Monday, November 12, 2007

Bad Religion Meets Dorky Professor

Finished a book that was a quick interesting read - The poorly titeld "Is Belief In God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism, and Christianity" by Preston Jones & Greg Gaffin.

Gaffin is the lead singer of Bad Religion, and a fairly recent PHD in zoology with a dissertation on naturalism, atheism, and evolution (he defines himself as a "naturalist", but not the no-clothes wearing kind). Jones is a professor at John Brown University (a Christian College). As a fan of Bad Religion, Jones just on a whim e-mailed Gaffin and got a response, and what ensued was a friendly discussion of Christianity and Naturalism. The short book is a reprinting of the e-mails that went back and forth between them over the span of a few years.

The book is published by Intervarsity Press and is unique for Christian literature in that there is no resolution. Gaffin doesn't become a believer. Jones doesn't successfully back him into any theological corners. If anyone looks like a winner here, it's Gaffin. Gaffin is gracious throughout the discussions, but clearly not in the least bit moved by any of Jones' arguments. (As a naturalist, Gaffin is a staunch atheist). To his credit, Jones doesn't seem to particularly be out to evangelize Gaffin, and often comes off as a dorky old fan who's just thrilled to be having any conversation with a celebrity.

There is nothing methodical or thorough about either participant's presentations here, but it does serve as a good introduction to naturalism and many of its arguments against religion. Many other books are referenced, and I hope to check some of them out (including Gaffin's dissertatino). On the Christian side of things, while I wouldn't exactly want Jones to head up my debate team, it does serve as a refreshing example of 1) A Christian with good taste in secular punk music (he even uses it in his classes) and 2) an intelligent Christian with the ability to have a reasonable discussion with someone he disagrees with, while actually thoughfully considering the other persons' opinions and in general not looking like a complete idiot. Jones kind of strikes me as what my dad might be like if he was into punk music, but kudos to him for putting this book out there without having won the argument.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Happiness is Next To Godliness?

So the first line of today's Prayer of Confession at FPCE was something about Jesus having given us the key to happiness (but us not taking it or something). My stomach almost turns when I hear a line like that! It is so unscriptural and so contrary to life and experience. Christianity and faith do not exist to provide happiness - Jesus and the apostles said quite the opposite. There's way more talk about poverty, suffering, and persecution than about feeling good.

This reminds me of a poster on the wall in the PYGS lounge that drives me nuts - it's divided in half with one half a sad face that says "life before Jesus" and one side a happy face that says "life after Jesus". Incredibly trite, incredibly wrong. For one, there are plenty of people who don't know Jesus who live pretty happy lives. Sure, they may have that God shaped hole, or whatever you want to call it, deep down, but on the surface they have their great days just like anyone else. (If you're not sure about this, read Ecclesiastes.)
Second, this poster sends the message that if you're not happy, you must not know Jesus, or there must be something wrong with your relationship with him. It is too often our tendency as Christians to spiritualize the ups and downs of our days - I had a bad day today, it must be because I didn't have my quiet time; I'm sick, I must have some sin I haven't repented of. In this view, God is meting out good times or bad times for us based on our spiritual works - an idea which grace is completely opposed to. God's blessing in our lives is not based on our deserving of it, or even our ability/willingness to notice it or thank him for it (thus those who don't know God can still be blessed by him!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Because the World Needs Another Blog

So this is my religion blog. It's separate from my other blog ( I don't know why. It just is.

There shall be a real post here soon.