Friday, December 14, 2007

The Faith Of A Child

I came across this recording of a phone call a 13 year old boy made to a Christian radio station in the American mid-west. I was reminded of what Jesus said. He stated in Matthew 18:3-4: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

We live in a cynical world - but faith is possible. I hate that it seems to be the goal of some people to destroy the innocence of our most vulnerable. Why do children have to be exposed to sex, violence and immorality at earlier and earlier ages? Why are parents ridiculed who try to protect their children from that? Why is "family hour" on TV becoming more and more sexualized?

Anyway, this young guy's phone call is a powerful reminder to raise our children to have a relationship with God. I don't know who his parents are, but someone has done a good job teaching this young man that there's a God who loves Him. Listen to the audio and you'll find out what I'm talking about.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Golden Compass

Every once in a while I point you to a blog that I found interesting. This one is especially for parents of young children. The blockbuster children's movie - "The Golden Compass" is due to be released for the Christmas season. What many don't realize is that the books on which this potential three-part series is based are very heavily anti-God. Read this blog and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What have you got to lose?

Most of you who read this know that I'm a pastor. That really doesn't matter all that much except for how that changes the perception of some. At that news, all of a sudden, I shouldn't be a real human being and I certainly don't understand what life is like in the real world. But au contraire!

Before I was a pastor I was a rebellious teenager. I did a lot of those things that seemed to be so much fun. I did the party scene, played the part, hung out with the people who were at the center of all of the activity. I've got to say, I found it all so empty. From my discussions with a lot of other people either still involved or who have left that scene, many others have had the same experience.

Recently I was in contact with someone on facebook who had finally gotten to the point where they knew that they just had to make a change. They had spent years up to this point having "fun" and realized it wasn't fun at all, it was miserable. They had wasted their time, money and energy and had nothing but a headache, broken relationships and an empty bank account to show for it. But here's something to think about: what if?

What if....
.......there really is a God who created you?
.......true happiness is really found in a relationship with Him?
.......God really loves you and actually wants the best for you?
.......God has a purpose for your life that will actually fulfill you?
.......the Bible really is true? knew that God could help you to reach your potential?
.......God could actually help you find a way out of the mess you've made? could actually be forgiven for all the wrong things you've done? could help your (future) children not to make the same mistakes you have made?
.......being a Christian could be exciting and exhilarating?

I've found that all of those things - and more - are possible. I know there is a brand of Christianity that is not like anything you'd want - but Jesus Christ is real and alive and calling us to live lives that have purpose and meaning. His Way is passionate and exciting and dangerous, and, best of all, it's true.

Here's my challenge to you: try it! Explore the claims of Christianity. Ask the questions. Visit some churches until you find one that's alive. Find a Christian who actually knows Jesus. Read the New Testament - try the Message or the New International Version (modern translations) and let God speak to you through them. What have you got to lose?

Friday, October 12, 2007


My brother-in-law, Dale Williamson, passed away this summer of muscular dystrophy. This picture was created by a friend of his. Dale loved it because he felt like he could identify with the theme. I thought I'd share it here.
The message is simple. It doesn't matter what you've done. It doesn't matter where you've been. God is able to transform your life. As the Apostle Paul said, "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come." Here's to all the Dales out there who've found that God is big enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Faith-based Schools and Government Dollars

I decided to weigh in on this debate since it seems to be getting so much media play time during this Ontario election campaign. For those of you still unaware, John Tory, the Ontario Conservative leader has promised that, if elected, he will extend full funding to all faith-based groups. Currently, that benefit is enjoyed only by the Catholics.

I'm of two minds on this. I have three boys and we've used different approaches to educating them. We've done homeschooling, Christian school and the public school system. Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses. Different children would benefit more from one than another.
My biggest issue with most media commentary on this issue is the lack of fairness and the hysterical reaction to faith-based schooling. Dalton McGuinty has raised fears that full funding will lead to a ghettoizing of Ontario, leaving children unable to function in a multi-cultural environment. Of course, he is a product of the fully funded Catholic system and his family actively participates as well. His position is hypocritical in the extreme. Other provinces have demonstrated that the social fabric can withstand extending funding to others. It appears that the knee-jerk reaction of many is to cast this as a public vs. private school war which must be won at all costs. Both can obviously survive and probably be the better for the process.
At the heart of this issue is fairness. Why should the Catholics have full funding and not other religious groups? Even the United Nations has ruled this discriminatory and prejudicial. Parents who choose to have their children in a non-Catholic faith-based school must currently pay above and beyond their taxes to do so.
In my opinion a better option is the school charter system for all schools. Bring a healthy dose of competition into the educational system. Under this model, each parent receives a voucher for each school-aged student. That voucher can be used to purchase enrollment at any school. This allows for schools to specialize while maintaining a core curriculum. It would allow for gifted students to flourish while ensuring that no student gets left behind.
At the very least, parents of students in faith-based private schools ought to have a tax deuction equivalent to their fair share of the education tax in order to offset the tuition they pay out of pocket. But regardless, let's end this fear-mongering that the sky is going to fall if we simply level the playing field for all students.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Murphy Redux

I don't know thw source of this, but I thought you might enjoy it.

Murphy's Lesser-Known Laws

1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

2. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

3. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

4. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

5. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

6. The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.

7. The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.

8. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

9. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of 12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Christianity and Science (Thank you Nancy Pearcey)

The following article is reprinted in full from Nancy Pearcey's blog. I've linked to that in my favorites section. I don't normally do this but I thought this was so well done that I didn't want to run the risk of a link not working.
I've read repeatedly lately about the supposed anti-scientific nature of Christianity and have wanted to write a rebuttal. It's interesting to note the Stein video below and the vitriolic responses that have followed. After reading Nancy's article (written, I believe, in 2005) I decided that she said it better than I could. I thought you may enjoy reading it - so here it is. Let me know what you think. By the way, I highly recommend her book "Total Truth." It is destined to become a classic.

Challenge to Secular Stereotype Profoundly Affects Politics and Culture Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper
By Nancy Pearcey
To everyone's surprise, the 2004 presidential election became in part a referendum on science and religion. At the Democratic National Convention, Ron Reagan, son of the former president, labeled opposition to embryonic stem cell research an "article of faith" and stated that it did not belong in the realm of public policy, which is based on science. During the presidential debates, John Kerry told audiences that while he "respected" voters' moral concerns about abortion and embryonic stem cells, he could not impose that "article of faith" through political means.[1]

After the election, the dichotomy between religion and science was stressed even more heavily in the stunned reaction in Blue States. Liberal commentators like Maureen Dowd warned darkly that moral conservatives would replace "science with religion, facts with faith." A Kerry supporter complained that Bush voters "are faith-based, rather than reality-based.” The cover of Stanford Medicine (Fall 2004) featured a man holding up a Bible on one side of a jagged crevice, facing off against a lab-coated scientist holding up a test tube.[2] An extensive analysis of this commonly held dichotomy is offered in my latest book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Crossway). The default position for many Americans in the Blue States seems to be that Christianity is a "science stopper"--that religion implies a world of perpetual miracle, closing off the search for natural causes.[3] This is often coupled with the familiar cliché that over the centuries the Christian church has intimidated, silenced, and persecuted scientists. A few months ago, a journalist repeated the shop-worn stereotype, writing that "proponents of Copernicus' theory were denounced as heretics and burned at the stake."[4] A columnist recently wrote that Copernicus "scandalized the world--and more important, the Catholic Church--with his theory of heliocentric cosmology." The same pattern continues today, the columnist goes on: "The conflict of religion and science sounds all too familiar. Darwin still has trouble getting past creationist gatekeepers in some school districts."[5]

The story of conflict does sound familiar, because it is the standard interpretation of history taught all through the public education system. In fact, it is so widely accepted that often it is treated not as an interpretation at all, but simply as a fact of history. Yet, surprising as it may sound, among historians of science, the standard view has been soundly debunked. Most historians today agree that the main impact Christianity had on the origin and development of modern science was positive. Far from being a science stopper, it is a science starter.

One reason this dramatic turn-around has not yet filtered down to the public is that the history of science is still quite a young field. Only fifty years ago, it was not even an independent discipline. Over the past few decades, however, it has blossomed dramatically, and in the process, many of the old myths and stereotypes that we grew up with have been toppled. Today the majority view is that Christianity provided many of the crucial motivations and philosophical assumptions necessary for the rise of modern science.[6]

In one sense, this should come as no surprise. After all, modern science arose in one place and one time only: It arose out of medieval Europe, during a period when its intellectual life was thoroughly permeated with a Christian worldview. Other great cultures, such as the Chinese and the Indian, often developed a higher level of technology and engineering. But their expertise tended to consist of practical know-how and rules of thumb. They did not develop what we know as experimental science--testable theories organized into coherent systems. Science in this sense has appeared only once in history. As historian Edward Grant writes, "It is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else."[7]

This fact is certainly suggestive, and it has prompted scholars to ask why it is that modern science emerged only out of medieval Europe. Sociologist of religion Rodney Stark identified the 52 figures who made the most significant contributions to the scientific revolution, then researched biographical sources to discover their religious views. He found that among the top contributors to science, surprisingly only two were skeptics (Paracelsus and Edmund Halley).

Stark then subdivided his subjects once again into those who were "conventional" in their religious views (that is, their writings exhibit the conventional religious views of the time), and those who were "devout" (their writings express a strong personal investment). The resulting numbers show that more than 60 percent of those who jumpstarted the scientific revolution were religiously "devout."[8] Clearly, holding a Christian worldview posed no barrier to doing excellent scientific work, and even seems to have provided a positive inspiration.

What were the key elements in that inspiration? Let's highlight several basic principles by drawing a series of contrasts to other religions and philosophies. If we make the claim that Christianity played a causative role in the rise of modern science, to be scientific about the matter, we must also rule out other possible causes. Since as a matter of historical fact, no other religion or philosophy did play the same causative role, the best way to phrase the question is, Why didn't they?

Polytheistic ReligionsOther religions typically differ from Christianity on one of two major points. The God of the Old and New Testaments is a personal being, on one hand, while also being infinite or transcendent. Many religions throughout history have centered on gods who are personal but finite--limited, local deities, such as the Greek or Norse gods. Why didn't polytheistic religions produce modern science?

The answer is that finite gods do not create the universe. Indeed, the universe creates them. They are generally said to arise out of some pre-existing, primordial "stuff." For example, in the genealogy of the gods of Greece, the fundamental forces such as Chaos gave rise to Gaia, the great mother, who created and then mated with the heavens (Ouranos) and the sea (Pontos) to give birth to the gods. Hence, in a polytheistic worldview, the universe itself is not the creation of a rational Mind, and is therefore not thought to have a rational order. The universe has some kind of order, of course, but one that is inscrutable to the human mind. And if you do not expect to find rational laws, you will not even look for them, and science will not get off the ground.

This insight into polytheism goes back to Isaac Newton, who once argued that the basis for believing there can be universal laws of nature is monotheism, since it implies that all of nature reflects the creative activity of a single Mind. Newton was arguing against the Greek notion, still prevalent in his day, that the earth was a place of change and corruption, whereas the heavily bodies were perfect and incorruptible. Against that view, Newton believed that both were products of a single divine Mind and therefore both were subject to the same laws. This opened the way for his breakthrough concept of gravity--the then-revolutionary idea that the same force that explains why apples fall to the ground also explains the orbits of the planets.[9]

More recently a similar argument was made by the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Melvin Calvin. Speaking about the conviction that the universe has a rational order, he says, "As I try to discern the origin of that conviction, I seem to find it in a basic notion . . . enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely, that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science."[10]

