Darwin’s Unbelief is News?

DarwinOver the years I’ve read a variety of things about Charles Darwin’s faith and his so called struggle with it, as if he was truly ambivalent about it. The deeper he got into his theory of evolution, the story goes, the more his faith gave way to doubt and eventually to nothing. A short letter by Darwin was sold at auction affirming he in fact did not believe in the Bible or in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and I guess for some this was news.

[T]his is only news if we have accepted the usual stories—indeed, myths—about Darwin’s alleged struggle between faith and doubt. The usual story we’ve been fed is that he was a faithful Bible-believing Anglican until he discovered incontrovertible evidence for evolution on his 1831-1836 journey on the HMS Beagle (mythical option 1), or until spiritually broken by the death of his beloved daughter Anne (mythical option 2).

The truth is that Darwin’s unbelief was a family inheritance, as was his adherence to a godless account of evolution, reaching back through his father, Robert, to his grandfather, Erasmus. Charles could have written that letter long before he ever set foot on the Beagle.



Christians Are Coming Out of the Cultural Closet

MarsdenWith hit “faith-based” movies like War Room and Captive, there was much discussion about Christians and film making. Interestingly enough, some of the harshest critics of these movies are from Christians themselves who seem embarrassed by what I call the cheese factor in many such movies.

A good example can be found at The Federalist by Christopher Hutton. The title of the piece: “‘War Room’ Is Just As Cheesy As All Kendrick Brothers Films.” There is no doubt that many of these movies, not just those by the Kendrick brothers, have a generous helping of cheese, but such criticisms are in many ways myopic. They are especially so in light of the history of evangelical Christianity in America. I’m actually encouraged, as a Christian, that these movies are being made at all, cheese notwithstanding.

I recently read a tremendous book called Fundamentalism and American Culture by George Marsden, an historical overview of conservative Christianity in America from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s up through the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925 (an additional chapter is added in the edition linked to above that takes the story to 2005). The cheese in so many “Christian” movies today can be directly linked to the ambivalence conservative Christians had toward culture those 75 years or so, and the battle with modernism and liberal Christianity that shaped it. That ambivalence is an ever present existential reality for all conservative Christians who strive to be “in the world but not of it.”

After Scopes, American cultural elites often portrayed Christians as hayseeds and hicks, intellectually and culturally inferior to their secular countrymen. Unfortunately, Christians often lived down to that stereotype. A Christian subculture developed in education, media and entertainment throughout the 20th Century which left Christians communicating pretty much among themselves, in effect putting their light under a cultural bushel.

Fortunately this began to change in the middle of the 20th Century. I myself was in a sense rescued from fundamentalism when I was introduced to Francis Schaeffer’s book, “The God Who is There” around 1980. He argued, not only in this book but throughout his life and ministry, that the Christian faith is not just a religion, a life engaged in spiritual activity, but a view of all of reality. It speaks to everything in creation, including the art of filmmaking.

Since then there has been a veritable explosion of Christians engaged in thinking and working in and contributing to the culture. Not too long ago, for example, you would never have found an outspoken Christian actor as successful as David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, publicly declaring that, Christians Can’t Abandon Hollywood. In much of the 20th Century many if not most Christians would have argued that Hollywood is the first place they should abandon. Fortunately for America Christians are just getting started, and it will be healthy for our culture in the long run that this voice is being winsomely and excellently displayed in such a culturally influential place as Hollywood. A more balanced Hollywood would be better for everyone.

Maybe Bowie is Looking Down from Heaven

Since Father Time took the great David Bowie, I have read numerous speculations about what might have been the state of his soul. Bowie, the consummate showman and actor, was a very private man, refreshing in the age of instant everything. So there isn’t a lot to go on, and I am never one to speculate on such things, leaving that to a power infinitely higher than I. But a friend sent me an encouraging piece that doesn’t bother with speculation: “Why David Bowie Knelt and Said the Lord’s Prayer at Wembley Stadium.” Yeah, I didn’t know that either. The title on the video of him kneeling in prayer: “The Bravest Moment in Rock & Roll History.” Given that sex and drugs are two words most often associated with rock ‘n roll, such a prayer before a hundred thousand rock fans could most definitely be called brave.

As I read this piece and then looked at the video of him kneeling before the crowd saying the Lord’s Prayer, I started to see another video for the song “Lazarus” from his final album, Blackstar, in a different light. (The name of the song kind of gives it away if you’re familiar with the biblical story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead.) Bowie had to be a fan of C.S. Lewis to use a wardrobe so prominently. If you look carefully at the beginning of the song you’ll see a young man open the wardrobe and stare at Bowie laying on what looks like a hospital bed. He starts with the words, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The young man appears to become older as the video goes on; maybe an alter ego? Bowie writes in a journal as he struggles with what could be his last thoughts. You’ll notice a skull on the desk as he writes, a la MacBeth? To be or not to be? Ah mortality, the great equalizer, the great question mark over human existence. Leave it to Bowie to ask the most profound of questions as he exits this mortal coil. In the last scene we see Bowie backing into the wardrobe from which the young man came, and shutting the door. Godspeed in Narnia, David Bowie. Thank you for the joy you brought untold millions over so many years.

Notable Quotation

What is the materialist creed? Modern materialism denies that we have a soul and reduces us to a mere body. In doing so, it assumes that all our actions are determined by physical forces, and therefore denies that we have free will. It therefore declares to be unreal our everyday experience of freely choosing this or that action, and in doing so, removes the possibility of moral action. It reduces love and hate, courage and cowardice to chemistry, and makes of human adventure and human history predetermined paths marked out from the beginning by the laws of nature. And finally, based upon the notion that the universe is a great self-winding, law-driven machine, materialism declares that miracles are impossible and God does not exist.

–Benjamin Wiker, “The Greatest Story, Because It’s True!”

Are The Gospels Historically Reliable?

Came across this piece today, “A Christmas question: Are the Gospels more reliable than scholars once thought?” And the answer is a resounding yes! The Gospels, and the Bible in general, have been under attack since forever, but especially since German Higher Criticism in the 19th Century, which a priori ruled out any supernatural input to the biblical text. Secular critics presuppose the Bible is a completely human document, so can’t come to the text in anything approaching objective analysis. Yet just like in science, the more that is learned the more credible the biblical sources become.

There are many resources to build a foundation of confidence in the biblical text, but a couple that are worth having easy access to are Michael J. Kruger’s website, Canon Foder. Another scholar to be aware of is Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, the purpose of which is digitizing all known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament via digital photographs.

Christians have an embarrassment of riches in all kinds of apologetics resources today, and it is well worth building confidence in the book we stake our life and eternity on. God has made that abundantly possible.

Modern Science Makes Belief in God More Plausible Than Ever


I came across an article today entitled, “The Astounding Truth About the Hubble Space Telescope’s Most Famous Image.” In it was an image pretty much like the one on the left. We learn in the piece that:

The specks of color and light you see are not stars; they are galaxies — 10,000 of them in fact! It is the deepest image of the sky over obtained, gazing back approximately 13 billion years.

You might be thinking as I was, 10,000 galaxies! That’s a lot of galaxies! We’re not talking stars, or solar systems; we’re talking 10,000 Milky Ways! And our galaxy isn’t a small place. In fact, it’s 100,000 to 120,000 light years in diameter, and one light year is six trillion miles! Is your brain scrambled yet? Well, that isn’t even the one-forty millionth of it!

Jesus is never mentioned in Psalms, but best-selling author Tim Keller sees him there

Tim KellerWhen I saw the title of this piece by Jonathan Merritt who writes for the Religion News Service, I wasn’t sure how to take it. Was he implying that Jesus isn’t in the Psalms, and that Keller was reading that into the text. After reading the interview, I’m not sure what he thinks, and maybe that’s a good thing. But to question whether Jesus is in the Psalms even though his name isn’t used, obviously, is to ignore that Jesus himself said the Psalms, as well as the rest of the Old Testament did indeed speak of him. In fact, as I happen to be reading through the Psalms now, I am often reminded about the time Jesus spent with the disciples post-resurrection. The very first thing he did with two of them on the road to Emmaus was say this:

25 “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

In that same chapter after he’d appeared to the rest of the disciples and basically freaks them out, he takes a piece of fish, eats it and says:

This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Luke adds that “he” opened their minds so that “they could understand the Scriptures.” And it wasn’t just a time or two. Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

So not only did he spend a lot of time teaching them how the Scriptures, our OT, all pointed to him, but proving to them that he was indeed alive, that he was in fact Jesus of Nazareth risen from the Dead! If you read through the Psalms you can’t miss our risen Lord in it. The whole of the Bible, from the first words of Genesis 1, to the very last words of Revelation, is about Christ. A short and readable book by Edmund Clowney is an excellent introduction to this critical concept not taught nearly enough in America’s Bible-believing churches: The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament.



D.A. Carson on “The God Who is There”

Free-DA-Carson-eBooks-Kindle-ePub-PDFDon Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago area, an author of numerous books, and just a plain old brilliant guy. I’ve read several of his books, but recently came across a series of talks by him at Apologetics315 called, “The God Who is There,” a book he had written of the same name. The title may sound familiar because it is the same as a ground breaking book by Francis Schaeffer written almost 50 years ago. Dr. Carson does a spectacular job of giving a broad yet detailed overview of redemptive history, from Genesis to Revelation. Although a professor, his speaking style is anything but professorial. And his Reformed theological perspective is refreshing in an age when what we do for God seems more important than what God has done for us.




Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’: ‘To Change the World,’ Five Years Later

To Change teh WorldI read James Davison Hunter’s “To Change The World” several years ago and thought it was a brilliant analysis of the power of cultural institutions to shape the culture. His strategy for cultural engagement, though, left me puzzled at the time. He called it “faithful presence,” and there didn’t seem to be any sense that he believes Christians should want to influence the culture. This question of Christians and their relationship to culture is a complicated one, as H. Richard Niebuhr described in his seminal book on the subject, Christ and Culture. I think I understand “faithful presence” better now, but what is the take away of a discussion of culture for Christian parents?

We cannot take for granted or be unaware of the culture’s influence on our kids. It is more than obvious that we live in a post-Christian culture hostile to our faith. Some parents fear this hostility, or try to protect their children from it. I have a different take: culture can be our children’s best friend, if we know how to use it. We call using culture to defend and affirm the faith cultural apologetics, and it gets an entire chapter in the book; it is that important. Culture is ubiquitous, so every day we practically we have a myriad of opportunities to strengthen our kids faith as we interact with the culture.

Christian parents will want to read Hunter’s book to get an understanding of where true cultural influence comes from, and why the assault on Christianity has such power in our day. The Gospel Coalition has just published a eBook that takes a look at Hunter’s work five years later:

In 2010, noted University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter published the landmark book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. On the five-year anniversary of its publication, we asked eight contributors to engage the book’s thesis and assess its effect on the ongoing interaction of evangelical Christians with the surrounding culture. The result is The Gospel Coalition’s first eBook, Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’:To Change the World Five Years Later. You can download the book, for free, to read in your preferred format.

You can find an introduction to the book at The Gospel Coalition’s website, and and links to download it in various formats.

God and the Evidence Agree: Good Old Nuclear Family Still Best

Unless you are wedded, no pun intended, to a left-wing ideological agenda you know intuitively that the traditional family of a married mother and father with children works best for the children. This is simply indisputable, and we can add more recently released studies to further confirm this. One of the study’s authors said, “children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.” William Galston at the Wall Street Journal argues that the breakdown of the family is especially problematic for the black family.