Friday, September 29, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bang?! (Part I)

It is interesting to me how negatively many folks view the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. There are two groups of people in particular who fiercely resist accepting it – but for completely different reasons. Today I will address the first group – Young Earth Creationists.

Many Christians are violently opposed to the idea of the Big Bang for one or both of the following reasons:

First, they believe that the Big Bang is a ploy, perpetuated by those who worship at the altar of scientific divinity, to promote the idea that the universe is old enough to allow time for Darwinian evolution to explain life on Earth. While many naturalistic scientists do promote this notion, the fact is that time is not what the evolutionists need. What they need is vastly more unattainable than a whole lot of time. They can have all the time they want. What they need is the ability to account for multiple reversals of, or the ability to completely dispense with, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Darwinian evolution simply cannot account for the self-organization that would have to occur to allow life to “emerge” from non-life.

Complex biological life demands explicit instructions and information content that cannot be brought about by random, chance events. As Dean Overman points out in his excellent Case Against Accident and Self-Organization:

“Because there are thousands of different enzymes with different functions, to produce the simplest living cell [requires] that about 2000 enzymes were needed with each one performing a specific task to form a single bacterium like E. coli. Computing the probability of all these different enzymes forming in one place at one time to produce a single bacterium [it has been calculated] that the odds are 1 in 10 to 40,000th power … The total number of atoms in the observable universe are estimated to be only approximately 10 to the 80th power.”

It is not the case that the amount of time normally understood to have elapsed since the Big Bang (about 14 Billion years) is sufficient to overcome these odds. In fact, no amount of time is sufficient to turn an entropy-increasing universe like the one in which we exist into the kind of entropy-reversing universe needed allow for this kind of self-organization to occur.

Secondly, they believe that the Big Bang describes a catastrophic, chaotic, out-of-control “explosion” that could not have originated with a perfect God. But the idea that the Big Bang was chaotic is just plain false.

Rapid, yes. Chaotic, no.

The level of order and complexity that had to have existed within the Big Bang singularity is nearly (if not actually) infinite. All four forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) have been experimentally verified to be in place within 10 to the minus 11th seconds after the creation event. Quarks, the building block particles of protons and neutrons, showed up 0.00000000001 seconds later. The characteristics (strength, weight etc.) of each of these (and many more) had to have been exquisitely fine tuned to allow for life to ever be possible.

In short, the Big Bang was not a random explosion. It was the superbly ordered, delicately engineered product of the Divine Mind. If Christian Theists were to imagine the kind of event that that would result when “In the beginning, God created …” it is exactly the kind of thing they might picture.

To accept the pejorative description of the Creation Event as being otherwise is to buy into the atheistic sarcasm of the guy – Fred Hoyle – who gave the Big Bang its name. Next I’ll look at why he did so and hopefully give Young Earth Christians a reason to consider why they share a fear of the Big Bang with atheistic scientists. While I understand, and share, the motivation of Young Earthers to honor Scriptural authority and vehemently oppose any attempt to deny God’s hand in the creation, I believe they need to consider the concept of Dual Revelation more seriously where the origin of the universe is concerned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Empty Space

“Call it a hobby. Call it an obsession. Call it the new way of socializing in the networked world … Call it “friending,” the way millions of teens and young adults obsessed with social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are making connections … Friendship always has been a tricky game, especially for teens. But in the past it was played out in school hallways, on playgrounds and in late-night phone calls. … These days it is happening in full color on the computer screen … “

On-line “relationships” are trendy these days. MySpace is the place to be – so much so that, according to psychologist Susan Lipkins, teenagers now judge their social status by the number of “friends” they can claim on their buddy lists. Those with short lists are considered social rejects and suffer with self-esteem issues because they are judged by the number of friends they can collect.

The news media focuses on the dangerous perversions that have arisen from such social networks. In fact, the same issue of USA Today in which the article quoted above appeared also contained the story of former Department of Homeland Security higher-up who used his online access to send pornographic pictures of himself and brag about his high-powered government position, in an attempt to arrange an illicit liaison with a 14-year old girl.

No doubt the anonymous nature of these social networks can be dangerous – but why? Why does anonymity lead to perversion and trouble?

I would contend that the root of the problem lies in the fact that, while an on-line relationship may be a “fun” way to share information and even discuss shared interests, it is not really a “relationship” at all. At its root, it is not based in ultimate reality because it condones the absence a crucial aspect of what constitutes our humanity -- the social context.

Sharing information is not all there is to a relationship. Modern technology allows us to view information with stunning detail and an authoritative presentation that implies credibility where there may be none – and interpersonal communication where none really exists. The ubiquity of such information, and effortless access to it, has shrunk our world to the point that we can “experience” nearly anything we desire without ever leaving our desk.

We can: shop for supplies, sell our possessions, buy products that arrive at our doorsteps within hours, contribute to charitable causes, earn college diplomas, carry on conversations stripped of body language, make “friends,” destroy our marriages and families by falling in love and arranging sexual liaisons; all without any form of actual human contact. This ability is not just unique to our time, and not just possible because of technology, it is a capacity that would never have been conceivable without it. And it is completely antithetical to the Biblical concept of a properly functioning human person.

Within the doctrine of the Trinity, and as consummated on the day Adam received his helper, the social dimension of the person is unique to our design. Yet the Internet allows us to bypass it at our will. Anonymity not only shuns accountability, it permits both an unchecked retreat into the dark corners of the corrupted human self, and the denial of reality concerning personhood. The Internet cannot be solely blamed for the tendency of man to withdraw into himself, but it is a devastatingly proficient modern vehicle for accelerating that inclination. Marriages, families and congregations of believers all suffer from the damaging effects of a technology driven mindset that cultivates an injured and isolated human soul.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Larry Bird, R.I.P.

We just buried our family’s pet cockatiel, Larry. He was not an extraordinarily bright or talented bird – he thought he had a twin brother who matched his every dance move when he stood in front of a mirror or even in front of the shiny faucet of our kitchen sink. But he could whistle approvingly at you when you walked into a room, or offer his rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” 716 times in a row while you were trying to watch a television show. He could hiss at you when you tried to take him out of his cage at a time when he preferred to be taking a nap, or try to peck holes in your fingers when you tried to put him back in. He spent many a day alone and ignored in his 2’ by 3’ birdcage. Larry was a hit attraction four years ago when he first graced our family room on Christmas morning. He was well taken care of. But Larry had long since lost his status as the center of attention and popularity at the Perry house.

And that’s why I was surprised at the outpouring of grief and volume of tears that flowed following his unexpected death a few days ago. My boys – two of which are tough-guy, too-cool (by that I mean “typical”) teenagers – were devastated when the found Larry lying lifeless in the bottom of his cage. Their sobbing returned when we buried him in the backyard the next day.

Why would a silly, annoyingly loud, exceptionally messy little bird bring about such a reaction from the boys for whom Larry’s novelty had long worn off?

Larry also spent many an hour rubbing his fuzzy head on my son’s neck while getting his own neck massaged gently with a loving finger. Beside his piercingly shrill whistle, he could also chirp and coo you to sleep. He longed for attention and was quick to return it to the son with whom he bonded as a baby bird.

Larry had no creative will – we built the ladder he used every day to clamber around in his cage. He exhibited no moral awareness – he would just as soon take your eye out with his beak or steal the earring out of my wife’s ear. He had no thirst for knowledge – it took untold hours and treats to coax him into that “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” rendition that he would never have conceived of on his own. He had no appreciation of beauty – even of his own.

But despite all the differences he exhibited between we spiritually imbued humans who are made in God’s image, Larry was nonetheless a living creature, created by a loving God, and possessing some form of a soul. We can never explain the full extent of what constitutes the substance of life in any form but somehow we recognize its worth. In some way we are aware of the beauty and precious nature of that life because, whether we knowingly embrace it or not, it is built into the fabric of the universe. When a life to which we are emotionally attached comes to an end, that fabric is marred and the blemish touches our own soul.

In that way we recognize that Larry shared our dependence on the Creator, and our value as an object of His loving purpose for our existence. In that way we can connect to an annoying little bird because we somehow share the gift of life itself with him. This is not to equate the value of human life with the value of a little bird – but it is to acknowledge our commonality in its Source.

We’ll miss you, Larry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Anthropologist: Neanderthals More Normal Than We Are

This is a Neanderthal, and, lest you have any doubt about your status as an inhabitant of planet Earth, anthropologists have confirmed that he is "more normal than you are." Isn't that comforting?

Question: How did these anthropologists determine Mr. Neanderthal's normative status?

Answer: By assuming the validity of certain philosophical presuppostions, conforming their "findings" with those, and then making their philosophical assumptions sound scientific results. This is what is referred to as circular reasoning.

Consider the scientific facts documented by Fazale Rana in his book "Who was Adam?":
  • Nine mitochondrial-DNA studies conducted since 1997 have repeatedly shown that Neanderthal DNA sequences display only a 3.7% variation between specimens. This lack of genetic diversity implies that Neanderthals began as a small population in a specific geographic region.
  • That region (in Germany's Neander valley) is distinct from the widely accepted location of modern human origins in eastern Africa.
  • Repeated studies of human mitochondrial-DNA sequences reveal sharp and consistent genetic differences between Neanderthals and humans.
  • Neanderthal DNA does not show evidence of being modern human DNA which became exitinct. Rather, it reveals the unequivocal trademarks of a seperate species.

Though there is more detailed evidence available in Rana's book, the point is this: For almost 10 years, anthropologists have known that Neanderthals and humans are gentetically unrelated species. Though Neanderthals (and others) may exhibit human-looking traits, looks aren't everything. For claims of common ancestry to be legitimate, the devil is in the genetic details.

In other words, the scientific evidence is clear about the relationship between Neanderthals and humans. Yet those who write the popular literature continue to insist, and encourage others to accept, that we humans are just another branch on the evolutionary ape tree by making statements like these:

"But in terms of evolution of our family tree, the genus Homo, we're the
outliers and the Neanderthals are more toward the core."

Humans are not at the inevitable end of a sequence, Trinkaus said. "It just happens that we happen to be alive today and Neanderthals are not."

Why would these folks insist on inferring linkages that have been proven to be non-existent? Because the naturalistic paradigm requires it to be true. They assume materialist explanations for human origins, then mold their conclusions to the presuppositions with which they begin -- scientific evidence be damned.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What Would Mohammed Do?

In remarks he made last Tuesday when he spoke to professors in Germany, the Pope quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as saying:
“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached, Benedict quoted.”
Muslim leaders were quick to attribute the 14th Century quote to Pope Benedict himself and thus fuel an incensed and irate reaction from around the Muslim world. Italian police were forced to raise the alert level at the Vatican as a result.

In Basra, Iraq, an indignant al Qaeda linked militant group vowed a war against the “worshippers of the cross” in response to the pope's speech (as if the war this group called for was not already underway). In defiance of the Pope’s outrageous claim – which suggested that the “evil and inhuman way” of Mohammed was to “spread his faith by the sword,” – these Muslim leaders showed the extent of their disgust for such an idea by issuing the following statement:

“We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya,” said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda, according to the Reuters news agency."

“We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen.”

… a statement that might be summarized to say, “we will use evil and inhuman ways to spread our faith by the sword.”

As a follower of Christ, who is repeatedly forced to explain and defend the Crusades, the witch trials, and the Inquisition to those who bash the Christian faith for its hateful intolerance, let me say that I do not defend any of those things. Nor do I deny their historicity.

What I do point out, however, is that each of these was a corruption of the teachings of Christ. They each involved sinful human actions that in no way represent what Christ taught. They are a bastardization of Christianity.

Conversely, the Muslim clerics quoted here, who vow to “slit our throats, break our cross, and spill our wine,” are expressing the unequivocal religious philosophy of their prophet Mohammed whom I quote from the Koran:

Surah 2.191: And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers
It is a fact that many Muslim believers denounce the tactics of these militant groups. They should be applauded for doing so. But when we ask, “What would Mohammed do?” the answer is clear, not only from his writings, but from his actions. The clerics of Basra, and their terrorist minions, are committed to spreading the word by the sword – just as their religious mentor taught them. The sooner we admit this, the better off we’ll all be – Muslims, Christians and Jew alike.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lying to Themselves

To follow on from yesterday, the journal Discover reports on the work of:
“researchers [who] wanted to see whether brain scans can even pick up a significant difference between brain activity during lying versus when telling the truth.”
First, one is compelled to ask the materialist scientist on what premise this research is based. After all, if the human mind is nothing but a complicated mass of meat which has come to be what it is through an irrational, physical process, why would they expect to detect any physical reaction to such an abstract idea as truth?

There seems to be no reason why unguided evolutionary mutation would in any way connect physical reactions with abstract notions. Yet …
“the brain scans revealed unique areas that only lit up during lying. However, the researchers point out that there isn't one telltale spot in the brain that can automatically indicate a lie. “There really is no one lying center,” Faro says. "There are multiple areas in the brain that activate because there are a lot of processes that have to take place.“
Second, if evolutionary processes could explain a physical reaction to a moral standard of behavior, it would seem logical to assume that that reaction would be centralized to the specific area in which evolution had brought about the divergent speech pattern. There seems to be no reason that this would involve multiple areas of the brain – unless those areas were holistically connected in some way. This, however, is exactly what one would expect to find on the Christian worldview – that moral awareness resides in the soul so that breaching a moral boundary would effect the entire being of the person who did so.

Third, why would researchers care about such a thing? What would cause a scientist to have any notion of what lying is, unless that researcher was aware of an objective standard by which one determines right or wrong – a standard that cannot exist on the naturalistic worldview. The very fact that these scientists are compelled to study such a thing is evidence that objective morality is real and that its effects are inescapable.

Finally, and a little humorously, the research showed that …
“’In the group that lied there were two times the number of areas throughout the brain that showed activation compared with the group that was telling the truth,’ Faro says. ‘That's because to lie, you have to actively suppress memories that are triggered by the question, which takes more effort than simply asserting the truth,’ he says.”
And that …
“One of the most important of these is that the brain has to work much harder to lie than to tell the truth.”
On the naturalistic worldview, there is absolutely no explanation for these findings. The state of the human brain is just the way it is because of a chain of deterministic evolutionary events that brought it to its current form. On this view there is no right or wrong so there should be no impetus for the brain to have to “work harder” to achieve any one outcome rather than another. After all, no one outcome is in any way superior to another.

The only way to make sense of this research, or to understand why the research was even done in the first place, is to accept the fact that the human mind is more than just a clump of gray matter.

Scientists who deny as much are just lying to themselves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mind Games

Working on the assumption that we are nothing but a conglomeration of physical stuff that has evolved into a massively complicated biochemical system, if follows that the mind we all think we have (ponder that phrase for a second), is really just a neuron-firing, chemical-reaction-based epiphenomenon of a massive computer made of meat.


What I said is what the naturalistic paradigm demands to be true about your mind. Because there can be no reality beyond the physical stuff that makes up your brain, those pesky non-physical “thoughts” you have cannot really be non-physical. They must have a physical explanation in line with the tenets of materialist dogma. This is one of naturalism’s greatest challenges. For how could it be that non-physical, abstracts (your thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, ponderings) could have emerged from something purely physical? To admit that thoughts are not physical things would be to undermine the naturalistic assumptions about ultimate reality and thus destroy the foundation of the materialist paradigm. We can’t have that.

Instead, in their attempt to explain the enormous differences in capacities between humans and animals, naturalistic scientists have constructed the theory that what we perceive to be non-material “thoughts” are really just highly complex chemical phenomena that have “emerged” from enormously complex neurological activity that has evolved over millions of years.

You just think you have a mind. You really only have a brain.

Dr. Stephen Barr offers a brilliant critique of this assumption in his book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. There he utilizes the work of Roger Penrose and John Lucas to apply Gödel’s Theorem to the notion that the human brain is really just a computer made of meat. As it turns out, Barr uses mathematics and logic (the language of naturalism) to show that intellect has the capability to create computers but the reverse is not true. Computers are not capable of creating intellect. In fact, Barr notes …
“…the idea that man can be nothing other than a machine is really nothing other than a pure deduction from atheism. There is not a shred of positive evidence that a material system can reproduce the human abilities to understand abstractly and will freely.”
But that’s just the beginning. An even more fascinating find has just been published in Discover Magazine. You can read it here to see if anything blatantly theistic jumps out at you.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wide But Not Deep

Recently, Senator Barack Obama, in his call to allow faith a place in the public policy debate, asserted that:
Americans are a deeply religious people. Ninety percent of us believe in God,70% affiliate ourselves with an organized religion, and 38% call ourselves committed Christians.
It seems to me that he statistics cited here belie, or at least partially undermine, the claim that we are a “deeply religious people.” Wide maybe, but not deep. One must wonder what “god” it is that 90% of us claim to believe in, when an actual public commitment to that “god” results in a 20% drop in claiming affiliation to it, while only 38% of the “deeply religious” among us are committed to the most dominant religion in the land.

In his attempt to find common ground in the areas of politics and religion, Mr. Obama has actually exposed the actuality of a prevalent and privatized view of faith. The American culture, though it claims to believe in God, prefers a god whom each individual is free to create for himself. Inevitably, the “god” we choose to worship bears an eerie resemblance to ourselves. It is a deity who demands no change in our character and prescribes no cost for our discipleship. Instead of aligning ourselves with some judgmental “organized religion,” we apparently prefer to partake in a disorganized religion of our own making. This is the value system that, consciously or unconsciously, a majority of the people who walk through our church doors have been trained by society to accept. It is a value system that has separated spiritual things from intellectual things – a value system that has made us understand our spirituality to be a passive set of emotions that we may experience only once a week during Sunday morning worship. And we have bought into it.

The church has allowed the culture to accentuate the supremacy of God’s grace and compassion to the exclusion of God’s justice and sovereignty. But we cannot choose which attributes of God we will honor and we certainly cannot allow society to choose for us.

As long as our society continues to view faith as a purely private matter; as long as we continue to buy into the false notion that we “can’t legislate morality;” as long as we continue to exalt the non-constitutional notion of a "separation of church and state," the possibility of reaching a harmonious relationship between religion and politics will continue to elude us. This does not entail the threat of a “theocracy” that secularists so readily use as a scare tactic. It requires only that we recognize that ultimate reality consists not just of the physical world we can see, but also in the notions of objective morality and metaphysical reality that apply to any religion grounded in the idea that truth, goodness and beauty are real and knowable.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Pseudo Explanations

More along with what I would expect from Scientific American, we find yet another blatant demonstration of what caused Philip Johnson to become “Darwin's Nemesis.” Though someone like Fuz Rana or Michael Behe could better address the gaping holes in the scientific community’s flawed assumptions about pseudogenes, it amazes me that even a former Marine like me can spot the inanity in the lengths to which some naturalists will go to account for them.

Long written off as the dead relics of eons of evolutionary mutation, the writers allow that:
“recent evidence of activity among pseudogenes, and their potential resurrection, suggests some are not entirely dead after all.”
Like the poor guy in the wooden cart (from “Monty Python & The Holy Grail” – sorry) who has the audacity to claim “he’s not dead yet,” evolutionary biologists would love to club those rascally pseudogenes over the head. But they just won’t go away. This is not a startling new revelation. Intelligent Design theorists have predicted it. When “Darwin’s Black Box” was published 10 years ago, Michael Behe quoted biologist Ken Miller’s assertion that:
“The theory of intelligent design, cannot explain the presence of non-functional pseudogenes unless it is willing to allow that the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles. Evolution, in contrast, can easily explain them as nothing more than failed experiments in a random process of gene duplication that persist in the genome as evolutionary remnants.”
Not so fast Mr. Miller. At the time, Behe responded to Miller by citing three shortcomings with his claim:

1) Because the use of a structure has not yet been discovered, it does not follow that none exists. Miller’s appeal is to a naturalistic explanation that assumes what it should be trying to prove – a kind of a naturalism of the gaps.

2) Even if the pseudogenes have no function, that fact provides no explanation for how they arose in the first place. The simple reproduction of a pseudogene requires more than a dozen sophisticated proteins to separate, align, copy, reconfigure and reinsert nucleotides back into the DNA. Evolution provides no explanation for how such a process could have come to be.

3) Implicitly required in Miller’s claim is an assumption that Intelligent Design proposes that these pseudogenes arose in the recent past. But Intelligent Design makes no such claim. The fact that a complex system shows evidence of being designed is completely devoid of any claim about when this might have taken place.

Behe went on to speculate about potential uses for pseudogenes:
“includ[ing] bonding to active hemoglobin genes during DNA replication in order to stabilize the DNA; guiding DNA recombination events; and aligning protein factors relative to the active genes.”
Back to the article ... Ten years after “Black Box” was published, the authors have found that pseudogenes are found in great numbers across the genomes of many life forms. A comparison of these reveals …
“a puzzling phenomenon [in that] … a few pseudogenes appear to be better preserved than one would expect if their sequences were drifting neutrally … more than half the heavily transcribed sequences [in the genome] map to regions outside of known genes. What is more, a number of those transcriptionally active intergenic areas overlap with pseudogenes, suggesting that pseudogenes may have life left in them.”
They go on to describe the possibility …
“that pseudogenes play some ongoing part in regulating the activity of functional genes.”
That Mr. Behe may seem to be getting the last laugh where pseudogenes are concerned is satisfying. But what is more relevant is the irony embedded in the naturalistic “explanation” for Behe’s apparently successful prediction. The authors find it …
“hard to imagine that these pseudogenes had the specific role they now perform when they first arose. Instead their activity may be the result of selection preserving happy accidents or of nature having figured out an efficient way to reuse the broken parts of genes by converting them to regulatory elements … pseudogenes may be considered not only as dead genes but also as potentially unborn genes: a resource tucked away in our genetic closet to be drawn on in changing circumstancesIt is already clear that a whole genome is less like a static library of information than an active computer operating system for a living thing.”
These are pretty lofty claims for the irrational, random, unguided, non-teleological process naturalistic scientists call Darwinian Evolution. Inanimate, irrational, unguided processes do not encode, preserve, access and maintain informational libraries or “figure out” more efficient ways of doing things. The information-laden, intelligent-action-suggesting language used to describe the characteristics of these entities formerly known as the “evolutionary road kill” is pretty astounding. I welcome it and look forward to hearing more. For if these are the kinds of explanations we will be asked to choke down in order to keep the naturalistic paradigm alive, its funeral can’t be too far away.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Spiritual Expertise

OK, this is weird. I never thought I'd find a spiritual truth outlined and defended in Scientific American but I guess there is a first time for everything. There is no doubt that the editors did so unwittingly, but their August, 2006 cover story, "Secrets of the Expert Mind," might as well have been written by Dallas Willard.

In their analysis of what constitutes the genius behind the making of a chess grandmaster, as well as those who dominate in music, sports, art, or the mastery of any other field, we find scientific verification from “expertise theorists” that it takes enormous effort to instill “chunks” of knowledge in our long-term memory and to use that knowledge while simultaneously (and oxymoronically) thinking about what we have decided to put our minds to doing. This, say the experts in the field cultivating expertise, is not gained by:

“experience but [in the] ‘effortful study,’ which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one’s competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time.”
The writers go on to point out that “motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability [and that] … the preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born.”

When I read the piece, I found it hard to miss its application to the seemingly futile efforts of the Christian community (in which I readily include myself), to remain in, but not of, the world. George Barna makes a living pointing out the multitude of ways in which evangelical Christians act no differently from the world around them. Yet at the same time, this little nugget jumps out of his data and grabs me by the throat: According to Barna,
"92% of self-described evangelical Christians, whose behavior is not discernibly different from the surrounding culture, view themselves as being “deeply spiritual."
How can there be such a radical disconnect between the “deeply spiritual” way in which the church sees itself, and the contradictory behaviors and beliefs it exhibits?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that society has lured us into dissecting our minds from our hearts by redefining what it means to be "spiritual." Those who display all the same behaviors as the world around them, yet see themselves as somehow being “deeply spiritual,” have not made the association between what they claim to believe and how that belief should manifest itself. They have never connected their head with their heart. Worse, the culture has misled them about what their “heart” really is.

The heart, according to the culture that has been so successful at penetrating it, is the most important thing about us – it is the place where feelings and emotions let us know what matters most. When those feelings and emotions are positive, we are on the right track. We have found the truth, and the truth has let us be. Those who have perfected this search are considered society’s most “spiritual” people.

While I agree that the heart is the "most important thing about us," I reject the conventional wisdom about the definition of the heart. It is not just the center of our emotions. It is the center of our being -- the aspect of our person that defines our true identity as a creature made in the image of the Creator -- made with the ability to understand, seek and relate to Him.

If Dallas Willard is on the right track (and I think he is), real “spirituality” is not just mental assent to truth. It is not just a “good feeling” about God. It also depends on doing the hard work of relating that knowledge to the practice of a system of behavior that manifests those beliefs without a conscious thought – to act automatically, not because we have to consider all available options, but because it has become our very nature. It is who we are. Brother Lawrence called this “The Practice of the Presence of God.” It is a dedication, motivated by joy, to the spiritual disciplines of our faith. Paul called it "righteousness" (Greek: dikaiosune)

It is "spiritual expertise."

I would not suggest for a second that this limits or excludes the work of the Holy Spirit in the renewing of our mind. But it seems to be a cop out to accept the renewal part while simultaneously avoiding the hard work that is required of us to live out the life we so easily claim to be our own. They will know us by our fruits.

If we are open to the fact that God’s Truth cannot be suppressed, I suppose it’s not so weird to find such a revelation in a magazine devoted to the defense of methodological naturalism. The Truth is the Truth, no matter where you happen to find it.