Thursday, January 7, 2010

Necessary Evil: An Apologetic for Choice

Necessary Evil: An Apologetic for Choice

I’m sure you’ve encountered folks who are sorely disillusioned with God, the Church, and Christians. Even though I’m well acquainted with all three groups of people, I want to examine the concerns of that first group today—those who are disillusioned with the God of Christianity. These people often have one driving complaint: if God exists and He is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does He allow bad stuff to happen to good people? It’s a legitimate question, and if you’ve ever dealt with a personal tragedy or watched someone you love suffer through one, then you most assuredly have asked this question. Now I’m no great theologian, and so this will not be a rumination or pontification on the nature of evil or any of those deep and profound questions that you would explore in a systematic theology course. Instead I want to share a simple but basic truth that has helped me to reconcile the seeming contradiction between what, for me, are factual truths: the existence of an all-good, -powerful, -knowing, God and an earth-shattering, soul-disturbing evil. Man is not capable of loving God without free will, and where free will exists, evil must also exist. Love cannot be produced through coercion. It can only come through an act of will in the context of choice. But where choice exists, opposites must also exist. If I will love, I must have the ability to hate. If I will do good, I must have the ability to do evil. If I will live, I must have the ability to die.
In the garden of Eden, God put Adam there and gave him a specific instruction, “you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Genesis 2: 16-17, ESV] Notice that God told Adam that he could eat from any tree in the garden. But it behooved his very life not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave Adam a choice, and not only did He give him a choice, but Adam was also fully informed of the consequences. If only we could all be so lucky in this day and time! Even here, I hear naysayers saying, “it’s a rigged choice. How is it fair that if you don’t choose God, you must die? Surely, that isn’t a choice. It’s coercion, dressed up as choice.” Okay, I concede from the outset that it’s a rigged choice, but let me qualify that. By making a choice, Adam locks himself into a particular set of consequences, most assuredly. But is this not the nature of choice? In what world do you live, where you get to choose both your choices and their consequences? We tell our children, “touch a hot stove, and you will get burned.” We don’t wrangle with them over whether or not it is fair that the nature of fire is to burn. We tell them, “get an education, so you can be successful.” We don’t generally debate the merits of having a skilled job market, which requires education and training. So why, in spiritual matters, do we decide that it is our prerogative to challenge God, the Creator of the universe on the fairness and justness of His consequences?
Here is an even more basic truth. Not choosing God is death is because God is life. The grand deception in the Garden what that Adam and Eve thought they could know more without God, than with Him. And that is a profound mistake. They traded a pure knowledge of the good, the beautiful, and the true, which they already had with God, for the supposedly greater knowledge of good and evil. They fell victim to a master deceiver who made them believe that there really is something to live for outside the fellowship of God who is life and love and freedom. We, too, fall victim to this kind of thinking, and it entraps and ensnares us in an endless quest and search for knowledge, love, and freedom, which can only be found in the Source of those things.
Now, the next thing I’m going to say is going to mess with some of you, but it was the inspiration for this piece, so I’m gonna write it. The ability to choose is so integral to our ability to love God that I am a radical believer in choice, not only in spiritual matters, but social ones as well. Many of the most seasoned champions of the faith, pastors, apologists, and theologians, think that Christian integrity demands allegiance to conservative political values. I disagree. On the issue of abortion, I am pro-choice. Here’s why. In the garden, when God placed Adam there and gave him that little speech about the two trees, God knew full well what was at stake and what Adam and Eve would choose. So God could simply have not put the other tree there, but in His omniscience, God understood that any love Adam had to offer would be illegitimate if it did not occur in the context of free choice. It is in choosing to love that our love has integrity. Now God was not only love but life. And even in the garden, in Eden, where Adam experienced perfection, walked and talked with God, named animals, and saw boundless beauty, God left it to Adam to choose his own life, knowing full well that Adam and Eve would choose death. If God gives us choice about eternal matters, namely the future existence of our souls, surely He gives us choice in temporal matters, namely what we do with our bodies. Some critics may be saying, “but abortion gives women the choice not just over their lives but over the life of a baby.” The fall didn’t happen until Adam ate, and when he ate, not only did he get a death sentence, but the entire creation did, too, and mankind forever after. Make no mistake: God was pro-choice, and He told Adam “choose life.” I am fundamentally pro-choice, and I staunchly, unapologetically, choose life. What’s my point? You can believe in the right to choose and still fundamentally believe that what a person has chosen is not right.
By giving Adam a choice in the Garden, and informing Him of the consequences, God stayed true to His nature, in which there is no deceit. Just as God knew full well the consequences of making man and chose to do it anyway, Adam knew full well the consequences of his choices, too. God gave fully of himself, because that is how love acts. The existence of evil in no way negates the existence of God. Here in brief, let me explain my view of evil: God did not create evil. Rather evil is a perversion of what is good. In Christendom, we believe that Lucifer was an angel, but he had free choice and he chose to try to overthrow God, hence perverting God’s original good purpose for him, and instantiating evil. The next time you encounter evil, rob it of its power to deceive, by situating it within the context of your power to choose what is good, beautiful, and true. Hopefully, for you, as for me, that is God.

Written by Dr. Brittney Cooper (Contributing Editor of Apologetics & More)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Role of The Laity

Role Of The Laity

We can understand the role of the Church as demonstrating and spreading the kingdom of God. However, when we understand it from this point we run into one major problem. Whose job is it?

Somewhere between A.D. 33 and the present, “minister” moved both grammatically and theologically from a verb (a thing done) to a noun (a person doing it). What was originally a function of the church became a station in the Church. Paul’s letter to Ephesus is the best illustration of this Ephesians 4

Lay Ministry In The Church:
1. Jesus valued the laity.
2. The Apostle focused on lay leadership.

Clement of Rome was the first to use the term lay man. He taught that the laity should always be the focal point of ministry.

Spiritual motivations: motivation is more important than method. Given the proper motivation, the church will discover valid methods and means for accomplishing its mission. The most important task of the church is to link god with human life, and human life with God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

People priority- the gospel was meant for people, and the church’s ministry was divinely ordained to serve people. Jesus ministry was people –centered. Everything Jesus did had the object of aiding and bettering some person’s life. Good administration is not the psychological manipulation of people with a view to reaching statistical objectives. Good administration should be related to the spiritual growth of people

Ministry of the Laity

Part of our work, to a very large degree, involves interacting with and serving the members of our congregation. Therefore, we need a true theology of the laity.

The Bible affirms the “priesthood of the believer” which asserts that every member of the church is directly responsible to Christ, who is the “head of the Church

The term “layman” is used to distinguish the role of other church members from the role of the pastor and staff as a non-vocational ministry, nothing more, and nothing less.

The layman has become the reserve force in many churches. The doctrine of the “universal church” and an emphasis on the principles of Ephesians 4 need renewed emphasis in some church situations. Every Christian should claim the ministry of Christ as their own as their “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1)

Historical Insights Regarding the Laity

The book of Acts reveals that the entire congregation performed the ministry of the early church. In a sense, all members of the early church were layman, and all were ministers (servants, diaconoi) of the Lord. The designators of “clergy” and “laity” were foreign in the early church. The distinction began when the church began the process of “institutionalizing”. The leadership of the church culminated in monarchial episcopacy. During the middle ages all ceremonial functions were reserved for the clergy, as it became a sacerdotal office.

The Protestant Reformation renewed the principle of the “priesthood of the believer”. As a result the importance of the laity was once again recognized. In fact, the laity who had revolted against the corrupt practices of the clergy led many of the reform efforts leading to the Reformation. Many of monastic movements were composed largely by laymen who desired to leave dedicate lives, uncorrupted by the world.

The Layman and the Church

Laymen need to take their responsibility for ministerial service seriously. The great burden of the pastor and staff is in motivating members to actively involve themselves in real, vital ministry for the church. If this is to happen, laymen must interpret their work in light of the “big picture” of the Kingdome of God and within the Christian community as a whole. He or she must understand that their work is part of a great calling.

Laymen should seek for ways of expressing and utilizing the spiritual giftedness provided by the Lord.

Laymen are the church’s best representatives to the world because they are out in it each and every day because of work, shopping, community involvement, etc. Through the laity there should exist an uninterrupted dialogue between the church and the world.

Christian Education For The Laymen: 2 Peter 3:17-18
When you look at the number of schools, books, computer software and other resources that we have available to us it seems almost impossible for the church to have a large abundance of biblical illiterates.
God’s people are led astray sometimes by the error of the wicked and sometimes by the error of God’s own leaders. Every Christian should be a theologian, not in a technical sense, but in the sense of straight thinking about vital truths.
If Christianity is to be a dynamic in society, it must have a responsible churchmanship. Instead of enjoying little bits of theological expertise of the clergy, “laymen must cultivate a theological outlook on the world

One of the problems within the laity is that we have loads of good intentions… but good intentions are not good enough. What happens is that there is a great disparity between our knowledge and our inspiration.

An informed people are a confident people. Theological concern on the part of laymen would strengthen the work of the minister.

Becoming: John 1:12
The Christian has an amazing privilege; we have the right to become children of God. The Christian life begins with believing and it continues with becoming. However becoming what God expects is costly business. There is no magic in becoming an effective layman. Such a commitment of life has to be cultivated with persistent care. Christian Growth is a continuous process of education and discipline.

No Christian can grow unless he reads. Franklin Segler states,” The problem is not a lack of literacy but waste of literacy.” Giving the numerous opportunities we have here for learning it seems that we take what is a blessing for granted. The true layman fails to honor God when he/she refuses to educate themselves.

Anything that doesn’t will inevitably deteriorate.
Things about while on their jobs…

Franklin Segler The Christian Layman Broadman Press 1964 Nashville Tenn

The Laity and Their Leisure:
The word “leisure” in the Greek is the word “schola” from which we derive our word “school.” This word evolved into our English language from the French “leiser” which means to be permitted. We have transformed the meaning of leisure time.

We have abdicated the control of our leisure time to external forces. We kill time or fill it with second jobs, creature pleasures, adult toys, and assorted time-waisters.

For the Christian, however, time and its stewardship must be viewed from a different perspective. How many have given their life to Christ? Now we say we have given our life to Christ, but what is our life? Our life is time! We view it this way; our life is in His hands but not always our time. I am not advocating that all of your time be spent in prayer or involved in ministry. David Haney, in his book, the idea of the laity, states that the most Christ like use of some free time often is absolute idleness. Jesus often wither drew from the crowds just to rest, and many times He urged His disciples to do the same. A much-needed investment of leisure time is being alone with yourself. When you really think about, how often are you alone? I am talking about when you are not turning on the radio, flipping on the TV or grabbing a book.

As a layman… the problem is not time…it is better management of our time.

The Value of Pi Value of Pi π

Value of Pi

“The problem is that π is an irrational number. That is a mathematical term which means that it cannot be expressed as a fraction. If God were to give the actual values, the Bible, as a book, would need an infinite number of pages just to write down the diameter or the circumference. Clearly, this is not practical.”

What is pi?

Mathematician: Pi is the number expressing the relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. Physicist: Pi is 3.1415927 plus or minus 0.000000005.
Engineer: Pi is about 3.
1 Kings 7:23 says nothing about the theoretical value of pi. It just states that a line of thirty cubits went around a ten cubit vessel.

“Critics who try to find scientific ‘mistakes’ in Scripture nearly always settle on this verse as one of their prime examples. Solomon’s sea, ten cubits in diameter, had a circumference of 30 cubits, supposedly showing that the writer thought the value of π, or ‘pi’ (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) was exactly 3.0, instead of 3.1416. The critics do not understand the principle – always applied in careful
scientific calculations – of ‘significant figures.’ The dimensions as given were not intended as precisely 10 or 30, but were obviously round numbers. To say that the diameter was 10 means only that it was somewhere between 9.5 and 10.5. Similarly, the circumference was somewhere between 29.5 and 30.5. Thus the implied value of π was somewhere between 29.5/10.5 and 30.5/9.5 – that is, between 2.81 and 3.21. The precise value of π is clearly within this range, and it would have been incorrect to try to specify a
more precise value.

Pi (π) is NOT 3.14
only!!! It can also be rounded as 3.0, 3.1, 3.142, 3.1416, 3.14159, 3.141592,
3.14159265358979323, or if you want up to 1,001 decimal digits of pi (π):

pi is already digitally computed in a trillion decimal places, and still computing…

Radiation Echo

Radiation Echo

Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, two physicists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, discovered that the earth is bathed in a faint glow of radiation. For this they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978. The measurements taken by Penzias and Wilson demonstrated that the earth could not possibly be the source of this radiation glow. Their data indicated that they had found radiation left over from the initial explosion of the beginning of the universe, commonly refereed to as the Big Bang.

To help us visualize the radiation glow of a past event, think of what we see when we turn off a television set in a dark room. The television continues to glow (radiate) even after the source of power (electrons) has been cut off. The glow on the television tube is the radiation echo that was caused by electron beams bombarding the screen while the power was on.

Although they won the Nobel Prize, there were skeptics who resisted the idea of a beginning and wanted to discredit what they found, calling into question the accuracy of the data. However, within a few years cynics were silenced by another discovery that was celebrated as one of the most, if not the most, significant in the history of cosmology.

On November 18, 1989 a satellite name COBE was successfully launched into space with instruments aboard capable of measuring the radiation echo left behind from the Big Bang- if indeed it had actually happened. COBE was designed to measure the intensity of the radiation and its overall shape in order to determine what produced it.

In April of 1992 the final summation of COBE’s data was made public and hailed as unprecedented –even referred to as the Holy Grail of cosmology. George Smoot, University of California astrophysicist, said, “if your religious, its like looking at God.” The COBE mission successfully mapped out a picture of the cosmic background radiation caused by the initial explosion of the universe. Stephen Hawking called this discovery “the most important discovery of the century, if not all time. The most convincing aspect of this background radiation is the fact that it had the exact pattern and wavelength for the light and heat of an explosion calculated to be of the magnitude of the Big Bang. So I submit this observational evidence as Exhibit A in support of a theory of origin that affirms that the universe had a beginning.

The Origin Of Life

From the book Unshakable Foundations

The question we must answer for ourselves is “can the results of an enormous natural explosion the magnitude of the Big Bang, left to itself over a long period of time, produce the kind of highly specified and complex order found in a living organism without the guidance of intelligence?” The evidence from repeated observation strongly confirms that it always takes intelligence to produce the highly specified and complex order that exists in living organisms. Non living matter and living organisms may utilize the same basic molecular building, but their essential differences is found in the message on those blocks when they are linked together in a highly and complex manner (genetic code).

Scientist use the second law of thermodynamics to measure the level of disorder (entropy) in a system. The reciprocal function, the law of specificity (1/entrop), is also used to measure the degree of order (specificity) produced in a system. What is the level of improbability of generating the kind of order found in living organism with out the intervention of intelligence, against the backdrop of other possibilities?

Mathematicians, drawn in by the statistical nature of the problem, have denied the feasibility of random minor mutations producing biological novelty and complexity. Using computers, mathematician Marcel Schutzenberger, found the odds against improving meaningfual information by random changes were 10(-1,000 squared). The astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramsinghe placed the probability that life would originate from non life as 10(-40,000 squared) and the probability of added complexity arising by mutations and natural selection very near this figure. If we were to consider the possibility that life arose without an intelligent cause, we would be forced to move completely out of the realm of science.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there..." Duet 12:5

This command did not mean that the tabernacle would always stay in the same place, for it was moved at God’s command. The ultimate fulfillment of this command came centuries later when God let David move the tabernacle to Jerusalem where his son Solomon built the temple. The command for a single sanctuary promoted or emphasized three things: the unity of God (i.e., He is One, not many), the purity of the Israelites’ worship of the Lord, and the people’s political and spiritual unity.

Shin (pronounced sheen) is the name of the twenty-first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It had a numerical value of three hundred and had thephonetic value of sh. A variant took the348sound s. Both were written in a rough equivalent of the English letter ‘W.’ This letter stands high among the Hebrew alphabet because it represent 2 names of God. It represents His name: All Sufficient one, unlimited one, and also Shalom, peace. God promised to place His name in the land and He placed it at Jerusalem. Below is a topographical map showing that Jerusalem is shaped in the fashion of the Hebrew Shin deonting the name of God. God literally placed this Hi Name there.

Shin (ש)

When God places His name somewhere there should be a visible representation of His name there. God said He would place His name at Jerusalem and there is a visible representation of His name there. When we say we are Christians there should be a visible representation of Gods name in our life. Our life should be lived in such a way that it bears Gods name. As we close out this year I believe that a number of your lives are no better at the end of this year then it was last year. And unless you make some changes you will be the same way at the end of this new year. Your life will counting to spiral out of control until you submit to God and allow your life to manifest His name!