Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chinese Christians are being persecuted today

President Bush is on his Asia trip, and this morning he visited a Christian church. The Scripture reading in this church was about loving others, including those who are hard to love. Chinese Christians are praying that we in America, to include our government and churches, will understand that followers of Jesus are being persecuted, to include torture. Here is a very moving letter from South China Church in China. It is quite explicit, and we should stand in awe over these true followers of Jesus who are our brothers and sisters, who follow Him in the face of great personal danger.

Addiction & Generation Rx

I am constantly involved in the lives of people who are addicts. Some of them are in denial as regards their addiction, and I try to enter into their lives, gain trust, and help them see they are an addict and hope one day they utter the words, “I am an addict and I need help.” Others acknowledge they are an addict, but feel they can get themselves out of their addiction by themselves, as if they are skilled in addiction treatment. This never works. Then there is the addict who escapes the prison cell of denial, gets help, to include a support system of accountability, and begins to break free. And finally there is, as Gerald May says in his brilliant and helpful book Addiction and Grace, the addict who breaks free all of a sudden and for no good medical reason. That, says May, is grace. (Note: I read May's book years ago and it helped me very much. Also, I was pleased to see that John Eldridge recommends it in The Sacred Romance.)
May’s book says that all of us are, in some way, addicts. Put in another way, we all have spiritual strongholds that imprison a part of us. We each have at least one “besetting sin.” Not one of us operates, I believe, with a “full deck.”
I think serious addictions are on the increase. For example, the availability of pornography is helping create a nation of porno addicts. And, the ease with which doctors hand out prescriptions for addictive medications without seeming concern for underlying systemic issues and their deep treatment is on the rise. From my own small world in my cultural context I have seen this happening, and it greatly concerns me.
Greg Critser’s new book Generation Rx confirms my fears. The book is reviewed in today’s New York Times Book Review. Here are a few quotes from the review, which can be read in full here.
""Generation Rx" contends that large drug companies have co-opted the federal government, seduced the medical establishment and mesmerized a temperamentally supine public into taking far more drugs than is strictly necessary, much less healthy. Worse, Americans have fallen victim to "polypharmacy": using so many drugs for so many ailments that they have no idea how the various medications are interacting.
Nevertheless, this is not the work of a conspiracy theorist. The public, particularly "the Tribe of High-Performance Aging," genuinely adores Viagra, Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, believing that they vastly improve one's quality of life. As in his previous book, "Fat Land," Critser says the public has been complicitous in its own seduction. Gleefully voting with their tongues, Americans use drugs to combat depression (Paxil, Prozac), reduce the ruckus from the kids (Ritalin), make bedtime more like a night in the seraglio (Viagra) and turn the workplace into a hearty party (Vicodin)."
From a Christian viewpoint, prescription drugs are the New Healers. Instead of dependency on God, we have prescription drug dependency. Of course we can thank God for a variety of such drugs. The issue is not their existence but addiction. And addiction, if you have never seen it, is a Destroyer of the inner life, marriage and family, and whatever else stands in its way. Critser's point of view, as well as mine, is that something very undermining of human freedom is rapidly growing in our midst.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dilbert on Evolution & Intelligent Design

I really like the post today at Scott Adams's Dilbert blog about Intelligent Design and evolution. Here's a sample (to read the whole thing, click here):

"To me, the most fascinating aspect of the debate over Darwinism versus Intelligent Design is that neither side understands the other side’s argument. Better yet, no one seems to understand their own side’s argument. But that doesn’t stop anyone from having a passionate opinion.
I’ve been doing lots of reading on the subject, trying to gather comic fodder. I fully expected to validate my preconceived notion that the Darwinists had a mountain of credible evidence and the Intelligent Design folks were creationist kooks disguising themselves as scientists. That’s the way the media paints it. I had no reason to believe otherwise. The truth is a lot more interesting. Allow me to set you straight. (Note: I’m not a believer in Intelligent Design, Creationism, Darwinism, free will, non-monetary compensation, or anything else I can’t eat if I try hard enough.)
First of all, you’d be hard pressed to find a useful debate about Darwinism and Intelligent Design, of the sort that you could use to form your own opinion. I can’t find one, and I’ve looked. What you have instead is each side misrepresenting the other’s position and then making a good argument for why the misrepresentation is wrong. (If you don’t believe me, just watch the comments I get to this post.)"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Archaeologists Find Goliath?

Imagine being the archaeologist who was digging in southern Israel and pulled up a piece of ancient pottery, upon which was written the word "Goliath." See the article below.
THU NOV 10, 8:36 PM
JERUSALEM - Archaeologists digging at the purported biblical home of Goliath have unearthed a shard of pottery bearing an inscription of the Philistine's name, a find they claimed lends historical credence to the Bible's tale of David's battle with the giant.
While the discovery is not definitive evidence of Goliath's existence, it does support the Bible's depiction of life at the time the battle was supposed to have occurred, said Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar-Ilan University and director of the excavation.
"What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath," he said. "It shows us that David and Goliath's story reflects the cultural reality of the time." In the story, David slew Goliath with a slingshot.
Some scholars assert the story of David slaying the giant Goliath is a myth written down hundreds of years later. Maeir said finding the scraps lends historical credence to the biblical story.
The shard dates back to around 950 B.C., within 70 years of when biblical chronology asserts David squared off against Goliath, making it the oldest Philistine inscription ever found, the archaeologists said.
Scientists made the discovery at Tel es-Safi, a dig site in southern Israel thought to be to be the location of the Philistine city of Gath.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ancient Hebrew Alphabet Discovered

See the article in today’s New York Times about the archaeological discovery of a 10th-century BC stone upon which are written letters of ancient Hebrew. Note what one scholar says:

“The inscription was found in the context of a substantial network of buildings at the site, which led Dr. Tappy to propose that Tel Zayit was probably an important border town established by an expanding Israelite kingdom based in Jerusalem.
A border town of such size and culture, Dr. Tappy said, suggested a centralized bureaucracy, political leadership and literacy levels that seemed to support the biblical image of the unified kingdom of David and Solomon in the 10th century B.C.
"That puts us right in the middle of the squabble over whether anything important happened in Israel in that century," Dr. Stager said.”

Evaluating the Emerging Church

D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) has written an evaluation of the Emerging Church movement called: Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications.

For a good evaluation of Carson.s book see:

Brian McLaren

Ryan Bolger

Ben Witherington on Eternal Security

There is a very good interview in Christianity Today with NT scholar Ben Witherington III. He argues that Calvinism, Arminianism, dispensationalism, and Pentecostalism, are all “exegetically weak” precisely at the point of their distinctiveness.

For example, here’s a Q&A:

In what ways do you find the Calvinist teaching on the perseverance of the saints—that a person cannot lose their salvation—to be exegetically weak?
“You have in the Homily to the Hebrews (usually called the Letter to the Hebrews) a long discourse warning Jewish Christians in Rome about falling away, defecting, backsliding, renouncing the grace they've received. There's this huge warning in Hebrews 6:1-6 that says, in effect: Look, you've tasted of the Holy Spirit, you've heard the gospel, you've come to the altar 15 times; if you've done all of these things and you turn back, then you've committed apostasy, and what you're facing is final judgment. He is warning all of the Jewish Christians in Rome, not a select group. That's perfectly clear from the trajectory and flow of the argument if you pursue it right through Hebrews. Christians who are eternally secure in this lifetime don't need those kinds of warnings. But the author of Hebrews doesn't think there are such people. He doesn't think you're eternally secure until you're securely in eternity.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul talks about people who make shipwreck of the faith. As John Wesley once said, you can't make shipwreck of something you're not sailing on.”
For the full interview click here.