Archive for December, 2008

In the beginning, God…

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Forty years ago, the astronauts of Apollo 8 had embarked on a groundbreaking mission to become the first humans to orbit the moon.  They also found themselves the first humans to spend Christmas in space.  In a live television broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1968, the three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders — suprised the world with a special message.

Anders: For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Lovell: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Borman: And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.

You can see the original broadcast on YouTube (there’s not much to watch though) or an edited video that presents it very nicely.  The photo above is called “Earthrise,” one of the most spectacular images ever captured on film.  It was photographed by Anders during Apollo 8’s orbit of the moon.  The U.S. Postal Service used the image on a stamp issued in 1969.

Evangelical synergism

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

I know, big words.  Synergism is a theological term that describes an understand of cooperation in the process of regeneration and salvation.  The idea that man’s holy inclination and God’s grace must cooperate to accomplish salvation.  This is a traditional Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view, but among Protestants is not generally accepted.

The argument against synergism for sola gratia, by grace alone, can be framed as a logical question, posed by John Hendryx.  If two persons receive grace and only one believes the gospel, why does one believe in Christ and not the other?  What makes the two persons to differ?  Jesus Christ or something else?  If it was the human response that determines the difference, than salvation required the cooperation of both man and God.

We “reformed” people get this concept.  We understand Ephesians 2:8-9, and state it clearly as doctrine and dogma.  But do we live it?  Do we preach it?  Is it practical?

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The Questions are Rigged

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Whether conservative or liberal, it seems that most people in this world, including journalists, writers, and “researchers,” have a hard time constructing objective questions and answers.

Not so long ago there was the story of the John Ziegler, who started a website and is putting together a “documentary” called “How Obama Got Elected.”  The interviews are certainly fascinating material, but I’m not really sure how much the questions, and the offered choices for an answer, actually reveal.  Did people who know certain things about Obama vote based on that knowledge, or do they know the info because of their pre-existing choice of candidate or news source?  Is it causal or just collateral coincedence?

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Taking the High Road

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

A group of atheists in Washington state asked for and received permission to post a sign near a traditional nativity display “celebrating the Winter Solstice.”  But if you read the text, there’s nothing about celebration there.

Some idiots stole the sign and it was quickly recovered and replaced — whatever my thoughts about the message, stealing is wrong and free speech is a decent right to protect.

[UPDATE: Turns out some people don’t like the baby Jesus either.  A life-size figure was stolen from a manger scene setup near Independence Hall.]

Dan Barker, a former pastor and co-founder of the atheist group, insists that the sign was never intended to attack anyone.  But in the same breath, he’s saying things like this:

“It’s not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest,” Barker said. “If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don’t bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views.”

“When people ask us, ‘Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people’s holidays? — we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message,” he said. “On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don’t submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways.

Whatever your thoughts about Christianity or Christmas displays, is it reasonable to respond to what you think is (perceived) hate speech with more (self-admitted) hate speech?  I’m glad the un-emotional rationalists (“may reason prevail”) resort to name calling because they think Christians do it.  That sure is taking the high road.

As for the Nativity, I’m glad he gets the message — every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The incarnate Savior demands worship.

A Matter of Principle

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I was reading an article from the Charlotte Observer about UNC forgoing Christmas trees or any other Christmas decorations in their libraries this year, ostensibly because some staff were offended by the display.

So I have two questions:

  1. What particular religion claims the Christmas tree as a sacred part of its religious observance of Christmas?  Seems to me like a Christmas tree is an entirely secular celebration.  So shouldn’t it be equally offensive to Christians that it becomes the focus of the holiday?  Or should we all just realize that it’s part of our “American culture” and go with the flow?
  2. As a matter of principle, shouldn’t the people who are offended by Christmas and Christmas-related displays, decorations, and parties, also be offended at the vacation day provided on Christmas?  If you’re honestly offended, I’d expect that you would refuse to take the day off, because in so doing, you’re selling out to “the man” who’s pushing Christmas down our throats.