I conclude that ID is just as scientific, and just as religious, as neo-Darwinism. As such it should be given a position of parity with Darwinism in the schools. This is not likely to happen in the near future, because of the courts’ homage to a sharp separation between religion and science, and because of an illegitimate doctrine of church and state. But on the intrinsic merits of the case, the two positions should at least be taught side-by-side.
Schools typically claim to be open to all significant points of view. Students learn to think critically by being exposed to different positions for evaluation. No human theory is infallible. Mistakes can be found in the writings of neo-Darwinists and of ID writers alike. To expose children only to the neo-Darwinist position, and to make the (to my mind fantastic) claim that it is “fact, not theory” is to deprive them of a serious opportunity for critical thought and to impoverish their education. That kind of dogmatism is, to my mind, the final proof that evolutionism is religion as well as science. Those who deny that orthodoxy, like the ID writers, are by that very denial making a substantial contribution to science.
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
It originally appeared in a 1997 piece for the New York Review of Books, and has been cited by Phillip E. Johnson (for example, he quoted it in "The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism," First Things [November 1997]: 22-25). Revealing quote, isn't it?
Now, for those interested, I have tracked down the MP3 and transcript of the segment online. They are available through Right Said Redux, in the post "Hugh Hewitt Show, the Book of Mormon and DNA." Now you can listen, download, or read their time together in its entirety.
Controversy is brewing about Mormonism again as the beginning of a new HBO show draws close. "Big Love" is a series about polygamy in Utah and has some muscle behind it. With Tom Hanks as a producer and Bill Paxton in the lead, it may prove to be a popular show. At the same time, it raises the traditional question, what is the relationship between Mormonism and polygamy?
Yesterday's Guardian included the article, "The march of the Mormons," with the following subheading: "The Latter-day Saints are on the rise in the US, and a Republican named Mitt Romney has hopes of becoming the first Mormon president. But the church has one serious image problem: polygamy. Which is why HBO's new drama, about a man with three wives, is stirring up controversy." Additionally, today's Deseret News (an LDS owned newspaper) contains "LDS Church rejects polygamy accusations." It reports:
[LDS Church spokesman Mark Tuttle said,] "For decades, the church and its leaders have spoken out against the illegal practice of polygamy and most recently, the reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today."
Tuttle said President Gordon B. Hinckley has addressed the LDS Church and polygamy in previous addresses, stating "categorically that this church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy."
To learn more, check out the following resources:
It could be a passion story as co-written by Mick (Sympathy for the Devil) Jagger and The Matrix's mess-with-your-metaphysics Wachowski brothers: Judas Iscariot, vilified in the Gospels as Jesus' great betrayer, was not merely an Apostle--he was perhaps Christ's closest confidant. Technically speaking, he did drop a dime on Jesus. But there were extenuating circumstances, some having to do with the belief that the God of the Old Testament was not the ultimate God, that this world is not what it seems and ... well, for a full explanation, you'll just have to see the movie.
Er, rather, see the 31-page papyrus tractate. Provocatively titled The Gospel of Judas, the alleged Coptic Egyptian translation of a 2nd century manuscript promises to be a kind of Da Vinci Code--style everything-you-know-is-wrong thrill ride. According to its holders, the text will be unveiled this spring for the first time in at least 1,500 years. If your Coptic is rusty, there will be an official translation, and a National Geographic TV special in late April, they say. (Geographic declines comment.) You'll have eminent co-viewers: scholarly interest reaches up to the Vatican.
Personally, while I can understand the scholarly interest, I see no reason for concern here. First, its validity has not been firmly established. Second, even if it is what some claim it to be, it is a "gospel" of a heretical gnostic sect. Gnosticism in early Christianity is nothing new, so I do not see any dangers in learning more about what this errant group believed. They do not speak for the historic and orthodox Christian faith. They are simply another example of those who twist the truth to justify their sinful rebellion against God. There is no good news (gospel) according to Judas.
The muted reaction to the film [Brokeback Mountain] from religious communities strongly disapproving of its themes gives the lie to the common characterization of cultural conservatives as intolerant, incurably homophobic and implacably determined to impose their values on society. It's actually the film's adoring advocates who push for universal acceptance for their point of view regarding homosexuality, with newspaper ad layouts featuring the tag lines "Love is a Force of Nature" and "One Movie Has Connected with the Heart of America."
Though most conservatives continue to resist the radical redefinition of traditional male female marriage, that doesn't mean they seek to punish every sort of same-sex relationship. The marriage debate centers on questions of public policy and governmental endorsement; Brokeback depicts a private, even secret, connection between two ranch hands. Conservatives might not offer Jack and Ennis (the two thwarted lovers in the movie) a Main Street parade and a legally sanctioned wedding ceremony in front of City Hall. Even so, that hardly means they'd send a posse up the slopes of Brokeback Mountain to arrest the two guys in the privacy of their pup tent.
This live-and-let-live attitude, plus an uncompromising commitment to personal principle, reflects an increasing sense of power and maturity on the part of religious conservative activists.
I think Medved gets it, and I commend his article.
The birth of Christianity as a world religion can be dated from an event that took place 50 days after Jesus' resurrection. His apostles, gathered in Jerusalem at a time when the city was filled with foreign visitors, were inspired by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel in languages that could be understood by the visitors.
That day is celebrated every year as Pentecost, a name that now identifies those Christians who continue to speak in strange tongues. The modern Pentecostal movement, which began at a revival on Azuza Street in Los Angeles, marks its centennial this year. There are now some 10 million Pentecostal Christians in America, many of them members of traditional denominations.
The growth of the movement has been phenomenal worldwide, to the extent that one-fourth of the world's Christians are now Pentecostals. Latin America, Africa, and Asia are experiencing the greatest growth.
While Pentecostals and Charismatics are our brothers and sisters in Christ, their movement has been a mixed development for Christianity. I also see problems with it theologically and practically. Here are a couple of resources for those interested in further study:
- Erroll Hulse, "The Blessings, Main Problem and Dangers of the Charismatic Experience"
- Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "Challenges of the Charismatic Movement to the Reformed Tradition"
The fact is that Christianity is fleeing the West; it is only the reason for this of which we may be unsure. That it is so is indisputable, as Philip Jenkins has shown in his book, ‘The Coming Christendom.’ Not only is Christian faith burgeoning outside the developed West, but inside the West it is declining — catastrophically in Europe, less so in America. Christian faith of a biblical kind has found it remarkably difficult to sustain itself in the midst of modernized, postmodern cultures, all of which have, in varying degrees, eviscerated it.
The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. That is a given. But that does not mean that God the Holy Spirit will not seriously move outside the West to build Christ‘s church. Indeed, he is doing so! Unless American evangelicals change their ways and repent of their worldliness, that is exactly what I expect will happen more and more in the future, and we will find that numerically speaking, the evangelical churches will become a shadow of what they once were.
I go to Africa every year because I serve on the board of a Christian foundation which is building orphanages for children, most of whom have been left behind by AIDS. I am always struck by this paradox, if that is what it is. Here in America we have everything, but despite everything we have (Bibles, church buildings, theological education, colleges, money, know-how), the evangelical church is weak and stumbling. In Africa, amidst great poverty and disease, illiteracy and deprivation, rampant independency and woeful alliances with traditional African religions, there is still to be found courage, vibrancy, and a Christian testimony to the truth of God that is striking by Western standards. Let us not forget who saved the Church of England from their pathetic willingness to capitulate to the homosexual agenda. It was the African bishops, not those from America or Europe! God, you know, does not have his hands tied simply because we in America have all the money!
(HT: The A-Team Blog)
- The Fundamentalist vision
- The Fundamentalist light vision
- The Theonomic vision
- The Theonomic light vision
- The Superficial Evangelistic vision
- The Serious Evangelistic vision
- The Confessional and Missional vision
- The Rigorously Reformed vision
- The Balanced, Biblical and God-honoring vision (i.e. "Tom's vision")
I wonder which category I fit into...
Apparently, the February 22 edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show included a segment where Hewitt allowed two Mormon apologists (Daniel Peterson and John Butler) to make their case for the historical and scientific authenticity of the Book of Mormon against the recent story published by the LA Times (too bad I missed the program!).
My good friend Travis Kerns has blogged a brief response: "Mormons on the Radio." A lot more could be said, but Travis does a great job briefly summarizing some of the difficulties with Peterson and Butler's case.
Occasionally, I am asked by individuals if Standing Together is an organization that “Stands Together” with Mormonism as a theological system that is compatible with historic, biblical orthodox Christianity. When asked this question, I realize that our efforts to seek spiritual transformation in Utah and my personal ministry efforts to engage Mormonism in a dialogue about the theological issues that divide us is at the heart of the matter. As we launch this new e-news letter in an attempt to communicate more often with friends and partners of this ministry, I thought it would be wise to begin with a reaffirmation that Standing Together is an evangelical ministry that is seeking to “Stand Together” with other evangelical ministries here in Utah and beyond for spiritual transformation here in our area. So, is Standing Together standing with Mormonism? No, we are “Standing Together” with other evangelicals while seeking to reach out in love and Christian civility to our LDS friends and neighbors. Remember, as we express oneness, Jesus tells us that the “world will believe that the Father has sent the Son.”
I pray that all evangelicals will stand together in faithfully proclaiming the true gospel of grace to the Mormon people, doing so with gentleness and reverence.
Sad indeed is it to witness so many young professing Christians just starting out on their arduous journey to Heaven, being told that the words "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" apply not to them, but only to the Jews; and that while unfaithfulness on their part will forfeit some "millennial" crown, yet so long as they have accepted Christ as their personal Savior, no matter how they must indulge the flesh or fraternize with the world, Heaven itself cannot be missed. Little wonder that there is now such a deplorably low standard of Christian living among those who listen to such soul-ruinous error. Not so did teachers of the past, who firmly held the eternal security of Christ’s redeemed, pervert that blessed truth. No, they preserved the balance, by insisting that God only preserved His people in the path of obedience to Him, and that they who forsake that path make it evident that they are not His people, no matter what their profession, and no matter what past "experience" they had.
I suggest reading the whole post (and purchasing Pink's commentary on Hebrews for that matter).
- Jeff Downs--The Triune God, a Transcendental Argument and New Religious Movements
- Joel Groat--Mormons and the Vanishing God-was-once-a-man Doctrine
- Carden, Rusu, Groat & Clark Panel--Cults and World Missions: Practical Strategies for Effective Response
- Bill McKeever--Perspiration or Expiration? Examining the LDS doctrine of the Atonement.
- Craig Hawkins--Monster Truck Races, Professional Wrestling, Postmodernism, and other Intellectual Fads: Reflections on Methodological Matters Relative to Apologetics and Evangelism
- Paul Carden--Cults and Mission in the 21st Century
- Craig Hawkins--Formal Education (Academics) vs. Hands-on-Experience (the Trenches): Which Approach and/or Training is a Better Biblical Model for Apologetics & Evangelism
- Craig Hawkins--The Logos and Logic
If only they were available in MP3!
"As the vibrancy of evangelicalism seems to have waned somewhat in the West, many in the non-West are ready to pick up the banner and move forward," said Kilgore, a former missionary who is now associate provost at Philadelphia Biblical University. "Most Americans have no idea how big the shift has been."
Todd M. Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, writes that "Africans, Asians and Latin Americans are more typical representatives of evangelicalism than Americans or Europeans."
The new evangelicals are more exuberant in their worship services; put more faith in spiritual healing, prophecy and visions; and read the Bible more literally than many of their Western cousins.
And many of the new evangelicals are on the fault lines of global unrest, where cultures and religions collide. Christianity and Islam are often competitors in these developing countries, and some scholars, such as Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, see the possibility there for cataclysmic conflict.
EM’s postmodern embrace of the death of the metanarrative is no surprise. But it is surprising that McKnight would suggest that D. A. Carson’s criticism paints with too broad a brush when McKnight's essay points out that the death of the metanarrative is a key feature of the EM. One of Carson’s central critiques in Becoming Conversant is that the EM has not been clear whether it considers the Gospel to be the supreme metanarrative, or just one among many metanarratives. This is no obscure theological point. If the Gospel metanarrative if relativized, the heart and soul of Christianity is lost.
McKnight acknowledges and critiques an important and controversial feature of EM—the tendency to favor the Gospel narratives about Jesus over the didactic letters of Paul. This tendency is right in line with EM’s aversion to the abstract, systematic theologies of the Reformation that are rooted in logic and reason. The EM likes narratives, and Paul’s misogynistic theologizing just does not do it for many EM-types. EM wants to root its theology in the incarnate life of Jesus, not the letters of the apostle Paul.
There are many problems with this kind of “canon within a canon” theology. Just to name one, it pits Jesus against the Apostle Paul in a way that does not comport with Scripture. Jesus is the one who appointed Paul to speak for Him as an apostle, and it makes little sense for Christians to ignore the commission given by Jesus to Paul.
There is some excellent analysis here. I look forward to more posts from Burk on the emerging movement.
I suggest reading the article and asking yourself the following questions:
1) Why do young Mormon men decide to go on a mission?
2) How does the mission experience impact a missionary's life and faith?
3) How do Mormons come to and confirm their faith?
4) How should we reach Mormon missionaries with the true gospel of Jesus Christ?
5) How should we equip members of our churches to handle Mormon missionaries?
I recently posted "A Mormon President?", which has proven to be a popular entry. Because of the interest surrounding this issue, I thought I would post a follow up for those wanting more information in thinking through Governor Mitt Romney's potential candidacy for President. The most thorough article I have found so far is "Mitt Romney's Evangelical Problem" by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Monthly. She concludes with the following:
All of this leaves Romney in a real pickle. Thus far, he's tried to follow in the tradition of other Massachusetts politicians and "pull a John Kennedy," declaring personal faith irrelevant to his qualifications for office. This is a nonstarter. We live in a political era in which, thanks largely to Republicans, candidates are virtually required to talk openly about their religious views. There is no way a Republican, especially in a GOP primary, can avoid the issue—if for no other reason than the press won't let them.
. . . .
Conservatives are beginning to worry about Romney's viability with evangelicals, even if they're not saying so publicly just yet. One LDS politician has been quietly making the rounds to Washington wise men to get their sense of what evangelical opposition would mean for Romney in the primaries. Meanwhile, Robert Novak, who is as closely connected to conservative sources as anyone in the nation's capitol, wrote in June that Romney's Mormonism is "his one great liability as a presidential candidate."
The tragedy—or, depending on your point of view, the irony—is that Mitt Romney may just be the most appealing candidate Republicans can field in 2008, the one most likely to win the White House by shoring up social conservatives and rallying business interests without frightening swing voters. Yet the modern GOP's reliance on evangelical voters and its elevation of personal religiosity—strategies which have served the party so well in recent years—may doom the chances of this most promising candidate. Or, to put it in evangelical terms, it might be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination.
Warning: Calvinists do not get away unscathed. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly agree with him on this one. May we all exhibit the love and grace of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!
Available exclusively through iTunes, the song features choppy Tex-Mex style guitar runs and Nelson's deadpan delivery of lines like, "What did you think all them saddles and boots was about?" and "Inside every cowboy there's a lady who'd love to slip out."
The song, which debuted Tuesday on Howard Stern's satellite radio show, was written by Texas-born singer-songwriter Ned Sublette in 1981. Sublette said he wrote it during the "Urban Cowboy" craze and always imagined Nelson singing it.
Someone passed a copy of the song to Nelson back in the late 1980s and, according to Nelson's record label, Lost Highway, he recorded it last year at his Pedernales studio in Texas.
This song reminds me of another profound Willie Nelson hit, "I'm My Own Grandpa."
It sounds funny, I know,
But it really is so,
Oh, I'm my own grandpa.
I'm my own grandpa.
I'm my own grandpa.
It sounds funny, I know,
But it really is so,
Oh, I'm my own grandpa.
Now many, many years ago, when I was twenty-three,
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be.
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red.
My father fell in love with her, and soon they, too, were wed.
This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life,
My daughter was my mother, cause she was my father's wife.
To complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.
My little baby then became a brother-in-law to Dad,
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad.
For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother
Of the widow's grown-up daughter, who, of course, was my stepmother.
Father's wife then had a son who kept him on the run,
And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter's son.
My wife is now my mother's mother, and it makes me blue,
Because, although she is my wife, she's my grandmother, too.
Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I'm her grandchild,
And everytime I think of it, it nearly drives me wild,
For now I have become the strangest case you ever saw
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa!
I'm my own grandpa.
I'm my own grandpa.
It sounds funny, I know, but it really is so,
Oh, I'm my own grandpa.
God's law book, the Bible, gives us many wonderful and awesome truths. However, it also commands us to freely give these truths to others. In obedience to that command, Family Radio (Family Stations, Inc.) is making available, FREE, all of the literature that it has developed, through very careful studies of the Bible.
Some have been available at bookstores and on the Internet commercially, but are now offered without cost or obligation to anyone who wishes to know more about the important truths God teaches us in the Holy Book.
So, Family Radio is now distributing without charge the unorthodox teachings of Harold Camping. In this ad, they include free offers for The End of the Church Age ... And After, Wheat and Tares, and Time Has an End. Many of their books are also available in multiple languages. With the wide circulation of Reader's Digest, this is indeed a dangerous problem.
If you run into anybody who is listening to or reading Harold Camping, then I suggest you help them see the serious errors he preaches. Two good resources are:
1) James R. White, Dangerous Airwaves
2) J. Ligon Duncan, Should We Leave Our Churches?
In one corner, Andrew Jones posts a salvo against emerging movement critics in "what i would say to the young american emerging churches."
In the other corner, Roger Overton replies with "Adventures in Missing the Point: Andrew Jones." He points out:
Most of the criticism, good or bad, of Emergent and the broader emerging movement is not against specific churches. Rather, we’ve been concerned with specific ideas and the people who promote those ideas. For example, we’re concerned that postmodern conceptions of truth are becoming popular and are being promoted by popular emerging leaders, like Tony Jones and Brian McLaren. We believe such ideas are contrary to the Bible and harmful to the proclamation of the Gospel, so we feel a responsibility to warn the church.
Are there emerging churches that are not guilty of our criticisms? There are, but if they’re not guilty, then we’re not talking about them (we rarely are talking about specific churches). Part of the problem, of course, is defining what churches are “emerging.” If “emerging” simply refers to churches that are seeking to better communicate the Gospel in their respective contexts, then I’m all for them. In fact, most critics I’ve read have made it a point to affirm that position. It’s when people are talking about changing the content of the message that we become concerned, and this is what we see “Emergent” doing.
Way to go Roger! Now we'll see how this match-up plays out...
Covenant Worldwide is a free educational resource for faculty, students, and self learners around the world. It flows from Covenant Theological Seminary's grace-centered Gospel mission and exists to make high-quality, graduate-level theological education available to those who do not have the ability to attend seminary.
The courses posted on this Web site comprise Covenant Seminary's Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree. The course selection is designed to provide foundational knowledge of church history, theology, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and practical theology.
- Offers free downloads of Covenant Theological Seminary course materials.
- Does not require registration.
- Is not a degree granting or certificate-granting activity.
- Does not provide access to Covenant Seminary faculty.
You may download the course materials at no charge and use them for non-commercial purposes. Lectures are in MP3 format, and study guides are available as PDFs. In addition to the course materials, a list of the textbooks used for each course is included. Also, as they become available, transcripts of the lectures for each course will be posted to the Web site. The lectures are currently available in English but are being transcribed to facilitate the translation of these materials into multiple languages.
All I can say is: "Wow!" I can't wait to go through two courses on Francis Schaeffer. Check it out!
For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.
For those outside the faith, the depth of the church's dilemma can be explained this way: Imagine if DNA evidence revealed that the Pilgrims didn't sail from Europe to escape religious persecution but rather were part of a migration from Iceland — and that U.S. history books were wrong.
Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed.
Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.
Some longtime observers believe that ultimately, the vast majority of Mormons will disregard the genetic research as an unworthy distraction from their faith.
I tend to agree here. When one measures spiritual truth through a "burning of the bosom," then the Book of Mormon has to be true, no matter what science says. Additionally, those who are looking to find validity for the Book of Mormon will probably be satisfied with the "fresh interpretation" offered by LDS apologists.
Nevertheless, I do not think we should automatically dismiss this argument either. Some Latter-day Saints are open to this scientific evidence. For others, this could be one damaging claim among others that could build a cumulative case against Mormonism. Joel Kramer and Living Hope Ministries has released a helpful video and DVD, "DNA vs. the Book of Mormon." As a whole, I find this resource very informative and useful.
Dr. John MacArthur, "The Emerging Church"
Dr. Larry Pettegrew, "The Emerging Church Paradigm"
Dr. Trevor Craigen, "Emergent Soteriology: The Dark Side"
Dr. Richard Mayhue, "The Emerging Church"
Dr. Richard Holland, "Emerging Church Preaching"
First: "New and Alternative Religious Movements--Some Perspectives of a Missiologist" by David J. Hesselgrave. He provides five perspectives in bringing together the insights and practices of apologists with missiology. His conclusion?
The Great Commission was given to all of us. It is to be carried out prayerfully, unitedly and wisely in obedience to the dictates of Scripture and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as Harry Boer (1961) has reminded us, is also the Missionary Spirit who unites, empowers and directs Christ's church in its mission to the world. Perhaps this is one of those times when He is directing us who take biblical faith, biblical unity and biblical mission seriously to come together in new and exciting ways to the end that the world may know that Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Second: "Studying Missiology with a Presuppositional Methodology" by Mark R. Kreitzer (in PDF format). This journal article seeks to bring the insights of presuppositional apologetics into the realm of missions. In light of most contemporary evangelical materials in cultural anthropology and missions, this article is essential. Kreitzer persuasively argues for the adoption of Dependent Trinitarian Transcendent Creationism (DTTC). Kreitzer provides a biblical way forward in reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Betty Freidan was a woman who sought to change what she saw as an inferior existence. Unfortunately, instead of turning to the One who restores relationships and brings true happiness and contentment, she vainly strove for these things in political activism and cultural transformation. I pray that women will not take the same fruitless path Freidan did; rather, that they will find truefulfillmentt in Jesus Christ.
While I was out driving yesterday, I noticed a rainbow icthys fish on the back window of someone's SUV. Since the icthys fish is normally used as a symbol for Christianity, I was somewhat surprised to see it combined with a symbol of homosexual acceptance--the rainbow.
Then I began to wonder, why do we associate the rainbow with homosexual activism and gay pride? According to Wikipedia:
The rainbow flag, sometimes called 'the freedom flag', has been used as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride since the 1980s. The different colors symbolize diversity in the gay community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in gay rights marches. It originated in the United States, but is now used around the world.
The rainbow flag was first used to symbolize gay pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker; as of 2003, it currently consists of six colored stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow.
What makes all of this interesting is the biblical symbolism of the rainbow. While God saved those on the ark, he destroyed all other life through the flood as judgment for humanity's wickedness and rebellion against God. After this purification, God makes a covenant with Noah:
And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between meant you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh" (Genesis 9:12-15).
Today the meaning is inverted. Instead of recognizing God's gracious covenant, people display the rainbow as a symbol of disobedience to God. But there is hope, and it is by recognizing that an ark continues to be available today:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:18-22).
By being in Christ--by joining in his death, burial, and resurrection--we will no longer face the wrath of God due to our sinfulness. This is true of homosexuals as well: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis added).
Let us reclaim the meaning of the rainbow, recognizing that it points to the One symbolized in the icthys fish, Jesus Christ. Maybe the two symbols do belong together after all.
First View: Evolution (New York Times, "At Churches Nationwide, Good Words for Evolution"). This news story says:
On the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, ministers at several hundred churches around the country preached yesterday against recent efforts to undermine the theory of evolution, asserting that the opposition many Christians say exists between science and faith is false.
. . . .
The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, Pa., to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.
"There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.
Second View: Creationism (Los Angeles Times, "Their Own Version of a Big Bang" [free registration required]). This article reports:
Answers in Genesis is the biggest of these ministries. Ham co-founded the nonprofit in his native Australia in 1979. The U.S. branch, funded mostly by donations, has an annual budget of $15 million and 160 employees who produce books and DVDs, maintain a comprehensive website, and arrange more than 500 speeches a year for Ham and four other full-time evangelists.
With pulpit-thumping passion, Ham insists the Bible be taken literally: God created the universe and all its creatures in six 24-hour days, roughly 6,000 years ago.
Hundreds of pastors will preach a different message Sunday, in honor of Charles Darwin's 197th birthday. In a national campaign, they will tell congregations that it's possible to be a Christian and accept evolution.
Ham considers that treason. When pastors dismiss the creation account as a fable, he says, they give their flock license to disregard the Bible's moral teachings as well. He shows his audiences a graphic that places the theory of evolution at the root of all social ills: abortion, divorce, racism, gay marriage, store clerks who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
What do I think? As an admitted fan of Answers in Genesis, I suppose my answer is not hard to figure out. Let's just say that I have a lot more hope in Ham's ministry than I do in "Evolution Sunday."
It sure doesn't take long for our country to begin chattering about the next presidential election. We are still over two years out, and already there are rumors and predictions about the next candidates for office. According to the talking heads, who is the current Republican front-runner? Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
At the same time, many also point out a major potential obstacle in the way of Romney's possible run for the White House--he is a Mormon. The London daily Telegraph recently released "Is America ready for a Mormon president?" This report included the following:
While doctrine remains conservative, Mormons are prominent in both parties. Harry Reid, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, is a Mormon. But is America ready for a Mormon president?
Kirk Jowers, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, thinks it is. He said: "The country is much more ready for a Mormon president today than America was for a Catholic president in 1958 - and that, of course, was just two years before John Kennedy won."
Polls suggest, however, that the old suspicions - in particular over the church's secrecy, polygamous past and rituals - linger.
While social conservatives, a key voting bloc for Republicans, have much in common with Mr Romney, some evangelicals dispute that Mormonism is a Christian faith. The telegenic Mr Romney is already moving to inoculate himself against this.
So, how big of an issue is Romney's faith? If he enters into the presidential race, I am sure we will find out.
The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements.
. . . .
The revised guidelines are considerably shorter than the original, filling one page instead of four. They place more emphasis on the Constitution's free exercise clause, which is mentioned four times, than on its prohibition on any government establishment of religion, which is mentioned twice.
The guidelines still warn superior officers to be "sensitive to the potential" that personal expressions of faith may appear to be official statements. But they say that, "subject to these sensitivities, superiors enjoy the same free exercise rights as all other airmen." They now add that there are no restrictions in situations "where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, coercion."
At the same time, it sounds as if there is still room for improvement. The news story also points out that Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) "said the guidelines still call for 'nondenominational, inclusive prayer or a moment of silence' at military ceremonies. 'There is some progress, but it does not go as far as it needs to go in making sure that Christian chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus and other chaplains can pray according to their faiths,' Jones said."
Nevertheless, I'm still pleased to hear about these improvements in the Air Force guidelines. There simply would be no such thing as evangelical chaplaincy without the proclamation of the gospel. I look forward to these chaplains pressing on in their ministry, preaching Christ and Him crucified.
This post is also where comments are allowed to discuss my series and conclusions. I welcome your thoughts.
While the debate can become very doctrinal and theological, it has many practical implications. When believers evangelize the lost, should they tell who they are witnessing to that they need to repent? One advocate of the free grace view clearly stated his answer, "If an unbeliever asks if he must give up his sinful ways to have eternal salvation, tell him no. The only condition is faith in Christ" (Robert N. Wilkins in "Appendix B" of Radmacher, Salvation, 247). This is simply not the way Jesus and the apostles presented the gospel. Neither should this be our message. As Delos Miles says, "The intention of evangelism is to convert persons and structures to the lordship of Jesus Christ. . . . The evangelist is a change agent, dealing first and foremost with that change called repentance. The most profound change any person can ever experience is biblical repentance" (Delos Miles, "The Lordship of Christ: Implications for Evangelism," Southwestern Journal of Theology 33 no. 2: 46).
For a person to be saved, he must submit to Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9, cf. Matt 7:21-23). The free grace view tries to bypass this by saying a person needs to recognize that Jesus is Lord, but there is no need to submit to Him as Lord for salvation. When speaking of Romans 10:9, Livingston Blauvelt argues, "Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 that unbelieving Jews must confess that Jesus is the Lord—that He is God Himself. The emphasis here is not on making Jesus Lord (Master) of one's life but on recognizing His true identity—that He is God" (Livingston Blauvelt Jr., "Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?" Bibliotheca Sacra 143: 39-40). MacArthur counters by saying, "Jesus as Lord is far more than just an authority figure; He's also our highest treasure and most precious companion. We obey Him out of sheer delight" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 30). MacArthur is right. A person cannot separate recognition of Jesus' authority from submission to His authority (Luke 6:46-49). As a result, in evangelism a believer needs to make sure that the person he or she is witnessing to understands that submission to Jesus' lordship is a necessary element of faith and trust in Him.
Finally, Christians need to realize that works are an inevitable result of a believer's life. This does not mean a Christian will be perfect, but that God will continue to transform him or her into Christlikeness. A true believer will produce fruit (Matt 7:16-20). If a person claims they believe in Christ but have no fruit, this may be an indication that they are not truly saved. They need to hear the full gospel message, including repentance and submission. As John MacArthur maintains, "Faith obeys. Unbelief rebels. The fruit of one's life reveals whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever. There is no middle ground. Merely knowing and affirming facts apart from obedience to the truth is not believing in the biblical sense" (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 178). The great commission calls all followers of Christ to "make disciples" (Matt 28:19-20). In evangelism, believers must settle for nothing less.
The debate between the free grace and lordship salvation views is an important one. However, the lordship salvation position is clearly what is advocated in God's Word. As Robert Strimple asserts, "The fact is, . . . that what is now being called lordship salvation is simply historic Protestant theology! What is novel is this present-day opposition to that theology and that gospel" (Robert B. Strimple, "Repentance in Romans," in Horton, ed., Christ the Lord, 19). This novel approach has gained much ground in contemporary evangelicalism, but it is simply not biblical. MacArthur concludes, "No-lordship doctrine inevitably makes the gospel message the object of faith, rather than the Lord Jesus Himself" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 50). This is very unfortunate, and it needs to be corrected. However, when believers understand both sides of the debate, then examine and analyze them with Scripture and reason, and finally discern the implications of this debate in evangelism and witnessing, they can ensure that Christ will be served.
posted at 3:30 PM
The Westminster Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Assembly (RPCGA) has found the session of Saint Peter Church to be guilty of what they saw as grave sin against the church. Our brothers there were concerned about the elders' failures in pastoral care. They were likewise concerned that our practice of admitting young children to the Lord's Table, if they had made what we deemed to be a credible verbal profession of faith was against their standards, and the Westminster Larger Catechism. The session has repented to the presbytery for our pastoral failures, and repented for violating the standards of the presbytery as it applies to the Lord's Supper. The presbytery has in turn, with great grace and kindness, deposed us from our offices in the denomination without censure, and has released us from their jurisdiction, as of February 3, 2006. We are grateful to have these issues resolved, and are thankful for those of you who endeavored to both reserve judgment, and who prayed so faithfully.
I am glad to see that this resolution did not produce more heat. At the same time, I am wondering which Presbyterian denomination they will be joining. Or will they become an independent Presbyterian church? Again, I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Ultimately, the free grace position is found wanting because of its fundamental presupposition. Those who hold to the free grace position also believe that man has libertarian free will. The definition of libertarian free will is: "it is morally self-determined, an act freely chosen, without compulsion, in which one could have done otherwise" (Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 262. Geisler calls this concept "self-determinism free will." It is also goes by autonomous free will, as well as several other terms.). To reject this capability in man is to make man a robot. Hodges asserts,
No system of thought which reduces human beings to mere robots, or to a collection of puppets on strings, does justice to the Bible's deep insistence on human responsibility. For our current purposes, we assume that God is truly sovereign and accomplishes all the ends He decrees. But we also assume that each individual is genuinely responsible to respond to the goodness of God, our Creator (Hodges, Absolutely Free, 86).
While this is a grossly inaccurate picture of the opposing point of view, it does demonstrate Hodges' insistence on his understanding of free will. Hodges denies any other possibility by saying, "The Christian is not a robot who has been programmed to love the Lord and who can do nothing but what he or she was programmed to do. The very thought is unnatural and abhorrent" (Ibid., 134). Once again, Hodges mischaracterizes the opposing view, but believes that his idea of libertarian free will must exist. This is an assumption that he always brings to Scripture.
This assumption drives the entire system. It is by a person's decision that he or she appropriates the gift of eternal life. The individual has the ability to freely accept or deny God's offer—God has no ultimate control over the person's decision. If this is true with respect to God's offer of salvation, then it is only logical that a person has the same choice after becoming a Christian. Michael Horton explains, "If faith is the work of humans and if God is dependent on the exercise of our free will in 'appropriating' his resources, surely each aspect of God's plan of salvation is dependent on a separate and distinct decision. It is up to us whether we will justify ourselves by making a salvation decision, and it is up to us whether we will sanctify ourselves by making a lordship decision" (Michael Horton, "Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover," in Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, 19). Because of this presupposition, any sanctification or works that occur after salvation cannot be guaranteed because they are up to people, not to God. And since these decisions must all be separately made, they cannot be confused or put together. This idea creates the basis for the free grace view.
The problem with this reasoning is the starting point. Individuals do not possess libertarian free will. People are slaves to sin, and are incapable of choosing spiritual good (John 8:34, Rom 3:10-12). God is completely responsible for a believer's faith and spiritual life (Eph 2:1-11). MacArthur maintains, "It is clear from all this that the sovereignty of God in salvation is at the heart of the lordship debate. The irony is that the so-called Grace Movement denies the whole point of grace: that it is God who effects the complete saving work in sinners. Redemption is all His work. God is wholly sovereign in the exercise of His grace; He is not subject to the human will" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 61). Horton shows the logical conclusion to the free grace presupposition, "Faith is not a gift; repentance is not a gift; perseverance in sanctification or even in continued trust in Christ—none of this is a gift. It is all the work of humans, should they decide to 'appropriate' the items they choose" (Horton, "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover," 23). This is antithetical to what the Bible clearly says. Yet it is the only possibly conclusion one could come to from Hodge's presupposition. Once again, the free grace view does not hold up to biblical scrutiny.
posted at 4:00 PM
At a time when conservative Christian groups have been particularly quick to strike back at Hollywood fare they find offensive, Sony Pictures faced a predicament with its coming film "The Da Vinci Code."
Should the studio try to mollify the critics who say the "Code" is blasphemy, with its plot describing a church conspiracy to cover up the truth that Jesus married and never rose from the dead? Or should it ignore the complainers, sit back and watch the controversy boost ticket sales?
Instead, Sony has decided to hand a big bullhorn to the detractors of "The Da Vinci Code."
The company is putting up a Web site today — well ahead of the movie's release on May 19 — that will give a platform to some of the fiercest critics of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, the book that is the movie's source.
The site, thedavincichallenge.com, will post essays by about 45 Christian writers, scholars and leaders of evangelical organizations who will pick apart the book's theological and historical claims about Christianity.
This new web site sounds great! Assuming it is promoted and they continue to recruit solid and knowledgeable evangelicals, I look forward to its debunking Brown's ridiculous claims.
Not only does the free grace position hold to a misunderstanding of faith, but it also has an incorrect view of salvation. They seem to believe that salvation is the same thing as justification. However, salvation includes many other things, including sanctification. MacArthur defines sanctification as "the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in believers, making us holy by conforming our character, affections, and behavior to the image of Christ" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 261). Yet the free grace view denies the fundamental connection between salvation and sanctification. Hodges writes of how the conforming of a believer's character is not guaranteed, "The simple fact is that the New Testament never takes for granted that believers will see discipleship through to the end. And it never makes this kind of perseverance either a condition or a proof of final salvation from hell" (Hodges, Absolutely Free, 80). So, the free grace view denies the perseverance of followers of Christ.
This perspective does not mean they deny that Christians are eternally secure. Rather, Hodges and others distinguish eternal security from perseverance of believers. This distinction unfortunately leads to a rejection of God's purposes in salvation. MacArthur states, "Any doctrine of eternal security that leaves out perseverance distorts the doctrine of salvation itself. Heaven without holiness ignores the whole purpose for which God chose and redeemed us" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 182). The Bible is clear—those who God has chosen will be sanctified (Rom 8:29-30). Sanctification and perseverance are as assured to the believer as justification is. MacArthur summarizes this point well, "There is no way we can fail to persevere. We will certainly falter at times. We won't always be successful. In fact, some people may seem to experience more failure than success. But no true believer can fall into settled unbelief or permanent reprobation. To allow for such a possibility is a disastrous misunderstanding of God's keeping power in the lives of His chosen ones" (Ibid., 189). The free grace view must come to realize the importance of sanctification and perseverance in salvation.
posted at 3:00 PM