Monday, December 31, 2007

Wallace on Resolutions

I have returned to share an excellent link. New Testament scholar (with a philosophical bent) Dan Wallace recently wrote a spot-on blog about the nature of the typical New Year's resolution, and why there is nothing Christian about them. It is excellent.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Blog Hiatus

I will be taking a break from blogging for a while; I hope the temporary absence doesn't lose (both of) my readers!

Have a happy New Year, and with it resolve to follow Christ and pursue truth.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Review of Anthony Flew's Book

The Constructive Curmudgeon himself, Douglas Groothuis, wrote an excellent and much needed review of Anthony Flew's book There Is a God, which was published in the Denver Post. You can read it here. The book should be read as well (by me especially as I have not read it yet). Well done, Dr. Groothuis!

Who Is He in Yonder Stall?

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 Gethsemane?

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

Christians and Politics

For more on Christians in Politics, one of my earlier posts attempted to address some further issues. Often we find that churches discourage interest in politics, citing various poor reasons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Should the State be Protected from the Church?

In a word, no. The State needs the Church.

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": A Careless Word

"Relevant"- a word pervasively misused in the church, commonly revealing a manipulation of Truth, intentional or not, to become acceptable, even enjoyable to people.

"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:

"Relevant teaching".
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.

"Relevant worship".
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

How Should a Christian Respond to The Golden Compass?

There has been a firestorm of controversy surrounding the recent film, The Golden Compass. Previously a more blatant and aggressive form of the film's message surfaced in a book by the same name and its two sequels. However, with the exception of the Harry Potter series, the audience for a book generally pales in comparison to the audience for the corresponding movie (which rarely does the book any justice, due to the nature of the medium). While the idea behind the movie has been in circulation for years via the book, it is only now reaching the vast majority of the public.

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

The Violent Message of the Quran

Joseph Farah has compiled verses from the Quran (or Koran) in order to display what is truly being taught. Please read through them. Few people ever read what is said in the Quran, and sadly buy into the lie that (true) Islam teaches peace. As educated individuals, we need to also educate ourselves about the teachings of a religion which thrives on the death of non-believers and the violent oppression of those within its own community.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

P.C. Update: "Pork Chop" Is Now Offensive

A minor league baseball team's mascot name has been needlessly tossed. His name was "Pork Chop" (read about it here), and it is now "Ferrous". Based on the claim that the name conjured up bad memories of past derogatory name-calling, it was deemed offensive by a few vocal Hispanic individuals in Allentown, PA. What is the kicker? The mascot is a pig. I'll say it again for added emphasis: the mascot is a PIG. We get (at least allegedly so) pork chops from pigs. There is the connection. He is not Hispanic even if there was a widely known connection to Hispanic individuals and pork chops. Again, he is a swine. Are the offended individuals sure that "Pork Chop" name calling of the past was a Hispanic reference and not a misguided name for a chubby (regardless of race) kid?

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.

Rant concluded.