Friday, May 30, 2008

The Atheistic Fable About Galileo

Atheists, in attacking religion in general and Christianity in particular, present the cases of Galileo and Copernicus. Both scientists, some atheists claim, were not merely treated unfairly but were persecuted and even tortured. I remember, in an undergraduate philosophy of science class, reading Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." Two of the main interlocutors are "Simplicio" and "Sagredo." Simplicio represents those Aristotelian scientists who maintain that the sun revolves around the earth, and Sagredo (Galileo himself) represents Copernican heliocentrism.

So what happened to Galileo? Carl Sagan said he was placed "in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture." (cited in D'Souza, 101) Sam Harris writes of the Christian tradition of "torturing scholars to the point of madness speculating about the nature of the stars." (Ib.) Bruce Jalosky writes: "Copernicus's views were not embraced by the church; the history of his persecution is well known." (Ib.) And, writes Dinesh D'Souza, "Daniel Dennett singles out the Catholic church and faults 'its unfortunate legacy of persecution of its own scientists.'" (Ib.)

So I always thought. And I was wrong. See Stanford's D'Souza, in his brilliant What's So Great About Christanity, Chapter Ten - "An Atheist Fable: Reopening the Galileo Case."


1. Neither Copernicus nor Galileo were "tortured" for their scientific views.

2. Galileo was treated fairly by the Inquisition. D'Souza cites historian Gary Ferngren, who writes: "The traditional picture of Galileo as a martyr to intellectual freedom and a victim of the church's opposition to science has been demonstrated to be little more than a caricature." (Ib., 110)

3. Galileo was found faulty for certain religious teachings that had nothing to do with science.

4. Galileo was correct in affirming Copernican heliocentrism. But Galileo's proof for this was incorrect. For example, one of his main arguments was that the rapid motion of the earth around the sun was responsibile for the ocean tides. As we now know, this is false. And, it was questioned at the time.

5. After Galileo recanted from lying, he was treated quite nicely and allowed to continue other forms of scientific research.

See the entire chapter for many more details as D'Souza gives a historically convincing argument that all the atheistic fuss about the church mistreating and even brutalizing Galileo and other scientists is simply a fable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Testaments Torched Outside Tel Aviv

For the CNN story go here.

Many Jews are condemning this act - e.g., see here.

See a Jerusalem Post article here.

I don’t personally see this being a dangerous situation for Messianic Jews in Israel. But I do notice a growing Jewish concern over Messianic Judaism and an increasing Jewish suspicion re. Christianity.

Monday, May 26, 2008

National Geographic's Serious Error About a "Good" Judas

The 2006 National Geographic special on The Gospel of Judas was wrong about Judas being a "hero." Actually, the correct interpretation of GJ is that Judas is even more villainous than how he is portrayed in the biblical Gospels.

To see how people ate this up "Good Judas" stuff up check out these reviews at For the debunking of the "Good Judas" interpretation see this essay in the current Chronicle Review. To whet your appetite, here are some direct quotes from this essay.

“In all of its materials, the view of Judas as good guy was front and center. In an online video clip, Meyer calls the text's Judas the "most insightful and the most loyal of all the disciples." In Ehrman's essay, Judas is "Jesus' closest friend, the one who understood Jesus better than anyone else, who turned Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus wanted him to do so." The teaser on the documentary's DVD case asks, "What if this account turned Jesus' betrayal on its head, and in it the villain became a hero?" The discovery of an ancient document titled "The Gospel of Judas" is exciting enough. But the twist of a good Judas — well, that's a great story."

"Reporters ate it up. Word of the discovery made the front pages of newspapers around the world. "Ancient Text Says Jesus Asked Judas to Hand Him to the Romans" was The Arizona Republic's headline. USA Today said the gospel "recasts" Judas. The Austin American-Statesman put it this way: "Ancient Judas as 'good guy,' not Jesus' betrayer." More than seven million viewers tuned in to see the documentary (counting the first couple of reruns), and 300,000 copies of the book containing the translation and the critical essays are now in print. The barrage of media coverage, aided by the good-Judas spin, seemed to have the desired effect.”

“One of the seven million people who watched the National Geographic documentary was April D. DeConick. Admittedly, DeConick, a professor of biblical studies at Rice University, was not your average viewer. As a Coptologist, she had long been aware of the existence of the Gospel of Judas and was friends with several of those who had worked on the so-called dream team. It's fair to say she watched the documentary with special interest."

