Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category
Good news saints. Physicists say they found the “God particle.”
Yes, that is right. In what will no doubt bring some nerdy scientist a Nobel Prize, scientists said that after a 50 year search they are confident that they have found a Higgs boson, the elusive subatomic aspect sometimes called the God particle.
And you thought God created the world in 7 days out of nothing. Silly you.
Not so you weary saints! Sagacious scientists tell us that they finally have discovered the definitive, ontological ground zero: the God particle. They suggest that the particle acts like molasses or snow. When other tiny basic building blocks pass through it, they stick together, slow down and form atoms.
Well that makes sense. Silly me—I thought God “spoke” matter into existence. What was I thinking?!?
A scientist states, “The discovery [of the God particle] explains what once seemed unexplainable and still is a big hard for the average person to comprehend.” You think???
Apparently this little God particle gathers a bunch of little baby atoms together, at random, by chance into an atom of oxygen, that sticks to some hydrogen, like my granddaughter’s Tootsie Roll Pop left by mistake on Christmas, next to the dry sink (don’t tell Karen—it has been my job to clean behind the darn thing), has gathered sundry lady bugs, stink bugs, dust particles, and a dime I dropped on President’s day.
This God particle gathers up stuff and shazzam—before you know it–life! Man I wondered how that happened—I am relieved that California Institute of Technology has unlocked the mysteries of the universe.
But wait? Pardon me, I am just a poor liberal arts major, but do I not remember from 7th grade earth science class that the best theory, the most plausible theory, is the simplest, most direct, commonsense theory? Right now I am having a really hard time understanding, much less believing the God particle Tootsie Roll theory. What do you think? The Word of God makes a lot more sense to me. But again I do not have the advantage of a Cal Tech degree . . .
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared (Genesis 1:1-3 The Message).
Shazzam! Makes sense to me . . .
George Gordon, Lord Byron was an English poet writing in the early nineteenth century. He’s one of the central figures in the literary movement called Romanticism, which began around the turn of the nineteenth century. The Romantic-era writers and poets thought that literature needed to be less about rationality and scientific empiricism, and more about human feelings and human experience. For George Byron this meant focusing on nature and the pathos, or spirit of a man. Byron was the poster child of the wunderkind of poets to take part in this movement. He was wildly popular, although some of his poetry (like his long narrative poem Don Juan) was considered too scandalous for respectable people to read. He was sort of the Paul MacCarthy of his age.
My favorite Byron poem is “The Prisoner of Chillon.” It is the story of a man who spent most of his adult life in prison. It’s about how we adjust to our surroundings: the prisoner is able to survive, even while watching his brothers die alongside him, because he believes in something greater than himself. No, we’re not talking about religion or spirituality – we’re talking about the prisoner’s political beliefs. He’s been thrown in prison for sharing his father’s belief in personal freedom and liberty. But I would say in this age of facileness and superficiality we could stand to be a little more Romantic.
Ultimately though, this troubling poem is about disillusionment, and failure. Lord Byron’s poetic work “The Prisoner of Chillon” explores the struggle between a person’s ending their suffering and accepting it rather than holding on to the hope of freedom. The author uses symbols to represent the immediate end of suffering, acceptance of defeat, and succumbing to torture in competition with hope, strength, and faith in eventual freedom.
My hair is gray, but not with years,
Nor grew it white
In a single night,
As men`s have grown from sudden fears;
My limbs are bow`d, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon`s spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann`d, and barr`d – forbidden fare;
Have you ever been persecuted for something you didn’t do? Or for something you did do, but that you really and truly believed to be the right thing? Humans are able to survive almost anything, so long as they really and truly believe in the veracity of their cause. The trouble is, most secular Americans, and too many evangelical Americans, don’t have a cause worth dying for.
The unnamed “prisoner of Chillon” is alone in a cell by the banks of Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, where he has grown old as a prisoner. He says that his father was executed for his beliefs, and all six of his sons have suffered persecution for the same reason. Three of the six sons died outside of the prison: one was burnt at the stake and two died in battle.
The prisoner almost gives in to grief, but is revived when he hears the singing of a bird outside his window. It reminds him that there’s beauty and hope in the world. So he clings to that thought and survives. He survives but loses his ability to believe in the transcendent, to believe in God. When he regains his freedom, it is too late. “In quiet we had learn’d to dwell–/My very chains and I grew friends,/So much a long communion ends/To make us what we are:-even I/Regain’d my freedom with a sign.”
It was too late. The idealist, the revolutionary, had been beaten, had been tamed by time, by torture, by neglect, by imprisonment, by discouragement. In effect, he could never escape the chains that his captors had placed on him. He was doomed to be in “chains,” defeated, for the rest of his life. In that sense, his captors, his enemies had won.
I think, in a way, the home school movement is like that. We have been fighting, and struggling, for so many years, for a worthy, laudable cause. Will we be able to take the next step? Will we lose our idealism? My point is evangelical Christians, after fighting so many courageous fights, after sacrificing and suffering so long, will we tire out? Will “my very chains and I grew friends?” Will we “learn’d to love despair?”
Mom and dad, parent, let’s give these kids a cause worth dying for. Let’s equip them for the long haul. There is no longer any doubt: this generation will experience excruciating persecution. They can be hopeless prisoners of Chillon or Overcomers by the Blood of the Lamb.
In Revelation 12 the intensely persecuted John, himself a possible prisoner of Chillon, writes:
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
That is the way we do it! We will be overcomers by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our testimony, and being willing to die for the cause!
Let us go forth, let us send this generation forth, so that we/they will never give up, will never lose their idealism and faith!
“I weep because I see what you will do to Israel . . .”
–2 Kings 8
2 Kings 8:7-29
WHAT ARE WE THEN TO DO?
To a large degree, we are to do nothing. We are to wait. The Hebrew understanding of “waiting” is “to stand firmly and actively watch God’s will be revealed.” The Greeks and the Romans and some of us today tried to build society upon their gods. But these gods will not be big enough because they are finite, limited. Even mighty Rome, with all its power, did not have satisfactory answers to the questions plaguing humankind. So they fell. They are finished. They were Hazael.
But we serve a God who never slumbers or sleeps. A God who in a blink of an eye created the universe. A God who has no beginning nor an ending. A God, also, who loves us enough to send His only begotten Son to die for us . . . that is one response to Hazael–embrace the Son of God as our Savior–do not rewrite the rules of the game–play another game!
When the three young students refused to worship mighty Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar they were thrown into the fiery furnace (see Daniel). “We believe God will deliver us,” they said. “But even if we die, we shall not worship you.”
Home schoolers, are we willing to stand firm in our faith no matter what the cost? If we are, then Hazael shall not have our souls . . . even if someday he takes our lives.
Will we stand with Joshua on the edge of the Promised Land and proclaim: “You may follow whom you will but as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!”
As Elisha weeps, he stands with saints of all ages–he stands on Carmel with Elijah–with Moses on Horeb–with Abraham on Moriah–and he asks us again, “If Baal is god then worship him; if God is God worship Him! But choose ye this day . . .”
I know that it seems that we are looking into the face of Hazael . . . and we are. But let us stand–as countless saints before us stood–let us stand firm and choose life this year. . . eternal life! If the present home school movement does nothing else let us call our nation to be hopeful in the face of Hazael because . . . our Redeemer liveth!
References include: New International Version Study Bible, How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer, and Pulpit Digest.
“I weep because I see what you will do to Israel . . .”
–2 Kings 8
2 Kings 8:7-29
At times we are called on to deliver messages we do not want to deliver. When Elisha was sent to Syria By God, he met Hazael. As he looked into the face of this future rule of Syria, Elisha saw how much Israel would suffer at Hazael’s hand in the future. No wonder the prophet, who loved his people, wept. It is always good news to hear that a sick man will be well . . . unless the man who gets well will kill your children.
Elisha wept . . .
After September 11, 2001, we in America are especially somber. I am not in anyway mitigating the horrendous crime that was committed on September 11, 2001. It was a great disaster. However, may I suggest, that we have looked into the face of Hazael. We are both the perpetrators and the victim in our present situation.
In our own country, at the beginning of the millennium, in spite of unprecedented prosperity, we see the seeds of our destruction everywhere. Increased crime, poverty, and unemployment. Hopelessness and domestic violence. Some of us wonder whether our American covenant is being recklessly compromised by some leaders who are choosing to condone practices that we see as immoral. We see Hazael. He will survive . . . but will we? Will the American dream survive?
Edward Gibbon in his seminal work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire says that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end. First, a mounting love of affluence. Second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor. Third, an obsession with sex. Fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity. Fifth, an increased desire to live on welfare. Sound familiar? Are we looking at Hazael?
That must have been the way the disciples felt. Only three years with Him. Three short years. And while his work seemed to fall on deaf ears, the evil Romans prospered. Caiphas prospered. Herod prospered. Evil would win after all . . . and Elisha wept.
