Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 03:13 AM UTC

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:

It's Not A Gay Thing, It's A Bible Thing

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Sad news a few days ago that former Christian music artist Jennifer Knapp came out as a lesbian in preparation for the release of her newest album. During a segment of Larry King Live, Knapp said, “I think there is plenty of evidence in my exploration of my faith through the sacred text of the Holy Bible that I have definitely recognized that we are somewhat at the handicap of our own interpretation of a sacred text.”
That somewhat convoluted sentence basically means that the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality is a matter of biblical interpretation.
Actually, it’s not.
The Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality are no different than it’s prohibitions against lying, stealing, murdering, or adultery. Try this on for size:

Real Teams, Real Goals, Real Transformation

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When you are a missionary working in a foreign country the amount of materials and training resources you sometimes have can be a bit limited (minus the annual trip the States to pillage the local bookstore). So those in the missionary community rely upon one another to share their experiences, wisdom, and philosophy to help further their work.
Such was the case for me last week during a lunch meeting with a friend. We were discussing the importance of team building and team leadership—failures and successes—when he passed this by my ears.
“A real team is a small number of people working for a specific period of time, who are equally committed to a common goal and a common approach, for which they have specific performance objectives, to which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
When I heard this description of a real ministry team I was immediately struck with thoughts of our senior management on the TV side of our operations. I would say with reasonable confidence that our team meets most of these requirements. But on the ministry side of things, it can be a bit more difficult.

More Than Not Sinning

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I was watching an episode of What Would You Do? tonight. For those who haven’t seen the show it features actors and a reporter that set up a morally compromising or wrongful situation in a public place. They secretly record the actions of those who witness what happens. What will they do? Will they run to the rescue or ignore the wrong they see before them? As you might guess, with every episode the overwhelming majority of people turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the injustices around them. Many of the people interviewed afterward note that they don’t get involved because they think something isn’t their business, or they feel uncomfortable. It’s the minority of people who take it upon themselves to proactively do the right thing and come to someone’s rescue.
This got me thinking about some recent reading I’ve been doing about the biblical concept of God’s law written upon our hearts. The concept comes from God’s promise to Israel in Jeremiah 31:33 that a day was coming in which God’s law would not merely be written upon tablets of stone as it was in Moses’ day, but “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
As I was contemplating this idea I thought of the same thing that you might be thinking of now—the Ten Commandments, as one example, burned into our consciences. While I was contemplating this I ran across another passage in the book of Jeremiah that gave me a new insight. This passage also talks about something being written on our hearts, but it’s not God’s law.