Monthly Archives: November 2007

FSM used by God?

Sometimes, I do work that doesn’t require a lot of mental engagement.  While I’m doing that, I come up with some weird thoughts and those can occasionally turn into blog entries.  This is one of those times.

Let me back up to when I was a manager at Wendy’s.  I had purchased a lot of books that showed how to build a team by tactics mined from Scripture.  These included The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell and Teach Your Team to Fish by Laurie Beth Jones.  I used a lot of the tactics I learned, but one thing I never did was give Christ the credit.  Neither in prayer nor to the people I managed.

I think that that was a very bad move.  Scripture says that “whoever denies me [Jesus] before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:33).  I was a coward; I thought it was more important to not offend people by bringing religion into the issue than to give any credit to where the techniques I was using came from.

And so I met with little success.

Now, I’m using the same techniques at Burger King, but I’m acknowledging their source–God–proud and loud.  Not surprisingly, I’m meeting with much more success.

My point is the Scripture I quoted above: “whoever denies me [Jesus] before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:33).

As I understand Intelligent Design, it is merely a scientific expression of the creation account of Genesis without naming the entity that created.  It acknowledges a supernatural creator without defining that creator.  Sounds an awful lot like what I did with the leadership techniques.  I acknowledged that I got them from the Bible, but did not acknowledge God.

Intelligent design does the same thing: acknowledges a creator without acknowledging God.  “[W]hoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:33).

The problem is that God is inextricably tied to His creation.  To know His creation is to know Him: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20, emphasis added).

The Flying Spaghetti Monster has been used by atheists to shoot down intelligent design.  Or has it?  Perhaps the Noodly Master has been used by God to shoot down intelligent design because God doesn’t appreciate being taken out of the equation by otherwise well-meaning scientists.

Let’s be honest: Is intelligent design really how we want to preach God?  Do we really want to leave the possibility of other creator deities open for discussion?  It doesn’t seem as though that is how God would want it.  Did He not say to Moses:

You shall have no other gods before me. . . .  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:3, 5-6)

Why on earth would we think that intelligent design is God-honoring?  Leaving open the possibility of other deities invites people to worship and serve them.  But what is the Great Commission?  Is it to get people to think that the universe has a creator, and it might be the Christian God, and you can serve Him if you think that He is the creator?

No!  It is to “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20, emphasis added).  Note that Jesus doesn’t talk about possibilities; He gives concrete commands.  He tells us in no uncertain terms that we are baptizing these people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the triune Christian God, the creator of the universe.  There are no maybe’s with Jesus.

There should be no maybe’s with us either.  We should be able to stand up and say what Paul said to the Ephesian elders: “Therefore(A) I testify to you this day that(B) I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27for(C) I did not shrink from declaring to you(D) the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).  We, too, should not shy away from preaching the whole counsel of God.  Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of the gospel (cf. Rom 1:16; 2 Tim 1:8-12).

Look at Ken Hamm compared to ID proponents.  I’m not saying that I agree with a 6,000 year old earth and dinosaurs living side-by-side with humans.  I’m starting to lean back toward a more scientific view, which includes evolution.  But, I admire people like Dr. Hamm much more than I admire ID proponents because Ken Hamm is preaching the whole counsel of God!  He isn’t afraid of the gospel.

ID proponents should spend more effort to put God’s name into their work.  Maybe it would become more recognized.  Maybe even accepted in scientific circles.  It doesn’t sound likely, but neither is Christianity.  Putting God’s name back into the tips and tricks I learned certainly worked for me, and I believe that it can work for ID.

FSM Getting More Credit Than He Deserves ** UPDATED**

Religious scholars are meeting this weekend to discuss the pseudo-deity known as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. According to Wikipedia, FSM was created in 2005 by physics major Bobby Henderson in order to protest the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas classrooms. Since its wide media exposure, the FSM is used by atheists and agnostics alike to discredit the existence of God.

The American Academy of Religion has a few talks on its plate (no pun intended) about the Noodly Master. The graduate students giving the talks, Samuel Snyder, Alyssa Beall, and Gavin Van Horn, insist that this carbohydrate creator raises serious questions about the origin and practice of religion.

In other words, are religions based on theology or on practices? Most atheists would argue that religion is only a method to control behavior. They point to made-up religions like pastafarianism as a way to make this point. Richard Dawkins refers to it in The God Delusion, and frequently in debates.

So what are the grad students’ conclusions? I guess we’ll have to wait for the papers to be published. I just think that this lends far too much credence to a phenomenon that already has too much attention.

Dr. William Lane Craig agrees with that:

I think you can see that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is vastly overrated, both as a parody and as a being. As a parody, he fails to show that an inference to an intelligent designer of the universe is either illegitimate or unwarranted. What the parody shows is that we are not justified in attributing to our explanatory postulates arbitrary properties that are not justified by the evidence. Natural theologians have always known this. That’s why, for example, Thomas Aquinas, after his five brief paragraphs in his Summa theologiae proving the existence of a being “to which everyone gives the name ‘God’,” goes on to discuss in the next nine questions God’s simplicity, perfection, goodness, limitlessness, omnipresence, immutability, eternity, and unity.

