2012 Podcasts

2012 Program Title Author MP3
Dec. 31-Jan. 4 Redesigning Humans: Is It Inevitable? Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 24-28 Is Christmas Necessary? Jerry Solomon, read by Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 17-21 Prophecies of the Messiah Michael Gleghorn Download
Dec. 10-14 Ancient Perspectives on Happiness Michael Gleghorn Download
Dec. 3-7 Taking Religion Seriously Don Closson Download
Nov. 26-30 Dealing with Doubt Michael Gleghorn Download
Nov. 19-23 Thanksgiving Quiz Kerby Anderson Download
Nov. 12-16 Jesus Christ Superstar Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Nov. 5-9 The Glory of Grace Sue Bohlin Download
Oct. 29-Nov. 2 Voting and Christian Citizenship: A Biblical View Byron Barlowe Download
Oct. 22-26 Scientology: Religion of the Stars Don Closson Download
Oct. 15-19 Gay Agenda in Schools Kerby Anderson Download
Oct. 8-12 Body Building: Edifying Thoughts About Our Bodies Michael Gleghorn Download
Oct. 1-5 In His H.A.N.D.S.: How We Can Know That Jesus is God Don Closson Download
Sep. 24-28 Secularization and the Church in Europe Rick Wade Download
Sep. 17-21 What God Says About Sex Sue Bohlin Download
Sep. 10-14 Examining Our Cultural Captivity Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Sep. 3-7 In Defense of History Don Closson Download
Aug. 27-31 Truth Decay Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 20-24 Why Worldview? Don Closson Download
Aug. 13-17 Capitalism and Socialism Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 6-10 Your Work Matters to God Sue Bohlin Download
July 30-Aug. 3 Challenging the New Atheists Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
July 23-27 Four Killer Questions Sue Bohlin Download
July 16-20 Worldviews Through History Kerby Anderson Download
July 9-13 What Is Technology? Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
July 2-6 Spiritual Warfare Kerby Anderson Download
June 25-29 The Apologetics of Jesus Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
June 18-22 Who Wrote the New Testament? David Graieg, read by Don Closson Download
June 11-15 The Apologetics of Peter Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
June 4-8 The Self-Understanding of Jesus Michael Gleghorn Download
May 28-June 1 The Closing of the American Heart Don Closson Download
May 21-25 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
May 14-18 Are We Significant in This Vast Universe? Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
May 7-11 George Washington and Religion Kerby Anderson Download
Apr. 30-May 4 Kingdom Singleness Renea McKenzie, read by Sue Bohlin Download
Apr. 23-27 C.S. Lewis, the BBC, and Mere Christianity Michael Gleghorn Download
Apr. 16-20 The Lives of Muhammad and Jesus Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Apr. 9-13 A Pilgrim’s Progress: Suffering in the Life of John Bunyan Michael Gleghorn Download
Apr. 2-6 The Answer is the Resurrection Steve Cable Download
Mar. 29-30 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
Mar. 19-23 Four Views of Revelation Dr. Patrick Zukeran Download
Mar. 12-16 Truth: What It Is and How We Can Know It Rick Wade Download
Mar. 5-9 Rome and America Kerby Anderson Download
Feb. 27-Mar. 2 Poverty and Wealth Don Closson Download
Feb. 20-24 Seeing Through News Media Bias Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Feb. 13-17 Christ and the Human Condition Michael Gleghorn Download
Feb. 6-10 Blessings and Judgment Kerby Anderson Download
Jan. 30-Feb. 3 Welcome to the Machine: The Transhumanist God Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Jan. 23-27 The Impotence of Darwinism Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Jan. 16-20 Emerging Adults: A Closer Look Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Jan. 9-13 Will Everyone Be Saved? A Look at Universalism Rick Wade Download
Jan. 2-6 The Importance of Parents in the Faith of Emerging Adults Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download


2013 Podcasts

 

2013 Program Title Author MP3
Dec. 30-Jan. 3, 2014 Lessons from C.S. Lewis Rick Wade Download
Dec. 23-27 The Star of Bethlehem Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 16-20 A Christmas Quiz Dale Taliaferro, read by Sue Bohlin Download
Dec. 9-13 Christmas Film Favorites Todd Kappelman, read by Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 2-6 Are You Listening? Do You Hear What I Hear? Rusty Wright Download
Nov. 25-29 Tradition and Scripture Michael Gleghorn Download
Nov. 18-22 Christians in the World Don Closson Download
Nov. 11-15 Why Study Church History? James Detrich, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Nov. 4-8 No Reason to Fear: Examining the Logic of a Critic Rick Wade Download
Oct. 28-Nov. 1 Paul and the Mystery Religions Don Closson Download
Oct. 21-25 The All-Powerful God Michael Gleghorn Download
Oct. 14-18 Human Enhancement and Christianity Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Oct. 7-11 In His H.A.N.D.S.: How We Can Know that Jesus is God Don Closson Download
Sep. 30-Oct. 4 Complete in Christ and Captive to Empty Deception Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Sep. 23-27 Science and Human Origins Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Sep. 16-20 Historical Criticism and the Bible Michael Gleghorn Download
Sep. 9-13 The Church and the Social Media Revolution Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Sep. 2-6 American Cultural Captivity Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 25-30 What a Biblical Worldview Looks Like Sue Bohlin Download
Aug. 19-23 The True State of American Evangelicals Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 12-16 Abusive Churches Patrick Zukeran, read by Sue Bohlin Download
Aug. 5-9 Are You a Marcion (Martian) Christian? James Detrich, read by Sue Bohlin Download
July 29-Aug. 2 Making a Defense Rick Wade Download
July 22-26 The Mormon Veneer Don Closson Download
July 15-19 Big Data Kerby Anderson Download
July 8-12 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
July 1-5 Deism and America’s Founders Don Closson Download
June 24-28 Is Jesus the Only Way? Paul Rutherford Download
June 17-21 Crossing the Worldview Divide: Sharing Christ with Other Faiths Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
June 10-14 The Pagan Connection: Did Christianity Borrow from the Mystery Religions? Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
June 3-7 Pornography Kerby Anderson Download
May 27-31 Educational Choice Don Closson Download
May 20-24 The Inspiration of the Bible Rick Wade Download
May 13-17 The Purpose of Life Paul Rutherford, read by Kerby Anderson Download
May 6-10 Putting Beliefs into Practice Revisited: Twenty-Somethings and Faithful Living Rick Wade Download
Apr. 29-May 3 Can the Just Succeed? Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Apr. 22-26 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
Apr. 15-19 History and the Christian Faith Michael Gleghorn Download
Apr. 8-12 Verbal Abuse Kerby Anderson Download
Apr. 1-5 Tactics for an Ambassador Don Closson Download
Mar. 25-29 Satan Kerby Anderson Download
Mar. 18-22 God and the Canaanites Rick Wade Download
Mar. 11-15 The All-Present God Michael Gleghorn Download
Mar. 4-8 Hayek and The Road to Serfdom Kerby Anderson Download
Feb. 25-Mar. 1 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
Feb. 18-22 The Old Testament and Other Ancient Religious Literature Rick Wade Download
Feb. 11-15 Jerry Coyne’s Illusions Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Feb. 4-8 Ex-Christians: Ways to Bring Back the Leavers Steve Cable Download
Jan. 28-Feb. 1 Digging Our Own Grave: The Secular Captivity of the Church Rick Wade Download
Jan. 21-25 Worldviews Through History Kerby Anderson Download
Jan. 14-18 Hume’s Critique of Miracles Michael Gleghorn Download
Jan. 7-11 The Gospel of Thomas Don Closson Download


