Category Archives: education

Education is not the solution to sin…

I have been musing recently about the way political conservatives and political liberals (those on the “right” and the “left”) view the past and future of America.  In the middle of one of these moments of reflection I stumbled on a blog post by Doug Wilson.  Wilson’s reflections on Glen Beck and the Bible provided motivation for me to jot down a few thoughts.

1.  The problem with humanity is sin.  The only way for humans to “fix” their sin problem is to “repent and believe.”  To say it another way, the only way to fix the problem of humanity is to trust Jesus.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5).

2.  Wilson makes clear in his post that one of the main problems in America is humanism.  Both liberals and conservatives have a basic belief that mankind is “good” and “the explanation for evil is ignorance.”  I see this sort of logic applied on both sides of the political system.  The result is a belief that good logic and argument will be enough to convince people to agree with you.  With the right information and the right decisions our society, the humanists argue, will be “fixed.”  Both sides (the right and left) are unable to agree on which direction to take our country, but the underlying assumption is that American can be “fixed” by proper information.

I came across a really good illustration recently that speaks to this very point.

Imagine encountering a man’s body lying by the side of the road.  You decide to pull over to check the man’s condition.  As your car comes to a stop, you jump out and run toward him.  Reaching down to check his pulse, you realize he has none.  He’s dead and gone, perhaps due to a heart attack.  What can you do?  Based on his appearance, you deduce that the man may have suffered heart failure due to a lifetime of poor eating habits.  Instantly, you leap to your feet, rush to the car, pull out a diet book, and begin screaming important information from its pages as you head back toward him:  “Chapter 1:  Eating for Health and Heart!”

Stop to examine the absurdity of this situation.  No amount of information on eating habits is going to resurrect this man.  He’s already dead.  The only real solution would be for him to somehow obtain a new lease on life.  In the same way, no amount of education will change the heart of a spiritually dead person.  Life is the only solution to death.

Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel

Investing in the Community

Partners in Education at Creekside Elementary School included, from left, Assistant Principal Tara Moore, Principal Katrina Bowers, Nansemond River Baptist Church Pastors Gary Vaughan, Mark Turner, and Jeff Walton, and Dr. Lynn Cross, Assistant Superintendent for Special Projects.

I was very excited when my church, Nansemond River Baptist, was named Suffolk Public School’s “Partner of the Year.”  The Suffolk News-Herald has a nice summary of all that was involved.

Our church, led by our Jeff Walton (our Children’s Pastor and one of our elders), has been partnering with Creekside Elementary School for the past year.  At the beginning of the year the small groups at NRBC provided 60 bags full of school supplies to children in need.  Throughout the year the church has provided one-on-one mentors and helped with various school activities.  At the recent Creekside Carnival our church provided volunteers as well as various equipment (e.g., snow cone machine, popcorn machine, etc.).

I am so excited that the community sees the value of partnering with our church and I am even more excited that the members of NRBC are intentionally investing in the community.  The relationships that have been built in Suffolk, VA will provide meaningful opportunities to demonstrate and explain the good news of the love of Jesus.

William and Mary Gets a New Mascot

I recently received my William & Mary alumni magazine in the mail.  On the cover was a full spread devoted to our new mascot, the Griffin.  I must admit, I had mixed feelings about a new mascot.  I am hesitant about change but have started to warm up to the Griffin.  There are some good things about the Griffin as a mascot choice:

1.  It’s better than no mascot at all.

2.  It’s better than a giant booger mascot with a tri-cornered hat (good riddins Colonel Ebirt).  Besides, when has it ever been cool or clever to spell your name backwards?

3.  It’s better than some of the other proposed options (e.g., a pug).

4.  It demonstrates some thoughtfulness (lion + eagle pays homage to Britain and the United States).

5.  The only consistent mascot that W&M has ever had was an Indian (which has been absent for decades).  If the NCAA won’t let us even have feathers in our logo, there’s no chance to have a caricatured Indian mascot on the sidelines.  I’m just thankful we have good enough lawyers to save our name as the W&M Tribe.

In the true spirit of W&M nerdiness, the Alumni magazine profiled the history of W&M mascots and nicknames.  Some poor undergrad history student was probably forced to dig through the archives of Swem library to write this stunning exposé.

Now we join the list of schools who have a mascot with no connection to their name (e.g., The University of Alabama Crimson Tide, mascot = Big Al the elephant).  Oh well, nice job on the mascot search W&M.  If it doesn’t work out, we can try again in a few years.

“Hark upon the gale.”

