Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed-The Movie

I went to see Expelled this past weekend.  Going into the movie I did not know what to expect.  I had read some of the reviews on line, most of which were NOT very positive.  Downright nasty actually.  There have been times in the past where I have felt that when people feel like  they have the truth, they don't actually have to put out a quality product.  They seem to assume that the truth will carry them. 
  I did not feel that way about Expelled.  I thought the movie was entertaining and well done.  I confess that in order to enjoy it fully you have to actually HAVE a sense of humor which it was obvious that some of the people did not have.  And it's probably easier to enjoy the movie if the premise of the movie is not one that makes your skin crawl. Since I would like to think that I do have a sense of humor and the premise of the movie does NOT make my skin crawl I actually really enjoyed it.  
 Ben Stein basically seemed to have three points that he wanted to get across.  The first one being that if you hold to the theory of intelligent design that you are "expelled" from the scientific and academic world.  The second one being that there is a connection to the theories of Darwin and Nazism, abortion, eugenics, euthanasia ...etc.  And the third being the idea that to some extent evolution is indeed it's own religion or at the very least has it's own 'religious' agenda.  In my opinion he did a much better job defending the second two ideas than he did the first one which was basically the premise for the whole movie.  To be  fair he did not have that many examples of people who had been kicked out of the scientific academia because of their religious or ID views and not much time was given to those who would refute that there might have been another reason for what was considered ill treatment.  I am not sure that Ben Stein is wrong.  I think that it probably IS harder to get ahead in that world if you hold a view contrary to the 'mainstream'  but that is going to be the case in any field, at any point in time.  I think the only way to make headway is to come up with scientific proof for your ideas and theories and I think that those in the ID movement who are doing that best are finding that they DO have a place albeit a small one.  They ARE being published, they ARE being debated.  
  I think there is a far more convincing case for his last two arguments.  I think that it is  more than a slight stretch to say that Darwinism is the reason for the holocaust.  Obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are Darwinian evolutionist who don't set out to eliminate an entire race of people.  Hitler was  a racist man, and an evil man.  He used Darwin to justify some of his actions.  At the same time Darwinian evolution and intelligent design and creationism  do approach life with two very distinct world views.  One eliminates God, or any outside influence on the world and the others at the LEAST embrace some sort of higher power that is responsible for putting life on this planet.  I don't think that that can help but influence the value that you put on human life.  If we are all simply evolved and humans are no different than the primordial soup we managed to crawl out of, if it is merely a 'survival of the fittest' world then on what basis are we to find value in human life?  Is it 'wrong' to take another human life if doing so benefits yours?  On whose authority are we judging right and wrong?  Is it 'wrong' for some animals to eat their young?  If humans are simply evolved animals why is there such moral outrage over child abuse or even neglect?  There is no finger pointing in the animal kingdom if a mother walks away from her child.   I guess I am a little confused as to why there is even such an outcry that this was suggested.   Lets take a survey.  Lets put everyone on one side of the room who holds Darwin's views, on the other side of the room lets put those who hold to I.D. or creation.  Now lets ask who is pro-life vs. pro-choice.  Who is OK with  physician assisted suicide vs. opposed. Euthanasia vs. opposed (as long as people were honest).  I think that with a show of hands the two sides of the room would find that they disagreed over a lot more than how life began.  A lot of times when you talk about evolution vs. creation people will talk about finding a perfectly tended garden in the middle of the woods.  You wouldn't assume that it had happened by chance over time, you would know that someone had planted it there.  I think that the same argument could apply to ethics and morality.  If you are walking through the woods and you think that you have no more right to it than someone else you are going to have a certain treatment towards it.  You are going to pick fruit off a a tree and eat it if you so desire.  You could cut some trees down for firewood or to build a shelter, you would never think twice.  You would feel differently about the garden.  It belongs to someone, someone is caring for it, has put value on it.  You are probably NOT going to feel that it is yours to do with as you please. 
   The third argument is Darwinian evolution as religion.   I think that like Michael Behe you can believe in some religion and some evolution (he holds to an I.D. view).  He believes in common descent, he believes in evolutionary processes over millions of years but he does believe that it is far too complex to have happened without some designer who not only started life but coded it with the necessary information for the changes that came over the millions of years.  You cannot believe in Darwinian evolution and believe in God.  If God did not create us and place us on the earth, if we merely evolved from inorganic to organic through life and death processes over millions of years and through those millions of years God never intervened in ANY of it... then what is your definition of God?  To that end you have to agree that if not a 'religion' it at least comes with an atheistic 'world view'. 
   Also, why do evolutionist make it so personal if it's really all about science? I mean in the movie one scientist says that since it could NOT have been God then those who hold that view must be stupid, insane , or ignorant.  Richard Dawkins in attacking the movie and attempting to defend himself has taken to calling those who hold the view "IDiots".   In the movie another scientist admitted that part of the plan in keeping God out of science was the hope that someday science would completely replace religion.  Why would Richard Dawkins right a book "The God Delusion".  If God and religion are meant to be kept so separate then why would a leading scientist right ANY book that dealt with God?   What is his next book going to be "Is Islam a religion of Hate" or "How to Bring Peace to the Middle East"?  Why not just continue in science and allow those who want to believe in God alone?  Because they have at least as strong an anti-God agenda as any I.D. scientist has a pro-God agenda.  
   A professor in the Dept. of Biology at Kansas Sate University says "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic" .  Richard Dawkins in the movie tells Ben Stein that it is quite possible that the deeper they get into molecular biology the more they will probably find what looks like the 'signature of a designer'.  He has since come out and defended himself (somewhat sketchily) on why he said what he said about a more evolved life form having placed life here.  But he did not retract what he said about the signature of the designer.  OR come up with a more plausible explanation for life coming from non-life (the backs of crystals perhaps?).  
Richard Lewontin of Harvard has said "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some its constructs,...in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated commitment to materialism...we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation  and set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot  in the door." 
Mark Singham a physicists said "our teaching methods are primarily those of propaganda.  We appeal --without demonstration to evidence that supports our position.  we only introduce arguments and evidence that supports the currently accepted theories and omit or gloss over any evidence to the contrary." 
 Julian Huxley said in his book "Religion without Revelation" said  "The God hypothesis....is becoming an intellectual and moral burden on our thought....we must construct something to take it's place.  His answer?  "change our pattern of religious thought from a God-centered to an evolution-centered pattern."
 I encourage everyone to see the movie.  I mean if you agree it is nice to see a movie that actually doesn't attack Christians, the right , or the president (who in MORE than one blog I have read is being blamed for 1) the movie...2) the lack of academic freedom and 3) yeah..the holocaust) .
  If you don't agree you don't want to actually confirm Ben's view that discussion is being suppressed do you? See the movie..question everything..draw your own conclusions. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What IS "the message" that Eugene Peterson is trying to get across?

