Believing: The Path To All Knowledge

In a recent article for First Things, Christian Smith writes about the natural, but not necessary tendency toward religion for mankind.  The article is well worth your time and in it, Smith argues that religion is natural to humanity, not because religious practices are universal, but because religious practice exists in every arena where the tendency toward religion is fostered.  In other words, all cultures have the ability to be religious, but some simply do not cultivate that tendency.

Though Smith’s premise is well argued, I was particularly struck by his assertion that belief is a universal human condition,

The first of these natural human tendencies toward religion springs from our universal human condition in relation to what we affirm as true. As I have argued in my book Moral, Believing Animals, all human beings are believers, not knowers who know with certitude. Everything we know is grounded on presupposed beliefs that cannot be verified with more fundamental proof or certainty that provides us assurance that they are true. That is just as true for atheists as for religious adherents. The quest for foundationalist certainty, with which we are all familiar, is a distinctly modern project, one launched as a response to the instabilities and uncertainties of early-modern Europe. But that modern project has failed. There is no universal, rational foundation upon which indubitably certain knowledge can be built. All human knowing is built on believing. That is the human condition.

That means that religious commitment is not fundamentally different from any human belief commitment. It involves the same innate human need to believe more than one can “prove.” Otherwise we would live in a cognitive desert, unable to furnish our minds with enough perceptions and ideas to begin thinking. Religious believing thus shares the larger epistemic situation … Continue reading

Monday Musings

The Christ who will not worship Satan to gain the world’s kingdoms is followed by Christians who will worship only Christ in unity with the Lord whom he serves.  And this is intolerable to all defenders of society whoa re content that many gods should be worshipped if only Democracy or America, or German, or the Empire receives its due, religious homage.  The antagonism of modern, tolerant culture to Christ is of course often disguised because it does not call its religious practices religious, reserving that term for certain specified rites connected with officially recognized sacred institutions; and also because it regards what it calls religion as one of many interests which can be placed alongside economics, art, science, politics, and techniques.  Hence the objection it voices to Christian monotheism appears in such injunctions only as that religion should be kept out of politics and business, or that christian faith must learn to get along with other religions.  What is often meant is that not only the claims of religious groups but all consideration of the claims of Christ and God should be banished from the spheres where other gods, called values, reign.  The implied charge against Christian faith is like the ancient one: it imperils society by its attack on its religious life; it deprives social institution of their cultic, sacred character; by its refusal to condone the pious superstitions of tolerant polytheism it threatens social unity.

–H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture

Loving Within The Church

Would Jesus visit with our churches and discover that our definition of healthy fits his definition of healthy?  We love, but do we love as God loves?  Jonathan Leeman says, “We assume not that God is love but that love is God.”  The church of Christ is a community where her members love each other sacrificially, extending warm hugs and smiles, ministering to one anther in times of need, and when necessary, correcting and rebuking one another if and when we stray.  The church should be characterized by God’s love, not love as the world defines it.  Love according to many would never correct or rebuke, yet the Bible says that even a father disciplines the child he loves.  Does God see us loving each other that much?  Do we love enough to say the hard things?  Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Better is open rebuke and hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

Godly love demands sacrifice, sacrifices of comfort and shallow relationships.  Godly love goes well beyond eating dinner together on occasion, godly love may very well mean getting your hands dirty sometimes to help a brother in a difficult time or correct an errant sister.  Godly love holds no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13), but it does correct wrong when it can.  Of course, godly love also demands that we accept rebuke when it is delivered in a godly and edifying way.  There is much more to be learned about the Church of Christ, but I believe that the loving one another is a great place to start.  After all, it was the command of Jesus in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that … Continue reading

Fantastic 4

Ed Stetzer has written a great article on The Baptist Boogeyman

I’ve always been fascinated by the Baptist bogeyman.  Bogeymen are not real dangers, but ones we use to scare one another, often distracting us from real danger. There are real challenges in our churches and the convention—theological and otherwise—but bogeymen distract us from the real issues.

A first-century manuscript and it’s value for apologetics and the church.

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading

I would commend to you Tim Challies’ series on Visual Theology.  Here is his graphic on the attributes of God.

A couple of weeks ago I released the first infographic in a series I am titling “Visual Theology.” What I appreciate about infographics is their ability to display information visually. Just as there are many words that can be used to describe any one fact, there are also many ways to display facts.

Matt Papa is writing some entries in his blog (Part 1 and Part 2: The Golden Calf of Christian Radio) about contemporary Christian music and mainstream Christian radio stations.  Some of this would be funny if it weren’t so heart-breakingly (I think I just created that word) true.

Becky isn’t one person of course…she is the prototype target audience created by the christian music industry for christian … Continue reading

Christianity: The Arch Enemy of Science?

I often hear that conservative Christianity is opposed to “real” science and that if Christians had anything to do with it, science would never have arisen.  The great problem with statements like the one above is that they are false.  The belief that Christianity is somehow opposed to science has been repeatedly defeated, and yet it seems to rear its ugly head often.

Many authors and books take up the task to defend the Christian faith against her enemies by showing that many of the commonly held beleifs about Christianity and science are false.  Rodney Stark, for instance, in his book, For the Glory of God spends an entire chapter showing how Christianity led to the rise of science.  He writes,

In contrast to the dominant religious and philosophical doctrines in the non-Christian world, Christians developed science becaue they believed it could be done, and should be done.  As Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) put it during one of his Lowell Lectures at Harvard in 1925, science arose in Europe because of the widespread “faith in the possibility of science…derivative from medieval theology.”

