Humphrey, for example—was a far cry of what we see now. Dad campaigned for Humphrey's candidacy for President in 1968 by delivering two speeches on Anchorage, Alaska television, which were broadcast live. I remember that Dad mentioned that Nixon refused to debate Humphrey. This was a character defect in Dad's eyes. I agree. Well, HHH (as Hubert Horatio Humphrey was called) lost, and Dad was killed a few weeks later. "There is a time for every purpose under heaven," as Ecclesiastes reminds us.

Dad had a fierce love for his family, for his job, for his friends, for Alaska, for food, and for life. He was an avid sportsman (hunting and fishing) and camper. He once shot a huge Kodiak Black Bear that was charging him. That bear (or part of it) ended up on our living room floor. (For those who don't like hunting—and I don't—this can be construed as self-defense; although they were on a hunting trip.) He was an intense man who neither suffered fools gladly nor could be accused of being low key or nonchalant. Because of his strong opinions, he had a few enemies. One of his enemies (a union malcontent) once threatened to blow up our house. We spent the night elsewhere. Dad had a temper that could get the better of him. He had attended a Presbyterian church as a child, but only attended sporadically as an adult. I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School for a few years. However, Dad believed in God and had deep moral convictions. As a Christian, I can only hope he made his peace with God before that small plane hit the ground. Dad was a faithful husband, a good provider, and a loving—if sometimes imperious—father. I loved him deeply and I miss him every day of my life in one way or another. He wasn't there for the turning points in his only child's life: the graduations, the wedding, the achievements (such as they are). My dear mother says—and she is the expert, of course—that he would have approved. In any event, I can claim the truth of Romans 8:28 for my life no matter what.

This is my tribute to Harold Fred Groothuis, who died on this day in 1968, serving the laborers of Alaska and loving his small family. I will never forget him, nor will anyone else who knew him well.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Revised Tribute to Harold Fred Groothuis, My Father

On November 21, 2005 (the day of my father's death in 1968), I posted a short essay in tribute to Harold Groothuis. I sent this to my mother, who alerted me to a few small errors of fact. So, I have revised this essay somewhat. It can be found on this blog at November 21, 2005.

Last week in a class I responded to a few of my students who held that all whites were part of "the oppressive class" against minorities. I harked back to Dad, who, while both white and male, was an advocate for the manual laborers in Alaska, many of whom were Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics. He was no part or member of an oppressive class. He was an individual who fought (and ultimately died) for the working man (of every race). I am proud of him for that.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dr. Ronald Nash has died

Evangelical philosopher and prolific author, Ronald Nash, has died. Just a few days ago I read several chapters in his excellent introduction to philosophy, Life's Ultimate Questions, and thought of contacting him to thank him for such clarity and wit in writing philosophy. (I am teaching an Introduction to Philosophy class for the first time.) Now it is too late. I was accepted into the MA in philosophy at Western Kentucky University in 1984, where he was then head of the department and where he served for many years. However, since the school did not grant a Ph.D. in philosophy, I decided to attend a school that did: The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the years, I have read many of Dr. Nash's books on subjects ranging from Augustine, to epistemology, to economics, to philosophy of religion, to social issues. Here are some I recommend: God and the Greeks (formerly titled Christianity and Hellenistic Culture), The Word of God and the Mind of Man, Social Justice and the Christian Church, Life's Ultimate Questions, Is Jesus the Only Savior? and Faith and Reason. Dr. Nash was a crystal clear writer who advocated a Christian worldview that was Reformed, rational, and engaged in the great ideas of the ages and today. His criticisms of leftism and empiricism were especially telling. Let us mourn his death, thank God for his life, and emulate his intellectual dedication to his Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What is Truth?

I wrote this essay about ten years ago, but I believe it is still pertinent and true. Let me know what you think.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Over 500 Scientists Who Question Darwinism

Discovery Institute News1511 3rd Ave Suite 808 - Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 292-0401 x107

Over 500 Scientists Proclaim Their Doubts About Darwin’s Theory

By: StaffDiscovery Institute February 20, 2006

The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list is now located at a new webpage,

SEATTLE — Over 500 doctoral scientists have now signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution.The statement reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” The list of 514 signatories includes member scientists from the prestigious US and Russian National Academy of Sciences. Signers include 154 biologists, the largest single scientific discipline represented on the list, as well as 76 chemists and 63 physicists. Signers hold doctorates in biological sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, computer science, and related disciplines. Many are professors or researchers at major universities and research institutions such as MIT, The Smithsonian, Cambridge University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the Ohio State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Washington.Discovery Institute first published its Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list in 2001 to challenge false statements about Darwinian evolution made in promoting PBS’s “Evolution” series. At the time it was claimed that “virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true.”“Darwinists continue to claim that no serious scientists doubt the theory and yet here are 500 scientists who are willing to make public their skepticism about the theory,” said Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “Darwinist efforts to use the courts, the media and academic tenure committees to suppress dissent and stifle discussion are in fact fueling even more dissent and inspiring more scientists to ask to be added to the list.”According to West, it was the fast growing number of scientific dissenters which encouraged the Institute to launch a website -- -- to give the list a permanent home. The website is the Institute’s response to the demand for information and access to the list both by the public, and by scientists who want to add their name to list. “Darwin’s theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought,” said Dr. David Berlinski, one of the original signers, a mathematician and philosopher of science with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). “It is large, almost completely useless, and the object of superstitious awe.”Other prominent signatories include U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Lyle Jensen; evolutionary biologist and textbook author Stanley Salthe; Smithsonian Institution evolutionary biologist and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information Richard von Sternberg; Editor of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum --the oldest still published biology journal in the world-- Giuseppe Sermonti; and Russian Academy of Natural Sciences embryologist Lev Beloussov.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


From "The Temple" (1633), by George Herbert:

¶ Bitter-sweet.
AH my deare angrie Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sowre-sweet dayes
I will lament, and love.