  I am generally a big fan of a good debate.  Whether it be political, social, or other.  I don't even care if I really have a side in an argument,  I think a good debate is good for the soul.  That is not always the case when it comes to spiritual issues or theological discussions.  I tend to take more of a 2 timothy 22: 23 approach.  "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."
  However, I think that there are times when that can definitely be taken too far.  We worry that we shouldn't be too negative about other Christians, we don't want to come off judgemental or arrogant.    I think as a group of believers accepting "The Message", the paraphrase of the Bible that Eugene Peterson wrote, as something that we can  use in our lives and ministries is one of those times where we can not afford to be 'tolerant'.   Instead we need to focus on being like the Bereans, who had no qualms questioning even what Paul said. 
   I am NOT a KJV only person, quite frankly what version of the Bible is better is one of the 'stupid arguments' I generally prefer to stay away from.   However, I think that The Message is trying to purposely push an agenda that is going to mislead people and could creep into our churches and be seriously detrimental.  I have done some research, compared other versions of the Bible to what The Message says, done some research on Eugene Peterson and read some of the interviews that he has conducted and frankly it's eye-opening.  I am going to share a small portion of it here (I confess I am probably not going to quote my sources to the extent I should, I am blogging not writing a college paper).  However, I can provide the sources. 
  First, I shall start with the basic errors and omissions in the paraphrase.  
 It deletes words like 'adulterers and homosexuals or homosexuality which identify specific sins and ADDS a politically correct reference to environmentalism! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you know know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor theives nor the greedy nor drunkards not nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified,  you were justified...(NIV) 

The Message:  Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom.  those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom.  A number of you know from experience what I'm talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list.  Since then, you've been cleaned up and given a fresh start..." 
The message changes the meaning of scriptures by inferring that it is not homosexuality that is wrong but rather relationships that are not committed and intimate.  
I Corinthians 6:18-20 "Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a sman commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."  

