Thursday, December 13, 2018

FAITH IN JESUS ALONE




As Christians, we have a lot of freedom. We can eat what we want, dress as we choose, go where we desire, and even worship as we please, but within certain bounds. Our worship has to be according to the truth of God. A Samaritan woman told Jesus that she thought that worship was just a matter of location. However, He retorted that location wasn’t important but rather truth:

·       “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24)

Truth was always a matter of obedience to God’s every Word. This is the way it had been under the Mosaic Covenant. It required Israel to obey God’s Word alone (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). Any borrowing from the Canaanite religions was strictly forbidden:

·       “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 13:4-5)

Israel’s trust and obedience had to be exclusively in their Redeemer (Psalm 62; Proverbs 3:5-6). This same principle also pertains to the rest of the Bible. Preaching a different or modified Jesus or Gospel was also strictly forbidden:

·       But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

As a new Christian, I had become quite confused by the teachings of the Bible. Some verses seem to teach that we are saved by faith apart from any obedience, while other verses seemed to teach that obedience was necessary for salvation.

I decided that I would play-it-safe. I would trust in the free gift of God but I would also trust in my “worthiness” before the Lord by doing good deeds. However, by placing trust in myself, I had become morbidly self-preoccupied. How? We are always going to be preoccupied with the source of our hope, and I was proving to be a very poor source of hope. God had been showing me that my righteous deeds were no more than filthy rags. Meanwhile, I struggled to suppress this growing awareness.

Even worse than this, I was betraying my faith and my Savior by committing the Galatian heresy:

·       Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:1-5)

The Galatian church had initially come to Jesus by trusting in Him. However, they foolishly began to invest their faith in good deeds, their “merit,” instead of in Christ’s free gift of forgiveness and salvation. However, they couldn’t have it both ways. They had to either trust in Christ or in themselves. The two couldn’t coexist. Likewise, the Canaanites beliefs could not be combined with God’s Word. It had to be one or the other. Nor could the Galatians be lukewarm – somewhere in the middle. God would not allow that; nor would He allow such a mixture in me.

Paul insisted that they could not even earn God’s miracles through their good deeds. Instead, the entire Christian life is animated by grace working through faith (Colossians 2:6), but by a faith that produces the fruit of obedience.

Therefore, He humbled me to show me the futility of any form of self-trust (2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 3:5; John 15:4-5). Even the most righteous man, Job, had to be humbled away from his self-righteousness, which his trials had brought to the surface. The prophetic Elihu therefore charged Job, “You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me’” (Job 33:9). Job’s good deeds had produced self-righteousness, a disease that had to be exposed:

·       Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:6-8)

Self-righteousness is a deadly cancer. For those who are trusting in their works, radical surgery is necessary. Even Paul had to be further humbled by a thorn in his flesh lest he too become proud (2 Corinthians 12:7).

The blinding power and seductiveness of a works-righteousness is overwhelming. It convinces us of our own merit at the expense of trusting in God alone. Therefore, we need to be shown that we are all sinners in need of the Savior, as Jesus illustrated:

·       “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23)

Despite their “good deeds,” they were still “workers of lawlessness.” As with the rest of us, they too needed to humble themselves before the Savior and trust in His mercy alone. To not trust in His mercy alone is to continue in self-delusion regarding our “worthiness” and to become alienated from the Savior. To become circumcised in hope of earning righteousness through the Law was also a vain hope:

·       Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4)

I had thought that playing-it-safe by also trusting in my good deeds, along with the grace of God, was the way to go. However, such a faith would sever me from my Savior. I was falling from grace, but the Lord was painfully exposing my filthy rags.

To adulterate faith in Christ with any other faith is to reject Christ.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE LOSE INTEREST IN TRUTH AND THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW?




What happens when Christians embrace Christ without believing that Christianity as the Truth? In his essay, “Why Christianity Lost America,” Indian scholar turned Christian, Vishal Mangalwadi, asks:

  • Why did Christianity lose the power that gave it influence over education and economy, government and law, press and entertainment? How can the Church recover the power to prevail over the forces of evil?

