Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

30 04 2008

It is not often that I feel like standing up and cheering a movie in the theater, but this was just the experience I had after seeing the movie Expelled this last weekend.  My friend, Chris, put together an outing for students and adults from our church to go see the film and I’m very thankful he did. 

Simply put, the movie Expelled exposes the oppressive hold that Darwinian evolution has on academia.  It is shot in documentary style, and tells the story of the conflict between Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinism in the scientific community.  Now, that last sentence might have made the movie sound boring to some of you, but it is anything but.  Ben Stien, who wrote, produced, and functions as the inquisitive tour guide in this investigative documentary has put together a film that is humorous, informative, disturbing, and very engaging.  I sat in the row behind many of the students and the movie held their attention the entire time.

Although I could have applauded the movie for the quality of its craftsmanship, it was the truth presented in the film that really gave me a charge. Allow me to share some of the highlights. 

First, the movie made very clear that the issues between Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design are not merely scientific issues, but a clash of different worldviews.  The Evolutionists are not “pure” scientists; they are scientists who are drawing conclusions and presenting theories based on their worldview.  Evidence that challenges their worldview is dismissed.  I found the emphasis on this point refreshing since this charge of bias is usually only placed at the feet of the religious, while the humanists claim objectivity.

Second, Expelled does a superb job of showing the logical implications of the worldview of the Darwinian Evolutionists.  The film draws a line from Darwin’s theory to some of its ugly offspring: the Holocaust, eugenics, abortion, and euthanasia.  I can imagine that this connection will enrage many evolutionary scientists, however those scientists need to acknowledge the obvious link between theories like natural selection and survival of the fittest and what happens when they are socially applied.

Third, although Ben Stien probably doesn’t realize he is doing this, this movie points to the truth of Romans 1:18-23.  God has made himself evident through the created order and sinful men are bent on suppressing this truth.  The film ends with a powerful exchange between Stien and Richard Dawkins in which Stien asks Dawkins, “But what if, when you die, you find yourself standing before God; what will you say?”  Dawkins responds with Betrand Russell’s famous quote: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”  Although Dawkins thought himself quite cleaver in using the quote, his words drive home the point of the movie: people are intentionally suppressing the evidence that God has left!

I’d like to go and view the film again to watch it with a bit more critical eye (during the first viewing, I was just focused on following the films logic and trying to understand its premise).  That being said, I still feel comfortable encouraging you to go check it out.  Although it is not a Christian film, the movie’s worldview is a lot closer to ours than most of what you find at the Cineplex.   Kudos to Expelled for exposing what is going on in the American scientific community!

For a little more enticement to see the film, check out this clip. 


100th Post (and lessons learned)

28 04 2008

Well, it has been 100 small steps for the muddy feet at Out of the Miry Clay.  Time to do a little reflecting and see if I’ve learned anything in the walk thus far.  Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order.

1. I’m a flawed perfectionist
My wife laughs at me when she watches me proof read my posts over and over again.  I guess I’m a little obsessive.  But what I’ve learned is that, no matter how much I read and re-read my posts, I inevitably miss some silly little typo (or several little typos).  There is no joy like discovering all my hard work has been for naught and my attempt at a perfect post (well at least one without grammar and spelling errors) has crashed and burned yet again!

2. This takes work
Blogging is fun, but it is not easy (at least, not for me!).  When I began posting back in November, I came across an article by Tim Challies that described blogging as a discipline.  He is right, it is.  It takes work.  Some days the work is easy and the writing just flows.  Most days, however, it doesn’t.  I write, then erase.  I stare at the screen for awhile, then try writing in a new direction.  Some days this goes on until I scrap it (or file it in my wasteland of “drafts”).  However, the work is a real blessing. It is a mental exercise that forces me to think through topics in a more specific and systematic fashion, then come to a conclusion I can put out there for the world (all 12 of them who read my blog!) to weigh in on.

3. There are a lot of things to write about
Although writing is work, finding subjects I want to write about isn’t.  There are so many wonderful topics to explore, great quotes to work through, Bible passages to delve into, books to digest and comment upon, and other blogs to interact with.  Some days the work really begins with narrowing down the list of topics I want to write on.

4. A new baby can really put a cramp in the blog rhythm
Life changed (it got even better!) on March 5 with the arrival of our wonderful and beautiful Anna.  However, the rhythm I had going in February completely collapsed with her arrival and I really didn’t post anything much in the month of March.  I found it a real challenge to sit down at the computer and resume the discipline of regular writing.  (I mean who wants to write when you have a new baby to stare at or sleep to catch up on!) 

5. There are more important things than blogging
Over the first hundred posts, there were times when the blog really dominated my thinking- times when I just had to write.  My little Anna, though, reminded me very quickly that a blog is an extra, a fun peripheral that is not very high on the list of priorities.  Going to the Band of Bloggers lunch at T4G and listening to bloggers like Phil Johnson and Thabiti Anyabwile saying the same things about their blogs really reinforced Anna’s lesson.

6. I want to write more often about the hymns
Probably my favorite series of posts thus far was on the hymn It Is Well with My Soul. I’d like to do other series like that. There are so many wonderful hymns that have been written by our brothers and sisters through the history of the Church with so many rich stores behind them to be explored.  Over the next 100 (and beyond) I’d like to spend more time delving into my love and growing appreciation for the hymns of our faith. 

7. I could post thoughts from Thomas Watson all day long
There is good reason he is my homeboy!  His insight is so rich, so practical, so penetrating, and so wonderfully illustrated.  Every time I sit down to read through his works, I am awed and overwhelmed by the greatness of our God and the beauty of my Savior.  Watson is a model of what preaching should be (theology smashing into real life, producing vibrant change) and I praise God that he brought me to this truth-saturated mentor.  If my Watson books and their severely marked up pages are any indication, you’ll be reading a lot more wisdom from our godly older brother. 

8. My wife is much better at this than I am
It has taken me over 5 months to get to 100 posts; Amy usually does it in a week and a half!  She is so faithful in posting, so creative in what she writes about, and so balanced in the amount of time she devotes to her blog.  Every time I think I’m doing well at this “blogging thing,” I head over to God Made Playdough! and then see how far I have to go.

9. I’m greedy for thoughtful interaction
I like it when people comment, but I especially enjoy it when people really engage with what I’ve posted.  One of the things I appreciate about this medium is its conversational aspect.  You can put up a post about a topic and try to get people to talk with you about it.  I wish I would have more interaction like this, but hopefully as I improve my writing I’ll start the conversation better and more of you will be enticed into the discussion.

10. I love to write about our salvation
When I look back on what I’ve written over the last 100 posts, the theme that is most often repeated is my salvation… and why wouldn’t it be?  What is better than meditating on God’s glorious work of redemption; seeking to understand it, explore it, and delight in it?  I love to think about it and when I sit down and work through some facet of it as I write a post, often I find myself filled with joy and wonder.  What topic could ever trump it?  And no matter how much you write about our great salvation, you can never plumb its depths or come close to exhausting it as a subject!  Paul’s doxology says it well: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33) I can’t wait to write more about it!

And to all of you who have read some, most, or (dare I say it) all of these 100 posts: thank you, and I hope they stimulated your thinking and helped you see more of the glory of our Savior, who “brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and… set my feet upon a Rock.”  

Resurrecting the “Hymn”

26 04 2008

Last Tuesday I wrote about all of the younger musicians who are taking old hymns, dusting them off, putting them to new music, and reintroducing them to the next generation of Christians (“When New Meets Old“).  However, the “hymn resurgence” goes beyond recovering old hymns that have been “lost” by the Church.  Some of these younger musicians are even resurrecting the hymn itself- they are writing new music in the old style of a hymn.

In the contemporary Christian music circles, the musical genre of the hymn fell out of favor decades ago.  The musical options for Church music were either old hymn or new chorus.  However, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend are at the forefront of a movement to changed those options.  Now we have have a third choice: new hymns! 

My first introduction to this marriage of old style with new music and lyrics came when my friend asked to sing the song In Christ Alone for special music for a Sunday service.  As I read through the lyrics, I was overwhelmed.  The song was so rich, deep, and full of good theology… and then I heard the song.  The music fit it perfectly and the melody was easy to follow and easy for a congregation to sing.  It quickly became one of the favorites in our church. 

Next came How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.  When I first began to lead this song for congregational worship, I honestly had a hard time not weeping.  The pictures the words paint are so powerful.  Take this section from the second verse: “Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders; ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.”  As I sang that, I felt the weight of my sin and pictured myself in that angry mob crying out “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  The song brought me face to face with the gravity of being a sinner, but it didn’t leave me there!  It lifted me and gave me joy by reminding me “this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom.”  Honestly, I don’t think there is a month that goes by that we don’t sing this song in one of our services.

…and then came the album.  Again, it was our wonderful church secretary that put it in my hands.  Friends had told me I needed to get a copy of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s album In Christ Alone, but I kept putting it off.  What a foolish thing that was!  As soon as I listened to the copy I was loaned, I went on to iTunes and downloaded it for myself.  Kristyn’s vocals are beautiful, but it is the powerful truth captured by Keith and Stuart in their the wonderful and vivid lyrics that have made the songs from In Christ Alone some of the most played on my iPod. 

My favorite track?  The anthem O Church Arise fills me with such zeal and energy, it makes me want to stop the car, find a street corner and start preaching! I love this song and wish that the Church would really see herself this way.  This song is a good example of what happens when you take powerful truth and marry it to just the right music; the music becomes the match that ignites the powder-keg of truth! 

I could go on and on about these wonderful new hymns being written, but let me wrap things up by saying, first, there is a lot of cause here for praising our God.  I praise God for these brothers who have dedicated themselves to writing songs with rich theology and simple melody lines for the church to sing and rejoice in.  I praise God that they have seen the value in the “hymn” and that they won’t let this wonderful tool that has served the Church so well die out in this generation.  I praise God for His power to give life to what so many had considered dead and buried!

And, second, I’d encourage you to support our brothers in this work.  Buy their albums.  Get their sheet music and give it to your church musicians and pastor.  And take the time to find out more about Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s love for the hymns.  Just click on their names and read about their commitment to this important work for the Church. 

On Demand Repentance?

24 04 2008

Have you ever thought, “OK, I’ll just give in to this temptation- just this one time- and then afterwards, I’ll quickly repent and everything will be good between me and God!”  Now, if you’ve done that, I’m not posting to ask you to write out a confession in the comments section (I guess you can if you want), but I want us to take a moment and think this idea through.  So, have you ever thought that way?  Shamefully, I must admit that I have.  I think many Christians are tempted to think this way, and to think this way often.  They are tempted to view repentance as an easy work, to regard it as magic erasure they can just pull out of their back pocket and use it anytime they want.  But is that really the case? 

Last week, as I was reading through Precious Remedies against Satan’s DevicesI came across Thomas Brooks’ response to this foolish thinking and dangerous practice.  He addresses this idea under “Devices Satan Uses to Draw the Soul to Sin; Device 6”.  Listen to his warning.  

Device 6: By persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work, and that therefore the soul need not make such a matter of sin.  Why!  Suppose you do sin, saith Satan, it is no such difficult things to return, and confess, and be sorrowful, and beg pardon, and cry, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me!’ and if you do but this, God will [forgive your debt], and pardon your sins, and save your souls.  By this device Satan draws many a soul to sin, and makes millions of souls servants or rather slaves of sin.

Do you hear your own thinking in those lines?  I know I heard mine!  “Don’t worry about repentance; it is an easy thing… we can always repent later!”  How many times have those thoughts passed through our minds?!  But notice the source of such wicked thinking- it comes straight from the pit!  So what do we do with our errant thinking; how do we combat this temptation?  Glad you asked!  Brooks gives 6 tools, six “remedies,” to fight this temptation.  Today, you just get the first one (but trust me, it is enough to get you off to a good start!): Read the rest of this entry »

The Hymnologist

24 04 2008

Thank you, Becky, for sharing those wonderful hymns in the comments!  You Presbyterians have some rich treasures in your hymnals!  For those of you who haven’t read through the wonderful truths Becky posted, check out her comments here, here, and here.  Mrs. B., you might be choosing some of our congregational songs in the near future!

When New Meets Old

22 04 2008

I love the hymns.  The older I get, the more my love for them grows.  So many are filled with rich theology expressed in beautiful poetic language.  They paint pictures.  They tell stories.  They are filled with testimony and truth.  It grieves my heart that many churches have thrown them out in an attempt to “connect” with the younger crowd.  But it revives my heart to see what some of the “younger crowd” are doing with these hymns; they are bringing them back.

It seems like I am finding more and more Christian musicians who are delighting in the hymns. 

About 6 months ago I bought the Chris Rice album Peace Like a River on iTunes.  It is filled with rich hymns well done in a simple acoustic style that appeals to the younger crowd.  I love that he took “Come Thou Fount” back to the original lyrics (which are far superior to what is in most modern church hymnals!) and is introducing the original song to an brand new generation.  His melodic rendition of “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go” is another example of this great marriage of old and new.  How many are familiar with this hymn?  How many, after listening to Rice’s beautiful harmony and gentle acoustic guitar picking version of it, can get it out of there mind?  I know I find myself humming through the melody and the words regularly.

Following the Chris Rice “discovery” I then came across Red Mountain Church and their music.  Red Mountain Church is located in Alabama and is blessed with gifted musicians and a love for hymns.  They have put out several “Red Mountain Church” albums and some from the church have also done solo projects. Their music is filled with acoustic instrumentation, sung and performed by the “younger crowd,” who dig up some wonderful old treasures (ever heard of “Jesus cast a look upon me” or “Thy blood was shed for me”?) and are reviving songs that the church has “lost.”

Then two weeks ago, our church secretary let me listen to a CD by Jadon Lavik called Roots Run Deep.  I love it!  Most of the hymns on the CD are found in a typical church hymnal, but his arrangements really give them musical excitement and breathe fresh life into some wonderful songs.  His version of “Tis So Sweet” is probably worth the album itself, but I also really enjoy the upbeat “Wondrous Love” and the jazz rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

These three are examples of musicians reworking old hymns for a new audience, but there are also those who are writing new hymns for the church.  Later this week, I’ll share some of those recent treasures I’ve found. 

“Why was I a Guest?”

21 04 2008

At Together for the Gospel the music was amazing.  Often I was overwhelmed listening to 5,000 voices fill the conference room with songs of praise to our God.  Bob Kauflin kept it very simply (just his voice and a piano) but he did a wonderful job, giving us rich theology to sing and making the songs connect with the messages.  One of the songs we sang that hit many of us very hard was an Isaac Watts hymn that I had never heard before.  It raises the question of “why, out of all of the people on this planet, did God choose me?”  Maybe you’ve asked that question.  I know I have.  Watts’ song, however, doesn’t just leave us to contemplate the question, it turns the question into a prayer which asks God that He would extend His sovereign grace to even more undeserving sinners.

Here are the words to the song.  Take some time today and really think through them, but don’t just leave them floating around in your brain.  Turn the words into a prayer and praise God for His divine, unfathomable, sovereign electing love!

How sweet and aweful is this place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

Here every bowel of our God
With soft compassion rolls;
Here peace and pardon bought with blood
Is food for dying souls.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.