As competition for pulpits increases there are fewer and fewer opportunities available for domestic ministry. Bible colleges and seminaries are cranking out trained pastors by the hundreds and thousands, but these men have no churches where they might serve. Those who do serve are often plagued by failure and a misunderstanding of their calling. (more…)
Lotus R4 PCLP AppDev & CLP SysAdmin, R8 AppDev B.S., Bible/Christian Education, Grace. Currently in graduate studies @ TEDS. Member, Evangelical Theological Society Member, Society of Christian Philosphers Member, Evangelical Philosophical Society Passtimes: Job hunting, Mornings @ Panera, Getting through TEDS, Reading mass amounts of everything, large format film photography ,amateur radio (KC8TKA), blogging (too much), really too much to list.Maybe I should slow down.RSS feed for this author
These principles are some of my personal first principles for what a church is and how a church ought behave. These come out of my mixed theological background – some Mennonite, Conservative Baptist, and E Free, and uncompromisingly an historic dispensationalist. I welcome your feedback. (more…)
A controversial matter in the recent discussion thread of the Noetic Noah discourse is the nature of science. Once that term is understood, along with its various ramifications, then one will be better able to understand both laboratory studies and evolution, and even the source for confusion in may of the comments.
(a recycled post from another life)
Though a good number of modern liberals whom I’ve read make specific appeals to Schleiermacher for their sentiments about God and the nature of Christianity, few make any appeal to the origins of their ethical foundations. While many positive statements are made regarding ethical behavior, yes, may even come from relativist liberals, the ethic is generally expressed without appeal to an identifiable origin. (more…)
What is often difficult in getting a perspective on socio-political perspectives is to get past the popular rhetoric and get into the heads of the secular philosopher. So I took Hebrews 11 and reframed it in materialistic terms that would convey the ideas of today’s progressive. This experiment looked like it might be valuable if I could at all express the principles of secularism in a manner that would be more than just clear, but clarify the movement’s desired outcomes. (more…)
Many of us have watched the episodes of How Things Work. Kids love them, and many adults equally captivated by the processes at play. There was an historical version of this on public television in past years, though I doubt many thought of it that way at the time. James Burke‘s The Day the Universe Changed is just that. It was a story of history and how it was driven by ideas. Though one might not always agree with his conclusions, there remains a great quantity of valuable information that ties together history, philosophy, and theology.
Likewise church history can, and should, be examined with regard to its functionality. My concern about (our missing) ecclesiology is reflected here. My goal here is to attempt to expose some of our current thoughts and attempt a challenge to resolve the issue. I won’t pretend any solution, but will only say that institutionalization is not always the best particular method.
The issue that I would like to confront here goes to one of the results of our liberal system of governing our nation and ourselves. The method is this: If it needs done, start a new organization and ask for money. It seems that when people seek the Lord’s leading they often jump out on their own with no direction from church leadership, from friends, or even with the capacity to listen if those persons were engaged in their “calling.” At this point I could rant about the parachurch groups, but often it is the church itself that spawns them. The church contributes by not reinforcing accountability, but not having an accountability and relationship system in place to practice what it might be preaching, and by mis-emphasizing individualism in salvation and spiritual growth.
By mis-emphasizing I only suggest an idea that is not foreign to many of us — that we are saved into a body. There are no cowboys in God’s kingdom. But how do we avoid this in ministry? The only solution is one of action — put yourself into a place of accountability. Then, if you are ready to branch out, try this: 1. Place this ministry under the leadership of your local church. 2. Find people to interact with who both agree and disagree with you on strategy. 3. Do all your planning as a team. (And first understand that it is a team; it is not your committee.)
For the past several decades, ever since Ray Stedman came out with BODY LIFE, many fellowships have placed a valuable and profitable emphasis on small groups and home Bible studies. There are, of course, failures in this arena. Some have turned them into touchy-feely groups and others have let them dry up into programs that lack the necessary intimacy. Still, it is not difficult to find many that work and work well. But what of leadership in these groups? How are leaders trained?
So what do I think will solve these issues? Certainly not a mere program. Hopefully pastors who are in fellowships antagonistic to these ideas will take it upon themselves to form a core group within the fellowship that will reach out to make the necessary difference. Hopefully they will also choose elders/deacons/leaders who are first spiritual people, and then mature people. Hopefully they will do more than meet and organize, but also study and pray confess sin together. Hopefully pastors will take even their less-accommodating leaders (you know, those who think they own the church) through similar spiritual challenges.
I wonder — if such relationships are established in a fellowship and the Spirit moves in someone’s heart to do a work — I wonder how much positive energy and enablement can be given to fulfilling ministry and growing the Kingdom? I am optimistic about what might be done, though not always about our ability to change our way of doing things.
For John Locke, the world was to be understood through the senses, and only through the senses. He believed in natural law and natural right. He believed that people are a blank slate at birth.
For John Locke, the world is what he makes it. He apparently controls the lives of people around him. He appears to be evil incarnate, and containing him on that island is the highest concern of some.
As much as I enjoy a bit of action television (Note: Terry O’Quinn is a fine actor. I enjoyed his brief parts in JAG and MatLOCK.), the convoluted world of LOST represents the predictable manipulation of sensibilities and education that typifies Hollywood. Throwing around the names of philosophers like Locke and Bentham in the show as though they mean something significant exhibits only the writers’ ability to deconstruct the world without constructing an alternative. It reads like a freshman philosophy paper. That’s high school freshman.