He explains that today’s Christianity is not the vibrant Christianity of the recent past. Today’s version has separated truth from faith, leaving Christianity unbalanced – a plane with one wing, trying to fly with only feelings, mystical experiences, and a private and personalized faith, separated from its Biblical and defensible truth-claims:

  • Christianity lost America because 20th-century evangelicalism branded itself as the party of faith. By default, Secularism (science, university, media) became the party of truth. This is one reason why 70% of Christian youth give up meaningful involvement with the church when they grow up. http://www.revelationmovement.com/instructors/blog_post/38

Mangalwadi observes that many of today’s Christians believe in a Christianity that has little to do with truth and facts. This imbalance has proved disastrous for Christianity. Mangalwadi cites several examples:

  • In November 2011, I met an American missionary who has served in Guatemala for 36 years. He described a recent (unpublished) doctoral study examining Protestantism in one part of Guatemala. The Hispanic scholar had hoped to substantiate Max Weber’s thesis on the connection between Protestantism and economic development. The data, however, drove him to conclude that the gospel taught by present-day American missions makes no perceptible difference to the economic life of the believing communities.

What a contrast with what Christianity had been historically! One example of the vibrancy of the Christian faith is found in its establishment of universities. Sociologist Alvin Schmidt writes:

  • Given the powerful influence that secularism now has on most Americans, they are probably not aware that “every collegiate institution founded in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War – except the University of Pennsylvania – was established by some branch of the Christian church.” Nor are most Americans aware that in 1932, when Donald Tewksbury published The Founding of American Colleges and Universities before the Civil War, 92 percent of the 182 colleges and universities were founded by Christian denominations. (How Christianity Changed the Word, 190)

This should not surprise us. The Bible’s teachings unequivocally testify that the faith rests upon the undeniable truths of God (Deut. 4:34-37) – what He revealed and accomplished historically. God never asked Israel to just believe, but rather to believe by virtue of the evidences. For example, when Moses asked God for evidences that He could take to the Israelites to prove that God had appeared to him, God didn’t say, “Well, just tell those Israelites to believe!” Instead, He consistently provided the necessary proofs:

  • Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.' "So the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod." And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), "that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." (Exodus 4:1-5)

Likewise, Jesus never instructed His followers to believe without reasons to believe. Instead, He provided evidences through his miracles and prophecies:

  • He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

  • "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (John 14:28-29)

The Biblical faith embodies verifiable truths (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; Titus 1:1). Mangalwadi contrasts this with other religions:

  • Hinduism, like Greco-Roman religions, is based (self-consciously) on myths.

  • The Buddha rejected Hinduism’s mythical gods and goddesses in favor of mystical (non-rational) Silence.

  • Islam has words that are believed to be true. These words were uttered in a state of non-rational trance, called “prophecy.” Islam, therefore, rests on private, non-verifiable communications of an individual. Sometimes Mohammed went into “prophetic” trance in public, but no one saw or heard angel Gabriel talking to him. The power of his utterances rested on the sword, not on evidence. When his words about the past (e.g., stories from Old and New Testament times) contradicted documented history, his followers had to assume that contradictions mean that texts have been corrupted. Non-verifiable trance communications overrode documented history.

Sadly, Christianity has been going the way of the other religions. In the face of secular attacks upon the truth-claims of Christianity, Christianity has retreated into a cocoon of private faith experiences. We have defensively responded, “Well, I just know what I’ve experienced, and no one can tell me any differently.”

This response hasn’t proved adequate. Against the weight of the claims of the modern university, Christianity has retreated and compromised. It has surrendered the life of the mind for the life of internal experiences. Mangalwadi explains:

  • The church created the university to train godly leaders who will look at all of reality through the light of the Truth (revealed by God’s works and words). Fundamentalism insulated Bible Institutes from other departments to study the Bible alone. It gave up the mission to seek public truth in favor of cultivating private spiritual lives. Once the Bible was put into the silo of Bible Institutes, the Bible teachers were isolated from the public life of the mind.  Preachers memorized the Bible but by and large they did not learn how to meditate upon God’s word in a way to shine its light on all of life.

