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Why You’re (Probably) Reading Genesis 1 Wrong

If you made the universe, how would you describe your masterpiece to people? Seriously. Think about it for a second. This blog will be here all day, so I’ll be around when you’re done.

Most of you would probably describe it a bit like a recipe. You’d explain which ingredients you added, what order you added them, and outline how long it took to bring it all together. If you’re more scientific, you describe more about laws and particles. If you’re more of a creative person, you explain your vision of the aesthetic. Regardless, though, we’d all give a play-by-play, because that’s how we think. And, if we’re honest, we would assume that’s exactly what God was going for in Genesis 1.

Now, do me the favor of reading through Genesis 1. Once again, I’ll wait. I know you’ve read it before, but tell me, does it look like a play-by-play to you? If you had phenomenal, cosmic powers, could you do what God did based on His “recipe?” Creation is a miracle and all, so it’s not going to be totally understandable, but God left a lot of things out, and He said some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense to us. How do you make light without a light source (Day 1 vs Day 4), and since when is it possible to make light by separating it from darkness? Isn’t “darkness” the absence of light anyway? Where did the water come from, and what is the water above the “Expanse”? What’s the deal with God resting?

I’m just thinking out loud here, but maybe we’re reading the thing wrong. Maybe we’re unconsciously biased. Maybe the creationism we’ve come to know and love is actually just materialism of a different sort. When we read Genesis 1, we see a list of ingredients needed to make our universe: light, water, plant life, a solar system, galaxies, animals, and- of course- people. We become even more committed to this worldview when faced with the daunting challenge of proclaiming Creationism in the face of the Darwinian establishment. There’s a very real possibility of losing credibility in the public sphere by criticizing evolutionism or claiming a belief in a Creator God. And, perhaps, in becoming so entrenched we’ve lost the real point of Genesis 1-3. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not trying to dredge up some theistic evolution nonsense, and I’m not talking about compromise. I am saying that God didn’t have Moses pen Genesis so we’d have a response to the Richard Dawkins’ of the world.

Think for a moment about who God had Moses write the book of Genesis to. He wrote to recently-freed slaves leaving Egypt for Canaan. They were stubborn and rebellious, given to paganism and pride….and they were God’s chosen people. Like us, they had a rich cultural heritage and identity. They had a worldview, a framework for how they viewed reality. Some of that background was far superior to our own, actually. So how does God introduce Himself in the text to an “unscientific” people surrounded by pagan belief, to a people who need to know Who they were supposed to be trusting? In a way most unexpected to the modern reader, but completely in line with His revealed character.

Rather than dump a bunch of scientific knowledge into the laps of a people unprepared to handle it, God answered the burning questions of the day in Genesis 1. God did not write an account to answer the question: “What is the universe made of, and how does it work?”; rather He answered a question intrinsic to the worldview of the Ancient Near East: “What is the purpose of the universe, and who runs the show?” You see, rather than view the cosmos as a vast machine to be inspected, ancient peoples thought of the universe as a kingdom to be ruled. We wonder what stars are; the Ancients wondered why stars are. So, in Genesis 1, we discover that the heavenly bodies are for orderliness in creation, the good of living things, and- ultimately- the glory of God. We discover that God made land to help plants grow to feed mankind. This theme of God’s creation revealing God’s nature is found throughout the rest of Scripture.

God also lovingly accommodates His people in His description of the universe. Like every other cosmogony (creation account) the Israelites had ever been exposed to, God names, separates, and establishes functionality. This demonstrates His right to rule, and establishes the meaning, purpose, and value of His creation. In Hittite, Egyptian, and Canaanite mythologies, the “gods” began their work by defeating chaos, organizing the world, and establishing their reigns. In the Bible, though, Yahweh is no contender among equal deities. Unlike the gods of pagan cults, Yahweh has no competition. He doesn’t fight off a Chaos Monster, though other Old Testament books allude to the monsters Rahab and Leviathan to highlight God’s might and provision. Chaos in Genesis 1:2 is simply a condition of non-functionality, not a creature to be defeated. Furthermore, Yahweh establishes inanimate Nature as a blessing for living things and further revelation of Himself. Scripture makes clear that there is no pantheon of gods ruling alongside Yahweh. The sun (shemesh) and moon (chodesh) aren’t even named in the account to avoid being mistaken for the names of gods. (Shemesh, at least, is the Akkadian sun god.) Instead, they are merely referred to as the greater and lesser lights. In Genesis 1 the entire pantheon of every pagan cult is reduced to nothingness. God has completely subverted every element of the pagan worldview and given it a new, redeemed significance in light of a genuine creation account. Genesis 1 really just sets the stage for a theology of redemption.

You see, there is a direct connection in Scripture between God’s creative work and His covenants. Consider the words of both Psalmist and Prophet with regard to the Mosaic Covenant:

Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74)

Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to pass over?

 You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,

    who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,

 I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name.
 And I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you in the shadow of my hand,
establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Isaiah 51)

So, yes, there is a clear connection between God’s covenant with Israel and God’s creation of the cosmos. The One Who calmed primeval seas to create a universe filled with His purpose had parted the Red Sea to redeem and establish a people for Himself. In Psalm 89, the seas- not just the physical land of Israel- are given to David’s Descendent in the Davidic Covenant. In Isaiah 27, God reveals the consummation of Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants by using similar terminology: “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea…. In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit…. And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

If the creation of the Cosmos is identified with the covenants, what happens when God’s covenant people- or any people- rebel? De-creation imagery, my friends, and it isn’t pretty. Rather than create the heavens and the earth, God will “shake” the heavens and the earth to bring ruin to pagan nations (Haggai 2). Jeremiah describes Jerusalem’s doom as a de-creation event in Jeremiah 4:

I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

In sharp contrast, the connection between Covenant and Cosmos comes up again in prophecies of the Age to Come. In Isaiah 65, a new heaven and earth are predicted in conjunction with the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants. This is underscored again by the end of John’s vision in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” The Age to Come is a world of restoration and redemption fulfilled, in which God dwells with mankind, and the sea- the symbol of Chaos for nearly every ancient culture, a chaos and evil personified by serpents and dragons- is no more.

So why did God rest on the 7th day? He wasn’t tired. Moses wasn’t simply saying God stopped making new things, because Moses wasn’t writing to a people concerned with the manufacture of material elements. God finished His creation and moved on to reigning. It’s all about a kingdom, remember? Unlike the pagan gods who dwell in various temples made by man’s hands– gods who are limited in power outside of their own small patches of sacred ground, Yahweh immediately begins ruling and reigning- without contest- His universe. Deity rests in a temple, and the universe is Yahweh’s domain. His kingdom-temple is under His complete control, and He organizes and orchestrates everything in it. Unlike every human kingdom in history and the heavens and earth, which are susceptible to “de-creation”, His  true kingdom remains unshakeable, the writer of Hebrews 12 reminds us. So while our God rests in the temple of His cosmos, reigning in wisdom and goodness and majesty, we can rest– Sabbath– in the knowledge that He has conquered every foe and is working all things perfectly for His glory and our good.

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God in the Gallows

It’s been a full weekend now, and I still can’t tear my eyes away from the screen. The shock, the horror of what happened in a small elementary school in Connecticut. Call it a tragedy. Call it a shooting. Give it any name you please, but our words and labels seem frightfully inadequate. A gunman in his 20s has not only killed his own mother, but he has also shot teachers, administrators, and staff. And then there’s the children. Empty classrooms and empty beds at night. As a teacher and parent myself, I can hardly fathom what must be going through the minds of those who have suffered such horrific loss. There are acts of heroism being reported in spite of it all, and people are rallying to support those in need. But how do you wrap your mind around this sort of evil? And where is God? It’s funny that America- a secularized nation- doesn’t want much to do with God the majority of the time, but now our thoughts turn to Him again. Where is He?

In a way, 9/11 was a simpler event to deal with. Terrorists, we can handle. The death of adults- though tragic- we can cope with to some extent. But senseless tragedy…..what do you do with it? Most Americans think of themselves as decent, incapable of this sort of thing. And so, mercifully, most of us don’t even contemplate massacring five-year-olds. Who shoots children multiple times, besides a monster? We realize, then, to our horror, that monsters are very, very real. They just don’t look anything like the sort of thing children fear. For the most part, they look like us. That’s the chilling truth. They look like us.

But what of God? Can’t He stop evil? If He is loving, why doesn’t He save the innocent victims? If He is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop the violent? You see, buried in our two beliefs about God (that He is all-loving and all-powerful) are two other unspoken beliefs about God. We believe that because He is all-loving, God will remove us from whatever causes pain. We believe that if God is all-powerful, He will therefore use that power to do what we would do if we had that power. But we are not God. We do not know which events are necessary to the Divine plan (God requires that they happen because they are the plan), which events are incidental to the Divine plan (God can achieve His ultimate ends whether or not they occur), and which events occur in spite of the Divine plan (they are in opposition to God’s will, but He permits them to occur anyway.) Obviously, some events are a combination of these man-made categories.

Here’s my point: we don’t know it all. We don’t see it all. We are limited in knowledge and wisdom, time and space. We aren’t as good or holy as God. He’s the only one capable of knowing what must be, may be, and will be. As a friend once told me, God is not just the every-where God. He is also the every-when God. He is in all times and places at once. It gets better than that, though.

High and lofty as He is, God Himself visited us in the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, He experienced every pain and grief imaginable. He barely survived Herod’s massacre shortly after birth, lived for years as an exile in Egypt, grew up in an impoverished village, earned the scorn of the religious and political leaders of His day, experienced hunger and thirst in the wilderness, was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to Him, was beaten, was mocked, was unjustly put to death. God stepped out of His world of light, glory, honor, music, and wonder into our pain and suffering. So many have lost children to wars, disease, and- in recent days- acts of senseless violence. Let us not forget that God has lost one, too.

He didn’t just ordain, permit, or ignore suffering. He experienced it. All of it. We are victims on this earth, but God chose to endure horror itself for our sakes.

I am reminded of Elie Wiesel’s writings of his time as a Jew in prison camps such as Auschwitz. For days, Wiesel was forced to work, to suffer physically and emotionally, to question everything he knew of God. During a particularly brutal period, he and others were forced to watch the hanging of a fellow prisoner. As they watched in horror and despair, someone behind Wiesel mutter, “Where is God?” While Wiesel wrestled with this issue throughout his time in prison camps, a voice within him answered back: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

What Wiesel thought in despair, I say to you as an encouragement. Where is God? He is here. It’s Christmas, after all, and now more than ever we need our Immanuel– God with us. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Light of the World. He is the Door. He is the Good Shepherd. He is Way, Truth, and Life. He is the Resurrection. He is the Vine. He is I AM.

Whether we need a God Who reigns from His throne in eternity, or a God Who welcomes kindergarteners into His kingdom; whether we need a God Who speaks the universe into existence, or a God present in the gallows, that’s Who we have…..because that’s where He is.

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The Jubilant Business of Heaven

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

This week, I was faced with the bittersweet task of saying “goodbye for now” to a friend. Deb won a battle against cancer by finding ultimate healing at the feet of Christ. She was a wife and mother, a teacher and counselor, and so much more to those who knew her. Even when her health was in decline, she found humor and joy where few could see it. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral, but since learning of her death, I’ve spent a little time reflecting on the life she lived. It’s led me to re-evaluate what it means to be joyful, and- ultimately- what Heaven must be like.

I am by nature more given to seriousness than levity. Folks that know me casually might be surprised by that last sentence, but it’s true. I can be lighthearted and goofy in conversation, and I can make small talk as well as anybody. When I’m not in a social or professional setting, though, I’m a pretty different person. I love the deep, still waters of theology and philosophy. I love that every time I find myself growing in Christ and His Word, I realize that the Lion of Judah seems to have grown larger still. If I’m honest, though, I’m also more serious because life has made me cynical. Living in a fallen world can do that. Hypocrisy and disillusionment with modern Christianity, a lack of honor within the body of Christ, personal and family health issues, a struggling economy, and poor governmental leadership can darken one’s worldview. We aren’t called to a life of cynicism and solemnity, though. We are called to be joyful. Through the Father’s will and Word, Christ’s incarnation and resurrection power, and the Spirit’s ministry, we encounter Someone Who is the Source, not just of comfort, but of mirth.

You heard me right. Mirth. Festivity. Gaiety, even. Joy takes on many forms, of course. It can be a quiet assurance amid turmoil, enjoyment of fellowship between friends, satisfaction at a job well done, or taking pleasure in God’s creation. As Christians, we often leave it at that. “Joy is passive,” we subconsciously think. “It’s serious business, unlike the fun and games and laughter we enjoy when we aren’t ‘on the clock.’ Joy is so much more spiritual than mere enjoyment.” Oh, but how we miss the mark. To be sure, many forms of entertainment and pleasure are mindless and foolish, “carnivals” in the truest sense of the word. Mirth is a very different sort of thing, though. In this active sense, joy can become a celebration or noisy excitement. It can be fierce and intense. It is this active form of joy that is missing in so many lives today. It is this sort of joy that my friend and colleague Deb understood so well. As I’ve said before, when she laughed, it was as if Heaven’s joy had somehow spilled over onto the Earth below. It is this sort of joy we need more of in our Christianity.

We may as well get used to mirth and festivity, anyway. While sacrifice, suffering, and weariness are so prominent in our world today, it will not always be so. If we could see beyond the veil that separates Earth from Heaven, we would see that the shadow is just a passing thing. In Heaven, the permanent thing will be supreme joy. Beauty instead of ashes. Rejoicing instead of sorrow. Dancing instead of drudgery.

Picture for a moment Jesus’ first miracle. There is no wine for the wedding, so Jesus has the servants fill large vessels to the brim with water, and- behold!- the water is turned to wine, a symbol of joy and merriment and blessing in the Bible. The servants are then commanded to dip their pitchers into the large vessels and provide refreshments to the wedding guests. The servants do as they are told, but as they dip the pitchers into the larger vessels, the wine overflows. No matter, though, as there are around 150 gallons remaining for the guests. The wedding’s “master of ceremonies” is surprised by its quality, and modern critical “scholars” are concerned by its quantity. The wine is too good for one, and there is too much of it for the others! It’s an extravagant miracle that seems a bit too over the top for a little wedding in Cana.

Oh, but how perfect the image of the overflowing wine is! The Eternal Kingdom will be a place flooded with joy and merriment and blessing. We will experience intense relief and comfort there, and we will see revelry take its rightful place in our lives, for there the Source of all beauty, and wonder, and goodness sits enthroned. As Lewis puts it in The Last Battle: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” Any student (or teacher, for that matter) can tell you the anticipation that surrounds Christmas vacation. One day, we will enjoy Christmas vacation unending. That doesn’t make final exams sound so bad, now does it?

 

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Skipping the Tithe

Nightmares. Fits. Heartburn. That’s what I’m going to give folks in some circles by even posting this thing. For some, what I’m saying is more controversial than accepting the Creation-as-Temple model of Genesis 1-2, than taking a stand for biblical marriage, than telling people that science has the wrong set of tools to even begin to prove (or disprove) the existence of God. This little post- humble though it be- might all but get me blacklisted.

You see, in the very month of my 30th birthday, for the first time EVER….I failed to tithe. Failed. And I don’t think God’s mad at me. The earth didn’t stop moving. My house didn’t burn down (a fact which surprises anyone who’s seen what previous owners have done to this place.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the budget king. My wife hates it when I start balancing checkbooks, creating spreadsheets, and running reports, because the bottom line is that I’m not going to be going to bed on time. It’s just a fact. Oh, and a big deal in my spreadsheet budget is the tithe line. It’s a protected cell that runs a simple little formula for calculating the monthly tithe amount based on every red cent we make. Since my first job in high school, I have always tithed over 10% of my gross earnings. Heck, even when I was in elementary school, my tithe made it into the offering plate. It may have been a whopping quarter that month, but it always happened. It’s a good habit to teach your kids early on, so that’s what I learned.

I grew up hearing about the importance of giving, and missions conferences were always a big deal at my church growing up. These are positives, not negatives, by the way. I’m not trying to cast evangelism, discipleship, or Christian charity in a bad light. At all. However, as an adult, I’ve come to reject a few assumptions I’d made about giving. First off, faith promise giving toward missions is great for churches who want to budget missionary support….if everyone keeps the promise on the envelope. (Good luck with that. Every pastoral class on budgeting in seminary will warn you that church-going folk are tremendous liars with big hearts.) It is, however, not the only method for providing for missionaries. Secondly, and more controversially, I do not believe that tithing is a requirement for New Testament Christians.

Sorry. It’s just the truth. I’ve visited the topic over and over again, yet I see no biblical command for Christians to tithe. Oh, I see commands that involve generosity, compassion, and giving…..just not a tithe. The Church is simply the wrong type of institution and- for the most part- made up of people who are the wrong nationality to be truly tithing. In short, tithing is for Israel, not the Church. More on that some other time.

These are beliefs that I’ve held to for years, but I always still gave 10% or more per month, sometimes out of generosity, sometimes because of the Spirit’s promptings, and sometimes out of either habit or some form of superstition. What if God pulled back the blessings on my life because I wasn’t giving to Him? Giving is, after all, a duty– a responsibility. A duty to be accepted joyfully, but a duty nonetheless. So over the years, my wife and I have given to individuals, groups, churches, and ministries that we felt led to help in some way. (“What?!? You don’t give just in church?!? That’s where tithe’s belong!!!”) We hold to a few key points:

  1. Giving should be planned. We should budget how much to give each month, and we should have guidelines governing who qualifies as a recipient of that money.
  2. Giving should be spontaneous. We determine how much is set aside in the budget, but how it is used is not always planned. Sometimes we wind up giving at unexpected times or in surprising ways.
  3. Giving should be generous and extravagant when the Spirit so leads. In seasons of life where God has blessed us, we have thoroughly enjoyed surprising someone or some group of people God has laid on our hearts with something a little special.
  4. Giving should be sacrificial. Sometimes it’s good to “give ’till it hurts.” I don’t believe in going into debt, but choosing to avoid a personal “want” to meet someone’s need- or a special Church need- is healthy. It helps keep things in focus. I’m not always good at this part- we humans are selfish by nature- but saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God is always worth it.

To my four points above, I’ve had to add a fifth point:

5. God doesn’t need my money. Ever.

How will evangelism go on? How will a church ministry survive? What about the poor? What about needs locally? What about the world?

Do you really think what your church, your neighbor, your missionary needs is your money? Even in our giving, we humans can be materialistic. My church doesn’t need my money. It needs the Spirit to move. My neighbor doesn’t need my money. She needs Christ. My favorite mission team doesn’t need my money. They need a the Heavenly Father to do what the flesh cannot. God is capable of providing food in the wilderness and water from rocks. He can dress flowers more beautifully than Solomon. Do we really think that our giving is all that important?

Maybe, if instead of focusing on “my” money, “my” church, “my” neighbor, and “my” missionary…..we chose to focus on a God capable of providing for all those areas and more without a second thought, we’d discover that all of those things– money, church, neighbor, and ministry– aren’t really ours after all. That little possessive pronoun can just go away.

Edit: To respond to a few criticisms I’ve received for a moment, yes- I do believe charity is important. I’ve been the recipient of cash, kind words, time, and meals more times than I can count. There are needy people and worthy causes out there, so do be on the lookout. Just don’t talk yourself into believing that you are the only hope a person or cause has. I’m grateful for those who have been so kind to me and my family over the years, but know that the adoration and worship is properly directed at the Father.

So, no, we haven’t met our percentage goals for giving in the last two months. The day will come, Lord willing, when that will happen again. For the moment, we’re learning contentment instead of financial stress, God-reliance instead of self-reliance, and how to humbly accept blessing rather than feel the burden of trying to selfishly be that blessing all the time. It is more blessed to give than to receive- and I don’t mean this post to de-emphasize the importance of generosity- but it is most blessed of all to simply learn to lean on Jesus.

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Adoption: Some Assembly Required

The night I sat down to write this post, I had just wrapped things up for the evening and shut off the bedroom light, when I heard a thump and a whimper just outside our bedroom door. Moments later, there was the pitter-patter of little feet up to our bed followed by the sounds of our three-year-old scaling the side of our bed to burrow in deeply between my wife and I. For the next hour, we took turns consoling our oldest son, who seemed to be upset for no reason. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t sad. He wasn’t sick or hurting. He’d sit there and fidget and fuss, wedging himself in as tightly as possible, only to clamber back out and reposition himself a few moments later. After rubbing his back, smoothing his hair, whispering comforting words, and holding him tightly, he finally began to calm when my wife gently reminded him that he was our boy, that he was safe, and that he didn’t have to leave us. He drifted off to sleep at some point before midnight, which is when I finally took him back to his own bed. We slept relatively soundly ourselves until he came back in around 5:00 in the morning.

That was just another night in the life of adoptive parents. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen regularly. We’ve adopted two children from foster care and are in the process of adopting a third. They’re all toddlers, and anybody who has raised a family knows that toddlers can be a handful no matter what time of day it is. During our days, we deal with fussy, hungry children and our share of tantrums and behavior issues. We also deal with some things that are not-so-standard, though.

Like Much-Afraid in Hind’s Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard, our children deal with an unusual amount of fear. Our three-year-old has been with us for three years now (he’s nearly four, actually), but he panics for no apparent reason. That’s what was going on last night. From somewhere deep within his soul, a sense of loneliness and fear of being “taken” welled up within him. He’s seen foster children removed from our home before, and it always results in nightmares– giant hands dropping from the sky, ripping him or a foster sibling away, or tentacled monsters grasping at him from underneath his bed. The nightmares go away in time, but the fearfulness comes and goes. Our two-year-old son has night terrors and phantom pains in his legs, the consequence of a biological parent who broke his legs in four places when he was just two months old.

This fear leads to other behaviors as well. There is anger sometimes, a powerful emotional reaction when they feel like they’re not in control of the situation or not “a part of the moment.”  While our oldest is a very social person with a broad vocabulary, he struggles to connect with new people or peers. He’s a bit hyper, possibly the result of being born exposed to a variety of drugs that his mother took illegally.

Like so many other adopted children, our kids face unique challenges. They can’t be treated like biological children, we’ve learned. Spanking works in many, many homes in America and numerous other cultures around the world and throughout history. It doesn’t work for us, and we don’t use it as a tool in our home. Victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment don’t understand the “rod of correction” because they subconsciously mistrust the intentions of most adults. They’ve been failed, hurt, and given up on by adults in the past, and some portion of that memory continues with them into the future. Besides, spanking is sometimes used as a fast-an-easy method of getting results rather than a method of instruction. We’re simply not convinced it is as essential as some would have us believe. Another tool that isn’t in our child-rearing toolbox is “time outs.” Getting sent to your room may be a favorite in homes across the USA, but it backfires terribly in adoptive homes. What does a “time out” demonstrate to a victimized child? It makes them feel unloved, unwanted, and alone. They aren’t thinking about what they did wrong. They’ve been driven back to the land of fear and anger.

My point is that adopted kids need to be repaired and rebuilt. Adoptive parents are- in the human sense- called to be surgeons of both psyche and soul. It’s a daunting task, but one my wife and I cherish. As we have come to learn this truth, we’ve also learned some surprising things about God’s love for us. We are- after all- adopted children ourselves. The world, the Flesh, and the Devil have ravaged our souls. We are born into a fallen world, and we at times feel forsaken. Surrounded by addictions, we sometimes fall prey to them ourselves. We have felt the sting of abuse, even if we are our own captor, dwelling in prisons fashioned by our own hands. The memory of the past haunts us long after we have moved on.

Our Heavenly Father knows that He is not simply a Divine Parent, but He is also there to be a Healer. Have you ever wondered how He justifies being so merciful and gracious? I mean, what’s the basis for treating us so lovingly in spite of failings? To be certain, one answer is that His basis for doing so lies within Himself. I don’t mean to take the significance of that away. There’s another answer, though, that is also founded within Himself. He already knows what adoptive parents discover sooner or later. He knows that we are sinful because it is our nature to sin, just as foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. He further knows that we act- and react- because of fear. We get angry and push Him away because that is what the wounded do sometimes. We struggle to trust even Him because we’ve never known what it is like to trust before. Intimacy without fear or shame is a foreign concept. He can afford to be merciful and gracious to us because that’s the only way healing can happen.

So how do we discipline our adopted children? Rather than “time outs”, we have “time ins.” That’s not something new-agey, and it includes a subtle-yet-important difference. Rather than sending our children away for misbehavior, we keep them close. If they misbehave at the dinner table, they sit in a chair close to the table where they can calm down before continuing their meal. Instead of sending them to their rooms, they “get” to help us with a chore or some other task. To be sure, we establish ourselves as the authority, but our home is much more pleasant- and our children are much more obedient- when we do things in this way. Is this not the sort of thing God does for His children? He establishes His authority when necessary, but He also draws us closer to Himself. He disciplines us and matures us by spending time with us, not by sending us away until we’ve learned our lesson. He uses pain as a megaphone to rouse us from slumber, but only when absolutely and perfectly necessary. He has other far more gentle methods to bind up wounds, free from prison, and nurture and admonish His children.

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Lessons from the Least

In a separate post, I’ve written about the significance of the “widows and orphans” motif in the Bible. I’d like to turn our attention, however, to how closely this follows with other ancient near eastern (ANE) societies. It turns out that care for orphans and widows is a very common concern in the ANE. In the April 1962 edition of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, F. Charles Fensham wrote that the wisdom literature (a form of social protocol) and legal codes of ancient Sumer (as early as the 25th century) venerated any king who was strong enough to care for widows and orphans. Hammurabi himself additionally claimed that the gods had called him “to make justice appear in the land, to destroy the evil and wicked, and so that the strong might not oppress the weak.” In the epilogue to his famous 18th-century code, he says that he has set up these laws “so that the strong might not oppress the weak, to give justice to the orphan and to the widows.” Fensham further points out that the king is required to obey these commands because he is the living representative of Samas, the sun god and lord of justice.

In ancient Egypt, caring for the poor, widow, and orphan is the boast of any strong and benevolent king. Khety III exhorts his son, telling Merikare that a good king does not confiscate an orphan’s property. In the city Ugarit in ancient Syria, the Aqhat Epic tells of King Keret whose son rebukes him, saying: “You did not judge the cause of the widow. You did not adjudicate the case of the wretched. You did not drive out them that preyed upon the poor. You did not feed the orphan before you or the widow behind you.”

So what does this have to do with defending the Christian faith? Well, I actually have three points to make here:

  1. Morality is universal. From ancient times the world over, certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions are seen as good and others as deplorable. People have not always followed their own laws, and sometimes they have created oppressive and violent laws, but the greatest and best of civilization has always been lawful and moral. More on this at a later date, but suffice it to say that things like marriage, sexuality, and life are always seen as important and sacred in a sense.
  2. The writers of the Bible were not barbaric, ignorant nomads. This seems very obvious to most, but I’ve often been surprised to read some of the more antagonistic atheists who write that the Bible should be rejected because its human penmen had neither the intelligence nor the sensibility to make them worthy of believing or following. On the contrary, I believe these secular accounts of care and concern for the weakest and poorest in society inform us that ancient near-eastern (ANE) peoples at least were relatively civil and intelligent. They were able to work past the might-makes-right mentality and see that humans are inherently valuable.
  3. The above two points lead me to also believe that humans may actually be “devolving” intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Ancient social and legal structures were both complex and beautiful in spite of their flaws. The religious systems of their day were equally complex, and they interconnected various aspects of nature and reality as carefully as any Greek philosophical system. They were absolutely wrong in many of their practices and beliefs, of course, but they were at least as sophisticated as any modern worldview- pluralism, atheism, and the like. We can see in just these few references an attempt at a just social and legal code, a world in which honor was more important than money or possessions. This is in stark contrast to the world we live in today. Atheism is a sophomoric (lit. “wise fool”) attempt at a philosophy, and many in America at least have adopted pragmatism unwittingly. Greed and materialism are rampant in the developed world, and many undeveloped nations are either indifferent to or antagonistic toward the weak and helpless. How have the mighty fallen?
If you haven’t done so yet, compare the above quotes to the verses referenced in my other post (link above). I think you’ll see that the motif of orphans and widows is astonishingly similar to the secular references above. This tells us that God has set an absolute morality in our hearts, that the Bible is the product of intelligent peoples, and that it is quite possible that humanity is unraveling rather than unifying and developing its further potential. If you don’t believe me, Google the Dalits of India, check out abortion statistics, or check out the number of kids in foster care near you. If we want to live up to our own past, we have a long way to go.
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God Bless Us: Observations from “A Christmas Carol”

In my humble opinion, you’re virtually a Scrooge if you don’t have a favorite version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol somewhere in your house, or at least watch one of its many incarnations sometime during the Christmas season. It might be the Owen and Lockhart version from 1939 or the one with Patrick Stewart in 2000. I grew up loving Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but we watched the Flintstones A Christmas Carol today with our son. Even these cartoon versions have some incredible worth. First, a little background.

Dickens originally titled his work A Christmas Carol in Prose, and he titled the five sections of his book “staves” rather than “chapters” to maintain the musical theme of his work. His choice of the word “carol” is pretty interesting in itself, since Christmas carols almost always refer to Christ’s nativity. In fact, one of the oldest carols on record is from the 4th century, written by a bishop named Ambrose:

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
Come testify thy virgin birth:
All lands admire, all times applaud:
Such is the birth that fits our God.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
Runs out his course to death and hell,
Returns on God’s high throne to dwell.

O Equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

All laud, eternal Son, to thee
Whose advent sets thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.

Dickens would have thought no differently about what a Christmas carol should proclaim, for carols were almost exclusively about Christ even in his day. Even his choice of names for Scrooge’s employee- Bob Cratchit- is a hint at Dickens’ intention. “Cratchit” comes from an archaic word (crèche), which refers to a nativity scene. However, the thoroughly Christian perspective of Dickens’ writing is much more beautifully woven in the fabric of his prose. Remember those staves I mentioned? Dickens makes a reference to the gospel in each stave:

  • In stave 1, Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s late business partner says: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!”
  • In stave 2, Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Past what its business is with him, and the Spirit answers him: “Your reclamation”, a word that, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, means “to call back from error, wandering, or transgression.”
  • In stave 3, Bob Cratchit says of Tiny Tim: “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, Who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
  • In stave 4, young Peter Cratchit reads of Christ’s love for children in Mark 9:36, and Dickens says of Scrooge’s thoughts: “Where had Scrooge heard those words? Why did he not go on?”
  • In stave 5, Dickens said of the now-changed Scrooge: “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
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What Physics Class Taught Me

I signed up for physics class in high school not really knowing what to expect. I’d always loved science classes, and I didn’t expect this one to be any different. It was. God help me, it was. Why it didn’t occur to me that physics would be a lot of formulas and math, I will never know. What I do know is that it took every ounce of mental energy I could muster to survive that year, and survive I did. To this day, I’m convinced that God somehow changed my semester grades when my teacher wasn’t looking.

Perhaps the biggest frustration I experienced with physics class wasn’t the amount of work I had to deal with so much as the fact that I felt like very little of what I was learning really applied to real life. (Ok, I know that that is what students say about practically every class they take, but hear me out.) After all, practically every equation I learned had the wonderful little caveat “in a vacuum” somewhere in the description.  We learned about the speed of light in a vacuum, terminal velocity in a vacuum, friction in a vacuum, and so on and so forth. In other words, we learned about how things move and act if there’s no matter to influence it. So nothing work exactly the way an equation said it should because we don’t experience reality in a vacuum. (Happily, I might add, since that would pretty much eradicate life on earth.) This is a great illustration of the point of this particular post: nothing is learned or experienced in isolation.