At least The Matrix had a coherent sense of reality, Karen Carpenter sang in a minor, Gran Torino was looking for something, and ALF had the sense to continue seeking his preferred nutrition source. But LOST, in my opinion, only represents the lostness and emptiness of the 1970s, renewed, clarified, and amplified. But we must hand it to ABC — they made a lot of money off nothing. Perhaps this is an opportunity to clarify to people what being really lost is all about?
As churches large, small, and at-large give consideration to the broad social issues of our day, one complaint that is frequently offered is that the church is doing little or nothing in such-and-such a field. The answer provided to resolve this complaint is that the responsibility must now lie with some other, greater charity or corporate entity, or government, to step in and “get the job done.” While critiques abound with respect to the particular philosophy of government that is at work, or the world view that informs the ethic being employed, these arguments often miss the call to answer the criticism directly. (more…)
Pelosi, Obama, and Friends would like this “health care” legislation assessed as though it is independent of the broader goals of the administration. But this administration, and the Congress that does his bidding, plans for this nation which must not be divorced from the whole — they come as a package as a part of his world view. What good, after all, is a Constitution if it is fundamentally flawed?
Let’s not forget the forthcoming “amnesty” that will effectively dissolve our borders. Anyone who come in illegally and builds a life here will be able to get it all “free”.
Let’s not forget Obama’s plans to control the broadcast industry through a “diversity” plan.
Let’s not forget the control already taken over Wall Street.
Let’s not forget the control already take over the banks.
Let’s not forget the thuggery that said to the banks “we did you a favor, now you owe us.” Sound like the “godfather” method.
Let’s not forget the pay czar who wants to control income.
Let’s not forget the control taken over the auto industry.
Let’s not forget that industry ownership was taken from investors (people who worked to buy stocks and even retired with a dependence upon this income) and given to the union thugs.
Let’s not forget that the IRS will be hiring about 16,000 new wiseguys to enforce the insurance laws. (Wait –you don’t think this is a police state yet?)
Let’s follow this with a history lesson on some older material, steps that came with the theme that Nancy Pelosi has been reciting recently. And we should note that all this always comes with a crisis mentality.
Criticism of the Leftist movement of our government was a crisis, so the 501(c)(3) rules came into play, thanks to LBJ. (1950s)
Retirement was a crisis, so we got retirement and savings manipulation via Social Security. (1950s)
Housing and food were a crisis, so we got the Great Society. (1960s)
Health care for older people was a crisis, so we got Medicare. (1960s)
Day care for working families was a crisis, but we averted the Clinton agenda. (1990s)
Health care for all was a crisis in the 90s, but somehow we survived. How? Only heaven knows. The Left certainly doesn’t.
I wonder — how long will it be until pastors start speaking up against the crimes of government? They practice genocide against blacks (as noted by Ginsberg), with 40% of all abortions being in the black community, which is roughly 13% of the US population. How long until pastors start to name names and confront these criminals for crimes against humanity as well as the aforementioned crimes against the Constitution?
Where is the next (non-violent, yet outspoken) Bonhoeffer, someone who will put his life (ok, maybe just your 501(c)(3) entitlement) on the line to stop these thugs? History, it seems, is a harsh mistress.
Seems like the obligatory post of the weekend. :-)
1. Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. This is the first book that I ever read that taught me how to think. It presented matters of history and ideas as inter-related. And it painted a picture of American social change as it dove-tailed with influential ideas.
2. The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. More than a statement on education, Lewis challenges matters of character as well. It’s a rich work, despite its size. Another mention brought up my other favorite Lewis book, Til We Have Faces. It was a tough choice. But education is what I do and where my heart is. So this one won out.
3. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right by Hegel. This is how the world works today. Period. In this book you will get a picture of Marx, of Woodrow Wilson, of FDR, and of Maslow (esp. his hierarchy of need) all in one compact little package. This was the first secular book I ever read that could be counted as prophetical. It just is.
4. The Bible. Duh. My order is, by the way, insignificant.
5. The Challenge of Marxism by Klaus Bockmuehl. This is a great theological summary of Marxism and the challenge that it presents to the Christian theologian. It would also be a good recommendation to the modern “evangelical” who is tempted to swallow the social dialectic of today’s left.
6. Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia by John Gray. I picked this up a year or so ago as a number of leftist blogs were promoting it. Though the author takes a couple of notable liberties with historical matters, as a summary of the post-millennial optimism that pervades the liberal movement this one is hard to beat. Unfortunately his solution to the “problem” is to appeal to Rand, a case which he completes but which does not appear sustainable in the real world. Still, it condemns the left for their essentially religious conversation, no matter how loudly they proclaim secularism and Reason. It would make a fine companion to The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition.
7. The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition by Roy Clouser. Want a clear method for drawing the lines between secular and pagan? Want to understand what core principles make Christianity unique? Want to get an handle on the unknown (and unaware) religious content of “secular” conversation? This is it.
Ok. I only have seven. Not 10. I probably wouldn’t make a good preacher as my sermons would also not be predictably structured.
These books are all about one thing: The relationship, either directly or indirectly, between Christianity and the world, of God’s interaction with mankind and human rebellion against the Most High.
Ok, so my rant about Beth Moore was, well, imprecise. But there is one characteristic of Moore’s efforts that her critic missed, and it is one which is pervasive among many teachers. While in her case it dove-tailed very nicely with the word-faith approach, it expresses itself quite clearly in regular evangelical teaching. This is the propensity to make the Scripture into a metaphor for life instead of a direct teacher to life.
