Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sir John Polkinghorn on Theism

"...I do believe that theism explains more than atheism ever can. I believe that those who with honesty and openness are seeking understanding through and through, are actually seeking God whether they name the divine by name or not. Oddly enough, some of the questions that religion answers are ones that arise from science itself. They're not scientific questions in themselves, those questions we can safely leave to science to answer, but they are what philosophers call meta questions, questions which go beyond that from which they started.

And I've just time for one of them. It's this: Why is science possible at all? Why can we understand the physical world so profoundly? Not just the everyday world, which of course we've got to understand in order to survive in it, but, say, that strange quantum world of sub-atomic particles, cloudy and fitful in their behaviour, totally different from the world of everyday experience. Or at the other end of the scale of things, the vast world of curved cosmic space. Our human powers of understanding are very profound. It puzzled Einstein that this was so. You may remember, he once said, 'The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' So why is science possible on this grand scale? Physics explores a universe of great rational beauty that is also rationally transparent to us. Physics is happy to do so, but of course by itself, it is unable to explain its good fortune in being able to do it. I think that the physical world is shot through with signs of mind because there is indeed a divine capital-M Mind behind its wonderful order. "

Sir John Polkinghorn
Former President of Queen's College,
Cambridge University

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why I am not an Atheist

While it is true that I was raised in a nominally christian home, I didn't come to faith in God until I was 18 and out of the house. My experience with God was not a rational one- by that I mean I did not philosophize myself to faith- but rather it was a subjective experience with God. While I realize that there are numbers of people who believe in God and haven't had the benefit of a "crisis experience" it does not diminish my own experiences and belief.

I won't bore you with the anecdotal story except to say that I do not hold to a vision of God that is removed and distant but one in which he is personally close and imminant.That he responds, in biblical fashion, to the prayers of those who love him. But surely there are those who haven't experienced my experience. When they (aggressively these days!) try to attack my belief system I give them some of the following reasons why I could never be converted to atheism.

#1 Atheism is unnatural. All men are religious creatures. Cultures all over the planet have gods. There gods might be different than my God, but they represent the inherent nature of man's quest for truth, meaning and significance. This can be seen even in the scientists who argue for a strictly rational view. For instance, in Carl Sagan's anthropomorphisms. (An anthropomorphism is when we speak of an inanimate object as though it carried the character of a human being.) While some paint that as innocent nuance of language- I would argue that this is provoked by the innate personality of the universe. Since all mankind was created with that inborn hunger to know God (though men settle for desperate substitutes) it stands to reason that we were designed that way.

#2 Complexity. I simply do not have the faith necessary to believe that all that is came together without divine direction. I may not speak authoritatively on HOW creation happened but I am convinced that the guiding hand of God was in the mix. To believe otherwise is impossible for me. If I gave you a 36x12X24 inch box and filled it with screws and parts- hundreds of them- how many times would it have to be shaken before they assembled themselves into a DVD player? Similarly the complexity of the human machine is WAY more complicated and Infinitely more advanced than a DVD Player.

#3 Morality. The Atheist has no basis for his morality. That is not to say that I am only moral because I know that I will face an eternal judge someday. What I mean is that the definition of what is right and wrong is woven into the fabric of mankind. And, while the conscience can be seared, most of us know that stealing is wrong, that murder is a crime, that rape is not acceptable behavior, that genocidal killings are a bad idea, etc. The atheist has to find a pragmatic reason to refrain from stealing my bread when he is hungry. He may justify in his mind that I have much and he has none, or that mine is better than his stale crust. But in the long run there is not a compelling reason not to steal my bread. But faith in God implies that I am not to reduce myself to the worth of a loaf of bread. That there exists another avenue of supply- that the universe is not closed but open to various possibilities, among them hard work!, that will provide me with bread.

#4 History. Christians are responsible for building hospitals, for changing the penal system to include reform rather than punishment, mandatory education,for medical research grants,etc. Who are the famous Atheists you know? Marx, Neitzche, Stalin, Hitler, Gengis Khan, Mao? They have left a trail of bloodshed and genocide. (often they proclaimed equality or genuine concern when really they were living luxurious lifestyles) If the argument is that atheists don't have to be bad I probably agree. But that might not make them good, consistant atheists. Who would you rather have running the universe a consistant follower of the teachings of Jesus or a consistant atheist?

#5 Evil. Its existance becomes increasingly undeniable. Evil is the absence of good. Brain chemistry, poor socialization, psychological formation, etc cannot alone explain why some love their neighbor and others rape, murder and bury them in their back yard.

#6 Jesus. The highest and most noble teacher of mankind. His historicity is undeniable (even by the harshest critics) and his influence is even more clearly seen. His followers have sometimes represented him poorly. But writing off Christianity based upon that would be like judging the validity of a brilliant professor's teaching by asking questions of a pot smoking drop out from one of his courses.

