I sometimes wonder why Christians feel the need to undermine scientific inquiry. Science, when functioning genuinely as science, is a beneficial means of solving problems.
Believers are appalled when non-believers caricature the group because of the mistakes of a few. I, for one, bristle at the notion that all Christians are mindless, superstitious, stooges. However, I am aware that some Christians are likely thoughtless and ignorant about their beliefs and the reasons for those beliefs. Is Christianity, therefore, an irrational myth created to assuage personal guilt and provide non-existent security? Of course not. It would be truly hypocritical (i.e., not Christ-like), then, to judge science by the faults of a few (or even many) scientist.
Science functions particularly well when playing by its own rules; coming to tentative conclusions based on observations and reproducible results. Science is clearly a tool and not an absolute truth. When science attempts to make truth claims that require faith rather than evidence, it has overstepped its bounds. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, however, one must be careful to distinguish bad science from all science. In the same way, a believer must distinguish bad theology from all theology.
The scientists have given [man] the impression that there is nothing he cannot know, and false propagandists have told him that there is nothing he cannot have.
— Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
Today I received a wonderful little volume by D. A. Carson entitled Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. I figured this to be an appropriate exegetical supplement to the passion narratives that I read at this time of the year. It didn’t take Dr. Carson long, however, to deliver a powerful body-blow to my spiritual apathy when he described the calling of Jesus to the disciples. Read for yourself:
It is at this juncture that Jesus universalizes the principle that is at stake: “If anyone would come after me,” he says, “he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (vv. 24-25). This expression “to take up one’s cross” is not an idiom by which to refer to some trivial annoyance — an ingrown toenail, perhaps, or a toothache, or an awkward in-law: “We all have our crosses to bear.” No, in the first century it was as culturally unthinkable to make jokes about crucifixion as it would be today to make jokes about Auschwitz. To take up your cross does not mean to move forward with courage despite the fact you lost your job or your spouse. It means you are under sentence of death; you are taking up the horizontal cross-member on your way to the place of crucifixion. You have abandoned all hope of life in this world. And then, Jesus, says, and only then, are we ready to follow him.
— D. A. Carson
Your choices do matter. Let’s use figure skating as an example.
Nancy Kerrigan has recently worked as a special correspondent for NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Olympics.
I recently spotted Tonya Harding on the classy television program “World’s Dumbest Criminals: 17″ (on TruTV — “Not Reality, Actuality).
Their customer service structure is so segmented and dysfunctional that I’m surprised anyone can get home phone or high speed internet service from them.
I am convinced that Verizon’s customer service setup is intentionally designed to make their agents and customer helpless. Follow me on a verbal reenacment:
First, the customer calls the Verizon customer service hotline and is greeted by an automated voice. Automated machines are not bad IF THEY WORK! After ten or so minutes of going through every possible automated menu the customer is reduced to screaming at a non-sentient machine asking to speak to a human being!
Finally, a customer service agent answers (after another five minutes of ’90s elevator music). The customer service representative is inevitably sweet, sensible, and harmless. However, they have no actual power to do anything. Customer service can merely transfer you to the appropriate department. There is no one stop problem solver. After talking to repair, billing, dispatch, dsl, phone… there is no end in sight. A mile wide and an inch deep.
Are you feeling the beginnings of my frustration?
After experiencing this situation I couldn’t help but compare it to my role as a pastor/elder in the church. I think there are a lot of lessons about communication and problem solving to be learned. The most significant lesson I learned was about empowering people to fulfill their duties. You have to trust the people in your company to use their wisdom, creativity, and skills to solve-problems and do their job. You cannot always limit them to pre-programmed responses.
In the same way, as a pastor, my job is to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12). I think that churches often try to function like businesses and corporations with a top-down hierarchy when the Bible speaks of unity and equality. To be sure, there are leaders in the church, but they lead with a humble example and the result is that other Christians are equipped to do ministry. Each Christian is a fully-called, fully-capable, fully-commissioned minister of the gospel
It is easy to condemn Pilate and overlook our own equally devious behavior. Anxious to avoid the pain of a whole-hearted commitment to Christ, we too search for convenient subterfuges. We either leave the decision to somebody else or opt for a half-hearted compromise or seek to honor Jesus for the wrong reason (e.g., as teacher instead of as Lord), or even make a public affirmation of loyalty while at the same time denying him in our hearts… More important still, we ourselves are also guilty… For whenever we turn away from Christ, we “are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Heb. 6:6). We too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate… Indeed, “only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross,” wrote Canon Peter Green, “may claim his share in its grace.”
— John R. W. Stott
In the last few weeks I have had a couple of opportunities to teach teenagers about “discipleship.” We talked through what the New Testament says about being a follower of Christ. I am still learning what it means to be a fully committed disciple of Jesus. Here are the three preliminary conclusions I have distilled from the Scriptures about “discipleship.”
1. Discipleship is costly.
2. Discipleship is full-time.
3. Discipleship is worth it.
Jesus emphasizes over-and-over that following Him is an all-or-nothing proposition. I think of how the first disciples immediately left their livelihoods and relationships to follow Jesus. They were by no means perfect and had a lot of room to grow but they did not let that stop them from following Jesus.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14).
I am an expert at rationalizing and justifying my own behavior. I could take this simple statement from Scripture and find a way assuage my guilt because I don’t go and tell. Why is it so hard to obey?
David Platt recently spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Beware, if you listen to this message you will likely experience the “holy destruction” that the Spirit of God can bring. Be prepared for conviction.
Platt presents a clear and compelling message of “What the Gospel Does to Our Hearts.” The truth of the matter, the gospel, when rightly understood, will ruin your worldly way of life.
Are you ready to have your life ruined?
Until the gospel invades our hearts, any efforts to help the poor will be shallow and short-lived; but when the gospel of a Savior who became poor that we might become rich radically invades our hearts, it will radically affect the way we live for the sake of His glory amidst urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world.
The gospel demands radical sacrifice.
Hate your mom and dad, wife and kids; pick up an instrument of torture and give up everything you have. That’s a lot different than admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer.
Could it be that somewhere along the way we have taken the gospel, the very lifeblood of Christianity out, and put Kool-Aid in its place. What it means to follow Jesus is to give up everything you’ve got.
Jesus is not a good teacher to be respected; He is a sovereign Lord to be obeyed.
‘That Jesus did not command all His followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom He would issue that command.’
If we take Jesus and twist Him into our image, then even when we gather together in our churches and lift our hands to sing songs to Jesus… we are not worshiping the Jesus of the Bible — we are worshiping ourselves.
The gospel, not guilt, is motivation for giving to those who are in need.
‘God always gives what He commands.’
We have found someone worth losing everything for… Do we believe [Christ] is worth it.
Materialism is not just wrong — it’s dumb.
The cost of discipleship is great… but the cost of non-discipleship is far, far greater. It will cost us to give our resources, money, possessions, and lives in this world. But what if we don’t? The cost will be great for a billion plus people who will go on without knowledge of the gospel while we spend our millions on our buildings, and our programs, and our stuff. The cost will be great for our brothers and sisters in the world who will continue starving while our dogs and cats eat better than them. But the cost will not just be great for them, the cost will be great for us. For we will miss out… in this age and the life to come.
The irony is that those American churches that protest most vocally against the teaching of Darwinism in their schools are often, in their public policies, supporting a kind of economic Darwinism, the survival of the fittest in world markets and military power.
— N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope