Saturday, July 26, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of The Shack. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good! -Eugene Peterson
- Ben Witherinton - SHACKING UP WITH GOD—William P. Young’s ‘The Shack’
- Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Radio Show - A Look At 'The Shack' - Mohler makes some points not brought up here.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I hate this trend. I would rather have a small group made up of disciples of Christ than a large group made up of unredeemed, entertained young people.
Finally, a book has arrived that is singing my tune. "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations" is that book. The authors suggests that we have failed young people. We have bought into the lie that they are, in a sense, "old enough to know better, but are still too young to care." In other words, we expect little from our young people.
As the authors argue, this is grounded in the myth of adolescence. I have heard this argument before and it explains much in youth culture and youth ministry. The 20th Century essentially created adolesence. Of course the changes of adolesense were taking place since the creation of man, but the culture of adolesence hasn't always existed.
Once young people were forced to leave their parents, leave work, and attend school during their teen years, we created an entire culture. And we have reaped the dangers of it. Now, let me say from the beginning, that I am not against educating young people. I am all for it. However, what we've done as a result is dangerous.
Thanks to modern psychology, secularism, and other factors, we have bought into the myth of adolescence. The stereotype of the teenager has become so common that we expect little from our youth. And what we do expect from them isn't good.
Since youth have hormones we encourage them to wait, but don't expect them to, so we pass out condoms and birth control pills. And it is laziness like this that has destroyed our culture. We have a culture full of too-independant and over-sexed teenagers that think should be considered normal.
The Bible sees things different. As the authors point out, the Bible has no such category for adolescense. The Bible divides everything into two groups: children and adults. Guess where teenagers fit? With the adults.
The Bible expects more from our young people, but we are giving them less. We are creating adults with the minds of 3 year olds. We expect little of them and are getting little of them and the current trends in youth ministry is proving my point.
God expects more from our young people, and this book shows how young people can stand against the stereotype and do hard things. How to take a stand for they believe, how to be a leader, how to be prepared for adulthood, etc. The authors don't treat their teenage leaders like children, but more like adults, unlike the typical youth book.
I cannot encourage young people, youth pastors, adults, and people in general enough to read this book. I was very encouraged that there are young people and others involved in working with youth who are serious about their task. God wants to use young people, and we must do our part in letting that happen.
To quote Dr. Rick Holland, "God must be embarassed by our expectations." And he is exactly right!
Friday, July 18, 2008
- J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots
- John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
- Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
- David Wells: Courage to Be Protestant
- David Aikman: Billy Graham: His Life and Influences
- John MacArthur: Truth War
- Robert Stein: Jesus the Messiah
- James MacDonald: Gripped By the Greatness of God
- Lee Strobel: The Case For the Real Jesus (actually any in these series will do)
- Justin Martyr: Apology I & II
- Philip Jacob Spener: Pia Disederia
- Kevin Deyoung & Ted Kluck: Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be
Monday, July 14, 2008
And so, it is books like Francis Collins, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief" that adds to the conversation. Despite the argument that science and faith are not compatible, respected and well qualified scientist Collins argues that yes, one can believe in God and the Supernatural.
Collins' book has introduced a new vigor among believers that the two are not contradictory, and it is with this understanding that I picked up his book and began to read it. For the most part, there is nothing new in his book. He makes the same arguments that have been made before. However, it is his past as an atheist scientist and now his faith as a Christian, and how studies in science and DNA have led him to that faith, has given these points added power.
One of Collins main reasons for coming to faith was the moral law. Following the argument of CS Lewis in "Mere Christianity," Collins began to realize that the existence of a moral law implies the existence of a Divine Lawgiver. Lewis' influence on Collins is profound and he quotes Lewis throughout the book. I find this argument compelling and remains as one of the best arguments for the existence of God.
Perhaps the climax of the book is his look at possible interpretation of the evidence as it relates to the question about God. First, we can become an atheist or an agnostic, or as he puts it, When Science Trumps Faith. With the recent rise of atheism in our culture, this chapter, as I saw it, was critical. It was not deep, but he did deal with with characters like Dawkins. Collins traces the history of atheism and it's growing influence in modern culture. Collins shows why such a response to the evidence is not only wrong but dangerous. Faith, despite what Dawkins might argue, is not irrational.
Another option is Creationism, that is, when Faith Trumps Science. Collins argument, I believe, in rejecting a young earth belief in creation is found in the age of the earth. I have found that the first place one argues against a literal translation of Genesis isn't necessarily about evolution, but about the age of the earth, and Collins does just that. He traces how old the earth must be and where the evidence is. Collins, though a Christian who believes in the Bible, rejects this view and argues that one who believes in the Bible does not have to believe that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago.
