Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews
How in the world did we get here?
by Jim Witteveen 2022 / 183 pages Ten years back, anyone who’d said that cultural forces already in play would soon have our public schools teac...
Articles, Book Reviews
The RP 52 in 22 challenge
If you're a reader, there's a good chance you have a stack of books somewhere that you've really been meaning to get to. But, what with the busyness o...
Movie Reviews, Sexuality, Watch for free
In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality
Documentary 2020 / 104 minutes Rating: 8/10 One of the most serious challenges that the Christian church is currently facing is in the area of gender and sexuality. When the church holds fast to the Biblical teaching that God created us male and female, that God is the one who defines our gender, and that marriage is a sacred, lifelong bond between one man and one woman, then we are placing ourselves distinctly outside of the mainstream of our society. What's more, the challenge to the Bible's teaching on gender and sexuality comes not only from outside of the church, but also from within. Because of the importance of this issue, it is essential that Christians be prepared. First of all, we must understand what God's Word teaches about sexuality and human relationships, in order to personally stand firm on that solid foundation and not be led astray by the latest cultural trends. Secondly, we must be prepared to lovingly stand up for that teaching, in the face of often virulent opposition. Finally, we must be ready to serve, help, and love those who are struggling in this area. In a world in which abuse and disorder have affected the lives of so many, the church needs to be ready and willing to serve as a beacon of hope, a place where the healing truth of the gospel can be found. The church is where that life-giving and hope-giving message must not only be proclaimed, but also lived out! A resource that can help In His Image: Delighting in God's Plan for Gender and Sexuality is a valuable resource for Christians who need to be equipped to understand and apply the truth of Scripture in their personal lives, in their relationships, and in their interaction with our culture. This documentary was released in 2020 by the American Family Association, and is available online as well as in a DVD set, for use as a group study resource. As a full length film, this is not a shallow treatment of the issues, and it would be a worthwhile resource for several weeks' worth of small group study and discussion. The documentary features a number of personal stories, including that of Walt Heyer, who lived for eight years as a woman before having his "sex change" reversed. A number of pastors and theologians also contributed to the film, including Kevin deYoung, Sean McDowell, and James R. White. It starts with the Bible In His Image begins with a discussion of that foundational Biblical teaching, that every human being is created in the image of God. Beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve in God's image, the documentary bases everything that follows on the teaching of Scripture, emphasizing the sufficiency and the authority of God's Word. From those very important starting points, the film goes on to address other means of addressing the issues. As Robert Gagnon, Professor of New Testament Theology at Houston Baptist University, emphasizes, we begin with Scripture, we make use of philosophical reasoning and scientific evidence, and finally, we turn to personal experience. Sadly, the tendency in our culture is for personal experience to take precedence over everything else. In His Image, while using a number of personal stories that really make an impact, gets things right by focusing first and foremost on the Word of God as the ultimate source of wisdom. I highly recommend In His Image as a very powerful and useful resource that will help to strengthen Christians in their commitment to God's Word in the face of ever-increasing pressure to conform our thinking with that of the world. The message of Scripture is proclaimed boldly and without compromise. But importantly, this is done in a way that emphasizes the Good News of Jesus Christ, and how we can show genuine love for our neighbor by proclaiming, and living, that truth. You can watch the trailer for In His Image below, and see the film for free at InHisImage.movie. Rev. Jim Witteveen blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com....
Why I'm religious, not just spiritual
I was sitting in the sauna at the local aquatic centre the other day when I struck up a conversation with the man sitting opposite me. When you’re a missionary, it’s easy to turn conversations toward matters of faith, and that’s the direction this particular conversation quickly took. It wasn’t long before the man told me something about himself that I’ve heard before, many times. It’s a statement that, to be honest, makes me cringe: “I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious.” What does that mean? Well, it turns out that to this man it meant that he believed in a “higher power” of some sort, that he didn’t attend church, and didn’t have any appreciation for “organized religion,” and that he tried to live, in his words, a “moral life.” And judging from our brief conversation, he certainly did appear to be, on the surface at least, a “good person.” He looked more than a little rough around the edges – he had full tattoo sleeves on both arms, long hair and piercings, but he expressed respect for my position and the work I do, he spoke with affection about his wife and his kids, and he told me how he worked hard to take care of his family and live a good life. So why did his statement make me cringe? Why do I find myself reacting negatively whenever I hear people speaking ill of “religion,” while speaking positively about “spirituality”? Spirituality's self-made god In this case, and others like it, my reaction has much to do with the fact that a person like this is essentially fooling himself. He believes that he can be a good person (and, in the world’s eyes, he is), and he believes that “God” (whoever or whatever he, she, or it is) will accept him on that basis. When it comes right down to it, he believes that he’ll be okay with God because he has, in his mind, created a god that he can feel comfortable with – a god that doesn’t demand too much, a god that doesn’t ask for things that will take him out of his comfort zone, a god who won’t judge him. Let me put it like this by way of example: on a Sunday morning at 8:00, when you’re enjoying that pleasant drowsiness that marks the end of a good sleep after a hard week of work, when you hear the kids beginning to wind themselves up in preparation for another day of rambunctious activity, it’s a whole lot easier to be “spiritual” than it is to be “religious.” Why? Because the “spiritual” person isn’t going to have to get the kids washed, dressed, fed, and into the vehicle before the Sunday morning service. He’s not going to have to keep those same kids under control for an hour of formal worship. He’s not going to have to spend time talking to people that he may not have much in common with, people who may annoy him or get on his nerves. He’s not going to have to listen to a preacher telling him things that he may not be interested in hearing; he’s not going to have his conscience pricked by calls to repentance. But most importantly, he’s not going to hear the gospel – the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, salvation that comes to people because of God’s pure and beautiful grace, if only they trust in Him. And because of that, regardless of how good a person he is, if he continues on his “spiritual journey,” while avoiding the trappings of what is now known as “religion,” he will not be saved. So when I hear a non-Christian tell me that he or she is “spiritual,” and not “religious,” it frightens me. And in the faith landscape of North America, this kind of self-definition is becoming more and more common. Prejudice against organized religion, individualistic thinking, and lack of respect for any kind of authority, whether religious or otherwise, has led to this unfortunate development in our recent history. True religion is more than ritual Now, seemingly in response to this shift in our culture, many Christians have begun to distance themselves from any association with “religion,” and have begun to define themselves in terms of “spirituality.” One phrase, in particular, keeps on rearing its (ugly) head: “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” “Religion,” we’re told, is a negative concept, and it has to do with outward observance of rituals and behaviors, rather than the relationship that we should have with Jesus. It sounds great because we should all agree that the Christian faith isn’t simply about following the right rules. Being a true Christian means much more than going to church, making the requisite donations, attending Bible study or youth group or whatever church functions may have been organized. It is about living in a right relationship with God. The prophets of the Old Testament knew this, and they would write things like this: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). So why should we be bothered by the phrase, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship,” if the person saying it simply means that Christianity is about more than ritual and formality and outward obedience to the moral code of the Christian community? Isn’t this just an argument over semantics? But when I hear that Christianity is not a religion, I think of James 1:26 and 27. James says this: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James does not say that religion is wrong. He doesn’t say that it’s superior to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” The goal is true religion, not the absence of religion. True religion means bridling your tongue. It means visiting orphans and widows in their affliction. It means keeping oneself unstained from the world. So true religion is about much more than going through the