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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: August 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain's VP Choice Reassures Evangelicals

OK...I will take a break from the political commentary soon and move to other aspects informed by a Christian worldview; but this is a national stage to see how ideas matter and you can learn to spot worldview issues everywhere--everyone has one and they will govern and legislate accordingly.

Read the latest...
McCain's VP Choice Reassures Evangelicals

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Voting as a Spiritual Discipline: Ten Tips

I came across this list by Fred Sanders. It is worth a read.

Well, now it’s convention season, and responsible voters need to wake up and smell the candidates. Here is some advice about how to conduct a healthy spiritual life in a political season.

1. Vote. Resist the temptation to hover above the fray. “If God had meant for us to vote, he would have given us candidates.” “My views are so nuanced, or so otherworldly, or so nonpartisan, or so individual, that no party or candidate matches them enough to get my vote.” Hogwash. Apolitical posturing is immature and unserious. God calls us to responsibility, and it is a sin to refuse the call.

2. Vote actively and gratefully. People tend to get involved in politics incrementally, doing just as much as they feel they must. If you’ve been wronged or systemically oppressed, you take recourse to any legal option available to you. Voting is the easiest and most ordinary means of taking action for most of us. Thank God for the opportunity.

3. Vote submissively. In Romans 13, Paul tells us to be subject to the governing authorities. For those of us who live in nations where the governing authority is constituted partly by the consent of the governed, submitting includes voting. It’s a funny kind of active submission, but there it is.

4. Vote philosophically. Most of us don’t reflect on our political philosophies often. The election cycle is a good excuse to do so. Take some time to think through your basic presuppositions about the commonwealth, about power, about life in the communities you belong to, about the distribution of goods and the protection of rights. If your political philosophy got a little more coherent every time there was an election, you’d really know what you believe by midlife. Go ahead, invest a little more of your thought life in thinking things through.

5. Vote intelligently. Become informed enough to cast an intelligent vote. How much information does it take to cast an informed ballot? Find out, make a decision, and do the relevant research. Just because everybody gets a vote doesn’t mean you automatically deserve yours. Try to deserve your vote. Do the basic research necessary to know what you’re voting about: check the sample ballot, the position papers, and the various arguments.

6. But don’t go crazy with it. Unless consuming news analysis happens to be your hobby, don’t let it take up too much of your life and mental space this season. A finite number of thoughts course through your conscious mind each day; make sure you leave room for prayer and for thinking creatively about helping people around you.

7. Register to vote by mail, and send in your ballot nice and early. Then ignore all political coverage until election night. Journalism is in such a sorry state these days that nearly all election coverage is a little bit stupid. But in the ten days before election day, the news cycle spins out of control, the reporters go stark raving mad, and the whole world becomes an echo chamber. You can feel yourself getting dumber the longer you watch the news. For most people, no thought can occur during that time. The noise generated during this brief time period is exactly the kind of noise that drives out prayer.

8. Keep your perspective. There’s more to government than the president. Sure, he’s important, but he’s just the head of one of the branches of one of our many overlapping government systems. A president is a blunt instrument, and your vote can’t be a precise instrument. The presidential election cycle produces a strange kind of foreshortening that makes us think this vote will address all issues. Remember that local politics are slightly less stupid than national, and gradual progress toward goals is better than trying to fix everything with your One Big Presidential Vote. Is there anything you could be doing between now and the next big election that might make more of a difference?

9. Christians, don’t let your head get turned by the parties and causes that want to recruit you. The Republican party wants to keep counting on evangelical votes with no questions asked; the Democrats have been frenzy-driven to conjure up a Religious Left voting block for about five years now. The particular configurations that seem so important now will blow over, and the church will still be the church, Christians will still be Christians. Remain calm, it’s just flirting.

10. Pray about your vote. Tell God what you’re doing.

For the rest of this thoughtful article, click here.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When Does Human Life Begin?

When does a human life begin? Here is what leaders in the medical community (along with a pastor and a presidential candidate) have to say...

From First Things:

Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic): “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth (Harvard University Medical School): “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

Dr. Alfred Bongioanni (University of Pennsylvania): “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, “the Father of Modern Genetics” (University of Descartes, Paris): “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”

Rick Warren: At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?

Sen. Barack Obama: "Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

Sen. John McCain: "Life begins at conception."

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

For an argument for human rights (including the unborn) see Defending Life by Francis Beckwith

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Friday, August 22, 2008

God is Present

Psalm 16:8 - I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. (NLT)

What a wonderful promise for those who know Jesus Christ (John 17:3).

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Learning to tell the "Big Story" and our part in it

What is God up to in the world? What is our part in that? Why is the world in such a mess? And what does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf have to do with all of this? James Choung has developed a little tool called True Story to help people engage these questions. It is worth a read to improve our ability to think about the message we are offering a new generation. A summary of it is in this video clip below.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Son of Hamas Leader Turns Back on Islam and Embraces Christianity

This is a remarkable story. As you read - and you simply must read this - look for how he highlights ideas and their consequences. Also, the need to examine your religion to see if it is actually true (whether that be Christianity or Islam). Finally, notice, this isn't a game for him; he is not playing church.

