Friday, September 30, 2005

My Photo-blog...

Check my Imago Articulus site for continuing and regular updates (unlike this blog).

What about those who haven't heard?...

In my previous post I described the non-Biblical notion that a Christian can, and should, seek direction from God in day-to-day decision making. Such a practice can essentially be reduced to hearing a word from God. One of my points, in refuting such a practice, was to note that God does not try to speak to us. If God intends to speak to you, you will hear Him; if God does not intend to speak to you, you will not hear Him (due to the important little fact that there is nothing to hear). Note very carefully the context here: that of special individual revelation from God. In the comments of the previous post Paul brought up the following,
...It's not much of a trick to say that God will make sure I hear his message when I live in a Christian country, having been born in another Christian country, and spent all but a few weeks of my life in a Judeo-Christian culture. I had assumed you meant something deeper than that. Nonetheless, it troubles me that there are billions of people who, because of their society or culture, don't get to hear that message. Does that mean God doesn't want them to hear it?
While Paul raises a very important question, it is way off-topic from my previous post. Again, the issue of my previous post had to do with Christians receiving extra-Biblical direction from God. However, since it is a very important question, I would like to briefly address it here on this post. There are, actually, several issues that such a question addresses. How does Christianity view the human condition? Who is God and what is His responsibility to us? What is justice? What is grace? How has God revealed Himself to all of humanity? What influence, if any, does culture have in one's decision to accept the God of the Bible? Has God chosen an elect group? With regards to a culture's influence on an individual's belief system, one must first understand that the primary issue is whether or not the belief system is correct, and not why someone believes it. In other words, even though it may be true that one believes in a particular religious system because of the culture he was raised in, that tells us nothing about whether or not the religious system he believes in is actually true. In the Christian Worldview, God is creator of all, and God is Holy. Mankind is separated from God by sin. God, being Holy, is also just. The just course of action for those who are guilty is condemnation. The Christian Worldview states that all mankind is guilty of sin against God and, as such, is due condemnation from God. It is only through grace, granted by God, that mankind can enter into communion with God. God is not obligated to issue such grace, or else it wouldn't be grace. So... what about those who haven't heard God's Gospel message in specific terms? The Christian Worldview understands that God is just and that God has revealed Himself to all mankind in a manner that leaves all mankind "without excuse." How does God do this? I don't know, and He isn't telling us. What He does tell us is that we are to be about making disciples into His name. Thus, to question the manner in which He reveals Himself to all of mankind potentially ignores at least the following points:
  • Who God is.
  • Because of who God is, what He is owed.
  • What mankind's condition is.
  • Because of mankind's condition, what mankind is owed.
  • What mankind is not owed (e.g., God's grace).
  • God is just.
  • God has revealed Himself to all of mankind.
How He works out His will with regards to His creation is His business.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A word from God...

