October 31, 2014

In Their Own Words XX: Theology Describes Creator; Science Describes Creation

Having been born on February 22, 1969, I was born at the height of the Vietnam War, the end of the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene and in the middle of the Apollo space program. All three would have a direct or indirect effect on my life. The war would affect family members of my parent's generation. The Hippies would affect the music my parents and I both listen to in terms of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Arlo Guthrie, The Who, Woodstock and the like. The Apollo space program would capture my imagination in a way neither the war nor the music ever could. It would push me on a course for the field of engineering and then later, in a transcendental way, theology. As I read over the lives of the astronauts and pioneers of the American space program I came to understand scientifically how we ended up on the lunar surface. When I looked into the hearts of the men that drove the program I found out why we went. Interestingly, I also found a kindred spirit in a man named Werner Von Braun. 

Von Braun was a man that was enraptured by engineering but also in love with God. It is as if his engineering drove him to God. It is not surprising to me that I still sit in awe of the fact that humanity was able to put men on the moon. It is even less surprising that I sit in even greater awe of the very same God that Werner Von Braun sat in awe of also. Men that are capable of believing in great things (like God) are capable of performing great deeds through God’s power in them. I pray that I might one day have just one iota of the influence or impact Werner Von Braun had on millions (perhaps billions) of people when he was involved with the American space program. My main quote for this post comes from Werner Von Braun and ironically it is in related to science/engineering and God.
“I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” ~ Werner von Braun

A surprisingly insightful comment from the man who would first reluctantly (by most accounts) aid the Nazis in their V-2 rocket program and then later willfully aid the Americans. His work with the American space program would produce the Saturn V booster rocket that helped land the first men on the Moon in July 1969. Initially Werner had no interest in religion. He was known as the “Merry Heathen”. It is said by those that who knew him through the 1960s and 1970s that after he had arrived in America, he had begun to change subtly. They noticed during these years that a new manner began to surface in his conversations, in his speeches and his writings. There was a growing interest in religious thought. It appears that behind these changes that there was a Lutheran belief system being recultivated. Although he had little interest in religion as a youth, as he aged he developed a firm belief in the Lord. He was actually pleased to get opportunities to speak with peers about his Biblical beliefs.

Von Braun’s family had been present as ministers in the Lutheran church for several hundred years. Von Braun is also cited as saying that his interest in science and engineering began the day of his confirmation into the Lutheran church. To commemorate the occasion his mother had given him a telescope which would allow him to observe the destination of his rockets (Piszkiewicz 22-23). It also appears his voracious reading habit in youth and young adulthood included not only science and engineering books but also books from the likes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (a statesmen), Friedrich von Schiller (philosopher, historian), and Immanuel Kant (philosopher of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics). It is probably the latter of these three (Kant) that would drive Von Braun and his logical engineering mind to search out God through reason but find him inevitably in the realm of faith.

It is in religion or specifically the belief in a biblical God that both Von Braun and I both find the bridge between the vast complex world/cosmos around us and the greater plan embedded in our lives and the Creation. He (like myself) came to the conclusion that the world of technology like rockets, manned voyages to the Moon, atoms, stars, and even living organisms must somehow fit into some greater meta-narrative or overarching story/plan. Somehow all of this points to a greater system created by Someone greater than all the above elements put together. The only One capable of such a vast system had to be God. It was like Paley’s watchmaker analogy on steroids. Von Braun would say it this way…
"It is so obvious that we live in a world in which a fantastic amount of logic, of rational lawfulness, is at work. We are aware of a large number of laws of physics and chemistry and biology which, by their mutual interdependence, make nature work as if it were following a grandiose plan from its earliest beginnings to the farthest reaches of its future destiny. To me, it would be incomprehensible that there should be such a gigantic master plan without a master planner behind it. This master planner is He whom we call the Creator of the Universe . . . One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be a Divine intent behind it all. For me, there is no real contradiction between the world of science and the world of religion. The two are dealing with two different things, but they are not in conflict with each other. Theologians are trying to describe the Creator; scientists are trying to describe His creation. Science and religion are not antagonists; on the contrary, they are sisters . . . While, through science, man tries to harness the forces of nature around him, through religion he tries to harness the forces of nature within him . . ."

Because of these startling parallels drawn up through Von Braun’s dialectic it is not surprising to see him make this further shrewd statement founded firmly in science, morality and theology.
"Our knowledge and use of the laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet with the atom bomb. Science itself does not address the question whether we should use the power at our disposal for good or for evil. The guidelines of what we ought to do are furnished in the moral law of God. It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side; we must learn again to pray that we may be on God's side”

From the early 1960’s onward, Werner talked often about his faith. He was publicly asked if he believed in God. His immediate responses would always be an emphatic, “Yes! Absolutely!” He was never ashamed nor annoyed by the question (Romans 1:16-17). He seemed grateful for the opportunity to formulate and describe the elements of his religious belief in disarming simplicity from such a complex and thought-out man. It is this very dichotomy that fascinates me about the man.

It is also interesting to note Werner’s ritual after a successful mission to space and safe return to earth. He was once asked by a reporter, “Dr. Von Braun, what did you think after you had given your final 'yes' a week ago?" His response? "I quietly said the Lord's prayer" 

I find it just as profoundly interesting that a man whose mission in life was to break the bonds of Earth’s gravity was interested in another frontier besides space and even life itself. Von Braun was a man of destiny. He used his trade and life’s work to glorify God later in life. With a deep-rooted interest in philosophy and religion, he saw no conflict between scientific knowledge and religious faith. He believed that natural sciences deal with creation; religion deals with the creator. Werner Von Braun believed the two are really complementing each other perfectly. 

In the end he believed in a world beyond our own where life would be life-everlasting. He is noted for talking about his end to others. He was known to have remarked the following about his physical death and departure from this world.
"When my journey comes to an end I hope that I can retain my clear mind and perceive not only those precious last moments of my life, but also the transition to whatever will come then. A human being is so much more than a physical body that withers and vanishes after it has been around for a number of years. It is inconceivable to me that there should not be something else for us after we have finished our earthly voyage. I hope that I can observe and learn, and finally know what comes after all those beautiful things we experience during our lives on Earth.
This philosophy is shown in his gravestone’s epitaph. On it he embraces the thing he tried to reach through the thing that he believed. Von Braun’s tombstone includes a piece of Scripture. He acknowledged the end result of the two overriding goals in his life: Rocketeering to space and his Christian faith.
Psalm 19:1 ~ "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."

The whole of Von Braun’s life and philosophy are further summed up in a single quote from Father John Bruce Medaris (formerly Major General) when he wrote the following: 
"His imagination strolled easily among the stars, yet the farther out into the unknown and unknowable vastness of Creation his thoughts went, the more he was certain that the universe, and this small garden spot within it, came from no cosmic accident, but from the thought and purpose of an all-knowing God."

Dare I say that this almost sounds like something the hippies from Haight-Ashbury would've said. We are stardust and we're all just trying to get back to the Garden. We're trying to get ourselves back to the way things used to be before the Fall and sin entered the world.

Piszkiewicz, Dennis, Wernher von Braun: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Praeger: Westport, Connecticut (1998), pages 22-23.]

Stuhlinger, Ordway, Wernher von Braun: Crusader for Space

October 28, 2014

In Their Own Words XIX: The Dark Ages Set Humanity Back Centuries

Okay, show of hands. How many have heard these statements before?

"The Dark Ages caused by Christianity set humanity back centuries!”

“Had the Church not suppressed knowledge and science we would be light-years ahead of where we are in terms of technology and medical science!”

Although I cannot produce an exact person that has made this statement, nearly every single Christian I know has heard a non-believer make this accusation at one time or another. Most often it comes from hardened anti-Christians or zealous militant atheists. I personally have heard this quite often not only from self-described atheists but also agnostics and even other supposedly educated Christians. Anyone with even a remote grasp of real documented history sees these as the absurdly ridiculous statements that they are. Those that do not realize it, well, that is why I type this post. Contrary to revisionist atheistic history, the Christian church was probably one of the biggest contributors to the advancement of knowledge and learning during the Dark Ages without exception.

I have actually found a quote specifically from an atheist historian that sheds some light on this erroneous fallacy about Christianity. It will be quite useful to use an atheist to defend the Christian position against accusations from the usual atheist suspects. It also shows that not all atheists are uneducated hacks and some atheists actually care about the truth, not spreading or reusing really bad fallacies to win arguments.

The atheist’s name is Tim O'Neill. Although I do not believe in O’Neill’s atheistic worldview nor his theological tendencies (or lack of them), I admire the fact that he does not get caught in the unintellectual arrogance trap elucidated above in my opening. I will provide numerous quotes from the man because he is a straight-shooting atheist. He may not be a Christian but he is intellectually honest. The brevity with which he dispatches fallacies and fables about Christians during the so-called Christian prompted Dark Ages is nearly clinical in its efficiency. If the man ever converts to Christianity and accepts Jesus, he will be a Christian apologist par excellence.

When confronting the typical militant atheist fallacy that the Church and religion in general impeded scientific discovery Tim O’ Neill stated the following.
“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.” ~ Tim O’Neill [The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”] [3]
What I will personally add to Tim's argument is this. There wouldn’t even be the field of scholasticism, the scholastic method or rigorous academics if it had not been for Christianity. Why? Scholasticism was a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100 to 1700. Yes, you heard that correctly, medieval universities. How did scholasticism begin? It began with people like Johannes Scotus Eriugena,  Charlemagne, Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Abelard, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. What is the touchstone about every single one of these gentlemen? They were all theologians of the Christian persuasion. As a matter of fact, Aquinas's masterwork Summa Theologica is often considered to be the pinnacle of scholastic, medieval, and Christian philosophy.

So what about education? Did the mean old Christians prevent education of the masses? No more that it does today. If you had the money, you too could get an education. It is actually the Middle Ages from which universities as we understand them today would arise. You’ll never guess who initiated the idea of universities? Sorry atheists, it wasn’t you guys, it was Christians. The origin of higher education took place for hundreds of years in Christendom in Christian schools or monastic schools called Scholae monasticae. It was Christian monks and nuns that taught classes; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the later university at many places dates back as early as the 6th century AD. This of course is 100 years before Islam was even thought of. What is eventually used in these institutes to promulgate higher learning? You guessed it: Scholasticism [2].

As for learning and advancement in general in the West it is Christianity that contributed to the rise of the modern university system which propelled the scientific advancements of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. They created safe places for study and debate (Atheist Delusions, 71). In the Middle Ages, it is almost solely monks and monasteries that contributed to significant scientific and technological advances.

What is even more ironic is what we find in the field of medicine and nursing care. Was it the mean old church that prevented the advance of medical science? Eh, no. Although the idea of hospitality and caring for the sick and infirm has been around since the dawn of time, the revival and restoration of the practice after Christ was initiated by Christianity. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the modern concept of the hospital dates from the time of Constantine (the Great). At the time of Constantine, the declaration that Christianity was accepted as a religion in the Roman Empire (religio licita) drove an expansion of the provision of care in the Roman Empire. After the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town was begun. Up until that time there were Pagan hospitals which were subsequently abolished by Constantine in favor of Christian ones. Why? Was it because the Church was oppressive to non-believers? No. Actually, until that time, the diseased had been isolated from the community. The Christian tradition emphasized the close relationship of the sufferer to the members of the community (i.e.: proper bedside manner). Illness therefore became a matter for the Christian church. Among the earliest hospitals were those built by the physician Sampson the Hospitable in Constantinople and by Basil of Caesarea in what is now modern-day Turkey. [1]. 

I guess it should also be mentioned that the idea of the orphanage was pioneered by Christians also. Shucks, is there anything Christians didn't do that was good? Mean old stick-in-the-mud Christians.

Some of O’Neill’s other adroit quotes that merit a reprint? I have to admit, some of these comments from O’Neill are great. Great as in, biting wit and filled with insight.

The Myth of the Flat Earth?

This might be one of the most beloved and cherished atheist myths about Christianity. It is rehashed ad nauseum much to the amusement of the educated Christian and to the dismay of intelligent atheists. Sadly, there isn’t a shred of historical evidence to validate the Flat Earth Theory put forth to defame Christians and the Church. As O’Neill states:
The idea that the medieval Church taught the earth was flat, that Columbus bravely defied their primitive Biblical superstition and proved they were wrong by sailing to America, is a great story.  Unfortunately, it’s also historical nonsense – a fable with zero basis in reality.  It’s bad enough that I have had the experience of intelligent and educated atheists repeating this story as an example of the Church holding back progress without bothering to check if it’s true.  What’s worse is that I’ve also experienced atheists who have been shown extensive, clear evidence that the medieval Church taught the earth was round, and that the myth of medieval Flat Earth belief was invented by the novelist Washington Irving in 1828, and they have simply refused to believe that the myth could be wrong. ~ Tim O’Neill - Armarium Magnum [5]
Yes, that Washington Irving. The same guy that wrote Rip Van Winkle (1819) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820). So far the only thing that seems flat here is the lackluster atheist delivery of myths.

When it comes to believing things on faith, O’Neill is clear that it is not just fundamentalist Christians that often cling tenaciously to ideas in faith. Atheists also cling to things in faith long after they have been exposed as lies.
Neat historical fables such as the ones about Christians burning down the Great Library of Alexandria (they didn’t) or murdering Hypatia because of their hatred of her learning and science (ditto) are appealing parables. Which means some atheists fight tooth and nail to preserve them even when confronted with clear evidence that they are pseudo-historical fairy tales.  Fundamentalists aren’t the only ones who can be dogmatic about their myths. One of the main reasons for studying history is to get a better understanding of why things today are as they are by grasping what has gone before.  But it only works with a good grasp of how we can know about the past, the methods of analysis used, and the relevant material our understanding should be based on.  It also only works if we strive to put aside what we may like to be true along with any preconceptions (since they are often wrong) and look at the material objectively.  Atheists who attempt to use history in their arguments who don’t do these things can not only end up getting things badly wrong, but can also wind up looking as misinformed or even as dogmatic as fundamentalists.  And that’s not a good look.
Although O’Neill could’ve gone a little bit easier on the Fundamentalists in Christianity, his point is valid and well made about the religious zeal with which atheists pursue their faith of no God. This is the case even when it means holding on to fallacies and lies that they know are lies. It is often the case that they do so in blind faith rarely validating their sources or the validity of their statements. As soon as I hear the uninformed attacks such as the "Church believed in a flat Earth", I tune out. When disinformation begins to spread I am already beginning to ignore the verbose atheistic rhetoric.

I know that as soon as these old worn-out arguments are brought up I am dealing with an atheist that is uninformed and the debate will quickly degenerate into a shouting match laced with intellectual snobbery. At that point I have learned that atheists that will spout this junk...only do it to undermine and defame Christianity whether it be Protestant or Catholic. The atheist is not interest in your opinion nor are they interested in allowing you to air the truth of your position. They usually either dredge up another inconstant fallacy or myth about Christianity or they devolve even farther and just begin shouting you down with irrelevancies. At that point you are just dealing with an unphilosophical thug. It is better to just avoid them at that point because they are too ignorant to realize they’re ignorant. As I once heard it said, “You can’t fix ignorant.”

[1]  Catholic Encyclopedia –  (2009)
[2] Marone, Steven, "Medieval philosophy in context" in A. S. McGrade, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). 
[3] O'Neill, Tim. "The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”." Strange Notions RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014. <http://www.strangenotions.com/gods-philosophers/>.
[4] Hart, David Bentley. Atheist delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Print.
[5] O'Neill, Tim. "Armarium Magnum: Why History isn't Scientific (And Why It Can Still Tell Us About the Past)." Armarium Magnum: Why History isn't Scientific (And Why It Can Still Tell Us About the Past). N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014. <http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2013/11/why-history-isnt-scientific-and-why-it.html>.

October 26, 2014

The Blows From A Sinner's Hammer

Prepare to be devastated and overwhelmed.  

Not just a little, but significantly

If you are truly Christian, this post should crush any misunderstanding that you might have that you can do the right thing or do it “on your own” or through your own works. It is only through God’s grace and love at work in us. His work, not ours. It is not through human efforts.

Everyone believes they love. Christians especially believe they love God and other people. The Bible is the benchmark for what love is. No place is this better exemplified than in 1 Corinthians 13. A chapter sandwiched between two chapters on gifts. Although love is not a gift, it is a fruit or outwardly manifested characteristic of the Spirit indwelling the believer. The love chapter is another issue though. Everyone has gifts, not all have love. It is assumed that the Christian has to have love, right? Wrong. What did Paul say to the Christians at Corinth? If we have not love we are only a clanging cymbal. In other words: Pounding people over the head about Jesus without love is a bludgeoning not evangelism. No matter how gifted we are, this is what we become if we do not use our gifts in a loving way. No one will hear the gospel from a Christian that is an idiot. People just hear noise and inconsistency.

The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is not, in the clearest sense, the love between a husband and wife on a wedding day which is what these passages are often used for. The love here is to be the primary characteristic to and from our brothers and sisters in the church. It is the love that is giving and sacrificial and expects nothing in return. It is the love Jesus freely gave sinners…as they nailed Him to the Cross. It gives without expecting reciprocity.

If we truly love as Christians, we should be able to replace the ἀγάπη/agape love repeated in 1 Corinthians over a dozen times with our own names. In other words, if I take verse 4 it would read, “Andy is patient and kind…” It is right at the beginning of this chapter that I begin to cringe and writhe under the uncomfortable nature of what these words are telling me. The weight and gravity these passages hit me with when I begin inserting my name into this passage cannot be understated. It is like the blow of a hammer right between my eyes.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If [Andy] speaks in the tongues of men and of angels, but [has] not love, [Andy is] a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if [Andy has] prophetic powers, and understands all mysteries and all knowledge, and if [Andy has] all faith, so as to remove mountains, but [has] not love, [Andy is] nothing. If [Andy gives] away all [he] has, and if [Andy] delivers up [his] body to be burned, but [has] not love, [Andy] gain[s] nothing.

Here is where the Scriptures get exceptionally hard to stomach because of my sin.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

[Andy] is patient and kind; [Andy] does not envy or boast; [Andy] is not arrogant or rude. [Andy] does not insist on [Andy’s] own way; [Andy] is not irritable or resentful; [Andy] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but [Andy] rejoices with the truth. [Andy] bears all things, [Andy] believes all things, [Andy] hopes all things, [Andy] endures all things.

The silence inside of my skull is deafening. My conscience is unsettled. The only word that comes to mind after this is: FAILURE. If I tried to say these things about myself, I would be a blatant liar. It is at this point I can no longer continue this experiment with 1 Corinthians 13. So I go in search of other Scripture that I can obey and am more comfortable with.

So, I continue on with my linguistic experiment. Let’s try it with a few other verse, shall we? It will require a little bit more creativity with the subjects, nominatives, accusatives or objects but the point will be made clear enough.

Ephesians 5:25-   “[Andy], love your [wife], just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, [Andy you should] love [your] wife as [your] own body. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, [Andy] never hated [his] own body, but [Andy] fed and cared for [his own] body, just as Christ does the church…”

Ouch. Oh dear Lord….and the ringing of the hammer blows continue to resound in my ears.

Mark 12:30-31 “And [Andy] shall love the Lord [his] God with all [Andy’s] heart and with all [Andy’s] soul and with all [Andy’s] mind and with all [Andy’s] strength.’ The second is this: [Andy] shall love [his] neighbor as [himself].’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Do I love God with every ounce of my being? Honestly? Seriously? The heart that beats within my chest convicts me. I know I don't. The truth is, lately because of struggles, at times I don’t even pray to him every day. For that I am ashamed. For that, I know my true state with God.

John 14:15 “If you love Me [Andy], you will keep My commandments.”

Can I keep His commandments? No, that is why Jesus came. He could and did. I cannot, so I accept Him and what He has done for me.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that [if Andy] believes in him [he will] not perish but have eternal life.”

Proverbs 17:17 “[Andy] loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

It is at this point I can no longer continue this experiment with Scripture at all. It is at this point I have to accept that Christ is the only way these things are truly possible in my life. It is this that drives me back to the Gospel. It is at this point that I realize that I am the nail and I am the Roman soldier that drove the nail into Christ’s hands and feet. It is at this point that I realize I am a peasant in the crowd that screamed, “Crucify Him!”

If I therefore follow the true logic of what these passages are telling me, I have never properly loved my friends, my parents, my siblings, my wife, my children...not even God. When I realized this and finally came to grips with it I was mortified. I now realize I did not know how to love properly at all. I realize what the Scriptures tell me is absolutely true. I can only love because God first loved me in grace and mercy. These are the two exact things I need to show others to be able to love them and be loved by them…grace and mercy. These two characteristics, both stem from love first. Mercy and grace fall out from love. Love is the wellspring from which mercy and grace spring forth. This then shocks me further. I am neither merciful nor contain worthwhile grace. Lord have mercy on me.

I realize I can only be a conduit of grace from God towards others since God is the source of all grace. The only way I can be a conduit to allow God to role through me is if I empty myself and humble myself until I die to self. I still have not done so. It points me to the last few passages of of this post. The first passage is the only passage in the Bible that I can truly embody properly and obey. I find it in Romans 3:10-18.

Romans 3:10-18 ~ [Andy] is not righteous, no, [no one is]; [Andy doesn’t] understand; [Andy does not] seek for God. [Andy has] turned aside; [Andy has] become worthless; [Andy does not] do good, [no one does]. [Andy’s] throat is an open grave; [He uses his ] tongue to deceive. The venom of asps is under [Andy’s] lips. [Andy’s] mouth is full of curses and bitterness. [Andy’s] feet are swift to shed blood; in [Andy’s] paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace [Andy has] not known. There is no fear of God before [Andy’s] eyes.”

I can obey these things in Romans 3:10-18 because of my fallen condition. I sin well and obey sin well. Obey the righteous commands of God? Eh...not so much.

The concluding passages are the ones the get me back to the state in which I can best embody what God has called me to. It is only in the state described in these next passages that I can act as the vessel or conduit God wants me to be. They require that I empty myself so God can work through me. I need to remove myself from my own picture otherwise I impeded the work of the Spirit in my life. It requires humility. The very thing that is absent in my Romans 3:10-18 state is returned to me in Romans 3:19-26 and Philippians 2:4-8. The very thing that is lacking when I don’t have love.

Romans 3:21-26 ~ But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for [Andy] who believes. For there is no distinction: for [Andy has] sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and [is] justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith [by Andy]. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over [Andy’s] former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of [Andy] who has faith in Jesus.

Philippians 2:4-8 ~ Let [Andy] look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [Andy], have this mind, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

Jesus…forgive me, I am a wretch. Jesus wept because of sin like this. I weep also.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Okay, now you do it. I'm literally giving you permission to cut-n-paste this entire post onto a Microsoft Word document. Then hit Replace in the upper menu bar. When it prompts you "Find What:" you need to type in Andy and then type in your name in the "Replace with:" entry field.  You will then have the same post with you name in lieu of mine.

Example: Insert you name in the empty spaces...

If [______] speaks in the tongues of men and of angels, but [has] not love, [________ is] a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if [________ has] prophetic powers, and understands all mysteries and all knowledge, and if [_________ has] all faith, so as to remove mountains, but [has] not love, [_______ is] nothing. If [_______] gives away all [_______] has, and if  [________] delivers up [his/her] body to be burned, but [has] not love, [_______] gain[s] nothing.  [_______] is patient and kind; [_______] does not envy or boast; [_______] is not arrogant or rude. [_______] does not insist on [his] own way; [Andy] is not irritable or resentful; [_______] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but [________] rejoices with the truth. [_______] bears all things, [_______] believes all things,  [_______] hopes all things, [_______] endures all things.

Can you say all these things are true about you from 1 Corinthians 13? Are they true about your intents and your character? I couldn't. I suspect nobody can. Can you admit the truth about yourself? When I did the world began to change and I knew it could never be the same.

[Addendum: Many of my Christian and non-Christian friends tell me that there is eloquence in this ability to put meaningful emotions/feelings into words. This profundity with words is God-given. Some see it as a beautiful gift. I see it as a curse because of the ugliness revealed in the pictures that are painted with the words. If there is a beauty, it is in God’s gift itself, not the truths about me that these words end up revealing. Sometimes it is hard to look in a mirror for fear of the sinner looking back at me.]

October 24, 2014

In Their Own Words XVIII: The Heisenberg-Hawking Theological Uncertainty Principle

I will state outright that the title of this post and the top image are a tongue-in-cheek joke. It was meant to be a long-winded pretentious title. Just like the names that scientists are prone to use when naming their revolutionary theories and hypotheses. I will also state that I would never presume to be intelligent enough to explain Quantum Mechanics. What I would be daring enough to do is to analyze the theological statements of two theoretical physicists making comments outside their field of expertise.

First we have Werner Heisenberg who was a German theoretical physicist in the early to mid 20th century. He was pivotal in the theorization and creation of the field of Quantum Mechanics. In 1927 he wrote and published the Uncertainty Principle henceforth named the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, upon which he built his philosophy for which he is known. In 1932 he was awarded the Nobel Prize essentially for the creation of the field of Quantum Mechanics. A theory that is foundational to today’s science including the scientific theories of his modern day parallel Stephen Hawking who is also a theoretical physicist. Why else is Heisenberg important from a Christian viewpoint? He was known to have made the following comment during an award acceptance speech.
“In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.” ~ Werner Heisenberg - Scientific and Religious Truth Speech (1974) [When accepting the Romano Guardini Prize]
It is interesting that a man of science would say this. It is also interesting that the level of intellect Werner Heisenberg had is probably the equivalent of today’s Stephen Hawking if not greater if adjusted for time. Hawking ironically made the following statement with absolute certainty that effectively ignores the religious quote of Heisenberg.
"Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is we would know everything that God would know if there was a God, but there isn't. I'm an atheist." ~ Stephen Hawking-El Mundo Newspaper (Jauregui)
Hawking was being questioned about a statement in his 1988 book A Brief History of Time where he made a passing reference to the "mind of God". It was in reality, Hawking's effort to clarify that if a unifying set of scientific principles known colloquially as the Theory of Everything were discovered we would understand the mind of an omniscient being. To dispel any confusion Hawking clearly stated he not only doesn’t he believe in God, he believes that his beloved  science is adequate to explain all of reality.  

So, do you see what is being said here by these two men? 

Heisenberg having understood science says it has to dwell at least somewhat comfortably alongside of religion and that those who dismiss religion as outmoded are not taking into account the truths to which science and religion point to. I believe he is making a statement about types of truth here in a roundabout manner. Specifically absolute truth in the case of religion and subjective truth in the case of science. For Heisenberg to have included religion in his thought processes he has to have realized that science did not have all the answers so he had to account for an alternative source of truth...the absolute truths of God (in Scripture)

Hawking does just the opposite. He assumes science is capable of absolute truth by precluding or denying God. He does this knowing that modern science is based largely on theory and unsubstantiated facts and is an ever "evolving" baseline of knowledge (or what many would consider knowledge). Hawking states that having understood science...it cannot dwell harmoniously with religion. This assumes he knows the truth absolutely. No man can do this...only God can. Faulty thinking by such an intelligent man. He is a scientific genius by most people's standards but a philosophical amateur by biblical standards. Hawking is putting himself in God's place (like Satan) with his intellectually arrogant statements. Hawking therefore has proven Heisenberg's statement true seventy or eighty years after the fact. 

Ironically, Heisenberg's insight has already told us that Hawking is essentially doing the same thing people did since the time of Galileo. They discount God philosophically and in so doing shoot themselves in their intellectual foot (see what I did there?). So who is more intelligent here? Who has learned from history? Certainly not Hawking. He is repeating the errors of history stated by Heisenberg. In his arrogance he is proving the Bible correct too.

Romans 1:22-23 ~ "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man..."

What I also find strange is that a man who doesn’t even believe God exists can sit comfortably using God as a metaphorical reference point when he says, "the mind of God". I therefore find Heisenberg and Hawking a unique study of contrasts in that Heisenberg was not nearly as dismissive of God as Hawking is. 

The thing that Hawking dismisses that Heisenberg does not is the possibility of the metaphysical. Based on Hawking’s statement alone it can be ascertained that he believes that all of reality can be understood through physical or empirical means (also known as positivism). By only accepting empirical evidences Hawking will never be able to prove (or accept) anything supernatural like God. Hawking has intellectually and philosophically locked himself inside of a box. In so doing Hawking dismisses the possibility of a priori (independent of experience) existences of reality. The sheer foolishness of Hawking is most evident in the following quote when he claims to want complete understanding (of the universe)...yet denies things that cannot be proven through empirical means. It makes no sense at all and is a philosophically unbalanced view of reality.

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all. - Stephen Hawking

I of course have sympathy for Mr. Hawking’s debilitative motor neuron disease as it certainly makes his life a challenge. Conversely, I see the physically disabled are not immune to reprobate or sinful thinking. Those with disabilities can also be sinners devoid of God. Although science has given Hawking technology that still allows him to be mobile and communicate even in his near paralyzed state, it shows that science, technology and “progress” cannot give all the answers. The very thing that Hawking claims it can.  I see an interesting dichotomy in Hawking's physical and mental circumstances. 

We truly see that it is specifically the mind/heart that makes the man a sinner. Hawking’s body is literally a shell or prison for his mind. Yet, his mind still rejects God. It is God who ironically could heal his body but science cannot. Sadly, it will be God who resurrects his body to everlasting torment not science. He will one day get a fully functioning body back (most likely) but it will be in vain for him on the eternal scale of things. 

We know that it is what is within that defiles a man. It is a tragic way to illustrate this point but it is impactful and painfully true.

Mark 7:15 ~ “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Mark 7:20 ~ “And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Even below the paralyzed exterior dwells a man who can’t think correctly. That fact is evidenced based by on article in the El Mundo newspaper. Yes, I do feel bad about his condition but he, like everyone else in humanity will not get a bye because of his disability. As a matter of fact, sin is the greater disability right now in Hawking's life, not his motor neuron disease. Even if he is the smartest man in the world, he still needs to realize that no one gets to the Father except through the Son Jesus Christ. No exceptions. Being the thinker that he is, I am therefore somewhat surprised by his move from agnosticism to atheism. Actually, no...I’m not surprised. He is the natural man that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 ~ “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…”

Verse 15 above speaks directly to the Hawking/Heisenberg paradox. It says, “...the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things…” What does this say of Mr. Hawking then? It says Hawking is making judgments based on partial knowledge. A man that doesn’t preclude God therefore is making judgment or decisions based on all possible things. Hawking precludes half of reality when denying God and the metaphysical. Heisenberg doesn’t preclude the possibility for God’s existence and therefore keeps a balanced mind. He is, by definition, not foolish.

It shows that you can be profoundly “world smart” and brighter intellectually than anyone else on earth but when it comes to spiritual things you can be dumb as a nail in a board. And this seems to be the main difference between Hawking and Heisenberg. Heisenberg acknowledged the need for God, Hawking denies it. There was Godly wisdom abiding in Heisenberg, there is none in Hawking. In the Scriptural view (therefore mine), Heisenberg is vastly more intelligent than Hawking. Come to think of it, if you are a believer you are vastly more intelligent than Hawking in spiritual matters. It therefore stands to reason that your view of reality is more balanced and accurate than Hawking will ever be unless he repents.

Does this mean that Heisenberg was a Christian? Frankly, I don’t know. Based on the previous statements alone I will surmise that he had a much greater chance of being one or becoming one than Hawking does based on his statement last month to El Mundo. I merely bring up the theological contrast of two theoretical physicists. Two extraordinarily brilliant men at the worldly level. When shown in the light of Scripture though, Hawking’s statements and heart condition pale in comparison to Heisenberg's. 

As evidence that he might have actually have been Christian I offer only a few thoughts. First, Heisenberg was raised and lived as a Lutheran Christian. He was also known for publishing and giving several talks reconciling science with faith. Second, he made this quote the same day as the previous statement:
 “Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair [Nihilism]. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life."~ Werner Heisenberg [Also from the acceptance speech of the Romano Guardini Prize in 1974]
Heisenberg’s acceptance speech was specifically titled and then translated to English as "Scientific and Religious Truth”. The title conveys a purposeful intent by Heisenberg and it is clearly stated. He believed in religious truth along with scientific truth. Being raised Lutheran tells us almost to the denomination where his thoughts on God probably resided. Only Christ though knows where his heart was when he drew his last breath. I will not be presumptuous enough to assert either way. It is certain that Heisenberg believed in both scientific and religious truths though.

Lastly, in an autobiographical article, the late Henry Margenau, former Professor Emeritus of Physics and Natural Philosophy at Yale University stated (about Heisenberg) that…
“I have said nothing about the years between 1936 and 1950. There were, however, a few experiences I cannot forget. One was my first meeting with Heisenberg, who came to America soon after the end of the Second World War. Our conversation was intimate and he impressed me by his deep religious conviction. He was a true Christian in every sense of that word.” ~ Henry Margenau
So I ask you as the reader of this post: Who do you suppose was a smarter man? Was it Hawking or Heisenberg? Who is the one that had a better grip on the entirety of reality? Was it the person the Bible says can make a judgment on all things or the man the Bible implies can only make a judgment based on partial things? In the end I believe there might be some uncertainty concerning the eternal destination of Heisenberg. Conversely, if Hawking stays on the course he is currently on, his destination will be certain and I am certain it will not be pleasant.

Jauregui, Pablo. "'No hay ningún dios. Soy ateo'." ELMUNDO. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014. <http://www.elmundo.es/ciencia/2014/09/21/541dbc12ca474104078b4577.html>

Margenau, Henry. 1985. “Why I Am a Christian”, in Truth (An International, Inter-disciplinary Journal of Christian Thought), Vol. 1. Truth Inc.

October 22, 2014

Ebola, ISIS, Gay Marriage, Ferguson and the End Times, Part II

So , if we cannot be certain about the timing of the End Times, what can we be certain of? Well, we can be relatively certain about a few things. What I do know is that when the End Times or the End of the Age comes Jesus said the following about them when asked by the Disciples:

Matthew 24:4-7 ~ Jesus answered: Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

Right off the bat Jesus warns of deception. Then he warns of other things. Wars? Check! Rumors of wars? Check! Nation rising against nation? Check! Is this something new? Of course not. It’s been going on since Christ made these statements and even before.

Matthew 24:7-13 ~ There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

Famines, earthquakes, persecutions, apostasy, false prophets, increased wickedness, hatred, coldness of heart. These things can all be found since the time of Christ. These things are nothing new. Jesus is speaking of sin and human nature here. He is speaking of moral and natural evil. We see the ebb and flow of society. Ironically, we see the cyclical nature of humanity exactly as it is described of Israel in the Old Testament. 


The following verse though leads us a little closer to what we see towards the end of time. Common-sense tells us the Gospel will continue to be spread until the time Jesus returns. Again, it should not be surprising that this would be said. What should be noted is that the entire world has to have heard the Gospel preached to it before the end would come. Are we closer to this than in Jesus’ time? Yes, of course, but that was the intent, wasn’t it? As time elapses, technologies improve and more people will hear.

Matthew 24:14 ~ And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

I could continue Jesus’ Olivet Discourse but I have already began painting a pattern here. The end will be dreadful but those who are in Christ have nothing to fear. The unbelieving masses on the other hand need to get their act together. They should be sweating bullets right about now. We may or may not be in the End Times but what I am sure is that we are definitely getting closer to judgment either as a whole eschatologically or individually in our own deaths.

Yes, there will be signs in the heavens. The question is, “What will the signs be?” Revelation tells us that when Jesus returns, his return will be accompanied with angels and trumpets. For me any other sign in the heavens could more or less be the same as ones people have seen in the past: eclipses, blood moons, comets, meteors, planet alignments, etc. My question is this: Why would we be looking for comets when Jesus said He himself would return. I think we are missing the point of all of this and focusing on the wrong object. In the End Times, Jesus’ presence means the arrival of the Kingdom. 

We will recognize Him, He will not be symbolic, He will be the real deal. Every knee shall bow. That is why the Book of Revelation is not titled “The Book of Revelation of the End Times.” What is the book called? It is called, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. Does it concern the end of time? Yes. Is that its main focus? No! The main focus is Jesus in His glory!

I see a major disconnect between proper biblical teaching and false teaching in many evangelical circles today. Those that will shanghai the book of Revelation and make it into their own personal foretelling of the “End Times” and use it as a forecasting tool are in error. Although there are some of these elements in Revelation, those that will make this book into tabloid fodder for the “the end is nigh” crowd are in serious jeopardy of misusing this book. By focusing on Revelation's apocalyptic nature they remove the focus off of Jesus Christ and His revealing of Himself in the end of days and fail to focus on the coming Day of the Lord. Revelation is not so much for people like Harold Camping to make absurd predictions, as it is to reveal the Savior’s Second Coming and the salvation and restoration He brings with Him. 

So back to the title of the last two posts.

Ebola, ISIS, severe unrest in the Midwest, etc. Are these the signs of the End Times? Perhaps. Am I oversimplifying the Scripture to make a point? Probably. You really didn't think you were going to get a definitive answer from me about a date, did you? What you will get a definitive answer about is the following thought. The events and the things we see currently happening in the world around us that are unsettling us--are rooted in sin. Many of the incidents and events being perpetrated are being done so by unbelievers (and some unwitting believers). What does the Bible say will happen to those that continue sinning?

Scripture says that they will incur the wrath of God. They will receive judgment one way or another. Judgment outright for an unbelieving sinner's behavior or residual consequences that will always come from sin. Believers might be saved but their sin still produces negative consequences. Regardless, we see the same pattern of God's chosen in the Old Testament, don't we? 

Therefore I believe a lot of what we see in the events both man-made and natural in the world around us are judgment from a sovereign omnipotent God towards sinning man. None are righteous, not one. It is Jesus' righteousness that saves us. In the events around us I see a gradual removal of God's grace which is the only thing that restrains the hand's of the wicked and the unrighteous. This follows the pattern shown in Scripture. It's on the Scripture's pages in black and white. If we believe we are seeing a prophecy unfold now about the future...we should also be seeing a piece of the past. History has a prevalence to repeat itself. It is also why Revelation echoes Daniel and Old Testament prophets in general. All inevitably point to Christ.

The believer has nothing to fear from the End Times. They might have already started, who knows? That is not the main point for the believer. Knowing you are saved in Christ through the Gospel is the main point. Evangelizing people that are not saved is the other important thing for a believer. We still need to live like tomorrow is our last day on earth. Why? It instills a sense of urgency towards the tasks set before us from Jesus like the Great Commission. We should not be pursuing the Great Commission lackadaisically. It should be done like tomorrow is our last chance to save our neighbor, our parent or our child. 

We need to stop getting so wee-wee’d up about exact dates. We need to live like He might come back tomorrow and the rest will fall into place. To be able to live like Jesus returns tomorrow requires us to read the rest of the Bible to determine what that type of living looks like. That requires reading more than Daniel, Revelation. It requires that we read the whole Bible to become more Christ-like!

We’ve seen wars before and they were worse than the ones we see now. The world didn’t end. They were called World War I and World War II. We’ve see Ebola before, and it was called the Spanish Influenza and The Black Plague. We’ve also seen the likes of ISIS, Al-Qaida and Taliban before too, they had names like the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Franks and so on. In truth we've had Muslims beheading people in the Middle East since the time of Islam’s inception which is why it spread so profusely after its commencement. It spread at the point of a sabre. We have seen sexual immorality before too in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The sexual immorality during these empires was so bad that it included socially acceptable pederasty and/or pedophilia.

The images of today's events and knowledge of them have also become ubiquitous and pervasive. News and ability to access images and videos have become instantaneous and effortless. Decapitated bodies are a button press away on our phones and tablets. Things only seem worse now because we in the States and westernized world have had it good for too long. We have been able to view the sin, perversion and savagery at a distance. 

I suspect that is changing now. It doesn’t mean the end of the world has come. 


As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, there really is nothing new under the sun. Let tomorrow bring what it brings. The truth is that we need to stop trying to figure out exactly what day Jesus is coming back and live like He is already here….because in reality...He already is and always has been. 
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