Oct 15, 2008

How good/evil is my blog?

Thanks Chattaway for this.

This site is certified 27% EVIL by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 73% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is NOT tied to regeneration

Why should Facebook get all the fun?

I know someone out there is gonna take issue with this, but this ministered to me tonight, and I want to share it. Thanks Adrian.

Repent, Be Baptized, and THEN receive the Holy Spirit...


"There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. But it is a very commonly held teaching today, indeed it has been the popular view for many years. It is said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is ‘nonexperimental’, that it happens to every one at regeneration. So we say, ‘Ah well, I am already baptized with the Spirit; it happened when I was born again, at my conversion; there is nothing for me to seek, I have got it all’. Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians?

The teaching that I have just mentioned is false. The apostles were regenerate before the day of Pentecost. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not identical with regeneration; it is something separate. It matters not how long the interval between the two may be, there is a difference; there is an interval, they are not identical. But if you say that they are identical, you do not expect anything further. And if you do not believe that it is possible for you to experience the Spirit of God bearing direct witness with your own spirit that you are a child of God, obviously you are quenching the Spirit. That is why so many Christian people are miserable and unhappy; they do not know anything about crying out, ‘Abba, Father’; or about ‘the Spirit of adoption’. God is a Being away in the far distance; they do not know Him as a loving Father; they do not know that they are His children. They may believe it intellectually, theoretically; but Paul says, ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear’. We are not to go about groaning and wondering whether we are Christians or not. We were in that state under the law; then we were wretched and we cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?’ But no longer! ‘We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry’—and it is an elemental cry that comes from the depth of the personality—‘Abba, Father’."

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, 280 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976).

Sep 11, 2008

The Shack by William P. Young

It seems every few years a new fad or experience sweeps through Christianity. First there was The Da Vinci Code. Now there is The Shack. Both books have generated a fair amount of controversy. I remember back when the DVC was in full swing, people would loudly condemn the book without ever having read it; they had just heard some things about it and were parroting a view. When I finally got around to reading DVC, I remember wondering what all the fuss was about. The book just wasn't that good! And it was fantastical enough that any smart reader could figure out it was fiction. People basically got up in arms about nothing.

The current bestseller seems to be The Shack. Brief synopsis - a father loses track of his daughter on a camping trip, she is kidnapped and murdered, and three years later the father receives a suspicious note in the mail from someone claiming to be Papa (his wife's pet name for God) inviting him to come back to the Shack where his daughter was murdered and have a conversation.

The book is obviously fictional, since as far as I know God does not hang out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. And as fiction goes, the premise is a very good one, albeit a simple vehicle for essentially a layman's treatise on some deep theological issues. I must make one comment on the book itself, meaning the structure, mechanics, and writing of the book: it's decent but also relatively poor. The author, William P. Young, does things that you simply don't do in fiction, things that any good copy editor or publisher should have caught and corrected, but I guess the mistakes lend more credibility to the author's amazing publication story (he self-published until it's popularity exploded). Any long time reader will read The Shack and mentally cringe at times, or at least begin to wonder why things seem just a little "off."

Ignore these problems, please, and read the book. It is actually really good!

One of the best ways I can think of to describe this book is that it is liberally dripping with theological concepts simplified and reduced to their basic elements...meaning you will meet The Trinity and observe and understand them without actually going over all the various aspects and views of the Trinity. The entire book reads like some great theological master "dumbing" his views down into a form that a child could understand. It's actually very refreshing and provides a new look at long held beliefs.

Every page, nearly every other paragraph has something that teaches you. People like to read Art Katz or My Utmost and feel smarter and more knowledgeable, and yet Young manages to do that in 4th grade English and is just as deep. This book is extremely profound, if that makes any sense. He has a way of explaining things that helps you understand things without "going deep."

Nearly every argument men level against God...God is unjust, God created evil, God could remove suffering, God hates us, etc...is addressed in this book through the eyes of a grieving, bitter father. One of the things I most appreciated about this book is that at the end of it, it doesn't instruct you to read your Bible more in order to know God; it just tells you to have a living relationship with Jesus. "Nothing is a ritual," as Papa puts it. This book does not point you to the Bible, although it will reawaken a sense of wonder and awe in the Bible; it instead points you to Jesus, which is the true point of Christianity all along.

The main controversy surround this book seems to be two different things. The first, as Bruce pointed out in church, is that this book is "outside the box." Well...no duh. It's fiction, and within fiction anything is possible. The author is free to make God appear as a black woman if he wants to (I pictured Tyler Perry the whole time I read this, but with the Oracle's voice from the first two Matrix movies); he even addresses this point within the text. Is it heretical to write a book where the basic premise is that Jesus got cold feet and didn't die on the cross? Not at all; obviously there is a group of people who will immediately say it's irrelevant to think about because Jesus obviously didn't, and "fiction isn't edifying anyway", but that's just so much bestial feces. Jesus spoke in parables; we do the same.

The second major controversy seems to be where Jesus supposedly mentions that there are many ways to the Father. But Jesus never actually said that anywhere in the book. Jesus speaking says that HE will go down any road to find one of His children. Meaning that from any walk of life, any people group, any tongue, any nation...Jesus will draw out His own. No where does Jesus say that anyone can get saved through means other than Him; quite the opposite, actually.

Overall, The Shack is a very good book, one that's more than a flash in a pan than DVC. The comparison to Pilgrim's Progress on the front cover is well earned. Who even reads PP anymore? No one can relate to it, and it's an extremely difficult book to get through. The Shack addresses many issues that people of our generation have with God. There is much needed understanding and healing through the Holy Spirit that can be found within this book.

People say the canon of Scripture is closed. I fully agree...but that doesn't mean the Holy Spirit can't anoint people to write books that will lead people to Christ. This is one of those books; I'd also argue The Screwtape Letters has the same anointing, just as The Chronicles of Narnia do, Pilgrim's Progress, My Utmost for His Highest, and other great works of Christian writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

Aug 16, 2008

Thank God For Evolution

Another blog I read brought to my attention today the book Thank God For Evolution, a book which supposedly preaches the idea that evolution and creation can coexist, that the two are not mutually exclusive, and that any Christian who believes in God and Jesus can also believe in evolution...just not the liberal evolution most biologists hold to, but instead a form of evolution that basically says the universe is evolving in some grand way through evolution.

I was curious, so I began to search online for reviews and impressions of the book, and even stumbled across the author's blog.

Then through another blog, I discovered this quote from the author:

"I cannot agree that “Jesus as God’s way, truth, and life” means that only those Christians who believe certain things about Jesus or the Bible get to go to a special otherworldly place called heaven when they die. I used to believe that, but I don’t anymore. In hindsight, I see that my old belief cheapened, belittled, and impoverished the universal glory of the Gospel. What Jesus’ life and ministry were actually about is far larger and more meaningful, and offers more this-world relevance, than my old clannish, contracted “we win, you lose” understanding. More, one need not be a Christian, nor ever have read the Bible, in order to walk what is, effectively, the same path we Christians aspire to—the same “one way”to a realized, redemptive life of fulfillment and service in this world, here and now, while simultaneously blessing future generations."

John 14:6 says "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Anything less than that is not Christianity, not the gospel, and certainly not in line with a Creationist viewpoint. Anyone who denies that basic truth is not a Christian, pure and simple.

Just as with the currently celebrated fictional book The Shack, I am still curious what exactly the author has to say in this piece. But I'd warn anyone who wants to read either book to go into it knowing exactly what not only the author really believes, but also what the Bible has to say. And remember, the Bible is our authority, first and foremost.

Here's something else I discovered on the author's website:

Until churches in America teach and preach evolution enthusiastically, in ways that expand and enrich faith, the battle over teaching evolutionary science in public schools will never end. One of the goals of Thank God for Evolution is to assist religious believers in letting go of attachment to literal interpretations of their otherworldly, supernatural sacred stories/myths in order to wholeheartedly embrace an evidential, empirical worldview. Surely, this turn needs to happen in order for radically diverse religious people to cooperate in service of a just and sustainable future. Anyone who believes that we can achieve a healthy future for planet Earth and its species without billions of religious people being commited to it is simply not thinking clearly.

An interesting fact about the author: his wife is an atheist.

Use discernment.

Aug 7, 2008

How did Jude quote Enoch?

One of the side effects of me choosing a new Bible translation to read through has been an increased interest in Biblical study. I've been reading the Word a lot more recently, trying to go more deeply too. Every day I seem to see something new and cool, whether its a piece of end times theology, some insight into a misunderstood part of the Deity, or just something unique that catches my eye.

Tonight, one of those "eye-catchers" got me. Jude 14-16.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

For those don't know, Enoch is one of the first people mentioned in the Bible, the "seventh from Adam" as it says above. Specifically, Genesis 5:18-24.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch...

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Verse 24 could also be translated, "was not found." Meaning that Enoch did not die; God brought him into heaven. In a moment, Enoch was walking on the earth, and the next moment, he was just gone; not dead, but in the prescence of God. In all of Scripture, this has only happened to two people, Enoch and Elijah. (Bruce once pointed out to me that Hebrews 9:27 says that "It is appointed to men once to die, and after that the judgement...", which then raises the question as to when Enoch and Elijah will die and face the judgement we will all face.)

The Book of Jude was written roughly 69 A.D., yet Enoch lived on this earth roughly 3100 B.C. That's a heck of a time difference. So how did Jude know what Enoch used to say back then? We don't have any other records of what Enoch might have said, how did Jude find out?

My guess is that it was the Holy Spirit. And Jude had no prior knowledge of what Enoch might have said before he wrote it down.

And on a related note...what is he talking about? Surely there weren't many false teachers in Enoch's day; the earth was essentially Godless anyway, no need of false teachers, plus it's not like there were tens of thousands living.

A hunch? Enoch was prophesying about the upcoming Millennial reign of Christ...an event which still hasn't happened yet.

Crazy stuff.

Oh, and a side WOW moment: Jude 5

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Can that be any clearer? It was JESUS who brought the Jews out of Egypt! It was JESUS power as GOD that did it!

If the Jews can be used as an example of a Christian's walk with God, then it was also Jesus who saved us from our sin, regenerated us clean in the "Red Sea", led us into the wilderness where we learned to rely on Him and cast off sin, and eventually lead us into the promised land of His riches and blessings!

I realize a New Testament passage out of Jude won't convince any Jews that Jesus is their Messiah, but for us believers already, this is powerful stuff!


Andrew Murray - The Indwelling Spirit

This hit me really hard tonight. Really hard.

"The first step on the way to true spirituality is faith. We must seek the living, all-consuming conviction that the Holy Spirit is in us; that He is the power of God dwelling and working within us, that He is the representative of Jesus, making Him present within us as our Redeemer King, mighty to save. In the union of a holy fear and reverence before the tremendous glory of this truth of an indwelling God, with the childlike joy and trust of knowing Him as the Paraclete, the bringer of the divine and irrevocable presence of Christ, this thought must become the inspiration of our life: The Holy Spirit has made His home within us; in our spirit is His hidden, blessed dwelling place."


Side note - I really need to study the Paraclete more.

Aug 3, 2008

Quick Study of Bible Translations

Since it has been brought to my attention that a few people don't know why I was looking for a new Bible, because some people believe that a Bible is simply just a Bible, any one will do...I thought I'd point out a few different things.

First off, the Bible is not simply just THE Bible. There is actually a difference between Catholic and Protestant Bibles. The main difference is that the Catholic Bible has extra books not found in the Protestant Bible. These books are known as the Apocrypha books. For various reasons these books are not considered Scripture, but can still be beneficial to readers. They are just not the inspired word of God.

Since I'm Protestant, I'll focus a little more on common Protestant Bibles.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Bible was written by many different authors over many centuries, and yet they all flow together and were all inspired by the Holy Spirit. That's one of the main reasons we know that the Bible is the inspired word of God. The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and a small bit of Aramaic (the Book of Daniel). We do not have ANY of the original texts; all we have are copies and translations. From the sheer multitude of versions we have, we are able to determine exactly what the originals said; there might be some variations, but if we have 3 manuscripts, and 2 agree, odds are the original was in line with those 2.

There have been various "authoritative" texts throughout time, such as the Latin Vulgate and others. Jesus himself used a translation and not the original texts. He used the commonly accepted Scriptures at the time. In the last few hundred years, we have our own translations of the original texts. I'm going to go over a few of them, but not all.

King James Version. Some would call this the "Authorized" version...all that means is that King James authorized it's translation way back in 1611. Jesus didn't authorize this version, just some English monarch. Many will claim that the King James is the only Bible worth reading, that all other versions are demonic and heretical. The funny thing that these people don't realize is that the KJV they are reading is the 11th or 12th version; the original original sounded more like Shakespeare.

When it comes to the KJV, I have a hard time accepting KJV Only people as Christians. That might be a hold over from the days I was surrounded by legalistic people, but I still have my doubts. I respect people who prefer it over other translations, but the instance they start saying that it is the ONLY inspired word of God, I just have to laugh at them.

Funny cartoon about it.

New King James Version. I have not read this one extensively, but it reads very similar to the KJV but without all the "thees" and "thous". Still pretty high English and hard to read at times, though. Expect to be doing your own translations on the fly for this one.

New Internation Version. This is the version I read the most growing up, this and the KJV; KJV was at church and school, and the NIV was what I read at home. Very readable, it's been the favorite of many over the years, yet it also is one of the more controversial for various reasons.

The Living Bible. A paraphase, this is not a translation of the Bible. It is similar to The Message, in that someone is trying get thoughts and ideas across; saying what Jesus meant to say rather than what Jesus really said, for example.

The New Living Bible. This is actually a true translation that reads similar to the Living Bible or The Message, but is closer to the originals. Very readable, it's a great translation for devotions, but not really suited for traditional Bible study.

New Revised Standard Version. Sometimes hailed as the "Gender Neutral Bible", this one is 'free from man-made theological viewpoints', as my professor used to say. I like to call this the "liberal Bible" because of the many liberal theologians that perfer it. It's a VERY literal translation, very wooden, hard to understand at times.

English Standard Version. The latest translation on this list, this is the Bible I have decided to start reading extensively from the most. It's a very readable translation, and also the most faithful to the originals that also try to utilize all modern English. It's not awkward to read at all, I'm really enjoying it!

So that's a brief reason why looking for a new Bible is a complicated affair. Not only do you need to choose what translation you want, but you have to look for different features too, such as a concordance, illustrations, maps, etc.

Hence, I decided to get a ESV Study Bible. It's on order and will be delivered to me when printed. Here's a link, I believe I ordered the ESV Literary Study Bible.

Any questions? I could talk more at length on this subject, this was the bare minimum.

May 30, 2008

What do you look for in a Bible?

Found this helpful thought provoking article through the ESV Bible Blog.

This morning I finished reading completely through the New Living Translation. I'd read the New Testament and Poetry books countless times, but finally decided to just go through the whole Old Testament. Lots of good (and boring!) stuff in that section...Malachi contained several verses this morning that I really needed to hear, maybe even memorize.

