When what we feel doesn’t match what we believe.

More than 30 percent of workers say they are always or often under stress at work (citation). One in ten Americans over the age of 12 are now on antidepressants (citation 1, and ABC news). Suicide rates are highest for people between the ages of 40 and 59 (citation). Where does all of the pressure come from?

Lately, I have been spending much time and mental energy pondering the human experience. What seems to cause us grief and stress is not having too many things going on, but not having control over too many things.

Inspired by the film “No Country For Old Men” and this article by RC Sproul, I decided to write this post. (Here are my thoughts on No Country for Old Men)

For the believer, we affirm that this is God’s world (John 1:1-18). That Christ has conquered sin and death. That he is sitting at the right hand, he is preparing a place for his Bride (John 14.3) and he is coming again to judge. We affirm that God is sovereign over his creation; that he has all control, authority and presence over his world (Col. 1:15-20). We believe that he will preserve those he called (Eph. 1-2). We believe that evil will not prevail (*) and that righteousness will reign (Rev. 21).

Yet we too often struggle to reconcile what we believe with what we experience. Can we really trust God’s Word and our experiences? If I arrive at that conclusion that God’s Word is in question, as Sproul put it, we are in danger of being a “sensuous Christian.”

Often one who once believed, but now challenges the entire Gospel, does so because their life experience teaches a message that seems incompatible with the biblical worldview they once held. They will abandon God’s Word altogether because it doesn’t seem to jive with “what we experience.” If I arrive at that conclusion, than I have gone too far. Hear how Sproul grapples with this:

I said, “Wait a minute. God promised that he would be here.” I didn’t feel his presence, and so I thought he wasn’t there. I had become a sensuous Christian, allowing my strength of conviction to be determined by the strength of my feelings.

I realized that I’ve got to live by the Word of God, not by what I feel. I think that’s how you deal with doubt. You begin to focus on what God says he’s going to do rather than on your feelings.*

Pop Art and a Post-Christian Culture (part 2)

 Go here for “Pop Art and a Post-Christian Culture” (part 1)

(2) What’s more, however, God is not the only one whose name has been on the lips of our mainstream idols, but so is the name of Jesus.

Justin Bieber garnered the best new artist of 2011. Holding his statuette, Bieber announced “I just want to say thank you so much, not only to God but to Jesus, because I wouldn’t be here without him. He’s really blessed me. He’s put me in this position. So I want to say thank you so much.”

Kanye West storms the stage at the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards preshow. During a charged performance of the anthem “Hurricane” by Jared Letto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars, West walks out to join Letto wearing his (likely $200 or more) Givenchy tee. It read “Jesus Is Lord.”

Following the VMA show, I was left sitting there gazing blankly at the now dark television screen wondering what all of this means. I began to type this post and do a little research. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one confused and yet intrigued about the Christian allusions in the arts. According to this Fox news article, “immediately following the telecast, the words “God and Jesus” became top trending topics on Twitter due in large part to pop prince Justin Bieber.” Read more…

Pop Art and a Post-Christian Culture (1 of 2)

It is both curious and confusing that there is so much reference to God among pop stars–this is old news, but true none-the-less. Now, however, we notice that there are others making reference specifically to Christ. Is this something new? What are we to make of this? First, a look at references to “God” and his blessing, then, references to “Christ” among musicians and artists.

     (1) The name of God and invoking his blessing:

Lady Gaga receives the VMA for best female video. Clutching the Moonman trophy, Gaga used the mic to repeat the message of her song “Born This Way.” She said, “I feel so blessed to be here, and it’s true. It doesn’t matter who you are. Gay, straight, bi, lesbian, transgender — you were born this way. God bless you, MTV. Yeah!”

Again, thanking God for playing a role in one’s career success is not at all news and Gaga was not alone that Sunday night. When Britney Spears receives her Video Vanguard VMA, she begins, “First I’d like to thank God for blessing me so much.” But looking specifically at Lady Gaga and the lyric of the song for which she won the award, we have to ask: Is one whose message rebels against God able to invoke a blessing from “God,” whether for herself or others? She even receives her award in drag. At the same time she says “God has made us” she is saying that we make ourselves.

Read more…

What is an evangelical?

Are you evangelical?

Poll America and most will say that they are “Christian,” says Gary Langer for ABC news in this beliefnet poll.

Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions.

Among those identifying themselves as “Protestants:”

The largest group within the ranks of American Protestants is unaffiliated: Read more…

Defining God

The single most crucial component of seeing the world and seeing ourselves rightly is seeing “God” rightly. He made the world, he made man according to his likeness and he placed man in the world he made for his purpose and pleasure.

I received an important comment in response to Ridiculous Doctrines – Religious Pluralism. My friend writes:

You are defining “God as he is and on his terms” in a manner that fits you and your religion. You have faith that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. For many, they look at the same text and dispute your assertion as impossibly at odds with the reality of the lives they lead and the experiences they have everyday.

Read more…

What Teens Actually Think (pt. 2 of 2)

In more recent days, Bauer’s thesis has received a new lease on life through the emergence of postmodernism, the believe that truth is inherently subjective and a function of power. With the rise of postmodernism came the notion that the only heresy that remains is the belief in absolute truth–orthodoxy. Postmodernism, for its part, contends that the only absolute is diversity, that is, the notion that there are many truths, depending on a given individual’s perspective, background, experience, and personal preference. In such an intellectual climate, anyone holding to particulary doctrinal beliefs while claiming that competing truth claims are wrong is held to be intolerant, dogmatic, or worse.

— Kostenberger & Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), pp 39.

Read more…

What Teens Actually Think (pt. 1 of 2)

Biblical authority has always been challenged. Post-Enlightenment scholasticism, higher criticism and modernity have challenged widely held convictions regarding biblical authorship, authenticity, authority, inerrancy and infallibility. How can I live without having to submit to or be accountable to biblical authority? How can I create a reality that is free from widely held convictions regarding ethical absolutes? I must challenge biblical authority. I must challenge the absolutes. I must remain autonomous–able to define myself, reality, ethics, etc. without Scripture as a norm. We simply have to refer to Scripture as man-made. Or in the case of Bauer and Ehrman, we have to refer to “orthodoxy” as man-made. Read more…

Marriage vs. Cohabitation? (A Valentine’s Day Challenge)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For the first time in America’s history, more adults are single rather than married. What is the difference between marriage and cohabitation, really?

In our society, the institution of marriage is polarizing, and hard-hitting questions about it will generate responses that run the gamut (even from among those who consider themselves Christian believers).

Ours is a progressive culture, yet we hear a lot about marriage. Gay marriage, the legal definition of marriage, polygamy–whatever–the central issue is marriage. Today in our society, marriage as it is traditionally understood (or defined in Scripture) is not as popular as it had once been.

For Christian singles, of whatever age, “what is the difference between marriage and cohabitation, really?”  This is a deeply personal matter. Or is it?

More importantly for this discussion, why is marriage such a priority (or preoccupation) to people of Christian faith?

Read more…

“Modesty is a Precondition of Education”

There are two approaches to reading a text; one of myself as master and the text as slave, or its opposite.

It took me a few minutes (and much mental energy) to completely absorb this article from ACSD.org, but I knew that I needed to. The task of actually reading the article illustrates well the point of the article — it takes effort, focused and distraction-free effort, to tackle complex texts. In some places, I was bogged down and had to re-read a segment in order to pick up the message.

It is pandemic.

As the pull quote mentions, those of us who are “used to multitasking and hopping from link to link will have difficulty tackling complex texts—and college-level reading.” Society is not designed for slow digestion. We have many distractions taking place constantly. We willingly wrap ourselves with more and more ways to escape. All of it robs any chance to invest our time to self-improvement, improved literacy, self-awareness and heightened senses. We are quick to read tripe; however. We can rarely stomach anything more complex.