2014 Podcasts

 

2014 Program Title Author MP3
Dec. 29-Jan. 2 Why Worldview? Don Closson Download
Dec. 22-26 The Star of Bethlehem Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 15-19 A Christmas Quiz Dr. Dale Taliaferro, read by Sue Bohlin Download
Dec. 8-12 Christmas Film Favorites Todd Kappelman, read by Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Dec. 1-5 Are You Listening? Do You Hear What I Hear? Rusty Wright Download
Nov. 24-28 The Glory of Grace Sue Bohlin Download
Nov. 17-21 Ancient Perspectives on Happiness Michael Gleghorn Download
Nov. 10-14 In His H.A.N.D.S: How We Can Know that Jesus is God Don Closson Download
Nov. 3-7 The Gay Agenda in Schools Kerby Anderson Download
Oct. 28-31 Truth Decay Kerby Anderson Download
Oct. 21-25 In Defense of History Don Closson Download
Oct. 13-17 The Development of Modern Culture – Critical Role of Christianity Downplayed Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Oct. 6-10 On Black Holes and Archangels Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Sept. 29-Oct. 3 What God Says About Sex Sue Bohlin Download
Sept. 22-26 A Christian Purpose for Life — Proclaiming the Glory of Christ Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Sept. 15-19 Secularization and the Church in Europe Rick Wade Download
Sept. 8-12 Darwin’s Doubt Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Sept. 1-5 Your Work Matters to God Sue Bohlin Download
Aug. 25-29 Challenging the New Atheists Dr. Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 18-22 Four Killer Questions Sue Bohlin Download
Aug. 11-15 Worldviews Through History Kerby Anderson Download
Aug. 4-8 Who Wrote the New Testament? David Graieg, read by Don Closson Download
July 28-Aug. 1 Spiritual Warfare Kerby Anderson Download
July 21-25 What Is Technology? Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
July 14-18 The Apologetics of Jesus Dr. Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
July 7-11 The Closing of the American Heart Don Closson Download
June 30-July 4 Rome and America Kerby Anderson Download
June 23-28 The Self-Understanding of Jesus Michael Gleghorn Download
June 16-20 The Apologetics of Peter Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
June 9-13 Are We Significant in This Vast Universe? Steve Cable, read by Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
June 2-6 George Washington and Religion Kerby Anderson Download
May 26-30 Kingdom Singleness Renea McKenzie, read by Sue Bohlin Download
May 19-23 C.S. Lewis, the BBC, and Mere Christianity Michael Gleghorn Download
May 12-16 Truth: What It Is and Why We Can Know It Rick Wade Download
May 5-9 The Lives of Muhammad and Jesus Patrick Zukeran, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Apr. 28-May 2 A Pilgrim’s Progress: Suffering in the Life of John Bunyan Michael Gleghorn Download
Apr. 21-25 Student Mind Games Conference Sue Bohlin Download
Apr. 14-18 Poverty and Wealth Don Closson Download
Apr. 7-11 The Reliability of Kings and Chronicles Michael Gleghorn Download
Mar. 31-Apr. 4 Is Theistic Evolution the Only Viable Answer for Thinking Christians? Steve Cable Download
Mar. 24-28 What is Apologetics? Probe Staff Download
Mar. 17-21 Seeing Through Media Bias Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Mar. 10-14 Christ and the Human Condition Michael Gleghorn Download
Mar. 3-7 Blessings and Judgment Kerby Anderson Download
Feb. 24-28 Welcome to the Machine: The Transhumanist God Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Feb. 17-21 Christianity, Zen and the Martial Arts Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese Download
Feb. 10-14 The Impotence of Darwinism Dr. Ray Bohlin Download
Feb. 3-7 The Just War Tradition in the Present Crisis Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Jan. 27-31 Did Adam Really Exist? Rick Wade Download
Jan. 20-24 The Importance of Parents in the Faith of Emerging Adults Steve Cable, read by Kerby Anderson Download
Jan. 13-17 Reasonable Faith Michael Gleghorn Download
Jan. 6-10 Helping Teens Understand Homosexuality Sue Bohlin Download


“Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Writings Part of the Apocrypha? Why Aren’t They Scripture?”

I can’t find any solid information on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [Ed. note: (Greek, “falsely attributed”) Jewish writings of the period between the Old and New Testament, which were attributed to authors who did not actually write them] and why these books are not consider inspired scripture. I know they are considered false writings, but why?Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Old Testament Apocrypha considered the same thing? Could the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha be just a branch of the Old Testament Apocrypha? And therefore the same principles are applied to the Pseudepigrapha and the Apocrypha about why they are not considered scripture?

The books that you are referring to did not meet the standards of canonization. I suggest you read From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix. The Apocrypha is a different set of works that have traditionally been handed down along with the Old Testament by some Christians but not Jews. It is recognized as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church, but not Protestants who acknowledge its importance as intertestamental literature and even consider it helpful to read for spiritual development, but do not accord it the same status as Scripture. There are multiple theological and historical problems with these books. And their authorship remains unknown.

Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese

Posted Dec. 2, 2013

© 2013 Probe Ministries


Romney vs. Obama and Beyond: The Church’s Prophetic Role in Politics

Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese answers a common question of a Christian view of politics and government: How would a biblical worldview inform us on being in the world of politics but not of it? “Dr. T” models a critical yet engaged distance in assessing the beliefs of Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Christian Government

During each new election season Christians ask, “What is a biblical view of government?” Does it teach Theocracy, Communism or maybe Democracy? The Old Testament does teach theocracy, which means the Priests ruled the people through the Mosaic Law. Later in its history Israel became a monarchy by its own decision under King Saul–a choice God was not very pleased with, but He accommodated Israel’s demand (I Samuel 8).

The New Testament does not adopt theocracy because it applied only to the chosen nation of Israel; it gives no endorsement of any one form of government, but instead offers the Church a special role as a prophetic voice engaging any and all forms of government. There is no such thing as Christian (civil) Government, only Christians in government.  Instead of creating a new system, the Church brings biblical principles to bear on all governments.{1} This position allows the Church everywhere to be actively involved in its particular political situation through maintaining its witness to Christ.

Israel and the Church

The role of Israel and the Church are often conflated in Christian minds, especially during the political season. Many still believe that Christians should create laws or vote for candidates that will bring us closer to a “Christian America” ideal. This is a revised version of an old notion of Christendom that joins church and state going back to the Constantinian Church which espoused a Christian Roman Empire. Some of our Puritan forebears held that America was the New Jerusalem. America as a nation replaces Israel as the people of God and the Church becomes a political entity like Israel.

In approaching politics, it is essential that we keep in mind the differences between Israel and the Church. Israel was a national people with its own civil law and identity. It was closed to the rest of the world and had to live in strict separation from the Gentile nations. Their call was to isolation, to establish Theocracy and to drive the Gentiles out from Canaan, a goal they were never really successful at accomplishing (Judges 1: 19, 28, 32). Israel was one civil nation among many civil nations and it was usually at war with those neighbors.

Israel foreshadowed the Church. They prepared the world for the coming of the messiah and the Church. Their history and law serves as an example or model of instruction for the Church (Romans 15: 4 and I Corinthians 10: 6), but the Church is not obligated to adopt Israel’s civil identity because this would violate her broader mission to reach all people (Acts 1: 8). The Church is called to political and cultural engagement with all systems and all people, not isolation. When the Church becomes a political or cultural system, it loses its message of grace through faith and reverts back to Law (Galatians 3). Faith cannot be legislated.

The Church could not be true to its universal calling if it was a political power like Israel because this turns its mission into one of war and conquest, such as the Crusades in the middle ages, rather than conversion through faith (John 18: 36). Islam is a good example of a religion that does follow Israel’s kind of political identity in the establishment of Sharia Law. The Church is not one nation, but one people among many nations, cultures and systems. It cannot afford to be a nation with its own civil law and government, which sets itself against other governments and other people. When the Church establishes itself as a political power it compromises its prophetic mission and loses its unique contribution to politics. Instead the Church has a more complex role in any system it finds itself in.

In The World but Not of It

Christians are in the world, but not of the world. Jesus prayed that his followers will not be taken out of the world, but that they be sent into the world and kept from its evil (John 17: 15). The Apostle Paul argued similarly that we must maintain our association with people in the world, ­even immoral people–and not to isolate ourselves (I Corinthians 5: 9, 10). He says, “the form of this world is passing away,” an awareness that creates in us an “undistracted devotion to the Lord” in every area of life. We are to participate in the world, but not get too attached to it. We “should be as those who buy, but do not possess…and those who make use of the world as though they did not make full use of it” (I Corinthians 7: 31-35). We bring awareness of the temporal nature of the world.

The Prophetic Role of the Church

The Apostle Peter states that the Church is a unique people of God, “a people for God’s own possession” or a “peculiar people” as the King James Version says, called to proclaim the truth. He exhorts Christians to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness…” and to keep our “behavior excellent” in the world. (I Peter 2: 9- 12).

The Church lives differently in society by setting an example. As God’s special people, the Church is called to witness His truth to the world, including to the government structures. This means that the Church works within various systems, something Paul accomplished effectively in his use of Roman Citizenship and with his appeal to Caesar (Matthew 17: 24-27; I Peter 2: 13-20, Romans 13: 1-7, Acts 16: 35-39; 23: 11;  24 and 25).

In preaching the Word the Church acts as prophet to “the world,” the societal structures arrayed against God (Romans 12: 2). This includes all political systems under satanic control (Luke 4: 5-8). A prophet brings a timely and meaningful message of relevance. He has insight to speak to a particular situation. For example when Nathan the prophet spoke the Word of the Lord to King David in confronting David’s sin of murder he held him accountable for his behavior (2 Samuel 12: 1-15). The Bible teaches us through this example that the political powers are not absolute. The king is not God, a radical statement in ancient times.

Prophets call people back to obedience to God. They were the conscience of the nation. Likewise, the Church acts as prophet through active participation, but with an attitude of critical distance.

Critical Distance

Critical distance does not mean isolation or withdrawal where we go live in the woods and wait for the world to die. It means involvement in everything the world offers, especially politics, but with an approach from a different perspective, an eternal perspective. Criticism means Christians work from within society and offer a perpetual challenge to the status quo that reflects a Christian conscience; it never arrives at a final form of society in which it is completely comfortable. This is an important, albeit an uncomfortable, role to play. It can never endorse any system uncritically because this acceptance negates the fact of the inherent evil of the world and announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Church then is swallowed in the world’s identity. This reflects what happened in the Christian Roman Empire and in the Christian America ideal, which is often the ideology behind so called “Christian Conservative” political activism. The United States is identified with Christendom as “a Christian country.” Criticism in this sense does not simply entail a good word of advice, but active participation guided by an ethic of love (Matthew 5: 43-48; Romans 13: 8-10). This may manifest in working to repeal an unjust law or establishing a new law that meets certain needs in society, but especially the needs of the weakest members of society, who cannot speak for themselves and are powerless. This reflects a Christian conscience of concern for others, rather than just ourselves. Laws must protect those who need the most protection, rather than empower those who make it. Law is the enforcement of the personal morality of its makers (hence, when people say you “cannot legislate morality,” that’s an absurdity).

Perhaps the greatest example in recent times of the Church’s prophetic voice in American politics was in bringing attention to the cause of the unborn in its efforts to stem the tide of abortion, both in its political activism and through nonpolitical work of advocating adoption as an alternative to abortion. Another good example was the American Civil Rights Movement when it spoke against racism and the unjust social structures in American society.

Just as the Old Testament prophets held the king accountable to the Law of God—the king is not God—so the Church reminds the world of its limitations, that its systems have flaws and must allow for improvement. The world is not yet in the kingdom of God. There is no perfect system any more than there are perfect people. There is always room for growth and change. Only in the kingdom of God does change and growth cease because it is no longer necessary in the final state of perfection (Revelation 21).

Democracy offers a better system for Christians than Communism or Theocracy because it reflects an ideal of freedom, the basis of love and faith. But it has flaws, such as the tyranny of the majority (de Tocqueville, Democracy in America). Nor is democracy “the end of history,” a popular idea after the Cold War, arguing that democracy has emerged from the ideological struggles of history to become the greatest and final system. Nothing will succeed it. The post–Cold War world has reached the end of history, or the end of struggle and the end of change.{2}

There is every reason to consider that democracy will perish from the earth if its people grow complacent and do not defend it or practice it and any idea to suggest that it cannot perish on the basis of a metaphysical law of history will only contribute to that complacency. There is never a final system of society in which the Church refuses to adjure and criticize toward change because that entity would then be equal to the kingdom of God.

Romney vs. Obama

We apply the same standard of critical distance in voting for our favorite candidate or party. Voting is often the choice of the lesser of two evils. This popular maxim expresses the same idea of critical distance as long as we understand that the choice of the lesser evil is still a far less than perfect choice. Critical distance includes self-criticism.

Most people choose a candidate who comes closest to their own position and then largely ignore their differences. Critical distance will not dismiss the differences because through it we hold ourselves accountable by seeing our blind spots and recognizing potential problems. We show humility and responsibility through admitting the limits of our own position and choices.

Many contrasts exist between Governor Romney and President Obama, not least of which is personal religious belief. Ironically, Evangelical Christians largely ignore this issue, though each candidate’s views represent a serious difference as compared to biblical Christianity. In the past, Evangelicals have stressed the importance of personal belief. After all, most people hold to a particular political and economic view because of their religious views, not despite them.

President Obama reflects Liberation Theology in his belief that government must act as champion of the people. This should be done, in his view, by elevating the condition of the disenfranchised into the middle class, mainly through economic redistribution, but also through religious pluralism, toleration of minorities, woman’s rights and gay rights. Liberation Theology adapts Christianity to a socialist political agenda that uses government as a tool to free people from oppressive social structures such as capitalism, racism and patriarchy. There is a strong emphasis on social justice, radical equality and group sin, meaning the structure of a society is to blame for its problems rather than the individual, who is a victim.

Governor Romney styles himself as a stalwart defender of free enterprise informed by Mormon beliefs that reflect traditional American values of family, faith, and work ethic. Government must protect those values from its own encroachment in order to maintain the middle class. Although Mormonism is radically different from Evangelical Christianity in its doctrinal formulation, it accepts similar social values, which stress personal responsibility and initiative.

Although, no election can be reduced to one issue or to personal beliefs, these considerations’ potential impact cannot be disregarded. Behind Obama stands a Liberation Christianity that has and will continue to benefit from his re-election. A Romney victory will lift the cultural status of Mormons in America from outsiders to the mainstream. In the past, the election to the Presidency of a member from a group struggling for recognition in mainstream America received a stamp of approval at the highest level of political office that gave them increased cultural recognition and cache . The election of one of your own to the Presidency is a sign of arrival. President Kennedy’s election to office brought American mainstream acceptance to Roman Catholics, just as President Carter brought it to Evangelicals and President Obama brought the full acceptance of African-Americans, so a “President Romney” will create a greater cultural awareness and acceptance of Mormons.

The contemporary political logic of the American system says put your criticism out there during the primaries, but put it away once a candidate for your party is chosen. You’re supposed to fall in line behind him or her. Christians often follow the same logic and refuse to entertain criticism of our chosen candidate because it suggests a preference for the opposing side. The lack of criticism generally continues through our chosen candidate’s administration. Problems and faults are usually blamed on the other side and Christians become as politically polarized as the parties. This surrenders any critical distance gained and the Church loses its unique contribution for political advantage. It’s like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25: 27-34). We can in good conscience choose a candidate that we do not completely agree with if we retain our criticism of him. We should participate, yet with reservations.

Critical distance can tolerate voting for someone of a different faith if he is a better choice than the alternative, but it cannot live with softening its differences in order to win an election or modifying its convictions for political gain. Evangelicals are faced with a difficult choice, not between Liberation Theology or Mormonism, but whether or not they will retain their doctrinal critique and rejection of Mormonism, when those differences threaten its economic and political interests.

Recently, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association dropped Mormonism from its cult list.  And the language of “values” between Christians and Mormons grows indistinguishable, so that now “Christian values” are somehow equated with “Mormon values” and a vote for a Mormon is a vote for “biblical values.” The greatest “value” for Christians is the deity of Jesus Christ, which most Mormons do not accept. Evangelicals and Mormons share a similar political agenda in preserving the free enterprise system and in protecting the traditional American family ideal, which they both consider preferable to the creeping socialism of the Obama administration. There is no need to drop the hard and fast differences between Christianity and Mormonism; Christians can work with anyone if we effectively practice critical distance at the same time.

So, it comes down to retaining our prophetic role as members of Christ’s Body—not as much who we vote for, but why and how.

Notes

1. Kerby Anderson, “A Christian View of Politics, Government, and Social Action,” Mind Games Survival Course Manual (Plano, Texas: Probe Ministries, 1998), www.ministeriosprobe.org/MGManual/Politics/Gov1.htm

2. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). The idea of the end of history here is really a Hegelian version of Christian America, just as the idea of progress, the foundation of Fukuyama’s argument, reflects a secularization of the older notion of the idea of providence that founded “Christian America.”  Both identify either Christendom or the Western World with the kingdom of God, the final form of society. One is traditionally religious in its conception and the other secular.

© 2012 Probe Ministries


What is Technology?

What is Technology?

Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese uncovers a disturbing new view of technology: not as neutral, but a way of life that objectifies everything, including people.

The Neutrality View

Most people take a favorable view towards technological progress; new cars, cell phones and computers – what’s not to like? They embrace technological innovation as a plus despite the suspicions of questionable things like cloning, genetic engineering and nuclear weapons. But what is technology anyway? Do we really understand this all-embracing phenomenon directing human history? We often take for granted that we think we know the answer when in fact the meaning of the greatest social mover of all times remains elusive. When it comes to defining technology we are beset with the problem of defining more than just a word, but a concept and whole way of life and worldview.

The typical definition of technology these days says technology is neutral, suggesting that technology is nothing more than tools that people use as needed. Technology is a means to an end and nothing more. All objects are separate and disconnected. They are neutral and value-free, right? Tables, chairs, and light fixtures have nothing to do with each other and express no values in themselves and are completely determined by our use. They are simply objects at our disposal and present no moral problems so long as we use them for good. We can pick up a hammer and use it, then place it back in the tool box when finished. The hammer has appropriate and inappropriate uses. Hitting nails into wood is one of the acceptable uses of a hammer; using it to play baseball is not acceptable. So long as we act as good moral agents we use our technology rightly, or so we think. This definition is so widely accepted that we have trouble ever questioning it. When faced with morally questionable uses of technology we fall back on this old cliché: “technology is neutral,” and that settles all disputes. We are all familiar with this popular view and embrace it to some extent. The problem is not that the cliché is so simple or popular, but that it is so wrong. Philosophers have been telling us for decades now that the neutrality of technology definition is wrong and dangerous because it blinds us to the true nature of technology.

The Holistic View

The second view of the nature of technology, held mainly by philosophers, we call the “holistic view.” This view states that the “neutral view” is false because people hold to it as a means of justifying every type of technology. The neutrality view blinds us to the true nature of technology, which is not value-free. The lack of understanding regarding the true nature of technology creates a serious problem for a society so heavily influenced by technological development. As sociologist Rudi Volti says, “This inability to understand technology and perceive its effects on our society and on ourselves is one of the greatest, if most subtle, problems of an age that has been so heavily influenced by technological change.”{1} Technology is understood as a social system. We can also call it a worldview, a philosophy of life that sees all things as objects, including people. Instead of defining technology as disparate tools unconnected to each other, philosophers have suggested a more comprehensive definition that says technology does not mean neutral objects ready for use at our convenience, but a way of life that informs and controls everything we do. In other words, technology is a belief system with its own worldview and agenda—more like a religion than a hammer.

This belief system is often called the essence of technology or spirit of technology and cannot be seen in technological objects because we cannot see the entire system by looking at individual parts. We must grasp the spiritual essence before we can understand its technical parts. The “neutrality view” looks only at parts rather than the whole and misses technology’s true nature. This is a lot like looking at the tires of your car or its engine parts and thinking you now understand a car from seeing separate pieces of it and never seeing how the whole thing fits together.

The holistic view understands technology as a way of life and spiritual reality that shapes all our thinking. Philosopher Martin Heidegger gives the example of how the Rhine River exists not as a river, but as a source for electricity. Everything becomes stuff ready for usefulness.{2}

Technology really means an interconnected system rather than a neutral tool. The neutral definition blinds us to the true nature of technology and prevents us from mastering it. Heidegger argued that “we are delivered over to [technology] in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularity like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology.”{3}

Technology as Spirituality

The neutrality argument reassures us that we remain in control of our means rather than our means controlling us. It does not allow us to find the essence of technology in everyday technological objects such as cars, computers, or screw drivers and baseball bats; rather, technology is a way of life and thought that creates a universal system. Technology means the grand accumulation of all the different technological parts into a global system.

Technology is a system of interlocking systems. As philosopher Jacques Ellul said, “It is the aggregate of these means that produces technical civilization.”{4} Technology is our modern frame of reference that speaks of the profoundly spiritual and not the strictly technical. If we look at individual everyday technologies we will miss it. Instead we must see past the common objects to the larger global system that comprises technology as a social process. In the technological system both humanity and nature have no separate standing or value outside of technical usefulness. People are simply resources to be used and discarded as needed.

This view reveals the depths to which technology shapes our thinking by informing us and conforming us into the image of the machine, which represents the greatest example of technological thinking. Everything is understood as a machine and should function like a machine including the government, the school, the church and you! Bureaucracy is a social machine.

The machine is predictable. It has no freedom. It follows mechanical steps, or linear logic. Step one leads to step two, and so forth. Any deviation from its programming causes chaos and possible break down, which is why the machine is the worst possible analogy for human beings to follow. Yet this is the basis of the entire modern conception of life.{5} People are not machines that can be programmed; to adopt this conception reverses the role between humanity and its machines, making people conform to the image of the machine rather than vice versa. Machines are our slaves. They do what we tell them to do. They have no will, feelings or desires. Philosophers tell us that the natural relationship between people and machines is in a process of reversal so that we are becoming slaves to technology. We may control our individual use of technology but no one as of yet controls the entire system.{6}

Neutrality as Modern Myth

Nothing can be explained by the neutrality argument, not even the meaning of “neutrality.” It is simply not possible for any technology to be neutral; even the most primitive tools such as fire or stone axes take the form of their designers. Every technology bears inherent values of purpose and goals. Fire has value for a particular reason, to clear the land, cook food, keep people warm and ward off dangerous animals. By their very design, all inventions and tools reflects our values and human nature. Philosopher of Science Jacob Bronowski argued that “to quarrel with technology is to quarrel with the nature of man.”{7} Technology is an extension of ourselves and expresses human nature, which is never entirely good or bad, but ambivalent. Our technology reflects who we are and nothing more; it is not divine, it will not save the human race; but neither is it animal, but fully human, whose nature is always ambiguous, capable of great acts of kindness and mercy as well as cruelty and evil. People can be self-sacrificial and giving and self-destructive and greedy. There will always be good and bad effects to our inventions. They are a double edged sword that cuts both ways and it is our responsibility to discern between the two.

The modern bias in favor of neutrality reveals our protectionist tendencies towards all things technological. How is it that sinful people can produce morally neutral technology? We would not say that about art. “Oh! All art is morally neutral! It is all a matter of how you use it!” Yet the same creative forces go into producing technology as art. Is there anything neutral about the works of Caravaggio, Da Vinci or Picasso? Why then should there be anything neutral about Facebook or MX missiles?

This appears simple enough, but as modern people addicted to our latest toys and novelties we have difficulty admitting we may have a problem. We don’t like to think that too much Facebook might be causing young people to be further isolated from the community because they are more accustomed to relate electronically than in person, or that email actually reduces our ability to communicate because of the absence of tone of voice, body language, eye contact and personal presence. TV and film may have a surreal effect on its message, giving it a dream like quality rather than communicating realism.

Controlling Technology

The solution is not to abandon any of the incredible inventions of the modern age, but to recognize their limits. It is the sign of wisdom that we understand our limits and work within them. We should proceed along a two tiered path of questioning and the application of values. Ellul said that “It is not a question of getting rid of [technology], but by an act of freedom, of transcending it.”{8} The act of questioning is the first act of freedom; by becoming aware of the problem we can assert a measure of freedom and control. Through critical questioning we recognize our limits and thus we are able to exercise a measure of control over technology.

We should develop technologies that reflect our values of freedom, equality and democracy. For example, Ellul did envision in the early 1980’s the potential use of computer technology in a way that would create a decentralized source of knowledge that would maintain the values of democracy. We know this now as the internet. However, as Ellul also argued technology cannot change society for the better if we don’t change ourselves. The computer can also be used to bring in stifling State control.{9} We will never have a perfect technology that has no problems, but we should be visionaries in how we think about technology and the application of our values to it.

Limits serve as a warning to us. It is obvious that society has progressed in many ways thanks to advanced technology, but society’s spiritual regression shares the same condition as advancement. We have not become better people because we live in the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth century. Without a renewed spiritual and moral framework to direct our development and give new purpose to the system, technology may become the source of our own destruction rather than improvement. An inventory of advancement compares starkly with the litany of potential catastrophe. We have eliminated disease, but also created dangerous levels of overpopulation. We live longer and more abundant lives materially, but are pushing the natural world into extinction. We are able to travel quicker and communicate instantly, contributing to world peace and understanding, but have also developed the weapons of war to unimaginable levels of devastation.

Without a moral framework to control technology and understand its ethical limits we will go down a path of losing control of technology’s direction, allowing it to develop autonomously. This means it will develop in a predetermined linear direction, like a clock that will inevitably strike midnight once wound up. That direction as we have seen moves inexorably closer to the mechanization of humanity and nature. With the right value-system we can begin to reassert control. The choice is yours. Where do you want to go?

Notes

1. Rudi Volti, Society and Technological Change, 4th ed. (New York: Worth Publishes, 2001), 3.
2. Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. by William Lovitt (New York; Harper, 1977), 16, 17.
3. Ibid., 4.
4. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. by John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage, 1964), 2.
5. John Herman Randall, Jr. The Making of the Modern Mind: A Survey of the Intellectual Background of the Present Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 227.
6. Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine; Technics and Human Development (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966); Idem, The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970); Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Knopf, 1992); Lawrence J. Terlizzese, Hope in the Thought of Jacques Ellul (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2005).
7. Jacob Bronowski, “Technology and Culture in Evolution,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1. 3(1971): 199.
8. Ellul, The Technological Society, xxxiii.
9. Jacques Ellul, “New Hope for the Technological Society: An Interview with Jacques Ellul” in Et cetera 40.2 (1983): 192-206.

© 2012 Probe Ministries


Martial Arts and Just War Theory

Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese examines a Christian view of martial arts in view of the Just War Tradition.

When I was first asked to speak about Christianity and the Martial Arts I was a little skeptical that a Christian can practice Martial Arts in good conscience. The popular objections immediately came to mind: “Aren’t the Martial Arts steeped in Zen Buddhist practice?” And, “Should a Christian really participate in something as violent as karate?” Christians commonly object to Martial Arts for such reasons, even vilifying them as something as bad as witchcraft.

Upon reflection, I realized that the practice of Martial Arts naturally corresponds to something I have thought long and hard about: Just War Tradition. A central principal of both Just War thinking and the Martial Arts is personal self–defense. Just War doctrine states that if a Christian is unjustly attacked or sees an innocent third party under attack and has the ability to either prevent the abuse or intervene, that he or she should do so. What’s more, to fail to render such aid makes one equally culpable in the crime. In other words, inaction and apathy in the face of injustice is just as wrong as the injustice itself.

Just War thinking is usually applied to the relationships between governments and states in times of war. It helps Christians and societies decide if a war is morally acceptable or not and whether it is worthy of their participation. But there is no logical reason to prevent Christians from applying this principle at a personal level. After all, the police cannot possibly be available always and everywhere; we are sometimes forced to protect ourselves.

The Violence Objection

As Americans we naturally think that self–defense means owning a handgun. We live in a gun culture that accepts firearms as a God–given right protected by Law. Christians generally have no objections to gun ownership even though the potential for disaster is obvious. But when it comes to a safer alternative to guns, such as the Martial Arts, practitioners are met with a flurry of protests as if they are embracing some foreign religion. Now, to clear the air, I am entirely in favor of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. I am simply suggesting that those individuals who choose to practice the Martial Arts as a means of self–defense have chosen a safer alternative to gun ownership. (I assume that the discipline replaces gun ownership for them. From observation, gun owners and Martial Arts participants are generally not the same people.)

Guns are so easy to use that the potential for abuse and misuse is frightening and lethal. The Martial Arts, however, requires training, discipline and values related to peace and human dignity. One is taught self–control and respect for life that must accompany any notion of self–defense. Students are taught not to kill but rather to apply only the force necessary for a given situation.

One of the ironies of war states that the defender may become more powerful than the aggressor. This principle was clearly demonstrated in World War II when the Allies routed the Axis powers. At this point, if the defending party does not possess a system of values that imposes limited action out of respect for human life, then the defender becomes the aggressor by virtue of his advantage of power. Only a notion of justice tempered with mercy will prevent the just party from slipping into injustice and excessive aggression.

At the personal level, it is very difficult to achieve limited action that seeks to apply only the necessary force when it comes to using firearms. For example, various schools of Martial Arts often teach restraint in kicking or punching, using only enough force to defend oneself. Bullets cannot be recalled and their results are almost always fatal or horribly injurious. On the other hand, Martial Arts techniques like karate are inherently limited in their effects—despite violence–filled popular Kung Fu movies. They are designed to apply only the force necessary to achieve the goal of self–defense without killing or permanently disabling the opponent. Kicks, chops and blocks will always prove less fatal or damaging than shooting someone at point blank range. The use of force is never ideal or welcome, but if given the choice between karate or a .357 magnum for self–defense, the former clearly comes closer to Christian notions of justice and mercy than the latter.

The Eastern Mysticism Objection

The second objection, that the Martial Arts are necessarily tied to Eastern mysticism and thus that any Christian practicing these Arts is betraying Christianity, is much easier to answer. The common misconception is that Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, brought the Martial Arts from India to China in the Sixth Century AD with the spread of Zen Buddhism. Later, the practice spread to Japan. It is certainly true that the East has created a synthesis between the Martial Arts and mystical philosophy, but this creation represents a fairly modern innovation, especially in Japan with the rise of the Samurai warrior around 1300 AD. This is the most prominent symbol of the Martial Arts in the American mind. These Arts were practiced for millennia before the arrival of Zen in China or Japan and go as far back as 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. Historically speaking, there is no necessary connection between Zen and the Martial Arts.

Philosophically speaking, there is no necessary connection between Zen and the Martial Arts, either. Zen philosophy teaches a way of meditation or a means of achieving enlightenment focused on the practical and tangible world as opposed to the spoken or written word. That is, it doesn’t rely on sacred texts or traditional reason, but rather on intuitive experience. Zen adherents prefer practice and encounter with reality rather than simply talking about it. Since the Martial Arts are also very practical and physical, this makes Zen attractive to many Martial Artists, but this represents an incidental connection, not a logically necessary one. The connection between the two practices is a convenience. One no more has to be a Buddhist to practice the Martial Arts than one has to be a Christian to be an American. Simply put, just because Zen appeals to many Martial Artists doesn’t mean the two go together essentially. One can do just fine without the other, and that’s where Christians can reconcile doing Martial Arts with their faith.

However, the notion of Chi [“chee”], or life–force, in the Martial Arts presents a serious obstacle to many Christians. This underlying idea states that one must align his or her Chi in order to be an effective practitioner. Since Chi clearly represents a pantheist philosophy, a suitable Christian–theist substitute should replace it. Chi is really nothing more than right attitude, enthusiasm and concentration; it signifies the power of the focused mind rather than a mystical supernatural energy we can draw from. As in all sports and disciplines of any kind, one must focus the mind. This is no different for the Martial Artist than for the marksman who must aim at a target or a ball player who must kick or hit a ball. The body follows the mind.

As Christians legitimately concerned with the compromise of faith with Eastern mysticism or a violent culture, a conceptual union of Just War thinking and the Martial Arts creates an excellent theological and practical tool to reconcile both currents in American society. So, if after considering this perspective your conscience is clear, enjoy the Martial Arts for the sport, discipline and art form that they can be.

© 2011 Probe Ministries


Meet the Probe Speakers and Writers

 

This is a listing of the individuals who speak and write for Probe Ministries. Not all speakers are available for every conference.


Kerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, and Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope. His series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design, and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. Kerby hosts “Point of View” (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on “Prime Time America” (Moody Broadcasting Network) and “Fire Away” (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post. He can be reached at [email protected]. (Click here for a full bio.)

Kerby Anderson

Byron Barlowe

Byron Barlowe is a research associate and Web coordinator with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.S. in Communications at Appalachian State University in gorgeous Boone, N.C. Byron served 20 years with Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), eight years as editor and Webmaster of a major scholarly publishing site, Leadership University (LeaderU.com). In that role, he oversaw several sub-sites, including the Online Faculty Offices of Drs. William Lane Craig and William Dembski. His wife, Dianne, served 25 years with CCC and now homeschools their active teen triplets. He can be reached at [email protected].


Dr. Ray Bohlin is Vice President of Vision Outreach at Probe Ministries. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S., zoology), North Texas State University (M.S., population genetics), and the University of Texas at Dallas (M.S., Ph.D., molecular biology). He is the co-author of the book The Natural Limits to Biological Change and has published numerous journal articles. He was named a 1997-98 and 2000 Research Fellow of the Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. He can be reached at [email protected]. (Click here for a full bio.)

Dr. Ray Bohlin

Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker and the Website Administrator for Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 30 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’ Clubs), and she serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. She is also a professional calligrapher; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. She can be reached at [email protected].


Steve Cable is senior vice president of Probe Ministries. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Rice University with a Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering. Prior to joining Probe, Steve spent over 25 years in the telecommunications industry. Steve and his wife Patti have served as Bible teachers for over 30 years helping people apply God’s Word to every aspect of their lives. Steve has extensive, practical experience applying a Christian worldview to the dynamic, competitive high-tech world that is rapidly becoming a dominant aspect of our society. He can be reached at [email protected].


Michael Gleghorn

Michael Gleghorn is a research associate with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University and a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in theology from DTS. Before coming on staff with Probe he taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his beautiful wife Hannah have two children. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


Todd Kappelman is a field associate with Probe Ministries. He is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University (B.A. and M.A.B.S., and Greek), and the University of Dallas (M.A., philosophy/humanities). Currently he is pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Dallas. He has served as assistant director of the Trinity Institute, a study center devoted to Christian thought and inquiry. He has been the managing editor of The Antithesis, a bi-monthly publication devoted to the critique of foreign and independent film. His central area of expertise is Continental philosophy (especially nineteenth and twentieth century) and postmodern thought.

Todd Kappelman

Paul Rutherford

Paul Rutherford is a researcher, writer, and speaker for Probe. He joined staff in 2008 after earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from Rice University. His areas of interest include philosophy of religion, world religions, and faith and culture. Paul’s ministry experience includes campus ministry, cross-cultural ministry, and he has spoken in churches and schools throughout Texas. He and his wife Kelly have two young children. Paul’s hobbies include playing saxophone, singing, acting, swing dancing, and sometimes Texas two-step. He can be reached at [email protected]


Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese is currently joining the Probe team while teaching rhetoric at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). Meanwhile, he is a doctoral candidate with an emphasis in Philosophy of Technology at UTD. He holds both a Th.M. and Ph.D. in Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of two books, Trajectory of the Twenty First Century: Essays in Theology and Technology and Hope in the Thought of Jacques Ellul. He can be reached at [email protected] (Click here for a full bio.)

Dr. Lawrence Terlizzese



On Black Holes and Archangels

Dr.Terlizzese too often hears from Christian leaders and laymen that film, philosophy, literature, music, mythology, etc. (arts and humanities), are polluted wells that Christians do better to avoid rather than risk contamination. Yet no such warning is ever given about science and technology, always readily accepted under the rubric of natural revelation, except for some strange birds like Jacques Ellul or Neal Postman. “On Black Holes and Archangels” attempts to bridge this hypocritical divide in knowledge through raising art to the status of science as a legitimate source of knowledge concerning God and the human condition. As professor Lewis Sperry Chafer once wrote, theology uses “any and every source.”

Reversal of Theological Priorities

download-podcastWhen theology students talk about general revelation they mean science. God shows himself through the natural world; the movement of the stars, the rhythms of biology, the complexity of chemical synthesis, the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the like. Invariably, they almost always neglect human nature as a prominent theological source in acute reversal of theological priorities.

Comparatively, the bible says very little about the nature of the cosmos and the animal kingdom; instead it focuses on Adam’s Race (humanity), Adam’s prominence as divine vice-regent, his fall from innocence, the pain and suffering ensuing from a ruptured relationship with the Maker; the creation of the Hebrew people and the sacrificial offering of his Son (the Second Adam [Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45]) in the plan of redemption.

The Bible is mostly about Israel’s reluctance to serve God. Their obstinate disobedience, their refusal to recognize absolute righteousness of the One God, the pleading of the prophets to return to the Truth; their judgment and horrifying dissolution, but final salvation thanks only to the divine mercy of their heavenly Father, “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). Israel serves as paradigm for all people, as the new creation of humanity in the Second Adam that brings the renewal of God’s creation, the natural world; “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse . . . the lion shall lay down with the lamb  . . . they will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:1-9; 27:6).

The theological reversal of priorities places science and reason over religion and faith, which interprets human nature in light of the cosmos rather than the cosmos in light of human nature and salvific transformation; as Adam goes so goes nature; “Cursed is the ground because of you [Adam];” “the creation will be set free from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Genesis 3:17;
Romans 8:19-22).

This reversal is reminiscent of C. P. Snow’s critical paradigm called the Two Cultures.{1} Snow elucidated the theory that modern epistemology splits between science and the humanities, or said simply, between religion and science, between subjective and objective knowledge, creating an imbalance that favors one way of knowing over the other. Any juxtaposition in knowledge will result in the denigration of religion or science that fails to recognize their inherent compatibility.

Evangelicals are quick to latch onto the split in knowledge, recognizing science’s superiority as source of knowledge and engine for technological acceleration in a theological reversal of priorities that recognizes all things scientific and technological as gifts from God, even offering metaphysical justification for technological acceleration under the theological rubric of general revelation, yet disparaging the humanities as a polluted well. However, science is not general revelation, it is only the philosophical lens used to interpret it—which is not incorrect, just incomplete. A consistent application of general revelation must include the humanities as a valid source of knowledge on human nature as equal to science: philosophy, religion, literature, art, film, etc., all present a valid interpretation of human nature that serves as sources for theology. L. Sperry Chafer’s argued decades ago that theology uses “any and every source.”{2}

What is General Revelation?

Most evangelical theology divides revelation or God’s self-disclosure into two categories called general revelation and special revelation, a division of knowledge going back at least to Saint Thomas Aquinas, receiving its greatest expression in the early modern period with the theory of the Two Books by Francis Bacon. The first book of the knowledge of God comes from the natural world, discerned and interpreted by reason, open to all—hence general knowledge; modern science and philosophy grounded in rationalism develops from this theological base. The second book of knowledge of God was considered Holy Scripture, discerned and interpreted through faith supported by reason—hence it is not open to all, only the faithful.

General revelation refers to the knowledge of God outside of the Bible in nature, history, and personal experience; it is open to all people and anyone can understand it. Special revelation refers to the knowledge of God revealed in the Bible alone, such as the dual nature of Christ as the God/Man, the Trinity, the story of redemption and the knowledge of salvation. It is special because only those who accept the word of God by faith know these truths discerned by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2). The two forms of revelation always complement each other. However, special revelation has greater authority than general revelation as the exclusive source for knowledge of salvation. We are saved through special revelation and never through general revelation which largely teaches humanity’s need for God, but offers no solution because that will only be found in special revelation.

God’s presence is revealed in nature but in a very limited way. Humanity actually knows very little about God from general revelation. People talk about “the love of God” but that is not a concept drawn from the natural world. The poet Tennyson said “nature is red in tooth and claw,” meaning nature is cruel and unforgiving. The reality of nature as hostile and uncaring does not reflect the character of God. We know God is love, only because the Bible, not nature, tells us He is love (John 3:16; 1 John). Seeing a grizzly bear mother eating her young on a nature documentary convinced me of the truth of Tennyson’s statement.

General revelation means God reveals himself through the humanities as well as the sciences. The opening of the evangelical mind begins with a view of revelation that takes the arts and humanities as seriously as the sciences as a valid source of knowledge.

On Black Holes and Archangels

As the astronomer sees and reflects the divine glory of the cosmos, so the philosopher, musician, novelist and film artist reflects the inner light of soul—as complicated, profound and stunning as the swirl of galaxies, as explosive as a supernova and as deep and forbidding as a black hole! Artists explore remote and inhospitable depths of inner space. They transport the human spirit to destinies Magellan, Columbus and Verrazano never dreamt of; where Voyager will never encounter, where the telescope sees blindly . . . where angels fear to tread!

Art explores inner recesses of human nature and delivers subjective knowledge on topics such as anxiety, alienation, despair, boredom, hate, faith, love, fear, courage, lust, oppression and liberation, not quantifiable or objective, but just as real and valuable to Christian theology as the scientist’s observations. Theologian of Culture Paul Tillich insightfully argued that art was the spiritual barometer of culture: “Art is religion.”{3} In order to understand culture and the ultimate questions it asks in relating the Gospel message, the theologian must turn to philosophy, literature, paintings, music, etc.

Science and art are not in competition. Just as reason and faith complement each other as sources of knowledge, so subjective and objective knowledge act as two halves of the same coin—the union of the left and right sides of the brain. “Historian of Evil” Jeffrey Burton Russell writes,

This question of how we know seems unfamiliar because we have been brought up to imagine that something is either “real” or “not real,” as if there were only one valid world view, only one way to look at things, only one approach to truth. Given the overwhelming prestige of natural science during the past century, we usually go on to assume that the only approach to truth is through natural science . . . it seems to be “common sense” . . . there are multiple truth systems, multiple approaches to reality. Science is one such approach. But . . . science is . . . a construct of the human mind . . . based on undemonstrable assumptions of faith. There is no scientific proof of the bases of science. [There is] no real difference between the subject and objective approach to things . . . science has its limits, and beyond those limits there are, like other galaxies, other truth systems. These other systems are not without resemblances to science, but their modes of thought are quite different: among them are history, myth, poetry, theology, art, and analytical psychology. Other truth systems have existed in the past; still more may exist in future; we can only guess what thought structures exist among other intelligent beings.{4}

Only novelists, film makers, poets and theologians can communicate the possible thought structures of angels, demons or ETI’s. How does the thought process of an archangel differ from that of seraphim and cherubim? The Star Trek franchise may be our best introduction to alien civilizations in the absence of any hard evidence.

Elysium: The Acceleration of the Status Quo into Outer Space

The recent (2013) science fiction movie Elysium depicts the human condition as it has existed throughout human history and extends it to the space station Elysium. In the year 2154, the class difference between the haves and the have not’s appears in bold relief. Elysium is a haven for the wealthy and technologically powerful elite who rule the sub-proletariat peoples of earth living in squalor, misery and deprivation. Los Angeles is reminiscent of the shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo today. The few control the many through the accumulation and withholding of wealth and technological power, especially medical machines “Med-Bays” that reverse cell damage and heals all sickness and disease, granting virtual immortality.  A self-appointed champion of the people Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) with nothing left to lose—since his exposure to a fatal radiation dose has left him with five days to live—mounts an assault on Elysium and accomplishes the impossible, a revolution that gains control of the space station’s computer system and the robot guardians, turning them against the establishment and bringing relief to
the people of Earth.

Elysium serves as a great cinematic example of liberation theology and window into the human condition that never changes despite technological acceleration that empowers the few to control the many. In any late stage of civilization, from Egypt and Rome to modernity, the same conditions prevail: the elite rule the many and technology makes no difference in alleviating social inequalities. Technological advance, as the movie portrays, only accelerates the status quo so that the struggle for freedom and equality of all people simply takes place off the earth on a space station.

The Enlightenment idea of progress envisions a global advance of humanity across all social lines. Any concentration of power and wealth in an elite group to the neglect of the rest of the planet, regardless of how technologically advanced or socially integrated, is not progress but regress. Elysium reflects contemporary global conditions—the status quo, the way things actually are, projecting them one generation or forty years into the future.

When technological acceleration grants the world equal social conditions, such as the elimination of poverty, hunger and disease in Africa and Latin America as in the Western world, or the ready accessibility of health care in the United States as in the Netherlands or Canada, then we do justice to the noble word “Progress.” In the absence of social equality, technological growth renders the same absolute social imbalances and universal disillusionment in the modern world as existed in the late Roman Empire, the concentration of power in an elite, ruling ruthlessly over the masses without hope of change, except on a global scale that moves rapidly towards dissolution, where robot guardians replace the Praetorian Guard.{5}

“Nein! Nein! Nein!”

There is no saving knowledge of God in history, science, economics, philosophy, math or whatever. NO! NO! NO! I am in complete agreement with Karl Barth on this point: “Nein! Nein! Nein!” No! Absolutely not! Never! The saving knowledge of Christ comes only through the word of God and centers on the work of Jesus Christ for all mankind. The knowledge of God in general revelation is not saving knowledge of the Gospel. If one could know God through the means of general revelation then it would make special revelation and the coming of Christ superfluous and useless. General revelation only condemns and functions for Gentiles like the Law of Moses for Jews (Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 3).

General revelation prepares humanity for special revelation. Knowledge of God and the human condition in general revelation creates the need for special revelation. General revelation shows humanity its sinfulness and need for a savior; “How majestic is Your name in all the earth. Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens . . . What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:1-4). Job gave the only possible answer as a finite being when reminded of wonders of God’s creation: “I know You can do all things . . . I declared that which I did not understand . . . I retract and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-6). “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). General revelation demonstrates God’s absence from humanity; it reveals the “UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23).

Special revelation meets that need for reconciliation with God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation cannot come from any other avenue than special revelation, a major theological premise the great theologian Karl Barth staunchly defended. According to Barth, all revelation is special revelation and all revelation imparts the saving knowledge of Christ.

General revelation brings the knowledge of God’s absence, consciousness of alienation from the divine, much as the Mosaic Law brings the awareness of sin (Romans 1-3); but only to set us up for the knowledge of the Savior that comes from hearing the gospel of Christ preached (Romans 4-10). “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).{6}

Notes

1. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures (London, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1959).

2. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. One (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 5. Chafer defined systematic theology as “A science which follows a humanly devised scheme or order of doctrinal development and which purports to incorporate into its system all truth about God and His universe from any and every source.”

3. Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), 7.

4. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press), 18, 19.

5. Carroll Quigley, The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1979); Roderick Seidenberg, Posthistoric Man: An Inquiry (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1950); Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1987, 1949); Lawrence J. Terlizzese, Hope in the Thought of Jacques Ellul (Eugene, OR; Cascade, 2005).

6. Emil Brunner, Natural Theology: Comprising Nature and Grace by Professor Dr. Emil Brunner and the reply No! by Dr. Karl Barth (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002, Reprint).

©2014 Probe Ministries