So now I've completely read through the KJV (church and school), the NIV (my old standby, the one I read devotionally growing up), The Message (a novel), the Living Bible (a children's novel), and the New Living Translation (my church uses it). Also have used the NKJV extensively but feel no read need to read it. And I need another Bible to read through.

Everyone says they love the NASB. I know a bunch of folks who swear by the newer ESV. And I have a copy of the NRSV sitting around from classes at the U of M.

It's been quite a while since I really had a good quality Bible in terms of construction. My old beloved NIV was like that, but fell horribly apart and is gathering dust somewhere at my parents. I'm willing to fork over money for a good Bible now, not just a cheap Half-Price Books version. Something that I will like, read, and that can last forever. Might even start marking it up for once.

Any recommendations?

Mar 26, 2008

Final word on the Expelled debacle

A final word. Everyone, please read this before leaving comments.


The most important part of the text:

I wanted to thank you for posting Stuart’s comments on the Expelled issue and — most of all — for noting and complementing his gracefulness in reply.

He is a student of mine this semester in a class I’m teaching about Biblical arguments. He is more conservative than I am, too be sure. All the more reason for me to note that in person he is as civil as his postings to you were. Very even tempered person. He tells me he has received a large amount of hate mail and threats that he should be expelled and so on. Amazing.

I used to cover some of the Harris and Dawkins books in my Analysis of Argument class, but they are so shoddy and mean-spirited it hardly seemed worth the time. Hans Kung wrote a “does God exist” book and you could take his set-up of the various anti-God arguments, combine that into one book and you’d have something far superior to Dawkins’ effort.

Again, thanks.

John Nordin
Lecturer, Communication Studies

Mar 22, 2008

Noapathyplz, fellow attendee of "Expelled", writes...

Taken from their comment left on Looking Closer:

I must say that I was at the screening and thought that the film was quite well done. A bit refreshing as well. I also find Stuart’s comments refreshing, even though we are all still sorting through the facts of ‘expulsions.’

I was very pleased to see Dawkins there…it shows to me an open-mindedness from the film’s sponsors to allow this. As far as I am concerned, since it was a special engagement with security and all that jazz, they get the final say in who attends. I personally received an email invite and so did Stuart. In fact, I am the one who requested for his name to be on the list, which it was.

I think we must digest Stuart’s comments as one person’s account of what he saw. Sure, I agree he went a bit far in his characterization of the Meyers incident, but he was there and that is what he saw. I am sure that Myers is right when he says he signed up online because I saw this feature available the day of the event. Registration was closed at the time of that inquiry, although.

There is no reason do deny that Myers signed up online and was ‘on the list’ but I am sure that the sponsors still reserve the right to allow admittance to those whom they wish. Mark Mathis said it best…paraphrase…”I actually want Professor Myers to put his ten dollars down after the release and see it then.” Sounds fine to me. It is their film and it hasn’t been released to the public yet, so they call the shots. He also explained the change of name and interview correspondence with Dawkins and others. There were no objection by Dawkins or others to the answers of Mathis in this regard. Please, people, go see this for yourselves on April 18th and then make conclusions.

Maybe, as Dawkins eludes to, we’ll all come to the understanding that possibly aliens designed us and started the process of evolution along as we know it today. He was bending over backwards in this regard, and I appreciate that from him, but we still have the right to critique these presuppositions.

One final thing…Dawkins made it sound like Myers was being expelled from the discussion. On the movie’s own website there are links to Myers’ blog and his arguments on this issue. They are encouraging discussion, not editing it. I read Professor Myers’ comments for myself and found them to be wanting.

Stop being so close-minded, my macro-evolution-yet no idea on origins friends. Thank you Stuart, keep fighting the good fight.

"Here's how it is..."

Thursday night, Grant and I went to see an advanced screening of Expelled, the new movie by Ben Stein documenting the lack of academic professional when it comes to the concept of Intelligent Design (ID). Originally, the pastor of our church was invited, but due to travel plans, gave his invitation to Grant. Grant then RSVPed for both him and I to attend this free, no tickets required, screening.

