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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: March 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coming Soon...Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

There is a movie that is coming out that you need to see if you care about academic freedom in America. Ideas and evidence need to be discussed calmly and with civility--but that is not happening when it comes to science--more specifically, no scientific or philosophical criticism of Neo-Darwinian evolution is allowed. It is the Scopes trial of 1925 in reverse! Ben Stein has made a movie which releases April 18th that addresses this crucial issue of our day...get involved, go see this movie and allow your voice to be heard.

EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, is an upcoming feature film in which host Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) goes on a quest to expose the suppression by science's anti-theist elite, and unveil new scientific facts that may suggest evidence of intelligent design in the universe.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Laying the Jesus Family Tomb to Rest...

If you haven't heard about the Jesus Family Tomb...that is will soon be forgotten; relegated to the ash heap of over-hyped conspiracy theories. But it reminds us of something important. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus is the central event of Christianity....everything else, large or small, is related to it. So if it did not happen, then Christianity is false and we are a pitiful lot for believing in it (cf. 1 Cor 15:17). However the Christian can sleep secure knowing there is good historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. But I came across a review of this "Family Tomb" business which reads like an obituary for this titanic flop (pun intended--James Cameron directed this documentary). It is written by Thomas F. Madden who is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis is an excerpt, but the whole article is worth a quick read...

"A year ago the Discovery Channel delivered a cheery Easter message to America’s Christians: Jesus is dead – and we found his tomb. After much fanfare and hype, The Lost Tomb of Jesus aired on March 4, 2007 to an audience of 4.1 million viewers. The documentary, which was directed by the journalist Simcha Jacobovici (better known as the host of The Naked Archaeologist) and produced by James Cameron (better known as the director of Titanic and True Lies), revealed that the Biblical account of Jesus’ burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and subsequent Resurrection was just wishful thinking. The truth, they claimed, was that the deceased Jesus was brought to his family tomb in Jerusalem, where he remained good and dead......Over the past year, the scholarly consensus on the tomb has become virtually unanimous. As Dr. Jodi Magness of the Archaeological Institute of America wrote, the documentary’s claim is “inconsistent with all of the available information - historical and archaeological — about how Jews in the time of Jesus buried their dead, and specifically the evidence we have about poor, non-Judean families like that of Jesus. It is a sensationalistic claim without any scientific basis or support."
Rest in peace...He is Risen!!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Power of Jesus

As we come up on Easter, we all need to pause and think about the power and scope of the Christian message--the gospel. The fact that a person from Nazareth is spoken about at all is quite remarkable and is itself powerful evidence that something happened that first Easter morning.

But the message (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-8) is still changing lives around the world today. One place is through the Jesus Film. Here is a recent story of people embracing Jesus in Central Africa. This remarkable story is short and encouraging....take a minute to read it.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Islamic Reformation in Turkey?

I came across this interesting topic from William Lane Craig's audio blog. A recent article from the BBC "Turkey in Radical Revision of Islamic Texts", reveals the possible revision of Islam occurring in Turkey. It appears similar to "higher criticism" applied to the Bible in 1800's. Islam is a significant player in the world today and Muslims seeking to follow the Koran and the Hadith in a modern world are wrestling with what that means. This is an important development for Christians to keep an eye on in the coming days.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some Reflections on The Shack

Fiction can be powerful. The Shack is a bestseller that is making a lot news about God and forgiveness. I have invited a good friend of mine to post his reflections on this book below:

Have you ever read a book and become so overwhelmed by the story that you forgot where reality ended and fiction began? Recently I had the great pain and pleasure of reading The Shack, by William P. Young. This is one of those books where my life became woven into the very fabric of the life of the main character. His pain became my pain, his loss became my loss, and his joy became my joy. Now I want to be careful here because I know what it is like to have someone build something up too much to where it is impossible to meet your expectations. I am not trying to do that, I am simply giving you my take on this book and sharing with you what God did in my heart through this fictional story.

The book tackles one of the most troubling issues that all people struggle with, the question of how an all loving and powerful God can allow evil to infect the world. Thankfully I have been blessed to never have experienced a great amount of evil in my life personally. Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced the loss of loved ones who have passed away and the daily trials of sickness, financial burden, and stress, but I have never experienced the gut wrenching experience of losing a child to a freak accident, or the murder of a loved one, or any other horrendous act of evil that we read about in the media. The author takes you through the intense anxiety and pain of what it would be like to live through the abduction of a young child and then guides you down the difficult road of reconciliation. He touches on such topics as forgiveness, the nature of God, predestination and fee will, the problem of evil, and God’s immense favor and love for every human being.

This book caused me to ask some serious questions about what the Christian life is all about. I don’t know what your experience is, but my observation is that many Christians spend so much of there time trying to gain something they already have. We are constantly trying to meet our need of love, significance, self worth, and value through our careers, our spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, our children, our natural abilities and dare I say it religion. The list could go on and on. To the extent that our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met in the daily circumstances listed above determines how “happy” we are. The problem is that we are already completely loved, accepted, and valued. We are greatly significant because we are children of the King. Now you may be thinking, great another typical church answer. If this is your response then may I suggest that you are suffering from a bit of an identity crises? So many of us live our lives working as hard as we can because we think that if we do then God will love us more. Now I know this is not something we will come right out and say, after all this goes against our theology of salvation by faith. But for many of us this is our experience. After all, what is one of the most successful tools used in churches to modify people’s behavior; guilt and manipulation. Our understanding is, we are saved by faith, but we are sanctified by our works. In other words, the cross was good enough for a one way ticket into heaven, but the rest of life is up to us to try to earn God’s love and acceptance. If we work hard enough at doing the “right” things than God will take notice and love us and bless our lives. However I don’t think this is the case.

My understanding of what the author was saying is that God’ greatest goal for our lives is for us to intimately know and love Him. John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing Christ Jesus. We are not to spend our lives working for God; the truth is He doesn’t need us to do anything. Now I am not saying that works are unimportant in the believer’s life, quite the contrary. What I am saying is that first we have to know who we are before He can accomplish anything in our lives. The whole idea of “What would Jesus Do” had good intentions, but the concept is wrong. God knows we can not be like Jesus on our own, He never intended for us to be. This is why He gave us His Holy Spirit, to live THROUGH us. Christ is now our life and we need to understand what it means to die to ourselves and to our flesh and to allow His life to pour out of us. This is what discipleship is all about.

I have been in the ministry now for three years and I must admit I already feel like I am on the road to burnout. However the biblical and theological truths offered in this book helped to show me that the Christian life is not about doing, it is about being and in order to do anything I first have to know who I am. This book is a great illustration and story which accurately represents Biblical truths and is done in a beautifully creative way. I don’t know where you are in your walk with Jesus Christ right now, nor do I know your views on the Christian life, but no matter where you are, I think that you can benefit from reading this wonderful story, not as a replacement to God’s word, but as a refreshingly creative look at the beautiful nature of our Triune God and His purpose for His children.

If you are dealing with the tough questions of why God allows evil to happen in our world, or if you have experienced a great evil in your life than I think this book could be a great resource and help to you. If you have any unbelieving friends or friends who have some questions about God then you may want to buy them a copy to read. Or if you are just looking for a good book to read, then I highly recommend this one to you. Again I am not trying to build it up too much, I am merely giving you my thoughts and opinion. If anything I have written here sparks any questions please feel free to contact me (Mark), I would love to hear your thoughts.

Books affect us all in different ways; And people have had various responses to The Shack. I have not read the book myself, but I want to thank Mark for letting us in on the way it affected him.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Safe Sex???

I came across a truly heartbreaking study today. Here is an excerpt:

At least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, or more than 3 million teens, according to the first study of its kind in this age group. A virus that causes cervical cancer is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection in teen girls aged 14 to 19, while the highest overall prevalence is among black girls — nearly half the blacks studied had at least one STD. That rate compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

In our oversexed culture is it any wonder that 1 of 4 girls will have to live with the serious consequences of unwise choices? We need to recapture a sexual ethic where it isn't about saying is about saying yes to what God has for us; which is much, much better. God is not a prude...who do you think created sex? Read Song of Solomon sometime in the New Living Translation.

Forgiveness is available to all in Christ and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1)...but consequences are still painfully real. Every time a movie or music video shows promiscuous sex with no consequence, I wish a danger sign would flash up on the TV screen. These stats are sobering to me as the new father of a little girl.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Let the Adventure Begin...

I came across an article in the April issue of Discipleship Journal called, "Let the Adventure Begin: God is always Near and ever up to something." It was a good article and I commend it to you. Here are two quotes that hit me:

"An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered."--G.K. Chersterton

"Life becomes an adventure, on the other hand, when I remember that God is
in the equation, that reality consists of me plus the wise and wonderful, powerful and loving Lord of the universe."
I find the times that I forget that God is part of the equation are the times I am not doing so well.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Obama: No friend of Life

Religion and politics are the two things you shouldn't talk about at the dinner table--just ain't polite! Isn't it interesting in our society that the two things that probably effect us the most deeply are the things banished from civil discussion (i.e., i mean by this not throwing objects at one another). Now Chrsitians have a responsibility to vote; indeed it is our civic responsibility and privilege (Click here for a brief discussion for the biblical warrant for such a notion). More on this in blogs to come...

Now some think that faith and politics are like oil and water--they don't mix. I think this view is wrongheaded and a misreading of the NT. Clearly God is neither a democrat or a republican or "other." That said, I think we should vote according to worldview considerations. Churches should not endorse a candidate or political party...but to abstain from the process for religious reasons is irresponsible of us. Why? Because we can affect incremental change over time. Promoting a culture of life, speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, social justice, acts of compassion, care of God's creation etc. Compromise is a part of the political process...if we view it as an all or nothing gig (idealism) then we will leave a gaping whole that will be filled by voices devoid of moral reasoning and substance.

That said....Obama is nor friend of life. He is a charismatic and good at rhetoric. but his positions and voting record on issues related to the unborn are just plain scary. See the article The "Elephant in the Room: Obama: A harsh ideologue hidden by a feel-good image" in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Here is a quote to give you a taste...

Let's be clear about what Obama did, once in 2003 and twice before that. He effectively voted for infanticide. He voted to allow doctors to deny medically appropriate treatment or, worse yet, actively kill a completely delivered living baby. Infanticide - I wonder if he'll add this to the list of changes in his next victory speech and if the crowd will roar: "Yes, we can."
I want to highlight two resources that have argued rigorously for the unborn using philosophical precision and legal reasoning and not appealing to the Bible (I accept the biblical positions of course, but most of society views insights derived from religious texts as off limits to public discourse).

The first is Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice by Francis Beckwith. The other is Embryo: A Defense of Human Life by Robert George (who happens to sit on the President's council on Bioethics). Both Beckwith and George are solid Christians and sharp thinkers. These are great resources to work through so you can speak up for the unborn.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Prominant Evolutionary Bioligist Admits Design in Nature?

There Is 'Design' In Nature, Biologist Argues - that is the interesting conclusion of Ken Miller in this article. Take it away Ken:

"The idea that there is 'design' in nature is very appealing," Miller said. "People want to believe that life isn't purposeless and random. That's why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support. "To fight back, scientists need to reclaim the language of 'design' and the sense of purpose and value inherent in a scientific understanding of nature..."

I am not sure that Miller’s fellow physicalists / naturalists would want to admit 'bona fide' design as opposed to “apparent design” ala Richard Dawkins et al. To do so would seem to let the notion of teleology (i.e., purpose grounded in the nature of the thing itself) slip its nose under the tent. But how does a random and blind process with no view to the end, provide teleology in nature? In principle it seems that it can't. This will be interesting to watch develop.

Intelligent Design on the other hand is very comfortable with the idea of teleology--for Minds create or design for a reason and for that object to fulfill a certain function. For the most up to date defense of Intelligent Design in an accessible book, pick up a copy of The Design of Life by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells. For more on this book and these authors visit The Design of Life site.

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