Wednesday, June 28, 2006
In port, the Command Duty Officer presided over retiring the colors at
sunset - standing on the flight deck, at attention, and saluting as sailors slowly lowered the U.S. flag. This was my favorite duty, so it might surprise many I would oppose a Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.
Like many Americans, I, too, am angry and disgusted when I see our flag burned - whether in a foreign land or here at home. To see an American burn the flag seems almost traitorous. In my opinion, most who do this are ignorant of their own history and callously indifferent toward the patriotic feelings of the multitude. It offends me deeply, but I am not hurt physically or emotionally beyond what I experience daily behind slow drivers on the interstate.
Most see this as a freedom of speech issue. Most would agree we should be very careful in allowing the government to curtail our freedoms - bought in blood shed under this banner. So, what is the compelling and sufficient reason to ban flag burning? No one is hurt (except, hopefully, the one holding the burning flag); we’re just offended. Constitutionalize this ban, and the words, "I’m offended," take on Constitutional force! Stop for a moment and think what a liberal court could do with that precedent!
Let’s compromise. Require a license to burn the flag. Two requirements - first, pass an American history test, and then there must be a tear in your eye when you burn my flag.
Harold Henderson, CDR, SC, USN (ret)
... about the only thing I would change is the last paragraph to add a provision making assault against a flag-burner a petty offense with a stiff $50 fine.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
That man has a soul is generally accepted by most common folk - even writers and artists - though we may quibble over exactly what this soulishness means. For this article I would like to set forth a definition that most would accept - a throbbing ache for fulfillment. We seem to be born with a longing for meaning and significance. Most of us eventually discover that meaning and significance are not found in the physical pleasures or acquisitions of life. In the words of Ravi Zacharias, "The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced what you thought would deliver the ultimate, and it has let you down." (from Can Man Live Without God)
But where do we look to satisfy this soulishness? That's the issue.
The Christian view is that the soul is a God implanted compass to draw us outside of ourselves pointing us to look to something higher and greater. That's all I will say about this view because I want to focus on several atheistic/humanistic approaches.
The first view I call the honest view. I will use famous 20th century atheist Bertrand Russell as it's proponent. His remark that life must be lived in a state of "unyielding despair" both states that there is no higher purpose or meaning to look to and correctly analyzes the life result of that belief - despair, with no hope and no way out. In short, Russell says there is a yearning but no ultimate fulfillment for life. There is no meaning.
"We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available (so thank your lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook."We may yearn for a 'higher' answer—but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating" Stephen Jay Gould
The second I call get over it. A proponent of this view was the late Stephen Jay Gould. As shown above, his view says man can be liberated and exhilarated (his notion of the soul's fulfillment) if we just face the facts squarely and get on with it. Interestingly enough, though, his language gives him away - "This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating." If man is just a cosmic accident, why should there be anything to trouble or terrify? Man's soulishness becomes a cosmic joke played by blind chance.
"The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite." Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
Richard Dawkins is an example of the third view which I call counterfeit. Dawkins seems to agree that the things that give meaning to life are not the physical but the ethereal experiences of awe and wonder from science, music, poetry, etc. From his evolutionary/atheistic perspective, however, Dawkins is amazed at what the mind of man can conceive rather than that man's mind can conceive at all. It's like those who look at the amazing pictures from the Hubble space telescope and only marvel at man's accomplishment of building and placing such a great and powerful instrument.
Conclusion. Yes, it is fearful to contemplate the vastness of empty space teaming with billions and billions of stars. How small and insignificant this makes man -- if the measure is man alone. No further can the atheist/humanist go. Left with the honest assessment of unyielding despair, or the get over it bravado of the superficially troubling, if not terrifying truth of accidental and meaningless existence, or the counterfeit of looking low to the creature for awe and wonder, these all draw a giraffe with a short neck - man with a much diminished soul - in short, inviting man to suicide.
"Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end." G.K. Chesterton
Friday, June 23, 2006
Now Matter had only one companion, the hero of our fable, a mysterious stranger of unknown origin called Chance. Chance, though blind, was a brilliant artist. Chance taught mindless Matter to paint, and paint our pupil did. Matter painted a universe from center to rim on the canvas of a vacuum. And lo, innumerable galaxies emerged, filled with infinite wonders, beauty, order, and life. The inspired brush strokes of ignorant Matter, guided by the hands of blind Chance, created a cosmic masterpiece.
