Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Ferguson

We announced it to our family this week and our church this morning, so I thought I would pass along the news to everyone who checks the blog: we are pregnant again and expecting our fourth child next summer. We are very early in this pregnancy (about 8 weeks along) and will deliver in late June or early July. We are so excited to be blessed by God with another child. We feel like every child is a huge responsibility before the Lord, and we are overwhelmed that He has given us another life to steward in our home. We feel like this one will be our last and are excited to be completing our family. So, now the wagering can commence: boy #4 or our first girl?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Josh McDowell's story

Josh McDowell has been influential in the body of Christ over the last 40 years as one of the greatest apologists of our times. His many books on the evidence for Christ and the Bible have helped me through the years to clearly articulate the evidence that our faith is reasonable. Just this week, I downloaded the audio from iTunes of an evening with Josh McDowell at Liberty University. I thought I knew a lot about McDowell, but I had never heard a detailed retelling of his personal journey to faith. Wow! I encourage you all to check out Liberty University's podcast and download the clip of McDowell's story - very compelling. And a reminder of how thankful I am of those who have gone before us and showed us the way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Evolution Is

Ernst Mayr was one of the most famous biologists and evolutionists of the last 100 years. He lived to be 100 years old and wrote the book that I'm reviewing in his nineties, his mind still obviously very sharp on the topic that was the passion of his life. I've picked up and put down Mayr's book several times, but ultimately read it to gain perspective on evolution from someone who was at the top of the biological sciences. Mayr helped shaped the Darwinian synthesis in the 1940s that has come to dominate the biological sciences today as the scientific understanding of the development of life. I have struggled with many in my own tribe who dog evolution for two reasons: one, they only ever seem to read people who agree with them on the subject instead of seeing what evolutionary biologist actually write, and two, many who speak against evolution don't spend time studying the science behind the theory. As I have written before on the topic of evolution, the philosophical statements of evolutionary leaders are often easy to defend against and poke holes in. This is because ultimately science is a descriptive field, not a philosophical one. In other words, scientists are best when they are describing what they see at work in the world around them, but move quickly into the field of religion and philosophy when they start speaking about why things in the world work the way they do. All that being said, I thought it was only far to read some of the scientific work done in the area of evolution since I'm always commenting about the philosophical issues. Here's a few of my thoughts on the science from Mayr's book:

1) His book is very well-written and gave me an introduction into many things that I need to think about and wrestle with. It was a good exercise for me to understand the three main parts of Darwinian evolution: one, common descent (all life on earth is descended from common ancestors, ultimately single-cell bacteria), two, random mutation (all populations of species change through hereditary and mutations), and three, natural selection (that those changes that are beneficial to life are passed on because they are beneficial to survival).

2) Mayr is open about the limitations of the fossil record to prove evolutionary theory because he says it is commonly accepted by paleontologists that very few animals are fossilized. While this is refreshing to read, it makes the reader wonder why so much confidence is put into a record with so little evidence. There are some fossils, just not very many - not the overwhelming evidence pool that evolutionists want it to be.

3) Creationists have to deal with the fact in their scientific & theological explanations that the earth appears to be incredibly old, that species have appeared to change over time, and that all living things have a similar genetic code. I'm not saying they have to buy into evolutionary explanations, but just that they need to have other explanations.

4) Mayr has not done a great job convincing me of the following:

