Naughty & Nice Nonsense

blog - santa claus 1

Everybody has their favorite Christmas songs. But some of us have our least favorite Christmas songs too. For me, there is one song that is indisputably THE WORST this time of year. And yes, I am aware of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” as well as the fact that New Kids On The Block gifted us with a Christmas Album at one point too.

No, the single worst Christmas Song is “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

Now, let me be clear and say that I’m not taking a stance on whether or not a Christian can allow their young children to believe in Santa or not. But I will insist that the “gospel of Santa” is pure evil.

The gospel of Santa is the same basic message as any other manmade religion: there is a supernatural figure out there who is omniscient (“he knows when you’re sleeping or awake or if you’ve been bad or good, naughty or nice“). He keeps a record of your wrongs (“he’s making a list and checking it twice”). So you should “watch out” because “he’s coming.” Behave (don’t “pout” or “cry”). This figure will bless your good behavior and punish your bad behavior. And if there’s any doubt that this is Moralism 101, note the sentiment to “be good for goodness sake.” That’s the very definition of moralism, the religion of such Jesus detractors as the Pharisees.

While there are various views of Santa Claus, the incarnation presented in “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is the moralistic myth of a jolly, old, white, fat man who blesses the righteous and curses the wicked. Santa is a figment of basic conservative mentality, i.e. there are good people and bad people and some deserve all the blessings and some deserve all the problems. This, of course, is at odds with liberal mentality which supposes that all people are basically good, but sometimes do bad things due to problematic circumstances and poor environmental factors. If there was a more liberal Santa, he’d probably be a little more ethnic, hipper, and give good gifts away to virtually all undeserving people. And no, I’m not going to go there 🙂 I stand by “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” (Matt. 22:21) and Christians should “submit to the governing authorities…placed there by God.” (Rom. 13:1)

My point is that neither the conservative, moralistic Santa nor a liberal, amoralistic Santa are the gospel.

The gospel is the good news of a supernatural being who knows that you’ve been bad while you’re awake but blesses you anyways. And in order to give you the good gifts he’s earned, he has to swallow your lump of coal, an eternal burning judgment. That’s grace.

At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the God-man who birthed this gospel, Jesus, has come to the prophesied town of Bethlehem. But since he’s a baby, you don’t have to “watch out.” You simply have to watch and adore what he does for you.

So, if you do good, don’t do so simply for the sake of goodness. That’s nonsense. Do so because you’re overwhelmed with gratitude for the One who has forgiven all of your bad.

Thank God that Jesus is not Santa Claus. Santa essentially hands out paychecks for moral behavior. Jesus actually gives gifts.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

Evolution vs. Creation and What The Gay Movement Has To Do With It

From the standpoint of a pastor who attempts to expose and analyze the common idols of contemporary society , Bill Nye “The Science Guy” gives interviews that are almost too good to be true. Precisely because he’s such a good teacher, his opinions, which decidedly undermine any concept of biblical authority and, instead, espouse the infallibility of modern science, are so succinct, so clear, that they’re almost too cliché. Nonetheless, they make for wonderful teaching opportunities.

Nye is currently doing a media tour for his new book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. In this interview posted by Huffington Post Religion, Nye repeatedly offers logical inconsistencies, which I’ll try to point out and explain. Ultimately, this is evidence, once again, that the Apostle Paul was right when he says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:14) Nye obviously isn’t unintelligent. And the biblical message is also not illogical. But these two paths (Nye and Scripture) simply cannot converge because he doesn’t have the Spirit of God in him. The Bible remains foolishness to him. In other words, there is nothing Scripturally incompatible with the universe looking 13.8 billion years old or our planet appearing 4.5 billions years old. Since the Bible clearly teaches the idea of God creating a world with the “Appearance of Age” (“seed-bearing plants,” not seeds in Gen. 1:11-12; chickens, not eggs in Gen. 1:20-25; sexually mature humans, not embryos in Gen. 1:26-28) we would expect an older appearance. Furthermore, it’d be very difficult to reasonably estimate the aging effects of a global, mountain-covering Flood as Genesis 6-9 records. Put differently, based on the Bible, not only does 13.8 billion years for the universe not work, but the earth “looking” 6,000-10,000 years old doesn’t work either. The earth was created with the “Appearance of Age” and therefore it should look older than what it actually is.

So, on to Nye’s interview and my bigger point today.

First, notice the overtly religious language Nye uses to describe his teaching. When the interviewer suggests he enjoys battling Creationists and teaching them about Evolution, he (and this has to be intentional) says, “I’m trying to spread the word. So anytime you get an opportunity, you take it.” (min 1:55) He’s paraphrasing the New Testament’s teaching on the Great Commission (Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:15). Nye understands evangelizing as well or better than many Christians – the very nature of “good news” is that it begs to be told. If you don’t feel compelled to spread it, by definition, you must not believe it’s all that good of news.

Second, he suggests his main concern is that evangelicals are cranking out a generation of young people who “can’t think.” (min 2:45)This is phenomenally inconsistent with his previous statement, that we live “in the world’s most technologically advanced society.” (min 2:10) Unless Nye thinks that orthodox Christianity somehow just recently sprang up in his lifetime, he can’t have it both ways. In the twentieth century, the century in which the United States became the world’s clear superpower, we were also unequivocally the world’s most evangelical Christian country. In other words, these same Christians who “can’t think” were largely responsible for producing the very technology Nye assumes they’re incapable of. As one of my favorite modern Christian apologists, Dinesh D’Souza, is accustomed to saying, “This is what happens when you let the scientist out of the laboratory” i.e. he doesn’t know how to do history. 

Third, Nye describes religion as something by which people get “community and comfort” and “that’s great.” (min 3:00) Again, nonsense. Many contemporary thinkers like Nye assess religion by saying, “If it works for you, so be it.” An actual historian, Rodney Stark, makes the case in the Rise of Christianity that the early Christians who suffered unthinkable persecution at the hands of the Romans (or modern Christians experiencing the same in the Middle East) don’t do so because “it works for them” or “is comfortable for them” and it’s fairly insulting to suggest that. They suffer, even die – stripping them of their comfort and their community – because they believe those tenets of faith to be objectively true, not subjectively true. Again, this is someone like Nye trying to observe from the outside something he doesn’t understand. A swing and a miss. I’ve heard many other atheists make the same assessment.

Fourth, the interviewer asks Nye why he thinks it is that “evolution” has become something of a dirty word in many American households. This is perhaps where Nye’s self-defeating claims become most glaring. He candidly states, “I think it’s the troubling and compelling fact of life… we’re all gonna die… I just think it drives us all a little crazy. All of us.” (min 3:40) So……..wouldn’t that apply to Nye too? If he’s going to die, and dying makes people crazy, wouldn’t he be a bit crazy? How do you know if you can trust your own logic? On the basis of Nye’s answer, how does he not know that HE HIMSELF is not crazy? How can Nye know that he’s not just seeing the evidence in such a way that already fits his own preconceived conclusions? He can’t. He’s blind to his own blindness.

Fifth, Nye again proves a point (7:00 min) that I tend to bring up repeatedly – that people who have not actually spent any significant time studying the Bible or the history of its transmission and translation, and Nye most obviously hasn’t, still hold deep convictions about it. (Rom. 8:7) We don’t do this about most books. If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, you have little to no opinion about it. But everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve studied it, has an opinion of the Bible and feels justified in that opinion. Nye concludes, “It’s a troubling thing. I mean at some point you smirk about it because it’s so…it’s silly.” And he proves the Apostle Paul right again, who promised that the message of the cross is foolishness (or “silly” if Nye prefers) to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

There is A LOT more here, but I’ll get to my point…

The Creation account has been around since, well, Creation. The argument for Intelligent Design is not new and isn’t going to get any more logical. And while I enjoy the debates and think it’s important to practice civil discourse on items we don’t agree upon, I don’t know that debates are going to bring sweeping changes in the way the average person thinks and whether or not he/she believes the biblical Creation account ahead of what science textbooks are currently teaching. IF there is going to be a cultural change – and yes, like AnswersinGenesis.org, I do believe all of this is a MAJOR sticking point for non-believers considering Christianity as well as for believers falling from it – I think the change will have to come this way: important, influential Young Earth Creationist scientists are going to have to “come out of the closet.”

Consider this, the Gay Movement in our country did not become fully mainstream until when? In Selling Homosexuality to America, Paul Rondeau says that the successful strategy of the modern Gay Movement was dependent on engaging the “five markets of social influence…which touch every citizen in America: government, education, organized religion, the media, and the workplace.” The result? Within thirty years, the idea of being gay moved from clinically abnormal behavior (as classified in DSM) to being considered a normal alternative lifestyle.

