Friday, October 24, 2008

Religulous with Bill Maher

I just got back from China and realized again the value of always being able to give an answer, a reason, for the hope that lies within you. I got off the plane and the first thing I started hearing about was Religulous, a movie starring Bill Maher, as he interviews people with the purpose of, as he told Larry King the other day, harpooning the whale of religion once and for all. Religion to him is what is poisoning our society and that whale has to be harpooned. He brings up all kinds of reasons why Christianity is no longer tenable in an age of Scientific Enlightenment. It is dead according to him.

In fact, according to him religious ideas such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ are merely barrowed from ancient pagan mystery religions, such as Krishna of India, Mithras of Greece, and Horus of Egypt. Well, is that true? Did Christianity borrow from ancient pagan mystery religions? Is Bill Maher correct?

The truth of the matter is this; Krishna was not born of a virgin. Krishna was born according to that mythology to a mother who had seven previous sons, hardly a virgin. Mithras was born of a rock, well maybe the rock was a virgin, and we got to give Maher the benefit of the doubt. In terms of Horus, Isis is said to have had intercourse with Osiris after he had been cut into fourteen pieces and his reproductive organs were swallowed by a fish; again, hardly a virgin birth account like the virgin birth account in Scripture.

While it is currently popular to suggest that the gospel writers borrowed the virgin birth motif from pagan mythology, the facts simply say otherwise. Stories of gods having sexual intercourse with women, such as the sun god Apollo becoming a snake and impregnated the mother of Augustus Caesar, hardly parallel the virgin birth account. Moreover, given the strict Monotheistic view of the New Testament authors it should stretch credulity beyond the breaking point to suppose they borrowed from pagan mythology; especially mythologies extolling the sexual exploits of pagan gods.

It has become all too common for people to buy into what has been well described as a unique brand of fundamentalism. A brand of fundamentalism that values rhetoric and emotional stereotypes over reason and evidential substance. Those who suppose that the virgin birth is mythology would be well served to consider defensible argument rather than uncritically swallowing dogmatic assertions. Dogmatic assertions are exactly what you get in Religulous, not defensible arguments.

Fetus Fatigue

A brand new issue of the Christian Research Journal is now out and there is a particular article I’m excited about in this issue written by Douglas Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and frequent contributor to the Christian Research Journal. He did a viewpoint article titled, Recovering from Fetus Fatigue.

He says that millions of evangelicals, especially young evangelicals, are experiencing fetus fatigue. They’re tired of the abortion issue taking center stage, so they’re moving to newer, hipper things such as AIDS in Africa, the environment, and cool tattoos. Abortion has been legal now since 1973 —before they were born—so it’s the old guard that get worked up about the millions of abortions that have taken place over the years, to wit the idea of fetus fatigue.

That Barack Obama and the entire Democratic Party are pro-choice is a secondary concern to them. After all, these young people reason that Obama could not do much damage concerning abortion. They may be thinking, “No he wouldn’t enact Pro-Life policies but he says he wants abortions to decrease.” In the midst of such causal sentiment Groothuis says, “I’m compelled to say in no uncertain terms ‘For God’s sake evangelicals, if that word has any meaning today, please wake up and consider the acres of tiny bloody corpses that you cannot see.’”

Yes, the Christian vision is holistic and we should endeavor to restore shalom to the whole of this beleaguered planet under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that includes helping Africa, preserving the environment, combating human trafficking and much, much more. The leading domestic moral issue however, continues to be the value of helpless unborn human life. Since Roe V Wade over 1 million unborn human beings have been killed through abortion each and every year. That puts the total well over 35 million.

The Russian, Marxist, totalitarian Joseph Stalin said “One death is a tragedy, a million dead is just a statistic.” Too many evangelicals are Stalinists on abortion since the numbers apparently mean nothing to them. Things have declined to the point where bumper stickers say, “Don’t like abortion; then don’t have one.” How about “Don’t like slavery; don’t have one.” The two cases are exactly parallel, if slavery is not a private issue then neither is abortion. Since they both involve questions of the value of human lives. Again, Groothius says, “For God’s sake evangelicals wake up; remember the least, the last, the lost, the millions of unborn human beings whose lives hang in the balance. This is not the only issue of moral significance but it is a titanic issue that cannot be ignored. Rouse yourself to recover from fetus fatigue. God is watching and waiting even as the blood of the innocent unborn cry’s out from the ground.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Economy and Our Response

When I was watching the news on Monday September 29, 2008, I heard a lot of people pray, “heaven help us” as they watched the DOW JONES Industrial tank with the largest single drop in history at 777 points. I think we ought to pray “Your will be done” because when we do we are recognizing the sovereignty of God over every aspect of our daily lives.

In effect we’re saying, “Thank God, this world, this economy is not under my control, it’s under His.” It’s a way of saying we would be in deep trouble if God gave us everything for which we asked. The fact is we just don’t know what’s best for us. We only see a snapshot in time. God sees the entire panoply thus His perspective is far superior to ours. To pray “Your will be done” is daily recognition that our wills must be submitted to His will.

One of the most comforting thoughts that can penetrate a human mind yielded to the will of God is that He who has created us also knows what’s best for us. So if we walk according to His will rather than trying to command Him to our wills, we will have as He promised not a panacea, but peace in the midst of the storm. There’s great peace in knowing that the one who taught us to pray “Your will be done” has every single detail of our lives, including the stock market and the financial crisis, under His control.

To pray “Your will be done” then, is a daily recognition that God is not going to spare us from trial or tribulation but He will use the fiery furnace to purge impurities from our lives. Ultimately that was the message of the book of Job. Job endured more tragedy in a single day than most people will experience in the stock market. Yet, in his darkest hour Job uttered words of faith, “thou He slay me yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15).

Child of God, the hope is not in the stock market but in a new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness dwells. A lot of people today are putting their eye on the wrong ball when it comes to the faith game. Faith is only as good as the object in whom it is placed.