The Majesty Of Music

There are a few things that transport me to another level of worship. One is nature. Not just any nature, either. The ocean, with waves crashing against cliffs is pretty good, but better is the high country—beyond timberline. I’ve only been there a few times, but it’s like a different world.

Coming out of the darkness created by evergreens growing in tight clusters, you discover fields of wildflowers, glacier patches, blue-green lakes, and a sky that’s such a rich blue it looks like you could eat it. Oh, and rocky peaks that look more like cathedrals. And crystal cold streams. All I can think is, This is the world God created.

Music has that same effect on me. Not all music. Just like nature, there are pieces and then there are pieces. Some I enjoy because they are fun or they fit my mood or they are performed well. Others feel as if a piece of my soul is drifting on the sound waves. And still others feel as if my soul is reaching up to God.

Some years ago my church hosted a nearby university (California Baptist) choir and orchestra in concert. They were spectacular, and I had one of those majesty of music moments. What’s more, I bought one of their CD’s, Glory, and have played it frequently. The songs run through my head when I wake up, and I can hardly wait to put on the CD again.

In fact, I posted one of the songs some time ago with Sandi Patty performing it. The song is spectacular and Sandi Patty is … well, Sandi Patty.

But here’s the choir I listened to—an older version of it, but fittingly, they are singing Majesty. I hope you enjoy.

This article first appeared here in April 2012

Published in: on November 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reprise: Have We Neutered God?

Aerial_view_of_damage_to_Kirikiri,_Otsuchi,_a_week_after_a_9.0_magnitude_earthquake_and_subsequent_tsunamiThe day after the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a couple Christians started taking bets on when the first Christian “leader” (the qualification is theirs) would say something about God’s judgment on this Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly they had in mind what Pat Robertson said after the Haitian quake in January 2010.

As reports came in about the tsunami that same day, every TV station seemed to have a segment of their earthquake coverage devoted to a geophysicist with a diagram of the Pacific Ring of Fire and a second diagram of two tectonic plates under the ocean moving toward one another with one slipping under the other (subduction). The resulting movement, one expert said, displaces water, sending waves surging to shore.

On one hand, a good scientific explanation from the media about what causes an earthquake and a tsunami.

On the other, a backhanded repudiation from Christians that God would “send” the earthquake against Japan.

That’s it then. We’ve moved God aside to let Nature take its course. Nature, we understand. After all, the experts have studied these tectonic plates. They’ve created devices to measure the energy an earthquake releases. They can pinpoint where the epicenter is, and the hypocenter, and how deep within the earth’s crust the event occurred.

God? We can’t study Him. Don’t know what He might be thinking or why He would choose Japan over, say, Libya, or, for that matter, the U. S. Besides, God just wouldn’t do something so randomly devastating. I mean, good people undoubtedly died in the quake and its aftermath. How could we possibly believe this event was something He sent? It would be unjust, cruel, not something a loving God would do.

Or so we think as we peer through our world-colored glasses.

For the moment, set aside the fact that Scripture records God using a natural disaster to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, expressly because of the extent of their wickedness. Instead, ask this question. Supposing the geophysicists are right and the quake happened because one tectonic plate slipped under the edge of another, what caused the slip?

Subducting tectonic plates

Scientists have a number of theories. One idea is that the variation in topography and density of the crust result in differences in gravitational forces that drive the seafloor away from the spreading ridge which combines with drag (think, water drag against a speedboat) and downward suction.

A second explanation is that different forces generated by the rotation of the Globe and tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon create movement.

A third idea suggests that mantle convection (“the slow creeping motion of Earth’s rocky mantle caused by convection currents carrying heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface” Wikipedia) is tied to the movement of the plates.

Behind these possible explanations, however, is the question, what causes the convection currents or the tidal forces or the drag or the downward suction or the variation of the topography or the thinner oceanic crust? In other words, in a cause-effect scientific study, what is the first cause?

Ultimately, those of us who believe in God will answer, He is that first cause.

But are we saying that He, in watchmaker-like fashion, started the processes and has since, stepped back and is looking on to see what will happen next?

Or do we believe He who created the world and understands all its make up and function, who set down in Scripture the fact that the earth divided (something corroborated by the continental drift theory now widely held), and who has prophesied an increase in seismic activity as the day of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, is intimately involved in this world?

Sadly, throughout time man has declared that God is dead or irrelevant or nonexistent. But perhaps worst of all is this Christian version of this theme—that He is, but He is not powerful. He might have something to say about spiritual things (and then, only if it’s related to love and forgiveness), but the physical is beyond His reach.

