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Great Quote from Facebook

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a great status that I thought I’d steal–I mean, share:

Nothing is random in His Kingdom. Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, to those who love Him. Instead of trying to analyze the intricacies of the pattern, focus your energy on trusting Him and thanking Him at all times!

I try to keep things intellectual here at all times, but there’s something to be said for having a child-like faith that doesn’t need a complicated apologetic defense. The problem with most skeptics that I talk to is that they “psych themselves out,” so to speak.

They look at things like starving children in Africa, the candiru parasite, or anything else they don’t like about the world and conclude, “God didn’t make this. No good god would make a world like this one!” Well, there’s an apologetic defense for that (hint: it’s called “the Fall”), but why do I have to recite it? Yes, there are problems in the world. Making me (or any other Christian apologist) defend God against everything in the world that sucks is “analyzing the intricacies of the pattern.”

Instead, let’s trust God to work it out. The world as we know it is a giant Tower of Siloam. What did Jesus say to those trying to analyze the pattern?

Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Lk 13:4-5)

Focusing on minutia for which I readily admit that I don’t have an answer to is beside the point. Instead, let’s fix our eyes on God, who will work all of these things out for the good of his elect (Rom 8:28). This comes back to the real definition of faith: trust. Trust God to be who he has revealed himself to be in Scripture.

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Godthoughts Wired

Somehow, I started receiving a newsletter titled “Godthoughts Wired.” The e-mails act as though I had subscribed to it, but it is being sent to one of the side addresses that I don’t use for that purpose. So, I think that a spider crawling my expansive network of sites found it and subscribed me. I thought that the newsletter might be interesting, so I fished it out of my spam folder and decided to give it look.

The issue sent for October 21 raised an eyebrow. A lot of people in the religious right are going to great lengths to besmirch President Obama. It’s occasionally comical. I want to go on record first: I voted for Obama. I believed that he would do more to lead this nation out of its financial crisis than McCain would have. I’m still waiting. At this point, I’m probably not going to vote for re-election. The problem is that the Republicans seldom put up a candidate worth voting for. I’m usually trying to decide between the lesser of the two evils. But in this case, I really believed what Obama was saying. I really thought that he’d be the leader who pulled us out of this economic sinkhole. And, I looked forward to laughing at my fellow churchgoers who doubted that he could do that, all of whom were proudly displaying “McCain/Palin” yard signs and bumper stickers that they got from our church.

I just want everyone to understand this background. I was pro-Obama, and now I’m not so sure. He really hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promises. Go after him on those grounds. But what the Godthoughts Wired e-mail did was a bit different.

They say:

In 2009 a London reporter asked Barak Obama the following question, “Could I ask whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of ‘American Exceptionalism’ that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world?”

Obama answered, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

Okay, Obama is being a politician and giving a political answer that isn’t really an answer. That’s typical. I hate it. I wish that more reporters would call politicians out on this crap, but that’s another article entirely. Godthoughts continued:

Hmmm…Any honest assessment of the history of the founding of the United States of America reveals that America was a country that once honored Christianity and the God of the Bible more than any country in the history of the earth. Thereby, the institutions of this nation rested upon the foundation of the Christian faith.

While I agree, despite numerous claims to the contrary, that the United States was founded on Christian principles (not necessarily as a safe haven solely for Christians, but as a place that allowed a free choice of religious worship–there’s a difference!), I’m not so sure I really see where this e-mail is going. Obama never denied American Exceptionalism. He just said that he figures (rightly) that other nations feel that they are also uniquely qualified to lead the world.

Because my bet here is that they are going to equate a denial of American Exceptionalism with a denial of Christianity. The letter concludes with these words from Pastor Brad (whoever that is):

To reject “American exceptionalism” is to reject the God who made America the most “exceptional” nation in the history of the world.

Yep, there it is. So, Obama’s words are twisted to mean that he denies American Exceptionalism, and that is twisted into a denial of Christianity.

There is plenty that you can attack Obama for. Why manufacture something that just isn’t there? And what is the purpose of trying to prove that he isn’t a Christian? Or that he isn’t an American citizen?

End of rant. And I’ll be unsubscribing from that newsletter.

A Proud Moment in My Ministry

A user on the social bookmarking site Delicious.com has tagged my article defending the ordering of mass genocide in the Bible by God. His brief description of the article is: “Genocide. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! Infants?” (His Bible page is right here.)

That certainly refuted my article. I’d love to engage this guy, but I can’t find a way to contact him.

The Catch that Wasn’t

Normally, I only do apologetics posts here. But I’m really incensed by NFL’s week 1 fiascoe in Chicago that I’m posting on it.

No matter how many times I look at this, I only see an amazing catch–the game winning touchdown. Somehow, the NFL refs manage to see an incomplete pass. How is that?

ESPN.com picked Calvin Johnson as one of the 5...

Image via Wikipedia

You can clearly see that Johnson has both feet on the ground, in bounds. The ball has broken the plain, which should count for a touchdown. In every football league in the United States of America, it actually does count as a touchdown!

But not in the NFL.

As a side note, if he had caught that outside the end zone, and stumbled into the end zone, it would have been a touchdown. But because he caught it in the end zone, the horrible rule that it isn’t a rule (it’s a judicial interpretation of a rule, but not written anywhere in the rulebook) takes effect. Calvin Johnson must maintain control of the ball for the entire “process” of catching the ball. This “entire process” is whatever the ref says it is. That means that a beautiful touchdown play like this can be erased at the whim of the referee should he decide to erase it.
It’s frustrating as a Lions fan, because there hasn’t been much for us Lions fans to get excited about over the past few years. The Lions have been a terrible team any way you slice it. They have completely bombed out their defense with (I think I heard) seven new starters this season. Which is good, because they have been seriously lacking on defense.

But they’re seriously lacking on offense, too! They haven’t been able to field a decent quarterback. The coaches have all been disappointing, to say the least. Firing Matt Millen was probably the brightest spot of the last decade, given that most of this disappointment is his fault. Finally, I see this moment in a game I was sure was lost, and I got excited. Then, the ref called it incomplete. I yelled so loud my son cried for the next half hour inconsolably.

So the Lions enter week 2 as 0-1 when they should rightfully be 1-0. I guess I should expect no less from a team that consistently failed to deliver when they had Barry Sanders on their offense. However, it would be nice, if, every once in a while, the Lions would produce a WIN.

I’ll Never Understand This

Christopher Hitchens

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, it is time for me, once again, to put on my “naive religious person” hat and wonder why on earth people get offended over the stupidest things.

It has nothing to do with the recent decision to ban cross memorials for fallen state troopers in Utah because it allegedly is Christian proselytization forced on innocent motorists driving down the highway. That was a bit outrageous, and those judges should have their heads examined. The cross isn’t a Mormon symbol, and both the folks who erected the monuments and the troopers to whom the monuments were dedicated were Mormons. The cross has come to mean “grave marker” just as much as it symbolizes Christianity. For more information on that, see the related links below.

No, the subject of this post is one of far greater concern to me. Vjack of Atheist Revolution has written a post decrying prayers being offered for Christopher Hitchens’s recovery from cancer. He discusses why prayer, in this specific case, is offensive, then treats the broader issue of why prayer in general is offensive. Read the rest of this entry

As Promised . . .

In this post, I revised my previously negative opinion of Dave Armstrong and his ministry. In short, after following Dave’s blog for some time, I am now of the opinion that he is doing Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, a favor. He has started his promised series of posts on Christianity and its relationship to science, which I will be following with great interest.

Dave commented on my post:

I bear you no ill will at all and am happy to accept your apology. In fact, as soon as I can I’ll remove some old papers where we clashed, as a little “thank you” and reciprocal act.

To which I replied that I would also remove posts where we clashed. To that end, I did my best to follow through. I searched my blog for “Dave Armstrong” and either removed or revised the posts that resulted. There were posts specifically focusing on Dave. I removed them if they weren’t reasonable critiques or if they made fun of him. I revised posts that took unnecessary swipes at Dave, e.g. when he wasn’t the topic under consideration but I utilized an opportunity to make fun of him.

If I discover any other instances, I will promptly remove or revise those as well.

I pray that Dave’s ministry will continue to touch lives and advance the cause of God’s Kingdom on earth. We may have different ideologies, but I know that Dave and I have that as a common goal. Bickering among ourselves serves no purpose.

In Memorum: Clark Pinnock (1937-2010)

I really hadn’t read much of the work of Clark Pinnock, who was a defender of open theism, but I had always meant to get around to it (and to the work of John Sanders as well). I was familiar with Pinnock through my brief flirtation with open theism when I had first begun apologetics ministry back in 2006, but I was only passingly familiar with him. I know that he was a great thinker, as he pioneered a brand new systematic theology (however misguided that may have been).

His theology may have been wrong, but I think that it was constructed in the spirit of better defining the nature and person of God; trying to tear down some of the mystery surrounding the divine. That’s a noble goal.

His work survives, so I hope to still read some of his books. May he rest in peace, and may he delight in the presence of the God he endeavored to serve.

Market Research

The economy is tanking, and my family (like everyone else’s, I know) is suffering alongside. This blog and all content therein is (and will remain) free. The upkeep (domain name) is not free, however. This means that I am devoting a significant portion of my time to writing and maintaining fresh content on a resource from which I derive no income and actually costs me a nominal amount of money annually to maintain.

In order to keep doing this, I must generate at least some revenue from this venture. Although I have set up a way to receive donations, which has generated some interest, no donations are coming in. After careful consideration, I have decided that producing e-books is the best way to continue this ministry.

That does not mean that I’m shutting down the blog or that I will begin to charge for reading it. Far from. I will continue to update the blog, hopefully as much (or more) as I already do. I want this resource to remain free.

However, I would like to produce e-books in addition to what I’m already doing here. These e-books will both be original as well as expansions of past articles. I have numerous ideas, but I need to focus my efforts where they will do the most good. As such, I have constructed a poll. What follows are all of my ideas for e-books so far. I would like you, the reader, to vote on the ones that you would be most interested in reading.

If you have any questions, send me an e-mail or comment below for all to see.

Revising Opinions of People

Sometimes, first impressions are not always right. I did something that I usually don’t do in regard to people in the course of writing this blog: I let the opinions of others unduly influence my opinion of another blogger. I generally ignore what other people say about a person I’ve just met and form my own opinion. But I never did that with a particular individual that I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune?) of encountering in the past.

The individual of which I speak is Dave Armstrong. I have said of Dave:

Words in English are precise, and are chosen to convey something specific. No convergence was ever meant or implied between the words “vicar” and “disciple.” Dave needs to head to the book store and get himself a copy of On Writing Well by William Zinsser and carefully read the chapters on Simplicity, Clutter, and Words before he constructs his next “paper.” (source)

This pretty much summed up the position I held about Dave. I thought (and still do, in some respects) that his blog posts are unnecessarily long. Conventional wisdom says that a blog post should run 200 to 500 words. After that, your audience tends to lose interest.

However, I’m not one to talk. My posts can reach 1100 words or better on a regular basis. I think that when a person blogs about philosophy or theology, it requires more words than the average blogger since the average reader isn’t as studied in the background of such posts. Therefore, the blogger has to lay the groundwork for why he (or she) thinks what he (or she) does.

That said, I’ve recently started to take a liking to many of Dave’s recent posts. He disagreed with an atheist on YouTube (beginning of series) and constructed a post about the top 10 atheist arguments. He also has a project in the works about Christianity and modern science, trying to explode the atheistic myths that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of science. More recently, he commented on Anne Rice’s deconversion from Christianity. In that post, Dave said something that I agree with in spirit, though being a Protestant I would understand “Christian authority” differently than Dave:

There are serious lessons to be learned here: along the lines of having an informed, reasonable faith (complete with apologetic knowledge as necessary), and of yielding up our private judgment and personal inclinations to a God and a Church much higher than ourselves. Faith comes ultimately by God’s grace and His grace alone: not our own semi-understandings. Christianity is not “blind faith”; it is a reasonable faith. But there is such a thing as allegiance and obedience to Christian authority, too.

This is rather similar to my expressed sentiments here. I state emphatically that I don’t question Rice’s salvation, for that (as Dave aptly expresses) is a gift from God resting solely on faith in Christ. Rice still expresses faith in Christ; she just refuses to be bound by some of the strictures of doctrine (e.g. being against homosexuality, birth control, feminism, and Democrats). What I question is Anne Rice’s sanctification: whether she has submitted to the authority of God expressed in Scripture. That is something that she must wrestle with, and I pray that God can show her the error of her ways.

In sum, my opinion of Dave has changed drastically. Dave is a capable writer and meticulous researcher. I was very wrong in my initial impressions of him, and for that I apologize.

Mark Shea Has It Right

For someone who disagrees with much doctrine and practice within the Catholic Church, I’m starting to find some common ground with its apologists. Dave Armstrong’s recent critique of the atheist interpretation of Scripture (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5), for example. I’ve found another one that I agree with over at Mark Shea’s blog.

Steve Wohlberg, one of the leading proponents of the eschatological interpretation known as historicism, has written a book called The Trouble with Twilight, and launched a website to promote the material. Mark Shea talks about how both Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling received ideas for their respective fiction from “visions.” Then the novels basically wrote themselves. Wohlberg continues:

When those mesmerizing tales first burst into the brains of these two women, neither was an established writer. Both were novices. They weren’t rich either. Now they are millionaires many times over. Their experiences are similar, with common threads. Both of their novels are permeated with occultism. Based on this, it’s appropriate to wonder, is there a supernatural source behind these revelations? If so, what is it?

I looked through a lot of online material about Steve Wohlberg. I can find no evidence that he’s ever wrote fiction. I have. I’ve written fiction for classwork in high school (which always received high marks). Out of high school I wrote two unpublished stories and started (but never finished) two others centering on a high school freshman who becomes a vigilante hero in the tradition of Batman. I tried my hand (but never finished) fan fiction, an untitled crossover between the TV shows Quantum Leap and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Maybe one day I’ll finish that story. Prior to my conversion to Christianity, I wrote three erotic stories under two different pseudonyms (I’m not linking to them, but you can find them if you know what to search on; I won’t deny authorship if you come up with the right stories).

My point is that I have written, and can write, fiction. I’m familiar with the process. Wohlberg obviously is not.

When writing fiction, if the characters are well-defined, the story shapes itself. It’s like I become a reporter, merely relaying the actions of my characters to the audience through words on a page. For all the fiction I’ve written (yes, even the erotic fiction), the action took place almost before my eyes, and I just wrote what I saw. Characters have a way of taking on a life of their very own, whether they are occultic or normal, whether they are integral to the story or just a side character that appears in a single scene.

For this reason, most of the fiction workshops found in Writer’s Digest magazine focus on developing compelling characters. Once the characters have been developed, the rest usually takes care of itself.