Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Rise Of Mental Illness



In “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses her rational for the dramatic rise of mental illness which she attributes to over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications. In July of 2013, Dr. Bruce Levine authored an article entitled, "Why the Rise of Mental Illness? Pathologizing Normal, Adverse Drug Effects, and a Peculiar Rebellion" offers other reasons,

"... our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating, and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, a**-kissing, s***-eating, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness."

There is no question mental illness is dramatically on the increase in the United States, ironically the most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world with the best medical care (until Obamacare.) Severe, disabling mental illness has dramatically increased in the United States. Marcia Angell, in her 2011 New York Review of Books piece, summarizes:

“The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from 1 in 184 Americans to 1 in 76. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades.”

And there are other indicators. In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, spoke to the National Press Club about an American depression epidemic:

“We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between ten and twenty times as much of it as there was fifty years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person’s problem. When I first started working in depression thirty years ago… the average age at which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5… Now the average age is between 14 and 15.”

In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently-used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44 years. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), on May 3, 2013, reported that the suicide rate among Americans ages 35–64 years increased an alarming 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010).

The New York Times reported in 2007 that the number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder had increased 40-fold between 1994 and 2003. In May 2013, CDC reported in “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children—United States, 2005–2011,” the following: “A total of 13%–20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994–2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing.”

There are unquestionably multiple factors influencing the striking rise of mental illness in the United States (i.e., over-prescription of medication [i.e., Ritalin for children], adverse effects of medication, breakdown of the family unit, loss of societal order, debt, hopelessness, poor health, the rise of terrorism, etc.) But I believe there is one powerful factor in play, increasingly ignored in our "enlightened" secular culture.

Demonic activity.

Certainly not all mental illness is demonically-related. But Scripture clearly and emphatically declares that some is (i.e., Matt 17:14-18). Historically for most of the 20th century, demonic activity of this type was encountered in nations overseas where the gospel had not yet significantly penetrated.

Why?

Light, by nature, drives back darkness. Darkness is literally nothing; it is the absence of light. The presence and influence of the gospel, by its very nature, drives back the darkness of demonic activity. In other words, where the gospel of Christ is prevalent, demonic activity is suppressed. The increasing influence of the secular, liberal agenda in America, combined with an expanding rejection of the Christian worldview and an an embrace of the occult, along with a dramatic immigration increase of peoples from foreign countries where the gospel is not central in the native culture have all contributed to a rise in demonic activity. The rejection of the Biblical worldview together with an enveloping secular worldview, skyrocketing drug use, escalating violence, increasing prevalence of homosexuality, more diverse forms of sexual debauchery and perversion, rise in suicides, rabid embrace of abortion by some on the left (i.e., Nancy Pelosi calling it "sacred ground"), addiction to pornography, and loss of a moral compass are all symptoms of a culture drifting deeper and deeper into moral darkness and becoming more susceptible to the demonic.

The Roman Catholic Church, with its formal rite of exorcism reports a sharp increase of demonic activity in America over the last 4 years. So great is the demand for exorcism, the Roman Catholic Church’s top exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth (88 years old) is calling for relaxation on the current limits on priests performing exorcisms. In Roman Catholic theology, only certain priests are trained in the rite for a formal exorcism under Section 13 of the Rituale Romanum. Amorth wants rank and file priests trained to perform the rite and lift the requirement of approval from church leaders.

In contrast to the Roman Catholic perspective though, in the evangelical Biblical worldview (mine), any believer is empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to confront demonic activity. However effective confrontation requires spiritual maturity in Christ, wisdom and discernment. Earlier I addressed confronting the demonic here. As I concluded there, many Christians in the Western church don’t know how to recognize and respond to subtle forms of demonic activity — let alone the more increasingly prevalent open forms as our culture abandons the Judeo-Christian ethic and openly embraces paganism. But all Christians, whether they know it or not, are equipped to confront the demonic with the authority they have in Christ.

As evil rears its ugly head ever higher amidst our culture, expect the problem to worsen. Only the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ is empowered to drive back this tide of darkness. Everything else is futile.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Have To Choose One Or The Other



I have an engineering degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and have always been a firm admirer of true science. Contemporary thought often mistakenly believes that science and Christianity are incompatible. But, nothing is further from the truth. The historical list of noteworthy scientists who were also Christians is staggering.  Here are just a very few of the dozens and dozens of Christian scientists who made significant discoveries and advances in the various fields of science.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Brahe "not only designed and built instruments, he also calibrated them and checked their accuracy periodically. He thus revolutionized astronomical instrumentation." His work is considered to have been essential for the discoveries of Johannes Kepler. Brahe was a Lutheran.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Is considered among the fathers of empiricism and is credited with establishing the inductive method of experimental science via what is called the scientific method toda.

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630)
His model of the cosmos based on nesting Platonic solids was explicitly driven by religious ideas; his later and most famous scientific contribution, the Kepler's laws of planetary motion, was based on empirical data that he obtained from Tycho Brahe's meticulous astronomical observations, after Tycho died in 1601. He had wanted to be a theologian at one time and his Harmonice Mundi discusses Christ at points.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
Scientist who had many problems with the Inquisition for defending heliocentrism in the convoluted period brought about by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

René Descartes (1596–1650)
He was a key thinker of the Scientific Revolution. He did important work on geometry and is honoured by having the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy partially concerns theology and he was devoted to reconciling his ideas with the dogmas of Catholic Faith to which he was loyal.

