Archive for August 2007

Only One Is Telling the Truth

August 31, 2007

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (Prov. 9.4, 16)

Tom and Harry head off to college. They each grew up “in a Christian home,” though neither has ever been very serious about it. They went to church because their parents took them. And truth be told, the parents themselves were a good deal less serious about spiritual things than they let on. They went to church, mostly-that is, unless something really important came up. And they worked in the church, when they could fit it into their schedules. But they raised their boys to do right, and were proud of the way they turned out. Even so, they sent them off to State with a little fear and trembling-the time had come for Tom and Harry to “take off their parents’ cloak,” in the words of psychologist Paul Tournier, and “knit their own.”

Second semester, Tom signs up for philosophy-sounded interesting, and besides, it would get one of those dreaded “humanities” classes out of the way. Harry takes biology with Dr. Jaeckle-it’s required for pre-med. There’s something about Dr. Jaeckle, though Harry can’t quite put his finger on it. He discusses Darwin and evolution and all that, but when he talks about the marvels of a simple cell, Harry can sense almost a reverence for the mysteries of life. In the Student Center one day, Harry happens on a notice for InterVarsity Fellowship-the speaker Thursday night is none other than Dr. Jaeckle. Even though Harry has hardly even gone to church since he’s been away from home, he decides to check it out. And it changes his life. For the first time he begins to understand that the God who fashioned the unfathomable beauties of this world is the only One who can give meaning to life in this world.

Meanwhile, in Tom’s philosophy class, Dr. Hyde glories in human reason. The theme of the Enlightenment rolls off his tongue like a mantra -“the mind is the measure of all things.” Question everything, he urges, especially the dogmas of faith. Religion is a crutch for the weak, a cave where the fearful hide from the light of reason. It’s time to put away childish things and think for yourself. And it changes Tom’s life. For the first time he begins to feel that he must be master of his destiny. He must seek his own happiness his own way.

Half a millennium before Socrates, Solomon warned that the voice of Wisdom and the voice of Foolishness would sound eerily similar-read Proverbs 9.4 and 9.16 out loud. Both promise something more. But the Devil is in the details-read verse 5 and verse 17! For Lady Wisdom, the “something more” is deep satisfaction with the goodness of God, like a really good meal. But, for Dame Foolishness, dull is deadly-“what you really want,” she sings, like the Sirens of Homer, “is excitement.”

In the words of an old hymn, the choice between darkness and light “goes by forever.” And so it is that the Voice of Wisdom and the voice of Folly call out every day, Solomon says, making their promises. But only one is telling the truth.

You are loved.

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Darwin’s God

August 30, 2007

Many Darwinians today are atheists.  But not Darwin himself.  Near the end of Origin of Species, he stated specifically that evolution operated according to “laws impressed on matter by the Creator.”  Cornelius Hunter (Darwin’s God, 2001) argues in fact that Darwin “was motivated toward evolution not by direct evidence in favor of his new theory, but by problems with the common notion of divine creation.”  Specifically, he could not believe that a good God would create a world “red in tooth and claw.”  Evolution was his answer.  It was, says Hunter, a “negative theology,” a theodicy, a supposedly scientific answer to the age-old religious problem of evil.

As We Live and Breathe

August 21, 2007

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit (Prov. 12.17).

Nothing is more personal than breath–our breath is our life. When in the beginning God formed Adam from the dust of the earth, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature” (Gen. 2.7). Breath literally makes us human, and when we cease to breathe, we cease to live. “As I live and breathe,” the saying goes.

So vital is it to life that Scripture often uses “breath” as a picture of our spiritual life–of all that is nearest and dearest to us. When Daniel, for example, saw his terrifying vision of the last days, he fell on his face to the ground and cried, “no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me” (Dan. 10.17). In the midst of his suffering, Job felt (as many godly people since Job have felt) that God was assaulting him: “He crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause, he will not let me get my breath” (Job 9.17, 18a). Likewise, the anguished prophet Jeremiah pled with God: “Do not close your ear to my cry [literally, ‘to my breathing’] for help” (Lam. 3.56).

Scripture also uses “breath” as a picture of how we live. To “breathe out” is to act out “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Sometimes destructively. David, for example, asked God to protect him from liars who “breathe out violence” (Ps. 27.12), who expressed their merciless self-will as effortlessly as they exhale. Then there was Saul, before he met Jesus, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9.1). We live by breathing, and we breathe without thinking. The biblical idea here is that what we truly are in the heart of our hearts will show itself in the work of our hands and in the words of our lips-as naturally as we live and breathe.

Now we can unlock this bit of wisdom from Solomon: “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.” In many English translations, this proverb sounds like a “tautology” (which is a fancy word for pointless repetition). Well, of course, if a person “speaks the truth,” he “gives honest evidence.” How could it be otherwise? Rain is always wet. But in Hebrew, the word for “speaks” is yāmîah, which means “breathes out.” Literally, Solomon says, whoever “breathes out the truth gives honest evidence.” We live as we breathe-so what Solomon means that it takes honesty in the heart to guarantee honesty in the rough-and-tumble of every day.

Many people–sadly even Christians–are content with a kind of Huck Finn integrity: “There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.” But that’s not the deep down, “as I live and breathe,” honesty that pleases God. You, O Lord, “delight in truth in the inward being” (Ps. 51.6a).

You are loved.