Thursday, January 9, 2020

The apologist's super-secret weapon

You have to meet people where they are
or they'll never get to where you are.

Part I of this article discussed paraphrasing as a secret weapon that anyone can use in apologetics or evangelism. All you have to do is repeat what the other person said in your own words. When done correctly, this method is so effective that often times the other person will reveal some personal details about their thoughts, beliefs, or actions, which can lead to some awkward moments.

Knowing this will happen is helpful to prepare you, but you also need to respond the correct way so that you don't shut down the conversation and damage the relationship. To help you be prepared, some possible confessions that come to mind are past or current affairs, murder, abortion or paying for someone to have one, having an intersex condition, homosexuality or same-sex attraction, being transgender, past sexual abuse, being in an open marriage, rape, war crimes, time in prison, drug use, and many many more.

Whatever you think is the worst possible thing a person could do, imagine someone confessed that to you and keep it in mind as you read the rest of this article (this is assuming they've served their time or are no longer a threat in potentially dangerous or criminal situations).

Super-Secret Tip
This "bonus" tool is always a good thing to practice, but it's mostly necessary because paraphrasing is so effective. If and when someone shares something with you that's very private, you have to prevent yourself from reacting with a negative tone of voice, look, or otherwise critical manner. If you show any trace of disapproval, you will shut down the conversation immediately and probably damage the relationship.

Psychologists call this unconditional positive regard. No matter what the person says, you need to respond positively or at the very least, neutrally. You don't have to agree with the person or condone their actions, which is going to be very tough for some of you to understand, but you still need to react in a non-negative fashion.

The hardest thing to control for most people in these situations will be your facial expressions, but you'll also have to watch your body language and keep yourself from blurting something out, including a laugh or audible gasp. An easy way to respond verbally is by paraphrasing, thanking the person for trusting you enough to share such personal details, or by asking how they feel about whatever they just revealed.

Conclusion
When someone share's an embarrassing or controversial detail about their life, they almost always already know you disapprove or might think they're abnormal so you don't need to respond with critical comments. This is true even when every bone in your body might be telling you to point out what you think their errors are (and it's probably your reaction telling you to do this, not the Holy Spirit's). Instead of correcting or debating, focus on making sure you understand their story and they feel safe. Once you've done this, you will begin to earn the right to respond, which is necessary if you actually want your words to make a positive impact on the other person.

We all have issues, some more severe than others and some just more taboo in our culture. Expecting someone to have their issues worked out before you will accept them is hypocritical and the exact opposite of what Jesus did. It's also a highly ineffective strategy, which also damages the reputation of all Christians.

Check out my articles on persuasive apologetics for more tips on increasing your effectiveness.

The apologist's secret weapon

I'm currently reading the new edition of Tactics, which is a must-read if you want to learn how to have better conversations with unbelievers. The books Relational Apologetics and Influence: Science and Practice (non-Christian book) are also great for evangelism and apologetics. These books are wonderful, but it takes a lot of studying to remember all the different methods and a lot of practice to be able to effectively put them to use.

What if there was a very simple method you could use in every situation that will help your conversations be more fruitful, lead to future opportunities, prevent misunderstandings, and take the pressure off yourself? Obviously, if there was such a method, we'd all do it, at least if we knew about it, which is why I'm telling you about it!

Clinical psychologists, and all others who do counseling, are trained in methods that help facilitate conversations. They're able to create an environment that helps people feel a greater sense of trust and connection with the counselor so they will be more willing to talk about personal topics and will be more open to receiving advice from the counselor. This is exactly the type of situation we want to create in apologetic dialogues so we should learn from their methods.

Even though it's extremely important to learn all the knowledge you can for apologetics, applying this technique is even more crucial because the answers can be found later and, more importantly, people aren't looking just for answers. This is abundantly clear from psychology. People want answers, but they also want connection. They want to express their views to another person, be understood, and feel respected (That's also great relationship, parenting, and leadership advice. You can pay any time 😉). To do this, you don't need to have answers. You just need to listen and understand.

Secret #1
The technique I am referring to, which is used extensively by psychologists, is paraphrasing. When using this method, you don't need any knowledge about anything related to apologetics. Answers are good, and we should have them, but the point is that we don't need them in order to have effective conversations with people. All you need to do is to listen carefully to the other person and repeat back to them what they said in your own words.

By paraphrasing or summarizing what the other person says, you're ensuring that you've properly understood their point of view, which will prevent both sides from getting frustrated at how "dumb" the other person is. When you do this, you will build trust with the other person so they'll be more likely to listen to you when you do give a response and more likely to have future conversations with you. As a bonus, it will also buy you more time to think of a response so you won't have to tune them out as you formulate a response in your head.

Image result for paraphrasingThis method is arguably more important in online conversations, even though it will drastically slow things down. When we can't hear a person's tone of voice or see facial expressions and body language, online conversations can very easily become uncharitable and degenerate into a cesspool of linguistic muck. Paraphrasing solves this issue most of the time, but it's hard, and sometimes too effective. Isn't that a nice problem to have?

The reason it's hard because it requires a lot of restraint to refrain from giving a response to an objection you've practiced a hundred times in your head. It's very tempting and I don't even do it as often as I should. It's easy to think we understand and then respond, only to see the conversation take what seems like a sharp turn off a cliff.

The other "issue" is that paraphrasing is sometimes so effective that people will often overshare very personal details about their life or beliefs with you, leading to some potentially awkward moments. When this happens, you have to use the apologist's super-secret weapon (it's a separate article for clarity and to limit the length here) so you don't damage the relationship.

Conclusion
Once you understand, you can choose to respond, or not, depending on the situation. You are probably going to err in one direction or the other, either by talking too much (and being seen as too pushy) or by not talking enough. If I had to choose one, I'd choose to err on the side of talking too little because this is going to open more opportunities in the future, and ask Koukl says in Tactics, put a stone in their shoe (because people typically don't spend time thinking about what annoying people told them in an argument).

