Monday, August 29, 2005

Creation, Evolution, Science, and College

Recently, there have been a couple of new things on a old topic: Origins.

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY posted yesterday on the University of California's decision to refuse to certify science courses that teach creationism using certain textbooks from BJU Press and A Beka Books. You can read the original LA Times article here.

Last week, My friend Pat Berryman over at The Edge in Auburn Hills wrote recently about The New Scarlet Letter—intolerance. In his comments, he referenced a recent Larry King Live episode that featured a discussion on Intelligent Design (or ID) and whether or not it should be taught in science classrooms in public schools. For those unfamiliar with it, Intelligent Design is a theory championed by men like Philip Johnson, Michael Behe, Michael Dembski, and others that argue that an irreducible complexity in nature presupposes an intelligent design. Irreducible complexity is basically the idea that a given organism has a certain structure that cannot be reduced to a prior form. In other words, this structure could not have evolved through natural selection or mutation because the elements were not there, and there is no explanation for how they got there, apart from an outside intelligence.

ID is a form of creationism to some degree. Secular science views it as a "foot in the door," or the proverbial "camel's nose under the tent flap." Barbara Forrest, a philosphy professor at Southeastern Louisana Universy and a member of National Advisory Council of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State wrote a book entitled Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. (You can read the transcript of the program here. It is the last half of LKL that night.)

Some in the Christian community are in favor of ID as that very thing ... a foot in the door. They believe it at least opens the door to a different discussion than is typically held in public education about theories of the origin of the universe. And to be sure, it is a form of creationism. On the other hand , others, such as Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis believe that ID is dangerous. They say,
While design arguments used in the Intelligent Design Movement may seem very appealing at first, the central problem with the ID movement, as stated numerous times by AiG’s newest speaker Dr. Georgia Purdom, is that it divorces the Creator from creation. The Creator cannot be separated from creation; they reflect on each other. (To hear Dr. Purdom's presentation on this topic, download the podcast/MP3 of her talk at the 2005 Creation Mega Conference.)
What is being passed off as science about origins in most public school classrooms is frighteningly ignorant. I am no scientist, and if I can see through it, it gives pause to one to wonder why the teachers themselves can't see through it. As I understand it, that is why Johnson, Behe, Dembski and the others started down the road of intelligent design. They could see the problems. Evolutionary theory is so laughably absurd that were it not for its lone alternative it is doubtful that anyone would believe it. However, since the alternative to evolution is God, evolution continues to be believed.

We need a return to actual science. We need to call theories what they are ... theories. Evolution is simply that ... a theory about how things came to be. It is a theory chock-full of holes. I firmly believe that the longer science continues to progress, the less evolution will be accepted. It is, in a sense, like Copernicus who shocked the world with the idea that the sun is the center of the universe. Now, it is widely accepted. As time and progress marches on, the theory of evolution will go the way of geo-centrism.

Yet man will not turn to the Creator because his sin has blinded his mind. The apostle Paul, writing the Ephesians reminds us what God says about man's intelligence.
Ephesians 4:17-19 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Futile, darkened, ignorant, hard of heart, and callous—not exactly a recipe for stellar thinking. God, through his common grace, has granted to these kind of people the ability to make astounding discoveries. Only through His special grace will God grant them the repentance that leads to life, that will open their eyes to the Creator and bring them to faith in Him.

Romans 1 tells us that these people have no excuse.
Romans 1:19-23 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
The saddest thing is this: For all their scientific skills, they cannot see clearly enough to see what is clearly shown. God exists and has made it obvious to all who will look. But they, professing to be wise, have shown themselves to be fools. They worship the intellect of man, such as it may be, and fall at the altar of man's passions and desires rather than falling at the feet of Christ the Creator and submitting their minds and hearts to him.

How do we minister to a generation like this? Preach Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). Remember that the god of this world has blinded their minds until God who caused the light to shine out of darkness causes the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ to shine in their hearts. (2 Cor 4:1-6).

On a practical note, do not allow the secular side to frame this as a debate between "science" and "religion." It isn't. Both sides use actual science, and both sides engage in faith choices. All scientists have their bias. As Ken Ham asks, Which is the best bias to be biased with? It is best to be biased with the existence of the Creator God who told us what he did.

Friday, August 26, 2005


I was reviewing Numbers 13-14 for our men's Bible study tomorrow morning and jotting down a few notes on leadership. I was struck again by the danger of influence. Numbers 13-14 is the story of the spies going into Canaan to spy out the land and report to the people. With all the power of the promises of God, and the power that had already been experienced in the Exodus, the power of influence waffled, and a generation died in the wilderness.

Ten spies doubted the promise of God, focused on the problems of the world, and undermined the God-ordained leadership of Moses and Aaron by causing the people to look for a different leader that would take them back to Egypt (14:1-4). Was that their intent? Did they really want to undermine Moses and Aaron? We will never know, but it is irrelevant what they wanted. It happened anyway.

Leadership often has unintended consequences, both for the good and the bad. To be sure, it is a fine line between good and bad leadership. The strongly authoritative leader with great passion for God and holiness can become a tyrant who creates fear in his children if he does not love them with God's love. The visionary leader can create a culture of dissension and discontent by pushing faster than people are ready to go. A recognized "power figure" (every church or organization has them) can be a tremendous force of undermining the God-ordained leadership by comments, body language, failure to participate, gossip, backbiting, and malcontentendess (am I making up my own words here???).

Good leadership is often ignored, as Caleb and Joshua were. Good leadership is committed to godly obedience even if they are the only ones. (You usually aren't, as Elijah learned in his self-pity.) Good leadership takes the time and effort to talk to God for people, as Moses and Aaron did. At the heart of it is Numbers 14:24: But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it (NASB). Good leaders have a different spirit, a different attitude about life. They are willing to do things God's way, to think about God's Word first, to love what God loves before they think about what the possible outcomes might be. Those who want to be good leaders must develop a "different spirit" that follow God fully.

God has invested all of us with leadership roles. You have a leadership circle, or what some have a called a "circle of influence." Your role might be the pastor of a church, the president of a company or organization. It might be a role as head of a ministry or a workgroup. It might be as head of a family. You might look at your life and wonder where your leadership circle is? It might be the power of example as a worker that sets the pace by working hard, the power of a teenager who sets a radical example of godliness around friends "on the bubble" of following God. Even children are being watched by younger brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Christian Profession in Strange Places

I was pointed today to an article in World Magazine about an interview with Bono, the lead singer for the rock band U2. I don't know much about Bono, or U2, but I know in general that the rock culture is an unlikely place to find a Christian confession of Christ and grace. It is even more unlikely to find one as clear as Bono's. He says, in part,

... I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."

Then the interviewer marvels, "The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that."

"The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death," replies Bono. "It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven."

Later, when questioned about who Christ was, Bono says,
"Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: 'I'm the Messiah.' I'm saying: 'I am God incarnate.' . . . So what you're left with is either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's farfetched."
This is a gospel that is more clear than what is heard in most churches on Sunday mornings, and it comes from a very strange source. I had heard rumors of Bono's Christian faith but always looked on it with great skepticism. I must confess my skepticism still exists, but far less than before.

This testimony gives one pause to wonder how Bono could continue in his lifestyle, given this clear testimony. It also gives one pause to wonder exactly what Paul meant when he said that such a confession can come only by the Holy Spirit.

It does remind us of the amazing grace so richly poured out through Christ, by the grace of a great God who works in various and sometimes mysterious ways in people's lives. I don't know whether Bono is truly saved, but I know that a good many church members could not explain their faith so well.

Moody Church

Whenever I am on vacation on a Sunday, I make it a practice to go to church. I have found that my practice is not popular among some, who consider vacation a time to skip church, but since I like to go to church, I go. I usually try to find an evangelical church that I might not otherwise attend, usually a church of some significance. In the past, I have visited Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Willow Creek Community Church. I do this to see how churches do things. I am fairly familiar with the fundamentalist way of "doing church," and so I like to broaden my horizons, learn what I can, see what makes me want to come back to a church, or not come back. In short, I am trying to see church from an outsider's perspective, in hopes of gleaning some information on how an newcomer to Grace might respond.

This past Sunday, while in the Chicago area, we visited Moody Memorial Church Sunday for their morning worship service. Moody Church is the church that grew out of the Sunday School started by Evangelist Dwight L. Moody in the 1860s. He also started a Bible College which still exists in downtown Chicago, though the church and school have no official connection. Another notable pastor of Moody Church in the 1900s was Dr. Harry A. Ironside, whose commentaries carry on his legacy of Bible teaching. The church is located on a city block in North Chicago, where North Avenue, Clark Street, and LaSalle Street meet. There is no on site parking, though there are various restaurants and lots that Moody apparently has an agreement with to park in. At the church entrance on LaSalle, there were people to help direct you to a place to park, and at the lot there were attendants to help you park. They did ask you to leave your keys in the car so they could move the car if necessary. The parking attendants were very friendly and helpful, though we had to walk about two blocks to get to the church. The auditorium was very beautiful, but the seats were very hard (think unpadded theatre seats).

The church service itself was a traditional service. They opened with some announcements, including a brief interview with some members of their college age class to promote the college ministry. The service was opened with a call to worship by Bradley Garvin, singing "The Lord Is My Light." Bradley is a bass with the New York Metropolitan Opera and has a wonderful voice. I picked up a CD that is very enjoyable. Later in the service he sang "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" and "I'd Rather Have Jesus." He was the only special music for the day and I assume that is not normal for the church.

The congregational singing was accompanied by the organ and an acoustic guitar. The organ was very loud, the guitar was very soft and almost unnoticeable. The familiar songs were easy to sing, but the song "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" was sung to a "traditional Irish Melody" which was unfamiliar to me, perhaps because I am not traditionally Irish. The organ was not easy to follow on the tune, and the worship leader playing his guitar was not mic'ed well enough to be heard. The last song before the message (The King of Love) was projected on screens on either side of the choir loft.

