Friday, October 29, 2010

She Kissed His Feet (Lk. 7:36-50)

Simon was a religious man. He understood morality; he understood right from wrong. He knew what things a good person should do and what things a good person should avoid. Mostly, I would guess that Simon and I would probably cast similar votes on election day. I would guess that he and I would avoid the same places, habits, and people. One day, Simon had the privilege of having Jesus over to his house for dinner.

During the course of that meal, a very unusual thing happened. A woman who was a known "sinner" came over and began to kiss Jesus' feet. She kissed his feet. She was crying as she did this, and she was wiping off his feet with her hair. How awkward for Simon. How awkward this is for me to watch, you might say, as I read this story. I am a by-stander, these many years later, to a very intimate, and potentially humiliating moment.

I am not really concerned with Simon. I don't need to analyze his thinking. I understand him well enough because I'm like him. I relate to Simon. I think most people I know are probably like Simon.

I have also known a few women like the one in this story. That is, I have known some sinful women. I have known some, what others call, "loose" women. I only mention this to say that I know some folks like her; who do and have done the things she did. She is hardly an unusual character.

I do not understand Jesus. I do not know anyone like him. He is the odd thing in this story for me, and the one that I most want to be like. I can relate to Simon because I am Simon. And really, I think he is the most common, if not the most easily despised character in the story. I can understand the immoral woman. I cannot understand Jesus, and yet I must.

I know that the main point of this story is that the immoral woman loved Jesus more than Simon. I get that part of the story. I amen that part of the story. I love it that Jesus rebukes Simon's, and therefore my, pettiness. I need more than that.

I want to know how Jesus did it. How did he gain this woman's love, real love. She was a woman of "ill repute." She knew what it was for men to desire her. She knew what it was to enjoy a man. So, I have to wonder, how was her encounter so different with Jesus? He obviously did not pursue her as an object of lust. I want to know what he said to her. I want to know where he met her. I want to know how his kindness to her and his love for her as an individual was made so obvious to her that it broke her heart and healed it at the same time. I want to know what he did or said that was so powerful that it would overcome her probable dislike of Simon so much that she would break taboo to go into Simon's house and kiss Jesus' feet! How did he do that? I say with those gathered, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" I say this and I know who he is. He amazes me.

There are plenty of Simons in my town, and there are plenty of people of ill-repute. I want the church to be like Jesus, who was able to sit with both, who was able to amaze both. Oh that God would help the church to be amazing again like his Son is! For myself, today I must be contented to watch Jesus as the woman kisses his feet while Simon scowls, and the guests shift nervously in their seats.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Go Outside and Play

Oh yes, this is nerd pwnage at it's glorious height. This is what every WoW gamer dreams of doing to all the grand poobahs on Q&A panels. This would be the pasotral equivalent of flummoxing John Piper with a question on propitiation.

Red Shirt guy, FTW!! Oh yes, and in general it is bad form to wear a red shirt to a sci fi convention, unless you want to die before the away mission is over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Tale of Fat Man and Skinny Man

In a common town, in an unremarkable state, there were born on the same day two boys; one was Skinny man and the other was Fat Man. The boys grew up in the same town, and they both had an average childhood. Both of them went off to school, got happily married, and fathered a few lovely children.

When Skinny Man hit middle age, he began to notice that his fondness for donuts and cake and sweets of all sorts had begun to take a toll. Because he loved his family, and because he enjoyed playing with his children, Skinny decided to discipline himself. He began to excercise three times a week, and he rarely ate the sweets that he so enjoyed. Over a short period of time, Skinny was a pretty fit man.

When Fat Man hit middle age, he began to notice a little bulge around the middle as well. His love of cakes and goodies and sitting about had led to a tipping of the scales. Because he loved his sweets and leisure, Fatty did not change his life style. Over time, Fatty got fatter.

Skinny was an active fellow. Though he missed his sweets and sloth, he did not miss his children's baseball games, soccer games, or events of any kind due to fatigue or illness. He took his children on hikes in the mountains. He played ball with them in the yard.

Fatty liked to watch television. He loved his children, but his knees always hurt so he couldn't participate in their games. He could go to their games and watch, but sitting in those bleachers was hard on his back. He didn't go hiking much; his feet would swell. But he loved his pastries, and he ate all he wanted.

Skinny also enjoyed his grandchildren. Because he was fit, he got to enjoy with them the same things he enjoyed with his children. He could still run and play. He had more energy than most younger men. He went to all his grandchildren's games. He and his wife would take them on vacations to beautiful and fascinating places. They explored both the woods and the city.

Fatty enjoyed his grandchildren as well, but he mostly kept to his recliner in his older years. His back gave him serious problems, and he had already had a few surgeries on his knees. He didn't get to many games; he couldn't take sitting on the bleachers anymore at all. He didn't get to take his wife on many of the vacations that they had dreamed of in retirement; he simply was not able to go and enjoy it. But he did get his sweets, and he watched plenty of television.

It came to pass, as fate would have it, that both Skinny and Fatty died on the same day. Skinny had a stroke. Fatty had a massive heart attack. Skinny's self-discipline did not give him a single day of life advantage over Fatty. Could it be that all that exercise was a waste of time?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Philosophy of a Young Earth

I want to be clear that I do not think someone who believes in an "old earth" is a heretic deserving of anathemas. I do, however, think that science has hi-jacked the plain reading of Genesis chapter one, and more importantly, science has sneaked into the mind to play the part of philosopher instead of fact finder. Science is an awesome explorer and discoverer, she is a lousy theologian and philosopher.

Most people who hold to an extremely old universe do so because it looks old. We have stars that are billions of light years away. If the universe is young, then we should not be seeing them yet. There are many examples such as this in the natural world that would indicate the ancientness of the universe. Yet, stubborn man that I am, I still believe that this place may be fairly new. I do not believe it because of science. I believe it first because of the Bible, and secondly because the idea of a young earth and universe is as philosophically possible as an old one.

Let's deal today with philosophy and earth age. I want to contend that science cannot, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot tell us how old the universe is. To age something, we have to have a definite starting date. How, I wonder, will science provide this? When did the universe begin? Most scientists, I suspect, believe in a starting point in something like the Big Bang. There may be other competeing theories, but this is the most popular. Think about the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory presupposes the eternity of matter. That is, before the Big Bang, there was this massive, massive ball of everything that is that exploded into chunks of what we see now. That explosion starts the clock. That is a reasonable theory.

It is precisely at this point that I think many theologians and Christian philosophers go awry. After hearing the Big Bang theory, they then try to beat the scientist at his own game by exploring whether or not the Big Bang could work. I don't think that is the best way to go about it. I want to deal with the most glaring problem: how did that massive ball of everything begin to exist in the first place? What made it explode? Science cannot answer this for us. At best, science could tell us that it is possible that such a big ball of everything existed. Also, and let this sink in, when science tells us how "old" the universe is, it is really only telling us how long it has been since the Big Bang. The actual age of the universe would have to be infinite. It would have to be eternal. The universe, in this closed, miracleless system, has simply always been. This assertion boggles the mind theologically, philosophically, and yes, even scientifically.

Here is the second thing to think about in this debate: miracles. Do I believe that the universe is governed by unalterable natural laws? No, I do not. I allow for miracles, as do most people I imagine. Once you allow for that, and this is a big point, then there is no reason to reject a young universe creation. If I believe in wizardry, then it should not surprise me if a wizard can conjure a rabbit out of a hat, or a fireball from thin air, or a mouse from his hand. It would be silly of me to try and use science to figure out how old a newly conjured bird would be. It simply will not work. That does not mean that the wizard is being deceptive.

Imagine this, a wizard conjures a rabbit and brings it over to my house and he says, "Look what I made." I say, "OOooo...that is the oldest rabbit I've ever seen! Let me get my tools." So, I begin a scientific medical exam to check out the rabbit and age it. The wizard says, "What are you doing?" I say, "I'm trying to figure out how old this rabbit is." The wizard laughs and says, "Friend, I just conjured him on the way here." And I say, "Well, that is not what my findings are telling me. This rabbit is ten years old at least! Besides, if this rabbit isn't really old, then you deceive me by making it look so old! Why would you make an old rabbit?" I can only imagine that the wizard might respond, "Deceiving you? I just told you I made while on the way. And I made it old because I like rabbits that look like this one. What does old even mean, friend?"

Here are a couple of problems:

1) If you do not believe in wizardry, you will never take the wizard's word for it.
2) If you believe that science explains everything, you won't even bother looking at the wizard's explanation anyway.

So it is the modern presuppositions that get in the way of a young universe. We presuppose it to be old because it looks that way. We also believe that science can explain everything for us. It simply can't. Finally, we also have a hard time swallowing that a book, nearly as old as the world, could possibly be correct on the age of the earth. We don't believe much in miracles or wizards. Besides, those rubes didn't have science. How could they have possibly known how old the universe is? Or why it was made?

Unless, of course, the Maker told them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Science Cannot Be God for Us

My good buddy Alvin sent me an interesting link on Facebook the other day. You can check it out here. It's an interesting interview with Sam Harris, one of the "new atheists" as a promotion for his new book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

Let me give the positive spin first. I am glad that Sam Harris wants there to be absolute truth. I am glad that he thinks moral relativism is untenable for sanity. I agree to all of these things.

However, there are some things that I do not like very much at all. I find this quotation, from an interview on the John Stewart show I think, very amusing. He says:

We have a problem. The only people on the planet at this moment who think that there are truly right answers to moral questions are religious demagogues who think the universe is 6,000 years old. Everyone else seems to think that there’s something suspect about the concept of moral truth.

Yes indeed. We have a problem! Luddites, like myself of course, are the only people who think there are real answers to moral questions. I suppose the problem is that morality has been left to imbeciles and this needs correcting. There is a great post on Sam Harris over here at the First Things blog by Tom Gilson.

Insults aside, the real reason why I find this so frustrating is the seemingly obvious error being made by Harris. That is, you simply cannot construct morality from science. Science is about fact finding. You can determine, scientifically, that a child has life at conception. However, can you then use science to say whether or not the child has an equal right to life as an adult?

Gilson puts it like this, "There is, after all, a reason most people don’t think science can deliver us moral truth: it can’t. Not unless Harris has come up with something utterly earthshaking in the history of philosophical reflection." That's an amen comment for me. By that, I mean the problem is that we are scientifically smart these days, but we are philosohically dumb. I do not doubt that Harris is a stellar scientist, but he is certainly no philosopher. Think about this: why is it that science is mandated for primary and high schools and philosophy isn't? It used to be that philosophy was an essential component to an education. Isn't learning to use reason and logic as important as knowing the innards of an earthworm?

Science cannot answer everything. It can only give us facts, or at least, it can tell us how things look. But to reason from facts to morality is the job of philosophy, and dare I say it, theology.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On Being a Young Earther Luddite

I know that it is all the rage today to think that the universe is ancient beyond comprehension and that men are evolved from bacteria. It can hardly go unnoticed that the stars are really, really far off and that there are dinosaur bones scattered just about everywhere across the planet. When you add that together with Cro-magnon skull fragments, petrified wood, and carbon-14 steady rate decay, it appears as if the old age of the universe and earth is a slam dunk.

I confess that it is a slam dunk for a natural law type of person. By that, I mean the man who believes that all there is can be explained by the scientific method, by natural law, and if need be, genetics. This is the type of man who thinks that religion is a coping mechanism to keep us from realizing that when we die, we go into the void of nothingness. In order to avoid this inconvenient fact, our genes invented religion so we wouldn't turn into non-breeding gothic kids who put off marriage and procreation in favor of black attire and melancholy. In their universe, love is merely a swirling concoction of hormones and genetic pre-disposition for symmetrical faces. There is, in fact, nothing mystical about love, hate, or zealotry over our favorite college team. It's in the genes. And, most abhorrently, the true miracle of the "immaculate reception" is no miracle at all. It is a closed, cold universe headed to the void of nothingness without the faintest wisp of the comfort of metaphysics.

I am not that type of person. I do confess, however, that I have the appalling tendency to want to be liked by men. More specifically, I hate to be thought of as an idiot. So I know that my inclination that the world may be only 10,000 years old or so marks me immediately as bordering on being an imbecile. I have tried, very hard, to harmonize my young earth mentality with the ancient appearance of the universe. Toward this end, I moved back my original calculation all the way from 6,000 years to 10,000. This, for me, was a large compromise, but it will satisfy none of my critics I'm sure.

