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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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- intentionally, in my opinion- in one of his videos. Here’s a Youtube clip of the video in question:

I take special issue with Bell’s explanation of Caesar Augustus’ claim at deity. Most people doubt he actually thought he was a god. Furthermore, I’ve never read that Augustus himself called his birthday celebration “Advent.” Well, I should say that I’ve never heard that said by anybody who wasn’t quoting Bell. It was Virgil that referred to the celebration as adventus, which simply means “coming.” Virgil believed that Augustus would usher in a golden era for the Roman empire. The celebration wasn’t so much about Caesar’s birth as it was about his reign. As for Christianity, Christians didn’t start formally celebrating Advent until the 4th Century. It seems to me that makes all of this a moot point.

Here’s what Ethelbert Stauffer, whom Bell is referencing, says in his book Christ and Caesar concerning two coins in honor of Caesar:

The symbolic meaning is clear: a new day is dawning for the world. The divine saviour-king, born in the historical hour ordained by the stars, has come to power on land and sea, and inaugurates the cosmic era of salvation. Salvation is to be found in none other save Augustus, and there is no other name given to me in which they can be saved.

Notice Stauffer says this writing as a 20th-century believer. He isn’t saying that people believed that and would say that in precisely those words. That’s his explanation of the inscriptions on two coins. To say that Christ and Caesar had this much in common is either a terrible error or twisting the facts to make a point. Bell spins a yarn at the cost of the truth, which is never a good thing.

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Don’t Fence Me In

Just turn me loose,
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western sky.
On my cayuse,
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge
Where the west commences,
Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses,
Can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences,
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? But what if, as you study the origin of the word ‘virgin’ you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?…If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?”

While Bell also affirms that he does believe in the virgin birth, he makes it obvious that the virgin birth really isn’t essential to the Christian faith as far as he is concerned. Then there’s Tony Jones, who makes his position very clear. He’s the “theologian-in-residence” of Solomon’s Porch and an outspoken writer for the Emergent Church movement. In an interview with Relevant magazine, Tony said:

Statements of faith are about drawing borders, which means you have to load your weapons and place soldiers at those borders. you have to check people’s passports when they pass those borders. It becomes an obsession- guarding the borders….I don’t want to spend it [his life] guarding borders. I’d like to spend it inviting people into the kingdom. Statements of faith don’t do that.

In that same interview, Jones went on to say that he doesn’t see a reason why a lesbian pastor and a conservative couldn’t get along in the same church. I beg to differ, Tony.

Fences do more than create borders to defend. They protect from attack. God’s Truth and God’s people should be defended from attack. Christianity as a faith and Christians as individuals called to holy living don’t exist without fences. There’s another way of looking at this, though, and I wish Tony would take a step back to consider it. Perhaps it isn’t that Christians are choosing to fence themselves in as if they were in a zoo. Perhaps Christians are instead called to the wide world of orthodoxy (right faith) and orthopraxy (right practice.) The fences exist to separate the evil on small reserves outside of the wide world of the Christian faith. We are on the outside, and evil and error are fenced in.

God’s Truth as revealed in His Word must be revered and defended if necessary. Paul insisted that there was a difference between right belief and wrong belief, even if wrong belief is appealing, when he wrote Galatians 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” He instructed pastors to be well-trained in Scripture so that they could defend the faith in Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

Christianity isn’t simply a way of life. It is a way of life that is founded on faith in the Truths of God’s Word. Anything that is precious and unique and special is worth protecting and preserving. As J. Gresham Machen wrote nearly a century ago:

When men talk thus about propogating Christianity without defending it, the thing that we are propagating is pretty sure not to be Christianity at all. They are propagating anti-intellectualistic, nondoctrinal Modernism; and the reason why it requires no defense is simply that it is so completely in accord with the current of the age.

If we don’t take our Christianity seriously and consider it worthy of protecting, maybe our faith isn’t really Christianity at all. The faith once delivered to the saints needs to be protected so that it doesn’t spoil, but it’s not about fencing it in. It’s about fencing evil  and error in so that we are truly free.

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Short: Emerging into Heresy?

Meet Spencer Burke. He’s the creator of Theooze and host of Soularize. While he’s not at the core of emergent thought, he is certainly welcome in the movement, since Brian McLaren wrote the forward to his A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity. In this book he writes the following:

“Could it be that- beyond religion, reason, and conventional wisdom- grace is something to be opted out of rather than opted in to?

“When I say I’m a universalist, what I really mean is that I don’t believe you have to convert to any particular religion to find God. As I see it, God finds us, and it has nothing to do with subscribing to any particular religious view.

“What counts is not a belief system but a holistic approach of following what you feel, experience, discover, and believe; it is a willingness to join Jesus in his vision for transformed humanity.

“Faith is many things, but it is not a requirement. It is faithfulness, the giving of oneself, trust in God, and belief that something greater than the material world exists for all of us.

“What’s more, I’m not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either….As I see it, we are in God, here on earth. This is how our relationship is defined. God does not just have to be reached up to; he is here as the surrounding Spirit.”

Frankly, if Burke wants to label himself a heretic, that’s fine with me. The shoe certainly fits this time.

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Tell Me a Story

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 he and his wife were in the process of “discovering the Bible as a human product.” In his view, the Bible is more like a member of his church community with stories to share about a variety of topics. Bell’s desire is to avoid the mistake of placing the Bible on the dissection table and forgetting to look into and be changed by “the Perfect Law of Liberty.” Brian McLaren is even more transparent when he writes:

When we theological conservatives seek to understand the Bible, we generally analyze it. We break it down into chapters, paragraphs, verses, sentences, clauses, phrases, words, prefixes, roots, suffixes, jots, and tittles. Now we understand it, we tell ourselves. Now we have conquered to text, captured the meaning, removed all mystery, stuffed it and preserved it for posterity, like a taxidermist with a deer head.”

It’s a tragedy that people would analyze God’s Word without it applying to themselves, and it happens all too often. I suspect that the emergent church is more of a reaction against modernism than it is a return to right thinking. McLaren would tell us that intensive Bible studies are the result of the Enlightenment, I would ask him to peer further back into the past. In doing so, he would see the Bereans, apostles, church fathers, Reformers, Puritans, Methodists, and Baptists all involved in this very sort of Bible study. Christians have always believed that the Word of God is worth studying by whatever means necessary.

It’s true that the Bible includes a good deal of narrative. However, the Bible is also almost entirely made of propositional statements. In his book The Post-Evangelical, Tomlinson ironically states: “Post-evangelicals are less inclined to look for truth in propositional statements and old moral certitudes and more likely to seek it in symbols, ambiguities, and situational judgments.”

One has to wonder where the animosity toward propositional statements came from. After all, we make use of them every day. Every time we state a fact, we are making a proposition. We don’t have to be right about the fact we are stating, but a proposition is made nonetheless. “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.” “I love artichoke hearts.” “My cat’s name is Olivia.” Whether it’s an account of David vs. Goliath or Jesus’ assertion that He is Way, Truth, and Life or Paul’s teaching on salvation being by grace instead of works, propositional statements are all over the Bible. To be honest, I have no idea why emergent church leaders even bother writing about this. After all, their own claims and assertions are themselves propositional statements!

It seems the postmodern believers are quite fond of the “good fences make good neighbors” mantra. You must either adhere to one extreme or the other, and never the twain shall  meet. It’s either propositions or narratives, being informed or being transformed, knowing what to believe or knowing the Lord of those beliefs. The Bible doesn’t put such burdens on us, fortunately. We can boldly proclaim the truths of Scripture when they are stated outright, and we can also enjoy and learn from the narrative of Scripture.

So go ahead. Tell me a story. Just make sure you get your facts right, and make sure there’s a point to it all.

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“Mrs. Kreitsauce” on Worship

I have been reading a book on worship and praise and thinking much about how little worship and praise are actually a part of most American’s daily lives – at least the ones that I have encountered.

Worship comes from a heart of gratitude… And what a wonderful place to give your all to worshipping God – church (corporate worship). I think sometimes it is so easy to go to church, sing the songs, listen to the prayers, and go home. This is not refreshing to our souls, and it is certainly not worshipping God for Who He is and thanking Him for what He has done.

But personal worship is a large part of worshipping God as well. If we are unable or unwilling to worship personally, corporate worship will mean nothing to us.

My thought processes on personal worship, having had physical problems for most of my life, lead to thinking about how much Jesus must have suffered when He was on the cross for me. And in light of that immense physical suffering, how much more should I worship Him for His sacrifice.

Times of physical, emotional, financial, or pain should be a time that we still worship God. The question for me sometimes is – how? How do I still worship God in the midst of what I feel is a crisis in my life? And then I have been thinking of how much pain Jesus went through for me. He understands my physical pain – can I not praise Him for His understanding, even if I am having a hard time thinking of anything else?

But then I think that Jesus is Omnipresent – He is with us in the trials. He is omniscient – knowing all we are going through in the trials. He is Omnipotent – all powerful even through the things we feel are humanly impossible.

Through suffering, worshipping God for Who He is and praising Him for what He has done will eventually make all the difference in the world to your mindset if not your circumstances.

I admit, this is a concept that I am still working much on. However, I really believe that because of what Christ has done for me, I have no choice but to be in a constant state of worship.

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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.

Some in Christianity have taken on a post-modern perspective on faith and emphasized the journey over the destination. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is something of a journey involved in Christianity, and it’s one to be enjoyed. My point is that the journey must have purpose. There must be progress made. There must be a sense of compulsion to move onward, and, while a humble expression of humility is refreshing, to simply say “I don’t know, but let’s talk about it” ad infinitum just doesn’t seem to be what Christianity is all about.

This perspective effects every area of the postmodern (some say “emergent”) Christianity.

  1. Evangelism- According to Dave Tomlinson’s book The Post-Evangelical, “Evangelism should be seen as an opportunity to ‘fund’ people’s spiritual journeys, drawing on the highly relevant resources of ‘little pieces’ of truth contained in the Christian narrative.” (Which pieces of the Bible aren’t truth? Do people ever reach the destination of their spiritual journey?)
  2. The Bible- Tomlinson also writes in the same book: “To say Scripture is the Word of God is to employ a metaphor. God cannot be thought of as literally speaking words, since they are entirely a human phenomenon that could never prove adequate as a medium for the speech of an infinite God.” (Funny. That’s not what Jesus means when He says “My words shall not pass away.”)
  3. Salvation- In his book How (Not) to Speak of God, Peter Rollins says that “we need to be evangelized as much, if not more than those around us.” (So we never finish being evangelized? When can a person be defined as a Christian?”
  4. Apologetics- Rob Bell says in his popular book Velvet Elvis: “You rarely defend the things you love. You enjoy them and tell others about them and invite others to enjoy them with you.” (This is just plain ridiculous. I don’t know that it’s within the scope of this post to talk about Bell’s statement, but I thought it was too crazy to pass up. Who doesn’t defend someone or something they truly love when it’s necessary?)

And that’s just a start!

In the postmodern (emergent) view, God ceases to be knowable, because you have emphasized the nebulousness of faith and even God and de-emphasized the point of the journey. God’s infinity swallows up His knowability. Salvation must be pieced together, and we may never fully arrive. This isn’t the way Paul spoke though. On Mars’ Hill he said: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” It sounds like a mystery worth solving to me!

Mystery does not remove human responsibility or the importance of theology and knowing God. Didn’t Paul chide the Jews for having zeal without knowledge in Romans 10:2? Didn’t Jesus chide the disciples for being of little faith in Matthew 14:31? Doubt may be a part of the Christian life, but it isn’t the emphasis of the Christian life. Uncertainty is not proof of humility.

In the end, such postmodern believers insist that the Christian life is all about examining ourselves more and more deeply and not so much about examining the details of doctrine. I would say that postmodern believers simply need to grow up. Yes, there is value in finding our own weaknesses and being honest about failures and hurts. Maturity, however, requires us to stop being so fragile. Spiritual maturity demands growing in grace and in wisdom, laying aside weights and sin, and making Christ our everything. Love covers sin, and we would do well to fall so in love with Jesus that we don’t fall into the temptation of glorifying past failures.

What our world needs is authentic Christians (not transparent Christians) who are willing to – as a friend of mine says- enter the Mystery and abandon themselves to God. But the Mystery need not be nebulous.

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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.”

We can either live our lives for contemporary happiness (pleasurable feelings) or classic happiness, a life of righteousness, wisdom, peace, and goodness. Philosophers call this “the good life.” Jesus says: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” He calls this very same sense of classic happiness “the abundant life.” A pleasurable life is completely dependent on external factors- health, wealth, success, money, power, fame, beauty- while true happiness is the result of the internal working of God’s Word and God’s Spirit in a person’s life. It’s the result of a life of conformity to the way God meant life to be lived. This is why Jesus said that those who live out the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 will be “blessed.” That word we translate as “blessed” is the same word that is elsewhere translated “happy.”

How much better is the life of a disciple than the life of a person who is addicted to themselves? If pleasure is the holy grail, then you and I have no choice but to run forever, chasing the next adrenaline rush, the next calorie-filled binge, the next romance, the next purchase, the next sexual encounter….maybe even the next inspiring or energy-filled church service. Since none of these things work well as ends in themselves, we end up like T. S. Eliot’s Hollow Men.

Discipleship, in contrast to narcissism, brings true satisfaction with life, because life gains a whole new sense of meaning and purpose. We have real freedom to do what is right, to live a life of intimacy with God. This life of discipleship and self-denial does not mean living without desire or without anything that brings pleasure. God does not call us to the monastery but to live life in the world but not of the world.

Living the life of the disciple, rather than being a difficult one, is actually quite liberating. There’s no stress from being constantly consumed with the need to feel happy. There’s no need to be in control. There’s no need to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to possessions, or to mask feelings of emptiness by living vicariously through celebrities. Where would our twisted form of capitalism be without Americans’ codependence on material things and spiritually-bankrupt celebrities? Gary Sinise notwithstanding, that is.

Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Is it possible that self-sacrifice, self-discipline, and yielding to Christ is actually easier than the path most people take? Perhaps God intended for us to live this way, and the initial difficulty in being a true disciple of Christ is merely the same difficulty with forming any good habit. Perhaps it is that a life is discipleship is something you and I can actually get “good” at, a skill that we can learn.

Maybe just as one gets better at soccer, singing, or math, we can get better at the art of discipleship, the art of self-denial.

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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.

While individuality is a good thing, the sort of individualism seen today is something to be astonished at. We make decisions based on life goals and personal interests as though we weren’t responsible for the well-being of the community at large. We are superficial; we objectify people and are driven only by self-interest. We are passive so long as we are entertained, but we hate boredom. That is the chief evil, since pleasure is the greatest good to be achieved. We define our level of happiness according to how often our cravings for food, entertainment, clothing, and goods are met. We’re concerned with sex, outer beauty, and feeling good. Since these cravings can never bring ultimate satisfaction, they merely form an addiction that will never end.

“Take up your cross and follow Me.”

“Forget it,” our culture says.

Now it’s all about self-gratification. Pain, suffering, enduring difficulty, hard work, and self-denial are so far removed from us, the words of Christ seem foreign. Jesus knows better, though. Suffering brings gain, and losing your life means you will have abundant life.

More on this thought later.

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Without Truth, There is no Knowing

Many years ago, Thomas à Kempis made the observation that became the title of this post. Truth must exist in order for us to really know anything. If there is no such thing as absolute truth, if right and wrong don’t exist, we can’t really know anything. What exactly is knowledge? How do we know anything?

Some things are not prerequisites for knowledge. Absolute certainty isn’t. You don’t have to be completely confident in what you know in order to know it. Think of a person who is learning to ride a bike, or give a monologue in a speech class. They may not feel like they know it. They may not know how they know it. But, time and time again, a child learns to ride his bike, a freshman in college manages to pull off a speech.

Frankly, there aren’t many things in this life that you and I can say: “It’s impossible for me to be wrong on this.” We’re pretty much limited to math, some basic logical principles, and some experiences when it comes to having proof for things and being absolutely certain. In other words, we don’t have to remove all doubt and defeat all counter-arguments in order to say that we know something. Absolute certainty is a good thing, but it is not a necessary thing. Secondly, knowing “how you know” something is not a prerequisite for Knowledge, but I’ve already mentioned that in another post.

Now we turn to what knowledge is, and we discover that there are three different types of knowledge. At the most basic level, there is awareness. A baby is aware of feeling secure or perhaps a cat on a table, but she doesn’t necessarily have a true understanding of what security is or even what a cat is conceptually, nor does it have the linguistic skills to even explain how it feels or say the word “cat.” It can see and experience both without going any further. Some knowledge is this sort of “awareness” knowledge. It can be experienced and observed, but that may be all. Secondly you and I may have skills that are based on knowledge; we have know how. We can take our awareness and observation and do something with it to interact with reality. Finally, there is propositional knowledge. This sort of knowledge is believing something to be true because of reason and logic.

How can I know anything about Christianity to be true? I can be aware of truth even if I don’t know everything about that Truth with certainty, interact with truth, and – primarily- believe it because the Bible is replete with propositional knowledge that is both logical and reasonable.

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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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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.

While I don’t agree with everything that Michael Green believes, his book Evangelism and the Early Church is quite interesting. It’s a short history of the first four centuries of Christianity and how early Christians evangelized the lost. One of the three factors that he states is one that is largely missing in today’s church: a persuasive theology. We have theology and we have persuasion of various sorts (evangelistic meetings and ministries, apologetics, etc.), but we don’t combine the two anymore. When is the last time you heard someone bother with theology in a salvation presentation?

Our emphasis today is very different. In every other area of knowledge, we exalt professors and professionals, but in Christianity we exalt the megachurch. These pastors- many of whom teach very little doctrine- are invited to interviews, write books, and produce “teaching” material, but they are simply not qualified because of their lack of doctrinal teaching and training to speak authoritatively on Christian matters. Popularity supersedes quality.

On the other hand, there are some who are adamantly against using reason and theology (apologetics) to make a case. How different we are from Justin Martyr who wrote in his First Apology this attempt to persuade Emperor Hadrian to convert:

Reason requires those who are truly pious and philosophers should honor and cherish the truth alone, scorning merely to follow the opinions of the ancients, if they are worthless. In these pages we do not come before you with flattery, or as if making a speech to win your favor, but asking you to give judgment according to strict and exact inquiry- not moved by prejudice or respect for superstitious men, or by irrational impulse.

That’s the kind of faith Christians need to have: Faith based on Reason. The Bible is a reasonable Book. Our worldview must be reasonable as well. Our interpretation of experience must be based on reason. It isn’t that I believe that man’s reason is the measure of all things. I simply believe that it’s time we realized that the knowledge of the Holy truly is understanding.

If that’s the case, what are the implications for us if we reject knowledge? Could it be that our nation and American Christianity are both on the path to destruction simply because we refuse to seek knowledge and a faith made firm by reason?

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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!

Skeptics also have a strange belief that asking “How do you know?” repeatedly without offering a reason for being skeptical about something is the ultimate endgame for a debate. I’ve stopped answering simple “How do you know?” questions if there’s no argument that follows. They don’t have any substance to bring to the discussion at this point, since they can’t explain how they don’t know!

Skeptics can also try to force a person into becoming a methodist by asking that some “How do you know?” question. They try to get their opponent to answer that second question first. The problem here is that you can know some things without having to necessarily explain how you know it. We teach children many things without explaining how we know they are true. Skeptics don’t see life that way. They would rather avoid error than embrace truth. If there’s a chance you might be wrong, you might as well not believe it. To their mind, the skeptic must be refuted (proved wrong) before they will accept something as knowledge

I prefer using plain old common sense. For those who believe in common sense, there are some very specific things that are simply true whether I know how I know them or not. I know many things- that I ate sushi just before typing this, that I am using a laptop, that 2 + 3 = 5, that kindness is a good character quality, and so forth- without wondering how I knew them or if I really knew them. Are the five senses being used in these cases? Yes, but the five senses are only partially helpful in establish what sushi (especially the sort that isn’t labeled) and laptops are, whether or not numbers are concrete or abstract, or who is kind. My point is that in all of these cases I never answered the second question (mentioned above) first. I simply know them and experience them without “proving” that I can know them. In the end, common sense will help me in establishing “what I can know” built on the platform of “what I already know.”

This isn’t just a philosophical argument with no bearing on the world of matter and energy. What I’m saying has far-reaching implications and illustrations to even the world of science. Scientists must sometimes observe what IS happening without knowing how they know it happens or why it happens. Take, for instance, the discovery of superconductivity by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, a Dutch physicist. While he was the one who discovered superconductivity in 1911 and awarded a Nobel Prize for it in 1913, it would be another 50 years before quantum physics would begin to explain why and how this occured. Even science does not completely avoid knowing something before proving something.

For the person who practices common sense, the possibility of being wrong is not the same thing as being wrong. Fear of being wrong isn’t a motivating force, and the possibility of being wrong isn’t a good enough reason to label something as “unknowable.” People with common sense are more focused on finding Truth than avoiding anything that can’t be known 100%. The person with common sense doesn’t have to refute a skeptic; he just needs to demonstrate that the skeptic hasn’t proved that his skepticism is true.

In short, I’d rather know what I know and build on from there (common sense) than assume that I don’t know anything (skepticism) and not be able to prove it.

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America Waits for Its Hitler

Once a people group accepts naturalism as true, they must begin to accept postmodernism as a natural corollary. Postmodernism is a way of looking at the world in which pluralism and tolerance (or at least a contemporary definition of tolerance) reign supreme. In other words, your beliefs about religion and politics are opinions that are no more legitimate than anyone else’s. To the postmodern mindset, feelings and rhetoric are just as important as reason and substance. This is because there is no true “right” in a naturalistic, postmodern worldview. If feeling is what is most important to you, then feeling trump substance every day. There are no absolutes, so you get to set the standard. How someone appears on Youtube or Saturday Night Live is more important than whether or not a person is right. Here’s an example: After the third debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, ABC’s This Week aired a discussion between Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts in which Mrs. Roberts said: “Sam, it is too early to tell who won. We’ll have to wait until David Letterman and Jay Leno have their comedic say tonight.”

Since naturalism has limited knowledge to the sciences, religion and politics are unknowable,  and they might as well be determined by who a late night talk show host thinks is right. In the public square, where ideas and perspective from across society come together (government schools and universities, courtrooms, politics, and some forms of media), are now about power instead of authority. We are no longer concerned with who and what should be believed, and instead are concerned with who is in control. Think about it: political correctness is about power, not truth.

I’ll close with an illustration from the first sixty pages of Edmund Husserl‘s The Crisis of European Sciences. Husserl sought to explain how an educated nation such as Germany could fall prey to such powerful dictators and play such a terrible role in World War I. In Husserl’s view, the main culprit was a naturalistic worldview. Values, religion, purpose, and the proper role of government were areas of knowledge that simply didn’t matter. There was no objective knowledge to be had, and so society had no real answers to offer concerning such areas. Husserl notes that this resulted in the privatization of moral and theological issues. When this occurred, there was no foundational knowledge that could be raised against manipulative leaders. Naturalism and postmodernism had paved through the first World War, and, ironically, Husserl only had to wait a few more years until it did the same thing under Nazism!

America, and indeed the entire West, is headed down this dark road. It’s only a matter of time before another Hitler with a “will to power” shows up to lead us to wreck and ruin. Maybe he’s already here.

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Short: Naturalism as a Worthless Worldview

J. P. Moreland lists five questions that all worldviews must answer:

  1. What is real?
  2. What are the nature and limits of knowledge?
  3. What is the good life?
  4. Who is a really good person?
  5. How does one become a really good person?

Now I know these are not the usual questions a person asks about a worldview. It’s all about origin and reality of the physical world, but that’s not all there is to reality. There must be things that are accounted for that extend beyond matter and energy.

In naturalism, the physical world is the only reality. Knowledge is merely an understanding of that physical world through the sciences. The good life is whatever you choose for yourself, a good person consists of bettering yourself according to your own definiton of “bettering”, and there’s no real advice to be offered in bettering yourself because everything is ultimately worthless and empty. We only have to wait for death of life on this rock orbiting our home star, and the universe will ultimately suffer heat death.

Isn’t it obvious? Naturalism is a shallow worldview, incapable of offering satisfying answers. As Moreland says, Jesus Christ is the only “game in town.”

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Naturalism: Enigmatic Evil

I’ve briefly discussed naturalism’s inability to account for free will and inherent value, but now I want to turn to naturalism’s inability to account for the existence of evil. In fact, I want to go so far as to assert that naturalism cannot even identify what evil is or how it came to be, much less give a solution for the problem of evil. Understand that I’m not just referring to evil as a moral category. I’m also referring to natural evil– disasters and tragedy-as well.

There are a few people out there who believe that evil doesn’t exist, that it’s all in our heads. These are the sort of people who believe that morality is just what is for the good of society (hopefully not Hussein’s Iraq) or the good of the individual (hopefully not Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer.) I think we can all see that there is such a thing as evil. There are people who do evil things, and there are tragedies that simply occurs. To the naturalist, evil is simply a man-made category, and evil cannot exist as a part of our reality. We are all just moralized atoms living in our own make-believe moralized world. This is because things cannot be naturally or morally evil unless there is such a thing as how things ought to be. There must be a standard to live by. My friend Josh can’t see all the colors of the rainbow properly, but neither can a jar of mayonnaise. Nobody is concerned about the mayonnaise’s inability to see, and, frankly, I think we’d all be disturbed if we discovered that mayo could see!

The point behind my silly illustration is that only in one case would anyone- possibly my friend’s wife- say that things aren’t the way they are supposed to be. There is a sense of “ought to” in our world that can’t be avoided. People ought to see color. Rocks ought to fall when I drop them. Mayo ought to sit in a jar until I’m making a sandwich. I ought to pay my taxes. I ought not to murder. People ought not to run over babies. C. S. Lewis was quick to point out that there is a difference between a “want to do this”, a “this is right to do”, and a third voice that says “I ought to do what is right.”

Only in a “Big Mac” universe can good and evil truly exist. Naturalism can only describe how things “normally” work when it comes to the natural world, and it is incapable of explaining how evil exists. It has no sense of where evil came from, and, as John Lennox points out, there is no ultimate justice for evil people. In the end, people like the 9/11 terrorists have gotten away with it. In stark contrast, the Christian worldview freely explains the origin, nature, and end of evil. Satan tempted the first Parents who ushered in natural and moral evil for ages to come. This is “my Father’s world”, but this isn’t the world as my Father intended it. We are told the results of our moral evil apart from God, and redemption is offered by coming to God. Evil will be punished, and the partakers with Christ will be rewarded.

Evil may be an enigma in the naturalistic worldview, but Christianity is quite adept at unmasking the mystery of iniquity.

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Archie Bunker Faith

With so many apologetics movements springing up these days, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are those within Christianity that are attempting to mobilize an anti-apologetics movement. Some Christians believe that apologetics results in Christians being heady and highminded, de-emphasizing evangelism, or entirely too intellectual. They conjure up images of old-fashioned meetings in buildings with sawdust floors in simpler times. I don’t have a problem with evangelism, and I love old-fashioned revivals, however, I don’t see a point in ignoring the weaknesses of oversimplifying the teachings of the Bible and emphasizing only a handful of commands from Scripture. Ought we not to preach “the whole counsel of God”?

Archie Bunker from All in the Family once defined faith as “something you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.”  It seems that there is a small segment of Christianity that wouldn’t mind that definition too much. You here talk of not wanting to “prove” Christianity so that people will have room to believe! I’m not joking, folks! People actually say that sometimes. If this were the case, I think we should all pray that evolutionists come up with some concrete evidence in favor of Darwinism so that there would be more room for an even stronger faith! Paul said “God forbid” to the rhetorical question “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” I pose the questions: “Should we continue in ignorance that faith may abound?” God forbid! How can faith be detached from knowledge and reason?

We need to move away from such ridiculous statements or concerns. If the evidence points toward God, as it surely must eventually, how wonderful is that? God still asks that we accept certain facts to be true and to trust His Word. Evidence in favor of Christian teachings is regularly found, but we must all still trust. We in the apologetics realm simply offer reason for that faith. We need to stop viewing faith as being distinct from knowledge. We can know the truth, and the truth is what truly sets us free.

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Naturalism: Devalued Existence

In a previous post I had briefly pointed out a few flaws with a naturalistic worldview. It fails to explain the humanity behind being human. Free will, appreciation for beauty, and reason aren’t well-explained in terms of natural causes. Another difficulty with a naturalistic worldview is the devaluing of existence. If our lives are to have objective meaning, there must be some things that are good, right, and beautiful. Those things must be ends in and of themselves, and they must be worth pursuing. There must be people and ideals that are worth living and dying for.

Of course, we must also believe that we can know what is good, right, and beautiful. This also means that we can know what is wrong, evil, and marred somehow. The means of knowing is unsavory to the naturalist. The existence of value and the standard of value are seemingly abstract and not a part of the physical world, which of course blows the naturalistic agenda to bits. Therefore, things and people of value are flatly denied, or the value of everything and anything is readily affirmed. The problem, then, is that if everything has value we still have no basis for evaluating worth in an objective sense. I say that hard work and honesty make a person valuable, but what if you value deceit and slothfulness? Are those character traits truly valuable to individuals or societies? I dare say not! No, the naturalist would rather blithely put that all things lack intrinsic value. It is much easier to say “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” and leave it at that. That’s the sort of world Bertrand Russell believes in.

You are no more valuable than a cockroach or a star or an atom in a naturalistic world. Fortunately we know that reality is far different than the naturalist portrays it. Some things are beautiful, and some are not. Some things are valuable, and others are worthless. Some things are moral, and others are horribly immoral. The naturalistic world required to allow Darwinism to exist as a plausible theory simply cannot be.

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Naturalism: Following a Pied Piper

Princeton University’s WordNet defines naturalism as “the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms without recourse to spiritual or supernatural explanations.” It includes an evolutionary origin of the universe, exclusion of even the possibility of a non-physical universe, and a belief that empirical knowledge is the only kind of knowledge there is. Ironically, naturalism is neither falsifiable, measurable, nor testable, which makes it unscientific from the outset. It is, in fact, a metaphysical assertion, not a scientific assertion.

Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that naturalism is self-refuting, there are many who unwittingly believe it and teach it in the public square. It is widely accepted in the political, educational, and legal realms. There are thousands of examples of this, but I think that there is none so striking as what happened after the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999.  Who did the nation turn to for answers? Scientists. Practically every news network and magazine featured numerous interviews with psychologists, sociologists, and neurophysiologists in an attempt to explain why it happened. Pastors were only invited when it was time to comfort the family. Theologians and philosophers were never asked to provide insight into what had gone wrong. It was one tragic example of how other forms of knowledge are considered inferior to scientific knowledge because of a naturalistic worldview.

The truth is that while Richard Dawkins insists that we are all strictly the product of our DNA (“and we dance to its music”, says Dawkins), there are a good number of things that naturalism can’t explain. J. P. Moreland writes that naturalism can’t explain the existence of human consciousness in terms of ethical (a sense of morality), aesthetic (a sense of beauty), and intellectual (a sense of reason) properties. Furthermore, Moreland tells us that naturalism fails to explain free will. There is no room for real freedom in a naturalistic worldview. I cannot be held responsible for my actions if I’m merely dancing to the music of my DNA.

Naturalist John Bishop writes: “The idea of a responsible agent, with the ‘originative’ ability to initiate events in the natural world, does not sit easily with the idea of [an agent as] a natural organism. Our scientific understanding of human behavior seems to be in tension with a presupposition of the ethical stance we adopt toward it.”  (Natural Agency, 1989, pg 1) Professor Will Provine puts it more bluntly: “Free will as traditionally conceived simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices.” (“Evolution and the Foundation of Ethics”, Marine Biological Laboratory Science 3, 1988)

How then can we prosecute criminals? We cannot punish them, for they have only lived in accordance with the way they were “made.” At best, we can only hope to rehabilitate them or protect the rest of society from them. More interestingly, how can we treat drug addiction and alcoholism as a disease of sorts and yet we still hold rapists and murderers guilty because of their actions? What about the likes of Bernie Madoff? What about Pol Pot, Hitler, or Stalin? Weren’t they also dancing to their DNA’s music? In may be useful to draw a utilitarian line in the sand between a drunk and a serial killer (the drunk isn’t necessarily hurting anyone, while a serial killer harms many people), but utilitarian lines in the sand are dangerous. After all, who decides where the line should be drawn?

Naturalism may depict a world in which you and I follow the eerie tones of our DNA’s music, but that is not the world you and I know to be. You and I make choices every day of our lives, and to strictly describe our decisions in terms of motive rather than a combination of motive and purpose is to give a garbled image of what life is really like. Besides being totally self-refuting, naturalism fails to explain a host of things about being human. It’s time we drop this ridiculous philosophy and consider that there might be more to reality than meets the eye.

More on this later.

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Musings from Kreitsauce’s Wife

I have been keeping a journal through our adoption process to record my feelings as we go through the process. Looking back over the journal, I see various feelings, fear, sadness, excitement, longing… As a person who wants to adopt, the wait and the red-tape seems endless at times. But it is all worth while when thinking about having a child who will be your own. With these thoughts, I began thinking about how God must feel about us – His adopted children.


God knew that we would be a part of His family; however, He also had to wait until we were willing to come to Him… He had such a great gift for us, but we had to be willing to take that gift. Sometimes the wait for Him is very, very long.

I think that is sometimes how parents who want to adopt feel. We feel that we have such a wonderful gift to give a child, yet the wait is very long at times. Then once we do adopt a child, we do not always understand why they are not jumping with joy to be adopted into OUR family (which we, of course, think is perfect).

I think that we, as God’s children, can be so in awe of what God did to adopt us. He gave up His ONLY Son so that He could have me! What an amazing thought. It is hard, as a finite human, to understand why God would choose me when the price for me was so very high.

We have had people joke with us that instead of holding the hours of labor over our child’s head as so many biological parents do when they are angry with their children, we could instead hold the massive amount of paperwork and time over our adopted child’s head. How much more could God hold over our heads – He had to turn His back on His only Son because of the sin that Jesus took on Himself.

I think when we stop to truly consider how much our God has done for us, it should make us nothing but thankful and encourage nothing but good behavior from us as His adopted children.

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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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Worldviews: Big Macs vs. Slyders

Great as a Burger, Bad as a Worldview

Who can forget the famous old-school commercial for Mcdonalds’ Big Mac, advertising “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun”? I love Big Macs, but then I also have an addiction to White Castle’s Slyders. They’re little guys, but they’re this perfect little blend of a thin slice of beef, cheese, grilled onions, and a bun. Maybe it’s my penchant for anything dealing with food, but I like to relate worldviews to food. There are basically two different kinds of worldviews you and I could study, and they have radically different implications. There are Slyder worldviews and Big Mac worldviews.

Slyder worldviews are palatable to some, but they lack substance in a very real way. In such worldviews, there is no meaning or purpose. There is no objective sense of right or wrong or a means of assigning value to a person or thing. There is no God, no Heaven or Hell, no ultimate justice. There is just the physical world, and death simply ends being and consciousness. In such a view, our world just simply exists. Everything is one big accident. Bertrand Russell asserted that our world was a Slyder world in his Philosophical Essays:

“That man is the product of causes which have no prevision of the end they are achieving: that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried underneath the debris of a universe in ruins. Only on the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation be safely built.”

The problem is that, like the White Castle menu item, a Slyder worldview doesn’t describe reality very well. It doesn’t explain how humans function. It’s all good and well to say that monogamy is just a social invention, but that doesn’t explain why the promiscuous are rarely truly satisfied. June Vanderkam, a 2001 graduate of Princeton knows that well: “Hookups do satisfy biology, but the emotional detachment doesn’t satisfy the soul. And that’s the real problem — not the promiscuity, but the lack of meaning.” We all hunger for meaning, and a Slyder worldview does nothing to truly satisfy that hunger. The Slyder worldview robs life of meaning, and fails to replace it with anything, well, meaningful. In our world filled with “reality” TV, celebrity gossip, pornography, drugs and alcoholism, movies, music, video games, and professional sports, one wonders if all of this hype is really just a feeble attempt to stave off society’s craving for real meaning and purpose.

Only Big Mac worldviews can satisfy this craving. Big Mac worldviews attempt to answer questions concerning meaning and purpose.  There is a strong sense of objective right and wrong, and people and things have intrinsic value. God, Heaven, Hell, and ultimate Justice all exist, and God is active in His creation. Everything happens for a purpose, and all of life carries meaning. Compared with Slyder worldviews, a Big Mac worldview is significantly more satisfying, more palatable, and more fulfilling. In a very real way, such a worldview really is what we crave.



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The Pursuit of Happiness

In 2006, the biographical drama The Pursuit of Happyness graced the silver screen with a heart-warming message of hope. That hope, we are told, is one in which you and I can be truly happy if we can just succeed. We can succeed in our jobs, in our families, and in our various other goals, and if we have success (however we define it) we will be truly happy. Such is the lie of a sensate, spiritually-bankrupt culture. Reality tells a much different story.

The truth is that happiness itself cannot be experienced when it is the ultimate goal. In fact, you will see happy people in Western mansions and developing countries, in homes and orphanages, and in hospitals and gymnasiums. Happiness is not something that can be captured through seeking. It is something that must be experienced through the fulfillment of other purposes. To be honest, I’m not so sure that humans are even capable of being happy with “mere” happiness.

This is what many philosophers and poets refer to as the “paradox of hedonism.” As William Bennett once said: “”Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay not attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.” If you and I live by a modern, hedonistic interpretation of The Pursuit of Happiness, we’ll interpret everything according to that paradigm. Jobs, spouses, churches, children….even God Himself will wax or wane in importance to us based on how well they help us achieve this goal of happiness. It’s the new geocentric theory: the universe revolves around 6.5 billion individuals simultaneously!

The truth is that people must live for something bigger than themselves to even remotely experience this Happiness we all crave. We must take up some Cause, some Belief, some Purpose that we deem worthy of ourselves. Comedian Jeff Allen (Yes, I’ve quoted a comedian and a politician in the same post. It’s an off day…) once said that a man needs something he’s willing to die for to feel complete. He’s absolutely right. We need a sense of true purpose, to know that what we accomplish in life matters. We need to know what the standard for success and failure is. We need a finish line to press toward.

In a culture incapable of creating a sense of enduring worth and any sense of real absolutes, we have produced several generations of what psychologists call “empty selves.” Philip Cushman defines the empty self as: “filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists…. experience a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning….a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.” What an accurate depiction of life in these United States!

And what is the result? Martin Seligmann’s research in 1988 states that the Baby Boom generation increased tenfold in levels of depression relative to previous generations. Seligmann states that this was because Baby Boomers started living for self and not for a cause (God, family, country) bigger than they were. They forgot the Eternal in favor of the Immediate. They lost the art of becoming a wise, virtuous person. In seeking pleasure and happiness, they lost both.

Happiness is not an achievement. It is a byproduct of living the good life. Any worldview that is worth its salt must accurately describe the good life, and it must have true happiness as its byproduct. Christianity accurately describes a good life- the life of discipleship- that yields ultimate happiness and satisfaction. The lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, the Disciples, Paul, and even Jesus Himself speak of a life that may require sacrifice and choosing hard roads, but will result in ultimate joy, ultimate satisfaction, and the promise of eternal reward in the bliss of Heaven. This is the abundant life that Jesus gives. It isn’t just about length of life. It’s about the ultimate quality of that life.

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With My Body, I Thee Worship

I want to suggest here in this post that worship is the greatest need of any human who has walked the face of this earth. That isn’t to say that you and I don’t have other needs that are important. However, the need to worship is what we feel most strongly. The reality is that worship is what makes the world go round. I mean that both in the most positive and most negative way possible. Of course faith is important to people, and many good things have been done in the name of Christianity. Many evil things are done because of worship as well. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says: “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Ravi Zacharias defines worship as “a posture of life that takes as its primary purpose the understanding of what it really meant to love and revere God. It is the most sacred intimacy of all.” In other words, when Jesus said that He was the Bread of Life and that He offered Living Water capable of quenching any hunger and any thirst, He intended His words to be far more meaningful than most of us take it. When He said that the greatest commandment was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, He was referring to a life of worship. He was referring to a relationship that blends together both the physical and spiritual, reverence and passion, intense celebration and deep commitment.

Perhaps this is why Jesus speaks in terms of food and water. Yes, they are needs that must be fulfilled. However, we do not merely eat to satisfy a need. We also eat and drink because it is pleasurable. We enjoy eating, drinking, and being merry. Worship also is pleasurable to us, and it brings a sort of satisfaction and joy that is more celestial than terrestial. Partaking in food and drink are also times of fellowship. Any Christian knows that fellowship and food are virtually synonymous in a church setting. Outside the church, the relationship between relationship-building and food is strong. We meet and eat for business, romance, as a stress-relief, and even as a way of showing sympathy. Worship is also a time of fellowship. It is in worship that we have true fellowship with the Creator, the God Who came near. (Is there a significance in Communion being a time of people partaking of food and drink together? I think so.)

In short, worship is about far more than music. It is about prayer, Bible study, evangelism, discipleship, child rearing, engineering, teaching, construction, rest, travel, and, yes, even meals. Worship is about the whole Being. Notice that Ravi Zacharias says that worship is a “posture of life.” It isn’t about an hour on Sunday, or even several hours every day. It is about every moment of every day being Sacred. It is about doing all to the glory of God. It is about a reverential love for the Creator and Savior.

Thomas Cranmer knew that the English word “Love” didn’t do justice to the reality it was meant to describe. Though it has gone out of practice, Cranmer changed the marriage rite in 1662 to include the line: “With my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” It was later changed to “with this ring I thee wed.” I personally like Cranmer’s version better. How much better is that line than crassly describing the consummation of marriage as “having sex”? How much more accurate is it to describe the intimacy of marriage as a type of worship, an image of the worship of God that should be a part of every believer’s life.

If it isn’t a part of our lives, we very quickly move on to worshipping something else, for we cannot restrain ourselves from doing so. We may worship power, wealth, fame, relationships, pleasure, false gods, or- ultimately- ourselves. That simply means that we haven’t looked beyond ourselves to see that there is Someone truly worthy of all that attention. If God is the only Thing in this world that can bring true happiness, doesn’t it make sense that we pursue Him with all of our Being? If experiencing Him brings the greatest fulfillment of all human experiences, what aspect of devotion can be deemed unnecessary? We must learn the Truth of Who He is, and we must experience that truth. We must seek the purity of heart He described. We must be willing to make sacrifices for Him because of Who He has sacrificed for us. We must enthusiastically revere the One Who is the chief end of Man.

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How Did the Old Testament Get Here?

Preservation of the Originals

I’ve talked a little bit about the transmission of the New Testament Scriptures in previous posts, but now I’d like to turn briefly to how the Old Testament was transmitted. Unfortunately, so much of what we would like to know about how the Old Testament was past down is buried beneath the sands of time. However, this does not mean that we are uncertain concerning the words of Scripture. Rather, we have maximum security that God has fulfilled His promise to forever preserve His words.

Deuteronomy 31:9, 26 makes it very plain that Moses had the priests place the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, beside the Ark of the Covenant. So long as the Tabernacle and later the Temple were kept safe, the originals would have also remained safe. It is not unlikely that Joshua would have done the same with his book. These scrolls were discovered during a time of renovation of the Temple under King Josiah over 700 years later (2 Kings 22:8, 2 Chronicles 34:15). It was not unusual to hide such documents in foundation boxes or within walls, especially if there was fear of them being purposefully damaged or destroyed.

Samuel placed his writings, possibly including Judges and Ruth, “before the Lord” (1 Samuel 10:25), indicating that he originally followed the custom established by Moses and Joshua. The other books we classify as “history” seem to have been considered official state or religious documents (1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 16:11, 1 Kings 14:19) and therefore would have been stored either in the Temple library or the royal archive.

The poetic books of Psalms and Proverbs alone of the books of the Bible were compiled and arranged. This began in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 4:32) and continued beyond the time of Hezekiah. (Proverbs 25:1) Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon would have most likely remained in the royal archives since they were written by King Solomon.

As early as the time of Daniel (Daniel 9), we find that the writings of the Prophets are recognized as canon. Daniel refers to reading from Jeremiah when he prays and asks God to fulfill His promises mentioned in Jeremiah. The Prophets would have also been placed in libraries associated with the post-exilic Temple alongside the official records of Ezra and Nehemiah. While not considered canonical, 2 Maccabees 2:13 does record that Nehemiah founded a national archive of sorts in the Temple.

Witnesses to the Originals

The Masoretic Text is the traditional text of the modern Hebrew Bible and the vast majority of (if not all of) Christian translations. The Masoretes compiled, copied, and preserved copies of the Old Testament from AD 500 to 1100, and it is based on hundreds of manuscripts that are now lost to us or destroyed. The oldest surviving manuscripts of the Masoretic Text include Cairensis (AD 895), Aleppo (930), Leningradensis (1008), and the Damascus Pentateuch (late 9th century).

The Nash Papyrus was considered to be the oldest available example of the Old Testament until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scholars do not agree on a precise date for the copying of this papyrus, but the style of script dates it to the Hasmonean period (37 BC at the absolute latest). It is actually a liturgical or perhaps devotional book which consists of several passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of about 230 Old Testament manuscripts which include fragments or whole copies of every Old Testament book except for Esther. Some scholars have dated these manuscripts as being written around 225 BC. They are significant because, in the case of the Minor Prophets, they were copied only a few generations after the originals were penned. The Isaiah scroll (1QIsa-a), which was written 1000 years before the Aleppo Codex, agrees with the Masoretic Text in over 95% of the text. The remaining 5% of the text that did not agree with the Masoretic Text was due to slips of the pen and spelling errors.

While the Septuagint is an imperfect Greek translation of the original Hebrew Old Testament, it is important as a secondary witness to the Old Testament text. This is because it is proof of a coherent Hebrew text which existed before the time of the Masoretes or the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a translation, there are words that have been added for the sake of communicating the meaning of the original and there are variants based on translation philosophy and misinterpretation of the Hebrew language. The Chester Beatty Papyri (AD 200-400), Rylands Papyri (200-500), Vaticanus (400s), Sinaiticus (400-500), and Alexandrinus (500s) are all manuscripts of the Septuagint.

The Samaritan Pentateuch is a “modernized and expanded” copy of the first five books of the Old Testament. It was written 200-500 years before the time of Christ. There are a number of differences in spelling, but there are also around 6000 variants from the Masoretic Text. Since it was used in Samaritan worship as opposed to Jewish worship, these changes were most likely purposefully made to alter facts in favor of the Samaritans. Once again, the value of the Samaritan Pentateuch is not in making “corrections” to the Old Testament text, but in that it proves that a coherent biblical text existed hundreds of years before the time of Christ.

The Aramaic Targum and the Syriac Peshitta are Aramaic texts which consist of biblical translation, paraphrase, and commentary mingled together. You might consider them somewhat akin to the study Bibles of our day. They are useful for the purpose of comparison and are also witnesses to the existence of a coherent Old Testament text that had made its way to Jews and converted Gentiles living outside of Israel.

It is impossible to discuss the history of ancient Israel without understanding that God has directed that history and is an intrinsic part of it. If we fail to do so, we lose the concept of an all-powerful God, the literal fulfillment of prophecy, and a Bible that can be trusted. Believers have no choice to affirm the verbal, plenary inspiration and preservation of the Bible by God, and the evidence from history and biblical texts alike support this belief. Believers can truly have maximum security.

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MIA: Transitional Forms

Darwinistic Tree of Life

Darwinistic "Tree of Life"

Dr. Geoffrey Simmons once wrote that if evolution is the explanation, then evolution has a lot of explaining to do. When it comes to attempting to trace the supposed macro-evolution of present-day flora and fauna through the fossil record, Dr. Simmons is very, very right. If evolution took place through small adaptions that culminated in major changes, one must ask how these changes took place and where all of the “missing links” went. Here’s a few examples of creatures which are too complex for adaptation over millions, nay billions, of years to explain away. And if someone were to theorize a mechanism to bring this adaptation about, there is certainly no fossil evidence for it. As one of my agnostic friends insists, those who assert a claim are responsible to validate that claim…..

  • Bombardier beetles fire off hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone from separate glands in its abdomen. When combined, the exothermic reaction blasts predators at 500 bursts per second. How did the beetles choose those two chemicals out of the thousands available on this planet? Where are the transitional forms that developed the glands, chemicals, and firing mechanisms?
  • The various species of whales can dive thousands of feet, adjust the pressure in various parts of their bodies to withstand the crushing weight of the water around them, adjust spermaceti in their heads to regulate buoyancy, store additional oxygen in muscle tissue for extended diving, and hunt by blowing a wall of bubbles to trap krill. How did they develop these abilities? Where are the transitional forms?
  • The amoeba- a single-celled organism- can extend a “false foot” in any direction as it moves to attack food or escape a toxin or a predator. It lacks any apparent ancestors, yet is too complex to have been anything like the “simple” single-celled organisms mentioned by the Darwinists.
  • Consider also the “migrating” body parts of some types of sea life. Leftvents have anuses that migrate from their left side to mid-line later in life, and flounder’s eyes migrate when they bury themselves in the sand. (Incidentally, one species of leftvent known as “netdevils” consist of females who function as predators and males who function as parasites, since they attach to the females and gain nourishment from their host’s circulatory system.) How did such features adapt? How did one species develop a parasitic and a predatory distinction between genders? And what evolutionary impetus necessitates a mobile anus, anyway?
  • Some microbes suck out the chloroplasts of other microbes to create an internal food manufacturing system. The sea slug elysia does the same thing to seaweed. They are animals that depend on photosynthesis and nutrients from their prey for survival. How did they learn to do this?
  • Fleas jump many times their body length with an acceleration of up to 100Gs. When they bite, their saliva injects blood thinner and vasodilator to prevent the blood vessel from clotting.  How did this adaptation take place?
  • Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug that can swallow nerve toxins from sea anenomes and jellyfish and transfer them to their cerata to be used as a defense mechanism. If the ancestors of the nudibranchs had to develop this ability over time, how exactly did that work? Wouldn’t the first wave of ancestors be killed off?
  • Cockroaches can survive over nine times the amount of radiation a human can. Their antannae alone have over 130 segments. They have an “extra” brain in their lower abdomens. They can carry a variety of pathogens yet not contract the diseases. They secrete a “suit of armor” upwards of seven times throughout their lifetimes which helps keep moisture in and bacteria out. They have a second set of teeth in their stomachs. Where is the precedent in the insect world for a second brain in the abdomen or a second set of teeth in the stomach? Did the 130-segment antennae develop all at once or gradually? How did they develop the ability to molt and secrete a new coat in such a short time?

How did all of these creatures evolve in the Darwinian sense? Gradual evolution seems nigh on impossible, yet here they are. Few serious scientists believe in punctuated equilibrium, yet if transitional forms do exist thanks to gradual macro-evolution, 99% of them have yet to show up in the fossil record. There is simply no clear-cut evidence for Darwinism in the fossil record. Why then has Darwinism persisted in the scientific community? The religious fervour surrounding Darwinism is curious. One would think the much-vaunted intellects of our day would appreciate some rigorous criticism so that they could more accurately get to the bottom of the “mystery” of how life originated.

Strangely, as James Lovelock pointed out in his book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, “Things have taken a strange turn in recent years; almost the full circle from Galileo’s famous struggle with the theological establishment. It is the scientific establish that now forbids heresy.” Perhaps Intelligent Design is a better explanation in a scientific sense after all. True, that means postulating the existence of a Being that isn’t strictly detectable in the normal sense, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence for His existence. And, as I’ve pointed out before, the ID vs. Darwinism debate only pits one metaphysical concept against another. Naturalism is a metaphysical concept which is ultimately unprovable by science, and Theism is a metaphysical concept which is just as ultimately unprovable by science. As such, the answer to the question of origins will never be strictly within the realm of science. It is ultimately in the realm of metaphysics that the solution will present itself.

The question is: which concept is there more evidence for? Job had the answer thousands of years ago:

“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?” (Job 12:7-9)

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Contemporary Christian Music

I came from a slice of Christianity that loved to point out everything that is wrong with the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) movement. I grew up believing that drums and Christianity don’t go together. I believed that combining worldly music with Christian words made you sort of a Frankenstein. I believed that anyone involved in this sort of movement didn’t really love God, that they simply wanted to hang on to their liberal lifestyle. Then I did some studying in the realm of music, history, theology, and world cultures. I also met a number of people who did enjoy CCM, and I actually started listening to a few samples of this music. What I found out didn’t really jive with what I’d been told to believe.

Now, in defense of those that hold to such a belief system, there are any number of examples of poor Christian musicians, lyrics, and music. I know that there are some people who listen to and enjoy CCM that are flat out worldly. I also know that there are some who stand to make a profit off of music that is Christian. I also believe that believing that CCM is wrong or worldly doesn’t make you a bad person.

Here’s the thing: music standards aren’t on the list of things that I’d die for. Sorry if that bothers you. Yes, I’ll die for being a believer, protecting my family, or defending my country. I just don’t think music standards are something worth bickering over. Any Bible concordance will tell you that the Bible never directly addresses music standards, and I have a hard time shouting when the Bible is silent. In fact, I think we ought to be very careful when doing so. The Pharisees (“separated ones”) did that, and Jesus wasn’t too thrilled with them when He walked the earth. An otherwise good movement wound up doing significant damage to the Kingdom because they insisted on following their own traditions.

I’ve seen a number of arguments against CCM music. They can involve anything from application of Scripture (in which case I don’t mind if that’s your personal standard if it’s done honestly) to racism and what can truly be described as a eurocentrism. I’ve heard it said that CCM is evil because the beats and instruments come from the heathen in Africa. The last time I checked, most cultures, if not all of them, have included stringed, brass, woodwind, and, yes, even percussion instruments. A quick perusal of the Psalms will let you know that the worship of Jehovah is no stranger to instruments of all types, and Jewish worship music is filled with many styles of music. Beyond all of this, I would argue that there is a difference between using the music of a culture as an expression of worship and purposefully watering down worship so that it is more appealing to unbelievers.

There is no such thing as sacred music in terms of musical notes and rhythms. It is the text of the lyrics enhanced by the mood of the music that makes music Christian. We can all point to songs that are supposed to be “Christian” that just don’t work. Listen to almost any “Plus One” song, and you’ll see a perfect example of how watered-down lyrics can devalue and denigrate worship. It’s also true that the mood conveyed by melodies, harmonies, and rhythms can either add to or detract from a song’s usefulness in terms of worship. However, upbeat music, syncopated rhythms, and varied styles do not immediately eliminate the sacredness of music.

There are at least five words for worship used in the Psalms. They vary in intensity from quiet and meditative to boisterous celebration. Music of all sorts should be present in church. There are times for peaceful music and times for celebration. Some music may bring a tear to the eye and other music may make you want to clap your hands or tap your toes. I’ve heard arguments levied against CCM because it causes the congregation to “become emotional.” What, I must ask, is wrong with experiencing emotion? Perhaps that’s really the big reason some people don’t like CCM. It’s easy to stay in control if you’ve become dull of hearing to the message and music of a particular hymn. CCM brings new music into a church service, and it isn’t as easy to steel yourself to the awesomeness of Who God is and what He has done.

Then, of course, some folks dislike the “showbiz” environment of CCM. I would suggest that not all people get involved in CCM because they want to get rich. To be sure, there are some. However, in some cases the songs produced are  still very good, and it is possible to enjoy the music without partaking in the faddishness of the modern movement. (There’s more spiritual meat in one CD of Casting Crowns music than whole hymnals in some cases.) Furthermore, I would point out that many of the authors of Christian music and even famous evangelists of the past enjoyed celebrity status in their day. (George Whitefield was so idolized that people robbed his grave in the hopes of keeping something the man actually owned or wore.) I would also point out that even fundamentalist Christian circles are not without their pastoral and musical prima donnas. Just because some people in a movement desire fame, wealth, or power doesn’t mean that the movement as a whole is evil.

I think it’s time that we all realize that there is a difference between obeying a particular Bible command (avoiding worldliness) and having a particular preference. Honestly, I prefer hymns. I love the chord structure, the doctrine that is so eloquently stated, and the nostalgia that comes from singing a song that I’ve sung so many times before. I also love Southern Gospel music. I love how plainly the truths of the Bible are stated. I love the style because it has energy and passion, and because it states truth very clearly. I also enjoy many styles of CCM. It has a much more personalized view of God that is a nice contrast to the impersonal nature of most corporate worship. Of course, I recognize that there are good and bad examples of all three categories. There are hymns in the hymnal that I’d rather not sing because of doctrinal error. There are hymns in the hymnal that I think are plain stupid. (“Joy Bells”, anyone?) We all know of good and bad modern Christian music. It just takes some discernment to weed out the bad stuff. Time has a wonderful way of doing that anyway.

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Is Vicarious Atonement Immoral?

Christopher Hitchens has made the assertion in a debate with Dinesh D’souza that Christianity should not be accepted because Jesus’ death on the Cross is immoral. He says that we cannot be atoned by the death of another:

“I cannot say you are guiltless of this sin….The promise to do that is an immoral promise. The promise to do it by human sacrifice is immoral.”

Hitchens’ point is well taken. Even if you paid my monetary debt, did time in prison, or even went to the electric chair for me, you could not declare me to be righteous. No human could rightly make that claim. God, however, as the Creator and Judge of All the Earth can declare a person to be righteous. He’s the only one in a position to make that sort of declaration.

Hitchens also misunderstands Christianity on a few points. Justification does not mean that the believer has never sinned. Justification means that God declares a believer to be righteous because Christ’s righteousness is applied to his “account.” Atonement, on the other hand, comes from a Hebrew word which deals with cleansing or covering sin. Jesus’ death atones for sin because it pays the debts charged to the believers’ “account.” Is it immoral for God to require the death of His Son to make justification and atonement possible? No. Jesus did this willingly, and as the Creator and Judge, God is fully right in stating what will and will not be sin and stating what the punishment for committing sin will be. When God said that the wages of sin is death, He was fully right in doing so. Jesus received this punishment in our place and God applied Jesus’ righteousness to our account. This is all very “moral”; it is all very above-board.

Further on, Hitchens says:

“This is the worst kind of primitive, barbaric, Bronze-Age, Palestinian sadomasichism. In what sense is this the way, the truth, or the life? It is instead a worship of death.”

He only tells half the story, though. Having paid for our sins, Jesus returned to life. It is this Resurrection that Christians revere. It is the Resurrection, not simply His Death, that makes all of Christianity valid. As Paul said in 1Corinthians 15:

” Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”

As Paul says just a little further along:

” O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Christianity is not a religion that glories in torture and death, but in peace, grace, and life. He offers us Justification, Atonement, and eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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How the Church Created Darwin

Some scientists have been quite outspoken concerning their desire to purge religion from their ranks. In fact, a quick perusal of Paul Z. Myers’ blog Pharyngula will make it obvious that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is to blame for most of the world’s evils. The major complaint against the use of religion in science is that (supposedly) science that seeks out a non-naturalistic cause isn’t very good science at all. I would like to suggest that there is a problem with religion mingling with science. It’s just that I disagree with some scientists on what the religious problem is. You see, modern science’s idea that naturalism alone can explain the universe isn’t just unscientific (springing from the field of metaphysics). It’s also an idea that has its roots in the Church.

Long before Darwin penned his Origin of Species, liberal Christian theology was already moving away from belief in a Creator that is also involved in His creation. Here’s a brief list of their arguments:

  1. Some theologians believed that God would get more glory if He could simply produce matter, energy, and scientific laws to govern the universe. Cosmological and biological evolution would take place- in their minds- due to laws already put into place. In this view, special divine action should be minimized since Creation revealed a Designer God, not divine intervention. (Thomas Burnet [1635-1715], Anglican cleric, Telluris Theoria Sacra; John Ray [1627-1705], botanist and natural theologian, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.)
  2. Deistic theologians argued that religious belief was solely a product of reason and not an act of faith. The Deists rejected any doctrines that could not be deduced from philosophy or nature. If it could not be deduced, it was not essential for salvation. Ultimately, they rejected the Bible’s concept of an active, providential God. (Matthew Tindal [1657-1733], deist, Christianity as Old as the Creation)
  3. Other scientists and theologians believed that God’s direct involvement with His creation would result in perfection. Evil as a moral category exists, and- to the mind of the theologically-minded scientists- evil existed in nature in the form of imperfections. To their mind, God clearly did not and does not directly intervene in nature. Looking at the geological records of his day, Thomas Burnet insisted that our world was a creation that was “lying in rubbish.” Philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) wrote that “a perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures.” Hume believed that God must be only transcendent and not immanent since such evil exists.
  4. Finally, a movement within the church sprang up in the 1700s that sought to downplay and disregard the miracles of the Bible. Peter Annet argued against the existence of miracles because he believed that a God of infinite knowledge would not need to intervene. He could simply make things work out right the first time. He also believed that God would create a simple clockwork system that never needed to be adjusted and that God, being immutable, would never need or want to “contradict” His own laws.

The result of the above four movements was that naturalism was accepted first in the Church and then in the Academy. Because the Church was an avid supporter of discovering truths about Our Father’s World, theology dramatically influenced science. Naturalism became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Because the world was interpreted naturalistically by the theologians and then the scientists, all findings were viewed as supporting naturalism. The problem, of course, is that naturalism is not a finding of science. It was presupposed in the theological and philosophical realm and then superimposed on the scientific realm. Philosophical and theological naturalism came before scientific naturalism.

By the time of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin, the results of naturalism in the theological realm bore fruit. Here are the words of Erasmus Darwin in his Zoonomia:

“The world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution by the whole by the Almighty fiat. What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of the great architect! The Cause of Causes! Parent of Parents!”

In the 1800s, Charles Darwin’s own Origin of Species made many theological and philosophical arguments for his theory. In the first place, why would God make things “imperfectly” or with a boring pattern? He argued that patterns in species were “utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.”(Origin, 73-74) He also argued that “the best adapted plants and animals were not created for oceanic islands, for man has unintentionally stocked them far more fully and perfectly than did nature.” (Origin, 398) In other words, Darwin believed that God would include more variety in nature and would put every living thing precisely in a habitat that would cause it to multiply the most rapidly. He also believed that the variety in “important” organs between species and within the same genus was nonsensical in the creationist’s paradigm. (153, 156) Why would God do reinvent the wheel?

Why would God create birds with webbed feet that rarely swam, and why would He create birds with no webbing that stayed mainly in the water? How can this be the product of special creation? (177) What about the “waste” of pollen in trees and plants? (469-470) All of this makes God a “mockery and deception,” says Darwin. (165-166) Note that Darwin says this as a person who believed in God, not as an atheist. He is careful to keep a lofty view of God intact when he argues that speaking of God as a Designer makes God seem too human. We should not “assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man.” (181-182) It’s fairly obvious to make the connection between the liberal theology in the centuries preceding Darwin and what Darwin believed he saw while writing Origin of the Species. The Church created Darwin.

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Where’s God In Hard Times?

Those of you who regularly read my blog have probably noticed that this latest posting is coming out a little later than usual. This past weekend I lost a very good friend to a tragic accident. While he was driving to preach as part of a prison ministry a few hours away, he lost control of his vehicle when he hit a wet patch of pavement, struck a tree, and found himself in Heaven just moments later. Travis is a well-respected man in our community. He loved (and still loves) his wife and son. He was a respected police officer who was responsible for many acts of heroism and had even saved lives. I could sit and listen to his stories- some funny, some sobering- for hours on end. He was heavily involved in the school I teach at. He worked security for school events, he was a faithful coach and fan of our sports teams (nobody could heckle quite as well as he could), he spoke in student chapel, and he was a leader in our school in many other ways. He was involved in his church, and he had a heart to minister to those in prison. That last part was his passion. He loved to see people come to Christ. He’d talk excitedly about the times he had preaching in prison. The times I loved most were when we’d talk about some of the things we’d read in the Bible. He always had an interesting thought or question.

When I found out, I was devastated. Many of us are deeply saddened by the loss of a truly amazing man. It would be easy to question God in the face of tragedy like this. I can’t say I would blame anyone who told me they had at some point during the grieving process. How was this good? Did He care? Where was He?

To answer the first question, God doesn’t ever claim that everything that happens is good. Some days in the Bible are described as “evil.” Various Psalm writers talk about tragedy and difficult times. The Bible doesn’t ask us to wear rose-colored glasses, because life isn’t that way. Our world is filled with death, disease, chaos, war, and evil courtesy of the Fall. On days like Saturday, I’d love to backhand Adam and Eve across the room. “This is my Father’s world”, but this isn’t the world my Father intended.

All of this doesn’t mean that God Himself isn’t good. He’s good because He is God. He is called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. He’s called the God of All Comfort. He loves and cares for His own. He’s good because He does good things for us. Offering salvation springs readily to mind. He intervenes directly and providentially in our world according to His will. The truth is, we may never know on earth why God allows some things to end tragically and chooses intervene in other areas. Our view is so limited. How can we make sense of things when we can’t see the whole picture that’s being painted? As my former music pastor once wrote after experiencing some significant tragedies in his life, including the death of twin children:

“Though I don’t always understand

All the ways of God with Man

Still I’ll hold my Savior’s hand

His Way is Perfect.”

Regardless of what may come- life or death, wealth or poverty, health or disease, good or evil- God does care. God cares when loved ones pass away. How profound is the shortest verse in the whole Bible: “Jesus wept.” The God of all reality cried at the death of a friend. The Psalmist writes: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15) He cares for sparrows when they fall from the air, and He never even claims to be their Father! (Your Father, Jesus says when speaking of God’s care for lilies and sparrows.)

The skeptic may ask where the proof of all this is. How can we know that He cares or loves for anything in this world? Why doesn’t He do something about it if He is all-powerful? Why not remove pain? Remember that pain can be helpful. It tells us that something is wrong, and something is definitely wrong with our world. Pain can be necessary. Any dentist can tell you that. How often is pain the thing that drives us to God? God would still be just in leaving the world that humans have destroyed to its own wretched end. That’s not what He did though. God the Son stepped off of His throne, wrapped Himself in human flesh, and was born into this wretched, pitiful, sin-cursed world. He came from a lowly place, lived a relatively ignoble life, and died a terrible death. He experienced the worst of what this world had to offer. And think of the Father in Heaven. He knows what it is like to lose a Son. The union we call the Trinity had experienced fellowship and relationship for eternity stretching backward. It was cut off in one horrible moment on the Cross. Not to minimize human loss, but God was cut off from something far deeply intimate than we can even imagine. For the believer, Heaven is waiting, and God promises to create a new universe for believers to inhabit. One day sin, sorrow, death,  and disease will be banished forever.

So we come back to our original question. Where is God in hard times? He is right where He’s been all along: right there. He’s with us throughout our times of agony. We come not before one of the icons or idols of religion. We come before the Savior Who Weeps, the God Who Comforts.

PS- Travis, you were an inspiration and a true friend to me. You taught me what it meant to stand up for what I believe in. You helped me see things in Scripture that I’d never imagined were there. Thank you for that. You will be greatly missed, but I know that you’re enjoying time with the Father, getting those questions answered (and finding out that you were right, I’m sure), rejoicing over those who come to Christ through your life and passing, and no doubt eating some of the best southern cooking ever. Save a leg for me!

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Atheism: Light or Heat?

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve made it a point to do a lot of reading on the subject of Christianity. I’ve read many books by Christians and Atheists to get their respective points, and it has occurred to me that works from both worldviews claim to be illuminating on the subjects of eternity, purpose, reality, and human nature. Christianity affirms inherent worth, describes our purpose, and reveals the nature of reality and, ultimately, eternity.What is also abundantly clear is that Atheism denies that a vast portion of reality even exists, and instead of reason uses sarcasm, intense emotionalism, and a fervent indignation toward those who espouse any faith. Hitchens’ major complaint is that he can’t see why anyone would want to serve a deity. Dawkins thinks that Christianity is a foolish relic of a distant age. Harris belittles anyone who believes in any god. There may be some justification for some of these thoughts, but they aren’t proper justification for a worldview. Atheism promises light, but only provides heat. It has the appearance of substance, but fails to deliver.

To be certain, there are people on both sides that are passionate. Heck, I’m passionate. There are even believers who are the epitome of “zeal without knowledge”; they are the results of soapbox preaching and topical Bible studies. They roam the internet and do some stupid if not deceitful things in the name of Christ. This isn’t exactly Christian, though. Christ wanted us to be above-board in our dealings with others, and we are admonished to grow in our faith and in our love for God- heart, soul, and mind.

Atheism, on the other hand, lays no such requirements on its adherents. I was recently at an event in which Christopher Hitchens spoke. After the event, I was talking with him and he said that he needed to get to the book signing because he’s needed to “move product.” Later, I talked with him again in the book signing line (hey, if I’m going to buy the book I might as well get it signed), and he told me that even though I didn’t agree with him he didn’t care because anyone who bought his product was a friend of his. The man is obviously in it for the money. Why not, though? If this life is all there is, and you can get rich in this life by selling what you believe, go for it! Christians who are in it for the money, on the other hand, ought to be kicked out of their ministries. They are an anomaly, not representive of Christianity. They may be leaders of megachurches, but they are not leaders in Christian thought or practice. In contrast, Atheists like Hitchens are leaders in atheistic thought and practice. They are heralded as revolutionaries.

Another such revolutionary was philosopher Michel Foucault. Foucault wanted to experience life free of inhibitions after the death of God. This led him to try LSD in the wilderness and experiment sexually in ways that range from normative to the grotesque. As a result he died of AIDS. “To die for the love of boys,” he once told a friend, “what could be more beautiful?” Foucault lived out the natural result of an atheistic worldview. There was passion and fervency in his life and in his works, but there was no substance. It was heat without light. Like Stephen Jay Gould and a host of other atheists, Foucault believed that there were no answers.

Finally I turn to Sam Harris, whose Letter to a Christian Nation is the incarnation of the vitriol contained within the New Atheism. He asks where God is when children are raped (page 51) and when New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (page 52). His illustrations are intended to tug at the heart’s strings, and they certainly do so. I hope to deal with the problem of pain at a later date, but for now I’d like to focus on Harris’ assertion that Atheism is nonviolent in nature. Again, I would point out that unrestrained fervency in the last 100 years has been unleashed by those who espouse atheism.

It isn’t that Christians have not had cause to respond violently. The film adaption of The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, Serrano’s “artistic” rendering of a crucifix in urine, The DaVinci Code, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, and almost any episode of Family Guy are all blasphemous enough to enrage most of the Christian population, but no rioting occurred. There were no deaths. No one was “roughed up” because of these blasphemies. They were decried, but there was no violent action taken or encouraged. Contrast this with what transpired after Proposition 8, the California proposition that defined marriage as occurring exclusively between a man and a woman, passed. The vast majority of homosexuals are atheistic and anti-religious, so it is not a leap to conclude that the reaction is largely the result of an atheistic worldview. Of course, I don’t have time to talk about the affects of Nietzsche’s atheistic writings on Hitler, who in turn passed them on to Mussolini and Stalin. Perhaps we should be reminded of the words of Hitler, inscribed over one of the gas ovens in Auschwitz: “I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of conscience, imperious, relentless, and cruel.” Fervency? Of course. Light? Nothing worth mentioning.

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Inherent Human Dignity?

A friend of mine recently pointed me in the direction of the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” He’s done a phenomenal job writing his thoughts on the subject, but he encouraged me to write on it as well. It’s a fascinating world-wide “Declaration of Independence” with a preamble and thirty articles. What interests me most is the preamble (emphasis below is mine):

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

Of supreme interest to me, as I’m sure you’ve gathered from the highlighted words above, is that the United Nations, at least in 1948, had a concept of inherent human worth and dignity. Such a document begs the question: where do humans get this inherent worth and dignity from? Who imbued us with such a lofty position?

If our sense of worth comes from within it is pride and is hardly inherent. If our sense of worth comes from governments or documents it is applied to us. In either case, human dignity is prescribed rather than described. If however, humans are indeed truly significant and special, if they were- one can’t help use the word- created with worth, dignity, purpose, conscience, and meaning, then a transcendent Being must have intended for it to be so. And so it seems to be. While societies run hot and cold on the issue of murder, no society permits the murder of any human for any reason. We are all aware of the value of a person. Some believe in fate or destiny, but most cultures have an innate sense of purpose in this life.

The Bible offers us the answer to the question of inherent purpose:

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”- Psalm 8:3-9

Man’s dignity come from God, for He has placed us in a position of honor. The whims of politicians and potentates may change on this matter, but God has His mind quite made up: we are made in His image.

As Rollwagen says in his blog: Kingdoms come and go…“Kingdom come.”

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What I’ve Done

“In this farewell there’s no blood,
There’s no alibi.
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret from the truth
Of a thousand lies.
So let mercy come and wash away…
What I’ve done.”

So begins Linkin Park’s “What I’ve Done.” That’s one way you could view the Judgment Seat of Christ, and perhaps the unfaithful or disobedient Christian would do well to consider these words  as they may very accurately reflect his attitude on that day. However, I would like to add that there’s a very different view one could take if he continues in faith, nothing wavering, and if he lives a life that is obedient to the Master’s call. What does the Judgment Seat hold for such a believer?

I’ve listed the basis of judgment in a previous post as well as given Old Testament and New Testament perspectives on the Judgment Seat. Now let us turn to the rewards for those who are obedient and faithful.

  1. Those who are humble will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, not merely enter into it. (Matthew 5:3)
  2. Those who experience godly sorrow over life’s circumstances, poor health, or personal tragedy in this life will receive great comfort in the Age to Come. This is a specific sort of comfort received at the hands of the God of all Comfort. (Matthew 5:4)
  3. Those who are meek will inherit their portion of the physical earth. This refers to possession and authority. (Matthew 5:5)
  4. Those who crave righteousness above everything else will experience the great satisfaction of becoming righteous progressively on earth and ultimately in Heaven. (Matthew 5:6)
  5. Those who are merciful will receive mercy at the Judgment Seat. (Matthew 5:7)
  6. Those who are pure in heart will be able to perceive and know the Godhead in a deeper, fuller, richer manner. (Matthew 5:8)
  7. Those who are peacemakers receive the unique title: “Child of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
  8. Those who are persecuted for being righteous will inherit the Kingdom and receive a great reward that Jesus leaves undefined. (Matthew 5:10-12)
  9. Those who lead others to Christ are given a Crown of Rejoicing. (Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19)
  10. Those who teach, guide, care for, and disciple others are given a Crown of Glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
  11. Those who live righteous lives and long for Christ to return receive a Crown of Righteousness. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
  12. Those who do not lose their love for Christ or return to Christ as their first love will be allowed to eat of the Tree of Life. (Revelation 2:1-7) What humans have been denied for thousands of years will be permitted to those who love Christ.
  13. Those who are killed for their faith receive a Crown of Life, an eternal reward for faithfulness resulting in a tragic end. This most likely also is an allusion to a unique degree of enjoyment of the eternal life Christ has given us. See my discussion on Philippians 3 in my previous posts (Revelation 2:8-11)
  14. Those who do not deny their faith receive several rewards. They receive the hidden manna, which is probably a reference to the messianic feast, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This will be a tremendous time of celebration and honor. They will also receive a “white stone”, which is probably a reference to a stone of victory given at Grecian victory games. Finally the believer is told he will receive a new name, which is probably a reference to the Jewish custom of renaming a person based on what kind of life they have lived. (Revelation 2:12-17)
  15. Those who abstain from religious and personal fornication and idolatry receive authority over the nations. Paul speaks of this when he tells Timothy that there are some who will reign with Christ. (Revelation 2:18-29)
  16. Those who live pure lives are given white robes. They are called worthy because of personal holiness. Finally, they are commended before God the Father and the angels in Heaven. The Person Who speaks so highly of such a believer is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. (Revelation 3:1-6)
  17. Those who are faithful witnesses in the face of persecution of all sorts will share a unique, intimate relationship with God. (Revelation 3:7-13)
  18. Those who refuse to conform to the spirit of the age in which they dwell will be permitted to sit in the Father’s throne, a position of honor and authority. (Revelation 3:14-22)

How much better is it to enter the Kingdom with the rewards of faithful service rather than enter the Kingdom “so as by fire.” How much better it is to enter into the joy of the Lord without regret, to not simply being reliant on God to wipe away “What I’ve Done”!

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Work Out Your Salvation: Success, Failure, and the Results at the Judgment Seat

I’ve written two other posts on the types of inheritance in Scripture, one based on the Old Testament and the other based on the New Testament. I should state what will be quite obvious to some: I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to be said concerning inheriting and suffering loss in the Kingdom. I hope this will help open doors for those interested in the subject. The most serious and practical aspect of this study is what success and failure mean for the believer in the future- a very, very real future that we are only moments away from at any given moment. Christ could come back, and you and I would stand before the Judge of all the Earth. Who will be judged at this event, what will this judgment be based on, and what will the results be?

Without question, those who are judged at this event are the believers. The unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment mentioned near the end of Revelations. The dead unbelievers will stand before Christ, will be judged based on their works, and will receive their portion in the Lake of Fire. The believers, too, will be judged based on their works. Works, however, are only a portion of what this judgment will be based on.

We will be judged based on the following criteria:

  1. Actions- 1Corinthians 3:13, 2Corinthians 5:10, Revelations 3:23
  2. Words- Matthew 12:36-37, Luke 12:2-3
  3. Thoughts- Hebrews 4:12
  4. Motivations- Matthew 6:4
  5. Faithfulness- Matthew 24:45, Matthew 25:23, 1 Corinthians 4:2

There are three important things one can do to take care of past mistakes:

  1. Confession of Sin- 1 John 1:9 (which, it must be remembered, was written to believers)
  2. Show Mercy to Others- Matthew 5:7 (This was written to believers and has future rewards in mind. More on this in a future post.)
  3. Judge Ourselves- 1 Corinthians 11:31

The wicked, lazy, or unrighteous believer may partake in one of three consequences of running the race of the Christian life poorly. Keep in mind that none of these consequences affect eternal security or our acceptance by God. They don’t affect our presence in the Eternal State and are not permanent in nature. The worst-case scenario is that they last for the duration of the Millennial Kingdom.

  1. A rebuke from Christ Himself: “Thou wicked and slothful servant!”- Matthew 25:26
  2. Exclusion from the Marriage Supper of the Lamb due to sinfulness- Matthew 22:11-13
  3. Denial of inheritance- Matthew 10:33, 2 Timothy 2:12

If this all seems a bit heavy-handed, allow me to add some comfort from Scripture. It should first be pointed out that those who receive such hash judgments are those who are stubborn in their carnality or laziness. This is not about the day-to-day struggle with sin. This is not about our personal failures when we give into sin. This is about blatant rebellion. In fact, those who struggle with sin do not fall into this category at all! This is, after all, about righteousness, and Proverbs 24:16 tells us that a righteous person is one who gets up when he falls. No, the stern warning in Scripture is toward those who fall and do not care.

There are rewards, though, and Scripture has much to say on this subject. There are crowns, the rewards of those who overcome which are mentioned in Revelation 2-3, the out-resurrection mentioned by Paul in Philippians, treasures in Heaven, and the prospect of reigning with Christ and even being praised by Him before the angelic and believing hosts!  To those who are faithful disciples of Christ, there is a great inheritance waiting indeed!

God is concerned primarily with our hearts and with our faithfulness. Can we stand firm when God seems distant or absent? Can we trust Him when He waits until the eleventh hour to work? Think about it: the Israelites in the wilderness really didn’t struggle with doing right most of the time. They struggled with believing God, and that led to huge problems for them. Consider also David, who was a man after God’s own heart, even when he sinned with Bathsheba! The “degree” of sin doesn’t determine success or failure at the Judgment Seat. Furthermore, Christ is a High Priest who understands the weaknesses of the human flesh. He understands the struggles necessary to overcome a poor family life or background, stress, anxiety, peer pressure, and the weaknesses in our own personalities and genetic make up! These aren’t excuses that we use to talk God into lightening up on us; they are things God as a faithful and loving Father will surely take into account.

More on the inheritance to come!

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Salvation: Two Inheritances, Part 2

Most believers are convinced that salvation in all of its forms is strictly a free gift of God. I fully believe that justification, sanctification, and glorification are all free gifts of God. However, I also believe that there is more to the story than meets the eye. We will see in the following verses that inheritance may be gained or lost, and that eternal life is something that we are sometimes told to work for. Certain habitual sins, according to several passages of Scripture,  preclude a person from inheriting the Kingdom. How is salvation free if it must also be worked for? How is salvation secure if one can lose their inheritance?

  • He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. -John 12:25
  • To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.- Romans 2:7
  • Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
  • For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.- Galatians 6:8
  • For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.- Ephesians 5:5
  • Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.- 1 Timothy 6:12

Such verses are cause for deep concern for the believer, since warnings against sin and exhortations to gain eternal life would not exist unless there were a very real possibility to fail. As in the last post, I would like to suggest that the Bible is speaking of two types of inheritance or two aspects of salvation. In one sense, we have God as our inheritance and Heaven as our final home. This occurs at salvation because of faith. However, there is a second inheritance that we can enjoy that is by obedience, obtainable only by sanctified living. Our salvation is indeed secure, but there is a lot concerning our experience in the Kingdom that can change considerably.

I want to write an article that will discuss what this inheritance will consist of, but for now I’d like to focus on an aspect of what I’m saying that is likely to cause some consternation on the part of believers. What is this business of working for eternal life? How can a person be a believer but lose eternal life?

In John 10:10, Jesus says: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Interestingly enough, John begins his gospel by saying that life originates in Christ. Paul echoes this thought when he writes that it is in Him we live, and move, and have our being. The implication is that eternal life in Scripture is intimately tied to an active, dynamic relationship with Christ. In other words, eternal life isn’t something you and I simply get at salvation and hang onto until we die; it is something that can grow and develop or whither away in the present. An eternal home in Heaven is secure, of course, but Jesus came not to simply give us an infinitely long life, but an abundant quality of life. Enjoying a life of fullness and fulfilledness, one in which times with God can truly be described as “sweet”, can only occur when we are living for Him and desiring to know Him more. We all have access to eternal life, but our experience in that life will differ from individual to individual.

The reward for living out this life eternal in the here and now will have some bearing on the rewards we receive in the future. Paul makes this clear in Philippians 2:11 where he states that he has rejected the elements of his past to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering so that he could attain a resurrection. What’s interesting is that this word isn’t the usual Greek word for resurrection (anastasis). Instead, Paul uses the word exanastasis- separation from out of the resurrected. Of those who are believers and enter into eternal life, there will be some set apart because they sought to win Christ. They alone of all believers will receive the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

God is faithful enough to reward believers based on their actions and attitudes. All believers will have eternal life, a home in Heaven, and forgiveness of sins. However, the vastness of that eternal life, the joys of that heavenly home, and the rewards in the Kingdom will be experienced by each of us to different degrees and in different ways.

More on that subject in the near future!

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Salvation: Two Inheritances, Part 1

Canaan During the Time of Joshua

Israel During Joshua's Time

What happens when a person who claims Christ rejects his faith or lives a blatantly immoral lifestyle with no sign of remorse? That’s a question that the theologians have been batting around for ages. Some believe that such a person loses their salvation, an idea that requires some exegetical acrobatics when it comes to verses such as Romans 8:1 and John 10:28-29. Others believe that that person was never truly saved in the first place, and I believe that there are some people who definitely fall into this category. However, I do believe that it is possible for a genuine believer to fail the grace of God. What happens then? He suffers loss.

The Old Testament frequently refers to the term “inheritance.” In fact, the Old Testament uses the term 185 times, while the New Testament uses it only 18 times! We normally think of an inheritance as something one gets the moment a parent dies. However, in Old Testament times, two things are true of inheritances:

  1. In order for an heir to receive an inheritance, the parent does not have to die. Psalm 28 and 33 at least speak of Israel being Jehovah’s inheritance. At the risk of being crass, who has to die to make Him God? The story of the prodigal son in the New Testament also bears witness to this fact.
  2. If a parent, Divine or otherwise, put stipulations or prerequisites on the inheritance, there was a potential for a person to lose that inheritance.

This second point is of utmost importance when we consider what we received when we got saved. We certainly received Heaven and were rescued from a destiny in Hell, but there is so much more to it than that. There are two types of inheritances, even in the Old Testament. Believing Israelites as a result of faith had Jehovah as their inheritance, but on top of that, they could receive a secondary inheritance as the result of obedience. This secondary inheritance was a possession in Canaan, and there is a difference between living in Canaan and owning Canaan.

Contrary to many songs sung in churches today and many Bible lessons I have heard, Canaan doesn’t represent Heaven. That makes no sense whatsoever. Canaan had to be worked for, while Heaven is free. Canaan was never free from enemies, Heaven will certainly not be that way. While they are actual historical events, the journey in the Wilderness and Canaan itself are pictures of the possibility for success and failure in the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10).

Here’s some additional examples of the inheritance loss/gain factor:

  • Abraham received God as an inheritance when he believed Him and left the land of his fathers, but when he obeyed, God promised him the nations and the land of Canaan through the Abrahamic covenant. (Genesis 22:15-18)
  • Caleb and Joshua alone of the Israelites involved in the Exodus actually received the inheritance of Canaan. Even Moses failed to receive an inheritance there because of disobedience. This wasn’t because they weren’t believers, but because they weren’t “obeyers.” (1Corinthans 10:4-5, Hebrews 11:29-30)
  • Lamentations 5:2 makes it clear that the Israelites again lost their inheritance due to disobedience.

Israelites and others might enter Canaan but not be able to inherit/possess it. Those who dwelt in Israel when it was established but were not Jewish did not have the same rights as landowners did. They did not have the same rights or access to the same privileges. Some of the Israelites remained in Israel when Babylon conquered, but they did not have all the rights that they had had before. They had lost their possession.

What does this mean for the believer? We’ll look at the New Testament in the next post, but let me tell you what I believe to be true based on what we have seen:

  1. All believers have God as their inheritance. They will be with Him for all of eternity. (Psalm 16, 73, 142)
  2. Some believers will inherit the Kingdom, while others will not. There will be some who are residents of the Kingdom, and there will be others that enter AND truly possess the Kingdom.This is something additional to being in Heaven.
  3. The difference between “enterors” and inheritors is obedience. (Joshua 14:8-9, Genesis 22:15-18)

All believers will enter into the Kingdom of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom and the Eternal State, but not all will be co-heirs with Christ when we are there.

Continue on to Part 2 for a discussion on the New Testament concept of a multi-dimensional salvation!

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The End of Faith?

It’s been quite a week for American Christians. President Barack Obama has made several underhanded comments against conservative Christianity, particularly in labeling it an “ideology” in his decision to allow the unborn to be murdered in the name of scientific advancement. Trinity College also released it’s 2008 ARIS report, detailing a decline (variously labeled “slight” and “staggering” by different commentators) in the number of people who either claim Christianity at all or say that their faith makes any difference in their lives. We can argue over statistical accuracy all day, but the reality is that secularlism in America is on the rise and evangelical Christianity is on a decline. This has been true for years now. This has many thinkers in America- atheist, Christian, and otherwise- discussing what the reason for it is. I recently came across Michael Spencer’s blog and really liked what he had to say. He’s taken some flak for stating his case, but I think he is right on target. What follows is his perspective on American Evangelicalism. You can read the whole article on his site.

Here are Spencer’s primary predictions:

  1. Within ten years, the beginning of a Great Collapse will take place, resulting in only half of Evangelical Christians still attending church.
  2. Public policy (and the public that makes up the policy) will become quite anti-Christian, seeing Christianity as a roadblock to freedom.
  3. Christians will “abandon ship” and not look back.

