Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sheep Among Wolves

"Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture." (Psalm 100:3)
This sounds great until you pay attention to the word "sheep."

Don't get me wrong. It's great that we're His. And in the Bible sheep are clearly seen as very valuable and occasionally as more pet than livestock (there's a definite emotional attachment at times).

But sheep are also dumb. And they are completely dependent on a benevolent caretaker. When we embrace the image of Christ as our "shepherd," are we implicitly accepting this characterization? We really can't deny that this is a pretty good description of Christians.

There is one more way sheep are depicted in the Bible: they're useful. But it's not a warm, fuzzy usefulness. Sheep are sheered, they're eaten, and occasionally sacrificed.

We can't get away from this concept. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves" (Matt 10:16). "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Rom 8:36). Just as Christ was "led like a sheep to the slaughter," we may find our lives are required for the sake of the kingdom in one form or another.

Our good Shepherd will cherish us, provide for us, lead us, and protect us -- until it is time for us to be mistreated, beaten, maybe killed for His sake. But then, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master" (Matt 10:24).

We are the sheep of His pasture, and we should be glad to be -- proud to be -- His. But let's not forget exactly what it means to be His sheep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Should We Celebrate Christmas? part 2

Last time we looked at an objection to celebrating Christmas: that it’s not a divinely ordained holiday. This time we’ll look at another: that it’s a “pagan” holiday.

The charge that Christmas is a pagan holiday stems from allegations that December 25 was a holiday for ancient pagan religions and that some of the elements of the modern Christmas celebration have pagan origins – such as the Christmas tree.

Origins or Parallels?
It is probably true that some elements of the Christmas celebration have pagan origins, though it may also be that the “origins” are really just parallels – that is, coincidental similarities. Others might be intentional borrowing for effect. For instance, it’s widely believed that December 25 was chosen precisely to parallel the ancient pagan holidays – it made the “holidays” easier on converts from paganism. (UPDATE: From Touchstone Magazine – The early Christians may well have thought Jesus was born that day.)

Do Pagans Use Cups?
Things that pagans use(d) in religious rituals are not necessarily evil. Did they use cups in their ceremonies? Probably – whether they contained water, wine, or something much more unholy. Does that mean Christians can’t use cups? Since Christ Himself gave us the use of a cup in the Lord’s Supper, probably not.

If that’s true, then we have to ask whether the pagan use of a date or a tree or anything else disqualifies it from Christian use.

Similarity to Pagan Things Isn’t Pagan
Things are neutral – “pagan” things aren’t pagan if they are devoted to God. The greatest example of this is the temple of Solomon. Although the basic floor plan of the worship area came from the tabernacle as decreed by God to Moses, the temple’s architecture was borrowed from Phoenician (that is, pagan) buildings of the same era, and so were many of the temple’s decorations.1

Did this bother God? Apparently not.

The fact that some people used these things in unholy ways did not render them unfit for the temple, so we shouldn’t think that the fact that some have used Christmas trees to worship Thor (or whatever it was) means that our use of Christmas trees offends God.

Reclaiming the Pagan
Lastly, I think there’s something to be said for taking things back for Christ. There is nothing made that Christ did not make. If there is a day or a tree or a symbol or anything else that has been used to honor demons, I think we should seize it for our Lord.

(1) see Old Testament TimesOld Testament Times or What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?What Did the Biblical Writers Know for more details

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Should We Celebrate Christmas? part 1

The time is here when folks’ thoughts turn to Christmas. Let’s start the season by asking whether our thoughts should turn to Christmas. At least once a year I see or hear someone say that Christians should not celebrate Christmas because the holiday was not created by God (unlike Passover, Yom Kippur, etc). Let’s address this question today.

First, where does the Bible say that we may only celebrate holidays that are ordained by God? I can think of no such place. The fact that God did ordain many festivals and holy days for the Israelites does not mean that they were only allowed to celebrate those days.

Which leads me to my second point: the Israelites did create new holidays of their own. The first was Purim in Ester 9:29-32. The Bible clearly does not say that God approved of this new holiday, but it also does not say that He didn’t. The text seems pretty neutral on the issue.

The second holiday the Jews created was Hanukah. This festival comes from the intertestamental period (1 Maccabees). This is only mentioned once in the Bible, and Jesus seems to be celebrating it (John 10:22-23). Even if He isn’t, there seems to be no negative treatment of the holiday.

