Truth project part 1a (notes)

These are my notes from the Focus on the Family DVD series, “The Truth Project” during my Tuesday morning men’s group. We are starting this 12 part series by Dr. Del Tackett. Today we watched and discussed the first half of lesson one.
http://www.thetruthproject.org/

Del’s blog is:
http://deltackett.com/

We are taking a tour of worldviews in this multiple-week program of study

What is the truth? Who is God? Who is man? These are questions we are going to tackle

I’m not interested in completion (of this course) I am interested in transformation (of you)

1st question: Why did Jesus come into the world?
– to save us? to set captives free? To testify to the Truth!
– why did the God of the universe do this?

John 18:37 NLT
“Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.””

In the book of John, Jesus says “truly, truly” 25 times

John 17:17 “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.”

John 4:24
“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.””

John 8:32
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 14:16-17
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

John 16:13
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”

1 Tim 2:3-4
“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

Eph 6:14
“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”

OT references to truth – laments the loss of truth

How do we respond to the truth? – suppress, distort, reject

2 Tim 4:3-4
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”

John 18:37
“Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.””

This implies that “there are sides” when it comes to truth

1 John 4:6
This is the cosmic battle between Satan and God (lies versus the truth)
“But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”

2 Thess 2: 9-13 The coming of the lie (Satan) to compete with the truth
“This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth. As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.”

John 8:34-47
” 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example.[a] 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”

They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46 Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.””

Sin deceives us
– every sin which besets us can be traced back to a belief in a lie

1 John 3:10
“So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”

2 Tim 2:24-26 Captives
“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.”

Col 4:5-6 dealing with outsiders
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Antithesis – unity vs division
– diversity vs unification
– roles vs jealousy
– responsibility vs blame
– authority vs rebellion
– delegation vs tyranny
– one more…

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Week 1: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 1. (I took these notes on my iPhone via EverNote, and am pasting them later– actually after week 2 which was today!) MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Setting up dichotomies: God’s view vs the world and devil’s view
– reminds me of Angels and Demons and the Catholic separation of the church and science

Postmodernism is the same old battle

What is truth?

Ravi Zacharias, RC Sproul, Os Guiness

Defines from Noah Webster in 1828

Isaiah 44

What is insanity: losing touch with reality and believing that the lie is real

Our actions reflect what we believe to be really real

Lies are powerful

Truth is fundamentally about who God is, he provides the reference point fir what is true and false

Colossians 2:12

Overarching message: the cosmic battle around us
– our faith is in the truth claims if God
– faith, hope, truth

Faith like a child
– image of child jumping off a diving board to his mom in the water

Our hope and faith us not a feeling, it overcomes our feelings

Our beliefs and perceptions determine our actions

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Week 2: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 2. MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Philosophy and ethics form the outside pillars of our understanding
– striving to understand “what our culture has been taken captive by”

2 Timothy 2: 24-26
– the Lord’s servant must gently instruct his opponents

24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will

We were all outsiders before we came into the body of Christ

Col 2:8
– addressed to us as believers
– tone of this verse is a warning to believers
– message is we CAN be taken captive by lies

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

We have to receive this as a warning from God
– we should know what that deceptive philosophy looks like, otherwise we will be taken captive by it
– now showing an opening clip to a video series shown all over the United States and in other countries
– if you went to public school in the US, you may have seen this opening scene from “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

– what were his opening words, “The cosmos is all that ever was, is, and ever will be”
– what he is fundamentally saying this is a material world, there is no God

[I HAVE READ THIS IDEA THAT CARL SAGAN, AN EXPERT ON SCIENCE BUT NOT THEOLOGY, MAKES LOTS OF FAITH CLAIMS IN HIS SERIES ‘COSMOS’]

If Sagan had came right out and said “There is no God” then that video wouldn’t have been shown in public schools
– Sagan says “our contemplations of the Cosmos stir us.”

What we see here is assumptive language: the most dangerous form of knowledge
– assumptions are caught and bought without an open, conscious dialogue
– if you buy a statement, you buy the underlying assumptions as well
– so Carl Sagan is precisely teaching here that “there is no God”

I DON’T ENTIRELY BUY THIS. I ACCEPT CARL SAGAN IS NOT SHARING A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW HERE, OF COURSE, BUT I QUESTION (AS I DID LAST WEEK AS WELL) THE IDEA THAT ANYONE PRESENTING A SCIENTIFIC VIEWPOINT IS NECESSARILY ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-GOD.

Carl Sagan: “we are made of star stuff, some part of our being knows this, we can return to the cosmos”

I AGREE THAT SAGAN’S WORDS IN THIS CLIP ARE GNOSTIC

We are going to call this “the cosmic cube”
– philosophical position that all we have and know is inside the

What we see is a philosophy that is attempting to define everything, everything is inside the box

THIS IS NOT TRUE OF THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW. THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW ACCEPTS THERE ARE MANY THINGS OUTSIDE OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING, AND WE CANNOT GO BEYOND WHAT WE CAN OBSERVE IN A REPEATED ENVIRONMENT IN TERMS OF TRUTH CLAIMS

A contrary view, a Biblical view, is that God is outside the box and acts inside the box

in Deism, people said God created the box but really doesn’t act within the box, doesn’t send his Word, and certainly wouldn’t come to die for us
– if he doesn’t act, speak, care, or come to use when we need us / help us: then he is irrelevant and gone
– then we end up with “the Cosmos” of Carl Sagan

What is this thing called philosophy?”
– we are going to find that the Biblical worldview and the worldview we are exposing here are polar opposites

Basis of the Biblical worldview
– God Is
– God reveals himself to us: in his creation and in his special revelation / in his Word

The “other” worldview begins with the assumption:
– God is NOT

CLEARLY SCIENCE DOES NOT MAKE FAITH CLAIMS, THAT IS A GIVEN
– I DO NOT THINK IT IS ACCURATE TO SAY THAT ALL SCIENTISTS AND ALL OF SCIENCE STARTS WITH THE BELIEF THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST. LOOK AT DARK MATTER AS AN EXAMPLE. THERE ARE CERTAINLY THINGS WHICH SCIENCE ACKNOWLEDGES LIMITS TO ITS KNOWLEDGE.

Story of a man who was caught up in an addiction to pornography
– told him you do not believe in the omnipresence of God (if he did, he wouldn’t look at and do the things that he was)

A pantheist wouldn’t disagree with Carl Sagan’s statements
– a pantheist adds God throughout the box, not outside the box

Maybe we’ll turn God into “may the force be with you”
– paganism adds “spirit” inside the box
– many religions which profess belief in God do this as well

Without “the spirit” we might call it naturalism
– with the spirit we might call it “spiritual naturalism”
– this worldview says: the cosmos is all there was, all there is, and all there ever will be

What is philosophy?
– a scientific quest to discover “ultimate reality”

Again I love Webster’s old 1828 dictionary definition, of philosophy:

The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.
True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle

that same definition NOT in current Webster’s

Something has changed in philosophy
– webster’s new dictionary says: philosophy is a search for underlying reality
– that leaves God out of the picture, which is the problem, because now you just have “the box” and are searching for the truth in the box

Philosophical questions:
– why do I exist?
– what is existence?
– what is thinking?
– what is reason?
– what is logic?
– what is knowing?
– if I know something, how can I know it is real?
– what is the meaning and purpose of life?
– where did we come from?

If you want an impossible task, try to find the answers in “the box”
– this has been the great quest of philosohpers from the beginning: to find the big answers to the big questions

The Universals
– how are we going to make sense of the particulars if we don’t know the answers to the universal questions

Story of friends who told him “the universal truths of Cricket

This quest for the answers to “the universals” is captured in this incredible painting by Raphael in the Vatican, “The School of Athens”
– this captures the philosophical dilemma between Aristotle (looking for the particulars) and Plato (looking for the ideals)
– problem was they were both looking for the answers in the box”

From "The School of Athens" by Raphael in Vatican City

IS THAT REALLY TRUE FOR PLATO? I AM NOT SURE

There was a huge gap between the particulars and teh universals
– why am I here?
– what is the meaning to my existance?

Now showing a photo of Leonardo Da Vinci
– believed he could find those universals
– people believed we could find the universals through mathematics, then turned to science, then turned to art
– ended up as most of the philosphers do despondent, depressed, failing in their quest

IS THAT STATEMENT CORRECT, THAT MOST OF THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS END UP DEPRESSED

The world’s approach is to try and discover the universals from the particulars
– God’s approach is the opposte: we don’t have to hunt for the answers to those big questions, therefore we can live in this world and make sense of all the particulars around us

OR AT LEAST MOST OF THE PARTICULARS. I DON’T THINK WE CAN UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN THE WORLD

different options:
– materialism
– mechaism
– solopism:
– rationalism:
– more….

When I attend Kansas State University, I attended my first philosophy class
– I was sitting on the front row, and the philosophy professor began his lecture sharing a philosophy without God
– he said “you don’t even know if the chair you are sitting on is real…” and I asked myself, “I am paying for this?”
-this path takes us to depression

THIS IS RIDICULOUS. HE IS REJECTING THE WHOLE OF PHILOSPHY BASED ON THAT ONE OPENING STATEMENT FROM HIS FRESHMAN PHILOSOPHY INSTRUCTOR.

Can you live in a world that is postmodern?
– that says there is no absolute truth: that says we can both have a truth and they can both be true

Story of an architect who designed the building with randomness and chaos in mind

You cannot live in a non-reality, insane world
– but that is where philosophy has taken us

IT IS A RIDICULOUS AND INACCURATE ASSERTION TO SAY THAT ALL OF PHILOSOPHY IS POSTMODERN AND MONOLITHIC IN REJECTING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, THE GOOD, IDEALS, AND OTHER CONCEPTS OUTSIDE THE MATERIAL WORLD
– HAS THIS GUY ACTUALLY READ PLATO?

Brings us to the pillar of ethics
– who makes the rules?
– what is right, what is wrong

If this is your philosophy, then might makes right (postmodern society)
– then this leaves you with 51% of the vote is right

SO IS HE REJECTING DEMOCRACY HERE?
– WHO IS MAKING A CLAIM THAT DEMOCRACY IS THE PATH TO TRUTH

Now showing a montage of video of different people sharing what they thing truth is and how you know what truth is

we don’t know how to answer this question without God
– do we fall back on some utilitarian, pragmatic position? what is best for society? what about the minority?
– when might begins to make right, you will find a lot of people oppressed and crushed

so what do we turn to?

SO I GUESS HIS ESSENTIAL POSITION IS THERE ARE NO ETHICS WITHOUT GOD.

From Plato’s Euthyphro:” Is an act right because God’s wills it….”

I WISH HE WAS LEAVING THE SLIDES UP LONGER

Now quoting William of Ockham cited in Feinberg and Feinberg
– means God could change
– that is wrong because we know God is unchanging

If God never changes, then how would this guy explain “the new covenant”
– I AGREE THAT GOD IS, HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE. I ALSO BELIEVE GOD IS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE AND THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGES. THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS AR EXAMPLES.

God can’t lie.
– lying is wrong because it is counter to the very nature of God

SO THIS GUY IS SETTING UP A COMPLETELY BLACK AND WHITE VIEW OF ETHICS AND GOD, WHERE THERE NO ARE GREY AREAS. I WONDER (BUT DOUBT) HE WILL BRING UP SOME GOOD CASE STUDIES AND SITUATIONS WHICH

Dr William Provine
– lecture at Harvard
– summarizing views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us
– no gods or purposive forces, no life after death, no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning for life, no free will for humans
– Christian humanism has a lot going for it, it is warm and kindly (not for gays, of course)
– problem is you have to suspend your rational mind
– question is can atheistic humanism give us anything? Yes, it can give us intellectual satisfaction because we don’t have to cling to the fairy tales of our youth
– free will is a horribly destructive idea for our society
– so we can rely on “proximate meaning”

SO WHY DOES HE VIEW ‘FREE WILL’ AS DESTRUCTIVE?
– THIS IS QUITE A VIDEO. I WONDER IF IT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE ON YOUTUBE

you can’t live in that kind of world
– THAT IS NOT REALLY TRUE, TO THE EXTENT THAT DR PROVINE AND MANY OTHERS DO “LIVE IN THAT WORLD.” I AGREE THE POSTMODERN WORLD BELIEFS CAN VIOLATE THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION AND NOT BE CONSISTENT

Quotation from R.C. Sproul (video clip)
morality looks at “is”
ethics looks at “ought”
– this distinction has been blurred in our society
– this leads to a statistical view of morality, “the good” is determined by “what is” rather than “what ought to be”
– this leads to a crisis in ethics

do you understand why we are so caught up in surveys and statistics today
– I’D SAY A LOT HAS TO DO WITH WHAT POSTMAN SAYS IN “TECHNOPOLOY”

Barna’s recent survey: How many Americans have a biblical worldview?
– only 4%
– based on 10 fundamental questions
– born again Christians: just 9%

Charles Colson quoted from “Now How Shall We Live?
– Christianity’s big problem: not seen as a viable worldview

merging formal worldviews and personal worldviews

formal worldviews
– marxism, Christianity, islam, etc…
– have truth claims
– these bombard us, are all around us

what I am interested in is your personal worldview
– “the set of individual truth claims that you have embraced so deeply that you believe the reflect what is really real…”
– very seldom do we have a personal worldviews that mirror exactly a formal worldview

What are the consequences when you buy the lives? You conform to the world
Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Again from Sproul
– you can’t divorce the transformation of the mind and the heart
– postmoderns are looking for experiences and not intellectual study

the world “transformed” is overused in our culture
– “metamorpho” is the Greek word
– butterflies are the pretty part of metamorphasis

Only 3 times this word is used in the scriptre
– Romans 12:2
– also in the transfiguration of Christ, something that is fundamentally transformational
– also in 2 Corinthians 3:18

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit

We are involved in this study not just to know facts and have answers, but because of our children
– showed picture of a person who had undergone a lot of facial body piercings, and then juxtaposed that with a photo of his grandchildren

OUR CHURCH IS NOT PROVIDING ANY OPPORTUNITY FOR FOLKS TO DISCUSS AND TALK ABOUT THESE VIDEOS. THESE VIDEOS ARE 55 MIN LONG, AND NO TIME IS PROVIDED FOR DISCUSSION. I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE BOTH FACE TO FACE OPPORTUNITIES TO DISCUSS, QUESTION, AND DEBATE THE POINTS AND ISSUES WHICH ARE RAISED HERE, AND ALSO AN ONLINE OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS THEM. I THINK I AM GOING TO COMMENT ON DR. TACKETT’S BLOG AND MAKE THIS SUGGESTION. OUR CONGREGATION IS LIKELY “NOT READY” FOR THIS TYPE OF ONLINE FORUM FOR DISCUSSION LIKE THIS, BUT WE SHOULD BE. IF THE PUBLISHERS OF THIS SERIES DO NOT HAVE THAT TYPE OF FORUM SETUP AND ARE NOT WILLING OT SET ONE UP, PERHAPS I’LL SET ONE UP VIA NING.

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Don’t be misled

This verse was mentioned in part 5A of “The Truth Project” by Focus on the Family. This is a call to be critical thinkers as we seek truth! We need to maintain our humility as we seek greater understanding of our universe, and remember the ultimate source of truth is Christ.

Colossians 2:8

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

See it at YouVersion.com:

http://bible.us/Col2.8.NLT

I don’t understand this as encouragement to reject the work and findings of scientists. 

Responding to Possibilianism & Dr. David Eagleman: Knowing & Authority Beyond Science

As I’m continuing to teach and lead the class, “Curiosity and Questions: Jesus and Science” this year, I’m enjoying the YouTube recommendation engine (in moderation, of course) to help me discover other videos I can share and use in class as well as outside of class as ‘extra recommended media / videos.’ This morning YouTube helped me find Dr. David Eagleman’s (@davideagleman) 2016 presentation from PopTech, “GOD vs NO GOD – And the Winner Is?” It’s 20 minutes long. In the presentation, David makes some excellent observations about the awe and wonder with which we can (and perhaps should) regard our universe and our amazing human bodies, especially the human brain. He misses, however, some key perspectives about “knowing and authority beyond science,” however, and it is to those topics I want to turn in this post. Before going further, however, I recommend you watch his talk:

It’s good to be reminded of The Hubble Deep Field photograph, which is staggeringly beautiful and mind blowing in its implications for not only astronomy and science but also cosmology and faith. Created in 1995 as a composite image from a very small portion of the night sky using the Hubble Space Telescope, the Deep Field image powerfully conveys how vast our universe is, and how little we can literally glimpse of it from our position on earth on the outer rim of the Milky Way galaxy. It’s truly an awe-inspiring image that can be a catalyst for wonderful conversations about the origins of our universe and BIG questions of faith as well as science. How did we get here? Did God create all of this? How can we know about things like “Who created the universe” or “Why are we here?” “Are we alone in the vastness of space?” Science can encourage and provoke us to dive into these questions, but ultimately, there are a number of questions “modern science” (as we’ve learned to understand it the past 400 years of human history) can’t answer.

One of the lessons I’ve enjoyed sharing with my 5th and 6th grade students this year involves creating and sharing InfoPics. One of my 5th graders, Masha, commented to me last week how looking at images of the universe and our galaxy “makes her feel so small.” This is one of Masha’s InfoPics she shared on our class Seesaw blog. Her expressed sentiment is laden with cosmological and theological questions. It is to these questions as well I’d like to turn now.

In his video, ““GOD vs NO GOD – And the Winner Is?”, David Eagleman correctly points out the folly in dogmatically claiming that a creation story from any culture fully apprehends and describes the processes and observations of cosmology. Here are a few important elements he either omits or gets wrong in his talk about beliefs, science and the origins of our universe.

Creation Stories Were Not Crafted to Compete with a Scientific Worldview

David Eagleman conflates the Biblical creation story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the Kuba Kingdom’s Creation story in the Congo. and his connections elicit laughter from his audience. The paraphrase of his message here is, “How can any rational human in the 21st century actually subscribe to such a patently incomplete and false story of cosmology?” Eagleman fails to grasp, or at least communicate to his audience in this 2016 presentation, that the Jewish creation stories (because remember, there are two of them in Genesis) were not formulated and should not be interpreted today to be comprehensive texts summarizing all that is known and needs to be known about cosmology (the origins of the universe). The Bible as a whole, and the Pentateuch specifically, are not “books of science.” Portraying Biblical cosmology as a “fail” because we have learned so much observationally about our universe in the past 400 years risks misunderstanding the value and purpose of these stories and literature. For more on these perspectives, I commend “The Bible Project” videos to you and specifically the six minute video, “The Book of Genesis – Part 1 of 2.”

Not All Faith Derives from Predominant Culture

David Eagleman misses another extremely important point about faith and belief in this talk, when he tries to explain to his audience how we understand where religion comes from. Eagleman asserts that predominant cultures imbue faith and belief, and this cultural transfer of cosmological perspectives is understandable from an anthropological / scientific perspective but not valid from the viewpoint of scientific truth. Eagleman’s observation can be more accurately stated this way: MANY people DO adopt their beliefs and faith perspectives from their parents, family, and predominant community culture. HOWEVER, some people “break” with their family and culture, and take on beliefs which are different and even bear a huge physical cost. The testimony of our former pastor, Mateen Elass, who grew up as a Muslim in Saudi Arabia and eventually came to faith at Stanford University after traveling to India and studying Buddhism intensely is a case that comes to mind. The faith of C.S. Lewis, who documented his journey from atheism to Christianity as a follower of Jesus in his book, “Mere Christianity,” also provides a counterpoint to Eagleman’s assertions about the origins of faith. Francis Collins, the leader of the Human Genome Project and author of “The Language of God,” grew up an agnostic but came to faith in Jesus. Orthopedic surgeon Curt Gruel, who spoke to our class on September 15, 2019, has a similar story of “being a disciple of science” but through his lived experiences coming to know and follow Jesus Christ. A couple weeks ago we heard from a Christian missionary working in Iran about the ways God is revealing himself to Muslims through visions and dreams today. Here’s the point Eagleman misses, and it’s very important when we discuss faith and cosmology. Not all faith and beliefs about God derive from a predominant culture / environmental pressures.

https://twitter.com/PocketShare/status/1179550552985878528

We Have Sources of “Knowing” Outside of Science

Another vital point which David Eagleman missed in his 2016 talk is the idea that as human beings, we have sources of “knowing” outside of science. Certainly science has tremendous value to us as a systematic way to not only understand our world but also creatively project our own ideas into it. Engineering is the application of scientific principles to design and build structures as well as solve problems. Your reading of this blog post right now is the result of technological innovation built on scientific principles and understanding. Yet the replicability of experimental conditions in a controlled setting / laboratory only provides PART of the ways we know and understand reality as human beings. Our ‘lived experiences’ can inform us and also reveal to us fundamental truths about our world, ultimate reality, and God. My own journey of faith, which included a dramatic ‘near death experience’ in undergraduate pilot training in the US Air Force, is a part of my own story and powerfully shaped my acknowledgement of and understanding of God’s reality in our world. Curt Gruel shared a similar “journey of faith” story with our Sunday School class in September. These experiences are not scientifically replicable in a lab setting where variables are tightly controlled. They are still, however, valid “ways of knowing” and point to the importance of understanding that “scientific knowledge is not the only type of knowledge which exists or points us to truth.”

Our Faith in God and Jesus is More than a “God of the Gaps” Understanding

One of the important points author and scientist Francis Collins makes in Chapter 4 of his book, “The Language of God,” is that Christian faith or any other faith in God as the creator of the universe should not hinge on a “God of the Gaps” understanding. In other words, we certainly DO regard the universe with awe. Our world IS still filled with mysteries which we do not understand, to the extent that we don’t have comprehensive or even “good” insights into the processes which define and explain phenomena we observe.

I’m not sure if there is a more generally acknowledged term for this, but it seems this dynamic throughout history has gone like this: “The more things we can NAME scientifically, the less space we have in our minds for God, his active role in our lives and world, and even His very existence.” In other words, as “the gaps” in our understanding of our world and universe have started to “fill in” through scientific inquiry and discovery in the past 400 years, we’ve (naively) convinced ourselves that we no longer need God. That God is a human, psychological and cultural creation. As Nietzsche said, “God is dead.” The Enlightenment and the scientific revolution which followed it have provided “science” as a replacement for religion and faith.

Thankfully, the God of our universe is not dead, and our perception of Him, our understanding of Him, and our faith in Him and his goodness need not hinge on a “God of the Gaps” understanding. Charles Darwin himself alluded to this in his concluding sentences in “The Origin of the Species,” when he observed:


“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”

Charles Darwin, concluding The Origin of Species, as quoted by Francis Collins in “The Language of God,” pp. 98-99.

In his 2016 PopTech talk about God and science, David Eagleman omits this important perspective that acknowledgement and understanding of, and faith in God, can be compatible with the rhetorical answer to scientific questions, “I don’t know.” One does not have to be a “Possibilianism,” to have and regularly express this kind of humility in the face of the universe’s mysteries. One can, in fact, be a Christian and follower of Jesus. Humility and acknowledging our inability to ever fully apprehend the fullness of God’s reality is, in fact, an essential in the Christian life.

‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ‘

Micah 6:8 https://my.bible.com/bible/111/MIC.6.8

Scientific Uncertainties and Discoveries Need Not Threaten Our Faith in God

Finally and importantly, David Eagleman omits the idea in his talk that scientific uncertainties and discoveries need not threaten our faith in God. This perspective was summarized well by Saint Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430 AD. He wrote:

“In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on the one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we to fall with it. “

Saint Augustine, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis,” translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor. Quoted by Francis Collins in “The Language of God,” page 83.

As David Eagleman encourages us in this 2016 video, we can and SHOULD be in awe of our universe and the mysteries it holds. We need not abandon faith and our belief in God, however, because we realize religious texts and Biblical stories fail to fully capture scientifically understood observations of and theories about our cosmology.

For more thoughts and resources related to these topics, I encourage you to check out the public website for our Sunday School class, “Curiosity and Questions: Faith and Science.” If you have feedback about this post or that site, you can leave a comment for me below, reach out on Twitter to @wfryer or @pocketshare, or use my online contact form.

Initial Christian focused videos with Storyrobe

Cross-posted to BLASTcast.

Encouraging 10 and 11 year old students in fifth grade to think deeply about the ways God speaks to us in our lives, what the Bible means for our lives, and how we should respond to challenging situations in our lives using the words of Jesus is hard work. We are continuing to encourage our students to share their understanding, their thinking, and their questions about their Christian faith through multimedia in our 5th grade Sunday School class. Today we used the iOS application “Storyrobe” to create short videos about several topics. Students worked in pairs and were given the challenge of creating short videos (using five still images and finger puppets) which illustrated either:

  1. Bible Verses (explaining their meaning, application to their life, or special personal significance)
  2. A SINtuation (a real-life situation they have seen or encountered which involves fear, temptation, action, and consequences)
  3. Questions (challenging questions about God, faith, the Bible, or other topics related to faith)

Story Options

Students were required to create a plan for their story and write down some ideas, and explain it to one of our four adult teachers / shepherds who were present for today’s lesson.

Finger Puppets and Story Scripts

We had four groups out of eight complete their stories in class today. We’ll share and debrief these next week.

Kelly and Suzie created this video about “The Birth of Jesus.” December and Christmas time often presents confusing messages about the birth of Jesus as well as Santa Claus and consumerism. We’ll discuss these topics in upcoming weeks.

Another group (I didn’t get their names written down but will add them later – if you know please comment!) created this video which I’ve titled, “The Good Samaritan.” This story references Luke 10:25-37, which is very relevant to the way we live our lives and treat others. It also connects to questions one of our students asked last week, about “Who decided who got to go to heaven and hell before Jesus came?” We discussed that a bit in class and will talk more in the weeks ahead.

Sarah and Hannah created this video which they titled, “Building Problems.” This is based on Ezra 4. Rather than select and explain a verse they have studied previously and has personal significance, they chose to just select a random verse from the Bible and illustrate it. We’ll discuss next week how this example not only missed the purpose of our assignment, but it can also be confusing for people watching it. What does this mean? What is the main idea of this verse and the lesson we should take away from it? While this particular video didn’t meet our lesson objectives, it does provide a great opportunity to further discuss our purposes of doing this activity and how we want to both seek and share truth in our lives, rather than random ideas that can be confusing.

The last group to finish a video in class today was Gracie and Darla, who created “John and Lily.” They wanted to illustrate a situation which challenges faith, when a person is dying. In addition to illustrating the scene and the role prayer and faith can play in giving hope, they tried to explain this in the end of the video.

Overall today’s lesson was MUCH more successful than some others we’ve tried using media and technology, in part because we used mobile devices (iPhones with cameras and Storyrobe pre-loaded) to create our stories instead of more cumbersome, larger cameras and computers. Next time we do this I’m going to prepare an empty storyboard for students to complete, which lists spaces beside the five photos they plan to take and has room for character dialog planning. This may have been the first time many of our students had a chance to create a video project like this in Sunday school, and there is a LOT to learn both for students and adult facilitators. Next week we will definitely praise and recognize our students who DID complete their projects, because it took focus and work to get done in just 30 minutes! I’m hopeful this process will help us do even better next time. Many of our student groups worked hard in the time we had, but there’s a lot to do here in just 30 minutes!

If you have comments or feedback about this activity or this process please share them on this post!

Have a blessed week!

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Segmenting social media channels

I’ve created a new Twitter account for this Eyes Right Christian team blog, and am using part of our current WordPress header banner as the Twitter icon. If you’re using Twitter and interested in getting a “heads up” when new content is posted here, please subscribe to the Twitter account @eyesrightblog. 

Twitter Badge for Eyes Right

I’ve also upgraded the WordPress version of this Eyes Right blog to the latest (2.7.1) version, as well as the Podpress plug-in to its new revision (8.8.1.) For the first time I’ve also installed the free WP plug-in TwitterTools, which I’ve been using over on the ISTEconnects blog and have really liked. TwitterTools can do several things, but the main purpose for which I’ve installed it is to automatically “tweet” out a link anytime there is a new blog post here on Eyes Right. I’m pretty sure the plug-in does NOT send out extra tweets when a post is merely updated, just when it’s published for the first time. I’m going to test this and then comment here on the results. Running multiple WordPress blogs is nice since some of them which don’t get as much traffic (like this one) can serve as sandboxes for updates and new plugin-functionality like this.

One of the main reasons I created this Eyes Right blog several years ago was a sense that I needed to create a separate “space,” or channel, for blog posts which relate specifically to Christian themes and my journey of faith. It’s wonderful to blog on a project like this with others, since it’s a great way to learn together and encourage other Christians to blog about faith issues. I love using social media, and I want to be able to post and share ideas with a great deal of freedom. I have sensed for some time, however, that simply posting things about Bible lessons, Sunday school classes, reflections on different Bible verses, etc. on my main blog would probably turn some people off. I did that initially on my blog “Moving at the Speed of Creativity,” in the category “Christian,” and those 81 posts remain archived there (including a version of my Christian testimony, which I also have linked in the right sidebar of my main blog under “links.”) I certainly do NOT and am not intending by creating these “separate spaces” for Christian-related blog posts wanting to hide my faith in any way under a bushel basket. I’m mindful of Matthew 5: 13-16 which says:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

As Christian believers, I firmly believe we must share our faith and the reason for our hope and joy with others openly. Sharing our testimony, telling others about our faith and striving together to walk with Jesus each day is something about which we should be intentional and open. This is why I’ve created “segmented social media channels” for posts and ideas relating to Christianity: To hopefully empower myself and others to share our Christian faith.

At the same time we should be bold to declare and share our faith with others in the world, we must avoid bragging about our faith or wearing our faith on our sleeves in a showy fashion. We should not share our faith to attract attention or for prideful, selfish reasons. Matthew 6: 1-8 is instructive in this regard:

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

I think there is a relatively fine line to walk here. No one has published “the rules” about blogging and sharing your faith online, while simultaneously maintaining a professional career which is separate / different than full-time ministry. I do believe as the laity we are each called to full-time ministry in our own spheres of influence, but that does not mean we should exclusively blog, write and share about themes which touch directly on Christianity, faith, and Christ. The lines to walk carefully appear to me to be:

  1. Trying to share our faith in visible ways, but creating channels for that sharing to take place so we feel relatively free and open to share and not like we must “hold back” for fear someone else (who is subscribing to a blog for reasons OTHER than hearing Christian messages) will be offended.
  2. Sharing our faith out of a genuine desire to share our lives and our journeys, and avoid the trap of writing and publishing openly to solicit or win the praise of others. (Like the “hypocrites” Matthew was writing about in the verses above.)

I don’t have these answers, but it seems like a good idea to have these separate channels for Christian-related posts and tweets. What do you think?

If you’re interested in sharing a post here on Eyes Right, please check out the About page of this blog and contact me if you’d like login credentials.

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Thoughts on NOVA’s special – The Bible’s Buried Secrets

Today during my five hour car drive up to Kansas, I listened to a WGBH Forum Network podcast on the NOVA documentary The Bible’s Buried Secrets which aired this past week. As with several other NOVA specials in the past, this documentary is available entirely online for viewing, along with extra features which did not make it into the two hour TV documentary. Since I was not able to see this on November 18th, I’m going to be glad to watch the special sometime on my own schedule with members of my family at home in upcoming weeks.

NOVA The Bible's Buried Secrets

One of the quotations which stood out most in the podcast for me was the following statement:

You can’t really inquire when you are dealing with fundamentalists.

This comment was made with respect to Christian fundamentalists, who the speaker (I think it was Dr. Lawrence E. Stager, professor, archaeology of Israel, Harvard) remembered from his childhood growing up in the midwestern United States. He was making a point that it is useless to try and suggest people should seek for the truth / inquire for more information and insight when those people are Christian “fundamentalists.”

I think it is VERY unfortunate when Christ-followers project the impression that they “know all the answers” and have all the mysteries of the world figured out. I am not a relativist or an adherent to postmodern philosophies, and I do believe in both the existence of Truth (what one of my college philosophy instructors used to call “Big T Truth”) and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I certainly would NOT consider myself “a fundamentalist,” however, if that definition means someone who is not continuing to search for understanding and truth, and acknowledging the limits of human understanding of divine mysteries.

I’m looking forward to watching this NOVA special in its entirety and discussing the multitude of issues it raises. I think Christians should be “seekers” of truth their entire lives, no matter how old or young they are. Based on the conversations in this WGBH Forum podcast, I think our family will have a lot to discuss after seeing it.

My thinking during this podcast was highly colored by the fact I’ve almost finished reading “How to Watch TV News: Revised Edition” by Neil Postman and Steve Powers. Certainly the idea that documentary news like this program is created and designed primarily with the goal of attracting viewers rather than pursuing the truth (which is a point made by Postman and Powers) comes through in the podcast discussion. The sharp time limits imposed by production budgets as well as the producer’s perceptions of what “trailer park America” wants and can cognitively handle were also discussed by the panelists in this podcast.

Often I think people get into trouble when they portray a group of people as having monolithic beliefs and perceptions, when in reality there is actually a great deal of diversity in beliefs, perceptions, as well as customs among members of that group. While I consider myself “a believer” in God and and his Son, Jesus Christ, I also very much consider myself “a seeker” for truth and increased understanding of many topics and issues, including Biblical archeology. I don’t feel threatened in the slightest by the suggestion that as humans, we should inquire more deeply for truth and knowledge, in the context of Biblical history or any other subject. It seems almost unbelievable that Galileo faced persecution and the threat of death by the Catholic Church in the 1500’s when he challenged its heliocentric view of the universe. I do not view the advances of science as correlating to zero-sum losses in the realms of faith and religion. I think it is wonderful to have opportunities to be appropriately challenged to think critically about what I believe and why I believe those things, and I suspect this NOVA special will provide more opportunities to “grapple” with ideas of both faith and history.

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