Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life and Oil

The tragedy of the oil spill continues to dominate the news. Not only are jobs and lifestyles being devastated, but future beach ecosystems could be damaged for years. According to one article on line, "The loss of habitat leaves questions about next year's bird and fish population."[1] Who knows how bad the damage will be to future life.

While everyone is saddened by the spill and the possible future impact on the ecosystem, little is said about the potential human life that is being destroyed each day. No matter where one falls on the abortion debate, everyone can easily recognize that the potential for human life is destroyed, no matter when the abortion takes place after conception. In fact, many scientist recognize life as starting at conception. Dr. Hymie Gordon of the Mayo Clinic says,"By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." Again, Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School states, "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception." [2]

If an outcry for potential life is threatened along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, then where is the justification for the destruction of potential human life? The question of abortion has to center on life and not the choice of a mother who is being inconvenienced.

[1] Article speaking of the damage to the ecosystem of Louisiana
[2] Scientist's view of when life starts

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beware of the beads

In modern historical times, some have interpreted the person of Jesus differently. The real liberal scholarship concerning new interpretations was birthed during the enlightenment, with many of the new liberal interpretations coming from Germany. One of the present day groups, that is not in the mainstream of historical scholars is called, "The Jesus Seminar." The seminar group fashions itself as a scholarly group of individuals, when in reality they have few that qualify as scholars concerning the historical Jesus. The seminar group is just another liberal group with an agenda to push. They have gained much attention through the media, with various presentations in the past on Jesus through the "Public Broadcasting Station."

The two primary points that the seminar push to counter the historical Jesus revolve around the divinity of Jesus and miracles. The seminar absolutely will not accept the divinity of Jesus or miraculous claims, therefore, much of the New Testament is thrown out, especially the four gospels. The seminar has devised a scheme for how to handle the truthfulness (according to them) of the four gospel accounts. A red bead represents what Jesus actually said. A pink bead means Jesus probably said it. Grey means that Jesus did not say this, but it is close to what Jesus said, and black means that this was not said by Jesus, but was a later addition. When all is said and done by way of the Jesus Seminar, the four gospels only account for 20% of what can actually be trusted.

"The Jesus Seminar" represents another modern day attempt to fashion Jesus into an image they happen to like. Clearly an agenda is in mind concerning the "Jesus Seminar." The seminar group is willing to accept ideas that didn't develop until over a 1000 years after the gospel accounts. Not only that, but, the seminar is willing to accept many of the Gnostic writings which were clearly not written during the apostolic period. In other words, these later writings that the seminar prefer were written well after the 1st century. "The Jesus Seminar's" unorthodox view of the divinity of Jesus and his miracle working ability show they want to fashion a Jesus of their own liking. The seminar group is not interested in truth and has little credibility when it comes to the Jesus of history. Beware of the beads of deception.

  • Excellent article detailing the main points and players of the Jesus Seminar.
  • Debate between William Lane Craig and Marcus Borg (of the Jesus Seminar) concerning the resurrection of Jesus.
  • Article dealing with recent interpretations of the resurrection of Jesus.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why so much suffering?

Today I talked with a friend who lost her twin towers (husband and father) back in 2001. She reminisced about the difficulty of losing two individuals so close to her. Two days ago, my wife and I visited a dear Christian lady who has lost six of her children. She only has three children left. During our conversation she asked two questions: why and what purpose does this serve?

A real problem that exists in our world today deals with the immense amount of suffering and evil that takes place. In fact, the atheist will commonly use this argument to try and show that God does not exist. From the atheistic worldview the problem of evil challenge against the existence of God goes something like this: If God is all powerful, then why does he not eradicate the world of evil. They draw two conclusions from this argument, either God does not exist or he is not all-powerful. The second argument against God by way of suffering and evil states, If God is all good, why so much evil and suffering? Coupled together, this argument against the existence of God probably represents the most serious challenge to the Christian worldview.

What answers can be given to those who would pose such statements against Christianity? First, on the Christian worldview, it was the human race that threw the world into its' current condition. Evil, on this planet, never existed until temptation was succumbed to by the first humans. So, evil was not God's fault (James 1:13), but man's misuse of his God given freewill that brought it into the world. Also, on the Christian worldview, one day, God will make everything right again (Revelation 21:3-4).

Knowing this information made a tremendous impact on the woman who lost six of her children. She commented before my wife and I left, that without God she couldn't imagine how to deal with life. At one time during Jesus ministry a mass exodus of followers took place. Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they wanted to leave, at which Peter responded, "To whom shall we go (John 6:60-68)." This is not a proof for God, but as our friend rightly believed, without God, all this world has to offer is despair. Jesus came to offer life and to offer it to the fullest (John 10:10).

