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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fundamental Christianity = Biblical Christianity

Some Thoughts on Fundamentalism, Inerrancy, and Christianity as I Fold My Receipts.


I have been preparing for a Bible study on the nature of scripture, inspiration, inerrancy, etc., that I will teach coming up in August and during my reading last night, I came across an interesting citation from Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology on how Fundamentalists read the scripture. It is a quote from some liberal fellow name Kirsopp Lake, who wrote:

It is a mistake often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology to suppose that fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind; it is the partial and uneducated survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians. How many were there, for instance, in Christian churches in the eighteenth century who doubted the infallible inspiration of all Scripture? A few, perhaps, but very few. No, the fundamentalist may be wrong; I think he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he; and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church are on the fundamentalist side. (New Systematic Theology, pg. 16, fn. 32).

That is a fascinating admission coming from an individual who is opposed to a biblical understanding of scripture. At least he has the honesty to properly distinguish between the historic, Christian view of scripture (what's held by fundamental believers) and the view of those pretending to be Christian in our modern times (read either cultural conservative/leftist activist) who deviate away from the historic view. Even if a person may reject the authority of scripture, at least he should have the courage to say so.

I think the same point can be made about Islamofascism. As I have been arguing, these so-called fundamental extremists represent the historic, Islamic understanding of the Quranic literature. It is the mainstream, moderate Muslims in our western society who are the deviants from their religious heritage.

Believe me, nothing is more annoying than listening to liberal mind people in Christian garb pontificate on how fundamentalist, right wingers have taken control of the Bible and the Christian faith and distorted it with their rigid, "literalism." See my various articles evalutating the Christian Alliance for Progress, for example. But, conservative, "God and Country" Republicans who extol the virtues of 10 commandment plaques in courthouses and will die defending the phrase, "one nation under God" ironically become allies with their liberal opponents on the issue of the Bible, because they deviate from the biblical authority in practice.

Consider Phil Johnson's comments in response to a questioner who asked, "What does it take for something to be downright destructive to the core distinctives of evangelical doctrine? How does one destroy doctrine in the first place?" Phil's response is stellar,

Well, it's not the doctrine that is destroyed, of course, but the evangelical distinctives—i.e., the evangelical commitment to certain biblical truths that are fundamental and essential. When in order to increase their clout and visibility evangelicals move the boundaries of their movement so that even non-Trinitarians (T. D. Jakes, or Phillips, Craig, and Dean) are counted as "evangelicals"; when evangelicals link up in spiritual campaigns with members of sects and denominations where justification by faith in Christ alone is flatly denied; or when they count among their closest friends and allies religious leaders who deny essential doctrines—they have sacrificed evangelical distinctives for political expediency.

He continues,

It depends, of course, on how much of your message or your testimony you have to stifle in order to "team up." If your allies are Jewish and you hold back from declaring the exclusivity of Christ in order to hold your coalition together; or if your allies are Roman Catholic and you carefully avoid any discussion of sola fide or sola Scriptura—then you are sacrificing your distinctives for a lesser cause than the proclamation of the gospel. It happens all the time.

His comments play to the larger point of inerrancy, inspiration, and biblical authority. Christian conservatives may pay lip service to the inspiration of scripture, but they compromise it's sufficiency as the effective spiritual tool God intended His Word to be. This is a sad place, for when Christians compromise the plain revelation of God's Word, they are in essence denying the effectiveness of the entire Christian faith. In practice, they become equal to their liberal counter-parts who also deny the authority of God's Word.

See also Phil's earlier blog entitled, Shall We Sell Our Birthright for a Mess of Faddage.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You Can't Handle The Truth, Hugh!

I have always liked Hugh Hewitt even though I can't say I'm a regular listener to his radio program. I tend to listen to LA based hosts, John and Ken, over at KFI 640. They're more fun, and John, the loud mouth, often expresses well what I feel about an issue.

However, when John and Ken are beating their dead horse of illegal immigration, I turn the dial over to Hugh's show. Hugh does provide some smart, political talk. During the presidential election day, when all hope was dimming for a Bush re-election - at least according to the exit polls - Hugh was like a rock, exhorting the Republican faithful to take heart and not believe the distortions coming from the MSM.

Well, in the last week or so, Hugh has taken to bashing congressman Tom Tancredo for his remarks about bombing Muslim holy sites IF there were a nuclear attack on American soil by Islamic terrorists. For three whole hours one day following the Tancredo comments, Hugh called upon the congressman to renounce his remarks and apologize for such extremism that will only serve to alienate the US further in the minds of the world nations. That show was embarrassing enough for Hugh as he revealed how he is absolutely ignorant of true Islamic teaching and held up liberalized, western Muslims, as the standard for true Islam.

On Monday, July 25th, Hugh's reputation continued to sink when he invited to his radio program for two hours Hussam Ayloush, a spokesman from the Southern California Counsel for American Islamic Relations. Hussam whirled about and contorted every which way to present CAIR as this jolly, Jew and Christian loving organization.

To his credit, Hugh did pin Hussam down on some fundamental bad attitudes toward Israel, but in my opinion, he didn't go far enough with his questions. For example, Hussam chided Hugh for comparing Saudi Arabian treatment of Christians and Jews to the entire Islamic world. He claimed Christians and Jews have freedom in many Islamic countries like Iran and Turkey (which made me laugh out loud with a snorty chuckle) and Saudi Arabia is the one bad apple. Hugh would have redeemed himself if he had quickly asked, "do those allegedly Christian-friendly Islamic states allow Christians to evangelize and proselytize freely and unrestrained without being hassled by Islamic policing authorities?" I can guarantee Hussam would not be able to answer that question in the positive.

Making matters a little worse, Hugh had Dr. Bob Morey come on the show to field some questions with Hussam. Now, for those unfamiliar with Dr. Bob, allow me to digress a moment. He is a Christian apologist who specializes in dealing with Islam, who has written a handful of books on the subject and is one of the key promoters of the idea to bomb the Mecca holy sites to eradicate Islamic terrorism. I have to state up front that I like Dr. Bob. He is a tremendous speaker and debater. His material exposing the flaws with evidentialism and natural theology is outstanding. Moreover, I maintain several of his books in my library. His massive work on the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, is stellar. In fact, I would recommend any of his books on various apologetic, theological subjects without hesitation.

The main problem with Dr. Bob, however, is he tends to be arrogant and arrogance puts people off, even if you are right. He can also be a shameless self-promoter, and no one cares for a person who does nothing but talks of himself.

At one time here in LA, Dr. Bob had a Bible answer man type radio program opposite Hank's. Even though he was more biblically correct than Hank, his overall personality sounded shrill and vindictive. Hank, despite his theological foibles and screwy teaching on some subjects, is more humble and thus, sounds more credible. Peter warned Christian to consider their conduct toward unbelievers so that they have nothing to mock (1 Peter 3:16,17). Dr. Bob would do well to remember this. If you think I am wrong about this, check the comments posted by a blogger named froggy concerning Dr. Bob's interview with Hugh.

At any rate, coming back to the Hewitt interview...

When Dr. Bob is addressing the theology of Islam specifically, he is of sound mind and argues well. This time, however, instead of addressing Islam, he talked about conspiracy theories with CAIR. Rather than sounding like an informed Christian, he sounded... well... sort of kooky. He first did the shameless self promotion thing. Then he prattled on with irrelevant information after being asked a particular question, so that Hugh had to corral him back to the point at hand. Additionally, he wasn't really prepared to provide sources to some of the "facts" he mentioned, and some of the citations he did provide came from dubious sources which in turn made him appear even more conspiratorial. (See the Froggy comments about being a "moonbat." That's unfortunate).

