Category Archives: Christianity

The Illogic of Atheism

What is more illogical, the existence of free will, or a determinist who is open to having his choice to believe in determinism changed by the evidence?

But, if determinism is true then I guess George had no choice but to hold an illogical position.

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Spreading Christmas Junk

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Spreading Christmas Cheer Junk

Several years ago I was listening to a Christian radio station.  The setting was Christmas time.  The morning DJs were talking to callers about giving gifts.  One man called in and told a story about how he and his young kids gave gifts to needy children.  He told the christmasgifttochildentire radio audience “We gathered up all the toys the kids no longer played with.  Wrapped them up, and took them to our church.  Then we waited to see which child would pick the toys we brought.  To see the excited expressions on their faces was wonderful.”

The DJs praised this man for doing something so commendable.  But, was what he did really admirable?  From the man’s story, one phrase kept ringing in my ears: “the toys the kids no longer played with.”  Now, I don’t know who this man was, or the disposition of his children.  Yet, this phrase just rang so discordant throughout his whole tale.  The toys the kids no longer played with.  Why did the kids no longer play with those toys?  Did they have too many toys that they had forgotten about them?  Did they have to reach into the bottom of the toy box to get them?  Were they so used to the novelty of getting new toys that the mystique of the old toys had worn off?  Were they broken, worn, missing pieces?  Were they no longer the cool toys?

My mind was drawn to the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  No kid wants to play with a “Charlie in the Box” or a train with square wheels on his Island of Misfit Toyscaboose.  Now this stop-motion movie from 1964 personifies the “misfit toys” so that they are imbued with more worth than actual toys have.  So we can’t transfer our emotions for those fictional toys to the real ones.  The toys this man and his kids gave to those poor children might have just been “misfit.”

The man told of how the faces of the disadvantaged kids faces would light up when they opened their gifts.  To their credit, those kids demonstrated real gratitude in receiving second-hand gifts.  But, what lesson had this father really demonstrated to his children by giving gifts that cost them nothing?

King David refused to give a gift to God that cost him nothing.  In 2 Samuel 24, Gad the prophet brought the word of the LORD (YAHWEH) to King David.  YAHWEH had commanded that David build an altar to him on the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite.  David went to Araunah to buy his land in order to make an altar.  Araunah offered to give David the land, the oxen, the threshing sledges, and yokes for the altar and the offering.  King David, however, would not accept the gift.  He said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price.  I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that costs me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24).

I am not saying that giving second-hand stuff is always inconsiderate.  The toys this man and his children gave may very well have been decent, well-preserved toys, but, giving these toys cost them nothing.

In Malachi 1:6, God accuses his people of offering “misfit” animals for the sacrifice.  This offering was nothing less than sacrilege.  In fact, God called it “evil.” (Malachi 1:8).  It is the height of profanity and sacrilege to offer God something that costs us nothing.

In what way do we give God an offering that costs us nothing?  I am reminded of something I observed in church.  My family and I were attending a church that made a big deal about giving God a “hand clap of praise.” (For a perspective on why a “hand clapHands Applauding of praise” may not actually be an appropriate way to give praise to God check out this blog post.)  Every Sunday between the ending of singing and the announcements, the pastor whose turn it was to give the announcements would say, on his way to the pulpit before he started, “Let’s give the Lord a hand clap of praise” and nearly everyone would oblige.  One Sunday after the “hand clap of praise” command was given, I observed another pastor clapping his hands while looking around at his seat, as if he was searching for something.  At that point his focus did not appear to be on God, but on what he was searching for.  Yet, he was still clapping, as if offering God a “hand clap of praise.”  It seemed to me to be more of an absentminded exercise.  Now, he was a good man, but this gesture of worship really cost him nothing.

The Preacher warns us to be careful when we enter the LORD’s house not to offer mindless worship.  “Do not be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter I-Surrender-Alla word before God…Therefore, let your words be few…When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for He has no pleasure in fools.  Pay what you vow.”  Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4.  Words mean things.  When we sing “I surrender all” do we really mean it?  How many times have we made that vow and broken it?  “Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”  Ecclesiastes 5:6.  Better to be silent before the Almighty God than to utter mindless words we have no intention on fulfilling.

I know this post is not the warm, fuzzy, feel-good message people like to hear around Christmastime.  But, what I say rings with truth.  In our gift giving this year, let us not offer gifts to God and spread Christmas junk to others that costs us nothing.  After all, the gift that God gave the world that first Christmas morn cost him the death of His Son.

 

Why Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

first-thanksgiving-at-plymouth1The Pilgrims stood on the deck of the Mayflower, exhausted from a three-month ordeal at sea.  With every breath of fresh air came the hope of a new beginning for the devout Christians who left all they knew for the sake of God’s call.  But, that raw, cold wind brought with it a bitterness that foretold of hardships to come.

Mayflower pilgrimsThat first winter of 1620-21 was difficult.  Of the 102 passengers, 45 died, including William Bradford’s own wife.  Only four of the couples who boarded the Mayflower still had each other when Spring arrived.  By April 1621, the Mayflower‘s captain determined that he had to return to England.  Even though the ship’s stores were low, he offered to take anyone who wished back to England.  None of the Pilgrims took him up on his offer.

SquantoIn an act of divine Providence, an Indian arrived named Squanto who spoke English, to the amazement of the Pilgrims.  He had been captured in 1605 by an English explorer Captain George Weymouth.  Similarly to the story of Joseph, what these English explorers did for evil, God turned into good.  Squanto was taken to England where he spent nine years and learned English.  In 1614, Captain John Smith took Squanto back to the American shores where he was reunited with his Patuxet people.  However, sailing with Captain Smith was another captain, Thomas Hunt.  Captain Hunt ignored Captain Smith’s orders to trade with the Indians, and instead lured many Patuxet men onto his ship, including Squanto, and shackled them in irons.  Most of the captured Indians were sold into slavery and sent to North Africa.  Squanto, however, was rescued by local friars who purchased him, and taught him Christianity.  Later, Squanto attached himself to an Englishman bound for London.  He found himself back in New England just six months prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival.

The Spring and Summer of 1621 Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to catch eels, when to “harvest” fish swimming upstream to spawn, and how to plant corn the Indian way.  In a massasoit.jpgthousand such ways Squanto helped the Pilgrims survive.  The harvest that year was bountiful, and the Pilgrims invited the local Indian chief, Massasoit to their public feast of thanksgiving.  Massasoit arrived a day early and brought 90 of his warriors with him.  Such a large entourage cut deeply into the winter stores.

On top of that, the Fortune arrived in November and dropped off 35 more colonists who had brought no provisions with them.  That winter, known to some as the “starving time,” required the daily rations to be reduced to just five kernels of corn.  Instead of giving into despair and resentment, they continued to put their hope in Christ.  Unlike the Jamestown settlement, not one of the Plymouth colonists died of starvation that winter.  Unexpectedly, a ship arrived, on its way back to England, and gave them trade goods—beaver pelts, beads, knives, trinkets—with which to trade for corn.  The Pilgrims would thus survive 1622.

In 1623, a drought hit the New England area and threatened to destroy the Pilgrims’ second planting.  The Indians performed their rain dances to no effect.  The Pilgrims got on their faces, sought the Lord, and repented.  God opened up the heavens and poured out his mercy for 14 straight days.  The Indians took notice and “admired the goodness of our God towards us” Edward Winslow remarked. The yield of crops that year was so abundant, that the Pilgrims had a surplus of corn which they used for trading with the Indians.

First-Thanksgiving-631Another thanksgiving feast was planned.  Massasoit was again invited and he brought his wife, three other chiefs, and 120 warriors.  Emmanuel Altham wrote to his brother of the feast, describing the abundance of food, from venison, hogs, hens, goats, plums, nuts.  “A better country was never seen nor heard of, for here are a multitude of God’s blessing.”  Before they all enjoyed the feast, however, each plate was provisioned with just five kernels of corn, lest they forget to give thanks to God for bringing them out of such hardship.

Giving thanks to God is what American Thanksgiving is about.  It is about remembering the fledgling settlement, where a small group of Christians began a new nation, conceived in liberty, and with the desire to be a City on a Hill for the world to see God’s glory.  Since then, America has liberated Europe twice, and Asia once, from tyranny.  America leads the world in spreading the Gospel by sending out missionaries.  America is the most generous nation in the history of mankind.  We’ve fought a war that ended slavery in our midst.  We finally embraced our principle that all men are created equal despite some opposition.  Without God’s blessings and the perseverance of the first Americans, the world would most likely have been ripe for global tyranny without the prospect of liberation.

Our Thanksgiving celebration is not just a reminder for us to be thankful for our own blessings, our families, our homes, our jobs, our churches, our neighbors.  It is a reminder that all Americans should give thanks for God’s blessings bestowed on our forebears.  Without them, the world would not know the blessings God provided because of America.