Sunday, March 29, 2009

Embryo, Culture, Church etc.

Things I read and listened to and thought about this past week.

!!! “Since a human embryo is a human life, it cannot morally be killed to serve another purpose, such as speculative research. A human embryo is not a part of a human life; it is a human life in its entirety. I was once, for example, a human embryo. A human embryo needs nothing other than the right environment to develop into a mature human being, much as I need the right environment to continue living." Simon Hirsch
"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded... I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words." Comment from a Physician to Barack Obama.
Obama’s reply, “Fair-minded words.”
Who speaks fair mindedly for the victims, embryos (labeled: Made in Thailand, etc.)? What is fair minded about the embryo factories and embryo profits?
!!! Which of the following exemplifies your worldview for changing the culture? My model for changing the culture is “a Christ of the culture model” or a ”Christ-transforming culture model” or neither of these models.

“Do our own homes and our own churches have to become Christian before we can become salt and light in the world?” MR
“I think the more we try to be salt and light, seeking a place at the table and all that, we have to be careful because that can lead to compromise. We can make our aspiration fit whatever we think is possible to have accepted by the majority culture. So in that sense I think that the
church has to be courageous and has to think about not just what will be accepted by the majority culture, but rather what is faithful to Jesus Christ and what is honoring to God, and in
that sense, we have to be prepared to be a minority.” Craig Carter, author: Rethinking Christ and Culture (The interview is provoking.)

!!! Mary Zeiss Stange, I agree with you and as Albert Mohler knows, there are two views on this subject.

!!! I finished Julia Duin’s book Quitting Church , an excellent read. I liked the quote from Bill Hybels, “What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self-feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught them how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” pages 172-173.

Yes, becoming “people of The Book”.

!!! My good friend lost his job and 3 of my family members and connectors found jobs. Praise and prayer and praise.

!!! My great grandson has named me “bebopee”.
Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face
Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen,
Here grasp with firmer hand th'eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with thee the royal wine of heav'n;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heav'nly table spread for me:
Here let me feast, and, feasting, still prolong
The brief, bright hour of fellowship with thee.
I have no help but thine, nor do I need
Another arm save thine to lean upon:
It is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
My strength is in thy might, thy might alone.
Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness;
Mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing blood;
Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace,
Thy blood, thy righteousness, O Lord my God. (Horatius Bonar 1855)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Your Irrevocable Calling

Yesteday I joined the ranks of the unemployed.

After nearly 10 years with the company, I was let go—along with most of the rest of my department.

Back in the fall of 2005 when my wife's department (with the same company) was given their pink slips due to a move out of state, one of her coworkers received the following in his inbox that very morning. I've saved it because it's a great reminder of the attitude we need to keep in times of uncertainty. This morning I forwarded it on to those of us who got the axe yesterday and now I want to share it with others as well. It comes from Os Hillman.

For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. ~ Romans 11:29

It is dangerous to align your calling and your vocation as dependent on each other. God calls us into relationship with Him. That is our foremost calling. It is from this relationship that our "physical" calling results. Whether that is to be a teacher, a stockbroker, a nurse, a pastor, or any number of vocations, we must realize that when He calls us, the change in vocation never changes His call on our lives. It is a mere change in the landscape of our calling. This is why it is dangerous to associate our purpose and calling too closely with our work. When we define our work life exclusively as our calling, we fall into the trap of locking up our identity into our vocation. This promotes aspiration because of a need to gain greater self-worth
through what we do.

Os Guinness, author of The Call, describes the great artist Picasso, who fell into this trap.

"When a man knows how to do something," Pablo Picasso told a friend, "he ceases being a man when he stops doing it." The result was a driven man. Picasso's gift, once idolized, held him in thrall. Every empty canvass was an affront to his creativity. Like an addict, he made work his source of satisfaction only to find himself dissatisfied. "I have only one thought: work," Picasso said toward the end of his life, when neither his family nor his friends could help him relax.
[Os Guiness, The Call (Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 1998), 242.]

What happens when you lose your job? Do you lose your calling? Do you lose your identity? Do you lose your sense of well-being? No. Calling involves different stages and experiences in life. Disruptions in your work are an important training ground for God to fulfill all aspects of His calling on your life. Trust in your God who says your calling is irrevocable and that all things come from Him.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Impediments to change

“From the time of the Puritans to the activities of the evangelicals in the last century, conservative Protestants have always considered the proclamation of the gospel and the improvement of society to go hand-in-hand.” (1). I will add to this, that in the 20th and 21st centuries the ideology of many Protestants has been to change the culture.
The thinking is that Christians must change the culture. Christians are responsible for this quest to change the culture. Christians must be “salt and light” Really!!! How will this revolution be carried out?

Some observations about the impediments to the “revolution” to change the culture. Let me be clear, I am referencing the culture around us, the so called “American culture” or apply your own euphemism. I also want to define the empowerment of the impediments as belonging to those who seek and perpetuate an adversarial relationship to this world and its culture. Let me refer to them as “the children in the apple tree”. These are children who attach to Protestantism their unwarranted views and these views eventually are recognized by the non-Protestant as a Protestant view, (collectivism).

The children in the apple tree, “will continue to get involved with art only when trying to censor it; with politics, only when they want to get their way among the other lobbies; with science, only when they want to force teachers to give equal time to a view of which the latter are not convinced; with victims of AIDS, only when we remind them that they deserve it, as if death did not come to the rest of us because of sin, too; with education, only when sex education comes up for discussion.” (1)

The impediment in general is being a constant and consistent adversary to the culture and in particular a constant and consistent adversary to any issue or idea that presents for discussion. “If we cannot get beyond our moralistic, self-righteous, self-serving, and world-despising theology, we cannot hope to overcome the program it produces, nor the negative effects it creates in the culture. Unless we begin to take this world as seriously as God does (in kind, if not in degree), we will continue to create hostility not only toward legitimate Christian involvement in the world, but toward the gospel itself.” (1)
A solution to the impediments, “If, however, we return to the rich soil of Scripture, which takes this world very seriously (both in its created and fallen reality), we have the potential not only to prepare the way for a new generation of Christian leadership in the culture, but to prepare the way for a renewed interest in the gospel as well.” (1)
It is my belief that I have the opportunity to change the culture by coming along side of people that do no believe as I do, people that I interact with daily, people who care for me and I for them. I am not their antagonist not they mine. Some will know the difference that I propose and some will not. There will be change, micro cosmic, but change.
(1) Quotes from Modern Reformation, March/April 1992, article: My Father’s World, by Michael Horton.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Never compromise, even in the face of Armegeddon."

Ok so I have a sin to confess to everyone... my wife and I went to see the movie Watchmen. If you have not seen it already, I would recommend that you forgo this movie due to some very unnecessary sexually explicit scenes and over the top gore. However, I wish that I could in good conscience tell every Christian to go see it, because I cannot imagine a better demonstration of the futility of a naturalistic worldview. The movie basically revolves around a group of Batman type second generation (except for the Comedian) masked heroes. The story is mainly carried by a mystery over who killed the Comedian close to the beginning of the movie. It is also important to specifically mention that one of the heroes, due to an accident with a physics experiment, actually has powers e.g. manipulating matter any way he wants, teleportation, perfect knowledge of his past and future, and he can duplicate himself. This character's name is Dr. Manhattan. To really give a good summary of the movie would take far too long due to complicated sub plots and the heavy handed philosophy that is interwoven throughout the movie. Therefore I am going to go ahead and jump into the futility of the movies naturalistic worldview.

Rorschach, the character I quoted in the title, was my favorite character because his uncompromising nature appeals to me. Here is the deal though, Rorschach is constantly denouncing the sins of the city. Rorschach's Journal:
"Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.
The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.
The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save Us!"...:
...and I'll look down, and whisper, "No"...."
Can anyone else spot the problem here? What possible grounds in a naturalistic worldview could Rorschach have for reviling the city for its evil? a collection of atoms albeit a complex sentient collection of atoms cannot pass moral judgement on another set of complex sentient atoms unless there is something that transcends those different sets of atoms. I am even granting that somehow it is meaningful to say that things that are only physical can somehow have a conceptual (as opposed to spatial etc) relationship with each other. Moving on.

Dr. Manhattan, the one with actual powers, decides to leave earth for mars at one point. He leaves because he feels bad when he is told he is unintentionally giving people cancer (again what basis would you have for feeling bad about that in a naturalistic worldview) and because he is tired of humans entangling him in their lives. His girlfriend also breaks up with him. During his visit on mars he transports Silk Spectre II (his ex girlfriend) to mars and takes her on a tour of mars demonstrating that the existence of life is overrated. However, at the end of silk spectre's visit he says that he was wrong and that human life is a miracle. Why? because thousands of sperm had to compete for the egg that eventually ended up being her "...only you...." and that it was "like turning air into gold." Am I the only one who thinks that is the flimsiest reason on earth to consider life a miracle? How does Dr. Manhattan differentiate between the physical processes of the sperm and the physical processes of erosion and geological activity on mars that he so eloquently talked about. Why does he value one set of physical processes over another?

Dr. Manhattan at one point gets atomically scattered (for lack of a better description) by another hero who is trying to kill him. Of course Dr. Manhattan reappears and says "reassembling myself was the first trick that I learned." I am sorry, I thought he was only physical matter, albeit cool shiny blue matter, and if that matter is scattered how is there a "self" that reassembles it. If you equal only matter, and that matter is scattered, there is no longer any you.

I really could go on e.g. the horrible demonstration of consequentialism at the end when hero Ozymandias vaporizes millions of people to achieve world peace. In a naturalistic worldview by what objective standard is peace good? maybe I like peace and you like peace but joe shmoe hates peace why should our view rule over his. Any reason you give that is subjective fails because the different "subjects" can change and contradict and there is nothing to rule over them. If you give an objective reason then you must appeal to something that transcends nature. There I go again. Seriously I am going to stop now for the sake of anyone who is still trying to read this blog to the end. If anyone wants to defend a naturalistic worldview I invite you to leave a comment.

I will say one good thing about the movie. It can give the Christian a picture of what the world might be like if God were to remove his hand of restraint on evil.

Until next time I leave you with this happy note from the naturalistic worldview of Dr. Manhattan "A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Should the Church Care About "New Media"?

Why should the church be involved/interested in culture and the arts and the "new media"?

It's a roundabout path to my answer - try to follow my logic!

When was the last time you saw young people (youth groups and college-age) excited about the things of God? I don't mean excited about their youth group activities (competitions, games, and pizza) but truly passionate about Christ, His work on the cross, what His church is doing around the world, and worship - REAL worship, not just an emotional experience?

Consider this:

In recent elections, young people have participated in campaigns and at the polls in record numbers. Politicians and entertainers are learning how to excite young people about public affairs by speaking to them in their language and through their media.
"Politicians and entertainers are learning how to excite young people" - they're evangelizing young people about their particular political views (and in many cases, their particular religious beliefs and/or sexual behaviors). What is the church doing - RIGHT NOW, TODAY - to evangelize young people, to get their attention -and just as importantly, to keep it?

Are the methods that drew me to Christ still working today? Probably so, but the ministry that introduced me to Jesus in 1974 was a bit out of the mainstream back then, and they have worked hard to keep their methods current. Even way back then, they weren't doing what the organized church was doing.

Just thinking (typing) out loud here. . . it seems to me that parachurch ministries tend to be more aware of current pop culture trends, more willing to keep up-to-date with the latest methods, technologies, styles, and more willing to change. . . while the "organized church" is more in the camp that says "we'll wait and see if it's just a fad." Then, when "it" (blogging, Facebook, podcasting, text messaging, etc.) turns out to be more than a passing fad, the church might bring up the topic in a leadership meeting; they might form a committee to study it, and then, 11 months later, might write a formal recommendation that may or may not require a full congregational vote.

(Don't get me wrong—I'm not against the organized church. After all, I'm a part of that organized church leadership. I'm one of the committee members. Heck - I'd probably be the one recruited to write the formal recommendation!)

We know that today's young people are more tech-savvy, more media-savvy, and more visually aware than the baby boomer generation (my generation). Being visually aware means that graphics (art, page layout, color, etc.) are more important than ever before.

Educators are aware that these differences mean students learn differently than students a generation ago. Some research indicates that they even think differently! Teachers are adapting their methods in the classroom; curriculum providers are adapting their products for this new generation of students.

So what is the church today doing differently in order to reach them? Too often the church has said (and I must admit that I've said it more than once) that Christianity is all about the Word, that image is less important, less significant. But how that plays out in the real world is that we take sola Scriptura a bit too literally—the Word becomes all there is, and the church doesn't simply downplay image - instead we ignore image altogether!

This results in a church that downplays art and media. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that the church has, to a large degree, completely rejected art as a means of expressing and explaining the gospel. Too afraid that we would fall prey to the iconographic errors of the Middle Ages (where artwork itself became an idol), we have opted instead for church walls painted in a bland eggshell color and devoid of anything that could be called art. (I'll avoid starting a rant about the religious decorative kitsch found in many Christian bookstores. . . suffice it to say that it's generally not great art - or good art - or even acceptable art. This article claims that "Christian kitsch trivializes the God of the Bible and makes him subservient to the popular culture of the age.")

The people of God have largely lost any interest in the arts. Some of this could be blamed on the lack of arts education in the schools, but that's a different topic!

Back to the original question: Why should the church be involved/interested in culture and the arts and the "new media"? Well, it all depends. Do we want to "excite young people" with the gospel? If we hope to get their attention and keep it, we need to "speak to them in their language and through their media."

PS - I just came across this on a friend's page. It seems appropriate:

Thinking Biblically About Facebook

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Contend for the Faith!!

I would like to recommend to you the following newsletter posted by Dr. Peter Jones.

truthXchange Articles > 55: Evangelism Highjacked by Closet Theological Liberals

As I read Dr. Jones words, I rehearsed my opinion of the issues and was drawn to the Scriptures, particularly the Epistle of Jude.

(Jude 1:3 NKJV) Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
(Jude 1:20-25 NKJV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

As a member of the laity I want to be aware of my responsibilities when apostasy arises in the church. I believe Jude sets out excellent guidelines.

What should I do?
“Contend earnestly for the faith”. Jude denounces the false teachers and teachings afflicting the church. These afflictions were speaking evils against the glories of God, despising dominion or lordship and being against what God made in creation. Because of these issues and other serious issues (such as are described in Dr. Jones article) I am to ‘contend for the faith.” and continually.

How shall I prepare or remain ready to continually contend?
Jude exhorts; continue to build myself in the faith by praying in the Holy Spirit and I am commanded to keep myself in God’s love and continue to admit the mercies of eternal life. (20-21).

How shall I treat these impious men or women?
Compassion and pity to those wavering, try to save those who can still be saved and to those who cannot be saved, deny. (22-23)

Jude renders a blessing: Christ will guard me against stumbling and present me unblemished with exaltation to God our Savior.

The value in the ministry of Dr. Peter Jones is to present the issues and the Scriptures my duty in keeping the original doctrine of Christianity free from the errors of apostasy. Over the years apostasy has been presented in different ways and different guises and the defense of our faith remains with each of us. Jude gives us a working hope and process to contend earnestly.

“We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, stand­ing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment.”
Roger Nicole


Monday, March 2, 2009

Why has the church lost its influence?

A few somewhat-random thoughts:

  • As a general rule, the church is not actively involved in the life of the nation's "centers of influence." These locations include:

~ L.A. - Film, television, music - There just aren't many evangelical Christians active in the various fields of media OK - there are several, but they're not out there making much of a difference as far as I can see. A few exceptions: Ken Wales (producer), Andrew Stanton (Pixar), Brian Godawa (screenwriter - so far, limited influence - I hope it's not a flash-in-the-pan), and evangelicalism's latest golden boy, Kurt Cameron (tho' he's beginning to isolate himself in the Christian ghetto more & more, it seems).

I don't count the fact that we've created our own subculture of Contemporary Christian Music [CCM]) - the soundtrack of our self-imposed ghetto. This doesn't influence the culture; it's just "preaching to the choir." To make matters worse, it generally falls far short in the artistic and creative arena. . .too much of following after the world (generally several years after the latest musical trends have come and gone).

To quote Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP, 2008) , "evangelicalism, so deeply influenced by the Schaeffers and their many protégés, still produces better art critics than artists."

~ New York - fashion, finance, theatre - Where are the influential believers? The one exception that I know of is the Center for Faith and Work - a ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (pastor Tim Keller). They have ministry groups for all sorts of folks - artists, actors, writers, filmmakers, dancers, business-types, teachers . . each focused on "how do we live out our Christian faith in our chosen profession?"

~ D.C. - politics - How much influence - really? 'Nuff said.

  • Why have so many major Christian ministries made their home in what is disparagingly known as "flyover country"? - Colorado Springs? We have formed our own cloistered community - like a gated community in the suburbs. . . away from the city center, where the crime and drugs are found (they're in the suburbs, too - just better hidden). . . But it's the city center where so much vibrancy and life is found. Why are we hiding? What are we afraid of?

Do we serve a mighty God or not? You know, the God that little kids sing about:

"The mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His handiwork, too.
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do!"
My God Is So Great found in the hymnal "Songs for Life"
Arr. © 1994, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI

Do we really believe it? Or is this just a sentiment for little kids to believe in?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good people doing good things, is it true?

Economics is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Readings on economics and the present situation in our land:

Matters of the Purse and Other Economic Issues

So are Christians their Brothers Keepers, should we be helping the 8% who will go under due to the mortgage debauch and should we be name-calling the victims: losers, idiots and less fortunate?

“Classical liberals are uncomfortable with the notion that the key to good public- sector outcomes is “good people doing good things.””