Now, I want to give Dr. Bob the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was called at the last minute and this was a hastily put together opportunity for an interview. Those things will happen. But what ever the case, if you go on national radio and accuse the Muslim guest and his organization of shilling for Hamas and Osama, in my thinking, you better be prepared to back up your charge. Dr. Bob didn't do it and he dropped the ball in this instance.

Then, on Tuesday, the 26th, Hussam was asked to come back on Hugh's show and appear with some guy named Frank Gaffney, another alleged expert on CAIR's terrorist ties. Interestingly, Frank was basically saying the same stuff Dr. Bob was the day before, only he didn't come across as conspiratorial. There was some good interchange between Mr. Gaffney and Mr. Hussam, so that Hugh redeemed a little bit of his reputation as a credible broadcaster.

In my mind, though, I see Hugh's program as another right wing attempt to normalize Islam and soothe the sensibilities of westernized Muslims to make sure we have their support in our so-called war on terror. Yet, we are ignoring the heart of the problem if we continue to paint Islam as just "an interesting" religion, especially one that means us no harm. This is where I believe Hugh and his supporters are missing it big time. The major disappointment with the entire two days of the program was not Dr. Bob's conspiratorial theorizing or Hussam's spin doctoring the truth. I was more disappointed with Hugh never properly distinguishing between the worldviews of Islam and Christianity. Hussam went on and on about Islam being abused by terrorist Jihadists, asserting that all religions have their extremists who misread their faith's holy books. Because Hugh accommodates Hussam and leaves the truth claims of his Islamic faith unchallenged as to their validity, a person is left with the impression that Islam could possibly be a true way to God. Hugh has unwittingly embraced postmodern thinking with religion. That being, there are no genuine absolutes when it comes to spirituality and whatever religion happens to be true for you is not true for me. This is terrible, ungodly thinking for a Christian. A Christian, which Hugh happens to be, should know better than to handle what he knows to be true in such a careless manner.

I am all for discussing how to deal with Islam in a political realm. I believe it is vital to be informed of any dubious alignments CAIR may have with Islamofascists. However, I am looking at this from a greater perspective of a Christian, biblical worldview. I do hope Mr. Hewitt will collect his wits about this. As much as he wants to so disparately separate the politics behind jihadist terrorism from the religion of Islam, he will soon discover it is more difficult than what he has been led to believe.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Miscellany

Random Thoughts to Start the Week:

--> The amicable Unitarian, Steve Jones, of Free Thinking Faith, has posted a response to my article highlighting biblical inerrancy. A printed out a copy on Friday to mull over it during the weekend. Pretty much all of his points have been dealt with in full by the authors of the various books I listed in my initial article. Once I finish up some small tasks here at work, I'll start writing a response to be posted later this week. I actually appreciate the interchange, because these back and forths help to shore up the truth in my mind. Not that I couldn't defend inerrancy before, I just like sharpening my skills a bit. Dullness can be problematic.
Judging by some of the comments from his supporters, many of them still misapply bogus charges of circular reasoning on my part. So much for people understanding logic these days.

--> According to movie critic Michael Medved, Rob Zombie's new epic, "The Devil's Rejects," is suppose to be one of the worst depictions of sadism, cruelty, torture, murder, and even necrophilia, ever put to film. On top of that, Medved reports a gross theme of anti-Christian bigotry woven through out (One of the "bad" cops is named "Dobson" for example) with most of the cruelty directed toward Christian believers who are mocked as they are being tortured.
Now, I don't know how many people remember Mr. Zombie's fun loving rock group, "White Zombie," who regularly sang songs glorifying rape and torture and other unmentionable crimes. Apparently, Mr. Zombie felt the need to leave his rock group to pursue a higher calling of putting these images onto film. As would be expected, there were people in Hollywood who actually paid him money, gave him a camera and allowed him to do it. We now have two classics from this freak: "House of a 1,000 Corpses" and the recently released sequel, "The Devil's Rejects." If you have ever heard Mr. Zombie interviewed, he is surprisingly articulate and warm. However, like all non-regenerates, it is obvious he has some serious emotional issues with God and Christians, but his issues go beyond just a general distaste for religion to being pathological and disturbing.
The reason I mention Mr. Zombie and his movie is the shocked reaction from the conservative values crowd, like Medved. I will admit that I am just as equally sickened by such a movie, especially the blasphemous hatred toward Christians. But, did not Christ Himself say we should anticipate such hatred? The fallen world, where Mr. Zombie exists, hates Christians, because they hate Christ first. Let us not forget that in the world we, the followers of Christ, will experience trouble, and trouble will often times express itself in persecution both artistic and physical.

--> From the "It's still the religion, moron" files. I am sure most folks remember hearing about congressman Tom Tancredo's remarks last week that if Muslim terrorists nuke any of our cities, we should retaliate by bombing their holy sites. After he said that, all heck broke out as conservative, right wing pundits tripped over themselves to be the first ones to hurl scathing rebukes toward the good congressman and distance themselves from such hateful remarks. In a way, it was embarrassing how many of them reacted, because Tancredo is viewed as a hero of sorts by the same right wing folks for his strong stance against the inaction President Bush has taken toward illegal immigration.
Hugh Hewitt was the worse I heard as he devoted 3 hours of one show to pillorying the congressman and passing along the three big myths Americans have imbibed concerning Islam and Muslims. One of my earlier posts explains what I mean. Moreover, Hugh misrepresented Tancredo's comments implying he used the phrase, "nuke Mecca." That was a bald face inaccuracy as I learned later after hearing the congressman interviewed by John and Ken. The congressman simply pointed out that we are at war with a non-entity; a group with no ties to a specific sovereign nation. This isn't like the Communist Russians during the Cold War days. However, just like the threat of entire nuclear destruction kept Russia in check for making a first strike, the threat of taking out Muslim holy sites acts as a deterrent to any possible nuclear action by terrorists. If all Muslims knew the free world is serious and would destroy key holy sites - sites that are tied directly to the religious practices of Islam - there would be efforts to wipe out terrorist cells in the world. As harsh as the congressman's comments were, he is correct in his assessment. Thankfully, he has not backed down from those comments. Pundits like Hewitt are in need of a real clue that we are at odds with a religious worldview seeking our destruction, because we are standing in the way of Islamic law dominating the world. Apparently, Hugh and others of his ilk are satisfied to remain in blindness to who the enemy is.

--> My in-laws paid a visit this weekend and brought a copy of the movie version for Phantom of the Opera with them. I had never seen it before, and now that I have, I am left wondering why people like it so much? Perhaps I not as sophisticated as the rest of the world, but strip away all the songs, fancy clothes, and the glamour of the opera culture and it is basically a story about a pedophilic stalker who attempts to kidnap a young, teenage girl. Am I suppose to feel sympathy for the phantom dude? I saw the same thing play out in real life with the Elizabeth Smart story, but it just involved a young, teenage girl from a strange religious background and a white trash stalker guy. Maybe they can make a musical out of that.

--> My wife and I got sucked into our first timeshare presentation this past Friday. We received a notice that we had our name drawn to win a 4 day trip to somewhere. The catch was that we were to come listen to a presentation about vacationing time sharing. In addition to the trip, the gift for attending, I was told, was a digital camera. I thought, "It's worth sitting for an hour and half just to say no and get a free digital camera." Right. The camera is so cheap a person has to hook it up to a computer or television just to view the pictures he has taken. It is the 8-track tape of digital cameras. I would had made out better with a disposable camera from Wal-Mart.

--> Then last of all, I am at a loss as to what shameless, sycophantic remarks I could make about Phil Johnson and his Pyromaniac site so I can receive a blogspotting plug. Since Phil has raised his standards as to what will make blogspotting worthy comments, I have drawn a blank. I can't think of one ingratiating witticism and I have absolutely zero photo shop skill to paste together some picture with Phil's head on it. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mr. Skeptic Goes to Creation Camp, Pt 2

As the Mega Creation Conference wraps up, skeptic-in-attendence, Ronald Baily of the Reasononline.com site, files his final reports with:The Myth of Millions of Years and God Said It, That Settles It. The first article details creationist cosmological models, and in the second, Mr. Baily deconstructs Georgia Purdum's review of the Intelligent Design movement.

There is a tad more mocking in these two articles than what he had written before. He makes it fairly clear he doesn't care for anyone dogmatically claiming to have a source of external revelation from a creator God which directs men on how to view His world, both past and present.

For example, in the Myth of Millions of Years article, Mr. Baily takes some swipes at the notion the earth may had been flater before the time of Noah's flood, than what it is now, and he concludes his article by saying it is more mythical to say an old cosmos just looks old, when in fact it is just 6,000 years. Of course, Mr. Baily is assuming current, secular cosmological models are infallible and do not have their own inherent problems. Say that to the various adherence to the many competing secular cosmologies and all of them will be quick to point out the flaws in their opponent's model.

The second article is primarily a report on Dr. Purdum's talk critiquing the Intelligent Design movement. She sees the same problems with the ID movement I do. That being, ID divorces the clearly revealed biblical creator from the intelligent cause supposedly designing everything.

Mr. Baily still toils under the delusion that science is autonomous and scientists working with science are neutral observers who would never think to interpret their conclusions in light of a particluar biased, anti-supernatural worldview. For instance, he makes the passing criticism of Dr. Purdum's comments on the complexity of the mammalian blood clotting cascade, by writing, "But is the mammalian blood clotting system irreducibly complex? While the work is far from complete, researchers are making progress in figuring out how that system came into existence over hundreds of millions of years." Really? figuring it out all by themselves as if their research just tells them without any one having to interpret the research? Hmmm.... And I bet the research has a tag on it saying "hundreds of millions of years," too.

In all, Mr. Baily is fun reading, lending the Christian a persepective from how skeptics view God, the Bible and Creation.

Rich Man; Poor Man: Examining the Values of the Christian Alliance, Pt. 4

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matthew 25: 34-40)

It has been a little while, but I wish to return to reviewing the values of The Christian Alliance for Progress. The group believes Christianity has been taken over by right wing kooks, in a similar manner that Islam has supposedly been taken over by fanatical, right wing kooks. The members of CAP have had it with their precious faith being smeared by radicals like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, so they want to reclaim the Christianity Jesus taught and promoted. Interestingly, as I have been noting in previous reviews, it is a faith minus the truth claims Christ made concerning His person and work, as well as the authority of scripture being the source of true faith.

I turn our attention to the 3rd value, Compassion for the least of these. The value is stated like this:

Jesus said that our lives as Christians will be judged on how we treat "the least of these," how we serve the hungry, the poor, the ill. Jesus also loved the "little ones," the children, and said the kingdom of heaven was for them (Matthew 19:14). Throughout his ministry, Jesus cared for the poor, welcomed the stranger, fed the hungry, healed those ill in body or spirit. Jesus tells us that, he himself is among "the least of these." To love and care for them is to love and care for Jesus. He taught, by word and by deed, encompassing love and compassion. We believe that today Jesus continues to call us to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Mark 12:31) We seek to follow Jesus' often-difficult commandment to care for all people, not just some people, not just our kind of people.

I have to be honest, especially in light of what I have seen published at the CAP website. The values on compassion are the basic appeal to the NT for supporting the leftist urban legend of class warfare and the redistribution of wealth. The rich cruelly oppress the poor, the poor are beaten down and have it so bad they may have to turn to criminal behavior or living on the streets to survive, but a "good" Christian will be prepared to help these poor against the machinations of the rich who only seek to become more wealthy in spite of hurting the poor. According to the leftist agenda, the "Christian" should be willing to be sacrificial so as to help these people, and better yet, be prepared to support heavily taxing the mean-hearted rich oppressor in order to supplement what cannot be covered by the sacrificial giving.

We recently saw a secularized version of this agenda promoted by a rather large and vocal group of hypocrites with the G-8 concerts held around the world in various locations. I call the participants hypocrites, because even though they insist that wealthy nations forgive the debt of the poorer, 3rd world nations, the majority of these multi-million dollar rock stars do little if any thing on a personal level to financially help these nations. Moreover, they have a self inflicted myopia toward the greater source for 3rd world poverty, that being dictatorial regimes who squander funds and brutalize the weak in their societies to maintain their power, along with dysfunctional religious superstitions that demoralize and enslave its adherents. In fact, these G-8 rockers will be the first to protest any war effort by wealthy nations to outset a dictatorial regime and free the people. There would certainly be harsh criticism of evangelical, missionary efforts to get the people to leave their bogus religion. I could say a lot about these dinosaurish ideas, but I will point folks to a couple of articles written by Steve Camp who did a good job of placing the whole G-8 rock festival into perspective.

Coming back to this CAP value,

First, I am once again annoyed with the judgmental tone expressed in the concluding sentence. The author (who ever he or she is) writes, We seek to follow Jesus' often-difficult commandment to care for all people, not just some people, not just our kind of people. The obvious implication is fundamentalist, right wing Christians do not care for all people, just a select few - and their all white and republican. Certainly this must be the thinking on the part of CAP's members or they would not be writing out a clarifying value statement. But, I believe this is a phony exaggeration. The real issue is their disapproval with how right minded Christians apply Christ's difficult command to care for all people. I am sure in the minds of CAP supporters, the conservative Christians are not as accommodating toward the sin of these folks. Those fundamentalist, right wingers tend to ask too many personal questions, make value judgments, talk about morality. They step on toes and meddle in other people's affairs.

But, in my worldview, a biblical worldview, that is the showing of true, genuine love. You see, Bible believing Christians have the conviction that more is at stake with a person in poverty other than meeting his immediate "felt" needs. Yes, we want to cloth the naked and feed the hungry by all means, but there is the greatest of all needs to have the person restored to a right relationship with his or her creator. A Christian (not a fake "Christian" with a political agenda - either right, or left) believes it is a biblical mandate to confront and rebuke the sinful lifestyle habits the poor person has allowed to take root in his or her life that have brought him to poverty. Such an approach, however, of confronting personal sin - sin which has 9.5 times out of 10 ensared the poor to his or her current impoverished condition - involves true courage. It also involves time spent in discipleship and counseling with the person. Are the members of the CAP prepared to go this distance, or do they just want to spread the tangible goodies around which in effect still leaves the person in the condition of poverty once he has eaten all the goodies (or sold it for whiskey).

Secondly, here we have another fine example of egregious abuse of scripture. Matthew 25:34-40, the parable of the sheep and the goats, is quoted - I guess as a proof text - in conjunction with this value (see top). A good Bible student is familiar with this section in Matthew where Jesus speaks on the final judgment when the nations of the world are separated into two groups before the Lord: The sheep on one side and the goats on the other. The sheep have their good works noted and inherit eternal life; the goats have their bad works noted and are cast out from the presence of the Lord. The CAP folks use this passage as proof text for how we must be treating the poor. The problem, however, is the typical missing of the context.

A couple of things. First, Jesus does not throw this parable out to His audience in an off-the-cuff manner as if it is not tied to anything specific. He most certainly is not telling it as an illustration on how to model true compassion. He gives this story at the end of a two chapter discourse on His second coming, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age and eternal judgment. It is an eschatalogical passage. We cannot divorce His words from that context.