This view, of course, contradicts Scripture. First is the clear revelation of His nature—He is omnipotent. He demonstrated this by His act of creation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
– Gen 1:1

Since then, He has sustained what He made:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
– Col 1:16-17 [emphasis mine]

How He holds things together is coincidentally similar to how He created the world in the first place:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
– Heb 1:1-3 [emphasis mine]

And yet we are to believe He is standing by, wringing His hands, grieving over the uncontrollable events foisted on the human race by nature?

If God is God, that idea is absurd. And if God is God, we had better start paying attention to what He’s said in His word, because acts of God are not accidents of God. He has a purpose, and it would be wise of us to start talking in an intelligent way, informed by Scripture, about what that purpose might be.

With some minor changes this article is a reprint of one that appeared in March 2011.

What’s In A Picture Or A Song Or A Story?

Paul Gauguin, Portrait de l'artiste au chapeau

Paul Gauguin, Portrait de l’artiste au chapeau

Artists create.

Musicians create music, poets create poetry, painters create paintings, and so on. But all these imaginative people have something in common. They dip into the same pool for their subject matter—themselves.

In their creations, artists draw upon their knowledge about the world, their observations, their imagination. And it all comes together as a reflection of who they are.

Over at Speculative Faith, the team blog I’m a part of, we hold writing contests from time to time. I give a sentence to start a story, and the contestants write what comes next. Remarkably, the entries are all different from one another.

But is it really remarkable? Not according to the fiction pundits. Writers often repeat the adage, there are no new stories. But writing instructors are quick to point out that the stories may not be new but they can be unique because the writer brings something fresh—themselves. Each person has his own unique perspective, based on his experiences, personality, thoughts, and imaginings.

So in very real ways, what we create is a reflection of who we are.

Often times, if you’re familiar with a writer, you can pick out a passage as something they’ve written because you recognize the tone and sentence structure, the manner of description, and so forth. Sometimes familiar themes keep cropping up in a writer’s stories.

A painter may return to the same types of subject matter, but there’s also a tell-tale style—the way they paint the eyes or position the figure, the brush strokes and the use of color. All these elements reflect something about the artist herself.

Same with music. The Beetles had a unique sound; the Back Street Boys, a completely different sound; Lady Gaga, something that reflects her, and her alone; and Miley Cyrus, a style that’s all her own. Christian musicians such as the Gettys are no different. They use their music and their lyrics to communicate a bit of who they are—what they believe, what’s important to them, what they think is beautiful, what they want to communicate to the world.

I’m not saying anything new here. Or anything particularly profound. I suspect most people reading this are thinking, Well, of course. Duh!

So here’s the point: if we readily see the hand of the artist in what he creates when it comes to human artists, why is it so hard to believe that the world reflects the hand of God who created it?

Romans tells us that creation reveals God’s invisible attributes. We ought to be saying, Well, of course it would, being as how the created thing is always a reflection of the person who made it.

Of course those who don’t believe God created the world can say the two have no connection. Rather, the evolution of the world is the one instance in which something came from nothing and doesn’t reflect its source. The source: nothing. The thing that was made (or came into being, to put it in more evolution-friendly terms): the world. Nothing. The world. I’m not seeing the reflection of the source.

Evolutionists again will say, no, the world didn’t come from nothing. It came from energy, heat, pressure, that produced the “quark soup” consisting of the building blocks of matter. Building blocks. Interesting that scientists must use such language. Do building blocks build themselves?

But that’s straying from the point. Again I have to ask: Does the thing made (came into being) reflect the source? It would seem not. The theory of evolution, in fact, is predicated on change, not reflection. Intelligent human beings, then, aren’t a mark of intelligence in the quark soup. Nor are our emotions or will a reflection of an emotion or will within the elemental particles, the building blocks of matter.

How odd that the creation (or origin) of the world is so different from every other thing in that world. Beavers make beaver dams. Ants make ant hills. Bees make bee hives. Gophers make gopher holes. Birds make bird nests. And each creation is a reflection of the animal that created it.

More intimately true of humans. We make tall buildings and iPhones and rockets and bombs and paintings and symphonies and novels. Each of those is a reflection, not just of our species, but of the individual who conceived it and designed it and oversaw its construction.

So when the Bible says God created the world, and what He made reflects His character, His very nature, it is immediately recognizable as true because that’s the way we experience reality in every other instance of creation.

Why would who Gauguin is be on display through his paintings, but God’s character be hidden in what He made? Inductive reasoning, moving from the lesser to the greater, leads us to the conclusion that the greatest “something made” (or something which came into being) follows the same pattern of all the lesser things made. All have a creator. And they all reflect that creator in some way.

So too, the world, the ultimate of creation which contains all other creation, has a Creator, and His very nature, the qualities that characterize His being, are on display through what He has made.

Published in: on September 18, 2015 at 6:09 pm  Comments (5)  
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Not An Accident

Structure of DNA double helix

Structure of DNA double helix

Some atheists tell us that life is an accident and any circumstantial evidence humans come up with to the contrary is simply a trick of the mind that wishes to find patterns where none actually exist.

But I have to wonder—how do they know that no pattern exists? It seems to me, the belief that no pattern exists is a result of believing that there is no designer to formulate a pattern. Otherwise, when element after element after element aligns in a pattern, why would you think, Yeah, but that’s just a coincidence.

For instance, “DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.” (See “Is There a God?”) What are the chances of such an intricate “instruction manual” just happening to develop—for each cell of the human body?!

But DNA is a quite new discovery. Long before technology allowed us such a close look, we saw designs. Humans have a small set of eye colors and hair color and skin colors, but we have an infinite number of finger prints. Can that uniqueness happen by accident?

We could look at seasons and the hours of sunlight in the day and the rings inside a tree and weather patterns and the digestive system and breathing—we’d see evidence of design at every turn. All these particulars have such a long shot probability of happening accidentally, we might as well say it’s impossible.

Why is it a plane can fly? Because air pressure is a constant.

Why is it that meteors don’t fall to earth and crush us? Because our atmosphere is the right thickness to protect us.

How can we measure time? Because the earth rotates at a constant speed and travels around the sun at a rate that doesn’t fluctuate.

In fact, we have a set of “natural laws” that allow us to predict and study the way our universe works, including our bodies. We know that gravity pulls things toward the earth’s core. That’s an immutable law. Drop a pencil ten times, a thousand times, a billion billion times, and it will fall to the ground.

We have laws of physics, laws of biology, laws of chemistry, laws of botany, laws of geology, laws of meteorology. And then there is math. Two plus two is always four, not sometimes four and sometimes six.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”

There is order to the world that points to anything but an accident.

Accidents don’t produce advanced technology. As many times as those automobile safety tests have a car hit a brick wall, not once has the car come out in an advanced state.

This just scratches the surface. I haven’t mentioned moral law or aesthetics. Each would need a post of its own.

The fact is, order exists in our world. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

And order does not come from disorder—that’s actually one of those laws of science.

So something ordered—not randomness, chaos, chance, or an accident—brought an ordered world into being. It’s only logical—which is also based on immutable laws. That someone looks at order and says, Caused by chance, reveals more about that someone than it does about the world.

What kind of person would look for an answer to the question, How did an ordered world full of intricate life—balanced ecosystems and complex organisms and natural laws—and conclude that the aggregation of it all came about by happenstance? Is that a logical conclusion? Or is that a conclusion someone would reach who has already ruled out the possibility of Someone great enough to design it all perfectly?

Take a look at just one fact about our planet, its distance from the sun:

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day. (Ibid)

What are the chances?

Well, some will tell us, given the vast number of galaxies in the universe, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s another planet just like ours with all the properties necessary for life.

And if there is such a place, why would we think it accidentally came into being any more than the Earth? If it’s unlikely that an accident produced one orderly biosphere, how much more unlikely would it be if there are two? In other words, a second habitable planet would increase the likelihood of design, not decrease it—given the incredibly improbable odds of all the right components being present to allow for life with respiratory systems and circulatory systems and digestive systems and cognition.

In all seriousness, I believe it takes wishful thinking to conclude that our planet, the solar system, the universe came about as a result of an accident instead of as the creation of an all powerful designer.

Published in: on July 31, 2015 at 7:17 pm  Comments (10)  
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EarthriseI read the creation account in Genesis today, and I have more questions about creation now than I ever did before. It’s almost like the opposite of “familiarity breeds contempt.” Rather, the more knowledgeable I am about the events, the more curious I am about how it all worked. I see things I never saw before. And I also find myself questioning the explanations I’ve heard or read in exposition of the passage.

Here’s one. When did God create water?

Before the six “days” of creation start, Scripture says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (1:2, emphasis mine)

So where’s that water come from? In fact where did that formless and void earth come from? The logical answer seems to be, Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

But many Bible scholars tell us today that the Jewish way of writing is not the linear approach we Greek-influenced thinkers write. Their method was cyclical. They wrote and moved a step to the left and down, then down another step, then to the left again, to the left and up, up and to the left—and they’re back in the vicinity where they started. Consequently, “God created the heavens and the earth” was not one thing followed by a different thing, but it was the great thing—the topic sentence, if you will—followed by details that expounded on it in cyclical fashion.

Well maybe.

As most people calculate the days of creation, then, light came first.

But what is light? According to the day-by-day listing of creation, light came on day one but the sun didn’t come until day four. So there was light from some source apart from the sun. And that source would be what? What did God create when He created light? Was it the particle/wave electromagnetic radiation—photons that move through space at a measured speed? Except space didn’t exist yet. And this light came from what source? If there are no stars, no sun, no human whose retina responds, what is light?