I once had a disagreement with a pastor regarding the direction he was taking the church he shepherded. In short, I thought he was over-emphasizing the experiential aspect of Christian worship to the point of excluding serious teaching about God. It was my opinion that such an unhealthy emphasis on the experiential would result in a breakdown of the very fabric of the church. Thus, it was not surprising to eventually see key families and members of leadership leave the church as they tired of having to continually wade through the shallow waters of "experience." While the details of that disagreement are important (and will eventually be told) I would like to focus on the justification that this pastor had for continuing in the direction he so fervently believed in. A word from God. Not the Word of God, mind you, but a word from God – a still small voice, the leading of the Spirit or, quite frankly, what God was telling him to do. You see, with regards to his approach to ministry he acknowledged that he and I had differing viewpoints. Yet he justified the direction he was going as valid because, according to him, it was the direction God was telling him to go. When you stop and think about it, though, that really is a good tactic. I mean, who can argue with him? If he really is getting direct messages from God, then anyone who disagrees with him is, in effect, disagreeing with God. Game. Set. Match. Never mind that I was using the Word of God as the basis for my arguments. Never mind that God has already spoken to me, and to him, and to all Christians, through the Word of God. No, never mind all of that because, in those circles, a word from God seems to always trump the Word of God. A few words of caution*, though, for those who so casually invoke the reception of a word from God:
  • Is your "word from God" infallible? If the following syllogism is true: "God cannot err. The Bible is God’s Word. Therefore, the Bible cannot err."; then it goes to follow: "God cannot err. I’ve received a Word from God. Therefore, the Word I’ve received cannot err."
  • In the past, those who claimed to speak for God staked their lives upon the claim. Do you truly understand the seriousness of what you are advocating?
  • Those who claim to hear from God cannot claim to have honed or, to be honing, their ability to hear from God without implying that God is trying to speak to them. God cannot try, for trying implies the possibility of failing, and God cannot fail at something He intends to do. The conclusion is that you cannot try to hear what God is telling you – for if God isn’t telling you anything, you won’t hear it; and if God is telling you something, you can’t help but hear it.
  • God certainly has the power to speak extra-biblically through prophets in the past, present, and future, but we know that He has spoken objectively through His Word. Therefore, while it is possible for someone to receive a word from God, the burden of proof rests on that person to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a word from God.
* These words of caution are paraphrases of points made by Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason. Many thanks to him for providing two very important resources on this topic: Decision Making & the Will of God, and From Truth to Experience. Update: Now that I post much less frequently, I also avoid extending a post's debate or discussion via the comments section. People are certainly welcome to leave their own comments but, due to my own time constraints, I am not likely to respond directly. However, Anon, left a comment on this post that I would like to address. Anon said, does this relate to leading of the Spirit? I was asked once whether God was leading me to do this or that and I wasn't sure how to respond. And if God does lead, how do I know it's God and not my own guilt or feelings.
I would strongly recommend dropping about $20 on Greg Koukl's Decision Making and the Will of God CD set. Look up the verses in which the leading of the Spirit is referenced. You will find that, based on the context of the passages, the issue being discussed is how we are to live - not how we are to make specific decisions. In Romans 8, Paul is contrasting the differences between those who live by the flesh and those who live by the Spirit:
So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
The idea that, as a matter of normative practice, the Spirit leads us in our decision making process is simply not found in the Bible. The second part of your question implies that you are attempting to discern whether or not God is leading you in a particular matter. To reitierate one of the cautionary notes I learned from Greg Koukl - you cannot learn to hear from God. Put quite simply, if God intends for you to hear something, you will hear it. This is Biblically based. Read the book of Acts and note how many times God intervened and re-directed courses of action. There was no indication that the people involved were seeking for direction or that they were developing a sense of hearing from God. Yet, despite the many accounts of supernatural intervention, there are also many accounts of the apostles making decisions based purely on wisdom, desires, and opportunities, all grounded in the understanding that God's Sovereign Will was in control.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Yo!, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton...

Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional,
A federal judge declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday in a case brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

Yet another reason, in a littany of reasons, why we homeschool.

Yo!, Judge Karlton? Stop by my home around 9 a.m. to get a glimpse - actually, an education - in how coercive it is to have children recite the pledge of allegiance and engage in prayer (shudder!).

Perhaps our public schools should just follow the advice of a local radio personality who said that if someone objects to reciting the words "under God," then they should just replace them with "under no one in particular."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

From the Belmont Club...

Per Gaza looters settle old scores: As the last Israeli tanks depart the settlements are ravaged, from the Times of London,
Pillars of fire lit up the night sky even before the last Israeli tanks rolled out before dawn yesterday, as thousands of Palestinians swarmed into the forsaken settlements and youths set fire to synagogues and other symbols of the hated occupation. ...The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of cynically leaving the synagogues standing to make Palestinians look bad for demolishing them.
Wretchard, at the Belmont Club, states,
Ariel Sharon forgot the single most important fact of the media age, a fact that generations of Israelis had heretofore always remembered: that the mantle of victimhood belongs, not to the aggrieved, but to whoever can point the finger of accusation most vigorously. One of the most powerful properties of representation is that it transforms perception. It can make a city Mayor with hundreds of buses at his disposal into a supplicant wholly dependent on outside help to evacuate his constituents; it can transform Todd Beamer's heroic stand against Islamic hijackers into a Crescent of Embrace facing Mecca. It can transform reality so completely that, in the case of Gaza, it is the Jews who are ultimately responsible for the destruction of the synagogues because they left them standing. Were it not for the Internet, which has made it possible to revive the classic military memoir in the form of milblogs, the public would have no more idea of the battle against terror than they do of the whys and wherefores of synagogue burnings in Gaza.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From Truth to Experience...

I just purchased a 2 CD set from Stand to Reason titled, From Truth to Experience: Why the Church Is Losing Its Vitality in the 21st Century. In it, Greg Koukl explains that he is,
deeply concerned about the church'’s ability to fulfill Jude'’s admonition to "“contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"” because of a trend in the church that'’s getting worse.
He believes that the church (especially in America) is becoming increasingly ineffective, primarily because
...there is an unhealthy hunger for experience of personal revelation that has replaced our hunger for truth.
And that,
We desperately want God to communicate with us directly. [and] ...We are taught more and more from pulpits all around the country that this is what every Christian can expect to have happen.
He further states that such an unhealthy hunger is evidenced by three traditions in modern evangelicalism,
1. we go to our Bibles not to study the text for its truth, but to look for private, personal, individualized messages from God to us. 2. we think that God has put His will in code and we must decipher in order to find "“God'’s will."” 3. we think that a vital part of a real relationship with God is learning how to receive private, personal, special revelations from God.
The problem, as Koukl sees it, is that we've placed too much importance on the aspect of experiencing God. In our culture, feelings seem to be so much more relevant, and valid, than mere academic knowledge. That which entertains, or titillates the most, is deemed that which is most important. Is it no wonder, then, that many of our evangelical churches emphasize the fact that one can experience God when one enters into a personal relationship with Jesus? Is it any wonder that such an experience is considered to be the cornerstone for our Christian faith and the means through which our maturity occurs? Instead of hearing and learning about God, we end up hearing catch phrases such as, lives are being transformed, or, people are experiencing God's Spirit. Instead of hearing and learning about God, we are told that we, as a congregation, must be about connecting at deeper and deeper levels. The idea, so it goes, is that if people could just experience God, then they'd not only connect at deeper and deeper levels, but they'd also yearn to learn more about God. But is that what really happens? Do we see those people that have experienced God (supposedly) striving to learn more about Him? Or do we simply see them striving to get more of the experience? Yet, Koukl's concerns run much deeper than that of experiential, illiterate Christians. You see, when we elevate experience over revealed truth (i.e., the personal revelation of experience over the general revelation of Scripture), then we run into the problem of relativism. For example, if one person reads a verse and receives a personal, individualized message, then that verse has a different meaning for that person than it does for either you or I. When a static passage of text can mean one thing to you, another thing to me, and yet another thing to someone else, then that text is being viewed in a relativistic manner. And that is no way to view the revealed truth of God. Update: Joe Carter links us to Signs: I'm Weary of Weird Christians, by The Internet Monk. An excerpt,
I am tired of hearing people I work with say that God is talking to them like He talked to Moses at the burning bush or like He talked to Abraham. I'm weary of people saying God speaks directly to them about mundane matters of reasonable human choice, so that their choices of toothpaste and wallpaper are actually God's choices, and therefore I need to just shut up and keep all my opinions to myself until I can appreciate spiritual things. I'm tired of people acting as if the normal Christian life is hearing a voice in your head telling you things other people can't possible know, thus allowing you a decided advantage.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Letter to Gilligan...

Dear Gilligan, I heard you finally left the island... your island... and that you won't be coming back. Was it really over 40 years ago when you were first shipwrecked? Black and white. That's how I like to remember you - fishing from shore, while The Wellingtons sang in the background. But it was the '60s, after all, and color TV was the "in" thing. And with color TV came - color TV shows. Color TV shows that seemed to demand that the hue and saturation controls of the television set be turned up full blast. And amidst this psychedelic potpourri we kids would watch, anxiously hoping that you'd be rescued, but pleasantly relieved when you weren't. You know what? Even after we knew you weren't going to be rescued, we'd still watch, over and over and over again. You know why? It was fun. Thanks Gilligan. Thanks for the fun.

Liberals and the art of politicizing disaster...

Check the timeline, with regards to how governments (yes, plural, as in local, state, and federal), responded to the threat, and impact of, Hurricane Katrina. Then read what Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D), from California had to say,
"The people of the Gulf region were struck by two disasters. First was the hurricane and then the failure of the federal government in time of great need," she said. "The buck stops at the president's desk. The president said he's going to lead the investigation into what went wrong. He needs to look only in the mirror." (emphasis added)
Pelosi's attempt to score political points, at the expense of hurricane ravaged Americans, is yet another fine example of liberal crassness. She's a moron. UPDATE: Check Hugh Hewitt's post on Pelosi. A choice excerpt,
Not only have Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi apparently not caught up with the growing recognition that Governor Blanco's ineptitude is the ground zero for the chaos in New Orleans, they haven't even figured out that if you want to control committees, you have to win elections. ...Now they want to blame Bush for Blanco, fire Brown instead of demanding answers from Nagin, and generally want to try and politicize a disaster that most Americans just want addressed as speedily and humanely as possible. You have to hand it to the Dems, they are nothing if not consistent -- consistently hysterical, and consistently wrong.
Maybe moron wasn't the right word... how about buffoon? UPDATE 2: Also check Instapundit's posts, here and here. Or listen to Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), from Georgia, speaking in the House,
As the mostly black people were herded into what looked like concentration camps , Barbara Bush suggested that they were really better off now than they were before. Well, maybe she has got something there, because it took losing an entire city for the "compassionate conservatives'' in Washington, D.C., to finally get some compassion in the laws they pass, in the policies they enact, in what they do around here. (emphasis added)
Update 3: For those who think this post is an attempt to gloss over the mismanaged response to Hurricane Katrina please re-read it (and the Katrina Scenario was known post immediately preceding it). You can also go read how Instapundit and others are pointing out that Bush appointed FEMA managers lack, in a now blatantly obvious way, pertinent experience. But as for this post, the title should give you a clue as to its point - Liberals and the art of politicizing disaster.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina scenario was known...

Per Chertoff: Katrina scenario did not exist,
Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur. But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years. Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans. "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," Chertoff said.
But in Sinking City of Venice, a NOVA program, which aired in November of 2002,
NARRATOR: Storms push water into the city, forcing pedestrians to use impromptu high-rise sidewalks until the water drains back out to sea. But as spectacular and destructive as Venice's high waters can be, some experts fear New Orleans geography may invite larger floods. Joseph Suhayda, Coastal Engineer: The flooding that threatens Venice is of a more chronic nature. New Orleans would be subject to a high level of threat associated with a hurricane storm surge that could in fact devastate or destroy the city. NARRATOR: That's because 70 percent of New Orleans is below sea level. In the event of a very severe hurricane—category 4 or 5—the city's levee system would not be able to keep massive surges out. The possible result of this nightmare scenario: a city drowned under more than 20 feet of water in places. A worrying prospect for New Orleans, which, like Venice, is engaged in a constant struggle with nature. (emphasis added)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Relief orgs...

You can donate online to hurricane relief funds through the following organizations: Assemblies of God World Vision Home School Legal Defense Association