What’s the problem with the church?

Why We Love the ChurchKevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, who brought us “Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), have teamed up for a new book that looks at the local church and its biblical mandate. The book, called “Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion,” is due out July 1 and is described this way by the publisher:

Why We Love the Church presents the case for loving the local church.  It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold.  It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the “leave church” books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs. 

DeYoung, in lead up to the book’s release, looks at reasons people are disillusioned with the church. He breaks those reasons into four groups:

  • Missiological — it doesn’t work any more and is making no difference whatsoever
  • The Personal — it’s views are too harsh toward certain groups and unloving and has an “image problem”
  • The Historical — the church is corrupted from its original pristine state
  • The Theological — the modern view of the church is foreign to what Jesus came for in the Bible

Over the coming weeks, DeYoung will post excerpts from the book and address these concerns. I look forward to reading them and the book’s release.

Don’t put your faith in science

To me, it is deeply disturbing when the president puts his faith in scientists, saying things like “promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry.  It is about letting scientists like those here today [on March 9] do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.  It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

To divorce any kind of ideology from science is to give science a free rein that leads to frightening results. In a review of Pamela Winnick’s book “A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion,” Wesley Smith points out what kind of work scientists are capable of when human life is disregarded. From his review published in the Discovery Institute’s First Things:

Early on, Winnick wrenchingly demonstrates the potential antihuman consequences of pursuing scientism’s view of scientific research. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, scientists conducted human experiments on living fetuses, justified by the philosophical assertion that fetuses are only “potential” human life. 

One such experiment, which won the Foundation Prize Award from the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is described by Winnick in sickening detail: “In a 1968 study called the ‘Artificial Placenta,’ a twenty-six-week-old fetus, weighing more than a pound, was obtained from a fourteen-year-old girl, presumably from a therapeutic abortion. Along with fourteen other fetuses, it was immersed in a liquid containing oxygen and kept alive a full five hours.” The study itself explains that the fetus made”irregular gaspmg movements, twice a minute, … but there was not proper respiration.” Once the pumping of oxygenated blood was stopped, however, “the gasping respiratory efforts increased to 8 to 10 times a minute …. The fetus died 21 minutes after leaving the circuit.”

So, for those of you who feel squeamish or think I’m overstating it when I mention Nazi doctors in regard to therapeutic stem cell research, I’d ask you to read that last paragraph again and remember that we’re talking about 1960s America and not 1940s Nazi Germany. Smith notes that the experiments were stopped when an outraged public and Congress — led by Ted Kennedy — demanded they be stopped. But we live in a different age where the drumbeat call for cures has drowned out any thought of human exceptionalism. In other words, it matters not that embryos are human, it only matters what cures can (possibly) be found.

The idea that science is somehow benign and trustworthy left untethered from any kind of ideological guidelines is naive and will lead to situations like the one described above. Smith, in his review of Winnock’s book, says science of is not the target in “A Jealous God” but rather a belief (scientism she calls it) that “promotes a stark materialistic utilitarianism as the way to achieve progress.” Science is not our savior, and we can never forget that.

‘Santa Claus is a poor replacement for Jesus Christ’

There’s this growing idea that religion is the thing that makes the world an awful place, that somehow if people lived without religion, we would all get along better and be happier. It has been tried throughout history, but it doesn’t help. At this time of year, we even put that effort in the form of a person called Santa Claus. This is what John Piper says about that and how the effort fails to help us:

If there is going to be any salvation at all, there must be a divine revelation. God must reveal these things to us or we perish. We can’t find them out from television or radio or medicine or psychology or art. We learn the truth about ourselves from the Word of God. And once our eyes are opened to the truth that God reveals, then we can see confirmations of it in virtually all the sciences and arts.

Santa Claus and Religion

But if we don’t start with God’s interpretation of who we are, we will be like blind people who go on developing elaborate theories to prove that there really is no such thing as vision, and that color and light and perspective are the inventions pious imaginations projecting onto reality their own dissatisfaction with the dark. “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

That statement is not simply classic Marxism. It is classic American materialism. The difference is that American materialism doesn’t outlaw religion; it imitates it and then uses it. That is the real meaning of Santa Claus.

The true meaning of Christmas—that God sent his Son into the world to save us from our evil hearts of sin (Matthew 1:21), and to destroy the works of the devil in our habits and homes and schools and workplaces (1 John 3:8), and to rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10)—that meaning of Christmas is unacceptable to the spirit of this world. But the impact of the truth of the incarnation is so undeniable after 2,000 years of influence, that the god of this world behind American materialism cannot oppose it outright, but simply imitates it with Santa Claus and a hundred other trappings in order to direct the religious impulses of the masses into economically profitable channels.

