Tag: christianity


Modern "Christianity"

First, a few clips from an interview with Mr. Obama:

What do you believe?
I am a Christian.

Who’s Jesus to you?
(He laughs nervously)
Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.

Do you believe in sin?
What is sin?
Being out of alignment with my values.
What happens if you have sin in your life?
I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.

Quoted from Beliefnet

This is modern Christianity in full bloom. Who is Jesus? A powerful teacher, a good man. How do I know I have sin in my life? Because I’ve done something that violates my values. These two statements go together like two peas in a pod. So long as Jesus is just a powerful teacher, sin will always be defined in terms of my —MY— values. If Jesus is just a good man, then there are no values outside man, and if there are no values outside, man, there are no values outside me.

Truly, when a man stops believing in God, the real God, the one in the Bible, he will believe in anything. Why is this? Because all other belief comes down to one thing —belief in the “holy trinity” of modern thought, me, myself, and I.


On Obedience to the State (Part 3)

Given today’s headlines, the question fairly shouts itself into our world: What is the proper relationship between the Christian and the State? Why is this so urgent now, just at this moment? Are Christians directly told to obey the authority of the state?

In my last two posts on this topic, I explored whether or not Daniel’s or David’s life support the proposition Christians should obey the state unless the law in question directly contradicts a specific command. After a close examination of the interactions between David, Daniel, and the states under which they lived, we can see they really don’t support this proposition at all.

But can this idea —that Christians should obey unless a law directly contradicts a command from God— hold up in the light of reason? In other words, is this actually even a reasonable standard of conduct? Let’s take one commandment that almost everyone agrees is binding on modern Christians as an example —to spread the Gospel of Christ— and see how it would work under this rule.

Suppose you live in a state where it’s fine, according to the local laws, to talk to others about the Gospel. But you happen to live on the border of another state that doesn’t allow those who live within its borders to try and convert others to their religious belief. Now suppose your next door neighbor is arrested for preaching the Gospel, for trying to convert one of his friends to Christianity.

Should you step across the line to help this brother out?

There doesn’t seem to be much justification for doing so under the proposition under question. After all, the government hasn’t given you a command not to spread the Gospel —you’re not subject to the laws of the state that doesn’t want anyone trying to proselytize. The idea that I should only object, or fight, or disobey, when the state tells me to disobey God is first of all, then, radically individualizing.

And what if the state tells me that it’s okay to witness in the gym, but not in the library? Should I only object in the library? Should all the Christians go to the library to witness there, to make the point that this particular intrusion on spreading the Gospel is contrary to what Christians will stand for? How can we judge such a case?

Finally, what is the set of laws that God has given that Christians should obey? If we believe the Mosaic Law is the rule of life for Christians, then we would be justified in rising up against the state for not allowing us to build a Temple, or for not taking precisely thirty-three percent of our income (the total of the various tithes), or…

No, none of this stands up to a reasonable examination of the way in which we must actually live, the way in which we must interact with the state in day-to-day life. The idea that we should only disobey when the government directly orders us to disobey God is too narrow by far —it leaves no room for general action in concert with our persecuted brothers and sisters. It’s not nearly as clear and forthright as it appears to be on the surface.

Given these things, and our inability to find support in the Scriptures for this line of thinking, we need to abandon it altogether, and search for some other way of describing the relationship between the Christian and the state.

And that’s where we’ll head in the next post.


Review: Where the Conflict Really Lies (Part 1)

Where the Conflict Really Lies
Alvin Plantinga

Christianity is a religion of faith —and faith is, in essence, opposed to reason. In fact, we could almost define faith as believing in that which is unreasonable. So science, which is all about reasoning to conclusions from evidence, must be opposed to reason.

So our modern world says.

The only problem is, of course, that our modern world is wrong. But who will stand out on the stage and tell the world just how unreasonable this line of thinking is? At least one answer is Alvin Plantinga.

Dr. Plantinga breaks his topic down into four parts, the alleged conflict between Christianity and science, the superficial conflicts between Christianity and science, the points where Christianity and science support one another, and finally the real conflict in the debate, the conflict between naturalism and science itself.

The first point to note is that science is not Naturalism, and Naturalism is not science. It’s easy enough to think the two are one and the same simply because science has come to be used (and abused) by those who believe in naturalism so completely. Most people think that science begins with the idea that everything can be explained without any reference to any sort of deity, and has proceeded to prove we don’t need any sort of deity to explain anything at all. This entire line of thinking is wrong in its assumptions, wrong in its process, and wrong in its conclusion.

Rather than working through specific arguments and answers, as an apologetic might do, Dr. Plantinga reaches deeper, using a specific set of problems as a launching ground for a deeper examination of the relationship between science and Christianity. He first tackles evolution —a popular point of argument within the debate between Christianity and Naturalism, tackling the arguments of several prominent atheists, including Dennett, Draper, Kitcher.

Dennett claims that because it is possible for evolution to have cause all that we see, we should accept evolution as fact. The problem is, of course, that it’s simply not possible for evolution to have caused all that we see. There are many things evolution not only can’t account for in its present state, but that it simply cannot account for —such as the human mind. Draper argues that evolution is a much more likely cause for all that we see than special creation. Plantinga counters this claim by showing the way Draper has phrased the claim can be turned around and stated so that special creation is more likely than evolution —hence Draper’s argument fails. Kitchner’s argument is that there can’t be a God because of the amount of suffering involved in the evolutionary process. Plantinga responds with several possible theodicies that have been used to answer the general problem of evil. While no theodicy might be completely convincing, all that’s needed here is a reasonable answer, not a specific answer. We cannot know the mind of God, so any theodicy must, necessarily, be provisional.

(continued in part 2)


Review: Should Christians Embrace Evolution?

Should Christians Embrace Evolution?
Edited by Norman C. Nevin

Is deistic evolution really a solid Christian stance? While evolution is on its last legs as a scientific theory, it is ever more pervasive in popular culture. If you don’t believe in evolution, you are dumb. Or so the popular sentiment goes. Because of this popular attitude, many Christians have caved in to evolutionary belief, integrating it into their Christianity, rather than critically examining it.

After all, you don’t want to be dumb, do you?

Should Christians Embrace Evolution challenges this line of thinking by asking the question: can a Christian believe the Scriptures are true and evolution is true at the same time? The answer, told from eleven different perspectives, is a decided no.

The book starts out with an essay by Alistair Donald discussing the historical context of the debate over evolutionary theory, specifically how the Church has related to the theory of evolution over the decades. There is a mythical history about that high level, intelligent Christians have “always” accepted evolution; this chapter puts that myth on notice. In the next chapter, Alistair McKitterick discusses the intent of the author of Genesis —a well placed question on the hermeneutics of the book impacting our reading of the creation narrative. Is the creation story a myth? Demythologized text? In chapter 3, Michael Reeves addresses the question of Adam and Eve. Were they real people? Chapter 4 discusses the fall and death in Paul’s writings, and how this relates to our understanding of the fall narrative in Genesis 3.

Chapter 5 addresses the heart of the question: can a Christian accept evolution? David Anderson argues the answer is no, grounding his argument in the proposition that combining Christianity and evolution always results in essentially gnostic errors. Andrew Sibley next argues that the combination of evolution and Christianity ultimately reflects on the character of God and his trustworthiness. R.T. Kendell argues in chapter 7 that every generation of Christians has a “stigma,” or a test, which it must endure in order to be found faithful, and that evolution is this generation’s test. Steve Fuller discusses the impact of evolution on the image of God in man’s creation in chapter 8, presenting an argument he believes will provide a winning hand for intelligent design theory.

The book next turns to specific points of evolutionary theory in chapter 9 with Norman C. Nevin’s essay. He covers the concept of homology and the fossil record. The chapter continues with an essay by Geoff Bernard on chromosomes, and then an essay by Andy McIntosh on information theory and the second law of thermodynamics. Geoff Barnard discusses the evidence of the genomic record and its relation to evolution in chapter 10, focusing on changes in pseudogenes. Finally, in chapter 11, John C. Walton discusses the part chance plays in evolution.

This is, perhaps, one of the strongest collection of essays entered into the Creation/evolution debate in recent years, and well worth reading from first page to last.

Arguments emerge that had not been thought of before; evidence is put forward which seems completely new; issues coalesce that point to the impossibility of believing what the Apostles believed. So today; we are in a post-Newtonian era. St Peter, Athanasius, Luther and Calvin had no trouble believing in creation ex nibilo; they also believed the world was flat (so it is argued). This is a new day, it is often said, and we must work out a faith to believe in that is consistent with modern science. The stigma of our generation, then, it seems to me, is to reject the theory of evolution and stand unflinchingly for creation by God: ‘that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.’ Behind the question of creation versus evolution is the very nature of faith itself, namely, whether we will believe God as a consequence of what he has said, putting his own integrity on the line; or whether we follow so-called empirical proofs at the level of nature. The nature of faith consists in this: Do we believe the word of God for its own sake or pay homage to the empirical method before we can trust the Lord? -Page 110


Headlines of Today, Headlines of the Future

Headline of today:

British citizens who smoke, drink, or tip the scales because they’ve eaten too many fish and chips could soon be denied medical treatment for lifestyle-related illnesses. It’s a system the United States will be forced to implement under ObamaCare.

Great Britain’s government-run health care system, the National Health Service (NHS), has long considered limiting coverage for people with illnesses deemed to be lifestyle-related. In 2005 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the NHS’s guiding body, advised that smokers and obese people be refused health care. Now NHS North Yorkshire and York is preventing certain operations for the obese or smokers because they say unhealthy lifestyles lower their chance of success.

Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told UK reporters, “These policies are being introduced because of financial constraints,” said Gerada.


Headline of the future:

American citizens who do not meet the minimal requirements for mental health could soon be denied medical treatment for lifestyle-related illnesses. It’s a system the United States was forced to implement under the new mental health guidelines of Obamacare II.

America’s government-run healthcare system has long limited coverage for people with illnesses deemed to be lifestyle related, such as smoking, obesity, and firearms ownership.

Recent research has shown that some forms of religious belief, specifically the belief that the Bible is the literal words of God, have detrimental effects on a person’s social connectiveness, which in turns proves fatal to their health. While it has been known for decades that mental health and attitude impact physical health, this recent research has clearly proven that religious belief is one of the primary driving factors in mental attitude.

Christian leaders have decried the decision as religious discrimination, but the National Health Board unequivocally states it does not intend to discriminate against specific religions, but that these measures must be undertaken to control the cost of healthcare. At a recent press conference, the head of the National Health Board stated, “These policies are being introduced because of financial constraints.”


There is a Difference Between Islam and Christianity

If repeating something is the measure of its truthfulness, then Islam and Christianity are, in essence, the same religion —just with some minor differences in style and concept, but not in substance. But clearly this is not true, as the following points will make clear.

On the Nature of God. Allah is not love, nor hate, nor just, nor anything else —for Allah has no attributes. Allah may call one thing just today, and another thing tomorrow, because the concepts of justice and love are not part of Allah, but expressions of Allah. Yahweh, on the other hand, is love, and justice, and peace. Things are just within Christianity because they conform to the nature and attributes of God, not simply because God calls them just.

On the Remoteness of God. Allah is not personal; in fact, Allah is not knowable in any human sense of the term. Allah is so far above humans that no particular human can ever hope to have a relationship with him; to even claim a relationship with Allah is blasphemy. Yahweh, on the other hand, is a personal God, calling people into a direct relationship with him. Yahweh is knowable.

On the Purpose of God. The purpose of Allah is to elicit obedience, to bend men to his will. It doesn’t matter whether men will see the fulfilling of Allah’s will as “good,” or “evil,” because it is Allah’s will, not man’s. Allah never appeals to, or considers, man’s concept of justice in a specific situation. The purpose of Yahweh, on the other hand, is to elicit a personal relationship in love. Yahweh is constantly concerned with man’s perception of justice, and showing that he is just, if justice is rightly understood. Yahweh is constantly concerned with relationship.

On Spiritual Life. The spiritual life in Islam is centered around a complex set of physical laws and rules the believer must follow. Prayer is at prescribed times, in a prescribed direction, in a prescribed position. Every last detail of the believer’s life is controlled in a very physical way —not only the food that is right to eat, for instance, but also how to eat it. The spiritual life in Christianity, on the other hand, is based on relationship, and staying in that relationship. While there are forms of Christianity that see the spiritual life as outward, the Scriptures teach that the spiritual life is an inward state that flows outward through desire and understanding.

On Justice. In Islam, justice is more akin to social justice than justice; the Muslim must work for the equal treatment of all Muslims, and the oppression of those who are not Muslim. In Christianity, justice simply means equal treatment before the law at a governmental level, and mercy is dispensed at the individual level. Just as God condemns all men justly before the law, he also approaches each of us individually in mercy through his grace.

On War. In Islam, war is primarily a means of spreading Islamic faith and upholding honor. In Christianity, war is primarily a means of defense against injustice.

Islam and Christianity are not the same.


What God Really Wants

At the most fundamental level, the conflict between the different worldviews isn’t about what sort of rules to follow. The Muslim wants us to follow Sharia, an extensive set of rules that condition everything from the relationship between men and women (the wife may be “beat lightly”) to finance. The Jew wants us to follow a moral code based on the Ten Commandments, the Christian the moral code springing from the same source in the laws Christ laid down. The Atheist wants us to follow the laws laid down by nature, in the ultimate extreme the survival of the fittest (only applied at a societal or species level).

But this focus on external realities, the laws each group would have us follow, fails to grasp the root question we really need to answer. What type of person does each system want to produce? Of course, you can’t say one group is “right,” or “wrong,” on this matter except from within the worldview itself. But considering what the god of each worldview wants helps us evaluate, understand, and —ultimately— choose.

Within Islam, what does Allah want? The word “Islam,” means, “to submit.” This is the root of all Islamic thought on Allah —he wants men to submit. Allah is not regulated by his nature, for he has no attributes; his only true existence is in his will. Therefore the only thing a Muslim can do to to please Allah is submit. Women submitting to men, infidels submitting to Muslims, governments submitting to religious leaders —Islam values submission.

Atheism claims to have no god, although it does have faith. The faith of atheism is in the ability of random chance to create order, and for the species to survive through ruthless competition with other species. Atheism values strength and survival above all else.

What does Yahweh, the God of the Bible want?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:1-2

What Yahweh really wants is transformed people. God wants his followers to become more like him over time through their Christian walk. God wants his followers to grow up, to be mature, to govern their desires through self control, so that external controls are not needed. Yahweh wants his followers to become adults in his kingdom.

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort. -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The choices offered by the three couldn’t be more stark, or more revealing.


Ecumenism and the Social Gospel

Today a group of Calvin Seminary students enjoyed a lunchtime talk by Dr. John H. Armstrong, founder of ACT 3 and adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College, “Missional-Ecumenism: The Protestant Challenge and Opportunity.” … One of the important points he made was the formative influence that Roman Catholic Social Teaching has had on his ethical thinking as a Protestant. –Acton

If there is one thing you can count on the Roman Church pushing on all fronts, it’s ecumenism; it’s almost been in their blood for the past several hundred years. The question is, should protestants bite?

There are two sides to the problem, of course.

The first side is whether or not Christians should work together to provide aid to those caught in oppressed circumstances or natural disasters. Here the answer is clearly yes. In fact, Christians should be able to work with anyone, from any religion, in these areas and circumstances. There are those who would disagree with me, of course, saying that working with a Muslim, for instance, to relieve the victims of a tornado lends credibility to the Islamic faith in some way. In my mind, the opposite is true; restricting Christians from working with Muslims in the relief of people who are caught in circumstances beyond their control denigrates Christianity.

The second is whether or not Christians should join in a wider array of work with those with whom they don’t agree on basic doctrinal ideas. For instance, should a Baptist pastor work with a Catholic Priest on an issue of “social justice” in South Africa, or Palestine? Two problems immediately arise from these sorts of situations.

The first is that the work, itself, tends to be underwritten with the goal of changing the beliefs of those working together. The Acton blog entry quoted above specifically calls this out —the objective in many situations is not to work with other Christians, but to bring them closer to the view of one of the denominations through such work. The general idea is to create social settings in which pressure can be brought to bear to de-emphasize the beliefs of individuals, and hence de-emphasize the importance of truth. To call it what it is, this is using the dialectic process to shape the doctrine of Christians in other denominations. The side that makes the rules of engagement will always win, just as the views of the facilitator always win in the dialectic process.

It is dishonest to engage in work with other Christians where your target is not aiding those truly in need, but rather changing the beliefs of those you are working with.

The second is that the reason for the work must be closely examined and considered. For instance, is “social justice” something Christians should actually be involved in? Is the work at hand really to help individuals as individuals, or is it an attempt to force some government to bend the rule of law in favor of some “oppressed group?” Is the point to help Palestinians build new houses, or to force the government of Israel to change some policy or another, bending their laws in favor of Palestinians?

The answer to this question makes all the difference in the world. If the point is to bend laws in order to accomplish “social justice,” then the work goes against fundamental Christian ideas and values; Christians should support equal treatment before the law, not equal outcomes through the law. Justice is not the same as social justice, in other words.

Much of the work undertaken in the name of ecumenism violates one of these two rules.


The Forgotten Christian Discipline

As Christians, we’re all about giving, and service, and… But there’s one thing we tend to forget, isn’t there?

All too many Christians ignore the intellectual component of discipleship. This tragic reality betrays a misunderstanding of the gospel, for the gospel of Jesus Christ requires cognitive understanding. In other words, there is a knowledge that is central to the Christian faith. As the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans 10, faith comes by hearing, and that faith is established upon truth claims that are nonnegotiable and necessary for salvation. Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection. –Albert Mohler


Morality: It's Only for Girls

Result of not following what islam teaches us about hijab. For sure if any girl wears such tight clothings & walks in public by only covering her head with a tiny scarf for a sake of formality, any guy on the road would like to have a feast for his eyes & gains momentum for his lust. Girls who wears hijab certainly will not experience the same. … The picture is giving the answer to the problems. Salaam to Prophet Mohammed PBUH, that he says women should not wear attractive dress, should not so tight that revealed the figure, should not be transparent, should not wear as a dress of opposite sex… –Arabnews.com

These are the comments to a story in Arab News about a new social media network being deployed in Cairo, where harassment of women is commonplace enough to be a major problem—

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women living in Cairo said they had been harassed in some way — and 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.

So there is a new social network where women can twitter or email from their mobile phones when they are harassed in some way. This will aid the police in finding the “hot spots,” and perhaps catching a few people who are doing the harassing. The male response? Essentially, that’s it the fault of the women for not covering their bodies up.

You see, it’s not the man’s job to be moral, or to resist temptation; it is society’s job to remove temptation from his life. This is why radical Islam and the radical secular left get along so well —it is never the individual’s responsibility to resist temptation, or to do good. It is always someone else’s job to control us so we are good, or to prevent us from doing evil.

Christianity and Judaism, on the other hand, always emphasize personal responsibility and resisting temptation in the worst of circumstances. Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife no matter what she was wearing; Joseph is the ideal in Judeo/Christian thought in terms of a human resisting temptation (outside of Christ himself). So while I would appreciate the media not constantly pushing pure and simple pornography in my —and my children’s— faces, I can also realize that it’s not the media’s fault when I react in a negative way to the temptations they present. Christianity would prefer at least a moderate amount of moral decency in public, but it’s not about to blame the victim for the crimes of the perpetrator.

The contrast couldn’t be more stark, or more telling.

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