By Daniel Beck

Note: This book is a work in progress and still in its early stages.



The fictional, idealized conversation this book contains is based loosely on talks I’ve had with friends and family members over many years. In those talks, I often made confident assertions that I hadn’t carefully thought through, couldn’t support well, and in some cases were flat-out wrong. Worse, I often spoke in an arrogant, condescending manner. I can only say I’m thankful that most of the people I talked with were much more patient and respectful with me than I was with them.


As I get older, I am slowly learning that I don’t have the power to change anybody’s beliefs. I know this because for many years nobody in my life had the power to change my beliefs no matter how hard they tried. This was despite my beliefs being deeply deceived and despite friends and family members confronting me with sound examples of my deception many times.


I am also slowly learning that the only thing I can control during a discussion of ideas is myself – what I say and how I say it. Will I share my opinions with gentleness and humility? Will I respect the other person’s right to disagree? Will I choose my words carefully to form statements I am prepared to defend well? Am I open to the possibility that I may be wrong on some points? Will I acknowledge if I am presented with an argument I don’t have a good answer for? Am I willing to reconsider a position if shown I’m in error?


As I slowly learn to ask and affirmatively answer these questions, it has positively impacted many of my relationships, especially my marriage. Interestingly, I have found I am often more convincing to others when I am sincerely open to the possibility I could be wrong than when I converse with an attitude of over-confidence or arrogance.


Finally, I should note that one way in which this fictional conversation is not idealized is that the main speaker spends the vast majority of the time talking while the secondary speaker patiently listens to no end. This obviously would not be the case in a real conversation, in which listening attentively to the other speaker’s points and rebuttals is just important as making one’s own points. But for the purpose of efficiently communicating the information I wanted to cover in this book, the conversation it contains is extremely one-sided. Thank you for reading.




I thought of some more questions I wanted to ask after our last conversation about Christianity and the Bible. Are you down to talk about it now?


Sure, of course.


Ok, first question. Don’t you think it’s arrogant to say Christianity is the only way to be saved or the only way to know God? What about all the other religions?


Every major religion and worldview claims exclusivity on many points. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secular humanists, new agers, and others all claim that certain beliefs they hold are true and whatever contradicts them is false. And they should. This simply acknowledges that there is such a thing as truth. And it acknowledges that truth is truth irrespective of whether it is comfortable or believed in by any individual or group. 


The points of disagreement between the different religions and worldviews are not trivial. They typically involve questions about the existence of God, the nature/character of God, the origin of mankind, the problem of evil, the origin of death and suffering, the nature of the spiritual realm, the existence of angels and demons, the nature of the afterlife, etc.


So the real question to ask is not whether Christians are arrogant to claim exclusivity on key points since every other belief system also does. The real question to ask is: What is true?  


Ok, but aren’t many of the wars and divisions in the world the result of religious disagreements? Instead of all this fundamentalism, isn’t it a better approach to emphasize kindness and respect for all people rather than religious dogma? 


Your question suggests that having solid truth convictions and treating people with different convictions kindly are mutually exclusive. They aren’t. In fact, that’s the definition of tolerance. Tolerating another person’s beliefs doesn’t mean saying their beliefs are true. It means treating them with kindness and respect despite disagreeing. And it means respecting every person’s right to choose what to believe. 


This, by the way, does not exclude proselytizing. For example, if two Muslim and Christian friends care about each other and sincerely believe they know the correct way to live in relationship with God, it is natural and commendable for them to try to respectfully persuade the other over time. This can absolutely be done with tolerance and kindness. I, like most people, have had many relationships that could be characterized by this kind of tolerance. It’s not uncommon. 


Some opponents of religion claim that any attempt to persuade someone to abandon their beliefs for another set of beliefs is offensive. However, this is only true when it is done with intolerance – that is with unkind pressure, anger, or force.  


OK, I accept that it is possible to proselytize while being tolerant. But a lot of people do it with intolerance as well.


You’re right. Intolerant proselytizing is common in the world. It happens with every major worldview, including Christianity. I’d imagine there are perhaps billions of people who have tried or potentially could try to intolerantly force their views onto someone else. There are a number of reasons people do this.


Maybe they are sincerely concerned for the person’s soul and think intolerant pressure is justified.


Maybe they are subconsciously insecure about their own beliefs and it helps them feel more secure if they can persuade others to agree with them.


Maybe they attribute certain evils in society to another worldview and feel a civic duty to oppose it.


Maybe they look up to parents or clergy who have modeled that it is ok to intolerantly force their beliefs on someone.


Maybe they have been taught that those who reject their worldview deserve to be mistreated.


Whatever the reason, for Christians, the Bible specifically commands the opposite. For example, 1 Peter 3:15 says to share one’s faith with gentleness and respect.


