Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Problem is Sin

Theology is important. If you believe this world is all there is, then the logical thing is to party like there is no tomorrow (or just kill yourself). If you believe that your sins can only be forgiven by dying while killing unbelievers, you get [radical] Islam...

So what is the problem with the world?
  • Low self-confidence - people act out because they feel oppressed, and just need to feel good about themselves?
  • Economics/class warfare - conflict between the rich and poor; evils of consumerism?
  • Technology - chemicals in the water and air, global monitoring, black helicopters, tinfoil hats?
  • Government - evil dictators, too much Republican control, too little Democrat control, no Libertarians?
The problem is sin.

Pride being number one. All the little sins that make life seem better. I need this. I want that.

Creation screams at us that there is a Creator. Our consciences tell us good from bad. We fear death. We desire justice.

Our response can be:
  1. To sear our conscience. Just like a piece of meat. Burned and charred on the outside. Giving us a tough exterior which allows us to continue to live in sin. Unfortunately, there is usually a hollow space left inside which cannot be filled. Not with alcohol, drugs, or casual sex, or world domination.
  2. Look to the Law of God. Humble ourselves before our perfect Creator. Confess our sins, and turn from them. Turn to God, and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins. Past, present, and future.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why I am a Christian Now...

even though I was raised Catholic. And Why I don't Identify Myself as a Catholic now.

iMonk (Michael Spencer) was upset about a post by Catholic apologist Carl Olson. Spencer is very clear about his position on the [Roman] Catholic Church (RCC):

"I’ll never convert to the RCC for any reason I can currently anticipate, and I’ll always consider believers in Jesus who are part of the RCC to be my brothers and sisters in Christ."

I think that sums up my own position pretty well. I think a lot of people get confused between "the church" a.k.a. the "bride of Christ", buildings, and organizations. Jesus established His church, and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

Did Jesus found an organization (He certainly didn't build any buildings)? Or does He gather a group people who belong to Him?

This is a common problem for people who think "our denomination is the only true church". Olson himself, in the comments says:
"If Jesus established a single Church—assuming that He has a monogamous relationship with His Bride (cf., Eph. 5), what was that Church?"

That church is the elect of God. Written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the earth. The wheat among the tares. Scattered around the world in many denominations and many buildings. Baptized by the Holy Spirit into His Body.

Olson's points are worth coming back to and reviewing in detail.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Book Review

"Evolutionism and Creationism" (Ben Sonder) - I picked this book as a quick read in the topic I have been looking into recently. It's just 100 pages, but it packs in a fair amount of stuff to talk about. It does a reasonable job of trying to be impartial. I believe the author favors evolutionism, but I can only be sure from a few quotes:

On theistic evolutionists (pg 25):
"Someone may not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, but can still believe in divine influence on the Earth's history."

The "literal interpretation of the Bible" is a common complaint. Except, fundamentalists don't interpret the Bible literally...

John 6:53 "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."

We do not literally eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood (in contradiction to Catholic dogma). There is a long, involved Biblical basis for that, which I will likely cover later.

Reading the Bible is like reading any other book. I didn't read this book and think, "Hmm, this is actually a metaphor for how Sonder is admitting to killing Jimmy Hoffa and burying the body in his back yard." I guess, from his point of view, I read his book literally. I interpreted it within the context of itself and the culture it was written in and targeted at. When I read science-fiction, I often find myself flipping back to the copyright page to check when it was written. Science-fiction has gone through many different phases and attitudes, and I am also interesting in tracking developments. I guess I read that literally too :)

Of course, old earthers (like the He Lives blog) insist that their interpretation is truest to a proper ("literal") interpretation of the Bible. So it is not a question of "relying" on the Bible or not, but which interpretation is correct.

The other quote is between pages 4 and 5:
"By 'creation', the minister meant the belief that life on Earth was created just as it appears today by God, in only six days and just a few thousand years ago, as recounted in the Book of Genesis in the Bible."

This gets said often enough that I don't know where it comes from. The world as it is today is different than the world as God created it. The main difference being the presence of sin, and the curse of the Fall. Also, the Flood has clearly had significant impact on the topology of the Earth, and some people believe there was another catastrophe around the time Peleg ("Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided" Genesis 10:25 - the name "Peleg" is similar to the Hebrew word for earthquake).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sacrfice in Iraq

Way of the Master radio for Monday mentions an article in USA Today ("In Iraq, coping after a hero dies saving you"). Powerful stuff.

Think about someone you love -- a spouse, child, parent, or friend. Would you die to save that person? What about people you hardly know? What about an enemy?

John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends".

But in our original, unsaved lives, we are the enemies of God. We oppose God and hate Him; loving ourselves or gods created in our minds.

Jesus laid down His life for His enemies.

Romans 5:10a "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son".

What will our response be? Will we be caught up trying to be "good enough" to pay back what He did? Will we disregard His sacrifice by denying it ever happened or continuing on with life as usual?

Or will we die to sin. Turn our back on our old lives, and trust in God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More on Satan

The He Lives blog has a very timely review on the theology of Satan. As always, very well done.

It makes an excellent point about neither over- or under- estimating Satan. Satan is real, but not all powerful. Also, Satan is not in a "battle for souls". Hell is the punishment for sin (breaking God's laws), not part of any "deal with the devil" or "victory for Satan".

Which reminds me that I saw the new television show "Reaper". I found it pretty well done. There was good humor and some interesting plot. The premise is the main character's (a 21 year old) parents sold his soul to the devil (where did this meme come from? Faust?). Now the devil wants him to go around recapturing souls that have escaped from Hell. He has some super powers to help him out. I give it a big zero for Christian theology :) It also contains some course language (not counting the word Hell, which apparently earns my site a PG-13 rating :).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Evolution and Creation

I've noticed lately more confrontation between creationists and evolutionists. Richard Dawkins has been rather rash in his declaiming of God and religion. And the folks at Answers in Genesis have been celebrating their new museum. There has been lots of heat in the blogosphere, and I found a whole blog dedicated to the debate (or discussion for you emerging guys :)

I learned evolution in my Catholic high school biology class. But since coming to know Christ, I have found my "faith" in evolution damaged. The primary reason being that the "debate" so far has been primarily rhetoric and argument from assumptions on both sides.

For example (for evolutionists): What is the most convincing evidence you have seen for evolution?

I haven't seen any evidence. I was told that evolution is true. And it was on a test. I memorized it for the test, and promptly started to assert it. This forms the core of the debate for most people. The remainder is mostly to march out a group of skulls and put them in a line, and say evolution! That's not evolution, that's quicksort().

In the interests of joining the discussion, I have read an article that is supposed to boost my "faith" in evolution. It address some common points:

Science is Falsifiability

Yeah, falsifiability is nice. But I'm an electrical engineer, I prefer predict and measure. Kirchhoff's Current Law and Kirchhoff's Voltage Law. Draw a circuit on paper, run the numbers, build it in the lab, measure it on the scope. That's science to me.

With just falsifiability, it's too easy to propose stuff that is always mutating and dodging the falsification. For example: based on current observations, hemoglobin (the red cells in blood) was assumed to break down after many thousand years (maybe as much as 100,000). Until a T-Rex was discovered with intact hemoglobin. Well, everyone knows T-Rex is 65 to 130 million years old, so now we assume hemoglobin can naturally survive that long. If you've got 65 millions years to wait around, we can verify this prediction...

Macro-Evolution is Lots of Micro-Evolution

This utilizes a concept known as induction. Induction says given a base case, show the progression from a set of size N to one of size N+1. Then you have then shown the idea for all N. For example, "All People Are Bald". The base case is this guy, Billy. He is bald. So given that any set of N people are all bald, show that N+1 people are all bald. Well, consider the case where N=10. The first 9 people are all bald. And the last 9 people are all bald. And the two sets overlap, so all 10 people are bald. Therefore, all people are bald!

Is induction an invalid way of proving things? No. But it does show you have to be careful in your reasoning. And you should be able to show some proof.
"Major evolutionary change requires too much time for direct observation on the scale of recorded human history."
That makes evolution not repeatable, and therefore not "hard" science. I want to see a fruit fly produce beetles or wasps or something not a fruit fly. Or even just have a single celled organism produce a multi-celled organism - or even a colonial organism (like a sponge). Or turn an amoeba (asexual reproducer) into a paramecium (single cell sexual reproducer). I'm also trying to find publications which references the results of Ernst Mayr's fruit fly mutation experiments.

Common Structures
"Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor?"
An interesting question, but not evidence. This just shows that the Designer (if any) enjoys code reuse. You can argue for or against a Designer who reuses code, but then you are arguing the properties of a Designer you do not know and cannot understand.

Analogies Between Memetic Evolution and Biological Evolution
"When we recognize the etymology of September, October, November, and December (seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth), we know that the year once started in March, or that two additional months must have been added to an original calendar of ten months."
The calendar (and any other abstract human concept - like government or culture) is a bad example for evolutionists. - because these things were designed (by people).

Well, that wasn't very satisfying. I will have to tackle another article later...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anglican/Episcopal church Problems

It seems the Anglican (England) and Episcopal (rest of the world) church is having some difficulties. Albert Mohler has an interesting update on current events.

There is a great quote, "American is now seen as a nation in need of Christian missionaries from Africa".

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who is Satan?

One of my (in)famous statements as a cultural Christian was, "I'm not a big Satanist." But the Bible clearly teaches their is an angel named Satan.

The Hebrew word is "Satan" or "Shaitan". It can mean any adversary or opponent, but also is used in the context of "The Adversary". The Greek uses a word clearly derived from it, "Satanes".
It often has a legal sense, portraying Satan as a sort of prosecuting attorney in God's court.

The word is used eighteen times in the Old Testament. Fourteen of these are in Job. But a lot of insight can be gained from comparing 1 Chronicles 21:1 "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel" and 2 Samuel 24:1 "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah".

Skeptics use this as an example of a contradiction in the Bible. Which was it? God or Satan? Now if you assume that Satan is an independent agent (out of God's control, perhaps even rivaling in power), this is quite confusing.

But this shows that God is control of everything, even Satan. God was moved against David, and He allowed Satan to influence him.

So is Satan just following orders? No. Satan has a will which is contrary to God's purposes (just like our will can be contrary to God's purposes). But God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He is working all things (even bad things) to the benefit of His children (Romans 8:28). [Note: not everyone is a child of God, if you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus as Savior, you are a child of wrath (John 3:36, yeah twenty verses after the famous John 3:16).]

Another insightful reference is Luke 22:31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat". Satan desires the destruction of us all. But God does not permit it.

And 1 Corinthians 5:5 "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". This is a command from Paul to turn a person living in sin out of the church at Corinth. The intention here is to let the person feel the full brunt of the consequences of their sin (so they might repent and be saved). It seems those living continually in sin may be turned over to Satan for his purposes (kind of scary - ok, a lot scary).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The "Prosperity Gospel" Burns Me Up

Internet Monk has an excellent post on what the prosperity gospel is. This teaching offends me for a number of reasons. The main one being it is not the true Gospel, and it is endangering people's salvation (if you don't have the right God and Jesus, you are worshiping an idol).

First a metaphor:
True salvation is like a certificate for an endless buffet. Acknowledge you have fallen short of the glory of God; worse, your lying is an abomination, your angry/hateful thoughts are like murder in God's eyes, your sexual thoughts about people not your spouse are adultery to Him. Agree with God on these matters, and turn from these behaviors. Trust in Jesus to have paid the price, and to keep you from now on. And receive your certificate.

The prosperity gospel says, "Yea, we've got a similar certificate. It looks a little different, but it's good. Plus a bonus! You can have health and wealth here on Earth!" I like to call it the "Believe in Jesus and get a new car" gospel.

But everything they promise is like a little crumb broken off the edge of a cracker compared to the endless feast of true salvation.

And what happens to people when Peter is at the pearly gates inspecting certificates? And the seal is no good? Those people are going into the lake of fire. Is that crumb worth it? Not at all.

Ok, so is this worse than Islam and other religions with their billions of adherents? I admit I have personal experience with this one. Some people in my family have way too much exposure to this garbage. And this bad theology makes my life a nightmare. Because it has many side effects:
  1. It inoculates people against the true Gospel. They think, "Yea, I'm a Christian. I'm believing in a better life for myself. I don't need to go to a Church where they read the Bible, I'd rather listen to rock music and hear a sermon on how to get rich and have a good sex life."
  2. (The preachers never say this, but people will naturally think it) - If faith makes you prosperous and healthy, then if you are poor or sick - it's your fault. "You don't have enough faith!" "All your talk about the family being off budget is blocking God from making us rich!" "I'm trusting in God to bless me [with wealth], what does it matter to me if we have no savings!"
  3. These preachers invariably leave sin out of their messages. Obviously, because they don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. The side effect from this, is that people are content in their pride and self-righteousness. "It's your sin that is the problem. Your sin is cursing the family." And what of your sin? "I don't have any sin in my life."
  4. The saddest thing is when they use this to manipulate people's hope for their own benefit. A large church near me preaches a lot of this message. It has a huge campus in a urban area. The congregation consists of many poor people. These people are encouraged to give until it hurts. "Tithe against the salary you want to have!" Sow a seed [of money] that God will return ten-, thirty-, seventy-, a hundred-fold. The irony is the leadership of the church has been afflicted with numerous health problems (including death).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review

"Kingdom Principles" (Myles Munroe) - This is the second book by Dr. Munroe that I have read since becoming truly and soundly saved. And this book has stirred me. I don't know his personal state, but I can see his teachings are not helping people, and are perhaps leading people astray.

Munroe claims the message of the Bible is the initial giving, loss, and restoration of "God's Kingdom".

As an extended metaphor, yea I could see it. Jesus is king of kings. So, maybe we are "little kings". And Jesus has plenty to say about the Kingdom of Heaven.

But metaphors break down at certain points. And that's what Munroe overlooks. He says things like "Real wealth is in the land... If you want to help ensure prosperity for yourself as well as future generations, focus on acquiring real estate." (Page 123) What!?!?

I wish that were an isolated statement taken out of context. He repeats the point several more times that chapter. At one point, I was heartened to have him say that the Gospel is not about prosperity. But it gets worse; he says the Gospel is that you are a king, and prosperity naturally follows from that! Statements like, "The wealthier the king, the greater his power" and "Giving requires a response from the king" (Page 207).

We are called to give as we are able, and as we are moved to (that may be more or less than the 10% 'tithe'). And we give out of joy and thankfulness; because it is the right thing to do. God is in no way obligated to us for doing the right thing. Does the president send you a thank you card for paying your taxes? Does the mayor of your city send out cards thanking people for not murdering or jay walking for the year?

Where do these teaching come from? Why is this so hard? I think the main reason can be found on page 158 - "Knowledge of the Word of God is important, but insufficient". He is proposing Sola Scriptura + Secret Knowledge. Sola Fide + Kingdom Principles.

I'll keep Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone - all for the Glory of God alone.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What is Faith (Part 2)?

For some people, "faith" means unreasonable belief (or at least belief apart from logic, for example, the book I just read).

The word "faith" is used twice ("faithful" or "faithfully" are also used a lot) in the Old Testament (KJV). The Hebrew word is "emuwn" (ay-moon) or "emuwnah". It implies "established", "trustworthiness", "security", "fidelity", or "firmness".

The word in the New Testament is "pistis" (and is used more times than I care to count, over 200 - although it is sometimes "little faith"). Pistis implies "reliance", "constancy", "assurance", "conviction", or "trust".

Ok, so there is me and God involved in this faith. Which one of us is "trustworthy", "reliable" or "constant"?

Not me.

So, our faith is in the trustworthiness, constancy, and fidelity of God.

If our faith is lacking, there are elements of us accusing God of lacking these attributes. So either we are blaspheming God (demeaning His nature) or we are creating an idol (a god without the true attributes of God).

Now we are engaged in an internal conflict with sin (Galatians 5:17). So, it is not unusual that we will sometimes stumble (1 John 1:8). But if we are continuing in sin, we are not saved (1 John 1:6).