Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are Christianity and Science Compatible?

[This lecture will not be put on line because of technical problems. If you want the outline, ask me at]

My lecture at Wellspring Anglican Church is now available on line. Two parts of the talk featured DVD clips, so some of the arguments will be missing. Nevertheless, there is about 50 minutes of lecture material. I'm not sure if the question/answer time was recorded. If you'd like an lecture outline, let me know.

Last Epistemology Lecture: 16 Ideas

I hope this is not my last bleat on epistemology, but, inspired by the book, The Last Lecture (which I have not read), here are some noetic imperative:

1. Fear of the Lord is the beginning (and end) of knowledge.

2. Christianity is a knowledge claim and a knowledge tradition.

3. We may learn of epistemological virtue from the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. See my book, On Jesus.

4. Knowledge is justified, true belief, not communal consensus, not what our best theories tell us (they may be wrong), not our sacred narrative because it gives us meaning.

5. Hold yourself intellectually accountable for your beliefs. That is, your beliefs are not like the color of your eyes. They need to be justified.

6. Hold others intellectually accountable for their beliefs. They may have a political right to believe P, but that in no way means that P is true or rational. You have the right to hold to the doctrines of the First Church of the Transgalactic Taco Shell, but that fact fails to justify these doctrines intellectually. In fact, you have the right to be wrong. And I have the right to tell you that you are wrong, and vice versa.

7. One's theory of truth is a metaphysical claim; how we know the truth is an epistemological claim.

8. Hard empiricism (Hume) leads to hard skepticism.

9. Hard skeptics should be more skeptical about their skepticism (Pascal).

10. All epistemology is personal and social. We come to know as unique beings amidst a constellation of social factors. This in no way leads to relativism. We come to know mathematical and logical truths as unique individuals amidst social factors, but this does not relativize math or logic.

11. On may know P is true without complete certainty that P is true.

12. Certainty in matters of religious beliefs is not necessary arrogance. Jesus claimed that his followers had certainty about this identity (John 17).

13. Some beliefs are foundational and not derived from other beliefs, such as:

A. A=A
B. A does not equal non-A
C. Either A or non-A
D. Modus ponens
E. Modus tolens
F. Reductio ad absurdum.

14. Logical fallacies are common and should be unmasked by learning what they are and identifying them in fallacious arguments. See A. Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments.

15. Logical coherence is a necessary, but not sufficient, test for truth.

16. Prayer is a vital part of virtuous knowing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Other Ways to Refuse the Postmodern World

1. Attend local live concerts.
2. Go to a local museum.
3. Treat your checker at the supermarket like a real human being.
4. Don't worry about fashion in clothes.
5. Drive your car into the ground before getting another one.
6. Give a significant amount of your money to Kingdom causes.
7. Read books that are over your head.
8. Listen to music you don't understand until you do.
9. Memorize parts of the Bible.
10. Read about Christians from other counties, such as Brother Yun from China.
11. Object when your church wants to spend thousands on a food court (or the equivalent), but won't use that money for missions.
12. Do not interrupt others when they are speaking.
13. Turn off as many TVs as possible.
14. Don't say, "I'll pray for you" unless you will.
15. Listen to what people from other countries have to say about America and about their own countries.
16. Care more about your soul than your lawn.
17. Speak in complete sentences.

Biblical Words; Unbiblical Candidate

"And it came to pass..." read by its author--a parody of Obama's messianic pretensions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ways in Which You Refuse the Postmodern World

"Hipness is, ahh, what it is...,
But sometimes hipness is...what it ain't."
--Tower of Power, "What is Hip?"

This old lyric doesn't violate the law on noncontradition (also, ironically, known as the law of contradiction), but it does point out that we sometimes need to refuse trends, buck the system, and thumb our noses at the contemporary world--all good things for curmudgeons.

So, dear readers, in what ways do you refuse the postmodern world, go against the flow, fail to keep in step with the rest? Let me warm things up:

1. Refuse to have a remote car door un-locker. (I don't even know what they are called.)
2. Continue to buy and play record albums.
3. Continue to read entire books and talk about them and make students read them.
4. Continue to read the Bible in book form.
5. Don't even consider shaving your head or having short hair.
6. Inveigh against subwoofers, flat screen TVs (all TVs), etc.
7. Listen to dead jazz musicians.

You get the idea. Now it's your turn.

