Monday, February 9, 2015

Science Falsely So-Called

 It's quite common, in the discussions  and dissent of our day and hour, to refer to 'science' as some sort of  final arbiter of the disagreement.  Science is looked to as this impartial decision maker, an illuminated path by which  all of humanity can brightly see the path forward. Science is  looked to as a settled body of facts, and one need only look at these facts to decide who is and is not right.  This tactic is  handily deployed when the scientific facts appear to be on your side.  For example, Hilary Clinton recently  used science as a bludgeon (while simultaneously trying to revamp her image into some sort of matriarchal font of wisdom as opposed to a bitter, man-hating harpy) when she  tweeted "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest". See the subtlety?  She draws a comparison between two settled facts and then throws in her debatable opinion.  Mrs Clinton, and her ilk, claim to have great faith in 'science'.
  The problem is that not all  facts are equally established and while it is observable and demonstrable that the earth is indeed round (an observation validated by the Bible) and  that the sky is blue, the  jury is still out on many facets of the vaccination process.   There are  a great many very smart people that are on both sides of this issue, but before we start forcing people to  take shots, it might behoove us to look at the track record of 'science' or rather, what the Bible calls 'science falsely so-called"
  For example, it was  a commonly held belief in ancient times  that living matter could  spontaneously arise from non-living matter.  It was  a commonly held-scientific opinion, endorsed and defended  by the great minds of the time, for  hundreds and hundreds of years.  Everybody from Anaximander to Aristotle took the position that dead flesh spontaneously produced maggots, and that  buckets of grain spontaneously produced  mice.  It was such a commonly accepted idea that Shakespeare even alluded to it in Anthony and Cleopatra.  Francisco Reidi performed the first experiments in 1688 that cast  doubt on this notion. His experiment was simple; isolate rotting meat form  flies and see if maggots  develop.  They did not.    For his trouble he was ridiculed and called 'unscientific'.  The pressure was great enough to  cause him to doubt his own hypothesis, not based on the evidence, but rather on its reception in the scientific community.
  In 1745 an Englishman named John Needham performed experiments in which he boiled chicken broth, killing the microorganisms he  believed were present in it.  He sealed the broth up and when  microorganisms grew anyway, victory was claimed for the idea of spontaneous generation.  Later experiments proved that his  boiled broth was still being contaminated by the air  before it was sealed.  It wasn't until 1859 that Louis Pasteur was able to sufficiently isolate the samples to prove , by  demonstrable and repeatable experiments, that the prevailing scientific theory of the day was dead wrong.
  Another  common idea of medieval medicine was the idea of 'humours'. Humours can be loosely defined as 4 different bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) that had to be kept in balance to  assure good health.  This 'science' is a distant cousin to herbalism.  In  humour thoery different foods were assigned to different humours, and a person was supposed to treat deficiencies in their humours by consuming, for example, more pasta to bring your bile into balance or more sugar to  adjust your blood humours.  Humours were also tied  to the Zodiac and the four season.  Further study has discredited humours, but for centuries it was as firmly established a 'fact' as  the color of the sky.  No serious  medical doctor at the time would challenge it, even though it was  kind of silly.
  All the great minds of the scientific community agreed for  almost 3000 years that  bloodletting was a valid medical practice.  This  method resulted in, among other things, the death of George Washington.  
   Trepanning , where a hole is drilled into the skull to relieve pressure ( and let evil spirits out) was practiced from ancient times to the renaissance without being questioned.
  More recently,  electroshock therapy reigned nearly 50 years as a viable  method for treating a  variety of illnesses. In the  1980's a procedure called vertebroplasty was  introduced. In vertebroplasty, a sort of cement is injected into the  spinal cord to relieve pain after an injury, and this method  enjoyed a 90% success rate until  , years later, many of the recipients  began to experience a whole new set of problems, and  further studies  found it be no more effective than a placebo.
    My point in all this this that the last chapter of this has not been written, and before we charge ahead, it behooves us to look behind. Throughout history,  scientists have come up with ideas and theories and procedures that  were widely implemented  and endorsed  and defended before ultimately  proving themselves to be  useless.  Sometimes it took hundreds of years to get the truth out, and it may very well be that future generation will sit back and marvel that we were even considering  injecting people with foreign substances against their will in the interest of medicine.  Perhaps someday the vax pushers of today will be classified  with blood-letters and trepanners.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Yoga Pants and Other Matters of the Heart

Recently  a young wife and mother named Veronica Partridge wrote a blog post on her decision to make some changes in how she dresses. It is interesting,  movingly personal and very well written.  The blog itself starts off with a disclaimer:

I am in NO WAY trying to tell people what they can and cannot wear. What you wear is entirely your own choice.
  Apparently a good chunk of the world didn't read that, even though it is  literally the first sentence.  Now that's  quite telling, as we will explore later. She goes on to say that she had been  unaware of how much her appearance and preferences  might affect the men around her, and out of concern for her testimony and out of a concern for others, she was going to adhere to  a more Biblical standard of modesty. I say, bravo, Mrs Partidge.
  What was fascinating to me was the hailstorm of controversy.  Part of the problem is that a lot of Christian writers, including myself, are writing about 'family matters'; to wit we are discussing things intended for saved people, but because we are using the big bad internet as our medium, the whole world gets to listen in on our family discussion.  I  don't  care what the world thinks about modesty. In fact, they prove what they think of modesty by what they wear.  But a lot of unregenerate people skipped that first sentence in her blog and claimed she was 'standing up against yoga pants'.   She wasn't doing anything of the sort.  She was accused of all sorts of dictatorial whims, when the entire discussion was about the decision she had made about herself and what she was going to do.  At no point in the blog, or any subsequent interview did she even recommend what anybody else should do.  Nevertheless, the unregenerate world flipped out.  That's isn't particularly interesting or surprising considering the Bible says they walk "in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened , being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: "
  But also weighing in were more than  a fair share of professing Christians, some of whom I know personally and some  of whom have been the  object of my prayers for  years. It is to these dear Christian folks, both those I know and those I don't know, that my remarks are addressed.
  I wont go into a discussion here on modesty. Others have done a  far better job than I can on that issue.  I wont tell you what I wear, or what my wife wears.  Besides this isn't really about modesty..  This is about your heart. The Bible says "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." and it also says "..for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh".  Whether you like it or not or whether you mean to or not, eventually whatever is  in your heart is going to fall out of your mouth, and in this modern age, your keyboard is an extension of your mouth.
  So let me ask you this; when you take the exact same position on this topic that  lost people take, what does that say about your heart?  When you make snide comments in person or online, what does that say about your heart? When your comments say things like "I'm a Christian too, but..." , what does that say about your heart? When you dig up some other blogger that tears Mrs Partridge to shreds and post that on social media with tags to  all the other  girls you know that agree with you, what does that say about your heart?  When you consider your desires and your liberty more precious  to you than the  fact that you may be  a stumbling block to your brother or sister in Christ, what does that say about your heart?
  It's obvious to everyone what you think about modesty. To whatever degree you can choose your own wardrobe tells the whole world what you think about this. But when you defend the undefendable, you say so much more about yourself than you probably want anyone to hear.  We can talk about 'legalism'  all you want, but the fact that you pitch your camp there, with the Bible-rejecting crowd, says volumes about you, and about your heart.
  As your brother in Christ, let me  plead with you to think about what you're thinking, think about what you're saying, think about why you're saying it, and if necessary repent.  The whole world is listening in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Led of the Spirit

  Church life is a funny thing if you pay attention.  There is a term that was  bandied about in the charismatic/Pentecostal churches of the  1970's and 1980's.  That term was  'Spirit led' or some variation thereof.  The idea as it was presented was that the God's Spirit  speaks to a man through a sort of intuition and  tells him what is expected of him. The phraseology used when explaining how a decision was made was that "God spoke to me" or "the Spirit led me". Some people claimed to have this discernment down to the level of  being able to  grasp God's will about what to eat for breakfast or what shirt to wear that day.

 Scores of messages were preached that emphasized the idea of being 'Spirit led'.  Where the application of this became really  interesting and, in my opinion, damaging, was in church services.  It was a common thesis  that  services where not to be structured things with a clearly stated agenda and purpose. Instead , church services were to be this open-ended spontaneous affair  where the  'Spirit led' (typically the moderating pastor) were to wait and listen for God to tell them what to do next.  Maybe they would sing another song, maybe Brother So-and-So would testify, maybe it would be time to preach or maybe the congregation  would  simply sit there, basking in this intangible presence that the 'Spirit-led' claimed was in the building. 

 Once the preaching started,  the Spirit-led baton would be  passed on to whoever was preaching.  That gave him enormous liberty since his revelations were, by their very nature, extra-biblical.  He could say  pretty much whatever he wanted, and often did, while claiming that the Spirit of God had instructed him to do so.  Often his experience in the ministry was touted as his credentials as to being  able to hear God's voice so well. The meetings were loud, long, and emotional, with good people caught up in the hysteria.

     I give you the background because that spirit has migrated from one end of the church spectrum to the other, and is increasingly common in  independent Bible-believing churches.

  In practice, it's similar to what might happen when my my wife dispatches me to the  Chinese restaurant to get some food.  She knows I'm clueless and forgetful so she writes down what I am supposed to  get.  While standing in line, and gazing up at the menu, with a hand-written note in my grip, I could decide get something completely different.  It's not that her entree is unavailable, it's that I  discern, based off of our years of marriage, that I am at liberty to  substitute the thing she did want for the thing she  might possibly want.  Now, maybe I get it right, maybe I get it wrong. Maybe I get it wrong but she's a good sport and eats it anyway.  Regardless, I cannot claim that I did not have instruction.  That is exactly what happened back then, and it's exactly what is happening now.

  Even though the phrases used are Bible phrases, they are  divorced from the Bible definition, and have been reshaped  and reformed into something that is eerily reminiscent of idolatry.  The golden calf of modern Christianity is our feelings and perceptions about what God wants as opposed to what God actually wrote down.  After all, the Bible does say "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

  The solution, as always, is simple. The cure for error is truth;  define words according to the Bible and then apply them as such.   Once it's defined, we can see if the modern use of the word matches up, and by doing so we can "prove all things.; hold fast that which is good."

  In Matthew 4:1, the Bible says  "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil".     The parallel passage in Luke says "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness," 

  Jesus, as God manifest in the flesh, had no need to try to figure out what God was thinking, since whatever Jesus was thinking was what God was thinking. If being led of the Spirit or being full of the Holy Ghost was some sort of divine GPS, I wonder why Jesus  would need  it.  There is nothing in this passage that  indicates that Jesus  was  waiting on  some sort of nudge or prompt to  decide what to do next, or that Jesus used this insight to conduct a church service in accordance with God's will.  The modern use of the term fails this initial Bible test.

  Romans 8:14 says "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.".  The cross-reference to John 1:12 defines New Testament 'sons of God' as people who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is nothing in the passage to indicate that God has set aside a certain class or group of men and given them insight or discernment above anyone else.  Romans 8 does not give you the wiggle room to set up any sort of spiritual dictatorship based off the fact that you are an 'old man of God'.  Being led of the Spirit is part and parcel of being saved. It is not the result of being 'called to preach' or receiving some sort of  secondary anointing. The modern use of this term fails the second Bible test.

Galatians 5:8 is the last use of the  term when it says "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."  The context of Galatians 5 meshes with the sentiment expressed in Romans in that the law, though righteous, could not  enable a man to live righteously.  It could only condemn him when he failed.  The law, in and of itself, did nothing to help anyone obey it. It was informative, not reformative in nature.  The same way a speed limit sign tells you what the law is, but  does nothing to control your vehicle, the law showed a man his shortcoming before God, but  could not help a man live according to its dictates.

  Galatians 5 is a contrast between what the law could not do contrasted with what the Spirit of God can do in the life of the believer.  You can have victory over the sin that binds you. You can live successfully for God.  You can  rebuild the shattered mess you've made.  That ability is  available to everyone that is saved.  The biblical definition of being Spirit led is a man who is able, with God's help, to walk in the John 10:10 life. It is not not some mystical ability to read the whispers of God in  hunches and chill bumps.  The modern use of the term fails the third  Biblical test, and can be confidently repented of and  discarded.

  Now, you are certainly at liberty to continue on in your well-intentioned error.  I'm not your dad, and I'm certainly not the church police. But the fact that we have so readily consumed the sort of error that  previous generations would have  laughed while claiming to  love the truth  is a sign of how far we've fallen.  Either way, you are now like the clueless husband in the Chinese restaurant.  You have instruction, will you act on it?