31 March 2014

More Technology

I just got issued an iPad. I had decided the device was one of those things I could do without, so I'd never bought one. But the administration thought differently, so I got one anyway, and didn't have to pay for it. 

So now, I'm composing my first blog post on it. Time will tell how much it gets used for stuff like this. But I can already tell I. Going to need a full-size keyboard!

16 December 2013

History, and Being Doomed and All That

Most everybody knows the saying I've alluded to in my title. I believe the saying to be inherently true, and not just in terms of repeating your history CLASS, but repeating the negative lessons of history itself.

It was Chesterton, I think, who said something like, "The wit of man in insufficient to invent a new heresy." I'm not positive my wording is exact, or even that someone other than G. K. said it originally, but either way, I love the saying because it seems to incorporate truth in a very consistent manner.

If we look around at all the various weird religions, pseudo-Christian cults, and spiritualities that are around today, it seems all of them (that I've found) have a strong parallel, if not are an exact duplication, of a heresy from the first five (or so) centuries of the church.

So, with all that in mind, I constantly push my Sunday School class along with anyone else who will listen to be well-versed in the history of the Christian Church, especially where it concerns aberrant teachings. Tim Challies has started what promises to be a very useful series on the seven great church councils on his blog. The first post can be found here. I sincerely hope many will read these posts, and they will be helpful in the edification of the church.

Obviously, we as Christians should have a good command of the Bible, and the Bible should be the primary locus of our study. But one of the ways of correctly understanding the Bible is to know and understand way it has been misinterpreted in history. These posts will give a good non-seminary-level overview of these misinterpretations.

May I suggest a few good books that I've used on this topic as well (each title is a link to the book on Amazon.com):

   1. Heresies, by H. Brown
   2. Heresy, by A. McGrath
   3. Turning Points (first four chapters) by M. Noll
   4. Historical Theology, by G. Bromiley
   5. Historical Theology, by G. Allison
   6. Historical Theology, by A. McGrath

08 November 2013

The Evangelical Resistance to Obamacare in a Nutshell

I've seen some new debate in the blogosphere on whether or not the evangelical resistance to Obamacare is legitimate or not, prompted mostly by a quote from 'out there' theologian N. T. Wright.

Wright got some immediate pushback, and rightly so. But even then, those pushing back got pushed themselves, and the debate seemed to get muddier. What is missing is a concise explanation of why evangelicals must oppose Obamacare, single-payer healthcare, and any other related scheme the left (or the right) might come up with that puts the government in charge of healthcare.

Pay attention here...this is going to be quick, and I don't want you to miss this-

Nationalized health care and freedom of religion, speech, etc., CANNOT both exist at the same time and in the same relationship.

Why not? Think about it in simple, logical terms rather than convoluted social arguments. Health care is directly related to health, and health is a direct consequence (among some other things) of behavior.  Religion is directly related to religious beliefs, and religious beliefs have the direct consequence of influencing behavior.

In a theocracy, there is no religious freedom because behavior (outward expression of religious belief) is restricted to the religion that is in charge. In a democracy, religious freedom can exist as long as the government is tolerant of various expressions of religious belief via behavior (what people say, do, etc.). But when the democracy adopts nationalized health care, it assumes authority over certain behaviors, and when these behaviors conflict with the best interests of the government, they are subdued or prohibited. These might include religious speech, such as opposition to certain medical procedures; they might include domestic behaviors such as keeping and bearing arms; or they might include social behaviors, such as disapproval of certain lifestyle behaviors (like for example, not wanting to photograph a wedding).

Some will make all kinds of logical-acrobatic arguments about these things, but they all boil down to the simple fact that when a government becomes the arbiter of behaviors associated with health care, they necessarily become the established religious authority in the nation. No loop-holing will change that fact.

07 November 2013

The Rub of the False Mega-Church Pastor

Recently, there's been a dust-up over a mega-church pastor in Charlotte and his new mansion. The reporting has been kinder than one might expect, which says a few things I won't go into here.

Being a mega-church pastor, aside from the spiritual implications, is not a bad gig. You can make a ton of money and you don't have to work very hard. Granted: there are spiritual implications, but from a completely secular, pragmatic point of view, its a nice way to earn a living.

But there's a problem that I haven't seen discussed yet. It is not simply that one can choose to be a mega-church pastor, and go open a mega-church. You see, almost all of these folks have built their church from the ground up. In other words, not just any Tom, Dick, or Steven can be a mega-church pastor. One needs to be gifted. (I didn't say talented. More on that shortly.)

So what's the problem? Aren't NFL athletes gifted, and that's why they make a bunch of money? Well, yes. But don't forget about all the hard work they have to do to take advantage of that gift and the additional hard work to stay at the top of their game. And I suppose you could argue that some of these mega-church pastors work hard too, as performers, as stand-up comedians, and so on. But let's get back to the gifted part. Where do you suppose that gift comes from?

Do you think there are any additional spiritual implications for those who are gifted at that level and choose to take advantage of the gift in a secular (that is, financial) way? Joyce Meyer is a gifted speaker. Creflo Dollar is a charismatic personality (no pun intended...really). Kenneth Hagin was a convincing preacher. All these have used their gifts for personal financial gain well beyond just about anyone's definition of 'paying the worker their wages'. There's even a new TV series about a certain group of these folks. (Disclaimer: I haven't watched an episode, and likely won't.)

Kinda makes me nervous. Shouldn't it?

22 October 2013

Settled Science?

So evolution is settled science, the experts all (publically, at least) say.

Well, if so, there's a slight problem. All that 'settled science' is about to need a re-write, again.

This story of a find in Georgia (the one South of Russia, not East of Alabama) is the enzyme in the reaction.  This is going to be interesting.

Celebrity or Servant?

I don't like publishing a blog article that is in content basically just a link. But this post by Jared Moore was too good to pass up.

I could re-list his points here, but I can't say it any better than he has, so I'll just redirect you to his page.

02 October 2013

Ever Been Up a &$!# Creek?

Well, I hadn't either, until Monday.

I looked out my office window at about 10am on Monday, and saw what looked like a water line break in my parking lot. But there was more.  The water didn't look real clean.

Turns out, the restaurant next door was having some plumbing problems with their bathrooms, so they called a local plumber. The local plumber (unnamed, to protect the guilty) pulled the cleanout plug for the line, which is in my parking lot, and started pumping raw sewage into my lot. He pumped at least 700 gallons of raw sewage, most of it solid waste, onto my lot, which then ran down the slope in front of the Enterprise Rent-a-Car location and into the access road for I-27.

I went outside and (hand over nose) asked the plumber what he planned to do about the mess, and he basically said it wasn't a big deal, he would clean it up, but he was going to lunch.

I then learned that sometimes government can be your friend. I called the city Health Department. It was only about five minutes after the HD inspector got off the phone with the plumber's headquarters that haz-mat cleanup vehicles started arriving. One giant vacuum sweeper and one trailer full of chlorine disinfectant later, all is back in order.

But next time someone refers to that proverbial creek, I'll be able to give them some details on the experience.

20 September 2013

Is There Increasing Turmoil In the Darwinist Camp?

On his blog today, Tim Challies posted a blurb about the success of a recent book by apologist Stephen Meyer. One of the commenters posted a comment about how much turmoil there is in Darwinist camps, "...as it is increasingly recognized how flawed their theory is."

Is there increasing recognition of flaws in Darwinism? The short answer is, no.

Is there increasing turmoil in Darwinist camps because of this recognition? Well, obviously, no.

I think the comment is wrong on both premises.

But there's more to the story. I'm a working scientist, even though I spend most of my energy in administration now. I can tell you for certain that recognition of the flaws in Darwinist theory is not recent. But over the last century or so, the problems with Darwinism have been kept to an in-house debate. What is 'recent' is the internet. Because of the rise of the internet and alternative sources for news and information, the ability to keep these kinds of things in-house has been lost.

So yes, there is turmoil, but it isn't over the problems in Darwinism, it's over the problems of keeping the public out of the debate. Just about anyone can now eavesdrop on scholarly conversations about things like this, and many do. Most of us would agree that this is a good thing. It keeps people honest.

While there are some scientists who would support their agenda by hook or crook, I would say that a majority of scientists, even when faced with philosophical or religious objections to their worldview, are mostly honest about it. Unfortunately, those who are all about an agenda are the most vocal, so a minority makes the rest of us look bad. (There's a great lawyer joke buried in that, but I won't digress at this point.)

