Archive for September 2013

Do They Know Us By Our Love?   Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:22-24

You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere mutual love.  So love one another earnestly from a pure heart. You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass; the grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. 

I am not a Greek scholar, but I do know a couple and I have some good Greek references on my book shelf, because when they want to upgrade their books, I’m always willing to provide a home to dog-eared volumes.

Phileo: brotherly love, mutal consent

In context, Peter is talking about false teachers in the church and how the church is meant to deal with disagreements that arise from heretical teaching within the church. Basically, in the Greek, this passage says that “you’ve let the Holy Spirit totally transform your body-mind-will by obeying the undeniable truth (alethios – of God’s action in the world – in context), in order to show sincere brotherly love (phileo). (So, when dealing with those you disagree with, inferred from context) intensely love (agape – God motivated unconditional love) one another from an uncorrupted spirit. You have been reborn not of physical seed, but incorruptible seed by the action of the Holy Spirit.

All flesh is like grass and its glory is like the flower of the grass. Grass withers and the flower falls off, but God’s inspired word (rhema) brings good news forever.”

Agape – God’s love — unconditional love

It’s important to understand that Scripture was not written in English and the words we read are interpretations of what was actually written in Greek. Koinine Greek is an extremely complex language. What is often rendered in English does not do the actual message justice. This is one of those places. Reading the passage in English really isn’t enough because there are two words rendered “love” here and two words rendered “knowledge” and the Greek gives them very nuanced, but vitally different meanings.

Alethios (same root as logos) – head knowledge that grows from faith

All Christians have head knowledge (alethios) about God and salvation through Jesus Christ. We KNOW what is expected of us. And, we love the saints. We seek to have harmony (phileo) in the churches with our fellow believers. But ….

Human beings are messy and corrupted and we too frequently  fail to understand what God expects of us. We act like flesh and blood when God wants us to act like those who have been transformed by the Holy Spirit. When we encounter disagreement, whether because of sin, because of misunderstood spiritual principles, because of out-and-out heresy, we struggle to maintain phileo (brotherly love). We err when we try to do it in our own strength. Here, Peter said we need to make that head knowledge into a rhema, a deep-seated heart-based understanding of what God wants. The issues of the flesh are temporary and they will one day fade away, but God and our salvation go on forever.

Rhema – heart knowledge that comes from intimacy with God

Recognizing that, we need to be willing to love (agape) one another even when our hearts don’t want to. That’s a hard biscuit to swallow. We want reconciliation, we want agreement, we want to be right. God says, through Peter, that sometimes it is more important to love and to love as God loves. If God acted upon what we deserve, there’d be no human race. He’d have fried us to ash a long time ago. Instead, He has held back His judgment and allowed us to act like the weak beings that we are. He says here we should do the same with each other. Ignore our petty differences and let God take care of it.

This is a message not only concerning our interactions within and between our churches, but concerning the Church’s interaction with the world.

Posted September 19, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

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Tom Delay and Ted Stevens   Leave a comment

I’m not a Delay fan, but I always did think his conviction was bogus, mainly because it sounded so much like what happened to Ted Stevens.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57603659/tom-delay-conviction-reversed-by-texas-court/

For those who don’t keep up on Alaska politics, Stevens had been a sitting senator forever, he was one of the most powerful senators and he used his power for the good of Alaska’s infrastructure and economy. I did not agree with much of the pork-barrel spending. I view it as a payoff to Alaskans for accepting second-class status as a not-exactly-state. That’s another topic. Going back to Ted — the Republicans had had a deadlock on progressive Republicans for almost four decades and it was definitely working for Alaska. And, then Ted Stevens was accused of taking bribes from Veco.

Stevens had won his last election by better than 60% of the statewide vote. He was polling against Democrat Mark Begich similarly. And, even with a trial looming, he was still beating Begich in the polls. I’m guessing that’s why the Alaska GOP didn’t put up another candidate in the primary.

There were all sorts of prosecutorial errors during the trial and some of the evidence was shaky, but he was convicted right before the election of 2008. I do mean RIGHT before — less than two weeks. The simple solution for Alaskans would have been to elect him and let Sarah Palin select a replacement. Instead, Begich won with less than 2% of the vote.

