Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Science vs. Scripture


Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attainable by scientific methods, and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know. ~Bertrand Russell

Not long ago I posted on Facebook: “The idea that science alone holds all of the answers to all of life’s legitimate questions is the grandest of all deceptions. It’s ‘The Science Delusion.’” 

A Christian friend then asked: “When is science wrong? Is it wrong when it contradicts the Bible (that is, when it is rightly understood)? 

Below is my response to my friend’s query. 

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The idea—that science holds all of the answers to all of our questions (taken from my article, “Three Amigos”)—is not a commentary on the veracity of science; but on the scope of science. I am speaking to what may be termed “scientism.” (Scientism is the non-scientific notion that science—as commonly defined today—is epistemologically exhaustive. That is, all true knowledge is scientific in the sense of naturalistic.) 

That being said, I do not accept the premise of “Science versus the Bible.” 

“Science vs. the Bible” is a misnomer. The more accurate understanding is this: Certain scientists vs. certain Christians. Historically and today, some scientists disagree with some Christians. True enough. 

But we must not equate scientists with science or Christians with the Bible.  

For example, certain scientists, historically and today, disagree with other scientists. And, of course, historically and today, certain Christians disagree with other Christians. But we must not take from this that science contradicts itself or that the Bible itself is contradictory. 

Thus, if a certain scientist claims: “Miracles are violations of the laws of physics and are therefore impossible,” I would claim that that scientist is wrong. Or, if a certain Christian claims: “The Sun orbits the Earth,” I would claim that that Christian is wrong. 

In neither case would I impugn science or the Bible. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No Atheists in Hell


Recently I read a faithful atheist remark that she found “some people,” with their talk of eternal damnation, to be incredibly off-putting. The basic attitude seemed to be: Nice try but I ain’t scared of no hell.   

One of her, let’s say fellow travelers, sagely enjoined: 

I think it is part of their psychological manipulation. To have power and influence you have to have followers, having a handy escape from death and potentially eternal torture is a good way to get the crowds to flock towards you. 

While this sounds amazingly enlightened, there is a little problem: I know many, many Christians; and I do not know (on a personal level) a single one who desires "power and influence" over "followers" or who wants "crowds to flock towards" him/her. 

I’ve seen the claim in argumentation, I've just never seen it in actuality—not in the Christians I know. All the Christians I know are fairly content to live quiet lives of no distinction—like most everybody else. 

I'm sure there are some wackos out there who desire "power, influence, followers and crowds" but this would have nothing whatsoever to do with simply being Christian. To suggest otherwise goes against a world of evidence (hundreds of millions of Christians who desire nothing of the sort). 

Her compadre continued: “I've been threatened with hellfire before, but I understand where it's coming from and I dismiss it accordingly. 

This is nothing but a hasty dismissal based upon question begging. I don’t believe he does “understand where it [the threat of hell] is coming from.” He merely assumes that which he has yet to prove, viz. that there is no such place known as hell. 

But how can he possibly know such a thing? What evidence can he conjure for the non-existence of hell? By blind faith he believes in no place called hell.  

Notice—by faith alone—he considers the “threat of hellfire” to be nothing more than “psychological manipulation.” But what if he’s wrong? What if his faith in no place called hell is misplaced? What if Christians are right and there really is a place called hell? 

If hell does indeed exist—and Christians are painfully aware of this—then their warnings of such should not be construed as manipulative threats.  

If a young mother warns her child to be good or Santa will bring no gifts; this is a manipulative—though I wouldn’t say evil—threat. If she warns the child to be good or monsters from under his bed will disembowel him while he sleeps; this would be both manipulative and malicious. 

However, if that same young mother warns her child to be good or his father is going to spank him later—when she is fully convinced that his father is prepared to do so—this is neither a manipulative nor a malicious threat. She is quite simply, lovingly and truthfully warning him. 

If the atheist’s faith is misguided and hell awaits unrepentant sinners, no amount of dismissals or claims of ignorance will suffice.  

Christians believe there’s a way to avoid everlasting condemnation but closing the eyes, clicking the heels and claiming the creed, “There’s no place like hell!” isn’t it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Would Jesus Read?


A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere. ~CS Lewis 

Faithful atheists aren’t alone in fearing the ubiquitous traps of literature. Upon reading last week’s piece, “Eat the Meat & Spit Out the Bones” a mortified pastor responded: “I would NEVER...EVER council [sic] someone to ‘eat the meat and spit out the bones.’ To do so would be to disqualify me as an under shepherd of the Good Shepherd. 

Below is my answer to him. May God bless your reading. 

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I think you are perhaps getting hung up on semantics. You don't like the phrase "eat the meat and spit out the bones."  

