Thursday, March 26, 2009

Evolution and Evangelism

Evolution is a secondary issue

1. Evolution and naturalism are not the same thing
Belief in evolution as a process is very different from the all encompassing worldview of naturalism.

2. Understanding a process does not remove God
The sovereignty of God means that we can explain in great detail how something happens and still believe that it is from God's hand. We can explain how the water cycle works and still say that God sends the rain on both the righteous and the wicked. It is a false dichotomy to say 'either God did it or it happened by an explainable process'.

3. It is legitimate to reconsider our understanding of scripture in the light of scientific discoveries
The word of God and objective reality will never be in disagreement. However we deal with our understanding of scripture and our understanding of reality. When those two disagree it is right to revaluate both. Their study should be conducted in dialogue.

4. It is possible to believe the Bible and evolution
We should accept that it is possible to read Genesis in a way that does allow the possibility of evolution as the way God created. There are godly men and women who submit to God's word, believe it whole heartedly and believe in evolution.

Implications for evangelism

1. Someone does not need to stop believing in evolution to become a Christian

2. Trying to argue against evolution can be a big hindrance
Belief in evolution is so ingrained for so many people that to speak out against it, no matter how good our arguments, will often cause people to write us off.

3. Naturalism is worth arguing against
This is a battle that is worth fighting and needs fighting. Good arguments can be used from science (creation out of nothing and by design), from philosophy (the internal incoherence of naturalism) and from experience (the impossibility of living consistently with naturalism).

4. What we really want to focus on is the gospel of Jesus Christ

5. Good apologetics helps us get there
Apologetics will answer the objections, challenge the wrong ideas and give reasons to believe the gospel. The goal of apologetics is to confront people with the Lordship of Jesus Christ and ask whether they will bow the knee before him.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Technology and the future

Check out this amazing video about the progression of technology and the way the world is changing here.

What does it all mean?

"From one man [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." Acts 17:26-27 (TNIV).

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (TNIV).

"The LORD works out everything to its proper end - even the wicked for a day of disaster." Proverbs 16:4 (TNIV)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

500 years of western thought in 6 diagrams

These are some diagrams I developed to help explain the development of western thought over the last 500 years (drawing mainly from "The Universe Next Door" by James Sire). 'G' stands for God and the crown represents his rule. The circle represents the cosmos and the stick man represents us.

Theism - God is creator, ruler and sustainer. All knowledge comes from him. We are valuable because we are made in his image.

Deism - as science explained more and more, there seemed less need for God. He became the one who wound the universe up but now leaves it run its own course. His crown is gone. He's no longer ruler and sustainer.

Naturalism - if God is now so irrelevant and science can explain more and more, the next logical step is to get rid of God all together. We still have value because we are highly evolved. We can know through our logic and science.

Nihilism - God is dead but that means we must be the product of matter plus time plus chance. Evolution and the appearance of personality is just a cosmic blip. We are nothing, no more significant or valuable than a stone, slug or star. All distinctions between the cosmos and people have gone and we can have no confidence in our knowledge.

Existentialism - the despair of Nihilism is unliveable and we must rise above it. The objective harsh reality is that we have no value. So we draw a circle around ourselves and create subjective value within. The subjective is what matters and I will live as if I have value because I choose to.

Postmodernism - 6 billion people all viewing life from their circles - who can claim to have access to objective reality? And can language communicate about it anyway? The objective is gone, not just irrelevant but unknowable. All that's left is us and if you look closely you might see the crown over each of our heads.

Friday, October 31, 2008

10 rules for godly men

  1. We will willingly accept leadership, responsibility and commitment
  2. We will be courageous initiators, protectors and warriors
  3. We will expose and resist the feminisation of our culture and gender
  4. We will uphold and value feminine characteristics and virtues in women
  5. We will not apologise for being men
  6. We will fight for the truth and refute error
  7. We will serve with love, gentleness and passion
  8. We will spur our brothers on to be godly men
  9. We will work hard for the glory of God
  10. We will be men of steadfast faithfulness, purity and discipline
These came out of a discussion about reclaiming biblical manhood. Inspiring stuff but tough to live out. Slightly easier, but also important is a final rule:

11. We will have meaty discussions about meaty subjects whilst eating meaty sandwiches

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Possessed by God

"Possessed by God" by David Peterson examines the Bible's teaching on sanctification and holiness. His most striking conclusion is that the way we use the word 'sanctification' is far removed from the NT use of the word. We think of sanctification as a process of growth in the Christian life. However, in the NT it is something that happens at conversion. To the church in Corinth Paul says "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:11, TNIV). They were sanctified when they were justified. They were set apart to be holy, to belong to God. Throughout the NT Christians are described as saints, or God's holy ones, that is who we are and how we should think of ourselves.

All this doesn't mean that we aren't to be growing and made more like Jesus. Rather it means that the process of transformation should be described in other language such as glorification, mortification, growth, etc. rather than speaking of sanctification.

Its also hugely encouraging as we see that the holy lives we are called to live now is a call to be who we already are in Christ. If Paul could say to the church in Corinth with all their faults 'you were sanctified', what an encouragement it is to us when we're struggling and see little growth in ourselves that we have already been sanctified. We are still God's holy children even when we're failing to live out that holy calling.

At a more popular level, "You Can Change" by Tim Chester draws on this view of what it means to live holy lives and offers practical, theologically grounded help as we battle against sin. A good book to work through in pairs or groups.

One other aspect that was also particularly striking in "Possessed by God" was the corporate nature of this sanctification. Its together as God's people that we've been set apart and as God's people that we now must grow together. Growing in love isn't something you can do on your own. It as we grow together that the purity of Christ's bride is displayed. But how do we change the way we think, to reflect this corporate view of growth? How can we see progress in the faith not primarily about me and God but about us as a church growing together up into Christ?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Naming the Elephant

'Naming the Elephant' by James Sire focuses on the concept of worldview. Sire has done lots of work on this previously and is author of 'The Universe Next Door'. In this book he reviews and modifies his previous definition and understanding of what a worldview is.

Some helpful insights...

  • The way you conceive of a worldview is in itself influenced by your own worldview

  • It is necessary to start with ontology (the nature of being) rather than epistemology (how we know things) in formulating our worldview - the triune God is the proper starting point for all thought.

  • Worldviews can be expressed in propositional statements but also in stories.

  • To understand someone's worldview you look at how they live, not simply what they say they believe. All of us live inconsistently with what we say we believe. Every time we fail to trust God or sin in any way, we are living in consistently with our professed Christian worldview.

His final, revised definition of a worldview is as follows...

A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true of entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” James Sire, Naming the Elephant, p122

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chaos theory and the sovereignty of God

Chaos theory is all about extreme sensitivity to initial conditions - change the initial conditions a tiny bit and the final implications are huge. The classic example is a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and a week later there's a hurricane in the Atlantic. The event is chaotic in the sense that it is unpredictable and we cannot know all the factors that led to the event. When huricanes do occur, no-one tries to find the butterfly that's responsible!

The possibilities of these sorts of events in human spheres is well demonstrated by the film 'Sliding Doors'. There, one small decision to move a child out of the way of someone in a hurry, or not to move the child, causes that person's life to head off in two very different directions. Who knows how many seemingly small decisions we have made have eventually made sizeable differences to our lives or the lives of others?

Well, God does. Chaos theory helps us to understand why God must be sovereign not just over big events or decisions but over absolutely everything that happens, from the flapping of a butterfly's wings to my choice of toothbrush. There is simply no way of us knowing the eventual impact of these seemingly insignificant events and choices. God rules history today, not primarily by suddenly intervening in dramatic ways (though he may do that) but rather by his providential ruling over even the smallest of things. In this way God works all things for the good of those who love him, that his church is built and the earth filled with His glory.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Law and Gospel - tentative conclusions

Have just finished reading 'Five views on Law and Gospel'. I think the strongest case is for the Modified Lutheran view as advocated by Douglas Moo.

In short, this view sees the law of Moses as fulfilled in Christ such that Christians are no longer under obligations to the law of Moses. We are now under the law of Christ. This may include much found in the law of Moses, but we find what we are to obey based on the NT, not directly from the law of Moses. The law of Moses was a temporary administration to lead Israel to Christ. Now fulfilled in Christ, we're no longer under its condemnation, administration or demands.

Views that advocate continued obligation to the law of Moses seem to rely heavily on dividing the law into moral, civil and ceremonial, e.g. reading certain key texts as speaking of only certain parts of the law. Whilst its possible to see some of these divisions in the law, the law itself seems to mix and integrate these strands together. In the NT this division doesn't seem to appear at all, instead the law is conceived of as a unity.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Social Action - just do it!

The last in our series on social action - 8 suggestions for exercising social action:
  1. Begin locally
  2. Look further afield
  3. Always keep as your greater aim the glory of God
  4. On more complex issues, get informed
  5. Consider specialising
  6. Recognise the variety of gifts and circumstances among the church family
  7. Live your lives openly
  8. Go ahead and do it!
And some helpful websites to help keep us informed of issues:
  1. Christian Concern for Our Nation
  2. The Christian Institute
  3. Lawyers Christian Fellowship
  4. UCCF: Bethinking
  5. Centre for Apologetic Scholarship and Education

Monday, July 7, 2008

Social Action & Evangelism

At church yesterday morning we were looking at the relationship between evangelism and social action. Central to clarifying the relationship was the idea that social action is part of our godliness. Godliness and evangelism don't compete, both are essential to the Christian life.

Then there were 5 main points about the relationship between social action and evangelism...

  1. Social action is not evangelism
  2. Social action may faciliate evangelism but not always
  3. Social action is not needed in order to justify evangelism
  4. Social action is not merely a means to an evangelistic end
  5. Evangelism will result in social action
Helpful stuff. More to follow at church, looking forward to it!