Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Mr Bastian has, very nicely, alerted us to the dangers of an uncritical acceptance of the Intelligent Design movement. ID is quite happy to tell us that certain aspects of the natural order are too complex to have come about by chance. However, it is not as quick to tell us where this intelligence may be found. By doing so they leave the way open for all kinds of weird claims, including that we were originally engineered by aliens from outer space.
It would have been better to have stopped there, but Mr Bastian then proceeded to defend Evolution, claiming that it "sits comfortably within the providential purposes of the designer God." What utter rubbish! If we presuppose that the Bible is authoritative then we are duty bound to accept God's account of Creation as given. He says he did it in six days (Genesis 1) and reiterates the claim when giving the Law to Moses (Exodus 20:11). Jesus used the Genesis account to support his arguments (Matt 19:4) and Paul used it as his first argument in his evangelical appeal on Mars Hill (Acts 17:24). If Genesis is wrong, it rips the foundations out from under Moses, Jesus and Paul, and leaves us with nothing to say. If Evolution is true, then Christianity is a joke.
Yet, as an account of how things came to be, Evolution is totally inadequate. One of its foundation principles, 'Chemical Evolution', has been studied for centuries under its other name, 'Spontaneous Generation', and has been shown time and time again to be impossible.
Likewise Mutation and Natural Selection: Genetic information must first already exist before mutation can occur. And mutation only damages, it does not add. Natural selection culls -- it reduces diversity in a population to suit the conditions of a particular time and place. No longer can we breed a Doberman from a Chihuahua -- the genetic information is no longer there. And for all our thousands of years of dog breeding, no one has managed to evolve a dog into some other kind of animal.
As for Chance, even that is powerless against the laws of physics and chemistry. No amount of chance combinations of chemicals can come up with a living cell. And no amount of randomness can give sonar to bats or chemical weapons to bombardier beetles.
Out of the Protestant Reformation came a three-fold program designed to return the church to the faith handed down by the Apostles, namely, 'sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura' (by grace alone, by faith alone, by scripture alone). We have the grace and faith parts down pretty well but not the scripture part. Instead we fancy the so-called wisdom and knowledge of our cultural milieu, and try as hard as we can to modify scripture to suit its present mythology.
For as long as we consider the word of Man to be of greater worth than God's word we will never see the revival we crave. Instead we face the real prospect of social and cultural collapse -- the salt, having lost is flavour (by loving the world's point of view more than God's), watching helplessly as the meat (our society and culture) putrefies, destroys itself and ultimately disappears, taking us along with it.
Bruce M. Axtens.
This letter was published in The Baptist Advocate, December 2005. The letter to which this responds can be found in the November 2005 issue.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
When the oceans rise and thunders roarDo our worship songs create unreal expectations? What if instead of "soaring above", we have to "sink below", or even "plough right through"?
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know you are God
-- "Still" by Hillsong United. Album: Hope (2003)
There's an older song based on Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.When you walk through the waters, and when you pass through the flame, you don't drown and you are not burned up. But you can be soaked to the skin, and all that you carry may get washed away; you can get scorched and all that you own may be destroyed.
You may, in fact, die. Looking at that from God's perspective, it's not a problem: you have been saved; who you are now is only part of the story. There's also the eternity of who you will be in the new heavens and new earth. Fearsome as are floods and fires, you will not perish. God holds you in his hand; nothing can snuff you out of existence.
So be of good courage. The valley may run deeper than any you have ever experienced before. Torrential rains and turbulent waves may threaten. You may know painful sorrow and the loss of all things. But someone has been this way before. Remember him when the fires of hardship and affliction come roaring at you like a wind-driven bushfire.
Keep your eyes on your Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Friend. The consummation of all things is at hand.
© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2005.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Friday sees me on my face.I stuff up.
Saturday seems me crying for grace.
I scream, "Sunday!"
-- One Bad Pig, "I Scream Sunday".
I humble myself.
I wonder if I'll ever see any good.
And then God makes the bus wait for me.
I've been spending a lot of time weeping lately.
I have some big unresolved hurts.
It seems no one is listening.
But God made the bus wait for me.
I met a young mother on the train with her one and a half year old son.
The young woman said she'd only just turned sixteen.
The father hadn't been seen for the best part of a year.
A friend said, "That's life."
Maybe so, but does that make it right, good and just?
And the sixteen year old mother of an 18 month old son:
who will make the bus wait for her?
Monday, October 24, 2005
There's more at stake than merely Creationism in the back door. To say "yes" to ID might also give credence to the claims of Scientology (maybe the Thetans are the intelligence) and of pagans (maybe the intelligence is that of the planet itself, or of Zeus, or Odin, or any of a large number of imaginary deities).
If I'm supportive of ID, it is a careful and cautious support. The ID bandwagon is not immune from hijackers.
Your Brain is 53.33% Female, 46.67% Male
Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve
| You scored as Goth. Your A Goth!|
What Group Are You? Chav, Rocker, Skater, Emo, Goth, Trendy, Prepy E.c.t
created with QuizFarm.com
I don't think there were Goths back in 1978 when I finished High School. I was a bit wierd (some might say I still am). One of my best friends was so so so into Beatles and Bob Dylan. I got stuck into Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Brian Eno instead.
| You scored as Loner. |
What's Your High School Stereotype?
created with QuizFarm.com
Definitely a loner. Didn't like it. Wanted to be otherwise. But a loner nevertheless.
Friday, October 21, 2005
True love lasts through both good times and bad. It lives through and loves through all the seasons of the soul and of the body. It may not be shiny and attractive but its worth is incalculable, and blessed beyond all measure are those who share it.
For the rest, what was rushed and grabbed is now as last season's fashions. How many there are who take the cheap copies and reduced prices, who pay little and weep many times. Few, by contrast, who purchase the Designer version, weep over its exorbitant price, and are happy.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
"So here we are walking home, late at night, thinking about the sermon, about fathers and fatherhood but even more so about mercy and reconciliation and the need for someone to take the first step. In the case of our salvation, God took the first step."
But God has shown us how much he loves us -- it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!
--Romans 5:8 GNB
Real love isn't our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven."Everything starts with God. But having gotten past that, we find ourselves, as Christians, in situations where we have to be like God for a reconciliation to occur. We have to lay aside our rights and privileges and humble ourselves and become like a servant ..."
--1 John 4:10 CEV
... of his own free will [Jesus] gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death -- his death on the cross"We find ourselves in situations where we have to do for someone else what God did for us. We have to take the first step for the other person. Even if we are in the right, we have to give up, voluntarily, sacrificially, our 'wealth' -- the higher moral ground where we reckon we stand. We have to lay all these things aside, have to let go of our pride, so that we can meet that person where they are. Rather than pride, pomposity and platitudes we need to approach that person with humility, respect and love.
--Philippians 2:7-8 GNB
This is how Jesus did it for us: he put aside his wealth, his position, his privileges -- all the things that he had every right to bear. He put these all aside, and in love and humility made himself one of us. He came down and met us at our level rather than demanding that we somehow lift ourselves to his."
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."We have to do the same as Jesus. We have to actively seek our on 'kenosis'. We have to let go of stuff, stuff that stands in the way, stuff that makes reconciliation impossible. For as long as we hold on to what we consider to be our rights, as long as we presume to hold ourselves above that person, for whatever reason, we will never know reconciliation with that person. For as long as we demand that the first move be made by the other, we will never have the closeness, the depth of relationship, indeed the fellowship we desire."
-- Philippians 2:5-11 RSV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."We need to make the first move. The other person may not even have the power to make the first move, even if they have the inclination. God is at work within us to will and to do. God is not at work in the ungodly in this way. They do not necessarily have the desire to be reconciled. And even if they do, where can they find the power to carry it through? How will they be able to resist all the temptations that assails us when we attempt to restore relationships? The Evil One will not permit such a thing without a fight, and who, without Christ, has the power to resist him?
--Philippians 2:12,13 RSV
We need to make the first move, with all respect, humility and love. And without condescension, saying 'I'm doing this for you because you obviously can't.' Leave obvious things obvious. Don't succumb to the temptation to editorialise, to pass comment on their spiritual health or lack thereof.
We Christians have the responsibility, even the necessity, of emptying ourselves so that others may be filled. Only by relinquishing our rights, within limits, can reconciliation be achieved, a relationship started or restarted, and true fellowship enjoyed together."
For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end."In the case of two believers, it falls to the person who first becomes aware of the situation, to do something about it. As with the case of Christian and non-Christian, one's being in the right has very little to do with the issue: fellowship and community are at stake. Whether you fell that you're "always the one" who has to get the ball rolling, the issues at stake are the preservation of fellowship and not providing Satan with footholds from where he can launch greater attacks."
--Ephesians 2:14-16 RSV
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
--Ephesians 4:26,27 RSV
There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers."Pride is the biggest single killer of churches, marriages and families. For as long as we stand on our dignity, we stand firmly within the sphere of Satan's influence. Are you 'always the one'? It doesn't matter. What's more important, for you to be right or for you and your father, mother, brother, sister, pastor, spouse, child to have a relationship, one with the other? What's more important, to be vindicated or to have real fellowship that is alive and growing?
-- Proverbs 6:16-19 RSV
As soon as we become aware that something needs to be done, we need to be the first to do something about it, even if we've been the first to do something about it seven times out of the last ten. Do not wait for the other person to get his/her act together. Act now while an opportunity exists. If you leave it too long, the opportunity will be lost and the restoration of relationship even harder to achieve. Dig now before the concrete sets.
Time does not heal all hurts. Instead these hurts just get buried under all the other stuff that happens in life. Once buried they fester and so poison the heart and the mind. The longer you leave it, the worse it will inevitably become. To deal with a breaking relationship promptly shows how much you value it. Just as untreated cuts lead to infection and even gangrene, so to leave a damaged relationship untreated is to pronounce a death sentence upon it, a slow and agonising one."
So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."Jesus there doesn't say to wait for your brother to make the first move. Has the man down the road suddenly taken a dislike to you? Make the first move! Is your spouse treating you like a stranger? Make the first move! Do you want to have a dad but have become estranged from the one you grew up with? Make the first move! By making the first move, you make people able to respond; you free them to face the situation in ways that did not expect because you related to them God's way. No one expects to be approached respectfully, in humility and with love. And yet, when they are treated in this way, the vast majority are deeply moved and open up, slowly or quickly, to the process of reconciliation and eventually to the presence of the Reconciler himself."
-- Matthew 5:23.24 RSV
Monday, October 03, 2005
God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.And yet there is some truth in the parfait glass concept.
-- Ecclesiastes 7:29 GNB
Our church has just finished working through the "40 Days of Purpose" programme. The five basic purposes of Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Evangelism are like the parfait glass itself: core concepts which do not change.
We, by our choices, pour into that glass things which will change: the child who sees his purpose in terms of the primary school he attends, and focusses his attention on worshipping God in that context eventually has to graduate. The glass does not change but certainly the layers do. As we live out each phase of our lives, so the layers in the glass change.
God also spoons into the parfait glass things which will change. Some of those things may be creamy, or crunchy. Some may taste nice, some not so nice. Some may indeed taste awful. But there they are, in the glass, put there by the God who cares more about our character than our comfort. The glass doesn't change but the experiences do. These various layers may be impacted by our thoughts, words, and actions. Something sweet may be rendered sour through stupidity. Something bitter may be made sweet through selfless sacrifice. But we still have to eat it. That is, we still have to work our way through it -- growing all the while -- until that set of experiences is finished and another set is served.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.’
-- Scott Todd, Kansas State University immunologist, correspondence to Nature 410(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999.
But no one asks the question, "Does science have to be naturalistic?"
And no one asks the deeper question, "What does 'scientific' mean?"
I'm more able to deal with today having slept well last night, that much is true. But I'm still haunted by the knowledge that some things still aren't getting done.
I'm choosing to do the right thing (not necessarily the easiest thing or most pleasant thing). Trusting God to take care of the details is likely the next step.
[Our church is doing the "40 Days of Purpose". This post (and subsequent posts) reflects my reactions to what I'm reading and to the outcomes of actions taken]
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
O sons of men, how long will my honour become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?" -- Psalm 4:2-3 NASV
Why is it that the name of Jesus, which is to me a badge of honour, is used almost worldwide as a word for cursing and swearing? What is it about that name that lends itself so well to being used as a filler, almost adjectivally? If you have to say something, why not say, "Oh, Buddha", or "Oh, Krishna", or "Oh, Mohammed"?
If Jesus and Christianity are so useless, why mention them at all?
"And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words... " -- Matthew 6:7 RSV
This injunction, amongst other things, seems to be against redundancy in prayer. It may be echoing something Solomon said in Ecclesiastes
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few. -- Ecclesiastes 5:2 RSV
And we are good at redundancy. How many times have I prayed, "Lord, please be with so-and-so." How redundant is that! What meaningless babble! Doesn't Matthew 28:20 say, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"? Why ask God to do what he's already been doing for thousands of years?
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
-- Prov 25:26
A while back I met a girl who had been a Christian: brought up in a Christian home, attended church and youth group etc. Then she went to university and "lost her faith".
Why does this happen? One usually goes to Uni expecting to become wise, by walking with, talking with and listening to the wise. Why do so many young people become fools in the process? It's as if all the ungodly, sinners, and scoffers of Psalm 1 have moved into and taken over the universitites. Our youth enter these institutions expecting to pick up a dose of higher learning. What they often experience in the process is theft, murder and destruction: theft of joy, murder of faith and destruction of dignity.
What can be done about this? Presupposing that useful knowledge and skills can yet be found in universities -- it's the mechanism we use in our culture to teach the young useful, socially uplifting, professional skills -- how can churches, pastors and parents prepare their young for the challenges they will face?
Christian presuppositions differ from those of the present social milieu. We have different creation stories: Christians presuppose an intelligent God who created us deliberately and for a purpose; the university presupposes a mindless, purposeless process of chemical and biological evolution which, by mutation and natural selection accidently brought us into being.
These creation accounts are mutually exclusive. Each claims to be an accurate reflection of reality. Those who claim theses accounts as their own look out at the natural world and interpret it accordingly.
The university asserts itself as the purveyor of ultimate reality. Its claims are consistent with its presuppositions. But are its claim true?
As Christians, we need to train our children to listen well and to ask the right questions; to be able to enter the university and challenge it: challenge its claims; identify and challenge its presuppositions; hold it accountable for all it has been and now is.
We have sent our children out as sheep among wolves, and many have been eaten. Have we forgotten to teach them to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents? (Matt. 10:16)
Monday, April 11, 2005
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
"'And we are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.' But when [the Pharisees] heard this they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay [the apostles]." -- Acts 5:32-33From the Pharisees point of view, these apostles were cheeky beyond all measure. Imagine inferring that they had not obeyed God! Why, they obeyed him perfectly in all matters of the law. How dare anyone suggest otherwise? As for this Jesus fellow, he had broken the Sabbath countless times, so who was he to parade himself as a paragon of virtue? So what that he had healed even someone born blind? The fact was he did not keep the law and the traditions and thus was beyond the pale, beyond listening to. The only thing he was fit for was destruction lest he turn the people away to his blasphemous and disobedient ways.
The fact was that the Pharisees were beyond reasonable argument. They had pushed God too far and he had washed his hands of them, giving them in full the blindness they had tried so hard to attain and maintain. Only to one or two had he shown any mercy.
The apostles on the other hand had no illusions about their own self-importance or their own ability to keep the law or their ability to please God by their own efforts. They had been thorough-going sinners and knew it -- why else would Peter in Luke 5.8 tell Jesus to depart from him? They knew only too well where they had been and where they stood before God and knew that their only hope was in Jesus, who alone could set them free from sin, from death, and indeed from themselves. The apostles were repenting and believing. They were sane, fully aware of who they were, where they had come from and where they were going.
The Pharisees, by contrast, were spiritually insane.
And yet how easy it is to become just as spiritually insane. How easy it is to be deluded by self, social system and Satan. How easy it is to get wound up in a whole bunch of rules that end up attempting to substitute for wholehearted obedience to God.
I need to be on guard always, watching lest I fall into the same insanity that afflicted and ultimately destroyed the Pharisees.
Why is this so surprising? Hasn't God said that we have three enemies? The last is the Devil (though powerful he is not our primary foe, yet gets the most credit for our woes); the second is the world (the anti-God or apathetic-to-God social milieu); and the first, the chief and yet the most disregarded, the flesh (our fallen self-centered nature*).
Yes, I am fighting against self, yet am so lacking in self-awareness that I don't realise I'm in battle until after I've lost.
* from Three Enemies of the Christian Life, an editorial in the Brethren Revival Fellowship website at www.brfwitness.org
Luke 19:10 "For Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."Funny how only those who know they are lost get found and get saved. Those who have no idea as the reality of their lostness have no time for Jesus on their schedules. (Though God is merciful to us all and at least tells us, if we have ears to hear.) Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, enough to climb a tree and look silly doing so. He knew something about himself, enough to know that he needed to see Jesus. Maybe he knew he was lost. Maybe he knew he needed saving. Maybe he just wanted to see Jesus. Really, really, wanted to see Jesus. Enough not to care how stupid he looked climbing a tree.
Luke 18:25 says that it is easier for a camel to go through eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And this surprises the disciples no end. So here then we have Zacchaeus. A rich man. (Luke says he's rich.) From the Jews point of view he is blessed of God to be rich and well on his way to the kingdom of God and yet he is not. Rather, he needs Jesus and seems to know this. Note too that he brings forth the fruit of repentance -- that is, his conversion results in real changes in behaviour. Not so many public conversions in this and the last century where a lot of noise and media hype is made of conversion but no fruit comes.