Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Bare Minimum


I had the opportunity my senior year of high school to start a Christian club on my campus called CampusLive. This club was not just for Christians to meet together, its specific purpose was to share the Gospel to as many students as possible and get those who accept Christ plugged into the local church. The strategy was affective, the large room we met in would be packed, and at the end of the year we were able to see 35 teenagers give their lives to Christ. Over the course of that year hundreds of students, and many of the teachers and administration heard the Gospel. Over the next few years the leadership changed and I moved off for college, but CampusLive continued. I began to hear form other friends that CampusLive had begun to stray from its intended purpose. When I visited for the last time, my worst fears we realized when I saw what had been created as a means to make disciples, had become a Christian social club. Today, churches are filled with programs, rules, bylaws, traditionalism, and extra-biblical requirements.

In the case of this club that I started, it only had four easy components that were simple and effective. Today it is no longer a simple strategy but a complicated one with no direction and many extra elements. The church in its infantile beginnings can be a very basic organism. The bare minimum of a body of believers that has just sprung up is what we find in Acts chapter two. If a missionary has entered a village and one a group of people to Christ and they are meeting together to devote themselves to the teachings of scripture they are a church. Even before they are baptized, have the Lord’s Supper, or create a pastor search committee, they are a church. If these believers have come under the Lordship of Christ and have devoted themselves to the teaching of the Bible, then the evolving process will occur as an out pouring of the commitment made.

To best understand the ecclesiological minimum of what a church is, there are several passages of scripture that will guide my interpretation of the definition. A biblical New Testament Church is a body of believers who meet together regularly and devote themselves to the teaching of God’s word, they practice baptism by immersion, they regularly partake in the Lord’s Supper, they are actively involved in fulfilling the great commission, they engage in prayer, and take care of each others needs. This definition is broken down into simple terminology and definitive statements, but also leaves room for extreme cases. The lack of water to baptize for a time might alter the definition some what but even in extreme climates baptism by immersion has taken place.

Furthermore, I believe that biblical leadership according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-7 are a product of biblical teaching and the believer’s commitment to Christ. The command of church discipline would also fall under this category. This is part of the evolution of a church. As the believers are developed and transformed by God’s word the inward focus will organically turn outward. This produces a zeal for the great commission and the service of those in need. This process also breeds a submission to such commands as church discipline when the preaching of the word is followed. For a time, a group of men might even be discipled by a woman who is the only person knowledgeable in the scripture. Therefore a group of believers without these specifics does not cease to be a church.

What then is the response to established churches such as those found in North America that do not practice things like sharing the Gospel? When a church has become riddled with bad teaching and a lack of order due to the refusal to enact church discipline, the congregation has then become a social club. A church that refuses to obey scripture has become a satanic breeding ground for false converts and a leach on the spiritual vitality of its surrounding community. The minimum is organic and does what it is made to do when directed by the spirit.

A closer look at the book of Acts gives us a model in which to follow. In Acts 2:42-47 states that the believers were devoting themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, prayer, partaking in fellowship, and meeting together to worship. In verse 48, Peter instructs them to repent and be baptized. The great commission laid out in the first chapter of Acts and chapter 28 of Matthew by Jesus give the frame work for the churches great commission. Disciples are to be baptized, taught the commands of Christ, and the Church is to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Luke also documents that the church sold its belongings and gave to any that was in need. Therefore, the church must be an agent of justice and restoration to those in need. Finally, a mark of a true church is the command of taking the Lord’s Supper. Jesus tells his followers in Luke 22:19 to take this supper in remembrance of his sacrifice. Beyond these distinctive the mystery of God’s grace and mission manifests itself through the diverse cultures of the nations.

When I returned to CampusLive I sat down with the leaders and explained why, I started it and what its purpose was. The church today is in great need of a sit down with Jesus and an understanding of what it is requiring of pastor’s and church planters. The result of injecting western church culture into other people groups of the world has had a negative effect in many ways. The next generation of leaders has responsibility to plant churches without cultural baggage and let the redeemed culture of the people group arise and give God glory.

The minimum requirements of a church, therefore are, a body of believers who meet together regularly and devote themselves to the teaching of God’s word, engage in prayer, take care of each others needs, practice baptism by immersion, regularly partake in the Lord’s Supper, and are actively involved in fulfilling the great commission. Again, a church begins when those who have offered up their lives to Christ through repentance, faith, and lordship come together in a group no matter how small, for the purpose of believing on the one who has the words of eternal life. Am I contradicting myself? Not at all, I am simply communicating the fact that the church when spawned from the work of the Spirit will embrace the definition presented naturally. When the Spirit of God moves, it is an inextinguishable fire that consumes what it pleases. It is the churches job to be obedient so that we may become the proper tools to help build Gods kingdom.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A look at Atheistic Morality


“We did everything just the way grownups would’ve, why didn’t it work?” These are the words spoken through tears from Piggy, the lovable character in the nineteen nineties movie version of “Lord of the Flies.” Just as many great authors have, William Golding the original author of this story recognizes a reoccurring trend of destruction in culture born by humanity. The crusade for secularism is breaking down strongholds on a global scale. Major advocates of the Atheist agenda are salivating in anticipation as they circle the wounded beast that is religion. Just as the twins Sam and Eric choose the side of the enemy with much reservation in “Lord of the Flies”, so to have many churches and denominations submitted to the seemingly copious amounts of ostensible evidence. So, how is the church to respond to such a dynamic campaign and to the contrary what fallacy is being overlooked by those seeking a world without static truth? The following will take into account the claims of secularism’s advocates and discuss its significance in the realm of Christian Apologetics.

Well known atheist writer Sam Harris rightly rejects the misleading notions of relativism, moral relativism, and pragmatism. Relativism can be defined as the belief in no objective truth or right and wrong. Therefore, no real criticism is assigned to any system of morality. Pragmatism bases belief on things like tradition and history. This system asserts that studying these patterns can develop a belief that helps progression yet has no unchanging quality.[1] Even though Harris makes correct assertions, his idea that truth can be ascertained scientifically shows a weak line of reason. I will explain why in the following paragraphs.

Atheists’ such as Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris are to be applauded for their attempts at discovering objective moral truths. However, it seems as though the discussion of ethics and morality on the side of atheism has become an unwillingness to admit defeat. This defeat comes not from Christianity; rather it dies a thousand deaths at the hand of reason. The prevalent atheist position sees ethics and morals as social constructs. Harris asserts,

There will probably come a time when we achieve a detailed understanding of human happiness, and of ethical judgments themselves at the level of the brain. Just as defects in color vision can result from genetic and developmental disorders, problems can undoubtedly arise in our ethical and emotional circuitry as well….If there are truths to be known about how human beings conspire to make one another happy or miserable, there are truths to be known about ethics. A scientific understanding of the link between intentions, human relationships, and states of happiness would have much to say about the nature of good and evil and about the proper response to the moral transgressions of others. There is every reason to believe that sustained inquiry in the moral sphere will force convergence of our various belief systems in the way that it has in every other science – that is, among those who are adequate.[2]

The need for treating such conditions as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is assumed. The subsequent portions of this post will address a moral tyranny of the mind via scientific and governmental intervention. For a moment let us entertain this notion of scientifically acquired ethic. In the above quote Harris equates a genetic developmental disorder such as color blindness with emotional or ethical decision making processes. This leads the reader to assume that moral and ethical decisions can be affected negatively by genetic or chemical malfunction.

Transhumanism is the theory that technology should be used to improve the physical and mental characteristics of humans. Similarly, Singularity in short seeks to have the human mind or brain reach superintelligence. Both of these theories are actively being discussed and pursued by many today. These two theories are seeking a type of super human who could reach

much higher levels of cognition as well as live longer or live forever. Although Harris does not espouse these two theories, one can assume that his assertions would lead to at least the establishment of a form of one or both theories. Furthermore, Harris proposes dialogue and a convergence of beliefs from those who are “adequate to the task.”[3]

Several problems arise at the outset of a secular humanistic generated morality. Firstly, I want to conclude that this convergence of beliefs would result in an agreed upon standard of morality. If this standard is to be embedded in humanity for the purpose of relieving sadness and evil in the world, a consensus would have to be reached. Once that consensus is reached, the human mind and societal systems would have to be curtailed to accommodate a united progression of ideas. If the agreed upon ethics are not found in every person in society, they will have to be learned and most likely genetically corrected.

Although a convergence of ideas is not impossible, it is highly unlikely. To think that the Fundamentalist Muslim will compromise his beliefs for the sake of one world happiness is foolish. What about the systems of beliefs that refuse to conform or are not as Harris says, “adequate to the task”? Will those who oppose an ethic agreed upon by adequate decision makers be changed through injection or extermination? Will chemical imbalances and genetic shortcomings be corrected pre and post natal. Where, you may ask am I going with this idea?

If ethical realities were composed in the mind, these realities would have to be subject to change. This is assuming humans are in fact products of evolution and are in substance disposed to the evolutionary process. Therefore, the very ethics atheist could espouse or procure in the future might very well change with the emergence of potentially dangerous technology. This prospect creates a difficult dynamic for an ethic that has yet to find its genetic source in the mind. If ethics and morals having no divine source and are only social constructs created by humans for the purpose of harmony, they must be agreed upon and dictated. To adopt this philosophy is to participate in the biggest hypocrisy.

The very ability to be a free thinker that Atheists cherish so much would be in danger. The mental dictatorship that the Atheist portrays the Catholic Church as, looks menial compared to the potentiality of a mind police. The very idea of using science and genetics to produce ethical beings harkens back to George Orwell’s novel “1984.” One might say that Harris does not reach this far, yet the inevitability of an ideological train wreck is almost undeniable. In addition one might point to almost completely secular societies such as those that exist in Europe today. Even though some of these nations are seemingly progressive ethical countries that still does not answer the question of how ethical truth can be found apart from God.

Atheist defenders seem to take much pleasure in bashing church history for it’s hypocrisy and rightly so. The crusades, indulgences, countless wars, heresy trials, the events of September Eleventh, all stemmed from religion. This seems to be a comfortable place that the Atheist agenda retreats to in order to sway the emotions of the multitudes. Many Atheists contend that Hitler was a Catholic, without considering his intentions and sick genius. Hitler had no religious conviction behind his campaign of evil. The church in Germany could not know that it was being used as a pawn to help the progression of Hitler’s puzzle. The actions of Pope Urban II, who began the crusades by declaring the sins of any who would go and fight forgiven, stand in stark opposition of the message of Christ.

The actions of those during the crusades are a great example of human deceit and godless ambition. Men have masked their selfish agendas, desire for power, wealth, and sex in the name of religion for thousands of years. Christianity is no exception to this deception. Atheists can blame religion all they want to as long as they separate religion from the claims and teachings of Christ. Religion is the ultimate example of what man does to Gods revelation. Man is selfish and self serving in nature. History proves this time and time again. The Catholic Church, its pope’s, theologians, and kings did what every religion tries to do; including God’s chosen people Israel. They reversed God’s design and turned the Gospel into a man-centered religious corporation. Religion makes man the procurer of his own salvation through righteous deeds. Those deeds never come forth unless they are smothered in a salvific agenda.

Alister MacGrath in his dialogue with Daniel Dennet says,

“We both also abhor violence and oppression. Professor Dennett argued that religion has on occasion encouraged both of those. I agree. That’s a fact of history. Yet I have to say that I searched in vain in Breaking the Spell for a mention of either Lenin or Stalin, each of whom launched violent programs of repression based on their atheist worldviews against Christianity and Islam. That’s a fact of history as well.”[4]

MacGrath makes a profound statement. It is time for the childish mudslinging to stop and dialogue to begin. Reason and science must be allowed to prevail on each side of the spectrum. That includes the credible science and scientists that have been banned from academia for their theistic stance. The time has come to move beyond this atheist methodology and devote time to understanding the facts. The downfall and destruction of religion is something that both sides can agree upon.

The question of ethics in the Atheist worldview is a troubling road of uncertainty. Paul Copan in his critique of naturalisms’ advocates says,

Science’s metaphysical failure to account for goodness is further reinforced by a large portion of naturalists who admit that natural processes without God cannot bring us to moral responsibility and goodness: these don’t square well with naturalism. We have already cited Nagal, Dawkins, and Hauser. In addition, Bertrand Russell believed that “the whole subject of ethics arises from the pressure of the community on the individual.” E.O. Wilson locates moral feeling in “the hypothalamus and the limbic system”; it is a “device of survival in social organisms.” Jonathan Glover considers morality a “human creation” and calls on humans to “re-create ethics.”[5]

If morals are in fact devices of survival as Wilson asserts, then one is driven to another startling conclusion. Could a rapid evolutionary process through such avenues as a meme (A meme, is a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices that gets transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.) spread quickly through a segment of the population? If such a defense mechanism could be generated and spread throughout a population can Hitler, Stalin, or Lenin be blamed for evil? Or have their bodies responded to what seems to be a threat to their existence such as Hitler’s distrust of the Jews. What type of perpetual cycle do the atheist’s seek to give humanity to? Darwin said about himself, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind if there are any convictions in such a mind?"[6]

Survival is really at the center of the naturalistic view of ethics. “Our beliefs-moral or epistemic-may help survive, but we can have no confidence that they are true.”[7] Most well known atheist authors today are writing with western mindsets. What battle will ensue with a world filled with ethnocentrism? The atheist trusts humanity to be the agent that will provide definition. What will keep the human community away from being deceived by a wrong ideology? What will stop mans insatiable taste for personal gain and sexual gratification? William Lane Craig said, “If you can escape the social consequences, there is nothing really wrong with your raping someone.” One might become repulsed by this scenario, yet the atheist has no transcendental standard by which to judge a persons actions. The atheist, try as he may, is forced to affirm a negative if he believes rape to be wrong in this scenario. Morality and ethics are decided on behalf of the individual. He is allowed to stray from the formula and create his own reality. If he is not caught he has not sinned against himself on any level.

The fact that science cannot explain ethics and morality is not surprising. Science is also unable to enter the realm of Aesthetics. Beauty can not be defined or explained. The Atheist can create their own understanding of what makes people sexually or visually stimulated. That in no way has the ability to identify a universal and omnipresent construct of beauty. Mathematics, logic, metaphysical concepts, and scientific principles on some levels can not be proven through science. Alister MacGrath states that,

The Scientific method is incapable of delivering a decisive adjudication of the God question. Those that believe that it proves or disproves the existence of God press that method beyond its legitimate limits, and run the risk of abusing or discrediting it. Some distinguished biologists…argue that the natural sciences create a positive presumption of faith; others… that they have a negative implication for theistic belief. But they prove nothing, either way. If the God question is to be settled, it must be settled on other grounds.”[8]

The same principle applies to finding ethics and morals inside the atheist worldview. To attempt to extract moral absolutes from a godless secularism try’s to force the scientific method were it can not go.

