Rick Warren's foreword for Should We Fire God?
So I was excited when I saw that Adam Frank, an astrophysicist from the University of Rochester invoked it in a
At least at first. His take was that we need to try to not fall into the same “us versus them” pattern that can so often derail the discussion. That by thinking “orthogonally” we can put a right angle in the discussion and come up with something that is entirely new.
Then I ran across what I run across all to often in discussions with those who would consider themselves commited scientists and atheists. The issue that is seemingly not even noticed is the baseline belief that those with religious belief are more opposed to this discussion than those without religious belief. That the religious, with my experience being obviously as a follower of Jesus, have behaved more poorly in the discussion than our counterparts.
Yes, I liked how Frank mentioned Einstein’s concern about fanatical atheists who were as intolerant as their religious counterparts. And yes I liked how he talked about our need to approach a discussion that can often be conducted on one axis (only my side has value) more orthogonally. Not just shoot for a middle position, but take a right angle on the axis and create something different. Adam, I was with you.
Remember, this isn’t about what the conclusion is, Frank and I would clearly disagree on that, but rather how we can engage in this discussion seeking to be listeners and not just winners.
But, then it happened. And it was going so well.
Of course the point must always be made that in domains of politics and policy strident atheists are infinitely more tolerent and less damaging than the gang hanging out at other end of the spectrum.
It isn’t even that I am bothered by his opinion on the matter. It is the “Of course” that starts that opinion off. That “of course” approach is what is so frustrating for me.
Much more often than not, when I enter into a discussion with a scientifically oriented atheist, the presumption is that I am likely a knuckle-dragging holdover from an earlier evolutionary stage. My experience is that in the significant majority of conversations, rarely is time taken to investigate whether their hypotheses about me are true.
I recognize the look of disbelief mixed with frustration, disdain and occasionally even pity.
I am not saying that there aren’t many from among those that follow Jesus that haven’t been equally offensive. I remember a Christian I knew that had a bumper sticker that read “April 1st – National Atheists’ Day” and I remember those that cheered his “bravery” in proudly driving around with it on his bumper.
So I am not saying the faith community has handled itself well all the time. And I am not asking people to feel sorry for me as I know very well that many followers of Jesus around the world suffer much more than disparaging looks.
My issue is that it must at least be acknowledged that, for at least a portion of the atheist/scientific community; this thought is so automatic that it could even find its way into a posting urging its readers to not do that very thing.
Sometimes it would seem we have a very long way to go.
What I appreciate is their commitment to teaching the scriptures and training people in them. This is a scripture focused coalition. That is a very good thing. I also appreciate their commitment to explaining the truth about what the death and resurrection of Jesus meant when it happened, and what it means for us today. I mean, Jesus is at the center of God the Father and God the Spirit’s plan for our world. That focus is a good thing. Had that not occurred, there would be no hope for us.
So, while I might follow those same scriptures out and draw different conclusions in some instances than they would; and might articulate some of my views differently than they would, I appreciate their presence at the table. If you are interested in more specifics about where I would differ, just ask…
And I love this
Many thanks to
We are very excited to have started up a new series on the Campus Side called Covenant and Kingdom… Take a look…
I have noticed that the downtown congregation is now going by the name New Life and has its own website, what’s up with that. Are we still one church?
First of all, great question. Ready for a great answer? The answer is Yes we are. So why the different name and website?
It will help to remember that NLCF (not unusually) has done things a bit differently than other churches might. Typically a church would be planted and after it stabilized, it would develop a ministry to youth, or university students from there. That is much more of a normal progression, and it is what people tend to expect.
We did it differently.
NLCF was planted in 1985 by Great Commission Ministries (now The Collegiate Church Network). Four years later, the leaders sensed God calling them to leave and
God breathed on the work that JR and many others of us were doing and over the next number of years NLCF grew to over one thousand. To date, NLCF has planted or was heavily involved in planting churches in
And we started what was originally called the Downtown Congregation of NLCF. It was started to be a place that would allow people in the New River Valley that wanted to worship with us, but didn’t necessarily want to do it in a room full of students do so. It began developing and got to the point that it needed more than those of us that were working with it could give.
