It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.
Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.
Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.
Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.
To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.
Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.
Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God.
If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I just wanted to be clear about the new direction of my blog. First, it is decidedly becoming a place for Christians to find encouragement. Second, I plan on sharing screen-less leisure time ideas for families. We’re addicted to screens. If we’re not looking at them together, we’re looking at them separately. And if we’re not looking at them at all, we’re talking about them. Enough, I say. We can do better.
First up is the game Sequence. It is essentially tick-tack-toe with playing cards. It is only mildly mentally taxing, which is to say it is a great lubricant for sustained conversation and relationship building. Letting the five-year-olds play makes it even more pleasant.
To begin I’d like to simply ask you to declare with me how holy the blessed Trinity is. Amen.
(I found this little, kinda creepy, picture the other day. It’s called the Trinity Shield. Christians of old used it to help describe the Trinity.)
As you know, I’m on a bit of a righteous anger kick right now (Eph. 4). It began with a conviction that President Obama was doing us dirty when he angrily defended his decision to not say “Radical Islam” and described Islam as, “One of the world’s great religions.” It continued when I finally read the Qur’an to determine whether Islam is the threat that I felt it the empirical facts seemed to indicate.
I’m slowly calming down, but it has taken longer than I expected. Here’s where I’m at today. If I haven’t told you before, I’m at my best when I have things to compare. Maybe you are too. So, let’s compare some things.
1. First, Christians sometimes sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Until I read the Qur’an, I believed that song to be true. Now I don’t. By that I mean that it’s not the Bible that revealed to me that Jesus loves me. I know Jesus loves me because He told me He does. Muslims, on the other hand, believe Allah notices them because a book (and a man with a deadly weapon) tells them to. This is no trivial distinction.
2. Here’s another: From what I can tell, beginning around 1000 AD, Christian philosophers and apologists began to offer logical arguments which prove god exists. Growing up in a Christian home in America, I charitably believed the arguments must be valid and valuable. As an adult who has read the Qur’an, I am certain abstract god (Allah) does not exist. I’m also certain that humans don’t prove the Triune god exists. The best that humans can do with abstract god (Allah) is enslave each other. Conversely, the Triune god tells us He exists.
3. How’s your math history? As a 21st century American, I learned that humans didn’t always know that the number zero existed as an abstraction. I learned that it wasn’t until the early 7th century, that mathematicians formally named zero and began to use it in previously unrealized ways in calculations (more than just a placeholder). But only since reading the Qur’an have I realized that precisely identical to zero (which is nothing), Allah is an incredibly powerful abstraction.
(For the curious Christians, I do also believe it is more than coincidence that Muhammad wrote the Qur’an in the same century that zero was realized. The number zero shook up the world. And the Qur’an did so as well. Satan is very real. Guard yourselves.)
4. We’ve touched on theology and math. Let’s hit literature. Some people, even Christians, want to argue that the Bible is a great piece of literature. Before reading the Qur’an, I would have agreed. Since reading the Qur’an, I know the truth is that the Qur’an is the greatest, most powerful piece of literature on the planet. Outside of Barna research articles showing why Christians are leaving the church and the ever increasing amount of exorcisms being performed, Christianity is barely newsworthy anymore. However, the Qur’an is spreading to western Europe and America, despite the greatest military force, including yours truly, fighting the Qur’an for at least 30 years now. Want to talk about great, powerful literature? Then study the Qur’an. It is tops. Want to talk about true power? Then repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2).
Here’s the rub. The Triune god told me He wins in the end (the Bible). He told me not to fear when the going gets rough (Psalm 27). But He didn’t tell me my suffering must be at the hands of the Qur’an. Maybe I misheard him. What did he tell you?
Do any of you Christians believe we have the power to relocate the Qur’an to the fiction section once and for all? I do.
Call(s) to Action: PRAY. Then immediately be sure to SPECIFY that you are referring to the Triune god, or the Trinity, or Jesus when you’re talking about the Christian godhead outside of church. This includes church signs. (Here’s a good example.) When you’re in church, PAY ATTENTION to the lyrics and BRING UP your concerns directly to the music ministry. The music ministry can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. Whatever the case, DO NOT LEAVE your church. Pray. Pray and TAKE ON more responsibility. Stay put. “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).”