motions; that’s clear in both the Old and New Testaments. True religion must be a religion of the heart. True religion is lived out But the fact is, it must not stop at the heart! True religion is not simply something that happens within the person. A faithful life is not a life that’s spent contemplating the right things, having the correct feeling in one’s heart. That attitude of the heart must show itself in outward observance – in seeking to live a holy life, in serving others, in speaking in a way that comports with God’s demand for pure speech. And it must show itself even in the observance of (gasp!) ritual! Sometimes people will speak of a divide that exists between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as if the Old Testament was all about ritual and observance of rules and regulations, about offering the right sacrifices in the right way at the right time, and the New Testament is all about the interior life of the person – what goes on in the heart. And so people see the Old Testament people of God as being “religious,” while New Testament Christians are called to be “spiritual.” But this is a false dichotomy. The Old Testament was never about the external divorced from the internal; the verse I quoted from Hosea proves that. And what’s more, the New Testament isn’t about the internal falsely separated from the external. As Christians, we still have rituals – repeated practices, done the same way again and again, that conform to a set standard. We have been given new rituals – the Lord’s Supper, and baptism – the sacraments. But we also participate in the old rituals – gathering together every week as a set pattern for corporate worship is a central religious ritual that we are called to honor. Ritual unexamined and done in an unthinking manner is surely a negative thing; but that doesn’t mean that ritual, the stuff that people now think of as “religious,” is negative in and of itself. Far from it! In fact, the Bible repeatedly speaks positively about these sorts of activities, and strongly encourages Christians to participate in them! True religion is communal And that brings me to my final concern about the religion/spirituality divide. As Christians, we are people who are called to live in community. As Reformed Christians, we speak about God’s covenant, and we speak of ourselves as God’s covenant people. One of my greatest concerns with pitting “religion” against “spirituality” is the individualistic focus of spirituality. “Spirituality” so often seems to be about my personal relationship with God, while “religion” is often associated with activities that involve corporate relationships – groups of people, doing the same things at the same time, together. In focusing on personal spirituality, as contrasted with organized religion, it often seems that the individual, and his or her needs and desires, becomes paramount, while the corporate aspect of our faith, which should be so central, is lost. Conclusion Our religion is not just about a personal relationship with Jesus; it is about that, to be sure, but it’s so much richer than that, so much more! John puts it this way, in the introduction to his first letter: “ That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). True religion is about the vertical (our relationship with God), but it also includes the horizontal (our relationships with one another). That is what we must strive for – not a vague, individualistic “spirituality,” but a true religion, a religion that defines all activities in our life, a religion that works itself out in love for our neighbor, especially in love for our brothers and sisters in the covenant community, based in our love for the Lord. So maybe we could work out a new motto. Say, something like this: “Christianity: not just a relationship, but a religion made up of relationships – beautiful (and challenging) relationships – with our fellow believers, based in a renewed relationship with God, through His Son Jesus Christ.” It may not be catchy, but it’s true. So let’s reclaim “religion” – a Biblical word that has been much maligned – and rejoice in it, and everything that it stands for. Rev. Witteveen is a missionary who has served the Church in Canada and now Brazil. He also blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com....
Assorted, Science - Creation/Evolution
Not all humility is humble
John Marks Templeton wanted Christians to be “humble” about the Bible and look to Science for direction. And his Foundation is handing out millions to groups trying to mesh Science with Religion. ***** Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008) is best known as the creator of the Templeton Growth Fund, an investment fund established in 1954, which made him a very wealthy man. Two years before his death in 2008, Templeton found himself in 129th place on the Sunday Times' "Rich List" of the wealthiest Brits. But Templeton was not only an investor and moneymaker; he was also well-known as a philanthropist, through the work of his charitable organization, the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1987, the $3 billion Templeton Foundation offers over $70 million worth of research grants each year. The Foundation is currently headed by Templeton's daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, and it is an important source of funding for organizations that include the BioLogos Foundation and the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. One of the Templeton Foundation's purposes is to advance what Templeton called "humility-in-theology." This was the subject of his book, published in 2000, Possibilities For Over One