Vacations With Mormons, Evolutionists, and the Truth

Yesterday my family and I returned from a trip to many National Parks and Salt Lake City, Utah. During our time, we saw many things that were an affront to my Christian beliefs.

Every National Park has signage stating evolutionary “facts.” Whether explaining how the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was formed over millions of years, or Agate Fossil Beds National Monument telling us about 23-million year-old dinosaur fossils.

Every place states these things as indisputable facts. If you do any reading outside of popular science, you know there is doubt about Darwinian Evolution. Not just from the Creationist fringe either, many scientists have their doubts.

Yet those doubts are never raised on the popular level. Just stated facts. I did note to my children in one visitor center movie how the narrator said “scientists believe” in reference to our descent from apes.

There is plenty of belief in science, because not all their facts are as factual as they’d like them to be. You are denying wide swaths of science if you deny this truth. The scientific method is based on not knowing and endeavoring to find out. The scientific method stops as soon as you think you know everything.

We also visited the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. The place repulses me and I could not stay long. However, I wanted my kids to see what it was about.

I don’t mind my kids being exposed to evolution, nor Mormon theology. I aint afraid. I believe I have truth on my side, and, if that’s the case, I can have confidence in the truth and rest. It also led to several good conversations. Thinking took place.

The modern scientific community is becoming very sensitive. They do not allow any variance from their views. There are no alternative theories up for debate. They know it all, and if you veer from it, they will endeavor to silence you.

Religious people are the same way, as modern science becomes a religion. You won’t get very far debating Mormon theology at the Mormon Temple.

Unfortunately, many supposed Christians react the same way. We get mad and offended, we work to silence those who oppose us. The more you have to silence others and be offended, the more you are admitting weakness and insecurity.

Mormons can say what they want. Read their book. Read all the ridiculousness that has no proof. Scientists can say what they want. Read science and see how often they change their tune. Neither needs to be silenced. God will silence us all.

I believe the Bible is telling the truth. I will let the truth win the gradual battle. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. Truth always wins, even if it takes forever.

The louder people get and the more they have to silence others, the more you know they are insecure. Truth has a way of calming and stilling its audience.

We all need more calm. More calm comes with more truth.

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

5 Thoughts on Satan and Cynicism

God asked Satan if he had observed righteous Job. Satan had, which first of all, lets you know that true righteousness is always visible, as John said, “Be not deceived, he who does righteousness is righteous.” We like to prove righteousness by numbers of followers, bank balances, or some other external measuring line. God measures righteousness by whether you do righteous stuff.

Secondly, although Satan is aware of Job’s righteousness, Satan is highly cynical. Satan believes Job is only obedient to God because life is going well. Take away Job’s good stuff and his faith will disappear too. This leads me to several points about Satan and cynicism

  1. Cynicism is often an admission of guilt. Perhaps Satan is so cynical because Satan fell himself. Seeing someone actually listen to God, even a lowly human, perhaps makes Satan feel guilty. Our own guilt often makes us question the sincerity and spirituality of others. It says less about them and plenty about us.
  2. Cynicism is Satan’s territory. I am a very cynical guy. I like to think my cynicism is pure wisdom in action. I know things about people. But I have often wondered if my cynicism is more flesh than Spirit. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We are to test the spirits. But cynicism is a destroyer and knows no limits. It takes down the pure and the dirty.
  3. Cynicism is often right. Satan assumes that faith will fall when life goes bad. Clearly this has happened many times. Satan would be right in general on this charge, just horribly wrong in Job’s case, just as Job’s friends were generally right, but not with Job. The Health and Wealth Gospel is Satan’s point here. Take away the Health and Wealth and the Gospel, for many, disappears too. Often this is true, but not always.
  4. Cynicism should be viewed cynically. I recently read the autobiography of George Muller, who supported hundreds of orphans, yet never asked for money, he only prayed. There were several things in the book that made me question Mr. Muller. So, my cynicism of Mr. Muller, does it reveal a problem with Mr. Muller, or is Jeff just feeling guilty he doesn’t trust God and pray enough? I know enough about cynicism to make me cynical of it. I doubt my own doubting of others. However, being cynical of cynicism is a Catch-22.
  5. Cynicism can be good. For my proof text, I point you to Proverbs 14:15, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” Wise people don’t believe everything they hear. They doubt some stuff. Part of being wise is learning who to trust and who to doubt. Doubting the right people is important for remaining wise!

We need to be careful with cynicism. It has its place, but out of place, it ruins ourselves and others. It’s nigh on impossible to be cynical and loving at the same time. Love believes all things, remember. Perhaps it is possible to not believe someone and yet not be cynical of them.

I confess to you that this is a tough issue for me. Just writing down some thoughts to help me sort through it. Or am I?

I Probably Won’t Become Amish, But if I Do, This will be Why

Yesterday I finished a book by a modern pastor/speaker (he resigned from his hip, cool church in 2012) about success. It was an attempt to write a cool, hip, pithy book of common sense ways to keep motivated to succeed:

*Don’t let criticism and negativity defeat you
*Take the first step, then the next, don’t worry about the rest
*Fight to do the work even if you’re not feeling it
*Do lots of things and at least a few will succeed
*Etc.