So I will attempt to represent (imperfectly to be sure) the God who loved the world enough to send his Son to die for them. And while it would be nice at times not to care about those dying in Peruvian earthquakes, those abusers of children, and those destroying their lives on crack cocaine-I can't simply write it off as natural selection. I have to believe- and therefore- I have to try to make a difference.



Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Accomodate Islam?

TWe are seeing a continual capitulation to Islam by our Universities. University of Michigan at Dearborn has installed footbaths so that Muslim students can wash before the there prescribed prayer events 5 times daily. Hmmm no church and state seperation for these federal funds? Boston University, Cal State-Fullerton, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Washington University at St. Louis all have installed them as well.

At a time when Christianity is being vilified in the US the ACLU is silent regarding the expenditures above. What is the church to do?

1. We need to become the kind of people who embody faith in our living. It is simply impossible to combat the faith lived out. Without vitriole or hatred of anyone we simply need to live for Christ.

2. We need to be vocal about the hypocrisy of institutions like the ACLU and the questionable expenditures by our schools.

It is the will of God that all those who follow the false revelations of Mohammed come to Christ. Let us pray that the power of Christ will break the veil off of the eyes of these unbeleivers (2 Cor. 4.4). In my estimation praying against Islams darkness is the only accomodation that we should involve ourselves in.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Real Repentance by RH Boll

There are many who will half-way repent. They come across--almost, not wholly. Something rouses them out of their sinful slumber--they are troubled--they feel the pangs of conscience and become alarmed--they make good resolutions; then relapse into their old ways. Now repentance, to be worth anything, must be real. God's call is to "break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns." Your salvation is at stake in this matter. When you really turn, when you really come, your God stands ready to receive you. Yea, He will see you when you are yet a great way off, and run to meet you.

The marks of a true repentance are simple and unmistakable. 1. As, to purpose of heart--there is a clean returning from sin and idols unto God; without if or but, without compromise or mental reservation. There may or may not be a show of tears or sorrow for "godly sorrow worketh repentance not to be repented of"; but the essence of true repentance lies in the turning. All the sorrow in the world is worthless if it does not lead to turning; and if a man turns he need not worry about the sorrow.

2. Repentance is always humble; so much so that the two things (repentance and humbling) are spoken of interchangeably. "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me; I will not bring the evil upon him in his days." It is pride that prevents men from acknowledging their sins, and from turning openly and wholeheartedly to God. And pride and repentance cannot be in the same heart. But a broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise.

3. A truly repenting man never makes excuses or tries to justify himself. If there are mitigating circumstances God will plead them for you. But your confession must be excuseless. In the parable of the Prodigal Son we have a wonderful picture of simple and genuine repentance. When the Prodigal in the far country "came to himself" he said, "How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger: I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight; I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." And thus, with that honest and excuseless confession upon his lips he came to his father. Imagine what it would have been if he had said, "Father, you know how young folks are--you were young yourself once; and like most young fellows I was rash and foolish, but I didn't mean any harm," etc. That would have been the best proof of a false and insincere repentance. But he came not so. He told the simple truth (and God is ever looking for truth in the inward parts) and stated the case as it was. And there was a welcome for him, and the best robe, and a joyful feast in the father's home--for "there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

4. True repentance will make full restoration, where restoration can be made. "Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor," said Zaccheus the publican, overcome by Christ's loving condescension toward him--"and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man I restore fourfold." Instantly the Lord Jesus acknowledged the man's action and attitude, and said, "Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost." (Luke 19:9, 10.) There are, alas, many sins and wrongs for which no reparation can be made. But where it is possible true repentance will always make it. If you have slandered your fellow-man, fear not to correct the false statement you have made about him, lest you should be looked on as a liar in the sight of men. It is better to save your soul than to save your face. If you have stolen or defrauded, return what you have wrongfully taken; and don't stand back on what people will think. There are far worse things than man's reproach. And those who have done so will tell you how greatly it pays in joy and inward peace and deep satisfaction.

5. True repentance, moreover, is always unto God. Paul preached "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Since all sin is sin against God, repentance must be toward God. It will not do to say, "I am going to turn over a new leaf--I will quit my evil habits, and be a better man," as often we hear people say. That is not repentance. If the Prodigal Son in the far country had said--"I see I have made a mess of things; I will now try to retrieve myself, and go here or there or yonder, and start life over again"--that would not have been a picture of repentance. Some of the proudest self-will and fiercest rebellion against God wears the guise of moral reform. But it was from his father that he had departed; against his father's love he had sinned; back to his father he must go with humble confession. Says the prophet of God, "Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6, 7.) It is not only that to God you must return, but with Him only can you find mercy, forgiveness, help, sustenance, and the enabling to a new and worthy life.

Well said!