Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Spirit of the Thing

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Decades ago, I thought that I could use occult methods and still be a Bible-believing Christian. My mental image was almost comic book, where I would be using "good" magic against the forces of evil, complete with eerie glows and bolts of force emitting from my hands (Amos 3.3 NKJV). (If this had happened in modern times, I would probably have had a Harry Potter image of myself.) I had several errors going on in my naïve mind. One error was basic wishful thinking; I wanted certain things to be true, despite the Bible's admonitions against magic and occult practices (Deut. 18.9-12a, Isaiah 9.19-20, Jer. 27.9-10). There was no distinction between "white" and "black" magic, all was forbidden and condemned. I justified my opinions because I believed that the Old Testament does not apply to Christians. Of course, I ignored the fact that those warnings were there for a deeper reason that to just keep Israel separate from the other nations; those practices are detestable to God.

Also, I conveniently neglected the New Testament passages where occult practices were condemned as well as being abandoned by converts to the faith (Rev. 22.14-15, Acts 13.6-12, Acts 19.19-20, Gal. 5.20-21). Self-justification is a powerful thing because it is difficult for the Word of God to penetrate a determined, foolish mindset. (More about what the Bible has to say regarding the occult is here.) Instead of obedience to what God has said in his Word, I had something better: My opinions.

Funny how I refused to have Ouija boards, though. Go figure.

There was a time when I foolishly thought that I could use magic on the side of good. Then I learned about how foolish that idea really was.
Ouija board (modified) / FreeImages / zaid zolkiffli
I read many things and was ready to self-initiate. No joining a group for me, because I had unique views with my mix of good intentions, lame theology, opinions, excuses and wishful thinking. It came up in conversation, and a co-worker made a simple comment that rang in my ears: "Get a Christian perspective".

So I did. I think I picked up several books on the subject in the Christian section tucked away in the back at the local bookseller. The one that I fondly remember is Demons in the World Today, by Merrill F. Unger. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but Biblical Demonology appears to be a suitable replacement.
I stopped my activities in occult exploration, boxed up all the books I had and took them outside.

Fortunately, I was alone in the house, so my activities could not be argued or questioned. It was a cold winter's night. We lived on the outskirts of a small town, and the back yard was rather spacious. I walked on the crusted snow, dragging my box of occult books. A bit of gasoline, a shovel, matches, dreadful feelings of being watched. Flame on! I burned the books. Neighbor dogs were making some very odd barkings and whinings while this was going on; I half expected to see some thing charging out of the woods behind the property at me. And I seem to recall singing spiritual songs, too.

There is a void that needs to be filled when something is removed. The co-worker who recommended that I get a Christian perspective happened to call after I had done my deed and pointed this fact out to me. So, I got back into the Word and good spiritual teachings.

I have been wanting to share a scaled-down version of my occult experience. No, nothing sensational, no glowing eyes in the dark or demonic voices. But I suspect that those would have happened if I had continued on my path.

Now I have something else to share with you. Uh, you're not busy, are you? Anyway, there is an interesting article on whether or not ghosts are real, and what they may actually be. Let me start you off:
For centuries people have claimed interactions with entities that appear to be supernatural in nature. The seeming reality of the experience often has a transforming effect, even to the extent that the experience itself becomes a new kind of worldview filter. For example, today people claim interactions with alleged aliens and even abduction experiences at their hands.
If an interdimensional (as in, it looks as if it suddenly emerged out of nowhere) entity suddenly appears at the foot of someone’s bed in the middle of the night and claims that it is from the Pleiades cluster, then on most occasions the person will believe that its claims are true. The belief in the experience often changes their views about the big picture issues of life, such as “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going when we die?” So, because of the experience, they are also given over to the larger claims of the entity that may include tales that the alien benefactors were originally humankind’s creators; that they have been overseeing our evolution for millennia; and that in the end they will redeem and restore the human species and the Earth to some kind of utopian paradise. In short, most experiencers undergo a kind of religious transformation or ‘awakening’ and many researchers believe that this is the actual purpose of the deceptive entities.
Click here to read the rest of "Are Ghosts Real?", here. I recommend that you also read the follow-up feedback and response, here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Resource: Logic, Atheism, the Gospel and More

This edition touches on several topics, including evolution, the importance of Genesis, atheism and logic. But more importantly, it dealt with how Christians should present the gospel message, and what kind of foundation we should have.

Sunday, October 14, 2012 was an interesting day for me. I was invited ("invited" as in, "hounded the guys until they gave in") to be on the "Evidence 4 Faith" radio show/podcast. Host Keith Kendrix was away, and Kirk Hastings was filling in. It was my first live guest spot on a radio show, not including call-in shows. (Before that, I was involved in a three-part  podcast for Theopologetics, but that was recorded and not a live broadcast.) I was hesitant a few times, not wanting to steamroll over Kirk — it's not my show. And I had a dry throat problem on occasion.

