Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Separating Caesar from the Church

June 21, 2018


Everyone has a hierarchy of values. Whatever is at the top of your hierarchy of values is your God, says Jordan Peterson. Although he hesitates to call himself a Christian, he has a good understanding of the Bible and its positive impact on society and people, individually. This particular statement rings with the purity of truth.

Jordan Peterson has been much in the news and was recently interviewed on the Unbelievable? podcast with Justin Brierley. The topic was: Do we need God to make sense of life? The atheist psychologist, Susan Blackmore, was his counterpart. The podcast (linked above) is worth a listen.

Jordan Peterson also claimed in the course of the discussion that the first pronouncement of the ideal of the separation of church and state came from Jesus when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

Modern Christians (many of them) seem to think that the separation of the church and state is a bad thing. A common assumption seems to be that the “wall of separation” between the church and state is a way for politicians to keep Christians out of politics and to keep politics from being influenced by Christians. What do you think?

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Judging the Old Testament God with New Testament Morality

May 29, 2018


I am a fan of Perry Marshall, the author of Evolution 2.0, and a champion of the integration of science and faith. I don’t necessarily agree with him on his conclusions about evolution, but (frankly) that is only because I am not a science guy. I don’t disagree with him either. Perry Marshall, Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, and Francis Collins and BioLogos all present reasoned and evidence-based views on science and faith, as do others, and they don’t all agree.

Such is the character of being finitely human. We see in part. We know in part. We just don’t have the kind of perspective to be able to get our arms around the big picture to any degree of mathematical certainty. I enjoy reading them all, and I even listen to and read the atheists and agnostics from time to time.

One of the main objections to “the God of the Bible” is on the basis of morality, not of science. Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein both shared difficulty understanding a God who could/would allow so much pain and suffering in the world. If God is all-loving and all-powerful, what gives? So the thinking goes.

The recent post by Perry Marshall, Isn’t a Deist God a Little Less Troublesome?, deals with this issue. In the article, Perry responds to a someone who rejected Christianity on these moral grounds, but who could not get past the evidence that life could not have just happened the way it exists in the universe with such order without some Help.

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Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Erhman – Part 6 – Postscript

May 27, 2018


I have taken some time in previous blog articles to summarize my comments about an interview of Bart Ehrman by Sam Harris. Ehrman talks about his early induction to a fundamentalist Christian world and losing his faith. He talks about the issues with biblical interpretation that led him away from belief.  I provide some comment on issues that factor into loss of faith, and the most recent articles address a modern view of miracles that avoids wrestling with evidence of the resurrection, and an observation that I share with others: that atheists and fundamentalists interpret the Bible similarly (two sides to the same coin).

On way to summarize Bart Ehrman’s story is the rejection of a rigid, wooden Christianity that imposes (or tries to impose) a “literal” meaning to everything in the Bible.  For Erhman, this is an all or nothing proposition.  Either it is all literally true, or it is all literally false.

As many people have noted, this is a false dichotomy.  It fails to appreciate nuance, different genres in the Bible, the significance of symbolic, metaphoric and allegoric meanings, context, and many other things.  It is the position of someone insisting that the Bible be read in a certain way and read through a particular lens, rather than allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

When we approach the Bible, or any literature, with our own assumptions and presuppositions, we have already begun to dictate where we will end up. Ehrman originally approached the Bible with the assumption that it was all literally true (whatever “literally” meant to him and the people who influenced him). Ehrman now approaches the Bible with the assumption that it is all literally false, and that colors the way he reads it.

Harris’ example of Hume’s standard for determining the proof of a miracle comes back to mind.  If we set the bar “exceedingly” high, as Hume says we should, we rig the analysis, from the start, to discount every miraculous claim.  That the standard we have set is impossible to meet is the ultimate point.

This way of approaching a subject doesn’t seem very scientific or scholarly to me.  Yet, Harris is a scientist.  Erhman is a scholar.  While skepticism is a useful tool, it needs to be employed with a dose of humility, and the same skepticism should be applied to the “hermeneutics of skepticism” employed by the skeptic.

When the interview starts, Harris talks about people failing to use skeptical scientific tools.  Harris is, generally, referring to the scientific method. The scientific method is primarily a skeptical approach, demanding proof.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that approach.  The danger, however, is that we sneak all kinds of presuppositions into our scientific approach which, by their very nature, will dictate outcomes.  This really is not what the scientific method, in its purest form, is meant to be.

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Sam Harris Podcast Interview with Bart Ehrman – Part 3 – Withering Sun

May 26, 2018


In previous installments, I have written two blog articles on my observations regarding an interview of Bart Ehrman by Sam Harris on What is Christianity. Bart Ehrman is an agnostic, New Testament scholar at Princeton, and Sam Harris is one of the so-called “new atheists”. In the first article, I relate portions of Ehrman’s story about his “loss of faith”, and I question whether he really had anything but a very shallow idea of faith to begin with. In the second installment, I talk about a certain wooden fundamentalism that continues to be apparent in how Ehrman sees the Bible. It’s a kind of all or nothing approach. Previously, he accepted all of it; now he accepts none of it.

