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October 07, 2006

The Nativity StoryYou know, I really don’t know how I missed this one. I guess I just don’t get out to the movies enough (or don’t pay close enough attention to what’s new and upcoming in the theatres). Apparently, in December of this year, New Line Cinema will be releasing The Nativity Story, a film chronicling, well, the story of the nativity. “The film follows the life of the Virgin Mary and Joseph over the two-year period immediately prior to the birth of Jesus, and several years afterward (including the visit of the Magi and the vengeful rage of King Herod).” According to the film’s Wikipedia entry, “New Line is taking great pains to create a film in the tradition of The Passion of the Christ which Christian families will be able to enjoy. Mike Rich, screenwriter of The Rookie, is writing the script, drawing heavily from the four gospels. A number of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish theologians have also been consulted. When Rich first told his pastor about the project he was undertaking, Rich said the pastor responded by saying “that’s a project!” and then immediately put him on the church’s prayer chain.”

It seems that someone has created an unofficial blog to collect information about the film. Christianity Today has featured an interview with Mike Rich which you can read here.

I think it will be interesting to see a couple of things. First, will the movie portray Mary in a way that is distinctly Catholic or will she be presented simply as she is in the gospels — as a woman who was chosen for a distinct honor, but who was still a sinner? It seems they have largely stuck to what is presented in the gospels, judging by this part of the CT interview:

How have you tried to make Mary more human without losing reverence for Mary the icon? Was that a balancing act for you?

Rich: It was a balancing act, but there’s a key moment when she’s visiting Elizabeth. It’s a speculative moment, but I think it’s very consistent with the Gospels. She asks Elizabeth, “Why has He chosen me?” To me, the choice of Mary to bear the Son of God isn’t because she is someone remarkably special, it’s because she was representative of every man. She was every person. The mother of this child isn’t because she is of overt riches or royal blood, it’s because she is mankind. To me, that made it very easy to portray her as a very, very human individual.

Do you have any concerns about how Catholics might react to the portrayal? I assume you’ve consulted with Catholics along the way.

Rich: We have maintained close contact with several individuals within the Catholic church. We’re not trying to alienate those within the Catholic faith. But we understand that anytime you tackle subject matter such as this that you’re creating a canvas for discussion, if you will.

If the story and the interpretation that we put on screen can result in a dialogue between faiths, between those within their own faiths, that’s never a bad thing. Then the mission to put this story on screen will be well served.

I’m not sure exactly what he means by “she is mankind,” but at least it seems that they will present her largely as the Bible does.

A second point of interest is how Evangelical churches and church leaders will react to this. I suspect we will not see a great number of church leaders pleading with their members to see this film and certainly not spending tens of thousands of dollars to send others to see this film (a la The Passion of the Christ). Mike Rich says that he does not regard this film as overtly evangelistic: “Not particularly. It could plant a seed in that direction. We see Jesus for all of five minutes onscreen—and he’s not exactly delivering the Sermon on the Mount. But if after seeing this movie someone opens up the Gospel of Luke, then you never know.”

At any rate, it looks like an interesting movie and, judging by the trailer, which you can see here, at the film’s official site, it may just be worth watching.

October 06, 2006

Dr. Mohler posted an article this morning that grabbed my attention. I had something else I had wanted to say today, but have chosen instead to interact a little bit with Mohler’s article. Mohler writes about an essay that appeared in a recent edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education (the essay, sadly, is only available to those with a subscription to The Chronicle). Written by Jay Parini, who is a poet and a professor of English at Middlebury College, the essay, “Other People’s Books,” discusses just that: other people’s books. Parini discusses his penchant for examining other people’s libraries:

It’s not only the physical aspects of books that attract me, of course. In fact, I rarely buy first or elegant editions, however much I like to glance at them; good reading copies, in hardback or a decent paperback, are just fine. But seeing some of the editions in my living room reminds me of that wonderful house in Surrey, which stirred my imagination as a young man and was part of the reason I became a writer myself.

What interests me about other people’s books is the nature of their collection. A personal library is an X-ray of the owner’s soul. It offers keys to a particular temperament, an intellectual disposition, a way of being in the world. Even how the books are arranged on the shelves deserves notice, even reflection. There is probably no such thing as complete chaos in such arrangements.

Other people’s books draw my attention, of course. They excite curiosity about their owners and the worlds they inhabit. But it’s finally my own books that matter, as they tell me about where I’ve been, and where I hope to go.

Mohler writes, “When truly read, a book becomes a part of us. That is why we are afraid to part with even the physicality of it. The book becomes an aid to memory and a deposit of thought and reflection. Its very materiality testifies that we once held it in our hands as we passed the pages before our eyes.” This is true in my experience. I can watch a movie once or twice and have no desire to watch it again. It is only on a very rare occasion that I consider purchasing a film. Once I have watched it, I rarely have any desire to keep it around or to watch it again. This is not the case with books. When I have read a book, and when I have enjoyed that book, I am hard-pressed to part with it; it sometimes pains me even to lend it. I keep the book on the shelf, hoping that I will have time and occasion to read it again. At the very least I am always sure that I will turn to it again. Sometimes I enjoy pulling a book from the shelf and reading the notes I jotted in the margins. What did I circle? What did I underline? What did I conclude about these things? Why? These are all aspects of the experience of reading a book.