Hundredfold More Spiritual Information: The Humble Approach in Theology and Science. Templeton’s humility How would this 100-fold increase in spiritual knowledge happen? He thought we would get it: “…every two centuries…by encouraging people of all religions to become enthusiastic (rather than resistant) to new additional spiritual information, especially through science research, to supplement the wonderful ancient scriptures" (p. 180). "Humility" was an important word for Sir John Templeton, as can be seen from the title of this book, as well as throughout its pages. Templeton's philosophy of humility, and the way it shaped his thinking and his philanthropically efforts, is exemplified in the following extended quotations. In order to present these quotations in context, and in an effort to avoid misrepresentation of Templeton's message, I present this (rather lengthy) representative sample of his thoughts (I must note that throughout his writings, Templeton writes the word "god" without capitalizing the G, so this is not an error in transcription, and likely reflects Templeton's philosophy): 1. Man isn’t that special "Although we seem to be the most sophisticated species at present on our planet, perhaps we should not think of our place as the end of cosmogenesis. Should we resist the pride that might tempt us to think that we are the final goal of creation? Possibly, we can become servants of creation or even helpers in divine creativity. Possibly, we are a new beginning, the first creatures in the history of life on earth to participate consciously in the ongoing creative process" (p. 41). 2. Creeds restrict progress "Do theologians need to be humble and open-minded? Leaders may be tempted to think that conformity and control are required for the orderliness of religion and for faithfulness. Most religions have developed creeds, doctrines, dogmas, liturgy and hierarchies of laypeople and clergy. Order and tradition of course do help groups to live as an organization of people whose ideals are compatible and link together the generations in mutual ideals. However, because of a lack of humility, have we observed throughout the history of most religions a tendency for dogma or hierarchy to stifle progress? If the members and clergy become more humble, could they re-form dogma in a more open-minded and inquiring way as a beginning point for continual improvements?" (p. 41). 3. We should humor theologians and rely on the sciences "Let none of us have any quarrel with any theologian. Let us happily admit that his or her concepts and doctrines may be right. But let us listen most carefully to any theologian who is humble enough to admit also that he may be wrong - or at least that the door to great insights by others is not closed. Let us seek to learn from each other. Let us try to use sciences to help verify or falsify new concepts. Let us always keep trying many methods to discover over 100 fold more about divinity" (p.50). 4. We can be wrong, so we should be humble about everything "Egotism has been a major cause of many mistaken notions in the past. Egotism caused men to think that the stars and the sun revolved around them... that mankind was as old as the universe. Egotism is still our worst enemy. In fact, things are still not what they seem. Only by becoming humble can we learn more... Are those who believe only what they see pitifully self-centred and lacking in humility?" (p. 59). Humble to the point of heresy So where did this understanding of "humility" lead Sir John Templeton? To ideas such as these: "Many religious concepts come directly or indirectly from ancient scriptures. An unavoidable limitation of utilizing such texts as a total basis for contemporary faith is that they were written within a context which may no longer be appropriate for ours today. Recent sciences reveal a universe billions of times larger and older and more complex than the one conceived by the ancients. The creative challenge is to enrich understanding and appreciation for the old with a welcoming of concepts and perspectives which may represent truly new insights and creative improvements, which can leverage the power of the past into a forward-looking adventure of learning more and more about the wonders of god and his purposes through ongoing creativity. Can it be an inspiring challenge to read the Bible in this way, which can help each generation of god’s people to search for far more of divine realities than can ever be contained in the language and thought patterns of any age? Should we not be able to give a fuller and wider interpretation of divine revelation today, now that the range of our understanding of the universe has been so vastly enlarged? Why should we often try to express spiritual truths using obsolete words, limited concepts and ancient thought patterns? If some scholars think that Jesus himself wrote nothing, could this suggest that what he had to teach should not be frozen into words, even in his own age? Thus, he did not limit for future generations their range of spiritual concepts and research" (p. 47-48). Ideas have consequences. While Templeton was an elder in a Presbyterian congregation (Presbyterian Church - USA), and even sat on the Board of Princeton Theological Seminary, he did not "limit" himself to the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. His "humble approach" led him to declare, "I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian Church. I am still an enthusiastic Christian," and then to ask, "But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more." The sad fact is, however much one claims to be "an enthusiastic Christian," believing