As I've heard so many apologists say, particularly Ravi Zacharias, our goal in apologetics is to win the person, not the argument. Paraphrasing can help us win the person and never lose an argument. Be sure to read about the super-secret weapon and other scientific methods of persuasion to take you to the next level.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

What you don't know about biological sex

Image result for intersex

Sexuality, biological sex, and gender are the hot topics of the day, and unfortunately, nearly everyone has an over-simplified view of each topic. For this article, I'm only going to focus on biological sex, and for 99% of people reading this, my guess is that there's a lot more to it than you realize. I have no intent to change anyone's mind on any theological implications, but instead, I want to help people understand the topic so they can think more clearly, speak more intelligently, and be less insulting to people who don't fit the standard categories.

When people talk about biological sex, they typically refer to what is considered "normal," an XY male with a penis or an XX female with a vagina, but there's more to it than that. As many as 1.7% of the population is intersex, or what is sometimes referred to as a disorder of sexual development (DSD), although some consider this term disrespectful (the term hermaphrodite is considered derogative, too). For comparison, that's about the same percentage of the population that has red hair and blue eyes

I am using the term intersex in the broadest sense, to refer to any instance where a person's biology does not align with what is typically considered male or female. This is the best definition I've seen and comes from an 11-year-old intersex kid in this TED Talk.
Image result for boy or girl
One of the reasons people are not more aware of these differences is because many intersex people are unaware of it themselves. Many don't find out until puberty or struggles with infertility, but some go their whole life without finding out. In these cases, only genetic testing could tell them they're intersex.

Below is a list and brief description of the lesser-known variations of sex. As you read these, think about whether you would consider someone with such a condition a male or female, how should they describe their gender identity, and what does it mean for them to be homo- or heterosexual?

Sex Chromosomes: XO 
(Turner syndrome (TS); 45,X; or 45,X0)
Females most commonly have two X chromosomes, but for women with Turner Syndrome, one or part of one of the sex chromosomes is missing. This affects about 1 in every 5,000 girls. Some people have no signs of it while others might be affected by various physical abnormalities such as a wide neck, low-set ears, heart abnormalities, delayed growth, and others.

Sex Chromosomes: XXX
(Triple X Syndrome; Trisomy X; or 47,XXX)
Just as some women can have only one X chromosome, a slightly more common variation (1 in 1,000) have three X chromosomes. Women with this genetic variation are at higher risk for behavioral problems, learning disabilities (e.g. ADHD), mental health problems, and some physical problems such as seizures, flat feet, and more. The symptoms are usually mild and often even non-existent.

Sex Chromosomes: XX
(XX Male Syndrome; 46,XX testicular disorder; XX sex reversal )
We all "know" that men have XY chromosomes and women have XX chromosomes, but about 1 in 20,000 people with a male appearance has two X chromosomes. They are usually shorter than the average male but look like a male in every way. They are infertile but otherwise, they usually have a normal functioning penis. Some will have smaller or undescended testes, a urethra hole on the underside of the penis, or ambiguous genitalia.

Sex Chromosomes: XY
(Swyer Syndrome; Gonadal Dysgenesis; 46,XY Complete Gonadal Dysgenesis (CGD); 46,XY Sex Reversal; XY Female Type)
About 1 in 80,000 people have Swyer syndrome, which is when someone looks like females and have female genitalia, but has XY chromosomes. Although they do not have ovaries, they can become pregnant and give birth via implantation. Most people with Swyer syndrome don't have symptoms in childhood. The first sign is often that they don't go through puberty or get a period, however, they can after hormone therapy.

Sex Chromosomes: XXY
(Klinefelter Syndrome (KS); 47,XXY Syndrome; XXY Syndrome; XXY Trisomy)
This is the most common variation, affecting about 1 in 650 newborn boys. Instead of copying an extra X chromosome as with XXX females, the extra chromosome copied is a Y. People with KS have few to no symptoms (estimates are that 75% of people with it never know). Individuals with this are often taller, but may have weaker muscles, decreased testosterone, delayed puberty, breast enlargement, small penis, undescended testes, and other related effects. As many as 10 percent of people with KS have autism.

Sex Chromosomes: XYY
(47,XYY Syndrome; Jacob's Syndrome; XYY Karyotype; YY Syndrome)
About 1 in 1,000 boys are born with an extra Y chromosome. These males are typically taller than average and may have an enlarged head or teeth, flat feet, widely spaced eyes, or other physical effects, but many have no side-effects. They're also at an increased risk of having ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Sex Chromosomes: XXYY
(48,XXYY Syndrome; XXYY Syndrome)
This condition affects 1 in 18-40,000 newborn boys so they will have the appearance of males. People with it have an average height of 6'4". Other symptoms include infertility, intellectual disabilities, decreased testosterone, reduced body hair, poor muscle development, breast enlargement.

Sex Chromosomes: XXXY
(48,XXXY Syndrome; XXXY Males; XXXY Syndrome)
People with this chromosomal condition look like males. They tend to be taller than average, but usually have less testosterone, which can lead to enlarged breasts, smaller penis, undescended testes, and incomplete puberty. They're usually infertile and often have intellectual disabilities. This affects 1 in 17-50,000 newborn boys.

Sex Chromosomes: XXXXY
(49,XXXXY Syndrome; 49,XXXXY Chromosomal Anomaly; Chromosome XXXXY Syndrome; XXXXY Aneuploidy; XXXXY Syndrome)
This condition is sometimes called Klinefelter syndrome (see above) because it affects people similarly, but the effects are more severe and wide-ranging. It affects about 1 in 90,000 newborn boys so it's quite rare. All known people with this condition are infertile

Sex Chromosomes: XXXYY
(49,XXXYY Syndrome; XXXYY Syndrome)
This is extremely rare, with only a handful of known cases. Some symptoms are severe intellectual disability, facial deformities, ambiguous genitalia, small penis or testes, enlarged (male) breasts, and more.

Sex Chromosomes: XXYYY
I couldn't find much on this. I think this genetic arrangement is more theoretical than actual, but there is at least one known case of it. It is likely similar to the cases discussed above, but probably has more severe symptoms similar to XXXYY.

Clitoromegaly
Image result for intersex society of north americaThis is an enlarged clitoris, which may not sound very severe, but in some cases, it can be so large it looks like a penis. This is a symptom of XX males and other conditions discussed in this article. The picture on the right was and is used to measure the clitoris/penis length to determine if a baby with ambiguous genitalia should have surgery to "fix" their genitals to look like a traditional male or female. This also essentially determines how they are raised.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
(Subtypes: 21-hydroxylase deficiency (most common form); 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency; 17-alpha-hydroxylase deficiency; 3-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency; Congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase deficiency; Congenital lipoid adrenal hyperplasia )
This condition can affect males and females, but females usually experience more severe symptoms. It affects the production of three different hormones, one of which is the male sex hormone, androgen, which is why it relates to this article. It can cause either sex to have ambiguous genitalia. In less severe forms, males can a have small penis and testes and females can have an enlarged clitoris.


Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS)
(Androgen Receptor Deficiency, Androgen Resistance syndrome, AR Deficiency, Dihydrotestosterone Receptor (DHTR) Deficiency)
This is a rare condition (1 in 25-50,000) that affects sexual development before and after puberty in males. Their bodies do not respond to the male sex hormone, androgen, so they develop external female sex characteristics but have no uterus or ovaries and so they cannot give birth like XY females (see above). They are typically raised female and have a vagina. However, there is partial androgen insensitivity (Reifenstein Syndrome), which exists on a continuum and is less severe,. People with this could appear as male or female, but even when appearing as a male, they are usually infertile and tend to have enlarged breasts.

5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency
(Familial Incomplete Male Pseudohermaphroditism (type 2), Pseudovaginal Perineoscrotal Hypospadias, PPSH)
This is similar to AIS (above), but instead of an insensitivity to androgen, it's an insensitivity to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). People born with this often have female genitalia at birth and are raised as females. However, they might also have ambiguous genitalia or a small penis. During puberty, increases in male hormones often gives the appearance of more male-like secondary sex characteristics (deeper voice, greater muscle mass, etc.) for those raised as females. Those raised as males will likely have decreased body and facial hair and will likely be infertile, at least without reproductive assistance. Most are raised females but many eventually adopt a male gender identity in adolescence.

Conclusion
This article merely laid out the biological facts, which is merely a starting point for talking about gender identity, and sexuality. In one study, over half (52%) of people with a disorder of sexual development identify as something other than heterosexual, which should cause us to think, what does it even mean for people with these genes to be heterosexual, homosexual, or other? Is an XX male a homosexual if he is attracted to XX females or XY males?

Even though intersex conditions are somewhat rare for the general population, intersex people may be a large percentage of people who are not heterosexual or identify with a different gender. I say it's possible because there is limited research on this and what does exist shows a wide range of correlations between intersex, homosexuality, and gender dysphoria.

Hopefully, this gave you something to think about and has challenged you, at the very least, to be a little more careful and respectful about how you speak about sexuality, gender, and biological sex. If I said anything in this article in an offensive way, I apologize. I tried speaking respectfully, but I also tried using common language so people would get what I'm saying. If I failed at either one, please let me know.

References
I relied heavily on these websites for this information and would recommend you start there for further research.
Genetics Homs Reference
RareDiseases.info.nih.gov
National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD)
Mayo Clinic

Here are some other useful resources. If you can't access peer-reviewed journals through Google Scholar, trying using Sci-Hub.

APA.org article that gives a brief overview of some of these conditions
-Ahmed, S. F., Morrison, S., & Hughes, I. A. (2004). Intersex and gender assignment; the third way?. Archives of disease in childhood, 89(9), 847-850.
-Blackless, M., Charuvastra, A., Derryck, A., Fausto‐Sterling, A., Lauzanne, K., & Lee, E. (2000). How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology: The Official Journal of the Human Biology Association, 12(2), 151-166.
-Furtado, P. S., Moraes, F., Lago, R., Barros, L. O., Toralles, M. B., & Barroso Jr, U. (2012). Gender dysphoria associated with disorders of sex development. Nature Reviews Urology, 9(11), 620.
-Jones, T., Hart, B., Carpenter, M., Ansara, G., Leonard, W., & Lucke, J. (2016). Intersex: Stories and statistics from Australia. Open Book Publishers.
-Jones, T. (2016). The needs of students with intersex variations. Sex Education, 16(6), 602-618.
-Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. (1994). Intersexuality and the diagnosis of gender identity disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23(1), 21-40.
-Sax, L. (2002). How common is Intersex? A response to Anne Fausto‐Sterling. Journal of sex research, 39(3), 174-178.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What pets can teach us about apologetics & evangelism

When my wife, Lindsey, and I decided to go to seminary, we had to get rid of our cat so we could live on campus. This saved us a ton of money, and even though cats are pretty easy to care for, it simplified our lives. After we found a home for our cat, I swore I would never get another pet. Still, my kids have been begging to get a cat ever since we got rid of Bella four years ago. However, circumstances change and for a variety of reasons, we decided to get a cat for our kids for Christmas.

To say the kids were excited would be an understatement. They went crazy the second they realized that the litter box they unwrapped meant that we were getting a cat. We went to the shelter a couple days later and pick out Cherry, a two-year-old tabby cat. She's only been with us for five days, but it's already clear that she prefers to spend time with Lindsey and me even though the kids love her way more. They feed her, play with her more often, and spend more time petting her, yet she sleeps in our room and chooses to sit on our laps, not theirs.

Why does the cat prefer my wife and me if the kids give her more positive things? It's because they also annoy her more. They pick her up constantly, they wake her up, chase after her so they can hold her, and pet her awkwardly. They're so excited to have a cat that they just can't leave her alone.

Apologetics & Evangelism
How does all this relate to apologetics and evangelism? To some degree, unbelievers are forced to share spaces and interact with believers just like our cat is forced to share spaces and interact with my kids. However, when my cat gets the choice, she usually doesn't choose the kids just like unbelievers usually won't choose to spend time with believers.

Generally speaking, people don't like to be corrected, told what to do or believe, don't like to argue, and don't care a whole lot about making sure all their beliefs are logically consistent. Unfortunately, apologists (myself included) often resort to doing these exact things when we evangelize. We correct people's beliefs by pointing out logical inconsistencies, tell them what they should believe instead, then we argue with them about it. We all know this is not effective, but we do it anyway.

My kids love having a cat so much that they can't prevent themselves from grabbing, petting, and following her every moment they can. I keep telling them that if they just showed a little restraint, the cat would come to them and let them pick her up, but all they don't have enough self-control to override the emotional reaction that's telling them to grab the cat now. In other words, they are unable to make a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain.

Almost all the apologists I know genuinely love other people and are heartbroken that so many will not experience heaven. We feel a sense of urgency to preach the gospel before it's too late, but this sense of urgency is often interpreted the wrong way and our constant efforts are seen as annoying at best and downright evil at the worst.

We need to be better at thinking of evangelism and apologetics as a long-term endeavor. I know how hard it is to leave a logical inconsistency or incorrect fact go without correcting it, but we need to override this emotional response so that we can have more long-term success. People will not listen to us until we've built enough social capital with them and earned their respect. Then our apologetic arguments will be more effective.

I'm reading the new edition of Tactics right now and hope to have a review of it soon. I bring this up because with the new edition, now is a good time to read or reread it so we can be more effective at what we do. Another good book is Influence: Science and Practice, which isn't for evangelism but is very useful for it. I used the principles from that book and applied them to apologetics and evangelism. The principle of liking is the most relevant to this article and probably the most useful for apologists.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World

When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World by Leon Festinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1954, a group of social psychologists heard about a small cult group who believed aliens were coming to save them from a flood that would destroy the earth on Dec 21. The psychologists infiltrated the group to record everything they could about the events leading up to and shortly after the predicted destruction. This book is a detailed account of what happened and is somewhat of a lesser-known classic among psychologists.

Image result for cult card game
I bought this game for my wife for Christmas
and thought it was relevant to this review.
The fact that this book is a true story and an inside account of a cult-type group is amazing. Knowing this really happened is mind-boggling. To read a first-hand account of how people in the group acted and reacted during the time of events offers great insight into the lengths people will go to in order to maintain their beliefs, even when they are clearly disproven. The observations in this book are paralled on all sides of the modern political and religious spectrum.

The authors changed the names of the people involved and the cities where the events took place in order to protect their identities, presumably from further embarrassment since the events made national headlines. I understand the desire to do this, at least for the names, but changing the names of the cities was distracting and confusing because understanding the geography would have been helpful.

While the story, in theory, is extremely interesting, the book is written in a rather dry fashion, making it difficult to get through at times. Essentially. it's too detailed and there's not enough commentary on the events. It's just straight reporting of what happened during the year of the events and it becomes increasingly detailed as the date of the prophecy got closer. There is commentary by the authors before and after the narrative of events, but it's pretty minimal and doesn't help in understanding until after the fact. Even with two psychology degrees, I would have benefited from more discussion of the psychological theories at work.

Overall, the book was worth reading, at least for me because of my background in psychology and how I try to integrate it into apologetics. There were some really great takeaways in the book, they were just spaced out between a lot of irrelevant details. I'm not sure I would recommend the book to anyone else unless they're a psychologist, really interested in cults, or really want to understand biased reasoning.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Are Christians Dumb?

While working on my previous article, Are you a Stupid Christian?, I realized I should probably address the actual scientific evidence regarding intelligence and belief. This was made all the more apparent when I came across some anti-scientific statements by several Christians on this very same topic (ironically, it was by people who lament the anti-intellectualism in the church). Ultimately, there's no reason for Christians to fear this topic or be concerned with any science that seems to reflect poorly on Christianity and I will explain why this is the case.


The Science
Generally speaking, the scientific data reveals what many Christians fear: religious believers are not as intelligent as atheists. On average, they have less education, lower IQs, less scientific literacy, less verbal ability, and lower scores on analytical thinking (which means higher scores on intuitive thinking). On the one hand, most of the research does not distinguish between different religions so it may not reflect Christians. However, most of the research is done on primarily Christian populations and the few studies looking specifically at Christians have similar results. Therefore, it seems most reasonable to conclude that Christians, at least those in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) countries, are less intelligent than atheists.

The first inclination for many Christians is to reject the science by trying to explain it away, but we don't need to do this. For one, it makes us sound anti-science and anti-intellectual, which only confirms these results. Two, there are just too many studies from too many different areas (for example, scientists also tend to be more atheistic than the general population) which supports the same conclusion. This is called convergent validity and when present, especially with such high consensus, the results are pretty hard to refute. Finally, we can't fix a problem we don't think exists, so this type of research can actually help the church become stronger.

Let's be honest, anyone who's into apologetics has experienced extreme frustration with the rest of the church on this very issue. Why ignore this because perceived outsiders are saying what we've known is true since the First Great Awakening (late 1700s). The best approach is to embrace the science and take the time to understand what it actually means (and doesn't mean) so that we overcome the issues.

Deeper Understanding
The reason Christians initially feel the urge to reject this science is because it gives the sense that if Christians aren't as smart, then we're more likely to be fooled about our religious beliefs. While this could be true, there are a couple reasons I don't think it is. On the one hand, smarter people have a greater potential to reach correct conclusions, but on the other hand, they also might be more prone to some types of bias (see bias blind spot; also people with lower IQ might be more prone to other types of bias). The takeaway isn't that we should ignore experts. I would still trust them over non-experts in almost all cases. Instead, we should carefully evaluate evidence and even question the experts on our own side.
This graph represents a theoretical comparison between
any two groups to illustrate how small the differences
are even when there is a "large" effect.

The other reason comes down to understanding group data and effect sizes. When scores for a bunch of people are all averaged together, we can only make inferences about the group. So even though atheists as a group tend to be smarter, we don't know if this is true for any particular person. Once we consider effect sizes (see chart), the problem becomes even more complex. Most of the studies have a small to medium effect size, which means there is a huge overlap between atheists and Christians on measures of IQ. In other words, if you choose an atheist and a Christian at random, it's more likely the atheist will be smarter, but there will be a lot of times that the Christian will be smarter.

