God Is Still Working When You Cannot See It—2 Kings 11
Don’t assume that because you don’t see it right now that God is inactive. At the right time, every knee will bow before God’s king. Sometimes we see glimpses of God working, and at other times we don’t see it. God’s ways are bigger than ours. Have confidence; God works, even on the days we cannot see what He is doing.
We know that God continues to work in His world, but if we’re honest, we’d like to see Him do so more spectacularly. It would be great to see more of the miracles of Elijah’s time perhaps, or the signs and wonders of the apostles. We’d love to see whole cities change their economies because so many people have come to know Jesus, like happened in Ephesus in Acts. Yet God often works in quieter ways that we don’t see so readily.
In 2 Kings 11, a disaster struck the kingdom of Judah. After the death of their king at the hands of Jehu, the queen mother Athaliah claimed the throne as her own. Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and the dominant personality in the royal court. She killed most of her late husband’s family, which meant most of the descendants of David. She would have killed all of them, but one baby, Jehoash, was rescued in secret by his aunt. This baby was then raised by the high priest and his wife, with the help of a nurse, until he was seven.
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Scientific American Goes WokeBy Michael Shermer — 1 year ago
Conservatives wish to conserve traditional institutions, so unless an organization or publication is avowedly conservative it will inevitably drift Leftward.
In April of 2001 I began my monthly Skeptic column at Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the country dating back to 1845. With Stephen Jay Gould as my role model (and subsequent friend), it was my dream to match his 300 consecutive columns that he achieved at Natural History magazine, which would have taken me to April, 2026. Alas, my streak ended in January of 2019 after a run of 214 essays.
Since then, I have received many queries about why my column ended and, more generally, about what has happened over at Scientific American, which historically focused primarily on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), but now appears to be turning to social justice issues. There is, for example, the August 12, 2021 article on how “Modern Mathematics Confronts its White Patriarchal Past,” which asserts prima facie that the reason there are so few women and blacks in academic mathematics is because of misogyny and racism. Undoubtedly there are some misogynists and racists in mathematics, as there are in all walks of life, but we know that the number and percentage of such people throughout society has been decreasing for decades (see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature and my own The Moral Arc). As well, this may be another example of base rate neglect: before indicting academic hiring committees as hotbeds of misogyny and racism, which they most assuredly are not (academics are among the most socially liberal people in any profession), we need to know how many women and blacks are applying for such jobs compared to whites. The percentage is lower, and according to a 2019 Women in Mathematics survey “senior faculty composition both reflects the BA and PhD pipeline of prior years, and also influences the gender composition of new graduates.” If “structural” causes are the culprits—for example, if base rate comparisons do not match population percentages because of differential educational opportunities or vocational interests—such variables should also be factored into any scientific analysis of causality, especially in a popular and respected science publication. Again, there is no denying that some bias against some women in some fields exist, but that this is the only explanation on offer is unscientific.
And, unsurprisingly, reverse asymmetries never warrant explanations of reverse biases. To wit, this same study reported that “women earned 57%, 60% and 52% of all Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees respectively in the U.S. in 2013-14,” but proposed no reverse biases against men to account for such imbalances. Neither did a 2019 Council of Graduate Schools study that found for the 11th year in a row women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities (41,943 vs. 37,365, or 52.9% vs. 47.1%). Our attention is drawn to the lower percentages of female doctorates in engineering (25.1%), mathematics and computer sciences (26.8%), physical and earth sciences (35.1%), and business (46.7%), followed by discussions of systemic bias, but no such structural issues are on offer for the lower percentages of male doctorates in public administration (26.4%), health and medical sciences (29%), education (31.6%), social and behavioral sciences (39%), arts and humanities (48.1%), and biological sciences (48.6%). When the data is presented in a bar graph rank ordered from highest to lowest percentages for females earning doctorates (below), the claim that the fields in which women earn lower percentages than men can only be explained by misogyny and bias is gainsaid by the top bars where the valance is reversed, unless we are to believe that only in those bottom fields are faculty and administrators still bigoted against women whereas those in the top fields are enlightened.