Before the movie, I witnessed from no more than five feet away a man being asked to leave because he wasn't invited and, according to theatre management, "didn't have a ticket." I thought nothing of this at the time; security was already tight, actual police officers were present, and we had been warned previously not to bring in any bags, cameras, or cell phones. It wasn't til after the screening that the importance of that man being turned away was revealed.

Following the film's conclusion, one of the producers of the piece, Mark Mathis, hosted a brief Q&A. The second question was asked by a rather eloquent British gentleman, who we all had just seen projected on the theatre screen: Richard Dawkins, premiere atheist, neo-Evolutionish, and professor at Oxford. Perhaps you know him as the author of The God Delusion. Having Dawkins show up at a screening of "Expelled" would be the equivalent of having George W. Bush show up after a screening of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Dawkins initially asked two questions. The first was why was his friend Dr. Myers, a professor at University of Minnesota - Morris and another person interviewed for the film, not allowed to attend and was in fact that same man that was turned away? Mark Mathis answered this question by simply stating that Myers was not invited, and neither were you, Dr. Hawkins. Hawkins second question was more of a protest, really. He claimed that everything he said in that movie was in fact under the assumption that he was being filmed for a different movie known as Crossroads, a movie that supposedly was not "pro-Creation" and was more evenhanded.

Mathis politely explained that "Crossroads" was the working title of the film at the time, and it and many other titles were debated until "Expelled" was finally chosen. (Since then, it has been revealed that "Expelled" was registered months in advance, and "Crossroads" never was. But how does that contradict anything Mathis said? Are you not able to copyright multiple prospective titles for a film in advance?) Mathis also appeared to continue an old argument him and Dawkins had had before, that Dawkins was not in any way deceived, knew full well what movie he was being interviewed for, etc.

Overall, a pretty exciting and eventful night. Grant and I even managed to snag one of the posters they had hung up for the evening.

When I got home, I wrote up a brief review of the film and the events surrounding it and sent it off to Jeffrey Overstreet, who published it on his Looking Closer blog.

I went to bed shortly thereafter. When I woke up, the first thing I checked was of course Jeffrey's blog. Seeing several dozen comments was a bit daunting. But then I checked my email, and discovered that many people had discovered my "Stu Station" blog, and had seen fit to leave many hateful spam messages on numerous blog posts. You know, the usual "why are you a liar??", "God is just as fictional as the grinch" (irony on that one, ask Grant or I sometime), and of course the base "you should be ashamed of yourself for defaming this man!"

I deleted most of them. I left at least one, which appeared to be the form letter "inviting" Dr. Myers to the event. I assume he left it, although it was of course unsigned, as were most of the comments (although I did recognize the blog name of one, as I had read him once or twice).

Cowriter of the film, Kevin Miller, picked up the story. Christianity Today picked up the story (woohoo!). Other film reviewers, such as Peter Chattaway, picked up the story and reported it. Later on, so did the Pioneer Press and the New York Times, but I didn't get any love from them. (Why should I? I wrote about the opposite thing they wanted to report on.)

Ok, Blogger is screwy. PZ Myers wrote a quickie blog post detailing his "joy" at getting kicked out of the movie. That is not all he wrote though:

Stuart Blessman, the student at UM who made that claim at the lookingcloser blog, is a liar.

A shameful liar and a disgrace to the university...We do have some idiots who get enrolled at this university. I like to think that they're a minority, but I'm rather surprised that someone so ethically challenged is a student here.

Yup, that's me. Can't say I'm really ashamed of anything though.

So what's the bottom line of all this? Free publicity for "Expelled" of course...more book sales for Richard Dawkins...name recognition, and a victim complex, for PZ Myers...and a new record on Looking Closer for unique visitors (you are so very welcome, Jeffrey! Lets do lunch sometime).

BTW, for a really decent review of the content of the film, with many SPOILERS, you can't do much better than PZ Myers' own daughter's blog. (EDIT - I guess this is his daughter's blog. I just read the post about the movie, and the site I used to find her article said it was Myers' son who wrote the blog. My sincere apologies.) I'm sure you can tell that the review is slanted, a little, but you gotta respect a kid who stands up for his own dad. It is interesting that of all the reviews and pans of the film I've read online, they are almost all focused on the quality of the film making itself, and not on the content or ideas expressed in the film. (Just to cut off a comment or two - perhaps the reason for this is that the content is not worth "even insulting a child with", to quote a professor in "Expelled.")

It appears that several people are interested in continuing this discussion on my blog. I welcome good comments related to "Expelled" and my account of what happened at the screening...but as soon as people start attacking my other blog posts (other than rational, debative thought) and IMMEDIATELY if anyone says "U2 SUCKS" or some variation, I am shutting it all down.

Who knows? Perhaps Bono or even Edge is following this with some interest. If he is, he should be in the studio rerecording the Pop album, dangit. We can discuss later (and I would love to cut a new edit of "Mofo", incidentally).

"And now you know the rest of the story..."

Mar 3, 2008

Ruminations on the Gospel of Mark

So the Gospel of Mark might have been written around 68 AD. One theory has it that Mark, the author, was an associate of Peter who wrote down many of Peter's teachings (and in this case, remembrances of Jesus). Some also think that Mark might have been the young man who ran away naked after being seized by the Romans.

It is possible that Mark might have been all of the above. In Jewish culture, a young man was roughly 12 or 13 years old. If he had been that age, and let's say that happened roughly around 32 AD (or even 28 AD), that would make Mark around 48 years old at minimum. So it is highly possible that Peter's disciple Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.

My professor argues that Mark was written in Galilee for Galileans. Not so sure...there is a strong Roman presence in Mark. I'm thinking Mark wrote it for the persecuted Christians in Rome under Nero.

So is Mark a story of Jesus or can we accurately treat it as an eyewitness report, since the majority of Mark would have been from the perspective of Peter? Story vs first hand account, or report, is the question. My professor argues that Mark is a story, written through the lens of one or multiple people, and that the book was shaped by many factors (Roman persecution, nationality, age, etc). Obviously he doesn't subscribe to the belief that the Holy Spirit might have had a hand in things.

Pretty interesting that God used a disciple of an apostle to write a Gospel. So I guess Peter must have laid hands on Mark and baptized him in the Holy Spirit. But I guess that when Mark died, the Holy Spirit died with him. Or at least his "apostles'" power, since as everyone knows, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for the apostles and the early church.


Feb 10, 2008

Do hymnals affect our worship?

Next time you are at church, try to take special notice of what you do during the music. Are you holding a hymnal? Are your hands lifted up in praise? Do you stare at the instrumentalists, or at the song leader? Perhaps you simply stare at the hymnal or overhead, or maybe at the other church members? Maybe there is that one special someone you watch each week, and think: “I wish I was as free to worship as them”; or “Why can’t they just honor God with their voice? Why do they have to raise their hands and hop around like that? Who are they trying to impress?”

Have you ever noticed that we really didn’t have so many problems with singing in church back when everyone used hymnals? According to a simple Google search, the first dedicated hymnals started showing up in the ninth century. Prior to this hymns were collected in the back of other books; they obviously deserved their own special section, just like the Psalms are their own special book in the Bible. Hymnals became the predominant collection of spiritual songs among nearly every denomination of Protestantism. The only things that differentiated were the actual hymns as well as how they were performed.

In many modern churches, the congregation has ditched the hymnal for the overhead. Instead of bending your head to read from a book, you are now encouraged to look above the worship leader or group in order to read the lyrics. This has encouraged more music leaders to take chances on newer songs, as well as providing a sort of uniformity across multiple churches. But what has this simple 45 degree change done for our modern church goer? It has freed their hands.

1Ti 2:8 “So wherever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

Does lifting your hands in worship draw you closer to God? The Bible really doesn’t say one way or the other. There are many who have attempted to twist Scripture to prove either argument, that it is either encouraged or discouraged to lift your hands while singing. However, using the Bible to prove whether you should or should not do it can be a tricky thing. The Bible also shows characters such as David dancing and shouting before the Lord, and while there are many churches that frown upon such outward displays of emotion, not once did God rebuke them for doing it. Consequently we have many churches today that encourage such outward displays of joy in God.

But this brings us back to the original question. What do you do during the singing section of your church service? Do you think more people will be involved with the hymns and songs if they do not have a hymnal in their hands? Will it encourage people to show more emotion, to perhaps sing with a smile on their face? Or do we only honor God by providing a worthy performance with our voices?

Next church service, why not try singing without your hymnal. For all you know, it might be a great blessing to you not to use one. Perhaps you could organize a service where everyone already knows all the songs that will be sung, even if you can only sing choruses. It is possible that if more people let go of their hymnals and free their hands in worship churches will start to see a new life and passion that wasn’t there before.

It’s worth a try. It might bring a new spiritual life and revival to your church.

Feb 2, 2008

Biblical Arguments class

I signed up for a Communications class at the U of M that is a "Special Topics" course. The topic being "Biblical Arguments." Taking it purely as an elective, I went into the class not expecting much, other than my professor's vague email warning that a 1000 level Comm class was a prerequisite.

But except for one instance where he was talking about some classic model used in arguments, I've been loving this class! Loving it so much I was eager to go on Wednesday!

The class is set up pretty simply. The professor will basically be a forum moderator, introducing the topic and Scripture passage, assigning two students to be discussion catalysts, and then he lets us talk. We have a pretty diverse group, so the discussions have been lively and multi-faceted. We primarily have Catholics (mix between lapsed and active), one Hindu, one Jew (and she's pretty hardcore), a few Lutherans, couple of agnostics, at least one atheist, and me, representing...who knows anymore. I introduced myself as a charasmatic Wesleyan, but then clarified it as more "Pentebaptistcostal."

Whatever. The Bible is true.

And our topics have been great too! We first went over Genesis 1 and 2, and the 2 separate accounts of Creation. That took the tail end of the first day and the entire second class session. Are there really two separate accounts? Only two of us in the class were unable to see "proof" of two different Creations. But of more interest to me was that God created/designed Adam, but didn't place him in the Garden until a day or more later. So where was Adam this whole time?

The next class session we went over The Fall...specifically, who was to blame? Found out we have some feminists in the group, although that is really no surprise. Still, it was a great discussion. I think we generally agreed that both of them were to blame, although some would still argue that God was to blame for putting the tree in the garden in the first place.

Last class we discussed a passage in Judges, where one of the judges makes a vow before the Lord that he would offer up as a burnt offering whoever came out of his house first upon his return from battle. Alas, his daughter comes out. He sends her off into the wilderness for two months so she can bemoan her virginity, and then she comes back to him so he can fulfill his vow.

So did he kill her? I believe I was the only one in the class who argued that he didn't (and thanks to Johnathan for that: him and I went over it before class), although I don't know what the professor thinks. There are a whole list of reasons why I don't think he killed her, but I do believe he kept his vow. He dedicated her to the temple where she served the rest of her life. It was strange; even the feminists wanted her to die, just so they could stick it to God or Christianity, I think. But then again, no one really cares that babies are getting slaughtered. Or the millions of people oppressed under Islam. Dhimmitude is living death.

Anyways, this has been a great class so far! I've already developed a reputation, but that's nothing new. I had to prove that without the Judeo-Christian worldview womens' rights would not exist as we know them today. I don't think many in the class liked hearing that.

Ah well. Truth, you know?