Secondly, the CAP seem to appeal to this parable as an illustration of how one gets into heaven. Back in the value statement, the first sentence reads, Jesus said that our lives as Christians will be judged on how we treat "the least of these," how we serve the hungry, the poor, the ill. But, notice this is not what the parable is suggesting at all. Jesus has already established two categories of individuals at the beginning of His parable, sheep and goats. Those being judged by God are already either a sheep or a goat. What marks their identification as either one or the other is the works they perform. Sheep are always identified as God's people, the goats as those opposed to God. Sheep will always serve those in need as if serving Christ. The goats on the other had do not have this perspective. If Christians are judged by how they treat the least of these, then according to this value, a person can be cast out of God's presence as a goat for neglecting his duties. This is terrible theology, suggesting a Christian must work his or her way into eternal life, and any eternal life earned can possibly be lost depending upon how the Christian treats, or mistreats, the "least of these."

There is always a place to exhort Christians to show more compassion and to love those in need. This is especially true of believers in need. The Church must cultivate a stewardship mindset and I personally would suggest starting with Christians putting away wanton consumerism that regularly grips Christians.

But, we do not show compassion to meet external needs without addressing a person's heart condition. James writes that the expression of true religion is marked by two things: visiting orphans and widows, indicating the two groups in society that are often times helpless, and keeping one's self unspotted from the world, meaning a personal pursuit of holiness (James 1:27). The showing of true, Christian compassion cannot be separated from a life restored to fellowship with God by Christ. Both go together. A person who claims Christ, but does not show compassion has a dead faith. A person who shows compassion, but has no true faith has dead works. Moreover, people cannot be forced to show compassion by redistributing their wealth, or forcing the rich in society to redistribute theirs, as the CAP seems to suggest. Stealing from the rich, even mean hearted rice, through bogus taxation and legislation is still theft and is just an abhorrence to God as a lack of compassion.

I believe societies need to take care of the poor among them, but concern for the poor has to spring from a heart willing to meet those needs. This is where the Christian community must rise up to influence men's hearts by preaching the gospel and modeling Christlike compassion.

There is a hint of arrogance on the part of the CAP suggesting the fundamental right lacks true, Christian compassion. I would be curious to know their thoughts of George Mueller, the 19th Christian evangelist who maintained orphanages in England. There is no doubt he was a right wing, fundamentalist in todays vernacular. There are dozens of more examples I could probably name. Does the CAP scorn the work of these right-minded, fundamentalists? After looking over their website, something tells me they just might.

Monergism has an extensive collection of articles addressing wealth, money, tithing and the Christian. Those believers who really desire to know what the Bible says on these matters so their lives can be shaped toward genuine, Christian compassion, will do themselves good to review some of these articles.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Liberals and Inerrancy Part Two

Steve Jones of Free Thinking Faith has taken notice of my lengthy article I posted earlier this week reviewing his position on inerrancy and biblical authority. He says he plans to write a response, though I can't imagine his comments being any different from the ones he made in another post to a reader named Dan.

At any rate, a couple of visitors to Steve's site posted their comments in response to my article on inerrancy. They raise some fair questions and I thought I would provide a brief response while I await Steve's.

VW writes:

Fred's first point states that "Because we know God is holy, righteous and incapable of lying, we are certain we can trust any revelation from Him as being truthful and accurate throughout and in all areas" Fine. But then he states that the existent of many copy errors proves that the bible is inerrant. In my mind, if God had so desired the Bible to be inerrant, there would be no flaws in the copies. Why would there be?

(Fred) VW apparently does not understand the nature of these "errors." I thought I made that clear in my article. VW is making the assumption these errors have a detrimental impact on the message of scripture. That they either cause God's revelation to be clouded or lost altogether. This has never been the case. Like I stated, copying errors happen in all handwritten documents. This includes extra-biblical ones, as well. However, the vast amount of textual evidence we have for scripture testifies to the consistency and continuity of God's written revelation. For example, after the Babylonian exile, three independent textual families grew from the Hebrew scriptures: One in Babylon, another in Egypt (remember, a group of Jews left by the Babylonians migrated to Egypt - Jeremiah 41-43) and still another in Palestine. After the return from exile some 70 years later, all of the available copies of the Hebrew Bible were gathered up and compiled into a standard text. Even between three separate textual streams, after diligent comparison, the OT text was found to be still intact and God's Word had not been lost.

We see the same thing with the NT documents, too. Textual scholars speak of the tenacity of these copying errors. In other words, once a copying error comes into the text, it never drops out. A copyist will note the discrepancies in the margin of his copy, and it becomes part of the transmission process. But, like I wrote, careful textual criticism can weed out these slight discrepancy to almost pure accuracy. Though we don't have the original autograph, we have a close enough facsimile of it that we can be confident in God's preservation.

VW continues:

He also attempts to show that the Bible is inerrant by quoting the Bible itself! (Although in his defense he only does it once)

(Fred) And what other source would VW recommend I quote? If God's Word is what it claims to be, a divine revelation from God Himself, and it testifies to God's nature, which He has established as trustworthy during His dealings with His redeemed people, why then can I not quote the Bible to demonstrate inerrancy?

VW concludes:

I am a scholar by no means, but logically I just can't buy the inerrancy argument. I do pray for guidance and revelation, so hopefully God will enlighten me in this regard.

(Fred) Pray for guidance and revelation? How do you know, VW, that the guidance you pray for is trustworthy? Is it established by a strong impression or some other subjective means? Subjectivity is opened to all possible interpretations. Is it your contention that God is still giving revelation today directly to individuals? The only way a person can be sure the guidance they seek is genuine is by wisely comparing it to an authorized standard, the Bible.

Then we have some comments by a fellow named Eddie,

Eddie writes

Even the Bible claims that every matter is established (proved) by the mouth of two or three witnesses. Logically this requires that we need external evidence to make such a claim, and a claim from the book itself as being inerrant is circular exaggeration.

(Fred) So is Eddie suggesting there is a greater authority to prove God's Word than God Himself? Eddie is misapplying the charge of circularity on my part. I would have been engaged in circularity if I had stated something like: The Bible is God's Word, because The Bible says it is God's Word. But, I didn't do that. I specifically wrote that God's Word is bound to God's character and nature which He has personally revealed in space and time to eye witnesses. The Bible contains the testimony of these eye witnesses who saw God reveal Himself, for instance in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Furthermore, God has also consistently proven His faithfulness to His people. Psalm 78, for example, is a Psalm calling Israel back to remembering what God had done. God has proven His character by witnessing Himself to His own character - a character He has put on display by the acts He has performed. Thus, I can rightly conclude the Bible is God's Word, because God has personally stated that it is. That is what 2 Timothy 3:16 means.

But, if Eddie still insists I am arguing in a circle, then I would also call upon Jesus Himself who testified to the authenticity of God's Word in His various sermons and discussions during His teaching ministry, as well as the testimony of God's prophets and apostles, both of which bore the marks of being God's messengers, see for example Paul's own testimony concerning himself in 2 Corithians 12:12.

Eddie must have a low opinion (some may say unbelief) of God's sovereignty and a poor understanding circularity to charge me with illogical exaggeration.

Eddie concludes:

I have no doubt that large portions of the Bible were edited by the Catholic Church for obvious reasons. Kings have kingdoms to protect, and only when you begin to view Scripture in the light of the politics of the day do the facts begin to speak for themselves.

(Fred) How does Eddie even begin to justify this conspiracy theory? By appealing to a Michael Moore view of American politics? This in fact is a genuine example of exaggerated circularity. What proof exists to affirm his conviction that the Catholic Church intentionally altered the biblical texts? Who was involved with it? When did it take place? I am only guessing Eddie means the ROMAN Catholic Church and not the little "c" catholic Church. If that is the case, the text of scripture was affirmed and in circulation among God's people several hundred years before the ROMAN Catholic Church named their first pope.