It does not take long for one to find a sermon or lesson that reduces the content to metaphor. Let’s mention a few of the common ones:
1. Goliath. What is the giant in your life?
2. Jericho. What are the walls that keep you from moving on?
3. Hagar. What is the compromise that you must chase out of your life?
4. Bathsheba. What is the wrong opportunity that you face today?
And they’re in the New Testament as well. A common is:
5. Pentecost. What is the experience that you need today?
Now, we’ve seen the liberals employ metaphor for the past two centuries. They have changed the ethical content of the Sermons on the Mount to some public language that has nothing to do with the demands of a holy God. They have also changed the church from a fellowship of believers responsible before God into a place of public service. But as much as I would enjoy jumping on liberalism, our internal issues seem to be not a lot different.
Right now I am struggling with the statements of Knud Jørgensen at Lausanne World Pulse as he expresses what looks like a near-universalism in his understanding of the Christian faith. (Part 1, Part 2).
So I am committed to believing that every part of the created world and every human being is already related to Jesus (cf. Paul’s speech on Areopagos where the presence of the altar for the unknown God implies that God is already there). Everything was made through the Logos, he is the life of all, and he is the light that gives light to every person. The presence and work of Jesus are not confined within the area where he is acknowledged.
In every human there is not only a moral consciousness (Romans 2:14-15), but also a religious consciousness. This does not imply that everything is light; both scripture and experience make it clear that there is also darkness, but the light shines in the darkness.
And this light may also shine in the lives of other human beings. My Christian confession does not force me to deny the reality of the work of God in the lives, thoughts, and prayers of men and women outside the Christian Church. Neither do I deny the dark side of religion. But this dark side does not prevent me from seeing the light of God in the lives of men and women who do not acknowledge him as Lord. Paul’s speech on Areopagos points to a continuity between our lives and the only God, at the same time as there is confrontation and a call to conversion. This “twofoldedness” means that I am challenged to think two thoughts at the same time.
This is problematic to me. While he does say that the Christian faith is distinct, he come so close to universalism here that I seriously wonder about his understanding of the Gospel. His sense of pluralism seems to override his sense of the need for personal redemption and its absolute supremacy even over rationalism. So this comment of his must be rejected:
Since the late nineteenth century, the following conviction has played a large role in missionary motivation: those who die without the saving gospel of Christ face an eternity apart from God.
I have struggled with this view—and reached the conclusion that it cannot be true. At least seventy-five percent of those who have lived and died throughout history have never heard the gospel. In spite of our best efforts today and in the future, there will be millions more who, through no fault of their own, will live and die without being presented with the good news.
John 3:16 talks about those who believe in him (that they will be saved)—and about those who are confronted by him and do not believe. It hardly talks, however, about those who are not rejecting him or failing to believe in him because they have never heard about him.
But does not Romans 10 argue for the necessity of preaching the gospel for people to be saved? To be honest, I have preached several sermons along those lines. Today, I realise that the point Paul is making relates to the Jewish people and not necessarily to everybody else: God has sent messengers, the messengers have preached, and their message has been heard. Nevertheless, Israel has not believed, even though they have heard, Paul says (Romans 10:18). The point I (and many others) am making when using this text is not addressed in the text at all. The focus is on people who have heard the gospel, but have not believed.
But what then is the motivation for mission? Is not the primary motivation for mission the glory of God? I am not questioning the essential role of sending missionaries, but is it not so that God goes out ahead of his Church—and that he calls us to follow him?
What we do with the Word is critical. Even those who might otherwise be orthodox and prudent can run into serious problems.
Sometimes we give ascent to anyone who accepts the label “evangelical” without appraising their actual belief system. For instance, Beth Moore treats the Word as an allegory to apply it to life. As the following analysis provides, she takes the content and does not give it any direct application to life. Instead, she latches onto confidence in the presence of God by way of Christ’s work and turns it into some convoluted sense personal assurance before men. Hormones and all. She feminizes the faith. She is teaching heresy.
She makes relationship management the basis for spiritual behavior. She changes grace into law. She makes demands of God. She says that our confidence is our sense of personal value. In other material she goes so far as to say not to study the Word because she has done it for the listener. She says that redemption is meant to fix our cracks. This is nothing more than “name it/claim it” in a skirt.
But she can sell it well. It’s in her commercial.
Do not let your church use her material. It is dangerous. It is heresy.
Is Belief in an Unknowable God Justified? is the question raised by James Hanley. It’s a good question. In fact, it is a really good one. And as a bit of icing on the cake, his post is well-constructed, easy to read, concise and precise. It’s nice to have it all in one place.
Behind his argument about the knowability, even the existence, of God is the host site’s historic libertarian heritage. On the site one will find regular posts that make an appeal to the rationalism and Deism of this nation’s Founding Fathers, including a strong emphasis on the enlightenment voices that influenced them. In this Deism is a God that is certainly aloof and perhaps unknowable.
The apparent unknowability of God appears not to be an absolute, even among the founders. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson made this statement regarding slavery:
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever … I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation.
Yet even in this Jefferson made not only an appeal to natural law but also to particulars relating to Christian history — the ending of slavery. Though his method was that of a rationalist (there is no appeal or quotation from the Bible) he was none the less willing to refer to the concept of heaven and God’s sense of justice. The combination of these, even within this modest section, allows us to see the desim of Jefferson as at least a somewhat Christianized desim.