Does that mean you sit Christmas out completely? Listen to Piper explain how Christmas Day looked at their house when their kids were growing up:

Click on the image to view the video
Click on the image to view the video

Science and religion: John Lennox, the merry warrior for Christ

John Lennox is an Oxford proffesor of mathematics.
John Lennox is an Oxford professor of mathematics.

John Dickson at the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a series of video interviews with noted Oxford professor of mathematics and Christian apologist John Lennox. Among the topics addressed were:

Who is John Lennox?
Introduction to the Professor

A Good God?
Hope for a mucked up world

Science, Atheism and Belief
Has science buried God?

Face off!
Debating Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens

Science, the Bible and belief in the 21st Century
Do you have to put your brain to one side to read the Bible?

Atheism and morality
Does atheism provide grounds for morality?

The evils of Christendom
Do the evils done in the name of Christ show that Christianity has failed?

Russian adventures
Professor Lennox discusses his experiences in Eastern Europe

Creator or the Multiverse?
Does the fine tuning of the universe point to God or an infinite collection of universes?

Christianity and the tooth fairy
Does science deal with reality and religion with everything else?

HT: Justin Taylor

Joe Biden: Confused, dazed and dead wrong

Joe Biden betrays himself with his words.
Joe Biden betrays himself with his words.

Joe Biden, the man chosen by Barack Obama to serve as his vice presidential running mate, is a man who is not afraid to let his mouth run and say what’s on his mind. And, to be honest, when you hear what’s on his mind it’s not just amusing but more often disturbing.

Of course there is plenty of talk about his gaffes (like referring to FDR going on TV after the 1929 stock market crash), but his thinking about an issue like abortion reveals not just muddled thinking but a man who wants to have it both ways.

John F. Cullinan, in an article on National Review Online, says Biden has often referred to himself as an “Irish Catholic kid from Scranton” as a way of ingratiating himself with voters who hold moral issues highly. But, because of his lack of discipline concerning his tongue, he often betrays himself as a person who holds views that are in fact in opposition. Cullinan gives an example:

One moment he’s wearing his Catholic faith on his sleeve, the next he’s thumbing his nose at basic Catholic teaching. For Biden, faith has long served as sword and shield: “The next Republican that tells me I’m not religious,” he once vowed, “I’m going to shove my rosary down their throat.”

Such calculated bravado has long helped Biden to obscure the radical inconsistency between what he says and what he does, especially regarding the basic human right to life. “My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion,” Biden wrote in his 2007 autobiography, “but I don’t think that I have the right to impose my views on the rest of society.”

Never mind that Biden has otherwise shown no such reluctance to impose his views; that his personally opposed, publicly supportive dodge applies solely to life issues; or that this intellectual and moral muddle is wholly inexplicable other than by political expediency and political partisanship.

While there is talk about Obama somehow replacing Biden on the Democratic ticket, the truth is that Biden’s faux religion serves the purpose of somehow softening Obama’s extreme liberal views. The problem is, however, that Biden continues to put his foot in his mouth and thus makes his religious ruse all too obvious. More people, hopefully, are paying attention.

Religion and politics: Is God on our side?

This fall, in our Sunday school class at church, we are studying a book called “Is God on America’s Side?” The book looks at the thinking that God somehow reserves his blessing for American because it is a “Christian nation.” We’ve just started it, but I think it will be a good thing to clear up some attitudes about how God’s will is not always what we think it is.

In light of that, I want to add an essay by Joe Carter, who is the managing editor for Culture11. Carter, in what he calls “an open letter to the religious right,” lays out 11 thoughts he wants to share with them about religion and politics. You may agree or disagree with his points, but his conclusion is well worth noting:

(F)inally, we must recognize that America is not a “Christian nation”, though we should aspire to be a nation where those of us who are Christians are admired as good and noble citizens. America is not a “shining city on a hill”, though we should let our light of freedom be a shining example for the entire world. America is not the “greatest blessing God gave mankind”, though it is a great nation worthy of our conditional adoration. Patriotic sentiment has its place but we mustn’t let it expand beyond its acceptable borders. We are citizens of both the City of God and the City of Man and must always be careful not to confuse the one for the other.

Christian or not, we are all believers

\We often use a special jargon that some of us, as Christians, are “believers” while others are not. While that is true, in a sense, when talking about a belief in Jesus Christ, the truth is that we all hold to some kind of beliefs. Tim Keller, in his excellent book “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” explains:

Some say [religion] is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, “organized” religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.

Some call this a “worldview” while others call it a “narrative identity.” In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone’s life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say “You ought to do this” or “You shouldn’t do that” reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about “what works”– but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that “works” is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life. Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 15,16).

Tim Keller explains why he wrote “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”

Go here to hear sermons related to Keller’s book