The Foolishness of Sciencism

There seems to be a new term out there, which is being used in all sorts of settings, which apparently is believed by some to be the worst thing that one person can call another.  The term that I am thinking of is ‘science denier’.  It is used in politics, culture and, of course, science – as weapon of peculiar power.

If you want to get a feel for the scope of its use do a quick internet search for the term science denier.  You will see Trump, Pence and William Happer all called science deniers.  You will see at least two articles from Scientific American on how to argue against science deniers.  Dig a little deeper and you can even find articles where scientists within a particular discipline are using the term against one another.  I glanced through one in regard to grizzly bear populations.

Examining the way the term is used is interesting.  It is not being utilized scientifically at all.  In fact, it is used a bit more like a religious doctrine.  And if this is the case, the religious viewpoint that it is a doctrine of would have to be atheism.  Or perhaps some offshoot or denomination of atheism, sciencism.  After checking that term out, I discover I am not the first to use it.  The urban dictionary defines sciencism as the worldview that accepts conventional science as dogma.

I am writing this article to stave off an irritation I feel with the term ‘science denier’, but also to warn the reader off of sciencism.  Now before you fall into the most probable misunderstanding of this article, let me say that I am not asking you to disbelieve and disregard science.  The true scientist will know and appreciate peer review, opposing opinions, and open discussion.  The true scientist knows that science is always a collection of theories, and the vast majority of these are proven false, or at least replaced with more robust theories.  Think about this – Newtonian physics explained everything until Einstein came along.  And now quantum physics is overshadowing Einsteinian physics.

If sciencism is understood as a false religion it already has the hallmarks of religious thought.  It has its preachers, evangelists and institutions.  Like false religion all over the world, sciencism also has its minions. People who will wait for the next sermon or ritual for them to enthusiastically embrace.  These folks are waiting breathlessly for the next thing to come along that is scientifically proven.

Earlier I suggested that you do a quick internet search for the term ‘science denier’, let me also suggest you do a similar search for ‘science proves.’ Part of what set off this tirade was seeing a surprising number of articles in my feed beginning with the words ‘science proves.’ Here are some of the articles:

  • Science proves that gratitude is the key to well-being. (I like this one.)
  • Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them. (NBC news!)
  • Science proves greed is good. (This was Time.com.)
  • Science proves unicorns are real. (That is Good Housekeeping?)
  • Science proves pop music has gotten worse.

I’ll stop there, just to prove sometimes science does get it right.

Let be begin to wrap up with a few thoughts.  Humanity should avoid beating each other up, and part of that is not using terms which are meaningless in the big picture and only serve to silence opponents in the small picture.  We should also recognize when we are following something religiously, especially when it is unintentional, silly and not reflecting who we wish to be.

Finally we should recognize that the search for truth is important.  It’s important to all of us.  I personally believe the highest truth is beyond this physical world.  There are spiritual realities which are deeper, eternal and can never be discovered by science.  These things will be revealed to us by God Himself, and have been already both in His Word and in His Son.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong”

10 Easy Ways to Help Your Church

Every now and then I have a conversation with a member or attender of the church that essentially is saying, ‘I wish I could do more.’ Often people feel their contributions are hindered by some circumstance which prevents them from spending time or money benefiting the church. Responding to this need, let me give you a list of 10 ways you can do more for your church on a very limited budget of time and absolutely no money.

  • Boost your church on social media. Most specifically, like your church’s Facebook page. The more likes the page has the more credibility a prospect will feel when they check out the church on Facebook.  Similarly, talk about your church on Facebook, and tag it when you do by using the name of the church’s Facebook page.
  • Rate your church positively on Facebook. Again you give your church credibility by doing this. Online ratings are getting more important every day.
  • Every time you attend any event at the church, do a Facebook check in. Not only do you give the church more credibility, but check in’s also help with the extremely important Facebook algorithms which shape what pages show up when people search for churches.  The likes, tags, and ratings mentioned above will also help.
  • Find your church on Google maps and rate the church there as well. Google’s algorithms are even more important than Facebook’s.  You can also help by searching for your church on Google and linking to their site from Google.  Never go straight to your church’s web page, but search for it on Google and then follow that link to the church website.
  • Join Yelp and comparable sites that rate local businesses. Then rate your church positively on these sites.
  • Not just when you are at church, but also when you are at church.  A smiling congregation is obviously preferred over one that has any other facial expression.
  • Sing during the congregational singing. Learn to sing with gusto and allow yourself to enjoy it. Nothing expresses the sincerity of a church’s worship more than the enthusiasm of its singing.
  • Speak to people whom you do not yet know. Some of these will be members you just haven’t met yet.  Others will be prospects who will be relieved that someone at the church noticed them and acknowledged them.
  • Be respectful and clean up after yourself. Wipe down the sinks after you use them. Don’t leave bulletins and fliers on the pew.  Put your empty coffee cups in the trash. Do all these things because a messy church can never leave a positive impression, but also do these things because not doing them shows that you don’t care about the church.
  • Attend more events at church. The more people that are at an event, the more likely visitors will perceive it positively. If you are only involved in Sunday worship, perhaps add a Bible study, or a monthly fellowship. As people attend events the church is better able to offer them.

It is not a coincidence that the first five suggestions have to do with technology and more than half of those involve Facebook.  It is quite understandable that people look for a church via technology, most specifically social media.

It is also not a coincidence that the last five suggestions are all about how your individual behavior affects others.  Colossians 4:5 (NASB) says “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”

Net Neutrality

One of the more obtuse political footballs this winter has been “net neutrality.”  Whatever that is.

The general idea intrigued me, so I attempted to do a little bit of research about it.  First thing I note is that it’s hard to find arguments in favor of removing net neutrality.  The second thing I note is that the arguments in opposition to removing net neutrality made no real sense.

Here are some examples.

A man says he came to America from a country in South America, and when he lived there he had to pay before he was allowed to tweet and he was protesting to avoid that happening here. 

Does he not pay for his internet access here in America?  I pay for a cellular data plan on my phone, I pay again to have internet at home and again at my office. The only way I tweet for free is if I find a public wifi, in which case someone else is paying for the connection, but that is not the same thing as it being free.

A common illustration is that net neutrality prevented people, and corporations from creating fast lanes which get all the service while everyone else is crowded into slow lanes.

I pay extra for fast internet at my house.  I used to pay a little less and eventually decided to upgrade hoping the speed would make life easier.  Companies pay according to the amount of bandwidth and speed they want.  I started this plan long before net neutrality was repealed, and it has always the case that better service costs more.

Another argument is that large corporations will be able to force out smaller businesses by controlling how others access them on the net. 

I have a friend who had a profitable small business.  He was proud of the fact that in the narrow market that he served he would show up on the first page of most search engines. Then suddenly, he stopped showing up at all, and he stopped getting new orders.  He learned that google had caused this calamity by changing their ranking algorithm.  There was nothing he could do about it quick enough to save his business. This also happened before net neutrality was repealed.

 

I think the people who were against repealing net neutrality would probably call me an ignoramus and say that I just don’t get it. I would ask if they are sure they get it.  If they do get it, why have they not found a way to express the problem in something other than the above non-sensical arguments.

I think the real problem is that we have become a nation of near sighted sheep who are too easily led. The right spin can rally people to a cause and they don’t have to understand the issue.  These citizens will act as instructed, simply because of their blind allegiance to political parties, news outlets, and social media.

The Gift of Leadership

Leadership is important in every situation.

When the general yells, “Charge!” the soldiers had better run forward ready for battle.

When the CEO says, “We need a software update.” the engineers will begin brainstorming ideas for the next version.

When the Pastor says, “We need to add more Bible study classes.” the church can expect to discuss and may or may not decide what to do about a deficiency in the Bible study hour.

All three of these are leadership, but did you notice how different they are?  One is dictatorial, barking orders that will be followed instantly and without question. Another recognizes a need but unleashes others to work out all the details only maintaining loose oversight. The last one points out a problem, allows others to discuss and decide what do even if the decision is not what he was hoping for.

The point of this exercise is to help remind us that different styles of leadership are appropriate in different situations. If a surgeon ever wants to operate on you and promises to handle the surgical staff democratically, find a new doctor.  Why? Because if a vein is nicked you don’t want him calling for discussion or forming a committee to study it. You want him to fix it. Immediately, before you bleed to death.  You want your surgeon to be dictator.

On the other side of the coin if you are in a volunteer position and someone in the group, leader or one of the other volunteers, is ordering everyone around and refuses to discuss anything, you can expect the volunteers to thin out.  Quickly.  Volunteers almost always want to have a voice in their work, and not just have orders barked at them.  In other words, volunteers want their leaders to be teambuilders.

When it comes to the church, you are working with volunteers.  In a Baptist church it probably has a member empowering, congregational method of carrying out decision making.  Leadership in a situation like that requires learning a different skill set than leadership in business, in the military, or in academia.

In church leadership, the goal should not be getting the church to do what you want.  Instead in some cases it will be, helping the church see what the Lord wants and enabling them to follow Him.  In other cases, it isn’t obvious what best serves the Lord.  For example, maintenance and upgrade issues of the buildings, equipment and even the programs will likely not be addressed by Scripture. In these cases, the church leader should help the church see what it wants and enable them to accomplish it.

It is more important to have unity in the group than to have things done any certain way.  In fact, it more important to have unity in the group than to have things done the best way.  It is better to be unified with problems than to be broken apart and ‘perfect’.  It is better to be thriving and chaotic than to be well oiled machine that is losing membership left and right.

This makes church leadership frustrating for people who have lead in other arenas successfully.  Nevertheless, if they can adjust their style of leadership sufficiently, a person with the gift of leadership can be one of the greatest assets a church has.

Taming Hypocrisy to Win America

While reading through Zechariah today it occurred to me that God often magnifies a people’s sin in the process of setting them up for judgement.  For example, the foolishness of the idolatry of Israel was put on display by the events with Elijah on Mount Carmel. The selection of Saul entirely apart from any understanding of his character moved the people toward the misery of living under a King other than God their King.

Perhaps a more modern day example is taking place in our time. The two presidential candidates both had deep moral flaws. They could easily represent the abuse of power and the obsession with sexuality, two evils which currently define our nation.  We have willingly given ourselves to these evils, and both are highlighted in the public accusations against the two candidates.

I also notice, more while reading Matthew than Zechariah, that hypocrisy is a sin of special concern in Jesus teaching. He chastises the religious leaders for despising the common people. The leaders accuse them of falling short on the minor points of the moral law, while they themselves ignore or work around the weightier points. He helped the rich to see that their belief in their own goodness was false, and that their devotion to wealth was greater than their devotion to God.

A modern day example of this hypocrisy is visible in that those who favor a candidate so easily accuse the failures of the opposing candidate. It didn’t matter which candidate won, there was going to be immediate calls for impeachment. Meanwhile both sides fail to see that the candidate on their side has genuine problems, as well. Even worse, the nation continues to deepen this divide by demonizing the supporters of their opponents.

No matter who had won the election, the path to saving America must include the unifying of the population.  It is a myth of our times, that people with opposing viewpoints cannot work together. We can stand together to rebuild our strength, without agreeing on anything more than America needs to be better. If we unify then we can take an honest look at the evils enslaving us. Seeing those evils will require us to abandon the hypocrisy and to see the weaknesses of both sides. But if we do this, if we humble ourselves before God, we will begin to tame these issues by the resources provided to us as one nation, once again choosing to be, under God.

In Favor of Unity

I remember how I felt shortly after the election when Barak Obama was first elected President. It was not a pleasant feeling. It was downright confusing how so many people could see this man’s agenda as good or even appropriate. It was disheartening when his opponents were sometimes demonized as racist. It was ridiculous when some of his allies treated this new president as a political messiah. These feelings were made worse by the immediate and foolish actions which served to press his agenda, but divide the nation. I am still angered today by such, now famous, words as “elections have consequences” and “we will have to pass it to find out what is in it.” These manifestos of control divided the country in even deeper ways.

All across the urban areas of this country, people on the other side of the political spectrum are now feeling the sting that my conservative friends and I have felt for the past eight years.

So what should we conservatives do next?

We could retaliate now that we have control. We could pass every piece of legislation we want in a frenzy, we could speak out our own manifestos of control, and we could label our opponents as obstructionist, libtards, and whatever other term we find useful.  But this would make us just as divisive as the worst of our opponents have been.

Or we could look for ways to genuinely cooperate and move together.  No doubt legislation will be passed, but do so under normal rules of order, including healthy debate. No doubt proclamations are going to be undone, but don’t replace them with our own proclamations. Instead allow these ideas to weather the tests of congressional scrutiny and be passed as laws.  Instead of furthering the divide, let’s demonstrate that operating within the constraints of constitutional guidance works well without the need for creative interpretations of the document.

This work of reunifying our divisions is our most important challenge.

Many have pointed out that national debt is a huge problem. Obviously there is some unknown limit where the debt is beyond our ability to overcome.  Beyond that point our nation would lose its economic footing, be forced to default on loans, and our failure would affect not just our country but the whole world.

Similarly there is a limit to how divided we can be as a nation before the problem becomes unrecoverable. If we cause that to happen, or allow it to happen while blaming our opponents, the results will be even more disastrous.

Theology of Politics

It might be a good time to remind America that God is in control. It is at times like these that we need to have a sound theology of politics.

I know the idea of a doctrinal statement about politics, governments, elections and so on, will rub some people the wrong way. That is largely based upon a false doctrine in this country called separation of church and state.  But let me save that conversation for another day.

Today let me present a few things a Christian should believe about politics. First, we should believe that being a good citizen is a part of our Christian responsibilities.  There are a lot of verses that tell us as much, some very directly. For starters consider Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and Titus 3:1-11.

But beyond citizenship we need to know that there is a cause and effect relationship between how well we perform the duties of citizenship and the state of our nation. If we lift God up, honor and revere Him, use our resources to spread His kingdom, and build into our country positive moral values, then we can expect God to bless us.  But when we are not behaving as Christians ought, then we can only expect to see judgment. Consider Joshua 23:1-13, Psalm 33:12, and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Finally we also need to recognize a Biblical pattern. This pattern may not be as clearly stated as some of the other things we have discussed, but I am certain that it is true. God chooses and directs leaders as one of the major ways that he guides history forward. Part of that is rewarding those who have earned blessing with good leaders, and another part is condemning those who have earned judgment with bad leaders. This pattern is demonstrated in the exodus event by the idea that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It was not simply a matter of Pharaoh’s free will at work, but also how God was using Pharaoh’s decisions to create the history He wanted to bring about.

Another example is Proverbs 21:1 (NASB).

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; 
He turns it wherever He wishes. 

This verse tells us that God is guiding the decisions of the king. It does not imply that the king is aware of this process, or that the king is immune from responsibility for the decisions.  The verse doesn’t really say anything about how it is worked out at all, and reading it only for this purpose is missing the point.  The key point of the verse is that God is moving history forward by working with leaders.

That said then we have to believe God knows what His plans are for us by the outcomes of our elections.  Whether this past election will mark the beginning of judgment, the end of judgement, or some other great purpose of God, only time will tell. Whatever God is up to, our first priority must be to trust Him no matter what it is that He has planned.

Church Politics

For Politics Monday today I will talk about the politics within the church.  This is a topic I am intending to touch on more often.

Some people undoubtedly will be offended just by the phrasing.  Please bear with me, my definition of politics is the normal flow of relationships whenever people interact with each other, whether these relationships are local, global or somewhere in between.

By this definition, the only church that does not have politics is the church where the people fail to interact with each other at all. This would mean they fail to form friendships, fail to produce teamwork and never experience fellowship.  All of these things are produced by the synergistic power of relationships.

Most often, whether a church is a good church or a bad church, whether it is a church that does lots of good in the community or a church that barely manages to pull off worship, is ultimately determined by the strength of the relationships within the church.  A church that ‘works’ is a church that has good, strong relationships. When something breaks the fellowship of a church, the church will lose its strength.

Unfortunately, everywhere there are relationships, there are also relationships that go wrong. In the church, relationships gone wrong have different degrees of disruption to the overall congregation. For example, a couple living together will have a minimal impact in the strength of the group when they are non-serving attenders. On the other end of the scale a pastor who lies, cheats and steals will totally dismantle his church’s effectiveness.

The takeaway for this discussion is every church member, especially serving church members, should take care to protect the fellowship of the church. The primary tool for accomplishing this is to live right, because living wrong on any level disrupts that fellowship.  A secondary method is to extend grace to your fellow church members when they fall short, so that problems are not escalated after they develop.

The Immorality of Not Voting

This is a very unusual presidential election. In many ways it seems as if the candidates are the least likely individuals that each party could possibly find.

One individual brings a long stream of controversial episodes to the table. The most recent of these is the handling of classified information in such a way that made it more accessible to the Russians and Chinese than the US government officials who subpoenaed it.

The other is a brash attention seeking businessman who also has a history that generally would not be called suitable for politics.  This candidate subjects the American people to an outlandish set of promises as to what will be changed under their guidance, and how fast.

For many Christians, the question has become, how can I vote for either candidate in good conscience? I am bothered by how many of my friends in ministry have decided that there is no way to cast a moral vote this election year.

To these individuals I ask this question, have you considered the immorality of not voting? Not voting strikes me as the equivalent of folding your arms, sitting back in your chairs, and saying to the secular society around us – you made this mess, now you fix it.  Lowering that to a more common denominator, it is Christianity packing up their toys and going home.

I believe that a part of our Christian living is to be responsible citizens in our society. In this society that means praying for our president. In this society that means casting a vote to try and bring in the best possible candidate.  In the current election, as in all recent elections this includes two primary parties with opposing views as to how the country should move forward.

I disagree with the platform of one of those parties in several major ways.  I agree with the platform of the other in several major ways.  I will vote.  I will vote for a candidate whom I do not totally trust fulfill their promises, or even to keep the priorities spelled out in the platform.  I will cast this vote because voting for the other would support someone guaranteed to go in the wrong direction. And I will not abstain from voting because to me, that is the most immoral choice.

Voter Disillusionment

Am I the only one that thinks this is the craziest election year ever?

On the Democratic side there are two candidates.  One of whom would normally be un-electable because he advocates socialism.  The other of whom has violated the law and endangered national security.  But despite the obvious disqualifying factors of these two candidates, the Democratic Party is confidently moving ahead with the process of choosing between their two contenders.

On the Republican side, the story is remarkably similar.  One candidate would normally be considered un-electable because of his wild eyed statements about, well, everybody.  Not only that, but he seems to change his stand on key issues rather frequently.  Another candidate has a knack for not pleasing anybody.  He is disliked by moderates, for being too conservative and disliked by conservatives for being too moderate.  There is a third candidate for Republican’s, but nobody I know understands why there is a third candidate. And yet surprisingly few people are pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

It seems like every election year there is a contemplative period as the primaries wind down and before a candidate is selected, a time when all of America gasps in amazement and asks, “Is this really the best we could do?”

But this year sets a new record in the ‘What were they thinking?’ category. So much so, that I really wonder what the average voter is going to do.

Most voters will be forced to vote for a candidate they don’t like, but they still earned the vote by being the least objectionable option. Yet these same voters likely have some absolutes. Something they believe so strongly, something they find so offensive, that they would never vote for a candidate that crosses those absolutes.

So what will happen when the majority of voters identify that every viable candidate has not only crossed the line of their absolutes, but have done so as flagrantly as possible? I don’t know. We will all find out together, come November.