Obvious Evidence

I once read something by Stephen Hawking.  I read it on an episode of VH1’s Pop-Up Video, but I read it nonetheless.  Hawking said (and I’m paraphrasing) that time travel must be impossible because if if were possible we would encounter visitors from the future.  In other words, if a certain proposition (i.e., time travel) were true, there would be observable evidence (i.e., people from the future) of that truth.

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I believe something similar can be said about the character or nature or “heart” of God.  Those who disbelieve in God often offer His character/nature/heart as reasons for their disbelief.  They say He is cruel.  For example:


Personally, I have never understood this argument.  To me, it is basically saying, “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him (or, more accurately, who I imagine Him to be).”  I don’t know what kind of logical fallacy that is, but it has to be one of them.  Disliking something can’t evidence against the existence of something; something that exists exists whether you like it or not.  And if something doesn’t exist, how can you dislike it?

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But there are more objections to this argument than merely personal ones.  There is evidence against this argument, the same evidence Hawking used against the suggestion of time travel.  If God really were a cruel being, we would see His being cruel.  He would be smiting people all the time.  There would be hellfire and brimstone all over the place.

Is that what we see?  No.  We don’t see that any more than we see visitors from the future.  We don’t even see those who deny God and/or say vile things about Him smited (or is it smitten?) in this way.  And that fact that we don’t means only one of two things: 1) either there is no God (in which case we are then left with a host of problems, such as the source of morality and the purpose of existence) or 2) God isn’t nearly as bad as we think He is, isn’t nearly as big on smiting as we accuse Him of being.

I side with the second one.  I think that fits the evidence (all the evidence) the best.

This Will Not End In Death

I have a mentor, an older man who helps me in the life of The Faith.  I have a couple mentors, actually.  One of them came to see me today.  We spent about a hour and a half talking about various aspects of the life of faith, some of which were challenging but all of which were inspiring and encouraging.  Perhaps the most inspiriting and encouraging was the way he walked me through John 11, the account of Lazarus’ resurrection.

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I was familiar with that story, of course, having covered it at least once in Bible college and heard numerous messages on it in church.  But my mentor showed me things in that story I had never seen before.  The most significant of those is Jesus’ opening words in the story.



This sickness will not end in death, Jesus says.  He tells His disciples right from the start that Lazarus’ sickness (and, by extension, everything connected to it, including Jesus’ return to Judea) will not result in death (again by extension, death for anyone).  What then follows is what would be called “the debate” in a story or screenplay (according to Blake Snyder, the debate is what ends the first act of a story).

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The disciples debate Jesus on this point, certain that a return to Judea will indeed result in Jesus’ death as well as their own.  Jesus continues to assert that it will not result in death.  He even asserts this after Lazarus has died.  Finally, Thomas agrees to go to Judea with Him (and apparently persuades the others to go also) even though he is still sure doing so will result in all their deaths (my mentor called this “pessimistic yet courageous faith”, which I said pretty much describes my faith).

Their going to Judea did not result in their deaths, though.  Instead, it resulted in their witnessing one of the greatest of Jesus’ miracles, their witnessing what Jesus called glory.  As Jesus said at the beginning, the event did not end in death.  They did not die.  They apparently were never in danger of dying.

In the same way, Jesus is asking me to do things.  He is leading me into new and sometimes scary territories.  And He is telling me that it will not result in death, no matter how much it might look or seem like it will.  He is telling me it will result in glory.  This story is The Story; the beats in this story line up with and reflect the beats of The Story.  This is happening in my life right now.  It is probably happening in yours as well.  If it isn’t, it soon will.   May we believe what Jesus is telling us.  May we understand and be convinced of the fact that death is not and never will be our fate.  May we understand that we are headed not for death but for glory.

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Science Tests Faith


Today I listened to an excellent podcast called Speak Life.  The episode I listened to was titled “Is Science The Enemy of Faith?”  It contained a short lecture delivered by a guy named Glen Scrivener.  The lecture was brilliant on several levels.

It started with a story  about a botanist named Betty who analyzed rather than appreciated a rose she had received for Valentine’s Day.  With this, Scrivener was showing that it is possible to understand the inner workings of the universe without understanding what the universe was for.  This is an idea that I’ve been mulling for about 20 years.  The idea first came to me when I saw a rainbow in the sky over Cincinnati during a snowstorm (yes, a snowstorm, not a rainstorm) and I realized that science could explain how that rainbow got there but could never explain why it was there or why it excited me so much.  I wrote a poem about this, in fact.  That poem is now lost, and probably for the better.  But Bettys (or is it Betties?) are still around, and every time I encounter them I feel like Ted Danson in this scene from Gulliver’s Travels:


Another great thing Scrivener said in the lecture was “scientism of the gaps”.  There was a question time following his lecture, and someone asked about Christians using “God of the gaps” arguments.  These arguments merely apply God to whatever is unknown, and for that reason they are not regarded very well.  Scrivener in reply said that some scientists are guilty of a similar poor argument he called “scientism of the gaps”.  As the name suggests, this is just applying some scientific principle, such as “natural selection”, or, even worse, some scientific fact which simply has not been discovered yet, to whatever is unknown.  I had never heard that phrase “scientism of the gaps” before, but I had encountered this type of thinking.  I particularly encountered it when I wrote a paper on the Cambrian Explosion in grad school.  At that time, I ran across this video:

Professor Valentine there states that there “must have been” the kind of biological build-up Darwinian evolution requires, and he admits that there is no evidence for that build-up, but still concludes that such a build-up is “probably right” and “must have been”.  I just don’t see the qualitative difference between saying something like that and saying something is because “God made it that way”.  It does seem like scientism in the gaps to me, and it seems as poor as God in the gaps.

More than anything, though, this podcast reminded me of a TV special that aired on Fox during my final year of Bible college.  The special was called Signs From God: Science Tests Faith and was hosted by Giselle Fernandez.

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For some reason I thought this was called “Science Vs Faith” and was hosted by Soledad O’Brien, which is why it took me forever to find.

I remember the special being promoted less as “science tests faith” and more like “science versus faith”.  And I remember thinking at the time, “What science?”  I probably could have also asked, “What faith?” as the “signs from God” being tested were not signs I would have based any of my faith upon.  Indeed, while the general consensus seems to be that all science is against all faith, a quick survey of the many branches of science shows that this is not close to being true.

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Not even close to being exhaustive, but the best I could do in the space I had.

Does geology argue against faith in any degree?  Or forensics?  Physics?  What about math?  Computer science?  Political science?  None of them do.  In fact, no true scientific fact (that is, an observation of the natural world) can argue against faith, and no scientific field does, either.  Rather, as Scrivener says in the podcast, what really argues against the faith (or tries to argue against it) is a scientific philosophy, a worldview or even religion which uses science and looks like a science and influences science but is not itself a science.  You can also call it naturalism, materialism, philosophical materialism, etc.  But you really can’t call it science.  It isn’t.

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That, as Alvin Plantiga says, is where the conflict really lies, what the conflict really is.  It is not science versus faith.  It is scientism versus faith.  It is not a conflict of “fact versus myth”, as some would like to present it.  It is a conflict of one worldview against another.

Scrivener ably defended my worldview in his lecture.  He left lots of room for true science (observation of nature) as well (indeed, based on his comments, there were lots of Christian scientists in the room with him).  He showed that science is not and really cannot be the enemy of The Faith and vice versa.  And I completely agree.


A public figure recently called a public official “extreme” for his religious views.  Who the figure and the official are doesn’t matter.  I don’t want to identify those individuals.  I don’t want to dive into the particular pool they belong to.  I don’t even want to dip my toes into the waters of that pool.  As I have told you before:

In fact, they are rather interchangeable.  There was a similar incident more than a decade ago when a different public figure called a different (but similar) group of people “radical” for their religious views.

And my reaction to the “extreme” comment today is the same as it was to the “radical” comment then.  I think that comment is ridiculous.  I think both those comments are ridiculous.  I think those comments are ridiculous not because I think they are incorrect.  I think those comments are ridiculous because those terms are incorrect.  Those terms are flat out inane, in fact.

When it comes to faith (or “religion” for that matter), there is no such thing as extreme or radical, not in the way those public figures were using those terms.  There is only right and wrong.  Either God said something or He didn’t.  Either God told us to do/not do something, or He didn’t.  To think/feel/believe He said/told us to do something He didn’t doesn’t make you extreme, radical, conservative, fundamental, liberal, or any of the other weird terms we use for such things.  It just makes you wrong.

Or it might make you weak.  That is the term Paul used for such a situation (people thinking God said something He didn’t).  Not conservative or liberal, extreme or moderate, etc.  Weak or strong.  He does so in Romans 14.


That, then, is what such a person is: weak.  Failing to correctly understand the will of God (and yet not rejected by God, who is gracious and kind and does not find fault with His children).  And that is how they should be treated: they should be accepted.  Not allowed to dominate.  Not become the tail that wags the dog.  But accepted.

That’s what they are if they are incorrect, anyway.  If they are correct, if they have correctly discerned the will and word of God, then they aren’t weak.  They aren’t even wrong.  You are.

In any case, these terms are inaccurate and unproductive.  They are also completely illogical (if there is a God who interacts with us, why would we not be extreme about Him?).  And they thus ought to be abandoned.  There is no such thing as “extreme” or “radical” in The Faith.  Let’s stop saying there are.

We Eat

This commercial has recently been airing on TV:

I found it to be rather funny at first.  I was just surprised to discover that the one thing which makes women so awesome is that they eat (and that they eat Special K, no less).  But there is a sense is which that is true.  It is true that performance is driven by and even dependent on nutrition.   It is true that your eating fuels your doing.  It may even be true that your eating fuels your being (you are what you eat, after all).

And that is not just a truth.  It is a spiritual truth, a discipleship truth, a truth of the walk with God.  That walk is something that is done.  There is a performance to it (we aren’t judged by that performance as much as we might think, but there is still a performance to it), and that performance is likewise driven by/dependent on nutrition, what we eat.

That is what makes the spiritual disciplines and practices so important, particularly the disciples/practices of Bible reading and church attending.  These practices are our spiritual food.  They are the eating that fuels our doing.  Jesus Himself indicated this in Matthew 4:4:


There are several other Scriptures which suggest this same thing, such as John 6:51, 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:14 and  13:10), and 1 Peter 2:1-3.  Beyond that, logic itself suggests it.  After all, there is no such thing as perpetual motion in the physical universe, so why should we think there would be such a thing in the spiritual universe?

So we all need to eat.  All us disciples, female and male, need to spiritually eat if we are going to spiritual do and/or spiritually be.  We need to eat through regularly reading the Bible and meeting with other believers.  This isn’t a guilt trip; guilt shouldn’t be part of the spiritual disciplines and practices.  It is a biblical and logical conclusion.  The cereal companies can see that conclusion; they package and exploit it in a way I don’t care for, but they can at least see it.  May we believers see it and act on it as well.


Jehovah Jireh

Facebook showed me this “memory” today:

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That was me doing a little bouldering at the Diablo Rock Gym about five years ago.  (It was taken by a professional cinematographer, by the way; I know it doesn’t look like it for some reason, but it was).   As I looked at this “memory”, I was reminded me of something else that happened at this gym.  I was climbing one day with my wife (who, being afraid of heights, was not nearly as enthusiastic about climbing as I was).  The climbing routes are always given names; bouldering problems are just numbered, as you can see in the picture (V1, V2, etc), but routes are named.  Usually a group of routes in a certain area have related names; their names follow themes (movies, songs; one times it was hobbits, I think).  It so happened that the group I was climbing were named after God.  Each route had one of the “Jehovah” names of God.  I’m sure you’re familiar with those names.

In particular, one route was named “Jehovah Jireh” (or “Jire”, as above).  As you probably know, Jehovah Jireh means “The Lord Will Provide” and comes from the “binding of Isaac” narrative of Genesis 22.


I remember thinking very deeply about that truth as I climbed that route.  I needed the Lord to provide for me in that moment; the route was at the edge of my abilities, and I need strength and skill to complete it (which I did).  I needed the Lord to provide for me in other ways as well: in my ministry, my marriage, etc.  As I climbed this route which had this blessed name/Scriptural promise, I had the strong hope He would do just that.  I climbed the route with the belief that He was not only providing for me in that climb but would provide for me in these other ways as well.

Oddly enough, I saw this memory on Facebook on the same day my daily devotional reading put me in Genesis 22.  I read the binding of Isaac narrative with its Jehovah Jireh promise right before I saw this picture.  So I got hit with this truth twice.

And that was something I greatly appreciated.  See, I have worried about my needs all my life; that has been a big issue for me ever since I first learned my family was poor as a grade school kid.  I know for a fact I was worried about my needs being met at least by 4th grade if not by 3rd grade.

But what I see now in the word of the Lord is that I have worried about these needs needlessly.  What I am being reminded of in the Scripture/the name of God is that God is a provider, that God is my provider, that God will provide for my every need just as He provided for Abraham (in whose footsteps of faith I am walking; Romans 4:12).

I forget this truth at times.  I start looking at my needs rather than at my Father God’s goodness, and I start to worry.  This truth will never be a one-and-done truth, at least not for me.  I’ll never get over my concern about my needs the way this lady got over her fear of flying:

That’s why I need constant reminders of it.  That’s why I need to keep coming back to Genesis 22 and similar passages (Matthew 6:33), which I will do all my life.  I need to be continually confronted with the truth of Jehovah Jireh as well as all the other related truths of the goodness of God so I can overcome my fear, and today I was confronted with it.

I guess that was God providing for me all over again.

A Sliding Scale

I told you yesterday about the “advance” I had with men from my congregation and a few other congregation.  I talked about the petition “Lead us not into temptation” from the Model Prayer of Matthew 6/Luke 11 at that advance.  As part of my time, I explained to the men that there were two ways to live, each of which went to a different destination, a fact I illustrated with this picture:

As I said yesterday, the men often spoke up during my time, asking me questions or even challenging my conclusions.  One of them did just that, telling me that instead of depicting the “lead us not” concept as the choosing of one destination over another I should depict it as a sliding scale.

This same idea came up at a discipleship group I led last night.  We read Matthew 12:22-32 to start the group, and one of the guys there said Jesus’ teaching about “whoever is not with me is against me” reminded him of this sliding scale concept.  He said that the more he walked toward Jesus, the less he walked toward both the negative acts of temptation as well as the neutral things that are just “not Jesus”.  He also said it worked the other way as well, that the more he walked toward either negative or neutral things, the less he walked toward Jesus.

And I wholeheartedly agreed with that.  I think discipleship is a sliding scale like that.  Or, to use a term I like even better, it is a spectrum.

By nothing more than the very nature of things, the more you move toward one end of a spectrum, the more you move away from the other end of the spectrum and vice versa.  It is not puritanical, patriarchal, Victorian, or any other negative adjective that might be (and often are) thrown at it.  It is just the nature of things.

That being the case, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:30 about whoever not being for Him being against Him seems less harsh and much more sensible.  It is nothing more than a fact, nothing more than that sliding scale or spectrum.


And that, again, shows just how good and important this “lead us not into temptation” idea is.  Temptation is on the other side of the scale/spectrum from Jesus.  If we walk to it, we are not just “sinning”; we are moving away from Jesus, from God, from the Kingdom.  The central question, then, becomes not “What can I get away with?” (which was the question me and my peers were always asking in youth group” or “Why is God so black-and-white?”, but rather, “What side of the scale/spectrum do I want to be on?”

Or, to put it another way: