Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What to Do about ‘Fireworks’ in America

When I was an elementary school student, in the 1950’s, we were regularly asked to stand and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.  I do not remember ever saying the pledge without the words “under God.” These words had been added by Congress in 1954 in the face of the threat of godless communism.


Today, the words “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” are still recited by all who are willing to make this pledge.  However, it has become clear that many Americans no longer submit to God, and many no longer consider America a “godly nation” if indeed it ever was.  Our nation is deeply divided, particularly over competing visions of what America ought to be with respect to “liberty and justice for all.”

On this Fourth of July, the deep moral and ideological divisions are manifested in social and political turmoil that centers upon President Donald J. Trump and his administration.  Mr. Trump is one of the most controversial and, some would say, divisive and even hated presidents in modern history.  Many on the political left despise him because they believe he stole the presidential election of 2016.   They have resorted to attempts to tarnish and disrupt the Trump presidency by convicting him of collusion with the Russians.  There are also attempts to trap him in regard to inflammatory social issues, most recently his now cancelled policy of separating illegally immigrating children from their adult “guardians.” 

Meanwhile, many in the evangelical community disrespect President Trump because they believe he falls short of God’s moral and spiritual standards for the office he occupies.  Evangelical mistrust and moral criticism of the president continues in spite of his successful appointment of one excellent Supreme Court justice, and his intention to appoint a second.  In addition, President Trump’s policies seem to flow from his genuine respect for America, his emphasis on free enterprise and a good work ethic, and his respect for the sanctity of human life.

It is clear that the "fireworks" of political division in America will continue long after this Fourth of July.  Instead of arguing over competing visions of what America ought to be and the best ways to get there, I believe that Christ-follower’s, those who have surrendered their lives to the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word, are called to pray.   I do not see praying as a convenient cop-out from the “real world problems” we face.  Instead, those who have studied American history will know the vital part the providential hand of God played in the birth of our nation. 

Today in the midst of storm clouds of disruption and division, it is only fitting that Christ-followers pray for America and for her leaders.  The commands in Scripture to pray include those from the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1 Timothy 2: 1-4 (NIV)).

Paul is urging Christ-followers to enter into spiritual communication with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our access to God is made possible by the shed blood of Christ who sits at the right hand of God.  Christ is glorified when we enter worshipful prayer in His Name.  [Click on box, “What Happens When We Pray?”] 

When we commune with God in prayer, we ought to realize that we are not in a position to inform Him of what He doesn’t know.  Rather, as Gordon T. Smith (The Voice of Jesus, IVP 2003) writes (p. 163):

in true prayer God has a “privileged voice,” one might say.  And the final objective of prayer is not experienced in our speaking so much as in our allowing God to speak, to have the final word, but more, to have THE word that speaks into our lives. It is this word that empowers, liberates, sustains and guides; it is the word we long to hear.

Referring back to 1 Timothy 2: 1, the Scripture commands us to pray in several ways.  First, we are to petition (make requests of ) God according to His character and purposes.  Then, notice Paul also calls us to intercede (pray on behalf of the needs of others) and offer thanksgiving to God for others and for the blessings (and trials) He brings our way.

How then should we pray for our nation and specifically “for kings” on this Fourth of July, or on any other day?  After all, we do not have a king ruling over us as was the case when Paul wrote to Timothy around AD 63.   In fact, when Paul wrote the command to Christ-followers to pray “for kings and all who are in authority,” the godless Roman emperor Nero was in power.  The date of Paul’s writing was approximately one year before the Great Fire in Rome.  Nero, who many believe may have been involved in starting the fire, laid the blame on Christians and ordered the execution of many innocent believers. 

Instead of an unelected, godless emperor, we have a president who was elected to serve as the executive of a democratic, republican government.  Historically, presidents elected by the will of the people have been shown respect even among those who did not vote for him.  By all indications as I have already indicated, President Trump is sincerely trying against much opposition to keep his campaign promises for the benefit of our nation.  However, hatred of Mr. Trump and his conservative policies is continually expressed by vicious personal attacks as well as verbal attacks upon his wife, family, and members of his administration.

Christ-followers ought to expect a disregard for authority from those who disregard the authority of God’s Word.  But the souls of both nonbelievers and believers are worth much more than winning political arguments.  Therefore, Christ ought to be honored in all of our conversations and actions.  If we return to the Apostle Paul’s writing in 1 Timothy we can find Paul’s basis for showing respect for authority and being civil in conversation.

Immediately preceding Paul’s command to “pray for kings,” he writes, “I urge, then….” which may be translated “I urge, therefore...”  If we back up to 1 Timothy 1: 15-16 (NASB), we can see what the “therefore” is there for.  Paul reveals his own humility in the face of Christ’s patience toward him.  He writes (emphasis mine),

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.   Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

As Christ-followers perform the important work of praying for our nation and all those in authority, including President Trump and his administration, we ought to meditate on Paul’s testimony as the “foremost of all” sinners.   Like Paul, we should never forget that we were also forgiven an infinite debt of sin.  Then, as we confess our own sin and take the log out of [our] own eye…so we can see clearly to take the speck out of [our] brother's eye (Matthew 7: 5), perhaps our prayers will be heard and answered for the benefit of our own personal relationships, our families, and our nation,  that by God's grace it could be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Application -- What About You?
If you are like me, you read lots of articles and books but fail to make specific applications to your own spiritual life as a believer and Christ-follower.   For example, you may have just read my article, "What to Do about 'Fireworks' in America" and are asking, "What will I do?"   If you are asking this question, here's a suggestion. 

The heart of this article is a call to PRAY.  If you re-read or scan the article, you will notice some thoughts on what prayer is and how to pray.  My thoughts on prayer are derived from what Daniel Henderson calls "Scripture-Fed, Spirit-Led Prayer."  For the past 20 months I have been blessed to pray in a small group at our church in which we use Henderson's approach, led by a former student and now brother in Christ, Kirk Fairhurst.  May I encourage you to read more about "Scripture-Fed, Spirit-Led Prayer" by checking out the following links, and then beginning to practice praying in this way individually and, as God allows, with other Christ-followers.  To God be the glory, great things He has done!
Links from Daniel Henderson's Strategic Renewal website:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A New Hunger for Rules We Hated?

In those days* there was no king in Israel. 
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
   *1300-1050 BC  -- Book of Judges 21: 25 ESV

I am a member of the high school graduating class of 1965.  The 1960’s greeted us baby-boomers with the Beatles, the Beach Boys, sporty cars, and many opportunities and invitations to become breakers of moral and social rules.


Now that I am in my seventies, I have lived through the transition from the “modern” to the “postmodern” era.  During the modern era which included the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the scientific revolution, many believed that all major truth claims about reality could be harmonized through the lens of the natural sciences and mathematics.  Revelatory truth from a supreme creator God was supplanted by a belief in the supremacy of human reason.  Many accepted humanity as being the most highly evolved species on the Darwinian tree of life, destined to transform the natural world into a utopia.

Then, in the 1960’s, the rule-breaking baby boomers “matured” into post-modern “thinkers” of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  This period saw major upheavals in the global economy (Think “oil.”), growing environmental deterioration (Think “endangered species.”), and a loss of confidence that America was a rightful leader on the world stage (Think “Vietnam.”).  Our society began to move away from a respect for time-honored virtues to a rejection of rules which were viewed as stifling of individual freedom. 

Postmodernists dismissed the notion that truth is a “transcendent, timeless, universal absolute that is present everywhere and applicable everywhere (Matt and Rachel Taylor).”  Instead, postmodernists consider truth claims as relative to the community to which each individual belongs (e.g. national, tribal, or ethnic).  A virtuous person is defined as one who is tolerant of people in other communities who may define truth differently and does not to use personal truth claims to wield power over other individuals or groups.

Today, the USA is divided and confused for want of truth and structure for life.  We see evidence of moral relativism in many of the controversial issues that divide our nation—gender and reproductive rights, attitudes toward law enforcement, national sovereignty, immigration reform, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and right to bear arms.  In many cases, political pressures combined with legal and moral ambiguities have caused much distress and even death to people normally protected by objective legislation and law enforcement.

But a strange thing is happening on the way down the path of postmodernism and moral relativism—many are beginning to hunger for “rules for life.”  Books are popping up that are offering just that.  Jordan B. Peterson has authored 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House Canada, 2018).   His YouTube video with the same title boasts 1.5 million views.  In the Foreward to 12 Rules for Life,  Norman Doidge, MD, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself offers his explanation for the sudden interest in rules, particularly among millennials:

…what [Peterson] is saying meets a deep and unarticulated need.  And that is because alongside our wish to be free of rules, we all search for structure.

Doidge continues:  The hunger among many younger people for rules, or at least guidelines, is greater today for good reason. In the West at least, millennials are living through a unique historical situation. They are, I believe, the first generation to have been so thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality, simultaneously-- at their schools, colleges and universities, by many in my own generation.  This contradiction has left them at times disoriented and uncertain, without guidance and, more tragically, deprived of riches they don't even know exist.


The first idea or teaching is that morality is relative, at best a personal “value judgment.” Relative means that there is no absolute right or wrong in anything; instead, morality and the rules associated with it are just a matter of personal opinion or happenstance, “relative to” or “related to” a particular framework, such as one's ethnicity, one's upbringing, or the culture or historical moment one is born Into.  It's nothing but an accident of birth.  According to this argument (now a creed), history teaches that religions, tribes, nations, and ethnic groups tend to disagree about fundamental matters, and always have.  Today the postmodernist left makes the additional claim that one group's morality is nothing but its attempt to exercise power over another group.  So the decent thing to do-- once it becomes apparent how arbitrary your and your society’s “ moral values” are-- is to show tolerance for people who think differently, and who come from different (diverse) backgrounds.  That emphasis on tolerance is so paramount that for many people one of the worst character flaws a person can have is to be “judgemental.” And since we don't know right from wrong, or what is good just about the most inappropriate thing an adult can do is give a young person advice about how to live.


And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was once called, aptly, “practical wisdom,” which guided previous generations.  Millennials, often told they have received the finest education available anywhere, have actually suffered a form of serious intellectual and moral neglect. The relativists of my generation and Jordan’s, many of whom became their professors, chose to devalue thousands of years of human knowledge about how to acquire virtue, dismissing it as passé, not relevant or even oppressive. They were so successful at it that the very word “virtue” sounds out of date, and someone using it appears anachronistically moralistic and self-righteous.

Norman Doidge concludes his Foreward to 12 Rules for Life with a hopeful assessment of the millennial generation:

One might think that a generation that has heard endlessly, from their more ideological teachers, about the rights, rights, rights that belong to them, would object to being told that they would do better to focus instead on taking responsibility. Yet this generation, many of whom were raised in small families by hyper protective parents, on soft surface playgrounds, and then taught in universities with safe places where they don't have to hear things they don't want to-- schooled to be risk-averse-- has among it, now millions who feel stultified by this underestimation of their potential resilience and who have embraced Jordan's message that each individual has ultimate responsibility to bear; that if one wants to live a full life, one first sets one's own house in order
(Peterson’s Rule #1); and only then can one sensibly aim to take on bigger responsibilities.


If it were only Jordan Peterson’s book on rules, we might be guilty of overestimating the human yearning for rules and structure deep within the soul.  But, now a second new book is drawing much attention.  HarperCollins has just released 9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat’s Guide to Life and Success (2018) by Emmy award-winning Fox News anchor, Harris Faulkner.  Again, Faulkner’s rules rest upon the same, unapologetic challenge to her readers as expressed by Peterson--take responsibility for your lives.

Finally, allow me to refer you to a third example of a major personality who is offering “rules for life.”  I offer this example with a warning that the rules come in a format that is more informal and somewhat vulgar.  This week, Chris Pratt, star of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Parks and Recreation, received the coveted Generation Award at the 2018 MTV Music and TV Awards.  Pratt, a professing Christian, used the occasion of his acceptance to share some advice with fans by what he calls his “9 Rules Speech."  Pratt’s rules include:  breathe, care for your soul, pray, God is real.

I was encouraged to see these three significant personalities emerge upon the world stage to offer “rules for life” based on a foundation with two important principles.  First, each of us must take individual responsibility for our choices in life; and second, we are responsible to a Being that is more holy and powerful than we are—one Who has revealed the basis for moral standards that are intended to lend structure and fulfillment to life.

The Judeo-Christian Scriptures provide the sorrowful commentary of individuals and societies that have gone adrift in moral relativism as described in Judges 21: 25, quoted at the beginning of this article.  But the Scriptures also include individuals and societies that experienced joy and God’s blessing because they accepted His offer such as is stated in Deuteronomy 30: 19:

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!

Today, through His Word, the Bible, and through many other voices, God still calls us to repent, humble ourselves, and live by His moral commands in the power of His Holy Spirit.  The responsibility is ours to choose Life.

How About You?  You may have read this article and are left with a sense of confusion, uncertainty, and even fear.  If you have never encountered the “Good News” or Gospel, let me help.   The “Good News” is summarized in an outline called “Steps to Peace with God” which explains God’s love, our predicament (sin and separation from God), what Jesus has done to address our predicament, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with a Holy God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at silviusj@cedarville.edu

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Remembering My Dad on Father’s Day

Today, I thank God for my father, Bert Silvius (1908-1987).  Dad's formal schooling ended following his completion of the 8th grade.  However, he continued to read and learn on his own and became an accomplished farmer, horticulturist, and community leader.  He lived his entire life near Dundee, Ohio. 


Unlike me, dad did not have the blessing of a loving, affirming father.  Dad was the eldest of three sons who lived to reach adulthood (an older brother died at a young age).  Yet dad was the least favored by his father. 

When I reached early adolescence, I became aware of some of the tensions in our family.  It was not uncommon for my dad to receive verbal abuse from my grandpa.  Yet, he continued to show respect toward his father because he had learned to commit himself to his Heavenly Father for wisdom and comfort.

Dad served for many years as Sunday School Superintendent at our church, Dundee Methodist Church.  Part of his preparation each week was to write out a prayer which he would then use to lead those in attendance before we divided into our classes.  On April 19, 1964, his prayer, entitled “Family Tensions” contained these words:
 
May all of us come to understand that right living alone ‘exalts a family,’ that only in Thy will can peace and harmony abound.   Help us to live together as people who have been forgiven a great debt—help us to be gentle, walking softly with one another.  Help us to be understanding lest we shall add to the world’s sorrow.

Help us to stand for what is right, not because it may yield dividends later, but because it is right now.  Help us to be as anxious that the rights of others shall be recognized as we are that our own shall be established.  Help us to be as eager to forgive as we are to be forgiven.   God help us all to be ministers of mercy and ambassadors of kindness for Jesus’ sake, in Whose name we pray.  Amen


Thank you, Dad, for your love for me and your faithful testimony as a husband, father, farmer, and community leader.  Thank you for giving me my first glimpse of the nature of God by demonstrating in your life the character qualities of unconditional love, respect for authority, patience, perseverance, and a great love of learning about God and His creation.  On this Father’s Day, I thank you, and I thank my Heavenly Father for the gift of you as my earthly father.  I also thank God for the assurance that, because of your faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ,  I will one day be with you again.  

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Religious Liberty in Our Culture of Moral Relativism

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, sided with Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and evangelical Christian who refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.   The High Court in effect ruled that states must retain the right to protect same-sex couples from discrimination, but that religious liberty must also be considered and protected.

Jack Phillips, "the baker"
Although the 7-2 decision looks like a resounding victory for religious liberty, the Supreme Court decision is regarded as “narrow.”  As Adam Liptak writes in The New York Times:

The court’s decision was narrow, and it left open the larger question of whether a business can discriminate against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment

My friend and former colleague, Dr. Mark Caleb Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University cautions that while the Court did side with “the baker,” it “did so only in a limited fashion.”  Smith, who teaches courses including “American Politics” and “Constitutional Law” at Cedarville, writes as follows in his blog article, Much Ado About Something? SCOTUS sides with Evangelical Baker:

Kennedy's ruling does NOT deal with the nature of the Colorado law, nor does it touch on similarly situated business owners within the industry. So, you can argue, I think reasonably, that the Court did not address the major issues surrounding the basic conflict between religious liberty and same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights. The Court did not examine the nature of the religious liberty claim per se, at least outside of the sincerity of Phillips' beliefs. The Court did not establish the extent to which religious liberty is a legitimate foundation for Phillips' decision. And, when the Court did look at some hypotheticals, it did not get too specific. Kennedy notes that surely pastors would have protection against being forced to conduct ceremonies, but beyond that Kennedy does not tread.

This Supreme Court decision is important to all who are concerned with First Amendment rights.  But in today’s culture of moral relativism, it is not easy to strike a balance between protections of religious liberties and same-sex marriage rights without making government the chief moral conscience of America.  After all, submission to righteous moral convictions based God’s standards cannot come from court rulings or congressional legislation any more than one can be made right (i.e. righteous) with God by trying to obey the Ten Commandments. 

What then is the answer to the challenge of protecting religious liberty in a culture in which moral practices like same-sex marriage are perceived as being in violation of Judeo-Christian religious teachings?  I believe the answer is not more government or better Supreme Court decisions.  Instead, the answer is to build stronger families, churches, schools, and communities.

Many people today are searching for their own personal identity without the benefit of a stable home life in the presence of both biological parents.  Even with two loving parents, many children do not receive moral teachings at home or from dedicated teachers, a church family, or a stable community.  For this reason, many pre-adolescents remain confused about who they are or their origin, purpose, and destination.  Not surprising, many also have difficulty finding their own gender identity. 

It is essential and right that adults pay more attention to children, both in our own families and beyond; to find ways to show love to them that they often do not find in their own homes.  There are ways for adults such as myself who are retired to do this in a safe setting.  For example, hundreds of children here in Wayne County are now given exposure to Christian education through so-called “breakaway” programs.  These programs are set up with school administrations to allow students the option of using released-time or after-school time to receive biblical instruction.  Those who work in breakaway programs have many stories of how “hungry” many of the children are for Bible teaching in a setting in which they are appreciated and loved.

There is much hope for our nation in spite of the difficulty we face in protecting First Amendment rights in a moral relativistic culture.  That hope rests in spiritual revival in our individual lives and in our homes and churches which will then influence our schools, communities, and government.  On this day of fasting and prayer in our church, I pray that my life will direct a few others around me to find that personal encounter with the Risen Christ who came as He declared in Luke 4: 18-19, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the favorable year of the lord.”

For More Information:
For those who wish to read in more detail Dr. Smith’s expert analysis of the Supreme Court’s ruling, I recommend that you read his complete analysisIf you would like to know more about how you can find true meaning and purpose through faith in Jesus Christ, you will find a short presentation of the Gospel (“Good News”) summarized in an outline from the Billy Graham Association called “Steps to Peace with God.” The outline explains God’s love, our predicament (sin and separation from God), what Jesus has done to address our predicament, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at silviusj@cedarville.edu     

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Evolution Theory Has a “Secret Sex Problem”

During the century and a half since the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, many books have been written on the subject of the origin of life.  Some provide an in-depth technical treatment of evolution but attract a relatively small audience.  Others treat evolution as “strictly science.” In so doing, they ignore or dismiss the fact that evolution has philosophical and moral ramifications that influence how we define our purpose and destiny in life.  Still other writers present religious attacks on science.  They ignore or dismiss the fact that science has a legitimate role in explaining how genetics and natural selection allow populations to adapt to gradual changes in their environment.


Today, if you would like to get your hands on a book that provides a solid critique of evolution while also being understandable and enjoyable to read, let me recommend one for you.  Darwin’sSecret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution’s Fatal Flaw—The Origin of Sex (Westbow Press, 2018), by F. LaGard Smith*, combines sound scientific logic, a thorough understanding of the biology of sexuality, and the author’s unique blend of humor to uncover what is perhaps the “greatest secret of sexuality”—that Darwinian evolution cannot account for the origin of SEX!

Allow me to entice you into obtaining a copy by mentioning a few reasons why Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem will be excellent reading for researchers, teachers, pastors, laypersons, and anyone else who enjoys curling up to read a witty, engaging page-turner about a topic that is never far from the minds of any of us.  After all, we are all sexual beings and if you have followed what has been published about sexuality in the past fifty years or so, you know how influential views of origins and sexuality are on the formation of our worldview.  Specifically, philosophical naturalism and its offspring, including Darwinism and genetic determinism, have had a major influence on worldview formation with respect to human origins, sexuality, marriage, and personhood.  Professor Smith’s stated reason for authoring Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem is based on his concern over the “wide-ranging ramifications of evolutionary thinking.”

Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem is different from most books about evolution in at least three ways.  First, to his credit, Professor Smith clearly distinguishes the legitimate scientific theories of population genetics and natural selection which attempt to account for micro-evolutionary changes (or, what Smith calls “’little-e’ evolution” or “bounded evolution” within recognized taxonomic classes of organisms) from macro-evolutionary changes (or, what Smith calls “microbe-to-man evolution,” or “Big-E” Evolution).  Many writers fail to make this distinction.  Instead, they build out of the shadows of ambiguity what only appears to be a strong case for “Big-E” Evolution (unverifiable scientifically) on a foundation of “little-e” evolution (verifiable and within narrow limits).  Professor Smith argues that latter cannot account for “microbe-to-man evolution.”

As a second unique and wise approach, Smith has chosen to ignore “…religious assumptions altogether and [introduce] a fresh, powerful argument solely from within the realm of science.”  Instead of using biblical revelation to counter Darwinian claims, Professor Smith uses Darwin’s own logic to challenge Darwinian evolution head-on with a scientifically logical argument. 

You may recall that Darwin offered an “admission” of potential vulnerability in his theory of descent with modification through natural selection (“Big-E Evolution”).  “Darwin’s admission,” as stated in his own words:  If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down (Darwin, 1859).