Eastern PantheismWhat about Eastern religions, which are in vogue even in Western cultures today? If polytheism involves personal but finite gods, then pantheism involves the opposite--a nonpersonal and infinite deity. Why didn't this kind of religion produce modern science? The answer is that the god of pantheism is not really a being so much as what we might call an essence, a spiritual substratum to all reality. And essences do not create worlds; in fact, because they are not personal agents, they do not actually do anything. As a result, once again, there is no confidence that the universe is the creation of a rational Mind. Moreover, rationality implies differentiation, and the god of pantheism is an all-encompassing unity, beyond all differentiation. This explains why Eastern religions typically led to meditation, which aims at transcending rational categories, but they do not typically foster rational investigation of nature.
When the Marxist historian Joseph Needham studied Chinese culture, he wanted to know why the Chinese did not develop modern science. Being a good Marxist, he first exhausted all materialist explanations, then finally concluded that the reason lay in the Chinese view of creation: "There was no confidence that the code of Nature’s laws could be unveiled and read, because there was no assurance that a divine being, even more rational than ourselves, had ever formulated such a code capable of being read."[11]

What general principle emerges from these examples? It is that science depends on certain prior assumptions about the nature of the universe--specifically, that the universe has an intelligible structure that can be rationally known. Both logically and historically, that belief arises only from the conviction that the universe is the creation of an intelligent, rational Mind.

Classical Greek PhilosophyWhat about non-religious philosophies? Many historians give the ancient Greeks credit as the forerunners of scientific thinking, on the grounds that they were the first to attempt to explain the world through rational principles. Certainly, it is undeniable that Greek philosophy had an immense formative impact on Western culture. Yet it was not enough to produce science--for several reasons.[12]

First, the classical philosophers defined science as logically necessary knowledge--knowledge of the eternal rational Forms embodied in Matter. The problem with this definition is that once you have grasped the essence of any object by rational insight, then you can spin out all the important information about it by sheer deduction. Take, for example, a saucepan: Once you know that the purpose of a saucepan is to boil liquids, then you can deduce that it must have a certain shape to hold the liquid, that it must be made of material that will not melt when heated, and so on. This deductive method was the model for classical Greek thinkers.

As a result, however, they had little use for detailed experiments and observations. Thus the experimental methodology of modern science did not come from the Greeks; rather it was derived from the biblical concept of a Creator. Medieval theologians reasoned that if God is omnipotent, as the Bible teaches, then He could have made the world in any number of different ways. The order in the universe is not logically necessary, contrary to what the Greeks thought, but is contingent, imposed externally by God acting according to His own free will. This was called voluntarism in theology, and Newton expressed the idea in these words: "The world might have been otherwise than it is . . . .Twas therefore no necessary but a voluntary and free determination it should be thus."[13]

What does the conviction of divine freedom imply for science? It means that we cannot gain knowledge of the world by logical deduction alone. That is, we cannot simply deduce what God must have done; instead we have to observe and experiment to discover what God in fact did. This was nicely stated by Newton's friend Roger Cotes, who wrote that Nature "could arise from nothing but the perfectly free will of God directing and presiding over all." And because the universe is a free and contingent creation, Cotes goes on, "Therefore we must . . . learn them [the laws of nature] from observations and experiments."[14]

The debate over divine freedom took place first in theology, then later were translated into the language of the philosophy of science. In the seventeenth century, the French mathematician Marin Mersenne took issue with Aristotle's logical argument that the earth must be at the center of the cosmos. As historian John Hedley Brook explains, "For Mersenne there was no 'must' about it. It was wrong to say that the center was the earth's natural place. God had been free to put it where He liked. It was incumbent on us to find to where this was."[15] The biblical concept of God opened the door to a methodology of observation and experimentation.

Mind Your MathMany historians have offered Euclid and Pythagoras as important precursors to modern science, since they made possible the mathematical treatment of nature. That is true, of course--with one crucial qualification: For the Greeks, mathematical truths were not fully instantiated in the material world. This is expressed symbolically in Plato's creation myth, where the world is fashioned by a demiurge (a low-level deity) who does not actually create matter but works with pre-existing stuff. Because his starting materials exist independently, they have independent properties over which the demiurge has no control. He just has to do the best he can with it. As a result, the Greeks expected the world to be nothing more than an approximation of the ideal forms--an unpredictable realm of irrational anomalies. They did not expect to find mathematical precision in nature. As Dudley Shapere explains, in Greek thought the physical world "contains an essentially irrational element: Nothing in it can be described exactly by reason, and in particular by mathematical concepts and laws."[16]

In contrast, the biblical God is the Creator of matter itself. As a result, He is in complete control of His starting materials, and can create the world exactly as He wants to. This is the operative meaning of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo--that there was no pre-existing matter, with its own eternal, independent properties, limiting what God can do with it. Consequently, there is nothing merely arbitrary or irrational in nature. Its orderly structure can be described with mathematical precision. In the words of physicist Carl von Weizsacker, "Matter in the Platonic sense, which must be ‘prevailed upon’ by reason, will not obey mathematical laws exactly." On the other hand, "Matter which God has created from nothing may well strictly follow the rules which its Creator has laid down for it. In this sense I called modern science a legacy, I might even have said a child, of Christianity."[17]

A historical example can be found in the work of Johannes Kepler. Since the Greeks regarded the heavens as perfect, and the circle as the perfect shape, they concluded that the planets must move in circular orbits, and this remained the orthodox view for nearly two millennia. But Kepler had difficulty with the planet Mars. The most accurate circle he could construct still left a small error of eight arc minutes. Had he retained the Greek mentality, Kepler would have shrugged off such a minor difference, regarding nature as only an approximation to the ideal forms. (In this case, Greek thought was a science-stopper.) As a Lutheran, however, Kepler was convinced that if God wanted something to be a circle, it would be exactly a circle. And if it was not exactly a circle, it must be exactly something else, and not mere capricious variation. This conviction sustained Kepler through six years of intellectual struggle, and thousands of pages of calculations, until he finally came up with the idea of ellipses. Historian R. G. Collingwood goes so far as to say, "The very possibility of applied mathematics is an expression . . . of the Christian belief that nature is the creation of an omnipotent God."[18]

It Was GoodA final problem with Greek thought was the low value it placed on the material world. Matter was seen as less real, the realm of mere appearance, sometimes even the source of evil. Many historians believe this is one reason the Greeks did not develop an empirical science. The intellectual elites had no interest in dirtying their own hands with actual experiments, and they had contempt for the farmers and craftsmen who might have acquainted them with a hands-on knowledge of nature.

The early Christian church took strong exception to this attitude. The church fathers taught that the material world came from the hand of a good Creator, and was thus essentially good. The result is described by a British philosopher of science, Mary Hesse: "There has never been room in the Hebrew or Christian tradition for the idea that the material world is something to be escaped from, and that work in it is degrading." Instead, "Material things are to be used to the glory of God and for the good of man."[19]

Kepler is, once again, a good example. When he discovered the third law of planetary motion (the orbital period squared is proportional to semi-major axis cubed, or P[superscript 2] = a [superscript 3]), this was for him "an astounding confirmation of a geometer god worthy of worship. He confessed to being 'carried away by unutterable rapture at the divine spectacle of heavenly harmony'."[20]

In the biblical worldview, scientific investigation of nature became both a calling and an obligation. As historian John Hedley Brooke explains, the early scientists "would often argue that God had revealed himself in two books—the book of His words (the Bible) and the book of His works (nature). As one was under obligation to study the former, so too there was an obligation to study the latter."[21] The rise of modern science cannot be explained apart from the Christian view of nature as good and worthy of study, which led the early scientists to regard their work as obedience to the cultural mandate to "till the garden."

The War That Wasn’tToday the majority of historians of science agree with this positive assessment of the impact the Christian worldview had on the rise of science. Yet even highly educated people remain ignorant of this fact. Why is that?

The answer is that history was founded as a modern discipline by Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hume who had a very specific agenda: They wanted to discredit Christianity while promoting rationalism. And they did it by painting the middle ages as the "Dark Ages," a time of ignorance and superstition. They crafted a heroic saga in which modern science had to battle fierce opposition and oppression from Church authorities. Among professional historians, these early accounts are no longer considered reliable sources. Yet they set the tone for the way history books have been written ever since. The history of science is often cast as a secular morality tale of enlightenment and progress against the dark forces of religion and superstition.

Stark puts it in particularly strong terms: "The ‘Enlightenment’ [was] conceived initially as a propaganda ploy by militant atheists and humanists who attempted to claim credit for the rise of science."[22] Stark's comments express a tone of moral outrage that such bad history continues to be perpetuated, even in academic circles. He himself published an early paper quoting the standards texts, depicting the relationship between Christianity and science as one of constant "warfare." He now seems chagrined to learn that, even back then, those stereotypes had already been discarded by professional historians.[23]

Today the warfare image has become a useful tool for politicians and media elites eager to press forward with a secularist agenda on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, various forms of genetic engineering, and so on. When Christians raise moral objections, they are quickly discredited as reactionary, and the old "religion-versus-science" stereotype is trotted out. It has become more important than ever for thoughtful people to educate themselves on the latest findings in the history of science. Between now and the next election, a formative truth needs to become embedded in the cultural matrix: That Christianity is not a science stopper, it is a science starter.
Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth, is editor at large of The Pearcey Report and the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at World Journalism Institute. This article appears, with minor changes, in Areopagus Journal 5:1 (January-February 2005): pp. 4-9 ( Copyright © Nancy Pearcey.

[1] Earlier versions of this paper were delivered at the Megaviews Forum, Los Alamos National Laboratory, September 24, 2003, and at the Veritas Forum at USC, February 18, 2004. See also Nancy Pearcey, “How Science Became a Christian Vocation,” in Reading God’s World: The Scientific Vocation, ed. Angus Menuge (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2004).

[2] For more information, see

[3] Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education has frequently made the assertion that Christianity is a "science stopper." See, for example, "Evolution and Intelligent Design," September 28, 2001, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Episode no. 504, at

[4] Brendan O'Neill, "They have vilified the sun--and me," Spiked, July 23, 2004, at

[5] Kathleen Parker, Townhall, December 4, 2004, at For an accessible introduction to the controversy over Darwinism, see my chapters on the topic (chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) in How Now Shall We Live?, co-authored with novelist Harold Fickett and former Nixon aide Charles Colson (Tyndale, 1999). An updated discussion can be found in Total Truth (chapters 5, 6, 7, 8). For a discussion of the cultural and philosophical implications of Darwinism, explaining why it continues to be controversial among the American public, see my essay "Darwin Meets the Berenstain Bears: Evolution as a Total Worldview," in Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, ed. William Dembski (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2004), pp. 53-73.

[6] I have developed this argument in greater detail in The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Crossway 1994), which is a major source for this paper. For a shorter and more accessible treatment, see my chapter “The Basis for True Science,” chapter 40 in How Now Shall We Live?

[7] Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998 [1996]), p.168.

[8] Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp. 160-163, 198-199.

[9] Morris Kline, Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 52. It may be important to point out that many of the historians cited in this article are not themselves professing Christians, so that their views cannot be dismissed as driven by a religious agenda. They are simply seeking to be historically accurate and to do good scholarship.

[10] Melvin Calvin, Chemical Evolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 258, emphasis added. See my discussion in Soul of Science, p. 25.

[11] Joseph Needham, The Grand Titration: Science and Society in East and West (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), p. 327. See Stark, pp. 148, 150, as well as my discussion in Soul of Science, pp. 29, 22.

[12] The following discussion gives us the clue to why Islamic cultures did not produce modern science, either. One reason is that their intellectual life was dominated by Greek philosophy. In the Golden Age of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries, Muhammad's armies annexed territory from Persia to Spain--and in the process, they also absorbed the philosophies of those places. Thus the Arab world had a rich tradition of commentary on the work of thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras long before Europe did. Indeed, two of the most prominent Aristotelian philosophers of the middle ages were Avicenna and Averroes--known in their native lands, respectively, as Abu Ali al-Hussein Ibn Sina and Abdul Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd. What this means is that in terms of science, Arabic philosophy tended to have the positives but also the negatives of Greek philosophy. See a lecture I delivered based on Total Truth at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Oct. 19, 2004, transcript:

[13] Cited in Edward B. Davis, “Newton’s Rejection of the ‘Newtonian World View’: The Role of Divine Will in Newton’s Natural Philosophy,” in Science and Christian Belief, 3, no. 1, p. 117, emphasis added.

[14] Roger Cotes, preface to the second edition of Newton’s Principia, in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed. H.S. Thayer (New York: Hafner, 1953), emphasis added.

[15]John Brooke and Geoffrey Cantor, Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science and Religion (NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 20. For more on this subject, see my discussion of how voluntarist theology led to a contingent view of nature in Soul of Science, pp. 30-33, 81ff. See also Nancy Pearcey, "Recent Developments in the History of Science and Christianity," and "Reply," Pro Rege 30, no. 4 (June 2002):1-11, 20-22.

[16] Dudley Shapere, Galileo: A Philosophical Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 134-36, emphasis in original.

[17] C.F. von Weizsacher, The Relevance of Science (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 163.

[18] R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (Chicago: Henry Regnery, Gateway Editions, 1972; originally published by London: Oxford University Press, 1940), pp. 253-257. See Soul of Science, pp. 27-29.

[19] Mary Hesse, Science and the Human Imagination: Aspects of the History and Logic of Physical Science (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), pp. 42-43, emphasis in original.

[20] John Hedley Brooke, "Scientists and their Gods," Science and Theology News, Volume 11/12 July/August 2001, at See also John Hedley Brooke, "Can Scientific Discovery be a Religious Experience?," the Alister Hardy Memorial Lecture delivered at Harris Manchester College, Oxford on 4 Nov. 2000, at; and John Hedley Brooke, "Science and Religion: Lessons from History?," Science, Volume 282, Number 5396 (11 Dec. 1998) pp. 1985 - 1986.

[21] John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 22. See also Soul of Science, pp. 34-36.

[22] Stark, p.123.

[23] The background for this change was a shift in historiography from a progressive and even triumphalistic approach, rooted in philosophical positivism, that portrayed science as the gradual accumulation of empirical facts, to a more contextualized approach, rooted in philosophical idealism, that treats scientific change as a result of changes in worldview and culture. I devote an entire chapter to explaining this historiographical shift in Soul of Science (chapter two).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Men Without Chests

Michael Vick - Atlanta Falcons QB

C. S. Lewis wrote that "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." Lewis could very well have been writing about our day and age.
We've been inundated lately with story after story revealing the fallenness of human nature and the seeming lack of integrity in our culture. We've seen it in our colleges and universities, with a large percentage of students admitting to cheating. We've seen it in business with Conrad Black lining his pockets with shareholders money. We've seen it in politics - take your pick which story, country, leader, etc... We've seen it with our celebrities with the latest being Lindsay Lohan. We've also seen it in the sports world with the Barry Bonds steroid scandal, the ongoing Tour de France blood-doping story and, of course, Michael Vick and his dog-fighting empire.
While I don't want to rush to judgment on Vick (you know the whole innocent until proven guilty thing), the point is that we have created a culture where we have placed an artificial idea of success on a pedestal, and many are paying the price. Vick recently signed a $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He also has a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Nike. It now looks like all of that is in jeopardy.
You can't rise above your character. It's a message I try to teach my children. We build our lives with the small decisions, when we choose to do the right thing even when no-one's watching; when we refuse to compromise on our principles; when we choose to value people over things; when we refuse to cheat - even on the little things. I'm not impressed by people with money or fame, I'm impressed by people with character.
How do you define success? Is it the car you drive; the house you own; the size of your bank account; the prestige of your position? It's so easy, then, to lose everything, isn't it? I've tried to redefine success for my own life. I believe that God created me for a particular purpose. Since I believe that, success for me is finding what God would have me do - and doing it. At the end of the day the most important thing to hear is "Well done, good and faithful servant..."
The people whom I have the greatest respect for through history are people who lived their lives to a standard unrecognized by many around them. I speak of people like Mother Teresa, William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Henri Nouwen and David Livingstone. I'm sure you could add to this list. Many of the names would be known only to a few because they have not sought out material rewards. It would be great to hear a few of these stories of "people of value" rather than the latest breathless report of a Tom Cruise sighting.
It was Albert Einstein who wrote, "Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." That's the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind. No skeletons in the closet. No dirty little secrets to be ashamed of. I want to live my life so that I have no regrets; so that my children will be proud and not ashamed. How about you?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Britains Got Talent - A Star Is Born

This is for all of those people who have dreams. Good for him.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Canadian Wishes

The Great Canadian Wish List
CBC and Facebook recently teamed up to ask Canadians what they would wish for in Canada if they had a choice. Here are the final results of the polling - released on Canada Day.
While obviously a non-scientific poll, it certainly puts the lie to the claim that there is a consensus in Canada to leave the abortion issue well enough alone. I've just spent some time reading over a number of the posts on abortion and I highly recommend you do the same.
I'm a firm believer in the importance of dialogue and debate to help us think about and refine our own positions. Here's a thought. Why not engage your mind for a while and start thinking through some of these issues.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Click on the Israeli flag below to watch an informative slide show about the history of the region. We're so used to being fed the line that Israel is responsible for all of the problems in the Middle East. You'll find this information educational. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thought Police

Many of you would have heard of the "Intelligent Design" movement. This is made up of a group of scientists and academics who have become convinced through their research that our universe had to have come as a result of design. Intelligent design is the assertion that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

This movement has grown to include a number of high profile scientists and experts in their fields but has been the source of a great deal of controversy. Many of these academics have been surprised by the negative reaction that they have received from others in the scientific and academic community. The obvious message is that no theory other than evolution is allowed. Sound crazy? Look at the evidence.

There are many examples - here are just a few. Biologist Carolyn Crocker was banned from teaching evolution at George Mason University after mentioning intelligent design. We also saw evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg demoted by the Smithsonian Institute after he approved an article that supported intelligent design.

One of the latest was Guillermo Gonzalez. Last month, Gonzalez, assistant professor of astronomy and physics at Iowa State University, was denied tenure. Apparently his crime was that he believed something other than Darwinism.

His credentials are impeccable. Iowa State requires its faculty to publish fifteen peer-reviewed articles in order to qualify for tenure. Gonzalez has submitted sixty-eight. On top of that, Gonzalez's ground-breaking research in astronomy has led to the discovery of two new planets.

However, on his own time he has written a book and produced a DVD called Privileged Planet in which he gives evidence to demonstrate that the Earth is uniquely situated to sustain life. As Charles Colson summarizes: "Random chance cannot explain the alignment of all of these conditions, such as the optimal distance from the right kind of star, plate tectonics, the size of a moon that can stabilize itself on its axis, the shielding presence of larger planets nearby, the right amount of oxygen and water . . . just to name a few."

Since the release of his documentary over 400 faculty members of Universities across Iowa have signed a petition opposed to the teaching of Intelligent Design as science. It doesn't seem to matter that Gonzalez has never taught on Intelligent Design in the classroom. His crime is simply believing it - and this was enough to cost him his tenure at the University. So much for academic freedom.

It makes me even more convinced that Phillip Johnson of Berkeley University is right. The rules of science have changed in such a way as to automatically reject any theory other than the prevailing theory of evolution, despite the lack of evidence. The reasoning goes like this: Darwinists assume that the history of the universe and life itself must have a purely naturalistic explanation, which they call science; because God is supernatural, any reference to a Deity's role in creating is religious, and therefore not scientific. Add to this the fact that science never discards a theory until a more plausible one is found and we understand why evolution is still being taught in spite of evidence to the contrary.

As Johnson wrote in his book Objection Sustained: "If science has exclusive authority to tell us how life was created, and if science is committed to naturalism, and if science never discards a paradigm until it is presented with an acceptable naturalistic alternative, then Darwin's position is impregnable within science."

There's a new name for this - it's called scientism, and it means the religion of science. It is no longer solely about the evidence. It begins with the statement that all life has evolved from non-life through purely naturalistic means. This is as much a faith statement as the Christian's belief that all life was created by God. Only one of these faith claims is allowed on University campuses so, if you're not a Darwinist, look out for the thought police!

Friday, May 18, 2007

2007 March for Life Ottawa

This is a video from this year's Pro-Life march in Ottawa on May 10. It was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media, but there were a record 7,000 in attendance. The media coverage came a couple of days later when an NDP MP wanted organizers charged because somebody had made up two signs which inadvertently used a copyrighted Canada Flag logo. Aren't we glad our national media are on the job?

2007 March for Life Ottawa Follow-up

Where do we stand in Canada on abortion? Believe it or not, Canada is the only democratic nation in the world without a law governing abortion. Read this article by London Free Press writer Rory Leishman.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What's Your Integrity Worth?

I was watching the season finale of Survivor tonight. It was interesting watching the different scenarios play out. A couple of weeks ago Yao won a truck but surprisingly gave it to Dreamz, in a deal that would have seen Dreamz give Yao immunity into the final three. Dreamz was the only one of the survivors who did not own a vehicle.

Yao followed through on his part of the deal and Dreamz made all of the right noises about doing the right thing. He said that he would follow through because he wanted to show his young son that being a man meant keeping your word.

You could see the tension on Dreamz' face as the moment of truth arrived. He was wrestling with keeping his word and giving up a shot at a million dollars, or breaking his word and losing his integrity. I was genuinely surprised that he chose to betray Yao and go back on his promise.

There was obviously a great deal of inner turmoil going on with Dreamz - it showed on his face. He looked like he was almost in tears. Later that night he continuously tried to justify himself to the group, but it seemed as though he was trying to convince himself that what he did was right.

Sadly, this contest revealed who he really was. Here's the question for all of us - what would we be willing to do for a million dollars? How do you look at your son and try to explain that sometimes it's okay to cheat and lie? One thing about money - as the Bible says, "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

Friday, May 11, 2007

The "A" Word

Today, in Ottawa, thousands of people will March in the annual "March For Life" in a peaceful demonstration against abortion. You likely won't hear about it in the mainstream media because they seem to have a policy of ignoring any pro-life event. This fact was brought up in an article on the front page of the National Post last week.
I bring this up today because I think it says a great deal about us as a society. Many consider it one of our finer qualities as a nation that we have made tolerance the virtue. I'm not one of those.
First of all, we've lost the original meaning of the word. Tolerance has come to mean the blind acceptance and promotion of ideas and opinions. The Webster's dictionary definition for "tolerate" is "To put up with; to suffer to be, or to be practiced or done, without prohibition or hindrance."
In a free society, there was a recognition that there would be disagreements, we would tolerate, or put up with, the differences between ourselves and others, while maintaining the right to respectfully disagree. That is what we have lost in Canada - the right to disagree without being labelled as some kind of nutcase.
A case in point is the abortion debate. Far from being settled, it rather remains a serious point of contention for Canadians, with a large percentage of the population at odds with the current state of affairs. Yet it is rarely covered in the media, unless a pro-abortionist is doing the talking. There is no public debate because we don't want to deal with it, and we somehow think we should applaud ourselves for this?
It's the same with religion in Canada. Secular-humanist thought has a virtual monopoly in our media and in our school systems and we're all fine with that, buying the mantra that religion should be kept private. But we forget that secular humanism is also a religion. Its worldview makes just as many faith claims as any of the more widely recognized religions. It has positions on origins, meaning, morality and destiny, the basic frameworks of any worldview. What we forget is that ideas have consequences. There is a profound, and I believe negative, impact on our children to deprive them of a solid Judeo-Christian foundation, especially given the historical significance in Canada.
What I argue for is a re-opening of the debate in Canada. Let's stop preaching to each other and start talking to each other. The place to start may be with the whole idea of truth itself. If all truth is relative then what are we really talking about? The fact is, some things are true and some things are false. The law of non-contradiction states that "one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time". In other words, two opposite statements about the same thing cannot be true at the same time.
We have a ridiculous belief in Canada that we can all believe different things about the same thing and we can all be right. Or another, similar, fallacy, that as long as we're sincere we can believe anything we want. Sorry, but that's just stupid. Believing you're taking tylenol while you're in fact taking cyanide tablets will not make you feel better, it will kill you - even if you're sincere. It's the same with ideas. The wrong idea will lead you to the wrong conclusion.
Let's re-open the debate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Modern-day Martyrs in Turkey

This was sent to me by friends in Greece. This story, while well-known, has not been covered much in the mainstream media. It was originally written the last week of April. I hope it gives you something to think about. What would you be willing to risk your life for?
A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna:

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch.

