Faith in science?

Young people attending universities should be aware of the faith-based tendency to accept science as a discipline capable of explaining almost everything.

I say “faith-based” because these young people will be tempted to believe that their professors are right when they stretch science into philosophy and suggest that it offers an evidenced-based path to a strictly material understanding of the universe.

Naive young people are vulnerable to the impression that science has conclusively proven that nothing beyond nature could have any conceivable relevance to what happens in nature.

This viewpoint wrongly suggests that the physical, material universe is all there is, was, or ever will be and that the only real world is the world of the five senses. The misleading part is that students are being taught that this view has the full backing of science.

The line goes on to suggest (often with condescending arrogance) that if you choose to believe in God or the soul or immaterial beings; if you desire to believe in transcendent values; intrinsic meaning, mystery, and a teleological spiritual vision; if you profess belief in the supernatural, the spiritual, the eternal and the unseen, you’re certainly free to believe in these things, but you’re on your own. 

You won’t have science to back you up because science has freed us of these notions much like adults no longer believe in Santa Clause.

Evidence please

The really big problem with this way of seeing things is that there is not a shred of verifiable scientific evidence to support it. Why? Because it’s simply outside the function of science to resolve such matters.

Only faith could allow you to believe the theory that nothing beyond nature could have any conceivable relevance to what happens in nature. I don’t say this to imply that faith is always without evidence. Faith works off a different kind of evidence than offered in the discipline of science.

We must be aware of the difference between science and philosophy or faith so that we don’t give people the misleading impression that the science of evolution offers more than it is capable.

We have to help people understand that as beneficial as scientific research has been, there are many things that are just outside of the reach of science.

The science of evolution (for example) simply cannot explain the ultimate origins of the universe. It can postulate on the matter based on assumptions or patterns just as the science of intelligent design can postulates based on patterns of intelligence and design.

Beyond science

Universal human longings for love and meaning are two more examples of realities beyond the reach of purely scientific conclusion. These realities are also where we observe significant discontinuity between humans and animals. The science of biological evolution cannot explain this discontinuity without shifting from science to philosophy.

Furthermore, our awareness of how things “ought to be” and longing for “something better” also testify to our nature as unique beings of dignity and design. But we also have a dark side to our story that sometimes degrades us below the behavior of beasts in our history of cruelty and evil.

Some suggest that evil is a metaphysical necessity for finite creatures. Yet why do we so strongly oppose it and long for a world without it? Why do we cry “foul” or “unfair”? Why do we have longings for restoration of Paradise Lost? Why do we even think in terms of good and evil?

Suggesting that all of this flows logically from biological evolution as scientifically verifiable is either intentional manipulation or a weak faith-based recommendation that confuses science and philosophy.

Confusing faith and science is a failure to respect what each one contributes. On the science end of the discussion, perhaps a better question is whether the idea that the material universe is all there is, was, or ever will be is more rational than believing an intelligent being created the world.

Truth about how it all began cannot be resolved in scientific labs, but faith offers a different kind of evidence. A helpful line from Scripture states that, “every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4). Whether one visits a construction site or a nature site, the logic of this truth consistently demands the same conclusion — an intelligent builder.

Steve Cornell

See also: Theophobia: Fear of religion in the Academy

 

President Obama’s executive order for LBGT

In light of President Obama’s recent executive order banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government, it’s important to review the seven tactics used to change public opinion on this matter (see them here) and review the word games used to move from sexual preference to sexual orientation (see here).

Peaceful existence in a nation rich in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural diversity requires from citizens mutual civility and respect. Requiring such goodwill is good for the nation. People who (within the law) choose different beliefs, morals and lifestyles, must be asked to live peacefully with one another. We’ve made great strides in promoting this kind of respect on matters of race and gender and special laws protecting the disabled.

The inclusion of sexual preferences as a civil right on the same level as race and gender is a deeply misguided decision based on a false comparison that will unnecessarily disturb peace and freedom.

All civilized people have laws restricting some types of sexual behavior. Rape, incest and all sexual contact between adults and children are and should remain illegal. Beyond these restrictions, consenting adults are free to live their sexual preferences. But to ask our nation to make new and special laws for same-sex preferences is to force the lifestyle choices of others on everyone. If a homosexual lifestyle becomes a protected status equal with race and gender, people will not be free to morally oppose homosexual behavior. This is an unnecessary violation of freedom that will backfire on those who choose to live homosexual lifestyles.

Steve Cornell

Grace and Responsibility

Does grace lead to responsibility?

When people genuinely experience God’s grace should it make a difference in their lives? Is grace transforming? 

Jesus told a story that made a profound and urgent connection of grace with responsibility. It’s a familiar story, perhaps too familiar. It’s the parable of the unmerciful servant. One New Testament scholar suggested that this story “is possibly the most forceful expression of how Christians should live” (Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent).

The parable of the unmerciful servant only appears in the gospel of Matthew and follows a question the apostle Peter asked about how many times he should forgive a person who sins against him (Matthew 18:21-22).

Before Peter asked this question, Jesus taught his followers to confront a brother or sister who sins against them. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). The goal of this confrontation is to address the offense that divides them with hope of restoring a broken relationship. 

If private confrontation is rejected, Jesus taught that it should involve others and could possibly, if repeatedly rejected, lead to a change in the relationship. “If they still refuse to listen,” Jesus said, “tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

After this instruction, Jesus taught about the far reaching extent of forgiveness. Peter asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).

Jesus’ parable contrasted an unimaginable act of forgiveness by a merciful King who released his servant from a massive debt (Matthew 18:23-27) with an unmerciful act of the servant who had just been forgiven (Matthew 18:28-30).

At this point the story takes a dramatic turn. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:31-35).

Jesus used an extreme amount of debt to make the point that we will never be able to earn or deserve forgiveness and that we are hopeless doomed apart from the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Two truths 

  1. We will never forgive others any where close to the extent that we have been forgiven by God.
  2.  Forgiven people who withhold mercy and forgiveness from others are not going to do well with God (v. 35).

A disturbing question – The parable raises a question about the role of works and obedience in relation to God. 

Q. Are God’s mercy and forgiveness conditioned on or withdrawn from us based on our mercy and forgiveness toward others?

  • Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
  • Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  • Mark 11:25 – “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Three essential facts

  1. We cannot earn or deserve God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.
  2. God’s forgiveness of our sins is the basis for our forgiveness of others.
  3. God expects forgiven people to forgive and they will (Eph. 4:31-32; Colo. 3:13).

Ethical motivation

The ethical motivation for Christian forgiveness and for treatment of others is responsive and reflective.

1. Responsive to God’s prior action toward us in mercy, forgiveness and love

I John 4:16-19 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment …. We love because he first loved us.”

2. Reflective of God’s prior action toward us in mercy, forgiveness and love

  • Luke 6:35-36 – “But love your enemies, do good to them, …Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
  • Colossians 3:13 – “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
  • Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Summary thoughts (from “Stories With Intent” by Klyne Snodgrass, pp. 74-76)

“The community cannot tolerate sin without confrontation and reproof, but must always love and forgive without limits… Sin has disastrous and eternal consequences, confrontation and discipline are necessary, and excommunication from the community is a real possibility. At the same time, God searches out those who stray and wills that none be lost, and the community can lay no bounds to its forgiveness or forget that its forgiveness is modeled on God’s forgiveness of its members’ own much larger debt.

We … feel the tension we feel between reproof and love…  Matthew has insisted that the community address seriously issues of obedience and sin, if possible in discrete ways, even if that leads to starting all over with those it rebukes, treating them as outsiders.  At the same time…insisted that humility and forgiveness dominate the efforts.”

“The parable prevents any presuming on grace. The church has often presented a grace that did not have to be taken seriously, but biblical grace is transforming grace. When you get the gift, you get the Giver, who will not let you go your way.”

“All the focus on obedience, however, is based in God’s prior action. The indicative of God’s forgiveness precedes the imperative of our response. …the ethic is a responsive ethic, a response to God’s grace and calling.”

“The fear of works righteousness is far too exaggerated. Would that there were an equal fear of being found inactive. Works righteousness is not the problem of most modern Christians. We would do better to realize that if we do not work, we are not righteous.”

