Aug 22, 2005

Vanilla Sky, Cryogenics, and Materialism

I just watched the movie Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise--I know, I know, I'm very much behind the times. But, I couldn't help but bring it up on the blog given the clear implications of the movie's message regarding the nature of human beings.

The movie really does tout the possible virtues of cryogenic technology (for those who don't know, cryogenics refers to the "science" of freezing the bodies or brains of people who have died in the hope or expectation that the future will see a cure for what killed them, and then they can be "resurrected" to a virtual immortality). I just wanted to make a philosphical comment for those who may be "enamored" by the possibility of such technology.

Cryogenics presupposes a materialist view of the human mind. The idea that people can die, be frozen, and then thawed out to live again assumes that the mind is nothing more than the brain and its physical functions. There is an implicit denial that humans have an immaterial soul that is the true seat of one's personality and can survive the death of the body. For on this traditional view of humans beings the "cryogenic hope" is a fool's errand--when one dies, his soul leaves his body and then goes to either heaven or hell. There is no possibility of being brought back by human technology.

It is not my purpose here to defend the traditional view (though I am inclined to do so), but simply to help any readers who might think that cryogenics is "neat" and maybe "worth a try" to see the philosophical (and theological) implications of their views.

Aug 15, 2005

The Simpsons and Christian Pluralism

Did anybody see The Simpsons last night? A very interesting episode. Though thoroughly hilarious as usual, its message was a bit disturbing--though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Homer and Bart were in the process of converting to Catholicism (with their priest played appealingly by Liam Neeson), while Marge, Ned Flanders, and Rev. Lovejoy are desperately trying to keep them from falling into the errors of "popery."

After the rip-roaring rescue of Bart by taking him to a Protestant theme park ("The Catholics don't have anything like this!"), the episode ends with Bart asking why the Protestants and Catholics can't just get along and accept each other. After all, they're all Christians and their differences are minor points of doctrinal minutia.

Though seeming to uphold the value (perhaps even truth) of the Christian faith, the episode not-so-subtly teaches that doctrinal truth doesn't matter, and that the 500 year-old dispute between Catholics and Protestants was/is trivial. Wrong on both counts.

Aug 10, 2005

New Apologetics Blog

The ministry that I work for--the Apologetics Resource Center--has just started a new blog dealing with issues in Christian apologetics. Myself, Jason Dollar, and otehr ARC staffers are participants. The blog will emphasize Christian response to current and on-going issues in our culture. The blog is called "From the Front Lines" and can be accessed at

Aug 1, 2005

What Is the Church and Why Should I Care? - Part 6

VI. So What?

We have seen that the church is: (1) A gathered community whose members have entered into a solemn covenant with each other; (2) comprised of baptized believers in Christ who have entered into a life of discipleship; (3) led by gifted pastors who have been called and ordained by the Holy Spirit; (4) shows its true allegiance to Jesus by three marks: preaching the gospel, administering the ordinances, and practicing church discipline; and (5) has the mission of worshipping God, edifying believers, and reaching the world with the gospel.

There are a lot of practical applications that we could pursue in light of these truths. Yet, the one basic application that comes out of this study is the obligation of every Christian to be a member of a local church. Notice again what we have seen in the course of this study. Christ has created the local church for the express purpose of helping Christians grow in Christ. Apart from the ministry of a local church you cannot grow into a healthy, mature Christian. Christ has given to each believer the church, which has gifted teachers to help you learn the doctrines you are supposed to believe and the lifestyle you are supposed to live. Christ has given you other believers to hold you accountable and to encourage you. It is Christ’s desire that Christians congregate publicly to worship him together, and he desires that his disciples work together to evangelize the world.

For Christ’s purposes for the church to be fulfilled, for his purposes for you to be fulfilled, you have to make a covenant commitment to a local church, to submit to its pastors, and to put your spiritual gifts to use for the sake of others. This is what the early Christians did. Notice what Luke tells us in Acts:

The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. (Acts 5:12-13)

After Ananias and Sapphira were struck down by the Holy Spirit for their terrible sin, we read that "none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." This text tells us that many unbelievers in Jerusalem had great respect for the new church, but kept their distance because they were afraid of the serious—even "deadly"—consequences of joining the church. What we need to note here is that the church was seen as something that could be joined, and this tells us that the church had a clearly defined membership. It was known who was in and who was out. But we can go further than this by looking more closely at the word "join" that Luke uses in this text. The Greek word used here is kollao and it means "to glue" or "cement together." Don Whitney comments that in the context of Acts 5:13, the word kollao

doesn't refer to an informal, merely assumed sort of relationship, but one where you choose to "glue" or "join" yourself firmly to the others. . .The same "glue word" is used in the New Testament to describe being joined together in a sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6:16) and being joined to the Lord in one spirit in salvation (1 Corinthians 6:17 . . . Clearly this kind of language doesn’t refer to a casual, superficial, or informal relationship.

So when it says in Acts 5:13 that no insincere believer dared joined them for a while, the glue word used there speaks of such a cohesive, bonding relationship that it must be referring to a recognized church membership.(Spiritual Disciplines within the Church, p. 46)

The early Christians understood their duty to be committed members of a local church. It is important that Christians today understand this, too. To shun this duty is to shun Christ’s gift to you. To neglect church membership is to neglect your obedience to Christ. If you love Jesus, you love what he loves; and Jesus loves the church. If you are a Christian, but not a member of a local church, you should make this your first priority.