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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: January 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What is a Spiritual Discipline?

“the indirect means that allow us to cooperate in reshaping the personality—the feelings, ideas, mental processes and images, and the deep readiness of soul and body—so that our whole being is poised to go with the movements of the regenerate heart that is in us by the impact of the Gospel Word under the direction and energizing of the Holy Spirit.”—Dallas Willard

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Friday, January 29, 2010

To Save a Life Movie Releases And Is Already Saving Lives

Being a teenager is hard. It always has been, but each generation has their unique challenges. To Save a Life speaks with hope to one of those for this generation. View the trailer:

New movie in theaters is literally saving lives
'Teens see this film, they walk out and throw their razor blades away' (Read More)

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Nirvana Myth - Economics, Capitalism and Being Realistic

"The Nirvana Myth is comparing capitalism with an unrealizable idea. It's not simply the belief that good will triumph in the end or the belief that the Kingdom of God is already present--though not yet fully realized--in history. It's the delusion that we can build utopia on our won if we try hard enough. It makes every real society look intolerably wicked, since no real society can measure up to Utopia. Without this myth, the popular but deadly communist experiments of the twentieth century could never have gotten off the ground.

When we ask whether we can build a just society, we need to keep the question nailed to solid ground: "just" compared to what? It doesn't do anyone any good to tear down a society that is "unjust" compared to the Kingdom of God, if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it. If you compare capitalism with the live alternatives, however, capitalism wins hands down."--Jay Richards

Last night was the state of the union and of course economics came up. But we need to be realistic. There is a tension we need to acknowledge between what is and what could be...and then what is actually feasible.

For more, see Money, Greed, and God by Jay Richards

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tim Tebow and his controversial pro-life super bowl ad?

From LTI Blog... "Tim Tebow and his mother Pam in conjunction with private donors and Focus on the Family have legally purchased commercial air time during the Super Bowl to tell the story of how his mother was advised to abort him over medical concerns. Specifically, Pam had taken a high dose of antibiotics as part of treatment for amoebic dysentery and she was advised to terminate his life. The content of the ad has been reviewed and approved by the network as acceptable. The theme of the brief spot is “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.” And according to abortion supporters, supposedly obsessed with freedom and choice, you should not be allowed to see this spot.

Odd isn't it? Freedom, they cry! Liberty and equality for all and don't you attempt to force your view of morality on others. And yet it is that very same group that is now demanding that CBS not allow this perfectly legal and approved spot to air...." (More)

"CBS Tuesday (Jan. 26) stood behind its decision to take a Super Bowl ad from Focus on the Family that has drawn fire from reproductive choice organizations...." (more)

Only one issue in the pro life / pro choice debate. The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It's not about privacy or trusting women. To the contrary, the debate turns on one key question. What is the Unborn? (Great Article)

The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus, teach me how to live

“…if I want to fully experience the love of Jesus, I must receive one of his most important gifts he sends me—his teaching. I must invite Jesus to be the personal Teacher of my life. I must trust that he is right—about everything. And that therefore where I disagree with him I must either be wrong or not yet understand what it was he was saying. I must allow Jesus to teach me how to live.”—John Ortberg

Psalm 25:4-5

"Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you."

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

where sin leads...

"Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me."--Psalm 119:133

Habits of righteousness lead to life...but sin always enslaves us, subtly and incrementally, but always. That is the nature of sin; it turns us inward on ourselves. And before we know it we move from satisfaction of a particular desire or an unwise decision to dominion that removes our ability to see things clearly and thus to act in accordance with God's will.

The follower of Christ needs daily to be established in the reality of God's presence, power, and truth.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Only One Issue in the Pro-Life Debate

If you want to make a clear and compelling philosophical and scientific case for the pro-life position, then look no further than the website case fore life. Here is a brief sampling of what you can expect from Scott Klusendorf...

"The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It's not about privacy or trusting women. To the contrary, the debate turns on one key question.

What is the Unborn?
Pro-life advocates contend that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. This simplifies the abortion controversy by focusing on just one question: Is the unborn a member of the human family? If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own intrinsic worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled. As Gregory Koukl points out, "If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion in necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate." (Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons, p. 7)

This is not to say that abortion is easy for most women. To the contrary, a decision to have one may be psychologically complex and perhaps even agonizing for some. But the topic today is not psychology, but morality: Can we know what's right even if our emotions are conflicted?

Everyone agrees that abortion kills something that's alive. After all, dead things don't grow! But whether it's right to take the life of any living being depends entirely on the question: What kind of being is it?" (for more click here)

This is the best book on the topic.

For other think Christianly Posts on this topic, click here.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Neuroscientist Explores How Porn Hijacks Male Brain

Pornography is a big problem for men in America--both inside and outside the church. What commonsense has led us to believe all along is being confirmed in spades in the field of neuroscience. This is flat addictive and dangerous stuff--beyond the dehumanizing effects it has on perceptions of women.

Here is an excerpt of an interesting article:

"Neuroscientist and researcher Dr. William M. Struthers explores that question in a new book, where he approaches the pervasive problem of pornography as not only a spiritual matter but also a physical one.

"Pornography is ... a physical matter, rooted in the biological intricacies of our sexual design," Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College, writes in Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. "In my opinion, nowhere is the complexity of our sexual nature seen more than in the wiring of the brain."

While acknowledging that women are increasingly becoming consumers of pornography, the biopsychologist says there's little doubt that it is primarily men who are hooked on it. Even among Christian men, surveys have found that half of them are struggling with pornography.

"Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives," he states........

"The male brain is built like an ideal pornography receiver, wired to be on the alert for these images of nakedness," he lays out. "The male brain and our conscious visual experience is the internal monitor where we perceive them. The images of sexuality grab our attention, jumping out and hypnotizing a man like an HD television among a sea of standard televisions."

Constant exposure to pornographic images, however, comes with major consequences, especially for men.

"The way that a male brain is organized in being one-track, goal-oriented and visuospatial (mentally manipulating objects) make it the perfect playground for sexual fantasy," he cautions.

"As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, the exposure to them creates neural pathways," the professor explains. "Neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. ...They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed.

"Every woman they come into contact with is objectified, undressed and evaluated as a willing (or unwilling) mental sexual partner." (read more)

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Same-sex Marriage and the Logic of Prop 8 in Federal Courts

Two high-profile lawyers are challenging California’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Click here to listen to a 20 minute analysis of the logic of prop 8 and the legal challenge by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

See her article here. And the Ruth Institute.

Here is some helpful analysis from Greg Koukl:

"Either there’s a natural teleology to marriage or there’s not

Who are you to say?” That challenge works both ways. First, if my disapproval isn’t legitimate, then why is my approval legitimate? If I don’t have the right to judge something wrong (“Who are you to say?”), I certainly don’t have the right to judge it right (“Who am I to say?”). Second, why is it that I can’t make a moral judgment here, but apparently you can?

The appeal for a change in marriage laws is an attempt to change the moral consensus about homosexuality.

You invite me to make a moral judgment, then you challenge my right to make a judgment when I don’t give the answer you want. Who am I to judge? You asked for the peoples’ moral opinion by asking for the people to vote on an initiative giving homosexual unions equal status with heterosexual unions.

Why should homosexuals be allowed to marry? Because it’s “fair.” In what sense is the present situation unfair? Because homosexual relationships don’t get legal/social recognition equal with heterosexual relationships. You’re right, they don’t, but why is that unfair? Because those relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships? But that’s the very thing under dispute.

If there is no natural teleology to marriage and families, then the definition of marriage is simply a matter of convention. We can define it how we want. Now, I don’t accept that view, but even if I did, this doesn’t help homosexual marriage. Society has voted, and they’ve voted it out. On what grounds do you appeal for a change? Moral grounds? You’ve surrendered that opportunity when you claim that there is no right or wrong definition of marriage. If so, I have no moral obligation to opt for one view over another. If marriage is merely defined by society, well then, we voted and defined it as one man and one woman. You asked for a social consensus, you got it.

Second, if marriage is merely what we define it then what keeps us from expanding the definition of marriage beyond the inclusion of homosexuality to other kinds of relationships? Can I marry my daughter, or another man and his wife? Can two men marry the same woman simultaneously? Believe me, these aren’t outlandish examples. There are already groups moving for further redefinition if that’s all marriage is. There is no limit to how marriage might be defined in this view.

The only way a claim of injustice or unfairness can stick is if we have a moral obligation to view all sexual or emotional combinations as equal. But that depends on an objective standard, and that is a concept already jettisoned when society is asked to define marriage as they wish. If there’s a moral standard of fairness to appeal to, then there’s a moral standard for marriage to appeal to, as well." (More from Stand to Reason on this topic)

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thinking Green — The New Religion

Al Mohler has written an interesting article worth reading...

"The human species is inherently and resolutely religious. The Bible and the Christian tradition affirm this truth, even as we know that the religious impulse can so easily transform itself into idolatry.

Even the most cursory look at the world's cultures will indicate the religious fervor that characterizes humanity. The only observers who seem shocked by this universal phenomenon are the secularists and the prophets of secularization theory who were absolutely certain that religious faith and religious fervor would disappear in the modern world.

Needless to say, it hasn't turned out that way. The theory of secularization is a shadow of its former self. Leading proponents like Peter Berger of Boston University now acknowledge that the secularization thesis was not an accurate predictor of the fate of religious belief in the modern world. The modern world is not secularized. Indeed, many of the most heated conflicts around the world today involve conflicting faiths. As Berger has commented, it turns out that a few European nations and the American intellectual elites are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

And yet, the intellectual elites are not so secular as they believe themselves to be. As it happens, their religion may not be theistic, but it is a religion all the same.

That fact is confirmed in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, argues that the new religion of many secular folk is ecology. As Asma explains, many secular types suffer from "green guilt."

In "Green Guilt," he writes:

Now the secular world still has to make sense out of its own invisible, psychological drama-in particular, its feelings of guilt and indignation. Environmentalism, as a substitute for religion, has come to the rescue. Nietzsche's argument about an ideal God and guilt can be replicated in a new form: We need a belief in a pristine environment because we need to be cruel to ourselves as inferior beings, and we need that because we have these aggressive instincts that cannot be let out.

Asma rightly notes that Friedrich Nietzsche, the nihilist who famously declared that God is dead, understood that religion was not dead at all. He "was the first to notice that religious emotions, like guilt and indignation, are still with us, even if we're not religious."

These "religious emotions," including guilt, explain why so many..."(for the rest of article)

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Latest think Christianly Podcast - Britt Hume, Tiger Woods, and Christianity in the Public Square

Latest Think Christianly Podcast now available. Please enjoy, and subscribe today with iTunes. We will be podcasting more this year!

Click here to listen now

click here to Subscribe on iTunes

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Friday, January 15, 2010

CNN - Family's Adopted Son in Haiti Video - Aaron and Jamie Ivey

"Two parents in the process of adopting a Haitian boy when the earthquake struck spoke with CNN's Kiran Chetry."

This wonderful family (the Ivey's) went to church with us here in TN before moving to Austin, TX. What a wonderful picture of God's love in adopting children. Thank you guys for being such an example of God's love and walking by faith. We are praying for you, Amos, adn haiti.

“You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.​ Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”​​ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”—Romans 8:15-17 NLT

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Praying for Haiti - Ways You Can Help

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, how can you help? Here are two ministries on the ground that can use your prayers and generosity.

1. Samaritan's Purse (click here)
2. Compassion International (Click here)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Wordview Behind Avatar and a Christian Perspective on Movies / Film

In case you missed it, Avatar is breaking all sorts of records (worldwide) at the box office. As many have pointed out, very cool special effects, and 3-D. But what is the worldview embedded or displayed in this film. Worldviews are not expressed in pop-culture as propositions in a syllogistic argument; rather they are "incarnated" and show you a way to be human and think about your world. Every artistic from does this. We aren't merely entertained at the movies, we are instructed--whether that is fireproof, invictus, or avatar. So it is always appropriate to ask what did I learn (consciously or subconsciously) by viewing this film?

For example, here is what Cameron said at the film's London premiere: "We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that's how we treat the natural world as well. There's this sense of we're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, therefore we're entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works, and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural life on Earth." (for more click here)

Here is a review that my friend Sean McDowell (teacher, author, and apologist) wrote about the Worldview of Avatar and then below is a resource for watching film in a whole new way.

"The year is 2154, and humans are attempting to mine the valuable mineral unabtanium from the planet Pandora. Humans have virtually destroyed their own planet and desperately need extra-planetary resources to survive. Jake Sully, a wounded marine, is assigned to infiltrate the seemingly hostile indigenous aliens (the Na’vi) to win their trust and talk them into relocating their colony, which happens to be situated right atop a massive amount of unabtanium.

If he can successfully infiltrate the Na’vi people and negotiate their relocation, then the humans will not have to force them to move through military intervention (those of you who are observant already notice the political insinuations about the U.S. allegedly only going to war in Iraq for oil).

To infiltrate the Na’vi, Jake transposes his consciousness into an Avatar body under the supervision of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver).

Once inside Pandora, Jake meets Neytiri, a female alien who saves his life and introduces him to the rest of the Na’vi, who eventually accept him as one of their own. Neytiri plays the role of the mentor (ala Obi-One Kanobi, Mr. Miyagi, and Gandolf) who shows him all the ways of the Na’vi.

Through his experience with the Na’vi, Jake’s loyalty begins to change. He becomes a true Na’vi, which raises the question: which side will Jake choose? Avatar really tells the same story as movies such as The Last Samurai, Brother Bear, and Dances with Wolves—where a foreigner has preconceptions about an “alien” culture, yet upon spending time with them and learning their ways, realizes that his new “home” is truly the more benevolent, and that his original ways were really inhumane.

From the perspective of a 3-D film experience, Avatar is truly remarkable. I completely forgot that I was wearing glasses for most of the film! This is a huge step beyond the 3-D glasses with red and blue lenses (anyone remember Jaws 3?). The scenery on Pandora is nothing short of breathtaking. There are floating mountains, beautiful water falls, fascinating creatures, and luminescent plants that react to touch (Heaven?). Even though I think the film has potential to cause considerable spiritual confusion, I can’t help but give Cameron credit for his storytelling and creativity. Now, on to the worldview analysis…


Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) plays a slimy, sleazy, flippant corporate “pig” only interested in the monetary bottom-line. His character is reminiscent of Paul Reiser from Aliens. He has no concern for the life on Pandora and is gladly willing to destroy them to obtain unabtanium unless a diplomatic solution can be reached. At one point Parker says to Grace, “What do they want? We’ve tried money and education, but nothing works.” The inference is clear: these nature-loving creatures don’t want anything that Western corporate capitalist culture has to offer. In fact, it’s the capitalists who need to learn a lesson from the Na’vi.

It might be possible to chalk this character up as a criticism of corporate greed rather than a criticism of capitalism per se. However, I’m just not convinced because this portrayal seems to go along too consistently with the anti-capitalist fervor that has been resonating in our culture recently. It’s certainly ironic that Avatar has a central character negatively portraying (and stereotyping) capitalists when it’s already grossed over 1 billion dollars! But this is a minor theme in the movie.


It would be virtually impossible to miss the not-so-subtle pantheism that pervades the entire film. The Na’vi are spiritually connected to their entire world, including the plants and animals. Their home is a humongous tree, which is clearly representative of the idea of Mother Earth. The Na’vi are so connected to nature that they say of prayer of gratitude, and sometimes even cry, when they kill an animal for food. The audience is given a virtual lesson in pantheism while Neytiri mentors Jake into their way of life. A pantheistic explanation is given for EVERY aspect of life including what they eat, how they pray, how they worship the planet, and how they relate to each other. Avatar is filled with rituals that are overseen by a Shaman (there is a scene of tree worship that is so realistic my wife almost walked out. In her words, it was demonic).

The pantheistic worldview doesn’t simply play a background role to make the film plausible, like the Force does in Star Wars. Rather, pantheistic spirituality is literally preached to the audience through the characters and their interactions.

But there is a subtle difference that sets it apart from other pantheistic movies (such as Lion King, Pocahontas, or Star Wars).


While Avatar clearly portrays pantheistic spirituality in a positive light, I think it may be subtly subverting it with a naturalistic worldview. The naturalist in the film is clearly Grace Augustine (whose name is taken from St. Augustine who wrote, “The City of God”). She is the scientist who is constantly looking for a natural explanation for their spiritual behavior. While the Na’vi talk in spiritual terms (they describe “seeing” as looking into a person’s depth), there does seem to be a physical explanation lurking beneath all their behavior. Below the ground are cords that connect all the trees on the planet, like a giant network of computers. To “connect” with the animals, the Na’vi have to physically connect their hair to the animals’ manes. And to hear from their ancestors, they have to physically connect to the trees, not unlike connecting to the Internet. This is significantly different from the Star Wars films, for example, in which Luke, Yoda, and Darth Vader are capable of manipulating reality from a distance.

So, what is the moral of the story? Here’s my take: People ought to forsake greedy Western capitalism and embrace pantheistic spirituality, even though such practices have a perfectly natural explanation.

There is much more that could be discussed about in this film (e.g., environmentalism, or the way it portrays the military). I had great discussions in my classes this past week and have had many discussions with other young people as well. Even though this movie will likely cause considerable spiritual confusion, it provides a great opportunity for parents and youth workers to engage young people in worldview conversations....."(Read the rest on his blog)

For an excellent training guide on how to watch films with discernment, see Hollywood Worldviews by film-maker Brian Godawa.

Product Description

"Do you watch movies with your eyes open?

You buy your tickets and concessions, and you walk into the theater. Celluloid images flash at twenty-four frames per second, and the hypnotic sequence of moving pictures coaxes you to suspend disbelief and be entertained by the implausible.

Unfortunately, many often suspend their beliefs as well, succumbing to subtle lessons in how to behave, think and even perceive reality. Do you find yourself hoping that a sister will succeed in seducing her sibling's husband, that a thief will get away with his crime, that a serial killer will escape judgment? Do you, too, laugh at the bumbling priest and seethe at the intolerant and abusive evangelist? Do you embrace worldviews that infect your faith and then wonder, after your head is clear, whether your faith can survive the infection?

In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of his popular book, Brian Godawa guides you through the place of redemption in film, the tricks screenwriters use to communicate their messages, and the mental and spiritual discipline required for watching movies. Hollywood Worldviews helps you enter a dialogue with Hollywood that leads to a happier ending, one that keeps you aware of your culture and awake to your faith."

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Time Management 101 - Getting Your Time Back

We live in a world that gives us more and more...faster and faster and calls it progress. But is this good for us? Do you ever feel like someone else is setting the agenda of your life? Thankfully the Bible gives us some wisdom on how to make the most of the days we are given.

Here is a talk that I gave called "I want my time back" in which I explore this topic biblically and try to apply it to our lives. As we begin the new year, we all need to consider an important question.

Click here to listen...

Is there enough time in my life right now for me to do what I say matters most on a daily basis?

Here is an excellent and (short!) book that can make a BIG difference - A Minute of Margin: Restoring Balance to Busy Lives180 Daily Reflections by Richard Swenson

Product Description

Where’s the balance? Too many of us are losing the "war of the planner." We want to get everything done, but for some reason, it never happens. And the machines that were supposed to make lives easier only leave our lives more stressful.

Something has to give, and often it does––to disastrous consequences.

Expanding on principles from Dr. Richard Swenson’s best-selling books Margin and The Overload Syndrome, this book consists of 180 daily readings to help restore balance to hectic, modern lives. Each reading serves as a practical assignment––a helpful "prescription"––to eliminate unneeded frustrations, reflect on what’s really important, and start winning the war with our time.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

"Let’s Talk About Faith" - New York Times op-ed

Ross Douthat has written a very perceptive op-ed piece at the New York Times and is well worth the read regarding faith in the public square (related to Brit Hume's comments and the controversy this has stirred up).

Christians are called to engage our world with the good news Jesus offers. It is either true and the hope of the world, or false and a delusion of great proportions. But Christianity needs to rise to the level of true or false. And we need to talk about it in those terms. Not the neutered and self-referentially incoherent language of "that's just true for me."

I have picked out some especially insightful quotes to consider:

"Liberal democracy offers religious believers a bargain. Accept, as a price of citizenship, that you may never impose your convictions on your neighbor, or use state power to compel belief. In return, you will be free to practice your own faith as you see fit — and free, as well, to compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas...."

"This doesn’t mean that we need to welcome real bigotry into our public discourse. But what Hume said wasn’t bigoted: Indeed, his claim about the difference between Buddhism and Christianity was perfectly defensible. Christians believe in a personal God who forgives sins. Buddhists, as a rule, do not. And it’s at least plausible that Tiger Woods might welcome the possibility that there’s Someone out there capable of forgiving him, even if Elin Nordegren and his corporate sponsors never do."

"When liberal democracy was forged, in the wake of Western Europe’s religious wars, this sort of peaceful theological debate is exactly what it promised to deliver. And the differences between religions are worth debating. Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them.

If we tiptoe politely around this reality, then we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher — including Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha both — who ever sought to resolve the most human of all problems: How then should we live?

It’s reasonable to doubt that a cable news analyst has the right answer to this question. But the debate that Brit Hume kicked off a week ago is still worth having. Indeed, it’s the most important one there is." (read the whole article)

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hypothetical conversation on the “Who made God?” question

I cam across an interesting post on this at

Christian: The cosmological argument is strong evidence that God exists. If the universe was made, it needs a maker; if it was created, it needs a creator. That creator is God.

Skeptic: Ah, but this merely raises the question “Who made God?” which Richard Dawkins himself asks in The God Delusion.* It just pushes the question back one step further.

Christian: This seems to me to be a category error; it confuses the uncreated creator with His created creation. God doesn’t need a maker because God was never made; He was and is eternally existing.

Skeptic: That’s special pleading at best, hypocritical at worst. Why is it okay for God to be “eternal, uncreated” but not the universe?

Christian: Because we have good reasons, both philosophical and scientific, that the universe is not eternal, whereas no such reasons exist to believe that God is so. God is not subject to the same limitations of the material world He created. The cosmological argument proposes not that everything requires a cause, but whatever begins to exist requires a cause; if God did not begin to exist (since there is no reason to believe He did, unlike the universe) He requires no cause.

Skeptic: Even if we agree that the universe is not eternal, why must its cause be God? Why not some other explanation?

Christian: Whatever created both time and space must transcend both time and space. Also, there are numerous other attributes which can be discerned about whatever created the universe that imply a personal entity (that is, it possesses volition among other things). So the creator of the universe is an entity which is beyond time and space yet still possesses certain attributes and is personal. This sounds to me a lot like God.

