I really hope this column will bless you. You can read the most recent column below and previous columns at the archive.
I have found that in almost every conversation regarding any contentious issue, humility is rarely an ingredient. Often, opposing sides are tempted to talk more than they listen, and they tend to make claims that exceed their own areas of expertise.
As I write, I have a lot of tabs open in my web browser about radiocarbon dating, inconsistencies between the lead byproduct and helium diffusion of zircon decay, paleontological discoveries of soft tissue in the femur of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that could not survive millions of years, and recent geological discoveries that suggest a vast ocean of water between the upper and lower mantles that makes the biblical account of a global flood plausible. All have been written from both old- and young-earth perspectives. I wanted to write about all the science that informs my conviction that the earth and all of creation is not older than 10,000 years. I have, in fact, presented some of my evidence recently, but I now think scientific evidence for creation is better presented by creation scientists. I would encourage you to look up scientific organizations like the Institute of Creation Research (icr.org) and Answers in Genesis (answersingenesis.org).
One of the most iconic movie scenes I can remember is in "Men in Black." Agent Kay, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is trying to recruit Will Smith's character into a secret agency that monitors extraterrestrial life on earth. He says, "Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
I'm not about to make an argument for aliens, but I would like you to reconsider what you think you know. Are you prepared to consider evidence objectively and make a rational conclusion based on that evidence, even if that evidence contradicts what you thought you knew? Christians are so often accused of refusing to hear evidence. I beg you not to be the same way.
Having taught the Bible for a number of years now, I have come to an unfortunate conclusion: students will forget at least 95 percent of what a teacher says. Whenever I get frustrated with my own students, I find myself trying to remember lectures from college or high school and my own failure to do so helps me find patience.
That last 5 percent of what a teacher says, though, is gold. There are a handful of lessons, lectures and sermons from various teachers and pastors over the years that I still quote. One of those was from Mr. Furgeson, my U.S. History teacher in high school.
On my way to work this morning, I was considering the content for a fantastic and informative column. I was considering the evidence from the Bible and the world we live in and how to present it. I was constructing nuanced arguments in my head. I was looking in my rearview mirror at a stoplight. I rarely pay more attention to the cars around me than I need to avoid hitting them, but this time I did.
I am no prophet, but I have a prediction for 2016. Unless something drastic happens, 2016 will be marked by increasing division in every facet of American life. Culture wars will rage. Racial tension will get tighter. National elections will catalyze an increasingly uncivil and disrespectful political discourse.
If you have trusted Jesus to pay the penalty for your sin and to provide eternal life, it would be a tragedy for you to think a prediction like this is bad news.
Instead, think about it as an exciting opportunity to be different.
One year and one month ago, rioting broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager.
The news media began to highlight similar cases from around the nation. Police violence crossing racial lines has saturated both conventional and social media.
Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who really lived at the beginning of the first century A.D.
History accepts this as a fact. The best-selling book of all time confirms his existence. So do semi-contemporary historians and writers like Josephus, Tacitus, Seutonius and Justin Martyr. Pliny the Younger confirmed that early Christians thought the same thing about Jesus as what many Christians (myself included) still believe about Jesus. Thallus, a historian who wrote within the first 20 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, even included corroborating details of the passion narrative before most of the gospels were finished. The Mishnah and the Quran acknowledge some of the basic details of Jesus’ life and what the earliest Christians believed about him.
The Bible is easily the best-selling book ever printed. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, more than 5 billion copies have been sold in English alone. Maybe about 500 million people speak English in the world today. That means about 10 copies per English-speaking person.
The Bible also perhaps bears the distinction of the most misquoted book ever printed. Quotes like “God helps those who help themselves,” “Love the sinner but hate the sin” and “God works in mysterious ways” appear nowhere in the Bible. Most of what people think they know about Hell comes from Dante’s Inferno instead of the Bible, the fruit Adam and Eve ate is never identified as an apple and the narrative about a little drummer boy is a complete fiction.
I love science. I always have. I was the kid who checked out science textbooks from the library because I had already read through the one from class. That kid grew up into a pastor who believes the Bible is true. God created the earth in six days and created humans just as they are now (though without sin). Moreover, I think those views are 100 percent compatible.
But so did the fathers of science. Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Sir Isaac Newton all operated from a Christian worldview. They understood the world to be created by God and to operate in a rational and predictable way. A rational mind created a rational world where we can use our own rational minds to understand.
My 3-year-old daughter has entered the “Why?” phase. That’s the period in a preschooler’s life when the causal relationship between everything in the universe must be explained.
Sometime, you should try explaining why wheels are round to a 3-year-old. She doesn’t understand much, but my infant understands less. For instance, she cries when you take her blanket away at breakfast because she doesn’t really understand that her blanket and yogurt don’t go together. That’s why children have parents.
Recently, I have been thinking and writing about the myriad reasons people reject the Bible as being the reliable, trustworthy and revealed word of God.
There is one objection I am forced to concede. Some have observed that the Bible is simply a cultural relic that reflects and affirms cultural values that are no longer relevant. Author, atheist and former Christian preacher John W. Loftus raises the objection this way, “Let’s just face it. The Bible and the people who produced it were barbaric and superstitious. The only redeeming qualities about the Bible or the Christian tradition are those things that civilized people agree with them about, and hence they are irrelevant to modern, scientifically literate people.”
There are a lot of rules in the Bible I don’t like. I find them inconvenient because they prohibit me from doing exactly what I want to do. Fortunately, some of those rules do not apply to me. For instance, Ephesians 6:1 commands, “Children, obey your parents.” Because I am no longer a child, that rule no longer applies tome.
This is not unique to the rules, commands and injunctions in the Bible. Our own secular law is similar. Off-duty policemen, district attorneys and judges have a different set of rules for carrying concealedfirearms than other citizens do. As a clergy person, I have a different and greater legal obligation to report abuse, neglect and threats of harm to self or others than other citizens do.
I inherited a curious habit from my grandmother. When I meet someone new, I immediately begin trying to figure out what people we have in common. For instance, a man recently began attending my church. When we met, he told me what he did for a living and I immediately began running through all the people belonging to that profession in my mental Rolodex. I discovered that we both know John.
There is a word that, depending on who you are, may draw you in, or it may push you away. To some it inspires fear and to others it awakens excitement: philosophy.
Whether the subject excites you or worries you, everyone is a philosopher. Everyone has a set of presuppositions and beliefs that shape the way they live their lives and how they make decisions. Not everyone, however, is a good philosopher. Some have unexamined presuppositions and beliefs. Still others have presuppositions and beliefs that don’t make sense together.
“I am a servant, and I will die some day.”
Some time ago, I was listening someone talk about the practice of daily affirmations. These are the things you repeat to yourself everyday to foster a positive mental attitude. This person’s affirmations were things like, “I am beautiful” and “I am valuable.” These things are true, but I discovered a more valuable daily affirmation that I began to repeat to myself every morning when I wake up: “I am a servant, and I will die some day.”