Under the banner of “theistic evolution,” a growing number of Christians maintain that God used evolution as His method for creation. This, in my estimation, is the worst of all possibilities. It is one thing to believe in evolution; it is quite another to blame God for it. Not only is theistic evolution a contradiction in terms—like the phrase flaming snowflakes—but in the words of the Nobel prize-winning evolutionist Jacques Monod: “[Natural] selection is the blindest, and most cruel way of evolving new species….The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process, against which our whole modern ethic revolts….I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution.”
Thursday, November 30, 2006
The movie that my wife picked up yesterday was Bride & Prejudice. This movie was filmed largely in India and is a modern spoof musical version on the Jane Austin classic. It was so nuts and so cheesy that you almost could not believe it was real. My wife, who does not like slapstick comedy much, was holding her sides laughing for two hours.
If your wife is a Jane Austen fan, surprise her tonight by checking this movie out at your local library. Its worth it for the shock value alone. And the dancing is incredible.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
My main reason for withdrawing at this time is that is appears that my views are a shade or two more conservative than most of the other folks on the blogroll. Although I respect their right to post their views and comment passionately on mine, I don't blog primarily for the purpose of debate. Debate is important and necessary, but too much can make a person spend a lot of energy feeling as though he has to defend himself and justify himself. This kind of debate is not where I feel I need to be putting my energy right now.
I will continue to blog and offer what I consider to be my theologically conservative evangelical views at this site. Another blogger and I are currently tossing around the idea of starting an "Evangelical Methodist Blogroll." This would not be in any way to compete with or take the place of The Methoblog. Rather, as we all feel strongly about our convictions, I feel strongly about mine. I would like to have a list of like-minded evangelical United Methodist pastors and lay people to offer.
While I respect the views of people in the more "centrist," "moderate," or "liberal" camp, I don't agree with them about many faith issues and they don't agree with me. Rather than pretend that I have so much in common with them, I would rather focus on providing meaningful blogging for those who are committed to the conservative evangelical position.
In the meantime, thank you to Jay Voorhees and everyone at The Methoblog. May God lead us all in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
If anyone is interested in being the part of the formation of an Evangelical Methodist Blogroll, let me know your thoughts.
I'm sure the question will arise, "How do you define 'evangelical'?" This is a necessary discussion and I'm sure I'll blog more on it later.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I think maybe the better discussion, at least for the methoblogosphere, is whether the Methodist church has room for the diversity of viewpoints that exist in the world? I’m not sure that we can, but at the same time I think the alternative is narrowly defined ideological churches serving particular communities. I don’t think that serves the broader church either. It also doesn’t work, in my opinion, to just gloss over our very distinct theological and ideological differences.I think this is a very important question. Do we have the tools to handle our current level of theological diversity?
Are we stuck?
In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question, 'What are you asking God to do?' To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does. (130)And he even readily admits the offensiveness of the doctrine:
Another must-read Lewis book which deals more exclusively with the heaven and hell issue is The Great Divorce.
I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable. Let us make no mistake; it is not tolerable. But I think the doctrine can be shown to be moral, by a critique of the objections ordinarily made, or felt, against it. (121)
Monday, November 27, 2006
Richard Dawkins, the posterchild for Darwinian evolution, has a new book out called The God Delusion. In this interview he expressly states his desire to convert people to atheism. Is evolution compatible with Christianity? Not in Dawkins' eyes.
Is there a large-scale effort to try to teach our children a worldview based on evolution which makes God appear non-existent? Yes, and they aren't even trying to pretend as if there isn't.
Dawkins may be hampering his own agenda by exposing the ambitions of evolutionary science to remove God. If he wasn't so obvious about it as one of evolution's primary spokespersons, then Darwinian evolution might just continue to be taught in schools, while parents believe that evolution and faith are not at odds.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I also read the short book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Phillip Johnson.
I have to confess my utter ignorance of scientific things. I don't know enough to make an argument based on well-developed scientific reasoning for or against Darwinian evolution. I can say that throughout my Christian life I have been a young-earth creationist without feeling the need to think too hard about it.
Lately I've felt the need to dig a little deeper. This book was a simple primer on the debate. Here's what I've gleaned so far:
1) Darwin's theory of evolution was never intended to be reconciled to a belief in the existence of a Creator God. Darwin actually said that if there was a Creator God then natural selection was null and void. It would have to be thrown out.
2) Darwin's theory is based largely on the mechanism of natural selection. When we look at what spurred all of the variations in the created order, Darwin's answer is natural selection.
3) Natural selection is a mechanism that cannot coexist with God as a Guiding Force in Creation. Things could have evolved, but they could not have evolved through natural selection if God did the selecting. I think this is what is meant by Intelligent Design.
4) If we cannot have natural selection and God, we have to choose between the two. Can we keep evolution and throw out natural selection? We cannot keep Darwinian evolution. At least Darwin says we can't.