The Triune god of the universe cares about words. So does the adversary. This is evidenced by scripture from Genesis through Revelation. I love Jesus Loves Me. (Really, I do. I memorized a sweet piano arrangement of it.) But I love Jesus more than a catchy tune. So maybe it’s time to drop it. On the other hand, This Little Light of Mine is safe because of context.
Hopefully these little comparisons are useful and challenge to you to fulfill your calling.
The newly enlightened West cheered on the man who said, “God is dead.” Then that man and every human since him died.
Today, the West still believes they killed the idea of god. Point of fact, the idea of god (Allah) is literally killing the West.
I’ve shared on here before that when my ex-wife and I were going through our divorce we used a mediator. We were luckier than many couples. Some couples are forced to use a judge. In either situation, however, it is clear that when two people disagree, the best–sometimes the only–solution is for an outside party to make the decisions.
This last week the seminary put on both a seminar and an evening service on the topic of racism. Racism is like a divorce proceeding; except that in racism every single human ever is a petitioner. Who is wise enough to act as judge? Who is impartial enough? Who is not the victim or the perpetrator?
I’ve also shared on here that I am in a Christian apologetics class right now. We’ve moved on to Christian ethics, but there is still a heightened feeling of pressure to constantly evangelize. This feeling, for me, has been accompanied by a unique thought. Every once in a while I think to myself, “Boy, this evangelism would be so much easier if I could do it without using the words “Bible”, “God”, “Sin”, “Jesus Christ”, “Resurrection”, and the like. Those words, to most of us, are so hot-button that people can’t think clearly after they are uttered, moreover, people often don’t want to think about them at all .
Back to racism as a divorce proceeding involving the entire human race.
Do you understand that there actually does exist an outside Judge and Mediator? Do you understand that sin is the only reason you and I segregate ourselves? Do you understand that a book many people take to be the very revelation of God–the Bible–says we are all created in God’s image and likeness? Do you understand that this necessarily implies that our self-segregation means that we’re willfully looking away from divine beauty? Do you understand that the outside Judge and Mediator–the concretely risen Lord and Savior of you and me, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ–made his ruling on racism known to the world in the Bible? And do you know which race he singled out as worth dying for? The human race.
George Clooney has a great line in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” in which he says of the devil, “Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.” To this description, the escaped convicts’ new-found, soul-less, hitchhiking, black companion replies, “Oh, no. No, sir. He’s white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He likes to travel around with a mean old hound. That’s right.” If I was given a turn in the conversation, I’d describe Satan as Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park when he is picking up the barbasol shaving creme can with which he’ll steal the dino DNA. Remember that? His entire body jiggles in a giddy laugh at how easy the theft will be.
Can you understand post-enlightenment, post-age-of-reason, what the satanic is? The satanic is anything other than the truth. It is lies, distortions, half-truths, diversions, and denials. Take racism. Even widespread knowledge of science’s revelation that “pure” races don’t exist hasn’t helped the problem of racism. The only possible solution to racism must come from some manner of transcendent being. Christianity goes to great lengths to announce that this transcendent being is the triune God who created the universe and sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind some two thousand years ago. Resurrecting from the grave on the third day, Jesus the Christ gave us the victory–if only we choose it.
So, no, Satan (the adversary), I am not going to water down the gospel. The good news is only *and precisely* that Jesus Christ is risen. And it is only through Him that humans can be free.
I need to write a paper for class, but motivation wanes. Instead, I’d like to share one rather intriguing factoid about Deuteronomy and how it helps us understand what we all know: The Book of Mormon is not God’s word.
In brief, the Hittites were a culture whom archaeologists and historians claim wrote treaties according to a specific format. As the name ‘treaty’ implies, these were usually documents (we might expand the term to literature) which were developed after a fight of some sort. In any case, what we now call Deuteronomy is written in the form of one of these Hittite Vassal treaties. Besides helping us date the book of Deuteronomy, this similarity also speaks to the way Christians believe God reveals himself. Don’t miss this point. Folks long ago were milling around and if they were going to write things down (create literature) one of their options was a Hittite Vassal treaty. They didn’t have blogs, or tweets, or fb posts; novels weren’t around, nor were comic books. So when Moses (likely) wrote Deuteronomy he wrote it in the style he would have known–a treaty.
Later, when the Gospels and Paul’s letters were being written, they too were written in the forms their authors would have known. Keeping in mind that none of the Bible’s authors knew that what they were writing was going to be compiled as part of “The Bible”, in a roundabout way, this strengthens the argument that the Bible deserves some time and attention before discarding it.
Then there’s the Book of Mormon. Sesame Street has the familiar, “One of these things” segment and the lesson applies here. Unlike Mr. Joseph Smith, none of the Bible’s author’s claimed to find the Bible. Sure, we can debate whether or not Moses made up the Noah’s Ark story, but it’s Moses’ story. If God wanted an American to add to the Bible’s 66 books in the 1800s, then the writings would been similar in form to, say, the U.S. Constitution, or a dime novel, or more letters, or anything else that Joseph Smith’s contemporary’s would have recognized as “normal”.
Did I just imply that I posses the power to discern how God talks? Yes. Don’t be alarmed. You do too. Who’s up for a little game?
Church-going Christians: Probably want to skip this one. Or maybe you are my target audience. It’s difficult to say.
Because the topic is endlessly fascinating to me, I have read John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew series–the first four volumes–and I am anxiously awaiting the concluding fifth volume. I am also one book in to N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God five volume series. These books center themselves on the question “What does the historical record say about Jesus of Nazareth?” I believe them to be intellectually honest, and I have found great comfort and value in them. As an added bonus, I am fairly confident that I understand who Jesus of Nazareth was and thought he was much better than before. So much so that I have recently begun to hunt for a church which I think I could stomach attending week to week.
You should see the looks on the generally elder crowd’s faces when I tell them I’ve been away for a decade. They are so thankful that I’ve returned. It’s a little hokey but feels good nonetheless. My biggest complaint about modern churches is their music selection. It’s horrible, just horrible. I have never sat next to a person who didn’t agree, either. Because I’m older and can only attempt this adventure with authenticity, I let a guy know that I missed the Baptist Hymnal of my youth. He tells me, “You’re in luck!” It seems there is a Sunday School type class that sings the old hymns because there are others like me. Another vote for opening my big mouth, I think.
Yesterday, however, I discovered I should just sit quiet from now on. While the packed room did sing one (1) traditional hymn, I was sure that before the hour’s end I would be the only one not grasping St. Peter’s welcoming hand at the pearly gates.
Social decorum demanding obedience as it does, I remained in the room.
Skipping to the end, what did the well-meaning old timers want to debate for the hour we had together? Whether there is such a thing as unpardonable sin–a sin which is so awful that even Jesus’ saving power can’t redeem the perpetrator’s soul. (Consensus – There might be one, but don’t worry you can’t commit it inadvertently.)
The only thought that occupied my mind for that hour was, “Who gives a shit?”
The sermon was pretty good at least.
My goal is simply to get you into the movie theater. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it.
According to Genesis, Adam lived to be 930 years old. Noah was born only 126 years after Adam died. Noah was 600 years old when the flood occurred. Altogether, then, the flood occurred only 1656 years after creation, which was only 726 years after Adam–the first man–died. For me, when put that way, Darren Aronofsky had an immense task ahead of him.
They say the president has a difficult time telling the public about foreign policy because there is so much he can’t say. The same thing is true for any deliberate attempt to re-tell the story of Noah. Aronofsky’s challenge was not deciding whether to use the NIV or King James translation of the story, no. His challenge was to determine what Noah would’ve known–Noah, a man who again, as the story goes, was separated from Adam by a mere 126 years.
Are there parts of the movie that surprise and baffle the movie-goer? Yes. Does the film blatantly disregard the account of the flood preserved by the book of Genesis? Yes. Does the film comically address certain plot holes in the story that viewers would probably have forgiven if ignored? Yes. But the film does not miss the theme of the original story. That’s what makes it remarkable. I could try to summarize the movie and explain how it does this, but then I’d miss my mark, now wouldn’t I? You have to decide for yourself whether he accomplishes this feat.
Oh, and there is an amazing stop-motion creation sequence that is sure to please just about everyone with a soul that you will not find anywhere else. So kuddos to Aronofsky for including that.
In the end, forget every detail you think you know about the story except its “why”. Then fill your mouth the filmy, powdery texture of impossible-to-duplicate movie theater popcorn mixed with diet coke, and “Enjai ta picture show!”