You know, that’s really a sad statement — that he squeaked a win against a candidate who’d been convicted on federal charges.

Almost immediately after the election was certified, the feds admitted there were prosecutorial misconduct in the trial and Stevens’ sentence was put on hold. His conviction was overturned a few weeks after his death in a plane crash.

I suspect a lot of these trials are so much political sheninagans. If the Democrats can’t win at the ballot box, they’ll use other means that subvert the democratic process.

And, note — the Department of Justice — part of the administrative state. Isn’t that interesting?

Reality in a Post-Christian Nation   2 comments

About 35 years ago, Christians I knew began talking about Christian-based political action beyond just the ballot box. After an entire generation of Evangelical political involvement, with a high level of visibility and influence, there has been little or no improvement in the ethical quality of American political discourse and practice.

There’s no use arguing against that statement. It’s true.  You know it. I know it. The world knows it. The Moral Majority failed. The consequences are seen in less than 5% of the population now being able to change the ancient definition of marriage in the country and pushing for churches to lose their tax-exempt status if pastors even preach those portions of the gospel that pertain to the subject.

What happened?

I don’t think it was a failure of politics! It’s a failure of modern evangelicals to understand what being “in the world, but not of it” means.

Let’s start with a basic understanding here. We do not live in a Christian nation. Our grandparents and those before them lived in a Christian-influenced nation. Increasingly, our generation does not. The sooner we accept that, the better off we’ll be because reality doesn’t change just because we wish to believe otherwise. So repeat after me –

                “America is a post-Christian nation and it does not matter.”

That’s right. It doesn’t matter. Evangelical Christianity no longer has a substantive role in our government and in many if not most cultural circles we are seen as a negative force in society. And, it doesn’t matter because if God finds it necessary, the rocks and trees will testify of Him in our stead.

God is not diminished because we are.

In fact, historically speaking, God’s people seem much better at the task He has given us when we have little power or official influence in our society. Consider the first three centuries of the Christian churches, the overwhelming opposition the nascent movement operated under and the phenomenal spread of the gospel. Have we experienced anything similar since people stopped trying to kill us for our beliefs? No! I’m not saying I want persecution to rain down on the churches. God forbid! What I am saying is that being the officially sanctioned and government supported religion historically has not made us better Christians.

Although it’s a scary feeling to think your ideas – God’s ideas – are so much sound in a cultural high wind, the fact is this may well be exactly where God wants the Christian churches in America to be in the early 21st century.

The questions we might want to ask ourselves are …

  • why are churches in other countries thriving under persecution while American (and more so, European) churches are shrinking?
  • is our problem a cultural-political one or a spiritual one?
  • is it the message or the methods that’s getting in our way?
  • what can we do to reach our society in an Antioch way in the 21st century?

Posted September 18, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Could Have Predicted This   Leave a comment

Anglo American, one of the two mining companies that form the Pebble Partnership has pulled out.

http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/anglo-american-pulls-out-of-alaska-s-pebble-project/article_03839896-1f00-11e3-80e4-001a4bcf6878.html

They say they want to focus on lower risk projects.

I’m not at all surprised since the EPA has all but said it will rule against the permits based on the history of mines from 50 years ago and not on the actual conditions in Bristol Bay surrounding this specific project.

Will Anglo-America’s exit end the project?

I don’t know. Northern Dynasty is still in and says it will continue forward, while looking for another investor.

Thousands of Alaskan jobs are on the line. If the project can’t be done with a high-degree of safety, I’m okay with it not being done. What I am NOT okay with is politics making this decision. Right now, the EPA is acting in a highly political manner based on old, old facts and prior to the Pebble Partnership’s even applying for a permit.

Let them finish the scientific assessments and submit their plans before a decision is made and let the decision be based on FACTS not on suppositions — what might happen if we experience a Magnitude 12 earthquake in an area that has never experienced anything higher than a Mag 8. Environmental protections should be based on sound science and achievable goals, not on the principle that all development is evil, therefore no development should be allowed.

Alaskans need jobs. Not all of us can be salmon fishermen. I believe salmon and mining can cohabitate with one another with appropriate safeguards. I would note that the same sort of histrionics dominated the oil development debate in the 1970s. Oil will kill the caribou.

The caribou populations have increased by four times over their 1970 herd size and they moved their calving grounds into the oil fields.

But the same arguments were made then as now. Oil development was an environmental disaster that couldn’t be done safely, so we just shouldn’t do it. They were wrong and we proved that by doing it safely, but this time around, I suspect they’re just as wrong, but the project will never be allowed so the proof will never be forthcoming.

Anglo America certainly has decided that the EPA ruling is likely going to be against the project.

This is just more evidence of how abusive the administrative state has become. Decisions are made by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats and if those of us who can’t be salmon fishermen can’t find jobs … well, we’re just supposed to live on government benefits, so that the next time this discussion comes up, it won’t involve us and we won’t object.

Just another beating by our abusive parent. No wonder some kids ask for emancipation. What I wonder is … why others aren’t also just as angry at this relationship?

Posted September 17, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Administrative State, Alaska, Tyranny

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Tyranny Alaskan-Style   2 comments

The troubled relationship of Alaska and its abusive parent, the United States of America federal government, has worsened under the Obama administration.

Make no mistake, we’ve been battered chattel since President Carter and the environmental movement made the state into a national park in the 1980s, but lately, the beatings have taken on a more violent tone.

In 2009, an artist living in Ester, Alaska awoke to armored federal agents surrounding his house with guns drawn. They confiscated antique ivory tusks, caribou antlers, etc., that he used in making art. They arrested him, but later dropped the charges. His crime — he’s a white guy who works in traditionally Native formats. None of the matertials confiscated have ever been returned. What I wanted to know then and now is … why did they need flak jackets?

In 2010, 72-year-old Jim Wilde, his wife and a friend were headed to their moose camp down the mighty Yukon River when he was hailed by two National Parks Services officers in a boat that was at mid-river. Thinking they were broke down, Wilde pulled up to offer assistance. The NPS wanted to see his papers and board his boat to do a search. He refused because he was at his gunnels already and said he’d meet them at the shore, which he headed to immediately. For the wise choice of not adding extra weight to an overloaded river boat in the middle of one of the most dangerous rivers in the nation, Mr. Wilde (72-years-old) was tasered, slammed face-first into the mud, and handcuffed while his wife and friend were held at gunpoint. What was his initial crime — his boat registration (a state, not federal, regulation) had expired. The State of Alaska had never asked nor granted the NPS authority to patrol state waters (the Yukon River to the high-water mark is state land), but no matter. A federal judge found Mr. Wilde guilty of disobeying its minions.

In 2011, Schaeffer Cox was arrested on federal charges for weapons violations and complaining about the government. The State of Alaska dismissed all charges when the AG’s office saw the paltry amount of evidence, but a federal jury was eventually convinced to find him and his “co-conspirators” guilty. To be clear, their main crime was fantasizing about what they would do if IF the federal government collapsed and they were forced to fend for themselves.

In mid-August 2013, armed and armored federal and state officials raided mines in the Fortymile River area, looking for violations of the Clean Water Act. No one was arrested or cited, but they were intruded upon and intimidated.

http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/parnell-orders-investigation-of-fortymile-mining-raids/article_124016e2-1669-11e3-bc38-0019bb30f31a.html

That it happened during EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s Alaska tour seems oddly coincidental.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130903/gold-miners-near-chicken-cry-foul-over-heavy-handed-epa-raids

For the record, the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force is not an Alaskan agency. Eight armed men and a squad of paramilitary force was apparently needed to check for dirty water. Also for the record, Alaskan rivers are frequently muddy. That’s the nature of glacial rivers — lots of rock flour naturally occuring at the source. EPA regulations actually require these miners to put drinking-quality water back into the river after they’re done using it for their mines. The water was not drinking-quality when it came OUT of the river.

Federal agents used to show up at the door and ask if the miner had time to show them their operation. This time they showed up in body armor, loaded for bear. The EPA has refused to explain why it used armed officers in this so-called “multi-jurisdictional” investigation. A staffer in Senator Murkowski’s office was told that the taskforce had been told by the Alaska State Troopers that there was “rampant drug and human trafficking going on in the area.” Chicken is a remote area, close to the Canadian border with about 130 seasonal residents (about 20 permanent). Drugs and human trafficking?

The AST denies advising the EPA of such activity. The task force admits they only found one possible violation in the area. And, for this, they needed a shock-and-awe campaign?

Admittedly, storming a mine with guns can be a dangerous business. It’s gold, it’s remote, the miners are armed! What if they mistake you for — you know — armed and armored thieves? Kevlar might seem like a good idea. But why storm the mines at all. Why not just walk up and say “Hi, we’re from the Obama Administration and we’d like to check the quality of your water”?

So, the question(s) I have are …

1) when did we become a police state?

2) how does the rest of the country feel about such tactics?

3) if you’re okay with it, do you think it will never happen to you?

And, in conclusion — folks, this is the administrative state doing this and notice, they didn’t find any wrong-doing. I don’t think it was ever about human trafficking or even dirty water. It was about intimidation.

Wake up and smell the coffee! If you think it can’t happen here … it IS happening HERE right NOW!

Posted September 17, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Is Alaska Really A State?   7 comments

Alaska has always had an uneasy relationship with the federal government. Even in the Territorial Days, we were prone to complain, rabble-rouse and throw food. We had some good reasons. The federal government bought Alaska for 2 cents an acre, then sold the inhabitants (Native and non-Native) to big business cartels. A big cartel “owned” the fishing industry, another “owned” the forests, still another “owned” gold mining … copper … the shipping lines … etc., etc., etc. The people who did the hard work rarely saw a real benefit from it. Growing up here in Fairbanks, I knew only one adult who had gotten well-off (rich would be an exaggeration) gold mining. I knew a lot of laborers, store clerks and tool-pushers who’d gold mined “back when” and now worked for one of the big companies that owned Alaska. The reason became clear as I grew up. They didn’t own the land they mined.

Statehood was not a horribly controversial idea, except that many Alaskans wanted to become a real state and not this pseudo-state-frozen-banana-republic that the federal government insisted upon. We wanted to break the power of the cartels and saw statehood as a way to remove the federal government from that relationship, allowing the people of Alaska to be at the negotiating table instead of our DC “papa” who never seemed to have our interests at heart. Growing up, I didn’t know many Alaskans who claimed to have voted FOR statehood, but somehow it passed twice. Most of the adults said the military swung the vote. Could be. The military and their wives accounted for a quarter of the population. It’s usually against the law for the military to vote in a plebecite, so maybe those votes were manipulated. It’s hard to know 50 years after the fact. It’s also possible that a lot of people voted for statehood when they didn’t really understand what they were voting for. They thought they were voting for a grown-up state status instead the neutered one they agreed to. Maybe later they didn’t want to admit they’d made a stupid mistake.

After the first vote, Congress rejected our application because they wanted us to structure the state a certain way. We complied. The Alaska State Constitution is a marvelous mix of the US Constitution and that of a socialist utopia. The federal government owns more than 60 percent of the ground in Alaska (an area larger than the state of Texas if consolidated). By virtue of its widespread, unconsolidated nature, the federal government controls access to over 80 percent of the land in Alaska. The State of Alaska and the Native corporations hold most of the rest. Only 3% of the land in Alaska can ever be in private hands (not counting Natiive allotments, which are not transferrable). Currently, less than 1% of the land in Alaska is privately owned. At the time of Statehood, the State was given 1.8 million acres and promised in the Statehood compact that we would receive a 90% royalty on all development on federal lands, but since President Carter used the Antiquities Act to lock up about 1/3 of all the land in Alaska there have been almost no royalty payments and much of the State’s lands are blocked by federal lands and BLM works hard to prevent access.

Needless to say, Alaskans talk about secession — a lot. Most of us don’t want war and we recognize that we’d be in big trouble if the federal government imposed a food embargo on us, so mostly it’s talk, but it’s heartfelt talk. We’re prevented from growing an economy by federal land and environmental policies and the oil on state lands is running out. What is a state to do? We don’t have the option of North Dakota or Texas where private landowners can lease to oil companies. The congressional Statehood Compact does not permit Alaskans to own their subsurface rights. If I find oil/gold/rare earth minerals on my land, it belongs to the State of Alaska — not me. The State of Alaska is required to manage that resource for the maximum benefit of the entire population of the state, so they would compensate me for the surface value of my land (valued at $20,000) and send me on my way. I’d see my oil back in a Permanent Fund Dividend of $800. Meanwhile, a big oil cartel would make millions or billions or trillions.

Has much really changed since Statehood?

And, they wonder why Alaska might want to leave the States United.

Posted September 16, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Reality is NOT Subjective   1 comment

America has become a pluralistic society, but it’s important that Christians understand that we don’t actually live in a pluralistic world. Truth and reality are really pretty solid. If you step over the parapet of a 20-story building, gravity will take over and you will die, regardless of what you might wish reality to be. If your gas tank is empty, social acceptance of your right to believe that it is full will not make your car run. Reality is just what it is and there’s no way to change that.

Truth and reality do not adapt to us; we must adapt to them. A four thousand year old tradition does not become truer with time. If it was false to begin with, it is simply a long-standing error. It might be popular, it might be widespread, it might even be adopted by the powerful and thus authoritative, but it is still wrong. Acceptance of its right to exist by a pluralistic society doesn’t make it correct and it will not help those following it when they finally do encounter reality.

You may have heard this differently from different sources. There are some who believe that the world can be divided into “fact” and “faith”. They believe the current culture norm that “fact” is what is perceptible by your senses. This allows them to insist that belief in God is a matter of “faith” and thus subjective. All views of God are equally true because all metaphysical ideas are sequestered in an upper story that man cannot possibly access.

This is what many of us think pluralism reduces us to, but that’s not actually correct. Pluralism rejects social force as a means to suppress divergent opinions and practices. It does not mean we must accept all views as equally right or equally wrong. What I’m describing is “inclusivism”, which rejects the Christian claim that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. That’s a statement that is either true or not. God either created life on earth or not. Jesus is the only way to salvation or not. These beliefs matter a great deal because truth exists whether we believe it or not. We can stand up for the rights of all groups to be free of social suppression of their beliefs without compromising the Gospel.

Christians living in a pluralistic society where there is no presumption of favor toward our beliefs and practices and even a strong bias against it, are in the best Biblical position possible to show the excellence of the Way of Christ. Consider Elijah when he called the prophets of Baal to the Mount of Carmel. He gave them every opportunity to prove that their way was superior and they failed. When it was finally his turn, he called forth fire from heaven to consume a soaking-wet sacrifice and altar. The “disadvantage” of the water wasn’t a problem for God and, trust me, no one doubted the power of God by the time the flames died down.

Nothing’s changed. Christians still serve the Creator of the Universe who called everything into being with the power of His Word. If God is with us, who can stand against us? Christians should welcome our place in a pluralistic society and recognize it as God’s opportunity to shine a light into darkness.

Posted September 15, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Postmodernism Sets Us Free   2 comments

There was a time (and not that long ago) when American culture was almost universally regarded as based on Christianity. I am not saying that everyone in the country was Christian in the Antioch sense of the word. I seriously doubt if even a wide plurality of Americans have ever been Antioch Christians, which was a spiritual condition that motivated a missionary movement I’m saying that our culture was widely viewed as based on Christian ethics. Americans are not, as a nation, a New Testament Christian nation. However, most American leaders prior to the early 1960s not only accepted that American culture was based on a Christian cultural foundation, but they almost universally firmly agreed that things out to be that way.

Education especially exemplified this understanding. Even in state-run schools, the speeches of university presidents could often have passed for Christian sermons. Chaplains delivered prayers before the student bodies that were noticeably Christian prayers addressed to the Savior-God. Yes, sometimes these prayers were met by some individuals with skepticism, boredom or even resentment, but the cultural prerogative of Christianity was generally accepted.

Wow, have times changed!

The majority of secular universities no longer have a chaplaincy. The few that still do are chaired by men and women who would never mention the name of Jesus Christ in a public prayer, but might work in some Taoism or Islam or invoke “the Goddess”. Christians ideas and motivations have few public expressions these days.

Today, the Christian is often viewed as big, bad bullies who must be punished for past misdeeds. Postmodernism holds an irrational dislike of all things Christian.

There is very little Christians can do about that right now. Pitching fits, manipulating the political process, whining — these behaviors only work against the cause of Christianity in the larger culture. We need to recognize it and be prepared to stand in the midst of that icy-cold stream. It might help if we realized that it’s really not all that bad.

Pluralism teaches that individuals have a right to be who they are, so long as what they are does not cause harm to others. In a pluralistic society, social and/or political force may not be used to suppress the freedom of thought and expression of any citizen, or even the practice that flows from it, insofar as that practice is not morally wrong. It does not mean that everyone can do whatever they want. It does not mean we must agree with the views or adopt the practices of those of other persuasions. It does not mean we must like those views or practices. It does not mean we cannot appropriately express our disagreement or dislike for other viewpoints.

In AD 49, the early Christian Church, not more than 15 years old, gathered to settle their first big question on how to be in the world, but not of the world. The first Christians were all Jews. Even Jesus was a Jew. There were Gentiles who became believers, but most were what were known as God-fearers – Gentiles who had adopted Judaism — and then they became believers and continued as Jewish flavored Christians. Paul and Barnabas and the missionary project out of the church at Antioch changed all that. Now hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Gentiles were becoming Christians and most of them did not want to be circumcised.

Imagine that! Adults didn’t want to submit to that in order to be “true” Christians. If every guy reading this doesn’t say “Oh, yeah!” I’d be puzzled. It’s a simple procedure for a baby, but it’s not something an adult male wants to go through.

The Jerusalem Council decided that pluralism was a good arrangement for the Christian churches.  Gentiles could become Christians without joining Jewish culture and Jews who become Christians were not required to remain cultural Jews (Scripture doesn’t record that part in Acts, but Paul’s writing in Galatians suggests that was part of the decision). Being a Jew didn’t make one a Christian. We all come to Christ by faith. Our culture has zip to do with that. The Jerusalem decision in a nutshell.

The Christian gospel does not require cultural privilege or even social recognition to flourish. History shows that God’s work is most definitely NOT disadvantaged by persecution or death, so how could it be damaged by a mere philosophy? The God Who holds Christians in His hands will not be diminished by mere human folly.

Modernism taught that Christians should shut up because we are either stupid or delusional if we believe there is any reality outside of what science says there is. We could argue against it, but it was hard to maintain credibility arguing against the seers of the Modern Age. Postmodernism sets us free from that prison. Pluralism in American society means that the Christian has just as much right to be an out-of-the-closet follower of Jesus or a Christian cultural traditionalist as any non-Christian has a right to be what they are. We need to claim that.

Current cultural metanarrative teaches that non-Christians were victims of past Christian domination of the social order. This empowers non-Christians to insist that they may be assertive in ways that Christians cannot. Christians are “fair game” for attacks and abuse that would quickly be branded discriminatory  if directed toward other groups. It’s tempting to feel sorry for ourselves as a group and allow that to become our focus.

Don’t do it!

Scripture teaches that the metanarrative of the 21st century is far from accurate. Jesus treated women with respect. Paul wrote that God didn’t distinguish between racial groups. Human beings acting like the “bent” people that we are didn’t always follow Scripture, but that does not invalidate the teaching. We need to own up to what people did in God’s name and move on to what WE want to do in Jesus’ name.

This doesn’t mean that the world won’t hate us or say wrong things about us. Jesus warned us that those who followed Him would be hated by the world because the world hated Him before it hated us. Why do we act surprised that things aren’t easy now? Weren’t we listening when we read the Gospel of John? Yes, Christians in many venues have legal recourse against discrimination and I am not saying they shouldn’t use it. We live in a pluralistic society, after all, and we are one of the many groups that have a right to exist.

Pluralism secures a social context in which full and free interchange of different views on life and reality can be conducted to the greatest advantage of all. Thin-skinned and narrow-minded people may not enjoy a pluralistic society, but their discomfort is vastly outweighed by the benefits of open and free exchange of information and ideas.

