Playing Tag with God

People sometimes ask me what my favorite passage of scripture is, and I usually have a hard time coming up with an answer. However, this morning I finished my 2009 Bible Reading Plan by reading the last three chapters of Revelation, and I think this might just be my favorite passage:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."*

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Sages leave your contemplations

It seems that every Christmas, some specific theological nugget from a Christmas carol gets lodged in my teeth and I find myself chewing on it throughout the entire holiday season. Last year, it was about Jesus being the light of the world. I was thinking about that concept for weeks.

This year, the theme that has plagued my thoughts came from the carol "Angels from the Realms of Glory," by James Montgomery. The verse is this:

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Aliens and Nephilim: Review of The Facade

“Most people don’t want the truth … they’re looking for answers to confirm their prejudices,” reads the cover of Michael S. Heiser’s thriller novel, The Façade.

I joke that I read most of this book in the bathroom because it scared the “you know what” out of me. There is no doubt that Mike Heiser, who edits Bible Study Magazine with me and is the Academic Editor of Logos Bible Software, knows how to weave a plot and write dialogue. The pages of this chilling book are riddled with examples of his skill:

“The creature quietly removed the papers from his hand.
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The Culture Industry of Christmas

As I sit here reflecting on this past Christmas, the Holiday season, the days leading up to Christmas, family, friends, and our society, I also reflect on the past year, the mistakes, the accomplishments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am reminded that the culture industry of Christmas is a machine that gets going long before December 25th. I am also reminded that Christmas, at least here in the States, has taken on a commercial form that is trumped by little to nothing. I am even further reminded that the culture industry of Christmas has globalized itself and turned a Holiday that is supposed to be about a spiritual connection to Christ, family, religious traditions, humanity, and people in general more into cultural mores focused around buying, spending money we don’t have, getting that “good deal,” consuming products we don’t need, and waking up at ungodly hours to get a toaster oven for $4.99. Are we all consumed with just buying as a society? Where did the spirituality go? Yes, I’m sure that the praise and worship music blared through the speakers at Wal Mart gets us in the “mood” for Christmas and the blatant manger scenes at our local churches give us reflection on the “reason for the season.” I’m also sure that the once-a-year- giving spirit causes us to feel good about ourselves when we acknowledge the homeless person on the corner and give her/ him a couple of dollars because “Jesus would have done so.”
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God With Us

"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')."

One of the most important--if not the most important--question anyone can ask is this: "How does God relate to the world?" If you were to ask that question yo a random group of people, say at a mall or a public gathering of some kind, you would get all kinds of answers.

Some would say that God created the world, then withdrew--and isn't all that interested in what's going on.  Others would say that God may have been powerful enough to make everything, but he certainly isn't strong enough to stop all the suffering and evil in the world. Still others would say that the question is irrelevant, because there's really no God anyway, although it's okay to believe in some sort of "cosmic power" if it helps you sleep at night.

Tackling Tough Questions

Check out this video my dad and I recently produced with ConversantLIfe.  I love doing TV and radio interviews, but there's something particularly special about partnering with my dad.  In this Livestream interview, we discuss apologetics and ministry today as well as take questions from a live online audience. There's some great content here.  Don't miss it, and pass it on!

 

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an interview--part one

Recently a magazine sent me excellent questions for an interview. Below are some of their inquiries and my responses.

Q1. There's so much to talk about, but first let's start with how you encountered Christ. You say that He 'interrupted your existence'. Can you tell us a bit about what your life was like then and how He stopped you in your tracks?

Alicia: Truth for me was dead. God had never lived. Life was filled with pain. Death was the end of life. These four beliefs formed my worldview. I sincerely believed that there was no God.

The day of the encounter, I was neither seeking God nor on a noble truth pilgrimage. I was neither high nor drunk nor in the pit of despair. 

Q2. Were you an atheist by choice or simply because no one had ever told you the gospel?

Alicia: Atheism was a distinct decision. My parents tease me that the first word out of my mouth wasn’t “Ma” or “Da” but “WHY?” Evidently I’ve been asking questions since I could speak. Unanswerable questions led me to the belief that there was no God. Over the years I encountered several streams of Christianity and also Spiritualism, Hinduism, and Buddhist thought. Faith seemed a construct of mankind to stuff in the gaps and calm fears or explain the unexplainable. As a young Atheist, I considered myself a realist who preferred unanswered questions over fairy tales.

Q3. Why do you think so many Christians are afraid of speaking with those who say they don't believe?

Alicia: Reasons abound, but perhaps almost all of the reasons are rooted in either fear or deception. Some fear rejection or embarrassment. Some fear not knowing what to say. And perhaps some privately fear that their faith isn’t sound enough to withstand critique.

Fear married to deception keeps the Church caged. In our day, “one way—Jesus” is cultural blasphemy. The world’s deceptive message is deafening: “Move beyond the narrow elitism of one-way and enter into the enlightened inclusion of all ways. Affirm equally everyone’s respective truth or keep your mouth shut.”

Q4. Do you think modern Christian culture has in some ways made it more difficult for atheists to come to the church?

Alicia: Perhaps it’s our lack of sharing life shoulder-to-shoulder outside of church that makes it difficult for people (Atheist or otherwise) to want to come inside a church. We give our gifts (money, talent) gladly but our lives (time, touch) little. Our lives are so full. Yet it would be life-giving, if we said “no” to one time-eater in order to say “yes” to some consistent activity (city league ball, PTA…) that would place us in proximity with others who wrote mental resignation letters to the church long ago.

(to be continued)

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Thomas Nagel Likes Stephen Meyer's Book

Nice.  Prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel--no friend to Christianity--names Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design as one of his books of the year:

Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

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Jesus Would Reject Charter for Compassion

When asked by Joan Ball over at Belief Net to respond to Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion, I said:

"I don't think [Jesus] would sign [the Charter for Compassion]. I think he would be aware of how easily it could lead to condoning the actions of other faiths that are unjust. Jesus was not compassionate towards those who had no compassion. Instead, he was ruthless with his words of rebuke of whatever injustices they were committing."

This generated a heated debate, as you can imagine. To see my justification for my conclusion and read the discussion, head on over to Joan's blog.

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