Spencer says that this will happen for a number of reasons, some of which are listed here:

  1. Christians have come to believe in a political or moral Cause more than the Faith.
  2. Christian youth ministries have failed to instill an orthodox Christian faith in young people.
  3. Many churches are either consumer-driven or dying.
  4. Christian education isn’t nearly as educational as public education.

Spencer’s outlook isn’t hopeless, though. He believes that what remains will be a Church that returns to itsoriginal purpose and goals. I for one hope that his prediction is correct. American Christianity is soft. We’ve spoken boisterously where the Bible is silent. We’ve made politics the main thing when the Church was not meant to be a political power. We’ve entertained people instead of instructing them. We’ve promised education and provided seclusion. Frankly, in light of all of this, Spencer’s predictions aren’t really predictions at all. They’re more like a cause-and-effect analysis.

You can check out Michael Spencer’s blog here.

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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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God IS Great: Christopher Hitchens, Metaphysics, and Teleology

The fifth and sixth chapters of Hitchens’ book God is not Great are an attempt to undermine belief in God as the Uncaused Cause of the universe. Originally, I had intended to treat chapter five’s dealings with metaphysics as a separate article from chapter six’s dealings with argument from design. However, once I read the chapter on metaphysics, I was faced with a serious problem. Hitchens only deals directly with metaphysics in one paragraph of the whole chapter!

I’ve begun to see the beauty of journalism. You can write articles and whole books based on anecdotes and sarcasm alone! Now, I’m a huge fan of both when used with real support, but if Hitchens wants to discuss such a serious issue as the origin of the universe, he had better have more to bring to the table than baseless claims and gross sarcasm. Perhaps he’d be better off as a White House spokesman. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)

Hitchens fails miserably at proving the metaphysical claims of Christians to be false. He mocks them, uses some straw men here and there, takes some quotes out of context, etc. He doesn’t ever deal with real issues. He never quotes Christian apologists of the 21st century. This is, perhaps, the poorest chapter of his book.

Strangely, he also spends very little time dealing with atheistic metaphysics. Every belief system has metaphysical elements. We all must have answers to questions that are non-scientific in nature. After a shoddy attempt to pull the rug out from under Christian metaphysics, Hitchens does little if anything to explain his perspective on the issue of metaphysics.

Hitchens’ only real attempt at metaphysics is one that could have easily been placed in his chapter on arguments from design. He says that because every cause must have a cause, theistic explanations for God are weak. Hitchens makes a categorical mistake here. Christian metaphysics state that whatever comes into being must have a cause. There is a great distinction between the two statements. If God never came into being but simply always is (which, by the way, is the actual claim of Christianity since God is the “I Am”, the high and lofty one that inhabits eternity), then He has no need of an external force or intelligence to bring Him about. Christians simply don’t believe in a created God, for created gods really are a delusion. What really is a tragedy is when intelligent people have no problem believing an infinite regression of causes, such as those who espouse Darwinism.

Hitchens also makes the assertion that the universe could not have been created because there is imperfection in the universe. This seems to be quite the leap to me, and one that ignores the clear marks of design in our world. One of his evidences of the imperfection of the universe is the state of the universe itself. The explosions of stars seems to be evidence of violence to Hitchens, something far more random than a created universe should have. I think it strange that just a few chapters ago, Hitchens talked about the wonder and majesty of the cosmos. Surely he can see that beauty and awe can come from even the explosion of suns! We see very little of the “big picture” in the cosmos so that an argument of this source is really an argument from ignorance. He mocks those who lived centuries ago for their superstitions and false beliefs. Doesn’t he know that people will one day look back on even the likes of Einstein and chuckle to themselves? To argue from lack of knowledge seems foolish.

Secondly, Hitchens makes the assumption that the God of the Bible is a pragmatist. He thinks that because humans see organs or portions of DNA as unnecessary that we couldn’t have been designed that way. Why did God create things as He did? Why did He not do things differently? I suppose there are many different ways God could have done things. The point is that He did them in this way for purposes that we do not know. Rather than assume that we have all knowledge, why not simply admit that we lack true understanding? Isn’t that part of the wonder of God’s universe, to be able to explore, experience, and discover?

Thirdly, Hitchens assumes that because things are unpleasant that they are therefore imperfect. Ears that need cleaning, for instance, are evidence of imperfection in the created order. Seriously? Nowhere in the Bible does God claim to have made a sterile world. Nowhere in the Bible does God claim to have made a world in which there will be minimal to no effort required on our part. God gave us things to do and the means to accomplish those tasks. How is ear wax proof of a world that lacks a Designer? (One could, by the way, make the argument that the existence of earwax is miraculous in itself. Maybe someday…)

Finally, Hitchens completely ignores the Biblical account of the Fall. Things aren’t perfect, and we’d be fools to claim they were. However, assuming that this world is precisely what God intended is equally foolish. Paul speaks in Romans 8 about how the entire creation groans under the crushing weight of human sin. “Man marks the earth with ruin”, as Lord Byron says, and his control no longer stops with the shore. Violence, destruction, and failure to properly care for our Father’s world have ravaged this planet. The results of both Fall and Flood are great and tragic. Everything in this world was thrown about because of man’s fall, and we won’t see a perfect world as God intended it until the Eternal State begins.

On the whole, Hitchens fails miserably to deal seriously with Christian thought and practice. Rather than deal with Christian belief within the Bible itself, he is quite content to deal with historical, marginal Christianity bereft of context. Such a straw man may be easy to knock down, but one is left to wonder how Hitchens would do if he ever came across the genuine artifact.

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God IS Great: The Arrogance of Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

“As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.” That’s how Christopher Hitchens ends the first chapter of his best-selling book god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Frankly, Hitchens’ book- cover to cover-  is nothing more than a rant. It stirs the emotions of the reader, to be sure. It has some facts scattered throughout. It doesn’t have much substance, though. In fact, the thought strikes me that his book is basically nothing more than a 307-page opinion piece gone horribly wrong.

I’d read this book when it first came out, but I thought I’d read it again since I am going to hear him speak soon. I got it used, so as not to contribute in driving up sales. One of the first things that leapt out at me was the incredible arrogance of the book. Now, he hasn’t gone so far as some atheists (who want to refer to themselves as “brights”), but he is incredibly arrogant, nonetheless.

A Proud Look

Wasting no time in flaunting his presumptuousness, on page 7 of his book he says:  “How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in awareness of one’s own sin?” Throughout the first few chapters, Hitchens asserts that Christianity is incapable of producing anything “intelligible or noble or inspiring” since the rise of science. He speaks of the wonder, majesty, and mystery of Hawking’s description of event horizon of a black hole and the symmetry of the double helix while he says of Jehovah: “Why, if god was the creator of all things, were we supposed to ‘praise’ him so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally? This seemed servile, apart from anything else.”

One has to wonder where Hitchens thinks the wonder, majesty, and mystery of nature came from in the first place. Art and music do not leap into existence on their own; it takes the will, power, and skill of a creator- a creator with passion and imagination- to form them. If we wonder at the creation, how much more should we wonder at the Creator? Hitchens would do better to be like his colleague Richard Dawkins, who at least admits the desire to feel grateful when he beholds the heavens.

Semi-intelligent Design

From Hitchens’ initial error in being arrogant a host of other problems come forth. For starters, he has espoused a Darwinistic/Atheistic worldview. He says of those that think like him: “We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than scientific factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.” This truism is not espoused solely by the Darwinistic and Atheistic faithful, however. It is accepted by Christians as well. As I’ve said many times before, Christianity was foundational and not incidental to the modern scientific movement in the West, and I can think of no Christian today that denies the importance of science and reason.

Rather, Christians have exercised reason and interpreted scientific findings (something we all must do) in concluding that there is a flaw in the atheistic and Darwinistic worldviews. “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could,” sang Maria Von Trapp, and she was quite right. Ironically, while Hitchens doesn’t believe in a Creator with a will and an intellect, he cannot avoid projecting those qualities on a theoretical blind process: “Evolution has meant that our prefontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee.”

Standardless Morality

Hitchens also believes that a moral life can be lived apart from God. However, I would ask where Hitchens got the idea that morality and immorality exist. I wonder why he thinks that the moral path is better than the immoral path. If you can get to the top by cheating and swindling and never suffer the consequences you most fear, why not do it? There is no judgment coming in the atheistic worldview. If no one finds out about it, why not go for it?

Humans know that there is a difference between right and wrong, and things such as character and guilt prevent the vast majority of us from doing terrible things. This conscience tells us that there is a “better” and a “worse” in us, and I would say that if there is a “better”, then it is reasonable to assume at some point there is absolute Perfection. If there is absolute perfection, would not this Perfection be the standard for all? A perfect Being is one of the major aspects of the Judeo-Christian God. Hitchens denies the existence of Evil, preferring rather to blame man’s actions on an evolutionary hiccup that has resulted in humans being only partially rational. If this is true, where did the impulse to be good come from? Furthermore, how can I know anything about morality at all if my bodily organs are in control?

Religiosity vs. Relationship

This isn’t to say that Hitchens doesn’t have some leverage in his war against religion. In a sense, religion as we have come to call it does poison everything. Violence done in the name of a god or Eastern religion is tragic. Violence done in the name of Jehovah God is both tragic and grossly hypocritical. Jesus made it quite clear that His Kingdom was not of this world, and Paul said specifically that our weapons are spiritual, not physical. Our Enemy is Satan, not flesh and blood. If humans are made in God’s image and are potential temples for the Holy Spirit, why would any human exercise physical might in the name of God? They wouldn’t.They might have used His name in their crusade, but they have employed nothing of His character and obeyed none of His commands.

While Hitchens may find scientific discoveries “more awe-inspiring than the rantings of the godly”, I would conclude by saying that Christians are not followers of a religion, but partakers of a Relationship with the Divine. Every scientific discovery we make reminds us that “This is My Father’s World.” Every moment we live we are conscious of the fact that it is in Him that we live, and move, and have our being. Every aspect of our lives is a gift from the Creator and Sustainer of life, and we are moved by gratitude to worship and obedience. It is love and awe that is to be the supreme motivator in the Christian life, not fear or lust for power and control.

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The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: Way, Truth, and Life

The latter part of John 6 tells of a fascinating event in the life of Christ. The crowd is following Jesus, hoping to see another miracle, to taste again of the bread supplied by a miracle.

“If you want life, you must eat my flesh and drink my blood,” said Jesus.

“This is a difficult saying. How can we accept it?”, said the unbelieving multitude. They hadn’t expected this. They had been looking for a free meal. The miracles had become the point of their time with Christ, and Christ Himself had become the means of their “bread and circuses.” Jesus had been trying to get them to focus on their spiritual need but the unbelievers couldn’t see it. They only wanted more of the same. They wanted to have their desires fulfilled without having to deal with God. Of course, Jesus knew that one more meal wasn’t going to bring true happiness. C. S. Lewis once wrote: “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

God has not designed the universe to work in this way. He has designed human beings in such a way that the ultimate and deepest satisfaction you and I can partake of is in Himself. There may be other delights in this world, but they are mere hints and whispers of a far greater joy. If we choose to reject God as our ultimate joy, to paraphrase Lewis, we have no choice but to starve.

Life must be about more than consumption and reproduction. Those motives that are supreme in the Darwinian worldview don’t provide lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. Perhaps that is why, in a recent study, only around 40% of Americans admitted to buying into the lie of evolution. There seems to be something instinctive within the human psyche that drives them to seek satisfaction outside of those basic physical needs. Humans want expression and knowledge, love and passion, acceptance and significance. They want Truth in all areas. They want the Sacred.

“I am the Bread. I am the Way. I am the Life. I am the Door. I am the Vine. I am the Light. I am the Shepherd. I am the Resurrection…..I am the Truth.” Jesus makes statements throughout the book of John which tell us of His ability to meet our needs. It is this last claim, the claim to BE Truth, which is so profound and so unique that it distinguishes Jesus forever from any other god that may be raised up in the temple of the mind.

In every other world religion, there is a distinction between the source of the truth claim and the truth claim itself. Krishna offers philosophy and mysticism, but he is not the philosophy itself. Mohammed points to the Koran, but Mohammed the person is not the vaunted truth. The Muslim does not turn to Mohammed himself in worship and obedience. Buddha speaks of a “Noble Path”, but he himself is not that Path. Buddha is the teacher, not the supposed reality behind the teachings. At their very best (the points at which these religions make some accurate statements regarding morality and reality), these religions are like an HIV test. The test reveals the problem, but cannot treat the disease.

Jesus, in contrast, was both the Message and the Messenger. He did not merely teach truth. He is Truth. He did not show a way. He is the Way. (Deepak Chopra recognizes the unique union of Message and Messenger and must make up some pretty weird ideas to get around it.) Life in Christ, in contrast to materialism, is not merely about consumption and reproduction. It is about who we are (our natures) as humans made in the image of God, our new position and relationship as children of God, and our destiny as believers. Our greatest hunger is to be filled with awe and love, to experience celebration, and to commit ourselves to Him. Our greatest hunger is fulfilled in living a life of Sacred Worship.

Hinduism says that I must nurture the god within because I am part of the divine universe. Islam says that I am so different from Allah that I will never really even get close to him. Jesus says that the God- Who is distinct from His creation and from Whom humanity was estranged- has come near. Instead of union with the universe or separation from Allah, God offers us communion through Jesus Christ His Son.

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The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: Signs and Wonders

Herods Temple

Herod's Temple

Last week I began by talking about the eternality of Jesus Christ as a support for the uniqueness of Christianity. This week I want to talk a bit about Jesus’ next unique claim.

We begin in John 2. Jesus performed the miracle at the wedding in Cana, and He moved with purpose to Jerusalem. In the Temple, He drove out the moneychangers. Enraged, the Jews said: “What is the basis of your authority? Show us a sign!”

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”

John tells us that Jesus spoke of the temple of His body. Why did He give them a sign that they wouldn’t be able to see for years? The answer is that Jesus knew the heart of the particular Jews that asked Him the question. They weren’t skeptics searching for answers. They were skeptics who thought they already knew the answers. In fact, it is interesting to note that every time someone in Scripture asked for a sign of Jesus’ power and authority, Jesus had recently finished performing a great miracle! The miraculous propelled the faithful into greater faith but drove the unbelievers to further skepticism. It is no different today. The skeptics that question whether or not God exists do so with the mind given them by God’s creative power: a miracle. The skeptics that scoff at the idea of Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loves of bread and two fish forget that Jesus created the materials that make up the bread. It isn’t the lack of evidence for Who Jesus is that troubles skeptics, but it’s the implications of the evidence that makes them uncomfortable.

Consider some other miracles of reality, called to mind by Ravi Zacharias:

  • The statistical probability of forming a single enzyme, the building block of the gene, is 1 in 1040,000. That’s a larger number than all of the atoms in the stars in the known universe.
  • A human DNA double helix has enough information to cover 600,000 pages of information, supposedly originating from nothing and no one.

Who, I wonder, has more faith: The believer or the materialist?

Yet the materialist who considers Scripture says with David Hume: “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” The problem is that Hume’s test doesn’t pass its own test; it is neither mathematical nor scientific. Such is the nature of materialistic claims.

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”

What greater proof is there of Jesus’ authority than His resurrection?  He predicts a bodily resurrection within a specific time frame, and does so quite accurately. The soldiers guarding the tomb knew it happened, as did the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. That’s why the Pharisees in their extrabiblical writings refer to Jesus as a sorcerer instead of a liar. They couldn’t disprove the resurrection. Hundreds, in fact, saw Jesus after His resurrection.

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”

There’s something else to Jesus’ words than a “simple” reference to His Own resurrection. Notice the use of “temple” as a metaphor for “body.” Jesus reminds the listener that the physical body is sacred. It is sacred because it is a part of God’s special creation. Human rights, the sacredness of marriage, sexuality, and the command to love each other as we love ourselves all come from our bodies being a temple (at salvation) for God Himself. This is the distinction between Christianity and other religions.

In every other classic world religion there is a difference between the body and the place of worship. The body must perform specific deeds, say certain things, etc. in order to enter so-called holy places for worship. The human body must at least face in the direction of the place of worship in Islam if the worshiper is absent. Hindus, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews have engaged in violence toward one another over their sacred places. During Thaipusam, some Hindu devotees pierce their bodies in preparation for their journey to the temple of Lord Murugan. Indira Gandhi was murdered because she sent the military into a Sikh temple to obtain weapons. It is true that people have performed violence in the name of Christ, but Jesus was quite clear when He said that His kingdom was not of this world. It is not of weapons to do violence. We are His temple. How much suffering could have been avoided had we all simply listened to the claims of Christ?

The body is exalted because of Jesus’ conception, His unique expression of the Godhead, His physical sacrifice on the Cross, and His bodily resurrection. What greater sign or wonder is there than these?

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”

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“God Did It So Shut Up”

My final (brief) post on Nitwit Nastik‘s article is a summation of his fifth problem with Christian’s responses. Basically, he hates it when Christians dismiss the question or argument because some Christians will say that the question is unreasonable. Nitwit has a good point. Do children like it when you say “because I said so”? No! Do you like it when your boss pulls rank? No! What makes anyone think that saying “Your question doesn’t matter” is a good response?! We are commanded to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” I would think that Nitwit was making up this last one, but I’ve seen Christian do this to other Christians. Shameful!

Now, Nitwit also seems to have a problem with an appeal to those who are professional students of the Scripture. I’m afraid that I must disagree with him on this point. We ask doctors questions on medicine. We want to know what scientists think on matters of science. We want to know what economists and politicians think about the state of the world these days. Why would we not go to the pastors and theologians when we have questions concerning their professional area of study?

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Jesus Isn’t “Nice”

We’ve all seen the pictures. He’s got long hair, feminine features, soft eyes, and maybe a big, cheesy grin. That’s Him. Your friendly, neighborhood Savior. Marketing Christianity sure has gotten easy these days, hasn’t it? We’ve gotten rid of the Stone the Builders Rejected and replaced Him with a “nice” sculpture to admire. The problem is, in getting rid of the original, we’ve committed idolatry.

Jesus isn’t “nice.” To be sure, He is loving, gracious, and merciful. He is the Savior Who mourned the loss of a friend, grieved over His rejection by Jerusalem, and beckoned children to His side. But that isn’t all He is. He drove the money-changers from the Temple. He didn’t give a rip when the Pharisees got offended by His teachings and miracles. He was so rugged He could endure 40 days in the wilderness, surrounded by wild animals, and not eat. He endured tremendous persecution, betrayal, and an excruciating execution. He sits today at the right hand of the Father, and we will all bow before Him one day, declaring Him to be Lord. He will judge both Living and Dead, saved and lost.

Because Christians have feminized Jesus, both believers and unbelievers have gotten entirely too comfortable with Him. He’s regularly mocked by satirical shows such as Family Guy, blasphemed by the creator of the “Sweet Lord Jesus” statue (made entirely out of chocolate), and taken for granted by many Christians today.

We’d best be careful, though. He isn’t called the “Lion of Judah” for nothing.

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The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: His Dwelling

Coexist?

Coexist: Blind Leading the Blind?

“Christianity is no different than every other religion.” That’s what some of my friends will tell me if we’re ever discussing religion. “They all teach the importance of morality, the existence of eternity, and give people some comfort as well as a reason to be good.” Fair enough. Christianity does have some things in common with most of the major religions. In fact, I would suggest that any religion worth having a look at should at least provide this much information and motivation. I would also suggest, however, that Christianity is very different from mere religion. Christianity is unique because of the Person of Jesus Christ.

Where are you from?

If you read John 1:38-51, an interesting story (which I’m going to paraphrase for the sake of space) unfolds.

“Rabbi, where are you from?”, the disciple asks.

“Come and see.”

We don’t know where exactly Jesus spent the night, but we do know that He and His disciples rarely stayed in houses. We can also hear the incredulity in Nathanael’s voice a few verses later when he asks: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

In the Eastern parts of the world, I am told, one of the most important things about a person is where they are from. In fact, in some areas, where you are from and what your family heritage is like is more important than your own personal credentials. In the West, of course, we are interested in where you are from, but we are more interested in what you can do. If you are dividing the world strictly into East and West, then ancient Israel is very much an Eastern land. That is why the disciples are originally very much interested in where Jesus is from, and that is why Nathanael has difficulty with Jesus’ hometown. Nazareth wasn’t much to look at.

But Jesus wasn’t from Nazareth. Not really, anyway.

Jacob’s Ladder

“You will see greater things, for soon you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” said Jesus.

Jacob. He escaped his brother’s wrath after tricking his father into giving him the blessing. In the middle of the desert, he slept with a rock for his pillow and dreamed of angels descending and ascending into Heaven on a ladder. When he woke up, he knew that He was in Beth-el (“the house of God.”)

In effect, Jesus had said: “I AM Beth-el. I AM the House of God.” Jesus’ dwelling place was identical to the dwelling place of Jehovah, the “High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.” All of reality is His domain, but His throne is in Heaven.

The Visitation

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3) to ask Him some questions. Jesus’ teachings astounded him, for He spoke of a new birth, eternal life, and the “lifting up” of Himself. As part of His claim to authority, Jesus speaks of coming down from Heaven, not ascending into Heaven. This is not Enlightenment. This is not Revelation to Jesus from God. This is a Visitation of the eternal, transcendent God.

This truth about Jesus’ origin (if you can call it that) separates Christianity from other world religions. Islam claims that Mohammed was taken to Heaven on a particular night to see what It was like. Heaven was foreign and unknown to Mohammed. Not so with Jesus. He knows all there is to know about reality.

Mohammed, Buddha, and Krishna (assuming his historicity) were born of natural means (sexual union). Not so with Jesus. He is eternal, and His birth was supernatural. Prophecy predicts it; Gabriel announced it; Mary and Joseph proclaimed it in spite of ostracism; Elizabeth and Zacharias  backed it in spite of the fact that their son had to serve the younger Cousin; the disciples preached and risked death for it; and even the Koran affirms it.

Jesus, as the eternal God from Heaven, is holy perfection. Not so with Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammed. One only has to read the scriptures of these other religions to see that. Surahs 47, 48 speak of sins committed by Mohammed that need forgiving. Mohammed struggled with the supposed command to receive revelation, but Jesus knew exactly why He was there. The tale of Krishna’s immorality with the Gopi is an embarrassment to many Hindu scholars, and Buddha had to endure countless reincarnations to achieve perfection and enlightenment.

He didn’t come to teach morality. He didn’t come to teach enlightenment. He came from eternal Heaven into His temporal creation to die for lost humanity and give us abundant life.

“Rabbi, where are you from?”, the disciple asks.

“Come and see.”

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Text Without Context

This is my fourth (and probably shortest) response to Nitwit Nastiks “Errors, Inconsistencies, and Contradictions in the Bible.” His fourth problem deals with the tendency of Christians to “proof text” their way through arguments. For starters, I will openly admit that there are a lot of people, both Christian and non-Christian, that love to use verses without a context. This is just plain old wrong. For too long, Christians have been content to explain Scripture topically. Rather than do the hard work of digging into Scripture to determine its actual meaning, we have become consumed by a love of milk and forsaken spiritual meat. This leads to poor exegesis, fuzzy doctrine, and weak theology. Shame on us, Christians, for getting to this point.

That being said, I do not believe that the Bible Itself takes Its own passages out of context. The link provided in this section of Nitwit’s post indicates that the New Testament is a twisting of the Old Testament. On the contrary, the New Testament relies heavily on the correct interpretation of the Old Testament. Matthew quotes, paraphrases, and summarizes the prophets frequently. Jesus Himself quotes from Deuteronomy frequently. Peter’s sermons in Acts and Paul’s illustrations in the epistles come from the Old Testament. It may not have been what the Jews expected, but it was what God meant. For more information on the prophetic portions of Scripture, I would highly recommend J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come.

In summation, I don’t believe that anyone should use verses out of context. Proof texting is a bad maneuver on anyone’s part. Quoting verses is perfectly fine, but to ignore context or the overall perspective of Scripture in order to support one’s perspective is patently dishonest.

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Eternal Truths or Cultural Command?

The third complaint of my friend Nitwit Nastik is that some things in the Bible cannot be eternal since there are some obvious cultural instructions. If there are specific cultural instructions, how can we say that the Bible is an eternal Book with eternal truths? How can something be both eternal and local? This is an interesting and complex problem which I won’t attempt to treat entirely in this posting.

It is correct that the Bible is both eternal and true. It contains the words of Almighty God. God, in His wisdom, had men write down the words of Scripture for several purposes. Paul lists those purposes in 2Timothy 3:16:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

There are doctrinal reasons and practical (moral) reasons for the existence of Scripture. We learn Who God is and what He is like through Scripture. We know of Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, eternity, and Salvation through the Bible. We also get to see how God has worked to bring about His plans through the narrative of both Testaments. As history plays out on the pages of Scripture, we encounter both eternal commands (Thou shalt not commit adultery) and local commands (But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.) Eternal commands never change because they are true in all ages, but local commands do change according to the culture. However, local commands are based on eternal principles.

Nitwit brings up 1Corinthians 11:4-10, which is the command concerning women wearing head coverings. There are believers who are of the opinion that women must wear head coverings while attending church services. Others believe that this was a cultural command to a specific church in history and does not have to be followed today. Those who take this second view believe that there is an eternal principle behind the cultural command. I am not in this post going to explain my view on the subject. Both views must be defended against the allegations that such a command (whether local or eternal in nature) is sexist and prejudiced.

Remembering that Scripture must be compared with Scripture to determine a proper interpretation, let us look at what the Bible says about the status and role of women is. That same passage in 1 Corinthians also tells us that in terms of value, men and women are completely equal. Men owe their existence to women because of natural birth, but women owe their existence to man because Eve came from Adam. Galatians 3:28 echoes this idea:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 31 also explains that women are just as capable of productivity and efficiency in every area of life. Therefore, it cannot be said that 1 Corinthians 11 is an example of prejudice or sexism. There must be another explanation. The Bible does assert that women and men have different roles in the home and in society. This only makes sense. Our brains are distinct, our bodies are distinct, and our needs and emotions are distinct. Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. Men are like waffles; women are like spaghetti. (Google it if you don’t get it.) God planned for each gender to be uniquely made in His image, but we reflect different aspects of Himself.

God tells us that we must maintain this distinction between genders in every area, including dress. This is the eternal principle underlying the local command given in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is instructing the Corinthian church to be sure to maintain the distinction according to society’s standards. For them, this means that men’s hair is short and women’s hair is long. This is not sexism. If anything, it maintains that women are unique and special and therefore should be treated as such.

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The Bible: Lost in Transmission?

This is my second post responding to my friend Nitwit’s article concerning supposed errors in the Christian perspective on Scripture. To get an idea of what has come before, you should probably go here to read the first article. Nitwit’s second point is, frankly, difficult to discern since there is a lot of terminology thrown around without being clearly defined. I can gather that Nitwit believes that the actual words written by God (which he technically doesn’t believe in) have been lost. Rather than directly respond to each thought of the article, I am going to positively state a Christian view of the Bible.

  1. Inspired- “God breathed”- all Scripture originated from God, and humans wrote down what He said. (1 Peter 1:20-21)
  2. Preserved- God has providentially ensured the accuracy of the transmission of both the Old and New Testaments (Matthew 24:35, 1 Peter 1:22-25)
  3. Inerrant/Infallible- The Bible is without error. (Psalm 12:6, 19:7; Proverbs 30:5) Note: Some Christians distinguish these two terms, but my point is that you can’t have one without the other.

I’ve dealt with the translation issue and the transmission of the New Testament texts in four previous posts starting here, so I’ll not beat the horse to death (though some would argue that I already have…) Suffice it to say that, with 5,500 copies or partial copies of the New Testament in its original language, there is plenty of manuscript evidence concerning the New Testament. We are content with just having ten copies of the Greek classics in their original language.  Also, New Testament copies originate only 100 years after the original autographs were penned, as opposed to Greek classics, whose extant copies are often available only 700-1400 years after their original composition. John A. T. Robinson writes: “The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”

As for the Old Testament, I know of very few serious scholars that would question its accuracy. Of course, we don’t have the original manuscripts. It would be a rare find indeed to find the completed autograph from nearly 4,000 years ago! What we do have is a knowledge of how the Old Testament was transmitted. The scribes and priests in general were given this task, and they faithfully did it for countless generations. After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the scribes continued their work in Egypt and Babylon. When the Remnant returned seventy years later, a strict method of copying was resumed, as outlined in Wikipedia (of all places) but confirmed in a number of books.

  1. Only clean manuscripts could be used.
  2. Each column must contain between 48 and 60 lines. (This kept the writing from getting too small so that the copy could not be copied.)
  3. Even the ink had a special recipe, and it had to be black.
  4. The scribe had to speak each word as he wrote it.
  5. They had to clean both pen and body before they wrote God’s name.
  6. Each copy was reviewed within three days of completion. If more than three pages required correction, the entire copy had to be rewritten.
  7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
  8. The documents had to be stored in sacred places.
  9. When the document became worn out, it had to be buried in a genizah.

After Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome in A.D. 70, the Jews continued their work of faithful copying, which culminated in the work of the Masoretes. The Masoretes used the ancient scribal system and even expanded it. According to F. F. Bruce, the Masoretes wrote “with the greatest imaginable reverence, and devised a complicated system of safeguards against scribal slips. They counted, for example, the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book; they pointed out the middle letter of the Pentateuch and the middle letter of the whole Hebrew Bible, and made even more detailed calculations than these.”

The results of such careful transmission are clear. We have a Bible available today that we can have maximum security in, knowing and believing that God was faithful in preserving His Word.

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Literary Aspects of the Bible

In this post I’ll be directly replying to Nitwit Nastik’s blog article “Errors, Inconsistencies, and Contradictions in the Bible.” (Nitwit and I have a fairly cordial friendship going, so please don’t see this as my attempt to tear him to shreds. You’ll have to read through both our blogs to see that we have had a number of conversations concerning faith.) His basic assumption in this article is that the Bible contains a number of “contradictions and factual or scientific errors.” I call this an assumption because he doesn’t actually list any errors, but rather critiques the responses of Christians when confronted with these so-called errors.

The first response by Christians that he critiques is the use of literary techniques to explain verses in the Bible. Apparently, the use of metaphor and symbolism in Scripture is problematic for Nitwit, who seems to prefer a more “literal” interpretation of Scripture. He goes so far, in fact, as to describe an appeal to the poetic nature of Scripture as “deceptive.”

In order to understand Scripture, we must understand that it is a book of ancient literature. As such, it makes use of a variety of literary types such as proverb, saying, chronicle, lament psalm, oracle, apocalypse, parable, song, epistle, and many others. (For those interested, I highly recommend Leland Ryken’s books How to Read the Bible as Literature and The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible.) On the subject of literary technique, Ryken writes:

“Virtually every page of the Bible is replete with literary technique, and to possess the individual texts fully, we need to read the Bible as literature, just as we need to read it theologically and (in the narrative parts) historically.

“The importance of genre to biblical interpretation is that genres have their own methods of procedure and rules of interpretation. An awareness of genre should alert us to what we can expect to find in a text. Additionally, considerations of genre should govern the terms in which we interact with a text. With narrative, e.g., we are on the right track if we pay attention to plot, setting, and character. If the text before us is a satire, we need to think in terms of object of attack, the satiric vehicle in which the attack is couched, and satiric norm (stated or implied standard by which the criticism is being conducted).

“In view of how many literary genres are present in the Bible, it is obvious that the overall literary form of the Bible is the anthology, as even the word Bible (Gk. biblia, “books”) hints. As an anthology, the Bible possesses the same kinds of unity that other anthologies exhibit: multiple authorship (approximately three dozen authors), diverse genres, a rationale for collecting these particular materials (a unifying religious viewpoint and story of salvation history), comprehensiveness, and an identifiable strategy of organization (a combination of historical chronology and groupings by genre).”

One would expect literary complexity in the Word of God. One would expect literary complexity in any religious book. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that parallelism, foreshadowing, metaphor, simile, symbolism, etc. should appear throughout the Bible. It is the logical result of a Creative Mind guiding other creative minds to write.

Now, I must be clear here. Biblical Christianity has always believed in a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture. We do believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture. That means that we believe that some Scripture literally makes use of literary techniques. We also believe in comparing Scripture with Scripture to determine Its true meaning. These principles are both practical and logical.

Nitwit correctly asserts that anything can be given a metaphorical meaning, and he uses The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings as examples. I would like to make a few statements as a way of wrapping up the post:

  1. I find it a bit ironic that The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings themselves both make use of allusion, metaphor, and symbolism throughout, frequently in referencing Christianity. The Matrix references Christianity (Zion, Trinity, etc.) throughout, and Tolkien himself explained that Eru is a fictionalized version of God.
  2. If modern books and movies use literary techniques, why is it so difficult to believe that the Bible would?
  3. In the works mentioned above, we can turn to either the author or the author’s works to figure out what the literary techniques used are meant to represent. When we read the Bible, we do the same thing. We turn to the Author in prayer and further study His Word to determine the correct interpretation.

1 Peter 1:20-21: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

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Entertainment, Bible Narrative, and The Power of Shared Experience

Those of us who grew up in the 1980’s remember the popular slogan for Music Television: “I Want My MTV!” There were commercials, t-shirts, and a host of other paraphernalia on which the slogan was emblazoned. I came from a fairly conservative background and wasn’t allowed to watch MTV (not that we could, since the cable company STILL has yet to actually run cable to my parents’ house), but I was keenly aware of the mania that surrounded the cultural phenomenon that is still a fixture today.

For a number of years I’ve wondered what it is about entertainment (broadly defined in this article as reading material, music, movies, television, video games, and even the sin of pornography) that is so powerful. With the possible exception of reading, each of these forms of entertainment have a certain addictive quality. Of course, when I was a teenager I thought that the content of my entertainment was irrelevant. As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve come to realize that there is a strange power in entertainment. I think I’m finally ready to take a “stab” at what that power is.

The power of entertainment is the power of a shared experience. When I read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game with a decent plot, I am involved in the experience. My heart races during the intense parts. I may like or dislike certain characters. I am emotionally and cognitively involved with the protagonist of every “story” I am told. Such is the power of narrative. It doesn’t matter whether or not the characters are real, I respond to them as if I knew them personally. Music seems to be even more powerful because melody, harmony, and rhythm blend together with the narrative of the lyrics. The musical elements reinforce the power of the experience.

This is what makes entertainment so wonderful….and so perilous. A protagonist that overcomes tragedy can strengthen us. A family in a movie that rallies during a time of difficulty can inspire us. Music that glorifies real love (as opposed to the whimsical, fickle sort) can draw us closer to a spouse. Entertainment that glorifies an immoral protagonist and emphasizes sensual “love” causes us to experience reality as the author sees it, sometimes quite graphically. We may be able to label actions, attitudes, and thoughts as “wrong”, but we cannot escape the experience. This is why we must be so careful what we allow our souls to imbibe.

I’ve also thought about the nature of sharing experience as it relates to the Bible. Perhaps the reason why God shared so much of His Truths through Old Testament narrative is that experience is so powerful. Most of the Bible, after all, is a narrative of one sort or another. There’s really very little in the Bible that doesn’t take the form of a narrative.

Perhaps God wants us to experience the lives of the men and women of the Bible. We can bask in the wonder of the Shekinah with Moses on Mount Sinai, slay the giant Goliath with David, stand boldly before the king with Esther, and sense the wonder of John as he writes: “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father.” Experience is often a better teacher than men. How much better is it to experience life from those who have gone before, to learn the wisdom of the ages vicariously, than to have to learn everything the hard way?

Whether we consider the power of entertainment or the power of the Scriptural narrative, we cannot ignore or deny the hold that a “story” has on us. We must be careful to abhor evil, to cling to that which is good. Because it isn’t just a movie. It isn’t just the Bible. It’s an experience that, once shared, will be a part of us forever. If MTV is what I choose to watch, it really is “my” MTV.

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It’s Just Bible Class…

The Problem

Bible teachers hear it all the time, it seems. A student wants permission to go to the bathroom, make a phone call in the school office, or go to their locker. You tell them that they need to wait until the end of class since that is school policy. They sigh, turn around to return to their seat, and you hear them mutter: “It’s just Bible class…”

A parent needs to schedule a doctor’s appointment for their child or a class sponsor needs help with a fundraiser. “It’s just Bible class…”

Now, I’m no heartless, embittered teacher. I think most of my students would agree that I enjoy what I do and I enjoy teaching them. I’m also admittedly guilty of being something of a pushover at times. I know doctor’s appointments are difficult to work into a schedule. I understand that there will be times when school activities overshadow my class or any other class. What I don’t understand is the apathy toward Bible study amongst Christians. Maybe the reason the world doesn’t “buy into” Christianity is that the Christians barely seem to believe in Christianity themselves. Maybe we are guilty of taking a privilege for granted in our Christians schools. If Bible class is “just” Bible class, perhaps we should all pack up and go home. There’s plenty of free education out there.

No, what I don’t buy into is the idea that Bible class should be treated like an elective thrown in at the last minute to fill a student’s schedule. I don’t buy into the idea that Bible should be an easy class so that students don’t get frustrated with the subject and reject their own faith. A quick look at the statistics will tell you that our apathetic attitude toward serious Bible study in church has already done plenty of damage. In our attempt to entertain people into the Kingdom, we’ve turned them off to Truth. Many students will attend a secular university and reject their faith primarily because it has no depth.

The problem is that Bible classes in our Christian schools are very much like glorified Sunday School classes. We do short little studies of Bible characters, positive character qualities (something you could find in any government school, by the way), and half-hearted outlines of books of the Bible in the upper levels. Then we spend most of our time applying Scripture to our own lives.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe time in God’s Word suddenly became about us instead of about Him. Maybe we don’t want to do the study necessary to come up with real Bible lessons. Maybe we are so focused on “discovering what this verse means to me” that we don’t know what to make of it in its own context. Maybe “personal application” is just another way of saying “I need a crutch.”

I’m not saying Bible can’t be fun, exciting, and have times of application. I am just saying that we have gone so far in the wrong direction concerning styles of Bible teaching that I can’t even find a decent Bible curriculum to use.

An Apologetic for the Academic

Yes, Bible classes in a Christian school- particularly in middle and high school- should be academically challenging. We believe that the Bible is our sole authority in faith and practice. How can we know what to believe, how can we know what to do, say, think, and feel, without knowing what the Bible says? If the Bible is truly a “love letter from God”, a special revelation of the Divine, should it not be treated as such? If we have access to the mind of God Himself, should we not feel burdened with the necessity of serious study?

What sort of message does it send to students if they have to work for decent grades in math, science, history, and English, but Bible is “an easy A.” Of course that’s going to give them the impression that “it’s just Bible.” It seems ironic that elementary school teachers often will teach Bible lessons and have students memorize verses (academic pursuits), but the standard levels off or even drops as students approach graduation from high school! Just when science becomes physics, math becomes trigonometry, and english becomes American literature, Bible class becomes a glorified youth group meeting! We have told them to be good, but we have failed to tell them why. No wonder students stop seeing the importance of the class period!

We also want to teach Scripture to students so that they are exposed to the whole counsel of God. We want them to know what God is actually saying. By their senior year, students should have an idea of what is in every book of the Bible- Genesis to Revelation. If they are given an idea of what is in the Bible, it will cause them to want to study it themselves. When they do study it themselves, their Bible classes will give them a context for what they read so that they aren’t lost. Who knows how many students have left a Christian school without having a clear idea of what the gospel message is all about?

Finally, Bible classes are necessarily academic because students must know the Bible in order to be considered educated as far as the Western world is concerned. Art, music, history, science, and literature are all touched in some way by God’s Word. Each of these areas alludes to the Bible in some way, whether through paintings, symphonies, the rise and fall of nations, various discoveries about our natural world, or the English classics. If students do not know what the Bible says, they lack the ability to understand the very world around them.

Only when students are given a proper Biblical context will they stay strong in their faith when they are no longer in a Christian environment. Students must learn to think for themselves. We must teach our students the theology, literature, and history of the Bible if we are to accurately label our schools as “Christian.” We have an obligation to parents, students, and the Lord to do so. If we fail to develop an academic Bible curriculum, we are guilty of false advertising, and- far worse- we are guilty of setting souls adrift in this world.

Again, I’m not opposed to having fun in Bible. Bible teachers had better have a love for their “jobs”, students, and subject matter. They must be enthusiastic about what they do. Serious academic study doesn’t require that the mood of class be serious. It takes the efforts of the entire school: administrators, teachers, and parents to create the right atmosphere.

At the school I currently teach at, high school students take courses in the Life and Teachings of Jesus, Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, and Christian Philosophy and Apologetics. You won’t hear many of them complaining (until test time, that is.) What you will hear are things like the following quotes, which were written by students in course evaluations last year:

  • “I learned more about the Bible in a fun way. The discussions we had in class helped me see other people’s views on things.”
  • “Your Bible class has helped me a lot this year. I have always gone to church, and I’ve been a Christian for a few years, but I never knew why I was or what it meant. I can put into words what I believe and why. I’m not afraid to stand up for my beliefs anymore because I know how to explain it and back it up with Scripture.”
  • I have not always agreed with what you say, but I have learned from that. I have really enjoyed this class. I have learned so much, and this class has helped me stay strong in my faith.”
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Why I Use the KJV: Translation Philosophy

Eugene Nida

If you’ve read my previous three articles on textual families, the KJV’s history, and the history of the non-Traditional texts, you know that we’ve gone through a lot of depth in a very short period of time. In this final article, I’ll be talking a bit about how the Bible is translated. At the end, I will also give a few examples to show that textual families, historical beliefs, and translation philosophies have led to some important differences between Bible versions.

The KJV

The translation techniques of the KJV translators are by far superior to modern translations. In his work on translation styles, The Word of God in English, Leland Ryken quotes Alister McGrath regarding KJV translation style: “The translators tried to ensure that every word in the original had an English equivalent, highlight all words added to the original for the sake of intelligibility, and follow the word order of the original where possible.” Accurate translation should be a window to the text, and the King James Version does just that.

Leland Ryken, himself a literary critic with extensive credentials, writes: “Its style combines simplicity and majesty as the original requires, though it inclines toward the exalted. Its rhythms are matchless.” In comparison to the language of the day, the KJV is unique. It blends together both the highest of English styles with the simplicity of the common English. The language itself, however, is wholly biblical. It is precisely what is written in the originals, nothing more, nothing less, save that which is included to aid in comprehension. It should again be noted that words added for comprehension’s sake are set apart from the text of the Bible by italics.

Some have complained that the style of the King James Version has added confusion, especially in the use of synonyms to translate the same word from the original language. This should be considered a blessing, not a curse. Synonyms further expound on the original word, so that those who do not know the original languages are not at a disadvantage. To balance the variety provided by the use of synonyms, unity is ensured by the proper translation of words in their context. Truly the vast richness of the English language in the seventeenth century has been utilized in this translation.

It should also be pointed out that the KJV is a translation, not an interpretation. This stands in stark contrast to the New International Version, The Living Bible, and a host of others. Such translations have received criticism from conservative and liberal scholars alike for misinterpreting Scripture.

Dynamic Equivalence and the Modern Translations

Eugene Nida’s philosophy of dynamic equivalence, which interprets the original text rather than translates, spread quickly to the publishers of Europe and America. Translations became increasingly more thought-for-thought oriented, rather than word-for-word. This poses a problem as it is God’s words, not His thoughts, that he promised to preserve.

Ryken lists several reasons for the acceptance of dynamic equivalence, none of which are theological or scholarly in nature: antitraditionalism, a preference for colloquialism, evangelistic zeal, and a consumer-oriented church. These translations, according to Ryken, who was on the board for a recent translation of the Bible, reduce the level of vocabulary to a seventh-grade vocabulary level, drop metaphors, and change words to what the translator believed what was intended. You wouldn’t do that to Shakespeare, Milton, or even A. A. Milne, so why would people do that to God? If you change structure, you’ve ruined the masterpiece. Part of the beauty of a poem is in how it is structured (and the Bible is filled with poetry). You can’t simply sum it up and expect it to have the same effect.

Results and Practical Pointers

The following verses have been omitted or relegated to a footnote in many modern translations. I typically go to the popular NIV when comparing:

  • Matt. 6:13, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
  • Matt. 7:21. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
  • Matt. 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth”
  • Matt. 18:11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
  • Mark 15:28. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered
    with the transgressors.
  • I John 4:3, “Christ is come in the flesh”
  • I John 5:13, “and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”
  • Rev. 1:11, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”

Notice which doctrines are effected in the above verses. Of course, there are also some significant changes between versions even when the verses are present:

I John 5:7 reads as follows:
NIV- For there are three that testify:
NASV- And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
NWT- For there are three witness bearers,
KJV- For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father,
the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Messing with the doctrine of the Trinity sounds like dangerous ground to me!

Isaiah 14:12:

NIV- How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star …
KJV- How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

I thought Jesus was the morning star…

Acts 3:13:
NASV- The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Servant Jesus

KJV- The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers,hath glorified his Son Jesus;

Is Jesus God’s Servant or His Son?

I also like the KJV because it distinguishes between the sinular (thee, thou, thine) and the plural (you, your, yours) more directly. Technically, modern translations would need to distinguish between the two by using you/you all.

The results of all of this are far-reaching. First of all, there is no longer a Bible that everyone uses. It is up to the reader to determine which Bible is the best for them. Additionally, there is no longer a universal, Bible-centered Christian language, because the text of each Bible is different. Instead of confirming faith, the textual criticism and production of dozens of Bible translations has caused doubt in believers all over the world. According to Lewis, in seminaries, students are told that “the careful student of the Bible will not rely completely upon one version of the Bible, but he will seek to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the versions he uses.”

Either God preserved His Word or He did not. If God is incapable of protecting His Word, then we are all miserable creatures cut off from Him. We have lost our ability to trust the most direct line of communication between God and mankind. Fortunately, God did preserve His Word through the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Traditional Greek text.

I should be clear here that I don’t believe that the KJV is the only English translation that is or ever will acceptable. Languages change, and one day what we call English won’t look anything like English. Here’s an example of Luke 8:1-3 in Middle English:

And it is don, aftirward Jesus made iourne bi cites & castelis prechende & euangelisende þe rewme of god, & twelue wiþ hym & summe wymmen þat weren helid of wicke spiritis & sicnesses, marie þat is clepid maudeleyn, of whom seuene deuelis wenten out & Jone þe wif off chusi procuratour of eroude, & susanne & manye oþere þat mynystreden to hym of her facultes.

Summary

It remains for the church, not denominations, publishers, educational institutions, or fellowships, to continue to print and translate the Word of God into languages for people who have not heard. The text of Scripture was given to God through His chosen people, Israel, and to His bride, the church. When publishers, educational institutions, and the rest get involved in matters of textual criticism, translation, and transmission, trouble follows swiftly.
The believer can be comforted with the reality of God’s faithfulness. He will preserve His Word today, as He has throughout time. Believers have only to come to the sweet waters of God’s Word, and find all they need as they traverse this wilderness with their backs, as always, to Egypt.

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Why I Use the KJV: An Age of “Reason”

Tischendorf

Tischendorf

Previously I’ve shared my reasons for preferring the KJV based on the family of text it comes from as well as some of its historical background. I want to move on to the history behind the other translations, for most of them come from a blending together of the textual families using textual criticism. Textual criticism comes from an age of unbelief. This is a fact that cannot be ignored as we see the raping of Biblical Christianity unfold.

Enlightenment

The modern age, ranging from 1800 until the present day, has become one of ancient heresy  reborn and endorsed as truth. Men placed themselves above God in determining what He has said. A shift occurred, like a tremor among a fault line, toward rationalism. Many men turned to pay homage to the god of Reason and produced their own translations and paraphrases. Edward Carpenter lists the following one-man translations: Mace’s 1729, Wesley’s 1755, Purver’s 1764, Dodderidge’s 1765, and Newcome’s 1796, to name a few. Each translator saw the KJV as a handicap because it was unscientific and not in line with modern, rational thinking. Their translations are wooden, difficult to read, and not faithful to the words of the original text. Perhaps this is why these translations were not widely used even though they were from the Traditional text.

It should be mentioned that even in this darkening age of human history, the Traditional and Masoretic texts of the Bible continued to be printed, read, and studied almost exclusively. This is particularly true prior to the twentieth century. The majority of Christians believed the Bible was the Word of God and that the Bible was inerrant and infallible. Then, like a flood, lower criticism from apostates in Germany came rushing into seminaries and universities. “Scientific investigations” of the words and manuscripts of Scripture began. Man truly began to wonder what exactly it was that God had inspired men to write long ago. Questions arose regarding the purity of Scripture, and, ever so slowly, faith disappeared from the scene.

Textual critics sought to “fashion” texts according to research and investigation, determining which texts were “legitimate: and grouping them into families. Patristic citations which disproved theories of the Traditional text being a late text were determined to be illegitimate; only those that referred to a non-traditional text were accepted.

From Bengel to Tischendorf

The important men behind this movement were both proud and blind to what was going on around them, endorsing the rationalism of the day. Bengel published a text which classed different variant readings, but it was still based on the Traditional text. This was intended to weaken the faith of those who held to the Traditional text. Griesbach came on the scene in the early nineteenth century, and included in Bengel’s text apparatus for textual criticism. His theories were accepted completely by many scholars of the day, including Lachmann, perhaps one of the most infamous of the old-line scholars. He rejected the Traditional text used by the church for the better part of 1800 years in favor of the heretical texts, creating his own independent version. Lachmann purposefully ignored fifteen centuries of copied Traditional manuscripts in favor of the texts which, to him, carried more weight. It was upon his work that Constantine Tischendorf, in turn, would build his studies.

Tischendorf believed that textual criticism was exercised by Stephanus and Beza when they printed their editions of the Greek manuscripts, and that they were one and the same with Bengel and Griesbach. His goal was “to clear up in this way the history of the sacred text, and to recover if possible the genuine apostolic text which is the foundation of our faith.” Notice the complete lack of faith in God’s ability to preserve His Word.

Westcott and Hort

It was Tichendorf’s discovery (actually a theft) of Sinaiticus (in a garbage room) that bolstered the resolve of rationalistic theologians’ to reconstruct a true critical Greek text. From the work of these men came two men which every student of textual criticism knows well: Westcott and Hort.

Hort was by no means an evangelical believer. He scoffed at the idea of “a fictitious substituted righteousness” or a “fictitious substituted penalty.” He wrote the following to Westcott on April 12, 1861: ” I have sort of a craving our text should be cast upon the world before we deal with matters likely to brand us with suspicion. I mean a text issued by men already known for what will undoubtedly be treated as dangerous heresy, will have great difficulties in finding its way to regions which it might otherwise reach.”

Westcott is no better than Hort. He disdained the concept of infallibility, sided with Darwin’s evolutionary theory, and viewed heaven as a state and not a place. It was from men such as these that a critical text emerged which was a blending of heretical texts from the school of Origen and others like him. Interestingly enough, Westcott and Hort used mainly the patristic citations as proof of the legitimacy of their heretical texts. For this, they had to ignore the patristic citations referencing the Traditional text based on the idea that they had to have been tampered with at some point.

Their Critical Text came largely from two manuscripts known as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. An inspection of these texts reveals some interesting facts. Vaticanus omits, according to Burgon, 2,877 words and adds 536. This does not include substitutions. Sinaiticus omits 3,455 words and adds 839, not counting substitutions. Burgon reminds us these alterations are not the same in both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. From this, it can be ascertained that a major flaw in logic, to speak nothing of theology, must have occurred to even allow the two texts to be combined into one text.

It is from this work that the Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society’s texts come. These texts are used in every major English translation. The Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society texts have been revised twenty-seven and four times, respectively, and great changes are made regularly. The most recent revision of the UBS text included 500 changes. It must be remembered: these are changes to the actual text of Scripture, not a translation thereof. Each of these changes is a change from what God actually said. Still men continue to attempt to do what Tischendorf said: “To set aside this textus receptus all together, and to construct a fresh text, derived immediately from the most ancient and authoritative sources.”

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Why I Use the KJV: An Age of Faith

Tyndale

Tyndale

For 1500 years, the Byzantine text was used almost exclusively for Bible study among the educated and in translations for the laity. For 1500 years, the Greek New Testament existed as papyri fragments, uncials, and minuscules. That all changed with the invention of the printing press.

Greek Printings

In the early sixteenth century, God began a mighty work in Europe to bring about a printed Greek Text. It was at this time that Desiderius Erasmus came on the scene. He set out to print, for the first time ever, the Greek text of the New Testament. He gathered together and studied, but did not accept as valid, every available manuscript. Erasmus was given access to nearly every library in Europe because of his scholarship and friendship with the Pope. Far from being unaware of heretical manuscripts, Erasmus divided all manuscripts based on whether or not they agreed with either the Traditional text or Vaticanus. He chose to reject Vaticanus as a pure text in 1533.

It is true that Erasmus’ first printing of the Traditional text was done hastily and contained errors, but the last four were not so. He added 1 John 5:7 and corrected his errors in the last four revisions. It was from the third through fifth revisions that most translations came. He also studied some of the more critical readings of the texts, and was aware of the passages removed from the Alexandrian versions, such as the last twelve verses of Mark and the Pericope de Adultera. The Pericope is the omission of the story of the woman caught in adultery. This was occasionally omitted because of cultural and religious biases.

From this printing of the Greek text, many translations arose. Luther’s German, Tyndale’s English, Lefevre’s French, Biestkens’ Dutch, Laurentius’ Swedish, de Reyna’s Spanish, as well as the Danish, Czech, Italian, and Welsh translations all came from Erasmus’ printing of the Traditional text. In fact, almost all translations came from this text until the nineteenth century! Other printings of Greek manuscripts, such as those done by Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevir brothers were simply reprintings of Erasmus’ Traditional text. It was at the time of the Elzevir brothers that the Traditional text in printed form came to be called the Textus Receptus because of an advertisement regarding their printing.

English Translations in an Age of Faith

Tyndale is a name that English-speaking Christians know well. What few realize is that Tyndale studied under Erasmus for four years at Cambridge. Tyndale was an excellent linguist who was fluent in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French. The stir Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament caused was incredible. He was denounced by church and government alike. It was, however a great translation of the Traditional text. Even Westcott is forced to give Tyndale’s translation its due: “It is impossible to read through a single chapter without gaining the assurance that Tindale [sic] rendered the Greek text directly . . . .”

After Tyndale was martyred, the Coverdale and Matthew Bibles were published in 1535 and 1537, respectively. Both Bibles were revisions of Tyndale’s New Testament. The Matthew Bible also included Tyndale’s unpublished notes and translation of Joshua through Second Chronicles.

In 1539, the Great Bible was published, followed by the 1560 Geneva Bible. This last Bible was the first complete English Bible from the original languages. In 1568, the Bishop’s Bible was produced by order of Queen Elizabeth. This was nothing more than a revision of the Great Bible. The translators of all of these Bibles relied on the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic text for the basis of their translations. They also relied on previous English translations and translations in other languages for a guide.

The King James Version

In 1604, King James I ordered that a new translation of the Bible be produced, and in 1607, the work began. In their book, The Bible in English Translation, Steven M. Sheeley and Robert N. Nash describe the organization of the translation committees: “Work on the new translation was divided among fifty-four renowned translators from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster. These translators were divided into six teams, each responsible for translating a section of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha. The work of each team was carefully reviewed by other teams, and the final translation was edited by two representatives from each team.” The translation committees were organized and had a system of checks and balances. The translators relied on the Masoretic text and the traditional text, most significantly Stephanus’ third and Beza’s fifth editions.

Unlike the translators of today, these men were not paid. They were therefore not wooed by the love of money, something which cannot be said for translators and publishing companies today. These men were not in any way under King James’ jurisdiction due to financial assistance or official governmental authorization.

They included few marginal notes. The notes included were meant to reinforce the text and clarify the translation rather than be a hindrance. This stands in stark contrast to modern translations. Marginal notes in these new translations are intended to cause doubt with vague references to “variants” and “the best manuscripts,” without defining terminology.

“The King James Version was born in an age of faith,” writes Paisley, “Its inception and reception are characterized by faith.” Nash and Sheeley agree: “The influence of the King James Version, or Authorized Version as it came to be called cannot be exaggerated. . . . It stands as one of the outstanding masterpieces of the English Language.” No other translation of the Bible in English has had the impact of the King James Version. It has been used for 400 years in churches across the world. It has been used to translate daughter editions of the Bible when Christians were not familiar enough with the original languages to translate directly. It set the standard for all translations to come in every area.

In spite of the 400 years that have passed, it has changed little since its first printing. From 1611 to 1917, D. A. Waite discovered only 136 changes of significance in the text of the KJV. These changes are mostly only changes which do not sound the same when spoken aloud. While 136 changes may sound like a lot, it is really a very small amount compared to the number of words in the rest of the King James Version. It should also be recognized that changes within a translation is not the same as changes within the original text of Scripture, so long as the translation changes are accurate to the original. There are, after all, many different ways in which a word may be translated. Additionally, the italicized words for which there is no Greek or Hebrew equivalent may have been dropped because it was determined that they were not needed.

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Why I Use the KJV: Families of Texts

I sometimes get asked why I bother using the King James Version of the Bible. After all, there are plenty of translations that use modern language out there. However, I would like to suggest that readability isn’t the only issue when choosing a Bible version. We should be confident in the underlying text. We should also be comfortable with the translation philosophy and the purpose behind the translation. In this article, I’d like to trace the transmission of the Greek New Testament texts through history.

Texts are typically divided into families of transmission. There are three primary families that most students of the Bible will talk about: Western, Alexandrian, and Byzantine (also known as the Traditional text or Majority text).

Western Texts

The Western Greek manuscripts are known for paraphrasing the words of Scripture. Now, I’m not opposed to paraphrasing when it comes to summarizing a passage of Scripture, when performing a play or skit produced from Scripture, or when teaching Bible. I am opposed to changing the original words of Scripture. If we cannot say with absolution and authority that God said something, then we shouldn’t even bother. If Jesus said “My words shall not pass away”, then He meant it. A quick read through Psalm 119 makes it very clear that God’s Word is eternal. The Western texts are a paraphrase of Scripture, not Scripture itself.

The Western texts also tend to add to Scripture from other books. This is most serious, since adding and taking away from God’s Word is a sin in the highest degree. I personally think that it is strange that anyone even considers these this group of texts to even be considered a family of text. The original words of Scripture have been paraphrased, taken away, and added to. It is no wonder that there are very few ancient papyri, uncials (Greek manuscripts written in all capital letters), or miniscules (Greek manuscripts written in all lower-case letters) available.

Alexandrian Texts

The Alexandrian texts originated in Alexandria, Egypt. Codex Vaticanus (found in the Vatican library) and Codex Sinaiticus (found in the trash-room of a monastery on Mt. Sinai) are usually placed in this family. There is some debate over exactly how many papyri and uncials are in the Alexandrian text family. The reason for this is that the majority of old manuscripts are really only fragments of manuscripts. However, for the sake of fairness, I am willing to go along with the assertion that the oldest manuscripts (uncials) and papyri are of this family. Those of modern scholarship (though I cringe to call it that) favor the Alexandrian text for the following reasons:

  1. They believe the more difficult the original is to interpret, the closer it is to actual Scripture.
  2. They believe the shorter the original is, the closer it is to actual Scripture.
  3. They believe that older manuscripts are better manuscripts.

I have problems with all three assertions. First of all, there doesn’t seem to be any basis for believing that difficult is better. That assumption seems to be entirely arbitrary. This is believing that difficult is better than simple. This is a baseless claim.

To the second assertion, we must ask why shorter is better. This claim is once again arbitrary. Those who hold to this view maintain that Mark 16 should have ended with the disciples running scared from the empty tomb of Jesus. They believe that Mark never wrote of the women at the tomb or of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. These people do not even believe that we can know the actual words of Scripture in the first place.

Finally, we come to the assertion that “older is better.” While this might be true of wine or cheese, it isn’t always true elsewhere. We must ask ourselves why these copies survived and others didn’t. First of all, the climate of Egypt is much  more suited to preserving parchment and papyri. It has very low humidity, less rainfall, and a narrow degree of temperature change. It would make sense for these texts to survive for longer periods of time. Secondly, Kirsopp Lake believed that the copiers of the Byzantine text type (having originated primarily in Antioch) would have emphasized a respectful disposal of worn-out manuscripts. A third explanation is that the Church (here capitalized to mean the body of true believers) did not heavily use the Alexandrian manuscripts since they were not in line with actual Scripture. In contrast, the Byzantine manuscripts were heavily used and therefore wore out much more quickly.

I also struggle with the acceptance of Alexandrian manuscripts because of the Gnostic apostasy that was heavily taught in Alexandria. I have few reasons to trust people who believed in such error. I would also point out that the two famous (infamous?) Alexandrian manuscripts were found in suspicious locations. Vaticanus was found in the Vatican library. This already makes it suspicious to some people’s minds, since many Christians are not Catholic because of doctrinal reasons. Sinaiticus, on the other hand, was found in a trash room, waiting to be burned. That the monks didn’t even consider Sinaiticus worth saving makes us suspect that they knew the errors it contained. Finally, we must consider that the Byzantine text is has, in recent years, been given a position of higher authority by some scholars. In fact, the American Bible Society’s Greek manuscript of 1966 has changed from the Alexandrian reading back to the Byzantine reading in thirteen different passages. (Zane C. Hodges, A Defense of the Majority-Text, pg 14.)

Byzantine Texts

The vast majority of New Testament manuscripts are of this family of texts. Zane C. Hodges writes that there are 81 papyri, 267 uncials, and 2,764 miniscules. Of these manuscripts, eighty to ninety percent are in agreement with the Traditional text. Some scholars, such as Riplinger, would put the percentage much higher, even as high as ninety-nine percent. Harry A. Sturz notes in The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism that the preservation of this vast body of manuscripts is God’s stamp of approval on this text. Indeed, it would make sense that the text most used by the early church would be the text preserved by God, and the vast numbers of manuscripts recovered throughout the centuries would be a great testament to God’s marvelous work of preservation. This was, in fact, the position of the New Testament church with regard to inspiration.
Many of these manuscripts appear to originate in Antioch. Textual critics argue that the Traditional text must be an edited version of the Alexandrian texts. This argument makes little sense historically for two reasons. First, a church which sent out missionaries across the known world was most likely a distributor and not a receiver of manuscripts. From the books of Acts and Galatians, we know that Barnabas, Paul, and Peter all ministered there. Secondly, Jews fleeing Jerusalem would have understood the importance of careful copying of Scripture and would have impressed this concept on all who were at the Antiochan church.
Another proof of the early church’s possession and use of the Traditional text is that the early church fathers quoted and paraphrased it frequently. Sturz lists eighteen examples of this as proof, citing Clement, Tertullian, Marcion, and Origen as examples. In fact, from the time of Chrysostom on, the Traditional text is the predominant text in patristic citations.While certain
The Traditional text is not only the most numerous family of texts, but is also used universally. These texts have been recovered from all over the Greco-Roman world. By contrast, the corrupt texts appear to originate in only Alexandria. The implication is obvious: the Traditional text is an accurate sampling of the text used throughout the known world in early times, while the Alexandrian texts come solely from Alexandria and the surrounding locales.

My point in all of this is that most modern translations come from the Alexandrian text family while most- if not all- older translations come from the Byzantine text family. That’s another story, though…

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Scripture: The Revealed Word

In previous posts, I’ve spoken about God’s revelation of Himself through nature and Jesus Himself. I will finish this train of thought and begin another by discussing the topic of Special Revelation. God revealed certain aspects of Himself through Creation. God’s ultimate self-disclosure was in Jesus Christ. Peter tells us that we have  another revelation from God that we can be confident in. (2 Peter 1:16-21) This final revelation we have to discuss is the Word of God.

Like the Incarnate Word and the Creative Word, the Living Word has unique characteristics. The Creation displayed God’s infinite intellect and majesty (Psalm 19). The Incarnate Word revealed God Himself to mankind and is the chief method of God’s interaction with His creation (Hebrews 1). Scripture reveals God’s words and thoughts. This makes the Bible a unique gift to mankind. While the Creation reveals God’s power and sovereignty and the Incarnation reveals God’s nature and personality, the Bible reveals His theology and philosophy. King David writes the following in Psalm 19:7-11:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

There are many details that I could go over when discussing the uniqueness of the Bible. I could talk about the probability of a book claiming to be written by God to be logically coherent when it was penned by scores of men over several thousand years from different parts of the world speaking three different languages. I could reference the accuracy and detail of prophecy. I could talk about the probability of an ancient book making it to our day without losing anything. (Since many of our Greek and even English classics have gaps in them.)

However, I would point out that the Bible itself predicted that it would last forever and claims to come from God. (Psalm 119:89) To make a claim to be eternal truth is one thing, but to actually be true in both spiritual and physical realities is quite another. To speak for God (thus saith the Lord) is one thing, but to bear the marks of the Divine is something quite different.

Scripture allows us to think God’s thoughts after Him. We can partake of the knowledge of the Holy any time we desire. God reveals His past works, His present will, and His future plan in one Book that spans the ages. Who would shun such a wondrous gift?

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Fiat: The Creative Word

King David of Israel wrote the following words, which are recorded for us in Psalm 19:1-3:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

How have the heavens spoken? In what way has God revealed Himself to mankind? At God’s fiat (an authoritative decree coming from the Latin word meaning “Let it be done” [Fiat lux = Let there be light]), matter, energy, and even time itself leapt into existence. Every experiment and experience we are a part of is made possible by God’s Creative Word. God’s very act of creation was done to glorify Himself and to point mankind to Him. His beauty is reflected in the starry sky. He is shown to be wise in the complexity of the human eye, to speak nothing of the body. His majesty is revealed in the roaring of the ocean waves. His power is displayed in the thunder and lightning.

On a sunny spring morning, we can hear His music that birds sing. On a wintry day, we can discover His “treasures of the snow.” The physicist and mathematician are impressed by the elegance of the natural laws designed by the great Mathematician. The more we learn about our universe- and there is so much to learn- the more impressed we are by the magnificence of God. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whenever you are, God designed His world with you in mind. He makes His presence so obvious, Paul tells us in Romans 1:20 that those who deny God’s existence are without excuse.

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Logos: The Incarnate Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.- John 1:1-5

These verses are perhaps the most profound in all of Scripture. They tell us of the Word Incarnate, Jesus, Who has come to be the ultimate revelation of the Father in Heaven. The Word came to reveal the glory and personality of the Godhead in a tangible form. By coming in human form, we could relate to Him and He could relate to us. We could see God for the first time, and He could experience the suffering that sin had created.

Kant tells us that reason is limited because we don’t know what it is like to BE anything but human. Though we may gain a perspective on a thing, we can never know what it is to be something other than human. Jesus cannot be said to be limited in His understanding of humanity because He is human. That’s the easy part, though.

“In the beginning was the Word…”

By way of introduction, John tells us that Jesus existed before the Creation. When the Beginning (Genesis 1) took place, Jesus already was. He is the uncreated Creator. Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-17:

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Jesus is unique because He not only existed prior to the created universe (matter, energy, time, etc.), but because He is eternal just as the Father is eternal. This is necessary because He is the ultimate self-disclosure of the Father. The Godhead is revealed in Jesus’ words, emotions, actions, and attitudes. If Jesus were merely pre-existent but not eternal (as some cults believe), He would be unable to speak for God adequately. In order for Jesus to speak for a God Who is infinite in all of His attributes (love, holiness, justice, mercy, grace, power, etc.) He must be eternal because only the eternal can truly understand Infinity. This is where we fall so short. We categorize God using systematic theologies (which are admittedly very helpful), but He is above all categorization. We are accustomed to things having beginnings because we had a beginning, but God never began. He simply is. His very name, “I AM” tells us of His ever-present nature. Unlike us, Christ has missed nothing of God. He also always is.

“The Word was with God…”

If the Word was with God, then He is not the same person as the Father. “With” also implies a unique relationship with the Father. For all of eternity the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had enjoyed unbroken, perfect communion with each other. They understood one another and basked in each Other’s glory and love. God didn’t need a creation to be complete. He was complete in and of Himself. For all of eternity, God loves, glorifies, and communes with Himself, but not in the narcissistic sense we think of when speaking of humans. As a tri-unity (trinity), the Father loves and glorifies the Son and Spirit, the Son loves and glorifies the Father and Spirit, and the Spirit loves and glorifies the Father and Son. So the Persons of the Godhead love and glorify each other infinitely and eternally. So it should be, for God alone is worthy of infinite love and glory.

“…and the Word WAS God…”

John asserts that Jesus was Divine in all aspects. He has the same essence, nature, character, and quality of God. He is no less Divine than the Father is. Though He takes the position of Son for Himself, He is no less than God Himself.

“In Him was Life…”

Jesus came to give us life. This does not just mean that He intends for us to merely have eternal life, but also He intends for us to have abundant life. (John 15) Consider John’s words in the following verses:

  • John 20:31—“But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
  • (quoting Jesus) John 10:10—“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Spiritual (zoe as opposed to bios) life is referenced 36 times in John’s gospel. That’s more than the other three Gospels combined. John emphasizes that Jesus’ life is not just about quantity; it’s about quality. No, I’m not talking about a “health and wealth” gospel. I’m talking about something eternal and intangible that comes our way as a result of faith in Him. He came to give us something unbelievable and indescribable. God stepped into the mess that humans had made and ministered with compassion, healed in love, and spoke truth to all who would listen. Some people didn’t like it though…

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Light. God’s emblem for Himself. It’s the first thing He made, and it’s how He reveals Himself: burning bushes, the Shekinah glory, the Mount of Transfiguration. Hebrews 1:1-3 begins:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person…”

I don’t think it’s incidental that Jesus is called the brightness of His glory in Hebrews and the Light in John. There was darkness as a result of Adam’s fall and now Jesus, acting as the light now points the way back to God. Light symbolizes His holiness, perfection, etc. Darkness, however, is not simply absence of light in John’s gospel. It is a moral category. It is characterized by a hatred of light, evil, and general hostility toward God. Light, however, is able to pierce the Darkness and overtake Evil’s territory. Evil itself is overwhelmed by the “invasion” of God’s Light.

Darkness cannot comprehend the Light. “Comprehend” here does not mean mere understanding. It speaks of overwhelming, destroying, and seizing with hostile intent. Jesus came to give Light, but fallen humanity didn’t like the light they saw. Light is never simply ignored. Darkness attempted to destroy the Light on the Cross. Why? Light reveals Truth even when it is not palatable. Light reveals God for Who He is, and people hate Him for it.

The story doesn’t end there, though. The greatest miracle of all took place three days later. The Father resurrected the Son, and after being seen by hundreds of people, He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the Father’s side.

The Light won.

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Evangelical Darwinism

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

I’ve written a few posts on the religiosity of Darwinism, but now I want to turn my attention toward the “evangelical” aspects of the movement itself. The term “evangelical” is, of course, generally applied to a particular type of Christianity. Evangelicalism emphasizes a variety of means to bringing people to the truth as well as withstanding the advancement of sin or anti-Christian thought: preaching by evangelists, apologetics, sermons (both fiery and compassionate), and public outcry against heresy, apostasy, and immorality.

Strangely enough, Atheism and Darwinism share many of these same traits. They have evangelists: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others. These men preach powerful sermons and employ convincing apologetics. They warn the listener of the dangers of religion. They are no post-modernists; they see everything in terms of black and white. In fact, they even go so far as to speak in apocalyptic terms concerning the results of a truly Christian nation. To change one’s mind concerning atheism is viewed as  a type of apostasy. Dawkins himself went so far as to refer to Anthony Flew’s “conversion” from atheism to deism as “tergiversation”, a term that is synonymous with apostasy.

In addition to the nature-worship I mentioned at the end of the previous post, they also associate Charles Darwin with Messianic terminology. “Cosmology,” says Richard Dawkins in his debate against John Lennox, “is still waiting for its Darwin.” Stephen Jay Gould is even more explicit in the deification of Darwinin his “Sociobiology: the Art of Storytelling”: “All theories [of natural selection] cite God in their support, and … Darwin comes close to this status among evolutionary biologists.” Michael White echoed Gould in 2002 when he said: “Of course today, for biologists, Darwin is second only to God, and for many he may rank still higher.”

Once again, lest you think that I’m twisting words or “making a mountain out of a molehill”, allow me to quote Darwinist Michael Ruse on the subject:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint — and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it — the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”

Is Darwinism a sufficient faith? I think not. It does not answer the burning questions of the soul. Consider the words of Katharine Tait in her book My Father, Bertrand Russell:

I would have liked to convince my father that I had found what he had been looking for, the ineffable something he had longed for all his life. I would have liked to persuade him that the search for God does not have to be vain. Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled with God, and he never found anything else to put in it.

Lest someone accuse Tait of making her case a little too poignant compared to Russell’s own feelings, here is Russell in his own autobiography: “Nothing can penetrate the loneliness of the human heart except the highest intensity of the sort of love the religious teachers have preached.”

Darwinism, atheism, and their ilk are insufficient replacements for true faith in God, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Apart from Him, we are left with, in the words of Tait again, “a ghostlike feeling of not belonging, of having no home in this world.”

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The Evolution of Pantheism

In my previous post, I contrasted Christianity and Pantheism, the belief that all of Creation is a god. Pantheism has taken on many forms, some of them more complex and articulate than others. Ancient animism, the New Age movement, and the Greek Pantheon all smack of Pantheism in one way or another. In contrast to these belief systems and others, which either attempt to pit various gods or spirits against each other or identify the universe itself as a god, Christianity asserts that God exists uncreated beyond space and time. He may choose to enter our world to accomplish His purpose, but He does not belong to It any more than Picasso belonged to one of his paintings.

Most recently, Darwinism has crept on the scene as the “new” pantheism. In the evolutionary paradigm, lifeless matter and energy somehow- and most scientists are careful enough to inform us that they don’t know how- spawned or created life. Not only did the lifeless universe produce life, it produced information to allow life to reproduce. Where did this information- this DNA- come from? Computer programs, books, magazines, and even Snickers wrappers tell me that an intelligence created them. When I see these things, I know a mind has been at work.

Whether they realize it or not, in the unbelievers’ effort to banish God from their minds, they have replaced Him with something preposterous. They have returned to a sophisticated kind of pantheism. Instead of spirits, gods, or a living universe creating life, they have attributed life to an unliving universe. They have attributed information to a universe without a mind. They have endowed mere matter and energy with god-like creative powers.

Am I going too far in comparing Darwinism to Pantheism? I think not. Consider the words of atheist Carl Sagan in his work Pale Blue Dot:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

Sagan obviously believes that the universe is far more magnificent than God. Consider also the words of Paul Davies, who believes that mathematics (which he ascribes intelligence, personality, and inherent power to) alone could produce our universe:

There’s no need to invoke anything supernatural in the origins of the universe or of life. I have never liked the idea of divine tinkering. For me it is much more inspiring to believe that a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being.

Richard Dawkins has similar things to say. When John Lennox concluded his debate with Dawkins by pointing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focus of the Christian faith, Dawkins responded by saying: “Having proven some case for a deistic God, you fall back on the Resurrection. It’s so petty, it’s so trivial. So unworthy of the universe.”

Darwinists cannot escape the striking beauty, majesty, and wonder of the universe. Without a God to be grateful to and worship, they are only left with an undue reverence for God’s Creation and a desire to attribute intelligence and life to that which is unliving and thoughtless.

As Paul writes in Romans 1:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. . . .Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.

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Pantheism, Theism, and Dell Computers

3,350 years ago Moses commanded Israel to worship only God and to remember all that He had done for them “lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.”

1400 years later, Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-23: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

These two men, speaking on behalf of God, reminded their audience to avoid confusing Creation with its Creator. In contrast to the polytheism and pantheism of the ancient cultures, the Jews and Christians  recognized only one God Who is distinct from His Creation. Consider the following verses:

  • Isaiah 57:15 calls God “the High and Lofty One that Inhabiteth Eternity.”
  • Deuteronomy 3:24 says: “O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?”
  • John 1:1 tells us that when the universe began, the Word (Logos) already existed.

According to the Biblical paradigm, God exists beyond space and outside of time. In his Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Werner Jaeger writes that the Word is the Supreme Intellect or Supreme Power “who is stationed outside the world and brings that world into existence by His own fiat. The Greek gods are stationed inside the world ; they are descended from Heaven and Earth…they are generated by the mighty power of Eros who likewise belongs within the world as an all-engendering primitive force….When Hesiod‘s thought [the Theogony]at last gives way to truly philosophical thinking, the Divine is sought inside the world- not outside it, as in the Jewish Christian theology that develops out of the book of Genesis.”

Surely, men such as Xenophanes attributed the existence of our universe to one supreme God, but monotheism rarely existed outside of the Judeo-Christian religion. It was this Judeo-Christian message of monotheism that distinguished the forces of Nature from the Creator of nature. Furthermore, it was upon this foundational belief that the scaffolding of European science was built. Pantheism in its many forms portrayed our universe as mysterious and unknowable because our world was filled with various deities with vast creative and destructive powers. In contrast, believers saw the world as knowable and logical because it was the product of the mind of a reasonable God.

Today, some unbelievers criticize Christianity because they say that it is lazy to believe that God is involved in any way in Creation. They believe that science blended with naturalism is the only way to rightly view the world. However, belief in God as Creator is not the same thing as belief in God as a motivating force in the physical universe.

James Clerk Maxwell knew these truths when he inscribed the following on the doors of the Cavendish Physics laboratory in Cambridge: “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”  He recognized that the wonder of the universe was meant to point us to a God Who is distinct from his Creation. God is the Creator, not the universe itself.

Perhaps an illustration would be helpful.

Suppose I was completely computer illiterate, but I decided to buy a Dell laptop. I have two options for explaining how my laptop works:

  1. I could hold to a view that the computer was made to function in a certain way and given all of the parts necessary to fulfill its purpose.  In this view, “Dell” is the creator of the computer, but as such he is distinct from the computer components themselves.
  2. I could also assume that “Dell” was inside the computer causing the various functions of the computer to take place. To do so would be to make the same mistake as the Greeks in their pantheon.

Of course no one is so foolish as to make this second assumption. To figure out the “mechanism” behind the computer, you would have to figure out which parts performed what function. You could also learn about the physics and chemistry behind it if you wanted. However, even those who hold to a “mechanism” view of the computer would still believe in the existence of “Dell the Creator.”

Similarly, Christians do believe that nature’s “mechanisms” should be discovered. However, they also hold that God is the Creator, the Uncaused Cause of reality. There is no conflict in the Christian worldview, for the only other options are pantheism or atheism. Just as “Dell” is not a mechanism of the computer, God is not sitting in some darkened corner of the universe waiting to be discovered nor is He mysteriously guiding the forces of nature. Eternity beyond our universe is His abode. The Creation itself is merely the outworking of His beauty, majesty, wisdom, and power. To truly find Him, He must reveal Himself and Reality somehow. In fact, He has in His Word. (It’s just too bad that Dell doesn’t explain themselves so well in their instruction manuals.)

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What Do Scientists Believe?

Given the heated debates of recent years between scientists and Christians, one would think that all- or at least the overwhelming majority- of scientists historically and contemporarily are either atheists or agnostics. Strangely this isn’t the case.

According to Dr. John Lennox, a 1910 survey of 1,000 scientists in America found that 41.8% believed in “a God who answered prayer and in personal immortality” while 41.5% said they did not. The remaining 16.7% were agnostic. Larry Witham, author of Where Darwin Meets the Bible, administered this same survey in 1996 and found that 39.6% believed in “a God who answered prayer and in personal immortality” while 45.5% said no. The remaining 14.9% were agnostic. While the scales have turned marginally in favor of atheism, this is hardly a landslide for atheism.

For the rest of this blog article and perhaps another after this, I’ll let the philosophers and historians of science speak for themselves so that we can see what they have to say about the relationship between science and their worldview. Obviously, I don’t agree with everything these men say. My point is that the same men can look at the same data and reach different conclusions based solely on worldview.

“Science, the system of belief founded securely on publicly shared reproducible knowledge emerged from religion….Only the religious- among whom I include not only the prejudiced but the underinformed- hope there is a dark corner of the physical universe, or the universe of experience , that science can never hope to illuminate.”- Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University

“The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion….Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.”- Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg

“Our science is God’s science. He holds the responsibility for the whole scientific story….The remarkable order, consistency, reliability, and fascinating complexity found in the scientific description of the universe are reflections of the order, consistency, reliability, and complexity of God’s activity.”- Sir John Houghton

“For many years I have believed that God is the great designer behind all nature….All my studies in science since then have confirmed my faith.”- Sir Ghillean Prance

“As I try to discern the origin of that conviction [that the universe is orderly and therefore can be discovered by man’s reason], I seem to find it in a basic notion discovered 2,000 or 3,000 years ago, and enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science.”- Melvin Calvin

“Modern science must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God….My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative of medieval theology.”- Sir Alfred North Whitehead

“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”- Johannes Kepler

“The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”- Galileo

“The visible order of the universe proclaims a supreme intelligence.”– Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“Science brings men closer to God.”– Louis Pasteur

“From a knowledge of His work, we shall know Him.”– Robert Boyle

“Subsequent scientific findings are clearly pointing to an ex nihilo creation consistent with the first few verses of the book of Genesis.”- Quantum chemist Henry F. Schaefer III

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Atheists and Agnostics, What Would You Do?

I’ve read a lot of well-reasoned arguments by atheists/agnostics (such as my friend Nitwit Nastik), and I have also read  a lot of well-reasoned arguments by Christians concerning their faith. I’ve also had quite a few good conversations with people from both faith systems on my blog and other blogs. So I want to pose a question to all of the atheists and agnostics out there. As with elsewhere on my blog, I ask that your answers be reasonable, fair, and not include foul language. I’m not planning on responding on this post. I just want to hear what the “man on the street” type atheists have to say.

Suppose that, probability and beliefs aside, the worst case scenario for unbelievers comes to pass. You die, God does exist, and His methods of determining who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell are just as the Bible predicts. Those who are repentent and trust Christ’s work on the Cross receive Heaven. Those who did not trust Christ receive Hell. However, God gives you an opportunity to state your case. You have one chance to and explain why you disbelieved Him. What would you say?

I’m interested to hear what you have to say!

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Change Worth Believing In

Recently, I have been made aware of an argument against Christianity that is really somewhat shocking to me. This argument states that Christianity is not all that unique. In fact, Christianity- so say the critics- is just one more attempt by man to set up moral standards, reward good behavior, and comfort those in need of a “crutch” by offering them a God to obey and lean on. I have to tell you, I just don’t see the resemblance between Christianity and these religions.

Oh, I know that Christianity shares a similar moral code with many different religions. I also know that many religions claim to have a way to God, an afterlife, etc. Every religion has some fragment of truth in it, but a fragment of truth and having the Truth are not the same thing. All religions recognize the obvious flaws in mankind. What religions don’t agree on is how to take care of those flaws. Islam and Judaism, for all their differences, attempt to make adherents follow a legal code. They have their own distinct yet similar Law which restrains evil and makes or breaks one’s chances of a decent afterlife. Buddhism and Hinduism rely heavily on meditation and other practices to focus on inner strength, purity of thought, and peace.

Christianity has a different answer. Christianity also recognizes that humanity has an evil bent. Christianity also has elements of Law and an emphasis on the eternal soul. Law serves a different purpose in Christianity, however. The Apostle Paul writes the following in Galatians 3:24-25: “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.The Old Testament Law’s purpose is to teach us that we can’t live up to God’s standard. There comes a point when we “graduate”, though, and we don’t need our teacher any more. Once we “graduate” our souls gain their true significance.

If we can’t live up to God’s standard, what are we to do? Can we just make up for our shortcomings by doing more good works? No, because “good works” are what we are expected to do anyway. Whatever good we accomplish in our lives, we can never undo the bad things we did. Under the law, every lie, lustful thought, moment of indiscretion, bitter thought, etc. is an action that we are “paid” for. Paul tells us of this payment  in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” This spiritual death leaves the sinner in Hell for all of eternity.

What is Christianity’s alternative to Sin and Hell? How do we earn our way to God and His Heaven? The answer is perhaps the most shocking in all of history: we don’t. We can’t. God’s standard is not that we be good, but it is that we be perfect. Many have claimed to be good, but few- if any- would claim to be perfect. This is where God steps in and does the unexpected. He came down into a world of sorrow and violence caused by man’s sin and took on human flesh. He doesn’t take on flesh to advise, encourage, punish, or trick us as the heathen “gods” did. He took on flesh to experience human suffering and, ultimately, to endure the agonies of the Cross “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

When we could not ascend to God because of our sin, God came down to us. This is the great difference between religions and Christianity. Some religions may share similar thoughts with Christianity, but things change dramatically when it comes to Jesus. Muslims are willing to accept Him as a prophet and even recognize His perfection and virgin birth, but they stop short of calling Him “God.” That Allah would take on flesh is akin to blasphemy. Judaism is offended that Messiah would die and thus rejects Him. Buddhism and Hinduism have little- if any- regard for Jesus. In the person of Jesus, the Divine experienced the pain and suffering of this world and the weight and guilt of sin. The Lord of Life experienced Death. This shocking truth is what separates Jesus from all other “gods” and faiths. Trusting in His death and resurrection makes Christianity a “change” from all other religions. It’s a change worth believing in.

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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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Why the Water Boils: Procedural vs. Philosophical Atheism

boiling-waterWhy is the water boiling? One could explain, in scientific terms, how water molecules behave when they reach a certain temperature. That is certainly one reasonable explanation. There’s another very reasonable explanation: I want a cup of hot tea on a cold morning. Neither of these answers would be wrong. One answer explains how matter and energy behave, while another explains purpose. So it is with science and Christianity. There is no difficulty in reconciling science with religion. They work in different fields to explain reality. Why then do atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, say that the two “sides” are at war with each other? The difference is in the types of atheism.

Leaving God out of the Gaps

The first type of atheism is what D’souza calls procedural atheism. Procedural atheists aren’t really atheists at all, at least not in the sense that we usually think of atheists. Procedural atheists are merely trying to find ways to accurately describe how the universe works. I don’t know a Christian that has a problem with this. No one wants to see a scientist trying to find a cure for disease and just give up, claiming that the disease was a miracle, so no cure could be found. No one wants to hear that it’s impossible to understand how stars are formed because, as a part of God’s miraculous creation, we can’t really know how it works in the first place. Procedural atheism treats nature as if that is all that exists simply because nature is all that science has to work with. There are a many scientists that believe in God that use procedural atheism in their discoveries.

Astronomer Owen Gingerich writes: “Science works within a constrained framework in creating brilliant pictures of nature. This does not mean that the universe is actually godless, just that science within its own framework has no other way of working.” Gingerich later writes: “Reality goes much deeper. A universe where God can play an interactive role…is not excluded by science.”

No “Divine Feet”

Philosophical atheism, on the other hand, is a dogmatic position that believes that the natural universe is all that exists. Often, procedural and philosophical atheism are blended to form a case against a Creator. The philosophical atheist dogma barricades itself into a very small box, shielding itself against any knowledge that does not fit the naturalistic theory. Theists, on the other hand, are entirely willing to admit naturalistic explanations for how something works- our natural laws- while reserving room for supernatural explanations for why something exists and functions.

Philosophical atheists are sometimes unwilling to admit their own bias, but at other times they are astonishingly frank. Physicist Stephen Hawking writes: “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”

[Meanwhile Christians have long believed in a beginning, and Augustine even posited that time itself was an aspect to the created world.]

Astronomer and physicist Lee Smolin rants: “Must all of our scientific understanding of the world really come down to a mythological story in which nothing exists…save some disembodied intelligence, who, desiring to start a world, chooses the initial conditions, and then wills matter into being? It seems to me that the only possible name for such an observer is God, and that the theory (that the universe had a starting point in the Big Bang [ironically]) is to be criticized as being unlikely on these grounds.”

Cut off from any other explanation for origin and purpose, philosophical atheism must now thrive on ludicrous and unprovable ideas. Biologist Franklin Harold writes: “Life arose on earth from inanimate matter, by some kind of evolutionary process. This is not a statement of demonstrable fact, but an assumption. It is not supported by any direct evidence, nor is it likely to be.”

Francis Crick, the man who helped discover the structure of DNA has another alternative to mankind being God’s special creation. He’s serious, folks. In his book Life Itself, Crick theorizes that aliens brought life to our planet from theirs. Really? So if your newborn baby’s skin tone seems a bit green to you….

Richard Dawkins, in his book The Blind Watchmaker, tells us that we should expect gaps in the fossil record. In his mind the absence of evidence for biological Darwinism should be “exactly what we should positively expect.” Later he writes that “we would almost have to accept natural selection as the explanation of life on this planet even if there were no evidence for it.” How very scientific, Richard.

Naturalism as a Faith

Here’s the reality: naturalism and materialism are not the conclusions of the modern scientific community, rather they are premises of the modern scientific community (at least the majority) that have been imposed on nature. Welcome to the Church of Naturalism!

I’ll close with the words of Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, since they speak for themselves:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment- a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanation, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

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Survival of the Fittest and the Death of Secularism, Part 2

dsouza

Dinesh D'souza

In my previous post, I listed some statistics regarding the numbers of Christians in the world. My purpose  in bringing those statistics to light is to point out that the secularist predictions that faith in God would become obsolete came nowhere near to becoming realized. In fact, if I had chosen to broaden the scope of my previous post, I could have included the number of Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in the world. While I do not believe in many- if not all- of the aspects of these religions, they prove nonetheless that humans have a deep need for a belief in the supernatural. Secularists, who are generally Darwinists and either Atheists or Agnostics, tend to be quite puzzled and frustrated by this development. In fact, the “New Atheists” are, as far as I am concerned, a reaction to the “failure” of religion to just….die.

The Darwinist has every right to be puzzled. A need to believe in the supernatural doesn’t quite fit their worldview, nor does it dovetail with any aspect of evolutionary biology. As D’nesh D’souza asks, “Why would evolved creatures like human beings, bent on survival and reproduction, do things that seemed unrelated and even inimical to those objectives?” Religious people in general do things that go against these supposedly innate objectives. They build cathedrals, sacrifice animals, fast, tithe, recite prayers, visit distant holy lands, evangelize people in the farthest reaches of the world, and some even die for their beliefs. All of these things, to one degree or another, go against these evolutionary objectives.

So how do the Darwinists explain this “anomaly”? Richard Dawkins speculates that there might be some “hyperactivity in a particular node of the brain” that causes people to seek religions. He also believes that the idea of the eternal “spreads because it caters to wishful thinking.” What possible benefit could their be for the human “animal” to develop comforting beliefs that are false? Would it really be helpful for me to imagine that the tractor-trailer barrelling toward me is really a fuzzy pink bunny? Does it really comfort me to imagine that the smell of smoke filling my house is actually the odor of freshly-baking bread? As D’Souza points out, wishful thinking of this sort would have been weeded out by the “survival of the fittest” principle long ago.

Randy Alcorn has a much better explanation. He reminds his congregation that if you pit the “came from nothing and going nowhere” explanation for your existence versus the “special creation of a loving God” explanation for your existence, only Christianity is capable of giving every single person on this planet a motivating sense of purpose. This sense of purpose is evidenced by the sheer number of conversions (mentioned in my previous post) as well as the size of the Christian family. While atheistic Russia is losing 700,00 people a year due to a low birth rate and atheistic Japan is set to lose 30 million in just a few decades, many more religious nations are producing two to three times as many children as would be needed to replace the current population. While atheistic worldviews view procreation as a means of continuing the species or- in a practical sense- a means of self-gratification, Christianity views children as a gift from God. Christianity simply offers people something that Secularism can’t: a sense of transcendent purpose. With that transcendent purpose comes confidence and hope. Darwinism insists that humans do adapt, Christianity helps people to adapt.

I will end this section with a quote from D’souza:

My conclusion is that it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. Atheism is a bit like homosexuality: one is not sure where it fits into the doctrine of natural selection. Why would nature select people who mate with others of the same sex, a process with no reproductive advantage at all? It seems equally perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no higher purpose to life or the universe.

Perhaps a better explanation for a belief in religion in general and Christianity in particular is that God has made us to crave Him. In that sense, maybe Dawkins isn’t too far off after all…

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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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Help My Unbelief

doubtMany times when I discuss Christian faith with my unbelieving friends, they will say that I am a Christian simply because I was raised in a Christian home. It is true that I come from a Christian background. My parents, siblings, and most of my extended family are all Christians. We went to church every week of my life. I attended a Christian school, went to Christian camps and on missions trips in the summers, and enjoyed a dynamite youth group. If that’s the only thing you looked at of my life, you might assume that being a Christian came quite naturally for me. The problem with that is that there’s much more to the story than that.

Unsettling Questions

A Christian background doesn’t equal a lack of doubt. I have actually met very few people that grew up in church that didn’t doubt aspects of their faith- or perhaps the entirety of the Christian faith- at one point or another. For me, doubt entered the picture when I was in high school. That seems to be the time that most people start seriously considering what they really believe. I was too shy to ever ask pertinent questions, and the majority of what was preached from the pulpit- though biblically sound- didn’t really meet my intellectual or spiritual needs.

Not that I’m claiming to be of superior intellect. It’s just that the questions I had were never really, truly answered. Questions sprang up in my mind regarding the existence of God, the reality of Heaven and Hell, Jesus’ Deity, whether or not my faith was “strong enough”, etc. I knew what the Bible said, but I wanted to see if it made sense apart from itself. In my desperation for answers and after dealing with some serious doubt, I turned to the writings of C. S. Lewis. He gave a reasonable apologetic for the Christian faith. There were some points that I disagreed with him on, but for the most part he seemed sound in what he was saying.

Hypocritical Christians

For awhile my doubts seemed to go away, but as I reached my senior year, a change in church administration and my own intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth brought new challenges. I didn’t have the same church leadership to rely on, and the preaching and teaching that came from this new leadership was obviously skewed. There were character flaws galore in the senior pastor (the church has recently found some financial inconsistencies), and the teaching from most of the pastoral leadership was shallow at best. Again doubt crept in. If Christianity is merely a set of rules and some basic doctrines (teachings) which a person could know by heart in eighteen years of life, what was the point in continuing down that path? If God was so great, why didn’t His Word hold anything else for a questioning mind?

I chose to attend a Christian college and major in biblical studies in spite of these new doubts I had. I wanted to give God a chance to prove Himself in spite of His followers’ foolishness. I couldn’t understand why people would follow God if His Book was really this shallow. It turned out that I learned more in my first year of college about Christianity than I could have ever imagined possible. My professors opened my eyes to the vastness of Scripture. Word studies, historical background, literary techniques, theology, and philosophy all rushed in to answer my questions.

Leaps of Faith

Of course, my experience with faith was very “cerebral” at this point. I hadn’t really experienced much testing at all. The summer after my senior year in college, I traveled the country with a youth evangelism ministry. I did so knowing that I would be paid almost nothing, a fact which worried me because I had college debt to pay off. I saw teenagers come to Christ, many of them due to a very unusual set of circumstances. Amazingly, my student loans were all paid off by November  of that year. After that summer, I began my seminary training as well as an internship at a small church in the area. Again, I was faced with inconsistencies in this pastor’s ministry. He was very obviously “fleecing the flock” as opposed to feeding the flock. The church voted to reduce his salary to keep the ministries of the church running, and the pastor left. I finished my seminary degree and helped the church out for a short time until a pastor could be found. Of course, the church couldn’t afford to pay me while it took care of its financial mess, so I looked for a job. I love teaching, so I started calling area schools. It turns out that the first school I called had a position in the Bible and English departments with a salary that was exactly what I had been praying for. My few years after college have taught me that God is truly there for me and takes care of me.

Why Doubt is Good

I’m twenty-six now, and I’ve learned that the doubts- my unbelief- don’t ever entirely go away. Problems come up, and I question God’s goodness. I still have a need to find the answers to questions that come up. I have made peace with my doubt, though. I have learned that doubt can either be a stumblingblock to keep a person from faith, or it can be the fuel needed to propel a person further into their faith. I’ve found that if I seek answers with a truly open mind, the solutions present themselves in their time. My prayer has always been: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Doubt, I have learned, is not the opposite of faith. In fact, doubt is a necessary component to faith. If there was not a sensation that a belief might be wrong, it wouldn’t really be faith at all.

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But Deliver Us From Evil

Santa ShootingRavi Zacharias once said that evil has taken on forms that astonish the world. This was illustrated very dramatically when Bruce Pardo (left) drove to his former in-laws’ house and opened fire on his former relatives- dressed as Santa Claus. His first action when the door was opened was to shoot an eight-year-old girl in the face. Details are still sketchy, but he shot several others and then torched the house using a homemade flame thrower, which he had hidden in what looked like a large Christmas present.

I think we would all agree that what Pardo did was evil, and few would doubt that a man so deranged could be anything but evil. When we read the accounts of the survivors and police officers, when we consider the tragic events that took place on Christmas Eve, we are right to be horrified. Evil in all forms should disgust us, but this “new” form that Evil has taken on should shock and stun us. This is an appropriate reaction to sin. As the sensation of pain when we fall is an indication that our nerves are intact, reeling from the shock of such horrific accounts tells us that our soul is intact.

What is equally shocking, however, is that some are not shocked, amazed, or stunned by this tradgedy. Some have used the incident to joke about in-law problems. Some have used this event to point out the “problems” with Christmas. Most disturbingly, some have barely even noticed. Evil is spreading so rapidly and is making so many inroads into society, many have become desensitized and indifferent to its effects. It enters into the soul of our culture through movies, music, video games, television, and even art. These forms of entertainment have been known to mock the sacred, glorify violence, exalt immorality, and justify hatred while bankrupting the mind, skewing the will, and ravaging the emotions. What so often goes on in the name of entertainment is in fact the rape of the very soul of humanity. Let us remember the importance of crying for deliverance from evil, abhoring sin, and cleaving to that which is good.

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What Science CAN’T Do

testtubeI’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a scientist. I don’t have a degree in one of the sciences, I don’t teach science, and I’m not an expert in any particular scientific field. The only “science” I am skilled in is computer science. I do have a love for reading about scientific discoveries, and I have always had a love for astronomy. All that being said, there are a few things that even I, a lowly school teacher, know that science can’t do. I’ve decided to put this in a list form to make this a relatively easy read.

  1. Science cannot analyze or explain things that are neither matter nor energy.
  2. Science cannot analyze or explain abstract concepts such as love, truth, and beauty. It may analyze the effects of such concepts on a person physiologically or statistically, but it can’t empirically examine such things.
  3. Science cannot identify the origin of the universe. If it assumes it was created by the eternal God, then it is assuming a supernatural act which falls outside of the boundaries of science. If it assumes that Darwinism is correct then it is assuming an eternal universe, which is in contradiction to its own natural laws. In either case, an assumption is made.
  4. Science cannot identify the purpose for the universe.
  5. Science cannot analyze or explain things that exist outside of our universe. (If you happen to believe in a multiverse, I would further explain that I mean things outside of ALL universes.)
  6. Science cannot set moral or ethical boundaries (although moral and ethical boundaries can and must  be set using the information that arises from science.)
  7. Science and the scientific process cannot be employed independently of moral and ethical boundaries, biases, and opinions.
  8. Science cannot prove that something does not exist using inductive reasoning.
  9. Science cannot state anything with absolute certainty. New information may (and almost always does) arise which changes our understanding of the natural world, which means that we only have maximum certainty that things are true.
  10. Science cannot prescribe what must always happen in the universe. It can only describe what does generally happen in the universe. Ergo, supernatural events do not “break” the laws of nature. This does not mean that a “God in the gaps” method of looking at the universe should be accepted. It simply means that miracles should not be discounted simply because they have not been observed happening in our world today.

Science is limited by what is physically observable (through the five senses, instruments, or statistical data) in the universe. My point is that there is NO conflict between science and Christianity. I can believe in the law of gravity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ without compromise. The real conflict (if you can call it that) is not between the Christian and the scientist but between the Christian and the materialist. It all comes down to worldviews, not reason.

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What Lies Beneath

saltillo-tileThis week I’ve been working with my in-laws on remodeling a bathroom in our home. At first, we were  just going to replace the toilet because it had a very fine crack in the upper tank. However, we quickly realized that the “stick-on” tile had gotten too wet around the toilet, and we’d have to re-tile the bathroom too. Then we decided to also replace the shower, which turned out to be a good thing since we discovered a world of water damage beneath our bathroom. Both layers of plywood had rotted to the point that I fell through a few times while taking the tile out. In the end, we were left with joists and a two-foot section of plywood floor that was somehow still dry. The shower and toilet had been leaking in multiple places, and we had to completely replace the floor, shower, tile, and toilet as a result. It was a mess!

That wasn’t the worst of it, though. In the walls, floor, and beneath our house, massive amounts of mold and mildew were growing. The mildew was growing in “veins” between layers rotting wood. Now we knew why we were both so sick all of the time. We had no idea that such rottenness and filth were just inches away, buried beneath a thin layer of tile. It was there all the time, sickening us, damaging our house, and setting us up for a nasty surprise.

As a relative and I were tearing out all of the filth, it occurred to me that this was a perfect picture of what evil does to the soul. Evil isn’t just a label given to a random assortment of feelings, thoughts, or deeds. It is rather a category of feelings, thoughts, or deeds that violate, corrupt, and rot a person at their very soul. If enough people in a society imbibe evil, it will rot out the society as well.

God is not some cosmic killjoy bent on ruining fun and removing rights. He knows how to keep the human soul safe from rottenness and decay, and He wants us to enjoy our lives rather than ruin them. I’ve written before on how holiness acts as a fence to guard Beauty and prevent it from being spoiled. The Soul is a beautiful thing crafted in the image of its Creator. Holiness prevents it from being spoiled. We must never forget that morality and ethics are not just little buzzwords. Those are simply two aspects of the Law God has written into the universe. Obedience to Him doesn’t stifle free will; it promotes it, for only in obedience are we truly free to enjoy our Father’s world.

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You Can’t Handle the TRUTH

truth1In order for any religious system to be the truth, it has to pass a few tests.

It has to be logical.

Faith has to be understandable and it has to make sense. I’m a Christian because what is being said in the Bible makes sense. I don’t read the Bible and find myself scratching my head. The Bible is fantastic literature. It has great insight into ancient cultures. It has clear propositional teachings. I don’t mean this to say that it is always easy to understand. I simply mean that it is understandable and logical in what it is saying.

It has to agree with what is already known.

By this I mean that a religious book cannot go against plain fact and still claim to contain truth. It cannot insist that up is down, that blue is orange, or that two plus two equals seven. If my religious book insists something that is clearly, historically not true, then there’s a problem. If, however, it is historically and scientifically accurate, then I have reason to suspect that it might be accurate concerning spiritual or eternal areas.

Now, I don’t mean this to be true concerning origins. Atheists love their Darwinism for the same reasons that Theists love the Creationism. When it comes to origins, ones worldview quickly determines the scenario that fits the worldview.

It has to personally affect the individual.

If my faith is real, it must change me. A religion that left the believer unchanged and unmotivated is no good at all. The whole point of a religion is that it offers answers and hope concerning some very important areas in a person’s life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that faith that does not change the believer to some extent isn’t faith at all…

Here’s some ideas about what questions a faith should answer:

  1. Where did I (and this entire reality) come from?
  2. Why do I (and this entire reality) exist?
  3. What is right and what is wrong?
  4. Where am I going when I am physically dead?

Christianity answers these questions. What’s more, Christianity passes all of these tests with flying colors. I am a believer because the Bible is able to accomplish within me and others what no other religion, belief system, or cult can do, and it answers perfectly the questions concerning life that nothing else can answer. Faith in Christ alone satisfies the longing of the mind, soul, spirit, and heart.

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You Don’t Need God to be Good…

good-atheistAh, those crazy guys known as “the New Atheists.” They’re kinder, gentler, and eager to please. They’re also quick to point out that you don’t have to be a Christian in order to be a moral person. They cry: “You see! We don’t need God anymore! We don’t need Him as Creator, we don’t need Him as judge, and we certainly don’t need Him as Savior! We don’t need God to scare us into being good!” I have no doubt that there are many moral atheists out there. Most Westerners (and the vast majority of Easterners, for that matter) are decent people. I am, however, just a bit confused on one major point.

…but you do need God for there to be such a thing as Good.

How can you say that you are a good person, a moral person even, when you don’t believe God exists? If there is no God, where are we getting our basis of “good” from? Not from society, that’s for sure. Our customs and laws always change, many national laws conflict with each other, and there are some twisted societies, such as those set up by Nazism and Communism (both Atheistic societies, by the way) whose laws are the most immoral things around. Morality doesn’t come from nature, as that whole “survival of the fittest” thing doesn’t go too well when you applied to natural or social Darwinism. Only the existence of God explains any sense of morality. We aren’t talking about high ideals here. Good must either exist apart from the actions of mankind, or it does not exist at all. Only an immutable Being is capable of producing an immutable Law.

You don’t have to take a Christian’s word for it. Nietzsche was hardly a Bible-thumper in his day. He’s famous for his “God is dead,” statement. Most Christians are still quite up in arms over that , however, they forget Nietzsche’s point in making that statement. Nietzsche saw that moral absolutes have no foundations apart from God. If society ignores (or denies) His existence, there is a massive void in its structure that must somehow be filled. It’s a problem that has never quite gone away.

The New Atheists may be right when they say they are good atheists, but they will have a hard time proving it without God.

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Merry Christ-X (Christmas)

jesus_nativityAnother year, another Battle for Christmas. I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t the way things are going to be for the rest of my life. It seems like every year there are businesses, organizations, and individuals that want to secularize the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. This is done in a number of ways.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice INSTEAD of Christmas

Sorry, folks, but I have better things to do than celebrate Sol Invictus. Replacing a celebration of the birth of Christ with a celebration honoring the sun’s position in the sky is just silly. Did the Roman holiday have something to do with our choice of days to celebrate Jesus’ birth? Probably so. However, Christians celebrate a historical, religious event on Christmas day, while pagans (and anybody else, for that matter) are celebrating a cultural (or perhaps astronomical) event. One doesn’t trump the other.

As a believer, I choose to use Christmas Day to celebrate God sending His Son to rescue humanity from Hell. As a guy who enjoys sunlight, I’m also thrilled that the days will be getting longer after winter solstice. Those two things are distinct from one another, and it’s good that they remain that way.

Replacing “Christmas” with “Holiday.”

This one is just plain rubbish. Is America a diverse nation? Absolutely, and I’m thrilled about it. Listen to me, though, folks. The whole point of diversity is- wait for it- we’re ALLOWED to be diverse. That means that- as a Christian- I can enjoy learning about the Jewish Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) and celebrating the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes. I suspect that God was reason the oil burned all eight days, and I believe Jesus did celebrate Hanukkah when He walked this earth. I’m not offended by Jewish celebrations like Hanukkah and Yom Kippur, and I have yet to personally meet a Jewish person who was personally offended by Christmas and Easter.

By the same token, an African-American is free to celebrate their heritage at Kwanzaa. I think we should all be proud of our roots. I love to learn about my Scottish, German, and Native American roots. If there were a particular day to celebrate those roots, I’d probably do so. We should all enjoy our diversity by recognizing these days of celebration. Diversity shouldn’t result in banning the usage of certain terms (such as “Christmas”); it should result in the acceptance of all of these holidays for what they are.

Banning or Vandalizing Nativity Scenes

This is the most malicious and petty of all. Banning the Nativity scenes- even from government buildings- is ridiculous. Diversity should welcome inclusion in America, not result in the banning because it could be offensive. There’s nothing distasteful or crude about the Nativity. People have done much worse with their freedom of speech. Of course, there’s always the crowd that touts “separation of church and state.” I’d like to point out that our government guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from all religious symbols and affiliations. You won’t find the aforementioned phrase in our most important legal documents. Governments do not endorse Christianity wholesale when they permit Nativity scenes. They recognize the diversity of the people they govern.

Vandalism is wrong no matter what the context. However, there is something sinister in the vandalism of a Nativity scene. The Nativity was a place of peace and tranquility, free from violence. “Peace, good will toward men” was spoken by the angels at Jesus’ birth. The average Nativity scene has Mary, Joseph, some shepherds, the Magi, some animals, and an angel, and- of course- the infant Jesus. What aspect of the Nativity is so provocative that people see fit to steal and destroy? There have been reports of scenes in which the infant Jesus has had the number “666” drawn on Him and the even “stabbed” and had fake blood added to the mix. Why?

I suspect that the answer is spiritual in nature. I believe that in spite of any disbelief an individual might have, the light which God has given him cannot be snuffed out completely. There is still a knowledge of the truth that cannot be ignored. Unable to wipe Him out of existence, the mock Him in effigy. It won’t always be so, though.

Replacing “Christ” with “X”

Now, I understand that scholars began this movement way back in the 11th century after Christ as a method of being reverential to His name. There is a historical precedent set by Christians. If I believed that people were being reverent when they shortened “Christmas” with “X-mas”, I might not mind so much. I have little reason to believe that Christ is being left out for religious reasons. Given the secularist atmosphere we live in, I’d say that it’s obvious why Jesus is being left out of the equation. If you want to shorten the name of the holiday, why not take out the half that isn’t so important- the “mass.” I mean, if you pit “Christ” vs. “Mass”, I think it’s obvious which is most important.

Christians need to make sure to include Jesus in all that they do, especially when the point of a holiday is to celebrate His birth. Let’s not get wrapped up in political correctness and consumerism to the point that we can’t enjoy what this “holy day” is all about.

PS- My pastor deserves the credit for the title of his posting. He changed “X-mas” to “Christ-X” one year to prove a point. I thought it was pretty clever, but he said not everyone agreed….

Categories: Philosophical Christianity, Politics | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Can’t We All Just Get Along?, Part 2

pluralism1Things can no doubt get messy when a society pushes toward cultural and ethnic pluralism. Some of that messiness comes from simple differences that have no moral impact. As a nation adapts, the messy parts will be “cleaned up” as a new “norm” is agreed upon. Still more of that messiness can come when a different set of morals is introduced. A nation has to decide which morality to accept. What is illegal here may not be illegal there. This isn’t to say that cultural and ethnic pluralism shouldn’t exist at all. No, the opposite of this sort of pluralism is totalitarianism. Rampant pluralism can, however, destabilize a nation  very quickly.

The most dangerous sort of pluralism, however, is religious pluralism. It has the power to destabilize a nation at its very soul. Remember, religious pluralism asserts that:

  1. religious diversity is beneficial to a nation and must be tolerated by it
  2. no one worldview can fully explain all of reality

Now, if by “tolerance” a pluralists asks that we treat each other respectfully, then I’m all for it. If, however, the pluralist is requiring equal time for EVERY belief system, then there is a problem. The main problem with religious pluralism in general is that it denies absolute truth. Religious pluralists believe that a claim to absolute truth will spawn totalitarianism and hinder the progress of humanity. They cite Jihad and the Dark Ages as illustrations of the dangers of truth claims. The irony is that while pluralism promotes religious tolerance, it is categorically intolerant of any religion that makes a claim to absolute truth. So much for Jesus’ claim to be “the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.”

How can all religions be equally valid? Each religion makes its own claims concerning what is true. Christianity leaves no room  for other religions when it tells us that we cannot find salvation in any other name but the name of Jesus Christ. You can’t get around what the Bible teaches.

So by the pluralist definition, Christianity is exclusivist and intolerant. Pluralism would have Christians “live and let live” while denying Christianity any bearing on eternal realities. I suspect that it does the same thing with the other religions of the world. There are precious few that are naturally inclusive and tolerant.

What troubles me is that we live in a world filled to the absolute brim with objective truth. Math has an objectively right answer. Scientists are either right or wrong in their hypothesis. Law requires that there be right and wrong within societies. Even in something as varied as music, there are right and wrong ways to play instruments, and there is printed music to tell the musician if he has got the right note or not. Why, then, do people assume that when it comes to morality and eternality, absolute truth must not exist? Is it not likely that God is quite capable of directing His creation through one, specific truth?

There can be no such thing as truth discovered by blending religions and faiths together into one amalgamated mess. They are all at their heart mutually exclusive. So when President-Elect Obama says that he will use people from different backgrounds at his inauguration, recognize that he is in not showing support for anyone or anything. All beliefs are right to him. All truths are valid, because there is ultimately no discernable truth in this reality. Thanks to humanism and secularism, there’s nowhere else to turn…

Categories: Philosophical Christianity, Politics | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

pluralismBelow you can watch President-Elect Obama defending his decision to ask Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration ceremony in January. This decision has caused quite a stir in the Gay Rights community since they assumed that Barack Obama would be relentless in his promotion of the Gay Rights agenda. Of course, there are a number of conservative Christians who feel some alarm at the selection of Rick Warren. They barely consider him to be a believer, much less someone worthy of talking to God. However, I think what everyone has left out of this whole discussion is the worldview that President-Elect Obama holds to.

The core ideas Obama holds to are that of secularism and pluralism. He makes this obvious through the company he keeps, the speeches he makes, and the laws he supports. He considers all religions to be equally right….to an extent. Ironically, while he “respects” all religions, he will rarely cite religion as the answer to any particular problem. Those who believe that Obama is a Muslim have no reason to fear (at least on grounds that he might give us over to the Muslims), for Obama considers Allah and Jehovah to be one and the same. Ironically, he also considers both of them to be obsolete. As a secularist, he has nothing to turn to but pluralism. Pluralism is the belief that a diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and religions are beneficial to and must be tolerated by the individual and the nation. In fact, pluralists would go so far as to say that no culture, ethnicity, or religion has the ability to explain all of reality.

While he seeks “equality”, he is most interested in plurality. This belief runs so deep in him that he has come to the conclusion that this is what “America is about.”  He wants to focus on what we all have in common. But is it all about diversity? I mean, are there some ideas that shouldn’t be given equal time and weight?

Now, I am in no way opposed to knowledge of different cultures, ethnicities, or religions. I am also very much for treating people respectfully no matter who they are, where they are from, or what they believe. I believe that knowledge of the world around us can be a great benefit.

However, I believe that we must be careful with the multicultural aspects of pluralism. We are Americans. When we educate our children, we must be careful that we spend the bulk of our time teaching them how we got where we are today. Greek, Roman, and British cultures are the most important cultures to Americans because they gave so much to us as a nation. I’m not saying that other cultures aren’t important. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be taught on. I’m saying that they are important for figuring out why America is the way it is. It helps chart a cultural course back thousands of years. This sort of historical education gives us roots.

Education concerning other cultures and ethnicities tell us how other nations have come into being. It introduces us to their thoughts, beliefs, etc. There are a great many useful and fascinating things on the surface of and buried beneath foreign cultures. Exposure to this sort of information gives Americans as a nation the wings necessary to soar to new heights. America was, after all, intended to be a melting pot.

If, however, we mix up our priorities- emphasize other cultures and divulge only a cursory level of information about the cultures that shaped ours- we risk shattering our national self-image and giving our descendents an identity crisis like none other. Some have argued that this has already begun to happen.

When it comes to the Law of Morality, the situation gets much worse. If two cultures or religions disagree on some point of morality, whose do you follow? Typically, “tolerance” requires that everyone accept the lower standard of morality. It doesn’t stop there, though. Once a nation has rationalized some new sin, it glories in it while ignoring the spiritual price.

More to come later….

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Change the Nature, Change the Thing

wedding ringsI need to make it clear from the start of this entry that I’m probably going to anger people on both sides of the issue of gay “marriage.” The Christians will say that I’m somehow being too soft, while the gay rights agenda will say that I’m guilty of bigotry. I should add that “gay marriage” doesn’t exist in the Christian worldview. “Gay marriage” is an oxymoron if you believe that God created Marriage (referring to its essence) to be the union of two individuals of the opposite sex. To say that I believed in gay marriage would be like saying that I believed in dry water or that our sun radiated darkness. The folks who want to argue that their rights are being taken away just don’t see what the real issue is here. Nobody’s rights are at stake. (Literally, folks. Look at the wording of the laws protecting marriage. They don’t make homosexuality a crime or remove legal rights from anybody.) I’m not going to say that there hasn’t been some hatred fueling the issues on both sides, but I refuse to say that discrimination is the primary issue of Proposition 8 in California and Amendment 2 in Florida.

Biblical Reasoning

I have several reasons for taking this position. I am a believer, and I readily admit that my faith in God and His Word guide my thinking in every area. The Bible asserts that marriage takes place between a man and a woman on numerous occasions. Genesis’ description of the first Parents, the Old Testament Laws, the beautiful illustrations of love in the Old Testament (Jacob and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, etc.), the blessing of Jesus on the Wedding in Cana, Paul’s teachings regarding marriage and the relationship between spouses, and the picture of Jesus and His Bride the Church spring readily to mind.

