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A Reformation Day Favorite

Because it always makes me chuckle, here’s “The Reformation Polka” by Robert Gebel, sung to the tune of Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious:

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a Challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh…

Chorus:
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
“You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!” Oh…

Chorus

They loved my tracts, adored my whit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
“Are these your books? Do you recant?” King Charles did demand,
“I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!” Oh…

Chorus

Duke Frederick took the wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting “George” as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh…

Chorus

Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his Chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in or dance! Oh..

Chorus

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See http://www.ligonier.org/publishing_studybible.php for more details.

Scientific Belief Systems

A story is told about an atheist friend of Sir Isaac Newton. This man dropped by one day and found in Newton’s residence a working mechanical model of the solar system. He was fascinated by it and asked Newton who had built it. Newton turned to his friend and answered “No one.” The friend understood Newton’s point. He saw this amazing model and knew that it didn’t make itself, but when he looked at the amazing world around him he couldn’t see any need of its having a creator. Newton, on the other hand, couldn’t conceive of our universes existence without a creator.

Among the scientific ranks today, there are undoubtedly more who would agree with Newton’s friend than Newton. And according to those who would fall into the former category, the latter doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, exist among modern scientists (as an aside, Ben Stein is making a documentary about how scientists who dissent from the scientific party line are treated by those who hold that line). But it strikes me that those who insist that there is no room for God in science conflate two very different ideas, scientific fact and scientific theory.

The the composition of gases that makes up the air that we breath is known as a scientific fact. “The Big Bang” is just a theory. The magnitude of acceleration for falling bodies near the surface of planet Earth is known as a scientific fact. “Evolution” is just a theory. The speed of light is known, at least approximately, as a scientific fact. “Anthropogenic” global warming is just a theory.

I have no problem with scientific fact, I wouldn’t be studying engineering if I did. And I don’t have a problem with scientific theory, unless that theory is held up as a fact that must be dogmatically accepted as true. This is a problem because theory (or hypothesis) is the first step in the scientific method, not the last. But the biggest problem with this type of thinking is that it sets up a belief system that is in opposition to both scientific fact and ultimate Truth.

Atheists won’t typically acknowledge that their beliefs regarding topics like evolution are nothing more than, well, beliefs. In fact, the language they typically use is designed to leave the impression that evolution, or any other such theory, is an absolute and undeniable fact. But evidence that many scientific theories are nothing more than belief systems often rise to the surface. One of the more glaring examples I’ve come across came in the form of my former “Logic” professors textbook. The first line of his text reads:

One of the fundamental beliefs of the science of Archaeology is that the history of the human species, at least the history of our kind of humans, stretches back some one hundred and fifty thousand years.

The first line of the second paragraph reads:

All the same, before we can accept even this relatively recent date for the origin of modern human beings we must be willing to admit that Archaeology is reliable.

and later:

[W]e cannot accept the story that Archaeology tells us about our origin unless we are willing to admit that science in general can produce dependable results.

I appreciate the professors wording in his opening as it states his position truthfully. That is that modern archaeology has a set of fundamental beliefs that make up a story describing how some believe humans came to be what we are today. The problem comes in when he argues that this story must be accepted because science in general is reliable. It’s odd that a “logic” professor would make a category error (~ also called a distributive fallacy) such as this, but for me, it further demonstrates that those who impugn the the Christian faith are capable of the very same poor thinking that they attribute to Christian thought. I can, however, agree with him when he states the following:

[I]f the methods that archaeologists employ in order to support their theories are not reliable, then nothing that archaeologists tell us will be of value.

This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s at this point where scientific fact and scientific belief must be strictly distinguished from one another, and healthy doses of scientific skepticism judiciously employed. For instance, we are told that the age of a bone is known because of the rock in which it was found. We are then told that that rocks age is known because of the bones found in it. And carbon dating is almost always wrong when relatively new items are tested, but always assumed to be correct when old items are tested. So hypothesis is submitted as evidence in support of hypothesis. The theory grows, scientific fact gradually leaves the scene with speculation gradually taking over. Speculation is then held up as inviolable truth and defended with a religious fever. Then, when scientific belief becomes more predominant than scientific fact, we are asked to believe ridiculous notions like no one + nothing = everything, and considered scientific heretics if we don’t.

But scientific theories are shifting sand and always will be. If there is any area of our existence where evolution occurs, it’s scientific theory. What is true one day is false the next. Albert Einstein initially denied that the universe had a beginning, not because the evidence pointed that way, but because that would indicate the existence of a creator, a personal God. Today a beginning is largely assumed, even by atheists. Modern physicists like Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking have embraced the theory of alternate universes, a theory they once shunned and thought ridiculous. But that was before shortcomings in string theory arose. Only ten or so years ago string theory was heralded as the long sought after “theory of everything.” And I have no doubt that in ten or so years alternate universes will be out of style as well.

So why are Christians asked to exchange our Savior – who is the same yesterday and today and forever – for constantly changing theories which violate reason? The best answer I can give would be that these theories represent belief systems in search of converts, complete with Ph. D’d high priests.

For a more compelling look at what scientific fact points to check out John MacArthur’s message from Ligonier’s 2007 national conference. It’s titled “The Challenge of Science”. The video is available for viewing online at Ligonier.org.

**I haven’t had a chance to view them yet, but a couple of semi related messages from the same conference by John Piper are there as well. They are titled “Faith and Reason” and “The Challenge of Relativism.”

    Well, mostly of alcohol and the Bible, but hopefully I’ll be allowed to keep my Baptist Card™ after writing this post. For the record, I do not disapprove of alcohol consumption in moderation, though many, if not most, in my denomination (SBC) do.

    As a Reformed Baptist, I hold to the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura – that Scripture is the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. So, I am correct in my understanding only to the extent that that understanding corresponds to Scripture. Likewise, those who would disagree are correct only to the extent that that disagreement corresponds to Scripture. I hope that makes sense.

    On to the point (which won’t be made by me, I just agree that it’s correct). A couple of months ago, through the miracle of the internet, I ran across a link to a Sunday evening bible study at Omaha Bible Church that I enjoyed listening to (Free Will: Fact or Fiction). Recently, while looking for new material for my iPod, I went back and found this series – Wine or Welch’s? It’s an examination of alcohol in the Bible with a sermon on Romans 14 between its two parts. I’ll share my notes from the series here and recommend the audio to all interested parties.

Notes:

  1. Wine in the Bible is alcoholic: Gen 9:21, Num 6:3, Eph 5:18, Is 28:7
  2. Wine in the Bible is seen as good: Gen 27:28-29, Deut 28:39, Matt 9:17, 21:33
  3. Wine in the Bible is likened to marital sex: Song 1:2, 4:10, 5;1, 7:2, 8:2
  4. Wine in the Bible is seen as a blessing from God: Deut 7:13, 15:14, 33:28-29, II Chr 31:4-10, Prov 3:9-10, Eccl 9:7, Is 24:7-11, Zech 9:15, 17 (some of these show God taking away this blessing)
  5. Logical insertion: The possibility of abuse does not make the thing abused bad. Alcohol, sex, and food can all be abused, but no one (for the most part) would ban all food or marital sex. (The fact that abuse means to use improperly implies that the thing used wrongly actually has a proper use. That may be one of the reasons why some prohibitionists leap to the position that alcohol is in and of itself evil, so as to bypass the question of proper use.)
  6. Wine in the Bible is given as a sacrifice that is pleasing to God: Ex 29:40, Lev 23:13, Num 15:5-10, 18:12, 28:14, I Chr 9:29
  7. Wine in the Bible is enjoyed by Jesus and his followers: Matt 11:19, 26:26-29
  8. Logical insertion: If one claims to be a prohibitionist because they live by a “higher standard,” think on this: Do you mean higher than Jesus? The implications of an affirmative answer are quite frightening.
  9. Wine in the Bible is used for the Lords Supper: Matt 26:26-29
  10. Historical insertion: Dr. Welch, a pietistic methodist, believed that no Christian should drink alcohol, and thus, developed an “unfermented sacramental wine” in 1869 (which is good – the juice, not the belief).
  11. Wine in the Bible is to be enjoyed with Jesus in the Kingdom: Matt 26:29, Is 25:6
  12. Wine in the Bible is made by Jesus: John 2:1-11
  13. Wine in the Bible is given by God for gladdening hearts: Ps 104, I Chr 12:40, Prov 31:6
  14. Wine in the Bible is a hindrance to success if loved: Prov 21:17
  15. Wine in the Bible is not for drunkenness: Prov 20:1, 23:29-35, Is 5:11, Rom 13:13-14, I Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:18, Is 28:7
  16. Wine in the Bible is forbidden categorically by those who have fallen away from the faith and are promoting demonic doctrine: I Tim 4:1-5 (There may be room for disagreement here, but I agree that wine would fall under foods and that the prohibitionist position is, at the very least, advocating a type of righteousness other than the kind we need, which is the righteousness of Christ.)
  17. Wine in the Bible is forbidden in unique instances and while preforming certain functions: Lev 10:9, Ezk 44:22, Num 6:3, Prov 31:4-5, Eccl 10:16-17, Is 28:1-7
  18. Humorous insertion: Daniel didn’t drink the kings wine…but he didn’t eat the kings food either.
  19. Wine in the Bible can be enjoyed by church leaders in moderation (just like everyone else): I Tim 3:1-8, Titus 1:7-9, 2:3
  20. Wine in the Bible is not the only form of alcohol allowed in the Bible: Deut 14:24-26
  21. Wine in the Bible is to be enjoyed thoughtfully: Romans 14

    That’s the meat of Pastor Abendroth’s presentation (with a few comments from me), and it’s far more thoughtful and exhaustive than anything I could put together. I’m hard pressed to find any serious disagreement with his presentation or citations. And so it is that when I look at this subject in the light of the whole of Scripture, I cannot help but conclude that alcohol is a gift from God, given with His wisely placed boundaries, and meant to be enjoyed within those boundaries by His people.

I am asked why feminists associate male chauvinism with Puritanism, and the short answer is that they are ignorant, that’s why.
~ Dr. J.I. Packer

I’ve added a new resource to the sidebar. Reformed Theological Seminary has audio from various classes available through their iTunes U website (hat tip: A Pilgrims Progress). Course audio from classes on the Old and New Testament, Apologetics, Systematic Theology, Church History and other areas of study are available free of charge. It does require iTunes, but iTunes is free too. And what Reformed Christian wouldn’t want to hear Dr. J.I. Packer lecture on the History and Theology of the Puritans?

Civics Quiz

You answered 56 out of 60 correctly — 93.33%
Average score for this quiz during September: 75.2%

I’m not a big fan of internet quizzes, especially those like “What Simpson’s Character are you?” or “What Mammal are you?” or some other such nonsense. You know the type. They give answers like “You are 87% Groundskeeper Willie” or “You are 98% Polecat.” These are pure time-sinks, nothing else.

But I eat up quizzes like this one from The National Civics Literacy Board. It’s a real quiz on a real topic that test one’s real knowledge. So if you have the time, take the quiz. And I suppose there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t score that well as it seems that even Americas top colleges can’t put together an average better than D+. It’s a shame, given the amount of money spent on education, both public and collegiate.

Sin will be in us; it will lust, fight, and entice us; but the great question, as unto our peace and comfort, is, whether it hath dominion over us or no. ~ John Owen

Although I’ve read bits and pieces of John Owen’s writing, this is the first that I’ve read all the way through, and I have to agree with those who say that Owen is “hard to read.” It’s not the Kings English or archaisms or extra long sentences that gave me trouble, but instead it’s what a few have referred to as his density. Owen’s writing is very dense. To clarify, I mean dense as in a large mass occupying a small volume. Just about every paragraph or two could stand on its own as a solemn warning or useful instruction. There is very little filler material here. So while reading I was alternately blown away by an insight or slapped in the face by reproof (I’m dense in the other meaning, so this is a good thing). The result is that I often lost sight of how the part fit in the whole and had to retrace the route in order to make the larger connection. And while I didn’t think of it until after finishing the piece, the solution to this problem is present in the piece itself. Owen writes in outline form (numbered sections, subsections, &c) so by keeping a notepad at your side and making an outline of your own, one could more easily see those larger connections. I intend to try this method for the next piece from Owen that I read.

As a parting shot, here’s a quote regarding an idea that I for one would do well to keep in mind.

Carefully inquire and try whether such things which you may do or approve of in yourselves do not promote the power of sin, and help on its rule in you. This method David prescribes, Ps. xix. 12, 13. “Secret sins,” such as are not known to be sins, it may be, to ourselves, make way for those that are “presumptuous.” Thus pride may seem to be nothing but a frame of mind belonging unto our wealth and dignity, or our parts and abilities; sensuality may seem to be but a lawful participation of the good things of this life; passion and peevishness, but a due sense of the want of that respect which we suppose due unto us; covetousness, a necessary care of our selves and our families. If the seeds of sin are covered with such pretences, they will in time spring up and bear biter fruit in the minds and lives of men. And the beginnings of all apostasy, both in religion and morality, lie in such pretences. Men plead they can do so and so lawfully, until they can do things openly unlawful.