Thursday, December 29, 2011

Makoto Fugimura: Christian AND artist.



Here is an amazing Christian artist; who illustrated a commemorative printing of the KJV (King James Version) of the Gospels.  Fugimura is trying to promote Aesthetics within the Evangelical circles.  For some reason, art has a bad name within Christian circles.  I would like to help change that attitude.


As we can understand God; and his attributes, beauty is included in that.  There is such a thing as 'Objective Beauty' as well as Goodness, Holiness, Righteousness, etc..."  These things are not just  subjective.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peace

Photo by Alice E. (Lisa) Guinther


In the quiet beauty of falling snow, here at the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.


"...And on earth, peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)


Shalom


Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From "Christmas Devotions From Denver Seminary;" Dr. Noelliste,

Nativity window, St. Luke's Episcopal, Atlanta 





From “He is Born!: Christmas Devotions From Denver Seminary.” A meditation by Dr. Dieumeme Noelliste, Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of the Grounds Institute of Public Ethics.







“…Though he was rich…for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard people wonder whether it is proper for Christians to observe Christmas.  Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard them give reasons for their suspicion such as our ignorance of the date of Christ’s birth, the pagan origin of some of the feature of Christmas, and the many Christmas-related celebrations which have nothing to do with the birth of the Savior.

How should we respond to these objections? Is it enough to say that our ignorance of Jesus’ birth date doesn’t matter, since our celebration focuses on the fact that He was born?  Does it suffice for us to say that whatever cultural coating may overlay our observance is offset by numerous references made to the name of Jesus at Christmastime?

There is merit in these responses. But I believe something much more compelling needs to be said.  Our response must be more than a clever argument for the continuation of a cultural festival.  For me, that response is not made verbally, but in the manner in which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.

How do we do that?  By putting the values and attitudes that characterized His life at the center of our celebration.  2 Cor. 8:9 brings to light helpful principles which make our observance Christ-like and authentic.  First, our celebration reflects Christ when it minimizes self-enjoyment.  In our culture, Christmas has become synonymous with materialistic self-indulgence.  Our Christmas is joyous if our wants are satisfied and our desires gratified.  In stark contrast, self-enjoyment was not the dominant characteristic of our Savior’s life.  Self-denial was!  His coming to our world and dwelling with us were acts of self-renunciation.  We honor Him in celebration when we resist the pull to self-indulge.

Second, a Christmas that resembles Christ maximizes self-abasement.  The coming of Christ to the earth was a costly journey. It involved self-demotion and self-condescension.  His birth and life were marked by self-giving.  What have we given up as we remember Him?

Third, a Christ-like Christmas observance emphasizes the enhancement of others.  Christmas has to do with the great exchange—a transaction carried out in our favor and Christ’s disfavor! He, rich became poor, so that we, poor, may become rich!  Who are we blessing by our celebration?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"You mean this is true whether I believe it or not?"



Here is a great video where Craig Hazen speaks on the truth of Christianity: "You mean, this is true whether I believe it or not?"


No more blind faith!


Recorded October 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What is True?" Defining My World View


As a part of an apology (defense) of my beliefs as a Christian, I am postin my paper I wrote as my final for World Views (Philosophy 205) for Colorado Christian University. 



                        Jesus said “I am the Way the Truth and the Life…” and Pilate said “…What is Truth?” as he washed his hands.  If we believe the first, we will know how to answer the second.  This paper seeks to clarify my position on my own World View. I will try to clearly write what it is I believe, and why; and finally answer the question of how this applies to my daily life. I will answer this in three parts; Part One is Natural Theology, proof of God from nature. Part two is Revelation from Scripture, and the historicity of the Bible, and finally Part three will be an explanation of how I integrate this into my life and how I treat others based on my understanding of what is real and true.

Part One: Natural Theology

            In our text book, James Sire (2004) made for me the stunning observation of how our ontology, how we understand the “really-real” effects our own perceptions. He writes, “…the object of knowledge controls the way knowledge of the object will be able to be apprehended.”  (p 88) In other words only if the Infinite is personal, are we able to perceive Him.  An impersonal force is an enigma and undefined, and ineffable.  So in my life, I look to the Infinite-personal God, the Creator of the Universe as my ground to ontology that shapes my life and world view.  My faith needs an object, not a projection of my psyche, or a wish-fulfillment as put forward by Sigmund Freud.  Frances Schaeffer (2006) writes it this way “…Faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.” (p 84) But how do I know that there is a God out there?

            My first proof of there being an infinite-personal God, is in Cosmology.  William Lane Craig (2008) developed the early 13th century argument known as “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” (p.111) This argument from philosophy/cosmology gives us a look at a syllogism that explains the origin of the universe.  The argument runs like this:

1.     What ever begins to exist has a cause.
2.      The universe began to exist.
3.      Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The argument is that because as we can see, we have ‘something’ instead of nothing; there has to be a ‘first-cause’ and that attempts to prove God.  As we have grown up with the astronomers and physicists who developed and prove the “Big-Bang,” we have come to take for granted the idea that there was an absolute start to the universe.  But if the universe has an absolute beginning, there has to be a cause; nothing just ‘pops’ into being; this is why the Big-bang cosmology sounds like problems for Atheists.  But this is not proof, but a strong possibility for the existence of an All-powerful, Unlimited, Being…God.

But this Big-Bang Cosmology was not always taken for granted.  Up until the development of this theory and the mathematical and astrological support, it was assumed by most that the universe was eternal.  This was the belief of most philosophers, including Plato.  But Plato and later Aristotle had the sense of a ‘beginning’…they understood the idea of the problem of motion.  Aristotle proposed the ‘un-moved mover,’ the start of the ‘chain’ of motion. But according to W.T. Jones (1969) this un-moved mover of Aristotle was not our idea of God.  Jones writes

There are virtually no religious overtones in Aristotle…Hence it is misleading to modern ears to talk about Aristotle’s theology.  It is better to use the neutral expression, “Aristotle’s account of his unmoved mover”…Thus there is …no divine providence, which is so important an aspect of the Judeo-Christian view of the world.  His god does not look out for, care about, and provide for man.  He did not create the universe, for it is eternal, and he[god] is utterly indifferent to it. (p 231)

This is an interesting observation, even more so when you understand that W. T. Jones was an Atheist.

            So now I have some proof that God may exist as evidenced by the cosmos.  Next, another sign of God from the area of Biology; and this is the evidence of design in nature, or Intelligent Design.  Intelligent Design, is a term coined by Dr. Michael Behe, professor of Bio Chemistry at Lehigh University.  As Mike studied the complexity of the cells in plants and animals, even the smallest eukaryotic cells, he could not understand the seeming level of complexity and how un-explainable this was by a Darwinistic evolutionary process.   Mike explains the working of the “swimming systems” of a cell; the cilium (2006).

A cilium is a structure that, crudely put, looks like a hair and beats like a whip.  If a cell with a cilium is free to move about in a liquid, the cilium moves the cell much as an oar moves a boat…But discovery of the Lilliputian details of cilia had to wait for the invention of the electron microscope, which revealed that the cilium is quite a complicated structure. (p 59)

So what he discovered was the amazing molecular machines, which have a level of “Irreducible Complexity”; these systems can only work when all the parts are together.  Mike’s theory which he wrote in his book Darwin’s Black Box is that a much more feasible explanation for this complexity is an intelligent designer.  Mike is a Christian, but although this complexity points to God, he only makes the modest claim to an intelligent designer. But with the organization of not only the universe, and the impossibly complex molecular machines in living cells, there is a much higher chance of the existence of God as evidenced by Nature itself.

Part Two: Revelation of God; the Bible

            If we are to understand a being like the Creator of the universe, and if his hand can be seen in the creation around us, it would seem that he would give us a revelation of himself.  That book is our Holy Bible, a combination of the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament (the testimony of the fulfillment of prophesies of the promised Messiah).  Frances Schaeffer (1982) writes of our senses and our rationality here when he wrote;

These two eyes which the Bible gives us to look through always agree perfectly—the eye of didactic teaching and the eye of God working into history and in the cosmos…That when God reveals his attributes to man, they are true not only to man but to God.  God is not just telling a story; he is telling us what is really true…What he tells us is not exhaustive, because we are finite and we know nothing in an exhaustive way.  We cannot even communicate with each other exhaustively…But he tells us truly—even the great truth about himself. (p 79)

So a rational God created rational being with senses that can apprehend the world; and this God gave us a revelation of himself and his created order.

            But with any communication, there is the telling of not only God’s creative power, but the comprehension that there was a time when humanity was perfect, but we rebelled against God’s order, and caused a divide between the true and good God, and ourselves.  This is the revelation that God wants us to know in his Word, the Bible.  But as with any rebellion, restitution had to be made, and when that rebellion is against our creator, the only satisfaction is our very lives.
 
            One can read between the covers of the Bible and see the means and methods over time that this infinite—personal God used to remove the separation between us.   As we read in the New Testament, God sent his own Son to be that means of removing the gulf.  That God would so desire our hearts, and for us to be in fellowship with him; he would allow his Son to be sacrificed for our sin and rebellion.

But unlike other religions which are grounded in impersonal essences or forces, our Father and Creator, became exactly like us, to show us how God really is.  Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  He was the Truth incarnate!  Douglas Groothuis (2001) writes;

The truth of the gospel is not subject to any human veto or democratic procedures.  Jesus was not elected Lord by humans but was chosen by God; nor can he be dethroned by any human effort or opinion or insurrection. (p 68)
So you see Jesus, the Messiah, came to save the lost.  But we rational beings need to believe the writing of God’s revelation to humanity in his Bible.

            The challenge then becomes to prove that this is the actual truth of God written through humans who were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.  To help the belief in the veracity of the Bible is the fact that it is grounded in history.  You can follow a historical narrative that can be corroborated in many places, both in archaeology and other writings, to give us confidence in the truth of what is being revealed there.  But the most remarkable and earth-shaking evidence is the empty tomb of Jesus himself.

            The four gospel accounts are an amazing array of eye-witness testimony, which most biblical scholars believe now to be reliably dated as being written before 70AD and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Titus.  Not only did the writers use their own witness, and the accounts of other eye-witnesses, the extant writings corroborate the existence of Jesus as written by Josephus, and contained in Tacitus’ writings of the burning of Rome (Licona 2011) and the persecution of Christians. Tacitus explains “Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”  (p. 243) We have good and reasonable accounts of the life and death and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, Son of God.

Part Three: Integrating Beliefs in My Life.

            I once believed in Jesus because it gave me good feelings, and I liked hanging out with other Christians, and the music was great.  But I had a period of my life where hard times hit me, and I turned my back on God. For many reasons, I blamed God for my problems; but mostly because I never was taught that faith could be reasoned and reasonable.  When I finally stopped running away from God, I wanted to ‘do things your way, God.’ One of the first things I did was to intensively study the Bible.  But next I studied commentaries of Bible; and soon that grew to the Philosophy of Religion, and Apologetics.  This meant that now although worship is a wonderful (and sometimes emotional experience) I now can articulate why I am a Christian.  I am a Christian because I believe in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; who is the Son of God.  He, with the Father, sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in me and guide me in my life and in the fellowship with other believers.

            Because I understand the Bible is a historically reliable book, I know that I am reading Truth.  That leaves me with options of what to do with that truth; I can either ignore it, or I can follow it.  I have been pondering what it really mean to “love my neighbor” and “who is my neighbor”, the same question the Lawyer asked Jesus in Luke 10:29.  I know the utterly difficult words of Jesus and his “Sermon on the Mount.” When you really study these words, they are revolutionary and truly difficult…so difficult you cannot walk in His words.  But that is the point, you need to surrender your will to God, and He will work the change in you.

            But one other application; as an Apologist for the Christian faith, I am called to lovingly give an answer for the hope within me, the hope I am required to share to spread God’s kingdom on this earth.  The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) is not optional.  We all need to learn how to share and defend our faith, hope, life, and the Truth.

            What is Truth?  Jesus, the Son of God.  The Way, The Truth, and certainly The Life.
Amen.


References:

M. Behe (2006) Darwin’s Black Box. New York, NY: Free Press

W. L. Craig (2008) Reasonable Faith 3rd Ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossways

D. Groothuis (2000) Truth Decay. Downers Grove, IL: IVP

W.T. Jones (1969) A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York, NY:
Harcourt Brace & World.

M. Licona (2011) The Resurrection of Jesus. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

F. Schaeffer (2006) The God How is There.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
                  --(1982) He is There and He is Not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

J. Sire (2004) Naming the Elephant. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Least Among Judah's Princes"


I received a wonderful devotional yesterday from Denver Seminary; and I wanted to share some of the meditations in it with all of you who follow my blog.
This meditation is for December 3, and is written by Dr. Rick Hess, who is the Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages.

“Least Among Judah’s Princes”
Mica 5:2 (NIV) “As for you, O Bethlehem Ephratah, although you are least among Judah’s princes; yet my ruler in Israel will emerge with origins that are ancient, from long ago.”

The prophet Micah wrote some seven centuries before Jesus’ birth.  It was a difficult time when the people of God had turned away from Him and the prophet warned of judgment.  He also promised a time beyond of restoration and the return of a ruler who would bring peace and the kingdom of God.  This ruler would be found in the line of David who was born in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16), centuries after Micah prophesied.  Many hundreds of years later the gospel writer Matthew saw God’s people experiencing that judgment in his days.  He found in Jesus the fulfillment of Micah’s promised ruler.  This was made crystal clear in both Jesus’ human lineage from David (Matt. 1:1-17) and in His actual birth in Bethlehem.  It is there that Matthew cites Micah’s prophecy (Matt. 2:6).

But in doing so he changes the description of Bethlehem.  Micah, picturing towns as “princes,” had noted how Bethlehem (in the region called Ephratah) was the least or smallest in Judah.  Perhaps he remembered how David had been chosen despite being the youngest or least among his brothers (1 Sam. 16:10-13).  Matthew, writing after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, could not bring himself to call Bethlehem the “least” any longer.  However humble and insignificant His birth at the time, the Son of God’s incarnation in this village would forever transform its status so that it was “by no means least.”

In a similar way we are called to live like Christ.  For many of us this does not mean that we will become popular or powerful in the eyes of the world.  However, it does mean that our lives can change the world where it counts in following Christ and spreading the good news of His Kingdom.  As Micah and Matthew knew in their times, the meaning of Jesus’ apparently insignificant birth was far more earth-shattering than the great powers and leaders of their times.  As with Jesus, God delights to take the weak, the poor, and the insignificant, and to transform the world through such disciples.