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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Supernaturally Biased

The two-day event featuring “progressive Christian” Marcus Borg at Brenau University at the end of this week is entitled “Religion in the 21st Century.” Bill Coates, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Gainesville (one of the event sponsors), says that Borg “speaks of an emerging paradigm to see faith and practice faith in an age of science and technology.”

Of course, the implication here is that in our “modern” age of science and technology, we need a new approach to understand our faith. We need a new way to understand Christianity without having to believe in things like virgin births, water turning to wine, the instant healing of the blind and leprous, the raising of the dead, and so on. Because, of course, science tells us that these things are not possible.

In other words, if it can’t be explained in the natural, then it must not be true. Sadly this is the view of many (so-called) Christians. This is certainly true of the “Jesus Seminar” of which Dr. Borg has been affiliated for decades. As I noted in my last post, the Jesus Seminar is a group of self-described scholars who attempt to discover the “historical Jesus.” According to apologist Greg Koukl, “they have rejected as myth the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the virgin birth, all Gospel miracles, and a full 82% of the teachings normally attributed to Jesus--all dismissed as legendary accretions with no historical foundation.”

As J.P. Moreland put it in 1995, the Jesus Seminar operates from an “unfalsifiable presupposition” that is rooted in naturalism. Thus, he notes, any event in the Bible that is deemed supernatural is automatically dismissed as unhistorical.

Though the Brenau event implies that we are experiencing something new in terms of science and religion (or, more precisely, Christianity), a bias against the supernatural is almost as old as the devil himself. Writing on “Religion and Science” in 1945, C.S. Lewis demonstrates the absurdity of attempting to disprove the supernatural through mere natural means.

“Science studies nature,” notes Lewis. “And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists—anything ‘outside.’ How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?” Of course the answer is, you can’t. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Certainly ours is not a blind and ignorant faith. Though we can’t prove or disprove the supernatural through natural means, this does not mean that there is no evidence for what we believe. As the Apostle Paul noted as he stood before King Agrippa, “What I am saying is true and reasonable.” For the things upon which our faith rests were not “done in a corner.” We know in whom we believe. The evidence is within Scripture as well as outside of it.

Noted Jewish archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted (his word) a biblical reference.” He asserts that the “incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible…is fortified by archaeological fact.”

The great archaeologist William F. Albright states that “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.” Millar Burrows of Yale, a leading authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, observes that “Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions…” He explains such unbelief: “The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural.”

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scratching Those "Itching Ears"

It appears that many in Gainesville and Hall County have decided that they need their “itching ears” scratched. Appearing and speaking on the campus of Brenau University on March 1 and 2 (next Friday and Saturday) is Marcus Borg. According to the Gainesville Times, Borg is “one of the most widely known and influential voices in progressive Christianity and a major figure in scholarship related to the historical Jesus.”

In other words, Borg is a heretic. His “scholarship related to the historical Jesus” describes his participation in the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar is a group of self-described scholars who attempt to discover the “historical Jesus.” According to apologist Greg Koukl, “they have rejected as myth the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the virgin birth, all Gospel miracles, and a full 82% of the teachings normally attributed to Jesus--all dismissed as legendary accretions with no historical foundation. For example, only two words of the Lord's Prayer survive as authentic: ‘Our Father.’”

Consider some of the words of Borg himself (emphases mine): “I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product . . . As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God.”

"Seminary also introduced me to the historical study of Jesus and Christian origins. I learned from my professors and the readings they assigned that Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.”

“As such, myths can be both true and powerful, even though they are symbolic narratives and not straightforward historical reports. Though not literally true, they can be really true; though not factually true, they can be actually true. The stories of Jesus' birth are myths in this sense. Along with most mainline scholars, I do not think these stories report what happened. The virginal conception, the star, the wise men, the birth in Bethlehem where there was no room in the inn, and so forth are not facts of history. But I think these stories are powerfully true...The stories of Jesus' death and resurrection contain a mixture of historical memory and mythical narration.”

“Religious pluralism is a fact of life in North America, and in the world. To absolutize one's own religion as the only way means that one sees all of the other religious traditions of the world as wrong, and dialogue, genuine dialogue, becomes impossible. Conversion can be the only goal.

I affirm, along with many others, that the major enduring religions of the world are all valid and legitimate. I see them as the responses to the experience of God in the various cultures in which each originated. To be Christian means to find the decisive revelation of God in Jesus. To be Muslim means to find the decisive revelation of God in the Koran. To be Jewish means to find the decisive revelation of God in the Torah, and so forth. I don't think that one of these is better than the other. You could even say they are all divinely given paths to the sacred. To be Christian in this kind of context means to be deeply committed to one's own tradition, even as one recognizes the validity of other traditions.”

When debating William Lane Craig (see here), on the Resurrection of Jesus, Borg declares “…for me, whether or not the tomb was empty doesn’t matter. Whether something happened to the corpse of Jesus doesn’t matter. For as I understand things, Easter is not primarily about something spectacular happening to Jesus on a particular day in the past, it is about the continuing experience of Jesus after his death. This, in my judgment, is the historical ground of Easter.” 

Borg believes that the accounts (or “stories”) of the Resurrection in the Gospels are “metaphorical narratives.” He speaks and writes of a “pre-Easter Jesus” and a “post-Easter Jesus.” The “pre-Easter Jesus” was merely a human who lived and died. The “post-Easter Jesus” lives on (though not in any literal sense) in “the experience and tradition of the church.” According to Dr. Craig, “What Dr. Borg means by the ‘post-Easter Jesus’ is what Jesus became in the thinking and imagination of the Christian church.”

In other words, in Dr. Borg’s thinking, Jesus only exists as a symbolic figure. To use Dr. Craig’s analogy (see his retorts here and here), the relationship between Dr. Borg’s “pre-Easter Jesus” and “post-Easter Jesus” is much like that between the fourth-century bishop Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. Though not real, the fictional character that is today’s Santa Claus embodies much that is good: giving, kindness, family, love, etc. and is based on a real historical figure. Thus, Santa Claus is worth celebrating. For Borg, Jesus is little different.

The Times reports that Dr. Borg's two-day appearance is presented by “the university [Brenau], First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Grace Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville, St. Paul United Methodist Church and EMW Lectures.”

The Times also reports Bill Coates, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, describing Borg as someone who “speaks of an emerging paradigm to see faith and practice faith in an age of science and technology.”  Coates adds that, “So many people don’t believe today because they don’t believe the basic doctrines or have trouble understanding the stories of the Bible. For people like that, Borg has a new approach, a new lens through which they can see those stories.”

DON'T BELIEVE THE BASIC DOCTRINES?! Have ANY of these so-called "PASTORS" actually heard or read of what Borg teaches?! BORG HIMSELF rejects the “basic doctrines!” What is it exactly that makes Dr. Borg a Christian?! People don’t believe because of the heresy spread by men like Borg! What a sad indictment on the local Christian community that Marcus Borg would be put forth as a teacher of Christianity.

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Myth of Overpopulation

One of the frequent cries of many on the left is that the world is overpopulated. The latest hysterical outburst on this matter came from Sir David Attenborough, a recent patron of “The Optimum Population Trust.” The 86-year-old Attenborough, who has a degree in natural sciences and is a former senior manager of the BBC, is a high priest among earth-worshipping liberals.

Attenborough, famous mostly for his Life documentaries, declared “We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us...”

Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to “sheer space” and “places to grow food,” we have barely touched what the earth has available. Given that the earth contains just north of 7 billion people, the entire population of the planet could easily fit into the state of Texas, which contains less than .14% of the earth’s land area.

The overpopulation myth has been around for decades. It even predates the holy grail of modern liberal environmental orthodoxy: global warming. With liberals today, the overpopulation myth (as with most everything even remotely tied to the environment) is typically predicated upon the myth of man-made global warming.

As an illustration of this, the Grand Mystic Royal Noble of the Ali Baba Temple of the Church of Global Warming—Al Gore—recently tweeted: “In the next 17 years, [the population] of the global middle class will grow by 3 [billion] people. How will we accommodate them on a finite planet?”

Noble (or “Nobel”) Al is so concerned about the prospect of man-made global warming, to reduce the amount of hot-air radiating from the U.S., he sold his media company (Current Media) to the Al Jazeera Media Network. This would have been a smart move for Noble Al, except for the fact that Al Jazeera is a state owned media corporation.

And not just any state, but the extremely oil rich monarchy that is Qatar. Now, it is not so surprising that a liberal such as Noble Al sold himself out (for about $100 million) to a media corporation that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called a “mouthpiece of al Qaeda and a vehicle of anti-American propaganda.” Neither is it surprising that Noble Al would enrich himself by doing business with an authoritarian regime.

What is surprising is that Ali Baba Al would enrich himself with oil money. Not only that, but filthy oil money (by Ali Baba Al standards). At about 44 metric tons per person (2009 numbers), Qatar has had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions in the world for decades, and it’s not even close. Qatar has about 50% more per capita emissions that the next highest nation and has more than double the U.S. per capita carbon dioxide emissions (17.2 metric tons).

In addition to all of this, Qatar is rather “overpopulated.” Its population density of 394 people per square mile (compared to 89 per square mile in the U.S.) puts it 76 (out of 243) on the list of sovereign states and dependent territories by population density.

Of course, to limit populations, one must reduce the number of newborns. This leads to another pillar of liberalism: abortion. In order to preach such hedonism to the world, the U.N. gave us World Population Day where they boldly declare, “The human enterprise has outgrown the planet.”

The Russians sure seem to believe it. A recent Drudge headline reveals that, instead of elevating a murderous dictator to reduce the population, the Russians have fully prostrated themselves at the bloody alter of abortion. In the Motherland, “abortion is rampant,” says Jonathan V. Last, author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting.

Noting what is perhaps “the most grisly statistic the world has ever seen,” Last points out that in Russia, for every 10 live births, there are 13 abortions. Yet Russia is 223 in population density. Combine this with a paltry birthrate of 12.6 per 1,000 and the Russians are staring at a devastating population decline. “No nation has experienced long-term prosperity in the face of contracting population,” concludes Last.

Liberal myths abound: the world is overpopulated, fossil fuels are heating the planet, abortion is a “right,” homosexuality is normal and healthy, all life “evolved,” marriage can be redefined, a nation can spend its way out of debt, and so on. Notice the similarities? Each of these is a relatively recent conclusion once unheard of or (even worse) thought absurd and wicked.

Such it is with post-modern liberalism. Thinking themselves masters of science and reason, and ignoring absolute truth, they have become what they despise: “the faithful.”

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason