Worship Video

Last night, I was privileged to speak at the Navigators chapter of Millersville University. About 80 university students gather in our Student Ministry Center which is walking distance to the entire campus.

It was a great evening and 22 students signed up for my Relationship 101 class (aka. Dating, Engagement, & Marriage class). Half of those who signed up were guys! 

It will be my 21st year teaching the class on how to make the marriage decision one of your best decisions.

I determined many years ago to work hard at preventative ministry in this area. We meet for 7-8 evenings starting Sunday night, October 6th (8-9:15 PM) at 58 West Frederick Street, Millersville, PA. 17551. Please prays for this class. We already have 35 signed up!

Check out the video that they played last night at Navs to prepare for worship:

Challenges and Opportunities

When we ignore or reject God or try to define God on our own terms, we ultimately sabotage ourselves.

We end up living with the beguiling notion that little finite beings like ourselves can be the managers of life. We foolishly think that we’re in control.

When we sin against the vertical dimension of life (by ignoring God), we progressively disorient life on the horizontal. We choose fantasy over reality thinking we can define our own reality and follow an individualized morality without consequence.

Foolishly we act as if we are the captains of our fate and the masters of our soul.We turn the good gifts of the Creator (meant for our benefit) against ourselves by failing to honor Him as the Giver. 

Just look around at the horrible mess we’ve made! Our homes are pervasively dysfunctional and broken, our police, judicial and prison systems are straining under unimaginable burdens. Our economy is out of control due to reckless and self-indulgent spending. Many of our social programs are barely holding up (if they can get beyond their own dysfunctions). Our educational system is surviving at best under the strain of major economic challenges and intrusive government policies.

All of this has left pervasive feelings of emptiness and pessimism about the future. 

On the positive side, there is a growing hunger among younger people for what is real, lasting, hopeful, eternal and spiritual.  I realize that you won’t find much of it among the crusty self-appointed intellectual custodians of the academy.  But you will find it among their students.  The students are tired of being stuffed into the culturally mandated, narrow, little world without windows! 

All of this presents the Church of Jesus Christ with a great opportunity to speak truth into the confusion and the mess we’ve made of ourselves and our planet. Never lose sight of the fact that the bad news of our fallenness is the back-story to the good news of the gospel.

We need wisdom to speak truth to others because many forces remain at work to discredit what God has revealed. Mainstream media sources will continue to spread a propaganda-based, anti-God ideology disguised as news. Mainline denominations will take their cue from whatever they perceive to be the cultural mandates of the elite. 

We’ll need courage and boldness tempered with wisdom, patience and redeeming love. We’ll need to follow the pattern of our Savior who humbled himself to love and serve us, not considering His equality with God something to leverage to His own advantage when opposed (See: Philippians 2:3-11). 

As the culture moves further from God, we have an even greater opportunity live out the identity Jesus assigned when he said, “You are the salt of the earth. … “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).

Jesus encouraged his followers to see themselves as “a town built on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.” He reminded His followers that when “people light a lamp” they don’t “put it under a bowl.” “Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).

Application to the followers of Jesus? “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Steve Cornell 

Confusing faith and science

The New York Times ran a series of articles last week on creationism using a question that could lead people to thinking that one must choose between faith and science. The Times asked, “Why are some people drawn to origin narratives like in Genesis, and others to the scientific story?”

This question is only necessary if one accepts a false comparison between what faith and science are meant to contribute. The narrative of Genesis offers a historical account of how the universe began. But there is no scientific story to explain how the universe came into existence. The Big Bang Theory is used to explain arrangements of matter but it does not necessarily conflict with what we find in Genesis.

Science, as a discipline, cannot offer conclusions about ultimate origins of matter. Science can describe in fascinating detail what is observable within the universe. Science can speak of purposes related to adaptability and survival in the physical world. But is blatantly dishonest to suggest that science has in any way conclusively proven that nothing beyond nature could have any conceivable relevance to what happens in nature.

A scientist cannot test the philosophy that the physical world is a self-contained system of impersonal natural laws without any outside involvement from a God or a Creator. Honest scientists know this — even if they fear the social and academic consequences of admitting it. Students should not be taught that such a view is based on scientific research. When teachers suggest that the science of evolution leads to the philosophy of naturalism, they give students the misleading impression that the science of evolution offers more than it is capable of telling us. 

