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I came across this article on CNN (there’s a corresponding video as well). The article is about how young evangelicals represent an important swing-voting bloc and they are not a lock to vote republican as their parents were. The picture above is of Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution (which I’ve read) and Jesus For President (which I haven’t read). I don’t agree with everything Claiborne says, but I appreciate his wake up call to evangelicals to articulate a more holistic political policy that reflects the heart of Jesus.

I thought these lines from the article were interesting: “Their feet are firmly planted on issues dear to both parties. Traditional family values are, as they have been in the past, an important issue. But these voters say views on abortion and homosexuality won’t define them in November. The environment and social justice are moving to the forefront of their discussions.” Again, I wouldn’t associate myself with everything Claiborne articulates, but at the same time I think he’s on to something when it comes to the importance of Christians identifying themselves with Jesus and his agenda, and not too closely with the agenda of any one political party. There’s something wrong with having to decide between abortion and care for the poor, or family values and care of the environment. These are all important to God.

What are your thoughts?

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I recently reviewed Tim Keller’s chapter on hell in his book The Reason For God. He wrote a follow-up article that I thought I would link here for those of you who are interested. For an article on Keller’s approach to preaching hell that was written before his book, click here.

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I’m really looking forward to this book by Andy Crouch. It will be published in August, and soon after I’ll start reviewing it here on the blog (hopefully it won’t take me as long as Keller’s book is taking me)!

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In chapter six, “Science Has Disproved Christianity” Keller takes on the assumption held by some that evolutionary science has made belief in God unnecessary and obsolete. He says that the first reason many think science has disproved traditional religion is that most of the major faiths believe in miracles. There is widespread belief in the scientific community that miracles cannot be reconciled to a modern, rationalistic view of the world. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that there is a huge presuppostion underlying it. Keller touches on this when he writes: “It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist.” In other words, for science to claim that there can be no supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is a philosophical presuppostion and not a scientific discovery that can be proven. The methodology of science addresses natural causes; it goes beyond its boundaries when it claims that there can be no other kind of causes. The other hidden premise underlying the belief that miracles are irrational is the assumption that there can’t be a God who performs miracles. Keller comments, “If there is a Creator God, there is nothing illogical at all about the possibility of miracles.” This takes us far beyond the realm of science since the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven.

Keller distinguishes between believing in evolution as a process and embracing philosophical naturalism – the view that everything has a natural cause. He argues that when evolution is turned into an “All-encompassing Theory” we are no longer in the arena of science but of philosophy. It is assumed by many that most scientists are atheists on the grounds of their atheism. Citing Alister McGrath, a theologian with an Oxford doctorate in biophysics, Keller claims that this is inaccurate. McGrath shares from his personal experience that most of his atheist colleagues brought their assumptions about God to their science rather than basing them on their science. Their guiding philosophy of philosophical naturalism was firmly in place before they engaged in any scientific exercise.  Our presuppositions concerning what we believe about God’s existence will color the way we interpret the data.

Keller concludes by admitting that belief in miracles is difficult. He refers to the account in Matthew’s Gospel when the apostles meet the risen Jesus. We are told that some doubted. Why would this be included in the Bible unless it really happened? It should be enouraging to us because we learn that not only modern, scientific people struggle with miracles. Even the first century apostles struggled to believe. Finally, Keller speaks to the purpose of miracles. They are not random magic tricks used by God simply to impress people. Miracles performed by God are for the purpose of restoring the natural order of the world. The natural world is presently disordered and reeling from the effects of sin. God’s miraculous intervention in the world is always restorative in purpose. Miracles are fortastes of the kind of world we all want deep down inside: a world that is free of disease, hunger, pain, and death.

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I can’t embed the video, so click here to watch it. Wow, this is scary. Keep a close eye on his dance moves!

The single, “Video Killed the Radio Star” was actually released by the Buggles in 1979. However, it became the first music video to air on television in 1981 so I’m using it for our 80’s flashback. Here’s the video that started it all…

In chapter five, “How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?” Keller addresses the common objection that a loving God cannot also be a God of judgment. He argues that this objection is based on very specific, alternate beliefs. For one, he locates this objection within the context of Western individualism. He does this to show that our disdain for the idea of judgment often comes from our deep belief in personal rights. We insist that the individual is the ultimate determiner of right and wrong and that no one is in a position to condemn me for what I believe. Naturally, the teaching on divine judgment is very foreign and even offensive in this cultural milieu. For this reason Keller requests that we consider our cultural location when we are offended by the teaching on hell. The concept of God as judge is no problem for many non-Western cultures. In fact, many of these cultures find the Western objection to divine judgment odd. He therefore admonishes us not to be so quick to allow Western cultural sensibilities to be the final arbiter in judging whether Christianity is vaild or not.

Keller goes on to emphasize that the God of Christianity is a God of both love and justice, and that these are in no way at odds with one another. He argues that “all loving persons are sometimes filled with wrath, not just despite of but because of their love.” In other words, God’s wrath points us to his opposition to sin – the cancer which eats aways at his good creation. Understood in this way, God’s wrath flows from his love for what is good, beautiful and right since God himself is all of these things. Further, the fact that we were made to be in relationship with this God means that our capability to thrive, flourish, and achieve our highest potential is lost when we forsake relationship with him.

With this in mind, here’s how Keller defines hell: “Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on and on forever…it is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity.” What makes Keller’s explanation of hell so helpful is that he places it within the context of a comprehensive understanding of sin. Sin is not primarily breaking God’s laws (that is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem). Sin, most basically, is building our identity, our very lives, on anything other than God. Since we were not made to live like this, we experience personal disintegration which results ultimately in self-absorption. C.S. Lewis said this: “It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE HELL unless it is nipped in the bud.” God does not send people to hell kicking and screaming. Hell is the freely chosen destination for those who prefer to live apart from God. God exercises wrath by removing his presence from them and abandoning them to themselves. It is a prison of eternal self-centeredness, misery, and torture. To quote Lewis again, “There are only two kinds of people – those who say ‘Thy will be done’ to God or those to whom God in the end says, ‘Thy will be done.'”

Keller brings the chapter to a close by asking where we get our notion that God is a God of love in the first place. He argues that it is not deduced by simply looking at the natural order, nor is it found in other religious texts like it is in Christianity. He suggests that the ultimate source of this idea is the Bible itself, and since the Bible claims that God is both a God of love and judgment, we shouldn’t be so fast to conclude that they are contradictory.

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Since today is Friday the 13th I wanted to go with something a little more spooky (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, everything from the 80’s is technically spooky). Unfortunately, I was unable to embed the video so if you want to experience a real thriller, you’ll have to click here. For those of you not into spooky, take on this video. Is this not one of the greatest videos of all time?

Last night Katie and I saw Wicked while on vacation in Rochester, NY. It was very entertaining; I highly recommend seeing it if you ever get the chance. Afterwards, we got a backstage tour from a friend who is a member of the cast. I definitely went home with a greater appreciation for what goes into a musical of this magnitude. Our friend was in the ensemble, but is also the understudy for Glinda, and will be playing that role in the next three shows. We missed out by one day. How’s that for timing?

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With the weather heating up this weekend, I thought I’d post two 80’s videos today at no extra charge. Grab some lemonade, sit down at your computer, and rev up your time machine. Here we go…

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