Third, the New Testament does clearly say one thing about holidays: “do not let anyone judge you … with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16). I don’t think the apostle would say this is a big deal.

Finally, as Hank Hanegraaff likes to say, if you can’t celebrate Christmas, what can you celebrate? God gave up His glory in heaven to wrap Himself in human flesh – a sacrifice almost as great as the one at Calvary. It is absolutely appropriate to make a big deal out of that act of love and humility.

Next time we’ll look at the other big argument against celebrating Christmas: that it’s a pagan holiday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

American Idols

Psalm 115: 3-6, 8
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are ... made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
(Feed subscribers, you might need to click through to the blog to see the image.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Online shopping and blogger charity:
The Christmas shopping season is here, and many of you will buy gifts online. You can show your appreciation to your favorite bloggers by buying through their sites.

Almost every link to Amazon or any other seller on a blog is an affiliate link; the blogger would get a small commission from your purchase (probably a nickel a book). So if you like a blogger who has affiliate links to a site you like, consider buying through that blogger. (Generally, anything you buy once you click on the affiliate link counts; you don't have to buy the product that was displayed.)

If I am buying from Amazon, I go through For Westminster Books, I go through Challies. If you'd like to go through my Amazon links, feel free (see sidebar), but I'm not asking you to use mine; I'm suggesting you use someone's if you're going to shop online. It's a painless way you can show a blogger your appreciation.

Some apologetics links:
Jon has an interesting piece on the Flying Spaghetti Monster and summarizes the current state of the debate on intelligent design:

"1. Science, which (since around 1850) by definition only allows for completely natural causes in a closed system and therefore disregards the very idea of an Intelligent Designer a priori, finds no evidence for an Intelligent Designer.

2. Therefore, Intelligent Design is not science."

It's well worth reading the whole thing.

There's an interesting video briefly explaining the current theory of how the moon was formed. It's a neat video by itself. It's even better when you know how important the moon is to making the earth livable.

Suffice it to say that if there was no moon, hurricane force winds would be normal, the seasonal fluctuation would be devastating, and our atmosphere might be more like Venus' than we would find comfortable.

The formation of the moon via the method described above requires the collision to be very carefully balanced -- right size proto-earth, right size impactor, and very precise angle of impact. Some will not see design no matter what, but in this we are either ridiculously lucky or very blessed.

For more on this topic see Destiny or Chance: Our Solar System and its Place in the Cosmos or, if you can find it, a book called What If Earth Had No Moon?. (Both are written from a non-Christian perspective.)

Everybody have a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Review: Apologetics Study Bible

I have a love-hate relationship with study Bibles. I hate having to buy a whole Bible just for the notes – it would be far better if they were a separate volume or, better, electronic.

Plus, there is a danger that people will mix up the Bible text and the study notes in their memories – meaning they will start to think the notes are part of the inspired text and anyone who disagrees with the note is a heretic. It can happen. (R.C. Sproul raised this issue some years back … before editing a study Bible.)

And, of course, there is the danger that people reading the notes will put more confidence in them than in a regular commentary because they’re “in the Bible.”

Finally, I hate having to spread all these study Bibles out on my desk (or, more likely, dining room table) to examine all the notes on a particular passage.

That said, there are some interesting study Bibles out there. A recent, useful addition to the genre is the new Apologetics Study Bible from Holman.

It combines apologetic marginal notes with short articles on a variety of topics (e.g., evolution, biblical genealogies, Mormonism, medicine, pluralism, and annihilationism), biographical blurbs (e.g., Anselm, Joseph Butler, and Pascal), “twisted scriptures,” and a number of useful charts. The contributors were a few dozen Christian thinkers including Ronald Nash, Walter Kaiser, Paul Copan, and J.P. Moreland.

The articles are generally very interesting, if brief, statements on some issue of import and debate in our society.

The notes aren’t always golden, but there is some great material – some apologetic and some simply explanatory – as well as some truly interesting nuggets of historical trivia. One example: Leviticus 12:1-5 – “Ancient Near Eastern polytheism, related to the cycles of nature, placed great emphasis on fertility; the Israelite regulations governing a new mother may represent a reaction to this emphasis.”

The Bible text is the Holman Christian Standard, which I had not previously read, but the translation philosophy seems to be similar to the NIV. The translation is occasionally surprising, but usually it reads pretty much like most modern translations.

I have not, obviously, read every word on every page of this study Bible yet, but what I’ve seen thus far, and the caliber of the contributors, makes me confident that this would be a worthwhile addition to your library.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Steroids and Other Christian Scandals

I saw this headline on Yahoo: “Florida Gators QB now in football record books.”

The first thought that formed, unbidden, in my mind: What do you think he’s on?*

Recent revelations of drug use by many professional athletes is beginning to affect all athletes. It’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature.

Given some recent revelations regarding high profile Christian pastors, it may soon get to the point where any pastor (maybe even Christian) will be greeted with an automatic “who do you think he’s sleeping with?”

We have to remember that if people know, or even suspect, we’re a Christian our behavior does not just reflect on us. It can affect how people see all Christians and even Christ. We are a lamp shining in the darkness. Everyone can see our light. If that light is darkness, how great is that darkness.

We all need the occasional reminder that people are watching us. Our “testimony” truly is more than just the words we say about Jesus. Everything we do and say has the potential to pull people toward or push them away from Christ.

No pressure.

* I am in no way implying that this young man has been using any kind of performance enhancing drugs. That, in fact, is the point.

Related posts:
Toddlers with Road Rage
Religious Bigotry and Christian Behavior
Hitler, You, and Me

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Ironies of the Cross

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him
Raucous laughter in a barracks room
Hail the king they sneered while spitting on him
Brutal beatings on this day of doom
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme
Jesus reigning from a bloody cross

Awful weakness marks the battered god-man
Far too broken now to heist the beam
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree
God’s own temple’s down he has been destroyed
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod
But the temple rises in god’s wise ploy
Our great temple is the Son of God

Here’s the one who said he cares for others
One who said he came to save the lost
How can we believe he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross
Let him save himself, let him come down now
Savage jeering at the king’s disgrace
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the king of grace

Draped in darkness utterly rejected
Crying why have you forsaken me
Jesus bore God’s wroth alone dejected
Wept the bitterest tears instead of me
And the mockers cried he has lost his trust
He is defeated by hypocrisy
But with faith’s resolve Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me

The preceding poem is a transcript I made from a recording of an excellent D.A. Carson sermon called the Ironies of the Cross. (from a D.A. Carson sermon archive)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Links: Giving, Selling, Laughing

Please consider being part of the Light of the World campaign to send the weatherproof Outdoor Bible to troops overseas.

I recommend reading Selling Books in the Church by a deacon who runs the "bookstall" at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I've had my qualms about church bookstores, but he makes some great points. However, my qualms are only calmed to the extent what he says it true for a given bookstore, for example:

"Having books on hand allows a pastor to exercise discernment for the benefit of the congregation." I've been to church bookstores where the stuff on the shelf seems to have been chosen by someone who watches either too much TBN or too much CNN.

"We sell at cost." Marvelous! How many church bookstores do this though?

(HT: Challies)

Just for laughs: Dilbert vs Dogbert on evolution.

(HT: Evangelical Outpost)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Defining Evolution: Getting Terms Right

Recently I defined intelligent design (ID), said ID isn't science, and looked at the problem with naturalism. This post is loosely related to those.

As Jon has twice emphasized the importance of understanding our terms when discussing evolution, we really should ask: What does the word “evolution” mean? It can be kind of slippery.

1. Change over time
The most general and least controversial use of the word is simply to say that things change over time. Many things evolve: individual people evolve, languages evolve, recipes evolve. And yet this use will occasionally raise hackles.

2. Microevolution
When speaking about biological creatures, microevolution is those changes that occur within a species to emphasize certain traits. Breeding dogs until you have a particularly long-haired variety is microevolution. Drug resistance is another example – if an infection is not wiped out by a drug, the surviving pathogens will probably not be as strongly affected by the drug in the future.

3. Macroevolution
This is what most people mean when they say “evolution.” This is the gradual change of one species into another, sometimes referred to as descent with modification or speciation. This is that piece that is theorized but has never been observed in nature nor in the fossil record.

Why this is important: A special brand of equivocation
Getting our terms correct is important because evidence for one is often applied to another kind – specifically, evidence for microevolution is often passed off as evidence for macroevolution.

A couple of years ago I saw a Doonesbury cartoon that did this very thing with drug resistance. It uses the idea of being treated with ancient, and useless, drugs as a scare tactic to get people to accept evolution. The only problem with this is that “creationists” don’t have any issues with microevolution. It is speciation that we question.

Why do people mix things up like this? In my more charitable moments I attribute it to intellectual laziness. In my less charitable moments, I attribute it to dishonesty. I’m open to other interpretations if they’re offered, though.

Summing it up
This is post is not meant to be an argument against Darwinian evolution. My primary goal here is to make readers aware of the bait-and-switch that goes on with the word “evolution” and to help you guard against it. My secondary goal is to encourage any evolutionists who visit to be careful and clear in their terminology. The equivocation isn’t going to work much longer – more and more people are becoming aware of it. You’re going to have to argue your case with actual evidence of speciation if you want to get anywhere. If you decline, you’ll only make the creationist’s job easier. Which, of course, isn’t really a bad thing at all :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What’s wrong with naturalism?

Previously we defined intelligent design (ID) and asked whether ID is science. Today it seems prudent to examine naturalism a little more closely.

We have to be careful about this because naturalism is used in more than one way. In one sense, it is a philosophy. In another, it is a way of doing things.

What is methodological naturalism?
Modern science revolves around the scientific method which is essentially observe, test, interpret, and predict. The thing is, we really can only observe and test physical things, and since a big part of predicting is testing the predictions, predicting is limited to physical things too.

For example, you observe that falling objects seem to fall at a constant rate. Then you devise some tests to try to determine that rate. You run some experiments and look at your data forward, backward, and sideways, and then you make predictions about how other things should behave when they fall. Then you test your predictions and find that some things don’t behave as predicted, so you run more tests to try to refine your theory.

This is restricted to the physical realm because we have no way of measuring things in non-physical realms. We cannot detect mind or measure hope. We can tell that love affects the body, but we can’t say how much love causes the pupils to dilate to such a diameter.

Science can measure matter and energy. That’s it.

Methodological naturalism is not a problem. I cut my teeth on the scientific method. On those occasions when I get to do research, I use it today. Though there may be other ways to do scientific inquiry, I have no idea what they might be. Methodological naturalism is simply life in the sciences.

Methodological naturalism vs philosophical naturalism
Methodological naturalism says that science can only find material causes of a given event. Philosophical natural says there exists a material cause for any event. (I hope you can see the huge difference between those two statements.)

This seems a little hard to buy if you believe in minds, much less souls, but there are those who are convinced that “hope” is simply a chemical reaction in the brain, that “mind” is an illusion, and everything that happens can be reduced to physical causes and effects.

Philosophical naturalism is a huge honking problem.

From naturalistic methods to naturalistic worldviews (and students)
Naturalistic methods say we have certain tools at our disposal and we can follow our inquiry only as far as they will take us. These tools take us to the birth of the universe, for example, and stop.

The naturalistic philosophy comes in wherever the tools stop and says there is still a physical cause for whatever phenomena that have been observed. Adherents will then look for some way to explain via physical processes what physical tools cannot measure. The results can be rather bizarre.

A great example is the efforts to take the universe back beyond the big bang. Scientific methods tell us that the universe began at a singularity some finite time in the past. This makes naturalists go berserk because that leaves a lot of room for the supernatural, so they have offered a series of physical explanations that range from the untestable to the ludicrous. But they have to find a solution because, by their philosophy, one must exist.

The least unlikely “solution” will then become the dominant explanation for the phenomenon in question for the next generation or two. More importantly, though, this mindset – that a physical solution must exist – is passed on to the next generation as well.

Here’s the problem: naturalistic theories (especially those relating to the big questions of life) are used as evidence that there does not need to be, and therefore is not, a god.

It doesn’t matter that the theories regarding the origin of life are statistically impossible, nor does it matter that the theories regarding the origin of the universe are both philosophically and scientifically ridiculous. These theories exist and are supported by big names, and their support is required to advance in your field. Therefore the next generation will not only accept them, they will all too often accept that they preclude the existence of a creator.

Things go downhill from there.