Here is a teaser from the interview:

JONATHAN HUNT: Aren't you terrified that somebody is going to try to kill you for saying these things — which would be approved of according to parts of the Koran?

MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF: They got to kill my ideas first, (and) that's it, they're already out. So how are they going to kill my idea? How are they going to kill the opinions that I have? ... They can kill my body, but they can't kill my soul.

JONATHAN HUNT: You're not afraid?

MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF: As a human, you know, I can be very brave now, I'm not thinking about it at this moment and I feel that God is on my side. But if this will be the challenge, I ask God to give me enough strength.

JONATHAN HUNT: Have you been threatened?

MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF: No, not really. Honestly, most Muslims and Muslim leaders here in the U.S. community, European communities, they are trying to get ahold of me. They are calling my famiily, my mother, and asking for my contacts. They are telling her, 'We want to help him.'

JONATHAN HUNT: They think you need help?

MOSAB HASSAN YOUSEF: Yeah, they think that Christians took advantage of me, and this is completely wrong. I've been a Christian for a long time before they knew, or anyone knew. I love Jesus, I followed him for many years now. It wasn't a secret for most of the time, and this time I just did it to glorify the name of God and praise him.

They're not dealing with a regular Muslim. They know that I'm educated, they know that I studied, they know that I studied Islam and Christianity. When I made my decision, I didn't make it because someone did magic on me or convinced me. It was completely my decision.

What a powerful illustration of courage in both thinking and life.

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China stops Americans carrying 315 Bibles at Airport

As the world turns their eyes on China for the Olympics, one wonders what else they will notice? Does China really squash freedom of religion??? Surely not....But the Olympic venues look so pretty and modern!!!

Well ask Pat Klein of Vision Beyond Borders. He had 315 Bible confiscated and refusing to leave the airport in China till he gets them back. Read this story here....

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does Naturalism have a good explanation for rationality?

If physics and chemistry are all there is in the universe (i.e. materialism / naturalism) then why think rationality exists (i.e., our ability to think and form true beliefs)? JP Moreland gives some good insight in a recent article. It is worth a read.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

At least 5 things science can't tell us...

In a debate between Peter Atkins (a Darwinist) and William Lane Craig (a Christian), there was an interesting exchange on the limit or limitlessness of science. Atkins says there weren't any. Craig pointed out the following 5 areas that science cannot give a scientific explanation of:

1. mathematics and logic (science can't prove them because science presupposes them),

2. metaphysical truths (such as, there are minds that exist other than my own),

3. ethical judgments (you can't prove by science that the Nazi's were evil, because morality is not subject to the scientific method),

4. aesthetic judgments (the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven), and , ironically

5. science itself (the belief that the scientific method discovers truth can't be proven by the scientific method itself)

Science is helpful; but we should not expect it to answer everything and it certainly hasn't proven that God doesn't exist contrary to many claims being made. If you found this kind of insight helpful, you would benefit from I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

What do students believe? What do they need?

Here is some insight from a recent lecture by Sean Mcdowell for Stand to Reason.

STR Cruise Lecture #4
Save Our StudentsSean McDowell

Judges 2:7 "The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua....Another generation grew up that forsook the Lord and did evil in his sight."

58-88% of Christian high school graduates will deny their faith within four years of college. The difference between those who falter and those who don’t is having an ingrained Christian worldview. It's being able to think biblically about all components of life.

32% of students who fell away did so because of intellectual skepticism, they didn't think that Christianity answers significant questions about life. One of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they aren't being taught to think.
There are two main areas of students' lives that the church is missing. Students are hurting relationally. They're separated and alienated from significant relationships with adults that will give them the support they need. And teenagers don’t know how to think. They don’t have the rational skills to develop a coherent worldview. Consequently, they compartmentalize their beliefs.

A worldview is a mental map of reality. If our mental map matches up, we know the truth; if not, it leads to confusion. The more accurate our worldview is, the better able we are to live in the power of God for His Kingdom.

10% of conservative Protestant students believe God created the world, but is not involved in it today.

8% believe God is impersonal like a cosmic force. Put these first two statistics together and almost 1/5 of students don’t think God is involved in their lives. This has real consequences in their lives.

One third say they maybe or definitely believe in reincarnation.
23% are not assured of the reality of miracles. They apparently don’t believe the resurrection is real.

42% are not assured of the existence of evil spirits. How can they deal with the onslaught of temptation when they don’t believe they are being tempted.

Nearly half believe many religions may be true. They won’t evangelize and they may hold loosely to their convictions if they think there aren’t real consequences to them.
People who have a biblical worldview are much more likely to act like jesus because they see such things as life, people, and crises differently than most people do.

If we don't intentionally and consciously train our children to have a biblical worldview they will unintentionally and unconsciously adopt contrary views. Our job is to train young people to know that they know truth. Our people are filled with people who know truth, but they don’t know that they know truth. And that’s where courage and conviction comes from.
Which word is used more in Christian circles – faith or knowledge? Faith. Which is used more in the Bible? Knowledge. 1 John has the word "know" or a derivative in about 1/4 of the verses. Many Christian students believe Christianity is a preference claim rather than a truth claim.

67% of college students said that faith is very or extremely important in their lives. However, when the same question was posed open-ended, what is important in your life, hardly any mentioned religion or spirituality. Few mentioned any significant way religion influences their lives. Religion is compartmentalized and doesn’t shape their lives. The language that dominates adolescent interests and thinking about life is personal feeling and desire. But that is also the case with adults. That's where they get it.

Engage in worldview discussions with children. The best way parents can help their children become and stay Christian is to engage in discussions about Christian values and how it interprets and directs life. Conversation is the best way to shape worldview. Discuss movies. Discuss decisions. Discuss ideas. Model and explain how Christianity provides solutions and ways of thinking about the practical aspects of life.

Sean's experience is that teenagers are more open and interested in discussions these things than we often think. They'll respond well when engaged consistently and seriously.

Welcome to College

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Raising kids in a sexualized society

Yesterday we talked about sexuality and TV. I came across this interview and these ladies raise some helpful points. Here was just one of the Q & A exchanges:

Q: You say the “sexualization of childhood” affects boys, as well as girls, negatively. Can you expand on this?

A: Boys learn to see girls as objects and judge and value them by how they look and how “sexy” they are. And boys are taught to conform to a very narrow definition of masculinity — being tough and invulnerable and aggressive. This can make it very difficult for boys to become men capable of having positive, caring, and connected relationships. This is a very high price to pay.

If this is correct, and I think it is, we are training boys who will become men to see girls as objects. Then this unhealthy and ultimately destructive cycle leads to the girls--who want to be liked--focus primarily on how they look. We need to introduce truth into this cycle; people are intrinsically valuable because God made them in His image...not how they look or how well that perform.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Study: TV shows sex, but not in marriage

Sex sells and it is everywhere. TV is powerful because for good or ill, it conveys images. But images are more powerful than simply ideas. Mainly because they, in many ways, bypass rational thought or interaction--they are simply perceived (like the awareness that a tree is in front of me). Images are embedded with an idea or cluster of ideas that lead either to life with God or without God. Dallas Willard writes, "Every idea system is present among us as a life force through a small number of powerful images" (Renovation of the Heart, 99).

Few desires in life are as powerful as sexual ones. God has created sexual intimacy for a context suitable to human flourishing and delight--a married relationship between a husband and a wife. It is a GOOD thing! Sex is beautiful and provides life, light, warmth, laughter, and pleasure to a married relationship. That is the ideal. It is what we say yes to as Christ-follower's. It is good indeed.

Now images shape emotions and habits and values. So what are we learning on TV? Especially the next generation who quite honestly, many of whom have not thought rationally about sexual intimacy--what it is and is for. That is not a slam; just the truth.

So a recent study comes out that shows that "Behavior that once was seen as “fringe, immoral or socially destructive have been given the imprimatur of acceptability by the television industry” and children are absorbing or even imitating it, the report contends."

They looked at 4 weeks of primetime TV shows and discovered among other things that:

"The study analyzed four weeks of scripted shows on the major networks at the start of the 2007-08 season, noting content including depictions of sex; implied sex; discussions on the subject, and visual references to strippers, pornography and other aspects of sexuality.
Among the networks overall, references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex by 2 to 1. The “family hour” — the first hour of prime-time TV, which draws the most young viewers — contained the highest ratio of references to non-married vs. married sex, the study found."

Now I am not saying boycott TV. But we can't be passive observers in media consumption--nor can we sit idly by while images are uncritically bypassing the rational process of our youth. To do so, would be to treat them in an unloving manner; we would not be telling them the truth.

Please take a minute and read this article to make yourself aware of this so that you can think Christianly about your viewing habits.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Are Rejecting the 'Bible' and Rejecting 'Christianity' the Same Thing?

I was reading The Reason for God and came across an excellent point and a helpful one as we discuss issues with our non Christian friends.

"You may appeal, "But I can't accept the Bible if what it says about Gender is outmoded." I would respond to that with this question--are you saying that because you don't like what the Bible says about sex that Jesus couldn't have been raised from the dead? I'm sure you wouldn't insist on a non-sequitor. If Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to take his teaching seriously, including his confidence in the authority of the whole bible. If he is not who he says he is, why should we care what the Bible says about anything else?"

"Think of it like this. If you dive into the shallow end of the Biblical pool, where there are many controversies over interpretation, you may get scraped up. But if you dive into the center of the Biblical pool, where there is consensus--about the deity of Christ, his death and resurrection--you will be safe. It is therefore important to consider the Bible's core claims about who Jesus is and whether he rose from the dead before you reject it for less central and more controversial teachings."--Timothy Keller

I think this helps us keep the main thing, the main thing--Jesus.

(Just so I am clear on my position, I affirm the inspiration, authority, and innerancy of the Bible; but do not think it is necessary for someone to accept before trusting in Christ. The New Testament is historically reliable and there is much we can learn from it regarding the origins of and central claims of Christianity without first having to affirm its supernatural composition or origins).

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