Note carefully, however, that the argument for gay marriage and gay rights never actually changed. The exact same arguments existed 50 years ago. Few were persuaded through reason and debate. Rather, it took sympathetic, likable primetime television characters, musicians, political figures, etc., people like Ellen Degeneres, Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris, Rosie O’Donnell, Lance Bass, Ricky Martin and a host of others whom you may or may not have guessed. The argument never changed! The logic never improved! So what did it? How do we get from “silly” or “sick” to legal and applauded? Influential, credible characters came forward. That’s what changed the public perception.

What does this have to do with biblical Creation? Everything. You know what will change the public perception? Just like it took Ellen Degeneres, it’ll take some Young Earth Creationists who come out and prove that evangelicals can do science just as good as macro-evolutionists in order to give Creationism some credibility in the scientific community. They will endure academic ridicule, professional ostracizing, persecution for their faith. But this is nothing new. We need good, hard-working, talented, credible scientists who are ready to carry out the Great Commission.

By the way, this was EXACTLY Ken Ham’s trump card when he debated Bill Nye in front of millions of onlookers last February. Nye had claimed that “magical,” religious thinking ruins scientific thought. So, in his opening statement, Ham cited Young Earth Creationists like Dr. Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI; Dr. Danny Faulkner, an accomplished astronomer; Dr. Stuart Burgess, who works on billion dollar satellites. These guys all pointed out how, in the academic world, many of their colleagues who share similar views are afraid to expose those views due to professional criticisms they would receive from anti-religious academic lobbyist groups.

In a nation of supposed freedom of religion and freedom of expression, it’s getting incredibly difficult and increasingly intimidating to share your faith. Just ask Benjamin Watson. This group – scientists who believe in the authority of the Bible, are needed to take a step forward. It’s a case, as the Apostle Peter stated, of obeying God rather than man (Acts. 5:28-29), or, as even Bill Nye said, “trying to spread the word. So anytime you get an opportunity, you take it.”

I’ve recently been studying a decent amount about the history of the Great Awakenings our country has experienced. While I obviously can’t know for sure, for my money, Christians emerging in the scientific community and leading people to glorify an Almighty God ahead of random chance processes, repent of their sins, and trust in a Risen Lord and Savior in Jesus rather than a “Science Guy” who fears death … this might just mean the next Great Awakening.

“Not MY Tune” – Jesus’ Explanation of Unbelief

blog - not my tune

We’ve been working our way through the Gospel of Matthew at our church this year. Consequently, as part of my devotional reading, I just keeping reading Matthew’s Gospel over and over and over. As tends to be the case with biblical familiarizing, several texts have caught my attention that previously I’d just sort of glanced over. One is this fascinating, seldom referenced section at the beginning of Matthew 11. Here, we’re told that while John the Baptist is imprisoned, he sent his disciples to Jesus. Jesus affirmed to them that he was indeed the promised Messiah and sent them on their way. Then he turned to the crowd gathered around him and talked about how John the Baptist was the greatest of men, and more than that, he was the long promised “Elijah” who was to come and prepare the way for the Savior (Matt. 11:14; Mal. 4:5). And then comes perhaps the most interesting part. Jesus makes an assessment of “this” generation. And he says:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Matt. 11:16-19)

For years I had no clue, nor, truthfully, did I even really think to care what this all meant. Now I think I get it – and it’s an incredible explanation of the innate hostility and unbelief of mankind.

The comparison Jesus makes for “this generation” is that we are like children. Children didn’t have a whole lot of entertainment venues in those days. Without video games or the Disney channel or whatever this disgusting thing is, children were left to “play grown-up.” That typically meant that kids pretended, playing make-believe according to the two most extravagant events they saw their society participate in – weddings and funerals.

And even today, you may have noticed that, to many kids, weddings and funerals are virtually the same event. A little child is emotionally incapable of processing the magnitude of either event. So far as they can tell, you dress up, you get the family together, and you eat some food. The only real difference between wedding and funeral, to a child, is the mood and the music.

So, Jesus’ picture here is this: You have a number of little kids sitting around playing. And at first, the kids play pipes, but the other children don’t dance joyfully as they’re supposed to, like they’re at a wedding. The other children apparently don’t want to play wedding. That’s not their preference at the moment. But then, the kids who were playing the pipe now start singing a funeral dirge. The other children, if they’re now playing funeral, are supposed to respond by wailing and mourning. But those other children now won’t mourn. They apparently don’t want to play funeral either. That too is not their preference at the moment. And the first kids are saying, “Wait a minute! What do you want from us?! We really only have the two games – wedding and funeral. We tried one. We tried the other. And both times you rejected it.”

Why would kids behave like this? Why won’t the other children in the marketplace dance and play along?

It has nothing to do with the tune that’s being played. The problem, in their minds, is that it’s not their tune, i.e. they are not in control. It’s like the temper tantrum of a little child who cries that he wants to be picked up and then cries because he wants to be put down. The problem is not whether he’s held or not, the problem is that he doesn’t have the control that he wants. The parent is left to toss his/her hands up in frustration. The child is impossible to please.

So what’s the point that Jesus is making? He’s suggesting that in some respects, he and John the Baptist were quite opposite. John was rather ascetic, fasting and denying himself most worldly comforts. For his behavior, some accused him of being possessed by a “demon.” Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t deny himself food or drink, and in fact ate with “the sinners.” For his behavior, some accused him of being “a glutton and a drunkard.” At this point it’s like, “Okay…what do you guys want?!?!” These people were impossible. They couldn’t be pleased.

Jesus is making a point about why people reject the truth of God. The main reason is because it’s not OUR preference. We don’t naturally want Jesus to be our Lord. We don’t naturally want Jesus to be our Savior. According to the Bible, by nature, we resist Jesus as both Lord and Savior (Rom. 8:7). We want what we want. We want control. When Jesus seems to be presenting ideas, commands, and truths that don’t sit quite right with us, even offend us, some people bolt and claim they have their reasons. The real reason according to Jesus – “not MY tune.”

This is certainly true of the non-believing world when it comes to the rejection of Jesus. Virtually everyone who denies the divinity of Jesus believes he/she does so for intellectual reasons. But, as I’ve stated before, I’m convinced that most of these same people reject Jesus primarily for personal reasons, rationalizing their rejection as “intellectual basis.”

But this “not MY tune” principle also applies to the spiritual immaturity of the believer too. It’s very, very difficult for many people to separate “my desire/preference” from “God’s will.”

For instance, often people within churches reject music because, quite literally, it’s “not MY tune.” The rejection typically is justified as “that style of music is too fluffy” or “that style of music is too stuffy” (i.e. the contemporary vs. traditional debate), but, more often than not, the bottom line reason is I DON’T LIKE IT, it’s “not MY tune.”

Some denominational differences occasionally boil down to semantics. The terminology used by one group is outright rejected by another group as inferior or wrong, while that other group simply has different phrasing for the same concept. I’ve run into this several times with pastors – they refuse to see the concept being expressed because they aren’t hearing the specific words that they themselves would personally choose – “They should have said it the way I say it! It’s ‘not MY tune!'”

Sometimes people say they’re sorry for inconveniencing us, but we don’t like the apology. Perhaps the desired attitude isn’t displayed. Perhaps the exactly desired words were not used. Doesn’t matter. The real problem is that it’s “not MY tune.”

Have you ever had someone correct you for loading the dishwasher incorrectly, as though there is a morally right or wrong way to load dishes? Well, obviously dish-loading isn’t a moral issue. But if you’ve done any of it, I’m guessing someone has corrected you as though it were. Why? Because the way you did it – not their tune.

So I’ll say it again. It’s VERY, VERY difficult for many people to separate “my desire/preference” from “God’s will.”

Conclusion

Elevating your own thoughts, preferences, or will to the level of God’s is just one more way to describe sin. And the only appropriate way to deal with sin is to repent of it.

I know there are a number of non-believers who regularly read posts here. If you fall into that category, I’d encourage you once again to think through your rejection of Jesus’ divinity. Is it possible, even likely, that your rejection has less to do with evidence and more to do with the fact that following Jesus would be personally inconvenient, that you’d have to give up perceived control of your life? THAT is the accusation that Jesus is laying on you here.

And for us believers, this is an opportunity for me to repent of the times when I’ve elevated my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions to “God level.” I’ve accused and criticized others of doing wrong simply because it’s not the way I’d personally choose, and in the process, the irony is that, while they’ve done no wrong, I have.

Jesus is saying here that the nature of unbelief/spiritual immaturity is that we get angry when things aren’t exactly the way we want them, when we aren’t in control. But part of the liberating essence of Christianity is acknowledging that we aren’t in control, and that we don’t want to be in control, but rather want a gracious Father in heaven who is calling the shots, and we surrender to that.

Even Jesus himself, from his human vantage point, in the Garden of Gethsemane, acknowledged that salvation wasn’t coming the way he’d personally prefer. But he submitted to his Father’s will. And he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) And this willingness, his acceptance of the idea of not getting his way, brought about our salvation. What kind of people would we be if our preferences were merely our preferences, but that God’s desire was our will?

Faith always says, “Father, YOUR tune is best.”