Monday, December 31, 2012

Bethlehem - Traditional?

Here’s an incident which occurred on Christmas Day that I think demonstrates the clever and crafty way that the media promotes secular humanism and at the same time denigrates Christianity.
CBS News, during their morning fluff programming, ran a piece on tourism in Bethlehem (no, not PA). The female commentator/host, when attempting to describe the significance of Bethlehem, referred to it as the “traditional birthplace of Jesus.”
Well, sweetheart (and CBS), I’ve got bad news for you. There’s nothing “traditional” about it. It’s a fact – a historically accurate fact. How do I know this? Well, there are two reasons not necessarily in proper order:
First, I took a highly scientific poll on Facebook and each person that responded correctly identified the birthplace of Jesus and …
Second, each knew exactly how they knew the correct answer.
And the number one answer is …
The Bible!
Uh-oh, does this mean that CBS and its cute little spokeswoman were trying to influence the thinking of the American people? Of course, it does.
The moral of the story: Be wary of what you listen to.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: Ruth, From Bitter To Sweet

I think it could be accurately stated that the book of Ruth is often overlooked by many Christians. There’s just too much other exciting “stuff” in the Bible – Revelation, Genesis, and Acts for example. It is short (just a mere four chapters); it is hard to find amidst sixty-five other books (right between Judges and 1 Samuel); and it follows one of the more ominous statements in the Bible, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (ESV)

I think it could also be accurately stated that the book of Ruth is a pivotal point in the story of salvation and, with a little prayer a spiritual digging, provides us with a wealth of practical knowledge. To help us with the spiritual excavation is Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet by Dr. John Currid.

Dr. Currid is the Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. He is the author of nine other commentaries. Yet, despite being of the scholarly bent, he has provided us with a highly worthwhile commentary on the book of Ruth that is focused on providing Christians with a practical view of this inspiring story. Dr. Currid actually encourages us to take a deeper look at the person of Ruth.

The structure of the book is simple: It is a verse-by-verse commentary. However, it is not technical. Yes, there are a few Hebrew language points included in the commentary, but they are not meant to impress. They provide us with valuable insight for a complete understanding of the text.

With an eye toward practical application, Dr. Currid includes a section entitled “Points to Ponder” at the end of each chapter. This is where he encourages us to think a bit about what we have just studied and provide some relevance to our lives.

Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet will be excellent for personal study, but I think its greatest use will be for Sunday School classes where this wonderful bok can be introduced to all Christians.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: Rebels Rescued

Let’s face it; theology is a controversial subject even just within Protestant circles. Of course, with the controversy comes a bit of verbal sparring. And if one is going to “mix it up” a bit with the opposition, it is useful to know what the point of view of the opposition will be.
Enter Rebels Rescued to provide information from the reformed side of theology. The book is written by Brian Cosby, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) who serves as Pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church on Signal Mountain, TN. He has several earned degrees from reformed theological seminaries.
Cosby has provided us with a neat and concise summary of reformed theology. Have no fear; this is not a thick theological textbook. It’s slim with big print and covers only 103 pages. It’s a perfect basic primer for Reformed theology. There is little detail here and that was not Cosby’s intention.
Yet, despite its diminutive size, it does contain all the major points of what reformed theologians preach and teach. In fact at the very beginning of the book, Cosby summarizes reformed theology for us in ten expressions: The first five are what is often called the “Five Solas…” The second five are organized by the acrostic TULIP, or what has been called the “Five Points of Calvinism.” Immediately you know where you’re going in this book. He then takes these ten points and provides further theological detail in the remaining eight chapters. In a short time you'll get a grasp of what Reformed Theology is all about.
Whether or not you are in sympathy with reformed theology, Rebels Rescued is an excellent simple and fast read to peel back a layer of reformed theology.
Get the book, read it and keep it on your shelf for ready reference.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: The Church in an Age of Crisis

