illustration / random thought

In our culture in the movies, tv or where ever, a person who is “rough” around the edges is sometimes portrayed as a hero, as a attractive (whether the character is a good guy or bad guy).

The trait of being “rough” is not thought to be so bad. We can all relate to it. No one is perfect we all have rough areas in our personality that we are working on. We want to know that other people are like us. In fact it makes us feel better to know someone else is worse off, in some cases…and in other cases a person who is so “rough,” is a hero of sorts to someone who has lived a “sheltered” lifestyle (at least in some cases.)

A thought I had though is that no one really likes a person who always play the “rough” personality card. No matter what happens these people come across as ‘jerks’ (to use polite language). Later they might come up to you and say they are “working on it.” But the truth is they do not struggle with “rough patches”…their entire being is one sharp edge.

No one likes being poked by a sharp edge. It hurts.

The Miracle

Hume a philosopher has a simple syllogism agianst miracles:
(1) Laws of nature are exceptionally regular.
(2) A miracle is a violation of a law of nature.
(3) Miracles do not exist in nature.

This is a valid syllogism. But are the facts true?

Spinoza has a similar theory:

1. Miracles are violations of natural laws.
2. Natural laws are immutable.
3. It is impossible for immutable laws to be violated.
4. Therefore, miracles are impossible.

Kant also had things to say about miracles:
Kant’s argument can be summarized as follows:
1. Everything in our experience (the world to us) is determined by practical reason.
2. Practical reason operates according to universal laws.
3. Miracles occur either (1) daily, (2) seldom, or (3) never.
4. But what occurs daily is not a miracle since it occurs regularly according to natural laws.
5.And what occurs seldom is not determined by any law.
6. But all scientific knowledge must be determined by practical reason which operates on universal laws.
7. Therefore, it is rationally necessary for us to conclude that miracles never occur.

Flew’s argument against miracles can be summarized this way:

1. Miracles are by nature particular and unrepeatable.
2. Natural events are by nature general and repeatable.
3. Now, in practice, the evidence for the general and repeatable is always greater than that for the particular and unrepeatable.
4. Therefore, in practice, the evidence will always be greater against miracles than for them.

Alastair McKinnon’s argument can be summarized as follows:

1. A scientific law is a generalization based on observation.
2. Any exception to a scientific law invalidates that law as such and calls for a revision of it.
3. A miracle is an exception to a scientific law.
4. Therefore, a “miracle” would call for a revision of a law and the recognition of a broader law (which thereby explains the “miracle” as a natural event)

Even in this admittedly unsuccessful anti-supernatural argument is hidden the premise of an apparently successful one, namely the evidence for the regular and repeatable is always greater than that for the irregular and singular. Science is based on uniform experience, not anomalies. Regularity is the basis of a scientific understanding. Therefore, science as such can never accept the miraculous. Thus the principle of regularity seems to be the common thread of the anti- supernatural arguments.

A Christian response:

1. The only cause repeatedly observed to be adequate to produce information is intelligence.
2. Now the information in the first single cell which emerged on earth would fill a whole volume of an encyclopedia.
3. But observation of regularities are the scientific basis for understanding singularities.
4. Hence, there is a scientific basis (in repeated observation) for believing that first life was caused by some intelligence beyond the natural world.
5. But since this kind of singularity produced by a supernatural intelligent being would be a miracle by definition, then we have a firm scientific basis for believing in miracles.

In short, repetition in the present does give us a firm scientific basis for believing in an intelligent intervention into the natural world. To borrow Hume’s term, we have “uniform experience” on which to base our belief in the miraculous origin of life. For we never observe an encyclopedia resulting from an explosion in a printing shop. We never observe a fan blowing on alphabet cereal produce a scientific research paper. No one would conclude Mount Rushmore resulted from wind or rain erosion. Why? Our uniform experience teaches us that the kind of information conveyed on Mount Rushmore never results from natural laws but only from intelligent intervention.

Since the rise of modern science anti-supernatural arguments have stressed the principle of uniformity. They have argued that:

1. Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.
2. Miracles are not constantly repeated.
3. Therefore, there is no scientific way to understand miracles.

Two things should be noted about this argument. First, this form of the argument does not deny that unusual events like miracles may occur, any more than it denies a hole-in-one may occur. It simply says that scientific law is based on regularities. And until one can establish a constant conjunction between antecedent and consequent factors there is no scientific basis for assuming a causal connection between them.

Second, neither does this argument deny that there is any scientific way to analyze singularities, such as the origin of the universe, or the origin of life, or receiving one message from outer space. It simply says that observed regularities must be the basis for analyzing singularities. For example, if we observe over and over again that a certain kind of effect regularly results from a certain kind of cause then when we discover even a singular case of this kind of effect (whether from the past or present), we have a scientific basis for assuming it had the same kind of cause too. This same assumption is behind the naturalists’ search for a chemical basis for the origins of life and an evolutionary basis for the origin of species. In both cases repeatable observations in the present are used as a basis for understanding the singularity of origin in the past. Without this principle of uniformity there would be no way of getting at singularities in either the past or the present.

Certainly we must grant that this is a legitimate procedure to base all scientific understanding in the principle of regularity. However, the question is this: Does such a procedure eliminate a scientific understanding of miracles? In order to better understand our answer to this question let us reformulate the naturalist argument in the light of the two qualifications noted above.

1) Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.

la) This repetition need not be a repetition of the event we are analyzing but only of other similar events.

2) Miracles are not constantly repeated events.

3b) Therefore, miracles need not be eliminated from the realm of scientific understanding.

Once the argument is put in this form we can see that all one needs to do to establish a basis for singularities such as miracles is to find some constantly repeated process as a basis for understanding them. This we believe can be done by adding these premises:

4) Constant repetition informs us that wherever complex information is conveyed there was an intelligent cause.

5) There are some scientific singularities (such as the origin of first life) where complex information is conveyed.

6) Therefore, there is a scientific basis for positing an intelligent non-natural cause for the origin of first life.

In short:
There is a way things typically go and we do not normally expect any different but
within that “typical” behavior there is room for exceptions. There is an intelligent being, God, in charge who is deciding when these exceptions occur. And these exception are miracles.

An example:
I am a dark coffee man. You can ask my friend Tom, every morning I get dark coffee and he gets a Latte. ask Tom, he says, “Alex ALWAYS gets a dark coffee.”
One day I say, “Tom call me crazy, but I want to try something new.” I intelligently choose to get a Latte. Tom thinks this is a miracle. He says “Alex, you surprised me, you ALWAYS get a dark coffee but today you chose to get a latte, this is a miracle.”

Grave clothes or Grace clothes

In life as a Christian we can wear either grave clothing or grace clothing.

This was a great illustration my pastor used during a sermon.

It comes down to our two options as a Christian:

obedience in Christ or disobedience in Christ.

When we are living for God and being obedient we are in God’s grace and receive his blessings.

When we are living for ourselves and not in obedience with God, we are wearing grave clothing. We are as good as dead!

Simple illustration

Johnny came downstairs from his bedroom to get some cereal for breakfast. On the table were some Alpha-bit (his favorite cereal) letters on the table spelling out the following message: “TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE – MOM”

Remembering a recent biology lesson Johnny had learned about in school, he did not attribute the message on the table to be from his mother. There was no sense to jump to conclusions. After all, life itself is merely a product of mindless, random, natural laws. The wind could have knocked over the box and those particular letters could have spelled out. Or maybe teh cat knocked the box over! Johnny did not want to do chores, he was on summer break. He was going to the beach to see Mary.

Scott liked Mary as well. Johnny had rushed to the beach to see Mary as soon as he finished breakfast. When Johnny got to the beach he saw Scott and Mary holding hands. He ran to meet them but when he looked down on the sand he saw another message, ” Mary loves Scott” inside of a heart. For a second Johnny’s heart sank but then quickly he recalled his biology class again and remembered that this was probably just a natural law at work. There was no reason to accept a conclusion he did not like! Perhaps the crabs or the waves shaped the unusual, mindless, random pattern in the sand. He would just have to ignore the hand holding evidence. That was meaningless.

Later that day, Johnny noticed the clouds were shaped in such a way as to seem to say, “Drink Coke.” Swirling wind patterns? Johnny thought to himself.

Johnny could no longer take it anymore. He could no longer play the game of denial. “Drink Coke” was a sure sign of intelligence. It was not a random, nor a thing of natural forces. Even though Johnny had not seen an airplane, he realized that there was a skywriter who wrote the message. Besides he really wanted to believe it, because it was a hot day. Leaving him parched and thirsty for Coke.

This has been a paraphrasing of an illustration in the book, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

Freebie Friday: A Pic of Heaven

I am sure you have heard pastors or preachers talking about heaven…you get a picture of halos and clouds and harps circled around the throne of God where everything in heaven, is simply worshiping God forever …is ths the correct picture of hat Heaven will be like?… No WAY!

It will be more like a rebirth. It will be back on the new earth, but this time as God intended it.
It will be perfect and mind blowing.

This is the stuff that should motivate us to share our faith!
This is the truth that should set our thinking correctly.
We need to realize that our fallen sinful bodies are not permanent, the God has new bodies waiting for us in new Kingdom in Heaven.

Recommended readings:

Heaven – Randy Alcorn
Living With Questions – Dale Fincher

Sidewalk story

Our faith can be like a sidewalk path. Have you ever been on a bike path or a long hiking trail. Whether it is with pavement or not I think you might find the analogy in this post.

Bike paths and trails can go for miles in length. Even if we know how long the trail is suppose to be, it can seem like a long, never-ending journey. Sometimes life seems like a never-ending journey too but just as trails only go so far, such life also eventually ends.
When I go for runs or bike rides, the hardest parts of the ride is the steep up-hill slopes. Fortunately (just as the old saying goes “everything that goes up must come down”) holds true and I find a lot of relief and fun in my exercise journeys when I find it still holds true.
Life has its ups and its downs too. There will highlights and beautiful times in our life, but do not forget about the downs. God uses those times too!
Finally another interesting similarity is in the width. Bike paths and hiking trails are sometimes a foot wide (maybe two feet) or less. Width can be illustrated as our stance on life…how we handle it. If we are handling life too critically and fall off of the path to the right into the weeds and thorns or not caring enough and falling off of the path to the left. Being too liberal and too nice for your own good or being too hard on yourself or too conservative. How we handle life is almost as or more important than making it to the end.
All of us desire comfort and love and stability in all aspects of our life. We need to be social and close to God. Imagine the direct middle of a bike path, it is a comfortable place to be as there is room on both sides of you to be free yet you are loved and you are stable and safe.
God’s love for us, his life for us is somewhere in there. He doesn’t want us to be larking around the edges and about to fall off. He wants to guide us to His glory and His will. His good, perfect, and pleasing will. The one that is the straight and narrow way. Sidewalks are kind of narrow (compared to its surroundings usually).

Anyways I hope I have left you with some thoughts to think about, some imagination to be added to this post and bounce some more ideas around.

Light bulb idea!: My faith and my small groups

A real life realization about Small Groups

I made a connection today. It was a connection about my life and how I am probably the worse small group leader and youth minister ever.
I have compartmentalized my life and put my role as a small groups leader in a small box, far away from the rest of my life. I am at a point in my spiritual life where I know I should show/display/live out God’s love in my life. I want to do that, in every way. In my Quiet time today it said that sometimes we need to take action instead of giving everything to God and forgetting about it all. It is balance between prayer and action. I had been praying recently about my youth ministry, a lot. I felt that things were not right. I felt that God had a bigger plan for this youth ministry, my small group specifically and those fruits were not sprouting. I was crying out to God about it. Something clicked and these three things came together. I had compartmentalized small groups to my Sundays. I have been limiting my time and energy that I give to my men, limiting it to only one day. I realized that firstly that is not enough. Secondly, I had not taken much action to change this. Thirdly that I am inconsistent – go figure – but I am at a point where I want to show God’s love to people, but yet one of the biggest ares of my life that God has given me a chance to do this is right in front of me. It is on my mind, I am praying for these guys everyday. Why don’t I show them more love. Spend more time with them and try to become a better small group leader?
Here are some articles I have been reading lately that maybe will help you be a better small group leader too!:
Doug Fields- 10 things a great Small Groups leader does

Kevin Mahaffey Jr – 11 steps to effictive Small Groups