Before moving on to other observations, I want to stop and raise a couple of points related to the portion of the interview already covered. First of all, I want to go back to the comment made by Ehrman about the charismatic youth leader who influenced him in a local Campus Crusade for Christ chapter. Erhman describes the “sinner’s prayer” he recited as an induction. The same youth leader urged him to go to Moody Bible Institute if he wanted to be a “serious Christian”.

Erhman was obviously influenced by this charismatic youth leader. Many of us are similarly influenced by charismatic people that we meet along the way. Some of us are influenced to do things that we might not otherwise do and which have no lasting import to us when we leave the circle of that influence.

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Lost Boys with Guns

February 24, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 184293546 Copyright: belchonock

The gun debate rages on anew, with the flames refueled by the Florida school shooting. Other potential causes of our unique problem with gun violence, mass shootings and school shootings in particular are being identified, usually by the gun advocates. Mental health, removing God from schools and religion from public life, and other things. Do we have a gun problem? Do we have a mental health problem? Do we have a lack of purpose and meaning problem? I think the answer is probably, yes, to all of the above, but there is another problem that no one seems to be talking about. At least, I haven’t seen anyone talk about it until I read an Op-ed article in the NY Times today by Michael Ian Black, The Boys Are Not All Right.

In reading his piece, it dawns on my that, together with whatever other problems we have that contribute to make the United States the only country in the world in which school shootings occur on a regular basis, we have a boy problem. We have a problem with our boys. Our boys are not all right!

It shouldn’t be rocket science for us to realize that girls don’t do mass shootings. They just don’t. Most mass shootings are committed by adolescent boys or young, college-age men. The exceptions are older men. Girls don’t shoot people up like that.

This statistic should jump out at us!

Why are mass shootings, and school shootings in particular, committed by boys and by men? What is the difference between boys and girls, men and women, that explains this phenomenon?

Another fairly obvious statistic is that the incidents of mass shootings and school shootings, in particular, have risen exponentially in the last 30 years. In fact, just 40 years ago, mass shootings were quite rare. Now they have become routine, regular, common-place – whatever you want to call it. We aren’t even surprised any more. What has happened in the last 30 years to cause this spike in mass shootings and school shootings?

I think Michael Black has turned over the stone to a possible answer. My thoughts on the subject, inspired by his article, are linked here

via The Lost Boys with Guns.

 

God Talk about Guns

February 17, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 11354851 Copyright: Rajen1980

As time goes on, I have been more diligently and more earnestly aware of the assumptions we tend to make as Americans, and as American Christians, that may not supportable biblically. We tend to make certain assumptions, but we don’t question those assumptions or test them against Scripture. If anything, we work to make Scripture support our assumptions, rather than subject our assumptions to Scripture.

This is a human tendency, of course. I am not picking on Americans. I am one. I just know more about how Americans think than other people, so I can speak to it more definitely.

On the issue of gun control, I am finding a distinct disconnect between the popular Christian responses, the realities and what Scripture suggests. The popular Christian responses, at least among white evangelicals, of which I am a member, is something like this: guns don’t kill people. We don’t need more gun control; people need God (among other things).

That is a truism of course. People do need God, but that doesn’t really help to address an obvious issue that is utterly unique to our country of all the countries in the western world. We have a problem, and we should be able to acknowledge it.

As Christians, we could also say that it isn’t a gun problem; it’s a sin problem. That is right as well, but that also doesn’t help us. Does that mean we should ignore it? Condemn it but do nothing about it? (After all, people are getting what they deserve because all have sinned.)  Do these responses seem right to you?

They shouldn’t! Yes, people need God, and the root of all human problems is sin, but we can set back offering nothing but sayings and platitudes and be considered followers of Jesus who had a reputation of getting into right into the place where people lived, right in the middle of the ugliness of sin, and engaged people where they were, healing and delivering people as He went. If Jesus is our example, we can’t sit on sidelines without doing something.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”[1]

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The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

February 16, 2018
Second Amendment to the Constitution

Depositphotos Image ID: 173296888 Copyright: zimmytws

If faith without works is dead, then our thoughts, prayers and condolences are meaningless at some point if we aren’t willing to take some action to address the societal problem of school shootings and mass shootings in general. What is the Christian response to these tragedies? Is the 2nd Amendment greater than the 6th commandment (though shall not murder), the greatest commandment (to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds) and the second greatest commandment (to love others as ourselves)? How do we balance the 2nd Amendment with God’s commandments? Are guns really the issue? Below is an article with some thoughts to consider as we mourn the victims of another school shooting.

via The 2nd Amendment, Freedom & Responsibility

 


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