12/24/2011

Merry Christmas Star Trek Style

One of the most underrated benefits Christ brought to us during His earthly life is communication of God’s character and intentions.


Some quotes from Jesus:

“… I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” John 8:28

“I speak of what I have seen with my Father…” John 8:38

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” John 12:49

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. “ John 14:10

Christ came to tell us some important things.  Now for a story.

I sat downstairs in the University of Tennessee’s Student Center in a little cafĂ© called “The Rafters.” I often went there to study. I find it easier to study with a lot of commotion around me. I don’t know why, I just do.

I could not help but overhear a lively conversation going on at the table next to mine. Several students were rather loudly discussing how space aliens might be able to communicate with us. It seemed funny to me that the science-fiction crazed undergraduates were spending so much time on the topic. Anything to avoid studying the calculus books that lay open on their table, I guess.

One student proclaimed to the others that the best way would be to do as the Federation had done in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation: make themselves look like the alien species in order to walk among them, learn their customs, and discover a way to accurately and easily communicate.

(I know many consider Star Trek examples to be in poor taste, but it is my blog and I will do what I want to. Besides, I am here quoting a bunch of undergraduates, and many of us know from our undergrad. years just how weird some of those conversations can get.)

I could not help but recall some of the things I had recently heard about Jesus, how He came to tell us of what God had done, what God would do, what God was like, and what God requires of us. I turned around and joined the conversation.

“What if God wanted to communicate with us? How would He do it?” I asked. Two of the five students rater loudly exclaimed that they did not believe God existed. The others just sat there, trying to determine why this strange person was butting in on their friendly talk with such a strange series of questions.

“But what if God existed and wanted to communicate with us?” I pressed. Some of the students almost mockingly chimed in with the standard voice from above or writing on the clouds.

“What if God used the same basic approach that the Federation used as you were just discussing? What if He became a man like us? Someone who looked like an ‘ordinary Joe’ and walked and talked like a common place human?” I was starting to enjoy this.

One guy spoke up,”That just might work.” This encouraged me to press on. I asked, “How would he prove to us that he was God in the flesh?” The same guy got a strange, excited look on his face. “By doing things only God could do,” he exclaimed.

I asked if I could join them at the table and was invited to come over. I began to talk to them about their church and religious backgrounds. I found that the group had by and larger rejected the Christianity they had grown up hearing about. I also learned that most of that Christianity was of a liberal, ‘warm and fuzzy’ variety that was almost antithetical to the fundamentalist Christianity of my raising.

Most seemed genuinely surprised as I explained to them that orthodox Christianity had taught for hundreds of years that God had done precisely that. God had become a man in the Person of Jesus Christ in order to communicate with us. The eternal Second Person of the Trinity had assumed human form.

In the Person of Christ, God had done things only God could do. He worked miracles, not the ‘touchy feely,’ Guideposts sort of miracles, but acts that worked completely contrary to nature. We discussed a few of those stories from their youth.

It turned into a 45-minute discussion of the basics of the Christian faith, from Christ’s birth to His perfect life lived for us, to His infinite suffering on our behalf on the cross. After three or four more conversations, one of those five people professed his faith in Christ. The last I heard of him, he had surrendered to the call to full time Christian ministry. This is one of my happier stories from my graduate school days.

So, I wish a merry Christmas to you and yours. May the joy that comes from Christ’s words flood your heart and soul.

And, “Live long and prosper.”

12/20/2011

Presbyterian

I have just read a post over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog that I find interesting. He laments some of the things that have bothered me most about the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” (YRR) movement. He takes careful aim at the one item that has bothered me most of late: the fact that many in this movement seem to downplay denominational ties. DeYoung writes:




…it’s better to live in a specific ecclesiastical room instead of in the hallway of evangelicalism…We need to learn to be good churchmen, investing time in the committees, assemblies, and machinery of the church. We need to publicly celebrate and defend important doctrinal distinctives (e.g., baptism, the millennium, liturgical norms) even as we love and respect those who disagree. We should delight in our own histories and confessions, while still rejoicing that our different vehicles are ultimately powered by the same engines of the Christian faith–justification, the authority of Scripture, substitutionary atonement, and the glory of our sovereign God.




I have found myself comfortable in the Presbyterian church, specifically the Presbyterian Church in America. I define Presbyterian as one who believes and follows the Westminster Standards.

Why did I settle here? I have always had a degree of respect for the Westminster Confession, from the first day I read it. Even when I disagreed with their answers, I liked the questions that they asked.

I have read the Bible through several times. I have read the Standards and their Scripture proofs many times over. The Standards make more sense of the Bible than anything I have ever read. I have respect for many for the other reformed confessions and catechisms, but I choose to make Westminster my own.

Does this mean that I will not participate with some of the inter-denominational efforts? Of course not. I have benefited greatly from The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Together for the Gospel, The White Horse Inn, and especially Ligonier Ministries.

I do not want to do without those ministries, but I do not rely upon then for expositional Bible teaching, the administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. For those things, I turn to my local PCA congregation. I cannot do without those things.

I hope that everyone within the YRR movement takes the step to join a church and actively participate in its life. Of course, I hope they join the PCA (That is the correct church after all.). But at least display colors and stand on a detailed confession (Please, not a confession that can be written upon a single sheet of double-spaced, 8.5 by 11 piece of paper. Get a real confession.).

Will I ever change denominations again? Possibly. I will follow the Bible’s teaching wherever it leads me. The Bible is my ultimate authority. Here I stand; I can do no other. But, I don’t think I’ll ever move again.

Join a particular church and submit to its authority. Support a particular denomination and follow its direction.

I pray YRR people will make the right choices.

12/19/2011

Plantinga on Evolution in Christianity Today

A recent Christianity Today article gives this quote from Alvin Plantinga:


…if you are a naturalist and think that we have come to be by evolutionary processes, then you will think that the main purpose of our cognitive processes, our mental faculties, is survival and reproductive fitness, not the production of true belief. Evolution doesn't give a rip about whether your beliefs are true. It only cares whether or not your actions are adaptive, whether they contribute to your fitness. From the point of view of evolution together with naturalism, you wouldn't expect that our faculties would be really adjusted to truth or aimed at truth. They would just be aimed at fitness.

But if this is true, if our minds are aimed at mere survival, not at truth, then it's not probable that our minds should be reliable—that is, produce an appropriate preponderance of true over false beliefs; and if that is so, then one who believes both naturalism and evolution should reject the thought that our minds are reliable. But that's a crippling position to be in. Nietzsche is among the people who have suggested this problem. Some contemporary philosophers—Thomas Nagel, for example—have voiced the same worry, and so did Darwin himself.

This is not the first time Plantinga has addressed evolution in Christianity Today. Other articles can be found here.

What I find most interesting about Plantinga’s argument is the way it reduces evolutionary naturalism to it logical end: the deconstruction of the human intellect.

Evolutionary naturalism is the belief that a natural process not guided by any outside personal force produced life in all its complexity. Naturalism is worth attacking on several fronts (see articles here, here and here), but Plantinga may have the best approach.

Without God we are truly lost.


(Other takes on the relevant arguments can be found here and here.)

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