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New Species?

CBS posted an article entitled “10 Top Coolest New Species”. When I first read the headline, I thought it was proposing that evolution had given us ten new species.

No.

Every year the International Institute for Species Exploration delivers a list of species they have been newly discovered. It is a great site if you are interested. http://www.esf.edu/species/

This year includes some interesting creatures: the Bone-house Wasp, who lays each egg in a fashioned hollow tube. She then finds and kills a spider and deposits it with the egg so the new-born wasp will have something to eat (not my idea of baby food, but…) Each of the tubes are laid side-by-side with dirt in between. What is fascinating, however, is that she then builds one more hollow tube at the end and fills it with dead ants. Why? Sounds strange, except the volatile chemicals that are emitted by the dead ants camouflage the sent of her vulnerable eggs.

Smart wasp, no?

But my favorite is the puffer fish found off the coast of Japan’s Amami Oshima Island. [Read more: “Ask the Puffer Fish”]


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“If You’re Anti-Gay, Indiana Wants You To Visit”

This headline, from the HuffPost, is a great way to introduce the “Headlines and Between” feature. Headlines have a way of making us think that they are not just a ‘truth claim’, but they are, in fact, a ‘true’ truth claim.

Back when journalism, and our culture, believed in absolute truth, journalists were held to a standard that was transcendent…you reported on the facts. Your job was not to interpret what was happening, but to report it as factually and faithfully as you could. Why? Because there was a general desire to seek and report truth. It was the badge of honor and the standard of professionalism to report in this manner and the journalist, and the newspaper, went to great lengths and effort to reach and maintain that standard.

Therefore, when a journalist wrote an article, we accepted it as a faithful and true report of reality. The headline was therefore a summation of that faithful report and we instinctively believed it to be true.

But, something happened in our culture, and therefore in journalism. Absolute truth was rejected and the man became the source of truth. It became more and more about me. My motive moved from reporting what is “real” to reporting what I “feel”. But the format didn’t change and the reporting continued to look as if it were a faithful picture of reality. But, between the lines, there was now a growing agenda. The articles and the headlines became more and more tainted with underlying purposes. Some purposes were to sell more newspapers. Some purposes were to make a name for the reporter. Not to say that these purposes didn’t exist before. But they existed within the boundaries of a commitment to the Truth. So, you scrambled to be the first to report the news, the “scoop”, to sell more newspapers and you worked hard to explore and research and write skillfully the Truth to become the best reporter. But when you walk away from absolute Truth, you make your own “scoop” and you create headlines that sell, rather than tell.

And, you begin to write, driven not by Truth, but by an Agenda.

It is a sad thing to say this, but it is a wise thing to acknowledge the true state of our culture: we must begin to retrain ourselves to see the headlines and the articles through the eyes of wisdom rather than naïve acceptance. Increasingly, the media carries an agenda and we must, sadly as it is, read them with a healthy skepticism and the question: “What is being sold here” rather than “faithfully being told here?”

This is “Agenda Journalism”. Now, for sure, not all journalists are this way, nor are all articles and headlines. But, in my opinion, it is the increasing trend, especially for key issues in our culture.

If you are anti-gay, Indiana wants you to visit” is actually quite silly and childish to write. It is certainly most unprofessional to do so. But, in a journalistic age where achieving the Agenda is the prime issue, and not Truth, this headline makes sense.

We need to simply learn how to read the Agenda between the lines and headlines.


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Ask the Puffer Fish

For twenty years, scientists have been baffled by what you might call “crop circles” or “sand castles” on the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Japan’s Amami Oshima Island.

The mystery is now solved.

These intricate, strange yet beautiful designs were painstakingly made by a male puffer fish in hopes that his “castle” might attract a pretty little female puffer fish and convince her to be his queen.

You really need to watch this guy in action:

https://www.facebook.com/BBCOne/videos/851829108170842/?fref=nf

Scientists are now convinced that the design has another practical purpose: to provide a “nest” in which their eggs can be laid and protected from rough currents. One article implies that the nest might also aid in keeping out predators. How, I’m not sure. Unless the predator sees this spectacular creative work and says “Whoa! That must be the castle of some pretty smart and powerful dude!” and decide it best to keep his distance.  

Because even animals recognize and respect intelligent design.

If you look closely, you will see that the puffer fish has not only created a fascinating structure, but he has decorated it as well. Scurrying about, he searches for the right seashells and places them carefully on the top of his “sand castle”—to better impress his queen and possibly to better protect the castle from turbulent water and the neighbor’s kids or dog (figuratively speaking, of course).

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite passages:

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,

or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

or let the fish in the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know

that the hand of the Lord has done this?”   Job 12:7-9

 

So, let the “fish in the sea inform you”.

They are sometimes much wiser than we, for they “know that the hand of the Lord has done this” while we rattle off notions of natural random processes and unintelligent forces so that we might not have to turn and gaze upon the face of God.


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What is a Worldview?

The classic definitions of “worldview” take some form of “the lens through which one sees the world around them”. I think it is much deeper than this and much more complicated. In fact, I think there are two, yea three, different categories that we should keep in mind when we try to define “worldview” or attempt to understand what it is.

For sure, we need to understand it not as a mere linguistic term or academic study, but as a critically deep and profound aspect of our own life.

Formal vs. Personal

When we speak of a “worldview” there are two fundamentally different ways this can be used. The first is to refer to a “formal” worldview and the second is to refer to one’s “personal” worldview. These are vastly different from each other and should be defined separately.

A formal worldview is a set of truth claims that purport to paint a picture of reality. Formal worldviews are often titled, such as Marxism or Islam or Christianity. One can find a good number of publications that lay out the truth claims for each of these formal “worldviews”. This just simply means that the “book” for each of these worldviews makes the strong assertion that its truth claims are really real.

A personal worldview is also a set of truth claims, but these truth claims aren’t written in a book, they are written on the heart. They are truth claims that are embraced so deeply that we “believe” they really do match reality. But the critical factor here is that once we believe that a truth claim is really real, it will drive our behavior: how we act, how we think, and how we feel. If you believe that you are unlovable unless you weigh less than you do now, that belief will drive how you act. If you believe that your happiness and significance is based upon circumstances working out the way you have planned them and it appears that the chances of that happening are growing less probable, then you will find yourself worried. Jesus dealt with the issue of worry and He clearly jabbed His finger upon the source: our beliefs. This is the power of the personal worldview and the impotence of a formal worldview. No one acts on the ideas in a book. They act on the ideas in their heart. You can make up your own new formal worldview. You can write a book about it or maybe even a hundred books about it. You can give it a snazzy name, like Avatarism. But if no one embraces your truth claims as being really real, then you will have nothing but a dusty old book. But if hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of people begin to read that book and believe your truth claims to be really real, even if they are totally false, then you will rule them with your ideas. This is why Dave Breese wrote a book entitled “Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave”. How do they continue to rule? Because they each wrote a “book” with their own ideas in them, mostly false ideas, and people began to believe those ideas and in so doing, even long after the authors of those books were dead, their ideas continues to drive how people think, how they act, and how they feel. They are ruled by those ideas. Why? Because they are written in their hearts. They believe they are real. They became a part of their personal worldview.

This is the power of ideas and the power of a worldview. But until it becomes part of one’s personal worldview, it is powerless. This is why the Scripture warns us to “guard our heart” (Proverbs 4:23). That is not to guard ourselves against being emotionally hurt by someone, it is to guard what it is we end up believing to be really real.

And if you were to write your book and only one person began to believe your ideas were real, you would be ruling that one person. This should be enough for us to take seriously another warning from Scripture: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

If you are going to teach or write, you better make sure that the “truth claims” that you assert are really real. And the only way that I know to insure that, is to make very, very sure that your words are consistent with the Truth of God. If not, woe to you if some “little child should stumble” (Mark 9:42) because of your false teaching.

There are more differences in these two:

A formal worldview is usually quite comprehensive, dealing with most areas of life, if not all.

A personal worldview, can be quite spotty or incomplete.

Studying a formal worldview is fairly easy.

Trying to understand one’s personal worldview is not.

A formal worldview can be crafted to appear quite logical (although a false worldview will always be filled with contradictions if you are willing to examine them).

A personal worldview can be quite illogical. It can embrace ideas or truth claims that are very contradictory. It can be driven by selfish motives and desires, rather than reality. In fact, one’s personal worldview can be quite “unreal” and in certain areas it could be said that we are living in a “dream” world because our beliefs are so contrary to reality. When this is the case, it is usually because of our selfish motives: we believe what we want to believe.

Source of Truth

What is common to both, however, is that each relies upon a source of truth.

For the formal worldview, this is fairly easy to determine. A Christian worldview believes that truth has been revealed in both the creation of God and in His written Word. Islam believes it has been revealed in the Koran. Latter Day Saints believe it has been revealed in the Book of Mormon and other revelations to their prophets, such as The Pearl of Great Price. Naturalism believes that the source of truth is found in science alone. Marxism and Leninism rests upon the writings of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, who also happened to stand upon a worldview of Naturalism.

For the personal worldview, consistent with its inconsistency, we could find multiple sources of truth. However, in the truly selfish worldview, it is sometimes expressed that the individual’s heart is the source of truth. So, “My heart tells me that…” is one’s source of truth.

Sometimes a person begins to believe that a formal worldview is right in its understanding of the source of truth and adherents will attempt to mold their personal worldview to the doctrines of the formal worldview. However, it is quite unusual for an individual to have a personal worldview that perfectly matches a formal worldview. When selfishness or other motives drive our beliefs, then we can declare that we believe in a formal worldview’s source of truth and its truth claims, but act in a different way. And why do we act in a different way? Because we have other truth claims that have captured our heart that are deeper than the truth claims of the formal worldview.

All of this leads us to the third type of worldview: the “professed” worldview.

This is a complicated thing, but not too much so. It is the thing that happens when we believe that it is in our best interest to “profess” a particular belief when we don’t really believe it is real. And why do we believe that it is in our “best interest”? Because we have believed another truth claim that says so. For example, if I believe the truth claim “I will be happy if people accept me and think well of me” then I might act in a way that would make people accept me and think well of me. If I were in a Christian group and I wanted to be happy, then I would say “Jesus is Lord” when I don’t really believe it. I might even memorize Scripture passages or go to church or raise my hands in worship to show that I am really worthy of the honor and praise of those who see me do such things. This becomes my “professed” worldview and it is often times difficult to separate the “professed” from the “personal”. Often times, the “professed” is the open profession of things consistent with the formal worldview, but it may be miles away from the personal worldview.

I believe God is speaking to this when He declares “These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) This is a “professed” worldview in action. But the omniscient God is not fooled by the “professions” we make for He “looks at the heart”. (1 Samuel 16:7) This doesn’t mean that He knows how you “feel”. It means He knows what you really believe despite what you “profess”.

This is why we must not fool ourselves in thinking that our “professed” worldview is equal to our “personal” worldview; nor that our “personal” worldview is equal to the “formal” worldview that I am associated with…just because I am a member of a church or synagogue or mosque or Free-Thinkers Society.

Mark records that Jesus knew what people were thinking in their hearts. (Mark 2:8) We can become quite good at crafting beautiful masks…the kind of mask that people love to see…and we can become masters of which mask to wear in the presence of certain people. We do this because we believe, in our hearts, that our significance and pleasure and happiness is bound up in what people think of us. So we wear a mask and fool everyone.

Everyone, of course, but God.


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"God Is Not On Our Side: The Religious Right's Big Lie About the Founding of America"

This headline was prominently displayed on Yahoo.com, Sunday, June 28, 2015. It is an excerpt from Steven K. Green’s “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding”. Green is a law professor and Director of the Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy at Willamette University.

Reading the headline, one would think that the article would expose “the big lie”. Written by a law professor, one would further expect a litany of evidence to make his case. However, there is nothing here. The majority of the article bemoans that Christians and conservatives appeal to the religious founding of America and that our laws were morally based upon biblical principles, pointing out numerous (obviously upsetting) quotes by the “religious right”. However, the article offers absolutely no evidence to the contrary.

This is actually quite interesting, because it rests on a presumed ‘a priori’ basis that America is a purely secular nation built upon secular principles for secular purposes. This is the standard mantra of academia and has been for years. When one believes this, then one can write articles or books that express astonished bewilderments like: “Can you believe those Christian idiots?” “Look at what they are saying!” and never have a sense that one should present any proof to the contrary.

Well, so that I am not accused of the same thing, let me offer three out of a plethora of evidence:

The first comes from what Washington believed was going to be his final address to his beloved country. When a founder makes his Farewell speech, he speaks of foundational principles. And Washington did not disappoint. Here is an excerpt that is hard to get around if you want to hold the position that he thought this nation was resting upon secular foundations:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports...In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens...”

The second is from a U.S. Supreme Court justice, James Wilson, who happened to also sign the U.S. Constitution. This is an excerpt from his “Of the General Principles of Law and Obligation”, which should clue you in that it is about principles:

“Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine…Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.”

The third actually comes from a Frenchman, Alexis De Tocqueville, who visited and travelled extensively around America in the early 1800’s, and then wrote two volumes (“Democracy in America”) of what is considered to be the classic picture of early American life. Based upon his extensive observations and interviews, this is how he summarized what he saw;

“The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me upon my arrival in the U.S.  In France, I had seen the spirits of religion and freedom almost always marching in opposite directions, in America, I found them intimately linked together and joined and reigned over the same land...”

“The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive one without the other.”

I have done extensive reading of the founding generation and it is breath taking how anyone can come to any conclusion other than that they were resting their hopes for liberty and freedom and the success of the Constitution upon the foundations of religion and morality. It seems that virtually every founder expressed it. How anyone could pursue even the faintest of research into the founding era and come away with some sort of secular basis is hard to imagine…unless there happened to be some agenda that would blind you to the truth and dedicate you to another proposition. I think that is exactly what is in operation here. We don’t want God and we don’t want His transcendent truth. We want to be able to do what we want to do without guilt or condemnation or restraint. Hence, the desperate need to erase Him from every picture, including any notion that the nation originally began with an acknowledgement of God’s presence and His principles and that the nation was resting upon the foundation of a people who had a faith in God and walked morally in accordance with that faith.

Since it is hard for me to stop once I get started on this, I will offer one more, because it is a warning from the founders as to what would happen if we ever left those foundations of religion and morality.

This comes from John Adams:

“We have no government armed in power capable in contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Okay, one more, from Daniel Webster:

“To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.”

But academia in America today is on a mission to strike any notions like this from the mind of its students. And after years of this teaching, we have articles and books by authors who are incredulous that anyone would think that there was something religious about our founding. This headline would make you believe that the Christian who believes this stuff is either horribly duped or just a big fat liar. It is a classic example of how headlines are used as a “truth claim” to persuade a “sound-bite culture” of things that are just not true.

Don’t be persuaded by “sound-bite” headlines.

HOWEVER…if the article were to have honestly pursued the issue of whether or not we could presume that “God was on our side”, it would have been a worthy discussion and one that we need to engage. I am of the opinion that the fact that we have such a large remnant of evangelical Christians in this country, after having shaken our fist in His face for over a hundred years, is of worthy note, and one that makes me think that He has not yet abandoned us.

For how long, however, is another question.


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