5) Evolution is based on the idea that matter is all that exists. This is called Scientific Materialism. If matter is all that exists, then we don't have souls, and we don't have free will.
6) If we don't have free will, then moral choices become very complicated. Human beings are not more important than apes, dogs, birds, trees, water, rocks, anything. Even heinous crimes become relativized.
(As I reread the above list, I noticed that 1-4 all basically said the same thing. But I'm writing this disclaimer rather than editing because I want to go to bed.)
Monday, November 20, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;the LORD is our king; he will save us.
"our judge" - Judicial Branch
"our lawgiver" - Legislative Branch
"our king" - Executive Branch
Friday, November 17, 2006
For over two decades, the entrepreneurial, multi-programmed church has been altering what people expect out of a church, and the concept of the church leader has also changed. Pastors must be visionaries, risk-takers, and innovators, as well as spiritual guides. They are expected to be top-of-the-heap speakers as well, their stage skills honed to the highest cultural standards.
Realistically, very few pastors are cut out for this kind of leadership. The average pastor may be at his best as teacher, coach, or theological guide. He might shine as a catalyst: a convener of collaborative vision and process; a facilitator of deep community. If he tends toward the empathetic and intuitive, he may excel as a nurturer, counselor, wound-dresser, or heart-holder. But he is not megachurch material.
Tragically, some of these so-called misfits will turn to an addiction, an escape out of what they see as a no-win proposition: become someone else, fit the mold, or fail. Instead of pushing back on leadership stereotypes that have long deserved questioning; instead of focusing on their strengths and becoming who God crafted them to be, they cave in.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
We're all sinners. Some of us hide our sins better than others. Ted, who I've talked to on this issue—some of us have known for a while he had this problem. We weren't sure just how to deal with it. Finally the escort blew it out of the water.Read more. There are definitely either some typos or strange words in there.
He and I had a discussion. He said homosexuality is genetic. I said no it isn't. Never have amer acad of sciences or other scientific bodies found such a consensus. I just knw he was covering up. They NEED to say that.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
So far, I've thought of these:
looking the other way as people starve to death
neglecting the poor
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Kittiwat Unarom, 28, a Thai art student, has developed these works 'human being parts' made of bread at his studio in Potharam district of Ratchaburi province, south of Bangkok, Thailand. Kittiwat is a son of bakery owners...The next time I get fed up with people fighting about whether or not we'll use bread or wafers for Communion, I might give this guy a call.
If you've got a stomach for more...
Monday, November 13, 2006
I really found Nieraber's list of the sources of conflict that churches experience helpful. Here is the list:
1) People Disagree About Values and Beliefs.
2) The Structure is Unclear.
3) The Pastor's Roles and Responsibilities are in Conflict.
4) The Structure No Longer Fits the Size of the Congregation.
5) Clergy and Lay Leadership Styles Don't Mesh.
6) A New Pastor Rushes Into Changes.
7) Communication Lines are Blocked.
8) Church Members Manage Conflict Poorly.
9) Disaffected Members Hold Back Participation and Pledges.
10) Poor Internal Accountability Structures.
11) Subtle Boundary Violations.
12) Confusion Between Transparency and Confidentiality.
13) Inappropriate Use of Email.
Everyone around the room seemed to be very familiar with most of these.
A couple things stood out as I watched this movie again:
1) Don Knotts is brilliant. He is an incredible actor. I can't imagine any actor having more control of his body and being able to use it to hash out an engaging character portrayal. He blows Jim Carrey out of the water as far as the physical component of acting.
2) This movie shows the way that fascination of the occult has become common place. I know this is a comedy, but I think it is also a commentary on the way that the average American has no qualm seeking out psychic phenomena and other biblically forbidden curiosities.
Although I never would have thought twice about the innocence this classic Don Knotts film, I will probably not allow my children to view this movie.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
My heart sunk. She had to be kidding. Don't get me wrong. I think Smith's music is great. But I had very little faith that this movie I'd never heard of about a praise and worship leader would meet my standards for cinematic excellence.
In review: This movie was surprisingly good. Did it have some cheesiness? Of course. But overall it was like a powerful one point sermon about the mission efforts of churches. The movie makes a strong statement about how many Christians really get behind efforts to minister in thriving, expanding communities, and even do world missions, but at the same time, neglecting the inner city poor who live within a short driving distance. This movie really convicted me about the difficulty of inner city ministry and about the issues that drive children into gang life.
I can't say that this was a movie I was excited about seeing. After seeing it, I can say this is a movie that you need to see. It will probably challenge you and break your heart for the pain and poverty that exists within a short distance from your house, and also inspire you to remember that Jesus is the answer even there.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Many Christians do accept both the Bible and Darwinism. What's wrong with that?so far, very good stuff
To answer that question, we need to look closely at what Darwin really said. Even in Darwin's own day, many Christians tried to combine his theory with the idea of divine purpose and design. For example, the botanist Asa Gray tried to find a divine plan in natural selection.
