Controversy of the Ages (Book Review)

Dangitbill readers know that a little while back I set out to study the topic of the age of the earth.  There are basically 3 logically possible positions (old, young, and eternal).  Only the first 2 are scientifically viable today since even the most committed philosophical materialists admit the universe looks like it had a beginning.  You know, the Big Bang and all that?

Christians are not allowed to be materialists.  That option is not open to us because we are convinced that God is, and therefore two things must be true.  (1) God is eternal, and (2) the universe is not.  Having that option closed off to me is not a problem because I don’t think the evidence points to materialism being true.  My conundrum as a curious creationist has been finding updated, reputable, and compelling books that present a case for either young earth creationism (YEC) or old earth creationism (OEC).  Not a summary, mind you.  Anyone can find decent summaries on the web one or three clicks away.  What I’ve been searching for is to be convinced.  If at all possible, I would like to achieve “cognitive rest” on the age of the earth issue.  Alas, what I’m beginning to discover is how tall an order mine is.  This question is a Rabbit Hole of rabbit holes because there are perplexing puzzles associated with every possible view. Continue reading

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A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Book Review)

“It’s not my fault,” I keep telling myself.  If the issue of the earth’s age doesn’t even enter my mind when Christian preachers and teachers become new to me, I can’t help it that my favorites believe the earth is likely very old—much older that the standard 6-10 thousand year range offered by young earth creationists (YECs).  So what if I think one of today’s best preachers is Tim Keller?  What’s it to you that one of the best Reformed discussions about the things that matter most in life happens weekly on the White Horse Inn broadcast?  Do you care that I think some of the insightful and groundbreaking scientific work by Christians is happening within the Intelligent Design (ID) movement?  And for a ready dose of “clear thinking Christianity,” is it OK that I admire and listen to Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason?  I can’t help it.  So sue me. ;-)

Of course most Christians won’t really care that all of the above appear to be old earth creationists (OECs)—or at least they lean that way.  Either way, that’s not why I pay attention to any of them.  So again, I reiterate—It’s not my fault.

It’s not my fault that I’m trying to give YECs a fair hearing but they keep accusing folks like me of theological liberalism we don’t agree with their interpretation of scientific facts.

It’s not my fault that I’m wondering if hard concordantism (the belief that the scientific data ought to always cohere to YEC) is the right way to read the Bible.

It’s not my fault that when I consider both sides of the biblical creation debate (YEC and OEC), I see strengths and weaknesses in the arguments of both, so that neither side seems to have an open-shut case.

At least that’s the way I’m leaning after studying a popular and well-regarded book from the OEC-camp called A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (BCOE), by David Snoke.  The author is a professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (my denomination).  Snoke is licensed to preach in his presbytery, so he is clearly both an active scientist and churchman.  His book, which was published in 2006, presents a humble thesis: that OEC is a viable and acceptably orthodox position to hold as a conservative, evangelical Christian.  At just under 200 pages and written for the intelligent non-scientist, BCOE is an accessible introduction to some of the main arguments proposed for believing the earth is probably as old as the secular scientific consensus. Continue reading

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My Experience with Modern Day “Apostles and Prophets”

Occasionally I’m in a position where my faith journey intersects or becomes relevant to a friend.  Part of my story involves my experience back when I used to be a charismatic Christian.  During those years I encountered the beginnings of what has been dubbed the “Fourth Wave” of the Holy Spirit.  For the uninitiated, that’s just code for the modern day movement of new apostles and prophets reintroduced to the life of the worldwide church.  This movement arose from charismatic circles in the mid- to late-1990s.  I was there and had a first-hand view of how it crept into my church and wrecked havoc among my friends and family.  What follows is not exactly a “testimony”.  I had come to faith in Christ several years before I lived this story.  But I don’t mean to minimize the importance of what I learned during my time as a charismatic.  In fact I saw a great zeal for worship and service in many sincere charismatic Christians–positive characteristics that I hope will stick with me forever.  And yet there was a darker side to it all that affects me to this day.  I share my story with the hope it will encourage people who are stuck in the middle of the movement popularly dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Others have called the movement Independent Network Charismatic (INC).  A good place to start for understanding the movement is Geivett’s and Pivec’s book A New Apostolic Reformation.  I pray my story may be a window to sanity and a catalyst to see some of the serious problems that exist in this branch of the church.  Without further ado… Continue reading

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A New Apostolic Reformation? (Book Review)

Well, it took a while, but I finally figured it out.  Back in my teen years my family got involved with a local charismatic church that felt pretty mainstream.  But in the mid-1990s it started to get weird as many in the church—including the leaders—began to imbibe strange new teachings and practices.  At the time, it appeared exciting (novelty usually does!) but it was only few years before the kids were all grown up and had left the church to move on in various directions.

But being a part of the craziness is a part of my testimony.  It never really leaves you.  I believe God was providentially guiding my spiritual experiences during those formative years so I might be helpful to others who have questions about the most recent wave of charismatic belief and practice.  The insiders tend to call the place where we’re at now the “Fourth Wave” of the Holy Spirit.  It’s all (supposedly) about a God-ordained reestablishment of the offices of apostle and prophet in these last days before Christ’s second coming.  They say God is orchestrating a new Apostolic Movement to usher in the conquering, overcoming, glorious kingdom of God.

Outsiders and people like me see things quite differently.  For dissenters, the movement has been named “Independent Network Charismatic” or more commonly the “New Apostolic Reformation” (aka: NAR).  And in recent years it has become a worldwide movement that is much bigger and more influential than most people (even Christians!) can imagine.  Unfortunately there is a dearth of print resources examining and criticizing NAR doctrine, teachers, and practices from an evangelical and biblical perspective.  This is why Doug Geivett’s and Holly Pivec’s book A New Apostolic Reformation? (ANAR) is so important.  There are a wealth of electronic apologetic resources out there, but sometimes it takes an old fashioned book to make the kind of splash necessary to gain attention.  ANAR has helped me tremendously by putting the pieces together to complete the puzzle that was my confusing and painful experience in the charismatic movement. Continue reading

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The Demon in Democracy (Book Review)

A lot of people have been talking.  People with life experience.  People with years of study and teaching in the academy.  People who have lived in other countries, cultures, and political climates.  People from different economic and governmental ideologies.  People of faith and of no faith in particular.  These are the people who’ve been talking.  Talking about how somehow, things seem different these days.  Lots of people sense that change is afoot.  That we live in turbulent times.  And that there is something uniquely different that is happening in the West that is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“But,” replies the skeptical realist, “nothing ever stays the same.”  “Stability is an illusion that traditionalists harbor to make sense of their world.  Therefore nothing is really different because times have always been turbulent.”

Except, a lot of people just can’t shake the notion that things really are different now than anything in living historical memory.  The societal, cultural, and political instability and uncertainty so many observe in this late hour of the modern era doesn’t feel like it has a solid foundation, a central core to draw strength from or fall back on.  Our historical moment, for those who testify what times were like before, insist the current instability is not like:

  • World War 1
  • The Great Depression
  • World War 2
  • McCarthyism
  • The Urban Exodus
  • The Sixties Countercultural Revolution
  • The Computer and IT Revolution
  • Globalism

Leading thinkers—philosophers, political scientists, historians, theologians, economists, and academic who study culture—have been stumbling over each other trying to understand, describe, and publish what they believe is the key to unlocking what in the world is going on.  And through it all, it appears a basis consensus is beginning to emerge.  You’ve read this far, so what is the big idea?

Human society is in the midst of an historical epochal shift away from western society’s dominant organizing principle since the Enlightenment: liberal democracy.  And it appears we are tearing unified societies apart as we drift in opposite directions at war with each other (tribalism vs. totalitarianism).

