Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Remembering the Great Cloud of Witnesses

November 1st is All Saints' Day, the day set aside to honor "all the saints, known and unknown." We don't have to hold to the Roman Catholic idea of saints as special Christians to remember and respect those who have paved the way for us.

We should remember Abraham, the man of faith, the progenitor of the line of Christ. 

We should honor Moses who followed God into facing down the most powerful king of his day.

We should give thanks for the example of David who showed us that a man after God's own heart can still sin — and be forgiven.

We should honor 
Peter, the leader of the church who was still so very fallible, and Paul, the persecutor of the church who became its greatest apostle, and Stephen, who showed us that we can face death with the same attitude as Christ.

Let us learn from the example of Polycarp who preferred the arena or the flames to blasphemy saying, “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

And Justin, the apologist who chose to lose his head rather than his soul, saying, "No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety."

And Jim Elliot who went into the jungle saying, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose," and never returned.

Let us remember Athanasius standing contra mundum, Luther at Worms, Latimer at the stake who taught us the truth was worth everything.

As we hold our Bibles, let us give thanks for Tyndale and Rogers who gave their lives so we could have it in English.

And for Brother Andrew and all those who have risked and even given their lives to take the scriptures to the world.

Honor Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm as well as Edwards, Lewis, and Schaeffer who taught us to think about the faith, and Spurgeon, Wesley, and Graham who taught us to share it.

Thank God for the legions of pastors and teachers who never made it into history books but devoted themselves to teaching the next generation about Jesus. 

Thank God for the white haired saints that have gone on to their reward who told you about Jesus, who showed you want it meant to live for him.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Religion in Political Discourse

Does religion have any place in political discourse?

Tim Keller recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times: How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t. It's a great piece, and I recommend you read it. That's not what I want to talk about though.

In the comment section of the article, one of the "NYT picks" comments caught my attention. It's a reasonably well-written example of an attitude I've been seeing more and more in recent years, so I will paste it here:

“As a strong believer in the separation of Church and State, I believe that religion has no place in political discourse. I am sick and tired of so-called Christians and other faith-based groups, using their religious beliefs to influence public policy. You want to pray. Fine. Go to church. You want to live your life in accordance with some religious belief. Fine. Do it in the privacy of your home. But, do not use your religious belief to argue that your right to free speech is infringed upon when you are asked to bake a cake for a same sex couple, provide birth control under your company’s health insurance plan, deny science, etc. In short, do not use your religious beliefs to deny my right to live as I see fit. To influence public policy which denies millions of women, minorities, and children, access to health care, abortion, voting rights, civil rights. I am simply fed up with the hypocrisy to the so-called religious people in this country preaching to the rest of us who simply want to live our lives freely and openly without the burden of dealing with someone’s else’s gods foisted upon us.”
To an apparently growing segment of the population, the mere fact that your point of view is based in your religious beliefs renders it out of bounds.

Aside from the fact that "the separation of Church and State" isn't in the US Constitution, aside from the fact that this view is at odds with the actual text of the 1st Amendment and Article VI Clause 3 of the US Constitution, it's simply illogical.

The commentor's basic point is that my religious beliefs shouldn't have any affect on what I do outside my church or home. Do whatever you want in private, but don't let it affect how you live your life. Especially don't let it affect how she lives her life.

But she wants her ideas to affect how I live my life. She believes same-sex marriage is good and right, so I must act like it is too. She believes abortion is good and right, so I must act like it is.

Why? Because her ideas aren't based on a religion and mine are. That doesn't matter. But is that really even the case? There are millions who say they are "spiritual but not religious." You don't have to belong to an established religious organization to have "spiritual" beliefs. And in the same way, she has spiritual beliefs — whether her beliefs are that there is no god or that whatever god exists doesn't matter. Her religious beliefs may be different from mine, but they are really just as religious. And she not only wants to live her life based on them, she wants me to do so too.

She doesn't really want people to keep their religious beliefs in private. People acting on their religious beliefs open hospitals, run orphanages, and feed the hungry. They've opposed slavery, wars, and the abuse of women because of their religious beliefs.

And that's the way it's supposed to be. Jesus says if your beliefs don't affect the way you live your life, you don't really believe them.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: Scientism and Secularism

I don't want to become all book reviews all the time, but I think this book is important, so I decided to run another review already.

When I saw that JP Moreland's Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology was available for free review copies, my first reaction was that it sounded kind of heavy and I didn't want to read that right now. Then I thought about my teenage daughter and the questions she's been asking, the things she tells me about her classmates and teachers. Yeah, let's go ahead and read it now.

Scientism is variously defined, but it's safe to call it "the view that the hard sciences alone have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality" (26). Anything else — such as moral or spiritual claims — is not true knowledge and is therefore subjective. In other words, if it's not "science" it's just opinion.

In this new paradigm, faith has been redefined. Instead of being trust based on what you know, it's belief without or even in spite of evidence.

Maybe that would be appropriate if scientism were true, but Moreland shows that the philosophy (for that is what it is) is self-refuting both on its face and because science rests on a foundation of unprovable but necessary building blocks (e.g., logic, mathematics). He goes into detail about some things that science cannot explain but theism can, and he explores ways to integrate Christianity and scientific exploration.

It sounds heavy, right?

It's really not that heavy. Chalk it up to Professor Moreland's excellent communication skills. Even when it gets deeper into the philosophy, it's pretty easy to read and follow his argument.

Is it a perfect book? Of course not. In particular, some of his examples are a little iffy. His background is in chemistry, but he draws them from physics, and sometimes they fall a bit flat. Also, I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of doing science without methodological (as opposed to philosophical) naturalism.

But his arguments are sound and his warning is necessary. In just a few decades we've gotten to a place where anything that isn't measurable is treated as opinion. It will only get worse unless people push back.

Which is why I give this my rare five-star rating. I dearly wish everyone would read this book. This is another free ebook that I'll be picking up in hard copy.