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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Science – Atheism – Christianity

John Lennox is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Adviser at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. His most recent book, on the interface between science, philosophy and theology, is God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God?, Oxford, Lion-Hudson 2009. He has lectured extensively in North America, Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science and the intellectual defense of Christianity.

He debated Richard Dawkins on “The God Delusion” in the University of Alabama (2007) and on “Has Science buried God?” in the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008). He has also debated Christopher Hitchens on the “New Atheism” (Edinburgh Festival 2008) and in Samford University, Alabama on the question: “Is God Great?”

Below are videos of Lennox’s lectures on “Has Science Buried God?” They are well worth the time to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEcGKIQLTo4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sav9fp5swE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEu-P475dPs&feature=related

The Practice Of Piety

Isaac Barrow

Quoting Isaac Barrow (1630-1677):

“It is a fair adornment of a man and a great convenience both to himself and to all those with whom he converses and deals, to act uprightly, uniformly, and consistently. The practice of piety frees a man from interior distraction and from irresolution in his mind, from duplicity or inconstancy in his character, and from confusion in his proceedings, and consequently securing for others freedom from deception and disappointment in their transactions with him.” (Godliness is Profitable for All Things by Isaac Barrow)

It Is Impossible To Teach Christianity Without Teaching Dogma!

Oxford-educated Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957) was one of the most popular authors of the Golden Age era. Born in England in 1893, Dorothy Sayers received her degree at university in medieval literature. Following her graduation, besides publishing two volumes of poetry, she began to write detective stories to earn money. Her first novel, “Whose Body?” (1923), introduced Lord Peter Wimsey, the character for which she is best known.

Dorthy Sayers

Sayers was also a committed Christian. Below is an excerpt from a talk she gave to one Christian group. The subject she addresses, if possible, is even more relative to the conduct of modern church life:

And when he is come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)

[I]f we really want a Christian society we must teach Christianity, and that it is absolutely impossible to teach Christianity without teaching Christian dogma. . . .

Writing the other day in The Spectator, Dr. Selbie, former Principal of Mansfield College discussed the subject of “The Army and the Churches.” In the course of this article there occurs a passage that exposes the root cause of the failure of the churches to influence the life of the common people:

“… the rise of the new dogmatism (he says) whether in its Calvinist or Thomist form, constitutes a fresh and serious threat to Christian unity. The tragedy is that all this, however interesting to theologians, is hopelessly irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man, who is more puzzled than ever by the disunion of the Churches, and by the theological and ecclesiastical differences on which it is based.”

Now I am perfectly ready to agree that disputes between the Churches constitute a menace to Christendom. And I will admit that I am not quite sure what is meant by “the new dogmatism”; it might, I suppose, mean the appearance of new dogmas among the followers of St. Thomas and Calvin respectively. But I rather fancy it means a fresh attention to, and re-assertion of, old dogma, and that when Dr. Selbie says that “all this” is irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man, he is deliberately saying that Christian dogma, as such, is irrelevant.

But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven’s name is it relevant? — Since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrine concerning the nature of life and the universe. If Christian ministers really believe it is only an intellectual game for theologians and has no bearing upon human life, it is no wonder that their congregations are ignorant, bored and bewildered. And indeed, in the very next paragraph, Dr. Selbie recognizes the relation of Christian dogma to life:—

“… peace can only come about through a practical application of Christian principles and values. But this must have behind it something more than a reaction against that Pagan Humanism which has now been found wanting.”

The “something else” is dogma, and cannot be anything else, for between Humanism and Christianity and between Paganism and Theism there is no distinction whatever except a distinction of dogma. That you cannot have Christian principles without Christ is becoming increasingly clear, because their validity as principles depends on Christ’s authority; and as we have seen, the Totalitarian States, having ceased to believe in Christ’s authority, are logically quite justified in repudiating Christian principles.