This is a primary error in the propaganda of popular atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. They suggest (often with an air of patronizing 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 or mystery; if you believe in the supernatural and the spiritual, you’re on your own. You won’t have science to back you up because science has freed us of these ideas much like adults no longer believe in Santa Clause. But these men should know better than to make such unsubstantiated claims.

Let’s teach our young people to recognize that a professor or author who suggests that science can prescribe truth on these matters has left the discipline of science and turned to philosophy or a form of religion.

And let’s encourage Church leaders not to speak carelessly on matters of science. I’ve heard plenty of religious leaders suggest that evolution is an enemy of God that contradicts the account of creation. This is a careless because it fails to distinguish the actual science of evolution from the philosophy or worldview of evolution.

Church leaders also must be careful not to make the Genesis account say more than it does. The Bible does not require belief in a certain age for the earth and the Church should not make such an issue a test of orthodoxy. Church leaders are sometimes as disrespectful and condescending as atheists. We need Church leaders and Science teachers to exemplify mutual respect as they help their students distinguish the fields of faith and science.

While truth about ultimate origins cannot be resolved in scientific labs, faith offers a different kind of evidence on this important subject. A helpful line from Scripture states that, “every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4).

So the science of evolution is not meant to offer a “story” that parallels the biblical account of creation. It’s not that scientists cannot postulate on the subject based on assumptions or patterns. They can do this in the same way that the science of intelligent design postulates origins based on design.

By confusing faith and science, we’ve failed to respect what each one contributes. On the science end, a better question to ask 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.

Steve Cornell

Senior pastor
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick street
Millersville, Pa. 17551

Faith in the Science Department

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.

Yet the really big problem here is that there is not one shred of verifiable scientific evidence to support such a conclusion. 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. But 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 of rendering.

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) cannot explain 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 assumptions or patterns.

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 find 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 our longing for “something better” also testify to our nature as unique beings of dignity and design. Yet we have a dark side to our story that degrades us below the 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 this all flows logically from biological evolution as scientifically verifiable  is either intentional manipulation or a faith-based recommendation that confuses science and philosophy.

Steve Cornell

See also: Theophobia: Fear of religion in the Academy

Dispel the myth about the First Amendment

 

Our Sunday News recently asked me to be a voice to balance the weekly columns of the assistant editor. He generates the most reader response for the paper but writes from more of a left-side, liberal perspective (labels I am a little uncomfortable with).

I’ve written a monthly faith-focused column for many years and recently learned that I generate the second most letters to the editor.

After an increasing number of readers expressed a desire for a more conservative voice to balance the offerings of the assistant editor, the paper contacted me and asked if I would be willing to write twice a month and address political subjects. But they told me that I should feel free to include the faith perspective wherever I wished. Politics and religion?

After accepting the invitation, they moved my columns to the front of the perspective section under the title, “The Right Side” (a title I am not completely comfortable with). Yet my new assignment is not as easy as it might sound. 

The first quite obvious challenge is the fact that religion and politics are two of the most publicly controversial subjects one could address.  Secondly, I am a local pastor and I don’t want people to think that they must hold my political positions to be part of our Church.

Thirdly, although the First Amendment was primarily about protecting religion from government control (i. e. to keep government out of religion), I don’t see it as my responsibility to conform government to my faith.

Over the years, I’ve consistently tried to addressed political issues without using Bible verses as my basis. This is not to say that my faith does not (or should not) inform my worldview and my moral opinions. But I don’t always need explicit references to faith when defending my views.

On a more positive side, my new role could help dispel the widespread myth about the first amendment being written to separate Church and State.

Although the amendment forbids congress from imposing a national religion, it does not require a kind of separation aimed at removing God from all of public life and discourse. Those who demand removal of God and religious reference from public life actually violate the part of the amendment protecting freedom of speech and the press. The founders were interested in protecting freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

If you don’t think that the public has been badly misled on the purpose of the First Amendment, try stating a moral opinion in a public setting. You’ll likely hear someone ask, “What about separation of Church and State?” “Isn’t that what the First Amendment is all about?” 

The other deeply misleading factor is the notion that one can have politics without moral opinion. You simply cannot engage in lawmaking without moral considerations. In his farewell speech, our first president said, “Of all the dispostitions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…”

Abraham Lincoln said, “In this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” 

If this is true, is it surprising to find those who are hostile against God and religion trying to force both out of public conversation and policy making. Strangely, these same people are unwilling to admit that they are voicing their moral and religious opinions when rejecting others.

Any time (in political discussion) we say one action is right and another wrong, or demand a certain value as a human right, we are using our moral code to influence policy and lawmaking. Let’s stop pretending that it’s only “those Christians” who bring their beliefs with them to the political process. And please correct those who fall for a politicized abuse of the First Amendment .

Hadley Arkes rightly observed that, “There is no way of purging from human beings an understanding of right and wrong, of purging from common life a discourse about right and wrong. Once we think we are in the presence of real wrongs, we think (for example) that it’s wrong for people to torture their infants, our next response is not, ‘Ah, therefore, let’s give them tax incentives to induce them to stop.’ No, we respond with a law that forbids them.”

“Once you understand that this is the nature of the enterprise of ruling and governing, it becomes a matter of whether you will address the questions of right and wrong or whether you simply try to divert the questions and talk about something else.” 

It’s relatively easy to find moral and religious opinion behind most of what is written about policy and law. The moment someone says, “I think it’s wrong….,” he has introduced a moral opinion. When a policy or law forms either based on or in support of that opinion, morality and politics have joined and the people are bound by the outcome. To argue that his opinion does not come from religion is to beg the primary question, “Says whom?”

Let’s not fool ourselves! If a man demands public conformity to his views, he makes himself Lord and uses religious coercion in the political process. The issue is not so much about religion as about seeking public consensus on the good that we the people choose in our policies and laws.

Where does the conversation go from here? 

Steve Cornell

 

Campus Ministry Resources

For more than 27 years, my pastoral ministry has been in a University town. I love interaction with students and faculty! But those who follow Christ in a university context face some significant challenges. This is why I am always looking for good resources to help them. Check out these  articles from the Christ on Campus Initiative:

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Human Flourishing

by Danielle Sallade

A flourishing life will be a life lived in right relationship with God, with one’s environment, with neighbors, and with self. “A flourishing life is neither merely an ‘experientially satisfying life,’ as many contemporary Westerners think, nor is it simply a life ‘well-lived,’ as a majority of ancient Western philosophers have claimed.” It is a life that both goes well and is lived well.

Sin:
 Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

In the 1991 film Grand Canyon, an immigration attorney breaks out of a traffic jam and tries to drive around it. He doesn’t know where he’s going and he’s alarmed to note that each street seems darker and more deserted than the last. Then, a nightmare. His fancy sports car stalls. He manages to call for a tow truck, but before it arrives, five local toughs surround his car and threaten him. Just in time, the tow truck shows up and its driver—an earnest, genial man—begins to hook up to the sports car.

Five Arguments for God

by William Lane Craig

It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they do tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society. One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea for good or ill is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true.

Christianity and Sexuality

by Christopher Ash

Why is sex so fascinating? (Why did you choose to read this essay rather than the others?) That’s one question. But why pay any attention to what Christians believe about sex? That’s quite another. And yet the very fascination of sex is a pointer to a religious dimension. Every time a lover “worships” his beloved, every time a woman says it will be “hell” to live without her man, whenever someone says to a lover, “take me to heaven,” or describes a woman as a “goddess,” they use religious language.

I Believe in Nature: An Exploration of Naturalism and the Biblical Worldview

by Kirsten Birkett

One of the most common beliefs currently expounded in public literature is naturalism. Naturalism is a belief that only natural laws and forces work in the world. The supernatural (anything beyond the natural world, whether spiritual, magical or otherwise) does not exist. The physical universe is all that exists. Moreover, the only way to explain anything within the universe is in terms of entirely natural events and forces within the universe.

One Lord and Savior for All? Jesus Christ and Religious Diversity

by Harold A. Netland

Nathan the Wise, the last play written by the eighteenth-century philosopher and dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, contains a fascinating reworking of the classic parable of the three rings. The parable first appears in the fourteenth century in Boccaccio’s Decameron, but Lessing modifies it slightly so that it expresses nicely the Enlightenment call for religious toleration and condemnation of religious dogmatism. If it were updated slightly, it could be taken as an expression of early twenty-first century views as well.

Do Christians Have a Worldview?

by Graham Cole

Frames of reference are keys to understanding, to reading the world of our experience. Eric Fromm found that out as a young man before he became a prominent therapist and humanist thinker. He contemplated the carnage of the First World War and wondered, “How come such violence? How could cultured peoples slaughter each other in the millions?” That thought led him to study Karl Marx and the outer world of human history. He wanted to make some kind of sense of the world of his experience. 

Jesus of Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him and Why It Matters

by Craig L. Blomberg

Jesus of Nazareth has been the most influential person to walk this earth in human history. To this day, more than two billion people worldwide claim to be his followers, more than the number of adherents to any other religion or worldview. Christianity is responsible for a disproportionately large number of the humanitarian advances in the history of civilization—in education, medicine, law, the fine arts, working for human rights, and even in the natural sciences…

A Christian Perspective on Islam

by Chawkat Moucarry 

Islam claims that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam itself are three God-given religions. All prophets (including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad) preached essentially the same message: God is one, and everyone must obey and worship him because on the day of judgment people will be sent to paradise or to hell according to whether or not they believed in their Creator and complied with his laws.

Check this out too: Kategoria

Using resentment and envy to win the Presidency

I was recently interviewed by a University student as a project for his class on diversity. I told him how thankful I am that I don’t have any inclination to view people as better or worse based on race or status. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I grew up in a major metropolitan city (Philadelphia) and was surrounded by diversity. But I also didn’t hear or see any racial attitudes in my home.

My parents never treated people differently based on race or lifestyle. My father taught me to be as comfortable in the presence of a doctor or attorney as I am with any other person. I simply don’t rate or rank people based on these kinds of outward distinctions. Of course, this should be my outlook as a follower of Jesus Christ, but I am thankful it was part of my upbringing.

This is one reason why I have a growing hesitation to talk or write about politics. I don’t like being misunderstood as hateful or biased when I know it isn’t true of me. Yet, after many years of writing for newspapers, I’ve experienced a number of false accusations of hate and prejudice. This is part of the unfortunate nature of written communication. But I am willing to risk this rather than to conform to the mandates of a culturally imposed version of intolerance (ironically labeled as tolerance). We’ve foreclosed on authentic social engagement when we’ve been convinced that taking different views is equal to hate.

It’s sad that when we have to prove that a different viewpoint politically or morally doesn’t mean that we think we’re better than those with whom I disagree. Tolerance is clearly not part of our experience when a special interest group is telling us that certain viewpoints are forbidden from public dialogue (i. e. viewpoints within lawful parameters). I actually believe that the true virtue of tolerance is displayed when we strongly disagree with others and yet treat them with complete respect.

This brings me to the current political arena. Like a growing majority of Americans, I am dreading the campaign ad pounding we’ll be taking as the two parties move closer to the presidential election. The over-the-top demonization of candidates and political parties is enough to disgust anyone. The amount of money spent to do this is closer to being immoral. When news anchors are in overdrive to demonize everything about one political party, their extreme bias invites rational people to tune them out. Sometimes I wonder if certain ones are being paid to campaign for a political party.

I realize that this is “politics as usual,” but something is very wrong when a political party uses a narrative of resentment and envy to win the office of president. It’s one thing to demonize the other party or candidate; it’s another to feed public resentment toward a group of citizens. Those who are stoking resentment toward the so-called “rich” are intentionally inciting envy, hatred and perhaps even violence. Is this what we want to hear from our leaders? Although I consistently vote on the conservative side, I don’t demonize people with whom I disagree.

Equally disturbing is the number of people who are already playing the race card. If we want the public to move beyond issues of race, why do our leaders stoke such thinking by projecting it on to others as often as possible? This is feigned concern being used to manipulate the public and I hope it backfires — not because I want one party to win over the other, but to teach leaders not to risk inciting hate among the people for self-serving political purposes.

I hope reasonable people will see through these divisive efforts to stoke resentment and envy. Being successful doesn’t make a person evil or less caring any more than being poor means you deserve more money from others. Let us remember that the poorest among us have it far better than the large majority of people on this planet! Where are the leaders who teach us to work hard and to love our families and neighbors while finding joy in contentment and gratitude? I am not suggesting that one overlooks injustices but we have mechanisms for addressing such matters. But we should be very suspicious of any leader who fosters hostility in the electorate toward each other to lift himself to public office.

Resentment and envy take people to very bad places as individuals and as societies. I am reminded of how Pilate, the Roman governor realized that “it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him” to be crucified (Mark 15:10). Envy can lead you to want to eliminate the object of your resentment. It has happened repeatedly in some of the most horrific acts in history.

I am not interested in sounding conspiratorial, but I hope that no matter your political affiliation, you’ll have the wisdom to reject any leader who uses a narrative of resentment and envy to win your vote.

Steve Cornell