Monday, December 31, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Who is He in yonder stall, at whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is He in deep distress, fasting in the wilderness?
'Tis the Lord! O wond'rous story! 'Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!
Who is He the people bless for His words of gentleness?
Who is He to whom they bring all the sick and sorrowing?
'Tis the Lord! O wond'rous story! 'Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!
Who is He that stands and weeps at the grave where Laz’rus sleeps?
Who is He the gath’ring throng great with loud triumphant song?
'Tis the Lord! O wond'rous story! 'Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!
Lo! At midnight, who is He, prays in dark
Who is He in yonder tree, dies in grief and agony?
'Tis the Lord! O wond'rous story! 'Tis the Lord! The King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!
Who is He that from the grave comes to heal and help and save?
Who is He that from His throne rules thro’ all the world alone?
'Tis the Lord! O wond'rous story! 'Tis the Lord! The King of glory!At His feet we humbly fall, crown Him! Crown Him Lord of all!
Words and music by Benjamin Russell Hanby, 1833-1867
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. -John Adams
"Separation of Church and State" was intended to convey that the State should be kept out of the doings of the Church. However, it was inconceivable at the time that it would have been reversed as it has. It was clear from the statements of the founding fathers that virtue (yes, Christian virtue) was absolutely vital to the success of the republic.
A republic, once equally poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty. -John Witherspoon
What then of Christians in politics? I believe that it is wholly necessary. As Christians we should therefore be concerned with voting for those who seem to pose little threat to our freedoms as Christians as well as the objective morality we uphold. Often this seems like choosing the lesser of a few evils, especially when it comes to keeping certain value-deprived belief systems out of office. Being politically shrewd is a quality that evades many, but it is nevertheless important.
On this, see A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer. It is a short but vital read.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
"Relevant" should define that which is pertinent, or that which connects to the matter at-hand. Sadly, within many Christian communities it has come to mean something very different. "Relevant" now defines that which is simple, easy to comprehend, and something that an individual would want to hear.
Here are some common examples. A brief response follows each example and translation:
Translation: "We want to make sure that everyone likes the message, so we will avoid challenging material and will use cultural hot-buttons."
Truth IS relevant! We cannot make it more so. Furthermore, Truth is challenging; we often do not want to hear it because of what it makes evident. "But all things being exposed by the light are made evident." (Ephesians 5:13) Teach Truth, not relevance!
"We make the Gospel Culturally Relevant".
Translation: "We bend and shape the message (Truth) to make sure that people receive it well".
The human condition is universal, not cultural, and the Gospel, or Biblical Truth is the only solution to the human condition. We can familiarize ourselves with a culture to better relate to it, but the Gospel will always be and has always been relevant to all people in all cultures! Truth cannot be molded or shaped. To do so is to part ways with Truth.
Translation: "We want worship time in Church to sound good and to give people an enjoyable experience."
As opposed to "irrelevant worship?" No such thing exists. If it is irrelevant, than it is not worship. All true worship is relevant.
Many who use this word remain unaware of the accompanying assault on Truth. Its usage signals an attempt at lowering Christianity to meet the people, instead of having people rise to Christianity. It is MAN who must change, not the Truth. "Relevance" ignores this concept.
Beware of the word and use it with care.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Controversy has ensued because of the story's blatant and intentional (according to author Philip Pullman) atheistic message and anti-authoritarianism which logically follows. I have heard Christians who range in response from advocating a full-blown boycott of the film and its supporters to simply not exposing themselves to the story. I propose a third option: exposure to and engagement in the surrounding dialogue.
First and foremost, I firmly believe that this material is not suitable for children, despite its intended market. Second, I believe that this book/movie combination, much like the DaVinci Code, is a "golden" opportunity (to use a pitiful pun) to speak truth. The release of the film and consequent mass circulation of the message should be seen as a challenge to educate ourselves and respond accordingly. As C.S. Lewis so poignantly stated, "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." The Golden Compass certainly promotes a "bad philosophy", that is one which is inherently flawed.
Even if Christians (or, for that matter, Theists) do not have the time or the inclination to read the book(s) or watch the movie, I believe that we should still become familiar with what the story entails (in a nutshell, atheism) in order to engage in informed dialogue. That may or may not mean reading the book or watching the movie, but it certainly includes educating oneself about the arguments and counterarguments of atheism and the problems with an authority-deprived world.
Campaigning for a universal boycott of the movie and the books is at best futile and at worst counterproductive. What some will likely assume is that Christians are afraid of an opposing philosophy and are retreating due to lack of a response. If you don't want to see it, then don't see it; I, for one, am not inclined to pay to sit through that movie. It is still vital, however, to be prepared to give an "answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess", as 1st Peter 3:15 (NET) mandates.
While The Golden Compass will fade away and Truth will persist, we nevertheless find ourselves presented with an opportunity for dialogue in order to speak Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
What is this cultural hypersensitivity doing to us, and why are so many enabling the behavior by bowing to it? How on earth can we avoid mentioning anything that conjures up bad memories or feelings in all humans in every case? That is a tall (impossible) order. Just because I hate needles at the doctor and therefore the thought of needles make me cringe, does that mean that we should avoid attributing the name "Needles" to a hypothetical mascot who is a sea urchin or a porcupine? Should I, because I have anxiety problems about needles, be taken seriously if I demand that "Needles the Sea Urchin" must be renamed because the name makes me uncomfortable? Of course not. I am not a minority, so my feelings have no legal weight.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The November Democratic debate was not unlike a three-ring circus, a veritable ring of obfuscation. I did not know whether to laugh or lament in response to the performance of the Democratic candidates. Regardless of party, political debates are not usually productive, as the questions are rarely directly addressed. The 2008 batch of democratic candidates struck a new low with their question evasion and avoided making public their true agendas, which aim to destroy what is left of the founding fathers’ legacy of a constitutional republic.
Generally, all that was accomplished was a great amount of character attacks and democratic hot-button phrase tossing such as “universal health care” and “comprehensive immigration reform”. The former means health care to the tune of Europe, where many have resorted to pulling their own teeth, and the latter is mere empty rhetoric, since no one seems to know what “comprehensive immigration reform” really is.
A real show stopper was the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. The candidates resembled gold medal quality gymnasts, and dazzled the crowd with oratory and positional flips and twists. However, they remained unable to stick a landing by actually answering the question. Clinton did an impressive, but not surprising, full 180 degree turn from the last debate on her position. Obama in particular waffled on this question. When moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Obama to explain his position on driver’s licenses for illegals, a murky, muddled mess ensued. Obama responded after 15 seconds of qualification with “I have to make sure the people understand, the problem we have here is not driver’s licenses…so instead of being distracted by what has now become a wedge issue, let’s focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, has done nothing about”. And thus, Obama fell flat.
When the question moved to Kucinich, he smugly asserted that he took issue with Wolf’s description of “people being illegal immigrants”. He followed by stating that “there aren’t any illegal human beings”. Thank you, Congressman, for that shining beacon of humanitarian prowess. However, the definition of illegal immigrant has nothing to do with a person’s essence of being. Rather, illegal modifies immigrant in defining a status that is by definition, not legal. Since these “immigrants” entered the country illegally, the term “illegal immigrant” seems to fit.
There were multitudes of other noteworthy sound bytes, such as Bill Richardson giving his response to the question of why the troop surge isn’t working. “We shouldn't be talking about body counts. One American death is too much,” said Richardson. Should we, therefore, stop defending ourselves because death is involved? War by nature makes death probable. Further, this feeble response does not even begin to answer the question, lending even more support to the hypothesis that the Democrats do not have a solution to the war in Iraq.
Another gem was John Edwards’ reference to a would-be staggering number: "35 million Americans last year went hungry. . . .This [election] is about those 35 million people who are hungry every single year." His basis for this “fact” is that the USDA issued a report which said that 35 million Americans experienced “household food insecurity”. Is this truly the same as “going hungry”? The USDA does not think so.
Any thinking American who was watching this debate could clearly see that the candidates were playing “dodge the question”. They represent a conglomeration of folks who are either maliciously manipulative, utopian and useless, sneakily socialist, or are any combination of these traits. Overall, the fact that no helpful or direct answer seems to ever come out of their mouths is very frightening indeed.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
"Humans and Other Animals" is a zoology class at
It is widely accepted (i.e. in dictionaries and many biological textbooks) that animals are living things which respond to various stimuli in such a way as to usually produce bodily animation. I acknowledge that there are some plants which respond to stimuli with basic animation, such as the venus fly trap, but the point here is not to focus on classification of flora and fauna. As we are fully aware (at least most of us are) that we are not plants, I intend to contrast fauna with human beings. The public university is attempting to reduce mankind into a status of ontological equivalency with the animal.
What is the nature of the animal?
Animals posses tendencies that are widely accepted by those studying them. These include the strong presence of instincts as well as the capacity for varying degrees of learning through operant and classical conditioning (operant conditioning is using the punishment/consequence system, and classical conditioning is using rewards for good behavior). What is not agreed upon is the nature of certain responses which seemingly appear to be emotion.
I believe the idea that animals can "emote" is simply humans using anthropomorphism in life, or projecting a human emotion onto the animal. For example, when I used to train horses, I received a client's horse that she believed felt hate towards her. When I asked the client to show me what she meant, she got on the horse and passively asked him to move. The horse pitched a fit and refused to walk when the rider lightly tapped him with her heels (trying to get him to walk forward). The problem was diagnosed when the rider promptly stopped asking the horse (to the horse, rewarding it for its patience) and said in an exasperated voice, "You see? He hates me!"
Horses are by nature wired to preserve energy until it becomes necessary to expend it. This horse had simply learned via classical conditioning that he got a reward (rest) by being lazy and "angrily" tolerating his rider's weak taps until she inevitably gave up. The passive rider provided absolutely no reason for him to move. His "temper tantrum" was simply the result of months and months of being classically conditioned to stay at a slow pace and never being operantly conditioned (disciplined). This horse needed (and received) ample reason (operant conditioning) to move in the form of a swat on the rump, and was much better from that point on. He "hated" no one, and certainly did not "feel hate". He simply didn't feel the physical urge to move.
Animals use past information (pain, pleasure, and the associated sources) to make basic decisions in the present time. They do not reflect on experiences, feel human emotion, or consider the future. I am always careful to say that they do not have personalities, but temperaments. In short, they are not self-aware. They are one body ruled by chemical and electrical reactions.
What is the nature of the human being?
If the ontology of mankind was merely that of "a body purely under the control of here-and-now impulses made stronger by past experiences", this essay would be non-existent. In fact, reflective writing in general would be non-existent. There would be no ability to ponder things of a metaphysical and epistemological nature (among other things), as doing so would have nothing to do with our current impulses! Why on earth would we have evolved such a trait? That is, if we merely lived to survive and procreate, the ability to sit and consider abstract concepts such as the self would not be helpful. If it emerged by some fluke, it would have been selected out of the gene pool!
The best explanation for the undeniable and widespread longing for fulfillment far outside the purely physical realm is that mankind is more than just a body. We also have something that as a Christian I call a spirit (this is not to imply that non-Christians do not also recognize the spirit as such, though I would argue that they have an incorrect understanding of it). This is something the human being clearly has that the animal doesn't: a dualistic nature comprised of both body and spirit.
What are the implications of suggesting that we are animals?
If we are not any different than animals, then one of two possible philosophies (in their logical extremes) exists:
1) Animals, like people, have a dualistic nature and therefore deserve treatment equal to humans. This means it is a moral imperative (based on the golden rule) that we do not kill them, eat them, exploit them, or keep them as “pets”. (This view is not consistent with the philosophy of the unguided Darwinist [e.g. the secular university] and is likely to reflect a pantheistic worldview.)
2) Humans are not dualistic and are nothing other than more evolved animals. Therefore, we can theoretically euthanize anyone for any reason, murder unborn babies, act on sheer impulse at any time, and can feasibly experiment on other humans and eat other humans.
While the second possible philosophy is extreme, it reflects the logical progression from the Darwinist view (social Darwinism) where human beings have no purpose in life other than to survive and procreate. There is no need for or reason for the existence of a moral compass in a world such as this. Ethics are simply guidelines for effectively living the lifestyle of the survival of the fittest, if ethics exist at all. We are, like the animals, cosmic accidents and therefore live meaningless lives. For this reason physicalist (non-dualist) Darwinism leads to
Nihilism- a miserable life to lead, especially when the worldview is erroneous.
This worldview is the most common and ardently communicated one in the public schools and secular universities. “Humans and Other Animals” as a class is a lamentable tool for indoctrination into the mindset of the physicalistic Darwinist also known as (students are falsely taught) the “scientist”.
Monday, November 5, 2007
So my advice is twofold: First, let’s continue to wrangle with the atheists. They’re only helping things by rapping our knuckles. If we embrace their verbal mace we’ll come out as better believers. Secondly, seeing that PC-riddled Christianity is more dastardly than uncut atheism, why don’t we call to account ministers who have drifted from the whole counsel of God and have substituted it for a different gospel, a different spirit, and are preaching a different motivational-type-Deepak-Chopra-Kenny G-with-a-beard-guru kind of Jesus?
I don't agree with everything he says, for example I wish that he had not been quite so crass, that he had contrasted modern cotton-candy pastors with someone like Jonathan Edwards instead of with Billy Graham (not to knock BG), and that he had not lumped the megachurch movement in with "evangelical" postmodernism, BUT we live in a fallen world. You can't have it all. ;)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
In the words of a famous quote which seems to have been separated from its source (likely Mark Twain), “’Tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”.
We humans tend to hastily fill would-be silence with nearly anything we can muster, especially this day and age. We strive to fill the alleged void with anything and everything, regardless of its value and worth (or lack thereof). Silence and stillness has become an enemy. Have we reduced our speech to merely that of "filler material"? Deliberate speech, even going into the realm of writing, is not familiar to most, as it requires considerable effort in cultivating wisdom and discernment.
2 Corinthians 8:7 (NET Bible, emphasis mine)
But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you – make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too. (Paul is referring to the act of giving as the act of kindness)
The assumption Paul makes here is that Christians are actively pursuing excellence in everything. Because speech is included in everything (as painfully obvious as it may be), we see that Paul assumes Christians are actively growing in excellence in their speech! We should strive to excel by being discerning about timing and tone, meticulous with word placement and choice, and by being humble and loving in our dialogue. It is difficult to be a good witness for Christ while living as a verbal (or written) loose cannon.
To be clear, one who talks a great deal can certainly be spouting “hot air” (it pains me to say that this appears to be the most common variety), but the frequent talker can also be conveying a great deal of truth. Quantity and quality of words are not necessarily correlated, as there can be a great quantity of exceptional quality and, likewise, any combination of the two. However, one who speaks in large amounts should take great care to listen even more (James 1:19).
Further, the more we fill time with futility, the less room there is for considering profundity and for conveying gravity. In shoving meaninglessness into the void simply to have something to say, we extinguish the chance for possible meaning filling that time! In the pursuit of excellence in speech for the glory of God, we should lament futility, not partake in it.
Here are some suggestions for us all (especially me):
Listen more than you speak. (James 1:19 and Ecclesiastes 9:17)
Be attentive to both the verbal and the non-verbal communication of others.
Take longer, slower breaths, pause and pray before speaking (especially before rebutting).
Embrace silence and stillness (but not emptiness of the mind).
Study, study, study.
Seek wise counsel. (Proverbs 13:20)
Approach everything in humility!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Resident assistants (RAs) are sent to "diversity facilitation training sessions", and are taught that the white supremacists (actually referring to anyone of European decent) are the originators and perpetuators of racism. The issue is not with quelling racism, as this is a noble endeavor. The danger lies with the definitions they are using. To quote the definition directly from the Office of Residence Life Diversity Education Training documents:
"A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. 'The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination….'"
They are then required to meet with residents to transfer this "knowledge". Delaware RAs are also to teach residents that "reverse racism" is a term concocted by the manipulative and over-privileged white male and does not exist.
Students are expected to develop "competencies" such as “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality” (these are directly from a Townhall.com article on the same thing). This is shockingly outside the realm of academics, and worldview manipulation should certainly be outside the realm of residence hall "bonding" activities in a public university. Teaching Socialism 101 is a far cry from holding a swing-dancing night.
Very few college students are intellectually equipped to handle such a barrage; they swallow the attached worldview hook, line, and sinker. Who will be affected? Anyone who had little to no training in true critical thinking (i.e. not the equivalent to chronic antagonism, as commonly believed) and who has an aversion to reading. Sadly, this is a large majority of young people. I pray that the University of Delaware is forced to cease this program. In the meantime, we need to be preparing students to resist "collegiate worldview brainwashing", as it is happening in less blatant but equally potent forms in universities around the country.
*Update as of 11/02/07:
Delaware has dropped the plan! However, they withdrew with the president of the university citing a cop-out, "there are reasons for concern that the actual purpose is not being fulfilled." This screams that the plan will reemerge once the waters have calmed a bit (if not here then at another school..). If it does resurface, pray for an upheaval from the opposition. This plan must not be resurrected, though some will keep trying to in the hopes of the opposition giving in.
The Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
—Edward Mote (1797-1874)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
While Colson is a Red Sox fan, he admits he will be happy however the series turns out. I concur (without being a Red Sox fan) with Colson. Regardless of how the series turns out, congratulations Rockies!
Monday, October 22, 2007
This is the atheist's dream: Christianity rendered obsolete through its own ambivalence about Biblical truth.
In the evangelical community, there is a tendency to expend great (and nearly exclusive) effort at bringing in greater numbers of people. While this goal is not intrinsically wrong, “mere outreach” carries with it a danger that is both silent and potent. When the "numbers game" wins out over Biblical cultivation of spiritual maturity within the community of believers, a tendency to lower the proverbial bar “emerges” (pun intended). The most imminent form of this danger lies within a movement called the emerging/Emergent church (“Emergent” is the title of an actual entity within the emerging movement).
The emerging (also sometimes known as “missional”) movement (a blanket term including many related theological variations) is largely well-intentioned in that those of this persuasion strive to recover an element of effective outreach lost to some in the evangelical community. The trend under the emerging umbrella is, however, is that of making concessions to postmodernism (in varying degrees) in the name of appearing attractive to non-believers. By "concede to postmodernism", I mean Christians who "soften" God's truth for the sake of building better relationships, hence attempting to make the Gospel "culturally relevant" to the non-Christian. This produces a "come as you are, stay as you are" mentality. This emerging mentality incubates an illness which is highly contagious, even infiltrating churches who believe that they are keeping their boundaries well defined. The threatening illness of which I speak is called relativism.
Consciously in its logical extreme, or subconsciously in its infancy, truth is considered to be unknowable, subjective, and sometimes irrelevant to the emerging adherent. Relationships then become so important that the desire to love the person chokes out the mandate to speak truth, if truth can even be deciphered. What happens when one intends to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but has also foolishly eliminated Biblical absolute truth from the equation? Practically, one can deduce that there is nothing to speak, and thus, no standard is ever vocalized and defined. The equation becomes: speak [nothing and/or relativism] in love. When we strive to have the non-believer respond favorably to the church at the expense of truth itself, it would be beneficial to consider the words Jesus spoke in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
Paul was not sympathetic to bending truth in order to increase favor among non-believers.
2 Cor 4:2 But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God.
But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.
While Paul was familiar with the cultures of those he engaged, he never bended or softened his message and continually spoke the truth in love.
The church must recognize this emerging emergency, take a stand or be assimilated.
All verses are from the NET Bible.
I give credit to my friend Jeff Miller for the catchy "Emerging Emergency" title. One example of the many benefits of a trip to Dallas!
Monday, October 15, 2007
Write a book tugging at the heartstrings of those concerned about slightly warm polar bears everywhere. Try to shed a tear or two when asked about it.
Create a documentary with pretty pictures, a sobering musical score and whatever you do, keep research low and emotion high!
Fraternize regularly with the UN.
Participate in a crusade against global warming and monitor the globe's status by taking your jet-fuel powered personal aircraft.
Avoid rational dialogue with those in disagreement.
Show passionate concern about diminishing natural resources. Proceed to fill up jet-fuel powered personal aircraft to attend global warming conference with UN officials.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God's wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. 5:7 Therefore do not be partakers with them, 5:8 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light- 5:9 for all the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth- 5:10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 5:11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I just read an advertisement exhorting us to begin Christmas shopping. What the ad did not succeed in doing was mobilizing my shopping self (this is a self which I am not in contact with often). Why does this holiday consistently pursue my money (previously my parents' money) earlier and earlier in the year? While strategic shoppers may appreciate this "friendly reminder", I feel nagged; it as if someone is trying to convince me that money is burning a hole in my pocket and must leap out and buy something (this falsely implies that there is, in fact, money in my pocket).
My Christmas shopping usually takes place within 3 days of Christmas itself. This is partly because I do not like shopping and therefore put it off, and partly because the "Christmas Spirit" has a tendency to lose its luster when it has been parading around assaulting people's bank accounts for a month or more. I therefore try to personally avoid much of the Christmas hullabaloo for as long as possible in order to theoretically make Christmas eve and day more enjoyable. The jury is still out on whether this works, but I like to tell myself that it does. I would most certainly like to enjoy the fall in its glory before the hectic Christmas season begins. (back home in Texas, Christmas is its own season along with the other seasons of "almost summer", "summer", and "still summer")
Year after year, when one of my favorite holidays (Thanksgiving: no gifts necessary, only a delicious culinary escapade) rolls around, Christmas decorations and festivities strive to upstage this wonderful cuisine conglomeration. This year, it is ridiculous. Thanksgiving is still in the distance, and Christmas is already arriving, greedily eyeballing money and reaching for credit cards. I suppose, however, I am grateful that the word "Christmas" was used in the advertisement.
Monday, October 8, 2007
The average ear no longer respects epic masterpieces filled with grand complexity, nor a pure and technically correct voice (though complexity and technicality alone do not automatically bring beauty to the table, but they can be factors), nor lyrics to a hymn which attempt to convey the awesome (that is, full of awe, not surfer lingo) truth the Christian is grounded in. Tragically, these have been exiled out of mainstream popularity.
Here are three examples of largely ignored (especially in the young adult generation) brilliance:
1) Beethoven's Erocia symphony #3 lasts around 50 minutes for an orchestra to complete. Even at the time it was written when attention spans were much longer, the symphony was played at the beginning of concerts in order to not play a lengthy piece to a tired audience. However, it was still adored. Today, even the movements (a.k.a. sections) are considered too long to be paid attention to, and the entire symphony is relegated to sound bites if ever listened to at all. Beauty in the technicality and finesse (when performed well) of this work is not seen I believe because it takes concentration. Concentration and listening to this piece takes time and time is no where to be found this day in age (that is, unless one were to actually look).
2) Luciano Pavarotti is my second example. His voice is one of the most, if not the most, technically correct and absolutely stunning ones in recent history. There is no question that his voice is beautiful. However, with as much greatness as Pavarotti achieved, he still was not nearly as popular or as well known as younger "classical/popular music crossover" artists who were technically and tonally inferior singers. In the media, Britney Spears having a terrible performance received more attention than the loss of the great Pavarotti. This is tragic.
3) Hymns are generally no longer appreciated. They are often seen as "boring" and "outdated". Instead of glorifying Him who gives perfect grace and reflecting on the profound lyrical words of spiritual giants, we worship (generally) with songs that were not only never intended for corporate worship, but are so devoid of truth that beauty is either not present or is in a distorted form. There is an overwhelming presence of the first person in modern worship songs. Use of the first person is not in itself wrong, but when it is paired with weak or non-existent dealings with truth, creed, and the attributes of the Lord, the song turns toward us. How can we truly worship God in such a narcissistic fashion devoid of the purpose of worship? Life is not about us; it is about glorifying our gracious Lord and furthering His kingdom. These hymns posses an abounding beauty through their gravity and depth which is largely not present in most modern worship songs. (This is not to say that there are not some good ones, I am however speaking of the trend)
Does this mean that there is no recent-era musical brilliance? Absolutely not! However, it does mean that most music fans are simply listening for what is catchy (in itself, this is not a bad thing, however, it usually ends here). Also, I am not advocating only listening to classical music. There are many other sources of fantastic and beautiful music out there, and preference does play a role in what one spends most of their time listening to.
I do argue, however, that generally, popular musical taste in postmodernity is a reflection (as my friend Anthony said in my deleted post) of intellectual laziness. We are, indeed, allergic to profundity.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Pray that Dobson either reconsiders (if he hasn't already), or that his third party idea will pull most of the conservative party with it. He has a massive amount of influence on the evangelical right.
It is entirely too early for this kind of talk.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
He is attempting to make the point that we must rely on God for guidance and not on our finite human faculties alone, which I agree with. However, in suggesting that using any understanding or reason means not trusting in the Lord, Stanley throws the baby out with the bathwater. As it says in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NET translation):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.
Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.
The key here is that when the verse says "do not rely on your own understanding"*, it implies that self-reliance is the problem, not understanding. Trust in the Lord does not mutually exclude any and all understanding. This stance would promote a purely blind faith (not Biblical faith). Furthermore, if we are to "Acknowledge Him in all our ways", does that mean that the Bible is telling us to actually throw out understanding (which is one of our ways) and actually means acknowledge Him in SOME of our ways? Absolutely not!
It saddens me that he professes this malignant misconception, as many Christians listen to him and respect his messages.
* The emphasis here is mine
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Top 5 Reasons Why This Generation of College Students May Not Make it In the Real World
5) A language all their own is developing. It is similar to English, except in a statement it takes multiple four-letter expletives to arrive at what we can only assume to be the subject and predicate (the subject and predicate usually resemble familiar English).
4) College students use "like" and "ya know" in the place of where a thoughtful pause should be. This also occurs in writing, along with "whatev" and "srsly" (this is "collegian" for seriously, as I have been informed by a fluent friend).
3) When a college student says "I'll be there", they usually mean "I might be there, and if I am there, I will be late".
2) If you are not discussing alcohol, parties, or evading police, the college student has a tendency to mentally "check out" of the conversation. Bring up anything of substance, and most will, after a patronizing smile, leave. Quickly.
1) The average college student is unaware of how to use the apostrophe, i.e. possessive versus plural. I give you the Qdoba (a burrito restaurant) exclamation on an ad:
Yes, I am aware that I am a part of this generation.
Oh, the irony!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
TASER THIS (in reference to the recent out-of-control student who was tasered)
F&*#K BUSH (the actual word without replacement symbols along with a weak if even existent connection to the former statement)
This is the view of the Collegian editorial board.
The fact that there was not a single soul on the editorial board who found this vastly inappropriate and an immature reflection of poor judgement disturbs me greatly.
Not only is this the most blatant and pure-blooded ad hominem attack I have seen in this paper (and there are many), there is a lack of any sort of argument whatsoever!
They have also ignored (as of yet) my op ed submittal.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
"Eventually the church without readers, or with readers with the tastes just listed [Christian self-help and books about Christian celebrities] will become a marginalized, easily led group of Christians impotent to stand against the powerful forces of secularism that threaten to bury Christian ideas under a veneer of soulless pluralism and misguided scientism. In such a context, the Church will be tempted to measure her success largely in terms of numbers- numbers achieved by cultural accommodation to empty selves."
This is both a prediction for the future, and in many cases, has already begun to happen.
The Constructive Curmudgeon also has a good post about Francis Schaeffer's take on the state of American readers.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
If a student is a conservative, a Christian, or heaven forbid, both, they are simply ascribing to an outdated way of thinking that has no place in the realms of higher education. I, of course, represent the horribly ignorant and primitive conservative/religious combo platter. In a philosophy class, we were asked on the first day if any of us read the Bible. A few of us raised our hands, only to have the professor say, “Well, we won’t be using that book in this class, because it has nothing to do with philosophy. It is purely mythological”. I have no problem with those who believe that. However, the professor’s statement served absolutely no logical or productive purpose. I was not expecting to be using the Bible in the class, and I doubt it had crossed the minds of any others. No, what this professor was doing was making it abundantly clear that there would be no room for viewpoints which would come from people ascribing to a Christian worldview. He was clearly holding to the false but common assumption that faith and reason cannot coexist inside a classroom, much less in the same brain.
I have found that many professors blend liberal philosophy and subtle comments into their teaching. Subtlety often takes the form of having students read articles which espouse a liberal worldview as the ultimate in academic excellence (and if it is in print, it must be true!). I am also aware of comments made such as “please don’t make this topic a religious issue.” How is a religious and thinking student to respond to such a (often polite) request?
An arguably more malignant process of indoctrination exists in professors who, much to the dismay of those in support of the Academic Bill of Rights, use their classrooms as a liberal bully pulpit. One professor of this type was spawned out of the sociology department of the University of Colorado, and brought his condescending, pontificating self to Fort Collins to teach a freshman sociology class. He had on any given day a captive audience of around 300, and while there were inevitably some sleepers, many were without a doubt knocked one rung closer to being hopelessly indoctrinated into the non-religious left because of his outlandish and brutish attacks, which were wholly unrelated to sociology or any other academic area. These attacks were mostly on conservatives, but the semester was seasoned with intermittent (and always unfair) insults hurled at those he identified as Christians. At first, he pretended to entertain disagreeing comments only to cut them off before they were fully expressed. After a few weeks he had learned who the consistent dissenters were and ignored their angrily waving hands.
As a general rule of thumb, any viewpoint is acceptable in the public university system with strict exception to conservatives and especially Christians. This unfair standard collapses under its own weight, as an adherent must be either entirely open to all viewpoints or open to none. I know of at least one conservative Christian professor who, rather nobly, feels obligated to give a letter to his seniors the last day of class detailing his beliefs, because he is not allowed to speak of them during class. Why are people like this professor silenced from their opinion but anything else on the opposite side of the spectrum is deemed ok?
Do not assume that those who are not atheistic or agnostic liberals are stupid. Faith and intellect are not mutually exclusive. Political conservatism and Christian worldviews can and do exist at the highest echelons of learning. A tax-supported state university should be no place for eradication of conservative or Christian thought and belief. If these worldviews are never allowed legitimate expression, I fear the marketplace of ideas will become merely a place for indoctrination rather than honest critical exchange.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The group description is this:
"Here is my story: I had never wanted to join facebook before yesterday, but yesterday I felt something I had never even begun to hope for before. I have never been particularly religious; I always looked to science for guidance and truth. However yesterday morning I was lying in bed when I suddenly felt something I had never felt before – a spiritual awakening. However with in minutes I fell back to sleep and had the most wonderful dream. I dreamt of setting up a facebook account and starting a community group of Christians in which one of 5000 members will tell me something very important. I can’t rationally explain why I know this but I do know it is the truth."
What is absent?
The Bible and therefore truth
What is present?