We can also see his status as thus not completely knowable. God has apparently intervened into human history in the form of Jesus to make known things such as His heaven and His justice. Without an immanence there is not revelation, and thus God becomes, at least somewhat, knowable.
God’s knowability must be approached presuppositionally, as must all knowledge. Empiricism often leads to tautology, as Mr. Hanley notes succinctly:
But, the Christian responds, why are you focused solely on the material workings of the universe? Because, the rationalist replies, that’s all I can see. Aha, says the Christian, then you really are engaged in a tautology. How do we know it does not exist? Because we cannot observe it. Why can’t we observe it? Because it does not exist.There is an impasse. The believer in the supernatural and the believer in only the natural cannot operate in the same mode without violating the tautology, and a tautology cannot be violated.
I find this observation to be very astute, as well as a seldom unrecognized foundation for sound reason. Just as all presuppositions are inherently circular (without being viciously circular, as discussed by Roy Clouser in The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition), so too does the dependence upon an evidential (empirical) approach lend to tautology. There is a step which some evidentialists often take in error, and which Mr. Hanley seems to be arguing against. As much as evidence may stack up to prove a position, the leap from the evidence to the presupposition is that tautology. Specifically, it is the repetition of the presupposition within the argument for the presupposition and amounts to something akin to a leap of faith. This represents a vicious circularity and his clarification of the concern is admirable.
More to the point of the post, though, is to examine the content. Is God unknowable? We might state it positively and examine the alternative: Is God knowable? That God is unknowable is the position of the deist as well as a certain type of agnostic atheist. It seems their general opinion that empirical reasoning is the rule and thus all is subject to that rule. So it follows from Protagoras and Des Cartes that we can discern all, principles attributable to the creation of our modern era.
The matter of knowability has its historical foundation. We look at the incarnation, the resurrection, God’s providential management of His creation, and so forth, as reasons for confidence — a level of certainty. But the belief does not stop there, for as Mr. Hanley pointed out, that would be a tautology. Instead there is the implicit presupposition that all of these are consistent with the God who claims to be behind it all. This is Christian presuppositionalism and has one of its foundations in the letter to the Hebrews (11:6):
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
The end of presuppositionalism is not a false sense of certainty. Rather, it is the acceptance and ascent that the truths of the nature and character of God as expressed in the Bible and through God’s historic revelation. It is the evidential / univocal approach which leads to the uncertainty which Mr. Hanley notes:
But people act on the basis of belief in conditions of uncertainty all the time. Indeed humans could hardly act at all if they did not, given the inherent uncertainty of the future. No investments would be made, period, if people did not do so. Each individual act can be critiqued on the basis of uncertainty–some that succeed in fact should not have been risked, a priori–yet in the summation of all these acts we cannot criticize what is, essentially, a continual reliance on uncertain belief, i.e., faith.
This type of faith is that leap of tautology which was noted earlier, and it this type of faith that the Christian must reject. This is not to say that a Christian cannot practice this type of faith, but rather that this approach is inadequate to developing that full and rich relationship with God that He desires.
There is, after all, no real certainty in an empirical approach. For instance, the laws of Newton hold in our physical world. They hold rather well, that is, until one approached C, the speed of light. At that point the rules break down. In more practical terms, we might ask what happens in any laboratory experiment, as to whether or not it is certain. It may hold true under normal conditions of, say, wind and temperature. But a change to the environment changes the certainty of the experiment’s outcome. Similarly, any empirical approach to knowability falls short of certainty, and Mr. Hanley is absolutely correct in this.
Where the Christian sits is with a different sense of God’s existence. In the end, the Christian understands with God with a certainty equal to what the naturalist holds with respect to the natural universe. The certainty of each is identical; only the presuppositions differ. He is half-way when he says that “any justification of belief must be based solely on non-empirical grounds.” Perhaps the Holy Spirit will one day bring him the rest of the way.
There are several presupposed and pre-ordained principles necessary for a quality dessert. And, of course, they follow the expected TULIP scenario. These are:
T – Totally awsome
U – Unconditionally served
L – Limitless in supply
I – Irresistible icing
P – Preserves our current weight
Note that these points deal both with the imminent and with the eternal. Cake must always be good tasting. But that is assumed. If it is not good tasting then it was affected by the fall and can be rejected on account of depravity. A good-tasting cake reflects imago libum, a reflection of the ultimate created cake.
(Ok, to date I’ve posted on ribs and on cakes. Shall I create a Calvinist Cookbook?)
What is Christian fundamentalism? It is a set of protestant tenets published, in the early 20th century, as a response to the theological liberalism and higher criticism of the 19th century. It is a doctrinal statement and nothing more. These positions include concerns about the virgin birth, inspiration, literal interpretation, German higher criticism, the Holy Spirit, and other expected doctrinal statements. Authors included men like B. B. Warfield, R. A. Torrey, and James M. Gray. Those familiar with these names may recall Warfield among the Princeton Presbyterians, Torrey’s association with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and both Torrey’s and Gray’s association with Moody Bible Institute.
Fundamentalism began as largely a north-eastern movement, though it did spread west. (Dr. Wenger provides a useful summary of the movement’s beginnings and social attitudes.) It began regionally because of the concentration of liberal theological training in the north-eastern U.S. As a result, the Southern Baptists and other Baptist, and many other evangelical groups, were not part of the movement because they were not in a position to challenge liberal theology. Though many others held to these same tenets, it was the challenge of liberalism which motivated this movement and the publication of the statements.
Fundamentalism is not a call to social action. It is a reaction to the social gospel, yet more to the theology behind it. So, while an AFA staffer recently made a call for the death of a whale, that is not fundamentalism. Secularist paranoia says that this somehow represents fundamentalism.
Sometimes people ask me why we get so worked up about the Religious Right here at Americans United. Fischer’s column, as daft as it is, is a good answer to that question. Here’s a guy who wants to kill (by stoning, yet!) a 12,000-pound whale that he believes is guilty of murder – all because of a blind adherence to his fundamentalist reading of the Bible. (emphasis mine)
History differs with Mr. Boston. (I do sometimes wonder why the term thinktank exists. It appears that many are only in the tank.) Even Wikipedia, while obviously lacking, provides a better definition that he does.
Similar calls for secularization are quite common. But God did not create the church as a democracy and theology is not up for democratic debate. For the church to practice control over its own teachings may be, actually, anti-democratic. There are times when that is a good thing. God is, after, the ultimate theocrat. But for some the paranoia of an impending social theocracy seems a way of life, a way to make a living. (There are half-truth hucksters everywhere.)
And then there is Family Radio Worldwide. I don’t know any more about these folks than their web site. But it is disturbing that they will end up doing lots of damage to people’s lives, Christian or otherwise, in this while process.
Despite the Lord’s specific that no man knows the day or the hour, these people have gained a special insight into the mind of God. They provide the year based on the year of the flood.
Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar).
4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000
[One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.]
Given that the flood is here dated to 4990 BC, it appears that they are not 6K YECers. That would put them off by almost a thousand years.
But wait … there’s more. There is absolute proof to be had!
Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.
Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.
It’s one thing when we disagree on the millennium exegesis, vis a vis amill, postmill, & disp. It is quite another thing to read plainly unbiblical (or might we say contra-Biblical?) material that presumes upon God. No this doesn’t rank up there with a distortion of grace or the grace-law relationship. But it does indicate a serious character flaw when a teacher is willing to ignore a variety of scriptures in order to make a point.
FWIW, I draw the line between error and heresy at this point: An error may be remediated; a heresy can not. This type of date-setting cannot be corrected by modification but only by removal.
Some of the most destructive deception may be within our own camp.
h/t: Jason Kuznicki
Niall Ferguson provides a simple, clear, and insightful portrayal of the (potential) rise and fall of the American empire in his article Complexity and Collapse, Empires on the Edge of Chaos, from the March/April 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs. The thread of his analysis follows a thread provided by Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire, a series of five paintings done toward the mid 19th century, itself being an analysis of what happens when nations rise and fall. Mr. Ferguson parallels this theme with the analysis of several historians.
Idealists and materialists alike have shared that assumption. In his book Scienza nuova, the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico describes all civilizations as passing through three phases: the divine, the heroic, and the human, finally dissolving into what Vico called “the barbarism of reflection.” For Hegel and Marx, it was the dialectic that gave history its unmistakable beat. History was seasonal for Oswald Spengler, the German historian, who wrote in his 1918-22 book, The Decline of the West, that the nineteenth century had been “the winter of the West, the victory of materialism and skepticism, of socialism, parliamentarianism, and money.” The British historian Arnold Toynbee’s universal theory of civilization proposed a cycle of challenge, response, and suicide. Each of these models is different, but all share the idea that history has rhythm.
He observes also the nature of complex systems and inquires whether the complexity might be an instrument of destruction or a barrier to destruction. This, to me, bears a certain resemblance to an uncertainty principle.
Whether the canopy of a rain forest or the trading floor of Wall Street, complex systems share certain characteristics. A small input to such a system can produce huge, often unanticipated changes — what scientists call “the amplifier effect.” A vaccine, for example, stimulates the immune system to become resistant to, say, measles or mumps. But administer too large a dose, and the patient dies. Meanwhile, causal relationships are often nonlinear, which means that traditional methods of generalizing through observation (such as trend analysis and sampling) are of little use. Some theorists of complexity would go so far as to say that complex systems are wholly nondeterministic, meaning that it is impossible to make predictions about their future behavior based on existing data.
When things go wrong in a complex system, the scale of disruption is nearly impossible to anticipate. There is no such thing as a typical or average forest fire, for example. To use the jargon of modern physics, a forest before a fire is in a state of “self-organized criticality”: it is teetering on the verge of a breakdown, but the size of the breakdown is unknown. Will there be a small fire or a huge one? It is very hard to say: a forest fire twice as large as last year’s is roughly four or six or eight times less likely to happen this year. This kind of pattern — known as a “power-law distribution” — is remarkably common in the natural world. It can be seen not just in forest fires but also in earthquakes and epidemics. Some researchers claim that conflicts follow a similar pattern, ranging from local skirmishes to full-scale world wars
The article is not one of paranoia but of alertness. Not sounding like Glenn Beck and predicting an impending collapse, he alternatively warns of the collapse by describing the nature of the situation we are in.
Over the last three years, the complex system of the global economy flipped from boom to bust — all because a bunch of Americans started to default on their subprime mortgages, thereby blowing huge holes in the business models of thousands of highly leveraged financial institutions. The next phase of the current crisis may begin when the public begins to reassess the credibility of the monetary and fiscal measures that the Obama administration has taken in response. Neither interest rates at zero nor fiscal stimulus can achieve a sustainable recovery if people in the United States and abroad collectively decide, overnight, that such measures will lead to much higher inflation rates or outright default. As Thomas Sargent, an economist who pioneered the idea of rational expectations, demonstrated more than 20 years ago, such decisions are self-fulfilling: it is not the base supply of money that determines inflation but the velocity of its circulation, which in turn is a function of expectations. In the same way, it is not the debt-to-GDP ratio that determines government solvency but the interest rate that investors demand. Bond yields can shoot up if expectations change about future government solvency, intensifying an already bad fiscal crisis by driving up the cost of interest payments on new debt. Just ask Greece — it happened there at the end of last year, plunging the country into fiscal and political crisis.
In this he is not a prophet of doom, but a prophet of possibility. We may repair the problem if we know what it is.
A Theological Parallel?
Does theology (or ideas in general), along with its accompanying ecclesiastical institutions, go through a similar cycle? It is easy to look at, as do the emergents, New Testament theology as being the primitive, something akin to Cole’s The Savage State, of theology. But nothing can be further from the truth. There is nothing unsophisticated or under-developed in Romans and Hebrews. These works express, among other things, the Gospel and its implications plainly in relationship to both Roman and Jewish ideals.
But the ecclesia went from being its militant self when under persecution, to finding acceptance under the edict of tolerance, to becoming not only official but also controlling of kings and peoples. Then, under the complexity of its own self-interests, it faced the challenges of modernity and naturalism which are leading the end of its dominance. (This is not to suggest that modernity and naturalism are correct, but only that they present a serious challenge of which most are quite aware.)
Today the larger ecclesiastical structures cling to their postmillennial sense of authority while the smaller ones fight for their existence. At the same time, modernity now owns virtually all the public institutions and public sentiment. Whether evolutionary, Marxist, or pagan, world sentiment now sits against the Christian structures. They look forward to the collapse and destruction of the Christian edifices and the world view that it supports.
Ok, so I’m still a bit pessimistic. But I do believe we are short-sighted when we ignore the scope of the challenge and simply hole up in our little church hutches and ignore the challenges. I believe the future for Christianity is bright, but only if we give more serious consideration to solutions. As someone who appreciates reformed apologetics, there is a principle which is a must: All apologetics must be actively offensive. We must not confront the challenger with the assertion that you are wrong, but with the presupposition, and history, that God in Christ is right.
American evangelical history has been, it seems largely, driven by revival events. Whether Wesleyan, Moody, fundamentalist, or the Jesus movement, it seems that our culture has run on a roughly 40-year cycle of events. Moody, 1890ish; fundamentalists, 1930ish; Jesus movement, 1970ish. Then there are the small-event, the miniscule revivalists. These are the ones who have evangelistic parties instead of crusades and tents. Campus Crusade. Young Life. Roll your own.
I used to think that there was a revival due us. Unless one is willing to consider that the Purpose Driven movement was some sort of revival, I was quite mistaken. The fact that none has come has me worried. But I am not worried about when it will come. Rather, I am worried about the character of our evangelical Christianity.
There is no forthcoming coming revival. I was wrong.
The liberals are shrinking yet we sit and act smug because we are stagnant instead of shrinking.
American Christianity seems dead. No, it is not dead because of doctrine. We have so much good theology available that one might think this was the birthplace of Christianity. It is not about generosity or character. Our social involvement and willingness to meet the needs of the world around us is unmatched in human history. It is not necessarily about sin in the church. There is a lot of it and we often fail to deal with our secret sins. But Corinth had the same issues yet saw the blessing of God. American Christianity is not dead because it has no heart. While Rome cannot provide a decent salvation doctrine and evangelicals and fundamentalists are all split up doing their own things, all are yet fully engaged in their own outreach endeavors.
Perhaps is it only our unmitigated arrogance.
I fear that Josh McDowell is on the right track. This may be America’s last Christian generation, at least for a long time. All we seem to have done is postpone our acknowledgment of judgment.
Does anyone besides me think that American Christianity is in real trouble?
It has been an issue for centuries – theologians acting as philosophers and using philosophy as the starting point for theology. Some do it on the broader scope, constructing theological frameworks out of philosophical tenets. This is true not only of the modern errors we know as Radical Orthodoxy and Open Theism, but of some older systems, such as the work of Charles Finney. There are times, unfortunately, when otherwise competent, and even great, theologians depart from their exegetical and historical approach and begin inserting certain philosophical assumptions into their construct.
The logical controls for developing theology are not the same as those determining the content of the theology. The work of David Clark, To Know and Love God, is a fine work that provides some excellent material for making certain that theological constructions are done well. But those are external controls which help us arrange our understanding better. It is not the same as when the controls become the framework.
And though I have developed a great appreciation for VanTil, the matter of determinism is where I would take issue with him. Rather than following his normal route of appealing to Calvin, coupled with some good exegesis, he sets up a framework that would seem to make determinism unavoidable.
The indeterminist may seek further comfort from the fact that, according to Buswell, God’s foreknowledge is made independent of his predetermination of all things in the universe. He speaks of the foreknowledge of God as including the “undetermined, free acts of moral creatures.”