Christians in the 21st century, far from being wrapped and gagged in cultural chains, have a powerful opportunity to speak into our culture with love and respect about the actual foundation of reality … if we will do it.

Posted September 14, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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No Inherent Conflict   2 comments

In Modernism, science and faith are in two separate and distinct camps. Francis Schaeffer described it well – science occupies the lower story, the nuts and bolts of material reality, while faith has been relegated to an upper story that is not subject to reality’s rules. Both these systems are “blind” – they impose rules on thought and behavior that do not require ordinary people to understand, verify or prove their validity, but we are required to accept those rules because some expert says we must.

For example, we take for granted that the resurrection of Christ is inconsistent with the laws of physics.

How do you prove that?

If you’re not a physicist, you lack the skills to prove it from physics and if you’re not a theologian, you lack the skills to prove it from theology. Just think about that for a moment before you react.

                …Thinking…

If you are not skilled in both subjects, you cannot prove that the resurrection of Jesus is inconsistent with the laws of physics because you do not have sufficient understanding of both subjects.

So, where do we get the idea that the resurrection is inconsistent with the laws of physics?

Presuppositions based upon worldview! In this, we actually owe a debt to post-modernism, because this philosophy helps us to understand that our perspective influences our perception. It’s not the facts that change, but our interpretation of the facts that change, depending on our point of view and the beliefs we bring to the party.

Fact — We’re constantly surrounded by items and events for which no physical explanation yet exists.

Example — Physicists have not explained the existence of the physical universe itself, let alone life and human consciousness. That’s a rock-solid fact and you can take theories like the multiverse, punctuated equilibrium, and huge spans of time that violate Newtonian laws as signs that the scientists don’t even have a decent theory other than “God did it” (which most of them won’t accept). Chance plus time is not something that can produce or explain anything, but it is invoked precisely where there is no known explanation or cause. The universe exists, but why and how elude the scientists. We who are not scientists should not accept a discussion of “anything is possible given enough time” until we’ve seen a verifiable demonstration of, for example, life emerging from the inorganic. Nobody has yet successfully documented such an example. By referring to a failed 1960s experiment and other loosely-connected minutia that has not proven anything, scientists who really want it to be true create a “scientific” evasion so complicated and culturally protected that most people do not realize the theories are inconsistent with the laws of physics.

Sadly, many religionists invoke similar non-explanations for our own pet theories. We attempt to hold our ground by referencing God’s great power as if that were an explanation requiring no further thought or inquiry. That was the mistake of the Roman Catholic Church when Galilleo confronted their presuppositions concerning the structure of the solar system. Rather than accept that he was observing the physical world and their interpretation of evidence might need revision, they treated his observations as an attack against God when nothing could be further from the truth. Science and religion were not in direct conflict with one another when Galilleo presented his theory, nor are they in direct conflict in the 21st century. They are simply inquiry into fields of knowledge that are distinct. While either can make suggestions concerning the other, neither is qualified to make proofs in the other’s arena of knowledge. Science deals with knowledge of the physical world, while theology deals with knowledge of the metaphysical world. These realms interact, but understanding both to the degree where you can form them into an integrated field of knowledge is unlikely and probably impossible.

God’s personality is a source of energy and causation that produced an intelligible structure that is simply not a physical structure. Science deals with the physical world, but not all knowledge is physical. The problem comes when “authorities” on either side of the issue insist that they have all the answers and exclusive claim to the “right views”. Francis Collins, late of the Human Genome Project, but more recently of the National Institutes of Health, speaks eloquently of a “middle position” in the Language of God. He is an evangelical Christian who is also a world-renowned biochemist. While, I do not wholly agree with every statement Dr. Collins makes, I do see such a middle position as affording us an escape from the cultural deadlock that exists in universities, churches and around the water cooler. This deadlock currently requires people of faith to sequester their faith into an upper story slum where only “irrational” thought is allowed separate from their knowledge of the physical world.

Such sequestration is unacceptable to faithful intellectuals like Dr. Collins and others. It should be unacceptable to every thinking Christian. The world would like us to step back into the shadows and accept the role of superstitious irrational fools society ascribes to the faithful, but it is within our power to reject that dhimmitude. Reconciliation between faith and science is possible, if devoted and qualified Christians will engage with society to bring the Spirit and power of Christ into the authority structures that insist the intellectual professions must be in conflict with genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

They needn’t be in conflict if only we can begin a thoughtful dialogue that allows each credibility within its own field of knowledge.

