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The 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth inspired a spate of articles and books hailing the triumph of the theory of evolution. However, according to Kenneth Miller's 2008 book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul, science and the Intelligent Design (ID) movement are fighting a civil war over evolution. Miller, a Roman Catholic, asserts that there is no conflict between faith and evolution and that ID proponents are just anti-science.
Admittedly, most people lack the scientific background to understand the nuances of arguments like the one between Miller and Michael Behe on blood clotting factors. However, while scientists continue to debate the ability of secondary causes (natural processes) to explain life's diversity, the rest of us should seek opportunities to dialog about primary causes (origins), contingency, and teleology.
For example, all Christians should be prepared to respond to statements like: "Evolution speaks directly to our conception of who we are, where we come from, and how we regard ourselves with respect to the rest of the living world" (Only a Theory, 193).
Even the simple process of defining altruism is not without argument, because the stakes are high in the creation-evolution debate. Creationists have long pointed to it as an Achilles’ heel (or one of many) for the evolution theory. As hard as the evolutionists try, they cannot adequately explain the existence among humans of altruistic behavior. So, in the evolutionist devotees’ (hereafter evo-devo or ED) sincere attempt to heal this wound, they have begun by redefining the term.
Since its inception in 1968, brain death, as a criterion for human death, has enjoyed the status of one of the few relatively “well settled” issues in bioethics. Indeed, its almost universal acceptance in law and medical practice seems to confirm this depiction. However, over the last fifteen years or so, a growing number of experts in medicine, philosophy, and religion regard brain death as an untenable criterion for human death. Given that the debate about brain death has occupied a relatively small group of professionals, few are aware that brain death fails to correspond to any coherent biological or philosophical conception of death. This is significant, for if the brain-dead are not dead, then the removal of their unpaired vital organs for transplantation is the direct cause of their deaths. The purpose of this paper is to relate the historical, biological, and philosophical underpinnings for brain death. After assessing the components of its conceptual foundation, I argue that brain death is fundamentally flawed and ought to be rejected as a criterion for death.
“Wicca.” Many things flood the mind upon hearing that word. To many people, it is synonymous with devil worship, fortune telling, and even human sacrifices. Images of black pointed hats gracing green wrinkled faces burst on the imagination. Is this the truth about Wicca? Is it all about little old ladies running around a cauldron in the company of unruly black cats? Is Wicca in fact devil worship?
A study of the subject will show that there are many different sects collected under the umbrella of “Wicca.” Specifically, there are 28 main branches that are present throughout the world. Keep in mind, though, that these are only the most prominent branches. Because of the relativistic nature of the religion many other unknown sects exist, and many more could develop in years to come. There are significant differences in some of the sects; however they are all very accepting of one another. One Wiccan scholar writes:
As you can see by the number and variety of branches of Wicca, there is really no end of “traditions” that can arise in the religion of Witchcraft, and there is also no end to the disagreements over the definition of any named branch. Wicca is what any witch makes it, as long as the branch is based upon Pagan ideas and deities.
The purest and perhaps most widely practiced form of Wicca, though, is the branch known as Gardnerian Wicca. This is also perhaps the sect that holds to the most traditional Wiccan teachings and practices. All other Wiccan sects share at least some things in common with Gardnerian Wicca, and many sects that exist today are off-shoots from this very branch.
The Apostle Paul writes:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” Gal. 3:1-2
False teachers and legalists were prevalent in the early church even while the apostles were living. There was a constant battle between a theocentric theology and an anthropocentric theology even then. From the time of the Reformation until about 1825 the prevailing theology was theocentric and more specifically Christocentric. From about 1825 on theology has decidedly shifted to anthropocentrism.
More recently, over the last 40 years or so, there has also been a shift away from teaching the essentials of the faith toward either embracing fads or denouncing fads. On both sides leadership has assumed that because their flocks give mental assent to the essentials in their membership documents or Statement of Faith they therefore understand and can defend the essentials of the faith. This is so prevalent that Pastor Rick Warren announced that we don’t need a reformation of creeds but a reformation of deeds. He declares:
“We know what we believe.”
Contrary to Warren’s claims, pollster George Barna demonstrates that 91% of Born Again Evangelicals and 49% of Evangelical pastors are deficient in one or more areas of essential doctrine. One of the areas this shows up most clearly is the doctrine of Grace.
We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who write in their publication Our Kingdom Ministry:
“We want to give deserving ones the opportunity to learn of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and the Kingdom hope.”
It seems to escape their notice that if they are “deserving ones” then the grace they talk about it deserved. On the other hand, if grace is undeserved than there are no “deserving ones.”
We could spend our time on the aberrations and bondage associated with the shepherding movements and new cults such as the International Churches of Christ or Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship (Weigh Down Workshop). However, I think our time would be better spent looking at one of the more accepted teachers within the church who is one of the better promoters of a false definition of Grace and who has profoundly impacted many churches.
To begin with it might be beneficial to view McLaren’s worship video, “I am an Atheist.”
McLaren raises some important social issues in Everything Must Change but in the process he makes false assumptions and builds on them to get to his next point. He misunderstands or misrepresents or misstates (we cannot always tell which it is) what many evangelicals believe. Oftentimes the things of which states that he cannot believe them, we don’t believe either. The recurring theme in his video is:
I can’t believe what they believe, but I believe in you.
Who is the “they” which he refers to in the video? “They believe in the “God of jihad” and this god “converts by the sword.” It sounds as though he may be protesting Islamic extremists but in actuality it is pre-tribulational, pre-millennial Christians that are the “they” McLaren refers to, which comes through very clear in his book everything Must Change.
Why has McLaren become so popular? There are at least two reasons, I think. First, he has tapped into that youthful idealism and the energy that goes with it that wants to change the world. It begins with the idea that the world ought to be perfect, as it was in the Garden perhaps. As we look around we can see the world isn’t perfect and we are looking for whom to blame in order to get them out of the way or at the very least to marginalize them and move on to fixing the world which brings us to the second reason. It is a spiritual AIDS epidemic.
AIDS for the physical body is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Because the immune system is compromised it cannot fight off even simple sicknesses like colds. Spiritual AIDS is the Aquired Ignorance of the Doctrines of Scripture. Like the immune system of the body in the physical disease, many churches today lack good sound biblical grounding along with the ability to think clearly and logically, thereby leaving it defenseless against attacks of false teachings.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten son of the Father, that is of the same substance of the Father; God from God, light from light, true God from true God; begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father...And we believe in the Holy Spirit. 1 (The Nicene Creed)
Ever since those words above were hammered out, they have been heralded by orthodox Christianity as the truth concerning the nature of God. However, this belief in the Trinity has been one of, if not the most violently attacked doctrines of the church. Of course, the Nicene Creed was formulated to define the church’s stance on the deity of Jesus Christ, in response Arius, who taught that Jesus Christ was neither eternal nor God.
Arianism was a formidable adversary to Christian doctrine; but it has, for the most part, been recognized as false. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most well-known proponents of this view today, but almost universally orthodox Christians are aware of the fact that they are a cult. Christian bookstores carry a plethora of books that combat the heresy of Watchtower theology, thereby defusing the threat considerably.
However, unknown to many orthodox Christians today, there is another heresy circulating today, which is just as serious as Arianism and also denies the Trinity. This heresy is quite widespread and believed in many Christian circles today—despite being questioned by the church in the third century and officially condemned in the fourth. However, evangelical Christians today by and large do not recognize proponents of this view as fostering a cult, and the particular sect that teaches this heresy is not classified as a cult by the majority of contemporary American Christians. Still, if presented with the facts, few Christians would disagree that this heresy is more malignant than Arianism ever was.
Such is the case with the Oneness Pentecostal Church. I like to refer to it as “the stealth bomber” of the cults, because by using the name Pentecostal, it flies in under the radar and is not recognized as a cult. In addition to their view of the Godhead, Oneness Pentecostals have many reasons to be labeled a cult; but in this article, the aim will be to expose that particular doctrine which is known as modalism or Sabellianism. The discussion will start with a definition of modalism, cover the history of the heresy, and then move to an apologetic against the doctrine of modalism.
In light of the negative critique of foundationalism at the end of the twentieth century, Stanley Grenz and John Franke propose an approach to theology that addresses the current postmodern context. This approach bases theology and epistemology in the life of the Christian community, a community which is, according to Grenz and Franke, called into existence by the triune God who is revealed in the Bible, church tradition, and the culture. The proposed approach entails many aspects, but this study intends to show that the inherent weakness of recognizing epistemic authority in any human community is subjectivity. To be sure, evangelicals should address the postmodern context by abandoning strong foundationalism. But instead of revising evangelicalism according to a postmodern paradigm, Christians may still embrace the objectivity, authority, and intelligibility of truth while avoiding the impossible demands of strong foundationalism. In Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, Grenz and Franke make a noteworthy and admirable plea to evangelicals to avoid irrelevance in their presentation of the truth of Christianity in the postmodern world by “set[ting] themselves to the task of grappling with the implications of our setting, lying as it does ‘after modernity.’” However, they abandon a correspondence view of truth in favor of a constructionist view, thereby exposing the Christian message to the danger of self defeat.
The purpose of the present study is to analyze and critique the positions outlined by Grenz and Franke in their book, Beyond Foundationalism. The study will be divided into three parts. First, some of the main points of the book will be presented in order to orient the reader to the nature of the positions held by the authors. The second section will be devoted to three points of critique of Grenz and Franke. These points will rally around this question: is the community of faith a sufficient standard to justify true belief? In the concluding section, a brief alternative proposal to strong foundationalism, one that is more consistent with evangelical epistemology than the one offered by Grenz and Franke, will be presented.