So how could it come to pass that a man with a liberal arts degree should be so foolish? Alas, I believe in magic. At least, I believe in an omnipotent Creator-God who can, with mere words, make something out of nothing. To use the words of the academy, I believe that everything we see was created ex nihilo. That is akin to Harry Potter conjuring a mouse from thin air, I suppose, to the naturalist. I came to the startling realization that if God Almighty spoke something out of nothing, it is simply absurd to then go and try to age it. Unless, of course, we surmise that when He made it, He made it look "new." This sounds altogether reasonable until we try to compare it to what an old universe might look like. Since there had never been a universe before, we must come to the only logical conclusion that this new universe God made looked just like a new universe, no matter how old we might think it looks. There is, actually, no other universe to compare it to. I guess this means that we are aging it through time as a man would age, by seconds and years back to a time when it was young.

Sometimes, people think I am old because my hair has turned gray. That is a reasonable assumption since gray hair belongs on old men. However, by a cruel twist of genetics, my hair turned gray at the tender age of thirty. If I were to color my hair more brown, and then allow these same fellows to watch me run a half-marathon next Tuesday, they might think I am doing better than one foot in the grave after all. So, just because my hair is gray does not mean I've gotten old. If you are scratching your head as to what this has to do with the age of the universe, just leave this point aside. I simply wanted to feel less old than I appear.

So, oddly, I find myself in the predicament of believing that God spoke in the Bible, that He spoke plainly, and that He has said that He made the world out of nothing. And, He has also said that He put a man on this planet, and that He made one woman out of that man's rib. I believe all of that patent nonsense. I also believe in talking snakes and damning fruit. To the naturalist, I am practically mad and particularly dangerous to a thinking society. If my philosophy were not so repulsive, I could be studied as an odd throw-back to a more primitive day. Instead, I think ridicule is the chosen attack against rubes like myself.

I am glad to have this off of my chest. I hold a sad set of presuppostions that put me at odds with the modern man. I believe in God, and miracles, and I believe in the Bible. Apparently, clinging to this sort of hocus-pocus entails the denial of medication and all scientific advancement. I believe this to be a merely childish insult. I like ibuprofen very much. I am also very fond of the idea that my son and daughter have powerful angels watching over them who obey the every whim of an omnipotent God.

So there you have it, dear reader. I am a young earther Luddite of the highest order. I am not even ashamed of it on good days. You can pray for me, if you like. Or at least, you can blame it on an unfortunate idea one of my ancestor's genes had to give me this wretched coping mechanism.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Parable of the Miners

I have to confess that I have been glued to the trapped Chilean miner story. I prayed for their deliverance, and I have prayed for them after their rescue as well. I think one of the miner's had both his girlfriend and his wife show up for the rescue party. That guy really needs our prayers.

Their ordeal made me think: Could I survive down there without going mad? And as I thought on it, I began to realize that their situation was a great parable, which I will now share. Here it is, the parable of the miners:

There was once a group of miners in the country of Chile. They labored, day after day, in a mine that was over a half-mile deep in the earth. One day, the mine collapsed, burying the miners under 700,000 tons of earth. Though they were not crushed in the collapse, they had with them only 48 hours worth of food and water.

Those family and friends on the surface were filled with grief at the collapse of the mine, and they set about drilling to determine the fate of their loved ones. It took them seventeen days to drill a small hole to where the miners were at the time of the collapse. To their great joy and surprise, all of the miners were still alive. They had survived for seventeen days in a dark pit with only forty-eight hours of rations.

So think about this: how did they survive 17 days on 48 hours of rations, and what does this have to do with you?

If there is anyone around to discuss, we will. If there isn't, I'll just answer my own question tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

May?! It's been since May since I even attempted to post something? It's like a ghost town in here.

What is going on with me? I used to be a blogging legend in my own mind. I had at least ten consistent readers, all of whom I have let down. And all those funny things I used to write down, well they are being lost by the day. What a shame.

I need a do over. A blog do over/make over. I need to get over there and fix those links that also go to ghost town blogs. I need to add content from time to time that I shamelessly steal from others. I could even do something with that thing at the top with the lightning bolts. I need to move the furniture around.

I will get on some of that tonight I think. I'm going to give it a try. Because, I think my thoughts are important enough to share, just like every other narcisstic blogger out there. So, for the two of you who have also been either very hopeful or too lazy to remove me from your goes nothing. Again.