We have compromised in many ways. We have put the claims of the Bible on the bench in favor of charismatic pastors who have promised experiences if we would only turn off our minds and our insistence to check everything out according to Scripture.

We have embraced a neo-orthodox “Christianity” that tried to salvage the Christian basics by insisting that the Bible really isn’t about what it clearly teaches. Instead, it is a tool to bring us magically into a saving relationship with Christ apart from its verifiable truth claims – claims that the university rejects.

We have embraced theistic evolution (TE) in a vain attempt to make friends with the university. This worldview attempts to make peace by claiming that the Bible isn’t about the physical world – science, history, geography – but only about the spiritual. Hence, no conflict between science and Christianity! However, in making this compromise, TE has separated Christianity from all of its supporting evidences – objective evidences that cannot be found outside of this physical world. This is because proof starts with what we know and can agree about – the physical world. Once this is established, it proceeds to the areas of disagreement – the spiritual claims. However, once the Church abandons the physical world, it no longer has an objective and shared basis to prove its case. Consequently, some Christian leaders now describe themselves as “Christian Agnostics.”

We have embraced “Christian” mysticism and Postmodern “Christianity.” These have, in various ways, demeaned doctrine and apologetics in favor of experience, dogmatically claiming that we can’t really know with any degree of certainty, that “doctrine divides,” and that what really matters is a direct experience of God, apart from what we Biblically understand about Him.

Consequently, “the church reads the Bible mainly for private “edification.” Corporately, the Kingdom of Christ has ceased being the city on a hill.” Indeed, we can’t be the light if we believe that biblical truth-claims aren’t verifiable.

In contrast to this, it was formerly widely accepted that the light of the Bible illuminated our relationship to God’s creation and so allowed us to master it. Schmidt concludes:

  • Modern science is an outgrowth of Christian theology of the Middle Ages. It proceeded to show that it was Christianity’s values that provided the necessary Weltanschauung [worldview] and motivation to encourage many of its educated adherents to study the world of nature…The public are unaware that virtually all scientists from the Middle Ages to the mid-eighteenth century – many of which were seminal thinkers – not only were sincere Christians but were often inspired by biblical postulates and premises in their theories… [they] knew and believed the words of the biblical writer: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). (How Christianity Changed the World, 243-44).

What then is the answer for us today? To return with courage to the basics! Jesus instructed us to:

  • " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

When we leave out truth and neglect the cultivation of the mind, we fail to live faithfully to the teachings of Scripture. Instead, we distance ourselves and the world around us from the Scriptures and live defensively, fearful that we will be confronted with questions and challenges that we cannot answer. We therefore practice avoidance. Instead of being a light on a hill, we gaze at and perhaps reflect some of the light from beneath the shadow cast over us by the prevailing culture.

Once we lose confidence in the Light/Truth of Christ, we become indistinguishable from the world. We no longer have the conviction (or the faith) to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Somehow, the Bible begins to feel judgmental and legalistic. It is then inevitable that our affections will become set on the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16; James 4:4).

Real assurance is only possible when the mind is engaged and assured. Let us therefore feast upon the many reasons to believe in God and in His Word!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BLINDNESS AND COERCION IN THE HALLS OF SCIENCE




We are the products of our cultures, training, and professional affiliations. In Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design, award-winning Finnish biotechnologist, Matti Leisola, has written about his now changed perspectives:

·       Over and over again I have encountered materialist fanaticism from people who are not ready to give up their views in the face of contrary evidence. Actually, they usually are not even interested in considering the evidence.

Why do scientists not consider any explanations outside of the naturalistic/materialistic box? According to Leisola:

·       ...most scientists who go along with methodological materialism put about as much thought into it as they do breathing. I was that way. And in hundreds of discussions over the years I have witnessed a blindness to basic philosophical commitments in many kinds of people from at least thirty different nationalities. Even among scientists few are aware of their basic presuppositions. Most of them consider science a neutral search for truth.

The scientific community has become committed to naturalism, which religiously discounts a Designer in favor of only naturalistic unintelligent causation. Meanwhile, there doesn’t exist even a shred of evidence that anything has ever happened naturally without intelligence. However, with a religious zeal, they have proceeded to dogmatically attest to how life had evolved from non-life. Leisola continues:

·       The 1960 declaration of famous paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson in the journal Science is representative. “The consensus is that life did arise naturally from the nonliving and that even the first living things were not specially created,” he wrote. “The conclusion has, indeed, really become inescapable, for the first steps in that process have already been repeated in several laboratories.”

However, despite these many proclamations, Leisola claims that the evidence is simply non-existent:

·       How bleak are the prospects for explaining the origin of life without reference to a creative intelligence? Bleak enough that some leading origin-of-life researchers have taken to evoking alien life to get around the challenge. Swedish Nobel-Prize winning chemist Svante Arrhenius suggested that life’s seeds were originated somewhere else in the universe and then somehow made their way to Earth.

Rather than panspermia providing an explanation of how life has occurred naturally, it has merely pushed the explanation elsewhere upon extra-terrestrials, without apparently sensing any need to explain their origin.

It seems that the powers of cultural indoctrination do not play favorites. The elites are just as much under its influence as are the uneducated, perhaps even more so. It seems that these elites are just as punitive of any major breach of the accepted norms as was the Spanish Inquisition.

Casey Luskin has collected numerous, well-documented examples of scientists who have faced persecution and discrimination for disagreeing with Darwinian evolution in just the last few years:

  •  In 2005, Smithsonian spokesman Randall Kremer objected to a private screening of the pro-ID film The Privileged Planet because it drew a "philosophical conclusion." The Smithsonian made no complaints when Sagan's original Cosmos in 1980 argued that "The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."

  • A congressional subcommittee staff investigation found that biologist Richard Sternberg experienced retaliation by his co-workers and superiors at the Smithsonian, including transfer to a hostile supervisor, removal of his name placard from his door, deprivation of workspace, subjection to work requirements not imposed on others, restriction of specimen access, and loss of his keys, because he allowed a pro-ID article to be published in a biology journal. The Congressional staff investigation concluded that the "Smithsonian's top officials permit[ed] the demotion and harassment of [a] scientist skeptical of Darwinian evolution" and "officials explicitly acknowledged in emails their intent to pressure Sternberg to resign because of his role in the publication of the [pro-ID] Meyer paper and his views on evolution."

  • In 2009 the state-funded California Science Center (CSC) museum cancelled the contract of a pro-ID group, American Freedom Alliance (AFA), to show a pro-ID film. The lawsuit was settled in August 2011, with the CSC agreeing to pay AFA $110,000 to avoid a public trial. However, documents disclosed during the course of litigation showed that employees of the CSC, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, joined with other LA-area academics to suppress the expression of ID, most egregiously by pressing CSC decision-makers to hastily cancel AFA's event.

  • In 2005, over 120 faculty members at Iowa State University (ISU) signed a petition denouncing ID and calling on "all faculty members to ... reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science." These efforts were significant not just because they opposed academic freedom by demanding conformity among faculty to reject ID, but because they focused on creating a hostile environment for pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of The Privileged Planet, who was denied tenure at ISU in 2006 due to his support for ID. Both public and private statements exposed through public records requests revealed that members of ISU's department in physics and astronomy voted against Gonzalez's tenure due to his support for ID.
  • In 1993, San Francisco State University biology professor Dean Kenyon was forced to stop teaching introductory biology because he was informing students that scientists had doubts about materialist theories of the origin of life.

  • In a similar case five years later, Minnesota high school teacher Rodney LeVake was removed from teaching biology after expressing skepticism about Darwin's theory. LeVake, who holds a master's degree in biology, agreed to teach evolution as required in the district's curriculum, but said he wanted to "accompany that treatment of evolution with an honest look at the difficulties and inconsistencies of the theory."

  • Rogert DeHart, a public high school biology teacher in Washington State, was denied the right to have his students read articles from mainstream science publications that made scientific criticisms of certain pieces of evidence typically offered to support Darwinian theory. One of the forbidden articles was written by noted evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould. Although DeHart complied with this ban, he was later removed from teaching biology.

  • In Mississippi, chemistry professor Nancy Bryson was asked by Mississippi University for Women to resign as head of the Division of Science and Mathematics after she gave a lecture to honors students called "Critical Thinking on Evolution." She remarked, "Students at my college got the message very clearly[;] do not ask any questions about Darwinism.”

  • In 1999, ID theorist William Dembski founded the Polanyi Center at Baylor University to allow scientists and scholars to conduct scientific research into intelligent design. The Center was later shut down largely due to intolerance of ID among Baylor faculty.

  • In 2005, the president of the University of Idaho instituted a campus-wide classroom speech-code, where "evolution" was "the only curriculum that is appropriate" for science classes. This was done in retaliation towards a professor at the university, Scott Minnich, who at the time was testifying in favor of intelligent design as an expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial.

  • Also in 2005, Cornell's former interim president Hunter Rawlings devoted a State of the University Address "to denounce 'intelligent design,' arguing that it has no place in science classrooms and calling on faculty members in a range of disciplines" to similarly attack ID.

  • In 2005, top biology professors at Ohio State University derailed a doctoral student's thesis defense by writing a letter claiming "there are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution" and therefore the student's teaching about problems with neo-Darwinism was "unethical" and "deliberate miseducation."

  • In 2005, pro-ID adjunct biology professor Caroline Crocker lost her job at George Mason University after teaching students about both the evidence for and against evolution in the classroom, and mentioning ID as a possible alternative to Darwinism. While her former employer maintains that it simply chose not to renew her contract, she was specifically told she would be "disciplined" for teaching students about the scientific controversy over evolution.

  • In 2007, Robert Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor, had established an Evolutionary Informatics Lab at Baylor University to study the ability of Darwinian processes to generate new information using computer simulations and evolutionary algorithms. However, after Dr. Marks was interviewed by ID the Future in 2007, he subsequently received a letter from his dean warning that the website was "associated" with "ID," and he was forced to take the lab's site down and move the lab itself off campus.

  • In 2006, a professor of biochemistry and leading biochemistry textbook author at the University of Toronto, Laurence A. Moran, stated that a major public research university "should never have admitted" students who support ID, and should "just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students."

  • In 2011, a biology professor at the University of Waikato stated that "If, for example, a student were to use examples such as the bacterial flagellum to advance an ID view then they should expect to be marked down"

  • Likewise, that same year Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, stated that "adherence to ID (which, after all, claims to be a nonreligious theory) should be absolute grounds for not hiring a science professor."

  • In January 2011, the University of Kentucky (UK) paid over $100,000 to settle astronomer Martin Gaskell's lawsuit claiming that he was wrongfully denied employment for doubting Darwinism. UK faculty admitted that Gaskell was the most qualified applicant for the position, but they hired a much less qualified candidate out of concerns about statements Gaskell had made that were critical of Darwinian evolution.

  • In June 2011, the journal Applied Mathematics Letters paid $10,000 and publicly apologized to avoid litigation after it wrongfully withdrew mathematician Granville Sewell's paper critiquing neo-Darwinism.

  • In 2009, David Coppedge was demoted and punished for sharing pro-ID videos with co-workers at Jet Propulsion Lab. Later, his employment was terminated.

  • In 2012, Springer-Verlag illegally breached a contract to publish the proceedings of an ID-friendly research conference at Cornell University after a pressure campaign was mounted by pro-Darwin activists to have the book scuttled.

  • In 2013, Ball State University (BSU) President Jo Ann Gora issued a speech code declaring that "intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses" at BSU, after atheist activists from the Freedom from Religion Foundation charged that a "Boundaries of Science" course taught by a well-liked physics professor (Eric Hedin) was violating the Constitution by favorably discussing intelligent design.

  • Also in 2013, atheist activists forced Amarillo College to cancel an intelligent design course after they threatened disruption if it went forward.

Political correctness has taken science captive as a marionette controlled by barely visible but all-controlling strings.