Then there is the July 5, 2021 Scientific American article that “Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy.” Because we are all from Africa and thus black, the author Allison Hopper avers, evolution deniers (AKA creationists) are ipso facto white supremacists. “I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies,” she begins. “The fantasy of a continuous line of white descendants segregates white heritage from Black bodies. In the real world, this mythology translates into lethal effects on people who are Black.” Setting aside what, exactly, Hopper means by “lethal effects”, or that the vogue reference to “Black bodies” seems to reduce African Americans to nothing more than mindless matter, her thesis is verifiably wrong. As I and other historians of science have documented extensively (see, for example, Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods, Eugenie Scott’s Evolution and Creationism, Ronald Numbers’ The Creationists, Robert Pennock’s Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, and my own Why Darwin Matters), the primary motivation behind creationism is religious (and secondarily political), not racist. Again, no doubt some creationists in the first half of the 20th century were also white supremacists, as were many more people throughout America then compared to today, but the chain of reasoning Hopper employs—that the Genesis story of Cain and Able suggests that “the curse or mark of Cain for killing his brother was a darkening of his descendants’ skin,” ergo the Bible endorses white supremacy—is not an argument made by mainstream creationists then or now. In any case, the hypothesis is gainsaid by the fact that polls consistently show a larger percentage of blacks than whites hold creationist beliefs. Apparently they didn’t get the white supremacist talking points. Finally, since anecdotes are often treated as data these days, let me add that I personally know a great number of creationists and I can attest that they would be horrified at the accusation. They are creationists not because they are white supremacists who wish to perpetuate “violence against Black bodies” but because they believe that God created the universe, life, humans, consciousness, and morality, and that the design inference to a designer makes the most sense to them (however wrong in their reasoning I believe them to be).
The most bizarre example of Scientific American’s woke turn toward social justice is an article published September 23, 2021 titled “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ is Problematic for Describing Programs that Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Apparently, some social justice activists have embraced the Star Wars-themed acronym JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) as a martial reference to their commitment, and is now employed by some prominent institutions and organizations such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The JEDI acronym is clearly meant to be uplifting and positive. It isn’t, opine the authors of this piece that is clearly not in the satirical spirit of The Onion or Babylon Bee. Make of this what you will:
Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes.
One may be forgiven for thinking that anyone who sees in a lightsaber duel clashing penises has perhaps been reading too much Freud…or watching too much three-way porn. Nevertheless, the authors grouse about “Slave Leia’s costume”, Darth Vader’s “ableist trope”, alien “racist stereotypes when depicting nonhuman species,” and too many white men in the galaxy, no matter how far away or long ago they are. Worst of all, the authors propose, is that the Star Wars franchise is owned by a for-profit company. “How ready are we to prioritize the cultural dreamscape of the Jedi over the real-world project of social justice? Investing in the term JEDI positions us to apologize for, or explain away, the stereotypes and politics associated with Star Wars and Disney.”
It’s hard to know what this piece has to do with Scientific American’s commitment to STEM issues, and readers have sent me other such essays and articles whose connection to science seems tenuous at best. Perhaps some insight might be gleaned from the British historian and Sovietologist Robert Conquest, who observed in what became an eponymous law that “any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” The reason, I surmise, is straight out of John Stuart Mill: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.” Conservatives wish to conserve traditional institutions, so unless an organization or publication is avowedly conservative it will inevitably drift Leftward, a hint of which I noted creeping into the editorial process for my final columns.
The Light of Christ in a World of DarknessBy Alistair Begg — 3 months ago
Jesus came into the world to transform us by leading us out of the darkness of self-serving falsehood and into the light of God’s true purpose. And this demands a personal and life-transforming response: Trust Jesus Christ to secure your forgiveness with God and lead you in righteousness for His glory. Divest yourself of control over your own life, and make Him your Lord. Jesus’ death on the cross has made forgiveness possible.
In his 1939 Christmas broadcast to the British nation, King George VI read from a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”1
While those words were obviously meaningful to George VI and his subjects amid an escalating war with Germany, they still find an echo in the hearts and minds of men and women today. We live in a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Whether the context is geopolitics, the national economy, clashing worldviews, or even our own family lives, people today are treading into the darkness, looking for some light that will show them the way.
In John 3:19, in His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus shared the good news that we celebrate during the Christmas season: “The light has come into the world.” And the nature of the light is not a philosophy. It’s not a political ideology. It’s not a sentiment or a concept. The light is a person: Jesus Christ. God, in His love, sent Jesus into the world to light our way forward, leading us out of a world of death and into life with Him.
Jesus is the light by which we can see. Or, to use Haskins’s metaphor, He is the hand of God extended to us—better than any would-be light this world might offer. How, then, can we reflect His light in a world of darkness? Let’s consider the answer Jesus Himself gives.
People Love the Darkness
“The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19–20)
Before we can understand the beauty and power of the light of Christ, we first must understand what separates His light from the darkness all around it.