I admit that I am guilty of committing intolerant proselytizing in my life due to more than one of the reasons I mentioned. We are all human and make mistakes all the time in how we relate to others, including in how we share our deepest beliefs. It’s unavoidable. 


But I don’t believe the answer is to teach that there is no absolute truth when it comes to religion or worldview. This statement is self-contradicting because its adherents are essentially claiming that it is true that there is no truth and the beliefs of anyone who claims otherwise are false. It’s nonsensical. Not to mention, there are plenty of intolerant people working to promote this view just like every other view. So obviously non-absolutism does not eliminate intolerance. 


Perhaps. But why are Christians judgmental? 


What do you mean by that?


I mean why are Christians always telling people what they are doing is wrong?


I agree with you. It’s pointless to tell someone they are not living according to a standard they don’t believe in and aren’t interested in following. It’s irritating and offensive. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians 5 that he had no business judging those outside the church, only to hold accountable in love those who had chosen to become Christians.


Having said that, I think there are two kinds of judgment. One is just evaluating information, which is good. We all make judgments all the time about whether something is good or evil or true or false. It’s how we make decisions, form our beliefs, and make sense of the world. 


The other is kind finger-pointing – self-righteously criticizing or condemning someone. The Bible speaks vehemently against this. In fact, it is the sin that Jesus spoke most severely against. 


Isn’t hell unjust? How could a loving God send someone to hell?  


The real question is, how could a loving God force someone to spend eternity with Him who doesn’t want to be with Him? The answer is, He doesn’t.


God created us for an authentic, voluntary relationship with Himself. So why would He force someone to be with Him forever who has no interest in worshipping Him or serving Him or being morally accountable to Him? The essence of hell is separation. God allows people to choose to exist separately from Him because He created us with free wills. He doesn’t force Himself on us. 


So just because someone doesn’t share your beliefs, you equate that with them choosing to exist separately from God forever?


You make a great point. Obviously, a large majority of people on earth today and throughout history simply adopted the beliefs of their parents or culture and did not make an informed, conscientious decision to reject Jesus Christ as their savior. Many never even heard this message. God knows this. He is not going to judge a Buddhist for being a Buddhist or a Muslim for being a Muslim. He is simply going to justly judge our choices according to how much truth we did understand and how we responded to it. 


Ok, so what if a person has the wrong beliefs, according to you, but is a good person who lives a good life and treats others with kindness?


Let me give you an illustration. Imagine you wake up one morning and, to your amazement, there is a two-dimensional screen floating above your head that follows you everywhere you go that people can see. As you go about your day, the screen portrays everything going on inside you that you would normally keep hidden. When your sloppy, irritating roommate promises once again he’ll clean up the mess he made three days ago, you smile and thank him, but the screen shows an angry face yelling, “F*** you! Will you please just move out!” When you attentively greet your attractive married co-worker at work, the screen displays pornographic images of her. When your highly-paid boss who was promoted ahead of you calls you into his office, the screen depicts you calling him an incompetent moron and punching him in the face. 


Now imagine going through your whole life like this. It would be like going through life naked, except with your thoughts and motives exposed instead of your body. How would it impact your relationships with family members, friends, and co-workers?


Now consider that this would arguably be the most authentic, transparent version of you. Doesn’t it say something about our condition that a primary way we maintain harmonious relationships is by frequently hiding the truth of what’s really going on inside us?


So what’s your point?


I guess my point is that the illustration depicts what God sees. God sees all of our thoughts and motives, even our subconscious ones. That by itself would be alarming enough, but God is also not like us. He is completely morally pure and selfless. Therefore, He views evil with much more severity than we do. In His eyes, lust and vanity are like adultery. Hatred and revenge are like murder. Greed and envy are like theft. Pride and self-righteousness are like self-worship. And so forth.    


Now consider that, according to the Bible, reliving our whole lives from the floating-screen perspective I described is exactly what will happen. The Bible says when we are judged for the lives we lived on earth, we will see all of our words, actions, thoughts, and motives from God’s perspective. It also says when this happens, every person’s mouth will be shut. No one will make excuses. Not one will object that he isn’t being judged fairly. We will fully understand how incapable we were of deserving God’s acceptance through our own merits.


The weight of our immoral words, thoughts, and actions will be unimaginable in that context. Some scholars believe it will actually be much more tolerable for the unreconciled to be separated from God in hell than to remain in His presence with the full weight of their sins still upon them. However, in the case of the believer, that sin is taken off of him and put onto Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the remedy God provided.  


Possibly the best way for a person to realize he needs a Savior is to honestly consider what would appear on that floating screen. But it’s also the last thing most of us want to do.


Ok. But if God sees the bad stuff we’re thinking and doing, then He also sees all the good stuff. People are also capable of great compassion and kindness and love, both in motives and actions.


I completely agree. The Bible says we are made in God’s image. I think the attributes you mentioned can and do shine forth from people at times no matter what they believe.


In fact, the Bible says every person who has ever lived has two things in common: 


One, he or she sincerely wants and tries to be a good person, at least some of the time. 


Two, he or she is not a good person, even according to their own standard of goodness, at least some of the time. 


Do you agree with those two things?


Yeah, I think so.


According to Romans 2, this is because God’s law is written on every person’s heart and our consciences alternately defend or accuse us throughout our entire lives. When we do something kind, we might think, “I’m a good person. Look at what I just did.”  When we do something we know is wrong, we might think, “I can’t believe I did that. I’m so awful.” 


I don’t think any honest person would claim to have always treated others with perfect kindness in word, deed, and motive without exception their entire life.


Of course not, but a lot of people sincerely try to live good ethical lives and treat people with kindness, even if they don’t do it perfectly. Doesn’t that count for anything in God’s eyes?


From your question, it sounds like you think a person deserves God’s acceptance if he outweighs the good with the bad.


Yeah, I’d say so.


I think your view is common. In fact, I have watched online or participated in probably hundreds of conversations with random people on the street who were asked some variation of the question, “If there is a heaven, do you think you will go there after you die?” I’d estimate over 90% of the people responded with some variation of the answer, “Yes, because I sincerely try to be a good person and treat others with kindness.”


Of course, by definition around half of them were below average in goodness and kindness, even by human standards, much less God’s. But my point is that your idea that a person deserves God’s acceptance if he outweighs the good with the bad is very common. But I’d argue it’s also a very human idea, meaning it didn’t originate from God. The Bible says in Galatians 2 that if it were possible to earn God’s acceptance through moral performance, then Christ died needlessly.


Plus, while your point about people’s capacity for good is valid, I would add that at least some of the good things we do actually drive us farther away from God.


What do you mean? How can doing good things push someone farther away from God?


Let me tell you a story. When I was four years old, I stole several dollars’ worth of quarters from my dad’s home office. For the next two days, I felt sick with guilt. However, I was afraid to tell my dad, so I secretly brought the money in my pocket to church the next Sunday and put it in the offering, hoping to alleviate my guilt. 


It seemed to work. I began to feel better. I reasoned to myself that I was not a bad person since I ultimately gave the money away to a holy cause.


Ironically, the pastor of the church saw me put the money in the offering and mailed a letter to my parents praising their son’s virtuous character! When my parents read it and began telling me how proud they were of me, I knew I was a fraud.


Ok, so what’s the point?


Whenever we do good things that are motivated, even subconsciously, to appease underlying guilt or to convince ourselves or others that we are good, this is actually an affront to God. Not only does this not bring us closer to God, it pushes Him away.


The Bible calls this “dead works”. Dead works are at the foundation of every false worldview, including humanism and some forms of Christianity. Even atheists want to feel like good people and often expend a tremendous amount of effort in pursuit of it.


In a sense, there are only two religious systems in the world. True religion, which is forgiveness and a restored relationship with God. And false religion, which is dead works.


These two religious systems are represented at the beginning of the Bible by the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The reason the second tree was called that is because, after the first man and woman disobeyed God and their fellowship with Him was broken, they felt guilty and began spending their lives trying to justify themselves according to their knowledge of good and evil.


Every person has followed this pattern ever since. We all do things we know are wrong, then we do good things to compensate for the guilt we feel, or to demonstrate to ourselves that we’re still good people, which makes the problem even worse! It’s a spiritual death cycle. This is why Hebrews 6 says leaving dead works behind is the foundation of Christianity.


So what does the Tree of Life represent?


Restored relationship with God by accepting what Jesus Christ did to save us. When we accept that we are loved and forgiven by God apart from our merits, it sets us free from the death cycle. 


Ok, I accept that some of the good things people do are negated by impure motives. But people do good things with pure motives too. I’m just not sure I believe that people are naturally “sinful” like Christians say they are.  


How old were you the first time you stole something? Or the first time you told a lie? I was around four years old. Most people I’ve talked to say the same thing. So lying and theft come early and naturally to people. It’s in our nature.


Same here, four or five… But most adults don’t steal or lie anymore, which shows they’ve learned from their mistakes and become better people.


I’m not sure I agree that most adults stop lying or stealing in one form or another. But even for those who do, in many cases, it’s only because they’ve learned the costs outweigh the benefits. For example, maybe they’ve learned to be afraid of what might happen if they got caught. Or maybe they’ve learned that lying or stealing would obstruct their need to feel like a decent person or to not feel weighed down with guilt.