But Darwin protested that this was not what he meant at all. If God was behind evolution, he argued, then each variation in living things would be predetermined by His purpose. But in that case, there would be no need for natural selection.
Darwin's motives were ultimately religious.
After all, the whole point of natural selection is to demonstrate how limbs and organs that appear to be designed might actually result from random changes. The theory is that natural selection sifts through those random changes and preserves those that happen to be beneficial.
But if the changes were not random--if God preselected only beneficial changes in the first place--then obviously you would not need any sifting. In Darwin's own words, if God ensured that "the right variations occurred, and no others, natural selection would be superfluous"--unnecessary, redundant.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
God has called us. It all rests upon his summons. It is not our job to make the world turn out right or to see the church triumpant or even to make this congregation into an unministakable outpost of the kingdom of God. Only God can do that. It is not my task to work in such a skillful, informed, and competent way that my ministry will ultimately count for something. Only God can do that. And while God is doing that, it is good for me to keep in mind that this God wins victories through suffering, through love that, from a cross, moves the sun and moon and stars. The suffering that faithful ministry sometimes entails is not a sign of failure, but of fidelity.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
As a young pastor, Karl Barth had been trained in the standard liberal theology of nineteenth-century German theological education. Human beings were making progress, at least in the German culture, and the church was there to help celebrate an essentialy optimistic account of human betterment. Then came World War I. Barth picked up the morning paper on 4 October 1914, and was shocked to learn that some of his most admired theology professors had signed a declaration of support for the war effort. Even in the face of the German bombing of innocent civilians and the destruction of the library at Louvain, the young pastor "found to my horror the names of nearly all my theological teachers whom up to then I had religiously honored. Disillusioned by their conduct, I perceived that I would not be able to accept their ethics and dogmatics, there biblical exegesis, there interpretation of history." Barth saw how their theology was but another means of subservience to German Kultur. There compromised, accomodated theology was in a moment unmasked for the young pastor out in the hinterland in what he later referred to as the "dark day" of his pastoral history. Thus began Barth's attempt to reconstruct Christian theolotgy, not on the basis of the older overly optimistic belief in philosophical inquiry, but rather on the basis of the Bible. (Pastor 270-271)This reminds me yet again of the need to continually to make sure my allegiance is to Christ as revealed in the written Word, rather than to some form of American kultur.
I heard a distinguished professor complain that "when the average Joe hears us preach, he sits there thinking, 'None of this really relates to my world.'" But evangelism is more than some limp attempt to relate to the world of the "average Joe." Evangelism is an assult, a rearrangement, a reconfiguration, a recreation of a world that would not be there had not Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and make disciples.
The way I read church history, some of the greatest theological mistakes made by the church have been made in the interest of evangelism. In so wanting to reach out to speak to the world, sometimes we fall in. We substitute worldly wisdom for gospel foolishness. We offer the world, in the name of the gospel, what the world wants before it is told by the gospel those wants worth wanting. We become a pale imitation of the world, a mirror reflection, a mode of life that is already available in the world, without bothering with the church. Therefore we must judge our prayer and praise theologically so that we might be confident that the God to whom we testify is the Christ who has given us something to say and to show to the world in the first place. (Pastor 244-245)
Monday, November 06, 2006
Watch out for smooth talkers who pastor large churches, write many books, lead wide ministries, and do not manifestly prize above their earthly good the whole counsel of God.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I'm also incredibly encouraged by the the way that our brothers and sisters in the evangelical community have not made matters worse, but have expressed their support for Ted, showing the love of Christ to the world, even though we're embarrassed. I think of Jesus saying, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
I think Johnson makes some very important points.
It's time for evangelicals to rethink their priorities, reexamine the evil fruits of pragmatic and market-driven "spirituality," and retool their own movement. Better yet, Christians with a concern for the glory of God and the authority of Scripture should renounce the latitudinarian-style movement contemporary "evangelicalism" has morphed into. It is a hopelessly mixed and muddled multitude. The fashionable brand of NAE/Christianity Today-style "evangelicalism" actually abandoned historic evangelical principles long ago, and hasn't taken a firm stand for biblical and evangelical doctrine for some time. The current scandal is only a symptom of that much deeper problem.
Which is to say that evangelicalism right now is at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church. We need to face that squarely, rather than reflexively defending our "movement" in the wake of a scandal like this.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
James Dobson is quoted in a CNN article:
"The possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred is alarming to us and to millions of others," Dobson said.This one will go down in the history of evanglicalism in America.
"He will continue to be my friend, even if the worst allegations prove accurate," he continued. "Nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences."
