Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If I were a skeptic....

If I were a skeptic and wanted to examine the Christian religion, I'd go find a church or two or three or four. I'd want to go find out what Christians do, what they are like when together with just themselves, how they worship unselfconscious of who they are trying to appease in the pews. I want to know how they approach this God and the language they use for it. I would want to know how Christian do church.

In many of today's churches, skeptics will enter and not find out what Christians do. They will find something strangely different.

They will find how Christians do church when they are catering to skeptics.

How is a skeptic ever to find out what Christians really do with this approach? How many will find this hypocritical and even religiously disgusting? How many will feel duped when they find out the entire service was built for them to feel more comfortable about coming?

If you were a skeptic what would you be looking for?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

St Joseph will sell your house!!.... ???

Today in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), I read an article in section D entitled, "When It Takes a Miracle to Sell Your House."

Because the housing market is in a slump across the nation, some people are employing some pretty drastic measures to sell their homes. The WSJ article says people are buying statues of St Joseph (the step-dad of Jesus) because he's the patron saint of home-related matters--he was a carpenter after all!

They buy these statues, bury them upside down, sell their homes, and then (if they remember) dig up the statues again to place in their new homes. This is the ritual.

If one or two people were doing this, it wouldn't be newsworthy. But these St Joseph statues are flying off the shelves as Real Estate Kits!

Is Your House Not Selling?
St Joseph Statue Home Sales Kit.

The opening story in the article tells of a Jewish woman who is a practicing Buddhist and a discouraged home seller. So she added a Christian statue to her yard for good luck.

This attitude is very present everywhere we travel. When it comes to religion, in general, Americans want what they want. Otherwise, they'll employ drastic measures.

St Joseph's views of God are very different than the Buddhists. Joseph would say there is a God to pray too. Buddhists would not. Joseph would say that Jesus really is the world's hope. Buddhism would say Jesus is one way, but only if he's a way compatible with Buddhism. Joseph would say that you matter as an individual. Buddhism would say that, in reality, there are no individuals that can matter.

With all the science we claim to have today, polytheism (the belief there is more than one god) is growing rapidly. And this does not surprise me as the value of common sense is replaced with superstition.

People are afraid. People want results.

A question I often hear is 'how on earth can the ancient Israelites be so gullible to run after other gods.

When Israel wanted something and couldn't get it out of Jehovah the way they liked, they found another god fill their order. This is exactly what prompted Baal worship--he was a fertility god and Israelites really, really wanted babies. So instead of trusting, they became polytheists.

This is the same thing that happened in with the church in Ephesus. Read 1 Timothy and you get a whole polemic against the goddess, Artemis (though her name is never mentioned). She was the goddess of unapproachable light and the savior of child bearing. Paul writes Timothy and says in chapter 6 that God is the immortal one of unapproachable light (not Artemis) and that God will save in childbearing (not Artemis).

The problem with following after other gods is no different yesterday as it is today.

Yet don't we want to base our lives on is something real?

Do we really want to pull out the latest trendy rabbit's foot, pretend that it is a REAL comfort, and then live our lives on trinkets buried in our yards, hung from our rearview mirrors, or worn around our necks.

Trinkets, no matter how we play with them, will never give us what we want.

Only a God who is there can do that.

Paul had it right. There is a better way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jeeping the Rubicon Trail

Those who know me personally know I've a broad assortment of interests... Jeeping is one of them. Here I am with Jonalyn and our three corgis in Moab, UT, last May.

This summer we hit the famed Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe. JPFreek published my story and pictures on the adventure. You can download the PDF subscription for free. Click here.

Then go to page 44.

(Dial-up, beware.... it's a big download. But worth it!)

Is Christianity Good for the World?

Earlier this year, Douglas Wilson (Christian) and Christopher Hitchens (Atheist) exchanged responses to one another in Christianity Today under this question: Is Christianity Good for the World?

If you are up to reading this six-part exchange, none of which is too long (I read it all in one sitting), here are a few observations I made you can look for.

  1. Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson know their material and represent their various perspectives well. This isn't a mismatched dialog, like we have seen in recent debates with 'new' atheists.
  2. Hitchens is promoting the 'new' atheism on the block with his recently released and bestselling book, God is Not Great. I find it interesting that 'new' atheism is using the same arguments and assumptions as 'old' atheism (empiricism and a strict atomic story).
  3. Hitchens often dodges the point until his position becomes so weakened that he must address it. And in addressing it, he simply announces it ad hoc (that is, the world is just so without a need to give a reason).
  4. Hitchens, by the end, leaves the reader with a good perspective on 'new' atheism to wrestle with.
  5. Even though many atheists are telling us the 'argument from morality' for God's existence isn't a good argument, Wilson uses it first and Hitchens has a hard time with it. Then Wilson moves to the 'argument from reason' and again advances the Christian side as being more reasonable as Hitchens cannot offer a solid reply.
  6. Douglas Wilson gives a fine example of whimsical and thoughtful replies to the opposition. While I could have thought of a few philosophers who could have replied Hitchens much more exactingly, Wilson brings in a breath of fresh imagination into such a dialog which many apologists would do well to note.
  7. Wilson brings to the table a reformed theological perspective which, sometimes, weakens his argument. His closing remarks in part 6, though nicely written, feel forced and unnecessary. It is so poetically written, it loses accuracy and impact. But you'll have to decide that yourself as reader.
Overall, this is a great exchange worth reading and noting. It is a good example of cordial dialog even though the views are opposed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Walking Fish Creek Falls

Up the hill from downtown Steamboat, CO, is a piece of national forest where flows Fish Creek Falls. We love making this short hike with the dogs, like we did today in the late afternoon.

Once to the top the falls, we jumped stones and boulders and crossed a fallen tree. It was quiet but for the movement of water. The autumn leaves still glowed. Mossy rocks bordered the creek.

We took in a few moments of meditation.

And then home again as the sun dipped into the valley.

Wild Coincidence on "Jedi Mind Tricks"

Disclaimer: this post does not reflect on the excellent service of This is a post about how marketing is used. We are glad for VerticalResponse and recommend it as much as we can for it's value... now on to my post...

Okay, so my book was released in early August. If you've read it, you'll know how I talk about marketing in the first chapter and how consumer businesses play "Jedi Mind Tricks" on us to get us to buy. I hadn't yet seen anybody talk about marketing in this way--until today.

We use Vertical Response for Soulation emails. As part of their new integration program for customers to reach customers, they add this little paragraph:

Ever wished you could read peoples’ minds? Contrary to some reports, VerticalResponse staffers aren’t (yet) able to share their mind-reading superpowers. However, our latest integration with Google Analytics is a step in the right direction toward mastering Jedi mind tricks for email marketing, without needing seven years of training.

Well, doesn't that just confirm what we've known all along?! Part of marketing is not just to make us aware of products (I wish that's all it was). Rather, it is also designed to build corporate business by putting hard-earned money into the pockets of businesses for things we never knew we wanted but are made to feel we need to make life a little more meaningful.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cleveland Teen on Tragic Rampage

Today, a 14 year old boy opened fired on his classmates and teachers today even though he was suspended from school.

New York Times article.

The article describes the boy in this way:

Several students said the shooter was called “Jack Black” by others because he resembled the actor in the movie “The School of Rock,” and was a bit loud like the actor. He favored Goth fashions, they said, and he walked with a bit of a limp that some kids made fun of. Earlier in the week, some of them said, he had gotten into a fight with another student, over whether or not there was a god, and both had been suspended.

There are many difference sides to this story that will unfold in the following days. No doubt what was spurred at Columbine is being repeated again and again. Cleveland weeps today. Thankfully, apart from the gunman, nobody else was killed.

What immediately came into my head when I first read this was why the boy was suspended in the first place: "He had gotten into a fight with another student, over whether or not there was a god."

This does not surprise me. With all the hype about teen development today and parenting and everything else, few are addressing students in the deeper areas of questions they are asking, especially when it comes to God and God's purposes for this world. "Is God There?" is one of the popular questions I get on the road and forms one of the chapters in my book. We need to be addressing students where their questions are hottest and in ways they can understand. From there, maybe new vistas in their souls will open up and new conversations will be made. Maybe they will see the universe isn't empty.

Who knows yet the exact frustration in this gunman's soul or what his home was like. But what we can see is that even at 14, he's sophisticated enough to know and understand that the world is complex and often difficult to deal with as you live with questions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Hear" about Living with Questions

Jonalyn and I spoke on reaching youth and Living with Questions in San Jose, CA, in August. This was the same weekend my book was released.

If you want to know the need students are facing today and how my book Living with Questions helps address that need, listen here: Living with Questions (mp3).

I also just found out this weekend that Living with Questions has started it's second printing! I'm stoked.