Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Clarification on Separation of God and Sports

In a recent post I wrote about the faulty idea and practice that you can somehow separate faith from the public arena - in this case, the sports arena. I cited an article written by Tom Krattenmaker from USA Today.

I want to clarify that Tom Krattenmaker is not calling for a "secular" sports arena, at least not directly or explicitly. As a matter of fact, Mr. Krattenmaker is fairly even-handed in his treatment of religious speech in the public arena. You can read his views on religious speech at Graduations here and his view on Intolerant Atheism here. You can learn more about Tom's views at his web site:

I do think Mr. Krattenmaker's article, And I'd Like to Thank God Almighty, unfairly and narrow-mindedly characterizes historic orthodox Christian beliefs and can be understood as a call to "secularization" of sports. But I wanted you to know that Mr. Krattenmaker is more of a friend of free-speech and overt religious convictions than an enemy.

More of the dialogue characteristic of Mr. Krattenmaker's earlier articles will help us all better enjoy the blessings of a free and just society.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The End of Secularism

Another good discussion on the fallacy of "secularism". Here are some excerpts:

The Clothed Public Square

Hunter Baker was once a secularist. He believed in God while attending Florida State University, but he had no room for him outside of baptisms, weddings, and funerals. "If someone started talking about Jesus, it was like they were talking about their bathroom habits," Baker says. "That's how secularists feel, and they wish we would stop using religious language because it makes them uncomfortable." Now the Houston Baptist University political science professor is speaking up about the dangers of secularism. Christianity Today online editor Sarah Pulliam spoke with Baker about his new book, The End of Secularism (Crossway). ....

Secularism goes a lot further than the separation of church and state. Instead of saying that these things have to be institutionally separate, secularism says that religion has to be privatized and taken out of public life. Secularists argue that if we stop talking about God, we will create greater social harmony. But religion is not a hobby. To act as though God doesn't exist is fundamentally dishonest.

Second, it's unfair. [According to secularists,] you have Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, all of which orbit the sun of secularism. That's utterly fallacious. Secularism is really a competing orthodoxy. And if that's the case, why should one of these competitors be allowed to declare itself the umpire?

Read the whole article here. Or, get the book here.

Separation of Church and Sport

Once again, another fallacious appeal to separate "religion" from "secular" life in Tom Krattenmaker's article, And I'd like to thank God Almighty, appearing in USA Today.

While someone might argue persuasively for a humbler, gentler and more respectful advocacy of Christianity in sports it is impossible and fallacious to think we can somehow separate people's world views from what they think, say and do in the sports arena or any other context. Too often these appeals to separate "religion" from the public arena are just veiled attempts (even if unconsciously) to promote a simplistic humanistic worldview in the public arena to the exclusion of any other perspective.

I believe the better approach is a respectful and intelligent tolerance that fully allows divergent views to be freely expressed within the bounds of basic commonly held beliefs and values. I believe a thoroughly biblical Christianity is the best foundation for such an environment.

Read a good discussion of the sports article here. Also read a previous post on the fallacy of a "secular" view here.

Collision: Atheism vs. Christianity

I highly recommend watching the movie, "Collision." It is a documentary/debate on the diverse world views of Atheism and Christianity by some very articulate and winsome proponents of their views, Christopher Hitchins for Atheism and Douglas Wilson for Christianity.

Check out a recent sample of their debate on the Huffington Post:
Religion Is Absurd
by Christopher Hitchens

Religion will always retain a certain tattered prestige because it was our first attempt as a species to make sense of the cosmos and of our own nature, and because it continues to ask "why". Its incurable disability, however, lies in its insistence that the answer to that question can be determined with certainty on the basis of revelation and faith.....

This absurd belief would not even deserve to be called quixotic if it had not inspired masterpieces of art and music and architecture as well as the most appalling atrocities and depredations. The great cultural question before us is therefore this: can we manage to preserve what is numinous and transcendent and ecstatic without giving any more room to the superstitious and the supernatural. (For example, can one treasure and appreciate the Parthenon, say, while recognizing that the religious cult that gave rise to it is dead, and was in many ways sinister and cruel?) A related question is: can we be moral and ethical in our thoughts and actions without the servile idea that our morals are dictated to us by a supreme entity?

If Moses and Jesus and Mohammed had never existed -- let alone Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy or Kim Jong Il or any of the other man-made prophets or idols -- we would still be faced with precisely the same questions about how to explain ourselves and our lives, how to think about the just city, and how to comport ourselves with our fellow-creatures. The small progress we have made so far, from the basic realization that diseases are not punishments to the noble idea that as humans we may even have "rights", is due to the exercise of skepticism and doubt, and to the objective scrutiny of hard evidence, and not at all to faith or certainty. The real "transcendence", then, is the one that allows us to shake off the notion of a never-dying tyrannical father-figure, with its unconsoling illusion of redemption by human sacrifice, and assume our proper proportion as people condemned to be free, and able to outgrow the fearful tutelage of a supreme supervisor who does not forgive us the errors he has programmed us to make.

Atheists Suck at Being Atheists
by Pastor Douglas Wilson

From the perspective of a Christian, the refusal of an atheist to be a Christian is dismaying, but it is at least intelligible. But what is really disconcerting is the failure of atheists to be atheists. That is the thing that cries out for further exploration.

We can understand a cook who sets out to prepare a reduction sauce, having it simmer on the stove for three days. But what we shouldn't get is the announcement afterwards that he has prepared us a soufflé. The atheistic worldview is nothing if not inherently reductionistic, whether this is admitted or not. Everything that happens is a chance-driven rattle-jattle jumble in the great concourse of atoms that we call time. Time and chance acting on matter have brought about, in equally aimless fashion, the 1927 New York Yankees, yesterday's foam on a New Jersey beach, Princess Di, the arrangement of pebbles on the back side of the moon, the music of John Cage, the Fourth Crusade, and the current gaggle representing us all in Congress.

If the universe actually is what the materialistic atheist claims it is, then certain things follow from that presupposition. The argument is simple to follow, and is frequently accepted by the sophomore presidents of atheist/agnostic clubs at a university near you, but it is rare for a well-published atheistic leader to acknowledge the force of the argument. To acknowledge openly the corrosive relativism that atheism necessarily entails would do nothing but get the chimps jumping in the red states. To swallow the reduction would present serious public relations problems, and drive Fox News ratings up even further. Who needs that?

If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist's case for atheism. The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true. But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our "accounting" to represent genuine insight. Atheism fails to do this, and the failure is a spectacular one. Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty.

Read the whole thing.

The documentary is now available from Amazon.

Check out this trailer:

Introducing Dave Harvey

I am very jazzed to see that Dave Harvey will start contributing to CJ Mahaney's blog, "view from the cheap seats & other stuff."

Dave is the author of When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007). This is one of the best books on marriage I have seen!

Dave is a good friend of mine and a wise and Godly pastor. He is in charge of church planting for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He is also very funny.

He recently wrote his first post. Check out this excerpt:
Because we love proclaiming the gospel, Sovereign Grace Ministries created a new role and asked me to fill it. We’re not big on titles around here so I’m the “person-responsible-for-church-planting, international-expansion-and-church-care-in-Sovereign-Grace.” People typically start yawning about halfway through my title, so I often grab attention by also throwing in “bomb disposal.”

I live in Philadelphia, home of the world champion Phillies and some pretty awesome cheesesteaks. If you don’t know what a cheesesteak is, then eating one someday should immediately go on your prayer list. Many young men feel called to plant churches in Philly after eating one.

But I digress. .....

Sovereign Grace Ministries defines success partly by planting gospel-centered churches. It is so important to us that we dedicate an enormous amount of time, training, resources, and personnel to it. We’ve been doing it for 25 years…it’s in our DNA, our genes, our blood, it’s…well, you get the picture. But here’s the neat thing: It still feels like we are just getting started. There’s still so much to do, so much to learn. And then we’ve got to effectively transfer the whole thing to the next generation so that they can continue the mission in strength.

I hope this is important to you as well. But sheer enthusiasm is not enough. We need to understand from God’s Word why we as a ministry are called to plant and build gospel-centered local churches around the world.

Wow, I get excited just writing about this stuff. And I hope my blog contribution will encourage those of you with the same burden for church planting.

Next time we’ll get started by answering the obvious and foundational question: Why plant churches in the first place?

So log on, grab a cheesesteak and join me next time.

If you have a couple minutes check out his full post here.

Looking forward to more!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Domesticating God

Preparing to preach on 1 Cor. 1:18-25 in relationship to trusting God. DA Carson has been very helpful in this regard. Here is a notable quote..
"Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our needs."

DA Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 15
And from the word of God:
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Is A Secular Education?

Something I've been pondering for a while. Let me know what you think.....

There is an idea that is commonly held and even vehemently defended in our culture. People might even scoff if you disagree. They will perhaps quote supreme court rulings and excerpts from the constitution as well. The idea is this, that the only legal and proper education for public schools is a "secular" education.

Now this whole idea of "secular" living not only influences our view of education but really our view of everything in the public sphere - politics, community, neighborly talk, relationships at work etc.. "Keep your religion to yourself - that's a private thing." We all assume that life in the public sphere must be secular if we are to get along and coexist as good citizens. While I'm all for getting along and coexisting as good citizens I think that the idea of a "secular" realm is inherently contradictory. I believe a secular view is inherently religious and therefore the idea of a "secular" education violates the first amendment clause that prohibits government sanction of any particular religious view.

Webster defines "secular" as 1 a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal b: not overtly or specifically religious c : not ecclesiastical or clerical .

In order to assume that there are ideas and actions that are secular, not overtly religious, you must assume that there is the ability to divorce ideas and actions from a greater reality than that which is immediately and apparently at hand. So at the core of the secular perspective is the assumption that there is a realm that can somehow be limited to merely the immediate and pragmatic experience of the individual or community. In this place, functionally and hypothetically, there is no God, there is no transcendent truth, there is really nothing more than the individual's or group's experience.

But how do we evaluate that experience? What is it? What constitutes the difference between a "spiritual" experience and a "secular"? What is a group? What is an individual? What is right and wrong? How do we determine it? If secular is the realm with no God, what is God? Where and how is there no God? How do I determine how to interact in such a realm? What are my rights? What are the groups rights? What is a "right" anyhow? How do we get that concept? What is "is"?

Do you see what sort of trouble we get into when we try to carve out a place called "secular"?

I would submit that there is no such thing as a "secular" realm. Instead, we have used this as camouflage to cover what functionally is a state-sponsored religion derived from an increasingly abandoned Enlightenment view of the world that is more-or-less bound to the assumption that the self (whatever that may be) is the ultimate determiner of reality and thus the spiritual center of the universe.

And if this view is the central commitment of our education system aren't we proselytizing our children when we base their education on a "secular" worldview? Is not this a violation of the establishment and free exercise clause of the First Amendment?

Is there a way forward? I think so- so did Abraham Kuyper - that's for another blog.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Creativity and Congregational Worship

Watch this interview of CJ Mahaney and Bob Kauflin on the use of creativity in corporate worship- some very helpful cautions and instruction.