So far, we’re only on verse 3 and we have uncreated water and created light that emanates from who knows where and consists of who knows what. Hmmmm. This creation story isn’t so easy.

But what if day one doesn’t start with light? What if verse 1 isn’t a topic sentence but actually tells us what God created in the beginning—an earth, formless and void, dark and covered with water, for which He then created light.

Of course that doesn’t answer the question, what was the source of that light? Except we know from other places in Scripture that God Himself is light, so it would seem from His being, He brought forth light.

All this to say, I believe the Bible one hundred percent, but it isn’t always easy. And why should it be? God who spoke the world into being isn’t exactly manageable either.

I kind of look at the Bible like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We have the pieces and they all fit to make a whole picture, but we’re looking at the image on the box top through a murky lens called sin. It keeps us from seeing where some of the parts fit, so we have to try this piece or that to see where it belongs best. And some pieces, we just have to wait until the end when all the rest comes together before we can see clearly where they go.

The questions about creation simply grow in number when we get to Genesis 2 where it appears God made Adam before He made other animals:

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. (2:18-19)

So which is it, Genesis 2 or Genesis 1:

God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness (vv25-26a)

Of course atheists and progressives are quick to jump on such “discrepancies” and say they prove the Bible is wrong or pure myth or a fabrication from some deceiver trying to create a religion.

These differences make me ask questions. How can this be? I know it is, because God put it in His word: “All Scripture is inspired by God . . .” God who cannot lie, who is never wrong, inspired both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. So I look for possible ways the two passages can fit together. As a result, I come up with some “what if’s.”

Here’s the first one. What if Plato was right about his theory of forms and there exist non-material abstracts that are the highest form of reality? Consequently, before God formed animals from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2), He first formed them as a non-material reality, an abstract concept of lion (which he allowed Adam to actually name) and bear and butterfly (Gen. 1).

It’s a “what if” and I’m sure there are other possible ways that the two can fit and both be true without chalking up the creation account to pure myth. What seems most clear to me are these two realities: 1) in the beginning God; 2) God created.

Those are not confusing or hard concepts. They are simple, straightforward, all encompassing, and true—repeated over and over and over in Scripture with unwavering certainty. Whatever parts are murky because sin has muddled the picture, those two corner pieces are crystal clear.

And it is from the known that we read Scripture, not from the unknown. So we take the truth of God’s existence and the truth of His creative work, and we view the Bible and the world from those basics, and others like them.

We might have a pile of what-if’s and even some parts that have no apparent way of fitting, but we can be confident that in the end, where they belong and how it all comes together will become abundantly clear.

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 6:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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A Godless Universe

big-bang-theory-rainbow-gravityOne of the latest scientific theories, or more accurately, an idea some scientists have postulated, suggests the universe did not have an origin, that there was no Big Bang. This concept, known coincidentally as Rainbow Gravity, is an attempt to resolve incompatibilities between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

In short, this idea that’s been around for about a decade, and which isn’t widely accepted by physicists, is based on gravity’s affect on different wavelengths of light, which can be seen in the colors of the rainbow (and thus the name).

Now scientists at Cern in Switzerland believe they might find miniature black holes which would reveal the existence of a parallel universe.

And if the holes are found at a certain energy, it could prove the controversial theory of ‘rainbow gravity’ which suggests that the universe stretches back into time infinitely with no singular point where it started, and no Big Bang.

The theory was postulated to reconcile Einstein’s theory of general relativity – which deals with very large objects, and quantum mechanics – which looks at the tiniest building blocks of the universe. (“Big bang could be debunked”)

I gather from my reading that the String Theory came into being to answer the same paradoxes.

We need a new theory allowing general relativity and quantum mechanics to coexist peacefully. This theory could attempt to solve the problems of each to bring them together. Or it might start afresh and establish completely new ideas of reality.

String theory is an example of such a theory. (“Why String Theory”)

At issue is our understanding of such things as black holes, parallel existence in multiverses, nonexistence, and the Big Bang. And God.

Of course none of the articles I read mentioned God. Because clearly He isn’t being considered as a possible answer to the paradoxes. Rather, these scientists are looking for the Theory of Everything (ToE).

In fact, as one commenter noted, they aren’t following the observe-describe pattern of actual science. Instead, they have reversed the order to be describe-observe. They see a conundrum and have developed an idea to resolve it. Now they’re looking to see if they can find evidence for their ideas. But the scientists don’t agree on what this unifying theory actually looks like.

I’m certain each of these intelligent, scholarly people has reason behind their ideas. What they don’t have is any particular evidence to believe Rainbow Gravity over String Theory or the ToE. And they also have no evidence to discount God as the Creator and Sustainer of all.

They see problems—this truth not meshing with that truth, or these paradoxes impossibly existing together—and they can’t find a unifying principle.

