Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movie Review: 'Collision' with Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson

I don't know why it took me so long to see the movie 'Collision'- but I downloaded it from Amazon.com and finished it today. It is a beautiful and fun movie. The stuff being put out today in the area of Apologetics is great because the film makers understand how to use fast moving editing and music to make dry debates interesting.
    These types of interactions are good. I see Hitchen's in such a better light and I confess my admiration for him and have found myself praying for him, crying out to God for him, especially in light of his recent fight with terminal cancer.
I also have to say how impressed I am with Doug Wilson, his patient and calm defense of Christianity through pre-suppositional apologetics, his reformed theology, and his great training puts him as a man called for such a time as this.
As I continue to see the whole debate coming to cosmology, teleology, and morality- I keep wondering why the apologist never presses the skeptic being created in God's image. Why can Hitchen's know good and do good even though he does not believe? Because he cannot escape the fact that he is an image bearer. He is a beautiful creation, regardless of his rebellious state. I'm sure there is a tactical reason that the apologist does not go there- but I would bite.
I love the bottom line for Wilson: 'The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners. Atheism not only keeps the guilt, but it also keeps the confusion.'
May we continue to step into the marketplace of ideas... no need to hide. The greatest opportunities in these debates is not a love of ideas, it is not to win arguments, it is the ability to love people- and that is where we make the biggest impression.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Good-Natured Young Earth Views are Evolving

"Science gives us the full accord of facts- It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another- but no evil need to be apprehended- The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”
Charles Hodge- Princeton 1829
I vividly remember my first encounter with evolution in the classroom. I was in 6th grade at Robinson Elementary and the mere mention of an unguided process that over eons of time turned a germ into a monkey and then into a man was laughable.

I don't know if the two visceral reactions were connected- but my 'red flag' aversion to evolution was equally comparable to my anger toward racism. At the core of my being, these views collapsed right in front of my deep grained instinct that the Creator was there and He was just and good.

This class was prone to tough debates and I remember the interesting realization that I was in the minority. It's funny, but my weakest argument to these elementary debaters was my firm stance on the 6 day creation account. But my God was big enough for the miracle... He could have done it in 6 seconds!

"Everyone knows that the universe is millions of years old"
"Oh Yeah?" I said.

Do you believe me? I so remember it and I specifically remember being a science skeptic from my early years. I trusted God and I did not trust men. If God's story and man's story were in conflict...I'm taking God.

As I got older, and actually became a Christ follower, my argument grew more 'sophisticated'-

'A very smart man still has little perspective on time. He may know 75 years....possibly a select few know 100....but no one truly can perceive 1,000- let alone 1 million"

I will tell you that a young earth believer in Genesis has a pretty simple apologetic. God said it and that settles it. He was there and you weren't. I believe in 1 miracle GOD. You have to believe in millions of miracles without Him.

My next interesting skirmish was in Birmingham. I was teaching at a Christian school and we hosted Hugh Ross for a weekend. It seemed to be fine until Hugh got an audience with our Bible department. I remember sitting in the school library. My recollection was the audience was very small- three or four Bible teachers, our pastor, and a history teacher.

Hugh Ross had barely started before the odium thelogicum attacked with their guns blazing.
"How dare you teach this day age stuff?" "You are out of your field and have no right to make theological applications." "You have undone Romans, you have destroyed the gospel, in your view there is death before sin and death cannot happen before sin."
I was shocked and I was embarrassed. Though I still held to my literal, young earth view- I saw Hugh Ross as a man who proclaimed Jesus and taught a high view of Scripture.
I also need to say that I have deep respect for the Bible teachers- they loved Jesus and the gospel and knew the Bible so deeply. But this was a hot button topic.
It even got to the point that some in our Bible department would not label a college 'christian' unless it taught a young earth and a literal 6 day creation.

My questioning would get me small splashes of indignation. It is the mischievous side of me that kind of sadistically enjoys the turmoil.
 "Who says there can't be death before sin?"
"What if it meant spiritual death... or human death?"
"Did Adam not step on an ant?"
"Did the serpent eat bananas?" I know...stupid!

But they were settled- the slippery slope to liberalism begins when a person compromises Genesis 1. Once you begin... where does it stop? If the day is not literal- how can we say Adam and the garden are not figurative?

For a long time after that, I was the 'good-natured young earth  guy'. I held firm to my position, but did not question the faith of any 'old-earther' I ran into. There were times where I didn't know what was more shocking to them- the fact that I was young earth or the fact that I was accepting of others who weren't.

I moved to Nashville and began teaching apologetics. My department leader was old-earth and he seemed ok with my young earth view. The only time I got him riled up at all was my 'young earth that appears old' argument. He said it makes God deceitful. I never really agreed with that rebuttal because general revelation only declares that God is there- it takes special revelation to give out the details that He wants us to have. It would not bother me at all if I found an antique storage chest in my father's workshop.
"Wow, dad, this is amazing."
"How did you make this? It looks 200 years old!"
"I finished it this morning, son."
So a 5 minute tree in Eden had 35 rings... and it keeps a Biblical theme.. things are not always what they seem.

My apologetics study led me at first into evidentialists and the weapons against macro-evolution. You have to understand, that getting arguments against Darwin were thrilling to me. I hated what Darwin had done to the church. I remember that sheer anger I felt when I watched 'Inherit the Wind' and saw the biased attack on my faith. So how could I not cheer when I read about irreducible complexity, and the Cambrian explosion, and the faulty Miller Urey experiment.. and on and on.

But a funny thing happened- as I read the evidence I had to admit that there was no doubt that evolution was true. The slight, successful changes in species was studied and proven.
But the extrapolation of that theory into a naturalistic world-view which helped kick God out of classrooms and relegated faith to a 'stay at home' private thing was offensive. It didn't help that all of the neo-darwinists would take all kinds of explanations for life.... including aliens.. as long as God wasn't mentioned.

My young earth views were greatly helped by Douglas Kelly's excellent book "Creation and Change". But I also was helped by reading Einstein's biography and going back into Hugh Ross from time to time. I saw the two camps (young and old) as being tools to spread the gospel. Young earthers reach traditionalists and old earthers reach post-moderns. God had people in every sphere with a high view of Scripture and a love for gospel proclamation.

I even developed a 'power point' where I helped to clarify a lot of mistakes we make. It demonstrated how the Big Bang theory actually helps a theistic world view and how ID could be a rival to macro-evolution in the science classroom.

My next funny moment was when I was asked to speak at a Creation Conference at a Christian school across town that was also a big sports rival. I knew that my power-point was going to be picked to death by the 'Answers in Genesis' people. My mentioning of Intelligent Design was anathema and they took me to task in the gymnasium. The students loved it! The CPA football coach was getting grilled! After I answered their main criticism a few other panel speakers came up to me. 'I thought you made a great point". I thought 'thanks for speaking up for me'. But in a weird way, I enjoyed it.

Fast forward three years later and the growing evidence for an old universe and the slow erosion of young earth arguments have me reconsidering the whole thing. The only way I can stay young earth is to keep my "looks old, but is young" view. But most of the other supporting elements are easily explained away.

So I will spend some time going back to Genesis and considering again: Day Age- Analogical Days- Fiat Days- and Framework Views. I will pray and read and wrestle. I am not a scientist or a theologian... so I doubt I will ever be the last word on anything. But I enjoy the process and am so confident in my Heavenly Father that He and I will enjoy the process.

I started the background of this study by reading the Holman book: "Understanding Creation" edited by Jeremy Howard and designed by Doug Powell- two great local resources.

I am starting off with some honest questions:
How does Moses' background/education play into the way God spoke to him?
God dictated to Moses information- how does giving the info relate to the real time-line of the events?
Was there a purpose in God using current cultural structures as the best way to prepare the world for His solution for sin?
In what ways did God place himself in competition with false gods and rivals only to show His power and victory? Did He have to set up a parallel structure so we could see the difference?
If we adopt accomodist views of Scripture- where does the figurative stop and literal begin?
At what point do we end up in old-fashioned liberalism?
Is it possible for any man to think clearly here? Aren't we all influenced by presumptions? What if all the thoughts about the age of the universe are faulty models that don't take into account the possibility of fluctuations in time/space/history?
Is all of this battle over the beginning that important? Isn't the real skirmish over the life/death/words/ and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

Should be a fun run!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Comments on "The Last Christian on Earth" by Os Guinness

I'm going to paraphrase and comment on some of Os Guiness's book that was originally published under the title, "The Gravedigger Files (IVP, 1983). This is a little like C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, but more direct and informational.

The problem with this blog is to differentiate Guiness's points of brilliance and my random rambling. So anything in BLUE (italics in facebook notes) and  is me- and if Guinness contradicts my BLUE... choose Guinness!

Memorandum 2 is a phenomenon labeled 'The Sandman Effect' and is presented as an enemy tactic versus the church.

In this tactic, the church digs its own grave while Christians sleep.

The major premise of the Sandman Effect is to infiltrate the church by use of culture- which exposes the defensive vulnerability of the church. Instead of the church becoming more aware of the damaging effects of popular culture, she falls into a deeper and deeper sleep.

The first experiment with this tactic is confusing the nature of belief. The impact of the enlightenment produced unexpected and unintended results.  The pomp and pressure of those who presented themselves as the intellectual elite offered much promise, but only produced exclusive caste systems and cynicism. The ultimate fruit of intellectual oppression is a quest for power and the greatest use of that power is cynical, dream killing, skepticism.

I love how Guinness describes this: "Yes, there was brilliance, but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises. the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the communists, and others more or less sleeping with fanaticism...The legacy of this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against faith that a hundred (Voltaires)". The desire for truth went out of fashion..... which led the way for post-modernism which is not a clear philosophy... it is also a mood.

And here is where we (Christians, especially in the south) go wrong- we fail to see what has happened among those who are not the traditionalists. Traditionalists have a strong sense of right and wrong- they have a foundation of TRUTH.

But we are increasingly living among those (especially the young- media savvy- who tend to think by sight and act by impulse) who judge truth not by objectivity, but degrees of plausibility.

In Guinness's words- "we have created a climate in which a thing's seeming to be true is often mistaken for its being true."

And what is the means of this change? By changing the definition and standards of 'belief'.
We allow and even applaud people who believe or disbelieve on non-rational or psychological grounds. YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID AND YOUR ACTIONS ARE JUSTIFIED BECAUSE THEY ARE PLAUSIBLE, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT CONNECT TO REALITY OR TRUTH.

I love Guinness's analogy here: we accept a person who is an atheist- not because they have weighed truth and fallacy- but simply because their father was a religious hypocrite who alienated the family from God as much as himself.

Unfortunately, we fall into this trap when we begin to elevate psychology over Scripture or only accept interpretation and application of Scripture as it fits the latest psychological models.
See how subtle it is? We agree with truth if the support structure is strong. But if the support structure is weak, it is harder to believe.
"Coach it with care and and plausibility will upstage credibility"- this is a scary statement.

The church has become a heart suffering from fibrillation - the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers- 
one spasmodic side is the Christian philosophers- who expound the theoretical- and the other meaningless motion is the 'just give me Jesus' anti-intellectual crowd who throw out doctrine.

Then Guinness shows how the Apostle Paul provides a framework for the fight. He knows that the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth... not theory. "Paul would have believed his faith was objectively true if he had been the last one convinced of it."
The truth of Christianity is NOT dependent on a strong church.. but a weak church hides TRUTH as it seems less credible, and a less credible church is a less plausible church.

A Two-Legged Stool: Guinness also shows how apologists only use 2 of three tools of analysis in unveiling this issue.
Leg 1- The history of ideas
Leg 2- The climate of culture and custom
and the missing...Leg 3- the justification of knowledge

In the post modern world- cultural pluralism and relativism offers confusion in leg 2 and the rapid flow and dynamics of information makes Leg 1 seemingly archaic and irrelevant (and BORING). But if we pressed more into Leg 3 and make the post-modern man justify his knowledge beyond the perspective of personal experience and evaluate truth claims in a more logical framework- we would see some progress and usefulness of the other 2 legs.

A huge roadblock in this mess is the frenzied pace of communication technology and global mobility. I love the quote about the Kenyan saying "All westerners have watches...  but Africans have time."

"A culture of mobility plus convenience leads quite naturally not only to (drive-in food) and banks but also drive-in churches"

See how it works? Overlay upon overlay- the effect of molding lives through culture has all the advantages of a revolution and none of the disadvantages of intellectual sweat.

As our children see belief as a feeling of plausibility and relevance- as they are spun dizzy by infinite activity- as they are enticed by the promise of convenience- as they are distracted by new cool tools of transport of information tsunamis- they cannot understand that TRUTH is TRUE even if no one ascribes to it. 'When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?' He won't, if we have lost what 'faith' means. What will He say when we respond "It just didn't 'seem' right... It didn't feel true"?

'Subtle compromise is always better than sudden captivity'.

Father- we need help. We need to slow down- we need to read the WORD- chew it- meditate on it and mull it over- we need true WORSHIP to lift us out of the trivial pursuits and insulated hearts.
In short- we have loved things and ideas that have not loved us back. We live for pleasure while the King suffered and died. 
Culture makes godliness seem strange, but without truth... justification of life is meaningless- 
Our children need to see us forsaking our idols- because the idols will soon forsake them.
But we also need to train our children how to ask the right questions- make men justify their beliefs.... make them follow the consequences of their faith.....and Holy Spirit...PLEASE illumine the TRUTH.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pure Freedom and Fun- the 2010 CPA Football Team

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It has been a long time since my last post and way too many ideas to share at this time.

I will be drafting some ideas after football season about all that I have been learning...reading..etc. I especially want to write about the Transcendental Argument for God at some point and press into some ideas from our recent apologetics conference.

But this post is about football and the sad end to our season against Goodpasture in the TSSAA football state playoffs.

I am so proud of my football team- if you have a facebook account, I encourage you to find "QB Club" on facebook and take in the pictures and videos of this special group of winners.

This team took the foundation of last year's team and pushed it further. This team worked hard and lead well. And we are had more fun than a person should be allowed.

If you showed up in our locker room or attended our practices, it would would strike you as strange. This was s a 'loosy goosey' bunch- but NOT to their detriment.

This team is clearly bore the fruit of what we hope to produce in this program: these young men have  a warrior spirit and a loving heart. They fight hard and know how to show love as brothers.

An example of this was last week against Pearl-Cohn, one of the most physical football teams we have ever hosted on our field. We attacked those guys with absolutely no flinching! I'm telling you that this was a senior stacked team going against our guys (12 freshmen and sophomores starting) and we matched them blow for blow.

In the end, we fell short 17-14. The PC head coach called me over the weekend and we marveled at how hard hitting the game was.

But let me tell you the 2nd big thing- our guys were and are undaunted. We have had some heart-breaking losses this season and some thrilling wins- ending up 5-6. Don't get me wrong- we have hurt when we have lost- but not like it is the end of the world. This team cannot be defeated- knock them down- and they keep coming.

Why? Because they have understood what this is all about- and it has NOTHING to do with football. This team has embraced what we are really about and that is glorifying God by enjoying football and embracing the challenge of getting better and playing hard.
Does that mean we are sinless? Heaven's NO! Were we bad at times? YES
I have had to correct our guys about language, attitude, silliness, coarseness, and this head coach has manifest sin inside and out.
But they are not afraid to bow to the King and acknowledge our only hope- the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This team sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" by their choice and they hit the door with a mission- LEAVE IT ALL ON THE FIELD.
It wasn't in God's plan for us to move ahead- don't expect us to live like life is over. Our battle has only begun- and we will smile in adversity and celebrate success.

You ought to look at the last few pictures in the album below- see guys who fight hard and love well. I especially encourage you to look at the last pictures of the seniors- they cried hard- and then they pulled it together- and the last sounds in the locker room as joy and celebration. How many high school seniors get to do that?

Personally, I will take a break from it- and then I want to keep getting better. We have young linemen who need to have a great offseason and we were a young team. Spring football begins in 6 months.

update:  Pearl-Cohn sends 10 football players to college ranks
Source: blogs.tennessean.com