Googled (2.0)

No books or bookstores,
just Google.

No libraries or librarians,
just Google.

No articles to clip and file,
just Google.

No academic search engines,
just Google.

No conversations,
just Google.

It ranks, rates,
never hesitates:

It tells what is real,
tells us how to feel:

I googled Google,
and got Google.

I googled myself
and found myself

R U Reading or Skimming?

The New York Times has started a series on the future of reading in light of new media technologies.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Extra, Extra! Email change

I am trying to leave AOL behind forever. So, please email me at DougGroothuis(at)gmail(dot)com. I will suffer no withdrawl pain from not knowing what ridiculous those celebrities are doing with themselves, God help them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A few thoughts on ignorance and exploration in teaching

One may teach in a way that hides one's ignorance and showcases one's knowledge. Or the teacher may be honest about he knows and does not know, freely admitting ignorance when the situation suggests it. By admitting ignorance, one can explore new ideas along with the students.

Unless something like this ignorance-awareness-honesty happens in the classroom, one's teaching will not allow the teacher himself to learn from his own ignorance and from the responses of his students. Exploration means meeting the unknown with what one knows (or thinks one knows). One of the most thrilling things I experience in the classroom is when new ideas emerge in my mind in real time through the act of teaching. It must be akin to the joy a great jazz improviser (such as Sonny Rollins) feels when he finds open sky and ascends accordingly.

The kind of ignorance I am considering is not that of being ill-prepared for class; rather, it pertains to how a well-educated and well-prepared pedagogue comports himself in light of what he does not know. That sort of ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Great Google Dumb Down

Nicholas Carr has written a solid piece of cultural criticism concerning media technology: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" He appeals to insights from Plato, McLuhan, Mumford, and others. This is the basic school of technological criticism that I subscribe to, except that he seems to have a materialist account of knowing with no overt concern for the soul qua immaterial essence of the person. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this article; it chimes in with much found on this blog regarding the limits and dangers of the Internet, especially concerning the decline in reading. On that also read the recent book (yes, an entire book), The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Given, Taken

Books unread
Prayers unsaid
Life unlived.

Gifts ungiven
Horses unridden
Poems unwritten.

Ideas gainsaid
Manuscripts unedited
Letters left for dead
Brilliance discredited.

Letters unsent
Speeches not delivered
Hearts unbent.

Thanksgiving not offered
Truth not proffered.

Beauty unkissed
Ugliness unhissed.

Too much
too little
too long
too many.

The Given
must be taken,
with appreciation,

then strongly shaken
until the music
comes bursting out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

On the Vanity of Obama

Charles Krauthammer unmasks the overweening pride of Obama.

Obama Caricature in The New Yorker

Pat Buchanan nails the real issue in the caricature of the Obamas that ran in The New Yorker. Note his telling comment, "Obama is our first affirmative action candidate." That means: he is not qualified; he is not criticized (by the mainstream press). He gets a pass by virtue of pigment. This is not the vision of Martin Luther King, who wanted his children (and, by extension, Obama) to be judged "by the content of their character," not the color of their skin.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Requiem for a Steam Bath (Warning: Autobiographical Snippet)

There is something about a steam bath--the surging sounds of the rushing steam, the invading, hot moisture, the freedom to perspire without worry. In fact, the point is to perspire. It seems to clear the mind as it overwhelms the body. My first steam baths were with my Father at the YMCA in Anchorage, Alaska, in the mid 1960s.

I like them hot, as hot as they can get--so hot that others sometime leave before I do. Upon occasion, I also enjoy talking to those who remain in the sweaty inferno. I have spoken apologetically and evangelistically to men in the steam bath at Goodson Recreation Center over the years. I have prayed in there, thought about writing projects, imagined kingdom endeavors. I never took the cell phone in.

Now it has become automated. You used to spray water on an opening to generate the steam. But tonight, the hose was gone. It must have broken, I thought. After taking a longer than usual hot tub bath (for obvious reasons), I told someone at the desk that the steam bath was broken. No, it wasn't broken, it was repaired! The old system, you see, taxed the steamer. They went through two in five years. The new system never goes above a certain temperature (too low, of course) and goes on automatically! Well, I was soaking in the hot tub for a long time and it never went on. Supposedly, it comes on when it gets cool enough. Opening the door helps, he said. I'm sure.

A small, infrequent pleasure is gone, thanks to automation and efficiency. What next will get worse?

China: Look Beyond the Screen

Please read Charles Colson's commentary on the cruel realities of China that should not be forgotten during the Olympics. I, for one, will watch none of it because (1) I don't watch television (2) China, another "evil empire," should not be flattered by having these games. There are many brave underground Christians in China (read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun), but the government is oppressive, anti-Christian, and mercenary. Of course, no one in the White House is saying this, sadly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Event for The Personhood Amendment

[I received this from Colorado for Equal Rights.]

Please join us for a Personhood Day on Saturday, July 19th!

When: 7:00-9:30pm
Where: Calvary South Denver, 9052 Ken Caryl Ave. Littleton, CO 80128

This event is being put on by Open Arms Ministry and is designed foryou to bring your family, friends, and neighbors who haven't heard about personhood yet. We need your help to make people aware of Amendment 48 and the value of voting "YES" in November for personhood. Together, we can recognize the preciousness of every child's life.

State Rep. Kent Lambert, ARTL President Brian Rohrbough, Colorado Christian Coalition Executive Director Mark Hotaling, and Personhood Amendment Sponsor Kristi Burton will be among the speakers.

You will also hear from women who are sharing their personal testimonies about the value of every human life, no matter the circumstances. Refreshments will follow.Please come to pick up your bumper sticker and t-shirt!! Plenty of these materials will be available along with volunteer and church packets. Let's spread personhood across the state of Colorado...starting now!!

Colorado For Equal Rights,
PO Box 298,
Peyton, CO 80831, USA

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Doug Groothuis to Lecture on Science and Christianity in Englewood This Friday

I will be giving a free, public lecture called "Are Christianity and Science Incompatible?" at Wellspring Anglican Church on July 18 at 7:00 PM. Childcare is provided.
This lecture will address controversial questions regarding the nature of science and its relationship to Christian truth claims about the cosmos. It will also feature a short video clip explaining the detection of intelligent design in nature. There will be a question/answer time following the lecture. An extensive outline will be provided along with free articles by me. Everyone is welcome.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to The Constructive Curmudgeon

This blog was started almost exactly three years ago. We now have almost 900 posts, consisting of essays, book reviews, movie reviews, epigrams, epithets, aphorisms, anathemas, personal reflections, Scripture verses, quotations, parodies, poems, announcements, links, and more. Thanks to (most) who have contributed to The Constructive Curmudgeon (soon to become a major motion picture).

I solicit any reflections on these three years of blog-being. Why don't some of you lurkers come out of the digital woodwork and make a comment?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Odd Fellows

A Comedian's Guide to Theology by Thor Ramsey. Does anyone know anything about this book? He lists me as an influence, along with Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, and Shane Claiborne. Uh oh!

Three Questions

Why do so few of so many become Christians today in America? Why do so many of the so few do so little once they have become Christians? What can we do about it?

The Old Book Man

He opened the old, musty book, squinting through glasses too old for old eyes. "Some obscure volume on philosophy of religion," he mused to himself. Flipping through the yellowing pages, which nearly cracked as he touched them, he found a folded note that had been stuck between the pages.

It was dated July 12, 1949, and read,

"So many references to the Bible in so many books. Read the blasted thing for yourself some time."

The old book man took the advice from his unknown counselor, putting aside a half dozen partially-read books.

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone, Therefore I am

Robert Velarde blogs on technological discernment and gives us a photo of a extinct computer and two quotes from a nearly extinct book, The Soul in Cyberspace.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Ontology of "Like"

I have been pondering why so many Americans, especially those under thirty, use the word "like" so often and so unnecessarily. It has become a verbal tick, a gratuitous punctuation with no grammatical purpose. Yes, it is annoying, but I push on. Example:

"So, I was, like, going to the theater, and like, I saw Joe, who I hadn't seen for, like, two years. Then, like, we went went to the movie together, which was about, like..."

You get the idea. Why is this happening?! ("Sort of" is also experiencing a new hypertrophied existence--a related problem.)

Perhaps the reason is that people hesitate to state anything unequivocally, to affirm with conviction. Therefore, nothing is what it is (the law of identity), it is only "like" something else. Resemblance or similarity is all we can commit to. This way, one doesn't have to affirm anything concrete about objective existence.

The locutions "somewhat like" or " X is like Y" are fine, if used carefully; they are informative. But inserting "like" everywhere guts language, eviscerating anything categorical or unequivocal. Perhaps the oral addiction to "like" indicates an epistemological malaise or vertigo, a lack of confidence that some things can be known (=knowledge: justified, true belief). Postmodern culture makes information endlessly available, but knowledge harder to find and secure. Many of our verbalizations reflect this condition of information overload/knowledge deficit. So, we hear:

"So, I was reading the Bible, and I thought, 'Jesus is, like, God. And if Jesus is, like, God, then it would have, like, consequences for my life. But, whatever; it's sorta weird. I do like Jesus, like, really, but, you know...'"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Nondualism on Trial"

Volume 1, Number 1 of the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics has published my article, "Nondualism on Trial," which is a logical critique of Sankara's Hindu philosophy (pages 105-112). An earlier version of this was published on my web page. Here is their web page.

Mini Film Review: "Wall-E"

This film is a digitally animated story of robotic love and a heroic return to a vanquished civilization. The animation is quite magical and the story endearing, funny, and thought-provoking. It is a popular film worth seeing. It harks back to slapstick and gives a few nods to classic science fiction films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Wall-E is the lone robot left on earth after its inhabitants have left on a space ship/cruise vessel. Wall-E dutifully collects garbage and shapes into bricks that become towers looking like buildings. The earth is mostly junk--except for a very cute and enterprising robot, who has managed to survive for 700 years by replacing his parts from defunct robots. (He also has a pet cockroach.)

The romance begins with an investigative robot named Eve comes to earth looking for...something. When she finds a living plant, she freezes up, horrifying Wall-E, who does everything to revive her. Eventually they are both taken up into space by the ship that deposited her on earth. Their destination is the outpost for the escaped earthlings, who are tended by robots and who have become the ultimate couch potatoes--lounging on mobile recliners, endlessly entertained in virtual worlds, and attended to by robots.

I won't ruin the plot for you, but the story is chock full of heroes, robotic and human. It is a story of fall (through ruinous stewardship of earth) and redemption when earth and humans make (literally) a come back.

Given the slide of culture toward the occult, I was relieved that "Wall-E" contained no New Age theology, as do many other children's films. (I noted this in Unmasking the New Age, back in 1986.) In fact, there is no overt theology, but the sentiment that resonates throughout the film is that the personal dimension of life--real relationships, a real connections with the earth--transcends the allure of technology and unfettered consumerism. Of course, the stars are robots, but they are just as (if not more) personal than the bloated humans that appear much later in the film. The robots display every human emotion thanks to the clever animation. And the cockroach displays emotion as well. The older animation granted personality to animals; the newer to robots. Of course, robots are not and will never become conscious, since consciousness is not derivable from matter alone; but Wall-E and Eva, nevertheless, express much that is human.

Perhaps the film celebrates the rejuvenating powers of earth, which does not terminate as a deserted garbage dump. But it fails to address the question of who made the earth and fashioned humans in his own image and likeness to find their home there. Nor does it speak to why these hapless humans are so poor at tending the garden. The answer to these questions is found in the Bible.

Andrew Stanton, the director of "Wall-E," is interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Antidotes to Contemporary Stupefaction

1. Read old, challenging books.
2. Talk to people in situations with no background noise.
3. Pray through the Psalms.
4. Read the Book of Ecclesiastes multiple times until it sinks in.
5. Talk to older people and really listen to them.
6. Sit in silence, doing nothing for short or long periods of time (but not in a yoga posture).
7. Thank God for what cannot be taken away.
8. Write a letter (not an email) to a friend or family member.
9. See a worthwhile film and then talk about it with a group of people. Don't use the word "awesome."
10. Drive in silence--no radio, music, cell phones, etc.
11. Listen to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" until you get it. But don't accept the theology of the liner notes.
12. Fast and pray for a few days (without telling anyone who doesn't need to know).
13. Pray written prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.
14. Read historical confessional statements such as The Thirty Nine Articles or The Westminster Confession of Faith or The Athanasian Creed.
15. Do not interrupt people when you talk with them. Do not finish their sentences. Maybe they are looking for just the right word.
16. Weep with those who weep.
17. Stop watching television for one week. Note what happens to your soul.
18. Listen to a classic book on tape when you are driving.
19 Buy someone a book they wouldn't buy for themselves and ask them to read it.
20. Pray for strangers as they pass you by.
21. Take communion on a regular basis.
22. Look for opportunities to share the Gospel with strangers in creative ways. (I've done it in a public steam bath several times.)
23. Listen to Mars Hill Audio interviews, hosted by Kenneth Myers.

Now, dear readers, please add a few of your own to his incomplete list.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How to be a Popular "Evangelical" Writer (expanded)

1. Write on a controversial topic with little understanding of it.
2. Be autobiographical.
3. Luxuriate in metaphors you don't understand.
4. Take potshots at "foundationalism," "propositional truth," and "modernism," without defining, explaining, or actually arguing against them.
5. Chose a clever title for your book like, "Plastic Jesus" or "Velour Bono," or "Red like Rock."
6. Make the book short, with plenty of graphics.
7. Make a video to go with the book. No, make a series of them.
8. Write in incomplete sentences. Like this.
9. Use plenty of one sentence paragraphs, like this:


10. Advocate something historically rejected by Christians in the name of "tolerance" or "freedom" or "postmodernism" or "authenticity."
11. Be sure to "reinvent," "deconstruct," "reimagine," "reconceive," and "emerge."
12. Pose in on your yoga mat for the back cover, smirking.
13. Celebrate mysteries, embrace enigmas, go apoplectic over paradoxes. In so doing, attack apologetics as "arrogant," "imperialistic," and "uncool."
14. Give a plethora of references to popular culture, but ignore theological classics.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Technological Maelstrom

Off is out.
On is always in.


Off is in.
On is out.

Mars Hill Audio

Mars Hill Audio features a number of free interviews on cultural themes. These are hosted by Kenneth Myers, an astute interviewer and interpreter of contemporary culture from a Christian perspective. I recently reviewed his book All God's Children recently on this blog.

I highly recommend subscribing to the full service of Mars Hill Audio.

Read This

Bill Craig's Christianity Today cover story on arguments for God's existence is now on line.

Darwism, Public Policy, and Logical Fallacies

Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Bill, which allows the scientific questioning of Darwinism in public school classes. Hurray for him and Louisiana! Why?

Most Darwinists seek a lock on publicly-funded discussion of Darwinism--a statist monopoly, in other words. They use the straw man fallacy against their detractors: They are trying to sneak in religion and destroy the accomplishments of science (and Western Civilization). No, they are exposing the evidential weakness of Darwinism. The Darwinists employ the false dichotomy: it's Darwinism or the end of science. No, the arguments are given by scientists and philosophers of science who make no appeal to religious documents. The Darwinists poison the well: there can be no empirical question over Darwinism; the only criticism comes from people with "a religious agenda" that drives it and disqualifies it. No, for the reason given above. Lastly (although one could go on), the Darwinists beg the question in favor of any naturalistic explanation of biological systems over every explanation that infers the existence of intelligent causes to explain biological systems.

This bill will allow for free discussion. It does not forbid the teaching of Darwinism; it does not require the teaching of intelligent design--whatever propaganda you may hear otherwise. As intelligent design people like to say: "Teach the controversy."

So much for my short lesson on public policy and logical fallacies.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Self-absorption and Contemporary Writing

It is everywhere, a plague, a curse, a bane--self-absorption as a way of life and (worse yet) as a way of writing. Christopher Lasch's "culture of narcissism" has infected books and articles, even written by Christians. Needless, pointless, and even embarrassing self-references abound and abase. No specifics will be given, but in a book about the dignified subject of "worldview," a writer waxes autobiographical at the drop of a comma, chatting about his love of this and that. "I may not be a philosopher, but I think that..." Please, keep it to yourself, then. Similiar infractions could be taken from Christianity Today, Books and Culture, even The Chronicle of Higher Education. Too much is too soaked in memior. (See a previous post on Blue Like Jazz.)

What happened to serious writing and living, to discretion? As God shrinks, the self expands. As God-consciousness moves to the margins, the supposedly sacred self moves to center stage. As theology goes into decline, spirituality ("my spirituality") advances. My wife has a perfect term for this: "being precious." It is akin to the flirtatious woman (or man, perhaps) who never says, but always acts out, this imperative: "Look at me! Aren't I pretty?" The flirtatious writer, says, "Read the silly, little details of my precious life! Aren't they fascinating?" No, they are not. If I want autobiography, I'll consult a life of greatness.

The personal pronoun should not to be forbidden in the writing of philosophy or history or film criticism. But it should be used sparingly, sparsely, and with great care. Once again, Elements of Style was right. Just as we should "eliminate unnecessary words," we should eliminate unnecessary personal pronouns. The basic rule concerns whether or not a personal reference contributes something solid, something worthwhile to the piece of writing. If not, eliminate it. The Apostle Paul refers much to himself in some of his letter, but never to no effect. His life was poured out to his readers; it was not on cutesy display. Similarly, a brave and wise Christian from Sri Lanka, Ajith Fernando, uses quite a few personal anecdotes in his many wonderful books. By by so doing, he is more like the Apostle Paul, than the many mirror-gazing, self-stroking writers that clutter the American scene. Francis Schaeffer's books reveal the character of the man without any posing or posturing. They are all meat, no fluff. His anecdotes usually narrate noteworthy apologetic encounters.

What is the antidote to the precious and pointless anecdote, the anodyne for the promiscuous autobiography? Read the Bible and serious writers, mostly from the past: Augustine, Pascal, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, A. W. Tozer, and Francis Schaeffer. And read a serious contemporary social critic, such as Os Guinness or David Wells. With the self out of view, there is just so much more to see.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dreams, Visions, and the Gospel

Does anyone know of a good source that documents the claim that non-Christians have received the gospel message in dreams or visions (outside of people bringing it to them)?

Thank you.

Why I Will Vote for Obama (I have now corrected some pretty bad errors)

I have caught the fervor. I will vote for Obama. Here is my reasoning in three crucial areas.

1. Yes, he doesn't share my views on abortion, but so what? After all, aborted babies go to heaven. If they grow up, they might go to hell. Abortion on demand is the best form of evangelism ever invented. So, with Obama we'd continue to get over a million babies into heaven year, and Supreme Court Justices to insure that it goes on for another generation. Obama would push for more and more federal funding for abortions, which means we would be using state money for evangelism! How cool is that?! And I'm sure the ACLU would never call him on it. Yes, I know the Bible talks about "Thou shalt not murder" and caring for "the least of these," but let's not get legalistic and impose our Christian morality on others.

2. Yes, Obama would likely withdraw the military from Iraq and Afghanistan, thus leading to increased terrorist activities there and to their take over by terrorist governments. Well, it's not perfect world. Losing these countries to forces bent on destroying us is really good for two reasons:

(a) Doing this would free up funds here at home--along with Obama's massive tax increases--for state programs. We all know that you cannot trust free people use their own money wisely. No, people are greedy, but the state is giving. Profit is evil, but tax confiscation of profit is just. Why shouldn't a faceless bureaucracy do a better job with my money than I can?

(b) With increased terrorist activity in Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks on the US are much more likely. This would embolden Osama and his ilk to rain upn us as many 9/11-like apocalypses as possible. But do you remember how full the churches were after 9/11? Remember how many people were asking significant questions about life and death in the wake of 3,000 deaths? This spiritual openness trailed off as months and years went by without another catastrophe in America (thanks to President Bush's authoritarian policies at home and abroad.) But with Obama in The White House, terrorist attacks would increase. This would rally terrorists abroad and give them more freedom at home (since Bush's heavy-handed surveillance tactics would be annulled). Think of the possibilities for revival! San Francisco is shattered by a suitcase nuke and then repents of its long term and trend-setting immorality--just like after the San Francisco earthquake long ago. Marvelous are these thoughts. Let it stretch your faith.

3. The Bible does view marriage as being between a man and a woman. This has been the basic standard of civilization ever since the garden. Yes, but things change over time and we need to be flexible. While Obama has yet to plainly endorse same-sex marriage, he does oppose measures to legally define it in the traditional manner. He certainly would not impose his own, private, personal, religious views (whatever they are) on others. In fact, he may not even impose his own morality on himself. So, an Obama presidency would open the way for same-sex marriage to become a legal institution in America. Think of the benefits to open-minded people. Ministers who need gigs performing marriages would experience a boon! Couples wanting to tie the knot would be popping up everwhere. On top of that, these ceremonies would provide opportunities for evangelism. The minister could say, "Do you, Holly, want to take Penny as your lawfully wedded partner--and accept Jesus as your personal Savior?" But most importantly, with same-sex marriage inshrined in law, more and more Christians will drop their old fashioned principles about marriage (just as they have against abortion). This, in turn, will soften many homosexual hearts to accept the gospel (or what's left of it).

Well, since Obama is somewhat ahead in the polls and since many evangelicals are supporting him, I can breathe a lot easier and enjoy the Fourth Of July. America: land of the free and home of the Obama.

(Yes, this is a satire.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Is the Bible Anti-Semitic?

[Here is another section from my book that hit the cutting room floor. It came from a chapter called, "Distortions of Christianity."]

Part of the controversy generated from the 2004 blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ,” was that the film was anti-Semitic. The charge was largely based on the film’s depiction of the Jewish religious establishment unjustly convicting Jesus of a capital crime and handing him over to Rome for execution. That much of the film is true to the Gospel accounts. But does that fact, or anything else in the New Testament, support the allegation that Christianity is anti-Semitic?

Once again, one must separate two issues: first, what Christians have done in the name of Christ; and, second, what the Bible itself condones and encourages. Some Christians have wrongfully discriminated against Jews or condemned them as “Christ killers.” Martin Luther famously wrote some hateful things about Jews who did not convert to Christianity. But the deeper question is whether they were acting in character with Christian ethics. It is clear that they were not. First, since Jesus and his twelve disciples (and later Paul) were Jewish, it would be odd indeed if they propagated a religion hostile to their own birthright. Jesus, in fact, favored the Jews in his ministry (Mark 7:24-30). He taught and healed Gentiles and commended their faith, but he began with the Jews.

Jesus deemed the Hebrew Bible to be divinely inspired and utterly truthful (Matthew 5:17; John 10:30), as did Paul (2 Timothy 3:16) and Peter (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Apostle Paul followed Jesus pattern of beginning with the Jews and then moving to the Gentiles. He proclaimed: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). He follows this pattern throughout the Book of Acts (see 19:1-12, for example).

However, neither Jesus nor Paul nor any New Testament passage endorses the extant religion of the Jews of that day. Jesus repeatedly challenged many of the Jewish traditions of his day as unbiblical (see Matthew 15, 23) and claimed to be the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures themselves (Matthew 5:17-20). The New Testament calls Jews—and everyone else—to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and to become follwers of “the Way” (Acts 11:26). Jesus himself unites Jews and Gentiles into one Body, such that the old distinctions no longer apply (Galatians 3:26-28). He laments when so many of his own people fail to recognize him as Messiah (Matthew 23:37-39). Paul agonizes over the same fact, and wishes that he himself could be damned if that could bring about the salvation of his people (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1-2). There is no special animus against the Jews, but rather a greater pain over their unbelief, given their many advantages as God’s uniquely covenanted people.

We find, then, that there is no New Testament hostility against Jews ethnically. However, there is a call for Jews to find in Jesus the fulfillment of the revelation they have already received in “the law and the prophets.” In the Book of Acts, when Jews in a particular place reject Paul’s case for Jesus as the Messiah, he laments over their disbelief and then moves on to other Jews and to Gentiles. There are several New Testament texts that refer to Jewish hostility to the early Christians (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, for example). This hostility to the gospel is condemned, but the Jews as a people are never condemned. There is no sense in Paul—or in any other New Testament writer or spokesperson—that Jews are somehow more culpable before God or less capable of responding rightly to the gospel. They are never demeaned as a people racially nor or they singled out for prejudice.

Concerning the betrayal and execution of Jesus, the fact that the Jewish religious establishment gave him over to the Romans for execution does not reveal some racial fault in the Jewish people. Moreover, it was the sin of humanity that required the death of Jesus Christ. No one human or group of humans, however misguided, put Jesus on the Cross. He offered himself freely on behalf of his people according to the sovereign plan of the Almighty. As Peter preached:
People of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him (Acts 2:22-24).

Christians today should recognize that Jews who continue to practice Judaism (or who are secular Jews) and do not convert to Christianity have every right to do so according to their conscience and under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion (as do all religions that abide by the Constitution). Any apologetics or evangelism aimed at Jews should be done according to the highest ethical standards. However, to rationally and lovingly encourage (but never pressure) Jews to consider the claims of Jesus is no more anti-Semitic than challenging Hindus to convert to Christianity is anti-Hindu.