Richard Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," The New York Review, January 1997, p. 31.

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poetry Reading by Constructive Curmudgeon

Denver Seminary is having an "Open Mic" night from 7-10 PM in the Student Union area Friday, March 10. I will be reading my poem, "Subwoofer" sometime during these three hours. The better reason to attend is the talent to be shown by students and other faculty.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Movie review of "Whatever Happened to Kerouac?"

“What Ever Happened to Kerouac?” is a 1985 documentary now available on DVD about sporadic creativity enshrouded in decadence, degeneracy, and decay. It impressionistically recounts the adult life of Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the literary beat of the “beat generation.”

The “Beats” (circa 1948-1960?) are sometimes cast as proto-hippies: Bohemian; anti-establishment; aflame with the exotic and taboo; worshippers at the Dionysian fount of creativity; nonconformists—now nihilist, now visionary; poets of the absurd and the profound; idolizers of Charlie Parker’s jazz. Theirs was gut-existentialism and “Beat Zen,” Hindu cosmology and nuclear eschatology. “To be Beat,” wrote Kerouac, “was to be at the bottom of your personality looking up.” Beat was birthed by the misfits, the downbeat, the offbeat—not by the poor urchins who could manage no more than sleeping in parks and begging money, but by the artistic urchins who gave a voice to their rebellion and (somehow) got published.

Kerouac was arguably magnificent at times—churning out rambling, but poetic prose—despite the fact that he was dubbed by one of the literati as “a Neanderthal with a typewriter.” The film is appropriate punctuated by Kerouac reading chunks of prose on “The Steve Allen Show.” Kerouac’s work was impassioned and original; he invented a genre of continuous, spontaneous narrative seen in novels such as The Dharma Bums and On the Road which was written at high speed on a continuous sheet of paper a hundred feet long. Beat poet Allen Ginsburg called it “a magnificent single paragraph several blocks long.”

But Kerouac burned bright but briefly, then burned out rapidly, because being Beat meant being a rogue. As the interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances make plain, Kerouac was a drunk (who drank himself to death), an adulterer, a drug user, and a buddy of more of the same kind of misfits of the day such as William Burroughs (homosexual and junkie), Allen Ginsberg (homosexual and sometimes psychotic), and other assorted thieves, dopers, and thrill-seekers.

But decadence was heralded as transcendence and orgies as oracular. Cultural critic Carl Raschke notes that “Kerouac was self-consciously attempting to depict the whirl of sensation as the key to cosmic understanding, as a vehicle of liberation: though he left little distinction between the liberation of the mind and libertinism of the youthful rake and rebel.”

Decadence was avant-garde, and was touted as the engine of artistry. But the gaunt, sour, bitter faces of many of his now aged or recently deceased compatriots reveal that debauchery indeed debauches—even debauches the Beats, and especially Kerouac. Handsome, lithe, and vigorous as a young man, middle age found him to be bloated and beaten beat.

Particularly pathetic are short clips of William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” in 1969. Buckley presided over the intellectual debris of a quasi-incoherent Kerouac who was asked to consider the relationship between Beats and Hippies. An unflappable Buckley gracefully withstood Kerouac’s juvenile ramblings, seeking to bring coherence out of chaos. Buckley smiled knowingly. Kerouac smirked contemptuously—an appropriate Beat response, perhaps. A rummied out rebel without a cause met a conservative rebel with a cause. The juxtaposition was telling, almost painful.

Kerouac at his best may have unmasked some of the pretensions of a complacent, self-righteous, post-war America; he may have celebrated elements of life—such as bebop jazz—that were unjustly ignored by others. But he exacted too high a price. By going “on the road” he deserted the Protestant work ethic that undergirds a productive and healthy culture, exchanging postponed gratification for immediate gratification (and addiction), exchanging hard work for protracted play—and encouraged others to follow suit. His promiscuity denied the sanctity of the family. (We see several clips of his abandoned daughter reflecting on her father’s life.) But Kerouac and friends corrupted more than themselves; they inspired a whole counterculture—as William Burroughs notes in the film—that both amplified and refined the Beat spirit of nonconformity, hedonism, and Eastern religious intrigue. And don’t we even hear something of “the beat” in the punks?

The film reports that Kerouac said that because he was a Catholic he couldn’t commit suicide, so he decided to drink himself to death (which is really gradual suicide). Although his prose drew inspiration eclectically from Buddhism, Hinduism, and just about anywhere—Beat was nothing if not unsystematic—several friends and his priest tell us that Kerouac was entranced by the crucifix, and painted pictures of Christ and cardinals toward the end. Yet no conversion was evident—only an alcoholic’s eroded body, mind, and soul. It seemed he never caught the spirit of the one he could not forget. Jesus said “seek and you shall find.” Jack Kerouac must have been looking in all the wrong places.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Groothuis ID article translated into Finnish

My editorial defending Intelligent Design, which first ran in The Rocky Mountain News, is now available in a Finnish translation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

New essay on the supremacy of Jesus

My essay, "Why Believe Jesus is the Only Way?" is now posted here. Please search the cite, TrueU, for other apologetics articles by me, J.P. Moreland, Robert Velarde, and others.