Additionally, here is another example where KJV Only advocates and liberals merge in their philosophy of scripture: both groups adhere to speculative conspiracy theories about how the scripture came into being. The KJV onlyist believes a cabal of nefarious heretics snuck false doctrine into the text. The liberals believe powerful political figures manipulated the text. But, the aluminum foil hat view of textual criticism just does not stand up under the crushing weight of the historical evidence. Perhaps Steve will be able to help out Eddie in his forth coming article. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mr. Skeptic Goes to Creation Camp

The Answers in Genesis Mega Conference is going on this week in Virginia at Liberty University and my wife and I are wishing we could be there with them all.

Instead, I have had to content myself with catching the daily updates at the websites. Oddly, Ken Ham reports there is a skeptic reporter in attendance who is blogging on the various lectures. Check out his first entry here> Creation Summer Camp.

I only quickly scanned his post, but he seems to be fair with his comments (there isn't any needless "mocking"). One thing is for sure, judging from his closing comments, he recognizes the sophistication and intelligence these experts bring to the debate between biblical creationism and naturalistic evolution. These aren't a bunch of hillbilly, barefoot fundamentalist pentecostals wavin' their bybuls and renouncin' cyeence as the devil's tool.

Still, he does appear to be clueless to the philosophical reality that all so-called scientific facts and evidence has to be interpreted. Like the typical critic reviewing the work of creationists, he seems to erroneously distinguishes between religion and science as if the two are incompatible and science is its own stand alone, autonomous discipline that can be considered with neutrality. I can only hope he will have his presuppositions challenged as he mingles with these good folks. Maybe even the Lord God will have mercy and call him to salvation.

He plans to be blogging during the week, so he may provide us with a unique point of view.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Liberals, KJV Onlyists and Inerrancy

Back on June 27, I mentioned how my webmaster at Fred's Bible Talk found a critique of an article I wrote responding to the anti-Calvinistic testimonial of a fellow named Steve Jones. His critique of my article was posted at his blog, Free Thinking Faith. While I was mulling a response to his critique of my critique, I was studying over his writings to get a better understanding from where Mr. Jones was coming theologically, and I found an interesting entry Mr. Jones wrote entitled, Autograph Hounds. It is interesting, because it basically sums up the liberal, postmodernist perspective on scripture.

Simply put, Mr. Jones alleges that the doctrine of inerrancy is erroneous. The reason being, he argues, is the fact the Christian Church does not possess any of the original autographs written by the prophets and apostles. We don't have Paul's original epistle to the Colossians or John's original Gospel, etc. All we have in our possession today are copies upon copies; and those copies are several hundred years removed from the first century. Thus, as he concludes his comments by writing:

The "autographs" qualifier undercuts one of inerrancy's most confident claims: that God safeguarded the human authors from error because He would never leave His church without a perfect manual of faith. But unless He equally safeguarded the manuscript copyists from error, it is apparent that God never intended to give His church such a perfect manual.

In other words, no one can be absolutely sure what the Bible originally said. Thus, evangelical fundamentalists are mistaken to be so dogmatic about any of their convictions and the postmodern leanings of free thinking Unitarians are vindicated.

Now, in an odd twist, Steve Jones and his free think pals find themselves in agreement with extremely strange bedfellows from the King James Version Only camp. That is because KJVO advocates hold to the same belief about the autographs as the liberals do. The only difference being is rather than believing the Bible is errant and unreliable with its content, the KJVO advocate believes God's Word is perfectly contained in one, infallible, purely preserved translation: the King James Version original published in 1611. Here we have two entirely different conclusions about the Bible, but the exact same starting point regarding the original writings.

How does a biblically thinking Christian approach the doctrine of inerrancy? Can we trust the Bible is inerrant even if we don't have the original autographs? Or, must we appeal to a special translation that is supposedly marked with God's hand of providence?

The doctrine of inerrancy is built upon three important pillars. Let's consider them in order.

First, inerrancy is bound to the character of God. The scriptures declare God's desire to reveal Himself to men. Because we know God is holy, righteous and incapable of lying, we are certain we can trust any revelation from Him as being truthful and accurate throughout and in all areas. Some non-inerrantists, like Mr. Jones, may suggest the truthfulness of God's revelation only pertains to spiritual truths, or even perhaps one central focus of scripture, that can be separated from the unbelievable portions. God, they will argue, is not concerned with the precision of historical information and other non-spiritual details. So that, when the Bible comes into conflict with man's knowledge about science, archaeology and other similar disciplines, it is concluded the Bible is probably in error. God didn't care to preserve the accuracy of such facts anyway, so we are at liberty to change them if need be.

But, in response, we also know God is the sovereign Lord of all things, and that most definitely includes His revelation. If He has the absolute authority to create everything that exists, govern nations, raise up and put down kings and their societies, then God can certainly govern the accuracy of the details recorded by the writers of scripture. Peter confirms God's sovereign hand in recording scripture when he writes, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It is presumptuous to automatically conclude man's speculative theories and ever-changing views of the world take precedent over the codified revelation given by the sovereign God of the universe.

This leads to a second pillar: God safeguards the transmission of His written revelation through the thousands of copies handwritten by His people, both during the time of the OT and the time of the NT. The body of textual evidence for the Bible is compiled from hundreds upon thousands of entire manuscripts, portions of books, fragments of books, translations into various languages, historical citations and so forth making it the most attested piece of ancient literature ever written. Mr. Jones is correct to point out how every single biblical manuscript is copied from a previous copy, and each copy will contain discrepancies to some degree or another. However, he doesn't place the presence of copying errors within the biblical evidence in a proper historical, literary context.

Before the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 1400s, all books and other important documents were handwritten. The one common occurrence with all handwritten documentation, especially documents transmitted by copying many times over several generations, like the Bible, is the duplication of copying mistakes. All human beings are prone to marginal error with anything they do, regardless of how talented a person may be. When it comes to copying a document, even one as valued as the Bible, people will still misspell words, miss a word here or there, repeat the same sentence and so on. Additionally, the text being copied may be damaged physically or maybe missing sections and it will contain copying errors made from the previous copier.

On the outset, numerous copies with many copying errors appear to be a serious dilemma for the Christian believing in a pure biblical text. It is at this point, once again, where the philosophies of liberal, non-inerrantists and KJV onlyists merge. The non-inerrantist believes these copying errors demonstrate a corruption of the biblical text. Because the original autographs were lost, no one can be absolutely sure what those documents said. This means there is no real authoritative Bible today with any specific meaning to the text, as Mr. Jones suggests in his blog. The KJV onlyists, on the other hand, also believe copyist errors demonstrate corruption, but corruption by heretical men who wanted to distort God's Word. Just like Mr. Jones, however, they too believe no one can rightly appeal to the original autographs because they have been lost. Only the original language texts from which the KJV was translated represent the true, original autographs.

Yet, contrary to both of these erroneous viewpoints, the sheer number of copies, and their "errors," affirms the certainty of textual preservation. God protected His revelation by allowing the biblical documents to literally "explode" across the ancient world at different times and in different locations through its many copies. In this way, His revelation was safeguarded from any one group gathering up the scriptures and altering the content. Within the first 300 years of the Christian Church, these copies of scriptures were so far flung there could be no organized effort to genuinely corrupt the Bible. The one side effect, however, is the presence of minor copying errors that could always be corrected. That leads to a third pillar.