Professor Smith’s clear challenge to “Darwin’s admission” is to expose Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem with this daunting question:  How could asexual (non-sexual) replication have evolved by natural selection into fully-gendered sexual reproduction?   In other words, how can asexual replication deliver the genetic variation necessary for natural selection to act upon in order to form the complex mechanisms and behavior necessary for sexual reproduction?

It follows, according to Smith’s direct challenge to Darwin, that if there is indeed an unbridgeable gap between non-gendered asexual replication and male/female sexual reproduction, then that Achilles’ heel is the fatal undoing of microbe-to-man evolution.

A third unique feature of Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem is best captured in the words of Dr. Geoff Barnard, retired reproductive endocrinologist, Cambridge University.  Dr. Barnard describes the book’s author as “a non-specialist whose careful research demonstrates that he understands the crucial issues surrounding evolution’s fatal sex problem, and who has a remarkable ability to communicate complex concepts to a broad audience.” 

I was also impressed immediately at LaGard Smith’s ability to insert wholesome humor, helpful analogies, and illustrations to make the technical science aspects inviting and clear to the reader.  Still, parents may want to provide some age-suitable guidance.  Here’s a sample of how Smith addresses some specifics of how the first sexual forms might have arisen by evolution:

When it comes to having sex, there’s always a first time.  This particular “first time” must be a prototype life form fully capable of “having sex” and thereafter “sexually reproducing.”  We’re not talking here about human sexuality, complete with all the external and internal apparatus we normally take for granted.  We’re talking about the ability to produce a “male” and a “female” (don’t rush past that not-so-minor detail!) who “mate sexually” (don’t take that for granted!) and then reproduce in a radically different (even counter-intuitive) way from any and every form of sexual replication that previously might have been in play.  So, it’s not just one “first time,” but three “first times”—somewhere along the line “all at the same time. And “all in the same place.”  That’s a huge ask!

Even the chapter headings and section titles are inviting.  Here are a few examples:

“When the Dog Doesn’t Bark”
”Extinction of an Unfit Paradigm”
“X and WHY Chromosomes”
Hox Genes, or Hoax Genes?”
“Not Even the Sexiest Asexual Could Ever Be Sexual”
“When the Church Buried Darwin…A Case Study in Compromise”

Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem has already received strongly favorable reviews on Amazon.com.  For example, “Cookeville Reviewer” submitted this helpful review:

For the honest seeker of truth, whether a skeptic or a believer, this writing by LaGard Smith will make one wrestle with his/her preconceived notions about origins, particularly the origin of sexual reproduction. It is even-handed, yet challenging. It is fair, yet fearless. Thoroughly and vigorously researched, it is an open and well organized discussion of the tenuous assumptions that humans--whether religious, scientific, or both--make regarding Darwin's Grand Theory of Evolution.  It successfully reveals what Darwin himself said would be the undoing of his theory, that sexual reproduction "could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications." Then, if that is not enough, theistic evolution is shown to be, though perhaps entertained by scientist/believers of good intention as an honorable compromise of science and religion, rather an idea that pays homage to flawed science to give support to flawed religion.  If you are an honest reader, this book will not disappoint, and it will illuminate. Its goal is to encourage knowledge of the truth.

Professor Smith provides over 300 reference citations, a helpful index, and a glossary of biological terms, defined at an understandable level for anyone who has had a good secondary level or introductory college biology course. 

Now I’m finished and will dismiss you to go purchase a copy of Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem:  Exposing Evolution’s Fatal Flaw—The Origin of Sex.  And, please pass this review on to your friends who will thank you for the referral.
---------------
* F. LaGard Smith is a retired law professor, having taught for 27 years at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California; then, 5 years as Scholar in Residence for Christian Studies at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Prof. Smith retired after 2 years at Liberty University School of Law and 4 years at Faulkner University's Jones School of Law in Montgomery, Alabama.  He is author of over 30 books.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tribute to a Virtuous Mother

Marietta Moser, my mother by marriage, was born in Loudon, TN on August 9, 1926 to John E. and Alva Mae Bright.  She was “born again” at age 14 when she surrendered her life to become a follower of Jesus Christ.  After World War II, Marietta married Ralph Donald Moser, and bore him seven lovely daughters including the eldest, my wife, Alvadell “Abby” (Moser) Silvius.  

When Alvadell and I were married in 1969, “Mom” accepted me and influenced my life as if I was her own son.  For this reason, I soon found it fitting to call her "Mom."  She has been a steady, loving, encouragement to me for the past 50 years.


Ralph and Marietta Moser with seven daughters (~1963)
Marietta loved her husband, her seven daughters, her 41 grandchildren, and her 17 great-grandchildren.  Her life of 91 years was a virtuous life--full of the good fruit which resulted from her decision as a girl to invite Christ to be her Lord and Savior.  Her growth and maturity in Christ came as she learned to feed her soul from regular times in God's Word to participate in regular worship and service in her church, Amsterdam Community Church of God.  The best words I can find to describe Marietta are from Galatians 5: 22-23 which states, "...the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

Marietta was disciplined to feed upon God's Word daily.
Proverbs 31: 28-29 speaks of the virtuous woman as follows:

Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.

During the final week before her death, on Sunday, April 29,  we were blessed to be with her for two separate days.  On the prior Tuesday, we remained at her bedside, comforting her with lots of smiles, encouraging words, and the holding of her hands. Although she was very weak, at one point she looked squarely at the ceiling, raised her arm straight up, and held both her arm and her gaze fixed upward in peaceful expression.  Her actions were so determined yet undisturbed by our presence that, after a short while, it seemed natural for me to ask her, “Mom, are you seeing something that we don’t see?”  She gave no visible or audible response, but, God only knows, she may have received an assurance from her Creator along the lines of Psalm 23: 4 that she had just recited with my help earlier that day:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The memorial service for "Mom/Grandma Moser" was a time for tears but mostly a time for celebration of her life.  She was a wonderful woman, and we were blessed to remember her virtuous life in Christ as we gathered with family and friends at her church in Amsterdam, Ohio. 

We are glad to share two YouTube links which will allow those of you who wish to learn more of our tribute to Marietta Moser.  First, we provide the following link to a series of slides recounting Marietta's life and her love for God and family:  "Celebrating the Life of Marietta Moser."  Second, you may watch a video of a portion of Marietta's memorial service by clicking on the following link:  "Tributes to Marietta Moser, 1926-2018."

If you are unable to view the videos, or choose not to view them, you may wish to view the photos below which show family members giving tribute to Marietta.  E
ach photo has a brief explanatory caption.  You may click on each photo to enlarge it for better viewing.







Finally, I would like to dedicate this blog article to Marietta's three sisters whom she loved dearly: Mrs. Edna Sperry (below left behind Marietta), Mrs. Loretta (Ray) Noble (right front center with my wife, Alvadell), and Mrs. Norma (Lynn) Brumbaugh (rear center).



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Mornings Are Still Earthshaking

Needless to say, March Madness is an earthshaking tradition in the American sports world, especially among college basketball fans.  The 2018 edition has offered no shortage of upsets. Most notably this year, the #1-seeded Virginia Cavaliers were dismantled by the University of Maryland-Baltimore Campus. 

Abby and I have enjoyed this year’s March Madness in spite of the fact that Villanova, in a hard-fought effort, edged out our WVU Mountaineers in their battle for the Elite Eight.  Then, last night, Villanova ended the valiant effort of the Michigan Wolverines, our second-favorite team, in their pursuit of the national championship.

"He is not here. He has risen..." Mt. 28: 6
But, exciting as the NCAA basketball tournament was, I have been impressed this year more than ever by another earthshaking historical event—one that continues to shake our world; namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Just as the news in March has been filled with stories of March Madness, so the nation of Israel was set on edge two-thousand years ago when Jesus Christ died and rose again.  What’s more, Christ’s miraculous death and resurrection made headlines because of accompanying religious, political, geological, and astronomical events.

The events of that first Easter are recorded in the New Testament Scriptures by four different gospel writers—Matthew (once a despised tax collector for the Romans), Mark (who may have witnessed Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane), Luke (a physician), and John (formerly a fisherman).  Jesus had left no doubt in the minds of the Jewish leaders that His aim was to present Himself as God’s Messiah--i.e. Almighty God incarnated in human flesh.  He authenticated His deity by His exceptional teaching and by His miracles which reinforced His teaching of God’s truth and brought human healing—e.g. healing the physically blind while bringing the light of truth to the spiritually blind.

On the first day of Holy Week known as Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey.  Scholars estimate that over 3,000,000 people were in Jerusalem at this time, including many who had traveled from other parts of the Middle East to celebrate the Jewish Passover.  What’s more, all of Jerusalem and the surrounding country were on a “news alert.”    Only a few days earlier, Jesus had performed His most earthshaking miracle to date—commanding his friend Lazarus to rise and come forth from a tomb where his body had been dead and decaying for four days (John 11).  Since then, crowds had been gathering to get a glimpse of two celebrities, Jesus the healer and Lazarus the man who had come back from the dead.

The raising of Lazarus from the grave and the triumphal entry of Jesus were just the first of several events that shook the Holy City of Jerusalem on what would become the first Easter.  Each of these events would have made “headlines” then as they would have in today's world.  Below, with accompanying Scripture references, are a few of the major headlines as they might have appeared if the events surrounding the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus had occurred during a modern week leading toward Good Friday and Easter:

Palm Sunday Edition:
Crowds Greet the ‘Son of David’ and Cry ‘Save Now’ from Roman Rule
  – Matthew 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19: 29-44; John 12: 12-19

Friday Edition:
Morning – PILATE, the Roman Governor’s, Verdict: “I Find No Fault in This Man” -- Luke 23: 4; John 19: 4


Afternoon – Entire Region Shrouded in Darkness—Noon Until Three O’Clock -- Matthew 27: 45; Mark 15: 33; Luke 23: 44-45


Afternoon – JESUS: “It Is Finished”—Veil in Temple Torn in Two from Top to Bottom -- Matthew 27: 50; Mark 15: 37; Luke 23:46; John 19: 30


Afternoon – EARTHQUAKE!  Rocks Split and Many Tombs Opened -- Matthew 27: 51-53


Resurrection Sunday Edition
EARTHQUAKE and Radiant Angelic Being Opens Garden Tomb: Guards Paralyzed in Fear!
     -- Matthew 28: 1-4; Mark 16: 1-4; Luke 24: 1-2; John 20:1


Garden Tomb Found Empty! Terrified Followers Now Emboldened After Seeing Jesus
     -- Matthew 28: 5-20; Mark 16: 5-19; Luke 24: 3-53; John 20-21

"Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the
things which have happened here in these days?" Luke 24:19
The events that we have highlighted above as news headlines were clearly evident to a majority of people throughout the region of Jerusalem on that first Holy Week.  Amazingly, the “braking news” of the sudden darkness, earthquake and splitting of rocks, the opening of tombs, and ultimately the missing body of Jesus all became breaking news without the benefit of newspapers and internet (Luke 24: 18). The political, geological, and astronomical immensity of these events make a strong case for the historicity and reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Christianity is unique among all religious faiths because it is founded upon the reality of the empty tomb and the Risen Christ (e.g. read 1 Corinthians 15).

Yet there is another factor of great importance to the Christian faith. In addition to the strong case for the historical events surrounding Christ's death and Resurrection, there is the reality that each believer experiences at the time when he or she personally recognizes through the work of God's Holy Spirit their sin and their need of a Savior.  Personal pride is replaced with brokenness and we experience the joy of forgiveness as we turn toward the loving face of Christ Who forgives us and makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5: 17). The Risen Christ becomes our Brother Who walks with us each day through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8).  The power of God displayed on that first Easter becomes evident when each person is transformed into a New Creature in Christ through faith (Romans 10: 8-17).

For Christ-followers, the reality of the Resurrection is renewed each week  as we gather on the first day  to worship the Risen Savior and encourage one another in our faith (Hebrews 10: 23-25).  Regular practice of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading of Scripture , worshiping together, and witnessing what Christ does in our lives--all of these are pleasing to God Who in turn strengthens our faith and grants us hope in our triumphs and trials as we await the return of Christ.


The fresh reality of the resurrected Christ was evident to me at our Sunrise Service this Sunday as we met at the three crosses erected on a hill near our church.  Together our faith was renewed as we reread the biblical account Jesus’ resurrection and sang several hymns of our faith.  But then, we were reminded that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is still at work to transform lives.  We listened to the testimony of one of our brothers in Christ, Darrell Ketler, whom God marvelously raised from spiritual death and defeat to make him a new creature in Christ.  With his permission, I will close by sharing a link to the video recording of Darrell’s testimony of God’s work in His life. 


How About You? 
Have you ever taken time to consider the account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Do you realize how well documented it is?  God now asks each of us the question, “What will you do with this man called Jesus?”  Like I once was, you may still be confused about Who God is and what He expects of you.  God knows just what you are thinking right now.  May I invite you to examine further the claims of the “Good News” or “the Gospel?”  Let me share a short presentation of the Gospel summarized in an outline from the Billy Graham Association called “Steps to Peace with God.” The outline explains God’s love, our predicament (sin and separation from God), what Jesus has done to address our predicament, and what you can do by faith to receive God’s righteousness (right standing with a Holy God).  If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at silviusj@cedarville.edu