And there stands God, declaring that what He created shows us who He is:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

The net result of humankind turning our back on God is what we have been witnessing more and more with each passing year: the rise of terrorism, the redefinition of marriage, corruption in high places, racial and ethnic divides, gender confusion, and more. Scripture says it plainly:

they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:25-32, emphases mine)

I suggest every time we say it’s the woman’s right to choose, and we mean she can therefore kill her unborn baby, we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. I would also say that every time we say a person can choose the gender they feel they are instead of the one “assigned to them at birth,” we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. And I suggest when we say two people of the same gender can marry, we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator.

As scientists struggle to understand the universe without God, so all of us struggle to understand morality without God. What is right and what is wrong?

It can’t be whatever I feel to be right, or the hateful man who shot nine Christians in their church would be morally right—it’s what he felt was right. So too with the radical Muslim terrorists who killed over sixty people last week in their suicide bombings.

There must be a different standard, a universal code of conduct that governs life beyond our feelings, because our feelings don’t always mesh with other people’s feelings. There is as much paradox between one person’s view of the world and another’s, as there is between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

We need a Theory of Everything.

Of course, some suggest tolerance is that something. Others have more recently put forth empathy. But neither of those work unless everyone agrees.

Again, God stands above us declaring that His grace is sufficient, that His love—His empathy—is the solution to our moral struggles. That which we can’t fix, He’s already put together and made available. And it’s a gift.

But in a godless universe, what God has revealed falls on deaf ears.

Backward Thinking – A Reprise

Vitruvian-Icon-bYesterday I addressed the Caitlyn Jenner issue from the perspective that the media is manipulating public opinion—manipulating Caitlyn Jenner, too, I might add, though with her consent. The purpose is to reshape the way we think about ourselves. For the better part of two thousand years, western culture has been influenced by a Christian worldview. We have believed what the Bible says about us. But this Christian worldview doesn’t sit well with people who don’t believe in God. Hence, we need to re-think our opinions about life’s most basic questions: who are we, how did we get here, why are we here, where are we going?

The latter part of the twentieth century brought the triumph, in education, if not elsewhere, of “science” over “religion” in the debate over origins. But more recently the question those who reject God are addressing is, Who are we? No longer is the Bible the source to which we go to find the answer, but in a strange twist, we aren’t going to science either, as is so evident in the acceptance, even the glorification, of those who identify as transgenders.

We simply have dismissed physical evidence—the existence of Y chromosomes, the prominence of the Adam’s apple, deeper voices, hormones, differences in skeletal structure, genitalia, size of internal organs, and more—in the gender discussion. If you feel like a woman on the inside, then you’re a woman, no matter what the physical evidence says.

One person on Facebook explained this dismissal of scientific evidence by saying that perception is reality.

This question of who we are goes beyond gender however.

A few years back PETA brought a lawsuit, quickly dismissed, against Sea World on behalf of five Orca whales because of their “enslavement.” This extreme desire to treat animals with the same care and respect as humans, has the effect of degrading humans. We are, the thinking goes, not more special than the whale or gorilla or titmouse.

The Bible makes it clear that humans are special because we, of all creation, have uniquely been made in the image of God. Our Creator Himself breathed into Man the breath of life and he became a living being—a soul, a self, a person.

But the PETA folks would have us be less.

What’s ironic, at the same time, our culture has weighed humanity morally and found us to be good. Ask anyone. Humans—according to the majority of people in Western society, anyway—believe humans to be innately good. I suppose some might say dogs are good, and cats, horses, dolphins. But at some point, I think most people would hold back on calling mosquitoes good, or fleas or cockroaches or termites.

The truth is, animals aren’t acting out of a moral nature. We call some animals good because we find them to be beautiful or useful or companionable or admirable. Others we find to be a nuisance, destructive, harmful, disease-carrying, and suddenly the brotherhood of all living beings seems a little less desirable.

In truth, the human alone is a moral being, and sadly, we are not good. Yes, we bear the image of God, but we act out of the flaw in our character—the very flaw fiction writers know we must include in the characters that people our stories if they are to seem realistic.

All we have to do is look around us, and we see the flaws of Humankind. Corporate greed? That’s humans acting from our flawed nature. Welfare fraud? That’s humans acting from our flawed nature. Illegal immigration? Same problem, as is pornography, sex trafficking, adultery, extortion, murder, burglary … Need I go on?

Humans are not good. Those who ignore all of the above and insist humankind is indeed good, prove by their stubbornness and willingness to lie to themselves, that all of us are flawed.

So we have this upside down thinking going when it comes to the most basic question—who are we? Humans are just another animal species, some say. But humankind is good, some of the same people say.

But there’s more. While those lawyers were suing Sea World on behalf of the whales, another group of people were doing all they could to keep “a woman’s right to choose” in place. In simple terms, they worked overtime against any effort to chip away at the Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion legal.

Back in 1973, of course, the argument centered on the issue of when life begins. Pregnancy, the women’s rights movement taught, was at the sole prerogative of the woman, because at stake was her body, and hers alone. Inside her was tissue, a fetus, certainly not a separate life. To be alive, that embryo would have to be viable. Until abortion doctors wanted to finish a botched job outside the womb. Then it didn’t matter if the squirmy tissue was living and breathing. Abortion was legal, so there. Partial birth abortions—keep those legal. States that didn’t want abortion within their borders—out of luck. No bending on this issue even though now virtually everyone understands that the fetus is alive, that this is a separate person growing in the womb. An unprotected person, stripped of all rights, without a voice or any chance to do his or her own choosing.

But the irony doesn’t stop. Medical science has determined that certain things a women does when she is pregnant can have harmful effects on the baby she is carrying—things like smoking, consuming caffeine, and drinking alcohol. Other things are helpful like exercise and playing certain music or talking to the unborn baby. Pregnant women, then, are expected to do all the right things as part of prenatal care, while some have been accused of child abuse for doing the things that jeopardize the health and well-being of the unborn. That’s right. A woman can kill the child but not injure it by smoking.

Our thinking is backwards. We make these laws asking the wrong questions—most often, what do I want or what will benefit me? Some people might even go so far as to think, what will benefit society? Few, it seems, are asking, what is morally right?

Is it morally right to cheat on your income taxes? Is it morally right to steal from your employer? Is it morally right for CEOs of failed businesses to take millions of dollars in bonuses? Is it morally right for a congressman to receive thousands of dollars from a lobbyist for whom he will fashion upcoming legislation?

But no. We won’t create law by asking what is morally right because we have backwards thinking. Humankind is good … though an animal … with no right to be born should his mother choose to terminate his life while he’s completely helpless and dependent on her, but with every right to change his gender should he not like the one to which he’d been “assigned.”

In all this the image of God is being so marred it’s hardly recognizable.

A good portion of this article appeared here in February 2012.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner And Media Manipulation

Adam_and_Eve019The Jenner media campaign has been quite impressive. Having signed a contract with the Creative Arts Agency (CAA), Jenner has been in the public eye almost non-stop since the beginning of April.

For several weeks we heard of a coming, groundbreaking Diane Sawyer interview with Jenner—a tell-all to end all tell-alls. The promotion was unparalleled for a two-hour network TV special that didn’t involve war, politics, national security, an election, a sports figure, or a celebrity currently touring, performing, or producing (although his involvement with the Kardashians has kept him in a spotlight of sorts).

At least two and a half weeks before the interview, promo spots turned up all over the place. News anchors discussed the coming show. Speculation abounded regarding the big secret Jenner would reveal.

At last the day came, and to few people’s surprise, the “secret” Bruce revealed was that he believes himself to be a woman.

So that was done.

Or was it?

Not really.

Next was the a two-part special titled Keeping Up with the Kardashians: About Bruce which aired in May and received network news coverage. Then in June, Bruce revealed his female identity, choosing the name Caitlyn and changing to the use of female pronouns in relation to herself.

A scant two days later came the Vanity Fair cover revealing sixty-five year-old Caitlyn Jenner posed in a woman’s undergarment (and looking like anything but a sixty-five year old). Of course the nightly news led with the story. The next night there was more Jenner news—she revealed the first trailer of her highly-anticipated docu-series I Am Cait. Somewhere in there the news also came out that she’s been announced as the Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient for this year’s ESPYS and which will be presented in July.

Last night, I believe it was, the news broke that perhaps Caitlyn Jenner would not receive the same treatment in her country club now that she’s a woman, implying that men are given perks women don’t enjoy. So apparently, the transgender cause is going to be hooked to the feminist cause.

Don’t expect the Jenner news to simmer down any time soon. Expect a book deal soon, and watch for product endorsements.

Before all the hoopla started, and while still answering to Bruce, she made it clear, through a source that she “wants this to be taken seriously so that [his situation] can have the most positive impact on society’s perception of the transgender community.”

As one pop culture site reported

The 65-year-old has been very open about how she hopes exposing her journey to the public will help other transgender people feel less alone, and to lower the high rate of suicide attempts within the population.

In other words, selling Caitlyn Jenner to the public is by design—a very good design, apparently, since newscasters on all the network shows I’ve seen have only positive things to say about “such courage.”

So many thoughts go through my head in regard to this on-going story. I’d even call it a tragedy. Jenner has suffered, apparently for decades, with gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria. According to Wikipedia this is

the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant dysphoria (discontent) with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. (emphasis mine)

In one of the clips for the docu-series, I believe, someone says to Caitlyn, “I miss Bruce,” and she answers, “Bruce hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Apparently not, since reportedly the outward changes have not included “sex reassignment surgery.” Caitlyn has benefited from hormones that Bruce took as far back as the 1980s, as well as facial plastic surgery (and breast implants?), but not an actual reconstruction of genitalia.

But she feels like a woman.

So which is true—the physiology that is the kind of stuff science usually requires (male genitalia, a Y chromosome, male muscular structure, and so on) or how she feels? Why is the biology wrong and the emotions right?

Are emotions oh-so-reliable that we can’t question a person’s choice when they announce they feel this way or that? At one point Bruce felt enough like a man to play football on a men’s team, compete for a spot on the men’s Olympic team, win a gold medal in the men’s decathlon, marry a woman—well, actually three different women—and father children.

To this day, Caitlyn says she’s never been attracted to a man (which doesn’t sound like the women I know), and considers herself asexual.

In truth, our culture, with the kinds of media orchestrated focus on gender issues, is redefining, not just marriage, but what it means to be a man or a woman. How can a man act as God intends him to act or how can a woman act as God intends her to act, when we’re scrambling to figure out whether we agree with the gender “we were assigned” at birth?

In contrast, God was not ambiguous about gender:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. (Gen. 1:27-28a)

Something else this whole spectacle has made me think: this transgender movement seems to depend on having money. What would Caitlyn be without her hormone therapy and cosmetic surgery? How many transgender people live in developing countries where they don’t have the luxury to reconsider the gender “assigned to them” at birth? Where they can’t afford to get drugs that change their chemical make up? Where there is no subsequent “evidence” that suggests GID has physical and not merely psychological causes? If this were true, where are the transgender people in the poorer countries of the world? Where are the transgender Huaorani or the transgender K’iche’? Maybe they exist but simply don’t have the spotlight Catilyn Jenner has.

But I suspect our western culture has a greater percentage of discontented people when it comes to gender. If you think about it, how would Bruce Jenner have known what it feels like to be a woman—so much so that he believes he actually is a woman inside? He has no basis of comparison. He knows what it feels like to be a man, but he only knew what it felt like to be a cross-dresser, not an actual woman. He still doesn’t know since he has kept that part of his anatomy that women don’t share with men.

Is there any more evidence we need to validate the truth claims of the Bible regarding our increasing propensity to call right, wrong; up, down; good, evil? God made men and women and called them good. Our sinful society says, the “assigned gender” might not be the real one. On whose authority? Who gets to say? Well, apparently Bruce/Caitlyn—or any other person who wants to say what God made isn’t good, and they’d like to remake it as they see fit.

Sin And The Human Brain

I once heard a comment that goes against common understanding—sin distorts Mankind’s thinking.

Most people agree that nobody’s perfect, but by this they mean, nobody lives a morally upright life all the time; nobody avoids making mistakes. The one thing that most people do NOT mean is that their thinking is flawed.

Rather, I suspect most people believe mankind’s ability to reason has become sharper over time, that we are out from under superstition and have honed deductive reasoning, can study evidence and make inferences more accurately than those who first lived on earth.

But why should that be true? If we believe the Bible, we know a few things about the earth before and after sin progressively took hold (some of these things became evident after the flood).

    1. Before — animals were not carnivorous (Gen. 1:30).

    After — even Man became carnivorous.

    2. Before — animals were at peace with each other and with Man.

    After — “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given” (Gen. 9:2).

    3. Before — the ground yielded fruit abundantly.

    After — the ground was cursed and needed to be cultivated by the sweat of Man’s brow.

    4. Before — Man was destined to life.

    After — Man was destined to death.

    5. Before — Man apparently had the capacity to communicate with the animals.

    After — animals only communicated with Man when God opened their mouths (see Balaam’s donkey).

    6. Before — an “expanse” divided waters, some above, some below—apparently creating another layer of our atmosphere and providing protection from the molten lava at the earth’s core.

    After — the “floodgates of the sky” opened and “the fountains of the great deep burst open.”

    7. Before — Man lived for centuries.

    After — once the atmospheric protection was removed, his life span became much shorter.

    8. Before — Man communed in person with God.

    After — Man hid from God.

    9. Before — Adam and Eve were a perfect fit, naked and unashamed.

    After — they hurled accusations at one another.

    10. Before — Man spoke a common language.

    After — God confused Men’s language and scattered them.

I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough for the purpose of this post. To sum up, sin changed the world, the heavens, the way Mankind relates to creation, to God, to others. Why would we think Man alone is untouched by the effects of sin? We know his life span was affected, so why not other aspects of his life, such as his ability to comprehend the supernatural or to reason clearly?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Mankind, with all the knowledge available to us, understands less about the world today than Adam did. Oh, sure, we know facts (and many of those prove to be incorrect at some later date), but we are reasoning ourselves away from God, not to Him.