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
Jansenist thinker; well known for Pascal's law (physics), Pascal's theorem (math), and Pascal's Wager (theology).

Robert Boyle (1627–1691)
Scientist and theologian who argued that the study of science could improve glorification of God.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727)
He is regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Newton's study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were among his greatest passions. He wrote Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (Nontrinitarianism). He invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits.

Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1787)
Mathematician and major contributor to the development of Hydrodynamics. The Bernoulli Principle was named after him.

Lord Kelvin (1824–1907)
He gave a famous address to the Christian Evidence Society. In science he won the Copley Medal, the Royal Medal, and was important in Thermodynamics.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
George Washington Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.

Max Planck (1858–1947)
He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics. He had been raised an observant Lutheran and was an elder in his church from 1920 to his death. In 1937 he delivered the lecture, "Religion and Natural Science", stating that both religion and science require a belief in God.

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One of the biggest obstacles today, in the minds of many, is the relationship between Darwinian evolution and Christianity. There are only 3 options:
  1. reject Darwinian evolution in favor of Biblical creation (intelligent design)
  2. reject Biblical creation is favor of Darwinian evolution
  3. incorporate Darwinian evolution into Biblical creation (theistic evolution)

After studying the issue for decades, I came to the conclusion that option 1 has the strongest objective evidence and is the only logical avenue of belief for a Christian. While I understand the support for option 3 in some quarters of the church - adapting it tends to be devastating to the Biblical worldview, inevitably disintegrating one's Biblical belief system until only tatters are left.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution - A Theory In Crisis

Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis in light of the tremendous advances we've made in molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics over the past fifty years. We now know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems on the cellular level. Specified complexity pervades the microscopic biological world. Molecular biologist Michael Denton wrote, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."

And we don't need a microscope to observe irreducible complexity. The eye, the ear and the heart are all examples of irreducible complexity, though they were not recognized as such in Darwin's day. Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

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In 2009, I noted Wayne Grudem adapted the same position as the one I had gravitated towards and advocated that "it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution" Below are his comments on the subject in a forward he wrote for the book, "Should Christians Embrace Evolution".

Ultimately, you have to choose one or the other - evolution or creation. Without exception, virtually every Christian I've encountered who adapted a position of theistic evolution, eventually began compromising other key Biblical doctrines until ultimately their faith in God was shattered.

FOREWORD to: Should Christians Embrace Evolution
edited by Norman Nevin (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2009)

This is a highly significant book because it persuasively argues that Christians cannot accept modern evolutionary theory without also compromising essential teachings of the Bible. It may at first seem easy to say ‘God simply used evolution to bring about the results he desired,’ as some are proposing today. That view is called ‘theistic evolution.’ However, the contributors to this volume, both scientists and biblical scholars, show that adopting theistic evolution leads to many positions contrary to the teaching of the Bible, such as these: (1) Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but they were just two Neolithic farmers among about ten million other human beings on earth at that time, and God just chose to reveal himself to them in a personal way. (2) Those other human beings had already been seeking to worship and serve God or gods in their own ways. (3) Adam was not specially formed by God of ‘dust from the ground’ (Gen. 2:7) but had two human parents. (4) Eve was not directly made by God out f a ‘rib that the Lord God had taken from the man’ (Gen. 2:22), but she also had two human parents. (5) Many human beings both then and now are not descended from Adam and Eve. (6) Adam and Eve’s sin was not the first sin. (7) Human physical death had occurred for thousands of years before Adam and Eve’s sin – it was part of the way living things had always existed. (8) God did not impose any alteration in the natural world when he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin.

As for the scientific evidence, several chapters in this book show that deeper examination of the evidence actually adds more weight to the arguments for intelligent design than for Darwinian evolution.


What is at stake? A lot: The truthfulness of the three foundational chapters for the entire Bible (Genesis 1 – 3), belief in the unity of the human race, belief in the ontological uniqueness of human beings among all God’s creatures, belief in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God, belief in the parallel between condemnation through representation by Adam and salvation through representation by Christ, belief in the goodness of God’s original creation, belief that suffering and death today are the result of sin and not part of God’s original creation, and belief that natural disasters today are the result of the fall and not part of God’s original creation. Belief in evolution erodes the foundations.


Evolution is secular culture’s grand explanation, the overriding ‘meta-narrative’ that sinners accept with joy because it allows them to explain life without reference to God, with no accountability to any Creator, no moral standards to restrain their sin, ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18) – and now theistic evolutionists tell us that Christians can just surrender to this massive attack on the Christian faith and safely, inoffensively, tack on God, not as the omnipotent God who in his infinite wisdom directly created all living things, but as the invisible deity who makes absolutely no detectable difference in nature of living beings as they exist today. It will not take long for unbelievers to dismiss the idea of such a God who makes no difference at all. To put it in terms of an equation, when atheists assure us that


matter + evolution + 0 = all living things, 

and then theistic evolutionists answer, no, that

matter + evolution + God = all living things, 


it will not take long for unbelievers to conclude that, therefore,

God = 0

I was previously aware that theistic evolution had serious difficulties, but I am now more firmly convinced than ever that it is impossible to believe consistently in both the truthfulness of the Bible and Darwinian evolution. We have to choose one or the other.


Wayne Grudem
Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies
Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona, USA