Father in heaven, we pray that you would work this calamity to the good of your cause. We pray that you will use this to bring about good for all parties involved. We pray that you will help us all to take seriously the sin in our lives, and never to believe that we're in the clear of Satan's scheming. Thank you for the many souls that know you through Christ because of the ministry of Ted Haggard. Please grant them grace and mercy to keep believing in you in this strange hour. In Christ Jesus we pray... Amen.
I was speaking at a conference on Christianity and the family. I had the challenge of trying to think about the family in the manner that Jesus seemed to think. I noted that Jesus had minimal interaction with his own family and, when he did go home or encounter his mother, things usually went badly. He made his disciples by rescuing people from their families. His, "Follow me!" appears to have meant, "Leave your family." Then there is Paul, and most of us know how negative he was on marriage and family. Indeed, one of pagan Rome's most trenchant criticisms against early Christians was that they tore families apart, teaching children to be disrespectful of their parents, and wives not to submit to their husband, and nothing was more dear to pagan Romans than their families. Jesus was clear that he had come to turn father against son and mother against daughter (Mark 3). The gospel was a sword that severed families and broke the hearts of many parents (Matthew 10:34-39).I wonder if James Dobson would agree with Willimon on this.
So when Christians say "family," what we mean is "church" - that gathering based not upon natural birth, or social class, or race, or the world's other ways of locating people. We are trying to be members of that family formed by the waters of baptism. Our family consists of those who have been made disciples by being baptized and taught. That is our idea of family. (220)
Friday, November 03, 2006
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who has resigned amid allegations that he had sex with a former self-described male prostitute, has admitted to buying methamphetamines from the man, but denied that he had used the drug or had sex with the man.Click here to watch a video of Haggard telling a reporter about buying meth from Mike Jones.
"I bought it for myself but never used it," the Rev. Ted Haggard said today to a reporter for KUSA who interviewed him as he was sitting in his car with his wife outside his Colorado Springs, Colo., home. "I was tempted, but I never used it."
He said he threw out the drug without using it.
Haggard said he got a massage from the man, 49-year-old Mike Jones, after receiving a recommendation from a Denver hotel, but said he never had sex with him.
I immediately checked this out on the internet to see if it were true and it is. Haggard has temporarily stepped down as both the head of the National Evangelical Association, and as the pastor of his 14,000 member megachurch in Colorado Springs.
Today its out in the open that Haggard has confessed to committing some of the things was he accused of by mail prostitute Mike Jones.
This really weird. I have all kinds of thoughts about all this.
1) If these allegations are not true, then look at how easy it is to get someone to resign from the ministry, at least temporarily. (But today even Haggard says some of it is true.)
2) In some ways I'm not surprised. This is the most disturbing of all. But with that has happened with Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Mike Trout (former co-host of Focus on the Family) and others, it seems that high power charismatic Christian leaders fall into some pretty depraved stuff sometimes. I don't know much about Ted Haggard and I hope this isn't true, but unfortunately we've seen this before.
3) If this is true, what will it mean to evangelicalism? This makes us look bad, bad, bad.
4) If this is true, what will the NAE do in response? Will they openly and honestly address this? How will they treat Haggard?
Pray for everyone involved!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Our church in Pontiac just completed four days of worship experiences, teaching sessions, and Bible studies led by Mike. I met him last year at a pastor's convention where he was leading worship. Since then he's become a good friend. Mike is THE BEST STORYTELLER I have ever heard. I know this not only from hearing him tell them around my kitchen table, but also when preaching.
Before moving to the United States to travel around as a worship leader, preacher, teacher, and evangelist (in the best positive sense of the word), Mike lived in Australia where he worked as a pastor, a radio show host, and a traveling musician/speaker. A few years ago, Robert Schuller recruited him to tour around Australia providing music before he spoke each night.
An interesting thing about how Mike chooses to do ministry is that he doesn't charge anything when he comes to churches. When he began traveling around sharing God's word through music and preaching, he made a decision not to charge large amounts of money for his services as some of his peers in Christian music were doing. Instead, he only receives money from love offerings and CD sales. This means that he's much more accessible than many Christian musicians. And at the same quality. In the Christmas seasons of 2004 and 2005, Mike's song "Hey Joe" was number one on the Christian charts in Australia. He's the real deal.
If you're interesting in booking Mike for either a Sunday service, or for a series of worship experiences, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a sample of his music, check out his MySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/mikerayson. The official website for Mike Rayson International Ministries is www.mikerayson.net.
By the way, Mike doesn't know I'm writing this, and he definitely did not ask me to. I've often heard that the best way to spread the news of anything is to get people so excited about it that they do it naturally. I'm just excited about Mike's ministry and had to share about it. I highly commend him to you. Contact him for a booking as soon as you can.
PICTURED ABOVE: (left to right) Lon Alderman, Mike Rayson, my daughter, and me.