"As soon as the show ended, she went to her computer and downloaded the English translation from the National Geographic Web site. Almost immediately she began to have concerns. From her reading, even in translation, it seemed obvious that Judas was not turning in Jesus as a friendly gesture, but rather sacrificing him to a demon god named Saklas. This alone would suggest, strongly, that Judas was not acting with Jesus' best interests in mind — which would undercut the thesis of the National Geographic team. She turned to her husband, Wade, and said: "Oh no. Something is really wrong.""

"She started the next day on her own translation of the Coptic transcription, also posted on the National Geographic Web site. That's when she came across what she considered a major, almost unbelievable error. It had to do with the translation of the word "daimon," which Jesus uses to address Judas. The National Geographic team translates this as "spirit," an unusual choice and inconsistent with translations of other early Christian texts, where it is usually rendered as "demon." In this passage, however, Jesus' calling Judas a demon would completely alter the meaning. "O 13th spirit, why do you try so hard?" becomes "O 13th demon, why do you try so hard?" A gentle inquiry turns into a vicious rebuke."

"Then there's the number 13. The Gospel of Judas is thought to have been written by a sect of Gnostics known as Sethians, for whom the number 13 would indicate a realm ruled by the demon Ialdabaoth. Calling someone a demon from the 13th realm would not be a compliment. In another passage, the National Geographic translation says that Judas "would ascend to the holy generation." But DeConick says it's clear from the transcription that a negative has been left out and that Judas will not ascend to the holy generation (this error has been corrected in the second edition). DeConick also objected to a phrase that says Judas has been "set apart for the holy generation." She argues it should be translated "set apart from the holy generation" — again, the opposite meaning. In the later critical edition, the National Geographic translators offer both as legitimate possibilities."

These discoveries filled her with dread. "I was like, this is bad, and these are my friends," she says. It's worth noting that it didn't take DeConick months of painstaking research to reach her conclusions. Within minutes, she thought something was wrong. Within a day, she was convinced that significant mistakes had been made. Why, if it was so obvious to her, had these other scholars missed it? Why had they seen a good Judas where, according to DeConick, none exists?

"Maybe because they were looking for him. “ [Emphasis mine]

The fiercest criticism of the National Geographic team came in the form of a New York Times opinion essay by DeConick, published in December. It is, like the professor herself, plain-spoken and blunt. She writes that "a more careful reading" makes it clear that Judas is no hero, implying, none too subtly, that the National Geographic team was not careful. She accuses its members of making "serious mistakes" and wonders aloud whether they are guilty of intentional mistranslation. "Were they genuine errors, or was something more deliberate going on?" she writes. "This is the question of the hour, and I do not have a satisfactory answer."

“Some of the sharpest digs have been reserved for Ehrman, who was the first member of the National Geographic team to publish a book on Judas. Publicly Ehrman has been the most vocal in embracing Judas as hero, and he has been pilloried for it. Scholar after scholar at the Rice conference took shots at him. Turner said he didn't read Ehrman's book because he "wouldn't expect to learn anything from it."

Ehrman thinks he has been unfairly caricatured as a cheerleader for the positive Judas theory.”

“Then, concerned that she has been too harsh, DeConick tries to soften the blow. "I don't want you to print that they messed up," she says. "Say there were errors. There were serious errors."”

Lenny Kravitz Sings About Jesus

It’s Memorial Day and I’m enjoying the sun and 80 degrees and doing lawn work and listening to Lenny Kravitz’s songs about God and Jesus. I’ve been playing his “Baptized” over and over -whew! It’s a killer song with a deep groove.

Also - “Believe,” “Love Revolution,” Storm,” “Bring It On,” and “God Save Us All.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Don't See Indiana Jones IV

Warning - last night I saw "
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE!!! When the dvd comes out, don't rent it. When it's finally on TV and you can watch it for free, don't even watch it then.

Words fail to express how bad this movie was. The thing is 2 hours and 4 minutes long, and there was only one second of it I enjoyed - it was the part where we saw the Ark of the Covenant again.

Even though words fail, I'll try: banal, boring, bad-cliche-ish, sleep-inducing, embarrassing, horrific, over-cooked, amazingly poor CG stuff, and so on.

About the poor CG stuff - just watch (if you can) the scene at the end of the movie when the giant alien space ship (yes, that's right) rises out of the earth with boulders swirling beneath it and Indy staring at the thing.

There are CG prairie dogs, CG monkeys, CG ants, and the cheesiest CG-i-est nylon aliens you'll ever see (looks like they're right out of the box from K-Mart). And the crystal skull - how can it be described? Even a rubber-suited, zippered Godzilla would find this plastic lego-ish thing beneath him.

I went to Indy IV expecting a nice blast from the past. Instead, I couldn't wait for it to pass. It was far worse then I had thought it would be.

Now I am left in a strange world of incomprehension as I see that Rotten Tomatoes gives Indy IV a 63% rating. What? How could anyone recommend it? Here's some comments from big-time reviewers.

"The character and plot contrivances are dumber than ever, but this is basically vaudeville, not narrative, and the thrills keep coming. (Once Indy has survived a nuclear blast early on, going over three waterfalls in a row without wetting his lighter is par for the course.) Spielberg's extravagant action, much of it staged on what looks like old sets for King Kong, includes pointed steals from The Naked Jungle (1954), Land of the Pharoahs (1955), The Ten Commandments (1956), and his own Close Encounters, E.T., and A.I."

"Almost on the template of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Crystal Skull" ends with an invocation of awesome power even as it connects with another '50s theme of paranoia in one of those grandiose special-effects sequences for which Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic shop is so well-known. Does it pay off? Maybe not quite, but the movie sends you out as it should, exhausted and happy, and you won't begin to think about its flaws for hours." (Not so for me... I'm thinking about it now, and it's the morning after. And I thought about the flaws immediately after and during the thing.)

"Most of the high-tension moments are transparently fake, with actors swaying in front of a green screen. When Indy lowered himself between the wheels of a speeding truck in "Raiders," you knew you were seeing a risky deed accomplished in reality. Here, when cars race along a cliff edge you think, "Nice computer graphics." The genuinely ooky live snakes, rats and insects from the earlier films are replaced with CG ants that simply don't have the same bite. Worse yet, the fuzzy-friendly Lucas inserts colonies of icky-cute prairie dogs, and tribes of monkeys in an inane passage where Mutt swings on jungle vines Tarzan-style."

The Chicago Tribune calls IJ IV a "cockamamie story."

That's right. I'm relieved - some reviewers saw what I saw (or didn't see). If you go and see this disaster don't say I didn't warn you about it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jesus Came to Bring Fire to the Earth

In Luke 12:49 Jesus tells us that he has come to the earth to bring fire, and adds “I wish that it were already kindled.” In our church we sing some worship songs that cry out for God to send us His fire. What might that mean? What did Jesus mean when He said He’s come to bring fire on the earth? Do we know what we’re really asking for?

The first thing Jesus means by this has to do with “judgment.” For many people the idea of judgment is offensive. It’s one of the things some people don’t like about Christianity. But the Real Jesus did talk about fire and judgment and crisis, and I think that’s a good thing and to me it makes a lot of sense. And, by the way, anyone who says it’s wrong to talk about judgment is themselves making a judgment. So I conclude that the judgment-thing is unavoidable. The deeper issue is always: what is the truth? All truth divides.

In Luke 3:9 Jesus says that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus views people, and you, like fruit trees. You exist, from Jesus’ POV, to produce fruit. In this regard there are only two kinds of trees; viz., trees that bear fruit and trees that don’t bear fruit. There are no quasi-fruit-bearing trees. This is an either-or situation (also called, by theologians, “Two-Way Theology). To bear fruit or not to bear fruit; that is the question. To find the answer to that question is, precisely, to render a judgment. The fire Jesus brings renders such a judgment.

From this it follows that Jesus-fire purifies. A refiner’s fire falls on a lump of gold and burns away all impurities and leaves pure gold (Micah 3:2-4). In this sense such a fire, ipso facto, judges. It burns away the “either” of impurity and leaves the “or” of pure gold. In this sense, when you cry out to God “Baptize me with fire!” you’re asking for God to refine your heart so that He will burn away impure things and leave a heart pure towards Him. It’s a heart-cry for holiness. It’s a way of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus says that He came to bring fire to the earth, and part of what this means is that He came to call forth a pure “Bride.”

Fire-baptism is also about an impartation of power given by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said that after him comes a more powerful One who will not baptize with water but baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). The initial Spirit-fire-baptism happened in Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit comes on people accompanied by what look like “tongues of flame” (Acts 2:3). This Spirit-baptism-fire event brings “power” (Acts 1:8-9) for real Jesus-followers to be His “witnesses.”

So, when we cry out to God, “Baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire,” we’re asking God for two things: 1) purification of the heart; and 2) power to be witnesses to Jesus and His Kingdom and all that this entails. And it is precisely this that then makes a separation or division. It creates a di-vision; viz., two visions of reality, or two visions of the truth.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Willow Creek's Big Mistake

See this CT article on Willow Creek's move away from seeker-sensitive services.

From the article:

"Since 1975, Willow Creek has avoided conventional church approaches, using its Sunday services to reach the unchurched through polished music, multimedia, and sermons referencing popular culture and other familiar themes. The church's leadership believed the approach would attract people searching for answers, bring them into a relationship with Christ, and then capitalize on their contagious fervor to evangelize others.

But the analysis in Reveal, which surveyed congregants at Willow Creek and six other churches, suggested that evangelistic impact was greater from those who self-reported as "close to Christ" or "Christ-centered" than from new church attendees. In addition, a quarter of the "close to Christ" and "Christcentered" crowd described themselves as spiritually "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. Even more alarming to Willow Creek: About a quarter of the "stalled" segment and 63 percent of the "dissatisfied" segment contemplated leaving the church."

Willow Creek, years ago, began to "get deeper" and more spiritually "challenging" when they brought in teaching pastors like John Ortberg. But the result was that attendance dropped.

"Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, told CT the church "sporadically has recognized it was not teaching a robust enough biblical theology and needed to turn the ship around.

"It is a huge shift," Pritchard said of the church's planned changes to its services. "But they're still using the same marketing methodology. Willow appears to be selecting a new target audience with new felt needs, but it is still a target audience. Can they change? Yes, but it will take more than just shifting their target audience.""

I have always known that Bill Hybels wants people to meet the Real Jesus. But I felt that I could never attend a Willow Creek-type of church because it did not go deep enough. I hope Willow Creek begins to focus on the Real Jesus in the midst of the outrageously affluent culture that surrounds it, and that Jesus would be enough to draw passionate followers that will transform that culture.

Hybels says:

"We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage."

My own feeling is that God will honor this kind of honesty and humility and wants to pour out his grace on Hybels, who remains for me an example of what it really means to follow the Real Jesus.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?

Get a free booklet on the topic "Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?" The discussion happens on The Templeton Foundation's website here. There are essays by: Steven Pinker, Micheel Shermer, Kenneth Miller, Christopher Hitchens, and others. This is a nice free resource!

N.T. Wright Vs. Bart Ehrman on Suffering

N.T. Wright and Bart Ehrman debate the problem of suffering here - "Is Our Pain God's Problem?"

10 Months That Will Change Your Life

Come spend 10 months with us that will change your life!

At Redeemer God has called us to begin Redeemer Ministry School (RMS). Our first class will arrive this coming September. I’d like you to consider being a part of it. Here are some reasons why.

  • I will personally be giving you the best of my own training and ministry experiences. These include:
    • Ph.D in Philosophical Theology, Northwestern University
    • 11 years in Campus Ministry at Michigan State University
    • I currently teach at three theological seminaries (Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; Faith Bible Seminary [Chinese] in New York City; and Payne Theological Seminary (African-American) in Dayton)
    • I am Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Monroe County Community College
    • I’ve taught in India, Singapore, Vancouver, and other places around the planet.
  • RMS will be unique in its academic component.
    • Because of my academic training and experience I will shape RMS to have a high level of excellence, especially in the area of biblical studies, spiritual transformation, and apologetics. This will not be your basic Bible study class. We’re going to take you deep into the things of God.
  • This academic component will be complemented by a focus on experiencing God and demonstrating the power and life of the Kingdom of God in the real world.
    • In this sense I believe in the total gospel of the Real Jesus, to include the two ways Jesus brought in the kingdom, which are: 1) Proclamation of the good news; and 2) demonstration of the power of God.
  • I have assembled a great team of leaders and teachers that will give you a lot of things you could not get in other ministry environments.
  • We have some special things lined up for you. For example, in late October I’ll travel to New York City to teach and preach at a very large, dynamic Chinese church in the heart of Queens. What’s exciting for me is that I’m working with the NYC Chinese leaders to bring our RMS students there for the week. What you will learn about Jesus, about leadership, and about communicating Jesus in another culture will be something you could never get out of a book.
  • You will be in our church’s culture for 10 months and be a part of the amazing things God is doing in our own ministry environment. Which is cool for me, since God has given us an amazing church family.

Here at Redeemer we are very excited about having our very first RMS class. Why not pray about taking 10 months of your life and learning about God and Jesus in the most intensive way ever?