The indeterminist, however, will not be satisfied. Nothing can satisfy him that does not ascribe to man the sort of freedom that consistent orthodox Christian theology ascribes to God. Even to ascribe so much freedom to man as Romanism or Arminianism ascribes to God is not sufficient in his eyes. For the God of Romanism and of Arminianism is partly (perhaps 1 percent) determined in his choices. And the indeterminist wants to be free without any limitation.
It is true, of course, that there are many inconsistent non-Christian indeterminists and irrationalists. But those who wish to hold to indeterminism consistently must reject every type of control over man. (Introduction to Systematic Theology, 289)
Determinism is easy to accept philosophically, but difficult to accept theologically. This seems confusing in understanding VanTil’s position. True, he is here confronting a particularist’s free will – that it exists apart from the will of God. Yet, according to Frame (IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 2, Number 35, August 28 to September 3, 2000), VanTil did not understand it as determinism if the cause is personal rather than impersonal. Frame’s use of the term “chance” to describe VanTil’s view of impersonal (mechanistic or materialistic) determinism might have been better represented with the term “contingency.” Yet in any sense we are left without much of a free will.
Of course not totally free as we are never able to either thwart, create, or materially contribute to the councils of God. But we have a will which, though fallen, is participatory in the works of God. We serve Him gladly since we have surrendered our will by the Spirit’s work, just as He did.
So I find in the Word a contrast that is challenging to reconcile. We have a God who cares for and guides his creation to its eternal ends. It is a providential eschatology, a matter of unilateral covenant with His chosen elect. Yet it is equally difficult to avoid the command to “choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) command or the ministry of the apostles to preach and persuade people to obey the command to repent. For the determinist it is a meaningless set of words that took place as part of a pre-established process. But for the traditional Calvinist there is a fallen will that may choose, but only as it is guided by the Spirit of God. Despite his statement to the contrary, even Arminians (proper ones, anyway) will recognize the providential work of God (a providential type of election) as he moves men and women into a right relationship with Himself. Though I believe Arminians are in error with respect to their understanding of election, it appears that VanTil did not really represent their view of free as fairly as he might have.
We live in a society is confused about persuasion and freedom. The Hegelians place a great emphasis on the community (e.g., government) as the solution to the human condition. (This represents their substitute for the church.) This is the axiom of Spock: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The attempt to create a Godless solution has, so far, only led to the great bloodshed of the twentieth century. And in this system the individual will is left to the whim of the state. It seems that both theologies (political and theistic) may have an issue with individual liberty and its theological equivalent, free will.
As we work to minister well in this world – to make a difference that will affect the whole of society – then we consider how well construct our theology so that it is more consistent with the Word.
This is a follow-up of sorts to Joshua Sowin’s Why I’m Not a Creationist (Anymore). For the purpose of consistency with his post, I will also use the term creationist to refer to YEC (young earth creationism – 6ky to 10ky earth aging).
But as much and as easy as it is for many to reject YEC, the adoption of evolutionary models is often done with such haste so as to miss some serious issues in those models. Common descent is merely the assumption behind the models; it is not the model. The models that are evolution are many and include the various mechanisms that describe the rate of change. Whether one chooses phyletic gradualism, uniformitarian gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, or a synthetic solution that attempts to resolve some of the conflicts of each, the lack of consensus leaves the student with a difficult question: What am I accepting? At this point one only accepts the assumption and then builds his/her own model around the mechanism of choice.
There is room for creation, at least in the beginning. This has, at its minimum, been acknowledged. But after the beginnings of the universe the field is still wide open, at least as far as “science” is concerned.
One of the conflicts we face is in educating the evolutionists about our theological language. For instance, a “literal” interpretation of Genesis 1-2 does not require the granularity of YEC but can employ a literary framework approach to discern the content. We can also deal with the evolutionists understanding of our view of creation and correct the misunderstanding (which is employed as a red herring in evolutionary material) that the original creation remains unchanged.
The net, as I see it, is that Creation includes evolution: C(e). The theistic evolutionist seems to hold the inverse of this, that evolution includes some later factor of creation: E(c). I find this problematic theologically. The science can fit either framework. But it seems most prudent to keep theology in its rightful position.
My view of the when of creation is wide open. The age of the earth and all on it is generally indeterminable. There seems to not have been enough time for the full speciation we see today in the time allotted by the naturalist evolutionist. One can note, for instance, the criticism of Gould by Dennett that PE amounts to a type of saltationism.
There remain too many unanswered questions to allow evolution the upper hand. But YEC is equally weak. Still, creation has its proper place and the genetics behind evolution are likewise useful. The truth of a real, actual creation lies in between.
This is the question asked by homosexual activist Jason Kuznicki as he discussed the “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?” forum. His discussion points to some interesting issues that might be useful to us as the issue is not one which will disappear any time in the future.
Conservatism offers virtually no usable past for gays and lesbians. Even black conservatives can say, in effect, “The past sure wasn’t golden, but when Jefferson — and plenty of others — wrote that ‘all men are created equal,’ they clearly meant us too.” Which is plausible enough, at least, for black conservatism not to be a flat contradiction in terms.
This is much harder for gay people to do, which is why we have to resort to newly thought arguments rather than tradition to justify what we’re saying. There’s a built-in liberalness to gay politics, if not necessarily to gay people. Even conservative gay politics, in this sense, is liberal. Because all we have is the future. It’s the future, or nothing.
The first thing of note is the straw man of conservatism. If he were talking specifically of the social conservative movement then he might have a poiint. But he does not. If he were speaking of fiscal conservatism then he would have no real point at all because social matters tend to be of little consequence to the pragmatism of the economically-minded. This makes the conservative into a very useful boogie-man for all fair people to oppose.
The second issue is his manner for handling practical matters.
That “nothing” was on full display this afternoon, when I got to ask Maggie Gallagher the question I’ve always wanted to ask her: What do you think that am I supposed to do with my life?
Suppose I found myself in agreement with her. Suppose I concluded that same-sex marriage was corrosive to society. Do I leave my husband? Do I send my adopted daughter back to the state? Enter ex-gay therapy, which isn’t likely to work? Tell my whole family that I’m single now, and that Scott shouldn’t be welcome at family events? Live my whole life alone, and loveless? Hide? Where is the life I’m supposed to live?
I probably wasn’t so articulate at the Cato event, but I do recall Gallagher’s very simple answer: “I don’t know.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever read a homosexual activist who does not engage in some level of pity-eliciting rhetoric. Loveless? No place to live? Unwelcome? Broken home? Therapy? Talk about a laundry list of heart-break! One would think that without homosexual marriage, adoption, promotion in education, and media reinforcement that they would be all left out on the streets. It is an all-or-nothing argument, one that insists on the whole pie of “rights” else the person is left to be less than human. (Not surprisingly the appeal to near-racism was also present as though conservatism == racism. The argument just cannot proceed without it.)
She certainly doesn’t, and that’s the whole problem with gay conservatism — there’s hardly a life to be lived within it. There’s no breathing room. Until social conservatives offer us a better answer than “I don’t know,” until they offer us a way to be gay, and conservative, and respectable in their eyes, they’re not going to find many gay conservatives.
His end game is difficult to understand. Does he think that the only conflict between conservatism and liberalism ought to be political matters (e.g., international concerns or economic policy), and that social conservatives ought to just give up their social agenda?
We live in the era of pietism, and have for the past three or so centuries. We live our lives according to certain social norms, many of which are religious in nature. It used to be that a lady, when stooping, would bend at her knees. Or a man would wear a hat. But today’s pietism has borrowed society’s moral conscience (which was Christian, at least in sentiment, in the past) and created a secular version. We do not allow our cats to be shipped overseas for foot. We do not promote smoking. We do not act in any way that is unfair. (Whatever fair means.)
And we do not force people to do anything they do not want to do. That’s just not nice. We do not force women to carry unwanted pregnancies. (As though that really ever happened.) We do not keep people from doing anything that they want, if it makes them happy and harms no one else. We might even say that a group’s accepted rules for membership can be altered ad hoc if we so desire. (The ending parenthesis of the linked post is quite troubling.)
Social policy is a tough one for the Christian. Do we treat the homosexual as a non-person and fulfill their often-written anticipation of self-loathing? Will we treat them like whining children or like responsible human beings? Or do we say to them that they are free to enter the church at any time to hear the redemptive message of Christ? When they come in the door, will they be met with scorn or will they be met with a grace that can lead to repentance? What is our message?
With full apologies for the vulgarity of the title (going back to a 70s piece of fluff top 40 music), it was the only thing that came to mind. The subject of prophecy, false prophets, and charlatans in our midst often inspires sarcasm within my heart. But I just could not help it. The question is a simple one: If Pat Robertson is wrong is wrong about Katrina as God’s judgment, then Al Gore and the NY Times are equally wrong about AGW and the snow as nature’s judgment on humanity.
This is not a comment about politics but about our society. For the past two centuries we have been enamored with multiple types of adventism. Though I am an unapologetic dispensationalist, I will be the first to admit that a number of the prophecy fanatics have gone too far in both tone and content. I do not see the Lord’s return as tomorrow. Likewise, Mormonism has its apocalypse. Just listen to Glenn Beck. for a day. And then there is the Seventh Day movement. The varieties of adventism are many. But it seems that they are not all in the church (or externally attached to Christianity, as is the case with Mormonism). There is a secular apocalyptic positivism that continues to rear its ugly head.
It may seem odd to use the term “apocalyptic positivism”. What I am trying to get across is that there is a great deal of dependence upon human capacity to manage the world. Pat Robertson seems to think that bad things will not happen if we do not sin against God. If there were no Mardi Gras then Katrina would not have happened. Likewise, if we do not “sin” against the earth by exploiting its carbon resources then humanity can enter its green “paradise” where the words of John Lennon might be fulfilled. “Imagine all the people living for today,” seems to be the way some want it.
Perhaps our public discourse might be improved by keeping our language specifically theological instead of pragmatic. We have seen the sham of AGW and might gain ground, even socially, by noting that the “false prophets” of doom are wolves pretending to be shepherds. There is more at stake than a few tax dollars and political dominance. The theology of these false prophets pretends to take the souls of men and women to a new world of bliss. God has other plans in mind.
Many of our hymns have a rich, and sometimes painful, history behind them. There is Amazing Grace and the Lord’s redemption of John Newton from the most vile of livelihoods — the slave trade. Then there is Horatio Spafford’s It is Well with My Soul. The first part of the first verse reveals some of his pain along with the peace that only God can give:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Why did he mention water — a river and the sea? He had just lost his four daughters to an accident at sea. That’s more pain that I can imagine, but it seems that an even greater peace comes through the greatest pain.
Some hymns have these rich stories behind them. Have you read any of them? Which have touched you most deeply?