However, if you were to change the conditions, they might show their underlying nature has not changed. For example, how many people would steal $100 million if they knew for sure they could never be caught? I bet the vast majority of people would. If I’m correct, this would show those people still have the nature of a thief, but they just haven’t been provoked by the right conditions to act on it.


You could also change the conditions to make it easier on the person’s conscience. For example, what if the $100 million theft only resulted in the loss of one dollar for 100 million upper-middle-class people, or from several huge corporations, so no one would be seriously hurt by it by the theft? Perhaps then even a larger majority of people would go for it.


The same sort of thought exercise could be done with other vices such as murder or revenge or lust. What if you had the power to make someone you loathe painlessly disappear, including everyone else’s memory of that person – like the perfect murder? What if you had the power to miraculously produce some other form of retribution toward someone you were mad at without anyone ever tracing it back to you? What if you had the power to override another person’s free will and make them love and admire you or obey you or sexually desire you?


I can’t honestly imagine myself or anyone else not becoming completely corrupted by such temptations. We really can’t fully know the potential for evil in our hearts unless we could somehow remove all the restraints that keep us from fulfilling it. However, God does fully see the true condition and potential of our hearts, yet He loves us anyway enough to die and suffer in our place. 


You said a few minutes ago that many people in the world and in history have never even heard about Jesus or the Bible. So is it even possible for someone who has never heard to be saved? If not, how is that fair?


That’s a great question. First, remember that fairness, or justice according to God’s standard, is the default for everyone. The only people who will not be treated fairly, so to speak, are those who receive unmerited mercy. 


But to your question, virtually all Christians agree there were people who lived before Jesus Christ or even before any of the Bible was written that were saved without knowing the specifics of the gospel message as we know it today. So how were they saved? 


From what we read in the Bible, we could surmise that they were saved by their response to what had been revealed about God up that those points in history. Such a response would likely contain at least three elements: 


First, humility. They acknowledged their need for God’s forgiveness. 


Second, faith. They trusted in God’s mercy rather than their own moral performance to save them from His just judgment.


Third, repentance. They sincerely sought to walk in relationship with God and turn away from patterns they knew were wrong in His eyes. 


Could these same essentials possibly have saved people who had no knowledge of the gospel after Jesus Christ lived? I am open to this. Also, many Christians believe it is possible for God to communicate to someone how to be saved through other means, such as a dream, a vision, or an angelic visitation. I’ve heard a number of accounts like this. For example, I met a former Muslim from Iran who shared how his wife came to Christ after having a dream of Him calling her to follow Him. 


Can we shift topics for a second?




Why is there so much suffering in the world? How could a loving God allow that?  


Another great question. First, I think it is important to point out that a large portion of suffering in the world is the direct result of human choice. Theft, physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse fill homes and streets in every town and city in the world every single day.


Where, how, and when should God intervene to prevent this kind of suffering?


If God simply removed everyone who did something abusive, there would eventually be no people left in the world. If He removed evil, powerful leaders, the vacuum left behind would just be filled by someone else. If He took away the free will of anyone who did something abusive, the world would be full of robots with no capacity for authentic love or kindness or compassion.


Fair enough. But there is also a great deal of suffering in the world due to death, disease, and scarcity.


Absolutely. The Bible says God introduced these things into the world as a result of sin. For example, after Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis, God told them they would “die” and that the productivity of the ground was “cursed.” Likewise, the apostle Paul said in Romans that the creation was “subjected to futility” by God and is now in a state of “corruption.” However, I think I would argue that God doing this actually diminished human suffering overall, not increased it.


Hold on. Did you just say God introducing death and scarcity into the world diminished human suffering? That makes no sense.


Yes. I’ll explain with two illustrations that, ironically, come from two cartoons I saw a long time ago. 


In the first cartoon, the grim reaper went on vacation so no one could die. Two guys got in a bar fight and one shot the other in the head. To their brief astonishment, he didn’t die. Then the fight continued. This realization quickly spread around the world until all the restraints typically associated with the fear of death were cast off and the world was plunged into anarchy until the grim reaper returned and resumed his function. 


We have countless examples from history of how wickedly people treat each other just in the absence of law enforcement. How much more would this be the case in the absence of physical death?


In the second cartoon, the human race invented machines that performed all labor so well that there was no scarcity or discomfort and no need for anyone to work. Society gradually became more and more indulgent of every carnal appetite. Subsequently, human beings became dumbed-down pleasure addicts until their machines finally broke down and they had to start civilization over from scratch. 


Now imagine putting these scenarios together – no death and no scarcity. The potential for evil in the human heart to be realized outwardly would multiply exponentially. I think life would literally become hell on earth. So the root problem with the world is not external, but the corruption inside our own hearts.


The Bible does say that someday, after God’s final judgment, there will be a future with no death or scarcity for those who have been restored into relationship with Him.


Tell that to someone writhing on a hospital bed as she’s dying of cancer. Tell it to her spouse and children while they hold her hand. The part of disease and death lessening human suffering, I mean.


To your point, I could never say something like that to someone in the midst of suffering unless I thought they really wanted to hear it. But you asked why I thought God allowed such suffering and those are my honest thoughts.


Ok, another topic.




I really hate how Christians try to use politics to force their views and morals on other people. Why do they do that?


I tend to agree, but I’ll add that this too is certainly not unique to Christianity. For example, when I traveled for a year in the far east and the Middle East, I saw how some predominantly Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim nations used the power of civil government to promote their religions and, in some cases, criminalize conversion. When I returned to the west and began thinking more critically about the role government plays, I realized that western governments frequently misuse power as well to promote Christianity or humanism, albeit in more subtle ways. All of this, by the way, is an anti-biblical role of civil government.


Then what is a “biblical” role?


Romans 13 says it is the job of civil government to “bring wrath on the one who practices evil” and 1 Peter 2 says its job is the “punishment of evildoers”. This sounds straightforward until you probe a little deeper. For example, the Bible says refusing to worship God is evil. Should civil government punish someone for that? It also says a child disobeying his parents is evil. Should they call the police? What about a church member slandering his pastor or an employee not performing the quality of work he agreed to?


In the whole of scripture, there are several authority structures God commissioned, each with its own role and responsibilities – self-government, family government, church government, private institutional government, and civil government. The role of civil government appears to be punishing forms of evil that violate another person’s life, liberty, or personal property.   


When civil governments legislate against evils that do not fall under this mandate, it typically leads to oppression, not freedom. Likewise, when it tries to force morality outside of this mandate, it again leads to oppression, not freedom. Both of these actions open the door for civil government to usurp a function it has no biblical authority to perform.


But isn’t the Old Testament filled with all kinds of pointless legalism?


Legalism comes from the human heart, not from God. God uses rules to protect relationships. Legalistic men and women use rules find false security, control others, or elevate themselves above others. 


Old Testament laws can be divided into three categories: ceremonial, civic, and Moral/transcendent


With ceremonial laws, we should ask, what is the spiritual truth this is pointing to? For example, the purpose of animal sacrifice for sin was to point to Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, who would become the sacrifice for the sins of the world. 


With civic laws, we should ask, what is the transcendent moral law this is based on and how and why is it being applied this way in this specific culture and time period? For example, even though the Bible says God hates divorce, He gave the Israelites laws that accommodated it because He knew the people had hard hearts, as Jesus later pointed out in the New Testament.


Transcendent moral laws are timeless and unchanging, such as love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, do not steal, and do not covet.


Israel was unique in world history as God’s chosen nation so there were some theocratic elements that do not apply to other nations. However, even in Israel, there were separations between church and state. For example, kings were forbidden from performing activities reserved for the priesthood. Also, it is instructive when reading Old Testament laws to notice who is identified as the enforcing party. It is not always civil authority – sometimes it is the priesthood, the family, the community, or the individual. 


Personally, I believe a biblical government system for the New Testament era results in the freest, safest, most peaceful, most prosperous, most productive, and most just system possible. It is the polar opposite of the legalistic theocracy that some imagine.


New topic.




Isn’t Christians’ views on sexuality narrow-minded and oppressive?


First of all, there are and always have been numerous religions and cultures that assert sex should be connected to marriage. I was reminded of this when I traveled for months through Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu parts of the world. Many of them are very serious about traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Western humanism is a bit of an outlier, so it doesn’t make sense to single out Christianity on this point 


Fine, but I still think this view is incorrect. Why is it wrong to have sex outside of marriage? Or why must marriage be restricted to a man and a woman?


That’s a great question. I think it’s also a very complex question that is deeply linked to one’s worldview. And it brings up countless related questions. 


What is sex? What is its significance? Is it just a physical act or a biological function? Or is it something more?


What are the costs and benefits associated with abstinence or monogamy versus those associated with promiscuity? What are the costs and benefits for the individual? What about society as a whole? 


How does it affect family cohesiveness, child-rearing, caring for the elderly, divorce rates, poverty rates, medical health, mental health, morality in other areas, aggregate trust between men and women, etc? How does it affect a person’s soul or character? How does it affect his relationship with God?


Of course, they are countless views on such questions, but I will try to my thoughts on a biblical view. 


God created people to be congruent in how we relate to others; congruent as in authentic and true. What we do outwardly with our bodies is a reflection of what is in our hearts. Sex is the most intimate act you can do with another person. It’s like saying with your body, “I want to fully give myself to you and I want you to fully give yourself to me. I want to be as close and intimate with you as is humanly possible.” The Bible calls it “becoming one flesh”


Sex is wonderful when it is congruent. However, when the body and heart are not saying the same thing, it is usually not sustainable. It is like lying with your body. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4 associates it with fraud. It often leads to pain, shame, and regret. 


I remember listening to a conversation between two guys in their early twenties in the jacuzzi at the fitness center where I worked out. They were talking about the different girls they had slept with. At first, their tone was boastful and happy-go-lucky, but then one of them, in a moment of vulnerability, said he felt guilty after having a one-night stand. He said he once had the thought, “Am I a bad person?,” right after sleeping with someone. His friend immediately understood what he was talking about and agreed. 


So much of the sex that happens in the world is just one or both partners using the other for their own selfish motives, either to feel pleasure or to feel desirable. Of course, this can happen in marriage too. But I think in the context of committed, lifelong fidelity there is at least the potential for sex to become increasingly rooted in love and relationship, as God intended, rather than selfish gratification.


OK, but that’s a one-night stand. What about just being in a long-term, unmarried sexual relationship? That’s very common.


You’re right, it’s not the same thing as a one-night stand. But it is still incongruent, even if less so. They are still fully giving and receiving each other’s bodies while holding back part of their hearts. If they fully gave each other their hearts, they would be fully committed. By remaining unmarried, their hearts are leaving room to break the promise their bodies are making. 


I want to talk about homosexuality for a moment. I can’t stand that Christians think homosexuals are sinners and they’re going to hell unless they stop being homosexual. It think it’s discriminating and hateful.


That is a completely misleading statement.


How so?


Christians also think heterosexual lust or promiscuity is wrong. And pride. And greed. And self-righteousness. And on and on. All of these things make all people sinners and separate us from God, which is the essence of hell. You’re simply taking one area of sexual sin and hyper-focusing on it to make it sound like Christianity is unfairly opposed to one segment of the population.


I’ve struggled with and continue to struggle with many of the sins I just mentioned my whole life. So according to your statement, I’m being “discriminating and hateful” toward myself and everyone else in the world simply because I believe in a universal moral standard that nobody perfectly keeps. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s an empty political slogan used to divide and manipulate people.


Homosexuality is not a choice. It’s just the way some
people naturally are, even from a very young age. How can you call that a sin?


I’m not sure I agree homosexuality is inherent in all
cases. I know of several people who would say their homosexuality was either a conscious
choice or was contributed to by environmental factors.


Regardless, as we’ve already established, many people
lie or steal at an early age. I’m not equating those things with homosexuality
per se, I’m only saying that just because something comes early and naturally
to someone doesn’t mean it can’t be immoral.


Fine, but for those who have always been homosexual,
Christianity basically tells them they have to stop being homosexual before
they can be accepted by God or go to heaven, which is impossible.


Well, first, remember we agree that it is pointless
and offensive to tell someone they are not living according to a standard they
don’t believe in and have no interest in following. But for a homosexual person
that is sincerely considering adopting biblical Christianity, I’d say the
essence of becoming a Christian is surrender – surrendering your life to
the Lord and being willing to be helped to obey Him as you walk with Him.
Everyone has different areas of their life that are especially difficult to
surrender. For some people, it’s their sexuality.


So deciding to become a Christian would involve surrendering
one’s sexuality to the Lord so He can help him or her learn to experience it
within the boundaries for which He created it to be enjoyed.


Yeah, but if someone is homosexual and is interested
in Christianity, it basically means he can never have a loving, committed,
romantic relationship. That’s tragic.


Actually, I’ve known or listened to many formally
homosexual men and women who gave their lives to the Lord, found deep
fulfillment, and in some cases are now happily married in heterosexual
relationships. If God exists, it’s not unreasonable to think He can guide and
shape our desires as we walk with him, including our sexuality. In fact, it
says in Psalm 37 that God can give us the desires our heart; not the things
we desire, but the desires themselves.


I’d say they were probably just brainwashed by Christian doctrine or deconversion therapy or something like that.


That objection is logical for someone with your worldview. We are starting from completely different presuppositions about God and sexuality. But like I said, if God exists, and if He created sex to be enjoyed in heterosexual marriage, then it’s not unreasonable to think He could guide and shape a person’s sexuality as they walk with Him.


OK, new topic. Doesn’t evolution disprove God?


Not at all. The four major origin questions are:


  1. Where did our time/space/matter/energy universe come from?
  2. Where did a finely tuned environment that can potentially support life come from?
  3. Where did the first life come from?
  4. Where did the diversity of life on earth come from?


Evolution only purports to address the last question. Setting evolution aside for the moment, I’d say there are valid arguments for the first three origin questions pointing to the existence of God.


Why do you say that? What are the arguments?


First, where did our time/space/matter universe come from?


Most scientists agree that the evidence indicates the universe had a beginning, called “The Big Bang”. If that’s true, it means time, space, matter, energy, and the natural laws that govern them did not exist prior to the Big Bang. This means the cause of the universe was outside of time, space, matter, energy, and natural laws, which by definition means the cause was supernatural – outside of nature.  


In other words, science supports the idea that the universe had a supernatural cause. 


A simple yet profound question worth asking is: If there is no God, why is there something instead of nothing?


Hmm, that’s interesting, I’ve never heard it put like that. What about the second origin question?


Right – where did a finely tuned environment that can potentially support life come from?


Scientists have identified well over a hundred life-enabling constants with very small margins for error that are present on earth and/or in the universe that are necessary to sustain life. Hold on, I have an article about this in my phone. Ok, so here are some examples:


1.      The earth’s oxygen level

2.      The earth’s atmospheric transparency

3.      The earth’s gravitation interaction with the moon

4.      The earth’s carbon dioxide level

5.      The earth’s atmospheric water vapor levels

6.      The thickness of the earth’s crust

7.      The earth’s speed of rotation

8.      The earth’s 23-degree axis tilt

9.      The earth’s proximity to a large planet like Jupiter to pull in asteroids for protection

10.  The centrifugal force of planetary movements in our solar system

11.  The values of the four fundamental universal forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, weak nuclear)

12.  The universal rate of expansion

13.  The speed of light


The odds of every necessary condition occurring simultaneously for any single planet is astronomical, no pun intended. A Christian astrophysicist named Hugh Ross calculated it as roughly 1 in 10^138, which is more than the total number of atoms in the universe (10^80).


Some prominent atheists or agnostics have also made statements to the effect that the earth and universe at least give the appearance of being designed to support life. For example, Cambridge astrophysicist Fred Hoyle famously said:


“A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worthy speaking about in nature.”


Likewise, the famous atheist author Christopher Hitchens, who won the Richard Dawkins Award for exemplary contributions to secularism and rationalism, stated on camera:


“At some point, certainly, we are all asked which is the best argument you come up against from the other side. I think every one of us picks the fine-tuning one as the most intriguing… It’s not a trivial [argument]. We all say that.”


Similarly, Cambridge physicist, author, and SETI chairman Paul Davies has said:


“There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life… rather it is fine-tuned for the building blocks and environments that life requires.”


What about the Many-worlds theory? Doesn’t that render your fine-tuning argument of our universe moot since there are potentially an infinite number of other universes that are not finely tuned in the same way?


As I understand it, the Many-worlds theory is an interpretation of quantum mechanics advanced by some physicists that is under ongoing debate. But I don’t think it is based primarily on the scientific method where one conducts measurable experiments to test hypotheses. In fact, some scientists consider it unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific because the proposed parallel universes are defined in such a way that no information can be passed between them.


OK, and what about the third question – the origin of first life?


Right. The simplest form of life on earth, a one-celled organism, is incredibly complex. It’s like a factory full of delicate instrumentation, communication systems, transport systems, defense systems, production and assembly systems, quality control and repair systems, etc. On top of all this, the DNA message in every cell is equivalent to the complexity of 1,000 encyclopedias. And just like the individual letters in a real encyclopedia, the individual characters in these DNA strands must be in a specific order, not randomized, to be meaningful.


This appearance of design has led many secular scientists to consider that an advanced alien race may have designed and seeded life on earth. For example, biophysicist Francis Crick, who won the Nobel prize for deciphering the helical structure of the DNA molecule, first proposed this idea in the 1960s. Since then, numerous papers and articles in publications such as Scientific American and National Geographic have discussed the possibility. In 2008, the famous atheist and Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins stated:


“It could be that at… somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved… to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded on to perhaps this planet… it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the at the detail of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”


In 2013, various mainstream and scientific publications (such as Huffington Post and Evolution News) covered a paper in which scientists claimed to have found a “signature” like the ones Dawkins mentioned. The paper’s summary says:


“…the proposal that it might have been seeded intentionally cannot be ruled out. A statistically strong intelligent-like ‘signal’ in the genetic code is then a testable consequence of such scenario. Here we show that the terrestrial [DNA] code displays a thorough precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal.”


“Simple arrangements of the [DNA] code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of the same symbolic language. Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing… The signal displays readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality [i.e. design]…”


The sources you just mentioned don’t say anything about God, only aliens.


Well, the point is that life on earth gives the appearance of having been intelligently designed. Many secular scientists philosophically rule out a supernatural cause as impossible prior to examining any evidence. Richard Dawkins and Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Richard Lewontin, for example, have said as much outright. So that really leaves aliens as the only possibility they are able to consider.


Maybe science just hasn’t discovered the answer yet. When you begin explaining things you don’t presently understand with “God did it,” you move away from science and into religion. You resort to “God-in-the-gaps.” It’s a copout.


I’m talking about acknowledging positive evidence for intelligent design. This is not resorting to “God-in-the-gaps” any more than the scientists I just mentioned are resorting to “aliens-in-the-gaps.”


OK, so how do Christians deal with evolution? And doesn’t the Bible say God created everything in six days? What do Christians do with that?


That’s a great question. One pastor I’m close with – the one who performed me and Jenny’s wedding actually – teaches an apologetics class. He told me that there are over a dozen different views on Genesis 1, ranging from literal to quasi-literal to purely symbolic.


In the original Hebrew, the language used Genesis 1 is unique in the Bible and there is no consensus on how it should be interpreted. So actually, there are a lot of Christians who adhere to evolution and do not feel it contradicts their belief in the Bible. 


What about the ones who take it literally? How do they account for modern science?


Good question. Here are three examples from the more literal end of the spectrum.


One view is the six days of creation in Genesis 1 were literal twenty-four-hour periods, but God created everything with the appearance of age. He did this, they say, not to be misleading, but because it was logically impossible to create everything in six days without the appearance of age. For example, the first humans, animals, plants, rocks, and soil all had to be in a mature state for an ecosystem to function properly. Otherwise, there would have been nothing but a bunch of seeds and embryonic cells scattered on barren, still-cooling volcanic rocks with no nurturers, no food supply, and no way to survive.


Similarly, the sun, moon, stars, and planets all had to initially exist at certain stages of development to provide appropriate heat and light, to compose a functioning solar system, or to be visible from the earth. Likewise, since landmasses and geological features have time associated with them, creating dry land in one day required the appearance of age. Advocates of this view compare the creation event to Jesus’ first miracle of creating wine, which would have had the appearance of age since wine is aged by definition. 


A second view is that the six days are symbolic of six much longer time periods that correspond roughly to mainstream natural history. 


A third view similar to the second was proposed by MIT nuclear physicist and orthodox Jew Dr. Gerald Schroeder in his book, Genesis and the Big Bang. He says that while the universe is about 15 billion years old from the perspective of earth, it is just over six days old from the perspective of where the Big Bang originated since time passes differently depending on where you are in the universe. He also points out that all animals appear fully formed in the fossil record on days five and six, from the Big Bang’s perspective, just as Genesis 1 describes. Therefore, he proposes Genesis 1 is told from the perspective of the Big Bang’s origin. Afterward, the perspective shifts to earth. 


Interesting, OK. So you said some Christians accept evolution, but not all? I’ve often read about new species of animals suddenly showing up in nature. Doesn’t this prove that evolution is true?


Actually, I don’t think new species emerging is relevant to evolution at all.


[Laughs] Isn’t that evolution by definition?


Not at all. It depends on whether they emerged due to DNA mutations or natural reproduction.


The major classifications in animal taxonomy are: 1) Domain, 2) Kingdom, 3) Phylum, 4) Class, 5) Order, 6) Suborder, 7) Family, 8) Genus, 9) Species.


Let’s pretend for the sake of argument that evolution is false and creation is true. In this scenario, there is no need for all species to have existed in the beginning. There is only the need for animals that existed in the beginning to be able to produce every known species through natural reproduction, as opposed to DNA mutations. Modern genetics tells us that this aligns most closely with the family classification.


Take the cat (or Felidae) family, for example. If you start with just one male and one female cat, all the genetic information is present for every cat species to appear over time, including tigers, leopards, jaguars, lions, panthers, cougars, small cats, and domestic cats. There is no evolution required for these species to appear. It can happen through simple reproduction. In fact, it is inevitable that new species will continue to appear over time through natural reproduction within all animal families.    


New species spontaneously appearing is compatible with evolution, but it doesn’t prove evolution any more than it proves creation.


So why do I always read about new species appearing as evidence of evolution?


This is something that creationist scientists complain about often – that evolutionists “debunk” arguments they have not made for decades or, in some cases, over a century, while never addressing their current arguments.


For example, Harvard geneticist and creationist, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, wrote a book called “Replacing Darwin,” which explained the reproduction example I just gave, among other concepts. After publishing the book, he gave an open invitation for evolutionary biologists to debate him on the content. The invitation was accepted by Dr. Herman Mays of Marshall University.


In his opening statement and throughout the debate, Dr. Mays attempted to debunk what he apparently thought were several claims that Dr. Jeanson promoted in his book. Every time, Dr. Jeanson responded by asking Dr. Mays to specify where he found those claims in the book, which Dr. Mays couldn’t do because the book didn’t contain any of them. Dr. Jeanson later stated that Dr. Mays displayed almost no evidence of having read the book at all, despite having claimed to read it twice.     


To be continued…