Aside: The problem with ID
Here we should address one of the naturalists' complaints about ID and creationism. If we will accept “God did it” as the answer to an unanswerable question, we might accept it as the answer to an answerable question. ID, especially for Christians, should make scientists want to dig deeper to learn about God’s work, but it also might make people stop investigating prematurely.

I’m not sure how to answer this. It is a valid concern, and ID proponents need to formulate a response if they want to be given a hearing in the scientific community.

What to do about naturalism:
This has run way long, so let me quickly give some ideas about how we should respond to naturalism.

1 – Watch out for equivocation.
A common example in the ID debate is to say ID isn’t “science.” Science should mean “proper scientific inquiry,” but when it is used in this manner it almost always means “naturalism.” Be on the lookout for equivocation and be prepared to point it out noisily.

2 – Watch out for the switch from science to philosophy.
It is very common to hear scientists, philosophers, and educators jump from science to philosophy in one breath. For example, if someone expounds on the evidence for Darwinian evolution and then jumps to “undirected physical processes,” they have just made a philosophical statement. Point it out.

Especially if it’s at a school board meeting.

3 – Buy your kids the right kinds of books.
We can’t keep naturalism out of schools right now. So make sure your kids (and you) are equipped to withstand it in their own minds. I’m not advocating kids debating evolution in high school biology (I’m not opposing it either); I’m saying if you want your children to remain theists, you’ve got to oppose naturalism in their minds.

4 – Support Christians in science prayerfully, emotionally, and financially.

Those who go into science professionally are under spiritual warfare on one side and are often looked down upon from the other. It’s an emotionally draining battle to be in, and it’s often an expensive one (science rarely pays well and education is expensive). Look for ways to help the people in your church who are part of fighting the good fight.

Next time we're going to look specifically at some terminology used in debating evolution.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shadows of the Cross in the Day of Atonement

Reflections on Leviticus

Earlier in Leviticus we saw various sacrifices for all kinds of infractions – there were fellowship offerings, burnt offerings, and sin offerings – and yet as we get to chapter 16 we find that there has to be yet another sacrifice. This is the Day of Atonement – the most holy day of the Jewish religious calendar.

After all the ceremonies and sacrifices the Israelites still had to have one more sacrifice for their sins. How thoroughly must sin stain to require so much to remove it?

Here I see some interesting parallels to the cross. The priest must first make atonement for his own sin – only one without sin can make atonement for the sins of the many.

The priest must burn incense so that the glory of God may be covered. During the atonement, darkness will replace the light.

As part of the ritual the priest sprinkles blood on the cover of the ark of the covenant. Underneath the cover of the ark is a copy of the ten commandments. As the glory of God hovers over the ark, the law is there to remind God of the sins of the people. The sacrifice on this day does not undo the sins of the people; it covers the law: “…before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.”

They were clean not because of their righteousness but because an innocent died in their place. Just like you and me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Is Intelligent Design Science?

Last time we described intelligent design (ID) as the view that what we see in the universe, on our planet, and in biological life is too complicated to have been created by undirected natural processes, therefore a supernatural intelligence must be responsible for it all.

This time we’re asking whether ID is science.

To answer that question, first we must ask, what is science? When naturalists say that ID isn’t science, what they typically mean is it isn’t naturalism. Today there is a common notion that science and naturalism are inseparable. This wasn’t always true, but that is the assumption today. Examining naturalism will help us understand ID.

Naturalism in science is the notion that anything you can detect or measure has a physical cause. Naturalism has no place for the mind much less the spirit because neither have attributes that are directly measurable. So why would this idea, which clearly has its limits, be so pervasive in science? It reigns supreme because people been taught to think in that way.

Now we can see naturalism isn’t “science.” It’s how people think about science. In other words it is a philosophy of science.

Intelligent design is the notion that things you can detect or measure do not necessarily have a physical cause. It assumes mind and spirit may be able to affect the physical world. Clearly, intelligent design is a different way to think about science.

So is ID science? No. It is a philosophy of science. It is a metatheory – that is, a theory about theories.

If ID isn’t “science,” how will we know if it’s true? Metatheories cannot be directly tested. Theories based on metatheories can. If theories based on ID assumptions, theories that cannot be based on naturalistic assumptions, are confirmed, then ID gains credibility. Until then, it is just a philosophical argument.

There are people at work trying to do what I described. The folks at Reasons to Believe are working on a testable creation model. There are others who are trying to do research based on design assumptions. This will take time. Science is slow. Overcoming two hundred years of prejudice is slow too. So let’s be patient, pray, and marvel at the handiwork of our Creator.

Next Sunday we'll look at why this argument is so important or "What's wrong with naturalism?"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Primer on Intelligent Design

What is Intelligent Design?
Over the centuries, various arguments have been offered to demonstrate that a god must exist. Intelligent design (ID) is a modern form of the teleological argument. Basically, the claim of ID is this:

What we see in the universe, on our planet, and in biological life is too complicated to have been created by undirected natural processes, therefore a supernatural intelligence must be responsible for it all.
In the universe there are dozens, if not hundreds, of physical constants that may have any number of values. Tweak any of them and the universe would be a vastly different place. There is no particular reason why any of these values should be what they are; they could have been totally different.

Considering the various values these constants could have taken results in trillions upon trillions of possible universes. In all of those possible universes, there is only one where life is possible: this one. That seems too incredible to be simple chance.

The earth is in the right kind of galaxy orbiting the right kind of star with the right kind of planetary neighbors to allow it to bear life. It has the appropriate orbit, rotation, atmosphere, geology, and geographical arrangement to make it an appropriate home for intelligent life. There is no reason why a planet suitable for intelligent life should exist at all, so the existence of our world seems unlikely to be mere chance.

To get biological life by purely natural processes requires not only a suitable world in a suitable universe. It requires proper chemicals to form and interact to create a self-replicating system in a hostile environment. It also requires vast amounts of information to be created by undirected natural mechanisms. Once a self-replicating biological organism stumbles into existence, its progeny must undergo random mutations that slowly transform them into the various species we see today. The vast improbability of these events occurring suggests that a supernatural intelligence created life on earth.

ID is not strictly Christian. Though many ID proponents are Christians, not all are. Some are adherents of other major religions, and there are also deists and other indeterminate theists in the ranks of this movement.

Usefulness of ID
For those who are of an atheistic or agnostic persuasion, the design argument can be useful in helping them realize that a divine creator does indeed exist. This includes people like Anthony Flew, a famous atheist who announced his conversion to deism in 2004.

It is also useful for giving support to believers who are being troubled by atheistic claims. In college, young believers often have their religious beliefs mocked and even attacked by those who tell them that they must shed their “superstitions” if they want to be intelligent people. Those who study the sciences have a certain amount of trouble with this, though it is common in the liberal arts too.

There are also those believers who simply encounter naturalistic ideas in the media. Design proponents give these people intellectual and even emotional support against the arguments of naturalism.

Limits of ID
First, ID does not lead to the God of the Bible. ID, strictly speaking, points to a god but not necessarily the God. Of course, getting a person to a god is one step closer to Christ, but you can’t stop with just the design argument.

Second, the design that ID proponents point to is not incontrovertible. Some argue that the apparent design in the universe is merely illusion. And, of course, some say the “design” is real but chance. While the argument is helpful to many people, others will not be persuaded; Christians need to have other material in their arsenals.

Next time we’ll look at a more controversial question: Is ID science?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Redeemed for Holiness

Reflections on Leviticus

At the end of the long, boring list of things that the Israelites were not to eat in Leviticus 11 comes this little gem:

“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (v44-45)

As they listened to the long list of outlawed (but seemingly perfectly good) food, the Israelites may well have begun to wonder, “What right does God have to give us all these rules?” The answer to their question was quite clear: “I brought you up out of Egypt.”

The children of Israel had been slaves, and they had been rescued. They were not rescued because of how righteous they were. God did not choose them because they were better looking than every other nation. Heaven knows they weren’t smarter than the average bear.

God rescued them because He had chosen them. For no good reason, out of the goodness of His heart, God decided to adopt them as His own. He freed them from slavery, rescued then from danger, fed them, and led them. They owed Him big, and He was letting them know what their side of the bargain was.

Today, if you have been rescued by the cross of Christ, you have been freed from slavery, rescued from hell, provided with a food like no other (the body and the blood), led by the Spirit, and, for no good reason, out of the kindness of His heart, adopted into the family of God.

We owe Him big, and there are some expectations on us, because He has also said to us, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16).