The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity
I happened to finish this book on the night of the national election. Perhaps that is a bit of coincidence; perhaps a bit of irony. Nevertheless, this book seems to hit right at the bottom line of the direction the country is going. In a nutshell the premise of Dr. James Emery White’s latest volume can be captured in the well-known phrase, “The times, they are achangin’.”
Dr. White is the founder of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC. “Meck,” as it is fondly known, is considered to be one of the fastest-growing church starts in the United States. Dr. White is the author of several other books – Rethinking the Church and What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. He is also the author of the popular conservative blog Church & Culture.
In this volume Dr. White confronts virtually every cultural and social stigma that plagues the cause of Christ in a culture that is rapidly losing its moral values. There may be a lone cockroach somewhere in a dark corner that he fails to squash, but that may be only because it has failed to raise its ugly head.
The book is efficiently organized into five categories – Faith, Mindset, Marriage and Family, Media and Technology, and Mission – with five subcategories pertaining to each. Each of these subcategories has an interest-catching title that makes you want to discover what lies within. The volume is obviously highly researched and well thought through. I have always enjoyed Dr. White’s writing style. It is fast-paced and accordingly a quick and lively read.
But this is not a book that one would want to “skim” through. Each chapter must be read, digested and reflected upon. Dr. White hits hard in the very first chapter, “A Post-Christian America.” Even the title gets your attention. In it he documents the rise of secularism and how it affects our moral values.
In the section on Mindset, Dr. White has a chapter entitled “The New American Dream.” He seems to sum it up in one sentence, “Opportunity is very different than entitlement.” Be sure to read that chapter for the details.
Also under Mindset is a chapter entitled “Forgetting How to Blush.” It deals with truth – the truth. He sums it up with one powerful statement, “What lies at the heart of a culture that no longer knows how to blush is a culture that no longer knows the truth,” and then leads us to Romans 1.24-25.
In Media and Technology there is a chapter “Is Google God?” Dr. White argues that true wisdom has faded to a few million page hits on Google. “…wisdom can’t be googled.” If you think technology is the answer, you’ll want to stop to meditate here.
The final five chapters under the heading of Mission are not only a must read for all believers, but also a definitive challenge. It is a challenge to all Christians to defend the faith and spread the faith – before it is too late.
This is a book that should be in the top of every reading list for every believer. It has been described as a “wake-up call,” but I believe it is more than that. It is a stern and dire warning, not just to believers, but to all Americans who care about their country.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for review and the thoughts and opinions of this review are entirely my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Character and the VP Debate

Those of us here at the busy offices of Eye On Christianity have a policy: Since this is a blog about Christianity (religion), we do not mix religion and politics unless, well, unless the politician mixes religion and politics. Then, all is fair. So when Martha “Dearest” raised the question of abortion last night in the VP Debate, religion and politics became a fair mix.
The answers by both men revealed a lot about their character. You can say what you want about their policies, foreign or domestic, it doesn’t really matter. There will always be differences. A Donkey and an Elephant will never see eye-to-eye. What matters is how they approach the job and that is revealed by their character.
Now bear in mind that both men are Catholic and both profess to be “practicing” Catholics – whatever that is. In fact, VP Biden made sure everyone knew that. “I’m a practicing Catholic,” was his statement
Ryan went first when the question of abortion came up. He said his faith influences his beliefs and actions. He went into a short discussion of how he believed life begins at conception and then a heart-warming story about his first child. In short, what we saw here was a man who lives his faith. What he believes about God and the Bible is transferred into all facets of his life.
VP Biden went next and echoed Ryan’s statement about life beginning at conception. That’s his belief too. If he had stopped there, there would be no further discussion. Now he had to justify his support of abortion. The qualifier came next. The VP doesn’t want to impose his views on anyone else. What does that mean? It’s simple: I have my views, but I’m not going to live them out in public. In other words my faith does not influence my actions.
What this attitude does is relegate faith to being a convenient prop in the journey of life. It says, if this aspect of my faith is convenient for me in my life, then I’ll adopt it. If it looks like it might cost me something, I’ll dump it.
That, my friends, is moral relativism – see Judges 21.25.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Paul Harvey the Prophet?

Anyone who has been around for a while has probably heard or read this, but it is always worth a repeat performance. It's informative and, quite frankly, just a bit scary.

This speech was broadcast by legendary ABC Radio commentator Paul Harvey on April 3, 1965:
If I were the Devil . . . I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would of course, want to engulf the whole earth in darkness. I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, so I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.”   To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”.  In the ears of the young marrieds, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington” . . .
If I were the devil, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull an uninteresting. I’d threaten T.V. with dirtier movies and vice versa. And then, if I were the devil, I’d get organized. I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing and less work, because idle hands usually work for me. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. And I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions . . . let those run wild. I would designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts in the land and I would get preachers to say “she’s right.” With flattery and promises of power, I could get the courts to rule what I construe as against God and in favor of pornography, and thus, I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them.
If I were Satan, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And then, my police state would force everybody back to work. Then, I could separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave camps. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.
Paul Harvey, Good Day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Theological Dung & Integrity

Everybody that can spell Bible is talking the opportunity to comment on a cellphone-size scrap of paper written in a language (Coptic) that about 17 people in the U.S. can translate. Yes, this cynical entry is referring to the “Jesus – Wife” thing.
Let’s just get this straight from the start, “It is dung.” It might be theological dung or scholarly dung, but it’s still the same stuff.  We really shouldn’t be wasting our time with this trying to explain why it is dung. All of our scholars in the Ivory Towers should know this.

The bad part about all of this is that when you start playing with this stuff, you get it all over you and it’s hard to get off. Now I’m not saying it should be left alone. It certainly needs to be identified for what it is, however, the religious world is all atwitter (sorry for that) over this controversy.

So, not wanting to be left out of this flap, I’ll sum it up for you in a big nutshell.

Some professor of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School (same university that gave us our current President) translated a 4th century papyrus that says something about Jesus and wife on it. The problem is even the professor says there are questions about the papyrus. The bigger problem is Harvard Divinity School says it will still publish the prof’s paper in January in the Harvard Theological Review.

Talk about a lack of integrity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

“Git ‘er dun,” SBCEC

My good friends from the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (SBCEC) have been meeting this week. I guess if you have a committee, you have to meet occasionally. This meeting produced the following headline Tweet of the week – so far. It came from the Baptist Press - @baptistpress.
Frank Page, president of the SBCEC, said, “Git ‘er dun,” while exhorting Southern Baptists to heed the call of God to accomplish the Great Commission. (You can dig that out of your Bible here – Matthew 28.19-20) Well, he actually said, “Get it done,” but it has a better ring when translated into Larry the Cable Guy southern speak.
All that is quite commendable, however, when I visited the webpage to read the report - Baptist Press – I got a little concerned. You see, according to the report, there are apparently over 1,200 missionaries ready to go to the field but no money. Sounds like the milk bottle is clogged at the top to me.
So that got me to thinking. What if the Executive Committee didn’t all go to Nashville for a good old southern get together? You see, there are 83 representatives on the SBCEC (got that number from the website) and I would imagine that most are in Nashville for this meeting. That’s got to be expensive.
What if they all met via one of those fancy computer video conference thingys? Think how much money that would save. Perhaps that money could spring a couple of those missionaries from the milk bottle.
Just keeping my eye on Christianity.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Conflict of Interest?

This will be short.  I would like to know if anyone else detects a conflict between the reports on these two websites.
Exhibit A is the following:  There should be no real problem here. After all President Obama spent the better part of 20 years listening to and absorbing the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
For Exhibit B we present this: This is the DNC platform which President Obama has whole-heartedly endorsed. It is typical of the progressive movement with the United States.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Little Bit More on Religious Liberty

The subject of religous liberty has begun to weigh heavily on my mind lately. As the current President and his administration slowly and subtly begin to chip away at our religous liberties, the burden on all Christian becomes heavier.

So as we think about this subject in greater depth, let's start off by going to this link