Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, January 23 2018 @ 05:54 PM UTC

If It Can't Be Measured It Doesn't Exist

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Recently I posted the following on my Facebook page: “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” It wasn’t long before someone asked, “How do you measure God?”
Thanks for asking!
Some people look at faith in God as something that is regulated to “personal belief.” In other words, you can believe something if you want, but it’s not really real. The Bible’s view of faith is quite different. Faith is not something you believe without evidence for the object of its existence. Rather, biblical faith is based squarely and solidly on evidences. Biblical faith is not nebulous. Nor do we measure God by a ruler. Rather, we measure God by the impact he has on his creation. In fact, measuring God is not all that dissimilar to measuring black holes. Yes. You read that right.

Parallels

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It was hard not to be captivated by the rescue of the Chilean miners. There hasn’t been such a risky and yet encouraging story in the news media for a long time. Here in Mongolia we were equally riveted to the tube, watching the rescue all night until the last man was brought out of the hole. The audience of our station, Eagle TV, made calls, and wrote letters thanking us for our coverage of the rescue. Mining is to Mongolia what oil is the Arabian peninsula. So as you can imagine, Mongolians were very interested in the fate of the Chilean miners.
While we were all riveted to the TV to watch the rescue something else grabbed my attention. I saw the Gospel in the rescue of the miners. Consider what natural parallels there were to the Christian life.

Looking For Alien Life...Found It

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There’s plenty of Internet buzz around the discovery of a new planet, Gliese 581g, some 20 light years from Earth. The buzz started with speculation that the newly discovered rocky world, which orbits in the so called “habitable zone” around its star, may have conditions right for life to develop if it hasn’t developed already. In fact, the planet’s discoverer, astronomer Steve Vogt, made the dubious claim that there is 100% certainty that there is life on Gliese 581g. Vogt went as far as to say, “It would be easier for life to evolve on that planet than on Earth.” (1)
Hot on the heels of Vogt’s ascertain comes another equally dubious claim of an artificial signal sent from Gliese 581g, which would indicate intelligent life on the planet. The claim was made by astronomer Ragbir Bhathal, saying, “We found this very sharp signal, sort of a laser lookalike thing which is the sort of thing we’re looking for—a very sharp spike. And that’s what we found.” (2)
Along with the speculation about the planet comes the usual question, “What does this mean for religion?” For years the anticipated discovery of life on another planet has always been assumed to be a death nail for religion, especially Christianity. The assumption which underlies such claims is evolution. If, as the assumption goes, evolution is true (and it usually is assumed to be so as evidenced by Vogt), then life on other planets must also have evolved, and if life on other planets evolved then what room is there for a God who makes a special creation? Questions on this topic might include:

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: Philosophy or History?

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I’m  wondering how much of the creation/evolution debate is caught up in the labels of “Evolution,” “Creation,” and “Intelligent Design.” I say this because of the popularly understood notions of what these labels mean. While you personally may not regard evolution as beginning with the idea that God does not (or must not) exist the published works indicate that the evolutionary idea propagated in public schools does begin from that starting point. I think for most Evangelicals this is where the rub gets raw. Most of us do not object to the teaching of evolution as a theory to explain the process of life or even origins (though we disagree), rather we object to teaching evolution as a finally proven conclusion with no room for another possibility, or leaving out the possibility that the evidence could point to a Designer.
The commonly understood ideas of “Creation” or “Intelligent Design,” for those who have not explored the topic beyond reading the general press reports, gravitates toward 6-day creation positions, Young Earth vs. Old Earth, miraculous intervention (spontaneous creation by an outside force) and so on. In point of fact, Intelligent Design is not necessarily about any of these issues. Intelligent Design is about whether observation of the evidence can lead to a conclusion that creation is the result of an intelligent agent. Or in the case of some, whether the observation can lead to a conclusion that the process of evolution apart from an intelligent agent is the best explanation. Even some in the Intelligent Design movement still regard evolution as the best scientific explanation for the process of creation, but not its origins.
In the whole debate of whether or not Intelligent Design is science, let’s remove the preconceptions that seem to go along with the terms Evolution, Creation, and Intelligent Design. In fact, let’s remove those labels all together and simply place all of these issues under the banner of “Origins.” Possible questions could then be:

That's Impact II: The Breakdown

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Remember the survey that I wrote about last week? We had Press Institute break down the answers into different religious groups to get a better understanding of the religious culture and how individuals use Eagle TV. There is some startling new information. Here’s what Buddhists and Christians had to say about terminology. Keep in mind that “Burhan” and “Tenger” are traditionally Buddhist and/or shamanist words. “Yurtuntsiin Ezen” was originally developed by Christians for the Christians community.
  • 79% of Buddhists associate the word “Burhan” with Buddhism, and only 10% associate it with Christianity
  • 59% of Buddhists associate the title “Yurtuntsiin Ezen” with Christianity, and only 0.3% associate it with Buddhism
  • 78% of Christians associate the words “Burhan” and “Tenger” with Buddhism, and 89% associate “Yurtuntsiin Ezen” with Christianity
  • Only 8% of Christians associate the word “Burhan” with Christianity (this would seem to fly in the face of real-world practice, but I’ll touch on that later)

When asked what they believe Christianity is about:

