Sunday, June 07, 2009
One of the glaring things I find is that Mr. Dawkins basically 'cherry picks' his examples of why he believes there is no God, or as he puts it "why there almost certainly is not God" (emphasis mine). Several times he refers to theologians that refute the writings of scripture. Of course it fits right in with his view that there is no God because the theologians that he likes to refer to agree with him on some points. How convenient. He doesn't get detailed in referencing their bodies of work at all. He simply slips in their congruent views and we're supposed to simply believe it's true.
On the same note, Mr. Dawkins writes that the Bible is inconsistent throughout and therefore it is an unreliable text. I would challenge any reader to re-examine that claim. The Bible was written over a period of fifteen hundred years by over 40 different authors. It is amazing how they all have the same story sewn into the fabric of each book. The documentation of the New Testament surpasses most of the writings of antiquity. To say that there isn't evidence of this is absurd. It is very clear, in my opinion, that Mr. Dawkins ignores the literary evidence of the continuity of the Bible, ignores the manuscript evidence that supports it and simply cozies up to liberal theologian opinion that bolsters his own views.
Another thing that Mr. Dawkins does to prove that there almost certainly is no God, is to tell the reader that because the first cause of the existence of God causes a problem that he can't think of a solution to, then God really can't exist. I don't know how that is theological or scientific. Just because something seems out of the realm of discovery by a human being doesn't necessarily make it not possible or improbable. It simply makes it unknowable.
Constantly Mr. Dawkins refers to Darwinian natural selection. This is a process that he says is scientific. I am not a scientist but, as far as I know, in order for something to be scientifically proven, it must be observable and repeatable, you know, like in an experiment. The Darwinain teaching of natural selection is neither. No one has seen natural selection actually take place (it is assumed like many things scientifc in the past). That would be the convenience of a theory that is based on changes over millions of years. Notwithstanding that, in all of nature as far as I understand, and please correct me if I am wrong, genetic mutations of any kind are disastrous and detrimental to a species, they do not improve it. To base the improvement for survival of a species upon genetic mutations (in other words, messing with DNA) seems like a far stretch of the imagination knowing what is available to know and understand about genetic mutations. The record of genetic mutations is littered with 'train wrecks' and all sorts of problems. Simply put, genetic mutations are not good for a species.
It is interesting to note that while Mr. Dawkins accuses theists of unfairly indoctrinating others with theistic teachings about God and the existence of a God, Mr. Dawkins seems impervious to the notion that perhaps he is the victim of the same thing. While he accuses believers of filling young impressionable minds with theistic teaching, he himself, once a young impressionable mind, has fallen victim to the same thing. He sat under the Darwinian teaching of professors not knowing for himself what it may have entailed. Having become enamoured and then convinced of Darwinism, he was indoctrinated by professors of the scientific merits of Darwinism. By the way, Darwinian evolution still has yet to be observed and even proven. To say that one has observed it would not be true as one would actually have to personally witness, record and communicate to the world the first-hand account of what happened. This has never come to pass. Again, it is assumed as fact.
Ultimately, in the end, The God Delusion may attempt to explain the improbability of God and magnify any virtues of natural selection and Darwinian evolution all the way back to basic earth but there is one glaring question that is never addressed or even attempted to be answered in the entire book...where did matter come from in the first place? Yes, there it is. Evolution / natural selection need matter to start from. Never mind the origin of "life" itself. There is not one scientist that can explain how the matter that is present in all of the universe got here in the first place. It had to come from somewhere. Where? Matter didn't evolve from nothing. Can we even dare suggest that inanimate matter existed in infinity past on it's own accord?
Don't Read This Part if You Don't Want the Truth.
Mr. Dawkins DID indeed make some good points. One of the points is that, particularly in American Christianity, Christians are biblically illiterate. They simply do not know why they believe what they believe. He is also correct that high profile Christian leaders in America have made some very bold, inflamatory statements that lack the very love that they say Jesus showed us with his lifestyle. I witnessed this (sadly) as I read Facebook news feeds from friends and aquaintances that are Christian. He cites examples of unorthodox views and teachings of different Christians that, I would say, are simply not biblical in there origins. He also points to the apparent intolerance by Christians when opposed by people with different views. He refers to a deep seated 'respect for religion' that is inherent in our culture and despises the fact that people can't step on other's 'religious toes'. That got me thinking.
I could spend all day joining with people of like mind and faith criticizing and berating Mr. Dawkins for all of the areas in which we disagree. However, of even more concern to me is the fact that his book, The God Delusion even had to be written. Perhaps we could spend more time seeking to live the life of biblical Christianity instead of demanding that a non-religious world aquiesce to what we Christians demand from them.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The trend in North American Christianity is to lure non-believers into a church service and utilize presentation and mulit-media (none of which are evil or bad) in hopes to boost attendance and gain adherents. The mark of success of such an event is, of course, how many people showed up.
How do I know this? Look and listen to blogs, instant messages or facebook statuses and read what people are saying. It's things like, "God was good, we had a packed house this Easter weekend." Or, We had a great Easter, all three services were jammed!" etc. etc. As if God wasn't good if the house was empty or Easter wouldn't be great if only a few showed up. I am of the persuasion that words mean things and if we take what people are saying, we are seeing revealed what is really valued. Don't misunderstand me, I am delighted to know that people are assembling in great numbers at any given church. However, the FACT remains that these people, for the most part, do not come back. If they indeed stay and participate in such an assembly, they are often succeptible to an experience-driven spectacle which is focussed upon a once-a-week gathering. This gathering is a resource-rich endeavor which, many times is about the presentation and not the message of the gospel. Some may differ with my viewpoint, however, the FACT remains that the masses of North American church goers remain biblically illiterate.
George Barna, a Christian pollster based in California has tracked Americans' beliefs of Christian faith and practice for decades. While showing great opportunities for evangelism among the population, his research has astoundingly shown a decline in the embracing of biblical Christianity. Churches are planted, outreaches are conducted, thousands of dollars are spent while Christmas and Easter productions abound but in the end do people really understand what biblical Christianity is all about? Sadly, if we look at the evidence, the answer is no!
(George Barna, the author of nearly four dozen books analyzing research concerning America’s faith, suggested that Americans are constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of biblical teachings in light of their daily experiences. For a full article, go to the following link, www.barna.org.)
Why is it that North Americans are still trying to figure out how to make sense of biblical teachings? I have an opinion. As a sinner, saved by grace, in need of God's word alive in my life, I humbly offer what that opinion is.
1. Our proof texting sermons do not work.
I implore preachers everywhere to stop taking one Bible verse and base-jumping off into what they want it to say. Not only is it risky doctrinally but it leaves the hearer misguided on what the Bible is really saying most of the time. There are too many examples of God's word being mishandled on a weekly basis to list. It's one thing to use creativity to illustrate what God's word is saying. It's entirely different, and I believe erroneous, to use one's creativity to bolster what one thinks God's word could be saying based on one verse.
While some are obsessed with being creative, catchy and cute, congregations leave every Sunday morning malnourished spiritually. In some cases it's like going to the fair and having a good time and leaving with a mound of cotton candy on a stick. The experience is fast forgotten and nothing gained.
2. Reading a book and getting a sermon from it is short-changing our congregations.
There I said it. Not only that, I have been guilty of it. Instead of doing the work of reading the Bible, poring over the contents of the text, studying the context and knowing what it all means, many, including myself, have taken the broad road, the easy route. We've busied ourselves with other things, deemed them more important than studying the word and then picked up a great book. This book provided an outline, an illustration, a pat anwer and a way to save time so we could conjure up something we call 'relevant' for our congregation on Sunday morning.
Remember "The Prayer of Jabez"? There were books and devotionals and sermons and videos and on and on and on. All of the sudden God promised almost everything to everyone. People couldn't get enough of it. Was the prayer of Jabez really about God increasing our stuff? Who was Jabez? Does anyone know and does his prayer apply to everyone? We should find that out.
What about "Wild at Heart"? Remember that book? Pastors preached sermons on that for weeks all over North America. Was that book even biblical in all points? If we look at it in totality we must admit that the book alludes to, to some degree, an impossible force of male human nature that is not subject to the obedience of scripture. Do we really want to buy into that?
What about Jeremiah's "I know the plans I have for you..." That was God's answer to everyone who had a problem at one point. Was Jeremiah talking to all God-fearers of all time or was he talking to a select group of people? Do we forget that Jeremiah was the one who prophesied that God would bring Israel into captivity? Do we forget that God had plans to almost obliterate Israel in their rebellion?
Read chapter 4 of Jeremiah's prophecy and you'll see in the language that God was angered and he was about to throw down some serious punishment for Isreal's rebellion. There was a lot of punishment and anger language LONG BEFORE there was any word of "plans for a future and a hope" from Jeremiah.
It's sad to say but it looks like, in many cases, we want to offer people a real hope without the right heart.
3. Realize that it's not about Sunday morning shows or even small groups. It's about the health of a community of believers with Jesus Christ as the common denominator.
This is hard because, unfairly, many pastors are evaluated as successful or not based upon weekly attendance. They are judged on displays of creativity on Sunday mornings and marketing. Sadly, the job of the pastor has changed from spiritual shepherd of the flock of God to paid professional clergy. I know of one pastor in Illinois who got the word from his board that, because attendance hadn't grown as quickly as they would have liked by a certain time, he would have to resign as pastor of that church. How biblical. I might remind people that "church attendance" during certain times of the Roman Empire during persecution were quite low, but the numbers of the Church increased dramatically! Why? They were in desperate need of relationship with each other.
In the book of John, Jesus prayed a prayer before he was taken to be crucified. It is absolutely amazing what he said because it really boiled down what it's all about. It's absolutely amazing what Jesus said to his father. Among the things he said were, a) I told them YOUR message, b) YOUR word is truth, c) I want all of them to be one with each other.
The gospel is about people hearing the truth of God's word and becoming interconnected with the family of faith that has done the same. Why? Because we do not belong to this world. We are separate from it, hated by it and will experience pain and suffering while in it. Instead of focusing resources on presenting a media-rich message to experience one day a week, we should be promoting a connectedness among the community of faith throughout the week as well. We do this so that we are encouraged, that our needs are met and the gospel goes forward.
So, pastors, teachers, evangelists, let's make sure that together, we are doing the hard work of teaching and promoting the kingdom of God as disciples of Christ, not just church attenders. Pews might not be packed like we would want them but we'd be wise to make sure people get the right message.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
After reading Part 1 of this blog, one would notice that the Canadian Free Thought Association urges the masses to believe "There's probably no god. Stop worrying and enjoy your life." I contend that this isn't just about the debate of the existence of God or not. This is about feeling good.
Getting a free pass for something feels good. For instance, I was skiing with my kids and because of windy conditions on the mountain, several portions of the mountain were closed. The resort issued "snow checks" or "free passes" to come and ski again due to adverse conditions. It felt good.
Getting off the hook from something feels good to. Getting pulled over for speeding and the authority with the badge gives you just the warning, you breathe a sigh of relief. You were just let off the hook. You feel good.
I contend that much of atheism proposes a 'no limits' lifestyle. There is no right or wrong or moral code, nor can there be for the essence of right or wrong or morality is up to the individual. There can also be no absolutes. Everything is contingent upon the will and whim of the individual.
Atheism says there are no absolutes...and says so with absolute surety! I'm not even sure how that can be possible.
The right to do what one wants, to pursue one's desires to produce maximum pleasure in life is at the heart of the "there is probably no god. Stop worrying and enjoy your life" philosophy. Selfish ambition, decadence, narcisism and self-gratification are the driving forces of life. Where does this lead? What road does this take a person down?For some reason, the atheist or agnostic thinks people feel bad about things because of a belief in God. Guilt. Regret. Whatever you may call it, they think it's devestating. I hold that while a belief in God may proudce those things, and even should do so, it's not all bad. For if guilt or regret can lead to change, and change leads to a new start and way of life for someone, how can that be bad?
A person with a heart to be concerned about the needs of others, a willingness to help someone and a selfless appreciation of others can produce a lot of good in the world. What would happen if people, instead of living according to a self-centered/self-gratification lifestyle, lived according to the teachings of Jesus Christ on loving your neighbor, being concerned about other people and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us?After Katrina hit New Orleans, it was the God-believers that were there first. The president asked the nation to pray. Church groups from all different denominations sent aid and even went and helped themselves, giving their own time and resources. I'm not saying atheists weren't there helping, I'm saying that there was and is something about a belief in God that is far more demonstrable than what atheism has ever produced. This is for a reason.
The real heart of atheism is humanism.
Yes, man wants to be the boss. He wants to be master of his destiny. He wants to be accountable to no one. He wants to call the shots. We're pretty high and might for a species that, like all others, ends up in a hole in the ground. The human that is not beholden to the dictates of a God can do anything he wants with impunity.
"If God is not, everything is permitted."
Humanism/atheism produced communism (Stalin, Lenin).
Humanism/atheism has, out of self-interest and exultation, anhiliated millions of innocent people (Hitler, Mao Zedong).
Humanism/atheism has watch millions starve to death.
Belief in God produced Mother Teresa who served for decades in Calcutta helping the poor, the orphaned.
Belief in God feeds, clothes and educates thousands of kids in Haiti through people like George DeTellis at New Missions (http://www.newmissions.org/).
Belief in God brings the prostitute and drug addict off the streets of Los Angeles, California through places like the LA Dream Center and introduces them to a brand new start in life.
Yes there are atheists that have not killed and yes there are believers in God that have done little for the cause of Christ. In the grand scheme of things however, one would have to admit that far more than atheism, a belief in God has the propensity to produce far more virtue in life.
To summarize, the atheist/agnostic/humanist doesn't want to be held accountable from a God or a higher power for anything they do in this life. Doesn't make them a bad neighbor. Doesn't make them a mass murderer either. It does make them at odds with what many people hold as the truth, and that being that they believe that God does exist and does play an active role in our universe. Because that God exists, they, one day, will be accountable for what they did do with their lives.
So you have a short version of what I think about atheism/agnosticism/humanism. Another question, however, comes to my mind. Does God believe in the atheist? What exactly does Christianity teach about the non-belief in the existence of God? What exactly does Christianity teach and compel it's followers to do?
Lots to discuss.
Worth a look.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
This is the add that will most likely be seen plastered to the sides of city buses in Calgary, Alberta. The same add is in Toronto, London and Madrid. This statement was met with criticism from the Calgary Catholic Bishop. He said that the best date to launch such a campaign would be April Fool's Day. Obviously, this is going to be a hot button. The Free Thought Association of Canada has opened a can of worms on this one. Christians oppose this idea. I won't get into whether they should or should not because we do, in fact, live in a free country with the freedom of speech. We usually don't like it when people aren't saying what we want them to say. That's natural. I do, however, want to look at the very words that the Free Thought Association of Canada actually do say.
The statement, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." evokes a few sentiments that I think are worthwhile to look at.
The word probably means "in all liklihood" or "presumabley". It is a word that definitely leaves room for error. It is based upon presumption and not evidence. Presume means "To take for granted that something is true or factual". This is in direct contrast with the word "true" which means, "factual". This idea of "there is probably no god is usually based upon no or a lack of evidence.
So you have a statement that is, in it's own beginning, saying it's not necessarily true, but should be believed as true, with no evidence to support it. The people who say "probably no god" should not be classified as atheists, as atheism proclaims that there is no god, while agnosticism proclaims that there is no knowledge of a god. The Free Thought Association of Canada can't even come out and say for sure that there is no god. Where's the guts?
The Free Thought Association people are, as a co-worker of mine suggests, "chicken atheists" at best.
2. No God.
This conversation can go on for infinity, that is if infinity exists since we humans are not infinite. So, for the purposes of our finite conversation on the topic of the existence of God, think about these things (and please take the time to research them if anyone lacks understanding)...
- DNA and RNA. How do we get DNA? From RNA. Where does RNA come from? It is made by DNA!
- Brownian movement. It's really cool.
- Stars. Okay, so attempts to explain our earth as being formed by no god are accepted by many, but how do other things in the universe just get there?
- Where did the substance to make Earth come from? Seriously, where did the first particles to make "stuff" come from? You just can't get something from nothing. It's a universal fact.
- The Theory of Evolution. Where are the missing links of species? If evolution is still happening, there must be evidence of it taking place. There simply has to be. Whether global warming is happening or not, the theory of evolution should simply allow the strongest of the species to adapt and survive so what's the worry anyway right?
3. Stop worrying.
The Free Thought people are really patronizing the population they speak to by saying this. They are minimizing people's real worries and elevating themselves as the authority by which their worries will be removed. They are saying in essence, "you are worrying about the possibility of God not being pleased with what you are doing. We're going to fix that by saying there is probably no god anyway." Linking worrying to the thought of the existence of a god does not seem rational. I know people that worry about money. They worry about their kids. They worry about whether or not their marriages will survive. They worry about keeping their house in this particularly declining economic environment. They worry about whether they'll have a job tomorrow. They worry if the chemo is going to work, and if it doesn't, who will take care of the kids? I have never met anyone who stays up all night worrying that God exists or not.
4. Stop worrying.
The proponents of the "no god" agenda use fear to manipulate their audience, yes, just like corrupt church leadership did in the Middle ages. Fear, guilt and superstition were used to make people fearful of doing or not doing certain things to propagate the church's agenda. That agenda, many times, was for the selfish ambition of the corrupt leadership. The atheist/agnostic position plays on the supposed or real fear of many and gives them a feel good pill that lets them off the proverbial providential hook. If it wasn't for the supposed fear of some people who believe in God, this particular position of "stop worrying about it" wouldn't be valid. The very act of using the "no god, stop worrying" is equal to the "God is watching, be afraid" mentality. Both are based upon perceptions that seem, to the adherent of those philosophies, to be true. But are they?
5. Enjoy your life.
It is very elitist, in my opinion, to simply say to someone, if you believe there is no god like "I" do, you will be free of worry and will enjoy your life. It is equally repulsive to me that someone can say that because a person believes in God, they will be full of worry and therefore not enjoy life. That is what they are saying when they write "there is probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life. What else can it really mean? Empirically one would have to admit that because of their belief in God, millions of people enjoy their life. Likewise, there are probably (in other words I don't have evidence but I presume that it could be the case) people that are afraid that, if there is a God, this God may not be pleased with them for whatever reason and therefore, may be worried about that. I want to thank the atheists for taking care of their problem. They have solved it beyond a shadow of a doubt and now, the world can be joyful. Or is the problem actually solved?
I, for one am not going to put my head in the sand and ignore centuries of history. There were, and still are, things done in the name of Christ that had and have no place in Christianity. Because a pope or a king or a priest or a minister or any other person past or present simply says that they are a follower of Christ and therefore excercises the authority to simply do things that are in opposition to the teachings of Christian scripture, does not in any way, shape or form make them Christian. My atheist and agostic friends, please understand this. I am not going to suppose that the abuse of power of some probably made you less than able to see the truth of Christianity, but if that is the case, I can understand. I would hope that those who embrace atheism or it's half brother, agnosticism, would be equally able to hear a Christian perspective as well.
In closing, I'd like to sum up what the slogan in the opening says in my own words...
We have no evidence or facts to back up what we believe, but, we're going to believe that there is no god. In fact, because we have the audacity to think that your life isn't enjoyable, and your belief in a god has produced fear and worry in your life, we want you to believe like us, with no evidence. Now you can stop worrying. There, you should feel good now...
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"One way we seek to love at (church) is through technology. Technology is simply a tool we offer to God to help us love others."
The context of this statement was the explanation of the use of computers at church kiosks to garnish personal information from visitors and attendees. He went on to say how it's a great way to stay in touch with and keep track of prospects and people that are in some way connected to the church.
Should this notion of love be accepted as loving or biblical?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Jesus' form of loving people appears to be drastically different from what others may seem to think. While love can be packaged by some to mean gathering data, Jesus simply told us to treat people in the same manner we would want to be treated.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Today my neighbor knocked on my door during our family dinner. It was minus 30 degrees Celsius (really cold!) and he needed a ride to do an errand. He presently has no car and his other buddy could not assist him. My response was to simply explain to my wife what he needed, excused myself and simply took him to where he needed to go.
I could have had him go to my computer and fill out his information, address, hobbies etc. and then get back to him later. No, I accepted the interuption as an opportunity to show love.
This is a new commandment that I give you, that you love one another.
So as our dear commrade in ministry writes about love, let not one of us forget what love really is by paying attention to what Jesus Christ himself said. Are computers wrong? Absolutely not. Can they serve a purpose? Absolutely yes. Is technology and its use what Jesus intended for us to employ to love people? I am not at all convinced at that.
The nitty gritty love that Christians are to abound in is the type that is face to face. It's the kind that causes interuptions to one's personal agenda. It's the kind that pulls a twenty out of your own pocket and helps someone out right then and there. Love causes us to hold our tongue when we want to "rip someone a new one." It is love that constrains the saints to be patient with the abbrasive people that come into contact with us on a daily basis. Simply put, love isn't some sterile, isolated, impersonal act. Let's just not be confused that's all.
Assistance in administration and tools for management are necessary organizationally. Love, well, that's just something that us people just ought to do.
Monday, January 12, 2009
George Barna has a recent article on his web site (www.barna.org) which backs up this trend with his latest research.
I encourage you to give it a read at http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrowPreview&BarnaUpdateID=324 to see for yourself.
Simply cut and paste this link and it will take you there. If not, go to www.barna.org and you'll find it.
Friday, January 02, 2009
God's word still remains hidden to so many people.
At the end of 2008 I was re-introduced to God's word. This book, called the Bible, that I grew up reading, that I went to college to study verse by verse, even spent fifteen years studying it to teach to others on a weekly basis, yes this book, I was re-introuduced to in a whole new and eye-opening way. I now use an entirely different process to study and understand God's word. I think everyone else should do this too. Let's begin with the common way.
A person, usually the minister or teacher, reads a book on church growth, leadership or some other inspirational content (doesn't really matter what it is). A quote or concept is recognized and it catches the attention of the teacher. Incidently, the concept is supported by a Bible verse or two (maybe!). Subsequently, the teacher that is "studying" for a sermon or teaching uses the verses and spring boards into all kinds of points to support his concept, theme or teaching. Sometimes it's the opposite where the Bible is being read first and then other materials are used to substantiate what the Scripture says. Presto. The Bible has been taught. Right? Hold on a minute.
This form isn't necessarily evil. There is some good that can come of it. I participated in this form of study many times as professional clergy. It was modeled to me and it is very common. It's all I really knew for some time. The problem is that there is such a great danger of a few things. 1. It is very easy to simply make up what you want the Bible to be saying. 2. It is easy to miss much or all of what the Bible is really saying. 3. It is entirely possible to teach something that is absolutely false doctrine. There's plenty of that going on today.
This leaves our churches biblically illiterate and impotent. It's evident all around us.
I only scratched the surface. I shortchanged myself, and probably the people I was preaching to and teaching by not utilizing another form of study of God's word.
Using other authors' materials, commentaries and other helps can help us widen our understanding of something perhaps, but only after the work of studying God's word by ourselves and unpacking what the scriptures say are done first.
How do you "unpack" God's word and understand it? Well, that's what I'm committed to. Not only understanding it myself, but helping others know how to read, know and understand it as well. I'm in this process now going on about fourteen weeks. We call it "Word Ministry". My teachers have been amazing. God's word is coming more alive to me than ever before.
P.S. Is the teaching you're sitting under need to go a bit deeper into God's word? Do this little test. It doesn't mean your teacher is not prepared at all. It may mean that they are using the old common method. Ask yourself if some of these red flags are present...
1. Are there lots of quotes from books outside of the Bible (again, not evil but must be careful)?
2. Is there a catchy title and a few points that all seem to fit nicely together?
3. Are there random Bible verses that are all seemingly connected to the point of the teaching?
4. Is the theme of the message being taught simply not found in the Bible?
5. Can you take the same message and teach it in Haiti, the slums of Mexico or impoverished parts of North America?
6. Are the points of the teaching actually found in the text of the verses being taught OR are the points surmised and taken from the collective proofs of other random verses?
Don't let anyone convince you to settle for a "we've never done it that way before" mentality. There's more in that Bible of yours. Go find it!
If you would like to know more about "word ministry" email me at email@example.com and we can begin to dialogue about the process and perhaps find someone in your area that is committed to it and maybe help you even more. Perhaps, if I can boil it down to put into words on a web page, I can attempt to explain it. Really though, it is such an organic process, and done very well in groups, it is better taught in person. It literally takes hours and hours, perhaps days and weeks to study a passage of scripture thoroughly. No shortcuts.