God uses the human discipline of textual criticism to recover the originality of His Word. People have a negative misconception about textual criticism. They falsely believe it implies criticizing the supernatural aspects of God's word, or that it undermines the authority of the Bible in general. This is not the case at all. Genuine, thoughtful textual criticism involves experts examining all the available textual evidence for the Bible, carefully analyzing all the various copying errors and other similar discrepancies, and then recovering and restoring, to the best of their ability, what the original documents actually said. Some believe we can know within about 98% certainty what the originals actually contained with the remaining 2% being discernable by the reader. More importantly, scholars have discovered over the last few hundred years as they have poured over all of the available textual evidence, that these copyist errors have a minimal impact upon the Bible as a whole. Both non-inerrantist and KJV advocates exaggerate the significance of these discrepancies. The non-inerrantists insist the details of the Bible have been lost so there is no true absolute authority to be found in scripture, and the KJV onlyists advocate God's true Word is only to be found in one 17th century translation. In reality, both positions are horribly mistaken.

Yes, it is true the scriptures we hold in our hands today are translations from copies removed several generations from the original autographs. However, God in His marvelous sovereignty has worked His providence to preserve His Word in those copies in spite of all the variety of discrepancies. Sure, we don't have 100% accuracy with the original autographs, but the closeness is enough so that God's people can be confident they hold God's infallible and inerrant revelation in their hands.

There are many great resources for further study on this important doctrine of inerrancy.

A good place to start is with the online edition of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

There are also many fine books on the subject.

Two classic works worth the read are:

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture by Princeton great, B.B. Warfield. Cornelius Van Til wrote a lengthy introduction to this work that is also a fine treatment on inspiration and inerrancy.

And, Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler. This is a large collection of essays by various theologians highlighting different areas pertaining to the doctrine of inerrancy. The work was out of print for some time, but I believe it has recently be made available again.

There are also some simple introductions to the doctrine of scripture in general.

From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William Nix

Scripture Alone by James White

From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, edited by Willams and Shaylor.
God's Word in Our Hands - The Bible Preserved For Us, also edited by Williams and Shaylor. Both of these books compliment each other and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They both are a collection of essays on the doctrine of scripture, preservation, translation and the transmission of the Bible. The book on preservation is probably the best modern treatment of that subject.

Some more advanced works include,

Inspiration and Canonicity of Scripture by R. Laird Harris

Holy Scripture - The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 1 by David King. The entire three volumes by Webster and King is worth the purchase, but the first volume deals specifically with Scripture's infallibility and authority.

The Text of the New Testament - Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce Metzger.

And the first section in Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology entitled, A Word from Another World is a fine review of the doctrine of scripture.

Two books that specifically address KJV onlyism, but are good overviews on the doctrine of scripture are,

One Bible Only? edited by Beacham and Bauder and The King James Only Controversy by James White.

Also there is an online audio series called From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man by Kevin Minnick, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greensboro, South Carolina.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Everything-but-the-Bible Answer Man

The re-broadcast of an interview with Dr. William Lane Craig this past week (7/12 and 7/13) on the Bible Answer Man is a stellar example of why I am increasingly becoming annoyed with Hank Hanegraaff and the reason why he is listed under the "muddled theology" category of my links.

Dr. Craig was promoting a recent book he has written entitled "God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist." During the course of the interview, Dr. Craig, like a good evidentialist, did everything he could to avoid mentioning the Bible as a source for his authority on God. His appeal for God's existence is to reason and philosophical notions.

To illustrate what I am talking about, on the first day of the interview, a question by one particular caller comes to mind. The caller told Hank and Dr. Craig the one question he is asked that is difficult for him to answer is "If God created everything, then who created God?" Instead of citing God's own personal testimony of Himself in Isaiah 41 and following, especially Isaiah 43:10 where God states directly that no other gods have ever existed before Him, Dr. Craig runs to reason and philosophy. There has to be an ultimate, intelligent cause, argues Craig, and I guess it is his belief people will just conclude that intelligent cause is the God of the Bible. At least I hope so.

As the interview went on, Dr. Craig makes a passing reference to scripture, but never is it for the purpose of establishing the authority of who God is. One is left with the idea the God of scripture may possibly exist...Maybe, in a reasonable fashion anyways.

The two interviews can be heard under the BAM broadcast archives in either Real Audio or Media Player for the next 30 days or so.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Monkey Trial - 80 Years Later

The apologetic website, Answers in Genesis, has posted an excellent summary article of the Scopes Monkey Trial that took place back in July of 1925. This year marks the 80th anniversary of this worldview shaping event. Most Americans are grossly misinformed about the nature of the trial, erroneously believing the Bible and creationism was shown to be false and evolution affirmed as true. This is primarily due to the wild inaccuracies portrayed in the classic film, Inherit the Wind, along with the philosophical indoctrination we receive in our public schools of materialistic naturalism that is passed off as being infallible science.

Check it out here: The Scopes "Monkey Trial" - 80 Years Later, by Dr. David Menton.

It is worth the read, at least to have a cursory understanding of the facts. It doesn't hurt to be informed, especially if you run into some blow hard know-it-all who finds great delight in ridiculing God and the Bible.

There is also a website detailing the trial in more depth - www.scopestrial.org

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Refuting Secular Myths About Islam and Terrorism.

Welp, the religion of peace has struck again. The name of Allah was praised this time by seven bombings in various areas through out London. The latest death toll at this writing is 49, but that figure could possibly rise. As I caught updates over the weekend, the talking heads of mainstream media, along with the pundits of talk radio, are still misinformed as to the true nature of these satanic acts. I believe I heard the top three myths about Islam and terrorism mentioned on numerous occasions being passed along by the host or hostette with the same amount of earnestness as a high school sophomore repeating the current urban legend of the week.

Let’s review them here just so we can be straight on the facts:

Myth One: These terrorists do not represent true Islam, but have perverted the true teaching of the religion.

It is commonly believed that genuine Qur’an loving Muslims would never seek the death of innocent civilians with mass suicidal bombings. I hear this myth repeated all over the place. One of the worst culprits is right wing talk radio. True Islam, it is argued, seeks to live in peace with all its non-Islamic neighbors. These Jihadists who incite death and destruction on a grand scale represent extremists who practice Islamic fundamentalism and read the Qur’an and other Islamic literature too literally. Secular experts are called upon to provide the public with an analysis as to the “who” and “why” of the bombings and they identify the terrorists with Wahabbism. This is a fundamental sect whose principle leader was Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab. He was considered a puritan of sorts whose desire was to return Islam back to its original roots. The conclusion drawn by the experts is these Wahabbists don’t represent true Islam, but rather a radical cultic form.

The populace of secular America who feed upon a steady diet of pop culture supplied by television, mass media and an assortment of entertainments, may find comfort with such contrived distinctions, but they remain in a forced myopia. The student of history and theology knows better than to embrace such stupidity. Saying Wahabbists don’t represent true Islam would be similar to saying the KKK doesn’t represent true racism.

The Muslims presented to us in the media outlets are a distorted caricature of the truth. Americans have been painted a picture of a benign, misunderstood religion with its practitioners being amazingly similar to American Christians. Muslims, we are told, believed in the same God as the Christians and Jews, they just worship Him differently. The violent, repressive Islam was something of ancient history. All of that crusade and Jihad stuff was done away with hundreds of years ago and Americans, as well as all non-Muslims, have nothing to worry about. These mean terrorists are just a small minority who has a twisted view of Islam.

The truth of matter, though, is the Muslims paraded before the American public as the true representatives of Islam, are in fact secular, westernized, liberal minded versions of Islam. They no more represent Qur’anic Islam as Unitarians represent biblical Christianity. They maybe pay lip service to their religion, perhaps knowing the basic, surface level beliefs of their faith, but they should not be thought of as genuine Muslims.

It is the terroristic Jihadists who represent genuine Islam. They rightly recognize Mohammed’s original Islam was abandoned by these liberal Muslims who have become secularized by western values. This was Wahab’s original complaint with Islam way back in the 1700s. Osama and his boys recognize the same problem with their religion and hence the reason why they do what they do. Their goal is to not only push out westerners from the holy land of Arabia, but to overthrow and crush any other worldviews that oppose Islam. Granted, Islam is a religion of peace, but one is only at peace when he or she is inside Islam’s “house of peace.” Anyone outside the house of peace lives in the "house of war," and will never experience peace until he or she submits to Allah and Islam. Those who refuse are killed, because Allah demands absolute obedience and commitment, or you die.

Myth Two: The God of Judaism and Christianity is the same as Islam.

It is believed that because Islam is considered monotheistic, the Qur’an quotes from the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and Muslims claim Abraham as their progenitor, then the three religions must be inter-related and the followers from the three faiths worship the same God in their own way. This is entirely false.

The subject is way too vast for just a brief blog entry, but I would encourage all the readers to check out Answering Islam and read the variety of posted articles. The site provides a great amount of resources comparing Islam to Christianity and the fact of the matter is that the god of Islam, Allah, in no way resembles the God of the OT and who is fully revealed in the NT in the person of Christ. Simply put, the God of the Holy Bible is both transcendent and personal. He is sovereign, but has revealed Himself to His people. He is a covenant making God, with the purpose of those covenants being the establishment of His relationship with sinful mankind. Islam does not know the true God in any fashion. Allah is malicious, can lie, break his promises, is misogynistic, and offers no grace or hope for sinners, in fact, Islam does not even recognize man’s sin nature. The God of scripture, on the other hand, does not lie, because He has told us of our innate spiritual rebellion and moreover, He has taken it upon Himself to make us right before Him so that men can be saved, despite our sin. Islam knows nothing of this kind of grace, but insists upon the faithful to work their way to Allah’s favor. Sadly, no matter how well a Muslim will work, the person still has no hope of salvation, because in the end he or she may not be good enough for Allah. Moreover, there is no guarantee Allah will keep his word. He may change the rules of entry once a person reaches paradise.

Myth Three: The God of the Bible told Israel to kill innocent people and make war on His enemies just like Allah tells Muslims to do. In reality, the Bible is no different from the Qur’an.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this charge raised by callers calling into one of my favored radio talk shows. The answers provided are boringly lame and leave me bumping my head on the top of my desk over and over.

The myth is built upon passages, for example Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1, describing God’s charge to Israel to enter the promise land and destroy its inhabitants. Sometimes God’s command to Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 is cited. It is believed that the Bible is no better than the Qur’an in sanctioning the death of innocent people, and so it is concluded that the God of the Bible is just as blood thirsty as Allah of the Qur’an.

Two key points are often ignored in this discussion:

First, God specifically gave the land to His chosen people by promising it to Abraham in a covenant He made with him in Genesis 15. When the Jews arrived after being freed from Egypt a thousand years later, God is keeping His end of the covenant by helping Israel kick out the squatters.

Second, these were not peace loving, innocent, noble cultures, but wicked societies whose moral evil was matched by the cruelty they inflicted upon others and themselves. They performed all sorts of perverse and bloody religious practices including forced, sexual enslavement, homosexuality and child sacrifice. The Lord was merely using Israel as the instrument of His divine judgment against these debase and depraved peoples. In 1 Samuel 15, God specifically states the reason why He wanted the entire society destroyed is because of the way they attacked Israel when they were in the wilderness as recorded in Deuteronomy 25:17ff. It would had been unjust of God to allow the wickedness to continue unchallenged and unjudged.


I am sure I could say more in response to these myths, but unfortunately, they have found a permanent place in the thinking of uninformed, secular minds. But, we have the truth. Let us who know it be quick to offer a corrective when the opportunity allows.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reach Out and Touch Someone: Examing the Values of the Christian Alliance Pt. 3

When time allows, I have been reviewing and evaluating the values shaping the Christian Alliance for Progress. Just so as to remind folks, I heard a CAP representative by the name of Rev. Tim Simpson interviewed on the radio. The Rev. Simpson and his friends at the CAP claim to speak for a vast number of Christians who are alarmed over the right-wing fundamental high jacking of Christianity. Is there a need for such an alarm? Does the CAP truly represent Christianity, or are they inventing a Christian faith made in the likeness of their particular political agendas? They articulate their beliefs in a group of seven values and it is these values we are taking under consideration.

In the last post, we looked at the first value articulating the spiritual foundation for the CAP supporters. As I pointed out, that foundation does not consist of a spirituality anchored firmly to the objective standard of Holy Scripture, but rather, it is a spirituality born out of the mysticism of individual feelings. The CAP defines this spirituality as an intense relationship with God. Of course, there is no propositional truth being declared with a mystical perspective. For all it is worth, David Koresh and Mohammed Atta could claim to have had an intense relationship with God, but we would consider their experience to be misguided.

It is crucially important to have one's values defined by a foundational, objective standard. Values, based upon subjectivity - for example, an intense relationship with God - can quickly disintegrate any cohesive unity. That is because each person has his or her own experience, and that experience will dictate which value is worth more than others. Members in a community of activists, like the CAP, are certain to run into some serious practical ramifications when each person's intense relationship conflicts with all the others. Who is to say (or heaven forbid "judge") one's experience is better than another's, especially when five or six folks are convinced their unique experience with their own personal intense relationship is the best course of action with implementing these values in practical, everyday reality? How do they even begin to reach an agreement? Surely, among all these open-minded progressives there would be communication, discussion and dialog; but that would only mean several folks would have to put aside their own experience of intense relationships in order for the group to achieve any meaningful application of their overall goals. Are those people to be denied the worth of their intense relationship with God?

These practical inconsistencies at a - dare I say - fundamental level, cripples the stated purpose of the CAP before the group even steps out the proverbial gate. A group planning to confront the alleged fundamental right wing take over of Christianity would serve the credibility of their confrontive process if the leadership would address what is so plainly a contradiction in their basic mission statement.

Moving along, we now turn our attention to the second value. It calls Christians to a responsible obligation:

Jesus challenges us to embrace personal and societal responsibility. He gives us an example in the Samaritan, an ethnic 'enemy' who showed what it meant to act as a genuine 'neighbor'. Jesus' life and death summon us to take up our own obligations. In our individual lives, Jesus' example calls us to continually grow and transform, to die to an old way of being and be born to a new identity. But following Jesus requires us to go further. Our duties do not stop with 'the personal'. We are obliged to challenge oppressive and unjust structures in our world. Despite being keenly aware that his actions could lead to his execution, Jesus courageously persisted with his message. As an incomparable standard for accepting obligation, he teaches us to seek God's justice as he did. We strive to heed Jesus' call to take up our cross - to live in personal integrity and to take responsibility in our communities and country.

According to this value, Christians are to not only be personally responsible, in that each believer takes up his or her cross and be transformed in the new identity we share together with Christ, but believers are also to be socially responsible. In other words, our responsibility extends beyond our immediate selves to helping others; perhaps even others Christians may normally never associate with.

At a glance, I as a believer would agree in principle with this value, but we need to stop and consider this value for a moment.

To begin, I am a tad annoyed with what is not being stated, but I think is being silently implied. Is the leadership of the CAP implying that fundamentalist Christians don't recognize a personal responsibility and social obligation with the gospel message? Is the CAP suggesting that right wing fundamentalists are lazy and self-centered? I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they don't think so ill of right-wingers. But let us be honest with the facts: the CAP's contention with fundamentalist is not that they shirk their responsibility and obligations. What is really at the heart of disagreement is how right wing fundies work out their responsibility and obligations in practical terms. That is what bugs the CAP. However, that again returns to the foundational difference in how each group views the authority of God in such matters.

Boiled down to its essence, ultimately the disagreement between the two parties is one of understanding and applying God's principles, both personally and socially. Principles derive from a standardized source. For the Christian, that has to be the Old and New Testaments. But, as I have already mentioned the CAP doesn't necessarily respect the Bible as a revealed source of dictatorial and propositional authority for Christians. They may argue otherwise, but from what I have seen so far, their appeal to scripture is only when it fits their agenda and even then their appeal is based upon an intentional misreading of scripture.

Rather, they honor subjective, mystical, personal experiences with God over a recognized objective standard of truth, which fundamentalists firmly believe is God's Word. Now granted, we may haggle over whether or not fundies are correctly understanding and applying the Bible, but at least with the fundies we can appeal to an existing source of authority so as to offer a corrective. Unverifiable, mystical experiences felt as intense relationships carry no weight as a corrective authority when people need to be held accountable to their responsibilities both personally and socially.

I am also annoyed with how the Bible is handled by the folks of the CAP. I seem to notice when the writers of these values do appeal to scripture to make a point, they have a tendency to abuse scripture, torturously wrenching verses from context. I guess that is to be expected if one does not hold scripture in high esteem. In fact, this is witnessed with all seven values when scripture is cited. For instance, with this second value, the parable of the Good Samaritan is quoted as an exhortation for Christians to engage in social responsibility. Yet, in the context of Luke 10, Jesus doesn't tell the parable for the purpose of exhorting social responsibility. Instead, the parable is a rebuke of the religious leaders for their self-righteousness and misuse of God's law. The point Jesus was making is against the hypocrisy of a person claiming to love God with all his heart, mind and soul, then being picky as to who is considered a neighbor and who will be loved as himself. The CAP twists this parable to imply a person is a good Christian when he or she is engaged in some form of self sacrificing social responsibility.

That leads me to my third problem with this stated value: there are no examples provided as to what consists of the social responsibility the CAP advocates. This second value makes a vague reference to our social obligations, to Jesus being our model in confronting unjust structure in the world, and that Jesus was even executed for practicing his social responsibility. Yet, the confusion lies in the fact no practical examples are cited illustrating social responsibility. I guess the how-to of working out our obligations and responsibility is left to each person and his or her intense relationship with God? If I take up my social responsibility with fundamental, right-wing agenda would I be meeting my obligations as a Christian according to the CAP? Even though I don't care for subjectivity, I have a nagging, gut feeling that would not be the case.

The CAP website indicates the obligations and social responsibility they recommend involve embracing leftist ideas. For instance, the CAP takes up economic socialism and socialized medicine. They further suggest Jesus our Lord would not want to criminalize abortion and allow a woman to choose what is best for her reproductive health, that He would want to normalize homosexual perversion, and would promote evironmental activism.

Do CAP members sincerely believe Jesus would take up these modern day, leftist causes; that this is the historic Jesus represented in scripture? Or, is this a modern day jesus with a little "j" who has been fashioned into the image of the anti-fundamentalists at the CAP? If we are to be honest with the biblical record of Jesus Christ, then he is not to be found at the CAP advocating man-made causes that have a tract record of utter failure.

Next time I will take up the third value of overcoming poverty.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Geek's Fourth of July

On Sunday night around 10:45 pm, I threw on my short pants, stepped into my flip flops and ventured outside to the grassy knoll behind our condo building with the hope of watching a satellite smash into a comet. I wasn't alone. To my surprise, a smattering of my neighbors also emerged from their homes to stand around in the dark and stare up into the sky. The impact was suppose to happen around 10:52 PST, and the light from the impact would reach earth roughly 8 minutes or so later. By 11:20, when nothing flashed in the sky, I hung my head and trudged back into my house a tad disappointed.

I am a geek for these sort of things; even at the risk of being let down. Back in November 2001, I got out of bed at 2 AM to sit on my balcony to watch a once in 20 years major meteor storm flash in the light polluted skies over LA county for an hour. A few years prior to that, I would go out every night to see the Hale-Bopp comet, and a few years prior to that, I got out of bed at 4 AM to catch the satellite tethered to a 13 mile long cable float by over head. (That was pretty cool to watch).

Despite my let down on not seeing the impact in real time in the real sky, NASA/JPL has some neat pictures taken by the flyby satellite. Maybe I am a weirdo, but I can think of nothing more riveting than to think we were able to smash an object into another object traveling 26,000 mph, 83 million miles away.

For those interested in tracking satellites from their backyard, you may wish to hit the Heavens-Above website. It is one of my favorites. Once you punch in and record your longitude and latitude in decimals, you can bookmark the page and check it to find out which satellites will be visible overhead and at what time to look for them. It is also fun to track the Iridium flares. You have to find your location on the planet and the geocode website is good to find that information. Just type in your street address and it will locate your exact coordinance on the earth.

Friday, July 01, 2005

EYE ON THE WEB

Friday, July 1st.

Famous Evangelist Shows Early Signs of Dementia

In an effort to prove he should had retired from preaching years ago, iconic evangelist, Billy Graham, continued to bring shame upon the gospel ministry by starting his farewell revival tour in New York City with inviting former President, Bill Clinton, and his adoring wife, Hillary, to share their testimonies. During the brief time, President Clinton reminisced about being a poor white boy from Hope, AR, who overcame countless odds to make the hour long trek to Little Rock to hear Rev. Graham preach. Rev. Graham ended the time by anointing Hillary as president elect for 2008.

We can only hope this farewell tour by Rev. Graham won't turn into one of those perpetual farewell tours put on yearly by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and KISS.


Scientists Develop Zombie Dogs to be Favored Pet of Post-apocalyptic World

Though scientist are pleased to discover the canine's appetite for human brains provides them an advantage over nomadic intruders, the animal's slow, lumbering gate make them ineffective guard dogs.


Movie Director, Steven Spielberg, Ponders Reasons for Decrease in UFO Sightings; Alien Encounters

While his new movie, War of the Worlds, opens with mixed reviews and marginal first week success, the blockbuster making director explains being baffled by the decrease in ET - human encounters. Mr. Spielberg stated that we live in a technological society with nearly every person able to access digital photography and the Internet. "You'd think there would be pictures of something," exclaimed the director.

Some possible reasons for a decrease in UFO sightings:

- The Aliens have become increasingly embarrassed by Tom Cruise.

- They don't care too much for that weirdo Art Bell and his gang of listeners.

- They have reached the limits of what they can learn from rectal probing

- They never existed in the first place, and only live in the fertile imaginations of a sci-fi culture driven by a hatred for their divine creator and who intentional believe life giving evolution can happen between inanimate, non-living matter and complex biological life.

Civil War Historian Dies.

Shelby Foote, the Memphis native historian who added personal character to the epic Ken Burn's documentary on the Civil War, died earlier this week. On top of providing one of the best 3 volume narratives to the Civil War, Foote made the PBS documentary come alive. He spoke as if he had truly been there as an eye witness. My favorite moment from the entire series is his re-telling the time he met a distant relative of the great, white trash general, Nathan Bedford Forrest who let him swing around his battle sword.

Trailer for New Peter Jackson Movie Inspires, Awes.

The trailer for Peter Jackson's new trilogy, The Lord of the Apes, was released this week. The first movie, The Fellowship of the Ape, opens this December, with the other two, The Two Apes and The Return of the Apes, following in 2006 and 2007. These movies mark the last major film project for Charleston Heston.