that the teachings of religions that deny Christ can be positively appropriated by a Christian makes one, for all intents and purposes, anything but. And this unfortunate truth is also clearly revealed in Templeton's book. While Templeton denied being a pantheist (one who believes that the universe is God, and God is the universe), his understanding of the nature of God can only be described as a form of panentheism, which declares that God and the universe are distinct, but that the world is "in" God. Or as Templeton wrote: "Traditional pantheism can serve a useful purpose in suggesting the co-terminacy of spirit and matter and a personal relationship between the creator and creation. But it may not be compatible with the Christian concept of a personal god vastly greater than material things and who loves all of us and numbers the hairs of our heads. Profound mutual indwelling between man and divinity may be better stated by the Unity School of Christianity, 'God is all of me: and I am a little part of him.' Such a notion implies an inseparable relationship between god and us. As even 'a little part of him,' we may realize the mutual unity of god and his creation. We may conceive that our own divinity may arise from something more profound that merely being 'god's children' or being 'made in his image'" (p. 86). True humility is submitting to God’s Word At this point, it must be said that, for all his self-proclaimed "humility," Templeton's foundational beliefs are, in Christian perspective, anything but humble. True humility is expressed in Psalm 8: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens... When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:1,3, ESV). True humility is expressed in humble submission to the LORD, the Creator, who has revealed himself clearly and completely in his Word - those "ancient Scriptures" which we humans have not outgrown, or surpassed, with all of our scientific understanding. True humility is acknowledging our origins as the direct creation of God, acknowledging the reality of the Fall into sin, and its enduring impact on humanity and all of creation, God's provision of a Way of salvation, and the fact that we can do nothing in ourselves to merit that salvation. We are created in God's image. That image has been badly marred by sin. But in Christ, that image is being restored among God's people. True humility is submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, who declared that he, and only he, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Templeton's "humility" is, at bottom, and however unwittingly, the height of human arrogance and pride in disguise. In refusing to submit to God's perfect Word, Templeton set a man on the throne in God's place. And now, through the work of his Foundation, Templeton's utopian vision for human society, based in anything but the Word of God, is continuing to be spread. Templeton’s vision looks to science to show the way Templeton foresaw a "glorious" future, and thanks to his great financial savvy, his legacy lives on. His Foundation has three billion dollars in its reserve fund, and that money is being spent to promote that legacy, with a very definite, and very long-term, goal in mind. Templeton's vision of the future is summed up in two citations in his book. He first cites Marceline Bradford: "...Millions of intellectuals the world over have become disenchanted with backward-looking religious institutions... In order to recapture the great thinking minds of the world, the clergy must turn their heads 180 degrees from past to future. With feet planted squarely in the present and eyes directed to the future, leaders can find factual bases in science for viable, solid, dynamic doctrines. For science and rationality are enemies not of religion - only of dogmatism" (p. 47). Next, he cites Ralph Wendell Burhoe, who was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1980: "It is still my bet that at several points in the next few years and decades the traditional theological and religious communities will find the scientific revelations a gold mine, and that by early in the third millennium A.D. a fantastic revitalization and universalization of religion will sweep the world. The ecumenical power will come from a universalized and credible theology and related religious practices, not from the politics of dying institutions seeking strength in pooling their weaknesses. I cannot imagine a more important bonanza for theologians and the future of religion than the information lode revealed by the scientific community... It provides us with a clear connection between human values, including our highest religious values, and the cosmic scheme of things. My prophecy, then, is that God talk, talk about the supreme determiner of human destiny, will in the next century increasingly be fostered by the scientific community" (p. 103). His favorite charities In the conclusion of his book, Templeton lists a number of the "founder's favorite charities," which also provides real insight into Templeton's agenda. Some we might find agreeable. He is interested in the promotion of entrepreneurship, and the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets. Others included supporting research and publications in genetics; supporting education and other help in voluntary family planning; supporting character development research, and also: "Supporting the publication and dissemination throughout the world of the religious teachings of the Unity School of Christianity of Unity Village, the Association of Unity Churches and of closely similar organizations, provided that major support for such organizations shall continue only so long as the Trustees of the Foundation... determine that such organizations adhere to the concepts of: usually pioneering in religion and theology with little restrictive creed, usually teaching that god may be all of reality and man only a tiny part of god and generally accentuating the positive ideas and attitudes and avoiding the negative" (p. 183). With friends like these Such were the goals of Sir John Marks Templeton, and such are the goals of his foundation. A serious examination of Templeton's guiding philosophy, and the philosophy of the Templeton Foundation, in the light of Scriptural principles, should lead us to a sense of genuine concern about any organization that the Foundation chooses to support financially. And it should lead us to question the ultimate motivation behind this support, and the fruits that this foundation is bearing in the numerous organizations that receive its funding. "The Humble Approach" of Sir John Marks Templeton has absolutely nothing in common with the genuinely humble approach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Templeton’s utopian vision has nothing in common with the eschatological vision of God's Word. Follow the money Now, those who receive large amounts of financial support from the Templeton Foundation may do so "with no strings attached," and perhaps some recipients may be unaware of the totality of the Foundation's founder's spiritual vision. But could it be that they are unwitting victims of a larger, and more nefarious, agenda, which has at its base a desire to proclaim a different gospel, by denying the explicit teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims? We are warned against keeping company with the wicked (1 Cor. 15:33, Psalm 1:1, Prov. 13:20) and it doesn’t seem that much of an extension to think how this applies to accepting funding from a group with a wicked agenda. Science, science, and more science A little research shows the incredible reach that the Foundation's money has. And an examination of the nature of the grants that the Foundation provides, as well as the purpose behind these grants, is telling indeed. One of the Foundation's main funding areas is "public engagement," and a representative sample of grants (ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars) clearly shows the Foundation's goals. Here is a small sample of grants that have been made over the past three years: Vatican Observatory Foundation - "Building a bridge between faith and astronomy" John Carroll University - "Integrating science into college and pre-theology programs in U.S. Roman Catholic seminaries" Union Theological Seminary - "Project to develop a spiritual worldview compatible with and informed by science" Cambridge Muslim College - "Developing religious leaders with scientific awareness" American Association for the Advancement of Science - "Engaging scientists in the science and religion dialogue" Luther Seminary - "Science for youth ministry: The plausibility of transcendence" Christianity Today - "Building an audience for science and faith" Other grants have been made to train Roman Catholic teachers and preachers to engage the dialogue between science and religion, to promote science engagement in rabbinic training, and to measure science engagement in Roman Catholic high schools and seminaries. Further investigation in the nature and purpose of these grants reveals a common thread. For example, La Jolla Presbyterian Church received a grant from the Templeton Foundation for a program that "seeks to engage young adults (college and post-graduate) in a discussion of science and faith with leading scientists who are Christians." The McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University received a $1.675 million grant for their Science and Religion Initiative, which "seeks to frame science education within the broader context of Catholic theology." According to the Institute's director, "The perceived conflict between science and religion is one of the main reasons young people say they leave the Catholic church... this grant allows us to address this misperceptions and help high school teachers create pedagogues that show that science and religion - far from being incompatible - are partners in the search for truth." Multnomah Biblical Seminary has received a Templeton grant (as well as a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, itself supported by the Templeton Foundation), to "equip pastoral studies majors to become more effective in engaging our scientific age." Among a number of other Christian theologians, Niels Henrik Gregersen, professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen, received a Templeton research grant for his work on the constructive interface between science and religion. Another recent recipient of the Templeton Foundation's largesse is Regent College in Vancouver, which this year received a grant funding a program called "Re-faithing Science at Regent College." The program will seek, over the next two years, to address this question: "How can the relationship between Christian faith and scientific endeavour be conceptualized and communicated in a way that effectively engages diverse audiences?" The detailed description of this particular grant on the Templeton Foundation website is insightful: "Sir John Templeton recognized that science and spirituality should be neither sealed in separate boxes nor positioned at opposite ends of a battlefield, yet even a cursory glance at contemporary culture reveals that the supposed incompatibility and even hostility between faith and science is something of a truism in much of Western society. Regent College believes that this widespread perception is a significant threat to the development of theology and science alike, as well as to the spiritual and intellectual flourishing of countless individuals." So, utilizing Templeton's funds, Regent College's project team will "propose an alternative model for the relationship between faith and science: mutual coinherence, or existence within one another." Their goal is to communicate this proposal "in an accessible form" that will encourage and enable further exploration of science, theology, and their interaction, using academic publications, public lectures, graduate-level courses, and an online presence, to "target different audiences with the same basic narrative, a story of one world, created by one God, who can be known and worshipped through both theology and science - and who is best known and best worshipped when theology and science work together." Science in the driver’s seat What can we learn from all of this? If we were unaware of the foundational principles behind the Templeton Foundation, perhaps all of this would appear to be somewhat innocuous. After all, who could argue against Christians being involved in the sciences? Why oppose efforts aimed at developing "scientific awareness"? Certainly we shouldn't want to bury our heads in the sand, and ignore what the sciences have to offer, as if science were somehow "off-limits" to the faithful Christian, should we? But remember this important fact: the Templeton Foundation has a very clear agenda – a utopian, panentheistic philosophy that has an ecumenical goal of uniting the religions of the world around a synthesis of "science" and religion, with "science" seated firmly in the driver's seat in this relationship. This agenda is being promoted by the lavish dispersal of funds to Islamic, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other religious organizations, including, sadly, many evangelical Christian groups, many of which are making their influence felt in Reformed churches as well. Standing in Templeton’s way Two popular sayings come to mind: "Follow the money," and "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The money trail leads us to Sir John Marks Templeton. And clearly, Templeton's agenda is making headway in many places, although it is also clear that this agenda faces many obstacles. 1. Reluctance among religious leaders First of all, there is reluctance to accept the premises of this movement among religious organizations, as can be seen from the numerous grants being made to support efforts to decrease the resistance of religious leaders and members of religious groups, including evangelical Christians, to this religious/scientific paradigm. But that reluctance is being overcome, as the Templeton agenda makes inroads through a judicious use of funding. Efforts to reach youth, and those who teach the young, are effective means of dissemination for any propaganda effort, whether political, cultural, or religious in nature. Young people are more easily influenced, and they are most definitely being targeted, in a well-funded, concerted effort. 2. Reluctance among unbelieving scientists But there is also resistance from the other side - from unbelieving scientists who reject all religion, any idea of transcendence, and the idea that anything exists beyond the physical. This group is also being addressed by the outreach efforts of the Templeton Foundation, as it works toward fulfilling its long-term goals. Conclusion A spiritual war is being waged against God's people, using that ancient question, "Has God really said?" This is not novel; every generation of Christians faces this reality, in different ways at different times in history. The battle is being played out in a world in which money talks, and a lot of money talks loudly. We cannot afford to be naive on this issue. That’s why we need to be on our guard against the influence of the Templeton Foundation's money, even if it's being spent by organizations that may have been respected among us. That money is being spent to promote an agenda that is radically different from the agenda of God's kingdom. Our allegiance to the One True God must lead us to reject alliances with organizations like the Templeton Foundation, whose agenda is completely incompatible with that of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rev. Jim Witteveen also blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com where this article first appeared in two parts....
Some thoughts on Christian Contemporary music
I’ve loved music all my life, so when I was approached to write about music, I was happy to oblige. I grew up listening to music at home, from classical music, to the marches of John Philip Sousa, to Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys, and finally to some of the giants of country music like Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rodgers, and Hank Snow. Those are some of the names I remember from my dad’s record collection. My taste in music has broadened over the years; while I’ve largely abandoned the world of popular music (which more than occasionally offends my Christian sensibilities, but almost always bores me), over the years I’ve found myself exploring the vast musical treasures that can be found in the worlds of jazz, classical, blues, world music, and elsewhere. But when it comes to popular Christian music, Black Gospel music from the 1950s and 60s used to be about as contemporary as I would get. Up until very recently, I’ve found myself repeatedly disappointed, and to be frank, disturbed, by the