It was Man’s observation, reasoning, and conclusions—well, woman’s, actually—that started the Fall in the first place: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (emphasis mine)

God had said … but she saw, and she went with her own observations and her own conclusions. In that respect, things haven’t changed so much over time.

This article originally appeared here in August 2012.

Published in: on April 30, 2015 at 6:08 pm  Comments (11)  
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Creation Is Not Superfluous

SolarsystemMany discussions I’ve had with atheists at some point reference the beginning of all things—the big bang and evolution or creation. Yet there are some Christians who would rather not discuss the subject. They believe what they believe and don’t see any need to answer the questions presented by people who believe differently.

I understand this to a point. I mean, atheists have formed their theories based on the rejection of God as the first cause. Rather, they look at the heavens (astronomy and physics) and at the earth (geology, biology, and genetics) and speculate how all we see could have come into being.

In contrast Christians have historically read the Bible and incorporated its truth into the study of all the disciplines of science. Hence the first cause of all that exists has been recognized as God, the Creator.

With these two contrasting starting places, it’s unlikely that a theist is going to accept the evolutionary views of an atheist, or an atheist, the Creation views of a Christian, so why bother with the discussion?

Sadly, because of certain Supreme Court rulings, the discussion of first cause in schools has been relegated to the purview of science, as if this is a knowable, observable fact which experts have proved instead of a theory under debate.

Add to this the fact that the hard and fast belief in a six-day creation which Genesis seems to describe has been exposed as not quite as definitive as scholars once taught. There are, for example, things we don’t understand about the creation story. For example, Genesis 1:2 says God moved over the surface of the waters before the six-day process began. What else might be included in the first verse, then, which says God created the heavens and the earth? Were angelic beings created at this point? And how long did all of what God created exist before He started what we know as the six-day process?

Then there’s the fact that Scripture refers to God accomplishing various things on the first day, second day, third day, before He created the sun by which we measure time. So were these “days” simply a mark of completed activity, not to be taken literally as lasting 24 hours?

Then there’s the matter of Scripture stating that to God a day is as a thousand years. In other words, He’s beyond time. Could His creative day have been a thousand or a billion years?

These are questions we can speculate about, but there’s no place where we have the answers recorded for us.

Which, in the minds of some, opens up the whole creation process to the possibility of evolution. Some have opted for “theistic evolution” which suggests that God initiated the evolutionary chain of events. Few, it would seem, go so far as to believe in the common descent theory that says all of life evolved from one original source. One such idea is “the belief that God created a set of ‘kinds’ of plants and animals at the beginning of Creation” (Wikipedia) Most retain the uniqueness of man. The problem with this theory is a big one: evolution requires death and according to Scripture, death came into the world because of Man’s sin.

Of course, evolution has problems of its own, the greatest being the existence of anything before anything came into being! Then there is the mathematical improbability of random matter and energy coming together to create a “last universal ancestor”—or that first life. In addition there’s the problem of entropy—the thermodynamic law that suggests that order does not come from disorder. So the random convergence of matter and energy, even if possible, would not order itself into more and more complex forms with the intricate patterns we now know DNA to have.

Unless there were a Designer, a Creator, a guiding hand ordering what would not other wise be ordered.

Finally there’s the absence of “transitional forms between species”–fossil findings of evolving creatures who were in the process of changing from one species to another.

So here’s the summation of all this. None of us was present at creation. We either have to believe what atheists say about the random beginning of everything (trusting in theories based on some scientific observation while ignoring other known facts) or we have to believe the Biblical account with all its lack of clarity. Either way there are unanswerable questions.

I suspect at this point, some will say, Hey, better to be the guy who keeps his ideas to himself and doesn’t get caught up talking about something we can’t ever actually know (until Glory). But I’ll tell you, I think that’s why we are in the situation we’re in today, with public schools passing off evolutionary theory as if it is proven fact when it is not.

Yes, we know a species can evolve. It’s called micro-evolution. Take the honey bee here in the US, for example. When the more virulent African bee was accidentally introduced into the Americas, the honey bee population began to diminish and the African variety to become more dominant.

However, there still is no concrete proof of cross-species evolution. Some say the universal genetic code is such proof, but it isn’t. Because God created all, since we all come from the same mind, why should we think there wouldn’t be a commonality all share?

In fact, I think we’re approaching a crisis point. We have young men who have been steeped in evolutionary theory during their school years becoming pastors and youth ministers. What will they teach their congregation, their youth groups?

Here’s what we know about creation and it is sure: God created. We can dither about the way He chose to do so, but we must not question that He is the First Cause, the only One capable of bringing all life and existence into being because He is the I AM, the pre-existent One. The Bible makes no equivocation about this fact and neither should Christians.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)

That, my friends, is the truth about origins. It makes the discussion of Creation vital, not superfluous theological gobbledygook.

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (6)  
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