Bottom line: Yes, there are problems with Darwinist theory, and yes, these problems are recognized. But the problems have been dealt with quietly in the past, and now are out in the open where others have entered the debate. I think this is good for everyone involved, as I believe truth wins over time, even in the face of some pretty organized propaganda. But don't expect secular scientists to bow a knee just yet; even if Darwinism collapses completely (not likely in the short run), the won't adopt a theistic worldview. They'll find another atheistic explanation for reality. That's because evidence doesn't, and has never, determined one's worldview, but rather one's worldview determines how evidence is interpreted. As one famous anthropologist said, "I wouldn't have seen it if I didn't believe it."

28 August 2013

When The Dream Becomes Reality

I don't post much here anymore, mostly because of time and priorities. But today is a day that deserves a post. It won't be long, but it is important.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the, "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington, DC at the Lincoln Memorial. Fifty years later, as we watch the news, we wonder if King's dream will ever become reality. But it has. Not completely, but it has.

On a widespread basis; on a macro-cultural basis, it is pretty easy to win an argument that Dr. King's dream has not been realized. In the speech, Dr. King said, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." While this isn't Georgia, that very thing happens at my office every day. It happens at other small businesses, corporate offices, golf courses, coffee shops, and churches, all over this country, every day.

I'm not saying all is well and there is no more work to be done. The work of cultural change will never end. There will always be racism. (Why? Because the only realistic model for change is the Judeo-Christian ethic, found in the Bible, that we are made in the image of God, the imago dei, and thus all deserve equality under the law and within a culture...and there are a lot of powerful people in the culture that hate the Bible.) Racism is sin, and we can no more banish it than we can banish lust or greed or avarice of any kind. Until the onset of eternity, when all sin will be cast into Hades, we'll have these things with us. But that doesn't mean we can't be thankful for God's common grace and His specific blessings on those who repent of that sin and walk in fellowship with fellow believers of a different race or culture.

This nation isn't perfect, but it is certainly a lot better place than it would have been without Dr. King and his dream.  Let us celebrate that, if not in a big cultural way, in a local way, by sitting together at the table of brotherhood.

*Here is a transcript of Dr. King's full speech.  If you've never read it, take the time to do so now.  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/27/transcript-martin-luther-king-jr-have-dream-speech/

23 July 2013

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

My oldest kids, twins Will and Brice, who are about to start their senior year of high school, are leaving on Friday for a week of mission work in Ecuador.  It was hard to agree to let them go.

I've read, discussed, and even taught about how our own safety isn't the most important factor in how we should make our decisions before a sovereign God. Now it is time to put my money where my mouth is, and let them go, in God's good hands.

Nonetheless, I suspect my prayer life will be a little more active for the next week or so, and I'd appreciate if anyone reading this would throw in a little extra prayer for their safety, as well as their success on the mission field.

12 June 2013

Brice on the TV News

My son Brice was picked to participate in one of those TV interest spots on a local station last week.

He is interesting because he's not only a pretty good football player, but carries a 100.9 GPA.  Obviously, I'm very proud of him!

15 May 2013

Evercrappy So Switch

Every once in a while, someone comes along with a bit a creativity that speaks to a screwed-up culture so loudly and clearly that it can't be ignored. And occasionally, that manner of speech is even funny. 

This guy nails it. (If you continue to buy Abercrombie & Fitch, you have no soul.)

08 May 2013

Will Makes Local Sports Show

My son Will was featured in the local sports show here Monday night.  In this video, you can see him scoring in the win against Plainview (he's #16), then running off the field and showing off his blond hair. The segment he's in starts at about 2:12.

UPDATE (5/13): Looks like they took the video down...bummer.  I don't know where to find it.

KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

06 May 2013

On Disagreeing with Trueman (Carl, that is)

I want to encourage all of you who read this to start reading Carl Trueman's blog. I sometimes disagree with Trueman.

Carl Trueman

So why am I encouraging you to read a blog with which I sometimes disagree?  Well, it goes something like this:  There are a good number of bloggers I read with whom I disagree, most of them because I have a nagging fear that what they are saying is wrong and I can't quite give a specific reason (yet). This feeling has usually proved true.

With Trueman's blog, when I sometimes disagree, it is with a nagging fear that he is right, and I can't quite give a specific reason (yet). This feeling has usually proved true as well.

17 April 2013

Why Do We Try to Change the Culture?

The idea of cultural change is not new among Christian believers.  Exactly how the change should be pursued and implemented is a source of constant debate, however.  But at least we mostly agree that cultural change is something that should be pursued in the midst of a pagan-cultured world.

Racism is one of the cultural changes that most people agree about.  Yes, there are still fringe groups on every side of the issue who don't want change, or even want change in the wrong direction, but these are even less than a minority report among Christian believers. I've recently been thinking about the 'why' part of this change, and trying to re-orient my thoughts about it (as I've done with my thoughts on a lot of cultural issues) around the idea of gospel-centeredness.

To summarize my thoughts, I think I can safely say it this way: The reason we need to change the culture of subtle racism within the Church is not because it is mean to ___ people (fill in the ethnic/racial group of your choice, black, hispanic, or any other group), or because it is insensitive, or because it is illegal; rather, because it is sin.(1)

I firmly believe that we ('we' as in Christians, or 'we' as in Americans) have no moral right to force people out of their racism, whether that racism be thoughts or words. In fact, I don't think we can. I still think the first amendment got it right, and without the first amendment we are left with things like blasphemy laws, which destroy freedom at every turn. I do think the government has a right, and a duty, to make sure that racism is contained to the areas of thought and word, and not allowed to become deed.  Behavior is within the purview of government enforcement. Unfortunately, our government seems to regularly lose sight of these facts, opting instead of enforcing behavior to trying to implement and enforce laws against the way people speak, or even think, about racial issues. These attempts will always be counterproductive and even dangerous. But that's for another post.

Where we as Christian believers do have a moral right, and indeed a moral obligation, is to speak out against subtle(2) racism in the church. If we can refocus our thinking on racism from a so-called social-gospel issue (i.e., we shouldn't be mean to blacks because of what they suffered under slavery or under poverty) to a real gospel issue (i.e. we shouldn't think, say, or do racist things because it is a sin against God's image-bearer, and thus against God Himself; and more importantly, we should joyfully share the gospel with everyone), I truly believe we could almost eradicate racism in the church in short order.

Now, I understand that this kind of argument carries no water in the secular cultural world.  That's fine; it doesn't need to carry any. We can't control what a pagan culture thinks, says, or does. But we can control what we believe as followers of Christ by staying always focused on Scripture and a scriptural basis for our attitudes and actions. And if we succeeded in eliminating racism (practically) from the church, we would make a much larger impact on a pagan society than many would think. The parable of the wheat and the tares tells me we can never fully eliminate racism, or any other kind of sin, from the visible church. Jesus will take care of that at the end of the age. But we can certainly minimize it.

Why should this practically matter to any of us? For one, the local church would be much more effective in local ministry if the subtle racism were to be tossed out the back door of the meetin' house. Take a look at churches in racially-diverse neighborhoods.  It is hard to find very many that really look as diverse as they should. And if they don't, they are not ministering to the folks that live around them as well as they ought to be. Until we do something about the attitudes within the church that keep this the status quo, our churches will continue to fail to look like their surrounding communities. Someone will automatically argue that their church isn't racist. Other than a few weird sects, I agree that most churches are not overtly racist. But the subtle racism is still there.  Walk into any one of about 70% of the churches in America and see if the church looks like the community where they are found. If it doesn't, there is something wrong.

We can't force this to happen. R. C. Sproul is fond of the saying, "A man convinced against his will is a man unconvinced, still."  I agree.  By attacking racism as the sin that it is, rather than (only as) an issue of civil rights or of moral decency, we move away from the current platform of coercion (which seems to have too many illegitimate grandchildren) toward a program that changes the hearts of the people. I've heard quite a few folks say that only the gospel can save our culture. This is a bit vacuous of a phrase until it gets some shoe-leather, and once we get practical, it is not so difficult to see the inherent truth in the statement.

Then the question-behind-the-question looms:  Is our culture worth saving?

(1) Why do I call it sin? Read 1 John chapter 4 if you need scriptural support for this proposition.

(2) What do I mean by 'subtle racism'? This isn't the kind of racism that says, out loud, "I don't like black people" or "I don't like white people." It is the kind of racism that seem to be built into every fallen human heart, where we don't want to associate with people that don't look like us.