quality of the music that you’ll hear on Christian Contemporary radio. Why? Well, whereas from the 1930s to about the 1960s it was the music of the church that had a profound influence on the secular music industry, in the 1970s the trend was reversed. The music of the church once exerted a profound influence on the world. But in the past three decades, Christian music has done little more than imitate trends in popular music, rather than shaping them. Where’s the meat? The content of a lot of Christian Contemporary music is highly individualistic and largely divorced from the greater context of Scripture, and this poses a major problem when it comes to singing about the Lord Jesus. On a corporate level – as the body, the Church – we know and confess that the Lord Jesus has taken the Church to be His bride. The Church is the beloved of the Lord, and as a body, we live in this relationship of love with Him. He is the ultimate Husband, who gives His life for His Bride (Ephesians 5:25). The problem comes about when the corporate aspects of this relationship are forgotten, when the message becomes all about me, and my relationship with Jesus. What happens when Christian musicians do this? They go from praising the Lord Jesus, the Husband of His church, to singing a sanctified love song to Jesus, the greatest boyfriend you could ever imagine. Here’s a recent example, by Jamie Grace, called “Hold me”: Oo, I love the way you hold me, By my side you’ll always be You take each and every day, Make it special in some way. I love the way you hold me, In your arms I’ll always be You take each and every day, Make it special in some way I love you more than the words in my brain can express. I can’t imagine even loving you less. Lord, I love the way you hold me. There are a couple of problems with songs like this one, but the most serious one is this: apart from the word “Lord” in the final line of the chorus, the lyrics to this song are virtually indistinguishable from any other love song ever recorded. The song has little in the way of actual content; it’s solely about a feeling of being loved – but there’s so much missing! What’s the basis of this love? What’s the content of this love? What’s the context of this love? What kind of love is this anyway? As I mentioned earlier, until recently I have pretty much ignored Christian Contemporary music. Musically I find much of it boring, lacking in originality, pre-packaged, mass-marketed, appealing to the lowest common denominator. Lyrically, even where there isn’t overt false teaching, the messages are often shallow, effeminate, and cringe-inducing, to say the least. There are some gems out there, if you’re willing to look diligently enough. But like all “art” that’s produced to appeal to a mass market, there is all too often a tendency to tread worn paths, to follow trends, to “dumb it down.” In short, the motto that rules Contemporary Christian music too often seems to be, “Do what works,” and not necessarily, “Do what’s right.” A change is happening But over the past year, a couple of young men in my congregation have introduced me to another type of Contemporary Christian music; I hadn’t realized that this genre of music even existed, but when it was introduced to me, I found myself devouring it. And that music came from a surprising source – the American hip-hop culture. I was introduced to the music of men like Lecrae, Shai Linne, Tedashii, Timothy Brindle, Trip Lee, and Sho Baraka. And the more I listened to their songs, the more impressed I became. I had avoided Hip-hop and Rap music, since, as a genre, so much of its message is totally opposed to the Christian faith. When I thought of Rap music, I thought of musicians who reveled in wickedness, boasted of evil, and extolled the virtues of a godless lifestyle. But imagine my surprise when I heard songs like this one, “All-Consuming Fire,” from Shai Linne’s latest album, The Attributes of God: The Lord is speaking through His prophecies and all of His commands Unequalled in His qualities, He’s awesome and He’s grand He’s regal and His policies are gloriously planned He’s peeping the idolatry that’s all over the land How people in society ignore the Son of Man By seeking their autonomy, they are caught in a trance But He will put a stop to the evil and apostasy The devious hypocrisy, the fallenness of man We’re teaching you theology so y’all can understand According to His plans: the slaughter of the damned Unspeakable reality to fall into His hands No sequels, it’s finality and awful is the span No weeping or apologies, no sneakiness or bribery will keep the Lord from honoring His law and its demands We’re pieces of His pottery – He causes us to stand His people see Him properly – exalted is the Lamb! That’s just one example, but it’s indicative of Shai Linne’s lyrical output. It’s God-centered. It’s honest. It doesn’t shy away from the “hard truths” that the Christian message is filled with. It’s unashamedly theological, it’s got real depth to it, and it speaks prophetically to a world that needs to hear this message. Simply put, I would not hesitate to recommend any one of Shai Linne’s albums to Reformed, Christian people, young or old. Musically speaking, the style may not be your cup of tea; but there’s no denying the quality of the production, the originality of the musical accompaniment, and the centrality of God’s glory to the message of the lyrics. This is music that glorifies God and edifies His people. This first appeared under the title “Some thoughts on Contemporary Christian Music (Part 1).” Rev. Witteveen is a missionary who has served the Church in Canada and now Brazil....