But as Matter and Chance were working away, they failed to spot our villain called Time. Time crept in unnoticed back at the boom and was extremely wound up about being stirred from his sleep. Time determined there and then to wind down again and thus rub the masterpiece out – as soon as he got hold of that Chance! Chance, being blind, didn’t see Time coming, and mindless Matter was helpless to intervene.
Now Time ruins the painting little by little and brags that by Chance, it’s just a matter of Time before the canvas is blank and the boom will swoon and everything that was Something will be Nothing again, once more a pointless point of infinite nothingness with no Time for Chance to matter anymore.
Excerpt from Searching for Truth, Discovering the Meaning and Purpose of Life by Joe Boot, pp 53-54.
Monday, June 19, 2006
"Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven."
I know exactly what Dawkins is talking about. It's exactly the way I felt as a four year old when my mother - who I thought loved me - and the enemy nurses held me down to give me a shot when I was sick! Absolutely no pity or decent human feelings. Thank God my mother had faith to believe the shot would make me well - not absolutely guaranteed - and that the lesser (my temporary discomfort - certainly not from my point of view) was outweighed by the greater. This is a common principle we all use and should be applied to Dawkins' quote.
The problem obviously is the context and how you judge the reasoning used to evaluate the greater/lesser moral equation. The 9/11 hijackers believed heaven was the goal of life, and the only way by their faith, Islam, to guarantee heaven was as a martyr. Further, they believed their religion mandated the killing of non-believers, infidels. Looks like perfectly good reasoning to me, IF their religious understanding is true.
Everyone falls back to their core beliefs and principles from which to reason and justify their actions. Well, maybe with the exception of those who just act like animals with no need for justifying their actions to any moral standards at all. We can see that the 9/11 hijackers would try to justify their actions based on their religious beliefs. So, where do other mass-murderers find justification for their lesser/greater moral evaluation? Let's take Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc - the greatest mass murderers of all time, and all in the progressive 20th century.
Since they were atheists, I would suggest they can only look to their DNA. There is no good or bad - only "what is." They evolved by a process that endows no special moral place to the human animal above any other animals - "Nature, red in tooth and claw," in Tennyson's poem "In Memoriam." After all, this is what Darwin's theory of evolution has proved, hasn't it?
"Blindness to suffering is an inherent consequence of natural selection. Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent."
Few atheists are honest enough to admit that without a transcendent moral law, morality simply becomes a matter of individual moral tastes - some love their neighbors, some love to eat them. "Might makes right" becomes the operative principle.
Thank God most atheists live to a much higher moral standard than their beliefs require.
Friday, June 16, 2006
"My last vestige of "hands off religion" respect disappeared in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th 2001, followed by the "National Day of Prayer," when prelates and pastors did their tremulous Martin Luther King impersonations and urged people of mutually incompatible faiths to hold hands, united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place."
Sometimes, even an atheist can hit the nail on the head - incompatible faiths! The religions of the world make incompatible claims. Christians claim Jesus rose from the dead; Jews disagree. These are major differences, not minor. While it is theoretically possible that no religions have the truth, it cannot be that all are true. Gathering people together of different religions for prayer to their different gods is just an act of covering all the bases -- "we don't know which god is the true one, so we'll just pray to them all". Somehow, I doubt the true God - especially if He has gone to a lot of trouble to make men aware of Himself - is going to take that very seriously!
The only religions that could get together and pray in unity are Christianity and Judaism for they, at least, share the same God even if (to the Christian) the Jew only knows him partially.
One of the underlying problems of 9/11 was a religion, Islam, that condones, and obviously to some requires, killing of infidels - just look at the recent problem of the convert to Christianity in Afghanistan. Some will say that extremists have hijacked a peaceful religion, then I will say the burden is on the leaders of peaceful Islam to aggressively help put an end to those who have hijacked their religion. Other than some verbiage here and there, I have not really seen any such organized attempt.
Although there were old testament times when the God of the Christian and the Jew instructed the Jews to wipe out entire races, these instances were very specific in their rationale and were only for a very specific time and place. There is no generalized condoning of killing infidels in Christianity/Judaism - in fact, just the opposite is true. The Jews were commissioned by God to be a blessing to the nations. Roman 2:4 (NASB) gives the true definition of tolerance for the unrighteous: "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" Christianity makes converts through persuasion and the opening of hearts - not by sword or suicide bomb.
If you were to gather religions together, then gather them in commitment to the preciousness of human life - committed to action not just words. Unfortunately, abortion-full America, would show up with bloody hands.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Examples:"By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." This one is rather tame. Who wouldn't agree - you would be surprised! Many people think minds are meant to always be open. I disagree. Minds are meant to close on facts guided by the light of truth. Openness is just a mind-phase enroute to closing.
"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." I agree because Dawkins obviously does not include Christianity in his definition of religion (remember, religion is man seeking after God/Godlessness - Christianity is God seeking man) since the early pioneers of modern science were Christians. These men/women were propelled by their belief in a God of order who revealed Himself in the complexity and order of His creation. For them, uncovering the mysteries of the universe was akin to touching the mind of God. Unfortunately, ignorance (much willfull) on matters of religion is epidemic in our culture and most do not see this distinction nor know their science history. True science goes where the evidence leads ... but, wait a minute, isn't Dawkins an evolutionist?
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." Once again, as above, it is obvious that Dawkins excludes Christians from those of faith and for the same reasons. I'm sure there is a word that describes ghost words. In our culture today, the word faith has an unseen, but clearly understood, preceeding ghost word - blind. Of course, from the context of his quote, it is clear this is what Dawkins is referring to. Anyone who has actually studied the Christian Bible knows that the Biblical concept of faith is more a reasonable faith or trust - definitely not blind. Unfortunately for Dawkins, though, this kind of leaves him hanging on the horns of his own quote. What kind of faith does it take to believe that Darwin's theory of macro evolution is true -- in spite of the lack of evidence in support of it and the growing body of contradictory evidence?
I may continue this later ...
You may want to go here and check out more of Dawkin's quotes.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I am an avid reader. You will learn a lot about me by knowing the authors I read the most - not that learning a lot about me is the important point but rather that you might look at these authors, too. Here is a list - the ordering is a rough measure of their influence:
God (through His agents who actually wrote the books)
Here are a few books that had a big impact on me. It's hard to pick just one from each, but here's a start:
C.S.Lewis - The Screwtape Letters. Fantastic insight into how Satan works. Tells us as much about ourselves as about Satan. A good, highly readable, book to start falling in love with C.S.Lewis' writing.
Ravi Zacharias - Can Man Live Without God. I remember sitting on the hotel balcony at Marco Island, Florida, reading this book with tears coming down my face. It simply touched something very deep in me. I believe it was the awakening of an awareness that we really were made for God and it could be argued successfully.
John Piper - God's Passion for His Glory. This is Piper's narrative (and most importantly his explanation) of Jonathan Edward's essay, The End for which God Created the World. The book showed me that God's passion for His glory is the measure of His love and commitment to our joy. God does things for His glory. That is the chief end (purpose) of all things. In terms of the day-to-day influence of how I view God, no book other than the Bible has had more influence.
Frank Peretti - This Present Darkness (fiction). Gave me a tangible understanding of the unseen spiritual warfare that surrounds us. This book almost makes the unseen visible.
Chuck Colson - The Body. Gave me an early vision of what the church could and should be.
Lee Stroebel - The Case for Christ. Though so many of the books/authors I read had something to do with apologetics, this book, and Lee's subsequent books, gave form to the practical apologetics for evangelism. We have a really good and sound case to make to the honest and sincere inquirer.
Norman Geisler and Frank Turek - I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Outstanding resource for the intellectually honest seeker or the Christian looking to discover the sound rational basis of faith in 12 progressive steps starting with is Truth knowable and leading inexorably to the Bible is the Word of God.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Signs of Disintegrating American Culture. We have forgotten our foundations. Always be wary when people run to enact laws to set right what cultural moral/restrictions should have stopped. The fundamental principle of our republican form of government is self-government. When the power to govern self fails and laws are passed to accomplish what moral restraint - individual and collective - should have restrained, then individual freedom will be eroded. This is a one-way street to disaster. Here are some examples we see today in America.
Gay Marriage. That we would even think to debate over the definition of marriage is a huge red flag in itself. I am all for open debate and this issue will be debated, but just realize how far our society has fallen by the simple fact we would even think this is an issue. At it's core, this is precipitated by a cultural shift to define our rights according to our pleasures.
Amendments to Protect the American Flag and to Prevent Protest at Miltary Funerals. I am a 22 year veteran of the US Navy, and I am as patriotic as the next guy. I understand the outrage and anger being expressed by those who see the American flag being burned by other Americans and those who see loud protests against the war as a grieving family lays their fallen soldier to rest - BUT the bottom line of both these amendments is to outlaw being offended. Sorry, there is not and never should be enshrined in law a right to not be offended - for any reason. This is a bottomless pit. Besides chipping away at our rights of free speech and protest, just think where liberal judges will take this new "right" to not be offended.