The Message:  "there's more to sex than mere skin on skin.  Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as a physical fact.  As written in Scripture, "The two become one.' Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever-the kind of sex that can never 'become one'.  
In Romans 1:21 it adds words that qualify homosexuality, providing a loophole for 'committed' homosexuals who "love" each other.  
  There is soo much more.  He won't list specific sins that are mentioned in the Bible.  He eliminates references to God's grace, and adds promises that aren't in the Bible.  A lot has also been made of his reference to "as above so below" , a known new age reference. 

 So why?  Why would Eugene Peterson have this sort of approach to paraphrasing the Bible?  What is his approach to spirituality at all? 
 Well lets looks at some of what he has had to say in order to maybe gain some insight. 

"Single-minded, persevering faithfulness confirms the authenticity of our spirituality.  The ancestors we look to for encouragement in this business-Augustine of Hippo and Julian of Norwhich, John Calvin...Teresa of Avila-didn't flit.  They stayed. 

"Well, why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of it's own and we think we're being more pious and spiritual when we're doing it.  But it's all to be lived.  It was given to us so we could live it.  But most Christians know far more of the Bible than they're living.  They should be studying it less, not more.  You just need to pay attention to God. 

"Religion, is the major defense we have against God.  So how do you take people that are heavily defended against God by religion and get through the defenses?  Well, you do it by subversion. .....I wouldn't say we need to do less frontal work with the gospel, we just need to do more of the subversive stuff."

"In the kind of world we live in, the primary way that I can get people to be aware of God is to say, 'Who are you going to have breakfast with tomorrow and how are you going to treat them?...I just want to pay attention to what people are doing and help them do it in acts of faith and prayer.  I guess I'd want to say ' Go home and be good to your wife, treat your children with respect, and do a good job at whatever you've been given to do."

THERE IS NO GOSPEL, no sin, no blood, no grace, in anything that the man has to say.  He pushes pastors to read more books, more poetry, be artists..tell a story because "every time someone tells a story and tells it well, the gospel is served."  I'm not sure he understands the meaning of the word gospel.  

I believe that a movement is trying to infiltrate a large portion of the evangelical church and move us toward a trend contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  An Ecumenical movement where we try to ensure that no one is offended and everyone is comfortable.  Whether people like Eugene Peterson and others are trying to do this on purpose or have merely been deceived I don't know.  I won't attempt to question their hearts or their motives.  I speak only to there methods.   
Eugene Peterson has endorsed the back cover of Sue Monk Kidd's new edition of "When the Heart Waits.  Sue Monk Kidd, a once conservative Baptist found the "secret" in contemplative prayer and has now become a strong proponent of contemplative spirituality.  Mr. Peterson had this to say "As I read her book, Sue Monk Kidd became a companion to me.  I love having her walk with me on my journey."  

Why do we want someone with these views to interpret our Holy Scriptures? 
Be Diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth."  2 Timothy 2:15

I charge you therefore before god and the Lord Jesus Christ...Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  2 Timothy 4: 1-5


Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Promises of Spring

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17

That has always been one of my favorite verses of the Bible.  I mean so many times we are caught in the old things that have passed away.  Have you heard the Casting Crowns song "East to West"?  The lyrics are great.   "I know you've cast my sin as far as the East is from the West and I stand before You now as though I've never sinned. But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way.......I start the day, the war begins.  Endless reminding of my sin, and time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I'm in......I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light. I need your peace to get me through, get me through this night I can't live by what I feel but by the truth  your word reveals.  I'm not holding on to You but You're holding on to me"   
It's a powerful song.  I was thinking of this verse, this song, this concept.  when I took this picture yesterday.  

  I can't help but wonder how often God's desire is to have us be like a beautiful spring creation with nothing but perfect spring buds and a promise of more growth to come and yet we insist on holding on as tightly as we can to those 'dead leaves' that we should have shed at the end of our winter.  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1.  

Friday, April 11, 2008

Springtime fun

Yesterday was one of the first truly beautiful days that we have so far this spring.  The weather was warm, the sun was out.  Truly a "God's in His heaven alls right with the world" sort of day.  Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
- Rainer Maria Rilke. 
So the kids and I spent some time outside.  Spring is always a wonderful time of year but there is something about sharing it with a child that really adds a new perspective.  For a three year old every ant is cause for an exuberant outcry and of course endless observation.  For a one year old there are few things more exciting than getting  your socks dirty...NOT to mention being able to share daddy's iced coffee. 