This is obviously my biggest frustration with this book. I am one of those young earth creationist. Call me crazy, but I am. Sorry if that makes me weird or out of the mainstream. I think I'll find a way to survive. On the theological and exegetical front, I have a hard time finding murkiness in the Hebrew word for "day," (yom). Yom simply means day. Nothing more, nothing less. I do not see ambiguity or even the possibility of it ever meaning anything else other than the typical meaning of day. Why is it that the word day means 24 hours everywhere else in Scripture except for in Genesis 1-2? It seems inconsistent.
I praise Collins for "coming out" and declaring his faith openly and boldly. However, I fear that in this case, Science has trumped Faith. Collins seems overwhelmed, and for good reason, by the evidence of evolution. But that is precisely his problem: evolution. I believe that if Christians, like myself, are going to recover a Biblical understanding of origins, it is not going to begin with the age of the earth, but rather with evolution. If we can win the battle over evolution, then we will be able to win the battle over the age of the earth. Evolution demands an old earth. Therefore, if we fight evolution and win, we will likely win the argument over the age of the earth.
Thirdly, one could affirm Intelligent Design or, When Science Needs Divine Help. Collins is not a fan of this option neither. Though the Intelligent Design Movement is growing, Collins seems to finds it to be inherently lazy. He is at least honest in saying that Intelligent Design is not a hidden agenda of the Christian right. Rather, it is an honest attempt, just like Collins, to look at the evidence and see clearly an Intelligent Designer.
But, to Collins, they are scientifically lazy. How? Collins tries to show that whenever science runs into a seemingly dead end, scientist keep looking, Intelligent Designers just say, "it's God, let's move on." Collins complains about this and thinks that scientist should continue to seek for answers rather than to resort to concluding that it is all a miracle.
My problem with this argument is that Collins' argument for faith and for the existence of God is essentially based on the same argument. True that Collins loves evolution and sees God's work at play in evolution, even he must eventually conclude: this has to be the work of God.
For example, when reflecting on the Big Bang, Collins concludes:
The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural fore that is outside of space and time could have done that. -67
I vehemently concur. If the Big Bang is factual, then it does in fact cry out for a deity. But if Collins is consistent in his criticism of Intelligent Design, then Collins, instead of seeing God, should rather turn to theories explaining what made the everything go "Bang." Is that not what Intelligent Designers do? Though I affirm Collins belief in Christianity, God, and salvation through Christ, I find his criticism of Intelligent Design wrong. And his approach to faith proves it.
Finally, one could affirm Biologos (Theistic Evolution) or when Science and Faith are in Harmony. This is Collins' view and he expands on why it is valid. Basically, Collins sees no contradiction in affirming evolution and believing in the God of the Bible. I must respectfully disagree.
First, what do we do about death? If evolution is true, then animals and pre-homo saphiens were dying and fighting for survival millions of years before Adam and Even ate of the fruit, which, according to the Bible, introduced sin and it's consequence of death with it. If death existed before the Fall, then the Bible is mistaken about man's great need: to be redeemed from a fallen world. For the Bible is clear that without sin, there would be no death.
Secondly, what about God's declaration of the earth being "very good," whenever chaos and extinction was the way of the world? If evolution is true, then how could God declare the chaos of the evolutionary process "very good?"
Thirdly, what do you do with Adam and Eve? If evolution is true, they can't be the first couple. Of course Collins has an answer to this question: Adam and Eve were the first people created. He offers arguments like, who married Cain when he fled from his parents? This question has been answered throughout history and it is clear from Scripture that Adam and Eve were the first and sole people on earth prior to the birth of Cain and Abel.
These are just a few problems with Theistic Evolution, or as he calls it, Biologos. Though it is a good try, I fear that Collins has bowed Scriptures knees to science rather than correctly understanding Scripture and letting science bow it's need to God's Word.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Outside of his belief in evolution and his arguments for ethics in the appendix, Collins has written a thrilling book. Though it has it's holes, it does open the door for continued debate. For those who affirm that faith and science can be friends, this is an invaluable tool. But as a Christian that puts proper exegesis of scripture above everything else, I cannot endorse it as great theology.
Here is a lecture Dr. Collins gave that summarizes much in "The Language of God."
I also want to suggest the following video between Francis Collins and Stephen Colbert on the issue of faith and evolution. I find it hilarious and it really points out some of the holes in evolution.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Many Christians want to know more about how archaeology informs and deepens our understanding of the Bible and specific texts. It helps to know, for example, about Mars Hill, where Paul defended the faith in Acts 17, about the topography of Galilee, and about the setting for so many of the accounts recorded in both the Old and New Testaments.
At the same time, much of what is presented as archaeology is openly hostile to the truthfulness of the Bible, leaving many Christians wanting to know more but unsure of where to turn. The Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture [Zondervan] is the best resource for this need. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Duane Garrett of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary served as editors for this project.
One of the great strengths of this project is the placement of such helpful material alongside the biblical text. References to seals, monuments, places, and cultural artifacts are described and explained, often with full-color photographs. The Archaeological Study Bible is a great advance and a wonderful addition to the Christian's bookshelf.
See also my article, "How Should We Think About Archaeology and the Bible?"