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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

COEXISTING

The Pew Research Center has released a shocking poll: Atheists supposedly have more knowledge about the Bible and the Christian faith than most American evangelicals. The media, of course, is eating these findings up as if everyone suspected evangelicals were a bunch of self-righteous blowhard posers all along, but now there's the scientific proof.

But honestly, this isn't big news. A couple of comments:

Christian media and certain evangelical researchers have been reporting similar findings for the last 15 years or more. With all the big attention this Pew survey is getting, I bet George Barna is gnawing his wrist.

Michael Horton use to do this stunt for the White Horse Inn in which he would randomly grab folks from the floor of the Christian book publisher convention and ask them to recite the Ten Commandments. Maybe a few could do it, but most folks only knew maybe 2 or 3 of the commandments. This was suppose to demonstrate the deplorable ignorance among so-called evangelicals.

What are we to expect from the largest swathes of "Christians" who prefer to be entertained on Sunday morning rather than being taught Scripture? If the same survey had asked them to name a popular CCM artist, or who Joel Olsteen is, I would imagine there would be different results.

Evangelicals have largely abandoned any meaningful preaching and teaching of God's Word. Most of them are clueless as to theology and Church history. The churches are more concerned with doing publicity stunts like sticking it in the eye of the IRS and making sure the weekend services stay within the hour time frame. I wouldn't expect your average evangelical to know when Jonathan Edwards lived and what Martin Luther did.

Secondly, the writers of both the LA Times and NY Times articles point out the roll of education and how the atheists did much better on the survey than their evangelical foils. The implied conclusion is that atheists, who often come from religious backgrounds, some how educated themselves away from "blind faith" to reason and logic. They take religion more seriously because of their previous life as religious devotees.

But if I am not mistaken, many of these educated atheists are the same ones who entertain alternative history for Christianity. They deny the historical fact of Jesus Christ or believe Christianity is just a copy-cat faith borrowed from ancient paganism. I guess I don't see how imbibing conspiracy theories demonstrates educated intellectuals.

By the way, I scored 100 on the test. 99% better than the rest of the surveyed public.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time Bigot

And other remarks by an ignorant minded, anti-old earth creationist

Jamin Hubner has been busting my chops. In a couple of posts from last week, he basically likens my understanding of Genesis to poorly argued bigotry. Bigotry is a rather strong accusation. And here I thought I was just trying to be all about the Bible.

Nonetheless…

Jamin seems to be nonplussed by my reaction against some of his theological heroes. Such stalwarts like B.B. Warfield, D.A. Carson, and Meredith Kline. I mean, these guys wrote books and journal articles, so how can I so confidently criticize their old earth position as compromise?

Jamin writes,

It’s one thing for all kinds of people to disagree about one issue during various times in history, it’s another for people in a small circle (i.e. Christian and Presbyterian, Christian and Reformed, etc.) to disagree about one issue in one period in church history (today).

Forgive me if I sound like a theological tyro, but the disagreement on how we understand Genesis does not fall into the category of whether or not King Saul interacted with Samuel’s ghost or a demon impersonating Samuel. It’s not some issue we can “debate vigorously but should never divide over” to borrow a slogan from one of my least favorite compromising evidentialist apologists.

It’s quite simple for me: I have a prior commitment to the faithful exegesis of the text of Genesis. But I totally dismiss that phony exegesis often advocated by deep time theologian derived from some hermeneutical witchcraft that allows a person to conjure an alternative reading of the creation account that accommodates an old earth and evolutionary constructs.  Moreover, the historical interpretation of Genesis was never a disagreeing issue among Christians before the mid-18th century when Christians were told they had to reinterpret Genesis to save God from being embarrassed by the “evidence.” By the way, I have a sneaking suspicion, knowing Jamin’s propensity towards all things covenantal and Reformed, that he wouldn’t be as defensive if the disagreement was with a dispensational, pre-trib rapture interpretation of Revelation. Something tells me he would be firm and pointed in his convictions and not so accommodating of those “scholars” and their views of prophecy. Just sayin’.

But Jamin is so flummoxed he offers this withering consistency in logic:

I nowhere suggested that Genesis 1 is “irrelevant for establishing the history of the earth.” I believe quite the opposite: it is central for the history of the world.

Then down toward the end,

I also never suggested that Genesis 1 is “unimportant”! Nothing could be further from the truth: Genesis 1, 2, 3, and the creation accounts as a whole (in Genesis, John 1, etc.) are the foundation for the Christian worldview. Creation is foundational, I’ve always believed that. And the age of the earth, in and of itself, couldn’t be more irrelevant in that regard for the reasons given in this blog series. [emphasis mine].

Again, maybe this is my sophistry showing, but If I am not mistaken, the “age of the earth” has everything to do with the “history of the earth.” How can it be relevant in one instance, but then it is irrelevant in the next? Either the Bible anchors the creation in a moment of time from which we can mark the unfolding of history as it is recorded for us in Scripture, or it’s mistaken, vague, or unclear and can be molded to accommodate the millions of years demanded by the old earth view.

Nonetheless, without having to rehash the entirety of Jamin’s two articles, he helpfully boils down the core of our disagreement. He writes,

In conclusion, there simply is no basis upon which Fred can assert that old-earth creationism or agnostic-age creationism is at odds with the authority, inspiration, or inerrancy of Scripture.

I find that concluding remark amazing in light of what the doctrine of inerrancy affirms. The doctrine of inerrancy means the words of Scripture are without error in all that they affirm. The primary reason is that Scripture is God’s revelation, and that revelation is directly tied to God’s character of truthfulness. Thus, if there are fundamental errors regarding earth’s history in the pages of Scripture, then the character of God is at stake. The infallibility of Scripture becomes lost and thus the Bible is no longer trustworthy as a document of Divine revelation.

The position of deep time and an old earth is flatly contradicted by the genealogies recorded in Genesis 5, 11, 1 Chronicles 1-9, and Luke 3. The reason being is those genealogies direct the reader to the first man created, Adam. Adam was created when? The 6th day. The 6th day of what? The creation week. Now Jamin wrote elsewhere that what really matters is Genesis 2, because it is in chapter 2 where we have details about the creation of man. And though Jamin is insistent he believes Genesis 1 is important and central for the history of the world, we still can’t be too dogmatic about how we are to interpret that first chapter, and especially how those genealogical records tie into chapter 1. He seems to want me to believe the first five days of creation are disconnected and inconsequential with the last day of creation. Of course, there is no compelling reason offered to explain to me why I must abandon the straightforward exegesis which understands the first chapter as a day by day historical record of events that is affirmed by the genealogical records of the Bible. It’s almost like I hear him saying I can believe anything BUT a normal, literal solar days that follow one another consecutively for the creation week.

Yet, Jamin believes that because he can find five interpretative views of Genesis 1 and 2 among a group of his favorite evangelical authors, authors who supposedly affirm inerrancy and a deep time history for the earth, I can’t dismiss their position as being inconsistent and a denial of inerrancy. Nope. I have to be willing to also see frameworks and tabernacle motifs.

I could care less if D.A. Carson has written a hundred books or that B.B. Warfield has become the favorite go to theologian for the theistic evolutionists. Maybe I just lack the sophistication as a hick fundamentalist, but I am not going to be taken in by these scholarly Jedi mind tricks.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The No-Gut Check Method of Doing God’s Will

freewayA commenter by the name of Keo left some thoughtful opinions under my Gut Check Spirituality post:

I'm not fond of relying on emotion, either, but I think you overestimate Christians' ability to receive direction from God only through the Bible.

Usually what is in mind with this kind of objection is that the person is thinking I am saying the Bible provides us with specific detailed instructions about making decisions. Because the Bible doesn’t specifically tell a young man to marry Ethel Peppercorn, obviously it is overestimating the Christian young man’s ability to receive direction from God “only through the Bible.” Hence: the young man has to depend upon some godly emotional impulse to pursue the female of his desire.

Moving along, my commenter notes,

Most people I know who talk about God speaking to them through the Bible are really talking about either the same kind of "gut feelings" (maybe just the frozen pizza or maybe it really is the Holy Spirit) or their own desires, shellacked with a few vague phrases from a Psalm here, a Proverb there.

Regrettably, that is certainly true. Like I pointed out in my post, even the most diehard Calvinist will often think in these terms when it comes to making life defining decisions such as whether or not to marry Ethel Peppercorn.

Keo addresses a real life illustration:

Using the Bible Only method, how exactly could that guy have learned that God wanted him to move to California and join your church? Unless, of course, you really mean that God would never tell anyone anything so specific today, and that God only tells us "clearly in His Word" true-for-everyone statements about morality or history or eschatology

In response, allow me to provide my own testimony in this matter because I was once a guy that moved to California and joined the church where I am currently a member with my family.

While at college in Arkansas I came to know the Lord. I was slowly discipled by godly pastors and other older friends. One of those friends introduced me to the preaching ministry of John MacArthur, as well as a number of other sound Bible teachers. John’s radio ministry had a tape lending library where I could check out preaching tapes via mail at a nominal cost in postage. For at least 3 years or so I listened faithfully to sermon tapes on the various books of Scripture and theological subjects John had preached to his home congregation. God used his teaching to help me solidify my theology and overall thinking about the Bible.

As I was growing in the Lord, I also enjoyed imparting the theology I was learning to other believers. In other words, I liked teaching and preaching. Granted, I was extremely rough and amateurish, but it was something that delighted my soul. As I approached my graduation from college, my interest in radio and television as a field of work waned and my interest in a full time ministry of teaching the Word of God strengthened. One could say I had a growing “desire.”

I knew I needed to receive a good seminary education, so my thoughts began to turn to post graduate theological studies. My church had an affiliation with a seminary in Memphis and it was the obvious choice for me, especially seeing that my church offered to pay some of the tuition if I decided to attend. I also knew John MacArthur was president of the Master’s Seminary in California, but for a guy from Po-dunk Arkansas, it might as well have been on the moon. I had no money to pay the cost of living in Southern California, and the thought of moving out of state away from close friends and family was a bit unnerving; plus, with an obvious choice of a seminary nearby, the thought of moving was unnecessary.

The friend who introduced me to John’s sermon ministry had also introduced his teaching to the associate pastor of John’s church at the time. I had a “desire” to begin building a theological library for teaching resources and I was curious as to which commentaries and commentators John used in his sermon prep. So, I got the associate pastor’s phone number and gave him a call. We talked about commentaries and sermon prep for a bit, and then he asked me, “Are you interested in going to seminary?” I told him yes and told him my plans to go to Memphis and he responded, “Well, I went to that seminary for a bit and I can tell you they aren’t going to teach you how to preach the Bible.” Intrigued by his opinion, I asked him to elaborate, and after he gave me an ear full from his personal experience at that school, I relayed to him my concerns with moving to California. He recommended that I at least call the office of TMS, get an application, fill it out and send it in, and see how the Lord may lead.

Now, I can testify that after that phone call was finished I was emotional. I had an inflamed “desire” to move to California. I prayed, made preparations, worked, saved money, and eventually, in August of 1992, I moved to California. The rest they say is history.

Bringing it back around to Keo’s ending questions:

Are you saying that the Bible alone TELLS us that this is how God now speaks to us? Or is that an opinion from an extra-biblical source?

To clarify: I am telling you that Scripture provides for us a foundation for how we must shape our thinking about God. The work of spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit to enlighten a sinner’s darkened mind to think God’s thoughts after him provides a person with the ability to now be oriented, as it were, to the will of God. God provides for us through the teaching of Scripture those principles we use to renew our minds or what we could also define as “retraining” our minds to think godly thoughts rather than worldly thoughts. As we seek this renewing by learning Scripture, we will be filled with the Spirit. This is where one’s “desires” come into play. We need to trust the Spirit to be giving us the right desires as we are filled with the knowledge of God’s revealed Word. We then apply that knowledge to the desires we regularly experience, so as to make wise, biblically informed decisions. God’s providence takes care of the blind spots we may not necessarily “see” when we are acting with faith upon our biblically informed decisions.

In my case as a budding young Bible teacher:

- I was growing in the knowledge and understanding of the Lord.

- I had a growing “desire” to attend seminary.

- I was planning on attending a school in Memphis.

- Through the encouraging counsel of a friend of a friend, my desire was moved to attend seminary in California.

- Acting upon that desire, I made necessary wise choices to fulfill that desire.

- God in His providence directed me in seeing that desire accomplished.

The thing to keep in mind is that I was making biblically informed decisions based upon the application of simple, everyday wisdom. Think about it: God didn’t tell me anything via any “gut feeling.” I wanted to attend a seminary that upheld the Word of God, taught it as authoritative, and held to a high view of God, Jesus Christ, and the Christian Church. There wasn’t anything particularly more “spiritual” with attending Master’s Seminary over other ones I considered, but it was where I had a desire to attend. God blessed that desire and I can attest to His providential leading over the years since moving here.

How exactly do I know of that providence? After I had been attending seminary for just a few months, I could not find a job. It was a bit frustrating because I was the only guy in my immediate circle of seminary friends who could not find a job. I began to doubt my decision to move to California as I was swiftly running low on funds. So: I had to make a series of decisions. In my thinking, I figured that if God wanted me in California He would provide the necessary means for me to live there without acquiring substantial amounts of loan debt. I had enough funds on hand to finish my first year, but if I didn’t have a job at the end of the school year, I would transfer back to Arkansas. Yet low and behold, within 48 hours of determining that choice, God provided a job for me at Grace to You, where I continue to serve the Lord to this day. No mystical experiences or checking my gut; just the application of wise, common sense choices and trusting the Lord’s provision, which He most certainly did. And would you believe it, the same method of decision making applies to those big decisions like marrying Ethel Peppercorn.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I'm Mailing

I'm gonna be busy the next couple of days...
BTW you can watch our progress HERE.




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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

How about this hard hat camera video showing how one climbs a near 1800 foot transmission tower to change a light bulb?



There is a better high def version AVAILABLE.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Apologetics and the Age of the Earth

…And a boot to the head

boot This past Friday I popped by James White’s place to see if anything was new. I was surprised to discover that an email exchange I was having with one of the AOMinions, Jamin Hubner, had been posted online as an article. The article was a lengthy response to some comments I had made to Jamin regarding the interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. I will honestly say at the outset of my rebuttal, his comments were not what I expected. Not only did I think they were poorly argued, they come from an avowed presuppositionalist.

To provide a little background:

I was led to Jamin’s personal website by a couple of links. The primary emphasis of his ministry website is dealing with apologetics. He also puts together an occasional 30 minute podcast exploring various apologetic subjects. One of those podcasts from May addressed theistic evolution, and theistic evolution being a topic I have been interested in for several months now, I was curious to hear it.

During the podcast, Jamin pondered the baffling reality that a whole lot of theistic evolutionists are Reformed in their theology and wondered why that was. Pretty much every theistic evolutionist I have encountered this past year has been Reformed and nowhere near being a flaming liberal. So, I was compelled to shoot Jamin an email asking him to elaborate on his opinion further, and I suggested to him that one of the main reasons for this weird anomaly is how the Reformed hermeneutic lends itself easily to allegorizing the text of Genesis. We kicked our thoughts back and forth a bit, but Jamin made a passing comment about how we are to read Genesis. When I offered a challenge by linking a few articles that took the contrary view he was advocating, the article posted at AOMin is what I got in return.

Now his overall response perplexed me, because a good portion of Jamin’s little web ministry is geared toward educating laymen on the nature of presuppositional apologetics. The application of presuppositionalism, at least as I practice the methodology, is to develop a comprehensive worldview built upon biblical theology that is shaped by the proper exegesis of Scripture. That is why many of the arguments Jamin outlines in his response to me are stunning: They’re so a-presuppositional and looks like something I would read from the BIOLA apologists.

Take for example this remark where he writes, There are over five major views of what Genesis 1 and 1-4 etc. mean - from a variety of scholars in almost every major denomination strand. Five major views? What is it with people these days who think Genesis is so vague we can’t be too dogmatic as to what it says? I bet I can find 5 major views on the historical Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels, too. Does Jamin realize how postmodern and evidential he sounds with this statement? There may very well be five major views of what Genesis 1 means, but there is only one way to read and interpret the text, and I happen to believe God has spoke clear enough that we can know what Genesis 1 is saying.

Additionally, these “new perspectives” on Genesis weren’t developed until AFTER the Enlightenment, when skeptics, Unitarians, and secularists insisted the book of Genesis be reinterpreted according to uniformitarianism because the “evidence” of geology proves the world is millions of years old. I would think Jamin, who aligns himself with 1689 London confessing Reformed Baptists would recognize the concession of his starting point.

I was also left scratching my head with these conflicting comments:

…the account in Gen 1 is different/unique in numerous ways.

And then following immediately after,

…it's definitely "narrative" in the general sense, and almost certainly not "poetry" or "metaphor." I also think it's historical in that, generally speaking, everything mentioned happened one way or another…

Huh? Which is it? Is Genesis 1 so different and unique we have to interpret it separately from the remainder of Genesis? Or does it fit with Genesis as an historical narrative? What sort of convoluted William Lane Craig double-talk is this? In fact, the entire tone of Jamin’s response reeks with this sort of evidentialist uncertainty, vacillating back and forth about what the Bible really says in Genesis 1.

Well. Let me outline a quick response as to why I am being so terse with his article.

Genesis as Polemic: Jamin says he is drawn to the notion that Genesis is meant as a polemic, or what would be an argument against other ANE cosmologies the Israelites would encounter as they entered and conquered the Promise Land. I noted when I first linked to his article that ironically, Jamin argued just like the theistic evolutionists he is attempting to refute. For nearly everyone of them I debated during our four month long series on Genesis at the GTY blog would claim we were to read Genesis 1 and 2 theologically rather than historically. The opening chapter of Genesis is a polemic, they would argue, because the writer borrows motifs from ANE cosmology and contrasts those pagan creation myths with the true God of Israel and His creation of the Promise Land for His people.

Laying aside how a lot of this particular polemic argument is part and parcel the same sort of nonsense we hear from atheists who claim Christianity borrows from pagan myths, why is it if Genesis 1 and 2 functions as a polemic does that automatically discount it as revealing true, literal history? Why does this mean we consider chapter 1 to be “different/unique,” as Jamin wrote, that requires we change the rules of hermeneutics when reading it? I would agree Genesis 1 is polemical; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t historical. In fact, it’s literal, historic record only strengthens its value as a polemic against ANE mythologies, because God has revealed exactly what happened at creation as contrasted to what pagan myths say happened. In other words, the true history challenges and corrects the false history.

The function of toledoths: Jamin appeals to the toledoth formula in Genesis as a reason why Genesis 1 is different. Whereas 10 (11 if we count the second mention of Esau in 36:9) major portions of the Genesis narrative begin with the Hebrew phrase, these are the generations of…, or the account of, and then follows with the details of the historical events, Genesis chapter 1 doesn’t start out with this formula. Because of that, modern interpreters are inclined to be all over the map as to how we are to handle the chapter.

Jamin seems to be of the opinion that the relevant part of Genesis begins in 2:4 with the details of the creation of Adam and Eve. But there are many more exegetical factors that demonstrate Genesis 1 is historical narrative that speaks of God literally creating by divine fiat in the space of six days that Jamin doesn’t even bother touching, hence the reason I linked him to Dr. Boyd’s long article on the subject. Seeing that Genesis 1 provides the major overview of God’s divine work of creation from start to finish, I wouldn’t expect there to be a toledoth heading; it’s unnecessary. However, chapter 2:4 goes back and fills in detail about day 6 when God created Adam and Eve and their special identity as God’s crown of creation, which is exactly why the section is introduced with the expression, toledoth.

The lack of citation from Genesis one in the NT: Jamin states that the only citation of Genesis 1 in the NT is of man being created in the image of God as stated in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 and then he makes the major leap that this lack of mentioning the 6 days of creation and other chronological markers somehow makes Genesis chapter 1 irrelevant for establishing the history of the earth.

But what about John 1:1? Who does the Apostle say was “in the beginning?” This is a significant text linking Jesus to the creation of the world that uses the same opening phrase as Genesis 1:1. Additionally, I would also point out Hebrews 1:10, where the author of Hebrews cites from the Psalms how the LORD laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and then later, in Hebrews 11:3, where the creation of the world is mentioned. Though these and other similar NT statements don’t specifically say, “on such and such a day of creation,” the NT writers do link them to the creation of the world as recorded in Genesis chapter 1.

Also, keep in mind that Adam and Eve were created on day 6, meaning the last major day of creation for God. Any NT passage referencing Adam’s creation is referencing an event that took place in Genesis 1. This is important because Luke’s genealogy links Jesus Christ all the way back to Adam. In fact, there are 3 major biblical, genealogical lists that start with Adam, who was created on the 6th day of the creation week. Contrary to what Jamin states, if we understand those lists to be recording accurate, human history, and because those lists go all the way back to Adam, we can determine with some accuracy the age of the earth.

By the way, Jamin goes on to say the point of the genealogies were to record the lives of people, not provide a chronology of the earth. He writes, …the primary purpose of genealogies are to show who lived when and from what persons they came. Certainly; but didn’t those people live on the earth? Who is the person the biblical writers claim is the first man? Can we learn about the length of Adam’s life and his progeny from those genealogies? If we can (we most certainly can), why can’t we use those same genealogies to get some reference point to the history of the earth?

shoeWhy this all matters: Jamin writes, the war we wage is not the age of the earth because there's no clear, direct line being crossed. I would agree with him. The heart of the debate is not determining the age of the earth. It is a matter of biblical authority. As I have outlined in a previous article, the history of mankind on our created earth is radically different than the one outlined by the mainstream geologists, biologists, and astronomers. The history of the earth they present is one comprised of deep time with death, turmoil, suffering, and catastrophe. The biblical record, on the other hand, does not present such a history. The history of the world begins at a specific time and involved the True and Living God creating and interacting with real, specific people who lived real lives that impacted humanity on our planet.

Jamin goes on to say this, The BioLogos forum needs to be held accountable not for their standard evolutionary view of the age of the earth, but for their anti-Christian view of God's images. But what Jamin doesn’t seem to understand is that the anti-Christian view of man being created in God’s image that is advocated by BioLogos stems directly to the fact they reject the creation week in Genesis 1 and 2 as being genuine history. Once a person says Genesis chapter 1 can be interpreted in any number of ways, and that how one interprets that chapter is an unimportant, secondary issue, then of course it’s easy to accommodate BioLogos’s view of man.

I’d encourage Jamin to heed his own words when he writes, the primary power in apologetics is the truth revealed directly and plainly in God's Word. But I have been reading so far from him, I am afraid he thinks Genesis 1 isn’t direct and plain. Three books I would recommend to him (and others), Coming to Grips with Genesis and Creation, Fall, and Redemption and Scripture Alone. I believe all of them would shore up his thinking in this area.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Some Questions about Gut Check Spirituality

I have been mulling over an excellent post from Dan from earlier this week that generated almost 200 comments worth of discussion.

The basics of the post had to do with how the Koran burning preacher down in Florida claimed God was telling him to do it, and his claim that he was being led by God is really no different from the charismatic's view of the gift of prophecy being a means for God to lead the average Christians today by their "gut feelings."

Specifically, Dan addresses the "Reformed" charismatics among us who are suppose to have a high view of Scripture and at the same time believe the gift of prophecy leads the "guts" of your average Christian on a daily basis; yet recoil from the nonsensical applications the "gut feelings" version of prophecy may have among crackpot publicity seekers. However, when we get down to the brass tacks of the discussion, there really isn't much difference between the "Reformed" charismatics saying God speaks to them through their "gut feelings" and crackpot preachers saying God speaks to them through the same "gut" method.

But it has been my experience these 20 plus years of walking with the Lord that this "gut check" view of God's leading is not limited to charismatics and wack-a-doodle preachers burning Korans. I have encountered many, many Christians of all denominational stripes who frequently employ the gut check view of God's leading on a regular basis in their lives. Either for making insane, disastrous decisions like marrying a person who is a full blown idiot because he or she "feels" God is leading in the decision, or remaining lazy and apathetic in helping around their local church because they don't "feel" God leading them to cut the grass in the cemetery out back.

Additionally, if the gut check view of spiritual leading turns out beneficial for the person, even though everyone pretty much agrees in the back of their minds it was the most stupid and foolishly risky thing they have ever seen anyone do, the person is heralded as having a close walk with Jesus and depending upon the Lord.

If, on the other hand, the person's gut check spiritual leading led him down a path to ridiculing folly that only resulted in him having boos and hisses heaped upon his head, the person is said to have been NOT walking with Jesus, being out of God's will, and acting selfishly.

A case in point from my college days: I recall coming to church one Wednesday evening to attend our mid-week Bible study. There hanging around the church was some young guy no one had ever seen before. As we make our introductions, he begins to tell us this glory bump raising story of why he was at our church.

He was originally from North Carolina. He had listened to Michael W. Smith's song "Go West, Young Man," and couldn't get it out of his head. So. Believing in his gut his constant humming of this song was God prompting him to "Go West," he began to pray and fast as to where in the west he was to go. I mean, think about it: Pretty much everywhere in America is west of North Carolina. Then one day he happens upon a satellite broadcast of one of our church services, which were televised for the ACTS network in those days. He watches our service for the entire 30 minutes and his gut tells him this is God giving him the key to unlock the next level in his journey.

So. He packs what meager things he owned into his run down Escort and headed west to our church in Arkansas. And after a harrowing three day journey of fixing flat tires, over heating engines, a broken air conditioner, sleeping in his car at rest stops, and battling other attempts by Satanic forces to hinder him for accomplishing God's will for his life, he pulls up to our church maybe an hour before services started. And can you believe it?! It just so happened we were having a pot-luck that evening right before church started, so he got a free, warm meal for being faithful in his gut check adventure.

Everyone marveled at his story. A few folks even let loose some "praise the Lords" and "amens." It was such a powerful testimony to taking steps of faith and trusting the Lord when you don't know what may happen the next day. Everyone secretly wished God would lead them in such dramatic, awesome ways.

Now.

I imagine some are reading this thinking I am going to reveal how he turned out to be a wacko who either left on some other weird adventure to Alaska or was found out to be a criminal fleeing the law, but such was not the case. He moved in with some guys who needed a roommate, worked at a local restaurant for a while as I recall, and then got a job as a counselor/teacher at a Christian camp for troubled youth. I'm not sure what happened to him after that.

"But Fred," you ask, "Isn't the fact that everything turned up roses for this guy clear confirmation God was leading him?" No. But it is confirmation that God can be gracious to us in spite of our stupidity. Believe me, for every story I could tell where some spiritual naif quit his job as a high paid CPA on the whim of "feelings" and yet fell backwards into all sorts of blessings, I can recall a dozen or more with individuals who made just as equally appalling decisions that led to their ruin.

The greater question, however, is how can these divine gut feelings be so right in one instance, yet so wrong in another? If a person is "feeling" God is telling him to do such and such, I would think there would be some sort of infallible authority attached to the feeling, right? Meaning a couple of things: It's from God, so it can't be wrong and it's from God, so it will be clear. But apparently, with all the dumb decisions that result from people following their guts, I get the picture that God mumbles a whole lot and tends to be vague.

Without getting into the entire discussion about the continuation or cessation of the gift of prophecy in the Church, I had a few questions:

If the gift of prophecy is for today, and people having wiggles in their tummy is indication of God nudging people in a particular direction, why is discovering exactly what God wants for the person and where God is leading him or her like trying to figure out how to get to the next level in Super Mario Bros.? "That's when you submit your feelings to Scripture, Fred." Really? Why wasn't Scripture alone sufficient enough to provide some direction in the first place? Why is there first a need for the tummy tickle before one goes to Scripture? What more could God possibly tell you with your guts that He hasn't already told you clearly in His Word?

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gleanings from Daniel [14]

lion Excursus:  Premillennialism and Daniel 7

Daniel chapter 7 is a unique portion of Scripture, one that generates disagreement between eschatological camps as to how we are to understand and interpret the vision. Because of this disagreement, there is a necessity to pause and consider how one does interpret the chapter.

The chapter is a prophetic vision the prophet Daniel had of four terrible beasts that rise out of the sea and then of an eternal Kingdom that replaces them. The four beasts represent four kingdoms that rose to power upon the earth: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and then Rome. The final beast representing Rome is described with 10 horns on its head, with one of those horns being pictured as a talking, blasphemous entity that overthrows three of the other horns. While this blasphemous horn is said to be persecuting the saints and waging war upon the earth, the Son of Man appears, who judges and condemns the “little horn” and then establishes his Kingdom.

The vision is certainly odd as it contains bizarre beasts and even a talking horn. But how are we to understand the details of the vision? If we as students of Scripture wish to handle the biblical text accurately then it is important to grapple with how this vision is to be understood. One possible question to ask is how we are to treat these images? Because the vision contains these odd animals, do we need to pour special meaning upon the text in order to interpret it? In other words, does the prophetic nature of the text insist that we spiritualize Daniel’s prophecy? Clearly symbolic language is present in the chapter, but the symbolism pictures real things, in this case, real, historical kingdoms. A person can go to a local library or even do an Internet search and research these kingdoms. The symbolic imagery should not diminish the historical reality of the prophecy, and thus a literal handling of the meaning behind the symbolic images.

Daniel is giving a prophecy of future events that deal with the “latter days,” so automatically eschatological dimensions are attached to this chapter. Among the two major systems of amillennialism and postmillennialism, the concept of “eschatology” is closely tied to the first coming of Christ and what is understood as the fulfillment of Daniel 7:14 where it is recorded about the Son of Man receiving a Kingdom from the Ancient of Days. Jesus death and Resurrection, according to standard amillennial and postmillennial perspectives, was the granting of this Kingdom to Him by the Father and so this Kingdom is now established as the Church. This messianic figure is without a doubt the Lord Jesus, but again, does the eschatological themes of the chapter demand we spiritualize what Daniel saw and apply the founding of the NT Church to the fulfillment of the Kingdom as outlined in Daniel 7?

I don’t believe anything within the language of Daniel 7 demands I employ a hermeneutic that spiritualizes the text in a way that leads me away from understanding the prophecy to be speaking of real, literal historical kingdoms. Nor do I believe later NT revelation about the Church should cause me to re-interpret the passage according a “Christological” method that changes the subjects of the vision to mean only the NT Church. If I am to be faithful to what Daniel records, the only way to take seriously the content of the vision is to read it as prophecy addressing historical and literal events. That approach would disqualify the interpretations of this chapter according amillennial and postmillennial constructs, and leaving the premillennial perspective as the only one which provides an exegetically viable interpretation of the passage. Those are challenging words, but I say that for five specific reasons as outlined in Daniel 7:

1) God’s Kingdom follows the kingdoms of men. As I noted, both amillennialists and postmillennialists believe Christ’s Kingdom has been established at His first coming after the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and then Ascension to the Father. This Kingdom, or “millennium,” is happening now, though for postmillennialists, its establishment in the world is a gradual conquering of all the earthly kingdoms. This would mean, then, that the Kingdom of the Son of Man appears contemporaneously with the fourth beast, the Roman Empire, and eventually the 10 kingdoms pictured by the 10 horns.

However, in this vision, as well as the dream in Daniel 2, the Kingdom of God comes in to destroy all the beasts, especially the latter 10 kingdoms led by the one blasphemous horn. There isn’t any indication of the Kingdom of God existing contemporaneously with the fourth kingdom of the Roman Empire as prophesied by Daniel. Neither is there any hint of a gradual growth of God’s Kingdom as postmillennialism teaches. When the Kingdom of God comes, it comes violently to overthrow those four kingdoms. Hence, it comes AFTER them.

2) The ten kingdoms have yet to appear in history. If the four beasts each represented four real, historical kingdoms, and the characteristics of each beast represented the historical aspects to those real kingdoms, it is only exegetically sound to conclude those 10 horns represent 10 real, historical kingdoms. Some suggest these 10 kingdoms came one after the other over time. Yet these kingdoms exist together at once here in Daniel’s vision and nothing like them or the events associated with them have appeared in history.

3) God’s Kingdom follows the appearance of the Messiah who destroys the anti-Christ. The image of the talking horn is the first major revelation about a “latter days” anti-Christ, a real, historical person who will wage war upon the earth and persecute God’s people. He is a person, not an anti-Christ philosophy or government. Later, NT revelation provides us similar details to confirm his identification as a real person. For example, Revelation 13:1 ff. is almost a complete replication of Daniel 7. Both amillennialists and postmillennialists have identified this figure with a number of individuals including Antiochus, Nero, or some Roman pope. Paul, however, places His appearing toward the Return of Christ which is an eschatological event (2 Thessalonians 2) and when Christ, the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision appears, this anti-Christ figure is destroyed.

4) Christ’s Coming is in victory on a global scale. Christ’s coming in Daniel 7 is one of power and glory. There is absolute victory over totally vanquished foes. There is no hint anywhere in Daniel’s prophecy of a slow, gradual growing of the Kingdom of God. It catastrophically defeats all the kingdoms of men entirely and replaces them completely with Christ’s kingdom.

5) There is a restoration of the Jews. Generally, most amillennialists and postmillennialists hold to the idea that Israel was the OT “church”, and with the coming of the NT “church,” the Jews are no longer to be restored as a distinct, national entity, but are to be absorbed into the Church.

Daniel defines them as “the saints” – those set apart, the people of God.  This is not to say the NT Christians are not considered “saints” but rather, to Daniel, he would understand this specific group of “saints” to be his people currently in captivity and to be eventually returned to the land. The expression “Saints of the Most High” is use throughout the OT Scriptures, for instance, Exodus 19:6. These “saints” are the people of Israel, and never is the word intended to be a secret code for the NT church. Thus, in Daniel’s vision, these saints can be none other than Israel who will inherit this coming Kingdom of the Son of Man.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Jesus.org

I stumbled across this site last week. It could be that it has been around for a while and I just am now noticing: Jesus.org

The website has a Biologos feel to the design and layout, but minus all the heresy and the blubbering placations of atheists.

I was taken to the site because a facebook friend linked to some posted videos by an old Master's College teacher I know named Doug Bookman. Of all my "teachers" I have learned from over the years as a Christian, he is probably my overall favorite.

I first encountered Doug Bookman back in the fall of 92. Our singles group during that time at Grace Church had arranged to have a Q&A session with John MacArthur. Being a long time subscriber to the Grace to You lending library, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to hear John up close and personal with a group of maybe 250 folks. I arrived early with a friend who was just as equally thrilled to see John as I was and we got front row seats.

When the time came to start, the pastor of our singles group got up and announced his regret that John would not be with us because of either an illness or some other unforeseen event that I forget at the moment. At any rate, suffice it to say I was crestfallen; and when he went on to tell us that Doug Bookman, the professor of Bible at the Master's College gladly agreed to fill in for John at a moment's notice, I just rolled my eyes and made a sneering remark like, "college professor?" But when he finally spoke, for the next hour or so I sat transfixed as he surveyed the first 6 chapters of the book of Daniel. I got a copy of his lecture on tape cassette and I still have it to this day.

I soon learned he taught the Old Testament at the Logos Institute, a six-week long Bible and theology training sessions designed for laymen arranged by Grace Church. I would show up for every one he taught, sit in the back, and take extensive notes.

Bookman was legendary for his rabbit trails. Many folks deplored this aspect of his teaching style because he would deviate from the written notes and monologue for 30 minutes sometimes on unrelated subjects. Such things as the various ways scholars date the Exodus or the theocratic anointing in the OT or the function of the Urim and Thummin in the OT kingdom, a subject he studied for his dissertation.

I remember once we were studying through 1 Samuel. He was talking about the office of the OT prophets, explained how similar characteristics that marked the OT prophets also mark the NT apostles and then as he was moving into how those marks of apostleship help determine the canonicity of the NT documents, he stops and says, "You know, Paul wrote Hebrews. And don't let anyone tell you he didn't" and proceeds to lay out a rock solid case as to why Paul wrote Hebrews and all other "candidates" as authors for the book are impossible.

Doug currently teaches at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in North Carolina. He also has a personal website, Bookman Ministries, though it is a bit scant at the moment. The life of Christ was another subject he taught well and the Jesus.org site tapped him to write up a series of short articles addressing various facets of Christ's ministry. I understand there is a rumor that Doug plans to publish a book on the life of Christ, though I think he is much more enjoyable to listen to rather than read.

He has also recorded some videos for Jesus.org, and here is one on why Jesus was crucified.

Exactly Why Was Jesus Crucified?

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tuesday, September 11th

Today is the 9th year of 9/11.

Dan links to a tremendous video that reminds us of the reality of an enemy we still face to this day
. I wrote a post on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 and I have republished it below.


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Below is the original post I published marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that happened 9 years ago this very day. I thought it would be appropriate to re-publish it.


I had an interesting rabbit trail run off from this post if you read the comments. (Which have since been turned off).

You see: One of the most angering developments over the past decade are the conspiracy theories hatched by the diseased minds of individuals hateful toward any authority or government, specifically conservative authority; and they particularly hated George Bush who was the top authority of a conservative government. So, instead of believing what actually happened and witnessed by millions of individuals on scene and world-wide, that 19 Islamic jihadist hijackers flew 3 planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killing 3,000 American citizens, they choose to believe their fellow Americans, directed by dark, unknown conservative governmental authorities, and in conjunction with Israeli secret service, killed those 3,000 Americans. Americans killing Americans just so they have an excuse to invade the Middle East and steal all the oil.

However, even more angering to the point of disgust are the people who name Christ as their Lord and are supposedly lovers of truth who choose to believe the lies of anti-God anarchists because their theology is driven by a conspiratorial mind-set.

I wrote a follow-up post to the "Christian" conspirator here.




This September 11th, 2010, marks the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. I figure that maybe a few years from now, one of my boys will have to write a paper for a school class that interviews someone who remembers what happened, so even though practically every blog is posting a similar article to mark the day, I thought I would add my perspective.

I guess like any other major international event that will forever be remembered in history - the JFK's assassination, the Americans beating the Russians in the 80 winter Olympics, the Challenger disaster, and the Oklahoma City bombing, a person will always recall exactly what he or she was doing at the time. With the terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington D.C., I can remember vividly the many details of my entire day.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are volunteer days for me, so it is my routine to arrive at work on those two days earlier than normal so I can set up for work. As I pulled into the parking lot at 5 AM California time, the first plane had already hit the first tower. The news broadcast I was listening to that morning had sketchy details, but it was certain that an aircraft of some sorts had flown into one of the Twin Towers.

AM Radio reception is non-existent in our building, so I was confined to listening to a local FM morning comedy show here in LA called Mark and Brian on my Walkman head set. They did a fairly good job of providing updates, and for that 18 minutes in between the first plane strike and the second, I was under the impression from all the reports I was hearing that it was a small propeller driven Cessna or something that hit the building. One of the radio guys speculated that a pilot had a heart attack or got ill, but it was consider at this point entirely accidental.

Then the second jet liner struck the second tower. I will never forget the radio news lady say, O MY GAWD, A SECOND PLANE HAS HIT THE OTHER TOWER! Then she muttered, "there's definitely something going on here." You think? When the third aircraft hit the Pentagon, we had ourselves a genuine Tom Clancy novel unfolding before our very eyes in real life.

The Mark and Brian show wisely differed their air time to ABC Radio News, and I will never forget Peter Jennings emotional narration as he described the first tower falling to the ground.

By this time, my volunteers had arrived and we were all a buzz about what was happening in NYC and Washington. We had planned a big pot luck lunch for this day, and one of my volunteer's husband worked on a special intel gathering team for the Air Force. Because of the planned pot luck, he took the day off to join his wife with volunteering. Of course, when they arrived, he stayed out in the parking lot for about an hour talking to all sorts of military officials as to what was happening and whether or not he should come into work.

His boss told him to stay put for the time being, and when he walked into the door we all turned to him to get all the inside information we could. One fellow asked him, "How bad is it?" and I will never forget his response: "This is like World War 3 bad." He went on to tell us that various intelligence agencies had been monitoring an increase in phone "chatter" over the previous 2 weeks between various Islamic countries and the U.S. He explained that even though we may see a lot of increased activity, it is near difficult to determine what it is all about. (Hence the reason why we should let the government monitor these types of calls).

By 9 AM my time, I was finally able to get the Internet working so we could all listen to the radio. We listened to Dennis Prager for the remainder of the morning, who provided more reliable information and commentary than a couple of FM morning comedy guys. We all listened together to the stories about the two towers falling to the ground, the strike in Washington, and at this point, Flight 93 which had crashed in Pennsylvania.

We had our pot luck, prayed for the situation and then cut off early. I went home, and as I listened to the various talk radio programs, I noted a sense of sobriety in the voices of the on-air personalities who can regularly be off color, sarcastic in their comments, and cynical with their overall, daily opinion. When I arrived at the house, I immediately went over to my next door neighbor's place to watch the TV. My wife came home early from school shortly after I arrived home (she taught 3rd grade at the time) and we stayed watching the video of all the days events.

We were both restless the entire evening and it was difficult for us to get to sleep. I can remember how eerily empty the sky over the LA area was because of the air traffic being shut down. Our condo sits in a close path under the landing pattern for the Burbank airport. I guess you can get use to the sound of jets flying over your house, because the absence of airplane activity was profound. My wife and I sat on our deck and talked about all that had happened, why, how we should respond as Christians when we evangelize those who have questions, and then we prayed. We heard only one lone military jet fly over heading south east.

The next Sunday at Grace Church, my pastor preached an hour and half long message on Islam, terrorism, and how we should think as Christians about what had happened. Later in the month our pastor was invited for the first time to Larry King's show to offer the "evangelical Christian" perspective of "Where was God during 9/11?" And of course, who can forget that speech by George Bush the few days after when he went down to visit with the rescue workers at the WTC?

Someone yelled out, "We can't hear you!" to which he replied, "Well, I can hear you, and this nation hears you, and the people who knocked down these building are gonna hear from all of us!"

I get goose bumps just writing that sentence.


I think the most amusing oddity that arose from the events of 9/11 were all the myriad of urban legends and conspiracy theories. In fact, I can remember telling my wife the evening of 9/11 that it would not be too long before some conspiracy nutters will make charges that the government did it. Snopes, the urban legend website, has done a good job of cataloging all of the 9/11 legends and they are worth scrolling through.

However, probably my favorite, all time urban legend had to have been "tourist guy."

Remember "tourist guy?" A week or so after the attacks, I received a mass email from an acquaintance with the above picture attached. The text accompanying the photo told how during the clean up of the WTC debris, rescue works found a camera and immediately halted their rescue/clean-up efforts and rushed to the nearest drug store to have the film developed, and lo and behold, one of the photographs was a chilling picture of a hapless tourist standing on the observation deck just seconds before the first plane smashed into the building totally oblivious to his immediate doom!

The photo is awesome. It has the hallmark of excellent story telling. You have irony, suspense, tragedy, and grief all wrapped up in this single picture. Of course, the moment I saw it, I knew it was a fake. I emailed my friend back and told him it was fake, and he was down right insistent that it wasn't, even though it is easily debunked: There is no observation deck on the tower hit first; the observation deck wouldn't be opened that early in the morning; it was hot, and the guy is wearing a jacket; even taking into account the unpredictability of chaos theory in motion, the chances of a camera remaining intact with the film still able to be developed after falling 110 stories to the ground among thousands of tons of wreckage is astronomically unlikely. Later, the real tourist guy revealed himself as a Hungarian man named Peter.

The most disturbing development from the whole 9/11 event has been the rise of conspiracy mongers who genuinely believe the government, especially the George Bush government, set up the entire attack and CIA operatives bombed the WTC and sent a cruise missile into the Pentagon. As an added humorous bonus, the main body of these conspiracy nuts do not come from your run-of-the-mill tin-foil hat wearers of the redneck, right wing variety who live out in the Rocky Mountain wilderness in homes decorated with hubcaps. A good portion of the 9/11 conspiracy believers are well educated and upper middle class. Many of them are professors and teach in colleges. They would pride themselves as being well taught intellectuals; people who would delight in ridiculing religious faith as believing in superstitious nonsense. They would call themselves rational free-thinkers and speak disparagingly against George Bush as being stupid and a moron, and they despise the Republicans for wanting to set up a "theocracy." Their hatred for George Bush is so extreme, they have crafted an alternate reality for themselves so as to justify that hatred by pinning the most horrific crimes imaginable against the president.

Thankfully, there are some sane people out in the world. Popular Mechanics has a site dedicated to debunking 9/11 myths, as well as a recently published book on the subject. There is also a recent Pentagon simulation video that goes through why a jet plane had to have hit the Pentagon.

Looking at were we are presently some 8 years after 9/11, I do have a couple of concerns. First, I am a bit annoyed with how anti-Bush leftists down play any meaningful remembrance of what happened. Rather than 9/11 being a day where we confronted true evil and rose to the challenges of responding to it as a people, they deem it fit to ignore what truly happened and choose instead to blame ourselves as being worthy of deserving these attacks. Such warped thinking is shameful in itself and sadly, I can see impressionable young people embracing this self-loathing.

However, on the other side, I am bothered with how "Red State" conservatives have taken the date and have turned it into something of a sacred holiday. I realize this is not what is intended by them, but I believe there is a hidden danger here. Though the emphasis is a sober reflection upon the villians and the wickedness they perpetrated, and memoralizing the victims and heroes in the aftermath, 9/11 must not become another Memorial Day where we may put up some flags and pictures of eagles and firemen, yet all we really think about is an extended, three-day weekend culminating with backyard barbeques. That too would be shameful in itself.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

COEXIST

So a cranky fundamentalist pastor was suppose to lead his congregation in the burning of Qur'ans this weekend to mark 9/11. But someone got him to stop. Now the Fred Phelp's group is suppose to do it.

I am not for the indiscriminate burning of books. Not because of hand-wringing, P.C. hyper-sensitivities. I don't care for the "COEXIST" point of view if you know what I mean about those goofy and inane bumper stickers. However, in this instance, I probably share James White's opinion on the matter: the burning of those Qur'ans will not be accompanied by any meaningful discussion of the spiritual error of Islam as a religion.

As a Christian our battle against spiritual darkness is ideological. In other words, it centers around the captivity of men's minds to sinful ideas and the liberty of men's minds to the truth of God in Christ. This ideological battle is what the apostle Paul argues is the heart of genuine spiritual warfare (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-5). So rather than burning books, the more profitable approach is having mature, discerning believers interact with the material and explain why the ideology outlined in the offending books is erroneous and spiritually detrimental.

But note that I wrote "indiscriminate burning of books." There are some books that deserve to be burned without question. For example, I would say any sexually explicit and pornographic material. I would also add those particular books that were the source of teaching for a philosophy or false religion to which a person was previously enslaved. Now that this person is a follower of Christ, those books he once utilized to practice his philosophy or false religion, if he has the desire to burn them, he should. That would include the Qur'an of a Muslim saved out of Islam. In these cases, book burnings are not a bad thing.

Consider Acts 19:17-20:

This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus: and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

Allow me to make three observations:

1) The book burning that took place was the result of a personal move of the Spirit upon certain Jews and Greeks in Ephesus. In the previous portion of Scripture, the catalyst for this revival is said to be the encounter a well-known exorcist had with a demonically possessed individual. The demoniac jumped upon those attempting to perform the exorcism and thrashed them mightily. The story of this event was spread about the community and the fear of God fell upon many people as a result.

2) Those who burned the books burned their own books freely without any compulsion. In other words, a thunderous fundamentalist youth pastor wasn't telling them to burn their AC/DC records or their Harry Potter books. They did so on their own initiative, because they now had an abiding fear of God on their hearts. The books represented the teaching of a previous false religion that directed their lives but now they are set free from these sinful ideologies to follow Christ.

3) The spreading of the Gospel continued as a result of this book burning. It wasn't a sensational publicity stunt to gather personal attention and stir up strife in the community. It resulted in the proclamation of salvation.

In this case, the burning of Qur'ans by men and women who have abandoned their Islam and come to Christ is entirely appropriate regardless of the consequences which may follow.

Having said all of that, however, I find it a bit startling that the threatened reactions by Muslims around the world in response to a Qur'an burning in Florida by a fringe congregation causes everyone to just throw the first amendment clause about freedom of speech and so forth out the window. I mean, if this guy was leading his church in burning the book of Mormon, or the New World Translation, or say the religious literature of some other false religion, something tells me the president wouldn't be inclined to go on record expressing his frustration with the matter. In fact, I don't think any of the major public figures who have made statements of condemnation against this pastor and his church would have cared one way or another if it had been any other religion THAN Islam. This ought to tell us something about the religion and its practitioners we are bumping up against around the world.

It is also quite a display of remarkable hypocrisy on the part of our postmodern, political leadership in our pluralistic society who think one religion is no different from another and what is being debated is like which flavors of ice cream is the best. These champions of free speech wish to squash a little guy for exercising his religious free speech just for the sake of placating another religion?! Where were these people when that judge Moore character wanted to put up his copy of the ten commandments at a public court house?

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hard Lessons from OEC and Theistic Evolutionists [1]

monkeystick From March 25th to August 4th, 2010, the Grace to You blog ran series of blogs addressing the interpretation of Genesis, the theology of creation, and Darwinian evolution.  I remember suggesting these topics, specifically the interpretation of Genesis and the age of the Earth, when the web developing team was pondering subjects to explore.  I recall telling the blogging guys something like, “If you think we stirred up a stench of controversy taking on TBN and charismatic theology, just wait until we take on Genesis.”

It was like I was a son of a prophet.

We immediately began to receive push back from commenters.  It started with one guy who became a regular gadfly in the combox who just posted links to theistic evolutionary websites, like the Trojan atheists at Biologos, that supposedly refuted the thesis of our particular post for the day. 

But on April 1st, 2010 (a rather appropriate day for the subject at hand) things really heated up with our TE detractors when the GTY blog posted an article addressing the compromise among three supposedly conservative Bible scholars.  The three men were part of a series of Biologos produced videos claiming the creation story of Genesis can be harmonized with Darwinian evolutionary constructs.  Of the videos made, the “most” evangelical of the three was by OT professor, Bruce Waltke.  In his video, Dr. Waltke claimed evangelical Christians are damaging their credibility as Gospel witnesses because their objections to the facts of evolution are foolish.   He immediately came under fire for his comments and then subsequently resigned from his teaching position at Reformed Theological Seminary after he asked Biologos to pull the video from their blog.  A statement from one of the Biologos “curators” claimed Dr. Waltke was the victim of ignorant prejudice and fear mongering evangelicals like John MacArthur.   That statement brought the theistic evolutionists and old earth creationists to our blog with full force. 

My interaction with the cadre of TE and OEC supporters caused me to reflect upon the fundamental distinctions between our perspectives.  I will say I don’t believe our “differences” are secondary matters as a few of them have attempted to argue.  There are foundational, theological matters at stake in this discussion and they are the kind of matters we can’t just debate vigorously yet “agree to disagree.”  One side is completely wrong.  This isn’t one of those issues like, “was it really the prophet Samuel or was it a demon impersonating Samuel  in 1 Samuel 28?”  There are major doctrinal ramifications in play, such as the integrity of Scripture, the character of God, and the entire apologetic enterprise.  So with that in mind, allow me to share my reflections in this post and a forthcoming one.  

A big group of Reformed folks support TE and OEC.  This was particularly perplexing. I would think theistic evolution as a belief would swirl around in the stagnant pools of liberal and apostate theology.  I mean, I would expect the emergent crowd to be all over theistic evolution, not the Reformed Presbyterians and Baptists who are suppose to have a high view of Scripture.   For example, Modern Reformation online published an editorial by a group of Reformed geologists lamenting the folly of the young earth position and explaining why the earth is ancient.  But all they really did, however, was to provide physical evidence for their case built upon a secular model of Earth’s history while totally ignoring the biblical history outlined in Genesis.

This article, along with the comments by many old earth proponents who claim to be Reformed, represent what I believe to be a truly odd and conflicted position.  Simply because one of the main tenets of the Reformation was sola scriptura, or the Bible alone is the sole infallible source of authority for the Christian Church.  Sola scriptura is suppose to mean all other rules of authority are inferior to, and are to be corrected by, Scripture.  That is why the Reformers rejected the interpretations of Rome and the pope’s infallibility.  Yet, with the case of TEs and OEC, the evolutionary deep time history as taught by the “consensus” of scientific experts stands as a magisterial authority that reinterprets the history recorded in Scripture from the time of God creating to the NT era.  They would bristle when I raised this point claiming such was not the case.  It was as if the so-called scientific evidence was special and transcended the role of any magisterial authority so that what long age geologists say about the age of the earth was some God honoring exercise on the part of Christians when studying the Bible. 

It further appeared to me that many of them wrote as former fundamentalists who believed young earth creationism by default as a member of a fundamentalist church.  Now that they came to be more Reformed in their overall theology, abandoning, and then debunking, YEC was necessary to affirm their total immersion into the Reformation.  Their comments were like a rage against Kent Hovind, or any other number of fundamentalist young earth apologists they no longer respect and now hold with disdain. 

Most TE  and OEC proponents seem to embrace classic, evidentialist apologetic methodology.  This is one of the key reason I believe they are quick to give such authoritative weight to the evidence when interpreting the Bible.  Classic evidentialism seeks to establish the validity of the Christian faith with an appeal to lines of external evidences apart from Scripture.  This evidence in question is thought to be self-attesting.  In other words, it speaks for itself and both believers and unbelievers can verify its truthfulness or falsity.  In the case of creation, TE and OEC believe the so-called findings of secular science, especially in relation to the age of the earth and the origin of life, is factually unquestionable.  Because the “evidence” presented by the secular scientific establishment regarding the origin and history of the world is undeniable, and because it runs contrary to the history of the world presented within the pages of Scripture, the immediate evidence holds sway over the interpretation of the relevant portions of the Genesis record. 

I never really thought their capitulation to the authorial nature of the evidence was ever adequately explained in the light of the biblical text.  The general response is to say “all truth is God’s truth” and the evidence in question is undeniable and thus must be “God’s truth.”  To deny it is to deny “God’s truth” as it were.  Another typical response to the charge of compromise is to liken their position to the conflict Copernicus and Galileo  had with the Church authorities during the 16th and 17th centuries.  These men were condemned because they apparently discovered evidence that contradicted the literal teaching of the Bible.  But neither Copernicus nor Galileo ran into direct conflict with the biblical text.  They presented evidence that challenged the standard Aristotelian view of the scholastic academics.  Besides, their new models of the solar system did not even come close to re-writing the history of the world as presented in Scripture, something evolutionary long ages certainly do.

Underestimate the noetic effects of the fall. This is also odd in light of the fact most TE and OEC are Reformed in their soteriology. The noetic effects of the fall has to do with the total depravity of men, or the first point of Calvinism. The idea being that all men, on account of Adam’s fall into sin, are corrupted by the influence of sin throughout the totality of their being. Noetic means that man’s reason has been totally corrupted as well, so that he doesn’t think like he should about God.

Now, that is not to say men are irrational and unable to function together in society, but it does mean that men will reason sinfully, and according to Scripture (Romans 1:20ff.; Ephesians 4:17-19), men reason in such a way so as to exclude God from their thinking altogether and suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This means they are not unbiased when they evaluate scientific data especially when it comes to extrapolating upon the data so as to develop the historical background to our world. Theistic evolutionists and old earth creationists place way too much confidence in the ability of sinful men in rebellion against their Creator to evaluate the evidence without any bias and to draw the right conclusions from that evidence about what we are to believe regarding our earth’s history against what the Bible reveals of that history.

The scientific community is considered an unique mission field. A repeated complaint I would read from the TE and OEC commenters was that a literal reading of Genesis that teaches the creation took place by divine, supernatural means over the space of six days, that in turn makes the Earth to be around 6,000 years old, is so outrageous that to call the scientific community to believe such things creates a severe stumbling block to the Gospel. These scientific minded individuals are leading experts in their various fields of study. To insist, for example, that a secular geologist must reject all he knows to be true about the geological evidence just to be a Christian places him in the position to merely heap more unnecessary scorn upon the Faith. Furthermore, to insist the Genesis account records the real history of God creating the world in the space of six days just 6,000 years ago makes Christian to appear foolish and close minded to the truth of reality.  Hence, the academic community are viewed as a special class of individuals requiring a unique “missional” approach that excludes acknowledging the supernatural when it supposedly conflicts with the natural sciences. 

Yet this objection assumes a number of elements.   First, that a sinner can rationally evaluate lines of external evidence and draw godly conclusions from them apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. This is contrary to what Scripture teaches regarding the salvation of men. No man can call Christ Lord without the Spirit’s work first (1 Cor. 12:3).  Secondly, that those external lines of evidence have the intrinsic ability to persuade any sinner in rebellion against God of his need for the Gospel.   Yet, it doesn’t matter how absurd, or fantastic, or even reasonable the evidence may seem, evidence doesn’t have this ability at all, and if the Spirit is not doing a work of regeneration to begin with, no man will come to salvation.   Third, it assumes the unbelieving academic will be prepared to accept one set of biblical truths, the miracles and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, while believing another set of biblical truths, the creation in six 24-hour days, is considered absurd and unreasonable.  I never understood why we are to downplay or totally ignore all those supernatural events that supposedly go against all known science because we are creating stumbling blocks, yet it is okay to call those same academic unbelievers to accept other supernatural events that are just as “scientifically” absurd and are just as equally a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).  There is just an amazing disconnect with this evangelistic approach.

to be continued…

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Out of the Heart of Man

If you would like to see a clear example of how one's worldview significantly directs how a person evaluates and interprets the natural world, you'll enjoy this video. The suppression of truth is direct and to the point. Keep your ears open to the last 20 seconds or so of the video. Just to be warned, the autopsy of a giraffe is involved, so for the squeamish among us...

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ghosts of Malthus

There was a hostage crisis in the office building headquarters of the Discovery Channel. You know, one of those few cable channels everyone says they would keep if they had the option of choosing their own cable TV line-up.

Anyway...

The crackpot who was holding hostages and making demands was a middle-American TEA party supporter who had been traumatized by the fear mongering rhetoric of Glenn Beck.

Oh wait. Nope. Turns out he was a left-wing religion hating leftist enviro-nut.

He has a long, rambling angry manifesto denouncing those planet polluting Duggars in Arkansas.
The seventh point drew my attention:

7. Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people’s brains until they get it!!

A couple of thoughts:

First, was this guy of the opinion that the Discovery Channel DOESN'T talk enough about evolution and evolutionary theory? Seriously? What more was he wanting from them other than devoting programing time to shows about how to kill babies efficiently? Every program about science is stuffed to bursting about evolution.

Second, all those atheists, theistic evolutionists, and political progressives I have argued with over the years who tell me Darwinian evolution is about the science and has nothing to do with political, social philosophy: you're kidding me, right? Thomas Malthus wasn't loved and appreciated by Karl Marx and Mao Zedong because he was just a clever economist.

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