Yet I believe you are fine with: "all non-inspired authors’ works need to be interpreted through a biblical lens, processed through a Christian worldview, and digested with discernment." If you will but reread my article, you will discover that this is precisely what I mean by the "dreaded" phrase. 

I am not comfortable with telling my congregants what they can or cannot read, watch, or listen to.  

(I do not see such "oversight" in scripture. However, I have seen heavy-handed pastors who feel empowered to dictate all things to their folks...it's usually not pretty.) 

However, I am very comfortable teaching scripture, instilling godly principles and thought patterns, and developing minds and hearts with a biblical worldview. As Paul exhorts,  

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10). 

While I don't tell my people what they can or cannot read, it's been my joy to have various parishioners ask me about a particular book/article and/or author.  

On several occasions I have went through a book/article with an individual and discussed where the author is right or wrong. On nearly every occasion the person would remark that I confirmed to him/her what he/she was previously thinking. (I can’t describe how that makes me feel as a pastor!) 

I am a pastor. I am not a dictator. What a privilege, what a responsibility, to serve Christ as a trusted teacher of His precious, thinking people! 

As John MacArthur once observed concerning the call to pastoral ministry, “It is a mercy.”

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It’s also a mercy, dear reader, to live in a world which is filled with writing.  

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. . . . In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see. (CS Lewis, “Experiment in Criticism”) 

So read! And whatever you read, see it through a biblical lens. And remember this too: There are more books than hours…so choose wisely. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Eat the Meat & Spit Out the Bones


One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before one asks whether such-and-such a point "really matters" and the other replies: "Matter? Why, it's absolutely essential." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) 

Not long ago a Facebook friend was bemoaning the fact that so many evangelicals read C.S. Lewis. The horror! How could so-called “Bible-believing” Christians enjoy the ruminations of such an "arch-heretic"?  

The Roman Catholic, G.K. Chesterton (who influenced Lewis), was also anathematized. Even the relatively innocuous Ravi Zacharias—after his seemingly ill-advised “play-date” with Joyce Meyer—was given, shall we say, dishonorable mention.  

Below is the conversation which ensued upon my friend’s lamentations. My interlocutors’ words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading. 

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I love the writings of CS Lewis and have read him extensively. He in no sense harms my faith.  

And in the interest of full disclosure, I have read Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man," "Orthodoxy," and "What's Wrong With The World." Chesterton is indeed Roman Catholic and—dare I say—paradoxically he is also brilliant and witty.  

(If you’ve read Chesterton the term “paradoxically” will at the very least almost cause you to smile.) 

As with any non-inspired authors: Eat the meat and spit out the bones. 

“‘Eat the meat and spit out the bones,’ is a dangerous phrase. I have had that phrase used to defend heretics and deceivers for years. ‘Let this Roman Catholic Priest speak at our school . . . Let this Word of Faith heretic teach our College Youth about the Faith! Eat the meat and spit out the bones!’”  

It's not at all “dangerous.” How can you not be discerning when reading non-inspired authors? How can you simply read them and not biblically assess them? 

“Eat the meat and spit out the bones” does not defend heresy. Quite the opposite.
 
And I'm not talking about inviting “heretics” to speak anywhere. I'm talking about personal reading. When I read non-inspired authors, I eat the meat and spit out the bones. 

I suggest you do the same. 

“I like the biblical adage: ‘A little leaven leavens the whole lump.’ I personally, would not want to read from heretics, when there are so many sound theologians to learn from. It's a mistake to believe that one can be so "discerning" about theology as to confidently consume a bit of heresy here and there without being affected. And there is no picking the leaven from the lump.” 

Since you personally do not desire to read “heretics,” I would never suggest that you do otherwise. 

That being said, I don't believe Paul's analogy of “a little leaven” is properly applicable to personal reading. (1 Cor. 5 has to do with church discipline.) 

I read mostly Reformed authors. However, I also read non-Reformed authors and even non-Christians. Examples of such readings, so far this year, range from news stories and/or blogs (I try to stay abreast of current events!) to terrific books dealing with philosophies of science, politics, economics, and culture in general (from Pat Buchanan to Thomas DiLorenzo, F.A. Hayek to Thomas Sowell, Charles Darwin to Hugh Ross, Neil Postman to Vox Day, et. al.). 

Naturally, all non-inspired authors’ works need to be interpreted through a biblical lens, processed through a Christian worldview, and digested with discernment. 

Nevertheless, I do not denigrate people who read only those they deem to be “sound theologians.” In fact, I know a few folks who refuse to read anything but the Bible (and ironically, I question their theology!). 

I suppose when it comes to meats for the belly and meats for the mind, it's best to follow this admonition: "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom 14:22b-23).