“In the end we should recognize that God is the only one who ultimately can hold humanity accountable.  The concern of the parable is God’s forgiveness and the seriousness of failing to mirror God’s mercy, not an atonement theology or a general discussion of judgment.”

“God’s mercy must not be treated cavalierly. Mercy is not effectively received unless it is shown, for God’s mercy transforms. If God’s mercy does not take root in the heart, it is not experienced. Forgiveness not shown is forgiveness not known.”

“…grace always brings with it responsibility. The forgiveness of God must be replicated in the lives of the forgiven, and the warning is clear. Where forgiveness is not extended, people will be held accountable.”

[If only the church] “spoke truth taking care to guard the privacy of the offender as much as possible without ignoring the sin, set no limits for forgiveness, and emphasized the necessity of a forgiveness modeled on God’s own forgiveness, knowing that judgment is severe for those who do not forgive?”

“The message of this parable is badly needed by churches and individuals who live in a society where people insist on standing on their rights and division marks our churches, families, and societies. The teaching of the parable is counterintuitive, but it is possibly the most forceful expression of how Christians should live. Christian living—rather than insisting on rights—should be a continual dispensing of mercy and forgiveness, mirroring God’s own character and treatment of his people.”

“Society also cheapens forgiveness so that sin is treated lightly, but the focus on judgment in Jesus’ parables warns that forgiveness brings with it a call for reform. If forgiveness does not effect change, it is not experienced.”

Steve Cornell

This is outrageous and dangerous

Free speech not so free when discussing gay rights 

By Cal Thomas

Once, Social Security was the “third rail” of politics. Touch it and face political death. Now it is homosexuality. Criticize anything gay people do and you risk ostracism, fines, suspension or loss of your livelihood.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by a National Football League team — the St. Louis Rams picked him 249th in the last round — is being treated by the media and those in the gay rights movement as the equivalent of an early American pioneer.

Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones, apparently, didn’t get the memo. Jones tweeted “OMG” and “horrible” after he saw Sam and his boyfriend kiss each other live on ESPN. His tweet was quickly taken down, but the political correctness police swooped in anyway. Jones has been fined and suspended. He’s also being forced to attend “educational training” to get his “mind right,” to borrow a phrase from the film “Cool Hand Luke.” This sounds like the old communist “re-education” camps.

Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin called Jones’ comment “inappropriate and unacceptable.” Jones issued a statement that read like it had been written by a lawyer, apologizing for his “inappropriate” tweet and taking “full responsibility” for his comment.

How quickly things have changed from the recent experiences of Tim Tebow. When the quarterback heroically led the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory in 2012 and dropped to one knee, as he often did to express gratitude to God (a move that quickly became known as “Tebowing,” which spawned countless YouTube parodies), he was widely ridiculed by many of the same entities that now defend Michael Sam, including some NFL players and even “Saturday Night Live,” which in a skit had “Jesus” offering Tebow advice while sitting next to him on a locker room bench.

When the Broncos released Tebow, he was mocked again, not only for his faith, but for claiming to be a virgin who wanted to save himself for marriage. In an increasingly secular and licentious culture this sort of thinking and expression, apparently, must be silenced.

Read the rest here

See also:

 

Scene 3 – Life as a prisoner

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Sold to a different human owner, Joseph soon found himself in more painful and perplexing circumstances beyond his control. But he also continues to experience the Lord’s presence and blessing through it all.

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:1-4).

Another trial for Joseph

Joseph had the “misfortune” of being “well-built and handsome” (Genesis 39:6a). This would result in Joseph being the object of lust and false accusation. As the story continues, “After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’” (Genesis 39:6b-7).

This was a very real and dangerous test for Joseph. Sexual temptation is real for all men. Joseph, however, responded with a kind of principled integrity that sets a great example for all men.

Yet doing what was right did not mean that he would be “blessed” circumstantially. Joseph paid a severe price for his obedience.

Follow closely the line of reasoning he used for refusing to give in to sexual temptation.  “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9).

Guided by four great principlesTrust, Reputation, Ownership, and Obedience to God, Joseph stood firm against temptation.

Did God bless him for his obedience? Should we expect obedience to bring blessing? Did it for Jesus?

Joseph stood his ground even as things intensified from sexual temptation to sexual harassment. “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her” (Genesis 39:10). The persistence of this woman would not be deterred and Joseph couldn’t do anything to change what happened as a result.

Often in life we become the object of other people’s passions. Joseph was the object of parental favoritism, sibling envy and hatred and now lust and false accusation by Potiphar’s wife.

Another abrupt change occurs for Joseph.

“One day he (Joseph) went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’ She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house. When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined” (Genesis 39:11-20).

Have you ever been falsely accused?

It is a very painful experience. It cuts into a person’s heart. When we do the right thing only to be misrepresented, slandered and wrongly charged, temptations toward self-pity, resentment and despair are hard to overcome.

How would Joseph respond to this abrupt and undeserved turn in his life? Would he be confused? No doubt! Would you have been?

Could you hear his prayers, “Dear God how could this happen to me?” “Haven’t I suffered enough?” “How much can one man take?” “I tried to do the right thing and look where it landed me!”

We don’t read much about Joseph’s struggles but we must not treat him as if he didn’t. I am sure he wrestled through a number of dark nights of the soul. Have you had any dark nights like this?

Shortly we’ll notice that Joseph did not take lightly or completely forget the wrongs committed against him. Joseph was human and battled feelings common to all people.

But, again, I suspect that through a series of deep, dark nights of the soul, Joseph reaffirmed his conclusions about God and life (we will see these soon).

Once again, he faced options. We always do in our trials. Joseph needed something to lift him from the temptation to self-pity and despair; resentment and bitterness.

If he had chosen these responses, the story would not have been the same — for him and for many others (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). Our responses always have generational consequences.

Joseph prospers in the prison

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:21-23).
 
Notice again that the Lord’s presence with Joseph and the blessings of God’s kindness and Joseph’s success (whatever it looked like) did not translate into immediate release from prison.

  • So what did God’s kindness look like in prison?
  • How did Joseph experience it?
  • Did he question whether God cared?
  • Did Joseph pray for release?

We know his desire for release and memory of his suffering never left him. Some time later he would interpret a dream for a new prisoner that indicated this prisoner would soon be released. Then he said to the prisoner, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (Genesis 40:14-15, emphasis mine). His sense of justice was clear.

The prisoner was released just as Joseph said. No doubt, this inspired renewed hope in Joseph that he would be release from prison. Yet to Joseph’s trial was added the additional pain of being forgotten.

With a simple stroke of the historian’s pen we read, “The chief cupbearer (the prisoner who had been released), did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Genesis 40:23).

It hurts to be forgotten.

Could you hear his prayers? “Please God, cause him to mention me.” “Don’t let me be forgotten in this place.” “I have had so much evil committed against me, I am not sure I can take much more.”

But again, with another simple stroke of the pen we learn that, “When two full years had passed…” (Genesis 41:1), Joseph would finally be remembered.

Have you ever had to wait two full years for something? Why two full years? How did Joseph guard his heart against discouragement and despair? Was God not good and great enough to lift him from this dungeon?

At the risk of being repetitive, allow me to again emphasize that through a series of deep dark nights of the soul, Joseph had to reaffirm his conclusions about God and life. He needed something to lift him from temptation to self-pity, resentment and bitterness.

Ultimately, we see that he resisted the temptation to resign to fate — to stop believing that God cared. There was something stronger that held and guided Joseph through his many abrupt changes and dark years of doubt and discouragement?

But it also protected Joseph from a darker prison — the prison of anger, resentment and bitterness. More than that, (and how important this is), Joseph’s chosen perspective blessed many people and preserved a remnant for Israel (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). 

Steve Cornell

Supreme court case

Please pray as the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in a case deciding whether the Obama Administration should be allowed to force business owners to violate their faith by paying for someone else’s abortion pills. Think about it: Imagine that Obamacare mandated provision of health insurance for the abortion procedure itself. Would you feel that companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties had a right to refuse to support it? Sound like a stretch? Don’t forget that abortion has been consistently framed in liberal politics as a healthcare issue for women. Why should this be a strange possibility? Beyond this case, I am personally not supportive of the role government is taking in healthcare but that’s an issue to address in the next two elections. Please pray and vote!

For thoughtful analysis

Follow the case

Live Blog: Contraception Cases at Supreme Court

Steve Cornell