Sunday, August 19, 2012

Olympics, Singing, and Worship

My wife and I watched a LOT of the Olympics broadcasts this year: live events in the early morning while getting ready for work, some during lunch in the breakroom at work, and lots more in the tape-delayed evening broadcasts.

I noticed that many of the American gold medal winners would mouth the word to the Star Spangled Banner while it played. A few even shed a tear or two. The British winners proudly sang God Save the Queen, along with the Brits in the stands. Winners from other nations sang their country's anthem as well. (I assume they were singing their anthems; I didn't understand most of the words.) The athletes expressed a pride in their country by competing AND by singing.

Watching them sing along - however silently - made me think of singing in church. All too often, many people don't. Maybe they think they have a lousy voice. Maybe they don't know the words to the songs. Guys are especially guilty of simply standing there, expressionless and mute.

I have a question - for the guys, especially, but for anyone who chooses to remain silent during corporate singing as part of corporate worship: If Heaven had a national anthem, would you sing along?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Doesn't it Happen More?

Well, it's been AGES since we posted anything to the blog. Life has been incredibly busy, and as the ministry has taken a new direction, we've taken some time to get our new bearigs. Sorry for the absence (hope it's made your heart grow fonder for us!)

Anyway, I wanted to share this, which was sent by my pastor, Bill Phillips, of Fellowship of Grace, PCA (Peoria, AZ). Thanks, PB!


Aurora, Colo. theater shooter James Holmes makes first court appearance for

killing 12, wounding 58 at 'Dark Knight' screening” - these are the headlines as I

write this months personal Thanks and Prayer.

The big question is “why”? What would lead James to this horrible action? The press all look for secular psychological answers. No one, not even on FOX News, the conservative counterpart to the mainstream liberal media outlets, considers or makes mention of the Fall and man’s resultant depravity. Only the biblical world view gives us a satisfactory answer. The question isn’t so much why did this happen, but why doesn’t more of this happen?

God’s common grace is the answer.

The fact that we live in relative peace is not just happenstance. It could be Aurora all over
save for God’s common grace withholding mankind from the horror of his sinful nature.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Things to Consider in Two Recent Movies.

I recently watched the movies "Devil" and the "Last Exorcism" and thought I would share some things that a Christian might want to look for if he or she watches these movies.



My intent is not to give a full review of the move -- for full reviews I suggest http://www.andrewtallman.com/ -- but rather to point out some things that I think are worth considering in these movies. Therefore I will speak generally and try my best not to use any spoilers, but I cannot guarantee there will be none. I also do not claim that the makers/writers of the movies agree with my interpretations.



"Last Exorcism"

In this movie I was struck by two different worldviews represented by two of the main characters. The first main character represents a naturalistic worldview. This character has a worldview that cannot accept the supernatural so he has to force everything that he is experiencing into a framework of pure natural causes. When things happen that defy the natural, this character looks a little silly staunchly clinging to naturalistic explanations.

The second character represents a hyper-supernatural worldview. This character is unwilling to consider any possibilities of a naturalistic explanation e.g. the kind of worldview that leads to only praying for a sick child and not also taking them to the doctor or seeing a demon around every corner.

Both of these worldviews interact in the movie, and ultimately through a series of crises, both characters have a shift in their worldview where they come closer to the middle of the two extremes.

I thought the "Last Exorcism" was a good movie which could have been great with a different ending. The movie uses standard scare tactics at times but overall is based more on psychological play (the end of the movie veered from that which is one of the reasons I did not like the end). Last Exorcism is rated PG-13, which seems about right if you have the right 13 year old, but I would recommend more of a PG-15.


Devil:

With "Devil" I would suggest considering how victory, or (dare I say) salvation comes in the end. I am not suggesting that the movie has a full Christian worldview of salvation, but it has aspects that really come close. I want to be more specific and what comes next could be construed as a spoiler. The only way of winning at the end of the movie is for a character to confront his true nature as a "sinner" without any claim to righteousness whatsoever. The character even receives forgiveness from the person whom he offended. Actually the only thing I thought it lacked was a substitutionary basis of forgiveness, but it is Hollywood. END OF POSSIBLE SPOILER.


I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it to any moviegoers out there. It is rated PG-13, but my personal recommendation would again be PG-15.

Enjoy the movies, and remember, please watch responsibly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Future of Our Media-Saturated Culture

Here is the bad news: We live in the most media-saturated culture in history.

And now the good news:

We live in the most media-saturated culture in history.

This is good news because there is a movement afoot among young Christians – especially those who are (or were homeschooled). It's a movement that is taking advantage of today's less-expensive digital technology, video cameras, computers, and audio equipment.

ALL the prices are coming down, down, down.

And there are training programs, boot camps, and workshops for young people. They are being prepared to become the next generation of great filmmakers.

They are wrestling with the issues of art and media, aesthetics, trying to answer for themselves the questions like

  • What is a Christian film?
  • What makes a great film?
  • How can believers influence society for the cause of Christ using media?
And I'm glad to report that they don't all agree. That means they're thinking critically about quality, about beauty, and about being obedient to God's call on each of their individual lives. . . not trying to be a cookie-cutter of every Christian film that has gone before.

I've met a few of them. I've chatted with more of them online.

I've seen some of their work.

And I'm hopeful for the future of our media-saturated culture.

Here are just a few reasons why (in no particular order):

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Reforms of Josiah in the 21st Century

II Kings 23 tells us about the reforms of Josiah:


4And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second
order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD
all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven He
burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their
ashes to Bethel.5And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained
to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around
Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and
the constellations and all the host of the heavens. 6And he brought out the
Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and
burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon
the graves of the common people. 7And he broke down the houses of the male
cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove
hangings for the Asherah. 8And he brought all the priests out of the cities of
Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from
Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at
the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s
left at the gate of the city. . .10And he defiled Topheth, which is in the
Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as
an offering to Molech. 11And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had
dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber
of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the
chariots of the sun with fire. 12And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber
of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had
made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in
pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. . .14And he broke in
pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the
bones of men. 15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by
Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high
place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the
Asherah. . .19And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that
were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the
LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20And
he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars,
and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
So. . . what are the idols of our day? Where are the "high places"? And more importantly, what is the appropriate response by the man--or woman--of God in the 21st century?

Do we "go Josiah" on our society and begin to tear down buildings and other structures?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Thing That Most Perplexes Me about Naturalism

I once had a conversation with my wife where I was trying to explain to her one of the main reasons I find the naturalistic worldview to be untenable. She was not understanding what I was trying to communicate so I drew a box and had an arrow pointing toward the box and an arrow pointing away from the box. I labled the box "human brain" and the arrows I labled input and out put. Clearly my point has been made right?

However, my wife was still not understanding, so being the genius that I am I drew the exact same picture, only larger, and began to pound the eraser of the pencil on the picture. Thankfully despite my inept communication attempts, my wife's actual brilliance kicked in and she understood my point. My wife looked at me and said something along the lines of "so your saying conscience thought always comes after the brain has done its thing not before."

This is one of the most perplexing things I find about the naturalistic worldview. Our brains are only physical, and without a soul, our thinking can only be the operation of chemical and electrical reactions. It would follow, then, that no one believes what they believe based on rational thought. Rather people have to believe what they believe because their brain just happened to fire a certain way.

Rational reflection would be impossible because by the time we have thought "I wonder if this is true" our brains have already undergone the chemical electrical process that produced that thought. Maybe I am missing something, but for now, I will file this under things that make me go ummm.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Thoughts on Zombies.

Awhile back Coffee Snob had a blog about zombies and the Christian worldview. After watching the zombie movie "Quarantine" I would like to pose a question about why zombies frighten us. Is it possible that part of the fear struck by zombies flows from confronting something that so closely resembles human beings, but clearly does not bear the image of God?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Irreducible Complexity

In this blog I will be discussing an episode of "The Atheist Experience" which is a public access television show that airs in Austin, Texas. You can listen to the relevant show by clicking the blog title, and then choose which format you want to see/hear show #660. On a portion of this episode the hosts had a discussion with a fellow on irreducible complexity. I believe irreducible complexity was made popular by Michael Behe in his book Darwin's Black Box. I will begin by explaining what irreducible complexity is, move to why it is used as an argument against evolution, and then give the argument against irreducible complexity. I will conclude with weaknesses regarding both the arguments for and against irreducible complexity.


What is Irreducible Complexity:


Irreducible complexity describes a system, where if any component of that system was missing, the system would no longer function. The popular example of irreducible complexity is the bacterial flagellum. The bacterial flagellum is what propels the bacteria and is made up of at least a paddle, rotor and motor (this is not mentioning whatever is necessary to compose the motor etc). If any of those three were missing, the bacterial flagellum would no longer be functional.



Why Do People Use Irreducible Complexity as an Argument for Intelligent Design:


It is easy to understand why people think Irreducible Complexity points to intelligent design. Evolution relies upon natural selection to preserve advantageous mutations in an organism; thus allowing the organism to change over a long period of time and eventually becoming a different organism all together. The process of naturalistic evolution is not guided, purposeful or forward looking. I do not think it is necessary to get into the distinction between macro-evolution and micro-evolution at this time except to point out that creationist do not typically argue against micro-evolution.


The argument is that since the bacterial flagellum needs a paddle, rotor and motor at the same time to be functional, then it could not have come about as a result of small mutations over time, because it would not be functional in the state prior to all of the necessary mutations. If something is not functional it is not advantageous and natural selection only preserves that which is advantageous to survival. Therefore, some sort of intelligence which can anticipated work toward the end result of a flagellum is needed.


The Argument Against Irreducible Complexity (at least in this particular episode of Atheist Experience):



The hosts of the show argued that scientist know of systems that have the same parts that the bacterial flagellum has (e.g. the motor) but that is still fully functional (for other uses than what the flagellum does). The argument is that all the parts for the bacterial flagellum could have come from other systems hence the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. The caller kept saying that the bacterial flagellum as a functioning flagellum is still irreducibly complex as a functioning flagellum, but the hosts argued (I think rightly) that if irreducible complexity is defined so narrowly it is essentially meaningless to discuss.

