Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just Looking for Your Input.

If you are a regular here at my blog you will have seen that I'm reading "Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright. As the subtitle suggests the book is all about "rethinking heaven, the Resurrection, and the mission of the church."

His main idea is that as Western Christians we have allowed too much of the Medieval Church's tradition to seep into our perspectives on what it means to become a "New Creation" and our views on the "New Heaven" and "New Earth." But I'll let him speak for himself briefly:

"A massive assumption has been made in Western Christianity that the purpose of being a Christian is simply, or at least mainly, to 'go to heaven when you die,' and texts that don't say that but mention heaven are read as if they did say it, and texts that say the opposite, like Romans 8:18-25 and Revelation 21-22, are simply screened out as if they didn't exist" (Wright 90).

As he develops his argument he has shaken some of my views profoundly. And so I'd like to hear from you on a few things. Without overthinking anything too much:

1. What is the first thing that enters your mind when you think of Heaven?

2. In your mind's eye what does Heaven look like?

3. Where do we go when we die?

4. After Christ's return where will we be, the New Heaven or the New Earth?

I just want to know if my old perceptions were just me or if, like he says, we're all a little messed up!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Get Ready for Prince Caspian!

Here's the newest PC trailer for you all.

And then there's always Indy...

Which one are you looking forward to more?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

... and let's wrap this up (part II).

Let's hope this is actually the final part.

So, while I'm going to leave the specifics of this whole Oprah/Tolle thing behind, I want to deal with this idea of synkretism. As I said last week, we are now seeing within the Western world a generation rising that does not have a "Christian/Western" worldview as it's default perspective. People that we would normally think of as relatively intelligent, thoughtful people are adopting strange views of the world that, a few generations ago, we all would have scoffed at. Not only that, but they are starting to merge together seemingly incompatible modes of thought without even batting an eye. How does this happen?

Up until the last half century or so the "Modern" worldview (coming out of the Enlightenment) was the default in the Western world. This means that logic and reason are supreme. To believe anything requires definitive proof; either a flawless philosophical argument or undeniable empirical evidence. Thus, religion is ushered off to the sidelines of society while science takes it's "rightful" place at the head.

Contrast this with the Eastern Pantheism that is beginning to emerge: mystery is supreme. Life is not to be understood (that is impossible) but experienced. One cannot know the unknowable... but to experience the unknowable... now that's something!

Of course, these are ridiculously brief generalizations but I hope you get the gist of what I'm talking about. The difficult thing is that both of these perspectives have little bits of Truth in them yet are both incomplete. In his book, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire argues that the only complete wordview in existence is Christianity (Christian Theism). In Christianity we see reason and mystery working in tandem.

We cannot say reason is supreme (because it denies all of the wonder and mystery that is so evident in our world) nor can we say that mystery is supreme (because the world works in a logical, orderly way... and we can prove it!). It is not a matter of "either/or." But neither is it a matter of "both/and" in the sense of merging the two together synkretistically.

One cannot simply supplement the weaknesses of one's worlview by merging it together with a contradictory one. Yet this is exactly what Oprah and Tolle are doing. Tolle says that we can't use logic to understand God... but he obviously used logic to figure that out! Mystery is a great and beautiful thing and God is full of mystery. But mystery is not nonsense. Nonsense is just plain old nonsense.

But in Christianity reason and mystery come together, not as enemies but (dare I say it?) as lovers. One without the other is incomplete but taking them and forcing them together is not how they were meant to be. In Christianity we can see how "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness..." (1 Tim 3:16) but at the same time Paul criticises the people of Israel because "...they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2).

The final word goes to the Apostle Paul:
Colossians 2:1-4 (ESV) "1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

For Those Who Care

If you want the whole story click here to go to Juanita's blog, but the gist of it is that I finally got my birthday present (after much lying and deceit... I love my wife!).

So here are some pictures of my new Mossberg "Maverick 88" Pump-Action 12 gauge shotgun!
A shotgun and a hound dog! It's going to be a good fall.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

... and let's wrap this up.

So, I don't want to harp on this too much but we're all going to be running into this Oprah, Tolle stuff and most people that we know will be aware of this too, so I think it's important to:
1. be aware of what they are teaching (15-20 million people watch Oprah's show every day).
2. go beyond knowing that this is nonsense to being able to articulate why it is nonsense.

But first, let's watch a little more of this nonsense:

This is synkretism (the merging together of incompatible beliefs) at it's best.

As with most synkretistic systems of thought I have seen here just enough truth integrated so as to make the rest of the tripe palatable:

Nuggets of Truth:
1. The Bigness of God
One thing that Tolle emphasizes is that God is bigger than our human understanding. This is true. God is bigger than what we can comprehend. [ie. Job 42:3; Isaiah 40]

2. The Limitations of Institutional Religion
If God is bigger than we can comprehend then He is also beyond our expressions of Him. One of the roles of formal religious institutions (ie. Churches) is to attempt to make the revelations of God understandable to God's creation. It is ultimately impossible to do this in a complete sense. Formalized religion and worship does not give us a complete picture of who God is. However, God himself chose to set up and work through such imperfect means. He, through His commands to His followers, set up worship in the Tabernacle, Temple, and (in the New Testament) His Bride: The Church.

Obviously there are many other small "nuggets" of truth interspersed throughout Tolle's philosophy. Watch for them and be aware of them. They can become bridges through which you can begin discussions with those who are following the ideas of Tolle.

The Problems:
1. Synkretism
Pluralism (the acceptance of multiple ideas) is nothing new to us in the Western World but not all pluralism is synkretistic. Tolle is merging together ideas from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc... While there are some striking commonalities in some areas the big problem is that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all claim to have exclusive access to Truth. Thus, someone's got to be wrong. So to take an idea or two from each and then discard the majority (which makes exclusive Truth claims) of what remains simply cannot work.

2. The Starting Point
I believe that this is where we as Christians become so thrown off by this kind of stuff. Tolle is not starting from a "Western/Christian" perspective. We've become so used to having "Western/Christian" beliefs at the core of our way of life that when we encounter something other than this we simply don't know how to deal with it other than simply saying, "well that's just wrong."

Tolle is very clearly coming from an Eastern, polytheistic background. Eastern philosophies have, for millennia, been synkretistic. Christianity has had such a terrible time in countries like India because the Indians simply accept Christ as just one more of their thousands of gods and it makes no real difference in their lives. If you come from a philosophical background that, as part of it's core beliefs, accepts contradictory modes of thought you will have no problem whatsoever adopting philosophies such as Tolle's.

What we are now encountering is a generation within North America that does not have a "Western/Christian" worldview as their default worldview. The problems that missionaries in Hindu and Buddhist societies have wrestled with for years are now coming home:
1. In Hinduism - Jesus is just another god.
2. In Buddhism - Jesus is just another "buddha" (person who has reached enlightenment).

OK, so maybe I won't be able to wrap this up this week.

What other "nuggets of truth" have you seen from this stuff?
What other problems have you seen?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Let's Just Get this Out of the Way

So, I've got 3 or 4 forwards so far about this one and you probably have too. I think I'll just have to get used to it (just like the daVinci Code).

Yes, Oprah and Eckhart Tolle are starting a cult... or so these forwards say. New Age philosophy, Pluralism/Relativism, and Synkretism is the name of the game.

This clip of Tolle at one of his conferences should explain what we're talking about:

This was just Tolle by himself. Just imagine what happens once you throw Oprah into the mix!! Just go to YouTube and search for "Oprah, Tolle" and you'll find hours of mind boggling footage from Oprah's show. Check out these.

Oprah and Tolle have been going through Tolle's latest book and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Oprah's mindless drones (did I say that out loud!?!) are buying into this.

What is it about this stuff that attracts people?
Is this all pure lies or is there some truth mixed in?
Have you spoken with anyone who is into this kind of stuff?
How many emails about this have you gotten so far?

My critiques of this synkretistic philosophy will follow...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Limitations of God

So I've been reading this book called "The Language of God" (it's all about genetics and DNA and how science and faith should be working together instead of bickering) and there's a section talking about the limitations of God that reminded me of something that happened back in high school.

I think I was in grade 11 or 12 when this happened. I was talking to some atheist acquaintance of mine who decided to prove to me that God didn't exist. The conversation went a little something like this:
Atheist Guy: So you believe in God, right?
Tim: Yah.
AG: And you think God is all powerful, right?
T: Yah.
AG: So, can God create a rock that is so big even he can't lift it?
T: Huh?
And that was about it. I was so taken off guard by this obviously inane question that I had no idea what to say... and my
acquaintance won the day.
[I know he's not God but don't you just love my picture of an ultra ripped Atlas holding up the world... that's the best I could come up with.]
By now I've heard a number of other variations of this question:
"Can God create a 'round' square?"
"Can God create a 'person' who isn't a person?"
They are all the same silly pointless question just phrased a little differently. Now that I'm at least a little bit more clever than I was back then I would just answer, "Nope" and be done with it.
While some people may be uncomfortable saying that God has limitations I think that it's pretty obvious from scripture that he does. After all, in Hebrews 6:18 it says that, "...it is impossible for God to lie..." And look at 2 Timothy 2:13 - "...if we are faithless, he remains faithful -- for he cannot deny himself."
God has very clear limitations. He cannot be self-contradictory. For him to be self-contradictory would mean that he would cease to be who he is... God! That is why God cannot lie; he is the source and personification of all truth.
Have you ever had conversations like this? How did it go?
What other variations of this question have you heard?
How do we reconcile the two ideas of an all powerful God and a God that has limitations?