  • One, though everyone can understand microevolutionary change (changes within the species), it seems counterintuitive that random small random changes (which most of the time are harmful, not helpful) are powerful enough to give rise the amazing diversity of life that we see around us every day.
  • Two, with so much of evolutionary work being historical work, it seems odd to me that we have not seen natural selection do what scientist say it can do - create macroevolutionary changes over generations.
  • Third, as evolutionary movement in Mayr's timeline seems to accelerate and slow down, the evolutionary explanations for this seems rather weak. Why does the fossil record show periods of rapid special development and then steady-state for long periods of time? It seems like from our observations that species are very stable over time and yet we are supposed to believe that during quick bursts (of creativity) many different species suddenly appeared.
  • Fourth, Mayr's work on altruism is the weakest part of the book in my mind. He openly admits that we need religious leaders to teach us to care for outsiders, but we just don't need the crazy creation myths that religious leaders share. What kind of non-sense is this? Obviously, love and care toward outsiders is the weakest part of evolutionary theory in my mind. The character trait that we would consider the most noble would be the one that would ultimately kill our own kind?
  • Finally, there is still no basis for morality in the evolutionary system. In what has to be the most bizarre part of Mayr's book, he says that we need religious and cultural leaders to teach ethics because evolution has no ethics. Then why does every person have a sense of ethics? This would mean that a system that has no ethical values would create a species of people with a moral compass. This is as ridiculous as saying that a system without purpose created people who are obsessed with purpose. If there truly is not external basis for a moral code because I am ONLY a biological being that is competing for resources with other biological creatures, why should I live a moral life? Yet I know that I should. Why would I even consider being faithful to my spouse and not just follow my biological urges and have sex with as many women as possible in order to continue my line and win in the evolutionary race? Is the greatest goal of a man to make sure that his children carry on his line? Is that what we are?
I'm done ranting, but you get some of the ideas. I was challenged by Mayr's book - his scientific knowledge is obviously superior to mine. I encourage other parents who will have discussions with their kids about evolution to read it. I hope some of these thoughts are helpful. I don't have it all figured out by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm a guy trying to put all the pieces together. God's best to you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Political Craziness

You have to know up front that I'm not always open about my personal politics because I'm a pastor and I don't think people have to agree with my politics to come to my church. However, I am open about being a political junkie. I don't know why I am one, maybe it was playing the part of Bob Dole in a debate in my high school government class that made me cross the line, but I've always been fascinated by it. Then, my bride and I got sucked into watching the West Wing after I finished seminary (it was in its last season at that point), and we watched the whole seven seasons on DVD in one year. The show just reinforced my political obsessions even more. I've been following the '08 race very closely all year even though it has really only gotten really interesting in the last month. I don't watch the debates, they take too much time, and they aren't what really matters anyway - it's the coverage coming out of the debates that matters. All that being said, I do watch all the candidates online and have skimmed through their websites to see where they stand on their issues. I normally don't bring all this on to the blog because of what I said at the top, however, the endorsement by Pat Robertson of Rudy Guiliani brought on a response by Randy Alcorn, a well-known Christian author, that I think everyone should read. Check it out now... Preach it, Randy!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

P&P, B-days, & Hospital Trips

Our church has a cool tradition of giving our staff one day a month to get away from the office for prayer and planning. Today is that day. I'm sitting at my desk at my house, Barie is gone with the boys for a day at the farm at Waco, I staring at a stack of commentaries and my Bible and my notepad and a hot cup of coffee. After a long few weeks, I've never been more prepared for a full day of time alone with God.

I think we had about 50 people over at our house last night for our annual Halloween party / hot-dog cookout. You see, Halloween is Kade's birthday, so we had a big birthday celebration with our small group and neighbors from 5:30-6:30 pm, and then we sent all the kids out with their families to trick-or-treat. Kade was Lightning-McQueen this year (which he absolutely loved), Kamden was Superman (which makes sense to everyone who sees him wearing his cape around ALL the time), and Kale was Tigger. I think I cooked and gave out about 75-80 hot dogs last night in our drive-way. The word was out pretty early that we had food and drinks, and the neighbors came out. Fun-times.

Today is my mother-in-law's 60th birthday. As I mentioned, Barie has taken her out to the farm today for a day of relaxation and conversation with some of our favorite people in the world, Horace & Retta Heathman, at their farm outside of Waco. My mother-in-law is one awesome lady, and has been so much help to us with our boys. You wouldn't know she is 60 by her appearance or her activity. She stays active and fun-loving and paranoid, as always. We love her much - happy 60th Bobbie!

This week we had to take Kale to the hospital for a really high fever. His fever spiked on Tuesday to over 104, and he had a febrile seizure. It scared us and the primary care doctor enough to send us down to Dell Children's Hospital in downtown Austin. After six hours and lots of tests, they ruled out just about everything and told us it was most likely a virus they had seen going around that was causing lots of high fever. They told us the fever would go away and a rash would appear and then he would probably be over it. We've decided the hospital trip is Kale's way of telling us he needs some alone time with mom and dad. ;-)