jasonbwatson

September 10, 2014

Contend for the Faith

Last week World Net Daily ran an article entitled “‘Christian’ singer: Jesus may have lied about Adam, Noah.” This article looked at comments made by singer Michael Gungor, lead singer of the worship band Gungor, in an episode of The Liturgist podcast posted on August 12. In that episode, titled “Genesis & Evolution,” and which you can listen to here, Gungor suggests that Jesus may have been wrong when He discussed Adam and Noah, or possibly even intentionally lied in order to accommodate His audience.

That’s a troubling thought to say the least, so let me allow Gungor to speak for himself: “Even if Jesus knew that Noah and Adam were mythical, but knew He was talking to people who thought they were real, that’s another possibility. Jesus was just referring to a story he was part of to these Jewish people that know that story.” You read that right, and that is an unedited quote from the podcast. Gungor is suggesting that Jesus may have knowingly referred to Noah or Adam as real people even though He knew they were not. Perhaps even more troubling than that is that Gungor also said in the interview that Jesus may have legitimately believed that Adam and Noah were real people and was wrong. Said Gungor: “And even if He was wrong, even if He did believe that Noah was a historical person, or Adam was a historical person, and ended up being wrong, I don’t understand how that even would deny the divinity of Christ.” Gungor also said in the podcast, “It wouldn’t freak me out if He was wrong about it.”

There is plenty in the above paragraph to raise serious concern among Christians. First, to suggest that Jesus may have lied is a serious red flag for a professing Christian to make. If Jesus did lie then Jesus sinned. If Jesus sinned, then He was not a perfect sacrifice. If He was not a perfect sacrifice, then He could not pay the penalty for your sins or mine or anyone else’s–including His own. If He could not, and therefore did not, pay the penalty for sins then no one who has professed and accepted Christ as Savior is truly saved because the one in whom they have placed their trust was incapable of saving them! Suggesting that Jesus lied is to completely contradict all of Scripture and the entire basis of Christian belief. In other words, this is no small matter.

Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is a well-known verse, and understandably so since it reveals our need for a Savior. But if this verse is true then what Gungor is saying, whether he intended to or not, is that Jesus, too, fell short of the glory of God. Look at the full context of Romans 3:23, by reading verses 21-26 (from the ESV):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

If Jesus sinned, and therefore fell short of the glory of God, He could not justify Himself, let alone anyone else (verse 24), meaning no one could have redemption in Christ Jesus (verse 24), God could not have “put [Him] forward as a propitiation” for our sins (verse 25) because a sinner would be unable to provide propitiation (atonement) for sins. As a result, Jesus could not be the justifier (verse 26) and no one who received Him by faith could be just (verses 25 and 26).

Now, even if we deny the possibility that Jesus lied, Gungor’s other option is also troubling–the idea that Jesus was wrong. While Jesus was fully human, He was also fully God at the same time, and therefore incapable of being wrong. If it were possible for Jesus to be wrong in holding that Adam and Noah were real people, it would necessarily be possible for Jesus to be wrong about other things, too. No small part of the reason why we can have such faith in God is that He is never wrong; He is incapable of being wrong. If Jesus was wrong, then Jesus was not omniscient; since Jesus and God (and the Holy Spirit) are one, if Jesus is not omniscient then God cannot be either. The little string that Gungor has pulled will unravel the entire Bible and all of Christianity; it is not a little matter!

Gungor states that when the Bible and science contradict, the Bible must be wrong: “[F]for thousands of years or at least hundreds of years, people in Christian history have been saying things like hey, you can’t try to read the Bible as a science book when science conflicts with the Bible and your reading of the Bible.” He continued, “Re-read the Bible. Change that, because you’re probably the one that’s wrong; and if you don’t do that you’re gonna look like an idiot. … The church made pretty big mistakes in the past … thinking the world was flat.”

The problems here are many, as well. First, the Bible and science do not contradict. Man’s interpretation of science, or man’s purported understanding of science, can contradict Scripture, but that is a different animal altogether. Second, if we start to put our beliefs in science, or data, or, more importantly, man’s understanding of those things, then we throw open the door for all kinds of reinterpreting of Scripture. These kinds of arguments have led to many beliefs that are simply not compatible with Scripture, from justification for abortion to the idea that homosexuals are “born that way.” Third, there is a difference between making a mistake and contradicting the Bible. Even if there were members of the church, or even the Church as a whole, who held at one point that the earth was flat, that is not even close to being the same thing. No where does the Bible specifically state that the world is round, for one thing. For another, that the earth is round is verifiable and observable. Evolution–even theistic evolution, which Gungor believes–is neither verifiable nor observable.