The previous paragraphs have been an attempt to show the unreasonable and illogical reasoning of naturalistic methodology. Richard Dawkins loves to speak of the simplicity of evolution. Dawkins tries to explain away the beginning as a very simple event that no one was there for and we will learn more about it as humanity travels further and further away from it. Paul Copan adds much to the conversation, he says,

“However, theists can readily admit that nonbelievers can know moral truths. But knowing (epistemology) must be distinguished from being (ontology), the latter being the more fundamental. Epistemologically, the atheist is right: because all humans have been made in God’s image…and are thus intrinsically valuable (endowed with dignity, conscience, rights, duties, and the basic capacity to recognize right from wrong)…it is no surprise that nontheists of all stripes know the same sorts of moral truths as believers….Theism has the metaphysical wherewithal to account for such values: there is an intimate connection between (a) a good God and Creator (the metaphysical foundation) and (b) Human dignity/rights, and general moral obligations. But, more crucially, how did they come to be that way-particularly if they are the result of valueless, cause-and-effect physical processes from the big bang until now? Theism offers the requisite foundations.”[9]

God created man with a conscience. No one has to teach a child how to lie, it comes natural. Men are fallen being’s so to is the world that entertains them all. God has created and designed this world and allowed men to have dominion over it. The free mind and will that the atheist so vehemently defends is a gift from God. God created a world that would allow man to choose, create, discover, reason, love, and reject truth. It is easy for an Atheist to say while he is living that he would rather have never lived and this world have never been created if the God of the Bible created the world we now know. Their omissions of disbelief in a creator are an exercise of their natural hearts desire.

The Gospel set apart from religion is glorious and salvific. When the soiled hands of men smudge ignorance and self ambition across the clear glassy exterior of the message of the cross, so called religion, is all that the atheist makes it out to be. The Gospel is so much more than legalistic self-righteous religion. True Christianity gives worth to all who would seek it out. This message assigns value to life and substance to being. The body of Christ, speaking about the church, is the ultimate globally united community. It is a kingdom that invites the widows and orphans to feast at the kings table and offers rest for the weary. Its ethic is wrapped up in a holy, loving, just, merciful, jealous, omniscient, and omnipresent God. Unlike all the ends and means of atheism that glorify self, the community of the body despises the self and gives all glory to the one who deserves it. He is Jesus Christ.

The preceding argumentation shed light on the secularist and naturalist views of ethics and morality, and explored the possibilities that the future holds for a secular driven morality. The logical ends to seemingly harmless assumptions today have catastrophic potential. The atheist continues to create straw men and refuse any theist in to the monopoly that is academia. In addition, the logical short comings of the road that the atheists are forced to travel spurs their agenda forward in order that their voice of conscience and reason would be silenced. In the final scene of “Lord of the Flies”, after his friend Piggy has been murdered by the other boys, Ralph franticly runs away from the pursuing boys that wish to exterminate the final obstacle to their complete control over the island. With their spears bearing down upon him, Ralph finally collapses onto the beach, giving himself up to them. Surprisingly, he finds himself face to face with the search party that has come to rescue them. As he begins to sob, his emotion pours over to that of the other boys as they are exposed for who they really are. The Bible speaks of a day in which all will be exposed, may the cry of humanity come now rather than then. And may those who live for reason and material lose confidence in both and receive the gift of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him alone freedom is found. Amen.


[1] Sam Harris. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), 178, 179

[2] Ibid 175

[3] Ibid 175

[4] Paul Copan , William Lane Craig, Daniel Dennett, Evan Fales, Hugh J. McCann, Alister McGrath, J.P. Morel, and Keith M. Parsons, Ted Peters. The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue. ed. Robert B. Stewart. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), 32

[5] Ibid 156

[6] Ibid 153

[7] Ibid 153

[8] Ibid 59

[9] Ibid 146

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcome!

I apologize for having this blog up for a while and not posting anything until now. I found myself in the past year dialogging with several atheists as well as listening to the views of men like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. The straw men being created by some of these well known authors and inside atheistic circles were to me quite atrocious. Scripture seems to be taken out of context and the actions of the church by power hungry Pope's and rulers blamed on the Bible in almost every debate I have watched. I am fighting the urge to expound upon this now but lack the time. These and other topics I wish to address in the future. This first post was just a test. If you have any questions or would like me to address a certain topic, feel free to leave a comment.

For His Glory

-Ryan-