That’s a pretty outrageous idea.  But one that is becoming apparent to many of our most astute cultural observers. Continue reading

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A Closer Look at the Evidence (Book Review)

Now this is a novel idea: teach about God’s creation in small daily increments over the course of a year.  That is what Richard and Tina Kleiss (married couple who were both high school science teachers and now creation science seminar speakers) have attempted to do in writing their one-year devotional A Closer Look at the Evidence (CLE).  Published by Search for the Truth, CLE provides single-page apologetics lessons focusing on various domains within creationism.  It’s helpful in a number of ways, but not to research the strengths and weaknesses of creationism from an academic perspective.  I’m still looking for a book or two on Young Earth Creationism (YEC) that has these characteristics:

  • Written at a college or post-graduate level
  • Contains a broad overview of the case for YEC
  • Deals with scientific evidence and arguments instead of mainly biblical arguments
  • Respected and recommended by the broad YEC community, including evangelicals and fundamentalists
  • Recently researched and published
  • Primarily irenic, not polemical
  • Does not engage in straw-man argumentation with its opposition

Dear readers, please help if you can recommend a book that fits most or all of these!  Why?  Because I’m trying to give YEC a fair hearing, and reading books like CLE is not helping to convince this honest skeptic.  Don’t get me wrong, CLE is an interesting bit of work, but it’s just not the kind of thing I’m looking for.  Nevertheless, it could be a very help devotional resource if used in a few limited ways.

Probably the best way to take advantage of CLE’s strengths is to introduce yourself, children, or youth to various evidence for life’s intelligent design (ID).  There are many devotions that focus on a particular feature from one of the biological “kingdoms” on earth, presenting it in such a way that begs the question: “Can macro-evolution account for this?”  The answer is always No! whether implied or stated. Continue reading

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Mission and Destiny

Reading the epitaphs engraved on tombstones can be a surprisingly accurate way of learning a person’s life mission and their best guess at their destiny. Consider Robert Clay Allison (d. 1887), a Wild West gunslinger: “He never killed a man that did not need killing.” His mission? If you’re going to be a murderer, be a gentleman. His destiny? Cut me some slack, I wasn’t all bad! Or Merv Griffin (d. 2007), the legendary TV talk show host: “I will not be right back after this message.” Mission? Make people laugh. Destiny? Sorry folks, show’s over. And then there’s the unforgettable playwright William Shakespeare (d. 1616): “Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear, to dig the dust enclosed here; blest be the man who spares these stones, and cursed be he who moves my bones.” Mission? All the world’s a stage, rhyming encouraged. Destiny? My bones will hopefully rest in peace.

Every person longs to live for something bigger than himself. God has made us dreamers who desire to spend our lives for something that matters because deep down we need to believe that we matter in the grand scheme of things. And so we set out to build a kingdom. Notice as that our kingdom grows in size and reach and glory, it never really stops being about ourselves—sometimes in obviously selfish ways, but more often expressed in subtle selfishness. Eventually your life’s mission reaches “maintenance mode” when your dreams devolve into protecting your personal kingdom. And what for? In the end it all falls apart, and chances are in only 100 years it won’t mean a thing! “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl 9:11). How can we escape the insignificance of our personal, self-constructed missions?

The Bible gives us the answer in Matthew 28. This passage is the end of Matthew’s gospel where he ties up all the loose ends of Jesus’ story. It’s basically a straight-forward account of two competing explanations of Jesus’ empty tomb, concluding with the resurrected Jesus giving his disciples a final charge—the Great Commission. That’s the “Bible study” perspective on Matthew 28 which will serve as our foundation for uncovering, critiquing, and awakening your longing for a life mission with a sense of destiny. The risen King Jesus shakes the world’s kingdoms: some crumble in fear and denial, but others crumble in jubilant worship. Only by giving up your small-kingdom dreams and answering the call to partner in building God’s kingdom will you discover a mission that won’t finally crumble but is destined for glory. Continue reading

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