Ergun Caner… Some Commentary

Dr. Jim West, one of the most interesting and incendiary bloggers has commented on the Liberty University saga containing Ergun Caner.  In his typically sardonic style Dr. West has pointed out that this situation is about honesty and integrity.  Unfortunately, Ergun Caner’s mistakes (allegedly) will affect not only himself but the institution at which he serves.

Also, “it’s not wise to ignore the insights of the blogosphere.”

Check out Dr. West’s commentary on this situation here and here.  If you are a Liberty student or alumni do not be offended by Dr. West’s equal opportunity cynicism.

Ergun Caner Investigated

I am still withholding judgment on the internet musings (see here, here, or here – to list only a few)  regarding Ergun Caner.  However, I knew the allegations that he intentionally embellished his testimony (post 9/11) were gaining steam when Christianity Today and other “mainstream” news agencies began reporting on this story.

It appears that Liberty University is taking these allegations seriously as well and have formed an internal investigative committee to study all the facts involved.

I suspect this is such an important story because a seminary president at one of America’s leading evangelical universities is being accused of lying and manipulating Islamiphobia for the purpose of gaining celebrity and expertise.

If these allegations prove to be true it will be another example in the long line of Christian celebrity moral failures (another reason that “celebrity” is antithetical to the servant nature of Christianity).

Glenn Beck at Liberty

Liberty University has decided to invite Glenn Beck as their commencement speaker this year.  I find this to be a curious choice for a speaker.  As a “Christian University” Liberty has found in Glenn Beck neither the qualification of a Christian or as a scholar.  Beck is a Mormon who hosts a regular radio and television show that centers on far-right politics, scare-tactics, and conspiracy theories.

Glenn Beck adds his name to the list of  Liberty commencement speakers that includes Ben Stein and Chuck Norris.

My concern is that Liberty is more interested in indoctrination than education.  While I am open to the idea of a “Christian University,” a commencement speaker such as Beck belies the administrations devotion to conservative, partisan politics rather than the pursuit of intelligent, Christian discipleship.

Who Are the Experts?

I recently was called an “expert” by a Fox News entertainment reporter.  After my wife gently deflated my swollen ego I realized how little of an “expert” I am.  If you listen to the news you will hear various “experts” debating issues on every side.

To be fair, there are certain people who are more or less qualified to speak on various subjects.  We need experts to understand and examine complicated issues regarding politics, science, economics, and so forth.  That being said, no “expert,” regardless of education and intelligence, can provide completely unbiased or objective advice.  Everybody has a worldview, presuppositions, and personal experiences that influence the way they view certain situations.

Multiple “experts” have looked at the raw data regarding global warming and have come to variant conclusions.  The same can be said of spanking your children (of which the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American College of Pediatricians disagree).

Listen to experts when talking about relevant data, but come to your own well-informed conclusions.  Further, realize that the only “objective” worldview is found in the Scriptures;  even Biblical interpretation, however, is influenced by one’s biases and presuppositions.

All-in-all, don’t be enamored by the experts.  Listen to the data they present and come to your own conclusions.

Books, books, books…

As usual I am continually buying and borrowing books.  I feel it important, as a Christian, to constantly be reading and learning.  One of my goals is to build a modest library as a resource for my faith community.  I am always willing to lend out books and other resources I have to those who are interested.  Here are few books I have just recently acquired that I am planning to read in the next few weeks.

I recently was the winner of a Dave Black online contest.  As a result I am promised a copy of his book, The Jesus Paradigm. Dr. Black (who insists that we call him “Dave,” or “brother”, or something Biblical like that) has been a challenging influence in my life.  He is constantly encouraging others to serve Jesus in every area of their life.  I am always amazed by his intelligence, humility, godliness, and missionary lifestyle.

Sitting on my shelf is also a copy of Kevin Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine:  A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology. This book was very useful to me in seminary.  I am looking forward to having my own copy and reading it in its entirety.

Zondervan has been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of Jason Boyett’s newest book, O Me of Little Faith:  True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling, for review.  After reading the introduction and first chapter I already have mixed feelings about the work.  On one hand I find the vulnerability and honesty admirable, on the other hand there are already serious methodological, theological, and philosophical flaws.  I do not want to come to any premature conclusions, so after I finish reading it, I will post a some thoughts.

Another book on my immediate reading list is Christian Smith’s treatise on young adult spirituality, Souls in Transition:  The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. I am hoping this book will provide some cultural insight into current trends in spirituality.  My goal is to gain tools to understand and communicate the gospel to young adults.

Finally, I am giving in to the myriad of recommendations and reading T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. I have read recommendations for this book from David Nelson, Kevin DeYoung, J. D. Greear, and many others.  I figured I might as well peruse this little paperback and see what all the fuss is about.

Can’t “Science” and “Faith” Just Play Nice

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