On September 1 Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis addressed this matter in his blog on answersingenesis.org. In it he included this statement: “Sadly, it appears that Gungor has adopted the idea that holding to the inerrancy of Scripture is treating the Bible as an idol. You see, in response to a recent Facebook comment about my views, Gungor wrote, ‘There is a trend in modern society, no more than a trend . . . a religion, an idolatry that elevates Scripture above Jesus.'” Ham’s blog included an image of the Twitter discussion that included this statement from Gungor. This is another troubling comment and provides alarming insight into Gungor’s “faith.” The Bible is how we know Jesus. Scripture itself refers to Jesus as “the Word.” John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:3, by the way, states, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” That would seem to be a solid counter to Gungor’s position on theistic evolution). I really do not comprehend the notion of elevating Scripture above Jesus; we know Jesus through Scripture and Jesus Himself quoted Scripture.

Ham correctly writes, “Michael Gungor has an influence on the youth of this generation and will lead them astray with such views.” Others agree with Ham, and are acting on those concerns; the World Net article includes this statement: “Gungor’s views have already cost him among fans, as at least one church canceled a concert, and a Wisconsin radio station removed itself from an event featuring Gungor, saying it ‘cannot be a party to introducing more doubt into the hearts and minds of young Christians already being fed doubt and lies by the world.'”

This is an excellent reminder of the needs for Christians to be discerning. Not everything or everyone who claims to be a Christian believes, teaches or promotes the Truth of Scripture. While Gungor may have written and/or may perform beautiful songs, his very public position on this issue necessitates that he be treated as an unbeliever, one in need of being reached with the message of the gospel. Gungor said that those who deny evolution will end up looking like idiots. I’m afraid that, if adhering to the dictionary definition of the word, it is Mr. Gungor who looks like an idiot. According to dictionary.com an idiot is “an utterly foolish or senseless person.” Foolish is an adjective that is defined as “resulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise” or “lacking forethought or caution.” To suggest that Jesus Christ either was wrong in His understanding of the Old Testament or that He knowingly lied to audiences during His time on earth is nothing short of lacking sense and it is certainly unwise. Saying Jesus could have lied definitely comes with a real lack of caution.

Proverbs 14:7-8 says, “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” We are not meeting words of knowledge from Mr. Gungor and his folly will undoubtedly confuse or lead astray many of his fans and followers. Gungor’s statements cause me to feel like Jude must have when he wrote his short but powerful letter. In verse 3 he says, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” We must contend for the faith, take a stand for the truth, in the face of Gungor’s foolish words. And we should pray for Michael Gungor.

February 5, 2014

The Debate

On Tuesday, February 4 an historic event took place in Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati. It was attended by more than 800 people and it was viewed live through Internet streaming by more than one million. Odds are, you already know what I am talking about. As I skimmed through comments on Facebook last night after the event was over it seemed that many people were referring to it simply as “the debate.”

The Debate was just that, an intellectual exchange of ideas between Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, co-founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Nye is an evolutionist and Ham is a young earth creationist. Their debate, at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, was over the question of whether or not creation is a viable model of origins in today’s scientific climate. To no one’s surprise, Ham believes it is while Nye believes it is not.

No doubt many individuals far more articulate than I will dissect the various arguments and elements of the debate, and no doubt from both sides. I can assert with equal certainty that individuals on both sides will also no doubt make derogatory comments about the individuals and the arguments on the other side, though history bears evidence that far more of these will come from the evolutionist side than the creationist side. I will leave the analysis of most of the nitty gritty details to others, and I do not intend to call anyone names.

On the contrary, I would like to commend both Mr. Ham and Mr. Nye for their willingness to engage in such a public exchange of ideas, placing themselves literally and figuratively in the spotlight on an international stage. Regardless of one’s convictions, beliefs and training, being on the spot, live, in front of millions, tasked with defending a belief system held strongly by millions as their sole at-the-moment spokesperson is not a position many people would envy or be willing to assume. The event no doubt benefited both men and the organizations of both men. Answers in Genesis, for example, reported more than two million visits to its web site in the month leading up to the debate. So sure, publicity was no doubt part of the motivation on both sides. I do not believe, however, that it was at the heart of either man’s willingness to participate in the debate.

As Albert Mohler pointed out in his blog post today, “Nye was criticized by many leading evolutionists, who argued publicly that nothing good could come of the debate.” Criticism is never pleasant, and when it comes from your own camp it is even less so. Kudos, then, to Bill Nye for his willingness to stand on a stage beside one of the world’s leading apologists for the biblical account of creation, and to do it on the creationist’s home turf.

The debate was well planned, well executed and–in a rarity for many debates these days–well moderated. Ham and Nye were civil to each other and respectful. Nye even told Ham after Ham’s initial presentation that he had learned something. (Interestingly, he never said what that something was, though, and it may well have been that Ham holds even crazier ideas than Nye originally thought).

I am a young earth creationist, as is Ham, and I believe that God created the world in six literal, 24-hour days. Odds are good that if you have ever read my blog before that you already knew that. If you are a newcomer, there you go–full disclosure, I agree with Ham. Actually, if you want truly full disclosure, I am a charter member of the Creation Museum and have supported both the museum and Answers in Genesis financially. So it will come as no surprise that I agreed with what Ham said in the debate and disagreed with much of what Nye said. That I went into the debate with my mind made up puts in no small company, though; the same can be said of both Ham and Nye as well as many, if not the majority, of the folks who watched the debate. As Mohler wrote, “If you agreed with Bill Nye you would agree with his reading of the evidence. The same was equally true for those who entered the room agreeing with Ken Ham; they would agree with his interpretation of the evidence.” No one expected Ham or Nye to be convinced by the other or to change his mind. Neither, I suspect, did either man expect to change the mind of the other. One thing that came through loud and clear in the debate is that reason will not change the minds of individuals devoted to either position. Sure, there may be people who have not made up their mind either way, and they may have been swayed, but the debate was more a presentation of data and dogma than an effort to win votes or converts. Ham, by the way, admitted that he would never change his mind, since his beliefs are rooted in the Word of God. Nye suggested that he would if evidence was presented to sway him, but he almost simultaneously stated that such evidence could not exist, so his seeming openness to change was not entirely legitimate.

There were a couple of things that the debate made clear to me that I will comment on. One is that Bill Nye has apparently never read the Bible. His comments about it, and his apparent shock when Ham stated that some of the Bible is history, some poetry, etc, served as proof positive that he is, at best, unfamiliar with the Word of God. One point in favor of those with a biblical worldview is that they are willing to listen to and even study the other side in their defense of their faith.

Two, Nye’s own comments made it clear that the evolutionist position relies just as much on faith as the creationist position does. There were at least two times during the question-and-answer section of the debate when Nye responded to a question by saying, “We don’t know.” Translation: no proof exists for what he believe on this issue, we just believe it. Interesting, given how strongly Nye and others on the evolution side of the argument criticize Ham and those on the creation side for clouding their understanding of science with “beliefs.” Ham made the point early in the evening that the evolution position is just as much a “religion” as the creation position; I never heard Nye comment on that statement.

Three, Bill Nye seems scared to death that schools might actually consider allowing creation to be taught in schools, or at least allow evolution to be questioned or “critically examined.” There were times during the debate when he sounded like a political candidate, appealing to voters to save the United States from falling behind in the world. This was not a new position for Nye; in a widely-seen video Nye made last year he said of those who believe in the creation position, “[I]f you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.” In other words, Nye is suggesting, if you believe in the biblical account of creation you cannot be an intelligent, practicing scientist. You cannot accomplish great things within the scientific community. This position was why Ken Ham made such a point of quoting, mentioning and even playing video clips from accomplished scientists who hold to the creationist viewpoint, including the inventor of the MRI machine. I confess, initially I wondered why Ham kept including these references and dwelling on this point, because it did not seem to be a major tenet of the argument to me. As Nye went on though it became increasingly clear that it is a crucial part of the argument and Ham knew what he was doing. Oddly enough, perhaps, it had never occurred to me that someone would think that if you believe the Bible you cannot also be good at science. How naïve of me!

Albert Mohler concluded his blog post this way: “The central issue last night was really not the age of the earth or the claims of modern science. The question was not really about the ark or sediment layers or fossils. It was about the central worldview clash of our times, and of any time: the clash between the worldview of the self-declared ‘reasonable man’ and the worldview of the sinner saved by grace.” I really could not say it any better. Nye insists he is reasonable, and by default that Ham is not (nor are those who believe as he does). Interestingly enough, the Bible describes godly wisdom as “reasonable.” James writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). I am thankful that Ken Ham demonstrated wisdom from above in his debate with Bill Nye; my prayer is that Bill Nye will come to know that reasonable wisdom from above some day, too.

May 16, 2013

Making church uncomfortable

A short article in the May 4 issue of WORLD Magazine entitled “Bleachers vs. Pews” highlights a “new study of declining North American churches.” The study revealed that “the most common explanation for congregational malaise is the ‘secularization of Sunday,’ or the way that other activities, especially childrens’ sports, have reduced attendance at religious services.”

The study was conducted by Stephen McMullin of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, and while he reports that one pastor in his study summed up this “secularization” by lamenting that many parents will “sacrifice church ‘for the sake of their son or daughter’s sports program,'” McMullin is not convinced that Sunday sports are a determining factor in the decline in church attendance. McMullin observed that many of the churches seeing a decline in enrollment have “internal problems, such as poor quality music, or making little attempt to welcome guests.”

I both agree and disagree with McMullin. I agree that youth sports are not the sole, or even the predominant, cause of a decline in church attendance, and I agree that the number of people opting to pursue youth sports or other leisure activities on Sundays is a symptom of “internal problems” within many churches. I disagree, though, that “poor quality music” is one of those problems. I am not disagreeing that some churches may have poor quality music; some, no doubt do. Rather, I am disagreeing that the quality of music at a church is a determining factor in anyone leaving the church–or, for that matter, regularly attending it in the first place.

This is not a position I am basing purely on gut instinct or a hunch, either. Several years ago Answers in Genesis commissioned Britt Beemer and America’s Research Group to study why young people are leaving the church. Their survey questioned one thousand twenty-somethings who were raised in conservative churches but are no longer attending in order to find out why they are not. One question in the survey specifically asked “Why have you stopped attending church?” The answer “music is poor” was given by only 1% of the respondents; sixteen other reasons ranked above this one. Only four answers ranked below poor music quality in the survey, and those four answers–miscellaneous, unsure of my belief, just quit going, and always ask for money–accounted, cumulatively, for only 1.6% of the responses. So clearly, music–and particularly the quality of music–is not a big factor when it comes to folks making the decision to stop going to church. (To explore this survey further, check out Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer).

In my opinion, the increasing number of sports leagues that allow games or practices on Sunday is just another example in a long line of symptoms of the declining importance of church attendance in our country. Many things that used to not happen on Sunday do now, not just youth sports. I am not going to take a position that youth sports cannot be played on Sundays ever, and whether or not Christian parents allow their children to practice or play on Sundays is a decision I think they need to make for their family after prayerful consideration. I am personally not in favor of it, and I would encourage parents to establish from the get-go that their children will not practice or play anytime doing so will conflict with Sunday school or church services. And if they do make that decision, I strongly encourage those parents to abide by that position.

University of Washington religion professor James Wellman commented that “[c]oaches are less and less intimidated by religious norms and conventions and simply see Sunday as yet another day to schedule practices and games.” That may be. But the real problem is why do they see Sunday that way? And the answer is, why wouldn’t they? Too many professing Christians are no longer committed to regularly attending church on Sunday mornings. They may go if they feel like it, get up on time and do not have something better to do, but it is not all that important–it is not a priority for them. And therein lies the heart of the problem. Why is it not a priority, and what are churches doing about it?

One if the biggest reasons I believe it is not a priority is because so few people see church as being “worth it.” Too many churches have weakened their stance on the Bible, too many of them teach only the “feel good” parts, too many have focused on making church attendees feel good and feel welcome than have focused on making sure they hear the life-transforming message of God’s Word and spurring them on to live it out. And yes, too many have focused on making sure they have great music and lots of “ministry opportunities” without making sure that people are hearing, studying and applying the Word. see, when church becomes more about visiting with friends and getting a feel-good message there is no need to make a priority. People can do that at the ballpark or on the boat, they can get that from their radio or computer or television, or even the local bookstore.

So when churches start to wonder why people are leaving perhaps the best thing they could do is look within instead of without; perhaps they need to focus more on making people in church uncomfortable than on making them comfortable, since the Word of God, when accurately examined, will convict–and conviction doesn’t feel good. Perhaps instead of working to improve their PowerPoint presentations they should work to make sure that their presentations of the gospel are presented with power, and making sure people get the point. People will abandon the youth leagues and Sundays on the lake and lingering in their pajamas with the Sunday paper when they realize that their lives are impacted by attending church, studying God’s Word, interacting with fellow believers, and being challenged to apply what they learn and live out their faith in between services. In other words, the church needs to act like the church.

May 2, 2013

Brainwashing Kids?

On Tuesday, April 30 Answers in Genesis posted an article entitled “Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School.” In the article, written by AiG founder and president Ken Ham and Mark Looy, it is revealed that a fourth grade student who attends Blue Ridge Christian Academy in South Carolina recently wanted an AiG video in her science class and took a quiz on the video. The student received a 100% on the quiz, but apparently both her father and a family friend were quite angry when they learned that she was learning a biblical understanding of creation in general and dinosaurs specifically. The friend took a picture of the two-sided quiz and posted it on Reddit, and it then made its way through the atheists blogosphere. Then Snopes got a hold of the story and decided to investigate, since the original posts did not name the school where the quiz was given. Amazing, isn’t it, how incensed people can get over an 18-question elementary school science quiz when the questions on the test stem from a biblical worldview.

Snopes investigative efforts eventually led to an e-mail from the father of the student whose quiz was posted, in which he stated the following: “I didn’t know that this was being taught to her until we heard a radio commercial together about the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit was coming to the TD Convention Center [in Greenville, South Carolina]. … The test showed up a day later to my disgust. It’s a great school for Reading, Writing and Math. She is ahead of most of her peers and also is taking Latin there. But I now know to be vigilant for the rest of the year about her science teachings. She will not be attending the school next year….”

It is difficult to countenance someone saying that they were completely surprised that this was being taught, given that the web site of Blue Ridge Christian Academy includes the school’s Statement of Beliefs, which begins with this: “We believe the Bible to be inspired; the only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-16; 2 Peter 1:21).” Furthermore, if you make another click or two with your mouse you will find that BRCA’s web site also includes information about its curriculum. The Lower School Curriculum page states that Christian Schools International (CSI) materials are used for science classes, and states this: “Science lessons are creation-based, student-centered and hands-on.” Take a few more clicks with your mouse and make a few keystrokes and literally within less than 15 seconds I find the information on CSI’s web site regarding their science curriculum: “Christian Schools International’s 2nd edition science curriculum, revised in 2011, leads students to see God’s hand in the world around them. The materials will enrich their knowledge of creation, affirm their faith in the creator, and empower them to be good stewards of creation.” I am sure that BRCA requires parents of its students to sign an agreement acknowledging an understanding of the school’s Statement of Beliefs and an understanding that students in the school will be taught accordingly. Furthermore, it is a bit absurd for the father of this student to say that he had no idea this was being taught when his daughter has been at the school for who-knows-how-long already and when it is easily discernible within a few minutes on the computer.

Another blog site, entitled the Friendly Atheist, had this to say about the quiz in question: “…even if it’s legal, no school should be brainwashing kids like this in the name of science, and the father and the Reddit submitter have a duty to name the school when the time comes so we can expose them.” When I read that I was not sure whether to laugh or cry. This person is accusing BRCA in particular, along with Answers in Genesis, and anyone who holds to a biblical view of creation in general, of “brainwashing kids…in the name of science”! Isn’t that exactly what public schools are doing all across the country, teaching children that the earth is the result of a big bang and that life evolved over millions of years from some kind of ooze eventually becoming a monkey eventually becoming a man? Aren’t evolutionists the ones brainwashing kids in the name of science, touting the theory of evolution as scientific fact even though there is no scientific evidence to support the theory? And isn’t it ironic that in any other field of academic inquiry most intellectuals and academics and yes, liberals, claim to love the idea of exposing students to as many theories, opinions, arguments and just plain speculations as possible, but when it comes to science the creationist position must be shut out?

If you look around a little bit online you will find that the atheist, evolutionist and anti-Christian community is aghast that such stuff would be taught in a Christian school. The AiG article includes this reaction from the BRCA administrator: “The school administrator informed us she knew that the school would be involved in a spiritual battle after the quiz went public, but she was not expecting such ferocity. She told us she was shocked at the level of hate that the atheists poured down upon her, the teacher, and the school in general.”

I for one hope that BRCA will continue to stand strong for the truth of God’s Word in the face of this criticism, and that it will accept the hate being sent its direction as a high honor, a sign that the school is doing what God has called it to do. After all, Jesus Himself said that the world will hate His followers because it hated Him first (John 15:18).

I must echo Mr. Ham and Mr. Looy, who included this statement in their article: “More than ever, God’s people need to be standing up publicly and unashamedly for the authority of His Word.” Amen!

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