Archive for the ‘Christian Worldview’ Category

Sacramental Living at Christmastide

December 28, 2007

This Christmas season has been a time for simple pleasures: quiet conversations over cake with family, a glass of wine, sitting on the front porch watching the children play, getting tape tangled in my fingers as I try to wrap a gift, the smell of evergreen as I walk into the house. It’s made me remember that good living is sacramental living.

Sacramental living is seeing life as the Sovereign God intends that we see it – with everything (literally everything!) shot through with His goodness and grace. It means that all of creation with its variety and beauty and complexity is a gift of grace to us. And it means that the universe and the earth and its bounty and its creatures, and food and home and sex and labor and domestic joys and struggles and sitting and standing and kneeling in worship – all of it is a signal of the presence of God to us. It is all God’s good created order meant to bless us with life and meant for us to take and transform into life in God. That is sacramental living. It is a basic disposition toward daily life that sees God’s bounty in everything He has made and receives it as a wonderful gift from Him and a signal of His favor and love for us as His redeemed children, His new creation, His new humanity in whom he delights. God made all things good, and He is redeeming all things for our sake. We can live with the joy of knowing this is true.

Modernism and postmodernism are telling a different story about the world. Modernism, which is the worldview of the Enlightenment, and postmodernism, which is the monster made in its image, are the controlling thought patterns of our Western world. Modernism can be described as the loss of the sacramental character of creation. With man’s reason enthroned over all, modernism sees the physical world as merely the effect of a prior cause in the material processes that began with the Big Bang and continues with celestial expansion and survival of the fittest and chemical chain reactions, of which you and I are a small but meaningless part. So we are just another part of the physical world; we are a bunch of colliding atoms living in the middle of a bunch of other colliding atoms, with nothing really special about those atoms. They are just the random collocation of physical processes fizzing and bubbling on a blue marble in an empty void. However we moderns see ourselves in relation to the physical world, we have to make it up for ourselves. We are just blobs of protoplasm on the evolutionary scale at the whim of big natural forces, so make life whatcha can.

C.S. Lewis described modernity as “the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law.” That “ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism” is the result of the secularism that arises from the godless world out of which Enlightened man kicked God with his almighty reason. If there is no Creator, then the universe is all there is, and the universe is a pretty bleak place. We are up against scientific processes a lot bigger than us, as we have to try to make the most of it and maximize what we have. That’s pragmatism: ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, or what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” In a world of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, if a pregnancy keeps a woman from fulfilling her dreams, kill the baby. If the people demand cheaper products, rape the countryside to give it to them. If the world craves more and more power and more and more stuff, light the fires of industry to give the stuff to them as efficiently as possible with no regard for beauty or the good life. Whatever works best for making life as efficient and technologically advanced for man as possible is what we should do. In the modern world what matters is the free market economy creating material wealth; what matters is efficiency that makes way for consumerism and renders everything as cheap as possible; what matters is having it all. And the Christian church has been complicit in creating this world gone mad.

But Christians should be telling a different story, the story of Christ and the good life in Him. The good life of the Christian vision sees the whole world as having a sacramental character. Nature, food, fishing, lovemaking, wine, sunsets, shopping, art, laboring, cleaning, building, dirty bathtubs after bathing four dirty children, melted ice cream dribbling down the chin, a sweaty brow with the smell of freshly cut grass, the crisp smell and stiff spine of a new book – it all has the sacramental character of a gracious gift and a means for knowing the blessing of God and fellowship with God. Architecture, economy, government, performing art, agriculture, education, publishing – all of it is a gift from God for the beautifying of His world, for the transforming of the world into a place of communion with the Lord of life, in which everything is received as a gift from Him and everything is a means of offering worship to the Living God.

Genesis 1 tells us that God originally made all things very good and that God in His providence has never stopped caring for and lovingly tending His creation. You can read a psalm like Psalm 104 and hear how God provides for the animals and for humans alike. Now with the entry of sin into the world, the creation changed and became corruptible, but the creation is still good. God intends to redeem His creation. God will complete what He first set out to do – which was to make the whole world a place of fellowship and worship between God and His image bearer, man. The ultimate evidence of God’s intention to redeem His entire creation is the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is God’s great restoration project for all creation.

A biologist from Calvin College named Stephen Matheson, by virtue of his training, puts it vividly. He wrote,

The ascension [of Christ to heaven in a human body] carries the following startling implication, as articulated by theologian Gerrit Dawson: “The meaning of a continuing incarnation is revealed in all its splendour: in the person of the eternal Son, the Triune God has taken up humanity into his being for ever” (Jesus Ascended, P&R Publishing, 2004, 53). There is human flesh in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.

Human flesh, with protein and carbohydrate, bone and muscle, DNA and mitochondria, is in heaven, already, waiting to greet other embodied beings who will be raised with him. . . . It does not imply that the whole shebang is good, for surely there was a transformation (glorification) of Jesus’ body, and there were some things that he didn’t take with him. But it does imply that flesh, biological stuff, cells and DNA and blood and guts, are things that do not merely and universally pass away. They can last, somehow, forever.

I’m living in the new creation and loving it this Christmastide. Hope you are too.

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Uh Oh!

December 17, 2007

I just saw I Am Legend so I may be a bit hyper-sensitive to this whole, “doing it better than God” thing.  You tell me… Can this end well?

From the Washington Post:  

Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life’s most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA — an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world’s first entirely handcrafted chromosome — a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to “boot itself up,” like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction.

al sends

Sometimes The Blanket Of Security Is A Bit Of Fluffy Dough…

December 5, 2007

… wrapped around a summer sausage.

For all those would say that protecting the lives of Americans is more important than our liberties, let me give you two brief statements:

  • Live Free or Die (New Hampshire state motto)
  • Give me Liberty or give me Death.

That last one was from Mr. Patrick Henry, who considered this idea of liberty and safety a discussion of “freedom or slavery.” For those who have not read Mr. Henry in a while, I give you the speech:

March 23, 1775
By Patrick Henry

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the numbers of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?

Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.

There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free–if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Even More Babies Not Dying

November 20, 2007

OK… This is good news.   The folks at HotAir asked if this would end the life debate.  I doubt it…  The scientists that perform embryonic stem-cell research or human/animal genetic blending (CYBRIDS) will continue, not because they must but because they can.

Here is a quote from the WaPo article:

The unencumbered ability to turn adult cells into embryonic ones capable of morphing into virtually every kind of cell or tissue, described in two scientific journal articles to be released today, has been the ultimate goal of researchers for years. In theory, it would allow people to grow personalized replacement parts for their bodies from a few of their own skin cells, while giving researchers a uniquely powerful means of understanding and treating diseases.

 Here is a question or two for you:

 If we can grow new hearts, livers and nerve cells can you see a day when our lives are extended 110+ years?  What will that society look like?

A couple more:  

Which animal genes would work best in humans?  Would you like to hear like a dog?  See like and eagle?  Hold your breath like a sea lion?

Is there a voice for ethics in the medical community?

UPDATE:  I missed this in my first reading of the article:

Despite the excitement over the new work, experts predicted that the fight over embryonic stem cells will linger, since they remain the gold standard against which all alternatives will be compared.

The “gold standard” has never produced anything close to a treatment… Why would this be the mark everyone is shooting for?  Oh, yeah… death sells.

 al sends

There is Truth

November 18, 2007

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.

This is the epitaph written by poet Alexander Pope for John Newton in the early 1700s. Our nation was birthed in the era after Newton, when Europe was brimming with supreme confidence that the scientist and the philosopher could know all that needs to be known to make the world the best place it can be. Traditional Christianity based on divine revelation in the Bible came to be seen as disposable – just another superstition that we can dispense with as we enter a new world in which we – humans – create heaven on earth with the limitless knowledge yielded by human discovery. (more…)

Gee – Ya Think?

October 30, 2007

One of my daughters recently asked me why I never let them go trick-or-treating.  I told her that I was trying to raise her up with an outward focus, to prefer others before herself, as the Lord commands us.  Going door-to-door demanding candy from strangers did not fit with that vision.  I now have another reason…

The Washington Post reports that the “hottest trend in costumes, retailers say, is sexy” and that the trend is targetting 11 year olds or younger.

The Halloween costume trend is not only leading to tense mother-daughter standoffs, but it is also part of a far larger worry that young girls are becoming sexualized.

I must admit I saw this happening when I was in high school (early 80’s) but never in 8 and 9 year olds.  The story is disturbing in general but this made me sad:

Megan Smith, 16, perused the costumes at Party City with her father, Dan. She first tried on the Prisoner, a slinky spandex number with a little button at the throat and open chest like a ’70s disco halter dress. She settled on Raggedy Ann, a blue mini dress so mini that the lacy underskirt barely dusts the bottom of the fanny.No one does scary costumes anymore, Megan said.

Blame that on the teen movie “Mean Girls,” she said, quoting a line verbatim: “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” 

Her father laughed nervously. “They’re all a little risque, and I don’t like that,” he said. “She’ll be wearing shorts underneath.”

Megan rolled her eyes

The poor girl despises her dad and herself:

Prov 15:32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.

If Dan ever reads Proverbs 5 to his son, will he be cutting his eyes at his daughter?

 5:20Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
   and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
   and he ponders all his paths.
22The  iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
   and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
   and because of his great folly he is led astray.

Very sad,

al sends

The Fool Has Said…

October 17, 2007

… in his heart that there is no God.

This actually goes well with my previous post.  George Grant’s blog does not have a link back feature so I cannot give him a proper hat tip.  But, if you wish to check out the post I am referencing then click here and go to October 10th and the post entitled The Threat of Creation.

Dr. Grant brought to my attention a European Council decision to support a resolution to urge its members to oppose all creationism.

From Dr. Grant: 

On October 4, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted 48 to 25 in support of the resolution entitled the dangers of creationism in education in which the legislative body urged its 47 constituent governments to “firmly oppose” the teaching of Creationism, arguing that such beliefs are “promoted by forms of religious extremism” seeking to “to impose religious dogma “ at the expense of children’s “education. “

The idea of a Creator is dangerous to be sure.  It means that there are laws not passed by a legislature.  It means that if those laws are ignored there will be hell to pay. 

One of the statements in the resolution points to the utilitarian objective in much of modern science:

Science provides irreplaceable training in intellectual rigour. It seeks not to explain “why things are” but to understand how they work.

When all that matters is the ‘how’ of creation, ethics goes out the window.  How do stem cells work?  Take them from embryos and let’s find out.  How does the brain translate a pin prick into pain?  Those less developed humans (see the post below) are available for testing. 

The Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over creation.  He is the living Word who moved the writer of Hebrews to say: 

Heb 11:3  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

We all have our faith based religions.  The writers of this bit of drivel are full of faith.  Their faith is in an eternal materialism.  It grows our of a love of self and idolatrous reason.  May your faith be of stronger stuff… May it rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ as revealed in His word, which informs all of creation.  

By the way the resolution was drafted by French Socialists (is that redundant?).  As if you needed another reason to hate the French…

al sends

Consequences

October 17, 2007

Fury at DNA pioneer’s theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners

If evolution is fact then why the ‘fury?’  Would you not expect to find intelligence differences in differing species?  We do in dogs, right?  Man is just a dog that has a worse sense of smell and a bigger brain…  right?

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For You formed my inward parts;
         You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
         Marvelous are Your works,
         And that my soul knows very well.
 15 My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
         And in Your book they all were written,
         The days fashioned for me,
         When as yet there were none of them.

al sends

Education: Turning Kids Into Cogs

October 15, 2007

I wrote into my local paper and they chose not to publish this little piece on education, which is just fine.  That is why God created the blog…   

    While reading Sara Raab’s October 2nd article “Hands-on education” in the Pensacola News Journal (The article has been archived and is not available to the public.) many of her points disturbed me.  Instead of teaching children to master difficult concepts, we need to make geometry “fun,” fun being the highest good here.  High school students are learning about “square footage and area and circumference” by cutting out fabric?  That is scary.

    But, I was most struck by how far we as a country have come in our understanding of education.  Ms. Raab’s article seems to praise the development of a system that “work(s) with members of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce to plan a curriculum that matches local employers’ needs, workforce trends and higher-paying jobs.”  This is a horror of a model, which has its roots in humanism.  In fact, this is vocational training and not education at all.  True education renews the mind, creating fertile ground for the development of ideas and preparing the learner to evaluate incoming information.

    Horace Mann and John Dewey, both humanists, were two of the most influential men in our nation’s history when it comes to education, with Mann often being described as the father of American public education.  Mann endorsed the Prussian model of education (we get our word kindergarten from this system), and Dewey was greatly impacted by his trip to what was then called Soviet Russia.  Their overriding philosophy was that we need an education that is “socially useful,” and by useful they mean productive. 

   In Dewey’s book Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World, Dewey wrote, “For a leading principle of this advanced doctrine (the Soviet model of “technical education”) was that participation in productive work is the chief stimulus and guide to self-educative activity on the part of pupils, since such productive work is both in accord with the natural or psychological process of learning;  and also provides the most direct road to connecting the school with social life, because of the part played by occupations in the latter.”   

    Did you catch those phrases: “advanced doctrine,”  “productive work,”  “connecting the school with social life?”  We are training our children to be workers and fill a need in “workforce trends.”  Can you see that we are adopting a system of education that reinforces the belief that there is no lord over the state but that the “society” is all in all?  This is a system of education that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and is being abandoned around the world.  It saddens me that we think this is cutting edge and provides the best education for our children.

   Dewey wrote long, rambling sentences; but, that is typical of the intelligentsia of his day. Convoluted sentences come from convoluted thought and we ought to abandon such convoluted thinking and reevaluate what it is we want our children to learn.  I would urge those who do know there is another Lord over the state (and believe that He is truly all in all) to reevaluate where they are sending their children for their education.  And I would also urge taxpayers of all stripes to question what the next generation of children will look like.

  There are better models out there.  Seek them out.

Can You Love the Man While Questioning His Church?

August 23, 2007

I read Mike Adams’ column on Townhall.com.  Here is a guy who knows how to use satire while speaking to those in authority.  His biting criticism of the American university system, with its hard left politics and its humanist, feminist, anti-life, anti-real education agenda, hits its target with laser guided precision.  I highly recommend him to you. 

In this weeks column Mike addressed the emotional damage caused by casual physical relationships.  In the column he provides a link to his church.  Mike is a Christian and possesses a thoroughly Christian worldview, which is why I am so surprised by his church’s statement of faith.  Specifically, I am surprised by the last paragraph and more specifically by the last sentence of the last paragraph.  Here is that paragraph:

“Scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. This church recognizes that it cannot bind the conscience of individual members in areas where Scripture is silent. Rather, each believer is to be led in those areas by the Lord, to whom he or she is ultimately responsible. We believe the Statement of Faith to be an accurate summary of what Scripture teaches. All members shall refrain from advocating doctrines that are not included in the Statement of Faith in such a way as to cause dissension.”

Their statement of faith totals a little over 1000 words in eight headings (this paragraph makes up one of the eight headings).  So, they believe their eight paragraphs are an accurate statement of what scripture teaches and when you become a member you must refrain from advocating any doctrine that is not included in this document.  

I don’t know what they mean by the phrase “in such a way as to cause dissension”  but I am guessing that the threshold is pretty low.  Just a bit of observation from a guy who pastors a much smaller church 🙂

al sends