If “the average man” is required to “believe in Christ” and accept His authority for “Christian principles,” it is surely relevant to inquire who or what Christ is, and why His authority should be accepted. But the question, “what think ye of Christ?” lands the average man at once in the very knottiest kind of dogmatic riddle. It is quite useless to say that it doesn’t matter particularly who or what Christ was or by what authority He did those things, and that even if He was only a man, He was a very nice man and we ought to live by His principles: for that is merely Humanism, and if the “average man” in Germany chooses to think that Hitler is a nicer sort of man with still more attractive principles, the Christian Humanist has no answer to make. It is not true at all that dogma is “hopelessly irrelevant” to the life and thought of the average man. What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so. The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless he believes rightly, there is not the faintest reason why he should believe at all. And in that case, it is wholly irrelevant to chatter about “Christian principles.” If the “average man” is going to be interested in Christ at all, it is the dogma that will provide the interest. The trouble is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has never been offered the dogma. (“Creed or Chaos?”)

James Madison On The Spirit Of America

James Madison

Quoting James Madison:

Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness. (Madison, Federalist No. 14)

Marriage And Children

June supervises the boys and their friends, To...

"Leave It To Beaver"

From: The Heritage Foundation

Given the downward trends affecting marriage in the middle class over the last 40 years, the likes of Ward and June Cleaver may be added to America’s endangered species list. Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, discussed the decline of marriage in a Monday address at The Heritage Foundation about his recently released report, When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America. . . .

Wilcox found that middle-class Americans (those holding only a high school diploma) were much more likely to experience divorce and to have children out-of-wedlock than more highly educated citizens. While many Americans still hold a high regard for the institution of marriage, they are also increasingly tolerant of pre-marital sex, cohabitation, and non-marital childbearing. These attitudes are most prominent in the middle class, where the cultural battle for the health of marriage is raging.

The decrease in marriage and higher rates of divorce in Middle America signal trouble not only for the men and women who risk missing out on the economic and social stability of marriage, but also for their children. A child raised in a single-parent household is six times more likely to live in poverty than a child raised in a stable, married household. The decline in marriage also affects taxpayers, regardless of class, since in FY 2010 alone the federal government spent over $300 billion on welfare programs for low-income, single-parent families.

Continue reading here. . . .

“CHANCE”

Many people view chance as some type of force which actually exists.  Thus they believe in luck.  The word “chance” refers to mathematical probabilities and is an abstraction with no material properties.  Chance does not have the power to effect objects or outcomes.  Chance is nothing and cannot do something.

On the other hand, all things are accomplished through diligence and hard work.  Diligent labor should never lead to despair because this is the means by which all things are accomplished.  Samuel Johnson writes: “Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”

An Unsteady Course

President James Madison served as the second R...

James Madison

Quoting James Madison:

“The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. … They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.”

My All For God

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

Lord, help me to glorify you;

I am poor, help me to glorify you by contentment;

I am sick, help me to give you honor by patience;

I have talents, help me to extol you by spending them for you;

I have time, Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve you;

I have a heart to feel, Lord,

let that heart feel no love but yours,

and glow with no flame but affection for you;

I have a head to think,

Lord, help me to think of you and for you;

You have put me in this world for something, Lord,

show me what that is,

and help me to work out my life-purpose:

I cannot do much, but as the widow put in her two mites,

which were all her living,

so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into your treasury;

I am all yours;

take me, and enable me to glorify you now,

in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.

Madison On Self-Government

March 4: James Madison begins the first of two...

James Madison

Quoting James Madison:

“We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Find Out If You Are Bible Literate!

To demonstrate the importance of Biblical literacy, the Bible Literacy Project has unveiled a quiz that shows the impact of Biblical characters and narratives on our everyday life. Participants can compare their score with those of other test-takers.

Many are familiar with the biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, the Parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, and others.

Do you know how those Bible narratives have shaped our culture? Their influence is everywhere—in literary references, newspaper headlines, major speeches, song lyrics, and more.

This quiz provides an opportunity to test your biblical literacy. Check it out!

Take The Bible Literacy Quiz Here. . . .

Secular Humanism’s Failure As A Worldview

From the desk of Gary DeMar:

John Dunphy is a self-avowed Secular Humanist. He is best known for this statement first published in 1983 in The Humanist magazine:

“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of “love thy neighbor” will be finally achieved.”

As you can see, Dunphy is a worldview thief. He steals from the Christian worldview—“love thy neighbor”—so he can prop up his man-centered worldview that cannot account for either love or neighbors given the assumptions of atheistic, evolutionary humanism. Since the beginning of evolutionary time organisms have eaten their “neighbors” with no regard for either law or morality.

Continue reading. . . .

Is Your Teenager Really Ready For College?

Liberal college professors, who were anti-Christian and anti-America, were around even when I was a student in the late 1960’s. There did not seem to be as many, however, who were as aggressively vocal in so many areas of life as there are today.

Yes, I did attend a Christian college and university, but there were former ministers there who did not believe much of the Bible and were vocal in saying so. There were also professors who were politically left of center and wore their opinions like a badge of honor. There were political conservatives on the faculties as well. There were quite a few professors from Cuba who had escaped Fidel Castro’s communist revolution on that island. One of my core professors was an east European Christian who had survived a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and the communist take-over of his country afterwards.

Regardless of political persuasion, I remember my professors in both schools as being tolerant of disagreement and debate. Today, this is no longer true in higher education. Ridicule and personal verbal (sometimes violent) attacks have replaced reason and argument in settling differences of opinion. The secular-progressive agenda now dominates most college campuses because liberal, socialist professors have, over the years, become the overwhelming majority of teachers in these educational institutions. Their agenda has changed substantially the content of what is being taught and encouraged revisionism to run amuck. This should be enough to give concerned parents pause in the selection of Johnny’s college. David Limbaugh gives parents insight into what they may expect:

You know the drill. The professorate will aggressively beat into your children’s heads that America is not the greatest nation in history, but largely responsible, through action or inaction, for much of the suffering in the world and that it is imperialistic, exploitive and selfish. They’ll say that Christianity is narrow, intolerant, anti-intellectual, anti-science, homophobic, hateful and judgmental and that capitalism is corrupt and skewed toward the “rich” and big corporations. They’ll say or imply that political conservatism is inherently racist, homophobic, sexist, militaristic, unenlightened, close-minded, mean-spirited and uncompassionate. . . .

Christian parents should not assume their kids are equipped to filter out the false claims they will likely encounter. Christianity is the opposite of how it is often portrayed in our culture and is none of those negative things indicated above. You owe it to yourselves and your kids to anticipate the attacks and think through how they can be countered. Don’t assume your excellent child rearing will be enough. We must stand up to the challenge and test our own faith, if necessary, reviewing what and why we believe. If we can’t explain it, should we expect our kids to understand it?

Continue reading David Limbaugh’s article. . . .

Are You A Comfortable Professor Of The Faith?

Quoting James Smith:

You take things easy now. You pretty much study your own comfort now. There you are on Sunday, in your accustomed seat in the house of God. There you are all the week in your business. You are not in troubles as other men, neither are you plagued as other men. But are you safe for heaven? Are your evidences Scriptural? Have you made your calling and your election sure? Is there no ground for doubt, or cause for fear? Perhaps there is, if you would only carefully examine yourself—whether you are truly in the faith.

Will you dwell with devouring fire, with everlasting burnings? It is possible that you may! It is very probably you will! But what if you should? The bare supposition is dreadful.

What! Will you go through the house of God—to the flames of hell!

Well, many do! There are no comfortable professors in hell! But there are many in hell now—who were easy go-and-come professors on earth. (“The Fearful Destiny”)

“He That Believes Nothing And Doubts Everything Shall Be Saved”

Charles H. Spurgeon

In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon:

It appears to be, now-a-days, a doubtful question whether Christian men have a right to be quite sure of anything. The Jesuit argument that some learned doctor or other has taught a certain doctrine, and that, therefore, it has some probability, is now practically prevalent. He who teaches an extravagant error is a fine, generous spirit: and, therefore, to condemn his teaching is perilous, and will certainly produce an outcry against your bigotry. Where the atonement is virtually denied, it is said that a preacher is a very clever man, and exceedingly good; and, therefore, even to whisper that he is unsound is libelous: we are assured that it would be far better to honor him for his courage in scorning to be hampered by conventional expressions. Besides, it is only his way of putting it, and the radical idea is discoverable by cultured minds. As to other doctrines, they are regarded as too trivial to be worthy of controversy, the most of them being superseded by the advancement of science and other forms of progressive enlightenment.

The right to doubt is claimed clamorously, but the right to believe is not conceded. The modern gospel runs thus: “He that believes nothing and doubts everything shall be saved.” Room must be provided for every form of skepticism; but, for old-fashioned faith, a manger in a stable is too commodious. Magnified greatly is the so-called “honest doubter,” but the man who holds tenaciously by ancient forms of faith is among “men of culture” voted by acclamation a fool. Hence, it becomes a sacred duty of the advanced thinker to sneer at the man of the creed, a duty which is in most cases fully discharged; and, moreover, it is equally imperative upon him to enter the synagogue of bigots, as though he were of their way of thinking, and in their very midst inveigh against their superstition, their ignorant contentedness with worm-eaten dogmas, and generally to disturb and overturn their order of things. What if they have confessions of faith? They have no right to accept them, and, therefore, let them be held up to ridicule. Men, now-a-days, occupy pulpits with the tacit understanding that they will uphold certain doctrines, and from those very pulpits they assail the faith they are pledged to defend. The plan is not to secede, but to operate from within, to worry, to insinuate, to infect. Within the walls of Troy, one Greek is worth half Agamemnon’s host; let, then, the wooden horse of liberality be introduced by force or art, as best may serve the occasion. Talking evermore right boastfully of their candor and hatred of the hollowness of creeds, etc., they will remain members of churches long after they have renounced the basis of union upon which these churches are constituted. Yes, and worse; the moment they are reminded of their inconsistency they whine about being persecuted, and imagine themselves to be martyrs. If a person, holding radical sentiments, insisted upon being a member of a Conservative club, he would meet with small sympathy if the members would not allow him to remain among them, and use their organization as a means for overthrowing their cherished principles. It is a flagrant violation of liberty of conscience when a man intrudes himself into a church with which he does not agree, and demands to be allowed to remain there, and undermine its principles. Conscience he evidently has none himself; or he would not ignore his own principles by becoming an integral part of a body holding tenets which he despises; but he ought to have some honor in him as a man, and act honestly, even to the bigots whom he so greatly pities, by warring with them in fair and open battle. If a Calvinist should join a community like the Wesleyans, and should claim a right to teach Calvinism from their platforms, his expulsion would be a vindication, and not a violation, of liberty. If it be demanded that in such matters we respect the man’s independence of thought, we reply that we respect it so much that we would not allow him to fetter it by a false profession, but we do not respect it, to such a degree that we would permit him to ride rough shod over all others, and render the very existence of organized Christianity impossible. We would not limit the rights of the lowest ruffian, but if he claims to enter our bed-chamber the case is altered; by his summary expulsion we may injure his highly-cultured feelings and damage his broad views, but we claim in his ejection to be advocating, rather than abridging, the rights of man. Conscience, indeed! What means it in the mouth of a man who attacks the creed of a church and yet persists in continuing in it? He would blush to use the term conscience if he had any, for he is insulting the conscience of all the true members by his impertinent intrusion. Our pity is reserved for the honest people who have the pain and trouble of ejecting the disturber with the ejected one, we have no sympathy; he had no business there, and, had he been a true man, he would not have desired to remain, nor would he even have submitted to do so had he been solicited. (November, 1871 Sword and Trowel)

Keeping The Faith In College

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsb...

As a Christian and an educator, I have always been very concerned about church-going teenagers who after high school graduation leave home for a college or university education which is quite often hostile to Christianity and the principles this country was founded on.  Recently, I have been happy to hear that a new resource has been developed to help high school graduates stay grounded in their Christian faith as they endure college

There are, unfortunately, many students who make shipwreck of their faith during their college years.  Often, this is related to the poverty of sound Christian teaching in our churches for this age group.  Our students are simply unprepared to defend their faith in an often critical classroom environment.  Enter college ministry veteran John Bryson, who is currently teaching pastor at Fellowship Memphis and who has helped develop a six-week video study called “College Ready”. The purpose of the video is to create a strategic tool for parents and youth ministries to equip students to do well in college.

Teaming up with Men’s Fraternity founder Robert Lewis to develop the series, Bryson points out that church history reveals that many revivals began with students on a college campus.  The prepared Christian college student may find his campus experiences an opportunity for great influence on others or if he possesses no sound foundation of the knowledge of Christ, he will certainly be subject to a potential crisis of faith.

Find out more about College Ready here. . . .

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