It’s not normal for burglars to call out from the darkness of the yard, “Excuse me, could you turn the spotlights on? I’m trying to steal from your house!” They’re burglars. They do their work in the dark. The worst thing that can happen to them is for the lights to come on and reveal them. Similarly, the Bible says that apart from Christ, we live our lives in darkness (Eph. 5:8; 1 Peter 2:9).
The darkness of our time is revealed in many different ways, and certainly in intellectual confusion and moral perversion. When people hear Jesus say, “The light has come into the world,” many respond, “That’s very interesting, but I have my own views. I have another light that I look to, and that light is as good as any.” Some have the notion today that beliefs are valid as long as they mean something to somebody.
Divorce Wrecks Children’s Lives TooBy Erika J. Ahern — 5 months ago
Written by Erika J. Ahern |
Monday, October 31, 2022
We make a promise in marriage that offers unconditional love to one person and the children that come from that union: we say “you can place your happiness in my hands.” In that moment, both you and all your dependents are inextricably linked by your own choice until death. No amount of re-imagining your life will change the fact: you will never be fulfilled personally until you have fulfilled your vow. We don’t understand the vow when we make it, but it hangs in our hearts as an immovable lodestar.
Just after Christmas 2021, Honor Jones, a senior editor at the Atlantic, published “How I Demolished My Life: A Home-Improvement Story.” It’s a self-portrait of a mother who, while wrangling with kitchen renovation plans, decides she doesn’t want a new kitchen.
She wants a divorce.
Jones spends the next three thousand perfectly manicured words trying to justify her decision to break up her family. She displays all the self-congratulatory bravado of middle-aged white women who read Henrik Ibsen’s Doll’s House or Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray for a high school literature class and then imagine themselves forever in the role of Brave Protestor of Victorian Oppression.
Jones describes her marriage, which produced three children who are still young, as her cage. Her imperfect suburban home is, to her, an icon of her imprisonment.
She doesn’t like the “chaos” of her house and, even with the help of sensible Luba, her hired cleaning woman, she finds the lived-in quality of a home with children irksome.
“[T]he crumbs got me down. I sometimes felt that they were a metaphor, that as I got older I was being ground down under the heel of my own life. All I could do was settle into the carpet.”
So she tells her husband she’s divorcing him. She loves him, she really does. He gave her everything she’d asked for. But it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my husband; it’s not that I didn’t. But I felt that he was standing between me and the world, between me and myself.”
She seems to think she has now suddenly come to herself: only by breaking free and feeling “cold wind on my face” will she be herself again.
So they move their three children into a large apartment in New York City (the city is “better for our careers”). She and her husband alternate staying with the kids and camping out in a smaller, one-bedroom apartment that they can afford. She sells their Pennsylvania home, folds her husband’s sport coats for the last time, and ruminates on the deep mysteries of self-actualization.
Jones is a gifted writer. She applies all her considerable talent in the art of rhetoric, but only to showcase her utter failure in the art of self-knowledge.
All in all, she paints a vivid picture of what we might call a “good divorce.” She applies just the right measure of compunction and sincerity, as well as compassion for her children (whom she admits she’s deprived of their family).
The piece struck a nerve. It received pointed censure on the Atlantic’s Twitter feed and comment box, much of it along the lines of “you sad, pathetic, entitled woman” and “what about your children, you selfish pig.”
It’s unlikely a Twitter mob will ever change a heart or mind. And to be fair, we don’t know the real Honor Jones, who may be far more conflicted about her decision than the picture she has put forward. We can’t know what other factors in her life and marriage she has chosen not to share. The fact that such “brave,” “confessional” writing is encouraged, let alone celebrated as heroic and cathartic, tells us more about our society and its appetites than about the writer.
But the public response to the piece does get surprisingly close to the heart of the matter. Marriage was not the prison. Jones was terribly, tragically wrong, because her marriage was in fact her best means to finding herself. By jumping ship on her family, she abandoned the one vessel that could best carry her on her voyage of self-discovery: the life-long, exclusive commitment made in a marriage.
Self-knowledge is the key to the happy life. Greek philosophers inscribed the admonition “know thyself” over the entrance to the oracle at Delphi. Confucian and Daoist philosophers, in their distinct ways, call for self-awareness and self-cultivation.
We are a puzzle to ourselves, as Jones demonstrates. But she has swallowed the lie that only by breaking free of commitments and disappointments and the daily grind of life together will she find out who she really is. That daily grind is called “losing yourself,” and it hurts.