Time is a luxury in our busy world. It takes time to really read something that’s not already pre-processed and half-chewed. Sadly, we cannot afford to.

The issue that concerns me the most is this–What does this all of this imply about reading God’s Word? Read more…

What you believe absolutely matters

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 2 asks,

What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Wow, there’s a way to win an audience! But seriously, who/what is the proper authority to prescribe how I ought to govern my life?

One of the most fascinating inquiries taking place within American society today is that of ethics. Have you heard any lectures lately? How can we do medicine ethically? How can we do healthcare ethically? How can anyone determine ethical norms when we have abolished absolute values?

Who/what speaks the truth about ethics? If not the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, what?

Alert Americans may be listening to the narrative, but miss the real dilemma. Read more…

Letters To God

Touching story but a theological disaster. The writing of Letters presents an unfortunate account of the purpose of prayer, biblical suffering and the true meaning of salvation.

There is too much decaf theology in this flick. God did not send Christ so that we can have “someone to talk to about what is in our heart and get help,” but to rescue dying people from the eternal death that we all deserve.

There are two necessary components of a “Christian Worldview” that are seldom mentioned: sin and the cross. Without these, we may as well be watching Oprah.

According to their website, “Possibility Pictures is a team of gifted veterans and category leaders, formed from God’s will to reach out and spread His word through film. Possibility Pictures plans to diversify the choices available to our society and present stories that lift the spirit and spread the word of hope and love.” I’m afraid they didn’t quite accomplish the former of their objectives.

What is America’s Mission?

“Being number one is the result. It’s not the goal. It’s the mission that leads us. So, what’s the mission for the U.S.A? What’s the mission for China?. . . the mission is what drives you. It’s not being number one that drives you. The mission drives you.”

Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, the head of the Alibaba Group discussed competition and the “Chinese Dream” on ABC’s World News on Monday, Nov. 15, 2010.

The Alibaba Group is the largest e-Commerce company in China, with almost 22,000 employees. China has the world’s 2nd largest economy. Ma’s billionaire concepts, which have grown his company, are ideas he admits he learned in the U.S. (while working for a software company in Seattle).

“What you see here [at Alibaba],” exclaims Ma, “is the Chinese dream. It is a part of the American dream. The American dream is what motivated us . . . and most of the world!”

My commentary:

  1. All of us — companies, not-for-profit organizations, churches, schools, individuals — can benefit from spending a few quiet moments pondering the “mission.” I agree with the conviction of Mr. Ma. Illustration: Fitness is a result. We do not wake up one day and say, “I want to be fit.” We wake up and say, “I’m going to eat well and stay active. When I am consistent with that, I will be fit.” The mission is to eat well and stay active, not to be fit.
  2. I also know, however, that man’s ambitions, like his heart, are selfish and darkened. One’s “dream,” (for himself or the organization he belongs to), may not be right or good. Take, for example, China’s one child policy: China’s aim for population control for the past 30 years is directly responsible for countless abortions.
  3. As laid out ad nausea in this past post, the U.S. is in an irrecoverable decline. It has been predicted by P.A. Sorokin in his book “The Crisis of Our Age.” Everyone may see that the glory days are gone. Not everyone sees how far gone they really are. However, an honest look at history and our current decline reveals that China, not the U.S., will be the dominant culture of the world in the not-too-distant future. The U.S. quickly rose to power and will quickly slip from that summit — the fate of every civilization.
  4. Side note: I am not under the conviction that the United States was blessed by God to become a superpower because she is/was a “Christian nation” with “Christian” founding fathers and all of that. Nor do I then follow them to the conclusion that because she has abandoned her First Love, God is abandoning her (insert references to abortion, removal of prayer by the so-called “secular-humnaists,” and all of that).

Whether we struggle to remain number one, or whether the U.S. quietly concedes her seat, there is still merit in considering her mission. What is her mission?

Ridiculous Doctrines – Religious Pluralism

If I were building up to any sort of climax with this series of posts, this is the one I have been building toward. The doctrine of pluralism gets center stage in the arts. I could search out and include dozens of examples from modern movies, music, books and visual arts, but to make my point more briefly, I’ll just use two examples from music–one from 30 Seconds to Mars and one from Disturbed.

If you don’t know what religious pluralism is, great. It is better this way. I also want to set pluralism apart from syncretism. Read more…

It’s Not Science vs. Faith; It’s Christian Religion vs. the ‘Religion’ of Naturalism

An article from August 2010  announces Stephen Hawking’s publication, The Grand Design. It is outrageous insolence. His disdain for any notion of the divine reaches a new level among fellow scientists:

“When it came to the creation of the Universe, God just wasn’t necessary.”

The article points out that:

Scientists, including Albert Einstein, generally did not rule out the involvement of a higher being when it comes to the creation of the universe. Even Hawking did not exclude the possibility in his earlier book, “A Brief History of Time.”


Isaac Newton, who developed the theory of gravity, historically argued that his science could only explain so much of the universe’s behavior, but not its creation. “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion,” he wrote.

In my earlier post, “Are Science and Religion Really At War?” I chase this notion: Read more…

Ridiculous Doctrines – Syncretism

For 1st Century Christians, Paul was often combating syncretism. Most believers in the early church were recent converts from pagan, Platonist and Jewish worldviews. They held an adulterated message: Christ + something else = salvation. I.e. Christ + circumcision = salvation, or Christ + secret knowledge = salvation.

Read more…

Where Does Doctrine Come From?

Epistemology 101:

If you’ve read “Ridiculous Doctrines” part 1, you’ll know that we’re in a dilemma of knowing truth from falsehood. I’ve already established the importance of relying on Scripture, but for most in our society, the Bible is believed to be like the sacred text(s) of any religion. The assumption is that the Christian Bible is merely a human document–one that may be historically accurate, interesting and influential, but rejected as anything supernatural. Therefore, allow me to back  up. How can we know anything absolutely? Here is a bit of an overview:

  1. One approach, which I reject, is that of empiricism (subjectivity) or (private judgment). We cannot approach an absolute with relative approaches. If I get dizzy every time I go running, is it necessarily true to conclude that running causes dizziness.
  2. A second approach, which I reject, is that of pragmatism. We cannot approach abstract concepts as though they were concrete. Neither should we conclude that simply because something is a certain way that it ought to be that way (naturalistic fallacy). Just because one nation can invade a country for their valuable natural recourses (and has the military might to do so) does not mean that it ought to. Matters of practicality have nothing to say to moral values and ethics.
  3. A third approach, which I reject, is that of rationalism (human reason). Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment thinking begins each inquiry for truth with human reason as an absolute starting point—believing that knowledge is primarily innate and/or gathered by a priori processes. There are a few problems with this approach. Generally, though, they are frustrated, admitting that we cannot have a purely rationalistic approach to anything—only one that is both rational plus knowledge borrowed from other means.
  4. There are others, but I’ll skip forward…

My approach: Reformed Epistemology (Alvin Plantinga, C. Van Til, J. Frame)

Central to Reformed epistemology is the claim that belief in God is a “properly basic belief”: it doesn’t need to be inferred from other truths in order to be reasonable. This view represents a continuation of the thinking about the relationship between faith and reason that its founders find in 16th century Reformed theology, particularly in John Calvin’s doctrine that God has planted in us a sensus divinitatis (a Divine sense):

Romans 1:19-20 . . . since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Moreover, I propose Paul’s assertions of I Corinthians 2.

Wisdom From the Spirit

6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

I agree with John Frame,

A presupposition is a belief that takes precedence over another and therefore serves as a criterion for another. An ultimate presupposition is a belief over which no other takes precedence. For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition…. This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought. It merely applies the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing. (Doctrine of Knowledge of God, 45)

Read more.