Category Archives: Christian

Wild at Heart. John Eldredge.

Regular readers will know that I have mentioned this book a lot over the past couple of months, as it has lead me to read other books and watch some movies.  We did this as a men’s study at church, and wrapped up a while back, but I haven’t had a chance to write much on it yet.  I really could write a lot about this book, and I had a ton of dog-eared pages to put in quotes, but I don’t think I will.   Instead, I will make an interesting observation, and then list who I think should read this book.

Observation:

It was very interesting, but many of the men in our group did not like this book at all at the beginning, but loved it by the end.  For me, I loved it from the beginning  — in fact I had trouble not reading it all in a day or two.  I did not want to do that as I wanted to read a chapter at a time to match up with our study schedule.   I was instanly drawn into the outdoor adventure that Eldridge says all men desire.  And any one that knows me knows I love the outdoors:  hiking, back packing, mountain biking, camping, orienteering, and adventure racing.  But it wasn’t just that.  There were phrases like “the high country of the soul” that spoke to me — because “the high country of the mind” is used throughout Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of my all time favorites.  And there was the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote on critics and the arena that seemed to come at me from many different sources all at the same time.  And some of my favorite quotes from others like Thoreau…

Anyway, I would be interested in hearing from others who have read this to see if they were instantly hooked or if it took a while, and why you think that was so for you.

Who should read it:

  • All Christian men (from mid teens all the way up!)
  • Any man that has “spiritual longings” (or questions) whether Christian or not
  • Any wife of a man that reads it (or better yet, after the husband has read it, read it together as a couple)

Kelly and I just started reading it together, and I look forward to continuing that!

One final point… Take the time to get the accompanying “Field Manual” and work through the questions in there.  You will get much more out of it if you do that.

Questions From Riley

[ I've decided to make this a new category, as the questions are pretty fascinating, and are sometimes deep enough that I need to spend time myself grappling with them before I give Riley an answer! ]

Recently, out of the blue:

“Did God make Himself?”

I kind of hate to admit it, but that was about the end of it at the time. It was a non sequitur as we weren’t talking of God or anything theological at all, and she didn’t really push it at the time. But I “flagged” it (by sending myself an email on my Blackberry) to follow up on.

I was amazed that a 5 year old would ask this question, but after digging around online, I did find at least one other 5 year old has asked a similar question here. I am not crazy about the answer the poster gives to the child, but it really is a hard one to answer at any level that someone that young will comprehend.

I consulted my Systematic Theology book, but found nothing relevant under the nature of God. Maybe I’m not looking up the right words. So I turned to the Internet and used searches like “did God make Himself” and “Where did God come from.”

I found answers like the following from this page:

The question is tricky because it sneaks in the false assumption that God came from somewhere and then asks where that might be. The answer is that the question does not even make sense. It is like asking, “What does blue smell like?” Blue is not in the category of things that have odor, so the question itself is flawed. In the same way, God is not in the category of things that are created, or come into existence, or are caused. God is uncaused and uncreated – He simply exists.

How do we know this? Well, we know that from nothing, nothing comes. So if there was ever a time when there was absolutely nothing in existence then nothing would have ever come to exist. But things do exist. Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had to have always been existing. That ever-existing thing is what we call God.

I’m not exactly crazy about that answer, though, which is just a variation of the cosmological argument, and in my mind leaves something to be desired.

The simple answer for a 5 year old is that “God has always existed,” and that seems to be the sentiment of most Christian Theologins as well. The following answer from this page is the best answer I found:

We can only partially comprehend the notion of God’s existence. To do so, we must use human concepts to speak of God: “without beginning or end”; “eternal”; “infinite”, etc. The Bible says that He has always existed: ” . . . even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). And, “Your throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting” (Psalm 93:2). Quite simply, God has no beginning and no end. So, where did God come from? He didn’t. He always was.
To us, the notion of time is linear. One second follows the next, one minute is after another. We get older, not younger and we cannot repeat the minutes that have passed us by. We have all seen the time lines on charts: early time is on the left and later time is on the right. We see nations, people’s lives, and plans mapped out on straight lines from left to right. We see a beginning and an end. But God is “beyond the chart.” He has no beginning or end. He simply has always been.
Also, physics has shown that time is a property that is the result of the existence of matter. Time exists when matter exists. Time has even been called the fourth dimension. But God is not matter. In fact, God created matter. He created the universe. So, time began when God created the universe. Before that, God was simply existing and time had no meaning (except conceptually), no relation to Him. Therefore, to ask where God came from is to ask a question that cannot really be applied to God in the first place. Because time has no meaning with God in relation to who He is, eternity is also not something that can be absolutely related to God. God is even beyond eternity.
Eternity is a term that we finite creatures use to express the concept of something that has no end — and/or no beginning. Since God has no beginning or end, He has no beginning. This is because He is outside of time.

And I don’t have a problem with that. It is the same feeling I have towards the Trinity (and other deep issues)… There are certain things that we can not understand with our limited human minds. If I could box up God and put him on a shelf and fully understand him, where would I need faith, or where would the dependence come from? I want a God that is bigger than me and my understanding.

Now, try explaining that to a 5 year old!

Another quote…

Saw this on another blog, and don’t want to forget it. So keeping it here will help me easily find it again in the future when I need it. :-)

Proselytism and evangelism are not the same thing. To proselytize is to convert somebody else to our opinions and culture, and to squeeze him into our mould; to evangelize is to proclaim God’s good news about Jesus Christ to the end that people will believe in him, find life in him and ultimately be conformed to his image, not ours. The motive behind proselytism is concern for the spread of our own little empire; the motive behind evangelism is concern for the true welfare of men and thereby for the name, kingdom, will and glory of God

- John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (173, 174)

C.S. Lewis quote

Saw this on another blog:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” — C.S. Lewis

This goes along well with the method of teaching used in Classical Christian education (the type of school we are starting), in which you can not separate a Worldview (teacher’s and student’s) from the material being taught.

Questions from a 5 Year Old

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We were driving home from Easter Dinner the other night, and Riley started asking questions… Her most common questions these days are “how do they make XYZ” (to which she quickly throws in “don’t say in a factory!” :-/ ) and “why…?” Why to just about anything.

Somewhat out of the blue came the following two questions:

1) Who did Cain and Able marry?

2) Why did God tell Adam and Eve not to eat the apple… And then as the discussion went on, Why did God put the tree there anyway?

Now #1 seems to be a pretty common question — it showed up in Carl Sagan’s book and movie “Contact,” for example, though I am not so sure how many 5 year olds ask it!. I actually had to go out and do some reading about it as I wasn’t sure of the exact answer, and rather than try to make something up, I’d much rather tell Riley that I’m not sure but I will try to find out.

Some folks may say God had already put other people (other in the sense of Adam and Eve not being their parents) outside of the Garden of Eden, though that is certainly not the “conservative” answer. Most would point out that after the Bible mentions Cain and Able, it goes on to mention Adam and Eve also gave birth to Seth (Gen 4:25), and later that he had “other sons and daughters” (Gen 5:3). The order of things may be a bit muddled as the verses are in the order of Adam and Eve giving birth to Cain, then Able, and then Seth, but that is not necessarily their true birth order. No dates or times are mentioned other then Seth being born when Adam was 130. And even if that is the true birth order, the order of Able’s murder at the hand of Cain and then Cain marrying may be such that Seth and the other sons and daughters were born before the murder and subsequent expulsion of Cain from Eden… At any rate, the answer is Cain married (one of) his sisters… Further explanations as to why that was ok back then vs. why it would not be now are mostly centered around the purity of the gene pull then vs. the mutations since, and the problems such a brother/sister marriage and subsequent children would probably yield due to the current gene pool. But that part is beyond the answer I would give to Riley! :-)

#2 is a bit harder, and there are a lot of angles to look at it… The 1st part — why did God tell them not to eat the apple — is somewhat easier, though framing any answer for a 5 year old is tough… We put it this way: God puts in an order and outlines the consequences of not following it. Then the choice is up to Adam and Eve. You can talk about love and obedience, and you can talk about consequences for disobeying…

But the 2nd part is harder… Why did God put it there to begin with? I don’t really know the answer, and I tried to be honest and tell Riley that. Was it a test? A test God knew they would fail? Was he deliberately setting them up for failure? (Those are my line of questions based on her questions, not ones she actually asked!)

Now that I have had time to think about it, I would answer as follows, though this is not really an answer for a 5 year old. (And this is somewhat off the cuff as I have not done any research into any theological explanations…) But basically, if Adam and Eve were free to do whatever they wanted in the Garden, and there was nothing they could do wrong, there would never be a true option of choice. God wanted us to have free will, so he had to put (at least) one thing in the Garden that gave them a choice of obeying or disobeying Him.

Framing this to be personally relevant to a 5 year old, I think I would put it as follows. As parents, we are trying to raise you so that some day when you are on your own, you will be able to make right choices without us. So as you grow up and mature, we will give you more freedom, and therefore more chances to make decisions without us (i.e. to choose). We hope that everything we have done to date has led you to the place where you will make the right choices. We do know that you won’t be perfect and that you will make some mistakes, but that we will be here for you.

If anyone has any real theological answers from Bible commentaries, etc., please let me know. I’ll try to find some time to look into it further as well.

The Moon Has No Light of Its Own

I saw this in a “worldview” magazine and liked it:

Those who reject special revelation are like the Irishman who preferred the moon to the sun, because the sun shines in the day-time when there is no need of it, while the moon shines in the night time; so these moralists, shining by the by the borrowed, reflected light of Christianity, think the have no need of the sun, from whose radiance they get their pale moonlight.

Broken vs. Unbroken People

I love to listen to Pastor Bob Coy’s Acitve Word podcasts when I travel, and recently he had the following to say about broken vs. unbroken people that he referenced from a Moody’s Magazine article.

It seemed worthy of posting here so I can reference it in the future.

Prideful and Unbroken Person Humble and Broken Person
focuses on the failures of others overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need
maintains control (has to be their way) surrenders control and looks for the best way
feels confident in how much they know humbled by how much they have to learn
rebelious towards others in authority very submissive to authority
defensive when criticized receives criticizm with a hungry and open heart
works to maintain image, protect reputation dies to his own reputation
has a hard time saying “i am wrong” quick to admit failure and seek forgiveness
waits for others to come and ask for forgiveness takes initiative to be reconciled
believes the “ministry is priviledged to have me” believes “i don’t deserve to serve in this ministry”

If you hvae iTunes and want to check out the Active Word podcast, click here.

New Religious Movements. Ronald Enroth.

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Our last small group study was on New Religious Movements, perhaps the politically correct way to say “cults,” though several of the groups studied in the book would not normally be considered cults, but instead major religions. For instance, Hinduism and Buddhism are included, though Hinduism was pared with Yoga, and Buddhism was just Tibetan/Dali Lama Buddhism.

I was not always that impressed with the book. While the object was to teach Christians about each movement and possible ways to relate to any members of the movement, some of the articles were much more biased than others. Part of that is due to the fact that each chapter is written by a different author, so it is not always cohesive. Some articles glossed over any good actions the group participats in or funds, and some articles explored only the extreme or negative aspects of a given NRM. I found it best to supplement each chapter with other articles found on the Internet, at sites such as wikipedia, beliefnet, lifeway, and even the NRM’s own official site.

The book is not necessarily written for a small group study — there is no list of group discussion questions at the end. However, I suggest reading the 1st and last chapter before all the NRM specific chapters. I created a checklist based on the last chapter that you follow about each NRM to find out when and how it diverges from “orthodox” Christianity, where “orthodox” means following major agreed upon doctrine.

We also supplemented the book with our own study of a few movements not included in the book
for NRM’s such as Scientology, religions such as Islam, and major philosophies such as Taoism.