Militia Mania and the Millennium

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In this life I have discovered three undeniable truths.

1. The Infomercial Insight – If something sounds too good to be true it’s because it is.

2. The Oprah-ite Observation – There is only one God and we are not Him.

3. The Pauline Principle –

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

There is no doubt about the fact that we tend to get out of life what we put in to life.

And although there are those who spend six days a week sowing their wild oats and then spend the seventh in church praying for crop failure, sooner or later the bills come due.

This principle works every single time –

Financially.

Relationally.

But even more importantly, doctrinally.

Believe it or not, what we believe about God has just as much impact on where we are in this life as it will in where we will spend the next.

If we understand God’s ways as revealed in His Word we are on the path to a full and meaningful life.

But of we deny or distort God’s truth, well, there is inevitably a price to be paid.

They found that out the hard way up in Michigan this week.

Nine Charged in Militia Plot

Michigan Religious Group Plotted Violent Government Offensive

ADRIAN, Mich.—Nine members of an anti-government militia group were charged Monday with conspiring to kill a law-enforcement officer in an effort to start a “war” against the U.S. government, authorities said.

The group, known as Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified local law-enforcement officer in April and then attack local, state and federal officers who came to Michigan to attend the funeral, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a 12-page indictment.

The indictment said Hutaree, a small, armed militia group based in rural southeast Michigan, had practiced attacks and other military maneuvers for more than a year, and had planned to use homemade bombs like those used against U.S. forces by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bombs were the key part of the alleged plot to attack the funeral of a law-enforcement officer, the indictment said.

After that attack, the group planned to retreat to a remote “rally point” from which members would resist an expected response by the government, sparking what Hutaree’s alleged leader, David Brian Stone, hoped would be a wider uprising against the government, the indictment said. FBI agent Andrew Arena called Hutaree “an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society.”

The group, whose name means “Christian Warrior,” according to its Web site, didn’t respond to emails. The Web site said the group was preparing for “the anti-Christ” and expected to “one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield.” The site quotes scripture passages alluding to battle and the sacrifice of lives for a greater cause. The group used tiger-striped camouflage uniforms, the indictment said.

Now there is no doubt that any group that defines their service to God as killing cops and detonating bombs at their funerals has some deep-seated moral problems.

But did you catch a glimpse of a serious Scriptural error that fueled this fire?

This militia believed they were going to not only see the Antichrist, but were actively training to fight against him in a battle.

Let’s address this two-part “End Times” error, one flaw at a time.

First, the Bible never tells believers to be on the look out for the Antichrist.

A healthy and biblically sound view takes a decidedly higher focus.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Those who grasp the authentic message of the Second Coming understand that we are looking for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

Those who get this priority reversed inevitably “reap what they sow”.

Sensationalists who have sold books or bagged hits on a web site by speculating that:

“Mikhail Gorbachev is the Anti-Christ – Just look at that mysterious wine stain on his forehead!!”

“Ronald Reagan is the Antichrist – Ronald has six letters Wilson has six letters and Reagan has six letters!!”

And now, of course:

“Barak Obama is the Antichrist – just look at this twisted out of context statement from the Gospel of Luke!”

-have inevitably only made themselves objects of scorn and ridicule to the world and cautionary examples to God’s people to never substitute speculation for a solid search of the Scriptures.

But in this case, the damages of distorted doctrine went far beyond a red face.

Innocent people nearly lost their lives.

The second flaw in the Hutaree doctrine goes to their violent ambitions.

The clear teaching of Titus 2 tells us that if we really understand the message that Jesus could come for us at any moment, we will live lives that reflect that by living “soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

I may not be the greatest Greek scholar who ever lived, but I am fairly certain there are no references to building bunkers, killing cops or inventing improvised explosives in this passage.

The saddest comments I have read regarding this incident came from the estranged wife of the commander of the Hutarees.

She said the whole thing began as a Bible study that just seemed to get off track into politics and finally paranoia.

The moral of the story?

Stick with the clear teaching of God’s Word.

If someone tells you that their group alone understands the “deeper truths” of God, run -don’t walk – out of there.

If someone starts in by saying, “This isn’t really in the Bible, but..”, get up and leave.

And if the focus of a church, ministry, or small group is on a pastor, a program or politics, find another place to fellowship – focused on Jesus as He is revealed in the plain teaching of the Scripture.

Your life – both physically and spiritually – may depend on it.

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These Are the Good Old Days

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“These are the good old days.”

So sang Carly Simon in her classic song “Anticipation”.

But it appears that King Solomon was way ahead of her.

Around 2,900 years ago he made an observation that is just as relevant today as when he penned these words-

Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

It’s hard to argue with Solomon’s logic.

There are those who make the all too common error of locking in on a certain era as the best years of their lives.

It happens to the guy who is still wearing a 40 year old thread bare letterman’s jacket to his high school’s football games.

It happens to the social critic who believes that everything in society could be fixed if we could all just go back to Max Yasgur’s farm and recreate Woodstock.

But it can also easily happen to us as believers in Christ as well.

Particularly those believers who came to know Christ during a time in the late 60’s and early 70’s known as The Jesus Movement.

Get some old school Calvary Chapel people together who lived through those times and you will hear amazing stories about the love and truth of Jesus completely transforming lives.

James MacDonald wryly  sums up the experience of a typical Calvary pastor as “Sell drugs, find Jesus, become a pastor and marry a good looking wife!”

And when you hear stories about a “Little Country Church On the Edge of Town”  – Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa -that dared to reach out to a lost and disillusioned generation with God’s truth, only to become a 40,000 member congregation that has since spun off over 1,300 other churches in the U.S. alone, well, suffice it to say that was an awesome move of God.

But it also raises a question – “Great! So what has God done lately?”

And if all our testimonies about the transforming power of God are in past tense, we might find ourselves standing right next to the guy in the threadbare letterman’s jacket and the gray haired dude in the tie-dyed “Jimi Lives!” t-shirt.

Fortunately, if we pay attention, equally awesome works of God are going on all around us these days.

Harvest Crusades are packing major league baseball stadiums, with over 20,000 people giving their lives to the Lord in a single weekend.

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Calvary Chapel churches are being established all around the world on a nearly weekly basis.

But even more wonderfully, the same Spirit of truth spoken in love is still very present in our day.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Arizona Pastors and Leaders Conference at Calvary Chapel of Tucson.

Not only did I get the opportunity to gain leadership insights from a verse by verse examination of the life of King David, delivered by well established pastors from the Calvary movement like Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque –

I also got the chance to experience powerful messages by those outside the movement like James MacDonald and Alister Begg.

But even more wonderfully, I was challenged by messages from a new generation of younger pastors like Levi Lusko and Pedro Garcia.

God is doing a wonderful new work.

But even more amazing to me was the final event of the conference – the dedication service for the new worship center at Calvary Tucson.

I was asked by Pastor Robert Furrow to open the service in prayer.

Now that in and of itself is pretty unusual, as sometimes pastors from the same town can be a bit competitive and territorial.

But God has done a work in our relationship where I consider Pastor Robert one of my closest friends.

After I prayed my wife Pam and I were able to enjoy a powerful service.

The opening worship, lead by the Calvary Tucson team was amazing.

Then Evan Wickham lead those attending even closer to the Lord.

Alister Begg shared a challenging and on target message.

But the most amazing thing we experienced was afterward, when we were inundated by so many who shared God’s love with us.

As we left, my wife, who was at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa during the Jesus Movement shared something with me I will never forget.

She said, “You know, I felt the same sense of God’s Spirit working here tonight that I did back in the early days of Calvary.”

And she was right.

The same excitement, the same truth, the same supernatural love that can’t be imitated or simulated, the same gloriously simple focus on Jesus was there that night.

God is still in the miracle business.

A pop culture icon once said, “Life comes at you pretty fast. If you aren’t careful,  you could miss it.”

Let’s make sure we aren’t either stuck in the past, or so caught up in some future expectation that we miss out on what the Lord is doing in the here and now.

These are the good old days.

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

Can Anything Good Come Out of Washington?

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Have you ever heard of an “oxymoron”.

No, it isn’t a word for a less than intelligent TV detergent salesman.

It is a term that describes two things that common sense tells us don’t go together- like “jumbo shrimp” or “government assistance” or a “principled politician”.

But hold on a minute.

We may have to scratch that last example from our list.

Surprisingly, there are still some in Washington who are committed to doing what is right in spite of the consequences to their political careers.

Unless you live in a non Wi-Fi accessible cave you know the big issue blaring away in the media is the fate of the massive health care reform bill pending before congress.

As written, this complete overhaul of nearly 10% of our nation’s economy is huge – nearly 2,000 pages long, nearly incomprehensible to even seasoned policy wonks, and wildly unpopular – the latest Rasmussen polling data suggests a solid majority of Americans oppose passage of the current bill.

Although voted down once before, a resurrected version of the bill is now approaching a key vote in the House of Representatives.

Will this society changing bill become law?

It may all come down to one issue – Abortion.

Pro-life Representative Bart Stupak  a Democrat from Michigan has indicated that he and eleven other congressmen will vote against the bill, unless specific language is included that will exclude the funding of abortion.

Those favoring the passage of the health care overhaul have expressed shock that this one issue would be significant enough to bring down the entire legislative effort.

Stupak took some tough questioning from ABC’s Good Morning America host George Stephanoplous this morning:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Congressman Stupak now. And, Congressman, you heard Secretary Sebelius there. She said the President’s bill, the President’s proposal, does not change the status quo on abortion, does not have federal funding on abortion. Do you agree? And can you vote for it?

BART STUPAK: Well, no one has seen the President’s bill yet. We’ve seen proposals. The President indicated yesterday four more proposals he’d like to incorporate. So, we want to see the bill. But, the bill that they’re using as the vehicle, is the Senate bill. And if you go to page 2,069, through page 2,078, you will find in there, the federal government would directly subsidize abortions. Plus, every enrollee in the Office of Personnel Management enrolled plan, every enrollee, has to pay a minimum of $1 per month toward reproductive rights, which includes abortions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if the President doesn’t change the Senate bill, you can’t vote for it?

STUPAK: No. We’re not going to vote for this bill with that kind of language in there. The President says no federal funding for abortion. I have eight pieces of legislation we currently have in federal law that says no public funding for abortion. Take any one of these and insert the language. And we’ll be happy. We can support this legislation. We voted for health care before. I want to see health care pass. I agree with the Secretary. People are being priced out of the market. We must have health care.

But, boy, there’s some principles and beliefs that some of us are not going to pass.

For Bart Stupak government funding of abortion on demand is a deal breaker – a moral and ethical line in the sand that he will not cross.

Two questions we need to consider in light of this development.

First, what does it say about our society that we are surprised when our leaders actually make a stand for a biblically based principle like standing up for the rights of the unborn?

Shouldn’t that be the rule, rather than the exception?

Second – and here’s where things get a bit more uncomfortable- where do we find our own personal “line in the sand”?

Let’s face it, Bart Stupak’s unwillingness to budge on this issue is not the best way to make friends and influence people, especially within the ranks of his own party.

This will cost him – committee positions, support for legislation tat will benefit his constituents, maybe even his job as a congressman.

Are there principles in your life and mine that are so important, so non negotiable, that we would be willing to pay any price rather than compromise them?

No doubt one of the earliest lessons we learn in this world is that we’ve got to “go along to get along”.

Sell out.

Don’t make a stand.

We can always ask for forgiveness later.

But when we come to faith in Jesus, we discover that the essence of the Christian life is making a stand.

Jesus put it this way:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:24-27)

Those who know Jesus understand that loving the Lord and being faithful to Him is our line in the sand, the principle we are willing to stand for at any cost.

How refreshing that a vivid illustration of such a principled stand is still to be found in Washington today.

Tiger Woods – Redeeming the Man or Just the Brand?

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“Too big to fail.”

We heard that catch phrase was thrown around quite a bit during last year’s economic body blow.

“Sure, these banks and investment firms made financial decisions straight out of the Larry, Moe and Curley School of Management, but we have to pour ungodly amounts of tax payer money into their coffers because we just can’t get along without them! They are simply too big to fail!”

And so, the standard for rescuing a firm wasn’t the quality of the company, but its sheer largeness.

It wasn’t so much, “What do these companies do?” as much as “What would we do without them?” that determined the direction of the cash flow.

I couldn’t help but think the same philosophy is in full control of another bail out project.

But this time “Too big to fail” describes not the cash flow of a company, but the character of a man.

Unless you’ve been living in a root cellar, most of us are more aware of the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods’ personal life than we would really want to be.

But more fascinating than the lurid details of Woods’ peculiar appetites is the systematic rehabilitation of his reputation.

By now we are all too familiar with the standard operating procedure that kicks in when a celebrity scandal hits.

A. Lurid photos – Either of a compromising act, the dreaded “perp walk” or an unflattering mug shot hit the headlines.

B. Failed attempts at containment by declaring, “I never claimed to be perfect!” or “Everyone does it! Who are you to judge me?”

C. Sudden check in to a “Rehab” facility.

D. Nearly sincere, carefully crafted “mea culpa” press conference – no follow up questions allowed.

E. Tearful confessional on a “Very Special Oprah” – featuring a sudden passionate concern for the impact of “the media” on the family that was strangely absent during the season of excess.

F. Back on stage, television, the batter’s box or the first tee at Augusta with a “renewed focus on the future” and a sense of righteous indignation if someone brings up the past.

If you are keeping score at home, Tiger is somewhere between “D” and “E” above.

“Oh, come on Scott! Aren’t you being a little cynical, a little judgmental? How do you know that Tiger Woods isn’t very sincere and on his way to being a new and better person?”

Possibly.

But not likely.

For the sake of his family I hope that Tiger Woods stint in rehab will result in a new and different life for him.

But here’s the problem.

Real change comes only from a new heart – and Tiger Woods reaffirmation of Buddhism at his press conference tells us that he has failed to take Britt Hume’s spiritual counsel.

Tiger Woods became the second most highly recognized man in the world because of  a carefully crafted public relations persona -Incredible athlete and man of solid values.

Here was a man parents pointed out as a role model to their children.

He had more than just amazing control over a golf ball.

He had class.

That reputation not only made Tiger amazingly rich, but also moved an awful lot of Nike and Gatorade.

In many ways, Tiger Woods became less of a man, and more of a brand.

And you had better believe there is an incredible vested interest in seeing “Tiger Woods the Brand” rehabilitated.

The man?

Well, if he does change, good for him.

But  if not, we will settle for a return to the image.

Do you see the real tragedy here?

Tiger Woods has come perilously close to becoming less of a human being and more of a commodity.

And a disposable one at that.

Don’t think for a moment that if he loses his edge or a new young prodigy starts winning the majority of Majors on the PGA Tour, that Tiger won’t be consigned to the “What have you done for us lately?” dust bin of athletic history.

That is why Jesus’ words are more relevant today than ever –

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Tiger Woods story reminds us all that there has to be more to us than what we do, even if we do it well.

It reminds us that skill, status or size of bank book doesn’t exempt anyone from the certainty of reaping what they’ve sown.

It also reminds us that our good name is the most valuable thing we own.

And once the trust others have in our good name  is damaged it is a long, tough road to win it back.

We Get Letters: Smackdown At the Smithsonian

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OK.

It’s not nearly as dramatic as the last Ben Stiller/Robin Williams romp.

But one of the really exciting things about doing a regular feature like Scott’s Blog is the opportunity not just to comment on the events of the day from a decidedly biblical point of view, but also to get the opportunity to dialogue with people on the front line of the controversies we cover.

As you may recall,  in our post “Your Paradigm is Worth More Than Twenty Cents”, we quoted from an article by Brian Switek, published on the blog site of the Smithsonian Institute, concerning further discoveries of soft tissue – literally dinosaur guts – in the fossilized remains of a supposedly 85 million year old hadrosaur.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following thoughtful response from Mr. Switek (which we present to you in its entirety).

Hello, I am the author of the article that you cite here.

I think you have got things wrong, mostly because (as you note) you already have a commitment to Scripture over good science.

For example, the degraded soft tissue remains of the dinosaur say nothing at all about floods or biblical history, yet you immediately use it as evidence for your preconceived conclusion without trying to identify any other causes.

You are not asking “Ok, what does this mean?” but instead are slotting a fact into a view you already accept for reasons of faith.

And, as you will find if you make yourself familiar with the work of actual paleontologists (and not “creation scientists”) there are all different sorts of fossil preservation. We are still learning about how the process occurs, but there is a wide variation of how living organisms can be preserved.

Sometimes all you get are friable fragments, other times you get beautifully preserved impressions, and sometimes the bones have been protected enough that the decayed remnants of soft tissues might be preserved. It is the same with roadkill.

I have seen deer that stay gooey for months while others are picked clean and dried out very fast; the circumstances of death and preservation cause there to be variation in the fossilization process.

But that’s picking a bit of a nit. Degraded soft tissue remnants in a dinosaur does not cause us to reject the geological timescale because that timescale is based upon sound science involving not only geology, but also chemistry and physics.

In order to wave all that away in favor of a recent, global flood we would have to throw all those sciences out (hence why creationism is anti-science: it throws away all parts of almost every science that it finds inconvenient). Changes and adjustments are made to the timescale over time, but biostratigraphy, radiometric dating, and other methods have, time and again, proved themselves to be the best ways to determine the age of rocks.

(And keep in mind that nowhere in the Bible does it say that the world was created 6,000-10,000 years ago. Those dates comes from scholars who made calculations centuries ago based upon both the Bible and non-biblical, historical sources. To accept them as accurate means that the “young” age of the earth is an interpretation with no solid grounding in evidence. If you really want to see if the Bible is accurate in terms of dates you have to turn to the rocks and investigate them. This is what geologists and paleontologists have been doing, and their view does not match that of the pre-Enlightenment scholars.)

In any case, I encourage you to “dig into” reputable sources on paleontology and not just rely on the word of creationism groups like AiG.

Obviously you might not agree with everything scientists have to say, but if you are truly interested in this topic you should educate yourself about how scientists come to their conclusions.

I have done so with creationist literature, spending hours and hours with tracts by AiG, ICR, the Discovery Institute, etc., and I would encourage you to investigate evolutionary science in the same way.

As you might imagine, I felt lead to respond to Brian’s comments.

Here’s my response:

Dear Brian,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my blog posting, “Your Paradigm Is Worth More Than Twenty Cents”.

I also appreciate the fact that your response was relatively free from ad hominem invective. In an issue where both sides are passionately committed, this is often difficult to do.

Ironically, after reviewing your critique I would have to borrow freely from your opening line:

“I think you have got things wrong, mostly because (as you note) you already have a commitment to historical speculations that masquerade as science over a solid understanding of Scripture.”

Brian, we would both agree that “good science” is based upon that which is observable, testable and repeatable.

Anything that falls outside of those parameters must be honestly admitted to be an “educated guess”.

This is why in the realm of historic science (i.e. paleontology) conclusive statements are rightly modified with disclaiming terms like “scientists believe”, “possibly”, or as you use in your article, “it is still unknown”.

Why?

Because, to state the obvious, researchers were not around 85 million years ago to directly apply the scientific method to decaying hadrosaur tissue.

The so called “good science” you represent in your reply is an attempt to reconstruct the past based upon an impressive laundry list of unprovable assumptions – such as naturalism, gradualism, and a selective bias against catastrophism (“Noah’s flood? Impossible! Chicxulub’s aftermath wiping out the dinosaurs? Sure, why not?”)

I would also caution against a rhetorical technique called “elephant hurling”.

To say that accepting the idea of a global flood requires “throwing out” chemistry, physics and geology is a very difficult statement to defend.

Operational science in each of these fields is blissfully immune to the conjectures we make about the past.

A creationist, or an evolutionist like yourself would still come to the same conclusions regarding the nature of electromagnetic propagation, the Krebs Cycle, or the migratory habits of humpback whales because our results can be verified by the scientific method.

But when we state that we “know” what happened 10,000 years ago we are engaging in speculation, not science.

This was the point of my blog post.

You are biased by your naturalistic and gradualistic presuppositions, based upon philosophical axioms which, by definition, cannot be proven.

I am biased as well, by my theistic and interventionistic presuppositions, based upon philosophical axioms which by definition cannot be proven.

I would like you to know I have arrived at these axioms honestly.

My upbringing was essentially atheistic.

I am the holder of a B.A from the University of Arizona where I graduated with honors.

Part and parcel of my secular education were courses in chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy, all taught from a thoroughgoing commitment to both Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism.

However, my attorney father, always encouraged us to question assumptions.

The truth was to found in the marketplace of ideas.

In fact, my journey to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ began when I read an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association on the physical death of Jesus.

I was so taken aback at the difference between the archaeological and medical facts surrounding His death and the traditional portrait of Christ’s suffering that it made me question, “What else is there about this Jesus don’t I know?”

The quest for answers to this question lead me on a search for truth that included a three year Masters degree in Biblical Languages and Theology.

But here is the nub of the issue.

My biases have been informed not just by education and research, but also by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

I find the evidence supporting the veracity, historicity and preservation of the eye witness accounts of His life, death and resurrection to be overwhelmingly compelling and convincing.

And in these records we discover that Jesus Himself considered Adam and Eve historical figures and the flood of Noah an actual event. He even claimed to have been present to witness these lives and events.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, I find Him eminently credible.

Carl Sagan?

In comparison, not so much.

So Brian, we are both in the same place in this life. We look at the world around us, hear competing voices of explanation, and choose who we will believe.

I am surprised that someone as evidently bright as you are, was able to spend “hours and hours” with creationist literature and not come to grips with how crucial this issue of choosing a paradigm is in arriving at our conclusions concerning the past.

I am surprised that you don’t seem to recognize that there are good scientists, with PhDs from top flight secular universities, doing perfectly good research who also hold to a creationist perspective.

I am also surprised that someone with your scientific background isn’t a bit shocked that hadrosaur DNA of such quality that it can be sequenced was preserved in state for 85 million years.

As I stated in my blog, wouldn’t you consider this a development that would cause an honest seeker of truth to revisit this aspect of historical “science”?

Certainly the confirmation of preserved hadrosaur tissue doesn’t prove the reality of Noah’s flood. But the rapid, catastrophic burial of such creatures in alluvial sediment certainly isn’t at odds with this possibility.

In fact, it is completely in harmony with this “inconvenient truth”.

What is in question is the article of faith that dinosaurs died out millions of years ago.

Put it this way, my faith in Jesus is falsifiable in a historical sense.

We have a phenomenon today called “Christianity”.

From it’s inception, it has been based upon the claim that Jesus rose from the dead in a moment of history.

The overwhelming majority of credible Secular and Christian scholars are agreed on the fact that three days following His death, Jesus tomb was empty.

Against all odds, and in the face of brutal persecution, His disciples were willing to die for their testimony to this fact.

From this time onward, people like myself have consistently maintained that a personal relationship with Christ is possible by choosing to place faith in Him.

These are the facts.

My conclusion after being exposed to these facts?

Jesus is alive and is a valid object of personal faith.

What He says about the entire spectrum of life is both trustworthy and binding on all people.

Now, all of this comes crashing to the ground if the body of Jesus is produced.

Show me the body of Christ and my Christian paradigm dies along with Him.

Respectfully Brian, I would ask you, what would it take for your paradigm of gradualism and naturalism to collapse?

Maybe something like, oh say, dinosaur guts?

Again Brian, I appreciate the time and effort that went into responding to my blog post.

We represent diametrically different world views, but I hope you will receive my response in keeping with the respect I have for you as a writer and a fellow seeker of truth.

Your creationist friend,

Scott

Your Paradigm Is Worth More Than 20 Cents

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Have you ever taken part in a debate over Creation versus Evolution?

Well, in my line of work it’s almost an occupational hazard.

Don’t get me wrong – As a son of an attorney I used to have to present a legal brief to get the car keys on a Saturday night.

I grew up with the motto – “Truth is found in the marketplace of ideas.”

In fact, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good debate.

It’s just a bad debate that make me cringe.

Like a discussion of the Creation/Evolution controversy that begins with this all too common verbal salvo:

“Oh, yeah? Well, we evolutionists will put our facts up against your facts any time!”

To me, that is fingernails on the chalkboard city.

Why?

Because whatever side of this issue you take, the facts are identical.

What we are discussing is the lens we use to examine the very same facts.

That lens, how we process the facts, is what we could call our paradigm.

Business Dictonary.com defines a paradigm as:

An intellectual perception or view, accepted by an individual or a society as a clear example, model, or pattern of how things work in the world. This term was used first by the US science fiction historian Thomas Kuhn (1922-96) in his 1962 book ‘The Structure Of Scientific Revolution’ to refer to theoretical frameworks within which all scientific thinking and practices operate. See also paradigm shift.

The crucial issue with a paradigm is fairly easy to spot – Does our intellectual lens give us an accurate picture of how things really do work in the world?

Or are there things that we encounter in the world that just don’t fit?

And this is the essential issue in the Creation/Evolution debate – which makes more sense when we look at the world around us? Is this universe the work of a Purposeful and Personal Creator as he reveals Himself within the Bible – or is it all just one big happy accident as Darwin postulated in “On the Origin of Species” ?

Did God create all that we see miraculously, out of nothing a relatively short time ago?

Or can all be better explained by an appeal to blind natural process over aeons of time?

Our answer to these basic questions will go along way toward determining how we look at the facts.

And the lens we use to look at the very same facts will go a long way toward determining our conclusions.

A classic example of this “same planet/different worlds” phenomenon was beautifully illustrated last weekend.

What’s New About Hadrosaur Goo

A preserved blood vessel of Brachylophosaurus, with what may be degraded dinosaur blood inside. From the Science paper.

A preserved blood vessel of Brachylophosaurus, with what may be degraded dinosaur blood inside. From the Science paper.

One of the first things I learned about dinosaur fossils was that soft tissues are never preserved. Impressions of skin, hair, and even internal organs can leave their mark in the fossil record, but no one is ever going to find an intact, non-fossilized Tyrannosaurus heart. Like many of the things that “everyone knows,” though, it now seems that this view is not exactly right. In very exceptional circumstances , remnants of dinosaur soft tissue can be preserved, and a recently published paper in the journal Science throws new support to this controversial hypothesis.

For several years now paleontologists have been debating whether structures found inside a Tyrannosaurus femur were preserved soft tissue structures or something else, like bacteria, that took the shape of things like blood vessels. The pioneering scientist behind this research has been Mary Schweitzer. The new report by her and her colleagues focuses on a new case of soft tissue preservation, but it is not about Tyrannosaurus. Instead it features preserved soft tissue structures from the hadrosaur Brachylophosaurus, a dinosaur from the other great branch of the dinosaur family tree, the Ornithischia.

The researchers who found the Brachylophosaurus leg in which the soft tissue structures were found were careful right from the start. They did not expose the bones in the field but kept it in a plaster jacket until they got it into a lab. Only then did they expose it and quickly take their samples to prevent possible contamination or degradation of what might be inside the leg. What Schweitzer and her colleagues found were bone cells, blood vessels, and what appeared to be degraded blood products, real remnants of dinosaur soft tissue and not bacterial biofilm. They tested the material, re-tested it, and even sent it to other labs, and the overwhelming consensus was that the material truly was the ancient leftovers of dinosaur soft tissue.

Here we see that paradigms can be tough little monkeys.

The fact that dinosaur bones contain dinosaur guts should be a paradigm busting discovery.

DNA is an amazingly complex organic molecule.

The fact is, such complex molecules break down rapidly into smaller, less complex molecules in a very short amount of time.

If we are in fact, dealing with a 65 million year old fossil, there should be no “goo” left, let alone “goo” that maintains the structure of a blood vessel, or a ligament.

Let alone a structure with DNA so well-preserved it can be sequenced in a lab.

These are the facts.

So what does that do to our paradigm?

In the case of committed evolutionists – nothing.

Consider the end of the article from Smithsonianmag.com:

It is still unknown how soft tissue structures and bits of protein have come to be preserved for over 80 million years, but finds like this suggest there is a lot of fossilization (and dinosaurs) that we are only now just learning about. As outlined in Jack Horner’s recent book How to Build a Dinosaur, a new area of paleontology is opening up in which knowledge of microbiology and genetics is just as important as knowing skeletal anatomy. This is only the beginning, and if students follow Schweitzer’s lead into paleomicrobiology who knows what amazing finds might be made?

“Still unknown”?

How about this possibility – the ancient age of the fossil is wrong.

Demonstrably, physically wrong.

Now which lens makes more sense when looking at Hadrosaur “goo”?

80 million years plus an organic chemistry defying process we just don’t understand now?

Or a recent creation, with a catastrophic flood, that would cause creatures like Hadrosaurs and T. Rexes to be so rapidly buried in sediment that the internal tissues would not have time to be exposed to external degrading forces?

Same fact.

Different lens.

Which best reveals reality?

The bottom line?

Proponents of Darwinian evolution have made great hay with the general public by asserting that they present fact, while Creationists trade on faith.

And yet with the discovery of Dino-Goo we see Evolutionists take a leap of faith that an unknown preserving process exists in the great beyond that will re-write everything we know about bio-chemistry.

Well, get back to us with that one when you find it.

The fact is, Dino-Goo is  a paradigm exploding discovery, but not for those who look at this universe through the lens of Scripture.

CS Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I also see everything else.”

Interesting how the light of God’s Word even shines on dinosaur remains.

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:21-22)

To Save a Movie?

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One of the most fascinating trends in pop culture is the rise of the “Indie” Christian movie.

Perhaps the most well-known example of this phenomenon was Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”.

Because of the storm of controversy surrounding an R-rated, unrelentingly graphic portrayal of Jesus’ suffering, Gibson found himself with a movie that none of the mainstream Hollywood distributors would touch with a 10 foot staff found in the prop department of the 10 Commandments.

So Gibson took matters into his own hands and bypassed Sony, Fox and Miramax and distributed the film himself.

The rest is box office history.

Following in this same do-it-yourself school of movie making we have seen significant response to Christian films like “Left Behind”, “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof”.

The latest offering to follow in this off the beaten path approach to film making is the gritty look at high school life and relationships  – “To Save a Life”.

Producer and former youth pastor Jim Britts set out to depict the realities of a generation crying for help.

The film opens with the funeral of Roger, a 17-year-old boy who ended his own life after years of experiencing neglect from everyone at his school, including his childhood best friend, Jake Taylor, who ditched him three years ago for popularity.

His heart wrenched over his friend’s death, Taylor begins wrestling with life questions and searches for answers in places he never expected, including church.

As the film follows Taylor on his search, it addresses a host of issues, including suicide, peer pressure, divorce, teen pregnancy, abortion and the authenticity of Christians.

And although that’s a lot to deal with in a less than two-hour movie, students who have already screened the film say what the movie depicts is real.

In fact, each character in the film and many of the scenes are based off of students Britts has had in his youth group at Newsong Church in Oceanside, Calif., and their experiences.

For Britts, the most moving scene in the film is the turning point of Taylor’s life when he walks away from playing a game called beer pong.

“He walks away … saying ‘I can’t live both worlds of checking out this God thing as well as living a way that’s completely opposite of that. If I’m going to give this God a try, I need to do it completely,'” Britts told The Christian Post on Monday, before a movie screening in Denver. “That was inspirational for us.”

In the film, when Taylor goes to a local church youth group, he isn’t looking to be religious or just some Christian. He’s searching for real transformation.

“What’s the point of all this if you’re not going to let this change you?” Taylor shouts, confronting all the “fakers,” including potheads, in the youth group.

Shaken by his friend’s suicide, Taylor is perhaps more hungry than his peers for transformation and a change in the direction of his life. He drops his popularity and star-athlete hat to start a lunch group that welcomes all, especially the outsider who was on the verge of following in Roger’s suicidal steps. Taylor begins a Facebook page in Roger’s name to help others struggling with suicidal thoughts.

He soon finds himself encouraging thousands of people and saving lives.

According to those who have seen preview showings “To Save a Life” has all the ingredients necessary to make a huge impact on its audience –

With one significant exception.

On the Christian Post web site, guest columnist Greg Stier observes:

Probably the only real criticism I have of this movie is that the makers of To Save a Life had a tremendous opportunity to give the gospel but they didn’t take it. I talked to the writer about this (a GREAT guy and a youth leader, so I love him by default) and he told me that he didn’t want to make an “altar call type of movie“, but one that shows the impact of the gospel to change a life. I told him that, while I understood his point, he could have given the gospel easily in this film without it coming off like a “come forward and touch the movie screen if you’re trusting Jesus” movie going experience. I believe that if this film would have given the gospel in a clear and compelling way it would be much easier for teenagers to talk to their friends about the gospel afterward. Heck, the movie is called “To Save a Life” so why would you not give the gospel? In my opinion it’s like setting up a joke and not giving the punchline.

But in spite of philosophical differences on this point I still think that this is a must see movie for your youth group. It presents a tremendous opportunity for teenagers to invite their unreached friends out to the movie and to follow it up with raw conversations about the gospel afterward.

Although I would be the first to agree that not every Christian movie needs to include a direct invitation to receive Christ, it does seem that a film about the reality of  a transforming relationship with God probably needs to explain how a person enters into it.

And if part of the film is an indictment of youth group phonies, one might not be too out of bounds to ask, “Great. So how do you find the real deal?”

It’s almost like the dodge some use when asked if they have ever shared their faith with a non believer –

“Oh, I don’t actually say anything. I let my life speak.”

The problem with that approach is that the average non christian walks away with the impression that we are neat people, rather than discovering that it is only Jesus living His life out through us that makes us different.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more grating than having the loudest voice of “evangelism” in your office or school also be the hardest party-er, or the most easily offended, or the most insensitive to others feelings.

But to ask the question, ‘Which is more important, to share the love of Christ with your lips or your life?” is almost like asking, “Which wing of the airplane would you rather have intact at 30,000 feet?”

The sad fact is “To Save a Life” makes that choice, and leaves the Gospel unexpressed.

Perhaps the best way to make up the difference is to take Greg Stier’s advice and prepare to be the one who gives voice to the message of God’s love and forgiveness and how to make that personal following the film.

Like “The Passion of the Christ”, many could be reached in the conversations that take place afterward.

But let’s make sure that our testimony about Jesus has both wings of the airplane in place – sharing the transforming difference Jesus makes with our lives and our lips.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)