Mohler goes on to state that, “To a great extent, our personal libraries betray our true identities and interests. A minister’s library, taken as a whole, will likely reveal a portrait of theological conviction and vision. Whose works have front place on the shelves, Martyn Lloyd-Jones or John Shelby Spong? Charles Spurgeon or Harry Emerson Fosdick? Karl Barth or Carl Henry? John MacArthur or Joel Osteen?” As a bibliophile, a lover of books, I know that a person’s library speaks volumes about him (no pun intended). I have been in homes where I could scarcely find a single book. There may have been a Bible or two on the coffee table, but there were no bookshelves, no books. I have been to the offices of pastors whose shelves were nearly bare, with only a few sparse volumes, the latest and greatest books from decades past, scattered about, long since forgotten. As Dr. Mohler writes, “For too many pastors, the personal library announces, ‘I stopped reading when I graduated from seminary.’” I have seen the libraries of pastors, men who preach every week and who earn a good and fair wage, who had but a single commentary set at their disposal. And then I have been to the homes of pastors whose libraries were filled with quality books, books written by men of God and written to aid and edify other men of God. And in these offices I have felt at home. I have felt an excitement, and, as with Parini, have wanted to know more about the owner of those books and about the world he inhabits.

“When I think of my closest friends, I realize that I am most at home with them in their libraries, and they are most at home with me in mine. Why? Because the books invite and represent the kind of conversation and sharing of heart, soul, and mind that drew us together in the first place.” For those who have had the privilege, as I have, of experiencing Dr. Mohler’s library, you will realize that it is easy to feel at home in it! But even in a library that is far more humble, the books do represent the sharing of heart, soul and mind that brought good friends together in the first place.

Dr. Mohler concludes his article by writing, “By their books we shall know them. And by our books we shall be known.” The books on your shelves tell a great deal about you. What do they say?

As I read this, I was reminded of the wisdom of Richard Baxter who, many years ago, wrote wisely about books.

Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.

Surely this is solid advice. Devotion to reading must never take pre-eminence over our reading of Scripture. If we spend many hours every day reading but only a brief period of time studying the Scriptures, we need to examine our priorities. When we do read, we need to give priority to good books that increase our knowledge of and love for the Scriptures. Beyond them, it is wise to study the history of the church so we can never lose sight of our roots and seek to avoid the mistakes of the past. And finally, we should avoid submitting ourselves to the writings of false teachers who will corrupt our understanding of the truths of Scripture.

As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

Once again, the Bible must be pre-eminent. The Bible alone is God’s full, inerrant, infallible, authoritative revelation to us and we must treat it accordingly. All other books must take a subservient and complementary role to Scripture.

The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day, and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the ‘Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.

Perhaps the greatest reason to read is that it gives us direct access to the God-given wisdom of some of the greatest preachers and theologians of our day and days past. While Charles Spurgeon (and Richard Baxter, for that matter) has long since gone to be with the Lord, we can learn from him as easily as people did in the nineteenth century.

You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.

For every good book, there are five or ten (or, more likely, far more) that are fit only for the trash. Much of what is published under the banner of “Christian” is anything but. Be careful what you read, for a book can lead you astray as easily as it can lead you closer to the Lord. Find mature believers who can guide you to books and authors that will edify you. Let your library speak well of you.

October 04, 2006

Yesterday’s edition of USA Today published an article entitled “Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites” and subheaded “Those attacked online are filing libel lawsuits.” Written by Laura Parker, it details an increasing number of lawsuits launched by companies and individuals against bloggers.

It begins by discussing Rafe Banks, a lawyer in Georgia, who became involved in an ugly dispute with a client over how to defend him. The client, David Milum, fired Banks and demanded that the lawyer refund a $3,000 fee. Banks refused.

Milum eventually was acquitted. Ordinarily, that might have been the last Banks ever heard about his former client. But then Milum started a blog.

In May 2004, Banks was stunned to learn that Milum’s blog was accusing the lawyer of bribing judges on behalf of drug dealers. At the end of one posting, Milum wrote, “Rafe, don’t you wish you had given back my $3,000 retainer?”

Banks, saying the postings were false, sued Milum. And last January, Milum became the first blogger in the USA to lose a libel suit, according to the Media Law Resource Center in New York, which tracks litigation involving bloggers. Milum was ordered to pay Banks $50,000.

According to USA Today this case reflects how blogs are increasingly being targeted by those who feel harmed by blog attacks.

In the past two years, more than 50 lawsuits stemming from postings on blogs and website message boards have been filed across the nation. The suits have spawned a debate over how the ‘blogosphere’ and its revolutionary impact on speech and publishing might change libel law.

Legal analysts say the lawsuits are challenging a mind-set that has long surrounded blogging: that most bloggers essentially are “judgment-proof” because they — unlike traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television outlets — often are ordinary citizens who don’t have a lot of money. Recent lawsuits by Banks and others who say they have had their reputations harmed or their privacy violated have been aimed not just at cash awards but also at silencing their critics.

Bloggers have long assumed that they were immune to charges of libel, but it seems this is increasingly being proven a false assumption. The article goes on to detail several cases where bloggers were sued for libel. Many of the comments were fallout from sexual escapades where scorned women went online to post libelous comments about former lovers. The recent dispute (involving the now-dismissed lawsuit) between Ligonier Ministries and Frank Vance was also mentioned.

Robert Cox, founder and president of the Media Bloggers Association, which has 1,000 members, says the recent wave of lawsuits means that bloggers should bone up on libel law. “It hasn’t happened yet, but soon, there will be a blogger who is successfully sued and who loses his home,” he says. “That will be the shot heard round the blogosphere.” With the scandalous information being posted online, it truly is only a matter of time before a blogger loses all he has, and perhaps reasonably so. “Susan Crawford, a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York who specializes in media and Internet issues, says the ease with which false postings can be corrected instantly, among other things, will force judges to reconsider how to measure the damage that is done to a plaintiff’s reputation.” A person’s online reputation is becoming increasingly important as prospective employers now routinely search online for information about a potential employee. The same is true of a potential mate. A few libelous comments online has the potential to have devastating and far-reaching effects.

“People take advantage of the anonymity to say things in public they would never say to anyone face-to-face,” Cox says. “That’s where you get these horrible comments. This is standard operating procedure.”

This is an interesting article and one that raises some important concerns. I think it raises questions that are of particular importance to Christian bloggers.

Bloggers perceive a great freedom when they write; they sometimes perceive that they have immunity from standards of right and wrong. Far too often people post something online that they would never say face-to-face. What would be shameful in direct communication is standard fare for many blogs. Most bloggers learn quickly that the titillating and the tantalizing generate buzz, comments and visitors. While the vast majority of bloggers are harmless, writing about only what is of direct importance to them, there are many others who seek only to discourage and destroy.

As Christians, we are called to a high standard—we are called to holiness. We are not to push the limits of what is decent and what is true, but to serve and to be a blessing to others. We are not to ask “Is this libelous? Will I be sued if I publish this?”, but we are to ask “Will this serve the person I am writing about? Will this serve the church? Will this bring glory to God? Will this defend the truth?”

The blogosphere is still immature and, in many ways, untested. Blogs are a new and growing phenomena, but they are also a new and growing concern. It will not be long before the courts begin, justly I think, to crack down on bloggers who are libelous towards others. The proverbial “shot heard round the blogosphere” is probably not far off. As painful as this may be for those involved, I suspect it will prove beneficial to the blogosphere.

My encouragement to my fellow Christian bloggers is to ensure that we are not among those who are sure to make headlines by being involved in these cases. We have an opportunity to shine a light even in the blogosphere. How tragic it would be to read headlines in national newspapers providing the lurid details of what one Christian had done to another or said about another. Let us be certain that we constantly seek to serve and that we pursue holiness rather than popularity. Let us set the standard for respect and fellowship. Let us take the better path and show our love for God in our love for one another.

October 02, 2006

This wasn’t quite how I had imagined my homecoming from the Desiring God conference. In retrospect, I guess ordering the shepherd’s pie at Brit’s in downtown Minneapolis was where I went wrong. By the time I reached Milwakuee on the first leg of my trip home I was feeling a bit “off.” By the time we reached the Toronto airport, I figured I was in trouble. By the time I got back to my home I was violently ill, about as sick as I’ve ever been, I think. It was to the point where my wife was about ready to send me off to the hospital. I was up, quite literally, all night, and am just now able to even think about cracking open the computer. Thankfully, as food poisoning seems to go, this was reasonably short-lived, though I’m guessing it’s going to take me another day or so to get back on my feet (and catch up with the sleep I lost last night). But that was, and to some extent still is, just an awful bout with food poisoning.

I was hoping to post some reflections on the conference today, but that is likely going to have to wait until tomorrow. The same is true of tidying up John Piper’s sermon from yesterday. And now I’m heading back to a more horizontal position to try to get a bit of shut-eye.

September 28, 2006

A couple of days ago I responded briefly to an article that appeared in Scientific American (link). I did not attempt a thorough defense of creationism that would convince a person who was committed to evolutionism. I sought primarily to show that the argumentation used was, at best, high school level, and that the arguments were easily answered. This article, though, triggered other thoughts and I wanted to discuss something I’ve written about before: the fact that naturalism is a religion all its own. As a long-time Christian - one who never experienced adulthood without knowing God and who had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home - it is often difficult to understand what people raised with a secular mindset think and believe and why they think and believe those things. Said tersely, it has proven difficult to truly understand the postmodern mindset. Through my studies, however, I have made some observations that I believe accurately represent this mindset. It is to one of those that I wish to turn today.

There is a realization that has dawned on me slowly that concerns Naturalism which I will treat as being near-synonymous with Darwinism. In short, Naturalism is the belief that the natural world as we know and experience it is all that exists. To put this in religious terms, we could say that Naturalism teaches that ultimate truth does not depend on supernatural experiences, supernatural beings or divine revelation; instead it can be derived from the natural world. Perhaps Carl Sagan expressed this most clearly in his Cosmos series which he prefaced with the statement “The universe is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Naturalism is a belief that is firmly embedded in our society. The field of science wants nothing to do with a Creator or a universe that has been intelligently designed. Naturalism is taught as law in the school systems and is held as being objective truth. Religious beliefs, values and morals are thought to exist on a separate, subjective level that should not be held us universally true. Science is objective truth and exists in a public realm; values are subjective beliefs that exist in a private realm. The late Christopher Reeve, in discussing groundbreaking research techniques that were condemned by some religious leaders as being amoral, said that religious beliefs can have no place at the table when discussing science, thus indicating his belief that science is more objective and more universally true than religion. Again, science is public fact whereas values are private beliefs. Those beliefs may be important to the individual, but they are not grounded in nature and hence should not extend beyond the individual. This bifurcated system (a fact/value dichotomy) is inseparable from the postmodern mindset.

What dawned on me a year or two ago is that Naturalism, as it is ingrained in the postmodern mindset and in the educational system, is far more than an explanation as to the origins of the world. Naturalism is a full-blown worldview, and in reality, is a religious system that stands in direct opposition to Christianity. One does not need to look far today to find Naturalists that make this admission. Michael Ruse, a well-known evolutionist says “evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity…Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and is true of evolution still today.” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, page 172)

Perhaps at this time it would be helpful to define the term “worldview.” Nancy Pearcey, in Total Truth says “[E]ach of us carries a model of the universe inside our heads that tells us what the world is like and how we should live in it. We all seek to make sense of life. Some convictions are conscious, while others are unconscious, but together they form a more or less consistent picture of reality.” This is a worldview. Lifeway, a company that develops Christian curricula, says a worldview is “The composite set of presuppositions, beliefs, and values a person possesses that shape how he or she sees reality and determines how he or she will act. It refers to the collective set of fundamental convictions people hold and on which they base their actions.” Using these definitions, we can understand that there are varying worldviews available to us. We can see also that a person’s worldview begins to be shaped from the moment he is born, as presuppositions and unconscious convictions combine with conscious beliefs and values to form a worldview that form a “more of less consistent picture of reality.” Thus a person experiences reality through his worldview which serves as a lens to interpret and understand life. We must conclude that a worldview shaped by Naturalism, where nature is all that is, was or ever will be, must be diametrically opposed to a worldview shaped by Christian principles which teach that God is the eternal, self-existent One who created and sustains the universe.

I work in the field of computers and we often use the hyphenated suffix “killer” to describe new software or hardware. For example, the operating system Linux was considered by some to be a Windows-killer in that it provided a better but incompatible alternative to Microsoft’s Windows operating system and many believed that it would soon relegate Windows to the trash heap of history. Recently Mozilla’s Firefox has been deemed an Internet Explorer-killer because it provides a better alternative to the competing browser. This provides an apt metaphor for Naturalism, as it has become for many people a Christianity-killer. The theories of evolution, which are simply poor science, have been extended to frame an entire worldview that is directly opposed to the worldview of the Bible. Consider just two examples.

Marriage, according to the Bible, is a divinely-mandated institution and forms the very building block of society. It is not an institution God created in response to the corruption of men, but was embedded even in a perfect world. In a perfect world which God had declared to be very good, He said that it is “not good for man to be alone.” Thus He created woman to complete man and joined them in the marriage bond. A Naturalistic belief system stands in stark contrast to this. After all, if marriage is not mandated by God, it must exist only as a human institution and one that survived the process of natural selection. In other words, it exists because we have invented it and found that it worked well for us in the past. As we continue to evolve and develop we are learning that it may no longer be in our best interests to emphasize marriage relationships. Thus when we view marriage merely as a human institution we are free to enter into it, reject it, or adapt it however we see fit.

Let’s look at sexuality in the light of Scripture and Naturalism. The Bible teaches that sexuality is a gift from God, and once more, something that existed in perfection, before sin entered the world. The Scriptures further teach that sexuality is a gift that must be used in a certain manner; it is appropriate only for a man and woman within the covenant bonds of a marriage relationship. Sex is a beautiful expression of love and oneness - a gift from God to build and strengthen marriage relationships. Naturalism sees sex in an entirely different light. Sexual relationships are derived from human origins and sexual normalcy is associated with a specific culture and time. Normalcy is what works for a specific group at a specific time and is not rooted in any type of divine law. Thus when homosexuality becomes celebrated in our society, it is an expression of Naturalism.

Those who argue against homosexuality or other expressions of deviant sexuality, generally do so from the grounds of values, but Naturalists have already relegated values to a secondary realm of the subjective, where Naturalism is an expression of objective fact. Those who stand for traditional views of marriage where the institution is reserved for a man and a woman, similarly speak of values, but again, values have no objective meaning to those fully absorbed in a Naturalist worldview.

The fact is, naturalism is a complete worldview and a religion unto itself. To attempt to reconcile Darwinism, naturalism and evolution with Christianity is akin to reconciling Christianity and Islam. It simply cannot be done. As I wrote in the first article, The true conflict, the conflict between evolution and creationism, is a conflict of truth and error, a conflict of God and man. Creationism embraces God as the Creator and Sustainer of the world; evolutionism rejects God replaces Him with time, chance and opportunity. The debate between creationism and evolutionism is by no means senseless, for it is a defense of the truth and a defense of the One who is Truth.

September 27, 2006

PodcastI’ve gone and done it. This is my very first podcast. For those who don’t know, a podcast is really just an audio file that can be listened to either through a normal media player or through a kind of subscription. Both options are available to you. If you don’t know about podcasting and don’t want to, simply follow the instructions below to listen to it the old fashioned way.

I was thrilled to have Dr. Mark Dever join me on this podcast and allow me to interview him barrage him with questions. I’ve got a lot to learn about podcasting and about interviewing, but I gave it the ol’ college try. There were a couple of problems with the audio quality, but I hope I’ve learned enough to remedy them next time. In the future I’ll likely talk more and such, but for this first one I was content mostly to listen to Dr. Dever.

The podcast is not yet available in the iTunes podcast directory, so until that happens, here is how you can listen to it:

To Subscribe To The Podcast

If you are using iTunes or another media player capable of playing podcasts, you may want the RSS feed address:


For iTunes, highlight that address and select “Copy.” Then open iTunes, select “Advanced” from the main menu and then “Subscribe to Podcast.” Paste the address into that box and click “OK.” iTunes will then download the podcast and play it for you. It will also notify you when a new podcast becomes available.

To Simply Listen To The Audio

I’d prefer that, if you wish to listen to just this audio, rather than listening to it in your browser, you save the file to your computer and listen to it in your audio player. To do that, simply right-click on this link and select “Save Link As” in Firefox or “Save Target As” in Internet Explorer. Simply let the file download to your computer and then open it in your favorite media player (iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc).


(By the way, that was Mark Dever’s phone ringing, not mine!)

September 26, 2006

Scientific American is a popular science magazine with a monthly circulation approaching 700,000. Including foreign language editions, the circulation increases to over 1,000,000. First published in 1845, it is the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States. Quite needless to say, it is not a publication that is particularly friendly to creationism. How unfriendly is it? A recent “Skeptic” column lets us know.

In the October 2006 edition of Scientific American is a column by Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic, a magazine produced by The Skeptics Society, which “engages in scientific investigation and journalistic research to investigate claims made by scientists, historians, and controversial figures on a wide range of subjects.” His column is titled “Darwin on the Right: Why Christians and conservatives should accept evolution.” The column is a brief attempt to lay out six reasons that Christians should embrace evolution. The argumentation used in this article is almost embarrassing for its poor use of reason and woefully inadequate understanding of the Christian faith. It reads more like a bad high school-level essay than something that would be printed in a publication such as Scientific American. I’d like to take a brief look at each of Shermer’s six points. He begins with statistics:

According to a 2005 Pew Research Center poll, 70 percent of evangelical Christians believe that living beings have always existed in their present form, compared with 32 percent of Protestants and 31 percent of Catholics. Politically, 60 percent of Republicans are creationists, whereas only 11 percent accept evolution, compared with 29 percent of Democrats who are creationists and 44 percent who accept evolution. A 2005 Harris Poll found that 63 percent of liberals but only 37 percent of conservatives believe that humans and apes have a common ancestry. What these figures confirm for us is that there are religious and political reasons for rejecting evolution. Can one be a conservative Christian and a Darwinian? Yes. Here’s how.

One immediate observation is that he makes a distinction between evangelicals Christians and Protestants, yet does not define these terms. In theory, every Protestant is evangelical and every evangelical is Protestant. Regardless, we will press on.

1. Evolution fits well with good theology. Christians believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God. What difference does it make when God created the universe—10,000 years ago or 10,000,000,000 years ago? The glory of the creation commands reverence regardless of how many zeroes in the date. And what difference does it make how God created life—spoken word or natural forces? The grandeur of life’s complexity elicits awe regardless of what creative processes were employed. Christians (indeed, all faiths) should embrace modern science for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divine in a depth and detail unmatched by ancient texts.

I will be the first to affirm that the Bible is not a scientific text. Neither was it intended to be such. However, if we are to believe that the Bible is God’s word and that what God has spoken is true, we must also believe that what God says about science must be true. When God says that the world was created by His command, we must believe it to be so. Shermer asks, “what difference does it make how God created life—spoken word or natural forces?” The difference is that the Bible tells us God created the world by His spoken word. We are not able to believe in the Bible as God’s word and reject Scripture’s clear teaching that life was created from nothing at God’s command. I agree that “Christians … should embrace modern science for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divine in a depth and detail unmatched by ancient texts.” But science has not proven evolution. It has not proven that the world was created in any way other than at God’s command. I embrace modern science, but only so far as it is compatible with Scripture and plain reason. Evolution does not fit with good theology, for evolution and Scripture are wholly incompatible. If we are to embrace evolution, it will be at the expense of the Bible.

2. Creationism is bad theology. The watchmaker God of intelligent-design creationism is delimited to being a garage tinkerer piecing together life out of available parts. This God is just a genetic engineer slightly more advanced than we are. An omniscient and omnipotent God must be above such humanlike constraints. As Protestant theologian Langdon Gilkey wrote, “The Christian idea, far from merely representing a primitive anthropomorphic projection of human art upon the cosmos, systematically repudiates all direct analogy from human art.” Calling God a watchmaker is belittling.

Calling God a watchmaker is clearly belittling, but I do not know of any Christians who believe that God fills this role. God is not a mere garage tinkerer who pieces life together from available parts. Rather, God is the one who not only created life as an idea, as a concept, but who created the available parts and who then assembled them in an orderly fashion. To suggest that God is only slightly more advanced than we are is to ignore the vast gaps that continue to exist in human knowledge. Humans may have been able to map the genome, but a great deal of work remains; an infinite amount of work. The more we conquer, the more we realize we still need to conquer. And one thing humans have never been able to do and will never be able to do is create life ex nihilo, from nothing. We may be able to arrange and rearrange the building blocks of life in some semblance of order, but we are not able to make something from nothing. That is the realm of God alone. Creationism is not bad theology, but is the theology of the Bible. It is not an optional doctrine, but something we must believe if we are to be men and women of the Bible.

3. Evolution explains original sin and the Christian model of human nature. As a social primate, we evolved within-group amity and between-group enmity. By nature, then, we are cooperative and competitive, altruistic and selfish, greedy and generous, peaceful and bellicose; in short, good and evil. Moral codes and a society based on the rule of law are necessary to accentuate the positive and attenuate the negative sides of our evolved nature.

This third point begins with a premise that is accepted only by evolutionists. As Christians we do not believe that humans evolved at all, but that we were deliberately placed on this earth and were made to rule it. To attempt to explain original sin through between-group enmity is to completely misrepresent original sin. Between-group enmity is unable to explain why it is that every human being, no matter his age, culture, race, or gender is sinful. It is unable to explain why we all do things that are wrong and why we all delight in doing wrong. It is unable to explain what is clearly spiritual. Evolution cannot explain original sin or the Christian model of human nature. It cannot explain the conscience, the soul, or sinful nature.

4. Evolution explains family values. The following characteristics are the foundation of families and societies and are shared by humans and other social mammals: attachment and bonding, cooperation and reciprocity, sympathy and empathy, conflict resolution, community concern and reputation anxiety, and response to group social norms. As a social primate species, we evolved morality to enhance the survival of both family and community. Subsequently, religions designed moral codes based on our evolved moral natures.

“Attachment and bonding, cooperation and reciprocity, sympathy and empathy, conflict resolution, community concern and reputation anxiety, and response to group social norms” are all characteristics of families. However, all of these characteristics are as easily and even more easily explained by creation rather than evolution. Could God not have given us the desire to attach and bond? Could he not have made us sympathetic and make us desire to resolve conflicts amicably? Even a brief overview of the Bible will prove this to be true. To suggest that religions designed moral codes based upon moral natures is to put the cart before the horse, for is it not more likely that a moral code existed with God before creation was begun, and that our natures were created in a way consistent with this code? Is it not likely that God, whose moral nature included moral codes, designed us in His image and built that code into us? Is this not an explanation for the laws that seem so clearly to be written into the hearts of all humans? Evolution cannot explain family values and can certainly not explain more codes.

5. Evolution accounts for specific Christian moral precepts. Much of Christian morality has to do with human relationships, most notably truth telling and marital fidelity, because the violation of these principles causes a severe breakdown in trust, which is the foundation of family and community. Evolution describes how we developed into pair-bonded primates and how adultery violates trust. Likewise, truth telling is vital for trust in our society, so lying is a sin.

Christian morality has to do primarily with imitating God who is true and who is faithful. The violation of these principles may case a severe breakdown in truth, but far worse, violation of these principles causes a growing rift between creature and Creator. Christian morality involves human relationships, but only secondarily to the relationship between God and man. Evolution may offer some description of how humans developed into pair-bonded primates and how adultery violates trust. But the Bible offers an answer that is far more clear and far more likely: God created marriage so that human beings could emulate the relationship of Jesus Christ to His people. Truth telling is vital for trust, but even more vital to maintain relationship between God and man. Lying is a sin because it makes a mockery of God who not only tells the truth, but is the very source of truth. Evolution absolutely cannot account for specific moral precepts in a way that is satisfying. And, ironically, evolution is the worldview that underlies the acceptance of non-traditional relationships such as homosexual marriage. Could it be that evolution can be used to explain anything?

6. Evolution explains conservative free-market economics. Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” is precisely parallel to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” Darwin showed how complex design and ecological balance were unintended consequences of competition among individual organisms. Smith showed how national wealth and social harmony were unintended consequences of competition among individual people. Nature’s economy mirrors society’s economy. Both are designed from the bottom up, not the top down.

This sixth point does not seem to fit with the rest of the list. While the other five have dealt with principles that are distinctly Christian, this one turns to free-market economics. Shermer may as well have said “Evolution explains the American obsession with team sports.” I know little of economics, free market or otherwise, so will leave this point as-is, except to point out that simply because two theories parallel one another does not make either true.

The article concludes with an exhortation and a passage from Scripture. “Because the theory of evolution provides a scientific foundation for the core values shared by most Christians and conservatives, it should be embraced. The senseless conflict between science and religion must end now, or else, as the Book of Proverbs (11:29) warned: ‘He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.’”

There does not need to be a conflict between science and religion. In a perfect world, there would be no conflict, and, indeed, when the world is remade there will be no conflict. What we see in this debate is not a competition between science and religion, but a conflict between worldviews. These worldviews are wholly incompatible. Michael Ruse, a well-known evolutionist speaks truthfully when he says “evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity…Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and is true of evolution still today.” Evolution is not mere science, but is religion dressed as science. Evolution, and the naturalism that lies behind it, is a full-blown worldview, and in reality, is a religious system that stands in direct opposition to Christianity. The true conflict, the conflict between evolution and creationism, is a conflict of truth and error, a conflict of God and man. Creationism embraces God as the Creator and Sustainer of the world; evolutionism rejects God replaces Him with time, chance and opportunity. The debate between creationism and evolutionism is by no means senseless, for it is a defense of the truth and a defense of the One who is Truth.

September 25, 2006

Every soul thirsts. It may not be felt every moment, but to some degree every soul thirsts after something it does not have. We are rarely content in our current condition and it seems that this is the way we have been Divinely wired. But while we all thirst, we do not all thirst in the same way. A couple of years ago I read Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health which was written by Don Whitney. I posted a review of it here and highly recommend that you read this book for yourself. The one chapter that gave me the most to think about and meditate upon was the one dealing with spiritual thirst. It has proven helpful in times of weakness and times of thirst in helping me discern just what it is I seek after. In this article I will list the three types of thirst the author outlines and briefly discuss each of them.

The Thirst of the Empty Soul

The soul of the unbeliever is empty towards the things of God. Until the Spirit fills the soul with His presence, it is devoid of any love for God. Without God, the unbeliever is constantly looking for something, anything, but is unable to fill this emptiness. This is something many people do not understand, but that the Bible teaches clearly: While the unbeliever’s soul is empty because he does not know God, he does not seek to fill it with God. Many people believe that unbelievers are truly seeking after God, yet the Bible tells us that the empty soul is unable to see his real thirst. Not only that, but the empty soul does not want to see his own thirst, and would not, even if it were possible. The empty soul is completely and fully opposed to God; it is deceitful and desperately wicked. In Romans 3:11 Paul quotes the Psalmist, David, who wrote “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Psalm 14:2) Humans may have a God-shaped hole in their souls, but this is not a whole the unbeliever seeks to fill with God until the Spirit does a prior work in Him.

And so it is that the empty soul seeks to be satisfied. It seeks satisfaction in work, family, love, sex, money and everything else the world has to offer. It may seek satisfaction in religion and even the Christian religion, but yet never truly seeks God and thus never finds Him. Until the Holy Spirit enables that soul to understand the source of his thirst and enables him to see the One who can satisfy, he will continue to look in vain. “Just because a man longs for something that can be found in God alone doesn’t mean he’s looking for God…Many who claim they are questing for God are not thirsting for God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture, but only for God as they want Him to be, or a God who will give them what they want.”

All who know Christ have known the thirst of the empty soul. All who know Christ have known the satisfaction of having their thirst quenched.

The Thirst of the Dry Soul

There is a second type of spiritual thirst, and it is the thirst of the dry soul. This is a thirst that is felt only by those who believe. It does not indicate that one has fallen away from the Lord, but that he is in a dry place spiritually and that his soul is in need of refreshment. This is the thirst the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 42. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” This man knows God, but feels that God is distant from him and so cries out for hope and restoration.

There are three ways a Christian can become spiritually arid:

The first is by drinking too deeply from the fountains of the world and too little from the river of God. When a believer drinks too much of what the world has to offer and too little of what God offers, the soul becomes parched. Giving ourselves over to our sin means we turn our backs on God, even if only for a while, and we allow the soul to run dry.

The second way a believer can become arid is what the Puritans referred to as “God’s desertions.” There are times in life when God’s presence is very real to us and other times where we feel only His absence. We know as believers that God’s absence is merely our perception and that there is never a time where He actually withdraws from us. However, there are seasons in which He removes from us a conscious knowledge of His presence.

The third way a believer becomes arid is fatigue, either mental or physical. Becoming burned-out by the cares and concerns of the world will cause a believer to focus too much on himself, thus turning his thoughts from God.

The dry soul yearns for God and nothing else will satisfy. The soul has tasted and seen God and wants nothing more than to return to being close to Him. And when the soul is dry, God is faithful and good to provide the nourishment we seek after. He fills, He restores and He satisfies. The Psalmist new this, for he wrote “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

The Thirst of the Satisfied Soul

The final type of spiritual thirst is the thirst of the satisfied soul. The satisfied soul desires God precisely because he is satisfied in Him. There are many biblical examples of this, but perhaps one of the most clear is the apostle Paul who, in Philippians 3, went to great lengths to describe the depth of His relationship with Christ, but then added the words “that I may know Him.” His satisfaction in Christ and the deep love and affection he felt for God, only stimulated his desire to know Him more. Paul wanted nothing more than to know and love God. His satisfaction made him thirsty for more. Thomas Shepard wrote “There is in true grace an infinite circle; a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more.” This is not a cycle of frustration, where we continually lament that we do not know more, but a cycle of satisfaction and earnest desire.

So Thirst!

I will close with a prayer of A.W. Tozer. “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still.”

September 24, 2006

Today I present a brief reflection on Sunday, providing some historic viewpoints on the Lord’s Day as summarized in various creeds and confessions. I do not think my commentary would be helpful or necessary:

The London Baptist Confession says:

As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished…The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

The Heidelberg Catechism says:

…That I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, (b) to hear his word, (c) to use the sacraments, (d) publicly to call upon the Lord, (e) and contribute to the relief of the poor. (f) Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by his Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath. (g)

The Westminster Longer Catechism states:

The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day…The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.

The Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists has as a core belief:

The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observances. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion both public and private and by refraining from worldly amusements and resting from secular employments work of necessity and mercy only being expected.

And finally, the average Evangelical says:

“Want to go to the mall after church?”

September 22, 2006

It looks like the whole mess at Ligonier may (thankfully!) be drawing to a close. This afternoon two statements were posted to Ligonier’s web site. The first was from Ligonier’s Senior Management and the second from CEO Tim Dick. Since I have posted on this matter in the past, I may as well carry on and post what I (optimistically) hope represents the end of the matter.

Here is the statement from Senior Management (link):

On August 24, 2006, Ligonier Ministries filed a legal complaint and a request for an injunction since no ecclesiastical court could be found. The filing was an attempt to stem the slanderous and reckless allegations being made about Ligonier and its leaders on the Internet by an individual known as Frank Vance, whose true identity is still unknown to us.

The accuser’s malicious attacks culminated with the accusation that Ligonier defrauded Soli Deo Gloria, in our recent acquisition of it. This has been categorically refuted by Don Kistler, SDG’s founder.

Threats to Ligonier and its leadership have continued to escalate, with the accuser issuing deadlines for Ligonier to answer his non-credible charges. At one point our president was told he had “put a knife to his own throat,” by ignoring the accuser.

Throughout this entire ordeal, numerous emails and posts refuting the accuser were ignored by him. Mediation through ecclesiastical means is always preferred. On at least six occasions, we have sought information from the accuser as to how we might contact his pastor or session. The accuser has refused all requests, publicly scoffing at the notion.

Based on godly counsel we have received from churchmen and others, the decision was reached not to pursue a conclusion to this matter through the legal system.

Having withdrawn the complaint, we ask friends and fellow believers to pray that we will have wisdom as this matter comes to a peaceful end.

We are grieved by the entire matter, and we desire that God be glorified by the outcome of this decision.

- Ligonier Ministries’ Senior Management

And here is the statement from Tim Dick (link):

Public Statement from Tim Dick President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries

On August 24, 2006 a complaint was filed in a Judicial Court of Seminole County, by Ligonier Ministries seeking injunctive relief because of the significant threats and allegations being made by a “blogger” under the name Frank Vance, whose true identity is yet unknown.

The decision to take this step was extremely difficult. The intention of the complaint was simply to respond to the unfounded, slanderous attack of our accuser, and to seek an objective response. I attempted to resolve this in private, as my beliefs require. Each time I refuted the accusations, he refused to listen. My denials were then used by the accuser to perpetuate his blog commentary. At that point, I stopped interacting with the accuser, who again escalated his attack, continuing to exhibit, by his public and private conduct, a testimony inconsistent with that of a Christian.

In light of Don Kistler’s statement and our concern for the health of the church, I have asked that our complaint be withdrawn. I regret any confusion this may have caused to our constituents, staff, Board of Directors and our friends and colleagues in the Christian community. As the President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries I accept full responsibility for the decision and consider the matter closed. I pray that in the days ahead, God will be glorified as we continue to serve Him.