I have had a few major doctrinal and ideological shifts since becoming a Christian at the age of 21 in 1986, which in itself was a huge shift from my family’s agnostic, scientific, anti-faith perspecive.
1. From Arminian Holiness to Calvinism
In 1990, I abandoned the burden of Arminian holiness for the grace and peace of Calvinism. I am often surprised at some Christians’ strong negative reaction to Calvinism, but perhaps they have experienced the fatalistic hyper-Calvinism I described in Orthodox Heresies – 7 false doctrines of the Church.
For me, trying to keep my salvation through holiness was an unbearable burden, but the rest described in Hebrews 4:1-8 is the result of seeing all the work – salvation, sanctification, and perseverance – as God’s doing.
Making headlines in atheist circles is the fact that one of the former members of John Loftus’ team over at Debunking Christianity has left atheism and ‘reconverted’ back to Christianity. In Autobahn To Damascus, Darrin Raspberry outlined some of his reasons for reconversion, and those reasons lead me to make the following observations.
1. All world views have weaknesses
Can Christianity satisfactorily answer all ultimate questions? I don’t think so. There are many issues which apologists and theologians have wrestled with over the centuries, and many of these are still disputed, having no absolute or complete answers.
I just found this 2 hour (!) 2009 lecture on politics and religion, and it has some really good content, especially towards the end. The speaker, Nicholas S. Lantinga, is a PhD, and obviously knows more than he can talk about in a 2 hour lecture. But here’s a couple helpful things I learned from the lecture.
He lays quite a historical foundation for why we should NOT omit religious world views as a foundation for morality and public policy, and that secular assumption are just as ‘religious’ in that they make philosophic and theological assumptions.
Additionally, having religious assumptions does NOT require that you have religious laws or a ‘theocracy’ unless you skip step 3 – defining the limits of governmental authority before legislating public policy. Here are the four steps he outlines in the second half of the lecture (starting at 40:21).
When discussing extremism, we must remember that there is an extreme middle position.
Oxymoron? Not really. There is a difference between healthy balance
and an ‘extreme,’ compromised middle. In fact, the erroneous middle is a classic logical fallacy, often called the Middle Ground fallacy:
- Position A and B are two extreme positions.
- C is a position that rests in the middle between A and B.
- Therefore C is the correct position.
But I would like to explore this error in more detail, so that we can also identify a healthy compromise.
Previously , I have put forth the assertion that pacifism is NOT biblical, but of course, this confuses many. I think that the root of the confusion comes with confusing two different areas of life:
- The two kingdoms: this world v. God’s coming kingdom
- The two levels of personal interaction: individual v. societal rules for interaction
- The two foci for attack: attacking people (and their character) v. attacking ideas
As Christians, we have an absolute duty, if married, to obey the biblical mandate to procreate, as given to both Adam and Eve and Noah and his family:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Genesis 9:1-3)
But how many children is too many? And is it immoral to use any kind of birth control? And is it immoral to overpopulate the earth?
Today on Truths that Transform, Dr. Frank Wright, President and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, gave a simple and straightforward, if not simplistic speech about how truth is resisted and suppressed, or what he calls “the politics of opposition.” I’ve summarized below.
I have just finished reading James M. Arlandson’s 8-part series on Christianity and Pacifism, and it is fantastic. It does a great job of explaining the Christian stances on such questions as “Can Christians join the military or law enforcement?” (YES) “Is the Church ever to be militant?” (NO) “In times of extreme persecution, can Christians form armed militias?” (YES, if they protect all people, not just their own), and many more. I highly recommend the series below.
Remember the The Blasphemy Challenge, sponsored by The Rational Response Squad, who were giving away 1001 copies of the movie The God Who Wasn’t There to people who will create a video of themselves denying the existence of God, and especially, the Holy Spirit? They posted their videos on YouTube.
So, what should Christians make of this atheist antic? I watched all of the videos, and have some comments
Many pundits are now using the term “angry left” to describe the liberal analog of the “angry right.” Sites like When Angry Democrats Attack are springing up to document acts of vandalism and rage from the left, and many are saying that the angry left is hurting the Democratic party.
But I think that the angry people in each party are those farthest to the extreme left or right – the fanatics. But my question is, who do we think represents the far poles, and what specific things to they believe?
So, I just finished three days at Web Design World 2006, an annual usability / web design conference here in San Francisco. Of course, near the end of a three day conference, you start to really get mentally tired of listening, and begin to look for ways to amuse yourself. While listening to Jared Spool wax on about what makes users happy, I began to think about how I would design a church web site.
One of the tools NOT covered at this conference, but essential to an information architect in designing a site, is the persona, a “user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design.” (uie) As I sat with wandering mind today, I imaged the personas who might interact with a church website.
Solving the healthcare problem won’t be easy, for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t have a model that allows us to properly contain costs while providing adequate care. Secondly, and more importantly, there is shared responsibility between the spheres of government.
I believe that we need a tiered, shared model – that is, all spheres of government should be involved, but in a certain hierarchy of responsibility:
1. Self Government
The primary responsibility for a person’s health falls upon the person themselves. If they disregard common responsibility for their own health, they can not expect everyone else to keep or make them healthy. As Jim Carey said to one of his clients in the movie Liar, Liar, “Stop breaking the law, *sshole!” It’s my responsibility to exercise, eat right, drive safely, not smoke, etc.
As a musician who likes both secular, sacred, and crossover bands, I have often engaged in conversations around what makes christian music “christian.” Last week, I discovered a metal band I really like, Killswitch Engage. As I was listening, I started noticing some Christian codewords – language that was distinctly biblical. So I looked them up, and as it turns out, one of the band members is a Christian, but they don’t really do Christian music – but some of the xian viewpoints show through.
Then, I came across the band Evanescence, whose music I instantly liked, and so I decided to search the web to find out if they were Christian. As it turns out, they have been asked this question so many times, they purchased www.notachristianband.com to explain themselves, since the content of their songs sounds Christianesque. Here’s what they say:
Evanescence is Not a Christian Band, although in their personal lives they are all Christians.
John Calvin coined the phrase Sensus Divinitatis (Sense of the Divine) to describe the innate sense and awareness of God that all humans possess, as well as the ‘organ’ of awakening acted on by the Holy Spirit in awakening us to salvation.
William Lane Craig, the eminent Christian philosopher and apologist refers to this in his arguments for the existence of God, calling it “the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit” – that is, that God can be “immediately known and experienced.”
Of course, such claims irritate anti-theists because such subjective experiences defy reasonable inspection or discussion, and the fact that the typical born-again process itself seems to lead with experience rather than intellect frustrates them even more. (See Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?) Read more
Many great Christians in history, such as Andrew Murray and Watchman Nee, have emphasized that the bible teaches that man has a tripartite structure, made up of Spirit, Soul, and Body. The main proof text for this is 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which reads:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A good friend of mine has wandered full force into the positive thinking, humanistic, Dale Carnegie type of success training that is popular in professional circles these days. Now, I don’t necessarily disparage it, and there is a lot of good stuff to learn. But sometimes, the overly simplistic, boiled down talking points lack sophistication, and give an unbalanced idea of what is good and bad.
Case in point? Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work, which lists the characteristics of Judgers (bad) vs. Learners (good). Now granted, I only skimmed the book, but the charts below reveal what I think is our culture’s buy-in into subjectivism, and our rejection of any objective morals or truths.
Recently, I heard Pastor Mark Driscoll explain how the three facets of Jesus' ministry (Prophet, Priest and King) tend to be over-emphasized depending on your religious leaning. I thought he made excellent points that spoke to virtually everyone who would call themselves a follower of Christ.
While the tradgedy of Haiti rightly moves us all to help, there are some reasons to think about what kind of help Haiti needs in the long term, not just in this emergency, in part because Haiti has been in crisis almost continually for decades. Perhaps the way we have been helping them IS NOT WORKING.
A few facts to consider (sorry, no time for footnotes, you can correct me if you need to):
- Since 1992, the US alone has poured in over $3B dollars into Haiti, and the UN has done more on top.
- Haiti’s population is only 10M, so how much money has been spent per capita?
- The current earthquake in Haiti was about the same strength as the big Loma Prieta quake in CA. Some 60+ people died in CA, while the body count in Haiti is now easily over 100,000
- Some experts say that the reason that Haiti’s economy hasn’t grown (besides the rampant corruption and thuggery) is it’s dependence on foreign aid
Today, a coalition of leaders from the three major branches of Christianity – Evangelical (Protestant), Catholic, and Orthodox, approved and released The Manhattan Declaration. This is an important statement for conservative Christians about what we hold as important and worth working towards in life and society. It also will serve as one of the rallying points around which we will take back society from the socialist boobs running the show. However, I'm, though I think the Declaration is well done, I am not sure the origianal signers are a broad enough representation of even conservative Christianity. I mean, I know that liberal Christians won't sign on (though I see Ron Sider there), but even the Declaration of Independence had more signers than 10!
It defends three central truths:
- the sanctity of human life
- the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
- the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Read the Preamble after the jump…