Welcome to tomthinking.com Monday, December 10 2018 @ 07:21 PM UTC

It's About What's Real

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For a long time many people have believed that there is a war between science and faith. The issue of origins is a challenging one. On one side the evolutionist argues for creation as a self-directed process without the interference of a Creator. The other side argues in various ways for an intelligent agent that guided the process of origins. Both sides, with minor exceptions, view the other as the enemy. “Creation is religion and not science. Religion does not belong in the classroom,” goes the mantra. “Evolution is only a theory, not a fact,” says the other. Both sides are at war. Science and religion, as it goes, are incompatible.
I think, however, that there is more to this issue than to simply (and wrongly) say that science and religion are incompatible. The two operate in different spheres, but the two also touch the other. Is there really a disagreement between science and faith? In my view, such a classification doesn’t quite address the core issue. The core issue is, to put it simply, this: This is not a disagreement about science and faith. It is a disagreement about what is real and what is not real.
In one sense it doesn’t matter which side a person is on. The question is the same for both. What is the nature of reality? Does God really exist? Are origins dependent upon or independent of a Creator?

Buddhism's Error of Self-Denial

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Denial is a concept found in virtually every major religion. Various ideas on the practice of self-denial can be found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and other religious and philosophical streams. In most religious practices, like Buddhism, self-denial is a means to achieve an end. Ironically, self-denial is a means of attaining something for oneself - selflessness. Some have thought that the Bible teaches something similar, noting as one example Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Are these concepts similar? Not in the slightest.
Unlike Buddhism and the other major religions of the world, self-denial in Christianity is not a means to an end, nor is it a religious practice. Self-denial is a loving expression of benefit for others, in obedience to God.
There are three great differences between most religions and Christianity regarding self-denial:
Buddhism & Other Religions
 
  • Self-denial is a means to spiritual enlightenment,
  • Self-denial is a religious practice,
  • Self-denial is performed for the benefit of oneself.

 

Christianity
 
  • Self-denial is an indicator of pre-existing character,
  • Self-denial is not a religious practice, rather it is an expression of love for others and for God,
  • Self-denial is not performed for personal spiritual benefit, it is always performed on behalf of others.

Thanksgiving: Like No Other Holiday

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More than any other, Thanksgiving embodies both religious and political freedoms, and puts them in their proper place. Of the numerous holidays Americans celebrate each year, Thanksgiving is uniquely American, and uniquely Christian.

In the early 1600s a small group of devoutly religious men and women sought to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. These Pilgrims broke from the Anglican church and were persecuted from England to Holland until they boarded the Mayflower and set sail for the New World. The Pilgrims were separatists, seeking to restore the true nature of the Gospel to Christian practices from what they believed were the pollutants of Catholicism and the Anglican Church.

Upon arrival, before disembarking their vessel they signed an agreement known as the Mayflower Compact. The text of the agreement included a vision for a new government:

The Cross Waves Higher Than The Flag

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Those words from the Steve Camp song, Justice, ring in my head when I read the first chapter of Romans. Just how much sovereignty do we attribute to God?
When was the last time you read scripture and saw in its words the extolling of Christ to a position higher than any government, any ruler, any person, ever? As I read scripture I see God’s sovereignty everywhere—but especially in Romans.
In chapter one of Romans the Apostle Paul uses political language to describe our commitment to Christ and his authority with the church body. Look at these words:

Earn The Right. Wrong

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I recently heard a speaker declare that to share the Gospel we must first “earn the right” to share by doing things to take care of people’s physical needs. You may have heard something similar. As the concept goes, there is a realm where by doing good things for people we earn their ear to talk about Christ whereas without such things a person might turn a deaf ear to us.
However, as I listened to the speaker it occurred to me that making the sharing of the Gospel dependent first upon taking care of humanitarian needs may be, although well-intentioned, a mistake. In fact, five things jumped at me about what is wrong with the concept if applied as a rule for evangelism.
Before I continue let me qualify my intentions. I’m not discouraging humanitarian effort as a means of sharing the Gospel. On the contrary, such strategy can be effective at opening doors for the Gospel. However, we should consider that requiringsuch action before sharing the Gospel can be a mistake where the scriptures are concerned, and possibly, where culture may be concerned. Allow me to explain.

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.