Hiroo’s Dilemma and the Problem of Belief

“On March 9, 1974, Japanese Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda walked out of the jungle of on a remote island in the Philippines, finally convinced that World War II was over–29 years after it had ended. Trained as an intelligence officer in guerrilla warfare, he was told to survive at all cost. No matter what happened, his superiors would come for him.

 

Just a few months after his arrival in 1944, the allies overwhelmed Japanese defenses, and Hiroo’s band of five hid deep in the jungle, surviving on what they could find. When the war ended many attempts were made to find and convince the remaining soldiers to come out. Newspapers and even letters from relatives were left, which they found, along with the leaflets. But how could the war have ended so quickly? And why were there spelling errors in the leaflets? Hiroo’s own brother even came and attempted to speak to him over a loudspeaker. The band considered each piece of evidence, and always concluded that the enemy was trying to deceive them. One by one they died, the last one after 27 years in hiding, leaving Hiroo alone.

 

Finally, a Japanese student tracked Hiroo down and befriended him. He could not surrender, Hiroo explained, until his commanding officer ordered him to do so. The student returned to Japan, and the government found his commander, now a bookseller, who returned in his tattered uniform and personally gave the order. Hiroo, still in his uniform, with sword on his side and his working rifle in his hand, was relieved of duty, and wept. Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos pardoned him for the approximately 30 people he had killed over the years, because the soldier had believed he was still at war. Hiroo returned to a world vastly changed, realizing that his beliefs had been completely wrong for nearly 30 years.”

In his book Mapping Apologetics, Brian Morley opens with the above illustration.Mapping apologetics Hiroo, Morley explains, illustrates the problem of belief. What should be accepted as evidence? How should one weigh assumptions? When it comes to whether or not to have faith in God, Christ, and the Bible “[t]here could not be a more important question than how we are to decide what to believe.” Morley covers apologetics approaches ranging from Fideism to Rationalism, in between examining basic approaches such as Presuppositionaliam and Evidentialism. I highly recommend his book.

Morley concludes that evidence does play a role in a biblical faith, “[but] it seems that we do not need 100-percent proof in order to have 100-percent faith” (353). The Bible teaches that all creation testifies to the existence and nature of God (Rom. 1:20). Due to human fallenness, this witness is suppressed, distorted, or ignored. This does not mean that the human mind is incapable of grasping truth. Offering arguments for the Christian faith is an entirely legitimate approach because the Holy Spirit works through believers when they make the case for faith (364). The persistent presentation of the truth can eventually win the day. Even Hiroo came to see the light.

Killing Our Children Painlessly

In 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin as a painkilling drug that was both “safe and highly effective.” Drug reps insisted to family doctors that “OxyContin had no real risks–only benefits.”oxycontin In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it “misled regulators, doctors, and patients about OxyContin’s addictive qualities. But by that point, hundreds of thousands of Americans were hooked.” These are the claims of a damning report published recently by The Week magazine (02/19/16, p. 13).

An epidemic is plaguing America–the abuse of opioids such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. A record 47,000 Americans fatally overdosed last year. That’s more than the number who died in car crashes. “This epidemic isn’t being driven by illicit drugs, but by a surge in the use of prescription opioid painkillers.”

The way American society is reacting (or not reacting, to be more precise) is revealing. The “War on Drugs” of the last 30 years against crack, meth, and other illegal drugs resulted in literally millions going to prison. The muted response to the current painkiller abuse may be indicative of the fact that its abusers typically are from higher socioeconomic strata than most users of crack or meth.

The road to addiction to painkillers is very different from the trek taken for other forms of drug abuse. Student athletes or housewives are prescribed opioids to deal with sports injuries or ailments. “Addiction experts say doctors have fueled this crisis by recommending that patients with even minor ailments and aches take highly addictive opioids…..Physicians wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions in 2012, triple the number two decades ago…” That was enough to provide every adult in America with a bottle. This is an epidemic “that’s essentially caused by physicians.”

Pastors need to be aware of this situation. The next person you counsel who is struggling with drug addiction may not fit the typical stereotype. Rather than a homeless person off the street, he or she may be an honor student in your youth group.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Some Disturbing Facts about the Lottery

Recently a $1 billion Powerball jackpot sent the nation into a frenzy. An article in The Week magazine entitled “Addicted to Lotteries” (02/12/16 p. 11) presents some sobering facts about our country’s “harmless” obsession.

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

  • Last year Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets. That’s more than what was spent in this country on video games, movie tickets, and sporting events combined.
  • Over half of all lottery tickets were purchased by just 5% of the population. This group “tend(s) to be poor and uneducated.” A Duke University study found that people with household incomes of less than $25,000 spend an average of $583 per year on the lottery (Upper income families spend about half that much). The educational differences are even more pronounced. High school dropouts spend around $700 while college graduates spend less than $200.
  • Lottery defenders generally claim that the money raised by state lotteries goes to support education. However, the states that do not have lotteries on average spend 10% more of their budgets on education than the states that do have lotteries.

“While the lotteries spend millions promoting their games as harmless entertainment and encouraging people to imagine themselves quitting their jobs and buying mansions–‘Hey, you never know,’ reads the New York lottery’s tagline–studies show that poorer players are 25% more likely than richer players to consider a ticket a genuine investment, and to vastly overestimate their chance of winning.”

The article concludes that lotteries are “just a tax in disguise” designed to exploit the poor. I have to agree.

This post is cross listed at www.theologyforthechurch.com