Abortion. There simply shouldn't have to be a law to prevent the killing of innocent unborn human persons. This is just too obvious - or, at least, it should be. Here is an example of how a corrupt and evil culture has redefined the God-created role of a loving, giving, and nurturing mother into a killer!
Acceptance of Divorce. Here we are back to marriage, again. Marriage is a committment, and committment - through thick and thin, easy and tuff - is the centerpiece of integrity. Every marriage will have its rough spots. Why do we make it so easy to bail out of problems rather than encouraging the two to work through the problems -- often coming out stronger on the other side. Our culture has elevated Me-first self-centeredness to a virtue rather than self-sacrifice ... and this is the environment we raise children in!
Look at how divorce - inside the church - is accepted with no consequences! Law can only help the recovery so far - like Louisiana's Covenant Marriage option which many states have modeled. Only the church can restore the true environment and meaning to marriage.
Here's a challenge for churches and pastors in states with Covenant Marriage licensing options: commit to only perform and use church facilities for Covenant Marriages!
Increase in sexual perversion. Love = sex! Me first! That's the message of Hollywood and pop music. God's plan has been totally inverted. With all the child molesters and sexual predators, we are reaping what we have allowed the culture to sow.
More to come ...
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Stuck in the 50's. When it comes to witnessing our Christ to others verbally, it looks to me like most churches (at least my own denomination, Southern Baptist) equip members to witness in the culture of the 50's (1950s). All the programs and methods assume an open, if not friendly, culture that believes there is a God and is willing to give fair and open consideration to claims of God's word. Ha! "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto." The church has failed to equip believers for today's anti-God, quick slogan culture. No wonder witnessing and baptism rates are abysmal. No wonder our youth are so susceptible to humanistic college professors.
When someone says, "Well, all religions are really alike, aren't they?", quoting John 3:16 is a totally inadequate response.
All religions claim to be True. A religion is a system of belief - that includes humanism and atheism as a religion. To believe something is to hold that it is true. BUT religions believe contradictory things - Jews say Jesus was not God; Christians say He was. All religions may be wrong, but all cannot be right. Even those who say they are tolerant of other religions are intolerant of those who actually have the temerity to say their religion is true and the others are false. But even this - tolerance of all - is a claim to exclusive truth because it says the intolerant are wrong!
Someone sneaks in every night and replaces pages of Webster's. When God thought man was getting too uppity at the tower of Babel, He confused man's language and split him up into different people groups. Well, the devil is trying that, too. Perfectly good words are getting changed under our noses. Words like gay, faith, hope, love, etc. When we in the church use these words, the culture is hearing and seeing something different.
To Boil a Frog, Put him in Cold Water -- or -- If you Think things are Bad, Wait till you Open Your Eyes! Inch by inch; bit by bit. Every tiny step downhill is calculated to not disturb the feeling of normal. An old Chinese proverb (aren't all Chinese proverbs old?) says, "If you want to know about water, don't ask a fish." However, the perspective of decades reveals just how radical the cultural transformation has been. The times in which we live are anything but normal. And let's not call it progress - outhouses to indoor plumbing is progress. The ideas of the culture we live in are intended to mold and shape people after man's image - not God's. These times are evil and wicked, and we (the church) should not be comfortable here in the least.
If there is no God, then why apologize for Despair? Bertrand Russell, the prominent atheist of the last century, said life has to be lived in unyielding despair. I think Russell was giving an honest evaluation of atheism in answering the universal soul-cry of man for meaning and significance. The late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould likewise betrays his belief system when he uses words like "superficially troubling, if not terrifying," to describe man without higher purpose or meaning. If the hearts cry for meaning and significance has no fulfillment, then a cruel joke has been played on man. But who do you blame? Not God, He doesn't exist! It must be time + matter + chance.
A Twist - Are the Jews responsible for Jesus' death? On one hand, it definitely was Jews who held an illegal trial and condemned an innocent man. Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate. It was Jews who chose Jesus to be crucified rather than Barrabus. Technically, it was the Romans who executed the punishment, but the punishment never would have happened without the Jews calling for it.
Here's the twist. Christians know Jesus to be God - part of the Trinity. How can God be killed? He can't. So, in this Christian understanding, neither the Jews nor Romans present in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago killed God. It is simply impossible for man to kill God. In fact, Jesus Himself absolved them of guilt when He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." As God, Jesus had the authority to forgive sin. Then Jesus gave up the spirit and died. He was not killed.
Bottom line: If a Jew accepts Jesus as God and savior, then no guilt remains. If he doesn't, it still is not the Christian who could condemn, but his own religious system for the illegal aspects of what was done. Ultimately, Jesus hanging on the cross was the best gift ever given to this world, but, like every gift, it has to be received.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
My testimony. I wasn't born a Christian even if I was born in America and had Christian parents and grandparents. Thank God there is a God because only He could have gotten through my thick skull at the age of 22. Mine is one of those brick wall experiences.
Treating symptoms, not the disease. Every now and then some social problem rises up and gets Christians motivated to action. After the beast is slain, we go back to our comfortable pews content in what we have accomplished for the kingdom. In fact, we have done little or nothing for the kingdom at all. We just put a little ointment on the rash and totally ignored the underlying disease. The rash is guaranteed to come back.
Loss of Virtue. Harold's definition of virtue: man's reflection of God's holiness. Today's culture hates virtue. Culture should be a virtue pump -- particularly in our schools. Attempting to build virtue on any other foundation than God is building on shifting sands. The culture is the soil we scatter our seeds into. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." Luke 8:15.
Second things First. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus summarizes all the law and the prophets: "And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ "
Have you ever noticed how many people run right to the second commandment paying only lip service, if any attention at all, to the first? It's like trying to stretch a single into a double in baseball by running from home plate straight across the pitchers mound to second base. It doesn't work that way. We don't know how to love #2 until we know love #1.
Universal Truth exists and is knowable. Many will debate that there is only relative truth - true for you but not for me. If it's only true for you then why should I care one whit for it? Others deny any truth exists or that truth is knowable. My question for them - "Is that true?" They keep trying to show it's true there's no truth.
People live what they really believe, and they live as if truth exits. Do you care whether your doctor is lying or telling the truth? How about your accountant or banker?
Relationship, not religion. I'm not into religion. Religion is man trying to get to God. The God I know gave a lot to re-establish a lost relationship. He actually takes joy in His creation.
Not about Winning. It's about obedience and love. Many people are frustrated with the decline in our culture. They'll say something like, "But what can one person do?" People don't have the right motivation about engaging the culture. How could David think he could defeat Goliath? 1 Samuel 17:47 says, "... for the battle is the Lord's ..." Each can do what one person can do and count on God to do what God can do. That's part of the message of Jesus' feeding of the multitudes.
A Reasonable Faith. Everyone has faith. Faith is common. It takes faith to fly on an airliner - faith that a big hunk of metal will really fly and faith in the crew that they know how to safely fly the airplane. There is no absolute guarantee against crashing, but you weigh the odds and find that faith in flying is resonable. The best synonym for the Biblical idea of faith is trust. Some people put their trust in unreasonable things. Some peole have blind faith - often in spite of the evidence. True Bilical faith is a faith butressed with reason. It cannot be completely reasoned to, but sufficient evidence exists to point you in the right direction and carry you a long way. "Come let us reason together." Jesus explained things to his disciples.
OK. Enough for one reading. More topics to follow.
the Christian in Culture. Why this name? Well, I've been on a journey with God (that may sound rather presumptious but more on that later) over the last 13+ years mostly focused on this topic. Another possible name could have been "the Seed in the Soil", but theCinC was the first that came into my head. Plus, with my military background, I thought theCinC (as in the Commander in Chief) rather catchy, too.
As a purpose, I hope to develop my ability to challenge and motivate the Church (God's people already in the fold) to be effective in the culture - see it as an opportunity - in reaching the lost (God's children not in the fold). I'll share insights from the Bible, life, my voluminous reading, etc - and listen to other's thoughts. You are an important part of this blog - "as iron sharpens iron" comes to mind.
I hope this blog will do several things:
- Help me clarify and develop ideas. I tend to do my best thinking while writing. Writing also forces me to develop one thing at a time - I tend to skip around on many things and get very little down in writing.
- Share my thoughts and insights and get feedback.
- Make a difference. Ultimately, that should be the goal of every Christian - to make an eternal difference in the lives of people. I am a hopelessly romantic crusader (for the Truth).
Just a note for the non-Christian or even non-religious (an oxymoron but more on that later). You are welcome here. I hope you will find the things said here to be well reasoned. Though this is far from a comprehensive statement of my faith, I initially came to believe in God because it was more reasonable to believe in His existence than not. Again, you are welcome here. Your participation is invited - afterall, you really are the ultimate target of the ideas found here. You are an invited guest, not the enemy.