Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Moralistic Therapeutic...Naturalism

A few years ago, the default religion of US young people was identified as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Because the social trends in Australia are less in Christian soil, we have replaced 'deism' with a banal, unconsidered naturalism.

We want our good happy life to be embedded in something...we choose 'nature'.

Not a good choice, as any consideration of the history of ideas around the Lisbon earthquake would indicate.

And while we are on that...Wright's Gifford lectures might be interesting.

Monday, April 27, 2020


A lecture that is a wonderful summary of the Bible's own theology by N. T. Wright.

He takes us on a tour of the 'according to the scriptures' in 1 Corinthians 15:4

It starts, as all good theology must, in Genesis 1 and 2. Then, 3, of course:

Genesis 1 & 2: creation is heaven and earth as the temple of the presence of God, with mankind the 'image' of God in it gathering the praises and communicating the presence of God to those around.

[I think this is a very interesting understanding of the Creation, but the fly in the ointment is that Wright follows Walton's approach to the text: he dissociates it from the created world as it is and removes it by the old theological technique of analogical distancing. However, the creation account only makes its point because it occurred, not because something else occurred. A few reviews for your delectation: Creation, Themelios, Wingnut.]

Wright correctly points out that the NT (no relation) springs back to Genesis 1 and 2 (and 3) -- and as real events in space-time continuity of historical flow. Wright naturally didn't point out that, he's in some Idealist club here, and I'm with Stove on Idealists!

He sees this as part of the thread of human vocation that weaves wonderfully through the Bible.

Romans 5 is next.

He then takes us to Revelation 1, 5 and 20. Christ rescues us to enjoy (and present to God) us in our genuine created humanity.

The human plight (Romans 1) points us back to Genesis 3 where A&E (real people with a real function in real time and pace Walton, real functions can only occur in real time). Here A&E took the knowledge of good and evil to displace the superior knowledge of God: idolatry had started. Idolatry is the sin that separates us from God as we reject him for a poor substitute.

Genesis 12 then is the promise to Adam redux: an act of almighty grace as Adam is refreshed as progenitor or a race.

This picks up in Genesis 15.

Then off to Exodus 40: the wilderness tabernacle as a foreshadowed place of the fellowship of God and man, mediated here by Aaron being Adam & Eve...redux.

The tabernacle is an eschatological sign, full of God's glory: Psalm 72, Isaiah 11, Habakkuk 2.

The tabernacle takes us back to the place that the creation was to be, but for Genesis 3.

Abraham's fulfillment of God's promise is not just for Israel, but for the whole creation, in prospect: Psalms 2 and, again, 72.

Romans 8, John 20, Revelation 21, 22.

Read these in the light of Deuteronomy 27-30 and 32 - 32 depicts the puzzle of the OT, the promise of God that the whole creation is redeemed.

The exiles of Israel keep re-enacting  Genesis 3. Also Isaiah 40-55, Daniel 9, Ezekiel. Is. 52, 53: the promise deferred; also Malachi.

Deuteronomy 30: go to Romans 10

In Yeshua choosing the crucifixion at Passover brings together Passover and Atonement (answering the dilemma of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Lamentations.

Hope has renewed Christ is King with a new covenant (Isaiah 54 and a new creation Isaiah 55)

Now, it's very tricky to capture the whirlwind of Wright's talk, so this is but an approximation.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Jesus a great moral teacher?

Some people like to say so. It's a great avoidance strategy for:

"He who has seen me has seen the father" John 19:9

"I am the way, the truth and the light, no one comes to the father but by me" John 14:6

"you are the Christ, the son of the living God" Matthew 16:16

 "I and the father are one" John 10:30

Far more than a GMT, but he SoG: the one who is one with the father!

Wood, evil and being sceptical

I came across David Wood's video of a talk on evil and scepticism.

Two of the comments appealed to me:
All the sceptical positions fail on one of two points: they (an evil person) want to define 'good' or they define God on their terms, not God's. So they set up a straw man. If they started with 'God is holy, God is love and created us for life with him, but we reject life with him, so why is there evil?' The sceptical position collapses under its own weight.

And, when it comes to 'natural evil', or, better 'natural suffering' this also redounds on the sceptic. 'Bad' things happen in the world because we selfishly devote our resources to other than wise use of the world. Then, to the sceptic, 'so, what are you doing to use your resources (financial, intellectual, physical) to better manage the world? However, in an evolved world, this is what you have. Random stuff. On your view, Sceptic-person, you can't even start to comprehend bad stuff.
The puzzle for the materialist atheist, or any non-personalist, is the source of their basis for even detecting evil, of putting an ethical value on something which, in their world, is merely randomly unhelpful to a particular objective at a particular time.

My first question to such a person is "how do even know that there is any objective evil? All you have on your world-view is transitory subjective inconvenience."

Friday, April 24, 2020

Genocide is immoral?

Doodling around the Internet I came across this article in The Guardian (that one-eyed leftist rag should get alarm bells sounding straight away) by Richard Dawkins (Dick, as I call him) "Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig". And it's not because he has two surnames!

Dick's chief reason appears to be because of Craig's apparent endorsement of genocide in Deuteronomy 20:13-15.

I've only got two comments.

1) Dick thinks that material is the entirety of reality and that it operates with pitiless indifference to human interests or moral considerations. Thus 'genocide' is neither good nor bad, but just is.

2) If genocide, however, has good reason: such as the tribes in Canaan being worse human rights abusers than even Isis, taking delight in incinerating their live babies, for instance, then it must be a moral good!

3) And this comment for free: If God wants to judge people for resolutely foul behavior that is entrenched in every aspect of a culture, then maybe that's a good idea.

So, all I can say to Dick is what's your solution for human horror games? Blind pitiless indifference?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What I'm watching at the moment.

Plenty of time when I'm not working...so here's what I do in Pandemic Time.

Cultural Marxism on YouTube

The church appears to be swallowed by CM, or 'critical theory' (an oxymoron as it is not self-critical and has produced no theory). This is a useful corrective. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

God's tough guys?

Angels. That's who!

Try this out, what one or two angels do:

Genesis 3:24 - a cherubim (really tough angel) with a flaming sword guarded Eden

Genesis 19 - toughed out the Sodom louts.

Exodus 23:20 - guarded Israel

Exodus 33:2 - one angel conquers the promised land

Numbers 22:23 - terrifies Balaam's donkey

Numbers 22: 31 - terrifies Balaam

Judges 6:16 - will defeat Midian

Judges 6:22 - terrifies Gideon

Judges 13:18 - even the angel's name is too powerful to be heard by Manoah

2 Samuel 24:16 - one prepares to destroy Jerusalem

2 Kings 19:35 - 185,000 man army destroyed

1 Chronicles 21:12ff - just one...bent on destroying Jerusalem

You get the picture. No wonder I get worried at Christmas when they say that angels will be in the pageant...scary stuff.

Just remember: we're on the same side.

To round out Easter

After a wonderful string of Easter devotions by Roger Chilton at St Swithun's, I spend this afternoon listening to Bach's St Matthew's Passion by Klemperer. Bliss.

St Matthew

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Is God good?

The problem of evil is the classic of the village atheist in his (or her, thinking of Madeline Murray O'Hare) empty quest to make out that God doesn't or couldn't exist.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy sets it out thus:
  1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
  2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
  3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
  4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
  5. Evil exists.
  6. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.
  7. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.
 Wikipedia, to banalize it, as it is wont:
is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God
Both clearly have nothing to do with the God who created. The one popularly known in Western countries as 'the Christian God' (as though there is a gallery of actual gods when the gallery is of fictional gods).

Thus this formulation is the problem for the conveniently defined 'philosophers' god. Not the living God, who's told us a completely different story about us and himself. (See Pannenberg for more humour on this topic).

The point of departure is in the notion of 'good'.  Good here is defined as the speaker seems to behold it, as some platonic quality hovering off in Plato-land, imposing its imagined meaning (imagined by the speaker and for the speaker's convenience) on all and sundry. Including God.

But God is not subject to our self-serving definitions, nor our requirements that God submerges in our lakes of fantasy.

God is, above all, holy.

By comparison, and by God's declaration analyzing man's rejection of fellowship with God, and of his own 'god-likeness, man is an evil and corrupted piece of slime existing in a soon to be consummated living death.

The 'problem' of evil is the atheist's problem. Not the Christian's. The atheist has to explain how he gets to define good and evil, how he gets to exempt himself from the doers of evil, how he is reversing the evil defined only by that which is not-god-likeness, which can only really be reversed by turning to that same God in repentance, praise and thanks for his mercy and love in rescuing us from the mess of our own obdurate making.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

What about children and bone cancer?

So quipped the no-show intellect, Stephen Fry (an actor and comedian...his best role Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster, with Hugh Laurie)

I wondered how to rebut this question. I mean, rebut for the smarty-pants show-off like Fry, but also how to engage with a person in real personal distress.

1. The rebuttal (because it's more fun).

As I pondered this, I realized that I had dealt with it in conversation with an avowed atheist a while back. I had been at a debate between some Christians and members of the Humanist Society and afterwards at afternoon tea got chatting to one of the atheist cheer squad. He was an elderly and quite gentlemanly fellow who asked a question similar to Fry's, but without Fry's braggadocio. It was 'what about children dying?'

I enlarged it and asked him, 'What about anyone dying?, What about old people dying? The problem is death itself. Why do we all face it? It makes life a futile joke, doesn't it? We grow, and work, and achieve a few things, and shortly thereafter, we turn to dust: nothing! on your view.'

He had no response. To put a point on it, I'd say to Fry: "I'll respond to that when you tell my how it fits into your world view." and await the empty blathering of a fool who claims there is no God as he tried to explain the difference between dust in a pile, and dust organized into a human form all sound and fury, achieving nothing.

Then it goes to the basic 5 finger exercise of the story of reality. In this, the pointy bit would be number 2: we reject harmony with God, and so live resolutely in dis-harmony; God respects our choice of life in the sewer, but points to life with him through Christ as being the better option, there for the taking.

2. Discussion with a not-so smarty pants (because it may be more productive)

First I would ask at what age he thinks bone cancer should kick in, or when life should end, and under what circumstances.

Noting that we all die after a life of much pain, sadness, frustration, and disappointment, perhaps an early death is better.

And then, why is death bad, anyway. If our life is merely meaningless bluster of a pile of randomly organized particles with the brain similarly a random accident, what value has any of its cogitations?

Then, while we are at it, I note your implicit criticism of your bowdlerization of God. So where do you get the meta-ethical epistemology that gives you greater insight into evil than anyone else, or is this just your random opinion? And if you are so down on evil, what do you do about the evil in the world, in your own life, indeed, in your innermost being? Nothing, I'll bet, except excuse it, exculpate it, ignore it and deny it...painting the shit box of your life in colours that will only fade and peel off.

3. Fold-back

An assertive questioner will often be at least an unconsidered materialist, believing in evolution. In that case, just advise that in an evolutionary world, the sick and weak die off. That's what's happening here, strengthening the gene pool for subsequent generations. Nothing personal, because in evolution, there is nothing personal, just blind pitiless indifference, to quote Dick Dawkins.

4. In genuine compassion

We are all in this broken world, all we can do is grieve with each other and know that the loss, pain, and suffering are real, because all people have real value.

If the question goes to 'why God', the response might be God has given us this world and we,  collectively have chosen to live away from God. Our suffering is a clarion call for us to be in his family, instead of outside it, and with his family look in hope to the resurrection to live everlasting that all his family will be blessed with, as demonstrated by the resurrection of Christ.

Why did you kill all those people

In an old taped lecture by Dr, Dr, Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith (yep, three doctorates) he got to a discussion of 'theistic-evolution'. He recounted this report:

A British clergyman spoke to one of the Nuremberg war criminals before his execution, about his crimes and did he wish to take this last opportunity to repent before God.

He replied with a 'no'. And why should he, he said. He was only doing God's work as the church had told him, evolution and all its death of the weak was God's means of creating. He was only weeding out the weak and felt no guilt at all.

Friday, April 10, 2020


Lent ended yesterday.

Did I achieve my aim of reading the 'octateuch' (Genesis to Ruth)?

Yes. Difficult as it was with the long lists of various subjects in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Joshua. But, done!

What next?

Over the next 7 and a half months (to Advent when I read the gospels: 1 a week), what will my Bible reading program be?

Slow read through the major Pauline epistles: Romans and the four jewels: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and a quicker read through the Major Prophets. Plan is next year the Wisdom lit and Minor Prophets, and the year after the rest of the History. I read a Psalm a day, so won't cover them in a separate slab. My slow reads for the subsequent years are the rest of Paul, the General epistles, Revelation. Then, I'll start all over again. That's the tentative plan, anyway.

Meanwhile this year I've got a set of 24 intro Bible studies for new Christians, I'll work through them in 'ponder' mode.

The list is below.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Bishop Barron does it again

A great review of the Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

I  posted two comments:

1. People seem to get over-excited by a 'theory of everything'. It is no big deal, in a way. It seeks a unifying theory that encompasses the electromagnetic field equations, gravity and quantum mechanics. One hopes that one day the equations that explain these phenomena as a unity will be developed. That's all. They won't displace our Creator, they won't turn the world upside down, they won't make a Ph.D. easier to obtain or a car cheaper to run. Hold on, they might make cars cheaper to run, so that would be good. They might also help get rid of static in long-distance radio signals and make target acquisition radar more accurate. So, 'all good' as they say! But, Bp Barron's review is great and places scientific quests in their theological context. This context is given in Genesis 1:28: we are to 'subdue and rule' over the creation. This does not mean 'exploit', destroy, or corrupt. It means 'care for' with the same love, seriousness, and intensity that God who is love created. But I still don't know how we are going to rule the fish...nor do most other fishermen.

2. In reply to Eve Keneinan's comment:
Wonderful clarity. Many of those who wish to place Christianity and scientific or philosophical inquiry in opposition are 'straw-manning' Christianity, and confusing it with pagan nature worship, betraying their own ignorance in the process. Peter Harrison's book on the coupling of the rise of modern science with a grounded view of reality based on the creation account in Genesis 1 is a great unveiling of this. Stanley Jaki is another scholar in this field (Jaki died a while back). 


In the motion picture, Hawking answers his wife-to-be's question as to why he doesn't believe in God with "A physicist cannot allow his calculations to be muddled by belief in a supernatural creator" or "celestial dictator" as the script later puts into his mouth (a simulacrum for God as Barron neatly puts it).

Barron deals well with this, but pointing out Hawking's essential reliance on an unspoken and perhaps unrecognized faith in the intelligibility of the universe. Hawking is clearly a smart guy, but has little connection with the history of ideas or philosophy of science (or of anything, for that matter). He also presumes that his 'simulacrum of god' has anything to do with the Creator. So he's no theologian either and knows nothing about the Bible.

However, the great and sad irony of his life is that he divorces his wife who cared for him for many long years out of her genuine love and Christian conviction to marry his nurse, a woman perhaps of similar belief to him, who reputedly abused him! Police were involved, but charges dropped (NZ Herald, 15 March 2018). Perhaps this woman was the emotional dictator of his life, and his first wife represented to him the God of love!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Stop teaching Christians

I've done quite a few posts on teaching. I was wrong.

J. Warner Wallace told me so. He said stop teaching young people. I infer from that 'stop teaching anyone'.

His point is training. Teaching is about knowledge. Training is about doing it. Both together and you practice with knowledge.

He's right.

Training gets you used to the cut and thrust of conversation, even of debate. When you know how to, you do calmly, and with composure. No pressure, no panics, no rushes of fear. You are convincing.

So no Christian should hear any challenge to their faith first from a non-Christian. They should hear them first from their Christian mentor/trainer/teacher. They should hear them in mock debates, in simulated conversations, in 'hot spot' discussions.

The way a hot spot works is you give your group five discussion topics that will be addressed. Then the next week, after time to research, spit the big group into 5 groups and randomly assign a topic to each, and randomly pick two people for and two people against. Each pair has a go at the objection and its rebuttal in conversation, then the group talks about the dialogues.

Plenty of info on topics at the Colson Centre, Reasonable Faith, Coldcase Christianity, Stand to Reason, Gary Habermas, Christian Thinktank, Dr Clay Jones, Answers in Genesis, CMI, WhatisChance, Dallas Willard, BeThinking. And that's just for starters.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Five easy pieces.

Craig offers five easy statements of reasons for belief in God, evidence if you like.

It goes like this:

A(theist): there’s no evidence for God

X: I think there’s great evidence for God

A: such as/yeah, like what/etc.

X: I can think of five good reasons straight up:
  1. God is the best explanation for why anything at all exists rather than nothing
  2. God is the best explanation for the beginning of the universe
  3. God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life
  4. God is the best explanation for objective moral values and duties in the world
  5. God is the best explanation for the historical facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth,
  6. And, a free bonus for paying attention: God gives us the best explanation for the human condition and evil in the world; there; two for the price of one.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Four Horsemen

No, not the ones of Revelation, nor the four musketeers, nor the four fool atheists of modern times (Dawkins, Hitchins, Dennet, Harris).

No, its the four horsemen of philosophy-fiction. You've heard of most of them.

Karl Marx
Adolph Hitler
Charles Darwin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

There are a couple of close contenders: Freud and Jung spring to mind; but there are a million hangers-on. Just too many to name. But the fault lies at the feet of the four above.

Here's why:

Karl Marx - invented the non-invention of economic materialism, absorbed the passingly interesting idealism of Hegel reduced all human history and relations to one thing: production. Paved the way for the modern version of oligarchic power and exploitation of the governed.

Adolph Hitler - also influenced by Hegel. Probably. Some sort of idealist determinist. Liked murdering people, but a dab hand at designing uniforms.

Charles Darwin - another type of materialist, invented his Victorian gross-morphology fantasy and expected it to mean something in the non-material world of our minds. Nevertheless, wrote 'The Descent of Man'.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - merely a class 1 philosophy-fiction writer...according to Peter Medawar. He also inaugurated the genre of theology-fiction, based on the prior fantasy of Mr Darwin and his 'could have might have' stories.

Don't be good

Dr Paul Lim has a wonderful video on YouTube that starts with his early life experience, including time at a church youth club called BBB (Bible, Burgers, Bowling). He remarks that a bad experience here: he was always left to bowl alone. He spurned the church and therefore Christ (if he had even been introduced to him) as a result of this experience.

I reflected on fragments of my own experience.

Now, I'm blessed to have never had that experience. I always had great and godly mentors, had support and caring counsel when I sought it and a very open faith relationship with my mother (my father had long commutes to work, so was around much less).

However, I do observe, that it is often the 'good' kids who get passed over for special opportunities. Very rarely I felt this, but I did on a couple of occasions. Sometimes it seemed that being a 'bad' kid paid off. You got more attention, better experiences, better pastoral care...but if you were 'good' you became invisible and unless you got involved (which I did), you could easily drift away.

Then I think of my friend at youth group. PR. A very smart guy...like, really smart. Very entrepreneurial, socially switched on...never found a person to excite him intellectually or artistically about Christian faith. Like me, he got the kiddie-level 'just believe', but it didn't sustain him and he drifted away once he left high school. He maybe had questions. But he maybe didn't get answers.

The need to hear it here first.

A statement I like from Jack Wallace is this: by the end of their time in the youth group, I want the people I serve to have heard every objection to Christian faith, Christian theism, the resurrection of Yeshua, the reliability of the Bible that there is...from me! And to know a couple of rebuttals and conversational lines in response.

I like the cut of his jib.

Friday, April 3, 2020

How bad theology wrecks good evangelism

On a local radio station this afternoon I heard a nice little gospel snippet. It drew an analogy between changing currency to buy abroad, and the change of currency God provides us to be in his kingdom.

Then we had a run by the substitutionary theory of the atonement.

Even if true (and I think it is itself an analogy to emphasize how Christ's victory is totally effective), it looks to our past, rather than the future in Christ's triumph.

How much better it would have been in that little spot to talk about Christ's victory over death. The way Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15, and Colossians 2:13-15.

Thursday, April 2, 2020


That's what many people think Yeshua was: a Great Moral Teacher.

I like to ask people who think this way which great moral teaching they like.

They might say, 'the Sermon on the Mount' if they know anything about his work.

So I ask, "oh, like 'For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'

'whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell'

or how about
'You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart'

or what about this:
'Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter'

GMT, my foot.  He's impossible.