We’ve discussed already how apologetics is a very biblical concept. Now I want us to focus on why it is so important. It is absolutely true that we are called to be salt and light to a dark and lost world- we should be evangelistic since Christ is the ultimate answer to our world’s problems. It is also absolutely true that God has called us to faith and faithfulness, so our message includes elements of morality and ethics. However, it is also true that we must be aware of the cultural backdrop against which people will hear the Gospel. The Gospel is never heard in isolation, and we must be able to answer the darkness with light. We as Christians must be willing and able to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That imagination may take the form of the acceptance of sin, the secularist/naturalistic worldview, or belief in false religions. The response by Christians must always be the same. We must be able to give a loving answer concerning the hope that we have.

The sad reality is that Christianity has been relegated to a generic “faith” in our Western culture. It’s just another superstition, something someone believes to make themselves feel good. It’s just a crutch. The goal of apologetics is to answer that perspective. We know that Christianity is not just another generic faith. It’s not the same thing as the New Atheist’s “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” It’s the goal of apologetics to bring Christianity out of the private sphere and into the public sector.

Christians ought to be able to explain their faith in ways that make it an acceptable perspective in academics, law, and courts, regardless of the current perspective on issues such as the “separation of church and state.”  I’m not saying anyone will come to Christ simply from apologetics. I am saying that Christians who understand the tenets of our faith and can explain them reasonably will help to create a culture in which Christianity is a reasonable and acceptable thing. The “Moral Majority” has made a fool of Christianity and has lost its power. It will not be political might that rights the wrongs of society. That is the job of biblical Christian demonstrating and explaining a viable faith in a reasonable way.

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Defend-o-getics!

Last week I explained to a class of teenagers that we would be studying apologetics next year, and a few of them gave me funny looks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”, one asked. “What are we apologizing for?”

I explained to them that- within Christianity anyway- apologetics refers to a reasoned defense of the faith.

“Why not just call it ‘defend-o-getics’, then?” he asked, and we all laughed.

If you think about it, “defend-o-getics” would probably make it more clear as to what would be going on. How many of us, after all, thought the same thing when we first heard the term? We get our word “apologetics” from the Greek word apologia, which refers to a courtroom defense. Peter uses this word when he tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lives in us. (1 Peter 3:15) Now let me be clear on this: being defensive or argumentative about our faith isn’t what Peter is talking about, nor is he excusing treating people in a hateful manner. We’re not just responsible for sharing truth; we’re also responsible with how we share that truth. I believe very firmly that apologetics is one of the most important things to teach believers today, but I’ll get to that later.

What we all need to realize is that apologetics is biblical. Now, I’ve heard people disagree with this point. I’ve heard them say that we need only to study the Bible or heed the Spirit and everything will be alright. While I do believe in being sensitive to the Spirit and studying Scripture, I find that there is something wrong with this view. When I read my Bible, I see apologetics everywhere. When I prayerfully consider what the Spirit would have me do, I feel very much led to study apologetics. After all, Jesus was a master at apologetics. In Luke 24:25-27 and John 14:11, for instance, Jesus appealed to miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove Who He was. The apostles referenced miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and Jesus’ resurrection to make a point. (Acts 2:22-32) In Acts 14:17, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul points to nature and eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ as proof for Christianity’s validity. This is precisely the sort of thing that modern apologetics tries to do. It’s amazing what the Spirit can do with this sort of reasoning!

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Why I Liked Lost’s Finale- Serious Spoilers

In the hours following the Lost series finale, it became pretty clear to me that it was impossible to remain neutral in your take on how things wrapped up. Some fans absolutely loved the ending, while others felt like they had wasted six years of their collective lives. Some folks just seemed to be happy they had been able to survive the roller coaster that was Lost. I can understand people’s frustration at how Lost ended. We didn’t get nearly as many answers as we would have liked. We barely delved into the series’ mythology it seemed, so we’ll never know for sure who built the temple or the statue of Tawaret, what exactly the Light was, whose bodies were down in the pit with the Light, how people seemed to have insight or could talk to dead people, or what happened to poor Walt. To make matter’s worse, we have very few authoritative characters to help us really believe what we’ve been told is true. Jacob’s “Mother” isn’t exactly believable, having killed Jacob and MiB’s biological mother along with all of the people MiB lived with for years. Jacob seems to have gained some insight, but a lot of what he knows is based on what “Mother” said. We don’t know if there would have been repercussions outside of the Island if the Island had sunk, and we don’t know that MiB could have really done much once off of the Island since the Light would have gone out and he would be mortal.

So, yes, I understand why people are frustrated at the lack of answers. However, I’d like to point out that I think that this particular aspect of Lost makes it far more realistic than most television shows and movies. In real life, we don’t know for certain all of the answers. We don’t have absolute certainty about the big questions of life- meaning and purpose, for instance- or about which choices are the right ones. We are so finite, so impotent when it comes to seeing the future or even the past with accuracy. Lost reflects reality very powerfully here. Without omniscience to make things easy for us, we are left with questions to be answered at some unknown date or to believe based on what evidence we can find. We all believe in something ultimately, just as we’re all left to form our own conclusions about our unanswered questions from Lost.

Lost also never quite gave us a definitive answer when it comes to major philosophical questions- questions you and I wrestle with consciously or subconsciously. Are we at the merciless hands of fate? Which choices have been given to us to make on our own? For the Christian- how is it that God can make these complex plans for the universe and for us personally and yet we are left with the ability to choose to follow His plan? To what extent can we choose to follow Him or not, and which things are we unable to choose? The reality is that Lost made us think without shutting down our thinking at the end by answering all of these complex questions for us. It leaves us to keep thinking until we come up with an answer, based on sources that we can trust. That’s a great gift, I’d say.

It was the ending, though, that got folks the most. To realize that the “flash sideways” wasn’t an alternate timeline at all, that our beloved characters were all already dead, was a shock that few people expected. I think people didn’t like this ending for two reasons. First of all, to those who are not religious, an “afterlife” ending broke their willful suspension of disbelief. That- whether or not right or wrong won out in this lifetime- good will ultimately silence evil’s snarls, well, it’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who is an atheist or believes in naturalism. Western folks just don’t like appeals to religion. It’s personal to them, and Lost put the tenets of religion up for serious debate in the public square. People who followed Lost closely had been talking about religious tenets for over six years without realizing it very much. The end left us unable to brush off the religious- mostly Christian- symbolism that we’d witnessed over the last six seasons.

At first I hated that stained glass window in the church- the one with all of the symbols from a “coexist” bumper sticker- because I hated that it didn’t narrow it all down to Christianity. Well, frankly, it was Christian enough, the entire scope of the series, I mean. And, secondly, this is in keeping with the author’s principles of not being definitive about philosophy. While I do sincerely wish that Christianity had been the faith they had adopted at the end, I respect their desire to give people the liberty to make their own conclusions. They avoided preachiness in this manner, something I think we can all respect.

Christians may not like the ending for its ecumenicism, and I completely understand that. However, I believe more Christians will have a problem with the end of Lost because they don’t like the heavenly ending that much. Like unbelievers, we struggle with understanding that the ultimate happy ending will not take place on this earth. We want it to all work out here, but that isn’t the way things go usually. We’ve become so earthly minded and self-centered that we want a nice, neat, logical ending to every part of our lives (and become power-mongers in doing so), and we’d like God to slap a nice bow on it, too. In reality, God is ultimately the one in control, and He’s got a much better ending waiting for us.

Incidentally, I rather liked the emotional side of the ending. I liked that everyone spent a moment in shock when this ride we call life is over. I liked that Jack teared up a bit when he realized that he’d died. I liked that he had his father there to greet him, comfort him, and explain how what I’ll call Heaven worked. I liked that others who had loved and fought and died got to see each other again, and I loved the joy and happiness of their reunion. Isn’t this what Heaven will be?

Oh, I know that heaven is contingent upon faith in Christ, so please don’t blast me for leaving that out. I recognize just as fully as any other believer does that a television show left the central part of the gospel out. It’s not a television show put out by people who don’t appear to be Christians to give folks the truth. In fact, usually television tries to tell us lies more than anything else. That Lost left it open-ended is a blessing. I’m choosing to celebrate the depth of a television show, probably for the first time in my entire life. I’m choosing to be content to know what I know, and to spend the next few years arguing with other Losties about details that we didn’t get to find out about. I’m glad that a television show talked people into seriously thinking about eternity for the first time in ages.

And that, my friends, is why I liked Lost’s finale.

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Sphere Sovereignty

Perhaps the single greatest thought I gleaned from Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project was the idea of sphere sovereignty. Sphere sovereignty is the idea that God has ordained and organized aspects of human existence, and that these aspects of existence are distinct and separate from one another. Examples of spheres include Family, the State, Church, Labor/Arts/Education, Economics/Business, and a personal relationship with God. While each sphere relates to the others in a number of ways, they are not to be organized or controlled by the other spheres.

For instance, God has ordained that marriage consist of one man and one woman, and that is all. The State may recognize marriages, and many people get married in Church by a pastor. However, the State does not have the power to extend the definition of marriage beyond the limit set by God. Similarly, the Church does not have the power to forbid to marry, nor can the Church dictate how marriages must operate, beyond what Scripture has already said. The Church has been given a set of rules concerning the roles of men and women in its function, and the Family has a particular set of rules concerning how Husbands and Wives may relate to each other. However, businesses and governments are not necessarily bound to those same rules concerning the roles of men and women.

I think the reason I like the idea of sphere sovereignty so much is that it is a balanced, rational approach to life. Not too long ago, and in some places today, Ecclesiasticism had a powerful hold over the West. The Church was able to dictate what the State should do, and it assumed the role of mediator between God and Man. This was an obvious mistake. However, since the “Enlightenment” (and I do use that word with a hint of disgust), Secularism has swept through and caused disaster after disaster. Secularists believe that Christianity (among other faiths) has no place in the public square. Church and one’s relationship with God are to be completely separate from everything. Secularism accepts and emphasizes sphere sovereignty, yet denies a relationship between spheres. Neutral secularism does not last long because faith is absolutely necessary in humans.

It is impossible to simply not believe in anything greater beyond ourselves, nor can one ever be truly independent. So the State has, in many places, become a monstrosity that has absorbed- or attempted to absorb- all the other spheres. It attempts to dictate what marriage is, what can be taught or preached about certain issues in Church, how faith may be practiced, where Christian works may be practiced, how religion in the sciences and arts are to be handled, and the list goes on and on. The State has, in many minds, taken on the role of a deity. It is a provider. It is a protector. It is what we owe allegiance to, and in return for our worship, we deserve certain things. What a pitiful thing the welfare State quickly becomes!

It is not just the State that has struggled with secularism, though. In the sphere of human labor, Christianity is rarely accepted. Be careful where you share your faith! Naturalism now grips the sciences, and the Arts are often mired in the clay of the revolting, obscene, and perverse. Families lack guidance, and even the Church struggles against anti-intellectualism, moral poverty, and decay of true worship. Among the many needs the western world has, a return to the idea of sphere sovereignty tops my list. Only then can a truly natural order be restored to a society in chaos. Families, businesses, academics, artists, individuals, and churches must return to what God has said in His Word about social order. I am not talking about theocracy here. I’m talking about conforming our ideology to reality.

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Francis Chan- The Middle Road

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The Importance of Prejudice

Prejudice is inescapable, and moreover it is necessary. Oh, I know the word has a very negative connotation these days, and rest assured that I’m not trying to cast a positive light on discrimination or injustice. What I mean here is that there will always be- indeed must be- preconceived notions out there. In fact, the truth is that eradicating one preconceived idea (prejudice) will only result in another preconceived idea gripping a society. Once, it was the prejudice of a society that it was wrong for an unmarried woman to get pregnant. While one might point to various religions and cultures as the basis for such a belief, it could hardly be said that any one institution was responsible. Society has now moved onward to the prejudice that there is nothing wrong with an unmarried woman getting pregnant. Once again, no one institution or belief system can claim responsibility here, because the majority of people in America did not reach this conclusion after a thorough study of the issue. Most people simply assumed that because it wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t their business. Tada! Prejudice! Humans are wired for it! The prejudice some Americans held against minorities is giving way to a prejudice in favor of minorities. Prejudice is universal, so it becomes not a question of whether or not to be prejudiced, but rather which prejudices are appropriate and right.

I’m going to make an assertion that will seem a little harsh to some. I believe- very strongly- that it is absolutely cruel not to instill prejudices in young people. Young people need to be instilled with useful prejudices that will help them throughout life. It is good, right, kind, decent, and sensible to impart wisdom to the next generation. Young people need to know what is right and wrong, what is wise and unwise. They need to be taught principles (literally “first things” ….prejudices) for living life. They need to be taught how to make decisions about friends, love, jobs, colleges, budgeting, and morals. Christianity (and, in fact, most religions, since those with common sense are often the deeply religious) has been an advocate of instilling children with Truth since its very inception.

Yet we live in a world that desires to escape the conventional prejudices that made up a decent society. Yet, escaping the conventional becomes a convention in itself. New prejudices are formed, and everyone is encouraged to accept these “radical” new ideas. Of course, these ideas turn out to be neither new nor radical, but actually detrimental to society. Marriage, love, and family are constantly being redefined, to the detriment of our society. In the end, it turns out that mankind is inclined to the same tired temptations that we have been subject to for millennia. There truly is nothing new under the sun…

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Separation of Church and…..Art?

“The Arts Enrich Us All”, or at least, that’s what one series of public-service announcements proclaim. Some Christians disagree. They are, perhaps, wary of beliefs and philosophies that run contrary to the Bible, and they are right to be concerned. David Puttnam, producer of the film Chariots of Fire, once said, “Cinema is propaganda.” What he means by this is that the Arts often have a didactic purpose. They teach. The question is, what are they teaching? Is the message acceptable? Due to the incredible danger false messages pose to the young in faith or years, some Christians encourage separation from all of the Arts, at least as much as possible. (Now, I must be clear here. When I say “Arts”, I mean all art: painting, sculpture, poetry, novels, theater, movies, popular and classical music, digital works, etc.)

However, is the mere fact that a worldview- and sometimes an incredibly false one- can be portrayed and validated by a piece of art reason enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Suppose a piece of art does teach a false worldview. Cannot instruction and information be given (metadata, if you will) to teach a right perspective on a wrong worldview? I would say yes, mainly because I do it all the time. In my senior apologetics class, we frequently view television and movie clips and listen to music to evaluate its worldview by the standard of Philippians 4:8. I tend to think that it is one of the most practical things we do in that class because it teaches students to be wary of the message of the art in question.

However, let us consider for a moment the concept that “non-Christian” and “worldly” are not necessarily the same thing. I mean by this that something may be good and yet not be inherently Christian. Or, a teaching may be biblical without appealing to Scripture. Consider Aesop’s fables. They’re nice little stories for kids to learn moral lessons. This doesn’t make them fit for a worship service, of course, but they do fit in nicely with a foundational Christian worldview. They enhance the teaching of Truth, which is a wonderful thing. A movie, song, or painting may do similar things.

When God created the world, did He make everything “religious”? No, certainly not. He created mountains, stars, the music of birds, the ocean’s waves, and the cool breeze. He created a beautiful world. If we are truly made in His image, what is wrong with creating that which is non-religious? Nothing, I would argue. Christians should not avoid the Arts simply because not everything about the Arts is specifically religious, nor should they endeavor to produce art that is only optimistic and “happy.” Christianity has two themes: Fall and Redemption. So much Christian artwork is both religious and strictly redemption-oriented. This is not biblical. It is romantic. Reality is that we live in a fallen world, and we often have a problem with pain simply because we expect the Christian life to be gumdrops and lollipops. We cannot ignore Truth- all Truth, or else we are left with the stuff that children’s Sunday School material is made of. Biblical art should include both themes.

Ravi Zacharias tells us  that in C. S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress, Pilgrim has been trapped in the dungeon of The Spirit of the Age. The next morning, he is served cold milk. Pilgrim thanks his captor for his milk, but the villain tells him that he is being foolish, for there is no difference between the secretions of a cow. Cow milk and cow urine are no different. This troubles Pilgrim, for there seems to be some truth to that statement. Why do we make a distinction? Suddenly, Reason comes riding in on a white horse, picks up Pilgrim, and turns to leave. Reason says to the spirit: “Sir, you lie! You have failed to distinguish between that which is nourishment and that which is excrement.”

Let us endeavor to distinguish between nourishment and excrement in the Arts, for they are both present. Let us seek that which brings nourishment to the soul- body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

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Oh, For Crying Out Loud!

I got the title of this post from my favorite line from Stargate: SG-1. Jack O’neill always says it when he gets frustrated by people who waste time on stupidity, wrong-headed thinking, or inane political mumbo-jumbo. Frankly, I’ve noticed a lot of Christians that deserve a good “Oh, for crying out loud,” from the Colonel himself, followed by my second favorite line. My reason for this is that it seems like so many Christians have their heads firmly planted in the sand.

I say this because I have met so many Christians who naively think that they are not responsible for what happens in the world around them. Their attitudes and words, they think, do not influence those around them. Their choice of entertainment, they suppose, is entirely a matter of personal preference, devoid of any deeper meaning and incapable of creating unintended consequences. Whether or not they vote or are involved in government and law (one hesitates to use the word “politics”) is of little consequence. Worldview, apologetics, and philosophy have no meaning to them, and they would just as soon have everyone avoid this area of reality altogether. And, oh, the excuses they use to justify these ideas. Some of them even use Bible verses to bolster their position.

Reality check, folks: everything matters. Everything. Your words and attitudes have direct consequences for yourself and those around you. Everything you say either builds up or tears down, and the believer is called to edify. Now, I know this conversation is used to tell people to be polite. Allow me to turn the argument on its head: it is never merciful to allow error to continue unchecked. It is never loving to overlook that which is dangerous. Love cannot bear evil to go unchecked in its object. You are not being nice when you leave sin unaddressed; you are being cruel.
Now that we got that out of the way, I move on to my second frustration: Christians think that what happens in the public sphere is of none of their concern. Imagine that! Christian secularists!!! It will never end well, folks, for us to sit on our hands and wait for the end. “This world is not my home, I’m just’a passing through” was never intended to encourage us to be apathetic- or maybe just pathetic- in our convictions. After all, if songs were supposed to be the foundation of our ideology, whatever happened to “This is my Father’s World”? If we believe abortion is wrong, we must condemn it- and condemn it strongly. If we believe that a sexual union and commitment between two people of the same sex is a perversion of the sacred, then we had better being doing our dead-level best to influence our government.
No, I don’t mean that we should be cruel or unkind. We should always be loving, but, remember what I already said: to permit that which is dangerous and sinful is cruel. If you love this country, it should vex you to see what goes on in it. If you at least care about the people of the country you live in, you ought to want to help them avoid sin. Now, some of you are going to go off the deep end on me. You’re going to say: “What about verses such as Proverbs 21:1, Dan 21:1, and Romans 9:17 that tell us that God is in control of government? Shouldn’t we just let Him do His job while we work on the Great Commission or something?” Well, I have a couple of responses to that:
  1. Involvement in something other than government, law, and other aspects of the public square is not contradictory to concern for evangelism and discipleship. I would also add here that the Great Commission is not the only aspect of Christian responsibility. Otherwise, ditch you family and your job and spend the rest of your (most likely short) life winning folks and getting them into church! Oh, you’d have to revoke your citizenship, too, since that’s a part of human government.
  2. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther, and a host of other men and women of God were directly involved in influencing the course of their nation.
  3. God gives everyone talents and responsibilities so that they may work. Work is by default a good thing because God intended for us to work. It’s a part of His creation. God’s idea of “work” is not limited to a job, but to that which creates, repairs, maintains, and produces. In a sense, everything except for recreation is work- even voluntary involvement in government.
  4. We live in a nation that gives us direct access to our leaders. We can vote on the federal and local levels. We can call, email, and write our leaders. Just like Daniel and Esther, you and I have an audience with our leaders. They may not always do what is right, but we are responsible to do our best.
  5. We live in a capitalist society, for the most part. For this reason, your dollar is your vote for the goods that ought to be produced. When you buy a CD or movie, you tell the producers you want more of that kind of product. “What you applaud you encourage, but beware what you celebrate, ” says Ravi Zacharias. What are you telling Hollywood?
  6. Jesus didn’t limit His command for us to be salt and light to strictly evangelism, even though that is how we often portray it. No, He says that we must season the earth and light the world so that people will glorify God in Heaven. This can be done in many ways; naming the name of Christ must be done in even the highest places in the nation.

In fact, the use of the word “world” in Matthew 5 is interesting. “You are the light of the world”, Jesus says. The word “world” is from the Greek word “kosmos”. The Kosmos is defined as “constitution, order, and government”, “the human family”, “the universe and all of reality” and “world affairs”, according to my Greek lexicon. Interesting. We are supposed to be a light to law and government. How can we do so without informing those that work in such areas concerning Truth?

Which brings me to my last point. Truth matters. Either it is sacred and therefore must be protected, proclaimed, and defended, or it is unimportant and may be trampled under foot. For this reason, worldviews matter, for they are how people unintentionally interpret reality and Truth. Philosophy matters, for it is how people intentionally interpret reality and Truth. Apologetics matters, because it treats all Truth as God’s truth. There is no direction you and I can go in reality, no sphere into which we delve, in which God has not spoken. His Truth is everywhere. We can use His Truth, His world, His revelation of Himself through the cosmos to speak truth into people’s lives. If your concern is for evangelism and discipleship, you have no choice but to explore the world of philosophy, worldview, and apologetics.

Too many Christians are picking their one area, retreating into their hand-crafted shells of existence. Whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, they are only concerned with themselves in the end. They do not want to learn. They do not want to expend energy. They’d rather go to task on only their one thing. We need people like Nehemiah in the Bible. He commanded his people to both defend and build. They took up sword and trowel to accomplish the task God had for them. We need to do the same- or get out of the way so someone else can.

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The Importance of Prejudice

Prejudice is inescapable, and moreover it is necessary. Oh, I know the word has a very negative connotation these days, and rest assured that I’m not trying to cast a positive light on discrimination or injustice. What I mean here is that there will always be- indeed must be- preconceived notions out there. In fact, the truth is that eradicating one preconceived idea (prejudice) will only result in another preconceived idea gripping a society. Once, it was the prejudice of a society that it was wrong for an unmarried woman to get pregnant. While one might point to various religions and cultures as the basis for such a belief, it could hardly be said that any one institution was responsible. Society has now moved onward to the prejudice that there is nothing wrong with an unmarried woman getting pregnant. Once again, no one institution or belief system can claim responsibility here, because the majority of people in America did not reach this conclusion after a thorough study of the issue. Most people simply assumed that because it wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t their business. Tada! Prejudice! Humans are wired for it! The prejudice some Americans held against minorities is giving way to a prejudice in favor of minorities. Prejudice is universal, so it becomes not a question of whether or not to be prejudiced, but rather which prejudices are appropriate and right.

I’m going to make an assertion that will seem a little harsh to some. I believe- very strongly- that it is absolutely cruel not to instill prejudices in young people. Young people need to be instilled with useful prejudices that will help them throughout life. It is good, right, kind, decent, and sensible to impart wisdom to the next generation. Young people need to know what is right and wrong, what is wise and unwise. They need to be taught principles (literally “first things” ….prejudices) for living life. They need to be taught how to make decisions about friends, love, jobs, colleges, budgeting, and morals. Christianity (and, in fact, most religions, since those with common sense are often the deeply religious) has been an advocate of instilling children with Truth since its very inception.

Yet we live in a world that desires to escape the conventional prejudices that made up a decent society. Yet, escaping the conventional becomes a convention in itself. New prejudices are formed, and everyone is encouraged to accept these “radical” new ideas. Of course, these ideas turn out to be neither new nor radical, but actually detrimental to society. Marriage, love, and family are constantly being redefined, to the detriment of our society. In the end, it turns out that mankind is inclined to the same tired temptations that we have been subject to for millennia. There truly is nothing new under the sun…

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I Love Lucy

Lucy, the small australopithecus afarensis, is supposed to be our ancestor. Standing at around three feet tall, she doesn’t look like much. It’s obvious that if we’re supposed to get from a chimp-like creature to our current standing of Homo sapien, there’s going to have to be a lot of changing going on throughout the years. We are supposed to have gone through the Homo habilis stage, followed by Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, and finally Homo sapiens sapiens (that’s not a typo.)

It all sounds so tidy, doesn’t it? Well, it seems that way until one realizes that there is no clear-cut definition of any of these categories, at least not one that is universally accepted by the scientific establishment. There is some degree of consensus, but certainly not the degree one would expect. There’s also little consensus on how long it takes a new species to evolve. Some estimates place it at 250,000 years per new species of human. Lucy is dated at 3 million years. Homo habilis is dated from 2 to 1.5 million years. Homo erectus is dated at 1.6 to .4 million years. Homo sapiens and so forth remain in the present. With so many unknown factors, who can tell what one should believe about evolutionary science? Of course, it gets much more convoluted than that.

The Taung Can No Man Tame

In 1924, Professor Raymond Dart acquired a fossilized skull from the lime works at Taung. He knew it was unique, and determined that it was a young primate which he named Australopithecus africanus. You can see pictures of Taung in many school textbooks due to its fame. Until Lucy was discovered in 1974, Taung was considered to be our oldest evolutionary ancestor, dating around to 2 million to 3 million years old. Then, in 1973, geologist T. C. Partridge rocked the evolutionist’s world. He determined that the cave that the Taung skull came from could not be more than 870,000 years old. Since it could take up to a million years, according to evolutionary theory, for a new species to evolve,  going all the way from africanus to modern-day humans in 870,000 years is out of the question. Plus, even evolutionists date true humans back to 750,000 years. There’s no way for africanus to be an ancestor.

So what is an evolutionist to do? They tried to fit the Taung skull into the line of habilis. Of course, some were honest. Phillip Tobias wrote in response: “Although nearly 50 yr have elapsed since its discovery, it is true to say that the Taung skull has never yet been fully analyzed and described.” I guess it stinks for all the people duped by the scientific establishment all those years! Some have seen fit to remove the Taung skull from the line of humans altogether, classifying it as P. robustus.

Monkeying Around with the Family Tree

Fortunately for evolutionists, Lucy was found the year after Patridge dated the cave. The family tree was revised, and A. afarensis (Lucy) replaced africanus (Taung) as our nonhuman ancestor. Africanus was moved to the australopithecine branch of the tree and became the link between Lucy and P. robustus.

In 1985, the famous “Black Skull” was found. Dating back, according to evolutionists, to 2.5 million years ago, it seems to be a blend of P. robustus and Lucy, leaving Taung as the odd man out. So scientists have begun to move Taung back to the line of humans (again), between Lucy (A. afarensis) and H. habilis. The problem, of course, is that Partridge’s dating of the cave makes that impossible. The dating was based on thermoluminescence analysis of calcite and uranium-series dates of 942,000 years ago and 764,000 years ago on limestone. Richard G. Klein of Stanford University writes: “A date for Taung of 2 million years ago or more may seem most unreasonable, but the argument is obviously circular and the true age remains uncertain.”

What is my point in all of this? My point is that there is nothing solid or certain about the supposed family tree. Dating methods aren’t entirely reliable, but even when they are used, they are often ignored or twisted to make the fossil record say what the evolutionists want it to say. Lucy, Taung, and the rest are being moved haphazardly about the family tree just to make one that works. To place your trust in the soft science of paleoanthropology is a mistake. I love Lucy because she is a reminder that there are far more problems than solutions offered up by a Darwinistic interpretation of the fossil record. It needs to be reinterpreted. That’s where the problem lies. The flaws are not with the fakes (like Piltdown Man), the genuine fossils, etc. The flaws are in the way evidence is interpreted and with the scientific establishment’s mad dash to put something believable together.

Aren’t you glad there are much more firm foundations out there?

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The Poetry and Artistry of Evolution

You’d probably assume that a blog post about biological evolution would deal with biology or some other related study. However, that’s not where I’m taking this discussion today. Today, I’ll be looking at the poetic and artistic aspects of the Darwinism movement. To be honest, it makes sense that a believable, coherent theory would have elements of the Arts, because humans have a way of describing anything that matters in with particular eloquence. It’s true, we often tell someone we care about simply “I love you,” but we all know there are much more creative ways of saying those three words. The music industry has blossomed thanks to that creativity.

Darwin’s Day in Court

Andrew Hill has written: “Compared to other sciences, the mythic element is greatest in paleoanthropology.” (in American Scientist, March-April 1984) Speaking sympathetically of that same phenomena in the same article, Ian Tattersall admits: “Paleoanthropologists are fond of telling each other ‘Just-So’ stories; and once in a while a little needling of this kind does no harm at all.” Milford Wolpoff is much less forgiving: ” When the only people who can comment are the discoverers or friends of the discoverers, there is no sense of independent observer. We’re not practicing science. We’re practicing opera.” His reasons for making that statement can be found here.

Two books, written by law professors, may be instructive at this point. Norman Macbeth, a Harvard-trained lawyer and non-creationist studied evolution for years and wrote a book Darwin Retried in which he demonstrated that evolution was a religion and was not of high enough quality to stand up in a court of law. Philip E Johnson, a law professor of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote Darwin on Trial. In his book, he came to four important conclusions about evolution:

  1. Evolution is grounded on naturalism, not scientific fact
  2. A belief that a large body of empirical evidence supports evolution is nothing but an illusion
  3. Evolution is a religion
  4. If evolution had been subjected to a rigorous study of the evidence, it would have been abandoned long ago

In response to Roger Lewin’s description of the Ancestor’s Exhibit in 1984 in which he spoke of the awe and emotion of the experience, Johnson commented:

“Lewin is absolutely correct, and I can’t think of anything more likely to detract from the objectivity of one’s judgment. Descriptions of fossils from people who yearn to cradle their ancestors in their hands ought to be scrutinized as carefully as a letter of recommendation from a job applicant’s mother…. The story of human descent from apes is not merely a scientific hypothesis; it is the secular equivalent of the story of Adam and Eve.”

Raining on Darwin’s Parade

Let’s turn now to Darwinism and graphic media. In the March 1998 edition of Antiquity, David Van Reybrouck, a student of the role of drawings in the propagation of Darwinism has made five observations:

  1. Illustrations always go beyond the archaeological data
  2. Illustrations always involve speculation on the part of the fossil discoverers, who advise the artists
  3. Illustrations involve interpretations that rely heavily on unproven and sometimes doubtful theories
  4. Illustrations are always nonobjective, yet they are trusted in a visual society such as ours
  5. Illustrations are used extensively because they sell evolution effectively.

The most blatant lie ever told to help promote evolution is the “parade” of stages in supposed human evolution that we are all familiar with. The origin of this parade- or should I say charade?- of characters is an illustration in F. Clark Howell’s book Early Man, originally published in 1965. The parade was originally on a 36-inch foldout page within the book. What most people don’t realize that the parade is pure propaganda. It doesn’t exist. The original book makes it clear that the parade doesn’t tell an accurate story, and the author and publishers knew it. Evolutionists knew that the apes and ape-like creatures they had theorized did not walk on their back feet. The book clearly states in the text, but not on the chart: “Although protoapes and apes were quadrupedal, all are shown here standing for purposes of comparison.” Sizes of each proposed ancestor were not to scale, and they were shown walking, not simply standing as the author states. These small details make a world of difference when it comes to the believability of the theory. It’s clear deception. Yet it was- and still is, in some cases- included in advertisements and eventually became its own poster in classrooms around the world.

Holding Out for a Hero

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to Misia Landau’s book Narratives of Human Evolution. In her book, Miss Landau makes an interesting assertion: paleoanthropology is storytelling. She compare folk-stories and epics to Darwin, Huxley, Keith, and Haeckel’s descriptions of human evolution. Here’s some similarities she’s noticed:

  • The Hero’s Origin- The hero is typically leading a safe and untroubled life. He may be smaller or weaker than others. Think “Frodo Baggins.” In the story of evolution, the hero is a nondescript primate, perhaps living in the trees. Like Frodo Baggins heading out from the Shire with the Ring, the primate leaves the safety of the trees to walk on the ground, perhaps because of a larger brain or changes in the availability of food.
  • The Hero Tested- In myths, the Hero is tested by predators, opponents, or his environment. In the Darwinistic myth, similar situations occur. “Indeed, the tests are specifically designed for that purpose: to bring out the human in the hero”, Landau writes.
  • The Hero Transformed- Myths and even modern fantasy always add a sacred or magical object- a Ring of Power, the Master Sword, and Invisibility Cloak- to help a man become more than he was. In evolutionary theory, natural selection or a “magic twist” of genetic mutations (those are the words of Jared Diamond, who wrote an article about the movement of modern humans out of Africa in the May 1989 edition of Discover magazine) bestow upon the hero the intelligence or abilities necessary to become more than his ancestors.
  • The Hero’s Death- The fatal irony of the average hero is that he dies due to pride through success. Most evolution tales include a warning to humans that we could become like our supposed ancestors if we aren’t careful. Richard Leakey devotes an entire book to that subject entitled The Sixth Extinction.

Frankly, I think J. R. R. Tolkien is a much better writer of this sort of material than the Darwinists. Let’s just leave it to the experts, ok, guys?

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Evolution: A Logical Lightweight

At the AAAS convention in San Francisco, Carl Sagan once explained in his lecture “Velikovsky’s Challenge to Science” that science works in this way: “The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.” The hypothesis “must survive confrontation with observation. Appeals to authority are impermissible. Experiments must be reproducible.”

That’s a pretty strange statement when you think about it. Evolution isn’t observable. It can’t be challenged in the scientific establishment without some serious ridicule taking place. Evolutionists appeal to the authority of the scientific establishment. There aren’t any experiments that are able to confirm evolution. It’s ironic to me, then, that Sagan would also make a very profound statement in that same lecture: “Not all scientific statements have equal weight.” How right he is. Direct observations of, say, the laws of physics, are far more weightier because of the tremendous amount of data verifying them. Unfortunately, the scientific establishment does not appear to behave this way, and the general public certainly isn’t aware of this concept. What we have are Darwinists acting as the high priests of our society. People- even highly-educated people- believe in Darwinism because scientists can’t be wrong.

How is Darwinism a sort of lesser science? Consider our interest in chimps. We study chimpanzees– their behavior, genetic makeup, and anatomy- because Darwinists believe that we are very closely related to them. Darwinists then use superficial similarities between humans and chimps to prove their assumptions. That is called begging the question in logic. They assume to be true the very thing they are trying to prove. Bereft of anything that Sagan would call a good basis for scientific study, a philosophical assumption has been foisted upon us as science. In reality, such studies on chimps would only attempt to shed light on humanity if evolution had first proven to be a correct assumption. Unlike Darwinism, intelligent design bases its theories on the evidence around us: information provided for our world through physics and DNA as well as the incredible complexity of the universe.

The logical fallacies don’t stop there, however. There’s a difference between historical and scientific evidence. In spite of the fact that scientists have performed numerous experiments on animals in an attempt to prove evolution through mutation, the obvious must be declared: just because mutations can be made to happen or engineered in a lab does not mean that they did happen in the past. That is a logical fallacy. That genetic engineering is possible in the present does not mean that it certainly did happen in the past. Scientists have proven it is possible; they have not proven that it occurred.

Suppose I gave you a pile of hammers and asked you to arrange them in a potential evolutionary sequence. You could start with small ones and work your way to larger ones, arrange them by claw types, group them into families based on what they are made of, etc. You could argue that you showed a pattern from simple to complex. The whole assignment, of course, would be bogus. There was no actual evolutionary relationship between the different hammers. They were designed with a particular function or purpose in mind. Curved and straight claw hammers, sledge hammers, ball pein, mason’s hammers, upholsterer’s hammers, and mallets are different because they are designed that way. Just because scientists can superimpose an evolutionary order on things does not mean that the evolutionary order is fact.

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In the Multitude of Evidence There Is Safety

We should all be very grateful for what science has allowed us to achieve. The medical fields have provided us with the ability to heal many wounds and diseases previously thought to be untreatable. Technology has allowed us to communicate and travel efficiently. Yes, because of scientific principles and dedicated men and women willing to spend years of their lives researching, writing, and peer-reviewing what has already been written, you and I are able to enjoy very different lives from our forbears. We can be confident in scientific discovery because it is based on solid evidence and a desire to “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” as Carl Sagan once famously said. Would it surprise you, then, to learn how little evidence we have of human evolution?

HIDE AND SEEK

Have you ever seen an actual fossil of a human ancestor? Probably not. I haven’t. The vast majority of the authors of textbooks on paleontology haven’t. Curators of the museums of natural history around the world usually haven’t. Only a very, very small handful of people have ever been privileged enough to see such fossils. I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy afoot. I’m saying that, because they are so rare, so valuable, and so fragile, human ancestral fossils are very unlikely to be on display or studied. In fact, most of us have never even seen a picture of an actual fossil. According to Marvin L. Lubenow, whose book Bones of Contention provided many of the “diving in” points for this series of blog posts, the total number of people who have access to ancestral fossils is fewer than the heads of state in the entire world.

William King, the man who declared Homo neanderthalensis to be a different species than modern-day humans in 1864, never saw the actual fossils. He did so after reading a description of them. Darwin never saw a single human fossil. Thomas Huxley never saw original fossils either, but he took great pains to describe them in his 1863 work Man’s Place in Nature.

People publish vast amounts of research with unverified data! Germany built a two-story museum to celebrate the discovery of Steinheim Man in 1933. Visitors never saw the actual fossil though. They viewed plastic replicas. The actual fossil was kept in a safe set into a stone wall in an old military outpost several miles away. In their article in the October 1995 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Braun, Hublin, and Boucher note: “While it was never described in great detail, this fossil played a central role in various evolutionary models.”

Of course, there is a good deal of politics in this field as well. Teuku Jacob, former curator of Gadjah Mada University, was known for his jealousy of the Homo erectus fossils from Java in his possession. Swisher, Curtis, and Lewin write:

“These fossils, the prized objects of Jacob’s collection are rarely seen, even by professionals in the fossil-hunting business. Scholars with serious research programs have to apply to Jacob for permission even to see them, let alone touch them, for scientific study. And even those few who succeed in obtaining official permission have to wait for Jacob’s final OK, for he alone is permitted to remove the fossils from the safes.”

Donald Johanson, the discover of Lucy, agrees that “only those in the inner circle get to see the fossils; only those who agree with the particular interpretation of a particular investigator are allowed to see the fossils.”

CIRCLING THE WAGONS

There’s one exception to this almost xenophobic protection of the fossils. In 1984, the American Museum of Natural History in New York sponsored an exhibit in which more than forty of the original fossils were brought together for the first- and probably last- time ever. There were special guards over the fossils and the curators that traveled with the fossils. The fossils were placed in special cases. Work on the subway line beneath the museum was halted to avoid vibrating- and possibly damaging- the fossils.

What prompted this gathering of the fossils? In his book Ancestors: The Hard Evidence, Eric Delson tells us that there were those in the scientific community who were concerned about the rising popularity of creationism. Delson, who was a scientist at the American Museum, tells us that creationism was a “great and growing concern” at the museum. The primary purpose, then, was to show professionals and lay people the evidence for evolution, and they avoided making any statement concerning creationism at the museum so that they would not “dignify…creation science.” Their words, not mine. What are these guys afraid of?

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

Paleoanthropology is in a strange position. Unlike most- if not all- other areas of science, workers in this field rarely have access to the material their science is based on. They are usually one step or so away from the actual evidence. Too often, creationists have been guilty of downplaying the importance of human ancestral fossils. In reality, they are unique and valuable, but because of their value, an insufficient number of scientists have been able to study them in depth.

What do they work with then? They work with casts and descriptions others have written of the fossils. Casts may be reliable if the molds used are detailed enough and if the materials maintain their intended shape. However, casts can be far from ideal. They lack the detail of the original. Becky A Sigmon of the University of Toronto says that there is a general consensus among paleoanthropologists  that “casts should not be used as resource material for a scientific paper.” (See her collection of papers on the subject for more information.) She has a good reason for saying this. At the American Museum exhibit in 1984, when the original fossils were to be placed into their mounts (which had been based on the casts available), most of them did not fit. Casts simply aren’t substitutes from the originals. Lubenow further complains that “casts of only a small percentage of the total fossil material and less than half of the most important fossil material are available for study.”

Scientists are then forced to turn to description of fossils in scientific literature, which is the most common form of source material for scientific work. How can a field of science continue to function and inform public opinion if there is so little readily-available information? How can we be expected to believe what few have seen? As John Fleagle of the State University of New York, Stony Brook has said: “The big awkwardness right now is when someone announces they have found a specimen that overturns everything we know, but almost no one has seen it.”

Talk about blind faith! My point is this: if we are to believe that humans evolved in the manner most Darwinists claim, there must be more evidence. Right now, there’s just not enough out there for me to buy into.

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Writings

We’ve seen how biblical creeds and archeological finds are both types of proof for the Gospel message. In this last section,  we turn to ancient writings by secular historians and their Christian counterparts. This will reveal the most clear details of early Christian belief and also provide further evidence for the historicity of Jesus Christ. The Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote of the reign of Nero and the infamous fire that burned Rome during his reign, records the following in his Annals, written in AD 115:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.” (Tacitus, 15.44)

From this we can confirm the biblical message that Christians were named after Christ, who was sentenced to death under Pilate during the reign of emperor Tiberius. The execution ended the “superstition” of belief in Him for awhile, but the claims of Christ and His followers reasserted themselves shortly thereafter. This agrees completely with Matthew through Acts in the Bible. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, another Roman historian who was also the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian with access to imperial records, writes that Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they “caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Christus.” (Suetonius, Claudius, 25) Of Nero’s time in power, Tranquillas wrote: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” (Nero, 16)

Josephus mentions James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” in his Antiquities. Many are also familiar with a much-debated passage in Josephus’ Antiquities which seems to state that Jesus resurrected the third day and appeared to many. In this passage, Josephus makes use of quite a bit of Christian language, which is unusual since Josephus, a Jew, was stated to not be a believer by the church father Origen. While as a Christian I would love to believe Josephus actually wrote these words, I have to look at things as they are. Most likely this is a Christian interpolation, as there are translations of the Antiquities into other ancient languages that do not include the subject of the resurrection. However, even after removing the interpolation and evaluating the remaining words for grammatical and historical consistencies, one can look at Professor Schlomo Pines’ translation and commentary on an ancient Arabic edition of the Antiquities which reads:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” (Quoted in Charlesworth’s Jesus Within Judaism, p 95)

Not too bad, Joe! We can turn also to Julius Africanus’ mention of Thallus’ writings concerning (super)natural events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. Thallus wrote around AD 50, before the New Testament had been penned. Africanus tells us:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”

Africanus accepts Thallus’ history, but rejects his rationale that the darkness was caused by the sun. It’s interesting that secular history can provide so much verification for the Scriptures. In my last post on this subject, I’ll look at what Christian historians have said.

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Charles Wesley’s Original Lyrics to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

Personally, I prefer Wesley’s original lyrics to the version currently in our hymnals:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus! Our Immanuel!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Archeology

In the last post, we talked about the historical church creeds recorded in the Bible. Now we turn to further evidence for the historical Jesus. First, let’s take a look at the birth of Christ. Luke gives  us a historical account of Jesus’ birth, and he includes a number of clues that are helpful in approximating when the first Christmas took place. In Luke 2:1-5 we read:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Did people really return to their hometown to be taxed? Was Cyrenius (also spelled “Quirinius”) really govern in Syria during a taxation in Israel? We’ll have to look to historians and archeology for some of these answers. It turns out that the Titulus Venetus, an ancient Latin inscription, explains that a census did in fact take place in Israel and Syria around AD 5-6, and that it was fairly normal for such censuses to take place during the reign of Augustus up until the third century. In his book Christian Origins, Bruce notes that a papyrus dating to around AD 104 records that people were required to return to their hometown for the purposes of taxation and census-taking. What about the subject of Cyrenius? Did he govern Syria when a census took place? It turns out Cyrenius did govern Syria at two separate times. In his book Tells, Tombs, and Treasure, Robert Boyd gives evidence that he governed during an early taxation in 10-4 BC, and he also governed in Syria around AD 6. So we now have a few dates that could legitimately be chosen for the year of Christ’s birth. Historically speaking, Luke builds a very solid foundation for acceptance of the details of Christ’s birth.

Next, let us turn to the subject of Jesus’ crucifixion. Can we establish Pilate’s reign in Israel? Are the details of the crucifixion consistent with what we know from archeology? Is there anything in archeology to indicate that Rome had to deal with the rumors of a resurrection? Boyd’s book notes that coins have been discovered which were minted to commemorate the inception of Pilate’s rule around AD 31. Outside of the Bible, Tacitus and Josephus both record Pilate’s involvement in the crucifixion of Christ. Of course, biblically speaking, the question of who killed Jesus is much more complex.

At this point, I’d like to introduce you to Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol. Well, I would introduce you to him, but, sadly, he is quite dead. His skeleton was found in a stone ossuary about a mile from the Damascus Gate in 1968. Archeologists believe he was killed in AD 70 during the Jewish uprising against Rome. It’s the manner of his death that interests us today, though. According to Dr. N. Haas, a pathologists at Hebrew University, Yohanan (whose name was inscribed on his ossuary) was crucified. He still had a seven-inch-long nail pierced though his heel bones, since apparently Roman soldiers twisted a prisoner’s legs to nail them to the cross. Small pieces of olive wood from the cross were still attached to the nail, which was bent backward to keep the victim in place. Nails had also been driven between the radius and ulna bones in the lower arm. The radius bone was scratched and worn smooth at this point due to the Yohanan’s repeated attempts to pull himself upward to breathe. His lower leg bones were broken, the tibia and fibula bones crushed by a common blow. This sounds stunningly familiar, does it not?

I want to turn to one final piece of evidence which I will risk speculating on. In 1878, a marble slab was discovered in Nazareth. It was an ordinance of Caesar which scholars generally agree was issued by Claudius around AD 41-54. It is translated in its entirety in P. Maier’s First Easter:

Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cults of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing on other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charges of violation of sepulchre.” (emphasis mine)

Maier notes that all previous Roman indictments against grave-robbing prescribe only a fine. Why the sudden jump to capital punishment? In AD 49, he expelled the Jews from Rome, and Suetonius remarks that the reason behind the expulsion was because of Christ (see Suetonius’ Claudius for more information, and cross-reference with Acts 17-18, for example.) If Claudius had indeed investigated the beliefs of Christians, he would have quickly discovered the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection due to the tomb being empty in spite of it being sealed. Jewish leaders, of course, tried to explain the event by saying that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body, an event Claudius would have no doubt also uncovered.

So we’ve given a few examples of archeological evidence for the trustworthiness of the Gospels. Do secular historians provide corroborating evidence?

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Your Own Historical Jesus

You’ve probably run across someone who challenged your belief in Jesus Christ on the grounds that He is a made-up figure in a religious text. If they’ve been mildly open-minded, they may have asked you for some historical proof that He was real. That’s not easy for believers to do when we’re used to trusting in the Bible as our sole authority for faith and practice. Hmmmm…..where have I heard that before: “sole authority for faith and practice”? Well, there’s no singular answer since that statement is found in numerous statements of faith, confessions, and…..creeds. Let’s check out a few of those creeds.

How about “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh“? Sound familiar? Oscar Cullmann, author of a classic on early creeds entitled The Earliest Christian Confessions, identifies this statement as a concise creed on the subject of Christ’s deity and nature. That’s what most creeds were about, happily. It is creeds, therefore, that offer us some of the best evidence for the existence of Christ. The reason for this is that even though they are included in the New Testament, creeds like the one I just mentioned existed before the books of the New Testament were written. The various human penmen of the New Testament quoted these creeds on occasion to summarize doctrine, but they didn’t create them.

Here’s another creed that may sound familiar, though it is somewhat more complex.

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This creed should found familiar to most believers, since it is written out for us in Philippians 2. It is identified as a creed not only by Cullmann, but also Bultmann, Neufeld, and Fuller. Ironically, these scholars, who are not exactly conservative, point out this creed in particular as proof to a very early belief in Christ. If Christ’s death and resurrection did take place around AD 33, and the various books of the Bible did not begin to be written until AD 50 or so, then the creeds became standardized less than 17 years after the events actually happened. Obviously, this is significant because that means the very people who popularized the creeds were those who had witnessed events in the life of Christ. They know of Whom they spoke!

Another early confessional creed is found in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifest in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,

Preached unto the Gentiles,

Believed on in the world,

Received up into glory.”

Moule points out that the early date of this creed (before Paul’s ministry) plus the rhyme-pattern that is made clear through a study of Greek literature are evidence of this creed’s use in pre-Pauline hymns. When we read this passage, we are given a glimpse of ancient Christian worship!

The two passages most clearly identified as creeds by the majority of New Testament scholars are 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul essentially declares them to be creedal in nature by using the terms “delivered” and “received”, both of which are technical terms for the passing on of Scripture in the rabbinical tradition. Do a quick word search of the New Testament. They aren’t used by Paul or anyone to describe simple communication. Paul is passing along information from another source, a source which uses parallelism through the “and that” of Hebrew narrative tradition and Peter’s Aramaic name (“Cephas”) in the place of his Greek name. We can therefore easily surmise at this point that this creed originates in Israel. This is significant since this means that the people who created the creed were very near the events of the gospels in terms of time (less than two decades) and space (Israel as opposed to somewhere else in the Roman Empire.) Because of this we must take the following statements, at least, to be factual:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried
  3. Jesus’ death caused despair on the part of His disciples
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
  5. The disciples believed they had seen Him alive and well
  6. The disciples were transformed from faithless doubters to bold witnesses
  7. This message was the center of the early church, which was founded in Jerusalem
  8. The early church was born and grew
  9. James, who had been a skeptic, converted
  10. Paul, another skeptic, also was converted

That’s the minimum any thinking skeptic would have to accept. A number of creeds believed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, so geographically and chronologically close to the events of the Gospels make it hard to believe that at least these items are not true. Whatever else your conclusion, you have to deal with all of these items somehow. Hopefully an honest skeptic will realize that there is something else going on here and eventually embrace the full message of the Gospel by faith grounded in reason.

But is there more evidence from other sources? Glad you asked….

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A Sticky Situation

Having established that the creation of the universe and subsequent formation of the galaxies are all but impossible to have occurred by chance, we now turn our attention to the formation of the planets themselves. It turns out that getting planets to form naturally isn’t very easy after all. There was a time when planets were supposed to have blasted out of the Sun as the result of another passing star, but anything blasted or sucked off of the Sun would have fallen back into the Sun as soon as the other star passed. That’s gravity again for you; always making a mess of things! So scientists turned to “cold accretion”, postulating that planets could form as dust from a forming solar system began to stick together, form dust bunnies, then “planetesimals”, then eventually establish their own gravity which began pulling more planetesimals together until eventually a whole planet was formed. This is supposedly how the inner planets of our solar system formed.

Oh, but there’s a problem here, and it’s a whopper! How do you get that much dust to stick together? How does that dust turn into the the rock and iron of modern planetesimals? Why don’t cosmic “dust bunnies” form in space today? The answer is that space dust doesn’t turn into dust bunnies, and planetesimals don’t play nice when they meet each other. These meteorites and their kin cruise around the solar system at a cool 100,000 miles per hour, and, when they hit each other, they either bounce off or shatter each other. No planets. No us.

But, one may argue, could not their speed relative to each other be much slower, such as the rubble that makes up the rings of Saturn? That’s a great question, but the rubble around Saturn is not collecting; the chunks of rock and dust around Saturn simply bounce off of each other.

Well, what of the gas giants and ice planets then? Surely we can come up with a way for them to work out? Not a chance. If dust has a hard time sticking together, how do you think gas molecules will handle things? Not very well, as you can most likely imagine, since gasses simply do not “stick” to anything. I know there have been simulations demonstrating the formation of gas giants, but those simulations begin with a “gravitational instability.” The simulation was designed to create planets, something evolutionists don’t believe in. The ice planets are supposed to have formed as ice crystals sticking together, but there’s not as much matter out there and no model can bring about their existence so quickly. Other models assume they formed closer to the sun and then moved further away, but you still run into that pesky problem of getting things to stick together. Back to the drawing board!

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Bedtime Stories About the Beginning

So we’ve already talked about the singularity pseudoscience. What happens after that? Well, I’m glad you asked that, because now the story gets even better! By the time we’re through talking about galaxy and star formation, stories about wolves eating grandmothers only to be killed by friendly woodsmen will seem tragically commonplace and dull. Now, where was I….. Oh,yes! The singularity had just finished causing the strangely uniform inflation to expand the universe and produce antimatter-free matter, when it turned to its next task: the creation of galaxies and stars….

The question is, once the gas particles in the universe begin expanding, how do you get them to start collapsing all over the universe without creating a bunch of black holes? In other words, assuming you can get the expansion to stop and the collapsing to start, how do you keep galaxies from collapsing completely? Galaxies won’t form naturally unless the matter begins to collect, and the only thing strong enough to collect the matter is gravity, which shouldn’t be able to work thanks to the supposedly uniform inflation I had mentioned in the last post.  Of course, once galaxies begin to form courtesy of gravity, they ought to just keep collapsing in on themselves. What has to step in to keep the galaxies from just shrinking into really big black holes? The plot thickens……

Steven Hawking, in his book The Universe in a Nutshell postulated that dark matter did it. Not just any dark matter, though. His very special brand of magical dark matter formed on a brane world parallel to our own. And I thought I had a big imagination! So far, brane worlds and dark matter (at least dark matter on the order Hawking is talking about) is purely theoretical. No science here so far!

Maybe that’s why Hawking has put galaxy formation on his list of unexplained mysteries in his books published in 1988, 2001, and 2002. J. Trefil wrote in his The Dark Side of the Universe: “There shouldn’t be galaxies out there at all, and even if there are galaxies, they shouldn’t be grouped together the way they are….It is one of the thorniest problems in cosmology.” Marcus Chown, in his article “Let there Be Light” (February 1998 edition of New Scientist) quoted NASA scientists as saying: “We have no direct evidence of how galaxies were formed or how galaxies evolved, whether they formed from aggregations of smaller units or from subdivisions of large ones.” Their problem is that, at best, the Big Bang theory gives us a mass of expanding gas, and that is all.

Of course, then there’s the formation of stars, where we have the same problem with gravity producing more black holes and homogenous gas not wanting to collapse at all. But wait! There’s more! Stars are supposed to have formed, at least in one theory, in hot gaseous clouds vaguely referred to as “star-forming regions.” The problem? Hot gas clouds are more likely to disperse than collapse, so I have a hard time believing that anything like what we see today is actually capable of producing stars. Sure, there are stars in those regions, but that doesn’t mean the stars formed there. They aren’t necessarily new stars. Who honestly cares if stars currently surrounded by vast gas and dust clouds are sucking those clouds in? Any star would suck gas and dust into itself because of gravity. For all we know the stars are old! Lada and Shu wrote and article for Science in 1990, saying: “We have not yet been able to unambiguously detect the collapse of a molecular cloud core or the infall of circumstellar material onto an embryonic star.” No proof there, guys.

This is the second part in a series on the Big Bang. Millions and billions of years have gone by in this little bedtime story, and yet I don’t see any reason for believing a word of it. There’s not one shred of proof, and the objections are virtually insurmountable. I’d rather believe that the cow jumped over the moon than believe this rot, because my “willful suspension of disbelief” has its limits. Just ask my wife about how I felt about “robot heaven” in Transformers 2.

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Crowder on Gitmo

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Of Singularities and Pseudosciences

In the beginning there was a singularity. Fortunately for all of us, it expanded (or exploded, depending on who you ask), and our universe is the result. Well, that’s how things would work if the evolutionists had their way. Oh, I know they prefer to use much more scientific terms, but I sometimes have to question why. The things they try so hard to prove using science actually have some very distinct scientific problems.

First of all, there’s the very existence of a singularity from which everything came from. Professor Steven Hawking writes the following in his work A Brief History of Time: “At the singularity, general relativity and all other physical laws would break down: one couldn’t predict what will come out of the singularity….This means that one might as well cut the big bang, and any events before it, out of the theory, because they can have no effect on what we observe.” Thanks, Doc. I’ll just set my bag o’ tools (the laws of physics) aside now because they won’t work in the Big Bang scenario. So what exactly makes this different from a miracle? Once one throws out physics, one is left with metaphysics, in which God is permitted.

The existence of a singularity isn’t the only miracle, however. There’s another great one that big bang cosmologists keep in their bag o’ tricks (since the bag o’ tools known as the “laws of physics” can’t help much here). There’s also inflation, which appears to have properties as varied and mysterious as pixie dust. You see, if inflation didn’t happen, the universe would have collapsed back into a singularity again thanks to a tool of ours known as gravitation. Fortunately, inflation was around to accelerate the expansion of the universe by a thousand billion billion billion times, all very smoothly of course. The Big Bang scenario also predicts the existence of magnetic monopoles, which have never been found, and a non-uniform cosmic microwave background radiation instead of the observed uniform CMBR we see today. Fortunately, we just sprinkle more of the pixie dust inflation and- presto!- the problem goes away. Well, sort of. Inflation is an ad hoc theory in that there is no evidence for its existence, and the inflation rate itself must have been very uniform and fine tuned in order for it to not have looked a lot like a really big, very destructive explosion. I wish I had that kind of faith, my evolutionary comrades.

Then there’s that pesky thing Einstein came up with, what was it? Oh, yeah. E=mc2 (which actually looks squared when I type it even though it just looks like a “2” when I post) . That’s mass-energy equivalence, meaning that matter and energy are interchangeable. Enough energy can produce matter, and matter can be converted into energy. When particles are created from energy, they are always created in matter/antimatter pairs. Electrons are created alongside anti-electrons (positrons), protons are created alongside anti-protons, neutrinos are created alongside anti-neutrinos, etc. Of course, when matter meets antimatter, the process is reversed. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other and you get a lot of energy. This means that if the Big Bang occurred, the matter formed from the energy of the Big Bang would have very quickly annihilated itself. No galaxies. No stars. No planets. No us. Fortunately, all observable matter in the universe is ordinary, boring ol’ matter. No antimatter galaxies, stars, planets, or people. Big Bang cosmologists try to get around this by saying that- by chance– a small amount (like the mass of the universe) of matter was still left over after the universe nearly annihilated itself, but that seems impossible based on everything we know. What mechanism was in place that skewed the laws of physics and gave existence a chance? None that we know of. It’s all based on assumptions and guesses.

I’d like to come back to the CMBR again. Predictions of the level of background radiation in the universe were way off. It was nearly uniformly 3 degrees kelvin, thanks to the constancy of starlight. I say it was nearly uniform because in 2003, WMAP discovered real variations in the CMBR. I say “real” here because its predecessor, COBE, discovered some years earlier that just turned out to be “white noise.” The problem is, the variations discovered work very nicely in a creationist cosmology, not a big bang cosmology. The Big Bang model predicts that the universe should be uniform, boundless, with no center. Instead, the variations indicated the existence of a cosmic “north and south pole”, and a cosmic “equator” of sorts. Creationists can easily explain this in a model involving the Milky Way positioned near the center of the universe, but such galactocentrism is unpleasant for evolutionists who assume that mankind is not special. Oops again!

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The Rape of Chance

Perhaps the most abused factor in evolutionary theory is chance. It is invoked in nearly every aspect of big bang cosmology and Darwinian evolution, even though the average textbook doesn’t actually use the word. Oh, I know that they like to use phrases like “natural selection” and “genetic drift” when dealing with Darwinism, but there’s nothing else out there for the evolutionists to appeal to except for physics when it comes to Big Bang cosmology. It is necessary, of course, because there is no divine mover behind events, and everything that was, is, and will be is the result of Dawkins’ “Blind Watchmaker“. In the most extreme cases, evolutionists assert that anything is possible, even if “anything” is highly unlikely and may have had to occur or exist in one of the many universes they assume to exist. Since the universe (or multiverse) is so vast, everything has likely already occurred somewhere along the line. Hence, however unlikely it is that the universe we see came about on its own, it has obviously done so thanks to the wonders of sheer chance. To the minds of many, this is just one universe out of the infinite universes that are out there (wherever “there” is), and this may be just one iteration of an infinite progression of universes. We just happened to exist in a universe capable of supporting life. The scenario, however, is false. Anything and everything is not possible. Chance cannot, for instance, violate the laws of physics. That severely limits the potentialities of the wonderful world of chance. Therefore, evolutionists prefer to blend together chance and necessity. An object or process is determined to be necessary, and chance is used to fill in the gaps. How did life begin? Well, we know it exists, and we think we know how early earth would have looked, so just identify what is necessary for life to exist, throw in some “chance”, and add a dash of scientific jargon, and you’ve got yourself a working theory! Williams and Hartnett analyze this use of chance in their book Dismantling the Big Bang.

Williams and Hartnett point out that, for starters, chance is not a force. At all. Things may appear to happen randomly, but there are actually a complex set of forces at work. Anything above the quantum level moves according to Newtonian laws of motion. In a sense, “chance” and “necessity” are really describing the same thing: Physics. Necessity is limited to the certain results of the laws of physics. Chance refers to the possible results of the laws of physics. In this way, chance adds nothing to the party at all. One might question why anybody even invited it in the first place.

Secondly, Chance is dualistic in nature. Whenever you measure the probability something will occur, you must also measure the probability that it will not occur. I suppose there is technically a chance that the water vapor rising from my stove will concentrate into a point and burn a hole through my chest. However, there is a much, much greater chance that such an event will never occur. The chance it will not occur is so significant, no one is even concerned about this event taking place. So it ought to be when discussing chance and origins, because the numbers are no where near being in favor of evolution.

Thirdly, chance does not mean that every possibility is equally likely. Even if the universe is vast and has been around for billions of years, it is most certainly not truly infinite, else the Big Bang would be not necessary. Therefore, there are limits. All interaction in the real world will use up space and time. All interaction in the real world will use up energy. Actually, long periods of time going by will actually decrease the likelihood that anything will happen at all, thanks to our dear friend Entropy. It’s a gamble evolutionists try to take, but the odds always favor the house. Just as spending more money at a casino makes it more difficult to win, “spending” more energy early on in the game of existence makes it more difficult to bring our universe into the state it is in today. The universe would have to had scored an “early win”, which is again unlikely, even by evolutionist standards. Somehow, everything turned out just right for us, something skewed nature. And chance doesn’t really help us figure out what that something is.

Finally, Williams and Hartnett point out that chance can only be applied to events that can happen. Chance never makes things happen when they are physically impossible. Consider the “rogue gas” scenario above that burned a whole in my chest. It isn’t just unlikely. It’s impossible because gas molecules operate according to the aforementioned laws of motion. The actually probability of the event I described is therefore a whopping Zero. Chance cannot make impossible events possible.

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Worship Songs Aren’t for “Blokey Blokes”

Here’s an interesting video interviewing Matt Redman about the feminization of modern worship. The discussion is interesting to me in light of posts that I and others have written on the subject. Have a listen at this, and then check out my devotional blog, Genesis6, for more on the subject of the “wussification” of Christianity…

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Faith of our (Founding) Fathers

As I said in my previous post, America was once a very different nation. It was a nation founded on Christianity, a fact which has been denied and covered up by historical revisionists. Here’s some quotes and statistics that have been buried by some:

  • The most popular book in colonial America (after the Bible) was The New England Primer. According to Daniel S. Burt’s The Chronology of American Literature, it sold nearly 5 million copies, an astounding accomplishment when you consider that there were roughly 4 million people living in the USA in 1776. It taught Christianity in conjunction with English and morality. Here’s some examples:

  • Harvard University began just a sixteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims, and included the following statements in its original Rules and Precepts. “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3 and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him, Proverbs 2,3.”
  • Gouveneur Morris, the penman of the Constitution wrote: “”Religion is the only solid basis of good morals;
    therefore, education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man towards God.”
  • Benjamin Rush, the youngest signer of the Constitution wrote: “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government…is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
  • “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”- John Adams
  • “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”- George Washington, 1796
  • “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” – Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • “Righteousness alone can exalt America as a nation…The great pillars of all government and social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.”- Patrick Henry
  • “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”- John Adams
  • “To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.”- Daniel Webster
  • Then there’s the oath of office from the original Delaware Constitution: “I, _____ do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
  • “Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace; and whereas in our settling (by a wise providence of God) we are further dispersed upon the sea coasts and rivers than was at first intended, so that we can not according to our desire with convenience communicate in one government and jurisdiction; and whereas we live encompassed with people of several nations and strange languages which hereafter may prove injurious to us or our posterity.”- The Articles of Confederation
  • “I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”- Benjamin Franklin (He doesn’t sound to much like a deist or agnostic here, now does he?)
  • “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” -Patrick Henry
  • “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis and the source of all genuine freedom in government….I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable, in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.”  -James Madison

Where will we wind up if we continue on our course away from God? What will happen to us if we completely destroy our foundations? I talked about Rome in the last post. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has another, more recent answer for us, and his analysis is frightening:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

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What Does a Christian Nation Look Like?

I cheated. I recently ordered Focus on the Family‘s The Truth Project for small groups in churches and schools. It’s an exciting program, but I didn’t wait for training or go through a small group myself to watch the DVDs. I watched them. All of them. In less than twenty-four hours. Dr. Del Tackett is an amazing teacher, but, far more importantly, he accurately describes and defines faith in a God that is far more amazing. I won’t spoil the series for you, because I think that it is much more powerful in a group setting, but I will use one of the lessons as a jumping-in point for today’s posting.

Ever since President Barack Obama told the world that the United States is not a Christian nation, there’s been a lot of questioning about whether or not he was right in doing so. Perhaps it is better to first ask ourselves what it takes to be a Christian nation. Can you simply slap a label on a country and call it Christian? Can you deny it that label if you so choose? What would a truly Christian nation look like?

A Christian nation would begin with the understanding that God has set up a number of distinct realms in society that are dependent on each other. The Truth Project materials list these realms: Family, Labor, State, Community, Relationships with God, and Church. Each sphere is sovereign in nature. Families operate in a distinct way from churches, and one does not replace the other. One has the duty to create because we are made in God’s image, but work should not encroach upon or replace your relationship with God. Sovereignty, however, does not eliminate an appropriate relationship between spheres. Families ought to go to church. Going to church ought to bolster our relationship with God. A strong relationship with God should provide meaning to work. Work should support and enhance community and government. Government and community should find its principles for functionality from a proper view of Scripture. There is a distinction between Church and State, but the two cannot completely separate themselves from each other. God has ordained the State (Romans 13:1) for a number of reasons. When a nation forgets God, however, horrible things may happen.

In the absence of a belief in God, the State may come to believe that it has the authority to determine what is right and what is wrong. We’ve seen the results of such a government. According to R. J. Rummel’s work Death by Government, Stalin killed 42 million, Mao Zedong killed nearly 38 million, Adolf Hitler killed 21 million, and on and on and on it goes. The State-that-would-be-God is a terrible monstrosity. Unfortunately, there are those who have no problem with this mentality.  G. W. F. Hegel wrote:

“The Universal is to be found in the State. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend Nature, it is harder to grasp the Essence of the State. That State is the march of God through the world.”

What madness is this? The State would absorb family, labor, church, education, and community. And so it has in many Western nations.

In modern-day America, the State gets to determine what marriage is, how a parent may discipline, what should be done to the rich, how the poor must be helped, how a child should be educated, what a church may and may not do in the community, and how a community must function. From the cradle to the grave. What hideous thing mankind has created that now has us slouching toward Gomorrah! What have we done to God’s established order, this wondrous system that should have been a reflection of God’s divine attributes? Where will the West wind up if we continue in this direction? Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire portray the Roman Empire as self-destructing due to the following, among other things:

  1. A mounting love of show and luxury
  2. An obsession with sex
  3. Freakishness in the Arts
  4. An increased desire to live off the State

This path will not end any better for us than it did for Rome. It wasn’t always this way, for America at least.

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Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, Part 3

Hartnett assumes that part of the first day of creation included forming the Earth primarily from water, that Genesis 1:1-2 is a literal part of the creation narrative and not just an introductory statement. Frankly, I have no problem with that even though some Christians might. Since water- and a lot of it- is essentially the only thing around, God’s creation of light doesn’t refer to stars or the sun. When God created light, He created gravitational and electromagnetic energy, the potential for light. This caused the Earth “which was without form and void” to form into a sphere under its own gravitation. Therefore, the first day of creation included light through electromagnetic energy as well as time, the laws of nature, and three-dimensional space.

On the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created as the Bible states. Then, in Hartnett’s theory, God expanded space itself (“stretched out the heavens”) as Psalms and Isaiah state. The size of the universe was rapidly increased, and galaxies were pulled along for the ride, they receded from earth. This event caused the galaxies to recede and spawn quasars. A particularly interesting view Hartnett holds is that quasars are the direct result of God’s stretching the heavens out. If this is true, when we are viewing quasars, we are watching the immediate result of God’s creative act on the fourth day. So how did the starlight reach earth by the time Adam was created?

When God stretched out space, this caused a time-dilation event on earth. Hartnett states that time would have slowed significantly on earth but remained flowing at the “normal” speed throughout most of the universe. However, Hartnett also states that God accelerated the stretching of the universe only during the creation week (since God’s “stretching” act is referred to only in the past tense). In his view, the universe might not be really expanding anymore or at least the expansion is not accelerating. We are only seeing the after-effects of the universe being stretched. Therefore, we observe redshift in the heavens and not blueshift. We are not still in a dilation field (since it was caused by the acceleration of the expansion) so blueshift is no longer observed, but the light we see that has traveled more than 6,000 light years or so has been redshifted by past expansion.

In summary, Hartnett’s theory dovetails nicely with the Genesis 1 creation account. God creates the universe in literally six earth days (plus one day to “rest”- leave off creating). Though the “evening and the morning” only lasted a day on earth, God stretched out the heavens for roughly 1-3 days, during which time itself moved more slowly on earth than elsewhere in the universe. The result is that billions of years occurred elsewhere while only a total of six days passed on earth. In that time, light traveled from distant galaxies to earth, but it is now redshifted as a result of the initial acceleration of the universe. This theory agrees with the Bible and observable data, and it explains how light could travel so far in such a short time.

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But They’re SCIENTISTS (A Rant)

So what? They may have advanced degrees in every “ology” on the planet. They may use words that baffle the everyday American citizen. They may even have won a nobel prize or published numerous books and peer-reviewed articles on some obscure area of scientific knowledge. In no way, however, does that make them authoritative when it comes to Christianity. A scientist’s thoughts on Christianity carry about as much weight as my predictions on the next big golf tournament. (Which, since I hate golf passionately and am admittedly ignorant of the sport, doesn’t count for much.) I’m not saying you have to be an expert on theology to make a call as to whether or not God exists, but I am saying that if the Scientific American decides to talk about why God doesn’t exist, I’m not going to question my faith. Skill in one area doesn’t mean a person is skilled or intelligent in another field of study. Scientists are humans, and humans are biased. Even scientists.

Dawkins is free to write a book about religion, but he’s out of his league. His book doesn’t carry weight simply because he’s a scientists. If Dawkins chooses atheism, that is not his scientific conclusion about the world. That is his opinion. We need to search for truth beyond opinion. Either God exists or He doesn’t, but we cannot discover Him through scientific means. As I said before in an earlier posting (which is also admittedly a rant), science is the wrong tool for the job of discovering spiritual truth. Scientific truth may dovetail with spiritual truth, but scientific searching alone does not lead us to Him, nor can it rule out his existence.

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Faith and our Fathers

Last week, I wrote about the reasons why so many men refuse to go to church. I want to follow up on that train of thought a little bit and talk about the relationship between faith in God and having a father-figure. Dr. Paul C. Vitz of New York University’s Psychology department published an article in 1999 that appears to also be the subject of an upcoming book entitled Defective Fathers: Psychological Origins of Atheism. In his study, Vitz noted that many famous atheists had been neglected or abused by their fathers. Some fathers had simply been not nearly so strong in character or personality as they desired.

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Religulous? Really?

You may remember last year’s Bill Maher film Religulous, a satire which drew its name from a portmanteau of “religious” and “ridiculous.” The obvious implication being that religion in general is ridiculous, and believers in those religions are essentially fools. It would seem that Bill Maher’s film takes the comedic route to the same destination as Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. In his book, Hitchens says that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” (see pages 56 and 36)

In the thin world of these men, organized religion (whatever that is) is the chief ill of society, which needs to be eradicated or reduced to an impotent form. And, of course, they are more than willing to bring out examples. Hitler, in their view, was religious- maybe even a Christian. David Berkowitz, the infamous serial killer, was also deeply religious, they remind us. After all, he joined a cult that the Son of Sam himself referred to as “the twenty-two disciples of hell.” Or maybe they could even invoke a mystic like Grigori Rasputin.

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The Neutered Church

This Father’s Day article is going to address a huge problem in the American Church: the lack of male attendance in congregations. I’ve read a number of articles and even a book or two on the subject, and I’ll be pointing you in the direction of a few good online articles and books if you’re interested.

A while ago, I wrote an article entitled “Jesus Isn’t ‘Nice’” about how we have altered our perception of God Himself to fit our culture. Because we have made that change in perception about God, we have feminized (I prefer the term “neutered”, since it brings to mind the stallion and the gelding) churches and our portrayal of the “godly man.” The effect on our congregations has been profound.

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Rob Bell’s Fractured Fairy Tales

On at least two occasions that I am aware of, Rob Bell has made some very telling blunders when dealing with history.

In the first case, he often interprets what Jesus says in light of the rabbinical writings known as the Talmud and the Mishna. The problem with this is that neither set of writings were codified until around 200 years after Jesus’ birth. In other words, Jesus didn’t say anything in light of either set of writings, and the attitude of the rabbis had most likely changed significantly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Moreover, neither document is known for being historically accurate concerning the 1st century or the Old Testament. Bell’s misunderstanding of history taints his understanding of Scripture, which is dangerous.

Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, Bell twists the facts….


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Don’t Fence Me In

My grandparents and parents both listened to old cowboy songs when I was a kid, and while I didn’t really like most of them, this one really stuck out to me. It’s about not wanting boundaries, a concept I think most of us can appreciate. Of course, there are some boundaries that are good. We live our lives safely because of them. Unfortunately, some postmodern believers are of the opinion that fences aren’t very good for faith. In other words, some of those Bible teachings aren’t as big of a deal as we make them out to be.

Rob Bell makes it obvious that he’s of this persuasion in Velvet Elvis, where he makes the following assertion:

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?….”

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When I was in college, the experimental theater class would occasionally put on small productions entitled “Tell Me a Story.” They didn’t have a huge budget, but they would dress in costumes generally and spend an evening performing short dramas, usually around a particular theme. After a night titled “Tell Me a SCARY Story”, I remember watching my fellow students dart to their dorms in groups thanks to the night’s fare and thinking to myself about how drama is such a powerful method of communication.

In fact, anything involving the use of narrative seems to exert a good deal of influence over us. Perhaps that’s why so much of the Bible is made up of narrative. Some Christians believe that the Bible should be understood strictly as narrative, especially since our postmodern society leans heavily in this direction. I don’t have anything personal against my brothers in Christ, but I definitely have a problem with limiting God’s Word to a narrative whose story must be consistently reinterpreted.

On this subject, Rob Bell said in a 2004 interview in Christianity Today that…

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Faith: Nebula or Mystery?

The new Star Trek movie has revived the sci-fi lover in me. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything Trek that I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. I guess I’m a nerd, but that’s not really a shock to anyone. Anyway, I remember growing up thinking how cool it would be to fly a spaceship through the universe and see all of those heavenly bodies up close. I also remember thinking how dangerous it would be to fly blind through a nebula. Picard and company always seemed to have a hard time with that. Nebulae were dark, mysterious lonely places where it was easy to get lost and you never knew what new danger the crew of the Enterprise would find.

My other passion involves a good mystery. I enjoy a whodunnit?, conspiracy theory, or whatever. Anything with an excellent plot is sure to make me happy. I think that’s key, though. There’s got to be a good plot, a train of thought or order of events I’m supposed to follow.

It seems to me that there is some tension in modern Christianity as to whether or not we’re supposed to treat our faith- propositional truths and experiential reality- more like a nebula than like a good mystery novel. Mysteries can be understood and followed. They serve a purpose. Nebulae, well, at least Gene Roddenberry’s conception of nebulae- seem to be unsolvable and ultimately unknowable. That just doesn’t seem to be the kind of faith Jesus wants us to have, yet such a perspective persists.

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The Art of Discipleship

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Jesus, Matthew 16:24-26

Are Jesus’ words simply a command? Oh, I have no doubt that He is telling us what we ought to do. It’s just that it seems to me He is also describing reality for us. He’s stating a fact. He tells us that self-denial is required if you and I want to experience the abundant life. It’s like me telling my students that they have to learn their vocabulary and grammar lessons well in order to become an effective communicator or to master the English language. I’m not simply commanding them to work. I’m explaining to them “how to get there from here.”

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“My” Addiction

If you know anything about ABC’s sitcom Scrubs, then you know that narcissism is a major theme of the show. I don’t necessarily endorse the show, but check out the list of episodes and see if a pattern doesn’t emerge. Besides the pattern of the episode titles, there’s the name of the lead character itself- John Dorian. His name is a reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I won’t spoil the whole novel for you, but suffice it to say that Wilde attempts to show what selfishness and pleasure-seeking will do to a person. In Wilde’s novel, the picture of Dorian is an outward reflection of his inward destruction caused by narcissism. Such selfishness and pleasure-seeking are the two primary characteristics of a narcissistic individual, and it is just such an individual that is becoming predominant in today’s society. Most of our culture has taken on the temperament of an adolescent- no, an infant.

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The Knowledge of the Holy is Understanding

Hosea 4:6 says: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”

Notice that God doesn’t say that His people don’t have faith. He says that they have rejected the knowledge necessary to grow faith. Knowledge requires a combination of reason and experience to interpret reality, and Christians need to learn to be confident that the Bible explains reality very well. When we say “belief” these days, do we mean “I hope it’s true”? Do we think of “faith” as being inferior to “fact”? I hope this isn’t the case, because that’s not how Christians have behaved historically. In some cases, faith and fact are identical. This is what I mean when I say that there is a difference between faith and “blind” faith.

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Why I Am Not a Skeptic

There are two basic questions in life that you and I have to answer:

  1. What do I know?
  2. What can I know?

When it comes to these two questions, the skeptic and the down-to-earth person with good, old-fashioned common sense are forever at odds. Skeptics believe that anyone who claims to know something to be true has to prove that he can’t be wrong. This is because- to the skeptic- there is no good solution to either question above. They believe that you and I can’t answer one question without knowing the other. If I try to explain how I know something, I also have to explain how I know that I can know it, and vice versa. Life must be very confusing to the skeptic, which is why most become methodists for all practical purposes. I don’t mean the Christian denomination of Methodists. I mean the philosophical sort of methodist. These methodists believe that you have to know what can be known before you can know that you know something. For example, methodists tend to believe that you can only know things if you can observe them with the five senses. (Naturalism, by the way, is a favored perspective for methodists.) Of course, limiting knowledge in this way assumes that you can know things using the five senses, and it requires you to have knowledge of the five senses first. That means they accidentally answered the first question first and have yet to tell us how they knew something without answering the second question. Now they’re confused and embarrassed!

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We’re Moving!!!

Kreitsauce’s Musings is moving to a new server as part of the all-new www.renewingminds.com! In the next few weeks, www.kreitsauce.com will redirect you to the new blog @ Renewing Minds, which will have all of the same articles and article comments posted on them. By mid-summer, there will be a number of new blogs available on the Renewing Minds website, including a blog dealing more directly with the Bible and Science, and a blog on politics, American law, and faith. We’re looking forward to providing a lot more content, including a message board or perhaps a chat system to let you discuss topics of interest in real time! To check out the new blog, head over to kreitsauce.renewingminds.com today!

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Short: Darwinistic Bait-and-Switch

I was reading through Scientific American’s website and came across this gem: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=darwins-missing-evidence .

Apparently someone is either dishonest or ignorant. What the author describes is microevolution (also know as adaptation) not macroevolution. The moth didn’t change species or give rise to a new species. It’s still a moth. You wouldn’t know it from the way the article drones on and on, though.

It’s sad, really….

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God IS Great: Hitchens on Theistic Evolution

I felt I needed to point out Hitchens’ perspective on theistic evolution, for in this one area his thoughts and mine actually somehow dovetail. Here’s what he has to say on page 85 of his book:

The very magnificence and variety of the process [of evolution], they now wish to say, argues for a directing and originating mind. In this way they choose to make a fumbling fool of their pretended god, and make him out to be a tinkerer, an approximator, and a blunderer, who took eons of time to fashion a few serviceable figures and heaped up a junkyard of scrap and failure meanwhile. Have they no more respect for the deity than that?

Amazing! Hitchens gets what liberal Christians and those who are overeager to blend Darwinism and Christianity apparently fail to get! Now, if someone could just convert the man…

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When Faith Justifies Mass Murder

While my previous posts have emphasized the gross distortion of facts concerning the Galileo “incident”, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, etc., I want to now turn to atheism and its effects. Atheism is considered a belief system because it posits, without evidence, that God does not exist. It must be taken on faith in philosophy alone. The last century saw the rise of powerful atheist regimes in Russia, China, Germany, among others. Stalin’s Communist regime was responsible for the deaths of around 20 million people. Mao Zedong’s regime was responsible for around 70 million. Strangely enough, Hitler “lags behind” his fellow atheist’s regimes by “only” murdering 10 million people, 60% of whom were Jews. Pol Pot of Cambodia was responsible for the deaths of 20% of his country’s population in only four years. All told, atheist regimes are responsible for the deaths of well over 100 million people. Think about it: an estimated 200,000 people were killed in the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch burnings combined. Even if you adjust for the increase in population between the Middle Ages, colonial American history, and the 20th century, the deaths caused in the name of Christ only amount to 1% of those caused by atheist regimes of just the “Big Three”: Stalin, Mao, and Hitler.

Stalin and Mao’s Communist regimes were strongly anti-religious. We have little reason to doubt that atheism is a major component of their ideology. Their brand of Communism calls for the elimination of wealthier classes, emphasizes violent change, and calls for the creation of an atheist “utopia.” Both Communism and Nazism saw Christianity as an obstacle, if not an outright enemy.

A book titled Hitler’s Table Talk gives a collection of Hitler’s private writings and opinions which was compiled by one of his aides. He called Christianity a “scourge” and desired that Germany be “immunized against this disease.” Through the lower classes he wanted to “destroy Christianity”, and he blamed the Jews for “inventing” Christianity. He saw Christianity as weak because it emphasized equality and compassion. Hitler’s advisers such as Bormann, Goebbels, Heydrich, and Himmler were rabid atheists who despised religion.

The Nazis stopped celebrating Christmas, imprisoned and murdered the clergy, closed churches and religious schools, confiscated church property, and censored religious writings. This was Nietzsche’s “lust to dominate” come full circle. That mentality combined with a modern idealogy that saw man as the originator of morality (a natural result of atheism) resulted in a bloodbath that the world still mourns over. Atheism, not Christianity or even Islam, is responsible for the greatest massacres found in history.

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Atheist Urban Legends, Part 2

In the previous section, I pointed out that the historical account of “Galileo vs. the Roman Catholic Church” doesn’t quite jive with the version most often cited by the New Atheists and some Protestants, there are some other instances in which history has not been presented accurately. I demonstrated that the primary conflict was between the Church and Galileo the man, not the Church and Galileo the scientist. I’ll say this a thousand time throughout this post, but I’m not interested in sweeping these things under the carpet and pretended they didn’t happen. I am, however, interested in getting the truth out.

The “Crusades”

We’ve all heard the stories about the atrocities that were committed and the millions killed by people claiming the name of Christ in the Crusades. I’m not going to deny that there were injustices committed during this time by the Church, just as I did not deny that some wrongdoing occurred on both sides during the conflict between Galileo and the Church. However, some things do need to be cleared up.

First of all, the name “Crusade” was later applied to this conflict. Neither Catholics nor Muslims ever called their battles a Crusade. Second of all, the real issue when the Crusades began was the Muslim invasion of Europe. Let us not forget that the Muslim armies were poised to completely overrun Europe at this time. They had conquered the entire Middle East and parts of Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe. They had conquered parts of Italy, most of Spain, pushed through the Balkans, and were preparing for a full-scale invasion of Europe. Edward Gibbon wrote that if the West hadn’t mounted a defense when they did “the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the Revelation of Mahomet.” As it stood, it took European Christians 200 years to finally defend themselves on a large scale.

As for the “Crusaders” themselves, they thought of themselves mainly as pilgrims. They made any number of mistakes, none of which I am seeking to defend. I am only attempting to give a context to what may seem brutal to our 21st-century minds. Under the Catholic mindset of “works salvation“, they gave up everything to try to free Europe and Israel from Muslim rule. The Crusade efforts left the vast majority poorer than when they started. This lack of support by the nations of Europe and the Catholic Church left them to loot and forage for themselves. Raping, plundering, and the horrific “Children’s Crusade” can’t be justified by any terms. However it should be remembered that good did come from the madness. As D’nesh D’souza observes: “The Christians fought to defend themselves from foreign conquest, while the Muslims fought to continue conquering Christians lands.”

The Inquisition

Once again, I’m making no attempt to justify many of the actions of the Inquisition. Many atrocities were, in fact, committed by the Inquisition. However, there were far fewer than you might think. Historian Henry Kamen estimates that around 2,000 people were put to death over the course of 350 years. That’s just over five people per year. I’m not minimizing the deaths of people who were largely innocent, however I think we would all agree that this is not nearly so dramatic as we have been led to believe. In fact, the vast majority of those who were tried by the Inquisition, most were punished through what we would call community service. This is much less harsh than the national courts at the time.

The Salem Witch Trials

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible has captivated the imaginations of generations, and many other sources have enhanced this dramatic effect. Carl Sagan writes guesses that there may have been hundreds or thousands killed in these massacres. The actual number of deaths by execution is recorded for us by historians. Nineteen women were sentenced to death, and about six more died while in prison. Once again, I’m not minimizing the deaths of these women, but Sagan and others have grossly exaggerated the number of persecuted.

Conclusion

Should these accounts, of death, torture, thievery, and rape be ignored or minimized? Of course not. Does this more realistic picture justify the actions and beliefs of the historical Catholics and Puritans? Never. However, I do have a few points to make in all of this.

  1. Atheists and others have done a marvelous job of spreading these Urban Legends to the point that most people believe them.
  2. Just because someone commits an action in the name of Christ does not mean that Christ would have approved.
  3. A faith should not be judged based on what its followers do when they do not act in accordance with that faith’s teachings.
  4. What the Catholic Church or the Puritans do should not reflect poorly on Protestants (many of whom do not believe that the Church should be a political entity) and other orthodox Christians.
  5. Even if the atrocities mentioned are laid to the account of Christianity as a whole, there is another faith that does far worse than Christianity. Let those who are without blame cast the first stone.
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Atheistic Urban Legends, Part 1

Galileo

Galileo

It’s come to my attention, after reading D’nesh D’Souza’s apologetic What’s So Great About Christianity, that there are some urban legends being spread by our friends the New Atheists (and a good number of old atheists, too) that need to be cleared up. It’s a tall tale that’s been repeated often and frequently, so much so that some Christians, especially those bent on villifying Catholicism, have bought into the story.

I’m going to go through them very briefly, but I’ll leave the deep digging up to you. Please be forewarned, the average Internet site is just going to go on spreading the myth. Unfortunately, you’ll have to read actual books to get to the bottom of this….

Galileo vs. “The Church”

Everyone knows that scientists and Roman Catholic Church have been at odds for years. Even Catholics have strived to show approval with modern scientific theories, lest their reputation continue. Actually, the concept of Science vs. Religion was born in the 1800s, not the Middle Ages. John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science and Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom are the source books for many of these myths. Draper’s book, in particular, is now read mostly as a case study in fin de siecle anti-religious prejudice. While both books are used by atheists as source material for their propaganda, both have been discredited time and time again.

To the point, though. The Church of Galileo’s day accepted the idea of a geocentric solar system because of the sophisticated writings of Ptolemy. Up until Galileo’s day, the data and common sense (or at least the common sense of the day) supported Ptolemy’s theory that the earth was the center of the solar system. Copernicus’ heliocentric model (by his own admission) lacked proof, but it was interesting enough to gain a following. Though Galileo had advanced the theory, Tyco Brahe and the Jesuits (who were among the leading astronomers of the day) told Galileo that he still lacked enough evidence to prove the heliocentric model.

Surprisingly (at least to those of us who have been essentially lied to all these years), the Pope and the head of the Inquisition (Bellarmine) were both very interested in Galileo’s discoveries, since astronomical research was typically conducted at church-sponsored observatories and universities. Instead of holding a trial for Galileo, Bellarmine met with him privately in 1616 after Galileo had met with the pope several times and attended various receptions. Bellarmine and Galileo agreed that since Galileo’s evidence was inconclusive, Galileo should not teach or promote the heliocentric theory. This was recorded as an injunction and filed in the church files.

Several years later, when Pope Urban VIII came into power, Galileo believed that the winds had changed and went against the injunction and published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galileo made a number of errors at this point.

  1. His proof for the heliocentric model contained an error: he said that the earth’s motion caused the Earth’s tides.
  2. Galileo also said that all planets travel in circular patterns, an idea that was disproven by Kepler.
  3. Galileo’s Dialogue centers on two characters: himself and a man named “Simplicio” who bore a striking resemblance to the Pope. Not only did he mock the Pope (unintentionally) in doing so, but Simplicio’s arguments were caricatures of the real geocentric arguments in Galileo’s day.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, Galileo also advanced the idea that Scripture was merely an allegory that had to be constantly reinterpreted to be meaningful. Here he left science and went into theology.  This was the age of the Reformation, and the Pope wanted to make it clear that Catholicism was faithful to Scripture, so this accusation could not be tolerated.

In 1633 Galileo was tried for advocating the heliocentric model when he had agreed to the injunction, supporting a non-literal interpretation of Scripture, and deceiving the Inquisition by not revealing his previous agreement with Bellarmine earlier and attempting to side-step that agreement through his “fictional” characters. Arthur Koestler’s writes that Galileo’s defense “was so patently dishonest that his case would have been lost in any court.”

Galileo’s punishment was that he had to recant his heliocentric position and placed under house arrest. He was never charged with heresy for a heliocentric view, placed in a dungeon, or tortured. His “house arrest” lasted five months in which he had to stay in the palace of the archbishop of Siena. After he went home, and still under house arrest, Galileo was allowed to visit family throughout Italy and continue scientific research and writing. He died of natural causes in 1642.

I’m not trying to justify the Catholic Church’s actions. I’m not a Roman Catholic myself, so frankly I don’t feel any need to do so. I do, however, believe that we need to stop propagating the myth that Galileo was branded as heretical for scientific discoveries and subsequently tortures. It villifies a Church that was an avid supporter of scientific research and knowledge in general.

It also ignores the political power that the Church of the Middle Ages had. Right, wrong, or indifferent, nations had given up their national sovereignty to a religious entity. As it stands, the Church actually dealt very compassionately toward the aging Galileo, and Galileo’s own pride and deceit must not be left out of this picture if we are to get an accurate view of history. Should the Church have the right to “try” anyone in this manner? Of course not. Did the Church behave in such an awful manner towards a man of science and of faith? Not even close.

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Survival of the Fittest and the Death of Secularism, Part 1

Voltaire

Voltaire

If the secularists and materialists from the “Enlightenment” through the first half of the last century were to tell you their forecast for the beginning of the 21st Century, I sincerely doubt that they would have guessed the state of affairs concerning religion. I’m sure they would have said something about places of worship looking like mausoleums and Bibles being something that would most likely be found in a museum.

In fact, I happen to know that they did. Besides his famous “God is dead” quote, Nietzsche also said “What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?” His only concern was that we would have a hard time finding a basis for morality once the idea of God had died. (Incidentally, he is right in being concerned. There is no absolute morality without God.) Voltaire proclaimed: “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.” If you look around today, you’ll find that these men were very, very wrong.

Oh, I know that religion tends to get a lot of bad press in some areas of the United States, Canada, and Europe. Bad press, however, doesn’t give a very clear picture of reality. The bias of reporters makes it easy to believe that only the backward, unintelligent, insane, or emotionally unstable still cling to religion of any kind. I hate to tell them, but that just isn’t the case.

For instance, according to the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Southern Baptist Convention in America has doubled in size between 1960 and 2005 to an estimated 16.5 million members. In his book titled God’s Continent, Philip Jenkins tells us that 90% of Greeks believe in the God of the Bible and 45% of those in Ireland still attend church regularly. 40% of Americans claim to attend church on Sunday, 90% believe in God, and 60% believe that their faith is important to them, according to Paul Bloom of the Atlantic Monthly.

The West indeed has become more secular, but the world in general has become more religious, not less. Philip Jenkins tells us that there are 480 million Christians in South America, 314 million in Asia, and 360 million in Africa. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than in Scotland, and South Korea is second only to America in the number of missionaries sent forth. While the Western churches are often pictured by empty pews and pastors drumming up some new entertainment to encourage people to come, there are African churches that have to ask their members to only come once or twice a month so that everyone has a chance. David Aikman speculates in his book Jesus in Beijing that China will become the largest Christian nation in the world in a matter of decades. This comes in spite of tremendous persecution at the hands of the Chinese state.

I’m not saying that I would be 100% in agreement with each and every “flavor” of Christianity mentioned, nor am I (at this point) making the assertion that if you have numbers on your side then you are correct. I am saying that the basic premise of secularism is wrong. People have shown a tremendous desire for religion (Christianity in particular), and it is either arrogant, ethnocentric, or just plain racist to label all believers as unintelligent or superstitious. The fact of the matter is that people need God, and the prominence of religion in society is proof of this. We cannot banish God to the dark corners of the public arena, because, as C. S. Lewis said, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.”

Nietzsche, God is far from dead, and, Voltaire, the Bible is far from obsolete. The Geneva Bible Society bought your house fifty years after your death and used it as a printing press….

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