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By their fruit you shall know them: Ken Ham, young earth creationism, aliens and compassion

July 24, 2014 Bible, Fun, General, Theology No Comments
By their fruit you shall know them: Ken Ham, young earth creationism, aliens and compassion

In Matthew 7, Jesus told his disciples that they were to beware of false prophets – people who would teach untruths and lead people astray. Jesus then gave a very simple test: no bad tree can produce good fruit, so just look for the “fruits” of their teaching. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told what spiritual fruits are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Where we see a breakdown or lack of love, joy, kindness, etc, we need to be alert to potential false teaching.

I was interested, in this context, to see Ken Ham’s latest pronouncements. Ken Ham is one of the world’s foremost young earth creationists, basing his pseudo-scientific views on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s accounts of creation. Young earth creationism is scientifically indefensible, and in my opinion fits into the “false teaching” category. All truth is God’s truth, and when someone denies plain truths evident in nature, they’re being just as false in their teachings as those who teach false theology.

Last week NASA announced that they expect to find alien life within a few years. Ken Ham and his organisation, Answers in Genesis, released a statement calling on NASA to stop wasting money. There is no alien life, Ham claims, because all life descends from Adam, and Adams sin affected the whole universe. (Stick with me on this ‘logic’:) Since Jesus died on this earth, no aliens would be able to be saved. God wouldn’t do this. Therefore, ipso facto, there can’t be aliens, so NASA is wasting money.

Huffington Post reported on this issue by stating the obvious implication that if aliens exist they will go to hell. Ham denies he said this. But here is what he actually said:

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Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

A few days ago, Kevin DeYoung, author and senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, wrote an excellent article for the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “Five Questions For Christians Who Believe The Bible Supports Gay Marriage” (read it here). It is exactly the type of contribution we should be having on this important issue: clear, calm, reasonable, rational and inviting engagement. This is typical of Kevin’s style and contribution.

His five questions are really important. And they are addressed to Christians precisely like me: God-fearing, Jesus-following, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians who have become convinced “that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship.” This is a topic I have spent over a decade researching, discussing and praying through, and am convinced that the traditional view on homosexuality is incorrect.

Here then are some answers, hopefully offered in the same tone as the original questions. For reasons that will become apparent, I’ll answer them in reverse order:

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Ask Brian McLaren – a great interview by Rachel Held Evans

Two of my favourite authors and people collided in cyberspace today. The result is a fabulous interview of Brian McLaren by Rachel Held Evans. It’s a must read. It’s on Rachel’s blog here.

We Make the Road by Walking

We Make the Road by Walking

One of the most anticipated books of the year is released today. My friend, Brian McLaren, launches his latest book, “We Make the Road by Walking”. I know that this book has been almost a decade in the making in his mind, and a full year of focused writing. Early reviews have been brilliant, and I am looking forward to getting my copy.

Here’s why you should get a copy.

This book is designed to take us on a journey through the Bible and the Christian faith in a year. It’s 52 chapters are short reads with reflections and group study guides. Organized around the traditional church year, each chapter reflects on a different story from Scripture and invites contemplation, discussion, and action.

People who are committed Christians, but have lots of questions, doubts, and frustrations with the version of faith they’ve been given and would like a fresh start are really going to get a lot from this book.

As Brian says: “You are not finished yet. You are ‘in the making.’ You have the capacity to learn, mature, think, change, and grow. You also have the freedom to stagnate, regress, constrict, and lose your way. Which road will you take?”

Read more about the book here. You can read the first three chapters online here.

Buy it:
Amazon.co.uk Paperback
Amazon.co.uk Kindle
Kalahari – in South Africa

UPDATE: Here is a review by Tony Jones.

Parenting in a world gone mad

Parenting in a world gone mad

I wrote this article a number of years ago for a Parenting Magazine. The concepts that had been birthed in me eventually turned into a book that I co-wrote with Nikki Bush, “Future-Proof Your Child” (Penguin, 2009 – see here for purchasing options).

It was the early morning of Thursday, 10 August 2006. We had just landed after a long haul flight, the overnight non-stop from Johannesburg to Heathrow airport in London. Even though we hadn’t slept very well, we were all excited – after all, it was the start of our two week family holiday in England. Imagine our dismay as we were told on landing that we had to wait on the runway as there was some kind of security alert. Having already spent a night trying to stop our three daughters, Amy (7), Hannah (5) and Rebecca (16 months) from dismantling the plane, each other and the other passengers, this seemed like an announcement from hell.

We soon discovered that it was the morning that British police had taken some terrorist suspects into custody. They were part of a plot to blow up airplanes leaving from UK airports. Heathrow had been shut down.

The inconvenience and extra security was a pain, but understandable, of course. You’d rather be delayed and safe, than have terrorists be able to do what they want to. But what really alarmed me that day was trying to explain to my daughters why bad men would want to blow up planes. “Daddy, why don’t the bad men just speak to someone about what made them so angry? Daddy, did they want to kill us?”

It’s a Mad, Mad World

Living in South Africa, and more particularly in Johannesburg, we should have been prepared for questions like this at some stage. My oldest daughter is increasingly taking in the information from half-hourly news bulletins. I fear that Hannah, outgoing and fun-loving as she is, is beginning to sense that there are many ways in which her idealistic world can be shattered. My youngest daughter is currently oblivious to the bigger issues in the world. But, as an orphaned Zulu girl adopted into our family, she is a daily reminder to us that the world is very much less than perfect.

We live in a world seemingly gone mad. At a macro level, there is an increase in the “clash of civilizations”: East vs West, Poor vs Rich, First vs Third world, Christian vs Muslim, Black vs White, and so many other conflicts at a global level. The news is filled with war, natural disasters, crime, death and destruction. It is the same at the local level, especially in South Africa, as our fledgling country continues to grapple with the consequences of 40 years of simmering struggle, deliberate under-education of an entire generation and rampant unemployment. All of these contribute to unacceptable crime levels. Our whole world is very fragile indeed.

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It’s all about the Bible – and it’s important!

It’s all about the Bible – and it’s important!

The major debates raging in Christian circles these days all actually distil down to one big issue: how we interpret the Bible.

Many people treat the Bible as a combination of scientific textbook and heavenly constitution. If we believe this, then we can use verses and phrases to prove key points of differentiation and detail. We still have to explain away any competing statements or interpretations, but our approach is to look to the Bible for proof in the sense that modern day scientists, jurors or lawmakers would understand. The extreme view – which is completely untenable, but is still the idealised view of many conservative Christians – is that all of the Bible is “literally” true.

Liberals might find themselves on the opposite extreme claiming that the Bible contains little more than myths, legends and poems, and that it can really mean anything we want it to.

But maybe there are other ways to look at the Bible, that find a middle way between these two extremes.

This is the conversation that has taken hold in our time.

Brian McLaren recently created the following list of up-to-date resources for those who want to pursue this journey. I certainly do, and have found these very helpful:

Watch Steve Chalke’s video here:

Restoring Confidence in the Bible from Oasis UK on Vimeo.

Join in. This will define the future of Christianty for the next few centuries.

VIDEO: Brian McLaren on the Courage to Differ Graciously

Brian McLaren’s last book was about interfaith dialogue and how we can learn to be both fervently Christian and also gracious to those of other faiths. In a recent event hosted by The Guibord Center, Brian spoke about his book (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World). You can watch the whole video here.

During the Q&A session, Brian gave some fantastic advice on how we should deal with people from within our own faith traditions who attack us and fight against us. I was both impressed and challenged by his advice, and extracted it in a short video. His simple message, and one I am trying to learn, is to have the courage to differ graciously.

For further reading on this vital issue, have a look at Brian’s own blog for two examples. And then read Mark McIntyre’s superb blog post on “Selective Grace in the Church“.

Very different responses to the gay issue: which is more like Jesus?

Very different responses to the gay issue: which is more like Jesus?

This past week has seen two sets of very different responses to the way in which people and companies deal with the “gay issue”. Many countries and states around the world have made it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of sexuality. This has made it difficult for certain companies to continue their anti-gay staff policies, many of which have been based on religious beliefs.

So, last week, World Vision made an announcement that they would not discriminate against any staff members on the basis of sexuality. The conservative Christians went crazy, quickly mobilising to withdraw their support of this organisation. This meant directly impacting the lives of many extremely poor young people who are the recipients of the aid and support of World Vision. I wrote about this last week here. These Christians stated that they were no longer willing to fund food, water, clothing, and shelter to children and communities sponsored by World Vision, and that they would “weep for the children” who will suffer as a result of pulled sponsorships. They blamed gay and lesbian people (and divorcees and single parents) for their own actions.

This past week, a similar story unfolded in the same part of the world, but with different results. Brendan Eich was appointed as CEO of Mozilla earlier this month (this is the company that makes Firefox and other software). Brendan made a $1,000 donation to an organisation that supports Proposition 8 in California – this is a law that banned gay marriage in that State. When this was discovered, many employees, many users of the company’s software and many others complained. Brendan has been dismissed. You can read the story here.

The chairman of Mozilla stressed that Mozilla supports equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, and apologised for delaying a response and causing more hurt to their community.

What a contrast.

Jesus made it very clear: the world will know who is a disciple of Jesus and who is not by their love. Not by your theology. Not by the version of the Bible you read from. Not be which church you attend. Not even by your thoughts or actions. By your love. (John 13:35; Matthew 7 is also worth reading in this context).

Paul was also clear that love is the pinnacle of spiritual expression. Without love, everything else you do and believe and say and think is worth nothing.

I’ll leave it to you to decide, but I know for sure which of the two responses above is more loving. I know which of the responses above is more Christ-like.

God have mercy on His church.

Rational responses to the Noah movie

Rational responses to the Noah movie

In recent weeks, conservative evangelical Christians have complained about the Disney movie, “Frozen” (proclaiming it’s theme tune to be supportive of gay rights), campaigned against World Vision withdrawing funding for third world children, and now are up in arms about the Hollywood movie, Noah. It can be embarrassing having to wear the label “Christian” alongside these whiners and moaners.

The movie, Noah, was recently released. It is a fictional tale based on the Biblical account. It includes some content from the book of 1 Enoch (it is stunning how many Christians show complete lack of knowledge about the books that nearly made it into the canon of Scripture, and have been accepted as extra-canonical but nevertheless Biblical by more than half of all the Christians who have ever lived). It also includes some references to other ancient flood myths, including the most powerful one, the Gilgamesh Epic, that actually predates the Biblical account (again, most conservative Christians show complete ignorance of these other accounts of creation, the flood and antiquity, even though an understanding of the version Moses wrote must take into account how it interacted with these more ancient myths).

The movie, Noah, is a fictional account of the Biblical story, taking some license with the very short version in the Old Testament. It contains typical amounts of extra material designed to build drama and excitement, and does a good job of incorporating a variety of source material. But it does contradict the Biblical account in a number of ways, and dramatically changes how Christians would prefer God to be portrayed. As such, should Christians still watch it?

I believe that we absolutely should. And we should take the opportunity to talk about it amongst ourselves and with our children. This really does come down to how we handle truth. Conservative Christians try to handle truth by not engaging with error in any way. Well, “the elders” of their churches should engage with error, effectively becoming guardians and censors, warning “the flock” of dangers and steering them away from error. I prefer the approach which teaches people how to spot error for themselves, and to raise their ability to handle truth wisely. This involves, amongst other things, teaching people how to have conversations about truth, how to investigate, how to think and analyse, and how to ask questions – all the time relying on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide.

For the most balanced and rational review of the movie, I’d suggest Greg Boyd’s which you can find here. You can also read Tony Jones’ take on the movie – a more theological reflection on the nature of the Bible and how we should interpret it.

Jesus was not a man’s man

April 2, 2014 Gender, General No Comments
Jesus was not a man’s man

Tim Krueger wrote an article on “Reframing Biblical Masculinity” a few days ago. I am not sure I buy into everything he says, but I did really like this key point:

Several hallmarks of “biblical manhood” look suspiciously like modern, Western, middle-to-upper class rites of passage: employment outside the home, financial independence, marriage, and fatherhood, for instance. Jesus, on the other hand, never married or had children. He abandoned his family business in favor of ministry, becoming financially dependent on others—even women. He could be tough, but he also wept in public. Day after day, he soiled his reputation as a man of God by hanging around the wrong people. In short, Jesus fails spectacularly to live up to the ideals of “biblical manhood.” This, to me, suggests that we might be off track.

… Let’s leave behind the “boys will be boys” mentality of patriarchy and the bullet lists of “biblical manhood.” Instead, let’s embrace an idea (or ideas) of masculinity patterned after Jesus, characterized by kingdom values, and deeply engaged with the real world. When we do, our families, churches, and world will better know and experience the fullness and glory of God.

Great points!

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