* In The God Delusion Dawkins is attempting to apply the question as a defeater to the design argument (p.109), not the cosmological argument (which Dawkins shockingly dismisses in less than a page). I’ve personally heard it applied more often to the cosmological argument, at least in the realm of Internet banter."

(This conversation is from

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Earliest example of Hebrew writing found

"By decoding the inscription on a 3,000-year-old piece of pottery, an Israeli professor has concluded that parts of the bible were written hundreds of years earlier than suspected.

The pottery shard was discovered at excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley in Israel -- about 18 miles west of Jerusalem. Carbon-dating places it in the 10th century BC, making the shard about 1,000 years older than the Dead Sea scrolls.

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa deciphered the ancient writing, basing his interpretation on the use of verbs and content particular to the Hebrew language. It turned out to be "a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans," Galil explained in a statement from the University.

The inscription is the earliest example of Hebrew writing found, which stands in opposition to the dating of the composition of the Bible in current research; prior to this discovery, it was not believed that the Bible or parts of it could have been written this long ago.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, current theory holds that the Bible could not..." (More)

Also, Check out the Archeological Study Bible. It is a wonderful resource in full color.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Sex objects: Pictures shift men's view of women

Here is an article that talks about the neurological / mental effects of sexual images on the male brain and perceptions.

by Ian Sample / The Gaurdian UK

"Men are more likely to think of women as objects if they have looked at sexy pictures of females beforehand, psychologists said yesterday.

Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated.

Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other people's emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures.

Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, said the changes in brain activity suggest sexy images can shift the way men perceive women, turning them from people to interact with, to objects to act upon.

The finding confirms a long-suspected effect of sexy images on the way women are perceived, and one which persists in workplaces and the wider world today, Fiske said.

"When there are sexualised images in the workplace, it's hard for people not to think about their female colleagues in those terms. It spills over from the images to the workplace," she said.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago yesterday, Fiske said the findings called into question the impact of sexualised images of women that might be pinned on workplace walls or sent around offices where there was a strong locker-room culture.

"I'm not saying there should be censorship, but people need to be aware of the associations people will have in their minds," Fiske said.

In the study, Fiske's team put straight men into an MRI brain scanner and showed them images of either clothed men and women, or more scantily clad men and women. When they took a memory test afterwards, the men best remembered images of bikini-clad women whose heads had been digitally removed.

The brain scans showed that when men saw the images of the women's bodies, activity increased in part of the brain called the premotor cortex, which is involved in urges to take action. The same area lights up before using power tools to do DIY. "It's as if they immediately thought to act on theses bodies," Fiske said.

In the final part of the study, Fiske asked the men to fill in a questionnaire that was used to assess how sexist they were. The brain scans showed that men who scored highest had very little activity in the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions that are involved with understanding another person's feelings and intentions. "They're reacting to these women as if they're not fully human," Fiske said."

To see this whole article at the Gaurdian, click here

This is another reminder that people must gaurd what enters their minds. I am not trying to be puritanical, but you and I are simply being naive if we think we're are not being effected by the media we are regularly exposed to. For those who may not take religious or biblical admonitions seriously, perhaps neuroscience will do the trick.

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."--2 Cor. 7:1

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

I came across an interesting article from the Acton Institute on Wikipedia

"Ten years ago this month, Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales hired Larry Sanger to develop an online encyclopedia. You may have never heard of that project, titled “Nupedia,” but you’ve probably heard of the site that emerged from its ashes. Wikipedia is not only one of the most successful initiatives in the history of the Web but also a shining example of the potential of human cooperation.

Wikipedia sprouted in the fertile soil of freedom and possibility that characterized the early days of the Internet. Andrew Lih tells the story in The Wikipedia Revolution (2009). Wales, a principal of the technology company Bomis, perceived the potential demand for an online encyclopedia and launched his new venture to fill that need. Nupedia was soon abandoned because it was the result of conventional thinking—a traditional encyclopedia model applied to the Internet. When this dawned on Wales and Sanger, the resulting creative spark ignited the Wikipedia revolution. Putting an encyclopedia on the Web should mean not merely a change in the location of encyclopedia content, they realized: the new technology could instead transform the entire process of content production and publication. This was the insight that set Wikipedia apart and soon attracted millions of people across the world to its community.

The Wikipedia experiment was an exercise in entrepreneurship, and demonstrates that the impetus for life-enhancing innovation is not merely monetary success. Wales and Sanger were motivated by a desire to promote learning and empower people. In their view, the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge should be democratic: let anyone with access to a computer participate in the process.

Traditionally, the collection and presentation of the world’s accumulated knowledge in the encyclopedia format was a jealously guarded prerogative of the gatekeepers of established publishing and academic institutions. This method had its advantages: consistency, careful review processes, and adherence to accepted standards of scholarship.

It also had its drawbacks. The updating and release of new material necessarily occurred at a glacial pace. Originality and dissent were frowned upon and non-mainstream perspectives could only find their way to print slowly, if at all. There were intrinsic limitations of scale and scope, put in place by the economics of the editorial and print process: only major topics deemed to be of interest to large numbers of people could justify the resources put into covering any given entry.

The philosophy of its founders shaped Wikipedia and supplied its unique sensibility, overturning the conventional constraints of established encyclopedias. Most critically, Wales and Sanger possessed a fundamental faith in humanity. Wikipedia is not about technology, Wales wrote in the foreword to Lih’s book, “it’s about people… it’s about trusting people, it’s about encouraging people to do good.” Detractors believed that permitting open editing of web content, or “crowdsourcing,” would result in chaos. Bias, error, and distortion would be rife. How could the anonymous interaction of the Web, they wondered, result in reliably accurate information on a wide range of topics?

But Wikipedia’s bet on the potential of free human interaction in an online community paid off. By 2008, it boasted more than 2 million articles in English, and millions more in some 250 other languages. By almost any measure it was a spectacular success.

The model pioneered by Wikipedia is not flawless. One might..." For more...

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What About All the Evil Done in the Name of Religion? - John Lennox Video

Here is a short clip in which Oxford Professor John Lennox takes this question head-on. Very good insight.

See his excellent book, God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Brit Hume, Tiger Woods, and Turning to Jesus (a little context)

Well, Brit Hume has lit up the blogosphere and made headlines with (what seemed to be from the clip--just search You Tube) a genuine concern for Tiger's well-being.

Now, from the huffington post, to fox news, to everywhere in between. People are talking about Brit Hume, Jesus, and Tiger. There are lots of things we could weigh in on (e.g., the validity and veracity of his claim? Should it be uttered on the news? If Islam or New Age were commended instead of Jesus, would there be the backlash? All interesting questions.

So....What did Brit Hume actually say?

"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think, is a very open question. And it's a tragic situation. . . . But the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, seems to me to depend on his faith.

"He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.' "

In our increasingly secular and pluralistic society the fact that this was greeted with outrage is unsurprising. But for all those hoping to vilify Brit Hume for sharing what he has found to be true, one should it a least understand some personal context (whether he should have said it or not on a News show, I'll let you decide).

Brit lost a son to suicide in 1998. I can't imagine the pain of that as a father. And in an interview in 2008 when he retired from as Washington Bureau Chief for Fox News, he said:
"I certainly want to pursue my faith more ardently than I have done. I'm not claiming it's impossible to do when you work in this business. I was kind of a nominal Christian for the longest time. When my son died, I came to Christ in a way that was very meaningful to me. If a person is a Christian and tries to face up to the implications of what you say you believe, it's a pretty big thing. If you do it part time, you're not really living it."
My point is this. Maybe in a moment of candor, Brit was being deeply honest with Tiger. Simply expressing what / who he has found that has changed his life?

....Here is an interesting article from Politics Daily

here is a post by Stand to Reason looking more at the specific claim.

Here is Brit talking later about what he said on Sunday:

Leap of Faith

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Is Intelligent Design identical to Creationism?

Confusion abounds concerning what ID (Intelligent Design) is and isn’t. So, we must be careful to clearly define it. The media, for the most part gets it wrong by calling ID a form of Creationism (we will discuss the difference below). And opponents of ID label it Creationism for rhetorical reasons so as to paint ID with the same ignorance brush as those who still believe the earth is flat. So instead of engaging with the scientific evidence marshaled by ID scientists and philosophers,[i] DE (proponents of Darwinian Evolution) resorts to name calling and institutional bullying. To get at the truth, here are some definitions straight from leading ID proponents.

William Dembski argues that the basic claim of ID is that “there exist natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural causes and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to design.” For example, imagine you are driving through the mountains and all of the sudden you come across a rock face that demands your attention—it is different than the others. Whereas wind and erosion can account for the random appearances of most of the mountains you have seen that day, it cannot account for the four shapes embedded in this rock face. Why not? Because there is a recognizable pattern of intelligence that went in to the formation of this mountain. This becomes obvious by the fact that there are four specific shapes / patterns matching the faces of four former presidents of the United States (Mt. Rushmore). The natural inference here is not to the blind and unguided natural processes of wind and erosion but rather to design.

Consider another example from the science of Archaeology.[ii] When archeologists excavate sites and sift through dirt, how do they distinguish between authentic artifacts and rocks? Answer: they look for marks of design or what Dembski calls Specified Complexity (highly improbable patterns). Now what happens when scientists apply this same principle to biology at a molecular level? Michael Behe did just that and observed that some systems (e.g., Bacterial Flagellum) cannot be accounted for by blind natural selection.[iii] In fact, he concluded from his research that the most probable inference for the origin of irreducibly complex systems is design. A system is irreducibly complex if “it consists of several interrelated parts for which removing even one part destroys the system’s function.” If this concept is still a little fuzzy think of a mouse trap. What is necessary for a mouse trap to work is its having all the parts (wood, spring, cheese, latch etc.) working together. But it is not as though a block of cheese catches some mice, so adding a spring would catch more, then adding a block of wood would catch even more. The point is that the individual components serve no function by themselves. It is only when they function together as a whole do you get a beneficial function. Charles Darwin in 1859 admitted that “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not have possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” That is quite a statement! Dembski pinpoints the crucial issue, “the point is whether nature (conceived as a closed system of blind, unbroken natural causes) can generate specified [or irreducible] complexity in the sense of originating it when previously there was none.” After one hundred and fifty years, it does not seem that it can. So by Darwin’s own admission, his theory is breaking down. It should also be noted that as we learn more and more about the complexity of the cell and DNA, the problem is only going to get worse for DE.

It is imperative to recognize that ID is not making a claim based on religious presuppositions. On the contrary, scientists have observed the relevant data and inferred design as the best explanation. Gaps exist in the understanding of molecular biology that DE has no way of bridging according to their theory. ID does have an explanation. As noted above, DE is stuck with the problem of where information comes from and how it is transferred (See Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell). ID has an explanation for this, inferred from the data, as well. These systems and organisms appear designed because they are designed. Now to be sure, ID research has religious implications but it is not religious in nature. It does not claim to say who this designer is or what he is like—that is a question for Theology and Philosophy of Religion to debate. ID is not Creationism in sheep’s clothing adorned with fancy vocabulary.

[i] I include philosophers as well, because it is actually impossible to separate scientific inquiry from philosophical assumptions.

[ii] We could also talk about cryptology or the SETI project (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence—regardless of what you think about this, these scientists are assuming that intelligence can be recognized—like a series of prime numbers 1,3,13 etc. [see the movie Contact]). So if Scientists know what does and doesn’t count as intelligence, then why the hesitance to apply that understanding to what they observe in biology?

[iii] Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

California Science Center is sued for canceling a film promoting intelligent design

Here is some of the LA Times article (and more about Intelligent Design "ID" below):

"A lawsuit alleges that the state-owned center improperly bowed to pressure from the Smithsonian Institution, as well as e-mailed complaints from USC professors and others. It contends that the center violated both the 1st Amendment and a contract to rent the museum's Imax Theater when it canceled the screening of "Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record."

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the American Freedom Alliance, an L.A.-based group described by senior fellow Avi Davis as a nonprofit, nonpartisan "think tank and activist network promoting Western values and ideals."

The AFA seeks punitive damages and compensation for financial losses, as well as a declaration from the court that the center violated the Constitution and cannot refuse the group the right to rent its facilities for future events.

The AFA had planned an Oct. 25 screening of two films at the Exposition Park museum -- one a short Imax movie called "We are Born of Stars," which favors Darwin's theory; the other, "Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record," a feature-length documentary that criticizes Darwin and promotes intelligent design.

Intelligent design is the theory that an intelligent being, rather than impersonal forces such as Darwinian natural selection, is responsible for shaping life on Earth. An overwhelming majority of scientists and science and natural history museums consider the theory of evolution to have been proved beyond a doubt by genetic and fossil evidence. Critics of intelligent design have dismissed it as a superficially scientific cloak for the straightforwardly religious belief known as Creationism that's anchored in a literal reading of the biblical Book of Genesis...." (More)

For more on this story click here.

Just for the record and the 1 millionth time. Intelligent Design is not Creationsim derived from a literal reading of Genesis...well, I now feel better. (they are separate issues)

If you would like to understand Intelligent Design in plain language, see this book by Sean McDowell and William Dembski:

For understanding how to navigate issues of Science and Faith (as well as interpreting Genesis 1-3 and how all that fits with the age of the earth and Darwinian evolution) look no further than Science and Faith: Friends or Foes by C. John "Jack" Collins. (Hebrew scholar and MIT graduate)

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Seeking Wisdom in 2010?

Here is the place to start. If this one isn't settled, it is kind of hard to become wise.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."--Psalm 111:10

Andy Stanly's paraphrase is helpful - "God, the answer is yes, now what's the question?"

It is that simple and that challenging. I am not God. And I need a lot of wise input.

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