Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Don't Shoot the Messenger: Christians vs. Climate Change

The Christian culture has been slow to adopt the conclusions of the scientific community regarding climate change. This dynamic has been fodder for those who seek to make hay from the "science vs. religion" narrative that is currently a part of our society. I'm not qualified to assess the validity of the scientific conclusions, so I am not trying to argue for or against the legitimacy of the claims for man-made climate change. What I would like to address is what I see as the response to these claims from those who would consider themselves to be followers of Christ.

It appears as if the issue that has really caused the evangelical community to flatly reject the scientific community is that evangelicals don't trust the ultimate motive of the scientists. Many in the Christian community are skeptical that the claims regarding climate change are based on the premise that mankind is ultimately an accidental product of the earth and that we should treat the earth as our mother, and that we are no better or worse than any other creature on it. A Christian would rightly reject this premise, but is that a good reason to throw out all of the claims that may arise from it?

The Christian view of the environment is that it has been created by a personal God, who placed mankind on this earth to "tend the garden" as a steward. We are not one with the earth, but we have a duty to be a responsible caretaker of what we have been given. Is it possible that God could use others to help us see ways in which we can better care for His creation?

The tendency to reject, outright, any idea or issue simply because of the faulty theology of others seems to close us off to the potential that God can use any number of ways to help guide and move His church into a greater level of obedience and service. The scriptures and the Holy Spirit are the guides that have been given to us, and so we should take each and every idea and thought captive and subject it to the will of God and the bounds of Scripture. Is it possible that God could be using the climate change community to help move the church toward a greater emphasis on responsible stewardship? Maybe, and maybe we are called to reach back to the climate change community to help remind them that they are more than an accidental result of nature, and that they are more than a product of chemical reactions, and that there is a God who is personally interested in them, instead of just being on the same naturalistic level as an impersonal nature.

Let's not let the motives of those around us drive our interpretation of Scripture. Let's always remember our biblically mandated response to speak the truth of the Gospel in love.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Meaningful Life of the Atheist

A recent post (which you can find here) from NPR was written by an anthropology professor (Dr. Barbara King) who identifies herself as an atheist. Dr. King is writing in response to a book by Dr. Alister McGrath, who by the way has some of the most impressive academic credentials I've ever seen, where Dr. McGrath is describing the inescapable need for meaning that all humans have, and the apparent inability of science alone to account for the totality of human experience. I'm not going to try to defend McGrath, as he doesn't need a hack like me defending his positions, but I would like to point out what I see as the flaws in Dr. King's response.

Dr. King cites the fact that although she is an atheist, she has found a life that is full of meaning and purpose, and this fact alone disproves the belief that meaning can only be found in theism. She is offended, perhaps rightly so, by the accusation from many that only theists can claim to live a life that is full of purpose and higher callings. However, Dr. King misses the true point of Dr. McGrath's argument, which is not that atheists do not have meaning in their lives, but that atheists cannot rationally account for that meaning.

Atheists may be perfectly capable of seeing great meaning and higher purpose in the world and the circumstances around them, but it is not their atheism that provides this meaning, it is rather a belief in an objective design and creative force outside of themselves that must provide it. There is no tenant of atheism that allows the logical foundation necessary for meaning and purpose for the individual. If an atheist finds themselves believing in meaning, purpose, and a sense of morality, it is natural to ask, where did that come from? Impersonal forces acting completely randomly do not logically produce meaning or objective purpose, much less a sense of morality and a higher end to human existence.

So it would seem, that an atheist that sees their lives as having purpose and meaning may be, in fact, not a very good atheist.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

