Friday, June 12, 2009

Proprietary Attitudes?

It must be a byproduct of our materialistic culture. Or maybe it is more universal. I am speaking of our proprietary attitude... sometimes called our greedy desire to make a buck.

Someone told me this week about a nationally known speaker who published books and materials without copyrighting them - thinking that he would let others use them freely. All was well until the day when someone ELSE copyrighted the speaker's materials and made him pay to use his own things!


I like to read books - especially books about the Bible, Christian living, and Ministry. What amazes me is the constant production of new books. Some of these are really helpful. Some are not so helpful. Many great books are written that are TRUE. They are true to the Word of God and true about the application of God's word to life. Often these books have a limited appeal. Many other books are just plain FALSE. They are a pablum of rehashed psychobabble that appeals to carnal people's pride and passion for earthly prosperity. These books are (guess what) VERY POPULAR - even best sellers.

Prosperity Theology - the teaching that God's desire is that every child of His should have health and wealth in this world - is wildly popular. No matter that its only relationship to the Bible is the misapplication of misinterpretations of misquoted proof texts.

Is this just sour grapes? Could it be that I am just jealous of the megachurch stars who preach such drivel and live in million-dollar homes and wear silk and diamonds?

My heart is certainly sinful enough, but I don't think that is the case here. I am carnal enough to envy someone for coming up with a great book that has the potential to help many people understand the truth of God's word. But not because of the money. I just wish I could be that insightful. I wish I could be that effective in ministry.

But not for the fame and fortune - and I think that is true for the authors I envy too. They are not doing what they do for fame and fortune. They are doing it because it is their ministry from God. It is the outworking of their gifts for God's glory. Praise God!

As for the flagrant frauds - the snake oil salesmen - the purveyors of false hope - I know I don't envy them. But I do pity the poor souls who are deceived by them. These false prophets will someday answer to God. At that point their earthly luxuries will seem to be a curse, rather than a blessing.
(2Corinthians 2:17) For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weird Science Humor

One of my favorite comics - Non Sequitur - is running a series suggesting that people who believe in creation are dismissing proven science whenever it contradicts their beliefs. Today's strip has Danae suspending her belief in gravity... ha, ha, ha.

What is REALLY funny is that the evolutionists are the ones who dismiss proven science when it contradicts their beliefs about evolution. One obvious example is the second law of thermodynamics - the well established fact that all systems tend toward entropy. According to this law, no system could become more complex apart from a huge input of energy.

My second example: A day or so ago, I heard a radio program interviewing an ivy league scientist who has observed that humans "have evolved" to need high quality prepared food. He points out that "other animals" live on raw foods - plants or meats. They find it and they eat it. Humans, on the other hand, need to have foods that are chopped or ground up and cooked.

This is weird and funny because it contradicts the basic concept of natural selection. Natural selection says that those who have characteristics that make them more likely to survive and thrive are the ones who will pass on their genes. Wouldn't it be easier to survive and thrive if you could just go out in the back yard and eat grass? But no! We need higher quality food to begin with and then we need to grind it and chop it and cook it to get the good out of it.

My last recent example is a professor, John Long, at Vassar College, who creates robots with fins and tails, etc. He and his students make these robots to represent early life forms, and to test theories about what effect different evolutionary changes (e.g., stiffer backbones, etc.) would have had.

What? Did these robots evolve or were they created by design? Do these changes evolve, or are they design changes? What could these robots possibly prove about evolution? At the most, they are a way to "act out" the proposed theories about how subsequent changes would have affected the descendents.

These robots are infinitely more simple than real animals. How ironic that it takes so much intelligent design just to act out a theory that denies the need for intelligent design!

This is science? Ha, ha, ha!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Should Be Our Stand On War?

Another great question came by e-mail:
If 3 'Bible Scholars' are for war and 3 'Bible Scholars' are against war and all 6 cite specific Bible passages to support their stand, who is correct? What should be OUR stand on the subject of war?

This question suggests to me that the person asking it does not really respect Bible scholarship. It suggests that 1) you can make the Bible say anything and 2) that "scholarship" consists of coming up with a number of proof texts. Who are these scholars? What is their approach to Bible study? Why should I believe ANY of them? What war are they talking about and what exactly are they saying?

The real question is, "What does the Bible say about war?" The answer is pretty complicated because there are many things the Bible says about different wars in different situations, but let's assume that we are talking about modern wars like Iraq or Afghanistan.

This reminds me of an old joke. The husband is talking to a friend and says, "I make all the big decisions in our family... what political party we will support and what our foreign policy should be. My wife makes the little decisions... what we will eat, what we will wear, and what car we will drive."

War is the prerogative of the state, not the individual. Romans 13 says that the state "bears the sword." The state is ordained by God to punish "evildoers." There are international evildoers and certainly a state can and should act to protect its citizens. If it doesn't do this, the state will soon disappear.
(Romans 13:1-4) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Will you call 911 when burglars break into your house and threaten you and your family? Assuming that you will, does that mean that you are "for war?" International wars are the same thing on a different scale. The state is acting to protect the lives, freedoms and possessions of its citizens.

If a state is engaged in stealing the resources of others or of bullying its international neighborhood, obviously we should be opposed to that. To be opposed to that behavior generally means being in favor of some sort of war. (Even economic or diplomatic sanctions are an aspect of warfare - isolation, blockade, siege.)

Should we be "for" war? Wars lead to all kinds of tragedy and human suffering. Generally speaking I am opposed to war. On the other hand, should I be happy if our government refuses to protect us from a nuclear Iran, or from Taliban terrorists, or from N. Korea on the basis that I am against war? I don't think so. I think that our government is supposed to protect us and our interests in the world just like the police are supposed to protect our interests locally - and sometimes that requires the force of arms. Will there be collateral damage? Yes - and I'm against it. Will there be errors of judgment? Yes - and I'm against that too. And while I'm at it, I am against strategic and tactical errors as well.

But, it boils down to this - governments are ordained by God specifically to enforce the peace by violence. We wish it never had to come to that, but obviously it does.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gambling or Investing?

This morning I received this great question by e-mail:
Is investing in stocks considered gambling? If so, should we not do so?
A very interesting question indeed!

(Proverbs 16:33) "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord."
It is possible to argue that there is no such thing as gambling - because everything is controlled by God.

The problem with gambling is that it is poor stewardship of what God has entrusted to us. Generally, gambling appeals to our sinful and foolish nature with the promise of instant riches. The riches it promises are not the kind of riches that Jesus tells us to pursue, and by pursuing them they become an idol. We are focused on those things instead of on serving Christ.
(Matthew 6:19-21) ¶ “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:24) ¶ “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
On the other hand, investing is certainly not a problem in the Bible - it is considered good stewardship. Remember that the parable of the talents says that the servant who did NOT invest what was entrusted to him was lazy and wicked!
(Matthew 25:26-27) ¶ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
The servant, in his own defense, said that he didn't want to risk the master's money by investing it. The master, however, expected him to do exactly that and take the risk with the expectation that he would probably be careful WHAT he invested in.

It is one thing to invest in relatively safe investments with a reasonable expectation of a return on the investment. Sometimes that doesn't work out, but usually it is good stewardship. It is another thing entirely to spend God's money buying lottery tickets or stocks that have about the same chance of profitability. That is just foolish and a waste of what was entrusted to you.

The most important question is the heart. If we are doing whatever we are doing because of our covetous love of material things and that is taking our time and energy that should be given to God - it is sin.

Are we motivated by sober hopes of good stewardship or by feverish dreams of earthly riches?