Tag Archives: life

American holocaust: What would you do?

There are some excellent questions raised in this movie.

Share/Bookmark

Book Review: The Next Christians by Gabe Lyon

Gabe Lyon brings into clear focus the mountains that modern Christians will need to move if they are to avoid being altogether cast from serious public consideration.

In his book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America first accurately diagnoses the problem facing Christianity in America and then offers an excellent 10-point outline of characteristics that are common of the Christians he believes, and rightly in my estimation, are going to be the best bet in turning that tide.

Many reviewers of Gabe’s book seem to get hung up on the opening line of the book where Gabe makes the case that it is often socially awkward if not downright embarrassing to be identified as a Christian in America. I wonder if these reviewers have had many lunch encounters like I have. There we are, sitting around the table laughing and cutting up and generally having a good time and then someone goes and makes a comment to the effect of “oh come on guys, its not like ANYONE believes ________ anymore”. You can fill in that blank with just about any Christian position but the one that I’ve seen most frequently cited is intelligent design which is commonly confused by non-Christians as merely an alias of young earth creationism.

I mention that not to take a pot shot at YEC but rather to demonstrate the insight found in Gabe’s conclusion that things are rapidly changing and we, Christians, must adapt to the prevailing social landscape.

After outlining the cultural shifts that face us, Gabe tells the story of meeting with a Hollywood movie producer who, after noticing the success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, wanted to gain some insight into the Christian market. As a side note, I wonder if this meeting, with Lionsgate executives, is what influenced to brought about the movie “The Book of Eli”.

Gabe describes to them, and us, two major groups and their immediate subgroups. They are:

  • Separatists
    • Insiders
    • Culture Warriors
    • Evangelizers
  • Cultural
    • Blenders
    • Philanthropists

Gabe outlines each group and what characteristics differentiate them from the rest. This grid is valuable and might be worth the price of the book by itself. As some reviewers have noted, The Next Christians is a further contribution to the Christ and Culture series started by H. Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”, and then Craig Carter’s “Rethinking Christ and Culture”, which are great if you want further reading on how Christians relate to the culture they’re in.

At the end of this section Gabe introduces a third overall archetype of Christian which is the main focus of his book, The Next Christians. Overall we can classify these Christians as “restorers”. Christians who aren’t interested in either separation or immersion in culture. They are, in short, culture makers. Subversive agents who seek to use culture where appropriate and transform it gradually to be more Christlike.

Gabe shares numerous anecdotes to illustrate his points. Gabe introduces us to ministries like “To Write Love on Her Arms” which gives a good example of how the Next Christians are characterized by rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty in the brokenness in the world. This isn’t altogether different than how Jesus, his earliest disciples, and many Christians throughout the ages have approaches the cultures in which they live.

Throughout the book Gabe gives good examples of how Christians should tactfully engage the world around them. Navigating the current cultural current by not being too abrasive nor being too complicit. But allowing Christ to work in them to transform hearts and minds.

To that end I was thrilled when Gabe made the observation that the next Christians are people who see every aspect of their lives as sacred. A great example Gabe gave on this point is a couple who moved out to California from the south and decided that since no Christian community existed where they moved that they would create one.

I believe Gabe hits the nail on the head when he writes about how the Next Christians are not interested so much in inviting their friends to church to sit through an event. Not that doing so is horrible per se. But the Next Christians are more interested in bringing Christ to the culture around them. Of being the church in the world.

Overall I found Gabe’s book to be a blessing. It is encouraging to hear how Christians are recognizing the changing landscape, are planning ways to deliberately confront the culture in more winsome ways, and finally, how they are throwing off the shackles of unbiblical traditions which have been dragging us down for quite a while now.

The Next Christians serves as a great field map to help us keep our cultural interface in check so we can more effectively engage with people around us.

And for anyone looking for encouragement about the future of Christianity in America, his book provides it in spades.

The Great Debate – What is Life?

[HT Uncommon Descent]

Oprah Winfrey on the importance of children

In a recent interview Oprah Winfrey explained her views on children.

While explaining the strict rules of the household, her father — not knowing his daughter was pregnant — declared, “I would rather see a daughter of mine floating down the Cumberland River than to bring shame on this family and the indecency of an illegitimate child.”

Fearful, Winfrey thought, “Before the baby was born, I’m going to have to kill myself,” adding she did “stupid things like drinking detergent and all that kind of crazy stuff that you do when you’re trying to get attention, when you’re really just trying to cry for help.”

In a past interview, Winfrey, now 56, said she “hid the pregnancy until my swollen ankles and belly gave me away.” A few weeks later, her baby died in the hospital.

Looking back, Winfrey, who’s now a billionaire with her own cable network, said losing the baby who she “had no connection to whatsoever” was a blessing in disguise.

“When the baby died, I knew that it was my second chance,” she said.

We are led to believe that Oprah’s father’s “strict rules” are what is to blame here. However if that were the case we would hardly expect her to consider the death of an innocent human being, brought about by “bad choices, not having boundaries, sexual abuse from the time I was 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13” to be a “blessing in disguise”.

The truth is that Oprah’s views of children as being a nuisance, a punishment, a plague, and a parasite, are shared with millions of women across the country.

The real tragedy here is that that Oprah fails to see the selfish immorality of her own worldview.

It’s sad that we do things like spend a week debating whether the political rhetoric of our age leads others kill others as in the case of the tragedy in Tuscon, AZ. And yet we never hear about how language like Oprah’s encourages millions of would-be mothers to take the lives of their children every year.

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 5 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 5 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Socrates famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Conclusion

It would be pat for me to write in conclusion that I find Luke’s objections to be unconvincing. However I will say that a a finite being I am well aware that I may be wrong with regard to my current beliefs. And if I am when it comes to my Christian worldview then Luke has done me a disservice by

  1. Not offering a clear rebuttal to anything I’ve claimed
  2. Not offering a more compelling alternative view

Challenge

Now to be fair, and to be fair to any evangelical atheist who wishes to undertake this challenge, here is specifically what I’ll need to have in order to seriously question my beliefs

  1. I need a good explanation of how the world came to exist
  2. I need to know how I, a cognitive being, came to exist in this world
  3. I need to know why I should trust my epistemic faculties, including my mind, to provide me with true information
  4. I need a good accounting of things I hold to be intrinsically to be true, like altruism and self-sacrifice
  5. I need to know why I or anything I do matters, especially in view of our universe’s impending heat-death

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 4 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 4 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Aristotle famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Livable

As I mentioned in my initial article; In order for a worldview to be livable it needs to be complete in itself. It cannot borrow from other worldviews that which it cannot sustain on its own. Atheism fails on these two fronts since it borrows from other worldviews when it comes to morality, something Luke also does as he seems to indicate there is a moral problem with the teachings of Christianity, and atheism has no foundation for an ultimately meaningful or purposeful life.

Morality

Luke seems to think that some of the best philanthropists are Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. I suppose these two were chosen due to the number of dollars they can send to any cause or humanitarian project. However I would argue that the measure of philanthropy is not the number of dollars one can send, but how much of oneself one can give. In this respect the greatest philanthropists are the ones who “lay down their lives for their neighbor”. However this is exactly what naturalism argues against. Altruism, the practice of selflessly giving oneself in service to others, is simply an incoherent concept in any worldview that denies that we are eternal, consistent1, creatures.

Meaning

I believe a difficulty exists with how Luke and I are using the phrase “life a satisfactory life”. I am using it in the classical philosophical sense, rooted in worldviews which contained the context of some sort of transcendent existence after death. In this sense, the qualifications of what it takes to life a satisfactory life are objective and definite. They transcend the universe and all its particulars, including us. Since these objectives are transcendent, it follows that a meaningful life is not constrained to time and space.

It appears that Luke, as most atheists, want to view a satisfactory life as a subjective and finite target. The problem with that understanding, however, is that if the meaning of life is whatever the subject determines it to be2 then the notion that there is any meaning collapses in on itself. If there is no objective standard, then it becomes incoherent to talk about anything meeting that standard. Here Luke demonstrates how an incoherent worldview like atheism is not consistently livable. Luke deconstructs the words used, specifically meaning and purpose, and then claims that everything fits.

If we say anything goes when it comes to meaning and purpose of life then we render the question itself incoherent. Meaning is stripped of its, well, meaning as is purpose.

When you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do.

  1. I add this stipulation because I believe pantheism falls into the same nihilistic trap as atheism. []
  2. A view consistent with Luke’s postmodern continental philosophy []

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 3 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 3 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Aristotle famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Consistent

Luke apparently doesn’t like my treatment of eastern mystic worldviews. He seems to think their adherents would object to my claim that they don’t give a pretense of being consistent.

Well let’s quickly walk through the list:

  • The goal of Buddhism is nothingness. Koans given for meditation are intentionally designed to help you shut your mind off. Buddhism is about giving up one’s desires, including our desire to find sufficient answers.
  • Islam and Mormonism teach a system of abrogation where in newer verses in their texts nullify earlier verses. Islam also teaches a particular view of causal determinism and as such has no problem understanding God to be both good as well as evil. Neither Muslims nor Mormons are encouraged to seek out answers on their own, but rather to inquire of holy men who often give them mystic answers.
  • New age, Wicca, and Hindu explicitly deny objective truth. It’s very hard to be consistent when you deny the foundation for consistency at the outset.
  • Atheism maintains the universe has no specific purpose or design. If there is no design or purpose, then it is an act of futility to look for it in any objective sense. Oh sure, as we will explore later, you can make things up, but then you are merely playing with words.

I love Luke’s response to the problem of an infinite regress

The concept of infinite regress is still debated, and many naturalists do not accept an infinite regress, anyway.

That is really like saying that the concept of gravity is still debated but I don’t have a problem with it at any rate since I don’t accept it. It really doesn’t matter what naturalists accept or not because the laws of logic are a lot like the laws of physics. They both exist and exert force on us whether we like it or not. Unless Luke can either explain how an actual infinite can exist, or how his worldview does not logically lead to an infinite regress, his worldview remains logically incoherent.

Next Luke puts forth a list of 7 reasons he thinks Christianity is incoherent

Does God need to create?

Luke asserts that God’s creating indicates a need which, in turn, calls into question God’s aseity.

He writes:

Is it consistent to say that a perfect being would create something? A perfect being has no needs or wants, so how could he need or want to create a world and populate it with beings and demand worship and sacrifice from them?

Why should we suppose that a perfect being should be devoid of desires? And, more importantly, Why we should think that the desire in God to create is temporal? It seems rather clear that God is portrayed as the Creator who creates. Thus it seems to make sense to think that the desire to create is part of who God is and not an external constraint upon God’s character. Luke’s objection might make sense if another premise were found to be true, namely that this world is all that God has or will ever create. However without any support, such a notion would be little more than a bare assertion.

Calling into question the coherency of Christianity based on God’s desire to create is a lot like calling into question a human’s humanity based on their desire to have sex.

So is it consistent to say that an eternal being whose character includes being creative has, and presumably will continue, created? I don’t see why not.

Isn’t God unchangeable?

Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being would create something? If God is unchangeable, then he can’t have one set of intentions at one moment and then a new set of intentions at another. And yet God supposedly created at one time, but now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe, because he did it already. The idea of an unchangeable God that creates is incoherent.

Luke makes several assumptions here. And at the risk of answering a pooly formed question I’ll simply outline the additional data Luke needs to provide before this can go from a bare assertion to a well formed question with any weight that followers of Christ like myself should take seriously.

1. What does Luke mean by unchangeable? Does he mean what the Bible means which is that God is unchangeable in His character or does he mean immutable? If Luke means immutable, where does he get the idea that Christianity requires its adherents to adhere to such a belief?
2. Where does the notion that God “now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe”? It seems either arrogant at the worst or horribly misguided at the worst to think that Luke would know the unrevealed intentions what an infinite being.

Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being can be omniscient? If God is unchangeable, then his knowledge can’t change. And yet what is true changes all the time, for example what is true about my age. So an unchanging being can’t be omniscient.

Again, Luke offers a ill-formed question here which need to be fleshed out further.

How can God be transcendent and omnipresent?

Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and omnipresent? To be transcendent is to be nowhere in space, but to be omnipresent is to be everywhere in space.

Transcendent does not mean “to be nowhere in space in time”, it means to not be constrained by space and time. To transcend them. As for how God can transcend space and time and still act in it, I believe that is the focus of Luke’s next question.

How can God transcend space and time and still act in space and time

Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and yet acts in time? To be transcendent is to be beyond space and time, so a transcendent being can’t also be immanent in space and time.

The only way this objection makes sense is if we import another premise which is that a transcendent being must abdicate it’s transcendent property in order to operate in space and time. However by including this premise we end up demolishing the meaning of the words used, specifically with regard to transcendence.

What Luke needs to do here is show how his question does not negate itself by virtue of deconstructing the very words he is attempting to use to demonstrate an inconsistency with God ontology.

God’s freedom bothers me

Is it consistent to say that God is omniscient and has free will? If God knows all the actions he will perform, then he cannot do otherwise, and therefore he is not free.

Luke’s objection here only makes sense if we include the premise that the only truths that exist are necessary truths. This strikes me as an odd claim and Luke bears the burden of showing why we should believe this is true.

In the meantime, I’d like to point out this video of Dr Craig explaining the different logical divisions of God’s knowledge.

At the corner of Mercy and Justice

Is it consistent to say that God is all-merciful and all-just? A perfectly just person treats every offender with exactly the severity he or she deserves, but an all-merciful person treats every offender with less severity than he or she deserves. What sense does it make to say that God is all-merciful and all-just?

Luke is absolutely correct here. Mercy and justice would indeed be at odds if we viewed God like the Muslims do where mercy is doled out at the expense of justice. Fortunately, our divine creator knew about this problem and before the foundation of the world He had a solution.

More specifically, I believe Luke’s problem here is that he fails to factor in the offended along with the offense. In our case, the offense is against a perfect being who created us and as such has authority over us. What is interesting is that Luke seems to assume that many people fail to get what they deserve. That begs the question, however. What do we really deserve with regard to the cosmos?

In conclusion, I fail to see how a handful of poorly formed and loaded questions are suposed to show how Christianity is internally inconsistent.

I also recommend Brennon Hartshorn’s response to this list.

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 1 of 5

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

Well, it seems that Luke finally got around to writing a response to my post titled “Christianity is Incoherent”. I’m glad to see Luke’s response, I was afraid for a while that it would never materialize!

Now that it’s here, let’s example the rebuttals and see whether Luke has, in fact, demonstrated that Christian belief is incoherent, inconsistent, and not livable.

I initially wrote my response as one long piece, but it quickly grew to the point where I doubted whether anyone other than Luke1 would read it.

So stay tuned, over the course of the following week we’ll explore several issues and see how well Christianity and other worldviews fare when held up to the standard I outlined in my initial post.

In the meantime, I encourage anyone who hasn’t read my initial article to go take a look at it. Read Luke’s response as well. My goal here is not only to engage with Luke but also to invite others into the discussion.

  1. I assume Luke would read any length response I wrote since I also assume that Luke’s questions were honest ones and not merely for show. []

A story of life beginning at an abortion clinic

Pastoral worries

[HT Alan Knox]

Alan shares a list of things he doesn’t worry about as a pastor (teaching elder) in a home church context.

They include:

  • getting fired for saying the wrong thing
  • sermon preparation week after week
  • finding someone to “fill in”
  • budgets1
  • the meeting place
  • number of participants2

I find it amazing how prevalent professional pastor burn out is and how no one wants to come to the obvious and Biblical conclusion. No one man or small group of men should have to shoulder the burden of caring for and feeding an assembly of Christians.

  1. Professional pastors have to worry about these things because they are business owner/operators. []
  2. Large events are not required if money from multiple sources is not need to cover the expensive overhead. []