Enter the Racek family (again).
Joe, the second elder that was ordained to work with NLCF in the late 90′s,and his wife Lisa, had gone with the LA plant team to, well, LA; sensed God was calling them back to the east coast. Through a lot of talking, prayer, and planning, they decided to return to Blacksburg to work with the Downtown Congregation! From there, Joe worked to set up an Equipper Leadership Team that would share the responsibility of leading the Downtown Congregation with him. As they were seeking God for the vision they would pursue, they kept running into a problem.
When people heard of NLCF, they thought about the campus work. Also, as they were talking about vision, the New Life part of New Life Christian Fellowship started to really stick out to them. They felt it captured what God was trying to say and they made the decision, along with me, to adopt that as their name.
From there, it became quickly clear that having a separate website would be important. It would be more clear to anyone checking us out. Also it would help with the growing confusion that members of both congregations were running into in trying to see what congregation was doing what and when. It would give New Life the best opportunity it express it’s vision. It is also what almost every other church that has multiple congregations or sites does. For those exact reasons.
So, if you go to
So, we have different vibes, different looking Sunday gatherings, different articulations of the mission that God has given us and some different methods for doing it. But we are still one family. One church. Doing some things together and others separately.
Perhaps we would be described at two trees growing from the same root.
Or siblings if you will, but very very close ones.
So, let’s pray for and celebrate what New Life is doing as they celebrate and pray for our impact as well!
But, I read
We at least know that the Humankind’s Greatest Musical Genius is wrong. Nickleback gets that one.
No? Who then, Creed?
Sorry, back on track here… It is so easy to look into another culture and see how they misconstrue reality…how they miss the point. It made me stop and reflect a bit about how we do the same. Things that seem self-evident to us can be very easily seen through by others. Cultural nuances that we are blind to. It makes me want to be very deeply rooted and carefully reflective. It makes me want to be sure that I am among people who will help me to make sure I see myself and the world the way that God would have me.
Sure, I would never say I shot 5 (or 11) holes in one in a single day. But what other lies might I be very willing to tell myself? Makes me think of a Proverb that says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Let’s pray, for the sake of the South Korean people, that Kim Jong Un will do better.
I have am blessed to have very wise friends who have a variety of takes on any number of issues. One that is coming up right now is the issue around the phrase, “Merry Christmas!” Should we be allowed / encouraged to use that particular term at the expense of the more generic greeting, “Happy Holidays!” What do each of those phrases represent and what is the larger issue that is bubbling just under the surface? It is a very meaningful discussion, no?
While I don’t resonate with all of her thoughts, my question is… What are your thoughts on her thoughts?
This will likely be the last posting for the year as I am taking a few days off and then will be going to
In the name of our Messiah whose birth I celebrate,
There is this very strange interaction between this young girl and an angel that I read about this morning. Not only strange, but it was one that made Christianity hard for me to accept for a long time. Let me just let you read it…
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Virgins getting pregnant, angels talking about it… it reads like a fairy tale. In fact for years that is all I thought the bible was, an extended set of fairy tales, stories that perhaps held some usefulness, but only in measured amounts and in measured places.
Then I started to reflect on what I was rejecting. I was one of those that read the background material that 99% of people think is painfully boring. I read evidences against the bible being an accurate translation and those in favor of it being an accurate one. Keep in mind, when I started this whole thing I was firmly in the not accurate camp. Over about a year I frustratingly became more and more convinced it was accurate. That it had held up over time .
That didn’t mean it was true, mind you. Just that what we have now is an accurate portrayal of what they had then. To answer the question in advance, yes I continue to read about this. I have probably read 20-30 books in the past ten years written by biblical or literary critics that argue against my position. Even on my sabbatical, I was reading about the political and sociological streams that have influenced how we come to the conclusions that we do about scripture. If you have questions about my conclusions with them, let me know…
Then I started to ask whether the book might be right. Over time I came to conclude it was. Again, please know that at this point I still didn’t like that it was true, I was still rejecting it. But I couldn’t deny what I had come to learn.
Actually this account of this young girl, Mary, had a part in it. It was one of the first miracles that is recorded in the bible that I believed. (more…)
Yesterday someone said something to me that bugged me. It doesn’t matter who it was or what they said. I know this person cares about me and respects me. I am sure of it in fact. But they did. Said something that got me frustrated with them.
It was such a small comment.
But I felt offended a bit, insulted. I did however apply Prov 12.16 to the situation. It says a fool shows their annoyance at once but the prudent overlook an insult. That is something I try to do when I am frustrated. It helps me to not get into unnecessary arguments when they can be avoided, and many times I have discovered that the person who said the annoying thing didn’t mean anything by it. They meant no offense.
It was the right thing to do.
But later that day I ended up saying something much more thoughtless to someone else. I never meant my words to be hurtful but they were. An off-hand remark that I didn’t even notice at the time, but as soon as I was told about it I hurt for them. The person I said it to very graciously brought it up to me privately later. They offered grace before I even had time to ask for it.
My realization of how easily I can hurt someone with my words makes me desire to offer grace all the more. What I receive I want to give.
So, the inevitable piece of news. Westboro Baptist Church is coming to Blacksburg today to protest in front of Cassell Coliseum today just before the
A bully in middle school taught me why.
There was a kid who lived near me (I won’t name a name as I am always surprised to see who reads this) who loved to mess with me. It kind of became his thing. I was a small kid with… ladies prepare yourselves… a bad haircut, bifocals, braces with headgear… That’s right. Add to that an almost complete lack of coordination, and a very smart mouth that often moved a bit faster than my brain.
Needless to say, I talked myself into a lot of situations.
This guy, who was much bigger, decided I would be his bullying muse for the year. I tried to fight back – verbally, physically. I tried being nice. Nothing would work.
Then I decided to simply render his insults irrelevant. He would make a comment and I’d say “not bad.” He would shove me when he walked by and I would say “nice form.” The first thing that did is it calmed me down. The next thing it did was it removed the audience he loved to get by messing with me.
I took his audience away.
In Proverbs 16 we are told that a wise persons’s heart makes their speech wise and more persuasive. I have learned over the years to tame my mouth -most of the time. Sometimes that means overlooking a wrong, other times to speak against it. Both of those pieces of wisdom are given to us in Proverbs and both are right.
But I think of this response as neither overlooking or speaking against.
I think Proverbs 26.4,5 shares the tension we walk in…
4 When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are. 5 When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.
Both are true. When you understand the proverbial wisdom nature of, well, Proverbs, then you see these aren’t in contradiction. They are both right. Wisdom therefore, needs to guide us into which one we invoke. I think, today, verse four.
People have tried for years to speak wisdom and truth into these folks’ lives. I tried when they last came to Tech. I spoke with Shirley Phelps-Roper, unsurprisingly to no avail. They want the audience, they are somehow energized by the counter-protests. Their revenue stream is dependent on getting big numbers of web-hits, drawing big crowds. So, now, like my middle school bully, let’s move past them.
Let them come.
With the prayer-filled hope that they will just fade away.
Yesterday was a swirl of emotions. A sinking feeling when I got the text about a shooting on campus. Growing fear as we heard about the possibility of another victim. Relief that more weren’t killed. Sadness as I reflected on the lives that ended.
So we walk today in the tension of relief and sadness. The awareness that things aren’t as bad as they could be and still not as good we wish.
Jesus told us this was the case. That the reality of God’s presence in our world doesn’t mean that evil isn’t also here. And the fact that evil remains (for now) doesn’t mean God is sitting idly by. He is active and reminds us to be active as well.
Peter said it like this, “God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost.” 2 Peter 3.9 The Message
And it is Jesus’ example of unfair suffering that inspires me to action. He died for a purpose, for the Kingdom. For us. Now he calls on me to lay down my life as he did.
Yesterday reminds me this life isn’t a game.