A false dichotomy (again) between faith and science
The superiority of emotion/feeling/experience
The possibility of this guy actually mocking Christians for being (stereotypically) illogical and ruled by emotion
The realm of the Internet persona is taking over the space/time persona, and all the while becoming more and more absurd and distorted.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Although I recognize that it is difficult to isolate a consistent definition, the definition which I will use is anything that professes to be Christian while compromising truth for various reasons. While the intentions are to reach more people, and are therefore genuine , it is also a prime example of what happens when Biblical theology becomes an afterthought and "reaching more people" becomes the primary concern. When truth is compromised, the message cannot be trusted. If evangelism is the goal, and Christianity reconciles with its antithesis in the form of the emerging movement, then what, other than the current cultural milieu of postmodernism is being proclaimed? If one is attempting to make the truth more appealing, one must ask if in fact truth changes with the era? The answer is an emphatic no! A Christian must seek to tear down the postmodern "wall"-unstable though it is- because it is a stumbling block to those who would otherwise be receptive to the absolute, objective truth of the Bible. If truth changed from era to era, then we would have no Gospel.
The potential ramifications of sympathising with or embracing the emerging church are great. The EC does not only compromise the integrity of the Christian church, but at its extreme end has no connection to Christianity whatsoever. The inchoate emergent mentality can actually be found within the walls of some conservative evangelical churches. Its influence is small in the community, but far from benign. It is spreading. When I taught an apologetics in evangelism class to junior high students and asked them to define truth, they confidently came to the consensus that truth was what "smart people decide" that it is. The indoctrination is a seemingly passive one, in that the postmodern culture is passively absorbed into the minds of the youth with the most success, but influences anyone who will absorb it. When not trained to out think this mental attack, people tend to (in droves) passively surrender to its control.
The emphasis on our “emotional response” to God instead of emphasizing what He actually says through the Bible is another danger which facilitates the move toward the emerging mentality. Bible studies should focus less on how we “respond” to a passage and more on what it actually says. I am not talking about application of passages, but using our emotional responses to dictate interpretation of the passage. It is commonly thought that if it feels right, then it must be true, and feelings are therefore set loose to join forces with the "nice guys who don't push their views on anyone" over in the emerging camp. The focus on “what feels right” will effectively lay to rest any hope of true evangelism, that is, evangelism deeply rooted in the absolute truth of the Bible. I am able to draw this conclusion by asking the rhetorical question of how can someone become a Christian if there is nothing to become? If being a Christian and a non-Christian are so inherently similar (being based on feelings and subjectivity) that there is little difference seen, what then is the draw? What is keeping one from being absorbed into the other?
The logical progression to this inchoate version of the mindset lies in churches which consider themselves proudly emergent or progressive. They have officially entered the realm of religious pluralism, and have "emerged" themselves right out of Biblical Christianity. The "all views and people are welcome" attitude can be a wonderful thing when they are welcomed into a place where truth is unshakable and stable. Sadly, this is not the case. Truth is what you want it to be, God is who you want Him to be, and Jesus is "just a guy who we like to quote" (incorrectly most often). Even if this is not the intention, this is the reality. The church is making an attempt to “emerge” into dangerous territory where is will render itself obsolete by way of contradiction. Beware.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Bumper sticker number 1:
This is by far the most overtly postmodern of the bumper stickers I have seen.
To question reality implies that one can also reject reality. If one cannot reject reality in any situation they choose, then one cannot ever reject reality. That is, one cannot arbitrarily reject reality. It truly is an all or nothing belief.
If we are to question reality, how does the reader of the sticker know that they are, in fact, reading a bumper sticker? How do they even know that that car exists? The madness ends when we must appeal to reality in order to draw the "question reality" imperative. Therefore, it refutes itself.
Bumper sticker number 2:
Including the symbols of all the major religions comprising the letters in the word, this was paired with a sticker from a Yoga gym as well as a "Free Tibet" sticker. What is the connection? The answer is: if it walks like an Eastern religion and talks like an Eastern religion, then it is probably an Eastern religion. The sticker then raises the question, what does it mean to coexist?
According to http://www.dictionary.com/:
–verb (used without object)
1. to exist together or at the same time.
2. to exist separately or independently but peaceably, often while remaining rivals or adversaries: Although their ideologies differ greatly, the two great powers must coexist.
I doubt very highly that the driver of this car would go out of their way to purchase a sticker in order make a statement that we should all "exist together simultaneously while often remaining adversaries." (combination of definitions mine) This would (correctly) imply that all are indeed coexisting as long as we are not dead or trying to kill each other. No, what this vehicle was attempting to get across was that we are all equal and that no one path is correct. Facing this definition, the creator of that sticker might as well replace the symbol of Christianity as well as the symbols for Islam and to some degree, Judaism with something else. Their intrinsic natures require that only one can be the true path. The presence of these renders the whole idea null and void.
Bumper sticker number 3:
Showcasing the apparently admirable postmodern trend of not submitting to authority, the decal was paired with a "Darwin fish". This is a significant pairing.
I will explain. The purpose of the Darwin fish with legs is to announce to the world that we are all accidents and, by logical default, life is meaningless. Therefore, this concept of questioning authority has no real intention to remain for an answer, as answers imply meaning. It is just merely empty questioning. And people say that Christians are closed minded! What the sticker is actually communicating is "Reject Authority".
If we are giant cosmic accidents, there is no natural need for authority. In that respect, adherents to the sticker (no pun intended) are being logically consistent, but they are still dangerously wrong. Rejecting authority logically progresses to supporting anarchy, which almost always progresses to a totalitarian regime such as communism, or even socialism which is soft communism (on that, see http://www.marxmail.org/faq/socialism_and_communism.htm).
This sticker also refutes itself, in that "question authority" is an authoritative imperative. One must, if taking it seriously, question the statement itself. Therefore it is without meaning.
This analysis only begins to scratch the surface of the inconsistencies of these stickers and the cultural milieu surrounding them. There are much more thorough resources out there which delve into these postmodern inconsistencies; I recommend they be utilized.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The categories of the top 20:
Christian Living: 4 books
Popular Fiction: 5 books
Inspirational Stories: 2 books
Study Tools: 2 books
Self-Help: 2 books
Motivational/Prosperity Gospel: 1 book
Relationship Help: 2 books
Theology: 1 book
The Bible paraphrased into 96 pages (yikes...): 1 book
Seems fairly evenly distributed, but here's where it gets sad....
Book Numbers 21-50:
1 Apologetics book
1 Christian classic
1 Study Tool
1 "Beginner's Bible"
Everything else in 21-50 (that's 26 books) falls into either the categories of Christian Living, Popular Fiction, Inspirational Stories, Self-Help, Motivational/Prosperity Gospel, or Relationship Help.
A shining gem of popular Christian literature can be found on the back cover of Joyce Meyer's book, "The Battlefield of the Mind". At first, I thought that perhaps Joyce was going to take a stab at discussing worldviews and/or apologetics. Then I read this:
"Overcoming negative thoughts that come against your mind bring freedom and peace".
This claim suggests (unintentionally, but nonetheless...) that positive self-talk is the key to being a "good little Christian" as if living in a sea of blissful ignorance is the ultimate goal! Not only is this inherently dangerous, it is outright unbiblical! Statements such as this are such a reflection of the anti-intellectualism movement within the church (generally) this day in age.
It is also worth mentioning that all three study tools are the "KJV Standard Lesson Commentary" which is commonly used in children's Sunday school classes.
Are there this many brand new Christians out there? I do not believe so. I believe at issue is the presence of unchallenged Christians who are under the delusion that reason is bad and faith is good. Faith and reason are mutually exclusive to the anti-intellectual movement. Believing this false dichotomy produces spiritually stunted Christians who are nearly incapable of maturing in not only faith, but discernment and understanding as well! An army of this kind can hardly be expected to hold its own in the world while the battle goes on unencumbered by thinking, mature Christians.
Why is it that Christians are largely more interested in reading inspirational non-fiction and feel-good fiction instead of, for example, a good, meaty book on defending the Christian faith against opposing worldviews? (Hint: it is along the same lines as why channel surfing is usually preferred over being productive)
I argue that this kind of reading is the reader's TV. It dumbs you down, is easy to get through, entertains you, and makes you feel good. The only lasting benefit is that it perhaps can improve your vocabulary.
However, a meaty non-fiction book on philosophy, theology, apologetics, or even an old fiction book clothed in rich philosophical allegory, such as an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn work will be quite the opposite.
It will challenge you, will sometimes be difficult to wade through, and is usually far from anything resembling a feel-good text. The lasting benefits include: increased brain function, improved speech and vocabulary, greater intellectual discernment, and more patience in study among various others.
Challenging reading sadly is not popular because it is not easy or fast.
This mentality has produced a crisis in Evangelical Christianity which must be remedied or counteracted.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I am working, however, but make no guarantees of speediness!
(There is also a new puppy, which adds an element of distraction I need to overcome. He happens to be correlated to the scissors accident. New puppy collar + strong plastic packaging + poor scissor skills = serious problem)
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Stage one: Dualism (either/or thinking)
This stage is one where the student sees the instructor's role as one who conveys truth, or the correct answers. The student studies the correct answers, ignoring all others. Perry saw that students who believed in the presence of right and wrong answers were quickly influenced to think in more flexible, "open minded" ways when in the presence of the pluralistic atmosphere of the university.
Sadly considered the most primitive form of intellectual functioning, IN REALITY, dualism is merely undeveloped critical thinking at worst, and a respectful view of the nature of Truth at best. Unequipped thinkers are then rather forcefully ushered into the next stage by their instructors in order to "help them to intellectually develop". This precludes any hope of the pursuit of any real intellectual honesty.
Stage two: Multiplicity (subjective knowledge)
Or,"you're entitled to your opinion". This stage is a challenge to the "constraints" of dualism, and students view knowledge as a matter of opinion. The instructor's role is to teach from his or her perspective, but that does not mean it is correct. Students expect the instructor to see value in all perspectives, even what could be considered to be "incorrect". Perry believes that most college students are in this stage.
In Perry's "middle ground", the nature of Truth has been cognitively obliterated. This view is ultimately nihilistic in its approach, for when everything has value, then really nothing does. That is, in order for something to have a high value, its relationship to that which possesses a lower value must be apparent. When everything is equal, then everything is thus rendered meaningless.
Stage three: Relativism (constructed knowledge)
Essentially the same as above with the rejection of absolute Truth, except knowledge is now defined by its functionality as opposed to merely being an opinion. The instructor is present as a guide, giving scenarios and helping the student to choose the most practical approach. Knowledge is reached through experience and reflection. According to Perry, relativism defines when the student has "arrived", so to speak, intellectually.
Aside from committing the fallacy of false association (relativism and intellectualism are always associated), this stage is one of convenience. If it is convenient and useful, then it is true.
Seeing as I, an ardent absolutist who believes that knowledge is an understanding of Truth, am intellectually unsound and undeveloped, I will attempt to use my lacking abilities to pursue Perry's theory.
1) A theory adherent assumes, contrary to relativistic values, that everyone must ultimately either conform to relativism, or that it must be their ultimate goal.
2) A theory adherent rather arrogantly believes that any thought not grounded in relativism is not truly intellectual. This, again, is not relativism. This is an appeal to an absolute concept. Hence, it is cheating.
3) At the so-called "pinnacle of development", if knowledge is that which is functional, and relativism itself is considered to be non-functional for a student, is that student not able to use this "constructed knowledge"?
4) Relativism is an elaborate exercise in absurdity. Without fixed standards, there is chaos. Where there is chaos with no hope of order, and life is rendered absurd. Why then pay for college to learn about absurdity? I for one am able to pursue that on my own.
5) True to postmodern form, we again see a disbanding of the categories of Truth. Perry's theory requires that an adherent merely ignores such boundaries. Gravity is ultimately in the same category as one's opinion on dark versus milk chocolate. (albeit you will likely never hear this from the postmodern mouth)
The truly disturbing part is that this is to be memorized and held to by those studying education in many colleges and universities. Furthermore, I do not believe this approach allows for one to process and test the theory's functionality before filing it away under "constructed knowledge".
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
At first glance of the title, it would seem that Reinventing Jesus would attract the eye of those sympathetic to liberal "theology", and perhaps intentionally. Upon closer examination and reading, it becomes apparent that RJ is a much needed, educated rebuttal to those views which seek to destroy Christianity by debunking the Biblical Jesus. These respected scholars respond with a systematic, well researched, scholarly apologetic. It stands in complete antithesis to the lack of scholarship and honesty from sources who claim to have found a Jesus divergent from the Biblical records. The authors have brilliantly recorded the information and exposition in an easy to digest format. This book is absolutely vital to those who have heard the voices of the "other side", that is, the media and popular culture, and long for answers.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Diagnosis: widespread Biblical illiteracy.
Why must a working use of Scripture be important to a Christ-follower? Because it is our tangible resource through which God chose to reveal His Truth!
Paul speaks of using the importance of using the Bible in 1 Timothy 4:13, Until I come, give public attention to the reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
In 2 Timothy 3: 15-17, the importance of the Bible is mentioned again:
and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.Logically, when we as the Church are separated from the revelation of God (not the apocalyptic book but the Scripture in its entirety), we have no tangible resource of the standard by which to live. Though Paul tells Timothy to "give public attention" to the use of scripture, the fact remains that a large number of American Evangelicals don't even know that this imperative is internally located in the Word itself.
What does a missing standard (Biblical illiteracy) look like?
- Lack of expository (or topical, drawing upon a firm scriptural basis) preaching
- Church services that are designed based on "entertainment value", or what the congregation wants to hear
- Children in the church being subtly "taken over" by Postmodern thought
- The young adults and sometimes mature adults being tossed about by the various "winds and whims" of thought
- Ineffective evangelism
- An inability to address and/or deal with the presence of sin within the Church
...Just to name a few.
The passage from 2 Tim 3 sums it up concisely and perfectly:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (emphasis mine)
In conclusion, without a working literacy of Scripture, we are all dooming ourselves to spiritual starvation.
Note: All quoted scripture is taken from the NET Bible (New English Translation)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Upon one “simple” math problem which I naturally did not understand, I realized that this class was entirely dependent on the existence of absolute, universal, objective truth. Further, mathematics itself is dependent on such absolute truth. 2+2= 4. Some, subscribing to a different school of thought will attempt to deny this reality, but suffice it to say that there is only minimal thought of the wishful type done in said school. I apologize if this seems a bit harsh.
If 2+2 did NOT equal 4, ever or even occasionally, then every math-based scientific discovery would crumble because they are entirely dependent on this being consistently true. You will never see a true math test which is graded subjectively. This is because there cannot be a middle-ground. The operation, done in the same way, either always produces the same answer, or it is entirely wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Otherwise, we have an unreliable mathematical framework, and the stakes for such are painfully high. Math reflects truth. My mathematical ANSWERS, because they are most of the time WRONG, do not reflect truth, nor do they change the composition of math itself. Why is math universally accepted? Why is math universally trusted (when done correctly, of course)? Thought provoking, isn’t it (at least it was for me during class)…
I argue that the person who does not believe in absolute, universal, objective truth must then also throw out the privilege to use mathematics. One cannot have their cake and eat it too. (Though many try, much to the chagrin of intellectual honesty…)
Thursday, August 9, 2007
A claim which I heard recently disturbs me, not because I cannot debate it, but because it is completely ridiculous. This claim is that we have little to no evidence that Jesus existed. While outside evidence is not trustworthy in terms of theology, it does prove to be consistent with the Bible’s claims that Jesus not only existed, but was crucified, and had a massive following soon after the crucifixion.
As far as Jewish evidence, the Dead Sea Scrolls are of help indirectly. They do not offer anything that would change the New Testament picture of Jesus, which is a validation in itself. The Scrolls are further evidence of the Jewish world which surrounded Jesus, making his existence even more plausible.
Josephus, a Jewish historian, actually deals directly with the existence of Jesus. In his work The Antiquities, Josephus says “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man…”and continues on to talk about historical facts surrounding Jesus’ existence. There are things in certain passages that were probably added later because they are not consistent with Josephus’ views, like the phrase “if indeed one ought to call him a man”, implying that even Josephus believed Jesus was indeed more that a man. Josephus, however, did not believe this. But, the fact remains that Josephus does mention Jesus, and entire passage of his work is devoted to what happened to this man, and the fact that there was a “tribe of the Christians, so called after him,” that Josephus makes reference to. Josephus also mentions the crucifixion.
Another piece of Jewish evidence outside the New Testament is the Talmud. The Talmud is a group of writings by early Jewish Rabbis, which not only mention Jesus, but mention his miracles as well. The work talks about many strange occurrences which are unlikely that Jesus was involved in, but do attribute Jesus’ miracles to sorcery and magic. Why would this be necessary to write about if a man who didn’t exist didn’t practice miracles either? Obviously from the attempt to explain miraculous works, Jesus not only had to exist, but had to spark the controversy in the first place by doing things seen as miraculous works. Even though the Talmud does not state that Jesus was who he claimed to be, it still shows that people before the fourth century believed Jesus existed and did miracles.
Other sources are from the Romans, who also happened to be wonderful historians. There are four sources that we know of mentioning the rein of Tiberius, the emperor under whose reign Jesus was crucified. One of the sources, Suetonius, talks about Jewish disturbances from something or someone called “Chrestus”, which is thought to be a spelling of “Christus”. What can be for sure, though, is that Suetonius was well aware of the existence of a group called Christians at the time. He says in his writings, “punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” His work is very historically accurate, and there is therefore no reason to discredit his testimony of the existence of Christians. If there were Christians, then there had to be a Christ.
Tacitus and Pliny the Younger are also sources used for drawing evidence of the existence of Jesus. Tacitus was known for absolutely despising Christians, and even so still affirmed that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was aware of the enormous amount of people that passionately followed Jesus. Pliny the Younger discussed the group of Christians, and addressed their passion, attributing it to carrying cultish practices “carried to extravagant lengths”. However, despite his low view of Christians, Pliny still did recognize that this new religion was definitely something big, and recognized how widespread Christianity had become by the end of the first century.
In addition to Jewish and Roman sources, there are later Gnostic sources that are used as evidence that Jesus existed. The “agrapha” refers to sayings of Jesus not found in the canonical gospels. There are many writings, such as the Gospel of Thomas, that were written generations later and are not accurate, but they are almost entirely dependent upon the original canonical gospels. It is important to recognize that these were largely not written by Christians, and were either disregarded by the church or were held in limbo by a few select Christian groups until ultimately throwing them out. Also, contrary to popular belief, they were about throwing out the human aspect of Jesus and turning him into a purely spiritual presence. In no way did these works deny His deity. Therefore, it is not likely that there would be so many spin-off works based on the gospels if the canonical books themselves were not held in extremely high regard from very early on.
In summary, as said in the book Jesus Under Fire, the external (outside the Bible) information we have available to us include: Jesus was a Jewish teacher, many people believed his healings and exorcisms, he was rejected by the leaders, crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius, he died and was followed by people who believed he was alive, spreading far beyond Palestine by A.D. 64, and all types of people worshipped him as God by the beginning of the second century. There is absolutely no basis for the claim that there is no evidence that a significant and world changing Jesus existed.