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Lamentation 3:22-23 "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is
 thy faithfulness."
Have truer words ever been spoken? This past weekend and week were pretty eventful.  But in pretty much every aspect there was no missing the reality of Lamentations 3 :22-23.   Lauralin flew home on Saturday morning April 5th in order to be home for her and Sarah's birthday.  Kaity and Lauralin were once again reunited.  

We picked her up at the airport.  As we are driving down the Jersey Turnpike Kaity sees the airport in the distance and says "look mommy, I see Nashville".   This is a misconception that we may perhaps never be able to rectify!  Oh, another note about that day  you might not want to take a three year old with you birthday shopping for someone else.  We took Kaity with us that day as we bought Nonni's birthday present.  The next day when she came over Kaity looked at her very seriously and said "we're going to open your present later and it's going to be pots."  That night we had a bowling party for Sarah's 30th birthday.   That was a TON of fun, although most of us...weren't so good at bowling. 

The next day was Lauralin's birthday....we won't divulge secrets we will just say that
 her 30th as come and gone.  We  had the whole family over to my house for Timmy's chicken tortilla soup hmmm....and ice cream cake.  

Monday I thought that it might be time to maybe get the house cleaned up from the party and have a low key day after a busy weekend.  Leave it to my father to ruin THOSE plans! ;-).   I got a phone call that my dad was being taken to Valley's emergency room from the school in an ambulance.  My father is NOT given to drama and doesn't complain easily so if he is allowing himself to be taken to the ER in an ambulance something is probably going on.  Turns out that he had atrial fibrillation.  In short terms his heart rate was irregular and very elevated.  After spending a night in the hospital being monitored it returned to normal and apparently there is no cause for great concern, but I can tell you that it was a scary phone call to receive. 

That Monday my car also died requiring somewhat expensive repairs, Tuesday Timmy went for an MRI, we are waiting for the results to see if he is going to require shoulder surgery.  Shoulder surgery for a carpenter is a little interesting because it will probably require him to miss work to some extent for two to three months.   But that sort of all brings me back full circle to where I started.  
It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  great is they faithfulness.  
Nothing that happened was out of His control, or even His plan.  He knew it was all going to happen before it happened and He had his own purposes for it.  He gives us strength when we need it and His faithfulness is indeed great. 

Monday, April 7, 2008

My daughter was always an angelic sleeper.  She started sleeping through the night when she was nine weeks old..and to a large extent we have never looked back.  If we keep her out late she makes up for it by sleeping in the next day.  She doesn't fight us on bedtime or naps.  My son has not always been that easy.  He didn't start sleeping through the night until he was six months old, and that required some tough love.  he is getting MUCH better about not fighting us on sleep, he is pretty good about sleeping in to make up for lost sleep...etc.  I really don't have much to complain about. 
 However, sometimes he WON'T sleep he just won't do it.  I will know that he is tired,  it's his nap time.  Conditions are prime for a great nap..and he won't.  He will just cry.  Sometimes he will never fall asleep, sometimes he will fall asleep and fifteen to twenty minutes in he will wake up and not go back to sleep.  Here is the part that is interesting to me.  If held he will sleep.   I will walk into his room, pick him up, and he will put his head on my chest and fall asleep. WHY?  If his teeth were hurting they don't hurt less because I am holding him do they?  If something scared him why is it less scary with me in the room? What is it about being held that suddenly makes the world ok?  All of a sudden he is relaxed and content and almost instantly asleep.   I LOVE THAT!  I love that I am that person.  It draws such a parallel to me with our relationship with God.  How often would we do so much better if we just allowed HIM to hold us?  It doesn't make our problems or our pain go away.  It doesn't make the big scary world any less big or scary.  BUT it does mean that we don't have to deal with the big and scary world.  It does mean that we can know that someone else is going to deal with what comes our way FOR US.  How amazing is it that God is THAT parent to us?   How amazing that He is our 'everlasting arms' (Deut. 33:27).   That He hides us "under His wings" (Psalm 91:4).  And how incredible is it that He then gives us the chance to BE a parent?  To SEE every day  what our relationship with Him SHOULD look like and COULD look like?