Culture and the Beast

March 7, 2017

Beauty-and-the-Beast.jpgAs you may have heard, for the first time, Disney has produced a live-action film with a gay character.  Social media and blog sites will be filled with comments about it for the next weeks.  Coming off a great apologetics conference this weekend I am more assured than ever that how biblical Christianity responds to the film, Disney and others is as important as what words of truth we respond with.

I am not exactly sure what our response should be, but it should not be any different that how we respond to other sinful behaviors.  If you feel convicted to boycott Disney and their products you might want to be careful who you tell.  Are you prepared to keep your word even after the hype dies down?  A person without Christ may not understand your motives and modifying a person’s behavior should not be our first concern, their salvation is. Not to mention it is not our job, it is the role of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps a silent boycott would be better and reconsider not uploading the video of you running over your Disney movie collection with the lawnmower.

Here are a few thoughts for believers to consider.

  1. Do not be surprised. It has almost been 2 years since SCOTUS ruled that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.  There are so many other television shows and movies that have already included it for years.  I am surprised that Disney did not join them earlier.  No doubt they considered this earlier and held off for various reasons.
  2. Use this as an opportunity to discuss sexuality and biblical marriage.   Our culture does not hesitate to show a variety of sexual behaviors and parents and Christian educators should be ready to respond to them with biblical truth and existential examples of how the consequences will be played out. I recommend a book by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet  called Same-sex Marriage.  It is a gentle and caring approach that explains what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and how we can respond to others in love.  This same discussion should happen of course with other topics like drugs and alcohol, language, violence, and so on.
  3. Use this to teach others about the power of media.  We all under stand the use of media and the power of suggestion.  Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher once said something close to “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” He knew the power of media in his day and we should also be aware of the messages in ours.  What percentage of Americans claims to be gay?  If you said two or three percent you are correct, but if you guessed much higher it is likely because the media over inflates reality with so many gay characters.  Some will dismiss this movie as just mere fiction, a rewrite of a cartoon classic, or chide you not to take it serous, but even in cartoons aspects of real life can be portrayed and are just as powerful.
  4. Say something, respond.   The worse thing you can do is nothing.  You may be tempted to just be quiet for a number of reasons.  You don’t want to lose your social media friends, you do not know what to say, or maybe you are apathetic and figure what is the use, we can’t stop the huge cultural wave that hits the shoreline again and again.If your friends unfollow  you it might be because they really were not that close to you after all, maybe you responded too harshly, or they are too easily offended. Just keep posting the cute kitten videos!  There are many negatives that come with social media that should be avoided.  It is better to speak to smaller groups that are like minded and one on one conversations are really best.  Know where you can speak freely and where you need to guard your tongue carefully around others.If you do not know what to say, this is a clue for you become clued in on this discussion.  Read and research the details so you can have a an intelligent conversation with someone about what you believe and why.  There are great resources that you can download, apps with podcasts to listen to, and a growing Christian resources that we have at our disposal.

    Finally, if you are apathetic about this issue, go ahead slap yourself now and wake up.  You may not be able to stop the oncoming waves hitting the shore but you can keep a lookout for someone to save in the water. It matters to them and you might not be able to save everyone, but you can save one.

I am sure that some will respond with truth by stating biblical verses and facts that support traditional marriage or condemning homosexual behavior.  Others may take the opposite approach and say it is our job to simply love and pray for those who live a homosexual life style.  The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15).  This combination requires us to boldly and lovingly share Scripture with others. We must temper our words so that we are not out to bash someone, win an argument, or defend God as if he needs defending.  Have conversations with people to educate them, to consider a different point of view, or understand a Scripture passage.  It is not only about what we say, but how we say it.

 

Notes:

The NHIS reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual.[1] In a Williams Institute review based on an June–September 2012 Gallup poll, approximately 3.4 percent of American adults identify themselves as being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender).


Politics and Presuppositions

January 13, 2017

With one week left before the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president there has been much talk over his cabinet and staff appointees, like there always is with each administration. The senate and house are allowed to “grill” as I saw one headline this past week, each of the  people that Trump has chosen and determine if they will approve some of the people to serve.

In the midst of all the leaks and “fake news” that has been talked about, the presidential appointees have been given more discussion this year than perhaps I remember. Each president has the right to put in place his/her own people and usually does. They want like minded people that will support and offer a hand in completing the agenda that they believe will work best over the next four years. This sharing of a similar philosophy allows them to work more efficiently together.  Examples of these political philosophies could be raising or lowering taxes, regulations, job competition, and so on. These are the political presuppositions that each of these people have found to be trustworthy and rules to live and govern by.  If you need a definition of presupposition you can check this previous post.

Would it be smart for a president to  have someone on his cabinet or as an advisor that would offer a dissenting view or opinion that would offer advice to them?  I say yes, making the best decision would include having all the information available to make an informed decision. Sadly many will not do this. We only like to hear compliments or praises from those who agree with us.  Keep in mind we do not have to follow or take their advice, but at least give them an ear and listen with an open mind.  Ever read a post you disagreed with but were not approved to post a different opinion? Ever notice how the talk show host will mute the person on the phone when things start to get messy or out of control.

I have found this to be the case when having conversations with people over spiritual discussions or when using apologetics with people of other worldviews.  Each person comes to the discussion with certain presuppositions that they are not willing to let go of.  These may include things like; a naturalistic or supernatural belief, a belief in miracles, or a Reformed theology vs. a Wesleyan.

One thing I have found helpful before spending large amounts of time with someone is to ask if they will be open-minded and willing to consider certain basic ideas in the discussion you want to have.  If you are willing to talk with those understandings it will be less frustrating for both of you and you can remind the person again that they agreed to hear your case with an open mind.  Maybe this will help them, or you, understand the topic more completely and you may win them over to your side politically or in your religious worldview.


Preachy, Judgmental and Intolerant

April 20, 2012

This past week I have stirred the waters with some comments and questions on Facebook.   I realize that I may be asking for it when I post up a comment or question, but that’s okay with me, I enjoy the discussions and debates.  I don’t even mind being called names some times, as long as they leave my family and my mom out of the comments.  After thinking through some of the comments this past week, a few thoughts crossed my mind about the three words in the title above.

Preachy – When you and I share our opinions it can be offensive, especially when it comes to our faith and beliefs.  The Bible  talks about this in Hebrews 4:12 when it says “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ”  The word “dividing” brings the idea of a forced separation, picking sides, or not staying in a neutral position.  While it may be comfortable in the middle and not rocking the boat sooner or later I believe we must put our oars and paddles in the water and choose a direction to go in.  The key to not being preachy is to give someone enough food for thought that they will take a step back and consider what you have said because it was carefully thought out and presented in a nice way.  1 Peter 3:15 commands us as Christians to “do this with gentleness and respect.”  Apologist Greg Koukl uses the phrase “to place a stone or pebble in someone’s shoe.”  If we are not kind or gentle, or respectful it’s as if we smash someone over the head with a boulder.  This will get you nowhere.

Some people don’t understand why Christians share their faith and see it as being pushy or preachy.  Christians don’t see it this way because of our beliefs that we are trying to help our fellow-man see the world through the lens of our worldview and that there is only one true worldview.  Let me use an illustration to help you understand.  As a parent, I teach my kids about the dangers in the world.  To not talk to strangers, to watch out for creepers and child predators because I love them and don’t want them to fall prey to those kinds of people.  In the same way, Christians believe that there is a literal Hell and that we want to do our best to help other people avoid that any way possible.  Mind you that we should respect others beliefs and not force anything on anyone, but it still is a responsibility to help others understand the Bible, the teachings of Christ, and what it takes to receive the gift of eternal life.

Judgmental – Judging is one of those “hot-button” words that brings up a lot of negative thoughts.  Many people including Christians have often quoted Matthew 7:1 that says “Do not judge” or the King James version reads “Judge not.”  If we continue to read after the first three words we see that the Bible is not saying that we cannot judge, it tells us that we will be judged with the same measure that we judge others by and in verse 5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ”  The judgment that takes place is to help someone else, not to kick them why they are down.  We must check our attitudes and motives when we speak of someone else.  Is it to build ourselves up or make ourselves look good?  One of the realities to being an associate pastor is that the scriptures preached/taught are not always popular or easy to swallow for everyone, including myself.  BUT, if I am to preach the whole Bible, I can’t take scissors and cut out the parts that I don’t like.  I must make judgments on things from time to time in relation to God’s word.  What things should I post and not post on Facebook/Twitter, How should I be responsible with my possessions, Who should I vote for, Why should I buy or not buy this CD?  Perhaps the key here is given advice when asked and not pushing it on someone who didn’t ask for it.

Intolerant – The last word, intolerant is another popular word used by people when their viewpoints are challenged.  It is a label that almost reaches the level of the word racism in our American culture.  Have you ever considered intolerant as a good word?  It can be.  Mother Teresa was intolerant of poverty and hunger.  The United States was intolerant of the Genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazis in WWII.  Some others are intolerant of the mistreatment of animals or child abuse.  Being intolerant just means that you can’t stand for something or that you will not accept it.  Jesus was most intolerant of the religious leaders of His day and held little contempt for them and their actions that led the people away from the truth of God’s word.  Being tolerant doesn’t mean that you have to agree with someone elses viewpoint or opinion.  It just means that you respectful recognize to their own right to a different belief or opinion.  It also  doesn’t mean that they are right, or that you both are right about something.

As Christians we must realize and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in talking with others.  How should we approach them?  Should we build a relationship with them first to earn the right to speak into someones life?  How far should we “push” a topic?  We need to know when we need to stop and walk away for a bit.  Remember even Jesus was not accepted by all and in His own home town he instructed His followers to “wipe the dust off” their feet if they were not accepted.  (Luke 10:10-12)  This is something that is learned the more you interact with people and the better you know who you are talking with.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 it says that “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” and ” but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”  We see  that some will not receive it well, some will look at the cross as foolish or a stumbling block.


Kentucky Wildcats, Mega Millions, and Jesus

April 2, 2012

I’m pulling out an old posting today from a few years back, but just changed the information to fit with this years winner, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Well congratulations to Kentucky for winning their 8th national championship in basketball.  How did you do, our your brackets this year? Did you enter into any contests or competitions with friends? A few of the other youth pastors and I had a group and had a good time talking smack to each other. This year I picked 41 out of 63 possible games, had 3 of the final 4 teams in my bracket and picked Kentucky to win it all.  Pretty stupid considering that I didn’t watch a single college basketball came all season.

Every time March Madness rolls around I can’t help but to think about Jesus and the prophecies in the Bible. There is a lesson to be learned in the odds and mathematics of both the NCAA tournament and with Jesus fulfilling prophecy Here’s what I mean:

According to BookofOdds.com the odds of picking every single game in the tournament correctly are 1 to 35,360,000,000.  This is why some of the companies, like Dr Pepper and Yahoo.com, can afford to create excitement by offering a 1 Million Dollar prize if you enter and pick every single game correctly. It’s all about the odds for them and the money involved.  Playing the lottery has better odds in most cases.  Recently the MegaMillions Lottery had reached the highest it had ever been at an estimated 640 million dollars.   According to the official odds you had a better chance at winning the Mega Millions lottery because the odds at picking it were 1 to 175,000,000.  Much less than the NCAA brackets.

Well now that brings us to Jesus and the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. There are over 60 prophecies about this promised Messiah and details of His birth, birthplace, life, death, teachings, His nature, His resurrection, and events after burial, just to name a few. All these are documented in Josh McDowell’s foundational book called “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” or His updated version “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” (chapter 8, pages 164-202) Josh McDowell was an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but as he searched for answers he found out through his discoveries that indeed there was one true living God.

In McDowell’s reasearch he brings into the light the work of Peter Stoner in his book Science Speaks. Stoner does a great job at the probability and statistical mathematics of Jesus and fulfilled prophecy. Stoner took just 8 of the probabilities of the Jewish Messiah and figured out the odds at which Jesus or anyone would fulfill them. He came up with a rather large number. The odds were 1 in 10 to the 17 power. That would be a 1 with 17 zero’s after it. [1,00,000,000,000,000,000 ] Stoner gives a great visual example of that number, because it is so big and hard for us to wrap our minds around. Imagine that you fill the entire state of Texas with Silver Dollars 2 feet high. You mark one Dollar with an “X” and then blindfold a man and have him take one guess and find the one dollar with a “X” on it. Keep in mind that this is only 8 of the prophecies and not the entire lot. Stoner’s research has been examined for years now and the mathematics in his work has been found to be solid.

