ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: May 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Bible and Health

If we surveyed people, asking them to list religions and spiritual writings in rank order of their linkage to a healthy life, where would Christianity and the Bible come? Top of the list? Dead last? Or, somewhere in the middle?

Christian faiths have not developed traditions of breathing, stretching, exercising, concentrating, meditating, etc. Other religions have stolen the march on the concept of spiritual enlightenment as a path to health. Bible-believing Christians stand wide-eyed, flat-footed, and with mouths gaping as the Western world launches headlong after Chi, Chakras, Ayurveda, the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism, and the whole nine points of the Bahai'i star.

Deepak Chopra is working on his 30th book on spirituality and health, long after the Christian New England Memorial Hospital, from which he launched his spiritual health career, has closed its doors. Christian Science churches are empty, save for a few appreciators of fine music. Mary Eddy is not resonating with the populace. When the world seeks healing through spiritual insight, they read the Dalai Lama, or Chopra -- not the Bible.

Why is that?

Worse than scoring a big, fat zero for health outcomes, Christianity is often cited as the source of the guilt and work ethic that is allegedly causing the demise of Western Civilization's health. Big neg, not just big zero.

Christianity clearly differs fundamentally from many other religions in its approach to spirituality and health. Maybe causality is reversed? Is it possible that the Bible focuses on spiritual enlightenment with implications for the body, whereas other religions focus on the body as a means of achieving spiritual enlightenment?

We certainly need to move past misquoting Prov 23:7 as a Biblical basis for the mind-body connection (read it in context and you will see what I mean), and toward a Christian theology of healing. In this regard, we have an excellent study here. Enjoy.
© Alister L Hunt PhD

Monday, May 21, 2007

Revelation From Heaven

What a revelation it was to read this scripture (Romans 15:4) in context! Sure, Paul's words beautifully portray scripture's role in establishing Christian hope, but the context provides a powerful message.

Read the prior chapter and you will see that scripture was being used to tear apart the emerging Christian church. Paul powerfully states the freedom we have in Christ, and then passionately pleas for his fellow believers to not destroy the faith of weaker members through either
(a) imposing deeply held scripturally-based convictions on others, or
(b) exercising Christian freedom in ways that are damaging to Christian faith or unity.

Then, in Chapter 15 Paul says we have to empathize with the concerns of others, just like Jesus did. And he applies Psalm 69:9 to Jesus and to us -- just as Jesus was one with God in bearing the blasphemous insults of those around Him, we also should empathize with the cares and concerns of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Right in the middle of making this point, he slips in verse 4, which is central to this study. In context, he is saying 'notice how I just used scripture to edify the church, rather than divide it. Lets use scripture to bring encouragement and hope into each other's lives, rather than to bring others into bondage.'

How have each one of us used scripture to bring others into bondage? Or, into hope? In your community of faith, is scripture a source of endurance, encouragement and hope, or is it a source of division and bondage?

Angela's Christian faith was molded in a church fond of quoting from a book called Christ's Object Lessons,
"Those who accept the Saviour, ..., should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading."

This statement was never placed in the context of dozens of bible verses and quotes by the same author that present an abiding, enduring relationship with Christ as a present reality. See

Nigel, a school friend of mine, shot himself in the head with a rifle (which takes a bit of doing) because what he had been taught from the Scriptures robbed him of endurance, encouragement and hope.

Yes, Romans 15:4 is a beautiful testimony to the Bible as a source of hope, but it comes right in the middle of a heartfelt warning against using scripture to divide and destroy the body of Christ.
© Alister L Hunt PhD

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Word in Our Lives

Years ago, Angela and I were frequent guests in the Canadian home of a man whose success I admired. He and his wife were wonderful hosts to us, but he expressed disdain for some of our behaviors that he found peculiar. For example, I recall being addressed from the other end of a long dinner table;
"Alister, when when you grow up, you will find this to be a fine whisky."
Advice duly noted, ... and discarded.

Last year Angela and the girls visited our erstwhile hosts and found not a hint of disdain. He asked whether he could say bed-time prayers with our girls, and his conversation with God and the girls confessed to a relationship with God that he had previously resisted and rejected.

What made the difference? Can the Bible re-create a person?

Could evidence of re-creation speak more for the Bible's validity than does evidence for Creation?

What is the Bible's track record as a change agent in human lives? I lived in Rwanda for a year, a country that had more members of my Christian denomination than any country on the planet. When church was out, the city's traffic ground to a halt! But all those Sabbath School lessons and Bible-based sermons didn't preclude the subsequent brutality of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

You may have acquaintances with encyclopedic Biblical knowledge and no evidence of a relationship with Him who is Love. Does this argue for rejecting the Bible? Are our acquaintances likely to seek out Bible truth because of what they see it doing in our lives?
© Alister L Hunt PhD

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Bible and Science

A vivid childhood memory is of sitting amongst members of Dad's sales team on Sabbath afternoon, listening to discussions of God, the Bible and how the world works.

Chris, a member of that group, had an engineering background and an expansive mind. I recall Chris' excitement as he pursued a picture of God emanating from Genesis 1:3, "And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." Chris understood that the physical matter of this universe can be conceived of in terms of energy and waves, much like visible light. So, the next thing he was busily calculating out in his head the energy equivalence of the earth's mass -- energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.

Chris was in awe of this picture of the power of God's word that could bring physical matter into being. The numbers he came up with meant nothing to me as a child (and probably wouldn't now), but the vivid picture of a person earnestly seeking out an understanding of God through scientific insight remains with me.

How do you gain glimpses of God in the 'science' of your vocation?

As an economist I am constantly amazed at the beauty of market equilibrium. The "invisible hand" of Adam Smith's 1759 'Theory of Moral Sentiments' provides me with a glimpse of the free, self-ordering nature of God's universe -- a picture of the "Great Architect of the Universe", as Smith put it. Others don't share my excitement with equilibrium, suggesting that markets are from the dark side of 'dog eat dog' competition instead of heavenly harmony. But I can see the beauty of "voluntary market exchange such that both parties are better off" as part of the creative order of God's universe. Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, was prominent among many Christians in recognizing that free economic creativity is part of what it means for us to have been created in God's image.

This study asks us to consider how the Bible can contribute to our understanding of science. I encourage you to consider how the Bible affects your view of scientific knowledge in your field of daily endeavor. Do you see pictures of God where others see randomness and chance?
© Alister L Hunt PhD

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

When the Rocks Cry Out

While this study primarily examines archaeological support for the Bible's historicity and authenticity, it also examines the nature of Christian faith. Interestingly, this week the US is examining the basis for Mormon faith, with considerable coverage of Mormonism on both Public Television and National Public Radio. A recurring theme is that all religious revelation is somewhat mystical, so we need not press on the details too hard -- Nephi Plates, or the Bible.

What part does the Bible's authenticity play in your Christian experience?

How seriously have you evaluated the Bible's authenticity?

How seriously should we?

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond and author of 'By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion'. Read through the excerpt and consider whether you could insert 'Bible' in place of references to the Book of Mormon.

'My idea going into this study of the _____, ..., was if the _____ is true, then it has to stand up to the most rigorous assaults and critiques that skeptics and nonbelievers can make. So I made every effort to honestly, fully investigate every criticism, every objection that's ever been made to the historicity of the _____. One has to suspend judgment in a number of cases, because it's hard to say when the evidence will all be in, but at the present there are still a number of unresolved anachronisms and problems and ambiguities in the text.

But I felt satisfied that there was in every case a corresponding weight on the other side of the equation, which actually led me to, I think, some very important insights into the nature of faith and how faith works. I came to the conclusion, ..., that for faith to operate, and for faith to have moral significance in our lives, then it has to at some level be a choice. It can't be urged upon us by an irresistible, overwhelming body of evidence, or what merit is there in the espousing of faith? And it can't be something that we embrace in spite of overwhelming logical rational evidence to the contrary, because I don't believe that God expects us to hold in disregard that faculty of reason that he gave us.'
© Alister L Hunt PhD