Desires

A Call For Noble Men

Man in Wheat Field
Photo Credit: Pexels

It means something to be a Smith.

I come from a long line of Oregon wheat farmers. I tasted my heritage when Dad sent my teenage self away from my comfortable middle-class city life to hoe weeds around hundreds of acres of hot, arid, Eastern Oregon fields with my uncles and cousins. I’m grateful now, though I wasn’t then, for the front-line exposure to my family’s history. It cultivated (nice pun!) some of the honor of being a Smith within me.

I realize now that Dad taught me nobility. I learned that Smith men are hard workers. We keep our word. We are responsible. We make plans and follow through. He especially taught me that Smith men treat women, all women, with respect and honor.
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Desires

The Battle Is Real

Armies at battle
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Do you ever feel like the problems of the world are so overwhelming, there’s nothing you can do?

I’ve felt that way—consumed by fear of the future with a paralyzing inability to know what to do about it. Want to know the positive difference I made in the world while I was feeling that way? Not much.

Imagine a war between two forces. One army deploys a weapon against the other that, instead of blowing them up, it warps their minds. It makes the other army fight against anything except their real enemy. They fight themselves, they fight things that aren’t real, or they get so overwhelmed that they give up. The first army would win the war with little physical effort, since their deception would make the other army destroy itself.

If you knew you were in that second army, being inoculated against a real enemy, would you want to know? Would you do something about it?

I think many of us are living like we are in that second army, unable to make positive changes that may require a battle because we are too distracted, or overwhelmed, or apathetic.

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Desires

Hatching A Risky New Desire

Copyright: 3m3 / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: 3m3 / 123RF Stock Photo

Is 2016’s newest holiday toy craze a Trojan horse Penguala, threatening to ensnare millions of unsuspecting children?

Kids worldwide are begging Santa to bring them clever, cute, and harmless-looking toys called Hatchimals. Following similarly hyped interactive toys like Furby and Tamagotchi, Hatchimals simulate a real, ongoing relationship with their young owners.

With stores running very low on supplies of Hatchimals, the online auction market is seeing prices range from $150-$500+ for these ordinarily $50 toys. What is driving this incredible demand? What has hatched the desire in so many kids that drives their parents to blow their budget for the latest fad?

Before Christmas comes, will there be violence in the aisles over whether your child gets Owlicorn or Draggles?

On the surface, Hatchimals seem sweet, innocent, and harmless. As a dad of four grown daughters, I think my girls would have enjoyed one of these lovable toys, and I may have wanted to give them one.

However, the hidden risk of following the Hatchimals craze is the loss of your child’s ability to freely think for themselves, to become all they are made to be, and to apply their God-given gifts to help meet the world’s great needs.

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Desires

Where Are Your Desires Leading You?

cereal-fruity-pebbles
By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I can remember wanting Fruity Pebbles for breakfast as a child. The Flintstone family, from the 60’s-era cartoon, were my frequent TV friends, and they loved Fruity Pebbles. So of course, I loved them too. On the rare occasion that my Mom bought them, I devoured bowl after bowl. As a kid, I never connected how yucky I felt an hour or two after eating sugary cereal. I just knew I wanted those tasty Pebbles, and that’s all that mattered.

Why did I want that cereal? Was it because it was good for me? Certainly not. (There is no fruit in Fruity Pebbles—it’s debatable whether it’s even food.) Would it give me the ability to meet my 7-year-old goals of being able to run faster or play longer? Not in my experience.

I think I wanted Pebbles for two reasons: my favorite TV characters loved them, and professionals intentionally engineered the ingredients to attract me. In fact, we now know the addictive properties of sugar makes us want more of something that is actually enslaving us.
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Atheism, Free Will, Science

Study shows Free Will is an Illusion. Really?

[~1,100 words, reading time: ~6 minutes]

Image of computer keyboard with brain key
Copyright: maxkabakov / 123RF Stock Photo

If you were being programmed to believe something that wasn’t true, and that lie was leading you to a harmful end, would you want to know? If there was an agenda to lead you to abandon reality and ultimately give up your freedom, would you be upset?