He goes on to argue that science arose in Europe because, in contrast to other (especially atheistic) worldviews, Christianity provided the “fundamental theological and philosophical assumptions” necessary for its genesis.  Christianity beleived in a truth that could be discovered and in a God who encouraged such discovery.  The God of Christianity created a lawful universe that functioned within those laws.  Islam, on the other hand provides a picture of Allah that discouraged scientific advances,

Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but has been conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes on the world as he deems it appropriate.  Consequently, there soon arose a major theological bloc within Islam that condemned all efforts to … Continue reading

Book Review: The Reason for God

Yes, I know, I am way behind the evangelical reading curve because I just now got around to reading Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.  As one reading this book late in the game, it had much to live up to.  After all, The Reason for God has been called Mere Christianity for a new generation and has blurbs on the back from Rick Warren, Christianity Today, and the Washington Post.  So, how does it shape up for me?

First, Mere Christianity is what it is because it has stood the test of time.  Before we can give this title to Keller’s work, it needs also to stand the test of time.  However, I do believe that it will stand the test of time.  It is incredibly well written and enjoyable.  The apologetics in the book are approachable and the stories are captivating.  His synthesis of many of the best arguments in support of the resurrection in chapter thirteen is one of the best and most succinct that I know.  Keller does a good job of mixing his academic acumen with his pastoral heart in this book.

Second, Keller has done well to engage postmodern culture.  It is fairly obvious that the predominant sin of this generation (and probably of all generations) is that of idolatry.  Keller shows that materialism, self-love, and even inclusive are all forms of idolatry and that they simply do not stack up to good reason.  However, he presents his arguments in a way that can be appreciated in the postmodern world, he is dogmatic, but not preachy.  He teaches with questions as well as sermons.  he invites readers to discover the truth through his carefully guided questions and he refutes … Continue reading

Tim Tebow and the Implications of a Secular Worldview

Tim Tebow has become a polarizing figure.  Of course, as far as I can tell, it is difficult to see how.  He is young, athletic, humble, hardworking, clean cut, and articulate.  He is the kind of player that most coaches dream of having on their teams, and yet it is becoming obvious to many that Tebow is a thorn in the flesh for many sportscasters.

Though I have no intention of predicting Tebow as a great NFL quarterback–I’m just not sure whether he has that ability or not–I do think that for a Heisman trophy winner with an incredible work ethic and so many intangibles under his belt, it would be best to delay judgment until he has actually performed on the field.  After all, regardless of his play on the field, the great thing for any NFL team is that his lifestyle off of the field is very unlikely to garner negative media attention along the lines of dog-fighting, domestic abuse, or drug charges.

However, regardless of what Tebow does on the field, it does appear that his life off of the field has tainted sportscaster’s view of the man.  Tebow is an outspoken Christian and his religious convictions seem to tarnish his reputation for many in the news media (remember his pro-life Super Bowl commercial) and sports media.  Of course, this has been vehemently denied, but an article published recently by Brian Phillips reveals the implications of a secular worldview against an outspoken Christian athlete.

I’m sure there are people who manage to escape the demographic rooting pattern this creates. But in broad strokes, it’s fair to say that how you feel about Tebow depends on how you feel about youth groups and Elisabeth Hasselbeck … Continue reading

Preaching to Postmoderns: Give Them Something To Believe In

David K. Naugle‘s, in his book Worldview: The History of a Concept, argues that the enlightenment introduced modernity to the West, and in so doing, destroyed the many myths that existed to explain life and living with a scientific explanation.  In other words, the enlightenment reduced the West to only one acceptable meta-narrative, the scientific one.

Modernism, however, was to give way to postmodernism, and if modernism reduced the Western world to one explanation for life, postmodernism destroyed even that one explanation.  The modern mind searched for understanding and found it in science, but the postmodern mind soon discovered that though science may help us understand how the world works, science can never help us to understand why the world works.  Science has failed as an explanation, and rather than return to the religious myths and traditions of old, postmoderns have rejected all meaning.  Since science was not the savior it was hailed to be, postmoderns bought the lie that there is no real meaning in the world.

James Sire says that a worldview is

a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world.

The worldview of the postmodern mind is that life is meaningless and without purpose.  Kurt Cobain captured the post-modern spirit well when he sang/screamed, “here we are now/entertain us/I feel stupid/and contagious/here we are now/entertain us.”  MTV and the entertainment industry of that time (and ours) existed not to promote music, but to pander to its audience.  MTV does not and did not play the music that it thought was great, but rather the music that it’s in-depth consumer studies said would appeal … Continue reading

The Good Fruit of Christian Morality

In a recent editorial on Canada’s Burnaby Now (www.burnabynow.com) website, an editorial by Maurice Harting argues that human rights do not exist without religious belief.  The editorial is written in response to a previous article seeking to abolish references to religion in Canadian schools in order to protect those of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community.  Harting writes,

Most of Canadian criminal law, which serves the public in Canada, is based on religious beliefs (for example, that murdering someone is not acceptable is based on “thou shalt not kill” as one of the commandments God gave), however our laws are not adopted by everyone in Canada (there are those who murder in Canada).

Interestingly, even for those who oppose Christianity and its worldview, it is the Bible that has influenced society in such a significant way that even those who disregard God and his laws are protected to live in their sin and rebellion because of the influence of His word.  The homosexual community opposes Christianity and the God of the Bible, but in so doing neglect to realize that the very freedoms they are given to indulge in their sinful behavior exist in their western culture because of a Judeo-Christian frame work that is the basis for Western law.

The author cited above goes on to argue, “human rights don’t trump, but our religious beliefs were and are the basis for the human rights we now enjoy in Canada.”  Human rights are not a proper base or even principle for an ethical system, but they do serve as a significant rule that is born out of a Judeo-Christian mindset.  The Bibilcial worldview emphasizes the principles of d love, justice, and the value of human life.  Certainly, … Continue reading