In contrast, there are NO positive examples of homosexual relationships (in spite of some assertions by liberal “theologians” and members of the homosexual community) in the Bible. There are numerous passages in Scripture that decry the act in both Testaments. The most famous of these are Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and Jude 1:6-7. In Romans 1, Paul even portrays the existence of widespread homosexuality in a culture as a means of determining the overall “coldness” that culture has toward God. Of course, homosexuals themselves are not viewed as “beyond saving.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 indicates that some of the believers in Corinth formerly identified themselves as “gay.”

Anthropological Reasoning

However, my reasons for taking this position go beyond simply pointing out a few verses. If you read this blog for very long, you’ll find that “proof texting” is not my idea of a good time. God always has reasons for designating things as “sinful” and “pure.” Of course we should take Him at His Word, but further study can be helpful. The issue of gay marriage is, at its heart, not a legal one. It is sad that we must define reality in legal documents, but that is the world in which we live.

The reality is that the institution of marriage transcends the laws of any society. It has existed as long as humans have been around. The institution of marriage is not the creation of any particular law or society. Like Beauty and Morality, it simply exists at the bidding of the Creator.

It also turns out that marriage isn’t just an awesome idea. It is the most practical method for propagating a stable society. Monogamous, heterosexual relationships create a bond that ensures a basic cooperation between the sexes. This is something that cannot be overlooked or brushed aside. Attraction, emotional attachment, and willful commitment ensure that a couple will continue to exist as a stable building block for society.

Both sexes working in unison not only provide a fulfilling relationship for each other, but also provide cooperation between the sexes in general. This level of commitment and intimacy is not experienced in social, work, governmental, or corporate interactions. In short, without committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriages (the only kind), society would lose all of the building blocks that help it to remain stable. Homosexual unions can never provide this level of interaction between the sexes. There is no substitute for the family!

Developmental Reasoning

Marriage provides an ideal situation for the birth and rearing of children. Recent studies have shown that it is imperative for both a mother AND a father to be present in the home. To remove either from the equation destabilizes the familial “building block.” I barely need to mention the necessity of a woman in the home to nurture children. Massive volumes of books and articles published recently describe the role of the father in the development of boys in particular. Boys are naturally more interactive and therefore need a father to model and teach them masculine traits. No mother (or set of mothers) can perform these tasks, no matter how “loving” she is. Girls need the love of a father to feel accepted. Again, numerous studies show that promiscuity among teenage girls is often linked to either a real or perceived lack of love from a father. Only in the context of a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage can this sort of child rearing take place.

Summary/Conclusion

“Love” (loosely defined) is not enough to constitute a marriage. It is not enough to make two people of the same sex worthy of being “parents.” This issue has nothing to do with rights or willing partners. (By the way, just consider for a moment where that line of thinking might get us. I won’t speculate here, but the possibilities are as dark as they are endless.) Marriage is a transcendent institution designed by God that can only be realized in committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationships. It was designed by a brilliant Creator to provide fulfillment in individuals and couples, to ensure a proper environment for the birth and rearing of children, and to propagate stable cultures.

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Change the Nature, Change the Thing

wedding ringsI need to make it clear from the start of this entry that I’m probably going to anger people on both sides of the issue of gay “marriage.” The Christians will say that I’m somehow being too soft, while the gay rights agenda will say that I’m guilty of bigotry. I should add that “gay marriage” doesn’t exist in the Christian worldview. “Gay marriage” is an oxymoron if you believe that God created Marriage (referring to its essence) to be the union of two individuals of the opposite sex. To say that I believed in gay marriage would be like saying that I believed in dry water or that our sun radiated darkness. The folks who want to argue that their rights are being taken away just don’t see what the real issue is here. Nobody’s rights are at stake. (Literally, folks. Look at the wording of the laws protecting marriage. They don’t make homosexuality a crime or remove legal rights from anybody.) I’m not going to say that there hasn’t been some hatred fueling the issues on both sides, but I refuse to say that discrimination is the primary issue of Proposition 8 in California and Amendment 2 in Florida.

Biblical Reasoning

I have several reasons for taking this position. I am a believer, and I readily admit that my faith in God and His Word guide my thinking in every area. The Bible asserts that marriage takes place between a man and a woman on numerous occasions. Genesis’ description of the first Parents, the Old Testament Laws, the beautiful illustrations of love in the Old Testament (Jacob and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, etc.), the blessing of Jesus on the Wedding in Cana, Paul’s teachings regarding marriage and the relationship between spouses, and the picture of Jesus and His Bride the Church spring readily to mind.

In contrast, there are NO positive examples of homosexual relationships (in spite of some assertions by liberal “theologians” and members of the homosexual community) in the Bible. There are numerous passages in Scripture that decry the act in both Testaments. The most famous of these are Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and Jude 1:6-7. In Romans 1, Paul even portrays the existence of widespread homosexuality in a culture as a means of determining the overall “coldness” that culture has toward God. Of course, homosexuals themselves are not viewed as “beyond saving.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 indicates that some of the believers in Corinth formerly identified themselves as “gay.”

Anthropological Reasoning

However, my reasons for taking this position go beyond simply pointing out a few verses. If you read this blog for very long, you’ll find that “proof texting” is not my idea of a good time. God always has reasons for designating things as “sinful” and “pure.” Of course we should take Him at His Word, but further study can be helpful. The issue of gay marriage is, at its heart, not a legal one. It is sad that we must define reality in legal documents, but that is the world in which we live.

The reality is that the institution of marriage transcends the laws of any society. It has existed as long as humans have been around. The institution of marriage is not the creation of any particular law or society. Like Beauty and Morality, it simply exists at the bidding of the Creator.

It also turns out that marriage isn’t just an awesome idea. It is the most practical method for propagating a stable society. Monogamous, heterosexual relationships create a bond that ensures a basic cooperation between the sexes. This is something that cannot be overlooked or brushed aside. Attraction, emotional attachment, and willful commitment ensure that a couple will continue to exist as a stable building block for society.

Both sexes working in unison not only provide a fulfilling relationship for each other, but also provide cooperation between the sexes in general. This level of commitment and intimacy is not experienced in social, work, governmental, or corporate interactions. In short, without committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriages (the only kind), society would lose all of the building blocks that help it to remain stable. Homosexual unions can never provide this level of interaction between the sexes. There is no substitute for the family!

Developmental Reasoning

Marriage provides an ideal situation for the birth and rearing of children. Recent studies have shown that it is imperative for both a mother AND a father to be present in the home. To remove either from the equation destabilizes the familial “building block.” I barely need to mention the necessity of a woman in the home to nurture children. Massive volumes of books and articles published recently describe the role of the father in the development of boys in particular. Boys are naturally more interactive and therefore need a father to model and teach them masculine traits. No mother (or set of mothers) can perform these tasks, no matter how “loving” she is. Girls need the love of a father to feel accepted. Again, numerous studies show that promiscuity among teenage girls is often linked to either a real or perceived lack of love from a father. Only in the context of a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage can this sort of child rearing take place.

Summary/Conclusion

“Love” (loosely defined) is not enough to constitute a marriage. It is not enough to make two people of the same sex worthy of being “parents.” This issue has nothing to do with rights or willing partners. (By the way, just consider for a moment where that line of thinking might get us. I won’t speculate here, but the possibilities are as dark as they are endless.) Marriage is a transcendent institution designed by God that can only be realized in committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationships. It was designed by a brilliant Creator to provide fulfillment in individuals and couples, to ensure a proper environment for the birth and rearing of children, and to propagate stable cultures.

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What’s Right for You IS What’s Right for Me, Part 2

scales2

When questioning the existence of an absolute Law of Morality, it may be easy to mistake an inner sensitivity to the Law of Morality for mere human instinct. Humans do, of course, have certain biological instincts. For instance, we are very much wired to protect and care for our young. Only the most callous mother could throw the life of their child away. We must not assume that instinct is all that directs our actions.

If Darwinism were a reality, and survival of the fittest the most important thing, why do humans build hospitals? If it’s all about biology and survival, why not leave the sick to die? Doing so would mean more food for the living and less competition in finding a mate. Some sort of sympathy “instinct” doesn’t really explain the reality of how decent people function.

That there is within humanity a will for self-preservation is a reality. It is also true that people will often sacrifice their well-being for another. However, what is most interesting is not the coexistence of self-preservation and sympathy in a person. What is most interesting is that there is a third factor, a sensation within individuals that they ought to do something, even if it means sacrificing their own lives.

A police officer has the same will to live as any other member of our race. Why, then, do people choose a profession that has a much higher mortality rate than most other professions in society? At least part of the rational is that something ought to be done about violence and injustice. The existence of this third factor, this sense of responsibility and justice, which exists within every person and culture, is very telling. It is not identical to sympathy. It is distinct from it, as notes on a piece of sheet music are distinct from a note played on an instrument. It is what causes an individual to side with sympathy, mercy, or love when self-preservation and “survival of the fittest” ought to reign.

If humans do not have an innate sensitivity to the universal Law of Morality, where does this universal sense of responsibility come from? Is it learned in the home or the classroom? Perhaps the Law of Morality is taught by parents, teachers, pastors, and other members of society, but just because there is a societal element here does not deny the existence of a Law. You learned math, science, history, and English in the classroom, too. That doesn’t mean that those things aren’t facts, that there isn’t a reality beyond those words and figures on a page.

If an eternal, universal Law of Morality exists, where did it come from? Humans did not create it. Nature did not mold it into being, for the existence of sympathy destabilizes the process of natural selection. (Even Darwin admitted that civilized cultures had halted the process of natural selection in his work The Abolition of Man.) Someone must have created it, for chance does not spawn moral law. The simplest and best answer is that a loving God did so. A God Who cares for His creation, Who wishes to protect Beauty in all its forms, Who desires that the Sacred not become Profane. Strangely enough, this is very God mentioned in the Bible. He has ordained Beauty and Morality in this universe, and He has revealed Himself through His Word and His Creation.

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What’s Right for You IS What’s Right for Me

scales2I’ve written a bit on what I have termed “The Law of Beauty.” I’ve spoken of how Beauty is a Sacred thing because it springs from the mind of God and because it is guarded by holiness itself. In fact, things are beautiful only to the extent that they “measure up” to God’s standard. I’ve even gone so far as to say that God’s Law of Morality is a natural result of the Law of Beauty.

Of course, the moment I assert that there is such a thing as a universal Law of Morality there will be some who cry foul. “You can’t say that there are things that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. It’s up to cultures to decide.” I’ve simplified the argument, of course, but that’s what they’re saying when they get right down to it.

It’s not just my Christian belief that causes me to believe in a Law of Morality. There is evidence of it within human nature. There are certain common beliefs that express themselves regardless of what time or in what culture a person is born. While societies may have had different instances in which murder or stealing were considered acceptable, I am not aware of any society in which everyone could steal or murder for any reason. It may be acceptable in some cultures to be promiscuous, have many wives, or commit a homosexual act, but I am not aware of a culture in the world that permitted everyone to have any partner they wanted at any time they wanted. The same could be said for every category of immorality conceivable.

Consider also that even those who don’t believe in the Law of Morality are nonetheless at its mercy. They may vehemently deny that promiscuity is immoral, but they are deeply hurt when a spouse is unfaithful. Or turn the scenario around. They deny that promiscuity is immoral, but use every excuse in the book to explain away their affair. If there is no such thing as morality, why do they experience guilt? Why do they feel a need to excuse their actions if they did nothing wrong? And, furthermore, how can a person even make an excuse without the Law of Morality? Shouldn’t a person without an inner sensitivity to a Law of Morality be blithely indifferent to the “rightness” of their actions?

Think about it: a man may blame his adultery on the fact that his wife hasn’t treated him fairly on some point. Without the Law of Morality, what is the difference between fair and unfair? Why do we think that humans have any rights at all without the Law of Morality? There is a difference between legal rights and human rights, after all. Otherwise, we shouldn’t feel any outrage at the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin, or Hussein. They were the leaders of their governments, the writers and maintainers of their respective laws.

If, however, there is a thing as human rights, then there are beliefs concerning those rights that are better than others. In theory, your own beliefs concerning human rights are better than Hitler’s. In asserting that one belief is better than another, you create the possibility that a perfect standard of rights does exist. This perfect standard of rights is the Law of Morality.

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Is Nothing Sacred?

sacredI’ve used the term “sacred” a number of times in my blog recently. In order to avoid confusion, I’d like to write a short entry to explain what I mean by this term. When I say that something is Sacred, I am referring to its essence, not its purpose. By this broad definition, the whole of Creation is Sacred because it was created by and for the Godhead. The whole of Creation is Sacred to the degree that it adheres to the will of its Creator.

The narrower definition of sacred (what I call “little s” sacred) has more to do with its purpose. The Arts, entertainment, relationships, education, music, minds, and all created things are Sacred to one extent or the other. Satan himself, however evil, can’t wholly exorcise the “good” things given to him by God. He cannot remove his own intelligence or abilities. In this way, Martin Luther was correct in saying that the Devil was ultimately God’s Devil. Even the Enemy cannot escape God.

Of course, this is not to say that all things are to be considered sacred in purpose. Satan is far from sacred in purpose. However wonderful a sunset or the beach may be, they are not sacred in purpose either. Experiencing them is not equal to singing sacred songs, prayer, or the study of God’s Word. Music may have meaning and develop eternal truths, sometimes even accidentally. That doesn’t mean that any sort of music qualifies as worship music. In recognizing the Sacredness of God’s World, we must not ignore the importance of sacred writing, speech, or music. You cannot replace that which is sacred in purpose with that which is sacred in essence. Though I’m sure the (minutely) Sacred Devil would disagree. . . .

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The Eye of the Beholder?

a-red-rose-for-youPsalm 29:2 exhorts us to “worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” There is a relationship between that which is beautiful and that which is holy. Holiness- purity from sin- is a beautiful thing, and, by the same token, Beauty is a holy thing. It is a holy thing because Beauty itself originates in God. It is from His mind that stars leaped into being. His creative powers brought forth this world. His genius formed man from simple clay. Even in this damaged world in which we live, we can see His splendor in the sunset, the mountains, and even the falling snow.

Because beauty originates from Him, God does not differentiate between Sacred and Secular. There is of course, a specific type of Sacredness that is reserved for our communion with Him. In general, though, all things that are pure and without sin are Sacred. Races and ethnicities are Sacred. Music is Sacred. Sexuality is Sacred. Our living and dying [Romans 14:7-9], eating and drinking [1Corinthians 10:31], and whatever else may accompany our existence is Sacred to the extent that we obey God’s ordained order. An important part of that ordained order is the Law of Beauty. In fact, one could argue that God’s Law of Purity (His moral law) is based heavily in the Law of Beauty.

Think of it this way: God considers the variety of races to be a beautiful thing. Therefore, racism is wrong because it belittles the Beauty God has created in this world. Sexual perversion is wrong because it mars the beauty of the marriage relationship. When we turn to the matter of man’s creations, though, things get a bit more sticky. People argue that passion and creativity are all that matters.

This is simply not the case. Music, art, and literature are only beautiful to the degree that they adhere to God’s set standard of holiness. In this way, holiness acts as a shield and defense to true beauty. Holiness does not limit Beauty. It protects Beauty. When the Arts cease to model true Beauty, they are no longer Art. They are a profanity, a twisted mockery of the Sacred.

I’m a Lord of the Rings fan, and I like Tolkien’s illustration of this. He writes that Sauron (what we might call the “Satan” figure in Tolkien’s mythology) cannot create anything. Trolls, goblins, and other evil creatures are merely a corruption of the created order. In fact, none of the creatures in Tolkien’s Middle Earth were originally evil. The distortion came from within at the bidding of Evil. So it is with our world.

There is much that is good, holy, and beautiful in our world. It is still “my Father’s world” after all. As awful as things have gotten here, evil is only a mockery of the good. It is at best an assault on Beauty. Such mockery is really an attempt to assault God Himself, because He is the author of Beauty. A quick read of Psalms 2 will quickly point out that evil is only a passing thing, and though evil men and women may mock God and His Law of Beauty, a Day is coming which will end all such attacks.

God has so much for us to enjoy in this world. Find sources of pure Beauty to enjoy, summon the measure of creativity He has given you, and you will both glorify God and enjoy this world He has given to us. We are no more perfectly His Image-bearers than when we exalt Beauty as something Sacred.

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Fun Dip and Beer

fun-dipIf you are in the least bit sane, you probably saw the title of this post and had a few questions for me. No worries; it’s just that there’s a story here that has to be shared. This year my wife and I decided to give each other a Christmas gift that we could really enjoy: a night at the symphony and a nice dinner. We don’t go out for culture and class very often, so we were both pretty excited. I donned my nicest attire and even threw on some cologne. No khaki slacks for me!

After an amazing dinner at our favorite (nearly) high-end restaurant, we went to the symphony. The music was absolutely beautiful, and it’s safe to say that we had an enjoyable time. There was only one major glitch in the whole night. Ten minutes into the concert, the guy next to me whipped out a bottle of beer and a Fun Dip package. Now, I’m a huge fan of Fun Dips. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve taking a sugar stick, dipping it into a fruit-flavored powder, and enjoying a nice, refreshing sugar high. Could he have enjoyed the music while enjoying his “snack”? Sure. But it was obvious that he wasn’t tuned into the concert at all. No doubt, he was simply there because his wife wanted to go.

I was irritated and maybe a little sad because this guy missed out on something of the Eternal. And that, I think, is what irked me so much. The truth is, I enjoyed the experience regardless of what the bozo next to me was doing. What drives me nuts as I sit here writing at 12:45am is that, while hundreds around him partook of a Sacred experience, he exercised his free will in wallowing in amusement (a term which originally meant the absence of thinking.)

Tonight, in the middle of this repository of passion, skill, and intelligence (classical music), this glorious cultural- or perhaps hypercultural– experience, sat one man who couldn’t perceive what was going on around him. There he sat, eating his Fun Dip and sipping his beer, while music- some of it written hundreds of years ago- stirred the emotions and the minds of those around him.

“How,” you may ask, “is the symphony Sacred? And what in the world do you mean by hypercultural?” When I say “hypercultural,” I simply mean that there are things that in their essence transcend culture. Beauty is one of those things. Music- true music- is a potent expression of the Law of Beauty- a transcendent reality. It is proof that beauty is not simply in the eye of the beholder. Classical music isn’t classical just because it was written a long time ago. It is a classic because it speaks across generations, languages, and cultures. It has survived the test of time. In a sense works such as classical music and classical literature are not merely beautiful works. They are the incarnation of the Law of Beauty. Something in the thought put into their creation, the passion summoned by a rational mind, has a soulish quality that speaks to the listener.

If the music played at the symphony is indeed soulish, if it communicates something deep and real to the mind and heart of a human being, if it awakens the listener to a higher reality (in this case transcendent Beauty) than himself, then it is in fact Sacred. I don’t mean that it is Sacred in the sense that it reveals God’s Word or is a substitute for Christian music or that a person could come to God by listening to it. I mean that it stirs within the listener (or at least a listener who isn’t dulling his senses with beer and Fun Dip) a desire for Beauty, it tantalizes the Soul which was breathed into Man at Creation, it causes him to turn from himself and ponder the existence of a deeper, broader, more intricate reality than he can perceive with the senses. Something as simple as enjoying Christmas music in a crowded theatre can be just one movement of the Anthem of the Ages orchestrated by a loving God. How sad would it be if we missed Him because we traded the Sacred for Fun Dip!

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Thoughts on Christian Education

biblepageBefore engaging in a discussion regarding a philosophy of Christian education, it is important to first recognize some problems which have crept into the Christian education arena. The first two major areas deal with society in general. The second two deal with the Church’s perspective on faith and education, and the final issue deals with Christian educators themselves. Once the major issues have been understood, it will be useful to look at the biblical and practical mandates to educate as well as the content and methods of that education.

Western society today has shifted its emphasis from that which is eternal to that which is temporary. J.P. Moreland of Talbot School of Theology writes: “Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for a well-informed character with the search for a flat stomach, substance and depth with image and personality.”


Because of the onslaught of materialism and humanism, that which is spiritual or even abstract is no longer valued as much as that which is hedonistically practical. Image is everything, and education is quite often viewed, quite frankly, as a necessary evil. This has led to the “dumbing-down” of educational standards and the practice of “socially promoting” the student in order to save face.

To make matters worse, learning is no longer viewed as an end unto itself. What is perceived as practical in the immediate context is of more value than what may enrich the individual. Therefore, if the individual can get by with less knowledge, the individual will seek to do so. Reading and research have quickly become things of the past for the average youth in today’s modern culture. Entertainment is viewed as the chief end while boredom is viewed as the chief evil. According to Paul Spears, this perspective has come about largely as a result of the viewpoint that truth, and with it, knowledge, is relative.

Thirdly, there are several misconceptions regarding the nature of Christian education. Both of the following misconceptions are pointed out by Donovan Graham in his work, Teaching Redemptively. Some believe Christian education to be a wholly American ideal.


This conceptualization of Christian education views education as a patriotic duty. It portrays the Founding Fathers and other American men as wholly Christian in their worldview and faith. This is simply not the case. While the Puritans and others like them certainly believed in education, the concept of a good, solid education goes much farther back in history than that. My point is that education is important beyond our cultural context.

Another misconception is that Christian education should use only the writings of fellow believers. While this perspective sounds wonderful at the start, it denies the reality of the Imago Dei. Certainly, a major purpose of Christian education is to protect the student from false ideas and philosophies. However, this view ignores the capacity of the believer to redeem truth and virtue from the works of unbelievers. It presents the Fall as an absolute event which effaced any spiritual truths or positive qualities from the unregenerate soul. Some will read this and believe that I am adopting the popular views of the Emergent Church movement. I am not. The Emergent Church movement, at its worst, seeks to find some vague sense of spirituality from any part of a culture, regardless of the evil that may be present in that part of a culture. I am not suggesting that personal standards be set aside. I am simply saying that an unbeliever can produce something wonderful because he is also made in God’s image. The image is marred, to be sure, but it is not wholly undone.

Perhaps the most debilitating factor influencing the Christian education movement is anti-intellectualism. This anti-intellectualism places faith and reason at odds with each other. In this view, there must be a balance between the two in order to prevent heresy. To the anti-intellectualist, ignorance truly is bliss. This view is responsible for doing much damage to the Christian Faith and specifically to the Church’s views on education and theology. To quote the Puritan Cotton Mather: “Ignorance is not the mother of devotion, but of heresy.”

This concept has taken hold of the American culture as well. Grammar, vocabulary, and syntax are no longer considered as practical as writing skills. Historical facts are no longer seen as relevant so long as the student learns the importance of a multicultural worldview. Never mind the fact that a developed intellect requires abstract thinking and concrete knowledge. Consider a recent report from Scientific American titled “Word Problems Fail Math Students.” This report summarized findings of researchers from Ohio State University. It seems that abstract math skills, not word problems, are essential to advancement in the math subject areas. In this study, students who were taught the skills earned an average of 80% in testing, while students who were taught through visual and word problems only scored a 44% average.

This is because abstract thinking carries over into new areas of life and allows for greater problem-solving and discovery skills. In every area of study, abstract thinking based upon previously memorized facts must be the bread-and-butter of learning. Sadly, fact-based learning is the Cinderella of the schoolroom today. Instead, students are encouraged to discuss and create projects long before they have conceptualized the subject they are studying. Granted, there is a place for projects and discussion, but students must spend a significant amount of time at the lowest rungs of Bloom’s taxonomy before climbing to the higher levels.

No other area has suffered because of modern anti-intellectualism as the area of biblical studies. In order to learn the Bible, one must be willing to devote the mind to study. Today, few are accustomed to dealing with propositional truths. Students are taught to express, rather than understand, their thoughts on “what the Bible means to them.” Churches and schools alike are sucked into the maelstrom of seeker-friendly, entertainment-oriented, shallow teaching.

This produces shallow Christians seeking inspirational, pseudo-spiritual experiences to bolster their equally shallow faith. Indeed, in many cases, their “faith” dissipates quickly if they are not fed another inspirational thought.

The final problem which plagues Christian education is that very often Christian educators are content with simply teaching the Bible or biblical principles without living those same principles before their own students. Teachers in Christian education must be willing to live out their faith in the best interests of professionalism, discipleship, and evangelism. It is the duty and privilege of every Christian educator to train young minds as part of their ministry. If these young, impressionable youths perceive a hint of hypocrisy, they will later rebel against their faith. Christian educators must never forget how much they can do to either edify or destroy the spiritual life of their students.

The second major area of analysis when discussing Christian education is that of the biblical and historical mandate to educate. The first thing that needs to be emphasized is that faith is based on reason.
Therefore, a child’s likelihood of mental assent to the truths of God’s Word, and consequently their ability to internalize and emotionally connect with those truths is directly related to the ability of the teacher to rationally explain the Gospel.

Of course, this fact does not negate the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion. Indeed, the Holy Spirit’s conviction is the key to conversation. However, it must be remembered that God in His infinite wisdom has given the believer the privilege and responsibility of sharing His love for mankind.

Furthermore, there is also a historical example set in holding to a high academic and spiritual standard in Christian education. From the foundation of the church, Christian education was basically a classical Greco-Roman education with a sanctified worldview. The early Church began educating their children by teaching Scripture in addition to, not in the place of, math, science, language, history, philosophy, logic, music, and the like. They did so with the knowledge that strong faith comes from the ability to reason well in all areas. There was no distinction between the sacred and the secular realm to their minds.


This was not because they were worldly, but because they saw in each area of a liberal arts
education the fingerprints of the Divine. Christianity and education are ideal companions in the individual and in the culture.
Christianity relies heavily upon literacy and logic to communicate concepts. God’s Word is available to us through the use of written language. Therefore, literacy is vital to Christians and to the continuance of the Christian faith. Furthermore, an educated mind enhances, not detracts, the shattered remnants of the Imago Dei and allows one to understand the propositional truths of Scripture.

On the subject of both history and theology, there is much to be learned from Jesus when developing a philosophy of education. He is the wisest and most dynamic teacher of all time. He taught with authority because He knew His subject. He also lived His subject matter, an area which teachers struggle with when dealing with biblical integration. Jesus was personable and interacted with His “students.” These things made Jesus a dynamic teacher.

The final area to turn to on the subject of philosophy of Christian Education is the question of the education’s content. Christian education must be a liberal arts education. Liberal arts are worthy of study for two major reasons. First of all, the liberal arts deal with the ultimate questions regarding existence, purpose, virtue, and beauty.


The purpose for humanity’s existence is explored in philosophy. Math and grammar deal in absolute truth. History looks to the past while science in its application envisions the future. Art, music, drama, and creative writing demonstrate the beauty written into the world by a Creator God.

Secondly, the study of classic literary works enables the student to understand thoughts outside of their own. This is important when assimilating one’s own culture and values.
An understanding of these areas adds further depths to spiritual realities as well.

When discussing subjects such as the classics and an academic Christian education, objections are typically raised at the notion of becoming “too academic.” While Christian education cannot possibly be too academic, it can be not spiritual enough in spite of high academic standards. Education is academic in nature. Concerns that academia might become too academic are the result of a flaw in logic. It would be like saying a basketball player is too athletic or a pianist is too musically inclined. If the nature of something is changed, then the identity of the thing is changed as well. If we alter what education is, then it is no longer education. Of course education is academic, and the curriculum is academic because it is the expression of that purpose!

This academic nature includes all subjects, even the Bible department. Rather, it is true especially of the Bible department. A Christian school, of course, would not be a Christian school without at least one Bible class per grade level. The depth and breadth of Scripture is so vast that it must have its own time of study in the day.
Rather than a chance to earn an easy “A”, the Bible class should require intense study. Instead of a “fluff” course relying mostly on class discussion and projects, the Bible class must contain elements of reading, writing, thinking, lecture, and memorization. Those elements are pivotal to a proper understanding of Scripture.

Regardless of a Christian educator’s perspective on Christian education, certain core values are inescapable. The Bible must be given the preeminence even though biblical integration may not be overt. At the very least, the worldview presented in the classroom must be biblical. Parents and teachers must be seen as vital in the process of exhorting students to eschew evil and embrace Christ. This discipleship process should result in the student becoming the evangelist and mentor of others whom he encounters in his life.

Additionally, there are a number of goals and purposes which should be central to the Christian educator. The Christian educator should desire that the student should learn the truths of God and respond to them. The resulting secondary goals would be that the student would live in harmony with God’s truths and that he would desire to impact others. The truths mentioned here include those taught in the Bible, revealed in the natural world, or gleaned from a study of human relationships on the familial, governmental, or spiritual level.


These goals harmonize completely with accepted educational theories taught in universities today. The learning process begins with the internalization of knowledge, which in turn directs actions, which results in a commitment to that knowledge.


Of course, this process can be used to propagate both truth and error, so that the Christian educator must be careful when passing knowledge on to students.Ultimately, the Christian educator must seek to glorify God in both the content communicated and in the manner in which that content is communicated. It is a duty, but also a wondrous privilege to minister to young people and train them to think critically and biblically regarding the nature of truth and to point them to the ultimate source of truth.

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