Several weeks ago, we had cordial and thought-provoking discussion of free will here. Since that time, a new study was trumpeted across national news outlets, promoting a study that suggests free will is an illusion.
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Atheism, Free Will, Science

Do We Have Free Will, or is Free Will an Illusion?

[~2,100 words, reading time: ~10 minutes]

Image with ball and chain with open shackle
Copyright: faithie / 123RF Stock Photo

Many scientifically-minded people claim that mankind does not have free will. Instead, they say that all of our choices are determined by physical laws, and our perception of free will is an illusion. I hope to show that this claim is either false, or if it’s true then we can’t know it, because it is self-refuting.

In his bestselling book, Free Will, atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris boldly proclaims that our perception of free will is an illusion. He begins by telling the story of a heinous series of murders committed by two psychopaths. Dr. Harris then explains that if he had the same genes, upbringing, environment, and brains as these men, he would have also committed the same crimes. He says:

As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Free Will (p. 4)

This is a compelling argument. It reminds me of Star Trek’s transporter: a person’s atoms are beamed across vast distances, and when they rematerialize, they are still the same person as before. If my atoms were converted into the atoms of another person, I’d be that person.

Beg Your Question?

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Theology

An Open Letter to Dr. Albert Mohler

Dear Dr. Mohler,

As president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, you have exercised significant influence over the direction of the modern evangelical Christian landscape. Your leadership is also recognized outside the church, as attested in a 2003 Time magazine article which called you the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

Back in October, you responded to a New York Times article entitled “Tormented in the Afterlife but Not Forever: Conditionalism Gains Ground.” The article focuses on the life and work of Edward Fudge, the comparison of his views and the traditional of endless conscious torment in Hell for the finally impenitent, and the efforts of the Rethinking Hell ministry on behalf of conditional immortality. In your podcast, you dismissed conditional immortality as a modern invention of liberal theologians.

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Theology

The Eternal Purpose of God: An Interpretive Lens

Father & Son PhotoWhen we consider ultimate questions, everyone has a starting place. Popular options include tradition, experience, preferences, and feelings. Others start with the Bible, but with all of the issues the Bible addresses, what should be considered foundational?

The good editors at the Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand graciously posted my latest paper as a three-part series on their website. The article is my attempt to show that the Eternal Purpose of God is a valid foundational starting place for interpreting other truths. While the series ends by applying God’s eternal purpose as a lens to interpret last things, I hope you’ll be able to see how the knowledge of God’s eternal purpose provides context through which you can interpret many other ideas, teachings, doctrines, and practices.

Please enjoy, and share them if you find them valuable. I’d love to hear your feedback, whether as comments here or on their website.

If you prefer a PDF version of the entire article, leave a comment on this post with your email address (it won’t be posted anywhere) and I’ll email it to you.

Theology

A Tribute To Edward Fudge For His 70th Birthday

Photo of Edward FudgeCoinciding with the occasion of Edward Fudge’s 70th birthday, a historic theological conference is being inaugurated in Houston, TX on July 11-12, 2014. It’s called the Rethinking Hell Conference, and is organized by the outstanding group of Bible scholars who run the Rethinking Hell website and podcast. If you’re anywhere within driving distance of Houston and have a high regard for the Bible, I wholeheartedly recommend you considering attending this conference.

I wrote the following tribute to Edward for the conference. I’m sharing it here in the hope of exposing you to him and his work, and also to invite you to attend the conference and meet Edward yourself.

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Atheism, Science

Why Evolution Is True: A Pragmatic Theist’s Response

Cover: Why Evolution Is True
In an earlier post, I claimed that the popular definition of the debate between advocates for creation and evolution is incorrect. The debate is not religion vs. science, but it is actually religion vs. religion. Both systems of origins have a faith-based worldview through which they interpret the world. Those on the naturalistic evolution side tend to use a more scientific vocabulary but nevertheless show passionate religious fervor in defense of their position.

Several readers posted thoughtful and challenging comments, including one by Brett who said I might be “unaware of huge swaths of data that might help [me] make a better informed conclusion.” He suggested I read Why Evolution Is True by Dr. Jerry Coyne. I am very grateful for Brett’s suggestion, as Dr. Coyne’s book really seems to encapsulate the case for naturalistic evolution in a comprehensive, yet approachable manner.

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