Jesus wept too. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus spent the last night of His life. Alone. He had to die. He knew it. And He was so afraid that He wept blood. Sometimes I think we make the cross into something less than it was. It was a horrible death. To wear a cross, for instance, in Jesus’ day, around one’s neck was like wearing an electric chair around our neck today. No, Hazael will live. Jesus will die. And Elisha wept. . .
Elisha began his ministry during the last half of the ninth century B.C. Leaving his parents’ farm in the upper Jordan valley, he trained under Elijah for several years, then served in the northern kingdom for over fifty years.
Elisha was not isolated and unpredictable as Elijah often was. Instead, he spent time with people, sharing meals and staying in their homes. He traveled throughout the kingdom on a donkey, visiting villages and the communities. Elisha’s miracles among these people reflected a deep compassion for the poor and needy.
Despite his loyalty to Israel, Elisha relentlessly fought against the idol worship of her kings. Obedience to God’s instructions took him as far north as Damascus, where he appointed the Syrian king who would eventually oppress Israel. A similar mission in Israel brought the downfall of her evil kings and a massacre of the prophets.
But, Elisha knew all too well, that Hazael would live and someday he would destroy his nation. The rich and the poor alike would suffer. They would suffer because the nation was evil. . . was unfaithful to God. And Elisha wept . . .
I once heard a home school convention speaker ask, “Do you want Harvard or do you want Heaven?” The implication is that if we chose Harvard we were choosing Hell. Well, I think that we can have Harvard and Heaven!
Who could imagine that a movement that began so quietly in the 19970s and 1980s would someday generate so vital and an anointed generation that is emerging at the beginning of this century? It is a time to celebrate and to reflect.
In 2013 it is an uncontested fact: home schoolers are dominating college admission test scores, and, it is growing more evident each day that they are highly qualified and successful college students when they are admitted. When I was growing up, eons ago, elite prep schools dominated the college admission classes. Today, the new “elite” are home schooled graduates. They are the most highly recruited, most highly valued freshmen at secular and Christian schools alike. I am privy to a Harvard University online chat room, and recently I saw this statement posted. “If Harvard wants to be the best, the most relevant institution in the years ahead, it must recruit and admit home schoolers.” Indeed.
And Harvard has reason to worry. I spoke to a Yale recruiter and she told me that, while Yale wants home schoolers, home schoolers do not seem to want Yale. They are not applying to Yale. Likewise, I have two distance learning students who were heavily recruited by Ivy League schools. They both chose local alternatives (a state school and a Christian school).
It is not the purpose of this article to lobby for any particular post-graduate choice, although I found my wife at Harvard—and Intervarsity Fellowship on Thursday night in Cambridge is larger than the entire student body at Gordon College (a Christian College) in South Hamilton. Mostly for fiscal reasons, the majority of Christian home schoolers go to secular colleges. That is an uncontested fact. We home schoolers, for whatever reason, usually attend secular colleges.
Therefore, this article is about the secular colleges we will attend—how they got to be the way they are and how we can prosper in such a place.
First, to most evangelical Christians, the modern, secular, university is a hostile place. It was not always so.
In fact, the American university was built solidly on evangelical principles. There were no so-called “official” “secular” colleges until the rise of the land grant colleges in the middle of the 19th century. An early brochure, published in 1643, stated that the purpose of Harvard University (the oldest American university) was “To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches.” Harvard’s motto for 300 years was “Christo et Ecclesiae.” In fact, most of the U. S. universities founded before the 20th century had a strongly religious, usually Protestant Evangelical Christian character. Yale, Princeton, Chicago, Stanford, Duke, William and Mary, Boston University, Michigan, and the University of California had a decidedly evangelical Christian character in the early years of their existence but abandoned it by the 20th century. By 1920s, the American university had stepped completely back from its evangelical roots. This was true of almost every American university founded in the first 200 years of our existence.
Readers would be surprised to see how evangelical, Christ-centered early universities were. They had pastors as presidents. These men closely tied the identity of their university to a strong Christian world view. The core curriculum included Bible courses and Christian theology. These were mandatory Bible courses. All American universities insisted on a doctrinally sound content for sensitive courses and often required that faculty be born again Christians! Imagine this: the famous historian Frederick Jackson Turner was refused a professorship at Princeton because he was a Unitarian! Chapel attendance was required at Harvard and Yale! It is more than coincidental that the architects who designed early universities designed them to look like churches. At the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, the most prominent building on campus is the Cathedral of Learning.
Universities were founded because early Americans earnestly believed that American society should be governed by evangelical Christian people. They believed that American industry should be run by evangelical Christian entrepreneurs. They believed that American culture should be created by evangelical artists. The early American university was committed to making sure that that happened.
The marriage of spiritual maturity and elite education is a potent combination and to a large degree assured the success of the American experiment. Its divorce may presage its demise.
Today the university is not even loosely a Christian institution. Religion in the university and in public life is relegated to the private experience. So-called “academic freedom” has become a sacrosanct concept and precludes anything that smacks of religiosity–especially orthodoxy that evangelicals so enthusiastically embrace. Religion is represented on campus in sanitary denominational ministries and token chapel ministries (that were hardly more than counseling centers).
To a large degree, then, the American university abandoned the evangelical and the evangelical abandoned the American university.
This created a crisis in the American university and in the evangelical community. The secular American university compromised its “soul” for naturalistic; evangelicalism compromised its epistemological hegemony for ontological supremacy. In other words, the secular university became a sort of an academic hothouse for pompous rationalism. Evangelicals abandoned the secular university, and, until recently, more or less compromised their academic base. Evangelicals even founded their own universities but they were poor academic substitutes for secular offerings. Even as I write article, this is changing.
For the first eight years of my life I stood in front of an ancient oak tree in front of my family home on South Highway, McGehee, Arkansas, and caught a big yellow school bus to McGehee Elementary School. My buddies, Craig Towles and Pip Runyan, wickedly violated school bus riding etiquette and abandoned their boring bus stop two doors down and joined me so that we could surreptitiously deposit acorns AKA pretend “soldiers” in the middle of the road to be squashed by speeding autos AKA pretend German Panzer Tanks. The old oak tree liberally deposited brave acorn Wehrmacht African Korps recruits on the crab grass carpet that my grandmother had futilely tried to replace with St. Augustine grass.
We made the most of the oak’s munificence. Those little buggers made a wonderful chartreuse stain on the already steaming South Highway concrete crown. This was innocent enough—no one would miss a few acorns from a stupid oak tree—but before long, you guessed it, we—more precisely Pip—who was always full of errant but terribly interesting pretend scenarios—that boy always worried Craig and me—suggested that we abandon the acorns and started throwing grenades AKA rocks at passing cars (Pip will deny this of course but you must corroborate this story with Craig). We finally hit (blew up) a few Tiger Tanks and got into big trouble (were captured by the enemy—the Gestapo—and were thoroughly punished–our parents beat the crap out of us).
The truth is Jimmy, Craig, Pip alone would not do such a depraved thing (well maybe Pip would do it—he tortured cats too). In a group, together, however, such a thing not only was plausible, it was downright desirable. Jimmy, Craig, and Pip did things Jimmy or Craig or Pip would never do alone. In a crowd we did things we would not do as individuals.
A Christian theologian named Reinhold Neibuhr said as much in a book he wrote called Moral Man and Immoral Society. Niebuhr insisted that public politics is concerned with correcting, balancing as it were, the sinfulness of human nature, that is, the self-centeredness of individuals and groups. But he understood that while little boys, and political despots might behave nicely if they are alone, in groups, they became monsters. He suggested that moral men became immoral men when they were together in a social group.
Niebuhr fervently hoped that a person would experience redemption and thereby redeem his society by a Hegelian, reductionist struggle with sinfulness. Hegel said, in short, that folks changed as they struggled with life. Hegel hoped that people came through a struggle, hard times, as better people. Just like my mother hoped that my whipping for throwing the rocks with Craig and Pip would cause me to be a better person too. In my case, the mental dissonance, combined with physical pain, worked! I have never thrown rocks at cars since then. I still relieve myself outside behind another oak tree once in a while—another terrible thing that Pip and Craig taught me to do and my fussy mother told me not to do—but, hey, I live on a farm! But I have never thrown rocks at cars.
Niebuhr advanced the thesis that what the individual is able to achieve singly cannot be a possibility for social groups. He believed that Jimmy Stobaugh would be a good boy alone but inevitably, without a doubt, once he was with Craig and Pip or his other buddies he would indulge in chicanery. It was inevitable. Thus, Niebuhr believed in moral individuals and immoral societies or groups. He called it “the herd mentality.”
In other words, Niebuhr correctly saw the immorality of systems in society (e.g., social welfare) and its futile attempts to ameliorate individuals and their needs through systemic interventions. In other words, Niebuhr was not naïve — he knew that systems and cultures change and individual hearts change. But it was much harder to convince a group to change than an individual.
Niebuhr warned that one should try to change individual hearts first, but, in a last resort, power could and should be used to stop societies from harming its members and then other societies.
Once Craig and I were melting down Mr. Chilcoat’s discarded tar shingles to make spears. We were full of bad ideas but they always exhibited élan and ingenuity. We carefully placed the tar shingles in empty discarded metal pork and bean cans sitting in a roaring fire. Once the tar was bubbling we placed old broom handles in the mixture and, once the broom handles were removed, and the tar somewhat cooled, we place stone heads–carefully chiseled as surrogate Indian spear heads–into the warm tar. Thus, we created a alligator killing weapon that we used to kill pretend reptiles in Mrs. Beck’s water garden.
My dad, observing our behavior, and, furthermore, discerning the obvious dangers of placing boiling tar and eight year old boys in the same vicinity, prophetically warned, “Jimmy, stop or you will burn yourself badly.”
Well, he was right. Within the next hour I spilled burning tar on my right hand causing painful third degree burns. I spent the rest of the day in Dr. Parker’s waiting room. Even looking at lovely Jane Parker, Dr. Parker’s oldest daughter, my first heartthrob, only to be replaced by perennial goddess Jamie Fraser the following year, could not mitigate the pain. It was a Sunday afternoon and Jane had accompanied her dad to his office, which was normally closed. I longingly lobbied for curative sympathy from this exquisite beauty but Jane, always the pragmatist, simply thought I was stupid and resented that her dad had to waste his time on such a dope.
The thing is, I always wondered, why didn’t my dad STOP me from burning Mr. Chilcoat’s roof shingles and, more pointedly, from burning to the third degree his accident prone, stupid middle son’s hand? What if I had killed myself or something? I imagined Dad saying, “Well Jimmys dead—I told him it was going to happen.” Or “Well, now what am I going to do—there is no one to take the trash out in the morning!” My dad would have been sorry, I was convinced if the fates of burning tar had snatched me from this world.
Or, worse, what if I hurt Craig—something I was always doing. Poor Craig, more times than not, got hurt more often by my dim-witted choices than I did. Craig got four stitches in his chin the next year when I caught his face with an army surplus shovel as we dug fox holes to escape the inevitable Japanese Banzai charge that would be visited on us at Guadalcanal. Didn’t Dad at least want to protect poor Craig? It would have been pretty embarrassing to tell Mom, and Mrs. Towles, “Sorry to tell you—Jimmy and Craig were killed while making tar spears to kill pretend alligators in Mrs. Beck’s water garden.” Pathetic parenting.
I once asked Dad and Dad with an iconic grin responded, “Jimmy, even at age eight, you manifested an obduracy that I could not overcome. In the presence of Craig, in order to maintain your pride, I knew you would never listen to me. You needed to experience the consequences of your actions before you would stop the action.”
Especially as I look down right now, as I type this digital magazine, and I look at my scarred right hand I realize my sagacious father was right.
Dad’s point was, individuals may be sincere in their understanding about several issues. In fact, they may be right about some issues. But they are wrong, too. But when that group gains political hegemony, it can lose focus and direction and can do immoral things—like throwing rocks at cars—and stupid things—like making tar spears.
Individuals can be moral in purpose and in actions. But combining a bunch of individuals into a coercive group can cause the group to become immoral. For example, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was initially a pretty good thing for Germany. However, as he gained power, the good was replaced by the bad. This may not be inevitable, but it happens so often that we should be cautious in giving so much power to groups. As an interesting sidebar, Niebuhr is directly contradicting the liberal Dewey who applauded the notion that the community, or larger society, created the greater good.
The answer to this apparent contradiction is, of course the Gospel. Societies and groups change as individuals change. Niebuhr stressed the role of the Holy Spirit (what he calls the “religious imagination”). In a sense the group remained moral because the individuals in that society answer to a “higher power,” not to the coercion of the group or to the agenda of the group. Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German
World War II martyr, for example, was perhaps the most patriotic of Germans because he loved his God and his country enough to obey God and His Word above all persons. This was the only way, Bonheoffer understood, that his nation could be moral and right before the God he served. Unfortunately, he was a lone voice in the wilderness!
We live today in a world that is full of the tyranny of the majority. The world tells us to relax, be happy and do what is right in our own eyes. We do things as a group we would never do as individuals. But judgment comes not to groups but to individuals!
The truth, then, is change—real change—is a “God” thing. Only God can really change persons. And as he changes persons, families, then he will change communities and nations. For Such a Time as This believes this with all our heart and anxiously wait for God to change our individual hearts, then our nation, and then the world. For the time we have left, with all the effort we have, FSATAT wishes to do exactly that: share the Gospel with one person at a time so that the world will change and God’s Kingdom will come on this Earth as it is in Heaven!