Well, where do we go from here? Let me just encourage you whether you are a believer or not, to take a closer look at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I am quiet sure you will see something different with Him than with any other religious leader in the world. There is a difference with Jesus because He was who He claimed to be, God.

As always your comments, questions, snide remarks are welcome.


Defining Terms: ad hominem

October 31, 2011

Another Fallacy used by people in arguments, debates, and discussions is called ad hominem.

ad hominem – In Latin means “to the people.”  As a debate tactic it is an attempt to draw the discussion away from the facts and evidence of the debate and focus them on the person(s) in the debate or to another person who holds similar views.

Most of the time when a person uses an ad hominem tactic it is because they have run out of facts and evidence to discuss and they turn to they people who are making the arguments.  The best way to stop someone who is using an ad hominem tactic is to call it out and tell them that it is not based on the facts or evidence.

Here are several examples of ad hominem  statements.  See if you can locate how they are drawing the attention away from the facts and putting it on the person.

1. Why should I be a Christian like all those TV preachers who have had affairs and cheated on their wives?

2. Those Christians are so narrow-minded and fundamental, they won’t accept the facts.

3. He is closed-minded and will only accept empirical evidence from science to prove his claim.

4. You are not a biologist or physicist and you do not have the understanding to be able to argue about matters of science.

5.  The Green Bay Packers are not going to win the Superbowl this year because their quarterback’s mom is ugly.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Conversations with High School Students

October 27, 2011

Yesterday I went to a local high school in the area to hangout with some students after school.  These students are your typical students in some aspects but not in all aspects.  These 60+ students are members of the Secular Student Alliance Club at Parkview High.  These students meet every other week to discuss topics ranging from the existence of God , to the possibility of morals without God to other issues like animal rights and other social issues.  If you are new to apologetics and are not familiar with the term “Secular” it just means activities and attitudes that do not have a religious or spiritual basis.  The students members hold a variety of different beliefs or positions.  Some are atheist,  some are agnostic,  many of them are might label themselves as skeptical or searching, and there was a Christian in the group also.

I meet them about a year ago through Michael, one of the students in my student ministry, at the church where I am student pastor.  Michael had been going to the Secular Student Alliance Club each week to talk and share his Christian beliefs with the students and to jump in to the debates and discussions they had each week.  I really admire Michael for doing this, I don’t think I would have done that at his age if our school had a SSA Club like they do.  (We had to fight to even have the right to a Christian Club when I went to South Gwinnett High School 20 years ago.)  The SSA club invited me to speak a few times last school year thanks to the invite from Michael.  After Michael has graduated and gone to college I have stay in contact with the students and we talk weekly through Facebook about different subjects.

Let me first break some common misconceptions about the students in the SSA club.  They are nice, polite, smart, and funny.   Just like the average teen.  Many of them are active in community doing things to take care of environment.  A few weeks ago they held a can drive to collect food items for a local food bank in the area.  There are certain feelings that are associated or arise when you mention the word “atheist” or “skeptic”, or even “Christian” for that matter.  I think these feelings come from a past where perception was different.  Any time I have gone to talk with them I have always felt at ease and comfortable with talking to them.

Part of the reason I wanted to write this blog was to help you break down those areas of misconception and also to get a feel of what is like to have conversations with students like these or anyone else for that matter.  Yesterday I went to the meeting not really knowing what I might talk about.  I usually have an outline and prepared talk, but yesterday I just felt like being very low-key and open to where the conversation may go.  I had been in some intense discussions recently online with some of them and I really felt it was important to just be a good listener this time.  I admit, I think I have become addicted to the feeling of being in the moment with apologetic discussions.  Not knowing what questions may come up and not having all the answers, I know the best thing I can do is offer up a quick prayer for help and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me give an answer that is Biblical and is easy to understand.

As the meeting started they allowed me to open with a small discussion about some things that I have noticed through the online conversations as misunderstandings about the Christian worldview.  I talked about Blind faith vs. a Biblical Faith.  Biblical faith is based on evidence just as scientists make thesis and hypothesis based on evidence in science.   From there the conversation morphed into the different types of knowledge that we can obtain.

After I finished talking I opened it up for anybody ask questions.  They asked some really good questions that I could tell that they really wanted to know the answer to.  Some were easy to answer, some questions I had to ask a question in return to get some clarification over, and some I had to pause and think a bit before responding.  We were discussing free will, and one student asked a good question, that caught me off guard, one I had never heard before.  A student asked me if God took part of Mary’s free will when He chose her to be the mother of Jesus and to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  After a brief pause, and another silent prayer for some help from God I thought and went back to the story.  We know from the text that Mary was already a follower of Jehovah God and like most Christians today, we want God’s will to be our own will.  I made a personal reference to my life to back up the thought.  The other Christian in the room, the student,  chimed in and said that Mary still had a choice of whether to keep the baby or to accept God’s desire for her life.   In the text it says that she had been chosen by God, but it didn’t say that she was already pregnant yet.   That was an insightful question.  We ended the meeting talking about Homosexuality a bit and then finished talking about worldviews and how that there can only be one right worldview.  They can’t all be right.

One of the students I have been talking with for the last several weeks was asking a lot of questions about the Bible and I asked him if he had a Bible.  He did not have one so I asked if  I could give him one.  He agreed and took it from me.   I am looking forward to going back soon, if not to talk, but perhaps only to listen and sit in on their discussions and learn what kinds of things that they deal with and question.  One thing that I can say about this group oh high school students is that they really want to know what they believe and why.  They are looking for truth and answers for life and I applaud their thirst for knowledge and truth.  I would wish that many Christians would also have the same type of fire that these high school students do.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Defining Terms: Specified Complexity

October 24, 2011

In my post about the Teleological Argument I used the term specified complexity.   I wanted to define it and give several examples of what is specified complexity and how can be used to show that design implies a designer.  It is one of the two main arguments for Intelligent Design (ID) the other being Irreducible Complexity, which I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Specified Complexity  – Specified complexity is a property which can be observed in living things.  Specified complexity is present in a configuration when it can be described by a pattern that displays a large amount of independently specified information and is also complex.

A simple way of explaining it would be through a Shakespearean sonnet. William Dembski who is a Christian apologist put’s it this way; “A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified.”  While it might be possible for a bunch of monkeys typing on a computer keyboard to type out a bunch of random letters, you would never assume that they would type out a bunch of words that formed a sentence, a sentence that made sense that also fit into a rhythmic pattern, and composed a larger poem that was understandable to read from start to finish.  The obvious choice is that it was designed that way.

Scientific atheists say that specified complexity is just an illusion of the eye, that it is really “just what occurs” within the transmittal of information in evolution.   They try to down play the idea of specified complexity by claiming that the complexity was already there in the previous DNA and just a copy of what has evolved over billions of years.   Richard Dawkins even tried a computer generated experiment with a type of evolutionary algorithm to try to show that a random program could churn out the following target sequence, a putative instance of specified complexity using 28 letters and spaces.

Beginning Sequence: WDL*MNLT*DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO*P
Target Sequence: METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL

(1) WDL*MNLT*DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO*P

(2) WDLTMNLT*DTJBSWIRZREZLMQCO*P

(10) MDLDMNLS*ITJISWHRZREZ*MECS*P

(20) MELDINLS*IT*ISWPRKE*Z*WECSEL .

(30) METHINGS*IT*ISWLIKE*B*WECSEL

(40) METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*I*WEASEL

(43) METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL

Starting with the beginning sequence above Dawkins claimed success only after 43 times through the program.  A few of intermediate sequences can be seen above as well.  So you can follow the transformation of the sequence from start to finish.  Well, sounds like Dawkins silenced the (ID) creationists with his experiment right?  Wrong, what Dawkins actually did was show the indisputable fact that intelligence has a role in specified complexity.  Here is what we mean, who or what told the computer to try to reach the Target sequence above, where to put spaces between words, how to rearrange words in a sentence?  Dawkins did.  The computer simulation would not have been possible had not Dawkins give the basic algorithm for the computer to use to create the target sequence.   If you ask a scientific atheist where that evolutionary algorithm comes from, don’t expect an answer.

Now consider DNA that makes up our genetic code.  DNA is so much more complex than a Shakespearean sonnet or a 28 length sequence of letters.  Mapping the entire human genome would be the equivalent of 3-4 volumes of encyclopedias.  There are over 3.1 billion bits of information in the human genome.   The question is where did all this information come from?  It far more complex than any computer program that we have created.  Lastly, who programmed all this code into the human genome?  Darwinian evolution has no answers, but it looks more and more that intelligence was involved in the process.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.