Finally, the differences between groups are pretty small. This means that the average atheist only has a couple more IQ points than the average Christian. If you met an atheist and a Christian with average intelligence for their group, you wouldn't be able to tell who's smarter without doing a series of rigorously controlled tests. So the answer is no, Christians as a group are not dumb.

Other Factors
While I maintain this research is valid and useful, it also doesn't reveal a causal link. Religion could be causing people to turn off their brains, people with lower IQ may be more drawn to religion, there could be other factors that explain the relationship (being a religious minority, personality factors such as openness to experience, lack of apologetics training, wealth, education, purpose, etc.), or some combination of these things.

In fact, much of the research uses education as a measure of intelligence. There's a high correlation between education and IQ so this is a valid method that we have no reason to reject, especially because it helps at the individual level. For example, professional and aspiring apologists typically have substantially more education than the people they debate or argue with, which means in most of those cases, the Christian is the smarter person. This doesn't mean the Christian is correct, but it shows that even if atheists are generally smarter, it's not always the case.

Conclusion
Biased meme from someone who's probably never read
1 Thessalonians 5:21 or read the rich philosophy and thinking
of Christians throughout history.
I've spent my entire professional life working with highly educated people in academia or other research centers. Generally speaking, most of them are oblivious to the intellectual side of Christianity, including the smart Christians. I think it was Richard Dawkins who said that most of the scientists he knows don't really even think about God even if they do believe (I'm trying to find the exact quote so if you know it, please let me know).

The fact that atheists tend to be a little smarter than religious believers is a very very minor point in favor of atheism, but I wouldn't ever use this as an argument if I were an atheist because it doesn't actually deal with the arguments. It's really only a distraction away from the content of the arguments, especially when considering that many intellectuals have never seriously investigated Christianity.

Thankfully, this is a problem that can be fixed. Intelligence is a composite of two factors, crystallized and fluid intelligence. Crystalized intelligence is our knowledge and it grows over the lifespan whereas fluid intelligence is our thinking ability and is generally stable over the lifespan. This means the church can educate believers, or at least encourage more education, which will lead to increased intelligence among believers.

As the church reconnects with its intellectual roots, it will also be more attractive to intelligent people. Incidentally, getting the church to engage more with their minds will help Christians be more well-rounded humans who are just as capable of loving God with their minds and they are with their hearts.

Apologetics is an obvious way to do this, but it's not the only way. Encouraging deeper study of theology and biblical studies will also do the trick, as will studying science, philosophy, and the humanities.

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out." Proverbs 18:15

References:
To access articles use Google Scholar and if a free version is not available, use Sci-Hub.
-Caldwell-Harris, C. L., Wilson, A. L., LoTempio, E., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (2011). Exploring the atheist personality: Well-being, awe, and magical thinking in atheists, Buddhists, and Christians. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 14(7), 659-672.
-Clark, R. (2004). Religiousness, spirituality, and IQ: Are they linked. Explorations: An Undergraduate Research Journal1(1), 35-46.
-Dutton, E., & Van der Linden, D. (2017). Why is intelligence negatively associated with religiousness?. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 3(4), 392-403.
-Gervais, W. M., van Elk, M., Xygalatas, D., McKay, R. T., Aveyard, M., Buchtel, E. T., ... & Svedholm-Häkkinen, A. M. (2018). Analytic atheism: A cross-culturally weak and fickle phenomenon?. Judgment and Decision Making, 13, 268-274.
-Kanazawa, S. (2010). Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent. Social Psychology Quarterly73(1), 33-57.
-Kinnaman, D., & Lyons, G. (2007). UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity... and why it matters. Baker Books.
-Lynn, R., Harvey, J., & Nyborg, H. (2009). Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations. Intelligence37(1), 11-15.
-Pennycook, G. (2014). Evidence that analytic cognitive style influences religious belief: Comment on Razmyar and Reeve (2013). Intelligence, 43, 21-26.
-Pennycook, G., Ross, R. M., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2016). Atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers: Four empirical studies and a meta-analysis. PloS one, 11(4), e0153039.
-Pew Forum, Scientists and Belief, 2009.
-Rios, K., Cheng, Z. H., Totton, R. R., & Shariff, A. F. (2015). Negative stereotypes cause Christians to underperform in and disidentify with science. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(8), 959-967.
-Sherkat, D. E. (2010). Religion and verbal ability. Social Science Research, 39(1), 2-13.
-Sherkat, D. E. (2011). Religion and Scientific Literacy in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 92(5), 1134-1150.
-Stagnaro, M. N., Ross, R. M., Pennycook, G., & Rand, D. G. (2019). Cross-cultural support for a link between analytic thinking and disbelief in God: Evidence from India and the United Kingdom.
-Stoet, G., & Geary, D. C. (2017). Students in countries with higher levels of religiosity perform lower in science and mathematics. Intelligence, 62, 71-78.
-Thomas, R. (2017). Atheism and unbelief among Indian scientists: Towards an anthropology of atheism (s). Society and Culture in South Asia, 3(1), 45-67.
-West, R. F., Meserve, R. J., & Stanovich, K. E. (2012). Cognitive sophistication does not attenuate the bias blind spot. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(3), 506–519.
-Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J., & Hall, J. A. (2013). The relation between intelligence and religiosity: A meta-analysis and some proposed explanations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(4), 325-354.
-Zuckerman, M., Li, C., Lin, S., & Hall, J. A. (2019). The Negative Intelligence–Religiosity Relation: New and Confirming Evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167219879122.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Are you a Stupid Christian?


This view represents what we're up against.
Christians have a reputation for being stupid. Anyone engaged in apologetics has probably been told (usually by someone in complete shock) that they're the first intelligent Christian they've met. The charge that Christians are stupid also comes in related names such as anti-science, anti-intellectual, ignorant, uneducated, unintelligent, dumb, and any more. The point is that there are a lot of people who think Christians are intellectually inferior to the rest of society and the list below are things that will confirm that stereotype.

Whether this reputation about Christians is true is not the point of this article (but I do discuss this in my next one, Are Christians Dumb?). In this article, I'm not trying to argue about whether any of the beliefs below are right or wrong. All I want to do is point out that if you have any of the beliefs below, even the ones that seem completely unrelated to religion, it will negatively impact your evangelism and apologetics efforts.

For the sake of the gospel (1 Cor 9:23)
People make automatic judgments about others very quickly, often without conscious thought, and these perceptions are very hard to change. If I told you I believe in Santa Claus and you believed that I meant it, would you trust anything I tell you about God if you don't already believe it? Certainly not! If anything, you might be less confident about your beliefs about the things that we agree on.

Granted, belief in Santa Claus is not like belief in God; however, some atheists do think that it is and many people would argue that some of the beliefs below are just as ridiculous as an adult believing in Santa. Again, this article isn't about critiquing Christians, but being aware of how others see us. For more on how perceptions affect evangelism, check out my series on persuasive apologetics. The article on authority is particularly relevant to this article.

If you believe any of the things below, be aware of how ridiculous these beliefs sound to unbelievers and consider whether it is worth talking about with non-Christians or posting about publicly on social media (and the same goes for politics). If you think that discussing these topics might bring people closer to Christ, then it might be worth discussing with non-Christians.

Humility
In cases when we do decide to stand against the experts, humility is key. This isn't a popular view among some Christians, especially those without actual expertise, but true experts (Ph.D. scholars in the relevant field, not a semi-related field), really do know what they're talking about. They've studied the issue in way more depth than most people even know is possible. If it seems like they don't know what they're talking about, it's almost certainly because of your ignorance, not theirs.

Image result for dunning kruger effect
Graph of the Dunning-Kruger effect
Getting information from reporters, news stories, blogs, pastors, theologians, or other Christian leaders does not make you an expert or even make you well-informed. To have a well-informed opinion, you need to read and understand the peer-reviewed articles on the topic. Real experts have read hundreds, if not thousands of them, depending on how broad the topic is.

In most cases when I talk to someone who holds beliefs contrary to expert consensus (think Jesus mythicism), they haven't read any peer-reviewed academic work on the subject. In the rare cases that they have, they clearly didn't understand it or they just cherry-picked a couple quotes or articles that support their view.

We as Christians can choose to hold ourselves to higher intellectual standards than the rest of society. If it's really that important for you to hold a strong view in opposition to the experts, read, understand, and save relevant articles for and against your view so you can refer to them when the topic comes up. This way, if you have a discussion on the topic with someone who disagrees with you, you won't sound like just another stupid Christians (obviously this is assuming you don't get belligerent and yell the information at the person or overload them with a list of 50 articles they need to read 😀)

Here's a list of several beliefs and practices that make people sound stupid (even though I think a small handful of them are actually true and/or good). This list is a result of talking to many intelligent non-Christians over the years, researching perceptions about Christians, my own formal education related to these topics, and some help from crowdsourcing. If you think of any others to add, please let me know. Additionally, I fully recognize that Christians may have their own list of things they think make unbelievers sound stupid, but that misses the point.

Terrible meme, but it reflects what
people believe about Christians
and other religious believers.
1. Denial that global warming/climate change is happening and humans are at least partially responsible.
2. Using and promoting the enneagram.
3. Visiting a chiropractor for illnesses or other treatments beyond their capacity.
4. Use of essential oils for medicinal purposes.
5. Putting amber beads on your children.
6. Being against vaccines.
7. Claiming that vaccines cause autism.
8. Rejecting evolution.
9. Belief in a young-earth.
10. Belief that GMOs are unhealthy.
11. Belief that contrails from planes are harmful chemtrails from the government.
12. Going on a fad diet techniques or products (detoxing, Thrive, Glutton-free (without having Celiacs), paleo, and many many others).
13. Believing bigfoot exists.
14. Belief in UFOs.
15. Thinking homeopathic remedies are generally effective.
16. Opposition to fluoridated water.
17. Believing in the accuracy of astrology/zodiac signs/horoscopes.
18. Claim organic food is healthier (as opposed to favoring it for environmental or moral reasons)
19. Belief that near-death experiences are the soul temporarily leaving the body.
20. Belief that reincarnation happens
21. Thinking that inanimate object, people, or animals are possessed by evil spirits
22. Belief that ghosts exist (and haunt places).
23. Thinking the earth is flat.
24. Using citronella to repel mosquitos.
25. Thinking the moon landing was a hoax.
26. Believing conspiracies about JFKs assassination.
27. Thinking that 9/11 was a government-orchestrated conspiracy.
28. Believing that a full moon affects behavior.
29. Using magnetic bracelets for healing.
30. Belief in psychics (not physics).
31. Belief in the Lochness Monster.
32. Saying (and believing) that sugar causes kids to be hyperactive.

Just to reiterate, believing these things does not mean you're wrong or stupid. What it means is that your beliefs on these topics contradict what a large number of other people believe, particularly educated people and experts. Being aware of this can help you have humility, potentially reevaluate your beliefs, and more effectively interact with unbelievers.

References:
Clark, R. (2004). Religiousness, spirituality, and IQ: Are they linked. Explorations: An Undergraduate Research Journal1(1), 35-46.
Kanazawa, S. (2010). Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent. Social Psychology Quarterly73(1), 33-57.
Kinnaman, D., & Lyons, G. (2007). UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity... and why it matters. Baker Books.
Lynn, R., Harvey, J., & Nyborg, H. (2009). Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations. Intelligence37(1), 11-15.
Pennycook, G., Ross, R. M., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2016). Atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers: Four empirical studies and a meta-analysis. PloS one, 11(4), e0153039.
Stagnaro, M. N., Ross, R. M., Pennycook, G., & Rand, D. G. (2019). Cross-cultural support for a link between analytic thinking and disbelief in God: Evidence from India and the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Do we need a Christian Psychology?

Recently I've been bombarded with various notions a Christain psychology. This can mean a variety of different things, but I am using the term very broadly to refer to Christian specific practices or approaches to psychology. This seems like an obvious approach to psychology for Christians, but would it actually differ from secular psychology? Whether or not we need or would benefit from Christian psychology comes down to a fundamental understanding of what psychology is.

When I ask people what they think psychology is, most of them say something about counseling. This is a big part of the field of psychology, but it's only about half of it, if that. Either way, counseling is the primary area where people envision a Christian psychology and it's the area that is controversial among Christians so that is where I will focus.

So what is psychology? Broadly speaking, it is the scientific study of human nature. Psychologists observe people (and animals) in every way that we can to draw conclusions about how and why people think and act the way they do. Counseling is simply the area of psychology that attempts to use what is learned to improve mental health.

Psychology is a science and science revolves around peer-reviewed journals. To publish in a peer-reviewed journal requires your paper to be scrutinized by experts in the field (usually three people) to ensure your methods are legitimate and unbiased. Once published, the article becomes public so anyone can replicate your methods, either for practical use or as an attempt to disprove them. As scientists continue to test and retest various treatment methods, the ones that are most effective will become the most widely used.

Obviously, this is extremely idealistic since science isn't quite so cut and dry (or fast), but in a broad sense, and over long periods of time, this is how science works. For this reason, Christian and non-Christian psychologists will eventually reach the same conclusions about what is and isn't effective for improving mental. If something works for Christians, it will also work for non-Christians, unless it is based on beliefs that non-Christians are unwilling to accept. A simple example might be forgiveness. A non-Christian may think forgiveness is wrong, and therefore, not be willing to do it even though it would improve their well-being.

On the other hand, what if Christian specific methods are not as effective as non-Christian methods? In these instances, I would say Christians should adjust their methods and their theology of methods. The potential issue of Christian specific methods is the assumption that correctly following Christ will guarantee psychological well-being, but that's not true. In fact, it's really just another version of the prosperity gospel. God promises us salvation from sin so we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. We'll get some benefits here and there along the way, but those aren't promised.

Conclusion
So do we need a Christian psychology? No, we don't because it will eventually be the same as secular psychology (if both are done well). Instead, we need more Christians in the field of psychology, and we need them to be testing and publishing what they think are biblical or Christian methods of counseling in peer-reviewed journals so others can know about their methods.

Unfortunately, in our society, many of the Christian voices in the debate have little to no scientific training, yet they make grand claims about their methods that are completely unsupported. I think there is great potential for Christianity to influence counseling methods for the better, and at the same time, an opportunity for scientific study of counseling to improve theological views about mental health. However, none of this can be accomplished without testing and publishing our ideas in scientific psychology journals.

For those seeking counseling
I feel I must finish this article with two important warnings for anyone who might be looking for a therapist or struggling with mental health. Christians and non-Christians counselors are liable to err in opposite directions. A Christian might have bad theology regarding mental health and be poorly trained as a psychologist while a non-Christian might be accepting of sin and only willing to treat the adverse consequences of it rather than the core issue. Both are equally bad so be careful not to fall in either direction.

In a perfect world, all counselors would be committed Christians with doctoral degrees in psychology and theology. Since it's not a perfect world, I would suggest looking for a Christian who is licensed as a psychologist or counselor. This does not include biblical counselors who are only trained in theology and have no required training in science, psychology, or statistics. If you can't find a licensed Christian, then I would expand the search to licensed non-Christians. If this seems scary, realize that I say this because I don't know of any mainstream therapy technique that is sinful for Christians to participate in. The only potential problem I can think of would be treating the symptoms rather than the disease, but that's something you could address with your psychologist.

For less severe problems, a pastor, chaplain, or other mature Christian may be a good person to talk to. I would just caution you to look out for any anti-scientific views that might be expressed about psychology because this suggests they probably don't know what they're talking about.

If you have questions or need someone to talk to, please let me know. Navigating the different types of therapy and counseling can be tricky, and it's only made worse by the unfortunate stigma against counseling. It would be my honor help out in any way I can. The best way to reach me is at jaymedenwaldt@hotmail.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Is Sleep Deprivation a Sin?



I only got about five hours of sleep last night and six the night before. I need a shade over eight to maintain peak cognitive functioning. Have I sinned?

I suspect that most people are inclined to say no without careful consideration, but once we do think about it, the answer in most cases is yes, it is a sin. I say most cases because there are always extenuating circumstances and legitimate reasons for sleep deprivation, but those aren't the norm. I am referring to people consciously choosing to not get enough sleep for ungodly reasons, including reasons that seem godly on the surface.

I've already written on the theology of sleep and how it applies to apologetics, which might be helpful to review before we discuss whether or not sleep deprivation is a sin. I am defining sleep deprivation as getting less sleep than needed in a single night and the less sleep a person gets, the more sleep-deprived they will be. Additionally, the effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative so sleeping only five hours for two consecutive nights causes greater sleep-deprivation than only sleeping for five hours for a single night.

With this basic understanding of sleep deprivation, why do I think it's a sin? There are two main reasons: the effects of sleep deprivation and the causes of it.

Image result for sleep joke

Effects
When scientists study sleep deprivation, they have to deprive people of sleep This is somewhat of a problem because sleep deprivation causes cognitive impairment, which can be dangerous. To get sleep deprivation research approved by an ethics board, known as an Internal Review Board or IRB for short, scientists have to take some precautions which are costly and make research more difficult.

For example, when participants are sleep deprived, the researchers have to ensure they do not drive home or go to work directly after participating. To do this, scientists have to pay for people to get a cab to and from the research facility and physically ensure they do not drive away afterward. When I participated in a sleep deprivation study years ago, I had to give consent that I would not drive home after the study and the researchers had to walk with me outside to physically watch me get into the vehicle as a passenger. Had my wife not picked me up and dropped me off, they would have paid for me to get a cab to and from, which would have cost them about $100, which would have been in addition to the $500 I was paid to participate.

Why such precautions? Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive functioning. While it doesn't impair us exactly like alcohol does, it is similar enough that researchers will often use blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) as a comparison.

We all recognize that drunk driving is a sin, so why don’t we call it sin to drive while sleep-deprived, especially considering sleep deprivation can easily cause cognitive impairments greater than the legal limit for BAC when driving. The bottom line is that when we are sleep deprived, we become more dangerous to ourselves and others. Driving is the obvious application, but that’s only part of it. Being sleep deprived negatively impacts us and those around us in every way.

Causes
Even if there were fewer negative side effects of sleep deprivation, I would still consider it sinful in many cases because of the reasons behind why we choose to be sleep deprived. There are valid reasons for not getting enough sleep. Life happens and sometime we just can’t sleep, our kids get sick, special events happen, etc. I don’t want to claim there’s never a good reason or create a false illusion that we always have control, but I do want to point out a couple common reasons which probably aren’t good ones.

In my case last night, I had work to get done that was due at midnight. Whether it’s work, school, ministry, hobbies, or something else, sometimes life gets busy and we need to make room for it. Cutting out a few hours of sleep every now and then probably isn’t a big deal. However, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is this usually the case?

For me, it’s rare. Usually, when I have to stay up late to get work done it’s because I procrastinated and was undisciplined in the days or weeks leading up to my late nights. I could have spent a couple hours working over the weekend or been less easily distracted during the week last week, but I wasn’t. When this happens, we’re faced with a choice with choosing the lesser of two evils. Is it better to go to bed and honor God by getting sleep but not doing quality work or is it better to honor God by getting good work done and skimping on the sleep. Every situation is different so I’m not going to pretend to have an answer for you, but I do know that this conundrum can usually be avoided if we are diligent in our work and avoid procrastination.

What about those times when we just have too much going on and cannot get it all done even when we are disciplined? In those cases, we should be asking ourselves why we have too much going on in our lives? There could be all kinds of reasons, again, many of them valid, especially in the short term, but I also suspect many of them come down to pride. We want and strive for importance and to make ourselves great. Often this is hidden as “the Lord’s work” or ministry, but it’s usually just our inflated sense of self-worth.  Whatever you’re doing that has you so busy can probably stop and it will have little to no effect on the world or even an individual person. It might be that we need to scale back the extra things in our lives or even cut them out completely.

Typically what I see when people are not sleeping enough is because they’re also too busy to do other things that Christians should be prioritizing, such as reading the Bible, praying, fellowshipping with other believers, and spending quality time with our spouse and children.

Conclusion
The effects of sleep deprivation are much worse than most people realize. In fact, the research shows that people don’t consciously perceive how it negatively impacts them because we don’t have the awareness to notice or enough direct feedback mechanisms to reveal it. But just because we don’t notice doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Because of the negative side-effects of sleep deprivation, it’s usually a sinful choice; however, it's also suggestive of other sins in our lives. I am using this as an opportunity to repent for my recent sleep deprivation and I pray you will too. Let’s put a stop to this go-go-go mentality that is so damaging to our lives and relationships. Generally speaking, when we prioritize sleep, it gives us more time, not less. I know this seems paradoxical, but sleep allows us to work more effectively and efficiently.

Although it's more complicated than this, we essentially need to organize our lives in such a way that allows us to get enough sleep and maintain the discipline to stick to it. For more details on how to prioritize sleep and practice good sleep habits, please read my other sleep article.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Virtue Apologetics

Image result for virtueA recent article in Psychology Today has been making the rounds on my social media. The article discusses a peer-reviewed paper from 2015 that showed that Christian children are less generous than non-religious children. The original paper was touted as proof that Christianity leads to less virtuous behavior than other religions and as a result, it received more media attention than the typical scientific paper. However, this contradicted previous research so when another scientist analyzed the data, it was discovered that the results were due to an error in how the data were coded. The original paper has since been retracted, and it only took three years since the mistake was discovered!

My point in writing this is not to attack science, the media, or anyone else. They all did what they're supposed to do in this situation. Instead, I want to discuss how the science of virtue applies to apologetics.

I work in an experimental psychology lab called The Science of Virtues Lab. We seek to understand what virtue is, how we can develop it, and how it affects well-being. The scientific study of virtue is not a huge area of psychology, but it's growing quickly because it has shown promise for improving well-being. This creates a conundrum if we think Christians will average higher levels of virtue than non-Christians. As we learn more about the science of virtue, the more likely it is that non-Christians will use that science to their advantage

Broadly speaking, the scientific evidence shows that virtue is correlated to well-being and religious belief is correlated to virtue (and well-being). However, as this knowledge seeps into culture, more people will practice virtue for the sake of well-being without corresponding religious belief. Some of the gratitude interventions, such as journaling, are very easy to do and require no religious belief to enhance well-being.

Virtue Apologetics
The first lesson from the science of virtues for apologetics is that Christians shouldn't be surprised or defensive if and when a psychological study shows atheists equal or outperform Christians on a measure of virtue or other desirable trait. I would even go a step further and say we should encourage this and pray for it. Part of the reason we do what we do in our lab is so all people can experience greater well-being and improved mental health, regardless of what they believe. I think all Christians should desire this for others and even pray for it. If Christianity is true, and I strongly believe it is, there should be some level of fulfillment that is only achievable by faith, so we can still desire the well-being of non-Christians.

Image result for virtueThe apologetic value of virtue isn't necessarily in comparing non-Christians to Christians, because it can and will change, and there are many other factors to consider, such as where a person starts from when they become a Christian. Instead, the apologetic value in the source of knowledge about virtue. Generally speaking, following a biblical morality will lead to greater psychological well-being, regardless of what your actual beliefs are (although there are some caveats to this and occasional downsides). The Bible correctly identifies virtuous behavior that modern science is just beginning to recognize as beneficial for human flourishing. Even more astonishing is that biblical ethics were fanatically counter-cultural in Greco Roman society, especially on the topics of sex and humility, which are both supported as beneficial by science.

The other important apologetic point for virtue has to do with the way we as Christians live our lives. A virtuous life is a desirable one. If we want to convince people that Christianity is worth their time and effort, we need to practice what we preach. It's much more important for us to slow down our lives and work on getting the logs out of our own eyes that it is to study the best arguments for Christianity. This was clearly apparent this week when an act of forgiveness, another Christian virtue, sparked a positive conversation about God among Today Show anchors.

Christianity doesn't guarantee to make us better people. As a group, Christians may or may not be more moral than any other group, but individually, it should have a noticeable effect on our lives. "Conduct yourselves with such honor among your unbelieving neighbors, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:12