If evil is recognized, that means a good standard must exist by which we can see evil. If there is a good standard and evil can be recognized, then a moral law must exist. A moral law presupposes a moral Law Giver or God. Suffering and evil exist, but one day, the moral Law Giver will make everything right again. Why some suffer more than others cannot be sufficiently answered, but God has a purpose and reason and will one day make all the suffering seem insignificant when we come into his presence.

  • An excellent article on the problem of evil by Peter Kreeft.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coexist at the expence of Christianity?

I often run into the coexist bumper sticker going to work each day. While it is true that we live in a pluralistic society and we all need to get along, I think one of the main issues being pushed is that of tolerance. What is pluralism and what is the message of many that promote the tolerance issue?

Religious pluralism recognizes that this world if filled with thousands of different religious beliefs from Anthroposophy to Zoroastrianism. Thought there are thousands of religious beliefs, with some of the major players including: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and the Shinto religion.

Being that many different religious beliefs exist, we should be tolerant of all differences that exist. However, the word tolerance assumes that you already disagree with someone else on a particular issue. It is impossible to tolerate an other's view if you first don't have a disagreement with them. This brings me to the point I believe many individuals hold who promote the coexist slogan. What I think many really want, from the coexist camp, is not just tolerance, but in fact acceptance of all religious beliefs.

All religious beliefs, however, are peculiar in what they believe. You can't truly be a Buddhist and Hindu at the same time, for both religious systems make different statements as to how things are. Likewise, Christianity makes a completely different set of claims that contradicts all other religious groups. The real issue as I see it revolves around the question of truth.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)" This statement by Jesus seems to cause a lot of problems to those in the coexist camp as being a statement of intolerance. For sure, the statement is an exclusive statement, but what the coexist camp fails to address is the truthfulness or falsity of the statement. Jesus statement can't be both true and false at the same time. Either Jesus is the way or he is not.

Dealing with those who hold to a non-Christian worldview can be tricky, but Christians must dialogue with others that espouse different views in a loving and respectful manner. The difficult position that the Christian is in today, deals with the fact that we need to tolerate all views, but Christianity seems to be fair game. As Christians we need to argue for truth first. Truth is what we're after, not acceptance of a false belief.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How well do you know your bike?

Recently I participated in an event called, "Bike Across Kansas." It was a wonderful 500 mile trip from West to East across the state. I had to dust off my 20 year old bike, take it into the bike shop for a needed tune-up, and work my way into shape. I knew before going into the ride that my bike (although still very good) would be a dinosaur compared to most other riders. There were some 800-900 riders who participated in the ride and they were like a sub-culture of their own. They treated their bikes like a precious commodity (some were actually worth thousands of dollars). They had their own lingo as they talked of components, derailleurs, cranks, cadence, and composite fibers. Being that I have been involved in cycling for a number of years, I was familiar with their lingo. After every day on the bike, the riders would talk about the day, the specialness of their bikes, and past rides.

Like the "Bike Across Kansas" sub-culture the Christians are a separate sub-culture all their own. Unlike the "Bike Across Kansas" culture the Christian culture often has scant knowledge of their precious commodity-God. The prophet Hosea states this concerning God's people, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)" Knowledge of God is crucially important especially in today's culture. Proper knowledge of God serves three primary purposes.

First, knowledge of God is profitable for spotting those who oppose the work of God or who travel the road of heresy. The early Church experienced heresy as this was addressed by the apostle John toward the end of the 1st century (1 John 2:18-23). Whether this was the beginning of Gnosticism or not, the point to be taken is that knowledge of God is important in order to recognize heresy.

Secondly, and related to the first point, is that, knowledge of God grounds the believer in who God is. Being familiar with God's word (which is the primary way we access knowledge of God) allows the believer to contradict those in our culture who would attack the Christian world view. 1 Peter 3:15 states, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." Obviously, a defense or answer of the Christian worldview cannot be sufficiently given without first having proper knowledge of who God is. So, having a proper knowledge of God, not only helps in spotting heresy, but it is crucial in being able to speak the truth of God.

The third and final reason why knowledge of God is important, has to do with the strength the believer receives when knowing more of who God is. One does not have to worry about exhausting all knowledge of who God is, for He is God (Isaiah 40:28). But, increased knowledge of God, brings one closer to God and makes better sense of the world around us. The knowledge of God is exactly what Job experienced in his life when he said in Job 42, " 1 Then Job replied to the LORD :2 I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." One bit of caution, knowledge of God is unimportant if one does not have an open heart to the Holy Spirit of God, for then it only becomes head knowledge.

Knowledge of God is as important today as it was to the people of Hosea's period. Sadly, many individuals today have a greater knowledge of their bikes (which will perish and fade in time) than they do of the One who can actually make an eternal difference. How well do you know your bike, maybe should be phrased, how well do you know your God?
* Article dealing with the knowledge of God.