And, we’ll develop community along the way, plus have a lot of fun. If you’d like to talk with me personally, I’d love to hear from you!

Pastor John Piippo, Ph.D

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Florida to Philadelphia to Monroe

I've been busy (so what else is new). Last Mon-Wed I flew to Lakeland Florida with 20 people from our church to go to the Lakeland Revival and check it out. When I got back Wed night I was dead tired.

Then my church here in Monroe did a conference with Chris Overstreet from Bethel Church in Redding California (Bill Johnson's church). For me this was a great weekend!

Today I spent 5 hours alone praying... ahhh, a very, very sweet time! I did a lot of journaling, reflecting, praying, processing.

On Friday I fly to Philadelphia to be part of Palmer Theological Seminary's commencement ceremony. I'm the Project Director for their doctoral program, and have six students receiving doctoral degrees.

Then..., on Sunday morning at Redeemer Church here in Monroe..., it's going to... EXPLODE! Because God is doing phenomenal things right now in our church.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Chris Overstreet Comes to Monroe

Tomorrow through Sunday - May 9-10-11 - Chris Overstreet, Outreach Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, comes to speak at our church in Monroe (Redeemer Fellowship).

I am very impressed with the stuff that God does through the people at Bethel Redding. And Chris is a very on-fire 28-year-old who loves Jesus passionately. So, I'm expecting God to do a lot of good things this weekend.

Our focus is what I call PDI.
- Proclamation (of the Real Jesus message, which is the Kingdom of God)
- Demonstration (of the power of God in healings and deliverances)
- Impartation (of the fiery power of God in the hearts of all who come)

I believe in this stuff. I've seen God move in power and love. I mean, if God is real (which I believe) then one might expect that the Maker of the universe is loving and powerful enough as well as personal enough to reach out to us.

For anyone wanting a more "rational" and "intellectual" approach to this kind of thing read philosopher J.P. Moreland's excellent book Kingdom Triangle.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Going to Lakeland for a Few Days

Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Lakeland, Florida, with 20 people from our church to check out the thing God is doing there - reports of healings and deliverances. Be back Wednesday!

I not only believe God can and does heal people today, I have seen this happen. One of the great joys I have as a pastor is to pray for people to be healed and see God heal them.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Amoral World of Grand Theft Auto IV

The video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” just came out and is and is going to be a huge seller. All real followers of Jesus should protest and not buy it. Why?

Here’s one reason and, I think, it should be enough. In the game you can hire a prostitute, have sex with her, then instead of giving her a tip beat her with a baseball bat. See here and here to verify this. Now listen to this. “You don’t have to do that to advance in the game.” Gee… it’s just like real life. You don’t have to kill and rape people to advance in life. How profound.

“Some gamers have also reported playing the game with the intention of doing the minimum amount of violence possible - hanging out, making friends, watching the game’s TV shows or going online with the in-game internet. For some, the game’s realism has a sobering effect. “The physics of death feel shockingly real. Bodies can’t be blown apart or torn to pieces, but they react convincingly to explosions and severe impacts. Each death is a decision,” wrote one reviewer.”

Are we supposed to stand up and applaud GTA-IV for giving us a game that, just like in real life, we could choose to rape and kill but don’t have to? If so, then surely GTA-IV is unnecessary since we have real life situations. We don't need a game like this to train us to make moral choices. One could learn the horror of the Holocaust by slaughtering another 6 million Jews, but I suggest that we could firgure this one out in another way.

“”It’s going to be the biggest game of the year,” says Simon Barton from Gameplanet, New Zealand’s largest on-line games retailer. “It’s blown away Halo 3. We sold out of the Xbox version the day before release with pre-orders.” In four days he’s sold around 1500 copies of the game, including about 800 of the special edition package which Gameplanet sells for $150 (compared to $120 for the standard edition). “We’ve just got some new stock of the Xbox version in today (Friday) - that probably won’t last the weekend.”"

One gamer wrote that ”It consistently portrays women as disposable sex objects and it is inexcusable.” One could begin to think that the creators of Grand Theft Auto IV (David Jones and others) themselves view women this way. The game becomes a projection of their own decadence. Purchase it and you’re voting for the degradation of women and filling the pockets of the game’s amoral creators.

Jesus-followers will rightly consider GTA-IV as ensconced in the kingdom of darkness and as advancing the dark kingdom. This game may sell more than Halo 3. Since we can learn a lot about this world we’re living in by just watching what sells, we should pray that a move of God would counter such darkness with light.