Perchance they wish to have me on again, there are some items that I would like to expand upon. The next time should be better.

If you find this material helpful, I hope you will pass it along to your friends. You can listen to the show on the site, linked above, or download the MP3 at this link.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

But So Many Scientists Believe Evolution!

Source unknown, found on Facebook, click for larger 
Two "arguments" have the same problem. First, "Most scientists believe evolution". Second, "Most modern Christians do not accept the first eleven chapters of Genesis as actual history". Those are the ad populum fallacy, where people will accept something as true because many people believe it. In addition, we also have the appeal to authority fallacy ("scientists believe"). While it is valid to cite an authority on a topic, people make mistakes. Especially when appealing to authority and majority instead of using reason.

Still, it is puzzling. So many people believe something that is contrary to God's Word. Why is that? Well, why do you think? "Science" is practically worshiped by many people, and is used as an excuse to ignore or even replace God. If scientists say something, well, we had better accept what they say, yes? No. For one thing, scientific conclusions, procedures and so forth "proving" an ancient Earth and evolution are not undisputed, even within the secular scientific community. Thanks to publicity, however, people are deceived into thinking that everything is "case closed". And so many people compromise their theology with the ever-changing whims of man-made "science". Why?
What better place to teach geology than the Grand Canyon? Exposed there is a large slice through the rock record of a major part of earth history. Every year we take groups through the Grand Canyon, and people see in-depth the compelling evidence for the global, cataclysmic Genesis Flood.

Overwhelmed by this evidence, a common response is: “How could most scientists be wrong about its formation?” If the evidence for the catastrophic accumulation of the rock record and its contained fossils in only a year or so, rather than over millions of years, is so compelling, why don’t all geologists accept the evidence and agree that the biblical Flood accounts for the rock and fossil records?

Such questions demonstrate that most people do not understand how geologists deal with the rock and fossil evidence. The only facts are that the rocks and fossils are observed in layers. They can be measured and tested repeatedly in the present.

When it comes to explaining how the rocks and fossils formed, however, those are events that occurred in the past. They can’t be repeated and observed. Thus, explanations about how rocks and fossils formed in the past are interpretations, not facts.
I think you'll want to read the rest of "How Could Most Scientists Be Wrong?", here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Resource - Refuting Compromise (Video)

Although it is just over an hour, this video is well worth your time. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati shows how proponents of an old Earth are using the same atheistic interpretations of scientific facts. Worse, he shows how compromisers like Hugh Ross and BioLogos are on terrible theological ground. The real question is about biblical authority versus man's opinions. Let him explain. NOTE: Skip ahead to the seven minute mark to where he actually begins talking.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reinterpretation and Other Old-Earth Compromise Efforts

It constantly baffles me why some Christians insist that the Bible does not mean what it says back in Genesis. Some blatant compromisers like Hugh Ross and BioLogos can be seen as dangerous to the gospel. It is disheartening when a respected philosopher like William Lane Craig actually mocks biblical creationists. When people I respect, like Greg Koukl of "Stand to Reason", keep making efforts to say that Genesis does not mean what it says (as he did in his radio show on September 2, 2012, at about the 1 hour 10 minute mark), it is discouraging. Especially when I know that Koukl has a great deal of worthwhile material!

As I have said before, we are sending people a mixed message:

The Bible is true, and contains what we need for salvation and a godly life, it means what it says. You don't need to be told what to think, have a "Watchtower" magazine or Book of Mormon. Except for the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Then, we have to go with the current trends of modern science philosophies; do not go with the plain reading of the text, nononono!

But many of us do believe what the Bible says. We do not need the ever-changing whims of science philosophies to tell us what it means. Why the compromise? Why the insistence on eisegesis, forcing "deep time" into the Bible? What is the purpose of using atheistic interpretations of scientific data? If people want to let "science" tell us what we should believe, why stop at Genesis? "Science" also says that water is not turned into wine, virgins do not conceive a child from the Holy Spirit, men do not rise from the dead... Compromise begets more compromise.

Here is an article about theological tap-dancing and reinterpretations of the text that old-Earth people commit.
Since the rise of uniformitarian geology in about 1800, many in the church have capitulated to this new ‘science’. Thus they have rejected the traditional plain historical-grammatical interpretation of the creation and Flood accounts. They routinely resort to erroneous reasoning to support their compromising reinterpretation. Following are discussions of the three most common errors committed.
I urge you to read the rest of "Common errors made by deniers of a young Earth", here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Do Christians Deny Genesis?

It seems that most people simply believe in "deep time" and use current science philosophy trends to interpret the Bible. As I have said before, I believe that many people have simply not bothered to examine their theology, and see that their opinions are actually doing violence to the rest of Scripture. Others are actively compromising and denying the authority of God's Word.

What causes people to accept what "science" says, and to interpret the Bible according to secular belief systems? Here is an article that has some good answers.
Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the word of God, but most of them (in the Western world outside the USA, at least) do not believe that God created the universe in six literal days about six thousand years ago. Furthermore, they say that those who do believe it are interpreting the Bible wrongly. Why? Are they right? And why do so many of them say it? Also, why are so many resistant to even considering this matter? This opens up a huge area of discussion, and this brief foray does not intend to be comprehensive. Also, I write it in the knowledge that many ‘old-earth’ Christians are very sincere in their belief and commitment to the Gospel.
First, my own experience. Although I never believed in macro-evolution, for many years I was convinced that the ‘millions of years’ were a proven fact of science. I was aware that if this were true, it would mean that God’s method of creation involved millions of years of death, disease, violence, suffering and waste. I was uneasy about this, but the evidence for a billions-of-years-old universe seemed incontrovertible. However, I kept searching for the truth and the light finally dawned when I came to realise that the millions-of-years scenario is by no means a proven fact of science and is totally incompatible with the Bible. In fact, the scientific evidence supports the literal understanding of Genesis 1–11. The turning point, for me, was when I read Refuting Compromise.
You can read the rest of "Evangelicals and Biblical Creation", here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ashamed of Christians

Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free.
Ephesians 6.5-8, World English Bible

I've got nothing against God,
it's his fan club I can't stand.
— Unbelievers' slogan

This is not an easy article to write. Here I am on vacation, the place to myself, and I'm running all over chasing after shiny things instead of actually writing it. Then I had to walk away to think and pray. Once you read it, you will see why I had difficulties. Although I do not set out to irritate people on this Weblog, I am certain that people on both sides of the chasm will be annoyed.

In previous posts, I have taken Christians to task over several things (and tried to encourage people to get into the Word and live according to God's purposes in our lives).  The verses at the top are somewhat out of context. In modern usage, they illustrate a principle for employees to realize that their ultimate employer is God and to work to please him most of all. I believe that this principle is valid for all we do as followers of Jesus, that we should strive to do our best in all things.

If we are going to identify ourselves as followers of Christ, we must live and act like it (Rom. 15.5-6, Rom. 12.1-2, 1 John 1.5-6, 1 Peter 2.12 NIV, James 3.13). Our conduct, as well as our words, are supposed to be part of our testimony to the lost (1 Peter 3.15-16 NASB). Those of us who take the Bible seriously enough to share the gospel have enough difficulties already from getting tongue-tied, having interruptions and distractions, trying to make the most of our opportunities, people finding excuses to disbelieve and more. We do not need liberal church-ians ("Christians" who use church-going as a religious social club and a "Get Out of Hell Free Card") making things more difficult with their attitudes and conduct! Nor can we have Bible-believing Christians giving in to their weaknesses (Gal. 5.16-21), either.

Listen, everyone is going to have bad days and foul up. I get that. I do that. We need to repent of our conduct and attitudes, and not make excuses for them. Worse, we cannot make a lifestyle of such things. If we do that, what good are we to God?

I came across some comments, and obtained permission to use them here (without identification). The first commenter said:
So, I really don't like the "Church Crowd." (The people that go out for food and such right after church.) We were at [an area restaurant] yesterday (awesome) and it was just filled with all of these well-dressed Sunday types. OK, that's cool, just waited in line.
But then, all of them one after another just kept treating the staff like crap because their food was taking longer than usual (busy day, duh!) and just kept downtalking them and whispering to one another basically agreeing that everyone other than them were a lesser being. Basically they all just go from being all fake-nice at church, and then immediately show who they really are once outside the doors. So thank you for validating one of the main reasons I don't go to church in the first place. (The other one being that MOST-not all- people there are always so conceited and full of the "I'm better than you" attitude. That's the stuff.)
Here is a reply:
Having worked in food service for [many] years, I appreciate your observations. I hate working Sunday mornings for the same and have formulated my own theory on this Sunday behavior.

People will go about their whole week being cordial towards one another unless otherwise provoked. When church day comes, they come to their lord with apologetic hearts and minds to be degraded by their pastor for being sinners. They endure this mass humiliation for nearly 2 hours, having become convinced that they are scum, leave their church to take this new self-loathing out on the serving public (who did not go to their god for apology) to feel better about being sinners now that they can live up to the title.
I, too, have been in food service. One of the ugliest things to see is someone who is not getting the food that they want when they want it, "church-goer" or not. But there is a problem here when church people as a whole can bring shame on Christians (and, ultimately, the name of Christ) because of selfishness and bad conduct. All of us can use improvement (1 John 1.9).

My regular readers know that I spend quite a bit of time dealing with logical responses and the lack thereof from unbelievers. These readers also know that I am well aware that we cannot live our lives being analytical all the time and stifling our emotions. We are human, after all.

But we can have some control over our emotions and learn some clear thinking practices. That is one reason I wrote the "Logic Lessons" series. Since I use real examples for those lessons, there are some things I would like to point out in the above dialogue.

First, there was an assumption that this was a "church crowd". This is based on the time of day and their clothing. Although it is a reasonable assumption, it is not conclusive. From the information given, they could have been on lunch break from a convention at a hotel down the road. Still, I will assume the original assumption is probably correct.

Second, "Basically they all just go from being all fake-nice at church, and then immediately show who they really are once outside the doors." Let's see...abusive ad hominem, hasty generalization, appeal to motive, maybe a bit of poisoning the well fallacies. These kinds of things seem most likely to occur from an emotional response.

Third, "So thank you for validating one of the main reasons I don't go to church in the first place. (The other one being that MOST-not all- people there are always so conceited and full of the "I'm better than you" attitude. That's the stuff.)" More of the same. I could give the same approach and say about a rock concert, "Rampant promiscuous sex, un-American values, use of illegal drugs — thank you rock and rollers for validating one of the main reasons I quit listening to rock in the first place." See, this kind of thing is emotional, not substantive. And I wonder about "all of them" being rude.

I have some serious issues with the respondent's comments that followed.

"Having worked in food service for [many] years, I appreciate your observations. I hate working Sunday mornings for the same..."

S/he is speaking from experience, no quarrels there.

"People will go about their whole week being cordial towards one another unless otherwise provoked. When church day comes, they come to their lord with apologetic hearts and minds to be degraded by their pastor for being sinners. They endure this mass humiliation for nearly 2 hours, having become convinced that they are scum, leave their church to take this new self-loathing out on the serving public (who did not go to their god for apology) to feel better about being sinners now that they can live up to the title."

In logic, this is known as a prejudicial conjecture. According to Dr. Jason Lisle,
This is where a person substitutes an arbitrary conjecture for knowledge. He has failed to study the topic in question, and so he simply begins stating guesses based on nothing more than imagination. A prejudicial conjecture is not making a reasonable guess based on the best information available; this is perfectly acceptable. A prejudicial conjecture is where the information in question is publicly available, but the person has failed to do his homework. If he would have simply gone to a public library and done 30 minutes of research, he would know better than to make such an uneducated claim.
In my apologetics work, I encounter this kind of thing frequently. People make arbitrary statements as if they were fact, but if they had "done their homework", they would not make such statements. In addition, it has a straw man argument, hasty generalization, abusive ad hominem and appeal to motive.

(By the way, I have been on this planet for quite a while, and do not know of such places that treat their members with such emotional abuse. Any pastor to acted that way would have an empty church. The problem is quite the opposite, there is too much "feel good now" stuff and not enough respect for the Creator of the universe.)

Again, it is unreasonable to expect people to be analytical all the time. Whether they have a reasonable basis for what they feel, they still feel it. In my experience and learning, people feed their feelings over a long period of time. If you are in a face-to-face conversation with someone who is describing their bitterness, it is not a good idea to list their logical fallacies; this write-up is for your edification and is not a prescriptive method.

Instead, we can take a questioning approach. Questions like, "What do you mean by that?", "How did you reach that conclusion?","Why do you feel that way?" and similar questions. (Asking an avowed atheist, "Why is it wrong for Christians to act in a way you don't like actually wrong in your worldview?" is for advanced students!)

While I was writing this article, I was subjected to a personal attack on Facebook. Again. It is arrogant, condescending, has a disingenuous pretense of nobility, is full of fallacies (a later comment even took a victim approach) and other efforts to provoke and waste time. This is his opening comment. I'll let you figure out the fallacies:
You held true to form doing what almost every religious adherent does who runs these pages. If something is too threatening or you cannot adequate support your position, the pattern is usually throw a fit, then block and pretend like it never happened.

I expect you are young (at least you seem to be by your responses). I only hope that one day you mature enough to be able to reflect upon why you would have such a visceral response to such things. Also, I would hope you one day will be able to admit when you are wrong and actually LEARN from debates. That, to be honest, is the only benefit to such discussions. Otherwise, people only spin their wheels and leave with a deluded sense of victory. Anyway, best wishes and good luck on your journey.

People like this are motivated by hate and pride, and I do not waste much time on them (Matt. 7.6). Their minds are made up. By the way, this troll was been reported to Facebook and blocked. After I took a screenshot.

It is the other people, the ones who had the dialogue that was analyzed, that bother me. Like I keep saying, whether it is "reasonable" or not, they have these feelings. They can be pain, anger, resentment and other things — or a mixture. In fact, there is a wall that they have constructed. We can try to get through that wall through discussion, prayer and a reasonable defense of the gospel (ἀπολογία).

But it is much, much more difficult to do when Christians act like jerks.