Posted September 13, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Does Reality Exist?   Leave a comment

I’ve been reading this book on postmodernism and the Christian church. I’ll spare you reading this book. It’s really a hard slog, written by an intellectual theologian who can’t seem to get to the point, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some useful knowledge to impart. I also keep hoping he’ll break out into practicality by the end of the book.

So what is postmodernism and what should the Church (as in the broad collection of congregations across the face of the planet) do in response to it? Maybe we need to first define what postmodernism is.

Unlike some writers, I do not view postmodernism as a cancer that will inevitably destroy the Body of Christ. I actually view it as an antibody reaction to another disease that did as much or more harm than postmodernism.  Consider a fever. It is your immune system’s response to an infection, so it’s a good thing … unless it climbs too high and then it kills you.

Postmodernism did not spring up all by itself in the middle of a cow field. It arose in response to the culturally paralyzing empiricist variant of modernism espoused by the like of David Hume, John Stuart Mill and the logical positivism movement of the mid-20th century that taught that knowledge must needs be restricted to “science” and “science theory” and interpreted with a bias toward the sense-perceptible world. You could sum up their philosophy as: There is one reality which is the natural world and physics is its prophet.

Christians rejected this new philosophical paradigm and found ourselves accused of being idiots and hating science, believing in fairy tales rather than fact. Scientists who held to the Christian worldview were marginalized not because their science was found to be wrong, but because they were politically incorrect. Christian students were told that they need not apply to science programs unless they rejected their faith. Worse, from my perspective, Christians were told to leave their faith at home when going to the ballot box … that their beliefs were not germane to the areas of public policy.

For entirely different reasons, postmoderns didn’t agree with this narrative anymore than Christians did. While Christians refused to ignore the metaphysical reality of the universe because God has opened our eyes to it, postmoderns refused to let moderns get away with saying they alone define truth.

To the modernist assurance that only science knows the truth, postmoderns say “Yeah, well, your truth is culturally and personally defined and therefore no more valid than my truth.” Reality, to the postmodern, does not actually exist except as a construct of the human mind, therefore “truth” is defined by the individual and cannot be too strongly believed because the human perception is too subject to cultural and personal points of view.

The postmodernist philosophers (Rorty, Toulman, MacIntyre, Lyotard) cannot come to any reasonable definite conclusions about anything, because they do not believe you can have solid knowledge of anything.

Still, it’s danged hard to live your life that way, so they make some definite statements:

Christians must abandon all truth claims because truth is culturally determined.

The problem for the postmoderns is that I disagree because I believe their assumption that truth is relative is wrong and they can’t say I’m wrong because they don’t believe anyone is wholly wrong. Note, they still think they can dictate to Christians what to belief and they want that belief to encompass a rejection of the God of the Bible.

Modernists are a lot easier to argue with and also much easier to take seriously. They can affirm a solid belief on what knowledge really is, even if evidence later proves them wrong. The postmodernist cannot officially deal with objective reality. They are left with the rather weak argument that “society works best for us if we talk about knowledge our way.”

In its insistence that truth is a not mandated by science, postmodernism does the Body of Christ a great favor. It is the fever that has been weakening the virus of modernism for more than a half century. That’s good.

As is so often the case, however, the fever is not without its risks because our children are raised in this culture with two messages that are like saltwater to the roots of Christianity.

Modernism says only science can define true knowledge, so the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the Truth and the Truth will set you free is obviously wrong, since Jesus Christ refuses to submit to the standard scientific tests. Then postmodernism teaches them that no truth is certain, so therefore, even if you really believe that God exists and that Jesus is God, you can’t say it with confidence.

Like a body with a virus that is experiencing a high fever, the Body of Christ in this generation is struggling not to succumb to the twin disease. One is the antidote to the other, but the antidote has potentially fatal side effects.

So how do we bulwark our children so that Christ remains central in their lives as they live in this world, but are not of it?

Now there’s the most important question!

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