The Host's argument is like someone arguing that a mouse trap is not irreducibly complex because there are all of these other things that have a purpose and function which have different parts of a mouse trap which could eventually become a fully operational mouse trap which could be combined into a mouse trap.



Weaknesses in the argument against irreducible complexity:



I think there is still one major weakness in the argument against irreducible complexity. those parts that exist in other functioning systems would somehow need to come together to form the flagellum. The atheist would argue that the coming together of the different pieces would be a result of random mutation and then natural selection preserving the mutation which resulted in the pieces coming together to form the flagellum.



However, it must be remembered that random mutation and natural selection cannot work toward an outcome or with a purpose, it can only maintain a random mutation if it happens to give the organism a competitive edge over the other competing organisms. So, the parts of the flagellum which exist in other systems would have to happen to come together in working order due to a chance mutation.



To use the mouse trap example it would be like someone who is blindfolded and who does not know what a mouse trap is having several functional systems in front of him. The systems have the right parts for the mouse trap, but the blindfolded person would need to put together the pieces into a mouse trap without knowing what a mouse trap is and without having the desire that he wants something to catch mice. For more accuracy we will even assume that the person hears a bell go off every time he puts together something other than a mouse trap that is functional. Of course even in my scenario we are dealing with a person and hence an intellect which is not a part of random mutation and natural selection. I think it is easy to see why the atheistic argument against irreducible complexity seems to be a weak one.



The atheist would say that given enough time even really unlikely mutations will occur, and according to them, the time frame is billions of years. I would argue that the amount of time is practically irrelevant given that it is not just mutation that is required but rather mutation (maybe even several mutations) which results in a combining of previously existing separate parts into a new functional system (again without any foresight, or desire). Also it is important to remember that mutations result from a break down rather than a bolstering or addition of the original DNA in the duplicated strand . I intentionally avoided using the words code or information because the hosts on the show argued that DNA is not a code or information. They would almost have to argue that because codes and information originate with intelligence.



Weaknesses in the argument for Irreducible Complexity:



I do not think there is a weakness in the irreducible complexity argument against evolution, but I think there is a weakness when this argument is used to try to prove something beyond some sort of intelligence operative in the universe. In other words, this argument cannot be used as a positive argument for the God revealed to us in Scripture.



The best argument can do is to show not x where x is the unguided force of random mutation and natural selection leading to intelligent life on earth. However, the argument cannot then say not X but A where A is the Triune God. So imagine that an atheist is convinced by irreducible complexity that there is some kind of intelligence operative in the universe - he basically becomes a theist. That "theist" is still a rebel sinner against God who will not bow the knee before Christ without a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.



I sometimes get the impression that some Christians think if someone can be brought to the point of bare theism that something has been accomplished. However there are plenty of theistic religions (Muslims are even monotheistic) out there, but people in those religions have just as much need of the Gospel as atheists.



I want to be clear, I think there is benefit to showing that evolution is not as solid as secular society would make it appear. However, let us not forget that the real problem is not that people hold to evolution, but that they are unrepentant sinners.



Good resources:



I personally want to recommend the book Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA which is edited by William A Dembski and Michael Ruse.



I would also recommend the website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/.

Entertaining Strangers

It is Saturday night and my wife calls me from her work. I was expecting the usual after work question, "do you want me to bring home anything to eat?". Instead I was asked a very different question. "There is someone here who needs a place to stay for a couple of days, is it okay with you if he comes home with me? I am pretty sure he is not on any drugs."

what I said was "yes he can stay with us." What I thought was "I do not want another person sharing our 900 some odd square feet." I will be honest having someone in the house with us was hard on us. Still God worked on my heart through the experience.

For the sake of the blog I am going to call our previous house guest Johny. I am generally a quiet introspective kind of person, Johny is not. While I was home with Johny I found that I was having to tell myself several times "Jesus wants you to care for this man." Thinking about what John Piper teaches I began to remind my heart that I would have more joy in God by helping Johny D.

It was still really hard for me to have someone other than my wife in the house with me, but I found that my attitude toward him was changing. I started to feel less annoyed by Johny's propensity to never be quiet and more exited about the opportunities it provided my wife and I to share the Gospel. We were never able to share the gospel start to finish in one sitting, but we were able to lay ground work about sin, all men sinning against God, and Christ was either going to be judged on our behalf or we would be judged. Johny even sat with Carrie and I every night while we did our corporate devotion through Psalms and one night he asked questions about the return of Christ.

Johny's stay at our house was never easy for me and I will be honest when I say I am glad he found a place to rent. Yet, throughout his tenure at our house, I received a contented joy in the Lord that superseded the discomfort. I am thankful that God in his Grace allowed my mouth to say "yes he can stay with us" even though my heart was not where it should have been.

I was further rewarded today when I was reminded of Hebrews 13:2 "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."