None of it was bad (except some of his scripture applications), most of it was stuff I’ve heard hundreds of times before. Most of it was a way for the author to brag about how much he does and how important he feels for having done it.

He included bits about being busy and only reading email at certain times and taking one day off a week to not have a phone.

The summary of his book goes like this: do all kinds of stuff at all times to be amazingly productive, which will then ruin your life, so don’t look at your cell phone for one day a week.

After reading this book, I began reading a book about the Amish. The Amish are religious descendants of the Anabaptists, but Jacob Amman thought many of the Anabaptists were too wimpy in their applications.

Amman emphasized separation from the world and shunning, which put him at odds with many Anabaptists, to the point that Amman began a new group, eventually called, The Amish.

The Amish have made a point of separating themselves from modernity. They don’t think cars and technology are evil, they think getting cars and other technology leads to the isolated, lonely, non-community, hectic, me-first, rush-rush, ignore old people and the weak, modern lifestyle.

The summation of Amish belief is like this: avoid modern technologies so you can lead a slower, more reflective lifestyle that will lead to healthy and productive lives.

If I had to choose between the two lifestyles, I would go Amish in a second. I do think their take on modern life is much more biblical than the hyper-active pastor book. No, I don’t agree with all Amish doctrine (although much of it is quite good, based on the best Reformer, Menno Simons), but I do think they are on to something.

Our culture leads to inner rottenness. It saddens me to see pastors tell their people God wants you to be busy-busy, going after all the world’s stuff. I think the Amish go overboard in their efforts to tell others what separation means (as I think it means something different for each of us), but I do think the church should increasingly encourage their people to separate from the world as God leads.

those who deal with the world [be] as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I imagine this means something, and I imagine what it means will strike our flesh as being very uncomfortable and inconvenient.

I have to go on eBay to bid on a buggy now.

Some Questions About Boycotting Target

Target recently went public with their decision to allow transgender people to use their restrooms. Apparently, from what I saw, Target has had this policy in place for years, but recently mentioned it publicly.

As I mentioned earlier, I find this whole conundrum to be rather humorous. I believe businesses have a right to decide what to do in their stores.

However, many Christian types find it offensive. As is typical when we are offended, we respond with a boycott.

Now, if you need to boycott Target in your stand before God, then by all means go for it. Don’t let me talk you out of it.

If I were to boycott Target it would make no difference at all. I think I have spent my money at Target maybe four times in my life.

What fascinates me about Christians boycotting is this:

Following Christ means coming apart from the world, being separate, not living for money and possessions. One would expect, if Christians actually acted like Christians, that there could not possibly be a Christian Boycott that would make any difference at all.

We’re not supposed to be spending tons of money anyway!

What does it say about our morality when the biggest thing we can think of to get our point across is to withhold our money? Are we admitting that money is what is driving our sense of right and wrong?

How much of our boycotting is merely seeking vengeance? “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” “The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.”

Again, if boycotting is what you need to do, then do it. Consider the following points though in your stand before God.

  1. Why are you spending so much money that withholding it would make a difference? Or are we boycotting places we don’t spend money at anyway just to feel the buzz of activism?
  2. What place does vengeance, anger, or vindictiveness play in your boycotting?
  3. Is prayer and dependence on God part of your understanding of establishing righteousness?
  4. In what sense is Target allowing people to use their bathrooms a greater sin than the materialism espoused by every store in America, particularly the marketing of much which is unrighteousness? Where is the line of unrighteousness that pushes you into boycotting? Is your boycott based more on political views than love?
  5. Does my opinion about your boycotting make you want to boycott or not boycott?

Listen to God, not me, I merely encourage you to examine your heart in all things as each of us will give an account to God. Walk wisely.

The Place of Reading Books in Your Faith

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Thus saith Solomon, who wrote three books of the Bible.

Books.

What does that word do to you?

Personally, I love books. I read books all the time. I read 90 books last year. I have a spreadsheet cataloging all the books I have read in the last 12 years. It includes my rating, review, and critique. It has 1077 books in it and does not include multiple readings of the same book.

Books are awesome. I do not find them to be a weariness to my flesh. In fact, I would consider many of them to be life-giving to my soul.

Over my years in Christianity I have met Christians who fall into three camps on books.

Books are central to faith
This group sees intellectual pursuit as the cornerstone of faith. They love scholarly volumes and talking over your head about them. You can’t help but feel intellectually puny in their presence. They don’t so much believe the Gospel as they believe academic achievement IS the Gospel.

Books are anathema to faith
This group thinks books are wrong. “I just read the Bible” is frequently said by them. They are convinced that they have it figured out, no one has anything else of value to add to my understanding. In fact, you can understand too much, and thus eliminate faith itself. The love of knowledge is the root of all evil.

Books can be helpful but not always
This group likes to learn. They know they don’t know everything and that other believers may have valuable insights to offer. At the same time, no one is perfect. There is no one author who has it all figured out. Take what you can from each book and forget the rest. But keep reading for those gems that are out there.

I obviously consider myself to be in category three. There is no point in being intellectually superior and lording over others your ten volume systematic theologies. Glad you read it (if you actually did). Glad it helped. But condescend to men of low estate.

There is also no point in delving into Christianity’s anti-intellectualism. Much danger lies here. Ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is dangerous. There are people who can help you. Take their help.

So what was Solomon talking about? Was he suggesting not reading or studying? Look at the context:

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Solomon is warning his son to not get carried away. Solomon did lots of work to find, study, and arrange wise proverbs. Stick with those. It’s God’s Word. Don’t think you can find inspired words elsewhere.

Lots of people write. Lots of people claim inspiration. But be careful. Don’t go after people. Learning their stuff will wear you out. Stick with God’s Word. Read people to the extent they help you understand God.

I think Solomon would read books; he’s merely warning his son not to make reading and academics his main drive in life–it will wear you out.

But a good dose of reading, along with a good dose of applying God’s Word and growing, will do wonders. Sitting in a room all day studying books isn’t the point. That doesn’t mean books can’t help; it means using books aren’t the sum of Christian growth.

As in all things: moderation. There is a season for everything. If you find yourself getting worn out by books and learning and the rat race of intellectual pursuit–chill and stick with God’s Word.

If however, your reading helps you enjoy God’s Word even more and it’s not wearing you out–by all means, read away!

Shaving Doctrine With Occam’s Razor

There are many doctrinal disagreements in the Christian world. If a Christian has said something, there is another Christian who disagrees with what was said.

Doctrines multiply like mice. Discerning which of the doctrines scrambling around your feet are right, can get tough.

One basic tenet that I hold to in examining doctrine is the complexity test. There hits a point in my head where I’ve determined an explainer has done too many gymnastics. I don’t know how to define where that line is, but I know when someone has crossed it.

It might be the moment when my mind begins to wander.

I am not the originator of this theory of detecting truth. William Occam is the one credited with this theory. Occam’s Razor is what it’s called. Fancily it goes like this:

a scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities

Now, this is somewhat of an ironic definition of Occam’s Razor, because this definition gets very complex! The simple-man’s definition is this: Keep it simple, stupid.

If only his name were simple. . .
If only his name were simple. . .

A sure sign of a failing theory is if it becomes overly complicated.

Who shot JFK is a great example. When weighing between a Soviet/FBI plot involving multiple shooters and conspirators versus one nut job shooting the president, go with the one nut job as the most likely theory. In fact, if you apply Occam’s Razor, all conspiracy theories melt away.

If you can’t generally explain your theological point in one sentence, you might not know what you are talking about. Or, if you do know what you’re talking about, your theory is probably wrong.

If you have to explain for 12 minutes how to approach the subject before touching on your subject, you might be in need of a shave.

The Bible is a complex book with many complex doctrines, some of which are not even attempted to be explained. The Bible states things simply, matter of factly. Yes, each doctrine can be pontificated on endlessly and all doctrines tie together into a grand depth and unity.

But there is much simplicity. Don’t lose the simplicity in all the complexity. The object of a good teacher is to make the complex simple. You know you’ve learned when you can explain something simply.

Don’t blow yourself away by trying to be intellectual and impressive. That just leads to empty words and confusion. Keep stuff simple.

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

5 Things You Need to Know About the Fight of Faith

Paul tells Timothy to “fight the fight of faith.” Here are five things to know from the context about this fight.

1) It’s a real fight
The word “fight” in Greek means contest, effort, contention, conflict. It implies an expenditure of energy. It’s the Greek word agon, from which we get the word “agony.” Agony isn’t just a feeling; it’s physical exhaustion brought on by an exertion of energy. We’re supposed to be using energy in our faith. Exert yourself in the agony of faith is the idea.

2) We don’t fight people
People are not our problem. Oh, they may very well be A problem, but they are not who we are fighting. Faith does not fight people. Faith is not threatened by homosexuals, atheists, evolutionists, abortionists, terrorists, or any other group. We love our enemies; we don’t fight them.

JC Ryle is the man
JC Ryle is the man

3) Money
Yup, hate to tell you, the context says money is the real danger in the fight. People who pursue the love of money err from the faith. We are to flee such things that get us consumed with earthly concerns and pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

4) Eternity
The fight consists of us beating off earthly distraction to keep ourselves mindful of eternal things. Lay hold on eternal life. In order to flee worldliness and pursue godliness, we must fight, agonize, expend energy, and expect opposition.

Pesky old context
Pesky old context

5) The fight is you
We fight ourselves quite honestly. We say with Paul, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain . . . I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Paul was concerned about his own life, about erring from the faith, and becoming a castaway (every other place this word is used it’s translated “reprobate,” which is always used to denote an unbeliever).

Paul is not worried about losing his salvation; Paul is concerned with fighting the fight of faith. True believers fight to the end. No prizes are given for starting.

Paul preached with many people, many of whom quit. Demas left because he loved this present world. Paul watched other supposed believers, even ministers, err from the faith because of the pull of earthly pleasures.

If Paul felt he needed to fight this til the end, I’m pretty sure we should be mindful of it too.