As a being, the Flying Spaghetti Monster comes up drastically deficient as an explanation of those phenomena, some of which you list, which lie at the basis of the arguments for God’s existence. Those arguments, if all sound, as I think they are, require cumulatively a being which is the metaphysically necessary, self-existent, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator and Designer of the universe, who is perfectly good, whose nature is the standard of goodness, and whose commands constitute our moral duties.

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology.  (source)

Handle a Poisonous Snake, Get Bit, Die. Big Surprise.

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My good friend Jeff Haws, as well as Rev. Dan from OutChurched and VJack from Atheist Revolution have posted on this little news item about Christians handling snakes. With this seemingly insignificant news item gathering a firestorm of attention from atheists, I thought it would be a good idea to address the issue from a Biblical perspective.

I consider myself a reasonable man of faith.  I believe in God’s Word as it espoused in the Bible.  I ascribe inerrancy only to the autographs–that is, the original manuscripts.  I believe that the Bible is written in clear, everyday language and doesn’t require a Master’s degree from seminary to interpret the myriad of passages within it.  This clear, everyday language must be considered for the use of literary devices–such as similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and others–as well as for context.

Part of context would be understanding that “you” in a direct quotation would apply in a general sense only to those people present when the quotation was uttered.

As a reasonable man of faith, I believe that if I were to handle a poisonous snake, that it would bite me, and without proper medical attention, I would die.  No big surprise there.  I believe that despite this promise in the Bible:

Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved, but anyone who does not believe will be punished. And those who believe will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force out demons. They will speak in new languages. They will pick up snakes and drink poison without being hurt. They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed.  (Mk 16:15-18, emphasis added)

Earlier I spoke of context.  In context, Jesus said this to the eleven apostles (v. 14).  He did not give this statement as a general instruction to all of His followers.  That means that these are signs and wonders that accompany apostles.

Elsewhere, I’ve defended this passage by saying that promises made to the apostles are fulfilled by the church.  The church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit disseminates spiritual gifts to people as He sees fit (1 Cor 12:11).  This means that gifts such as those are given to the church, not to individuals.  Among the gifts mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the the entire passage from Corinthians 12 (vv. 7-11), snake charming and poison drinking are conspicuous by absence.

I’m not going back on that stance.  But, I am going back on one thing: Mark 16:9-20 is not found in the early Greek MSS.  That means that this promise was likely not part of the autograph–which means that I cannot wholeheartedly ascribe inerrancy to it.

All said, I too can marvel with my atheist friends at the sheer stupidity of someone who would handle a poisonous snake as part of a worship service.  Even if I believed that the signs and wonders that accompanied apostles would be apportioned by the Holy Spirit to every Christian and was able to ascribe inerrancy to Mark 16:9-20, I still wouldn’t be surprised if this happened.  Ultimately, we should follow Jesus’ example and not test God (Mat 4:1-11; cf. Deut 6:16).

Why Do I Follow Tribal Codes from 1400 B.C.?

The lovely Elizabeth Schmitz has challenged me yet again:

[Y]ou write, “What Elizabeth is doing is taking a modern relationship and reading it back into a culture where it never existed.” I will grant you that. If contextualism is such a concern of yours, perhaps you would refrain from taking the ancient/tribal mores and applying them to modern life… (source)

The issue here is the relevance of social mores that were written between 1450 and 1410 b.c. by Moses, who would have never had so much as a glimpse of modern life. Therefore, why would what he wrote for a group of people, wandering in the desert, be relevant to someone living, stationary, in the Midwestern United States in a.d. 2007?

In many ways, I admit what my critics assert. Tribal codes, as Elizabeth calls them, written between 1450 and 1410 b.c. have no relevance to modern life. So I would contend that I don’t follow them. I follow a higher moral standard that we all know exists, but cannot achieve regardless of how mightily we try. It is all there in our hearts. The Bible does back me up on this:

  • “I delight to do your will, O God; your law is within my heart” (Ps 40:8).
  • “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings” (Is 51:7)
  • “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33).

The last of these verses is actually a prophecy. God is stating that He will write His law on the hearts of His people, the elect discussed in the New Testament, so that we will know it instinctively. This way, we will be His people. As one of the elect, I know God’s law instinctively, for the day Jeremiah spoke of has come to pass, the law was fulfilled in Jesus (Mat 5:17).

As a side note, so that I don’t seem to sound so high and mighty, I claim to follow a higher moral standard. I believe that it was God who wrote it on my heart, so that I could be His and He could be my God. I do not, however, claim to ever hit the mark set by this moral standard. I fail in my walk every day. Each day, I also ask God for forgiveness, and try to make amends where I can to the people I hurt.

So that no one can say that the verses in Jeremiah don’t apply to me since I am a Gentile by birth, let me put a few verses out there. First, Romans 4:9-12:

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

This means that all who believe are the descendants of Abraham, not just the physical descendants of Abraham. The apostle continues:

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:16-22)

Finally, Paul wrote this to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). The distinctions have passed away under the New Covenant, what once applied to the Jews now applies to the Gentiles.

The moral code is written not just in the Bible, but on our hearts. The trouble is, no one recognizes it or follows it (Rom 3:23). This is the first of the five-part Reformed TULIP doctrine: Total depravity. Mankind is dead in sin (Eph 2:1-3). Read the rest of this entry