Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Darwin Cried But We Rejoice

In 1839 Emma Darwin wrote a heartfelt letter to her husband Charles. In this letter she warned Charles about the limits of reason and the importance of not giving up on revelation. Darwin, the father of the idea of evolution, was very touched. At the bottom of the letter he wrote: "When I am dead, know that many times I have kissed and cried over this."

Darwin's comment shows that he was involved in much more than science as he was studying the natural world. There is no question that for many people, Darwin included, the idea of evolution draws away from God and away from the Bible. Emma actually said that "there is danger in giving up on revelation."

A cursory dismissal of the Bible and a blind allegiance to the ever changing opinions of scientists can be a very dangerous thing. If we deny the first miracle of God, why would we believe any other miracle of God? At the very least, people ought to consider suspending judgment on an idea that still remains controversial.

On the other hand, recognizing the hand of the Creator in creation draws us closer to God. The creation flows from the love of God and is a constant reminder of His power and majesty. For more on this see my sermon for Trinity Sunday, June 19, 2011. I would also recommend the new book by Joel Heck titled "In the Beginning, God."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Many Are Schooled, But Few Are Educated

The following excerpts have been taken from a retirement speech delivered by Glenbrook North High School (Illinois) social studies teacher, James McPherrin, who has retired after 33 years of teaching. These excerpts were published by the Illinois Family Institute.

St. Thomas More, the intrepid 16th century chancellor to King Henry VIII of England, once said, "When statesmen forsake their own private consciences for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos." Now, I would suggest that the very same quotation might be tailored so as to apply directly to teachers. It would read, "When teachers forsake their own private consciences for the sake of their public school duties, they lead their students by a short route to chaos."

Thomas More was among the sterling individuals in the western intellectual tradition who understood well the necessary relationship between the natural law and the human law, and that circumstances often challenge us to acknowledge the rational demands the former places upon the latter. More, as we know, would later sacrifice his very life in defense of that compelling idea. In essence, dear colleagues, please consider that our cardinal duty as instructors of the young is to shepherd them in their journey towards truth.

Whether it be European History, English Lit, Calc, Phys Ed, or Music, our task is to foster in students a love for and desire to acknowledge what is true. If such a premise does not inspire our efforts, then I'm afraid they might well be for naught. Make it your purpose to ignite the element of intellectual longing that exists in all young people; that desire to know, that desire to bring order out of chaos. Give them that education to which the English writer, G.K. Chesterton, alluded, when he said, "Many are schooled, but few are educated." There is a difference, and it would behoove us all to acknowledge it openly.

Furthermore, I would encourage you not to align yourselves with those forces within our noble field who would seek to rid the discussion of divine things from the intellectual discourse in our classrooms. This is an unfortunate act that flies in the face of a teacher's visceral commitment to the free exchange of ideas. Steel yourselves against the notion that such discourse violates the separation of church and state. It doesn't. A reflection of ethical ambivalence more than anything else, such an argument is a specious one, and those of us who purport to cherish freedom of expression, ought to find it intellectually repugnant. Students are naturally inclined to ask metaphysical questions. To do so is in complete keeping with their nature as young, sentient, beings. It is how they are wired, and to stifle such instincts, or, to attempt to coach them away, does them a grave disservice.

Once they understand the idea of truth and that things can be known--surprise, surprise--they naturally gravitate toward a desire to know in what truth has its origin. The logical consequences of such thinking may unsettle some of us. However, trepidation of that sort is the lamentable result of lost cultural moorings. To attenuate such discussions is to attenuate the very growth of our students' scholarly faculties. It's as plain as that! We were meant to contemplate higher things--most obviously within our English and history classrooms. Thomas Aquinas understood this as far back as the 1200s and explained quite clearly our human commission, when he said, if you'll permit me, "Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do."

May we have the courage to let our students' minds move freely and joyfully toward those things for which they were made; and if such pursuits lead them to apprehend that force through whom we live and move and have our being, then so must it be. We should view any attempt to stifle such dialogues as nothing less than an attack upon reason itself. A final quotation from the luminous G.K. Chesterton: "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it (Everlasting Man, 1925).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is the Bible Mythological?

In 1974 Bill Kaysing wrote a book titled “We Never Went to the Moon.” You might be surprised to know that he was able to get a few people to believe his theory. The thing Kaysing had going for him was the fact that the moon landings were incredible accomplishments. Plus there were really no “outside” witnesses. The more incredible, the more amazing something is, the easier it is to say it was just a hoax. Something like that has happened to the most amazing, incredible event of all time - the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Apostle Peter addressed this in his second letter as he remembered the Transfiguration of Jesus:

2 Peter 1:16-19 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Many people today try to tell us that the life of Jesus was a myth fabricated by the church to get people to believe in the new religion of Christianity. They love to compare the story of Jesus to a myth like that of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. A careful comparison of myths will show, however, that the Scriptural accounts are much different. Consider these three things:

Style: You must compare the actual texts of the Gospels with the texts of these ancient myths. One thing you will discover is that it is often difficult to get decent texts of these myths. When you do get a hold of them, you will notice tremendous differences. Myths are romantic, esoteric, fanciful and anonymous. The Gospels are direct, eye-witness accounts by men who lived in real history. The facts they report are amazing and hard to believe. But the fact is this: They are reported as facts not “just so stories.”

Intent: Secondly, look carefully at the intent of the myths. Human myths always focus on the natural world and the world men. They may be stories to explain the seasons or stories to explain why the king’s son should succeed the king when he dies. The god’s of the myths are nothing like the God of the Bible. Aside from having super powers, they think and act like humans. But the myths created by men never have anything to do with righteousness, the forgiveness of sins or the reuniting of man to God.

No Connection to History: Thirdly, note that myths have no connection to real history. It used to bother me that the Bible was so full of what I thought were insignificant details. I wondered why God didn’t just give us the “doctrine” without all the minor historical details: genealogies, names of rulers, cities, distances from this place to that place, etc. Now I know why God included these things. They show that all this is factual. Six days before the Transfiguration Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. This was an ancient Roman town at the base of Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in the region. I could take you to Google Maps right now and show you this area. It is located near Highway 99 in the Golan Heights. Myths do not give these kinds of details.

For more on this topic, take a look at my sermon for Transfiguration, 2011.