The Scientific Collapse of MaterialismA lot of people think that science has proven that the material world is all that exists – no God, no angels, and no souls.  The problem is that science can never be used to justify the belief that the material world is all that exists (materialism, naturalism).  Science is a tool that examines the workings of the physical world.  Of course, if the material world is the only thing your tool examines, it is the only thing your tool will see.  But it doesn’t follow that what your tool examines is all there is to examine.  Edward Feser compares science to a metal detector.  It would not follow that since the metal detector only finds metal objects in the ground there are no treasure maps buried as well.  A metal detector is not capable of finding paper.  It is only geared toward finding metal objects.  Its success in finding what it is geared to find – metal objects – in no way serves as evidence that non-metal objects do not exist.  Likewise, the success of science in discovering the workings of the physical world in no way serves as evidence that there is no spiritual world.

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Holy Spirith - The GhostAs anyone familiar with the KJV will notice, when speaking of the Spirit, the translators were not always consistent. The translators translated pneuma as “Spirit,” but translated pneuma hagios as “Holy Ghost.” Here are some examples where the difference can be seen within the same verse:

• Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
• John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
• John 7:39 But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
• Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
• 1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I was tempted to conclude that, for some stylistic reason or due to cultural conventions, the translators preferred to translate pneuma by itself as “Spirit,” but pneuma hagios as “Holy Ghost.” But I have discovered that they did not always translate pneuma hagios (or its Hebrew equivalent) as “Holy Ghost.” Consider these passages:

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post-resurrection woundsJohn tells us that in the final state there will be no sickness or disease. Most Christians tend to think of our glorified body as a perfected body. And yet, Jesus’ resurrected body was not perfect. The wounds from His crucifixion remained. What does this tell us about our own resurrected body? Could we retain our wounds too? If you lost a finger in shop class, do you only have nine fingers forever? Or do you think Jesus is just a special case. Perhaps He kept His wounds for evidential purposes, to convince the disciples that the Jesus they were seeing was the same Jesus who had been crucified?

NWUScientists at Northwestern University claim to have found two sets of genes that may contribute to male homosexual orientation, but estimate that it only contributes about 40% to the chance of someone developing a homosexual orientation.[1] The other 60% is determined by environment, which includes social factors. This is consistent with what researchers have said all along. Sexual orientation cannot be determined entirely by biology. Nature plus nurture together most likely contribute to same-sex attraction.

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[1]Sarah Knapton, “Being homosexual is only partly due to gay gene, research finds”; available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10637532/Being-homosexual-is-only-partly-due-to-gay-gene-research-finds.html; Internet; accessed 25 March 2014.

Brendan EichEarlier in the week it was reported that three of of Mozilla’s (the people who make the Firefox browser) board members resigned when Mozilla co-founder, Brendan Eich, was appointed as CEO of the company.  Why?  Because Eich gave $1,000 to support California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, a ballot initiative that sought to define marriage as an institution exclusive to male-female pairings.  His appointment as CEO so irked the dating site, OkCupid, that users attempting to login to the site received this message: “Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

Now, it’s being reported that Eich has “resigned.”  Surely he wasn’t tired of the job yet.

Apparently some in the gay rights movement think that those who think natural marriage is the only valid form of marriage don’t deserve a job. As Todd Starnes writes, “Why not demand that those who oppose gay marriage relinquish the right to own property? Why not take away their right to vote? Why not take away their children? Why not just throw them in jail? Why not force them to work in chain gangs? Why not call for public floggings? Or better yet, let’s just strap them down on gurneys, stick a needle in their arm and rid the world of these intolerant anti-gay bigots once and for all.”This is the face of liberal tolerance.  Where is the uproar?

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – Mark 1:1

…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:31

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” – Acts 8:35

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3

This is my first post, and I’m so glad to join Jason here. He graciously introduced me, like forever ago, but here I am just now. Very sorry for the delay, much going on personally, like a new job. So, nevertheless, here it finally be, my inaugural post on this auspicious blog amongst esteemed colleagues. But seriously, I hold Jason in the highest regard, a great friend, and a deep thinker and good writer, many thanks to him! I’ve got other posts on deck, but I wanted to start with this, so that you know what I care about most deeply.

I’m listening to the great book by the Nobel prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow. This is a fascinating book with many takeaways on human behavior, learning, thinking, and the way the mind works. There is good reason for professionals of every kind to read it. There are lessons and nuggets for marketing, economics, leadership, teaching, and studying. Anyone engaged in leading, communicating or influencing might find it not only interesting, but helpful. The useful observations come about a page a minute, and have the effect of immediately sounding like common sense once you hear them explained, and yet you wouldn’t have come to the conclusions on your own.

Here’s one: haloing. Haloing is a term to describe the way in which human judgment is influenced by the sequence in which words, images, or experiences are presented, particularly the greater influence of those which are first.  For instance, if I describe to you a person that I know but you’ve never met with these words: good guy, hard worker, outgoing, sports crazy, but some anger issues. You will believe I’m describing a generally good person with redeemable qualities but with a few problems just like you. But let’s switch the order: some anger issues, sports crazy, outgoing, hard worker, but a good guy. Same descriptive words, with merely a reversed sequence, and you would react with a differing judgment. The first words “halo” what follows.

Here’s another one: anchoring. Anchoring is a term to describe the way in which the first bit of data given influences answers to a question. For instance, if persons are asked a question such as, “did Mahatma Gandhi die before or after age 9?”, their answers are pulled toward the given information, in this case, age 9. If the given age is changed, then the grouping of the answers shifts toward it. The given piece of data provides a fixed point to the mind and influences the answers the mind responds with. Similar to haloing, anchoring points to the cognitive bias humans make towards the first pieces of information which are presented. So, the general truth about the power of first impressions.

What’s this all got to do with Jesus?  Simple.  I believe that we Christians vastly underestimate the ease with which we, the Church, may overshadow Jesus of Nazareth and His Gospel. I suggest to you that a sermon, a song, or a service, even one chock full of orthodox content and Bible verses, can swing easily wide of the Gospel center. And it is common to do so.

In particular, I’m thinking of these things: the way in which a song can sound and feel good but ultimately be about us and not Christ; the manner in which a sermon’s opening illustration can dominate; the overwhelming effect of style over substance; the importance of excellence and relevance of presentation as a virtue today; the lure of spontaneous exhortation in preaching; and the given themes repeated in exhortations and sermons week by week. We could go on.

Haloing and anchoring and similar patterns of human judgment are not things you can overcome with tricks or techniques, no, they are things you must take into account. We all tend to reason in these and other similar ways. In the moment as we hear and listen and experience, our minds are directed in these similar paths, and over time, we are slowly shaped and formed not only by what we hear, but how we hear it, by the repetition, the sequence, and the tone.

This general truth about human judgment and reasoning is exactly why, I think, Paul was so unflinchingly focused upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. I think it is also a good reason why God inspired not one, but four Gospel accounts of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And to think, we still struggle to get the point.

There are practical things we can do. We can make sure that we stay centered on the text when we preach and teach. We can try to preach biblical topics in proportion to their representation in Scripture: death and resurrection get mentioned always, the grace of God constantly, life in the Spirit often, the millenium sometimes, and the rapture, like never. We could take our sermon or lesson notes before each Sunday and put a Sharpie to good use and mark out every side note, soap box, rant, illustration, quote, poem, or story which otherwise does not highlight, exalt, or point to Jesus as worthy, awesome, and completely satisfying. We could decide to talk about Jesus and the meaning of His life and death and resurrection more by volume by a hundred-to-one of anything else we talk about.

Yes, we need to take this Gospel truth and sing it, explain it, illustrate it, and expound it, but we need to constantly be centered, and this takes regular recalibration. The only way I know to do this is to, as much as possible, not only halo and anchor, but surround and submerge what we do with the person and work of Jesus: start with Jesus, fill it up with Jesus, and end with Jesus. Easier said than done, but strive, we must. Pointing always to Jesus.

So, that’s my big thought of the day. What’s your response? What are ways in which we can keep Jesus, in the worship and work of the Church, front and center?

is-change-really-possible

Is it possible to change one’s sexual orientation? The gay community would say no. So do major psychological organizations. And that’s the perception one gets from the media as well. You might be surprised to learn, however, that a lot of research has been done in the area of sexual orientation therapy, and many people have experienced a lasting change in their sexual orientation. When it comes to the question of whether change is possible, the data, not political correctness should be determinative. So what is the data?

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health followed ~10,800 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 22, recording various bits of information over time, including sexual attraction. The findings regarding sexual orientation were published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2007.[1] Researchers found that 81% of females who reported same-sex attraction at age 16 reported opposite-sex attraction at age 17. Similarly, 61% of males who reported exclusive same-sex attraction at age 16 reported opposite-sex attraction just one year later. Only 25% of those boys who continued to experience exclusive same-sex attraction at age 17 reported same-sex attraction at age 22. Seventy-five percent of them had gained opposite-sex attraction over that five year period. All of this without any therapy, faith-based or otherwise.

These findings were in line with an earlier study, conducted in 1992 by the National Health and Social Life Survey. They found that three out of four boys who self-reported as gay at age 16 no longer did so at age twenty-five.

When it comes to same-sex attracted adolescents, at least, one is more likely to gain heterosexual attractions than keep their same-sex attractions. Change is not only possible, but more likely than not. In fact, 3% of the United States heterosexual population claims to have experienced same-sex attractions in the past (either exclusive, or bi-sexual), which is roughly the same amount of people who presently describe themselves as gay or bisexual.[2] The likelihood of change is so great that, in the words of Dr. Whitehead, “Ex-gays outnumber actual gays.”

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