On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, "Goodbye, son. I love you."

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honour from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord's presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as "seekers." No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts?

Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful believers" in Islam.

Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it's like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o'clock.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. Neighbours in workplaces near the print house said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. "We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there," he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur's throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targeted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public's attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favour of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, "We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here."

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favour of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time for Allah."

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honoured God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.

Necati's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ. Necati was a gift from God. I feel honoured that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honour. I want to be worthy of that honour."

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati's funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do."

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city.
The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also."(Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution, pray for perseverence," urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya .all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Saviour. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don't know the details. We don't know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.

But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek(24 April 2007)
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
- Matt 5:3-9

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Problem of Pain

I'm going to be speaking on this subject shortly so I thought I'd share a few thoughts in advance. This problem seems to be a "sticking point" for many people in their search for God. The question is often phrased something like this: "If God is so good, why did this happen to me?" It was apparently the question of pain that kept Albert Einstein from believing in the God of Christianity. Is there a good answer?

There's not an easy answer, but let's explore it for a minute. In the first place, let's try to put some boxes around the discussion. When we think of pain, we're not talking about inconvenience; we're speaking of the real bad stuff, like cancer, and child abuse, and mass murder. If there is a God, and if He is all-powerful, why would He allow cancer to invade someone's body; why would He allow a sexual predator to defile a child; why would He allow a serial killer to go on a rampage. The argument of some would be that either God is not good (that He is in fact, evil), or that He is not all-powerful, or that He doesn't exist.

What answers does the Bible give?

It begins with the creation story, which was concluded with God's pronouncement that everything He made was "very good." His final act of creation was humanity, into whom He breathed "the breath of life, and man became a living soul." He created us in His own image, which infers a number of things. One of the characteristics of humans is that we were created with a will. We have been described as "free moral agents." What this means is that, while we were created to love God, we can choose not to; while we were created for relationship with God, we can choose to reject Him.

This is, in fact, what the Bible teaches us occurred with our original parents. Rather than remain in relationship with God they chose to rebel against His authority. The consequences of that action had been spelled out in advance: death and decay entered the world. The fallen angel, Lucifer, usurped man's position and claimed a place of power in the world. Jesus called him "the prince of this world." Succeeding generations would no longer be born into innocence, but inherited a "sin nature" from our first parents.

The world quickly changed, violence has been a part of human civilization ever since. Sin has been a universal bane on our existence. The Biblical teaching is that the origin of sin, pain and death was man's first disobedience. Which leads to the second question: why hasn't God dealt with it?

What this suggestion usually implies is that God somehow separate the good people from the bad people. But, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in ‘One word of truth’, his Nobel address: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.”

So God chose, rather, the more difficult task of redemption. This culminated in the death of Jesus Christ - God in the flesh - as a sacrifice for our sin. Christ's death on the cross was an identification with the sin of man. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:24: "Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval. His wounds have healed you." (GWT)

Further, God promises that ultimately He will judge evil and will renew this world. So, why does He wait? Again in 2 Peter 3:9 it says: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his word, as he seems to some, but he is waiting in mercy for you, not desiring the destruction of any, but that all may be turned from their evil ways."

So, according to the Bible, God's answer to the suffering brought into the world was to enter into it with us and bear the full weight of it Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffers with the innocent, and He also suffers for the guilty. His desire is reconciliation with the fallen race of man.

Those who respond to His invitation are also invited to become a part of this reclamation project. In return, we receive His promise given in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The gist of this is that God promises to use even the difficult times of our lives to bring about some good - if we entrust it to Him.

As an example, many of you will remember the famous photograph of the little 10 year old girl fleeing her village in Vietnam which had just been napalmed. Her clothes had been torn off in an effort to stop the burning, yet the chemical fire continued to burn through her skin. This iconic photo was one of the most-recognized of the 20th century. Her name was Kim Phuc, and she is now in her early 40's, and living in Canada.

She is now a Christian, a wife, and a mother and has used her story to make a positive difference in the world. While that event in 1972 was unbelievably painful and was followed by abuse at the hands of the communists, the road is still leading many to find purpose and hope in suffering.

While this is obviously an extreme situation, I've heard many similar stories with similar results. We live in a fallen world - that's a fact. We will experience pain in our lives - also a fact. But Jesus said in John 16:33 "...In the world you will have trouble: but take heart! I have overcome the world." (BBE) We'll likely deal with this subject again later - I'd love your comments.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Restoring Sanity - It's A Start!

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the "partial-birth" abortion ban, making the procedure illegal in the United States. The real question is, why did it take so long? During the procedure, the cervix is dilated, the fetus is partially extracted, the skull is punctured and the brain tissue removed before the fetus is fully removed from the birth canal. It is typically done late in the second trimester or in some cases during the last three months. It is now known that the fetus at this stage of development feels excruciating pain.
The response from the usual suspects has been typical. Hilary Clinton was disappointed because it inhibited a woman's right to choose. Barrack Obama "strongly disagreed" with the ruling, fearing that it would erode the rights of women. There are many other voices being raised in support of partial birth abortion in the name of "women's rights" but the arguments don't hold water.
The universal fear seems to be that somehow a woman's life might be at risk if this procedure is not allowed, yet, in the time that it has been allowed, in not one situation that I've heard of has it been considered medically necessary. Yet in each case someone died - the child! There have been approximately 2,200 partial birth abortions done yearly, according to R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Exactly where are we as a society when it is considered reasonable to debate that somehow this "procedure" is acceptable? It is merely a short step from this to infanticide - and merely a matter of degree. Yet some of those vying for the top office in the U.S. would actually speak out in favour. Scary.
North of the border the situation is even more obscene. There is absolutely no law governing abortion in Canada and a child is not considered human in law until he or she emerges fully from the birth canal. The politicians who are even concerned about this are few and far between. More than 100,000 abortions take place in Canada each year - paid for by the taxpayers!
I believe that history will look back on our time and consider the abortion mills in the same light as the gas chambers of World War II. With what we now know about the unborn child, and with the ability of doctors to do surgery on younger and younger fetuses, how is it possible to justify abortion? It seems to me to be schizophrenic that we can do surgery on a fetus (using pain medication) in one part of a hospital, while aborting a fetus of the same age in another part of the same hospital. Please someone - explain to me the rationale.
My prayer is that I live to see the end of legalized abortion.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Fall Of Civilization

Lately a lot of the talk on sports roundtables has been about the ignorant comments of Don Imus, who managed to insult the entire Rutgers University women's basketball team as well as black women everywhere. Imus is (was) a "shock jock" with a syndicated program on MSNBC and CBS radio. He has since been suspended by CBS for two weeks and apparently suspended indefinitely by MSNBC.

I've been fascinated by the entire exercise partly because of what it reveals about us as a society. Anybody with a pulse and a social conscience recognizes that what Don Imus said was unacceptable. What is remarkable is that the man has been so successful for so long doing basically the same thing. His "schtick" is to use vulgarity and insults to put-down anyone with whom he disagrees or whom he might not like. For this he is paid big money and draws large crowds. He has done so well, in fact, that for years politicians and authors have practically begged to appear on his program. Why?

Are we this starved for so-called entertainment that we enjoy seeing others put down and insulted? The answer obviously is yes.

Perhaps the best point was one that I heard on a radio station as I was driving through Michigan this week. The talk-show host was not questioning whether Imus was wrong, what he was questioning was this: why is Imus wrong and the rappers featured on BET say much worse every day and no-one says a word. It was actually an impassioned statement from a young black man that brought up this point. He was enraged that the black community would put up with the degrading comments directed towards young black women every day on BET and radio by hip hop artists.

I think it's a great point, and it should not be limited to rappers - it's everywhere. There is a general lack of respect in our society that is reflected in everything from basic manners to language to basic TV fare to music. When and why did it become cool to use the "f" word in public? When did we lose the ability to disagree politely with people and, rather, loudly tell them off? When did we lose the ability to produce a good movie with a sound storyline without filling it with gratuitous sex scenes and vulgar language? Why do we feel that we have to try to offend the sensibilities of those around us as if we were all 15 years old? Why is it that you can't just flip through the channels on your TV set without finding something that is completely inappropriate for your children?

I think it's time we started saying "no" to the Imus' of this world by tuning them out. Let the ratings tell the networks to drop these guys. If we continue to listen to this junk, buy these CD's and videos, then whose fault is it really? The responsibility lies with all of us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Does God Want You To Have A Cadillac?

I'll get the confessions out of the way right off the top. One of my pet-peeves is the so-called prosperity Gospel which is being promoted from many North American pulpits. I find it morally repugnant that some preachers tell people living in one of the wealthiest societies in the history of the world that getting even richer is something that they should expect if, indeed, they are followers of God.

I've read the Bible through a number of times; I myself am a pastor and a preacher. I am at a loss to find how a balanced view of the Scriptures can lead to the conclusion that some in this movement have reached. The Bible does teach that our lives will be blessed. It does teach that if we are faithful to God He will provide all of our needs. It also says that "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9).

So, what does the Bible teach about money?

  1. There's nothing wrong with money - in and of itself. We know this because Jesus used money and commented on it. He told his disciples to look at a coin and tell him whose inscription was on it. Then he said in Matthew 22:21: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Many have wrongly quoted Jesus as saying that "Money is the root of all evil." It was actually the Apostle Paul, and what he said, in 1 Timothy 6:10, is this: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
  2. Money can be used for good or evil. Again, Jesus gives us examples of both of these. He praises the widow who gave an offering of 2 mites, each of them worth 1/5 of a penny (Mark 12:42). In Mark 12 he draws a comparison between her small gift and the seemingly more generous gifts of the wealthy. In his eyes, her gift was better because she gave all she had and the wealthy merely gave spending money. Hers was a heart gift.
  3. The management of our money is a reflection of God's place in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 8:5 Paul commends the church in Macedonia who gave "out of their deep poverty." He praises them because they "gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." Note firstly that they were not wealthy themselves; secondly, they were giving to help the church in Jerusalem, which was also experiencing hardship.
  4. Becoming a Christian does not guarantee wealth nor a free pass on the problems of life. No less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself said "In this world you will have trouble..." He also told us in Matthew 16:24 that: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The Apostle Paul, likely the greatest missionary in the history of the church, had so many challenges to overcome that he said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." It is the resurrection of the dead that provides hope for Christians - not the promise of wealth on earth.
  5. Wealth does not necessarily reflect God's blessing. A cursory glance at any list of the world's wealthiest people should give enough evidence of this. If this were true why is it that in a society which is the richest in the history of the world antidepressants are a multi-billion dollar industry?
  6. Each of us is responsible to God for our use of the resources placed at our disposal. This goes for the poor as well as the wealthy. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus gives His Parable of the Talents. Note that he expected the same faithfulness from the one who was given one talent as he did from the one who was given five.
  7. Sometimes God does reward us with material blessings. Scripture clearly teaches us that all of the good things that we enjoy are gifts from God, including things like raises and bonuses. Luke 6:38 says "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." In context, this clearly speaks to more than material wealth, as Jesus had just been speaking of the law of reaping and sowing.

Conclusion: As a general principle, the Bible does teach that if we walk in obedience to God and His Word our lives will be blessed. That blessing can, and often does, include material things. However, the Bible also teaches that the gifts we are given are meant to be used to advance God's purposes in the world. Wealth for its own sake is condemned as selfishness and sin in Scripture (See Luke 12).

As a pastor I've always had the belief that God's Word is universally true. His principles do not change whether you live in Hollywood or in a village in Africa. If it is true that prosperity always signifies God's approval, then the lack of prosperity would signify His disapproval. If that is the case then most of the New Testament Christians (most of the Christians in history!) have lived under God's disapproval. I much prefer to stand with men like the Apostle Paul, who said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."