Pastor Erwin Lutzer preached from Psalm 23 under the title "When God Shows Himself - Part 2." It was a good message. As a preacher, I listen for how others do things. My thought was that he explained the text well and made good use of the image of sheep and shepherd. However, he made virtually no application until the very end when he tacked on "five very quick" points (as he called them). By that time, it was easy to lose the message and hard to keep up with the application. I would rather have heard the application throughout the message rather than at the end. Lutzer has a "preacher's voice." It is not so much a conversation with the audience as it is a oratorical lecture. That's not to say it was bad; it wasn't. It was a good message.

The church has apparently experienced a resurgence of sorts. I was told, prior to being there, that the church was previously forced to sell off a lot of the surrounding property to stay in existence. The audience was a mix of ages and ethnicities. It was probably tilted slightly towards an older population. Dress was mixed. Lutzer and those on the platform were in suits and ties, as were the ushers. Some of the ladies were in pants and some in dresses. The guy in front of me was wearing shorts, though I didn't see too much of that.

It is good to see the church growing in the city as a multi-racial body some one hundred and fifty years after its inception.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A Week of Rest

I am sitting tonight at my brother's house, mooching off his high speed wireless connection. We stopped by here (Crystal Lake, IL) for a couple of nights following our week of rest and relaxation.

Several months ago, through another pastor, I became aware of Deer Ridge Ministries. It is a ministry started by an pastor for the purpose of providing a free week of rest at a bed and breakfast in Illinois. I was skeptical, but finally emailed and got a reservation for this past week. We arrived Sunday night, and laying in bed trying to sleep, I was beginning to wish I had stayed home. But Monday, things were different. We spent the whole week with no phones, no TV, no internet connection, and no where to be except the 5:30 dinner. Breakfast and lunch were provided, but could be eaten at your own time. I spent most of the week reading (over 1000 pages), sleeping, meditating, praying, thinking, and breaking the 90+ degree heat in the swimming pool. The Mrs. and I spent a lot of time talking and doing nothing. (It always makes me laugh when I hear a pastor refer to his wife as "Mrs. So and so." Does he really not know her well enough to use her first name? Or at least call her "my wife." But that's a little off topic ... which may be why I preach so long.)

Deer Ridge brings in about four pastors and their spouses a week for 30 weeks a year. They provide everything and ask nothing in return. The other pastors there last week were all pastors in the Evangelical Free church. It was a great time of fellowship even though we would not see eye to eye on some things. They are not fundamentalists (if you don't know what that is, I will explain later ... as soon as I figure it out), but they are evangelical. The Deckers (who run the ministry) are evangelical United Methodists. The ministry is open to all people who sign their statement of faith. So if you go, it will not be a fundamentalist camp out, but will be worth your time.

Simply put, if you are a pastor and happen upon this blog, I would highly recommend the ministry of David and Louise Decker at Deer Ridge Ministries. Look at their website, and drop them an email. Feel free to mention my name. And I think they still have some space available this year.

I also found out that there are a lot of ministries that provide such retreats for pastors. And having experienced the rest and relaxation, I will certainly look forward to having another one.

When I am away on Sunday, I try to visit a church in the area with some significance. Tomorrow, we plan on attending Moody Church in downtown Chicago before leaving for the road trip back to Detroit. Perhaps I will offer some thoughts on Moody Church after our visit tomorrow.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Whose Fish?

My brother found this today (don't ask me how) and sent it to me today from Coudal Partners. I have no idea who they are or what they do, but I found this interesting and challenging. Try it out and see what you come up with. You can look at it on their page, and submit your answer. If you are right, you might be a lucky winner. If anyone actually reads this, and then figures it out, post your answer in the comments. My brother and I both came up with the same answer, which at least means we think alike ... even if we think wrong. If you want to try it, don't look at the comments until after you try it. It took me about forty-five minutes or so (unless you do it faster, in which case it took me less time).

Anyway, give it a shot ...

Whose Fish?

By Albert Einstein (maybe)

This brainteaser, reportedly written by Einstein is difficult and Einstein said that 98% of the people in the world could not figure it out. Which percentage are you in?

There are five houses in a row in different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.

The question is-- who owns the fish?

  1. The Brit lives in the red house.
  2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
  3. The Dane drinks tea.
  4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
  5. The green house owner drinks coffee.
  6. The person who smokes Pall Malls keeps birds.
  7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhills.
  8. The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk.
  9. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the one who smokes Dunhills.
  12. The owner who smokes Bluemasters drinks beer.
  13. The German smokes Princes.
  14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.
There are no tricks, pure logic will get you the correct answer. And yes, there is enough information to arrive at the one and only correct answer.

If you get the correct answer, congratulations, you are one of the exclusive group of 121,348,731 people in the world who can.