God's Prospectus

My news feed has seen an uptick in the number of articles, mentions, and comments of some popular televangelists. A few weeks ago I watched as John Oliver, on his show Last Week Tonight, skewered some of these preachers for the use of private jets. Oliver was mocking the justification that these preachers used to validate their use of private jets as “preaching machines” and questioning the tax-exempt status that these ministries enjoy, as the jets were purchased with money that came in from donations to the ministry. The evangelists that were profiled would typically be identified as “prosperity gospel” adherents, which is a term used to describe preachers who spend the majority of their instruction on convincing the listener that God wants them to be financially blessed and prosperous, and that God is willing to provide these blessings to those individuals who “sow” into the Lord's work a certain dollar amount.
It is not my intention, at least not right now, to go point by point through the theological and biblical issues of this particular brand of preaching. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the theology is sound, and that individuals can receive God’s financial blessings through a faith-empowered giving of money to a ministry. Let’s assume that there is a direct financial benefit to those individuals who decide to give their money, in faith of course, to the ministry that these men lead. So if it is true that God is ready and willing to return a financial benefit to those individuals that give, in faith, to the work of God, then it follows that this benefit would come regardless of which God-honoring ministry receives the donation. Now, while I am sure that these pastors have a healthy self image, I doubt that they would be willing to go as far as to say that theirs is the only ministry that God has established as valid and worthy of financial support. The work of God is not bound by the size or location of the ministry, but you would be excused for thinking otherwise by the rhetoric of the some of the televangelists.
When we look in the context of the giving of financial resources in the early church we see that it always took place in the local community of believers. There does not appear to be a significant amount of financial resources being sent by individuals who were members of the church in Ephesus to the church leaders in Philippi. Paul’s instruction to the early church regarding offerings and giving was always in the context of local ministry and local needs. This doesn’t mean that we should only give to our local church, but it does imply the prioritization of local ministries
Therefore I would like to challenge the televangelists to begin to encourage those who listen to their teachings to “sow” into their local church or a ministry that directly impacts the neighborhood in which the giver lives. This course of instruction would serve to not only show that the teachers do not think themselves more special or deserving of financial support than other God-ordained ministries, but to also allow the sowing and reaping of financial resources to impact those with whom the giver is more likely to have personal influence. I would also encourage those that follow the teachings of these preachers to ask themselves, “Does this teacher ever encourage me to give to my local church or ministry?, and if they do not, is it possible, that the preacher is more interested in your money than in your blessing? 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Prayer of Cyrus Brown

"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
"And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."

"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said Rev. Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no; no, no," said Elder Slow,
"Such posture is too proud:
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed."

"It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front.
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,"
Said Rev. Doctor Blunt.

"Las' year I fell in Hodgkin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown,
"With both my heels a-stickin' up,
My head a-pinting down;

"An' I made a prayer right then an' there--
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head."

Sam Walter Foss.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Guilt vs. Conviction

Many of us can be prone to feelings of guilt. I know that for me it is very easy for me to feel responsible for things over which I have no control, and to feel guilty for decisions that I made in the past. We may tend to see guilt as an effective motivator, allowing us to constantly be assessing what we have done and motivating us to be sufficiently sorrowful for our past actions. We may even see guilt as something that the Lord uses to inflict punishment on us for how we acted or thought. We may see guilt as a form of conviction.

However, I have recently come to the realization that there is a distinct difference between guilt and conviction. The Lord does not use guilt to accomplish His purposes, for guilt is focused on the past, and it stays there, not allowing us to look ahead. Conviction, on the other hand, is focused on the future. Conviction allows us to ask and answer the question, "So what do I do about it?" This is the opposite of guilt, which asks, "How could you do that?"

Since we know that Satan is the Great Accuser, and that he would rather have us focus on our past than on our future, know that if thinking about past mistakes does not cause us to focus on the future, then it is not from the Lord. Our God is a forward-thinking God, and He does not intend for us to spend our time and energy trying to be sufficiently penitent for our past mistakes. He calls us out of our past mistakes and onto a new path. One that is wiser and able to more effectively glorify Him.

Don't confuse guilt for conviction, and don't allow Satan to hold you to your past.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our New Old Home

I've been reading through the book of Exodus this last week. It has been so interesting to me to see the parallels between the people of Israel and those of us who identify ourselves as followers of Christ.

One thing that has stuck with me has been the correlation between the ultimate destination of the Israelites and our ultimate home. It is very interesting that we refer to heaven as home. But what kind of home is one that you have never been to? We refer to ourselves as ambassadors to a foreign land, but are there any US ambassadors who have never been to the US? In the same way, the people of Israel were going home, but it was not a home that they were familiar with, but do you know who was familiar with it, those who had gone before them. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all came from the land that was flowing with milk and honey and now God was bringing his people back to the land he had promised long before they were every born.

Christ came from our ultimate home, and he is there waiting on us. Those of us who have been saved from the shackles of sin are having to endure this desert while we travel home. We must continue to allow our faith in the unseen push us forward through the realm of the seen. May the God that shepherded the Children of Israel through the wilderness also shepherd us through this temporary land with our eyes firmly fixed on the land that we have been promised.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What I'm Reading

Here is a link to a great article in Christianity Today. It is a debate between Christopher Hitchens (author of the recent book God is Not Great) and Douglas Wilson (one of my favorite thologians).


The website will be posting the back-and-forth all month long.

Also, here is a link to Douglas Wilson's blog: