Friday, May 25, 2007

The Problem of Evil For Atheism

Professing to be wise they became fools!What follows is my reply to an Atheist who disagreed with my assertion in the previous post that an Atheistic worldview simply can not answer the why's of moral obligation. The reply he gave is not all that uncommon from moderately sophisticated Atheists so I think it serves as a good post. This fellows name is "Godma", here is my reply to what he wrote:

Hey Godma thanks for the comments I will give a brief response to some of the things you raised.

You write:

"1. There are good evolutionary advantages for people to have an innate moral instinct, albeit a simplistic one (something like "try to be nice to your fellow humans")."

Based upon an evolutionary assumption sure, there may be "advantages" (defining that gets sticky as I will show) to a sort of pragmatic moral code. This however does not equal those actions being inherently wrong, we just define them as such for pragmatic reasons. So rape isn't really wrong but we just categorize it as such because it's effects are undesirable.

Also I think a case could be made that many practices we deem "wrong" in themselves certainly could have evolutionary "advantages". Take random indiscriminate open copulation, like animals practice. We would find it rather immoral if when we walked down the street we saw numerous couples engaging in procreative activities in public in front of young children. Or even rape for that matter could be seen as advantageous and as such "moral" on a strict evolutionary sense.

"Over the long course of evolution, individuals with a genetic predisposition toward being generally nice to their family and tribe-mates out-reproduced individuals who did not have that predisposition. The instinct we have inherited from this is still present. It's not fool-proof, of course, but it can go a long way."

So "nicety" (whatever that is) is genetic? What part of the genome contains this "nice" gene? Can you weigh nice genes? Can you pour niceness into a glass?

Given this strict materialist view of things I wonder how you can say anything is "wrong" at all. I mean people are just acting on how their chemical make up determines them to act. How can you say it is wrong to fail to posses an adequate amount of "nice" genes"? Given such a view I just wonder how we can make any moral judgments on people or call anybody "criminals" because they are simply acting upon their biological makeup.

"2. Human cultures have further promoted habits of moral behavior in their members, through morality stories (including religious stories), social pressures, and rule of law with punishment for transgressors. Over time, the moral sense of a culture does gradually shift due to changing conditions, however (e.g. times of bounty/famine, technological growth, etc.)"

Well, Nietzsche would say these stories were just made up by the weak to control the natural barbaric instincts of the strong. We need to adopt a master morality and reject all of these stories and let "do what thou wilt" be our moral guide. In essence these are all facades and control devices, there isn't any REAL right and wrong, just pragmatic weapons to control people with. Do you live in that world? The world where there is no real right and wrong, where right and wrong are just conventions made to control people?

Or do you live in a world where the rapist REALLY did do something wrong? If you live here I would submit that as an unbeliever you are simply borrowing from my Christian worldview. Indeed this borrowing from the Christian worldview becomes apparent as you will soon invoke the "golden rule" as a moral standard.

"3. Basically, as a culture, we should treat certain behaviors as "good" and others as "bad", for the simple reason that it is beneficial to the culture to do so (in that it helps the culture persist and prosper)."

Why? Why is that what we should do? Why should we care about the culture as a whole? Why should any of that concern me? Why should I based upon YOUR worldview give a rip about anybody else, nevertheless a whole culture of others?

Again your assessment masks that "good" and "bad" are conventions. We just pragmatically employ this "moral language" to control people. The actions themselves aren't actually wrong, we just label them as such arbitrarily.

"For example, I think we could mostly agree that the golden rule is an excellent basis for morality that can continue to endure through time and even be treated as an absolute, with no need to justify it based on the belief in deities. We can justify it based on the fact that it helps us minimize suffering (which is conducive to a peaceful society)."

Why yes I think the golden rule is wonderful...based upon a Christian worldview. But see you have no right to borrow this concept. Once you take the golden rule and divorce it from the authoritative objective word of God incarnate (Christ) then it is just another arbitrary convention made by men that I see no reason to abide by.

So based on YOUR worldview why is the golden rule a good standard to live by? Why should I care about other sacks of chemicals and how they may "feel" about certain actions? Why?

You have simply taken some of the leftovers from the Christian worldview in appealing to this. I submit that this is because you are made in the image of God and that although you deny this God you really do know Him.

"So, my answer to the question, as an atheist, is that it is wrong to fly planes into buildings because it is wrong to cause needless suffering."

A Frank Turk Graphic...Wha!? How did you reach the conclusion that "needless suffering" is wrong? Based upon your worldview why is causing "needless suffering" wrong? I mean sure maybe I might not want to be held at gunpoint while jihadists slit the throats of my family members in front of me but that doesn't = wrongness just because I happen to not like what is going on or even most people don't like that, that doesn't make it wrong. If that is the case then earthquakes are immoral and hurricanes, and rain at a baseball game. All of these cause "needless suffering" therefore rain at baseball games is "wrong"!

Also we need to remember that jihadists and rapists are just acting on their chemical makeup. They are just doing what nature has chemically determined them to do. I would also ask this: Is there such a thing as "needed suffering"? Well then it seems like it would be a matter of subjective perspective to make a distinction between what is needless and needed. I think the Jihadists would say blowing the WTC up was needed suffering. Who's right you or them?

You try to answer my above question saying:

"And needless suffering is bad because it is harmful to a stable and peaceful society. ...And that is something we should try to maintain because it is in our own self-interest in the long run."

Again, who cares! "Self interest" that sounds like a bunch of junk considering that I got about 80 years to whoop it up and then annihilation, why in the world should I give a rip about the "good" (whatever that means) of society or humanity?

You next add onto why "needless suffering" is bad writing:

"I also think it's bad because I have a sense of compassion. Seems obvious, but I thought I should add it just in case."

So because you have these feelings that action X is bad that = moral obligation? What about the sacks of chemicals (people) walking around who don't share those feelings? Like, oh, Charles Manson. So what makes him the bad guy and you the good guy because you when you heard a women being raped in the alley called 911 and went out with a baseball bat to get the attacker off her, whereas on the other hand Mr.Manson pulled up a chair at his apartment window and opened a bag of Doritos and watched the show? Why is he "bad" and you "good" based on your worldview? Are not both paths equally valid?

After all he doesn't have the chemical make up that induces this thing you call compassion, can you really fault him for that?

So again this just raises the question as to WHY I should (based upon an Atheist Materialist worldview) care if another sack of chemicals and nerve endings is experiencing pain?

Now as a Christian I can answer all of those questions. We should care about other human beings because they are not just sacks of chemicals they are creatures made in the image of God, and as such they have dignity and worth. There is no higher value you can place on human life then to acknowledge that we are made in God's image.

Furthermore right and wrong are not mere pragmatic categories invented to make society "work". Ethics and morality reflect the character of God, and thus is implanted in the nature of man made in the image of God (This explains your feeling of compassion for others, those feelings are valid in a Christian worldview). Thus, because they are based upon God, the creator of man and transcendent over man, these standards are objective and universal and as unchanging as God is unchanging.

Furthermore God has revealed His nature and Character not exhaustively but truly in His revealed word the Bible. Thus I have a standard that says why rape is wrong, it is a crime against the person who has worth (being made in God's image) and against God who made that person and has stated that such treatment of others is wrong.

Let me end by saying that you probably are a fairly moral fellow. You would probably say that it is "wrong" to steal for fun or hit people in the face in to see how they react. However, I would say that based upon your worldview you have no reason to think this way. All you have given is pragmatic benefits to having a sort of moral code in a society, that doesn't make these actions wrong, that just means we act as though they are.

I would lastly say that you do know these behaviours are wrong, this is because you are made in the image of God and you live in the world God made. You don't live in Materialist Atheist land where morality is just a convention, you don't live in a world where you see people as just sacks of chemicals and water. You live in a world made by God and you bear his image, yet you in suppressing the truth of God can only offer pragmatic morality to explain what is really there.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Atheism, Doug Wilson, The Golden Girls, and Michael Jordan all in One Short Post...

Doug Wilson has been engaging in a debate with an Atheist Christopher Hitchens over the question "Is Christianity Good for the World?". Hitchen's arguments seem in the vein of Sam Harris and the new pop Atheism. One of my professors gave us Sam Harris' book "A Letter To a Christian Nation", after reading it and finding it full of assumptions, fallacies, and straw man arguments I turned to Wilson's response to the Sam Harris book, "A Letter From a Christian Citizen" before proudly giving it to my professor. Wilson really said all I wanted to say in response to Harris' book but better. In both debates I can best liken the arguments Wilson has given to say a Michael Jordan in his prime flying from the free throw line with his tongue out and nothing in his path to the hoop escept a little Estelle Getty ("Sophia" from the Golden Girls) feebly holding her arms up to contest the inevitable dunk. Simply put Wilson is in another class then the likes of Harris and Hitchens.

(Here's the link to the debate b/w Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens)

In reality the debate over whether religion was "good" or "bad" for society was effortlessly checkmated by Wilson by just asking Hitchens to give a basis for moral oughts. For example a typical argument the new wave of belligerent Atheists will put out will go something like: "Religion makes people fly planes into buildings and blow up people." Scary stuff huh?

Well the simple and obvious request is: "Why is flying planes into buildings and blowing people up "Bad"?" I mean after all given Atheist Materialism we are just sacks of chemicals and water walking around what does it really matter if every so often some sacks of chemicals get agitated and blow up other sacks of chemicals? I think these are real problems for the Atheist. I know I am oversimplifying, however, the onus is on the Atheist to give a foundation for human dignity and moral oughts BEFORE he can start condemning actions and telling people things Religious folk do are "wrong" or "bad".

Really what is going on then when Atheists or many non-Christians make these moral judgments? They are living on the left overs from Christianity. Given their own worldview they have no real foundation for most of the things that are taken for granted: morality, human worth, meaning, logic etc. I am finding often that a large part of witnessing in a postmodern world is pointing out to the person that they are standing on air philosophically.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Brief Glimpse At Why I Am Not a Catholic

This isn't is honor!"You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God." (Lev 26:1)

"Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. " (Isa 2:8)

"so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," (Phil 2:10)

I have recently been thinking about the reasons why I am not a Catholic, in light of the Frank Beckwith situation. I honestly have never seriously studied Catholicism in depth but I have enough of an understanding to know that over half of the practices and doctrines are not remotely Biblical. I mean I see images like the one above and then I read scripture like the citations above and I see something is wrong. There is simply no way you can read a passage like Leviticus 26:1 and then go bow down before a statue of Mary and not see a problem.

The whole notion that you do not set up a figured stone and bow down to it is pretty straight forward. Yes I know there will be semantic word plays with honor and worship and dulia and latria when it comes to Mary. I can't see that stuff as anything other then word games to justify something that is radically out of step with the teaching of the Bible.

I will give a brief list of Catholic doctrines and my reason why I don't believe should see a pattern here, I will start with some of the Maryology because it is just so out there.

1.) Catholics believe in praying to Mary, many will stress that they DO NOT worship Mary though. She just carries their prayers to God for them.

RE) Where in the Bible do we see anybody pray to Mary? Where in the Bible do we see any of that stuff talked about?

Also, how does Mary hear and respond to millions of prayers given to her every hour across the world? If somebody asked me how God can do this, well that is simple, God is Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent...Mary is Omni-nothing, finite. So how is this possible?

2.) Mary was a virgin all her life. "Perpetual Virgin", her and Joseph never had sex or other children.

RE) No the Bible implies Joseph and Mary had sex AFTER Jesus was born, and that they had children:

"When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus." (Matt 1:24-25)

"And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you."" (Mar 3:32)

3.) Mary was taken up into heaven like Christ, "The Assumption of Mary".

RE.) Not in the Bible anywhere.

4.) Mary was sinless.

RE.) Not taught in the Bible anywhere. In reality the Bible implies she was sinful because she offered a sacrifice at the temple after giving birth, it was a sin offering that was to be made. Only sinners need sin offerings.

"And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24)

NOTE!) Now out of all of this it is not my goal to drag Mary down, I am just trying to strip her of her divinity. Mary is not divine, she was a regular person, one who happened to be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. As such Mary does have a place of honor in Biblical Christianity. However we don't pray to her, bow down to pictures and statues of her, or make up stories about her talking about her sinlessness and how she ascended into heaven.

5.) Prayers to the saints in general is a good practice.

RE.) Again not Biblical. Paul never prayed to anybody but God in the name of His Son, though there certainly were men and women of old who certainly were "saints" in the Catholic sense. None of the apostles ever prayed to anybody but God, Peter never said "Father Abraham! I need you to intercede for me!". If they didn't do it and they constantly said to follow their example maybe it's a bad idea for me to make images of dead godly men and bow down and pray to them...maybe.

Finally, I just want to add the main reason for my rejection of Catholicism, which is based on the nature of the gospel. The gospel Jesus preached was not the mass, or absolutions, or relics. The gospel Christ preached was His sacrificial death sufficient to save those who looked to Him ALONE, by faith ALONE. The gospel is by it's nature monergistic as one hymn writer put it:

"Nothing in my hand I bring
simply to Thy cross I cling
naked come to Thee for dress
helpless look to Thee for grace
foul I to the Fountain fly
wash me Savior or I die"

Catholic doctrine teaches a faith in Christ plus my own merit, again there is much semantic word play here but that is really what it boils down to. I have heard countless people say what's the big deal? Why do we need to be divided from Catholicism? My simple response is this: because we love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now I could go on but that would get into the more technical areas of the mass the need of a priesthood and the papacy itself, none of those things are scriptural. I do not want to take them up now simply because each of these subjects is like a rabid dog running loose at a buffet table it will get messy trying to pin him down.

So perhaps in the future I will tackle these more central issues, as it is all I have done is chop a few of the fingers off of the errors in Catholicism, I have yet to thrust my sword into the heart of the errors. My goal with this post was to show the clear pattern that one sees when he starts to question Catholic practice...they are unbiblical at best and in direct antithesis with Scripture at worst.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Epitaph for Jerry Falwell by Frank Turk

I had to put this up, I hadn't planned to really say anything about the death of Jerry Falwell simply because he wasn't one of my heroes although I certainly consider him a brother. After reading a number of news articles where the writers took the death of Falwell as an opportunity to slam him I think what Frank Turk said over on his blog is excellent. It honestly brought tears to my eyes just to read of Falwell's faithfulness and fighting for what is right. Here is what Mr. Turk "Centurion" wrote:

A thought to think
Posted by centuri0n

As I said yesterday, I wasn't a fan of Jerry Falwell, but in reviewing the responses toward him through the media, I am struck by two really amazing things:

[1] The shear volume of people who despised him -- so much so that even at his death they cannot say anything about him but nastiness.

[2] The response of Larry Flint toward the death of Rev. Falwell, which I site here:

"The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.

My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.

The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in."

It's probably not so remarkable that Flynt took this opportunity to exemplify himself as a maker of history, but there is something extraordinary about this statement: somehow, Jerry Falwell was able to reach across the moral divide to the pornographer Larry Flynt.

There is a lesson there for those who are heaping hatred on Rev. Falwell: they are clearly wrong about who he was and what he was intending to do in this world. Megalomaniacs and demagogues don't make friends with people who hate everything they stand for. They don't imagine that there's a redemption for the "other side". But there is a lesson for the rest of us as well.

Listen: the viciousness with which some circles are saying "so long" to Rev. Falwell ought to be considered against the fact that Jerry Falwell spoke the truth -- insofar as he spoke it -- and also extended himself as an ambassador even to someone as diametrically-opposed to God's law as Larry Flynt.

This is a lesson in apologetics and evangelism, folks. Jerry Falwell was a flawed human person -- but guess what? So am I. And for the record: so are you. If, upon our deaths, there are none of the unsaved in the number who will say, "this one was my friend," perhaps we have wasted our time here.

Don't waste your life.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Reconciliation...The Ignored Reality

The Prodigal son reconciled to his father.I write this post in response to my recent visits to a local Mega Church as part of one of my college classes. In this class we were supposed to visit two churches we normally don't attend and get a grasp of where they stand theologically and politically. Besides the Mega Church the other church (I use the term very loosely) was a Unitarian Universalist Church. What I have had brewing in my mind since my visit to the Mega Church was the content of the preaching and the emphasis of the message. My hangup with the message isn't so much what was said but what was left unsaid.

I attended the service that fell on a Saturday that was actually a "Good Friday" message, I thought "If these guys are going to preach the gospel this will be the day." And rightly so the emphasis was the cross, Christ's death was lifted up, sin was talked about, and the fact that it was my sin that Christ died for was clear. I really have little problems with what was said, my beef is with with where the whole emphasis of the message lay.

The emphasis of the application of Christ's death was completely on the here and now. When the phrase Jesus can set you free from your sins was used it clearly had earthly horizontal application. Jesus can deliver you from the guilt of abortion, Jesus can deliver you from the feelings of shame from adultery. Not just in the deliverance from the feelings of guilt and shame but also that Jesus can deliver you from a pattern of sin that is damaging your life. This was spoken of through deliverance from drug addiction, broken relationships, lifestyles of anger, etc.

Now I have no problem with that, I think that is true and it is Biblical. We are freed from shame and guilt through Christ. We are freed from being slaves of sin and a sinful lifestyle. This is true. However the clincher is what was not said, and it is the heart of what the gospel is all about that was not said. Christ did not die primarily so we would no longer have guilty feelings, or so we would stop chasing girls. These are secondary blessings.

The ultimate reason Christ died was to glorify God, and next to that Christ died to reconcile us to God. Neither of these were mentioned. Now I don't expect Arminians to say that the ultimate reason Christ came and died was to glorify God, I have never heard an Arminian answer that way to the question "What was the ultimate reason Jesus died?" that's just not on man centered radar. However, I would expect all Christians to say that Christ ultimately died to reconcile us to God. The reality of reconciliation to God was never mentioned at all at this Church and in this church's preaching.

I would submit that reconciliation is at the very heart of the purpose of Christ's death (2nd only to the glory of God, but that is another post). It is this reality that is being completely displaced in our man centered and consumeristic age. Mega Churches, if you want to fill the pews, do not start with people as sinners at war with God who need to be reconciled. These Churches are starting with man and HIS FELT need. So the emphasis of the gospel message becomes "Come to Jesus He will help you make good business decisions." "Come to Jesus He will take away those bad feelings you have for those bad things you have done.", "Come to Jesus He will enhance your love making with your spouse."

Hold the wrath hold the blood I just want to hear about peace and love.The point is that we start with man and what he thinks he needs, and the Church like a good business responds with the age old proverb "Have it your way". Thus the gospel becomes a product on the market. A product to be repackaged in order to appeal to the desires of the consumer. So in a nutshell what this means for the Gospel is that the emphasis will become primarily horizontal (man and his felt needs) while the vertical (man's standing with God) is displaced.

This is why as I said it is not what was said that was problematic when I visited the Mega Church, it was what was not said. David F. Wells gives and excellent summation of this in his book "Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" as he writes:

"In these churches, Christian orthodoxy is not jettisoned, but it is tailored for the new consumer audience, which is one much given to spirituality shorn of theology, one stripped of much of its cognitive structure.[…] God is much friendlier too. Gone are the notes of judgment, though these are more displaced than denied, and they are replaced by those of love and acceptance. God, in one such message, was presented as the one ‘who loves you, is proud of you, believes in you, and will give you strength to stand up to the forces of evil in the world.’

Sin is preached but is presented more in terms of how it ‘harms the individual, rather than how it offends a holy God. Sin, in short, prevents us from realizing our full potential.’ Conversion is insisted upon but then, paradoxically, it is the this- worldly benefits that are accentuated, the practical benefits of knowing Christ receiving all the attention with scarcely a look at what happens if we turn away from him.

To turn away from him, Hybels [One of the Leading Mega Church Pastors] says, leaves that person not so much under God’s judgment as unfulfilled. Thus the exclusive message of classical evangelicalism is maintained but parts of it are de-emphasized and parts are transformed to make the adjustment to this consumer-driven and therapeutically- defined culture.” (p.305-306 AAEP)

That little phrase "Though these are more displaced than denied" is what I am getting at when I am saying it is what was not said that is the problem. Wells is on the money with his assessment.

That said I get to my main point of this post, the beauty of the reality of reconciliation with God. As I have been leading up to this I am setting the backdrop that this truth has been ignored and man's this worldly needs have become the emphasis. In the New Testament you will be hard pressed to find any passage talking about the application of the death of Christ make the emphasis horizontal. Rather it is unanimously vertical, the phrase so often used by the NT authors is "Reconciled to God".

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Rom 5:10)

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;" (II Cor 5:18)

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. " (II Cor 5:20)

I could go on with citations but this will do. The point is that through the death of Christ we who were enemies are reconciled to God. There are two things to note here: Firstly, people are enemies of God. This is huge. The Atheist who stomps his foot and yells "There is not God so how can I hate Him?!" in saying that he is simply speaking out of his enmity. The height of hatred of God is to say He isn't there.

Along with this first point it needs to be noted that the word we translate from the Greek to get the English "Reconciled" literally means to change mutually.This means that not only is it the rebel cussing and mocking who changes his disposition, but God Himself is reconciled to the sinner. God in His humility is reconciled to sinful men.

The second thing to note is that God through Christ has reconciled rebels to Himself. To be reconciled to to be wholly restored in relationship. The best picture we can think of is the one Christ Himself gave us in the classic story is of the prodigal son. This complete wretch of a son comes home after blowing his dad's money on prostitutes and booze.

In this culture the son was expecting nothing short of a public beating and humiliation, not only from his father but from all the people of the town as soon as he entered the town. This is because this culture was an honor, culture and the towns people were defending the honor of the father this son disgraced by his wasteful living.

But what does the father do in Christ's parable? He runs down and meets his son and embraces him at the edge of town, right before the humiliation would begin. He kisses him. In fully embracing this rebel son in a culture of honor it is this father who has taken the dishonor upon himself. Their relationship is fully restored, the son expected to be humiliated and live a life of servitude but rather his father takes the shame of forgiving him and recieving him.

This is at the very heart of the gospel, God embraces us and receives us when we deserve none of it at all. The Gospel is primarily vertical. It is a message of reconciliation to a holy God. This was Paul's plea in 2 Cor 5:20, "Be reconciled to God!".

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"The Secret" A Book Review (Part III, closing thoughts)

I Think I can...I think I can...I think I can...Well I just wanted to end the review of "The Secret" with one more short post. Overall in "The Secret" we don't find anything new. It is really just the same positive thinking and word faith techniques that have been implemented and taught by many fairly public figures for decades now. Neither is their message about "God" new, pantheism has had numerous figures in the West to support it ranging from the Beatles to Shirley Mclain. So what do we make of "The Secret"? Well it is in essence a sophisticated and spiritualized version of the message we hear in the classic "The Little Engine that Could."

If you don't remember that story that is the one where there is the little train engine who is able to overcome all its obstacles by repeating the phrase "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can..." until he has success. Essentially that is what we find in "The Secret", but here it is more sophisticated and spiritualized.

There really is one thing that stands out in the book that I have really paid scant attention to simply because to call it out would have required a post in itself and I would rather address it in a broader context then a single book review. What I am referring to is the heavy emphasis on us being the "Masters of our destiny". This sort of talk is probably the most seducing of the whole book, simply because it is this sort of thinking that is so ubiquitous.

This sort of message strokes us at the very heart of our consumeristic nature, and I think that is the main allurement of the book. We can decide what kind of car we will drive, spouse we will have, have complete control over our health and our wealth, basically we can conjure and live whatever life we want with this power. The success of this book is not merely that it was promoted on Oprah but that it sees a consumeristic and self centered culture and begins to tickle peoples ears with its soft words.

Ultimately this message is tragic and we as Christians know the weight of how damnable such a message is. Let me give a picture. Here's the scenario:

There is a women living on the second floor of a duplex, she is a very vain woman and can not even go to the Taco Bell drive thru and right back home without getting dressed up and putting on make up. Well it just so happens that one day as she is continually trying on new clothes she has just purchased and admiring her attractiveness in the mirror that she hears a yell from outside her window..."M'am! M'am! Get out of the house the lower story is on fire, if you jump my friend and I will catch you!" she replies "Who are you? And how do you know this?" The man replies "My name is Gospel, and I can see the flames inside the windows on the first floor."

Now it just so happens that as Mr.Gospel was explaining this to her that her cell phone rings on the other end is this woman's friend Ms.Flattermouth calls and says "Fire?! Listen honey there is only a fire if you think there is one, now are you gonna let ol Gospel tell you what you need to do or are you gonna control your own reality? What do you really want, do you want to run your own life or do you want to trust that Guy to save you?"

Ms.Flattermouth's advice seems very attractive to Ms.Vainself, she replies "You are right! [as smoke begins to fill the room] there is no fire, I control my reality!" As she hangs up the phone she goes to the window and shouts to Gospel "Mr.Gospel, your talk about fire and my needing to jump really brings me down, I am just fine where I am and I am in control of my reality, so Thank you for nothing!" She slams the window shut. She returns to admiring how nice her delicate complexion makes her new jewelry look only to collapse from smoke inhalation.

Now I know the analogy is a bit goofy but the point is that this situation applies to all people. We have the command from the Gospel to jump into the safety of the arms of Christ or to ignore the command and die in our own self worship. Ms.Flattermouth is supposed to give a similar message of "The Secret" which really tells people who are dead in sins and trespasses that they are just fine...and go buy a yacht. That is why I said this message is damnable, not because the word damnable is a scary way of saying I don't like it, but because this message will no doubt encourage lost sinners to continue in their self love and self reliance.

That is why I reviewed this book, because it is a message that tells people to eat all of the Turkish Delight they want and ignore the warnings of God's judgement. O how lamentable is this! Christ gives a parable on this very topic as He said:

"And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."" (Luke 12:16-21)

Christ gave many parables like this one. The point is simply that our life is to consist of more than things, we are to live Corum Deo which is before God at all times and in all we do. God is to be our central treasure not things, we are to be rich toward God. The message from "The Secret" tells us to build bigger barns, to hunger for more and more things...

Christ says the person who harbors such an attitude and lives on it is a fool. This is not an insult but a statement of fact. It is the height of foolishness to ignore God and love things. For it is God with whom we have to deal, and to sound a bit like Edwards, no amount of things or wealth or "I think I cans..." will be able to deliver us from the judgement of God. Only Christ's shed blood applied can and will.

That is why this "Secret" message is so tragic, it encourages people to keep on in their God ignoring lifestyles and affirms them in them.