Monday, February 28, 2005

The Privileged Planet

Dr. Jay Richard with the Discovery Institute in Seattle spoke Monday at Biola's Christian Apologetics Defending the Faith series.

Dr. Richards presented a quick and 'dirt' cumulative case argument for intelligent design. I though his argument was very interesting. To sum it up, his argument for intelligent design is "habitability correlates with measurability...The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provides us with the best overall conditions for scientific discovery."

Earth's habitability allows us to pursue scientific discoveries, such as observations of a solar eclipse (this was the example Dr. Richards used).

There is a book and DVD out, which explains this hypothesis more in depth called The Privileged Planet. It sound like something I will have to check out.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Empty Lives...

The Academy awards are over, with back slapping probably continuing for the rest of the week. But it's not the awards ceremony that I want to take aim at, it's a statement by a woman who won front row seats to the Oscar show.

"I've always wanted to do this," said 48-year-old Pam Ford, who won front-row seats from a TV station and brought three friends. "To win and sit in the front row, it's beyond comprehension, anything I ever dreamed of. I could die tomorrow." (see complete article here.)

Now I know that in the heat of excitement and exuberance, we tend to say things that are over the top. But, Pam's statement strikes me as profoundly sorrowful. I don't know Pam from Adam so this is not directed at her per se, it's directed at society in general.

If the biggest night in Pam's life is attending the Oscar awards, then what does that say about her life? Is it so empty and shallow that to be in the audience is the apex of her existence where by for her to pass from this earth she would have had a wonderful life?

I don't believe that Pam would be the only one to have that feeling about Oscar night, I believe a majority of people would probably feel the same. We spend our time in front of the TV or movie screen watching actors and actress portray stories that become a part of our lives, a part of our psyche. Wouldn't it be great to be apart of that 'world' for just one minute?

But what about the real lives that we are living? Have we lived it to the fullest? Or are we hoping and wish for a better life portrayed as on the screen?

The truth hurts sometimes. And I think if most of us reflect on the true nature of the life we live it would hurt, and probably hurt deep. All those missed opportunities to do better, to make more money, to have true love, etc, etc, etc. The list could go on and on. But God has provided something that we rarely think about: forgiveness.

We need to forgiven ourselves of the past mistakes and seek forgiveness from others. Then we need to move on with our lives towards more meaningful and fulfilled lives. Truth be told that's the hard part, but also the most rewarding. God did not place us here to find fulfillment in watching others act out the life we wish we had. No we are to live the life God had given us to the fullest.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Peter Kreeft Lecture at Biola

Tonight Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christian philosopher, spoke tonight on the Culture of Death and the Culture of Life. You can check out his personal website here. Professor Kreeft lectured on the two distinct cultures that inhabit society. The culture of death is the one that is obviously prevailing in our current society.

Kreeft spoke from a distinctly Roman Catholic perspective, which was very interesting giving that Biola is a protestant school. But he did not shy away from his Catholicism. I like that because so many time we are afraid to state our true position for fear of offending someone.

I could also tell that Kreeft truly believed in the pro-life position. He believes that the only way to conquer this culture of death is through Christ. Pope John Paul's "new evangelization" of showing Christ to the culture of death is the way to proceed. Basically, that means change "sinners into saints." It was very interesting to hear this noted Christian philosopher speak in such frankly Christian terms. I was expecting more of a philosophical treatise on life and its importance, but Kreeft took a decidely pastoral stance.

He knew he was speaking to the choir, and use that to his advantage. He quoted liberally from the Bible, and challenged the audience in a rhetorical way to "look it up."

One issue that was real interesting was his use of "white magic" vs. "black magic." Kreeft was in no way shy about the need for a supernatural answer to this war of cultures. We can not defeat this culture of death; it must be defeated from above. "Exocist are needed" was a memorable statement, yet unpacked.

Another interesting topic was this culture of death desire to have immortality. There is a concerted effort in society to live longer and longer. Kreeft called it the desire to create heaven on earth. But instead creates a living hell.

Selfless love and contemplation were two themes that Kreeft stressed to the audience. First, love of others is an imperative. Quoting C.S.Lewis we need to put first things first and ourselves a far second. Second, living a life of contemplation is important to defeating this culture of death. We need to contemplate God more and turn towards him. Bring up contemplation seem to really chime in with the spiritual formation movement.

Part of me agrees that sometimes we always feel like we have to 'do'. But, in our hurried motion we miss God. God tells us to first seek His kingdom and righteousness, but I think we are to busy seeking other kingdoms.

The night was wrapped up with questions from the audience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

World Religion and Science Class

Tonight was my 3rd class session. The professor continued his discussion on Judaism, but emphasized the more conservative branch and it's teachings on the origin of the universe. Right now my head is swirling with , big bang, anthropic principle, Imago Dei, etc. But on thing that stood out was the question of primitive cultures.

One of the students had asked during a discussion on the difference in degree or kind with humanity and animal, what about primitive cultures and is that "proof" for the difference in degree of humanity from animals?

First, I think primitive cultures can be examined and explained within the context of the Imago Dei. There are attributes that we can point to to say " They are human" and not some bipedal animal. I think the issue of primitive cultures actually give naturalist more problems to reconcile then Christians. Why? Because how do they justify the stance that they are human and not some subspecies of man? You could argue that they are not technologically advance as modern man? The reason being they (primitive culture man) is not intellectually as advance as modern man. But we all know that the naturalist would shudder at the thought of an inferior primitive man. Yet, in their worldview there would be no answer as to why shouldn't primitive man be considered inferior.

It would be an interesting question to pose to a naturalist.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dennis Prager's Happiness Hour

Dennis Prager has a once a week happiness hour. Today's topic hit the nail on the proverbial head. He started discussing how women aren't happy with raising their children because there is no recognition from society that being a stay at home mom is an achievement.

Dennis Prager pointed out that society's attitude is wrong concerning this whole issue. What is more important than raising a child to be a productive, healthy, stable adult? There is a tendency to look at stay at home mom's (and pops) as not truly achieving anything. But it's totally not true. The achievement is definitely not immediate, nor glamorous. I could understand why a woman would think that just because she's receiving a paycheck that she is achieving more, as opposed to being at home managing rugrats. Therefore, there is an immediate sense of gratification because they are seeing the fruits of their labor. But raising a child and taking care of a husband and home doesn't give an immediate sense of gratification.

I don't have the answers but I think there needs to be a real shift in our thinking concerning this issue.

The Apostle Paul's Tomb

Archaeologist have possibly found the tomb of the Apostle Paul. Read article here.
Due to the serious nature of the find. It will probably be a while before they confirm that Paul is buried there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Simplicity of the Gospel

I had a wonderful experience with my children last night. During our family devotional, my youngest( 5 years old) asked how can she go to heaven. (We're reading through the Gospel of Luke and chapter 21 deals with end times). So I explained to her that all she has to do is ask God to forgive her of her sins and trust in Jesus Christ that he paid the price of our sinfulness on the cross. My daughter puts her face in her hands and said a silent prayer.

My oldest son then asked "How does she know what she's just done? Isn't she to young to even understand?" His voice was agitated and serious, as he asked the questions.

"Ah, that is the beauty of the Gospel," I said. "It's simple enough for a child to understand."

On some level my daughter believes that she is going to heaven because she believes that Christ died on the cross for her sins. Does she understand the complexities of the theology of the Gospel? No. But, I believe she does understand forgiveness and trust.

I explained to my oldest son that I have a duty to teach my daughter as well as him what it means to be a Christian. Simply put we are to trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation. And out of obedience and love for God, we are to do good works. (At this point I read eph 2:8-10 to them.) The uniqueness of Christianity is the sole fact that its only through faith in Christ that one is saved. All other religions depends on the good works of the person to obtain heaven, nirvana, higher enlightenment, paradise, etc. In Christianity we depend on the righteousness of another.

I could tell my son was contemplating what I had said. On the surface, the Gospel message seems to simple and counter-intuitive to human nature. But the Gospel is simple and elegant enough for a 5 year to understand.

To God be the Glory.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Evolution vs. Creationism part#1

I was surfing the net to find the latest information out there on evolution. As a Christian apologist I want to know the popular arguments and propaganda that's out "there." So I did a google search and found a site called Understanding Evolution: An Evolution Website for Teachers. On a superficial level the website is very well done. It's easy to understand and easy to navigate.

But as I was going through the site I noticed some of the more obvious errors. For example, it list one of the main misconceptions of evolution as "Evolution and Religion are incompatible." It's response goes like this

Response: Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science (as in science class), only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world. The misconception that one has to choose between science and religion is divisive. Most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.

First, religion and science are different, but not mutually exclusive. Religious beliefs affects one worldview concerning the natural world. Secondly, evolution specifically contradicts a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of the beginning of life. Another website, in its FAQ section states

Certainly it[evolution] contradicts a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, but evolution is a scientific principle, like gravity or electricity...If the question is whether evolution contradicts a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis as an exact historical account, then it does. This is the main, and for the most part only, point of conflict between those who believe in evolution and creationists.

This is honesty that I like. The previous website tries to white wash the difference, but in reality its just not true. The Bible specifically states that God created the animals and then he created man from the ground separately from the animals. Evolution theory holds that there is a common descent of all species. These two views are mutually exclusive. I applaud their attempt at smoothing over the differences, but above all else one must be true.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Speaking of Art...

The New York Times reported that the artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude unveiled "The Gate" in Central Park today. The Gate is a bunch of orange panels with hanging orange fabric. These panels are placed throughout Central park as sort of an orange gateway.

It cost $21 million to produce this 'art,' which was mostly paid for by the artist. This is a further continuation of conceptual art, 'art as idea' a conception in the mind of the artist. As I read the article in the NY Times, the acceptance of this type of art was a forgone conclusion. What made this art was not the fact that it added to the aesthetics of the park, no it was art because the artist said it was art. In fact Christo goes as far as defines the very purpose and meaning of his art.

I look at Christo's work, and think "the emperor has no clothes." But neither does the everybody else.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Christian Art

Joe Clark at is starting a weekly post on art. I like the idea. He ask some of the following questions:

When did art stop being important to evangelical Christians?
How did we go from Rembrandt to Kinkade?
When did our appreciation of a work of art become based on how it matched the colors in our living room carpet?

To the first question, art stopped being important to evangelical Christians when we lost focus on the cultural mandate. As James Boice wrote, reformed Christians believed in two things, "First, we are called to be in the world and not to withdraw from it...Second, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner. But the chief needs of people are still spiritual." It's the first point I want to focus on. If Christians are in the world and not to withdraw from it, then that would mean that art is an area that Christians should be actively working in. And that doesn't mean just art that is Christian.

I want to focus on visual art: painting, drawing, and the likes. As Rookmaaker points out in his book, Modern Art and the Death of Culture, during the reformation and renaissance,
paintings give a philosophy of the world and of life. They are more than
decorations or simply pleasant to look at. They have a message, and what is
vital to notice a message realized by artistic means. The picture gets
across what it wants to say, not just through its title, but by its own
built-in qualities of artistry and method.
Christians seem to miss this point completely. Art to most people is just decorations. It's something nice to look at and that is all. There is no message (usually) to speak of. Or we go to the Christian extreme and it has to have an overt Christian message. To get an idea just look in the latest Christian book and art catalog. It seems like Christian art can't be truly Christian unless it has some religious theme. But where is the cultural mandate?

Thomas Kinkade is an interesting movement in and of itself. Personally, I don't fault Mr. Kinkade for being a marketing success. But there are two issue that must be separated when discussing Kinkade art. First, is his success. His artistic mass appeal is unusual among the "masses." Probably the closest to his success would be Andy Warhol. Warhol's name is probably just as popular if not more, but his art was appealing to the art world and not the masses. Second, is his art. Is his art good art? That is where the debate should be.

Kinkade's appeal is to what you could label "red state" America. His pictures portray a sense of wholesomeness, warmth, and small town appeal. When you look at the homes, in his hearth and Homes series, he portrays an invitation to come in and set by the fire. The homes are fictionalized homes that represent where we all as some point wish to live. The colors are mellow; the compositions are centralized and focused. If nothing else can be said, Kinkade is a talented artist and a shrewed businessman.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Augustine Unleahed

I've only read 3 books in Augustine's City of God, but so far I'm amazed at how this Church father had such a command of Roman History. You really get the sense that the pagans have no answer for the claims that Augustine makes concerning the reason for the fall of Rome. For example, Augustine shows example upon example the inconsistent worship of ineffective deities. These very deities that are supposed to protect the Roman commonwealth when adversity hits, are nowhere when calamity after calamity befalls the city, and all this before the advent of Christ.

How can the pagans blame Christianity for the fall of Rome when there has been a history of calamity and failure? It might be interesting to see which Romans are blaming the Christians. Christianity is an easy target with its value of love and humility. This was definitely not the Roman way. Rome was blood, glory, and war. In a way one way would have to win out over the other. They were antithetical to each other.

It seems like contemporary Christian society is trying to play the bridesmaid to the world's bride. I see Christianity reflect the world more then Christ. Look at divorce. There is no difference between Christianity and the world.

You can ask most Christians "Who's your Daddy?" But will their response be "God, the Father!" Hopefully.