That's Impact

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In the last year one of our ministry objectives has been to discover how Eagle TV is impacting the community spiritually. One of our tools is a series of surveys asking the audience specific questions about perceptions of Christianity, Bible knowledge, etc.
Our most recent survey was done in June, and we just got the data in this week. What did we learn?
First off, we discovered that Eagle TV is having a huge impact when it comes to what people think Christianity is. 30 percent of respondents said that they get their information about Christianity from Eagle Television. Only 10 percent said they received their information from churches and 12 percent from the Bible. That’s not really unexpected since only 6.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as Christian, with the remaining 93.4 percent identifying themselves as Buddhist, shamanist, or something else other than Christian. I have to say, a 30 percent impact from Eagle TV is huge. To be honest, I don’t know of any other TV ministry that can claim such a large percentage of impact. In fact, I don’t even know of any radio ministry that rates that way. I don’t say this to boast, rather, it seems truly remarkable to me that Eagle is having that level of impact with its audience.
One of the issues we face in Mongolia is about people’s perceptions of what Christianity is all about. In my nearly 8 years in Mongolia I’ve noticed a strong thread of prosperity Gospel influence among Mongolian believers. For those unaware, prosperity Gospel is a Christian heresy that, essentially, makes the accumulation of wealth and material possessions the primary goal of Christian expression.

The Importance Of Covenant Fidelity

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The concept of keeping covenant with God seems to be one not much considered by the modern Christian. Yet the Bible demonstrates in its pages that the idea of a covenant with God was that which guided the patriarch’s and the early believers’ relationship with the Almighty. It may be said that without a covenant there can be no relationship with God.

There are many definitions of covenant used by theologians to describe this important idea. Each definition offers valuable insight into the concept of what a covenant is. The Hebrew word for covenant, b’rith, denotes “a legally binding obligation” (Tenny, p.1001). The obligation of the covenant was far reaching beyond simply the person who made the covenant with God. As one example, when God made his covenant with Abraham he not only bound Abraham to the covenant, but he also bound his offspring who were yet to be born (Genesis 17:10). “Clearly a b’rith is a legal kind of arrangement, a formal disposition of a binding nature. At the heart of a b’rith is an act of commitment and the customary oath-form of this commitment reveals the religious nature of the transaction. The b’rith arrangement is no mere secular contract but rather belongs to the sacred sphere of divine witness and enforcement” (Kline, accessed online 8/7/09).
 

The Atonement

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Instead of writing an completely original piece I present this week’s entry resourced heavily from several theological works on the subject of the atonement. The atonement can be difficult for many people to understand, but to put it the most simply: The atonement is God’s solution to the problem of sin. Reformed theologian Wayne Grudem defines it by saying: “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation” (Systematic Theology, Chapter 27, “The Atonement,” page 568).
Definitions and Need for Atonement
“The atonement is the act by which God restores a relationship of harmony and unity between Himself and human beings. The word can be broken into three parts that express this great truth in simple but profound terms ‘at-one-ment.’ Through God’s atoning grace and forgiveness, we are reinstated to a relationship of at-one-ment with God, in spite of our sin” (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 139).
“The need for atonement is brought about by three things, the universality of sin, the seriousness of sin and man’s inability to deal with sin. The first point is attested in many places: ‘there is no man who does not sin’ (I Kings 8:46); ‘there is none that does good, no, not one’ (Psalm 14:3); ‘there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and never sins’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Jesus told the rich young ruler, ‘No one is good but God alone’ (Mar 10:18), and Paul writes, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23)…

Partial Obedience

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My latest weekly book reading has been Patrick Morley’s, Seven Seasons of a Man’s Life. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally got around to picking it up for the weekend.
Part of Morley’s thesis points out the difference between what he calls “Cultural Christianity,” and “Biblical Christianity.” At the same time my regular Bible reading took me through the II Kings story of Jehu, king of Israel.
Jehu is portrayed in the scriptures as a bloodthirsty man, though he was implementing the prophetic word pronounced about him by Elijah. Jehu executed God’s judgement on the house of Ahab. He wiped out Jezebel, Ahab’s seventy sons, and eradicated the worship of Baal. At each stage Jehu acknowledged that he was fulfilling the word spoken many years earlier by Elijah; that he was God’s instrument to do these things. Yet at the same time there was a problem—his obedience to God’s call was only partial. It made me wonder, as I often do when reading such biblical accounts, how it was the Jehu knew he was fulfilling the word of God yet at the same time only surrender to God a partial obedience? Jehu did not turn fully to God. Rather he continued in idol worship and led Israel astray in the worship of other gods—just not Baal.
What does Partrick Morley’s book have to do with Jehu? Nothing directly, though there is a connection between partial obedience and cultural Christianity.

Follow The Evidence

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A news story last week claimed that Chinese and Turkish researchers found the remains of Noah’s Ark on Turkey’s Mount Ararat. Some are saying the claim is a hoax, while others point out that the ark has been seen by many explorers. So what is the truth of the situation?
While no conclusive proof has arisen that the wood structure(s) at the 13,000 – 14,000 foot levels are the remains of Noah’s ark, it is interesting that there does seem to be historical evidence for the ark’s survival through the centuries.
My most recent recreational reading is in a commentary by James Montgomery Boice on the book of Genesis. Boice points to a large number of accounts through many centuries of the ark resting on Turkey’s Mount Ararat, just as the Bible records. For instance: