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Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Reasonable Faith? - What Makes The Bible Different?

             I grew up around horses.  For a few years as a kid I did 4H and competed in horse shows.  The path was set for me by my two older sisters who were really into horses.  Rodeo queens, champion horse showwomen and all that.  Frankly, I think the reason I did it was the guy-girl ratio of those at horse shoes was weighted very heavily on the girl side!
Yep - that's me on the right.  Stupid horses!
            I pretty much gave up on horses after I discovered motorcycles (they go faster, have softer seats and are easier to clean up after).  But my sister Suzie stayed with the horses, training them and continues to be a champion dressage rider.  In all of this childhood experience of horse riding, there was a constant and that was the horse shoer (the fancy name is farrier).  And one of the most impressive things about the farrier was his massive anvil.  Like people’s feet, each horse’s hoof has a unique shape.  So, the job of the farrier was to shape the steel horseshoe to the shape of the hoof.  If you have ever had the chance to watch one at work, they are a bit of an artist with a keen eye for detail.  They have to get it right because if they don’t it will affect the horse and believe me, you really don’t want to tick off a horse owner.  It just isn’t pretty.
            If you were to get an up close look at the anvil, you would see it may have some nicks in it but, with all the beating it takes, the shape is unchanged.  The horseshoe is changed when it comes into contact with the anvil.  Over time, the hammer that beats on the horseshoe and the anvil is changed as well.  Everything wears out – except the anvil.  The anvil shapes everything it comes into contact with yet does not change its shape.

            The Bible has always had its critics.  And yet it continues to endure, shaping the cultures and lives that come in contact with it.  In it we come to discover the unchanging character of God.  Orthodox Christianity holds it in high regard, seeing it in the same way the psalmist did:  The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160, ESV)
            A follower of Jesus doesn’t worship the Bible – she worships the God the Bible reveals to us.  And yet, there is confidence that what is contained in the pages is the very truth of God, his “special revelation” to us.  There is the belief that through the 1600 years it was written, by the over forty authors and three languages, God was in the details guiding the process and preserving his truth.
            Have you read the Bible lately?  On March 5th Cold Springs Church is going to be engaging in a community Bible reading through the New Testament.  It follows the season of Lent, which is the 40 days of preparation leading up to Easter.  Why don’t you join us?  You will be able to find the readings on our Facebook page and on our website (coldspringschurch.net). 
            Beat on it all you want.  As you do, you will discover its profound ability to shape you while it remains unchanging.

Peace and grace,

David

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Science and faith are incompatible, right?

            If you were paying attention to the news headlines at all the past two weeks you were aware of the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”).  Ken Ham is the founder of Answers In Genesis (AIG), a Christian ministry that produces resources to support and defend a young-earth view of creation.  AIG holds the position that the earth is only 10,000 years old and we come to that conclusion by reading the Bible literally – particularly the first three chapters of Genesis.  Bill Nye is an engineer who has had popular TV shows where he explains science in understandable and entertaining ways.  He argued for a naturalistic view of origins.  He believes the universe is billions of years old and what we see today in plant and animal life is a result of evolutionary processes.  There is no God so he obviously wasn’t involved in anything.  Both are smart people.  And they are at polar opposites when it comes to explaining and understanding the origins and formation of the universe and everything it contains.  And there you have it – what you have had a sneaking suspicion of all along - science and faith are incompatible.

            If this is your belief, whichever side you find yourself on, it has shaped how you view the other side.  If you are on the “faith side” this is the reason we shouldn’t trust science and scientists, you reason.  They are mostly godless people who are out to undermine faith.  If you are on the “science side” this is the reason we shouldn’t trust Christians, you reason.  They are clearly small-minded people who are blinded by their religious ideology and twist scientific fact to fit their belief system.
            The media industry loves extremes and they love a good fight.  The 900 tickets to the live performance sold out in 2 minutes.  Seventy media organizations registered to attend the debate.  Twenty video crews were on hand.  Articles have been written, talk shows have had a field day.  And, no doubt, books will be sold making some people a bit of money.
            In all of this you might have been fooled into believing these are the only two ways of viewing the Bible, the universe and creation.  But you would be mistaken.
            If you are coming at understanding creation from a Biblical, Christian perspective there are three non-negotiables:  First, God doesn’t lie, he is completely trustworthy.  Second, God has given us this compilation of writings that we call the Bible so we can know God, his story and our story.  Third, God has given us his creation – the universe around us – so we might know him and his glory.  Psalm 19:1-14 does a wonderful job of pointing us toward these things.  Theologians call #2 Special Revelation and they call #3 General Revelation.  Each of God’s revelation is wholly true and each requires interpretation.  God designed it so his Special Revelation (the Bible) helps us interpret his General Revelation (the universe).  And, his General Revelation helps us interpret his Special Revelation.
            What does this mean for faith and science?  It means they are not enemies or incompatible, they are friends.  And only by treating them as friends are we able to continue growing in our understanding of who God is and what God has done.  Many of the greatest scientists and greatest theologians we have known in history understood this and it opened new worlds of knowledge. 
            Truth is never something we should be afraid of – wherever it comes from  - because truth always helps us to know God more deeply.  And ultimately that is what life is all about.

Peace and grace,

David

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why Bother With God?

            Researchers for years have been telling us that church attendance is on the decline.  In 2007, 17% of the US population was in a church on any given Sunday, according to The American Church Research Project.  If current trends continue, that number will fall to 14.2% in 2020 and just 10.5% in 2050.
            Essentially what this means is more and more people are seeing the pursuit of God and faith as irrelevant or, at best, just one more option.  People see themselves as spiritual but that spirituality is a self-created belief system largely shaped and influenced by popular culture.  Those in their teens, twenties and thirties are abandoning the church in droves. They often times are seeing it as hypocritical, hate-filled, intolerant, irrelevant and unreasonable.  And, unfortunately, they can easily find ammunition for their shotgun generalizations because there are plenty of people who call themselves people of faith who are hypocritical, hate-filled, intolerant, irrelevant and unreasonable.
            Maybe you are reading this and your internal “Amen” meter is off the scale right now.  You would say, “Yeah, this is me.  Christianity and the church just don’t matter much in the world.  They aren’t asking the right questions and their answers don’t make sense.  I’m out!”
            There is also another problem.  It isn’t just with those who claim to be God’s people being hypocrites.  Many people have a problem with God as well.  Frankly, God has been rather disappointing to them.  The God they think they see in the Bible is sort of mean in their eyes.  God also is really bad at living up to our expectations.  How our marriages turn out, our kids turn out, our jobs turn out and our friendships turn out are regularly laid at the feet of God to blame him when something goes wrong.  (But I’ve noticed he never gets credit when they are going right!)  And then don’t even get people started on the evil in this world.  When a natural disaster strikes, God is to blame.  When a mentally unstable person grabs a gun, knife, baseball bat or some other weapon and wreaks havoc God is held responsible.  “What kind of God would let that happen?!”

            Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think these questions are illegitimate or unfair.  I think they are very, very important.  They all represent turning points in our life.  They are turning points of deeper pursuit of God or turning away from God.  And that is totally our choice.
            I believe God is worth pursuing.  I believe what I can see in the world around me points to something greater, something purer, something that cares for creation.  From the truth and beauty found in cellular biology to the overwhelming complexity and majesty of astrophysics and everything in between, there is a cosmic shout of “I am here!  I care! I can be found!”
            If, in the past, at your turning point you chose to walk away, I hope you will reconsider and take the risk to look for God once again.  I’ve heard he rewards those who seek him.
            Please join me on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings for our series of talks, “A Reasonable Faith?”  We’re going to wrestle with the tough questions head-on.  You might be surprised in what you find.  

Because you’re worth it.
Peace and Grace,

David

PS - You can also download these talks from our website at www.coldspringschurch.net.