Thursday, August 11, 2011

www.wheredoyoustand.com

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Domain names are interesting things. With the large number of domain extensions out there in the world of the internet-ethersphere, it is not uncommon to have two websites, with the same domain prefix but different extensions, sporting some radically different content. This truth was refreshed in my thinking very recently. In the providence of God we discovered a spike in web-traffic at our video-apologetics site, www.wheredoyoustand.us, from people who were looking for the same domain prefix, but with the .com extension. Out of curiosity I looked to see what others were seeking and finding. It turns out that this alternate-universe-wheredoyoustand site is a kind of video storefront for fashion designer Kenneth Cole, husband of Maria Cuomo (daughter of former New York governor Mario Cuomo). At wheredoyoustand.com, viewers are exposed to a small montage of videos featuring Kenneth-Cole-fashion-clothing adorned models, whose sole purpose is (it would appear) to raise doubt on a number of controversial social and moral issues. The lesser of these “issues” deals with gun ownership rights. The more striking issue raised deals with homosexuality, where the obviously implied message is: homosexuality is good and acceptable.

Well, I thank God that several of these web-searchers initially failed to find Cole’s Vanity Fair[1] storefront, but instead stumbled upon a selection of very different videos that were crafted from a remarkably antithetical set of values:

1. Atheism & Religionism versus The Gospel: What good can religion, agnosticism, or even atheism bring to a person? This video presents an important query about all three belief systems.

2. All Men are Created Equal?: Can it really be said that “all men are created equal?” Were men “created” and in what sense does the notion of “race” factor into this question? As well, is “racialism” a valid concept of the human race?

3. The Reality of “Atheism”: Atheism is one of the fastest growing movements in America. What is Atheism, and how is it that atheists can come to such a conviction that there is no God? As well, why are the advocates of atheism becoming more active in advancing their viewpoints?

4. The Marks of True Patriotism: Do you consider yourself to be a good American patriot? What does it mean to be a patriot, and how might one live out such patriotism? As well, does your sense of patriotism change at all based upon who is serving in leadership at the time?

5. Religion, Politics & True Hope: Perhaps you have seen examples where religious faith has been used for the sake of political advantage. Is there anything wrong with using spiritual terms to describe our American politics & patriotism?

6. Do We Live in a Pointless Universe?: As scientists continue to research the vastness of space, we are discovering that the universe is much larger than we have ever imagined. Because of these ongoing findings within cosmology, many have surmised that mankind is utterly insignificant. As well, if it is true that the Universe will continue to expand forever into a cold and lifeless void, can it be said that “We live in a Pointless Universe?”

7. Philosophy vs. True Science: Can it be argued that the Universe “created itself out of nothing” as posited by Mr. Stephen Hawking? Is such a supposition the product of philosophy or empirical science - and does it matter? Will C.E.R.N.’s Large Hadron Particle Accelerator be able to unlock the universe’s deepest secrets?

Page 2 - Reviews:

8. Film Review - “Religulous” - by Bill Maher: Bill Maher’s movie “Religulous” argues that religion is harmful to humanity, and that all forms of theism amount to a single genre of foolishness called “religion.” In this review we examine the best and worst of what Maher has to say.

9. Book Review - God is not Great?: Christopher Hitchens’ book - “god is not Great” has become very popular throughout the world. He, like Bill Maher, argues that theism is “child abuse” and is a “poisonous branch that should have been snapped off long ago...” p. 275. Is religion a dangerous and poisonous branch within mankind?

10. Hymn Review - My Country ‘Tis of Thee: The hymn “America” supplies some very important lessons about the nature of our nation’s independence, dependence, and liberty. What is that message, and why is it still so important for our own day and age?

May the Father draw men to seek and find the possessor of all truth, blessings, and riches: Jesus Christ.


[1] Here, "Vanity Fair" is referenced from John Bunyan's classic work, Pilgrim's Progress. In Bunyan's Vanity Fair, Christian and Faithful face the shallowness of the world's love for money, possessions, fame, and power. When one merchant asked the two pilgrims what they were interested in buying amidst all the worldly wares available to them, they cried out: "we buy truth!" (Proverbs 23:23).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Great Gain of Godliness

Thomas-Watson

Taking no pleasure in this admission, let me say that I have far more pastors that I admire from yesteryear than I have in the modern day. Don’t get me wrong – I do have some men whom I respect and admire in the present, but they consist of an ever-shrinking minority. I fear that if men like Thomas Boston, Thomas Watson, John Calvin, or Thomas Manton were here today, they would be befuddled by most churches who identify themselves as conservative adherents to the five solas of the Reformation. The Berean spirit of past ages seems to have been replaced with a kind of truth-by-popular-appeal which says: “If it’s cool, trendy, and praised by many, ‘it’ must be good and true.”  I say all this, not to complain, but to offer the context of my appreciation for men like Thomas Watson. His words of comfort are penetrating because he heralds, not himself, but the truth of God’s word. My recent discovery of his work on Malachi 3:16-18 underscores this:

“Why should we be holiest in evil times?

1. Because of the divine injunction. God charges us to be singular, to be circumspect (Eph. 5:15), to be separate from idolaters (2 Cor. 6:17), to shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15). He forbids us to join together with sinners, or do as they do. The way to hell is a well-trodden road, and the Lord calls to us to turn out of the road: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil (Exod. 23:2). This is sufficient reason to keep ourselves pure in a time of common infection. As God’s Word is our rule, so his will is our warrant.

2. To be holiest in evil times is an indication of the truth of grace. To profess religion when the times favor it is no great matter. Almost all will court the Gospel Queen when she is hung with jewels. But to own the ways of God when they are decried and maligned, to love a persecuted truth, this evidences a vital principle of goodness. Dead fish swim down the stream, living fish swim against it. To swim against the common stream of evil shows grace to be alive. The prophet Elijah continuing zealous for the Lord of Hosts when they had dug down God’s altars (1 Kings 19:10, Rom. 11:3) showed his heart and lips had been touched with a coal from the altar.” [Thomas Watson, The Great Gain of Godliness: Practical Notes on Malachi 3:16-18, (Banner of Truth, pp. 5-6)]

I am sorry to say that too much of American Christianity has become a “Gospel Queen…hung with jewels,” where veracity is established by popularity rather than truth. Watson’s encouragement is helpful and timely for our generation. We must never be persuaded by the fads of the famous. Many of God’s greatest spokesmen and prophets were the most infamous of their generation. Ultimately, God’s greatest Prophet was crucified by the leaders of the religious establishment. Truth is neither augmented or diminished by the praise or persecution of men, because God’s truth is immutably and infallibly true. The gems found within Watson’s work are many, which is why Spurgeon expressed great disappointment for not having this book within his vast library:

“C.H. Spurgeon had a well-stocked library of around 12,000 volumes. However, one rare book was not to be found amongst that valuable collection: Thomas Watson on Malachi 3:16-18. With a note of sadness in his voice he said to his College students: ‘This [volume] would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors. We fear we shall never see this commentary, for we have tried to obtain it, and tried in vain.’” [Banner of Truth Publisher’s note, The Great Gain of Godliness, Back Cover]

What Spurgeon failed to find in his lifetime has been rediscovered and republished for our encouragement and edification. I heartily commend this work to you.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Tao is the Way, the Truth, the Life? Part II

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In the previous post we examined C.S. Lewis' use of a variety of thoughts, philosophies, and sayings which he collectively identified as the Tao:

"The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar."

Previously, my comments on this passage were quite brief, but I will say more in this second post. Before I do, consider how Lewis concludes the above passage:

"'In ritual,' say the Analects, 'it is harmony with Nature that is prized.' The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being 'true.'"

In all of this, much is revealed about Lewis' eclectic view of "truth." His failure to scrutinize the philosophies of men by the standard of Holy Writ leads him into very troubling territories:

1. "[the Tao]...is harmony with Nature..."

2. "The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being 'true.'"

3. "...the Tao [is]...the abyss that was before the Creator Himself."

With these statements alone, we are left with a very disturbing lexicon of "truth." Within this small paragraph, Lewis manages to do the following:

1. He heralds the eastern philosophy of being in "harmony with Nature" - a concept bearing little resemblance with Scripture itself (Romans 8:22).

2. He places the divine revelation of God's Law on equal footing with Taoism, Confucianism,[1] and other various philosophies ("The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being 'true.'").

3. Remarkably, he refers to the Tao as that which existed "before the Creator Himself." However, the true Creator is eternal and, therefore, nothing can be before Him. To suggest otherwise is utter blasphemy (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3).

Any conscientious Christian should be disturbed by such a small sampling as this. The sad reality is that any man who steps away from the foundation of Holy Writ, even a little, stands on sinking sand. In all of this I am reminded of that overly abused adage: all truth is God's truth. While true in a particular sense, this expression is often used in order to formulate a body of "truth" that goes well beyond what God has actually revealed in His Word.

Ultimately, Lewis is guilty of creating a specious body of "truth" in his “Tao.”

Moreover, Lewis' methodology of assembling his Tao is rather suspect at points. It is not uncommon to find Lewis assembling sayings in confounding ways. As mentioned in the previous post, one such example of this is found in Lewis' use of Epictetus:

'Natural affection is a thing right and according to Nature.' (Greek. Ibid. i. xi)

If this quote seems like circular reasoning - it is. But more importantly, it does not reflect any specific quote from Epictetus, Book I, Chapter XI, On Family Affection. It may be Lewis' attempt to offer a paraphrase of Epictetus, but one can only wonder. Ultimately, the point that Epictetus was making within his narrative is that one's affections must be judged by reason in order to determine if something that seems natural is in fact right. The problem for Epictetus is that he is armed with nothing more than his own sense of logic, reason, and experientialism as he endeavors to find "truth." In the end, he fails to supply any real benchmark for judging one's affections rightly. Such citations as these pose a problem for Lewis, especially when one bothers to divine the original meanings of such statements. As Lewis assembles his Tao with the puzzle pieces of such "truth," the careful reader is often left with more questions than answers, especially when one bothers to read the sources. When Epictetus, Juvenal, Cicero, or Confucius speak of creation, nature, evil, and justice, each writer is informed by his own distinctive philosophy. Thus, the lexical realities behind Lewis' assembled Tao become even more complex when carefully considered. As a result of this, Lewis gives his readers a dangerous sense of license in the matter of seeking out "truth" from secularism and false religion. In the modern day, we find this same form of thinking in many churches that are becoming involved in things like Yoga and mystic meditation, under the assumption that such practices coincide with Christian faith. Such an assumption as this requires a shallow understanding of biblical theology, as well as an illiteracy of the very eastern mysticism from which they glean such practices. Throughout history many faithful Christians died in order to pass along God's revealed word to future generations. God’s word is a sacred trust. Such a precious treasure of genuine truth is that which transcends the mere philosophies of men, therefore, it must never be lumped into a common heap of worthless sayings by fallen men. Or as the Apostle Paul said:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5: 1. And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4. and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5. so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Lewis' Tao is a disgrace. His failures in The Abolition of Man could have been rectified had he started with the absolute and eternal standard of God's Word from the beginning of his arguments. Had he done this, he would not have been touting the Chinese Tao (or some reconstruction of it), but would have instead heralded a real foundation on which others could truly stand.


[1] The Analects [or Lunyu] refers to the collection of writings and sayings of Confucius.