Archive for the ‘Life and Theology’ category

The First Lunch

March 18, 2008

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for his is like one who is inwardly calculating. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you but his heart is not with you (Prov. 23.6-7).

“Watch out for the first person who invites you to lunch.” Someone gave me that little piece of advice years ago, and over the years since, when God has led me into this or that new role, I have found it to be sound advice. Not to be a cynic-after all, you might have the good fortune to come into the company of hospitable people-but experience teaches us to be wary. That “first lunch” may hide an agenda. Believe me, I could tell you stories.As a powerful man, Solomon must have known all about “First Lunches.” He doubtless knew many men in his own court who got by using any means to curry favor with anyone who might gain them some advantage. Even to the point of pretending hospitality.

Solomon describes that sort of person in these verses. In our English Standard translation, he is “stingy,” but the old King James Version captures the Hebrew perfectly-he “hath an evil eye.” His eyes move to and fro, as it were, seeking someone to use for his own ends. By contrast, “whoever has a bountiful [literally, a ‘good’] eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor” (Prov. 22.9). The eye of this latter man also moves to and fro, as it were-seeking someone to serve. The former seeks only himself. He may give the appearance of generosity and goodwill, but “his heart is not with you,” Solomon says. Don’t let your guard down.

This is no idle warning, for we humans are forever making ourselves prey to the “evil eye.” That’s why Solomon warns us, “don’t desire his delicacies.” He means to say, “steel yourself against his flattery and gentility, power and promise. They can be very seductive. Don’t get hypnotized by a gold watch.” The outwardly charming host may be an “inwardly calculating” con man.

Solomon’s warning reaches far beyond “the first person who invites you to lunch.” In the fourth century, Basil, the famous bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, picked up on these verses to make a wider application. Said Basil, when Solomon “forbids us even to dine in company with an envious man . . . he implies a reference to all other social contacts as well.” For (Basil went on to say),

Just as we are careful to keep material which is easily flammable as far away as possible from fire, so we must refrain insofar as we can from contacting friendships in circles of which envious persons are members. By doing so, we place ourselves beyond the range of their shafts. We can be caught in the toils of envy only by establishing intimacy with it” (Homily Concerning Envy)

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The Tower of Babel in a Petri Dish

September 19, 2007

Embryonic stem cell research. If you follow the news, you know that Missouri voted last year to allow more or less unrestricted research on stem cells – the raw material, as it were, for human tissue development – taken from embryos produced, then destroyed, for that purpose. The late “Superman” Christopher Reeve and former First Lady Nancy Reagan had earlier made widely-publicized appeals for such research, and the Missouri campaign featured Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. One can certainly understand the desperate hope of suffering people for some miracle cure, but what happened in Missouri is a disturbing commentary on American culture.

To put it bluntly, Missouri – the “Show Me” State – was hoodwinked, and America with it. That is no exaggeration. To date, billions of dollars and millions of man hours have been poured into embryonic stem cell research. About 2000 relevant scientific papers have been published, and in just the last five years, the National Institute of Health has funded more than fifty different research projects. But according to Dr. Maureen Condie, a researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the results of all this expertise, time, and money is exactly . . . zero. Missourians were lead to believe that stem cells would soon enable doctors to regenerate damaged nerves, brain tissue, and diseased organs. The lame would walk, the blind would see, and dialysis would be a thing of the past. But it hasn’t happened – and given the research problems, it likely never will. Dr. Condie says flatly that “there is no compelling scientific argument for the public support of research on human embryos.”

So why the hype? Why the impassioned appeals? Why the debate? Why the obsession with embryonic stem cells? For some, no doubt, it’s just blind hope combined with ignorance. Said one researcher, “people need a fairy tale.” But what of the researchers themselves, who know the grim realities? For example, embryonic stem cells transplanted into adult tissue often form tumors – non-malignant, but fast-growing and often fatal (in many studies, 70%-100% of lab animals died!) There is also evidence that embryonic stem cells spontaneously convert over time to cancerous cells. And there are many other problems well-known to researchers. So why do they keep pushing?

Maybe it’s money (labs cost a lot). Or maybe it’s arrogance (if we just put our minds to it, we can solve any problem). Or both. Or could it be a cutting edge version of that ancient human ambition to play the part of God? Could it be just building the tower of Babel in a petri dish?

God will not give his glory to another (Is. 42:8). He stopped the Tower then (Gen. 11:5-9) and He will stop the mad scientist now. But while they work, babies become expendable-like slaves making mud bricks-and God’s gift of precious life is treated with contempt. Let us never forget what’s at stake when we fight for the right to life.

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.

LifeGrace

February 13, 2007

LifeGrace

“Saved by grace.” It’s a truism. A bare restatement of the obvious:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2.8, 9; ESV)

Okay. But what about the rest of my life?

It’s still grace, all of grace (Spurgeon), nothing but grace.

Grace sustains me:

Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. (Rom 5.2)

My faithfulness cannot increase my standing with God, nor can my faithlessness make it less. Because it’s all of grace (Arno Gaebelein).

Grace also strengthens me:

You therefore, beloved, . . . take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 3.17,18)

Peter is warning (v. 16) about the subtle influence of those who “twist” or “distort” the truth (the Greek word means to “torture on the rack”!) for their own desires and to their own destruction. Lest we fall under their sway, we must grow in grace.

Question: How does grace produce growth?