Aug 29

Devotional Classics Review in 12 days

I just finished writing up a 12-day devotional series on some classic Christian devotional books.  Each day features a classic author and one of their books, its cultural context, the author’s main points, and how it applies to today’s Christian and their daily life.  Hope you find this enjoyable and useful!  If you’d like, I also left the comments section open as well, so please leave some thoughts if you’d like.


Jun 18

How God Sees Us: A Critique of “Original Sin”

I used to struggle greatly with core issue in my walk with God: how did God think about me?  When I came to mind, what were his impressions and thoughts of me?  When the Bible says that he “loves” me, is it the love of someone obligated by a contract, or was it one that held endless emotion, filled with delight and joy in his unique creation?  I couldn’t see it being the latter because I knew myself too well – I was a person like any other – one whose life was filled with mistakes and failures.  How could God delight in me?

So one day I asked him this, and he answered me in a way I couldn’t disagree with; a way that speaks to your heart like only he knows how to do.  It was through this interaction, and many thousands later, that I came to see how God sees me, and by extension, his people, and by extension, all people.  We are all his unique creations, each one of us designed without a duplicate.  When we die, this world will never see one like us again.  To the people who belong to him, he delights in them in a way that transcends my understanding of joy. To the people who do not know him, or who want nothing to do with him, he longs to know them like a lost child – desperate to hold and comfort and love them, a unique and beautiful creation, but has decided to let them make their choice.

This picture of how God sees me and other people, however, did not match up with popular Christian theology.  There’s a lot of talk about the “depravity” of humanity, and how utterly evil and completely corrupt we are.  It doesn’t help that this mindset has a few verses (and I mean few) that appear to support this, such as Jeremiah 17:9 in the King James Version: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  If our own hearts are by design the worst thing in the universe, there isn’t any way God could want anything to do with us, much less think about us in any positive way, least of all with joy.

This picture of humanity was developed and codified by Christians about  1500 years ago, and came to be known as “original sin.”  Because of Adam’s original sin, we have all been born completely evil in every thought and deed.  More extreme but predictable versions emerged later that said we are completely unable to choose God at all, but God, like a great puppet master, turns on a “God” switch to make some of us evil creatures into good ones.

The motivation behind this picture was straight forward.  Clearly everyone makes mistakes and sins, and there had to be a really good reason why God chose to become human and be tortured to death to reunite us with himself.  So it was decided that to make sure what God did (something that drastic) was justified, all humanity had to be seen not only in a state of being incapable of a perfect sinless life,  but incapable of anything good at all.  If anyone was capable of anything really good, God’s death wasn’t really necessary.

In my bible reading and study, especially in the Old Testament, I have found this picture of humanity to be untrue of how God really thinks of people in regards to sinful and right living, and it certainly is not a picture of how God thinks about me in the real relationship I have with him right now.  So what I wanted to do is to take a serious look at the biblical texts that write extensively about this issue.  I believe it is time to seriously question this doctrine and see if there is a better explanation for why every person struggles with sin and brokenness, and why it was completely necessary for Jesus to die for us so that we might be reunited with God.  What follows is a serious study of key Old and New Testament passages including original language research.  Enjoy!

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Feb 15

Design & Theology

I did an internet search recently to understand what designers like me (web, graphic, or industrial designers specifically) think about their activity in terms of how it relates to God.  The first post I came across after doing a Google search was a blog with a category page with a confusing title of “The Design of Theology.”  All its posts were instead about the theology of design.  The first one I read was about how the main purpose of graphic / communication design was to share or promote the glory of God.  This seemed to me a good idea, but a little odd because a professional graphic designer often does things other than that, so it would be hard to argue that this is the primary purpose of Graphic design in the sphere of human society, and it would lead a professional to feel a little guilty that he or she wasn’t doing something “churchy.”  This is unhelpful theology to me or anyone not working as a graphic designer for a church.

The second post I read was much worse.

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Sep 27

Christianity According to the Old Testament

31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,
declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)

I find this passage fascinating – I can get out of this some interesting aspects of this “New Covenant” from this passage alone.  These thoughts were inspired by a class I was in a couple of years ago, but more recently have been on my mind…
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Apr 27

Atheist / Christian Dialogue…

An old friend of mine from Rochester, a pastor with a PhD in Physics named George, creates a mock dialogue between the believer and the skeptic.  A great summary of the different defense postures of the Christian when discussing religion with skeptics.  Of interest to me (because I never thought of them before) was his criticism of the typical skeptic refusal of a null hypothesis and doing a test that falsifies their hypothesis of God’s non-existence. That is a way to turn the burden of proof to the skeptic.

I also liked the straw-man criticism of the typical “how could a ‘good’ God do bad thing xyz…” skeptical criticism of Christianity.  How often have I heard the argument that God is “evil” from a worldview where there is no God.  I have always believed that good criticism must borrow the worldview of the the other in order to be effective.

Apr 26

“The Fool” of Psalm 14

The themes of Psalm 14, although exegetically difficult, have been popular subjects of theology and philosophy from the time of Paul until today.  Paul loosely quotes verses 1-3 in Rom 3:10-12 to describe the fallen state of godless Jews and Gentiles to a Jewish audience.  Anselm of Canterbery, who developed his logical argument for the ontological existence of God in Proslogium,  cited Psalm 14 as an important building block in his line of reasoning.  He was refuted by Gaunilo of Marmouter in an essay entitled In Behalf of the Fool, who based his criticism on the theology of Psalm 14.
Neo-Calvinistic scholarship of the later reformation era later begin exploring these themes as well with the goal to define a concrete theological doctrine to refute Arminianism.  The tenant of total depravity,  a cornerstone belief in Reformed theology, rests heavily on a universalized interpretation of verses 1-3.  It is likely that the origin of this interpretation came from an understanding based on Paul’s re-contextualization of its verses in Romans, a creative practice he sometimes employed in the formulation of his arguments but obscured their original meaning and context.
The purpose of this research is to conduct a formal study of Psalm 14 from a literary-theological exegetical approach.  Paul’s treatment and usage of this text will not be used for understanding the psalmist’s original meaning in this review, although a study of that subject would be a good compliment to more fully understand the issues they both address. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 2

“Knowing” God in the Old Testament

In my experience in popular theology, I have frequently read and heard the notion that the God of the Old Testament scriptures was somewhat distant from his people in relation to how the modern Christian experiences him today. With the advent of the coming of Christ and the ushering in of the New Covenant, a new closeness and intimacy with God was now possible to a degree not experienced before through the impartation of the Holy Spirit.  This concept may be further solidified by Jesus’ comment that “the Counselor” will not come to his people until Christ had completed his work and returned to the Father.[1] This idea of God’s closeness to his people being different from one Covenant to the next has always bothered me, most likely because of a perceived consistency of God’s character and his dealings with people summarized by the author of Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”[2] It seems odd to me that he would treat his people differently in terms of relational intimacy from one covenant to another.

In order to understand this issue better, I have chosen to examine the Old Testament’s use of the Hebrew word yāda , (to perceive, to know) in terms of God “knowing” man or man “knowing” God.  With a thorough study of this word and its nuanced meanings found throughout the Old Testament and a brief look at its counterparts in the Ancient Near Eastern languages of the time, a good foundation can be laid for further studies in the disciplines of theology and philosophy.  None of these disciplines or any topic within them, however, will be addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 10

Adam Young…

Adam Young from Owl City has an incredible ability to capture the magic of romance and relationships in writing…check it out!  He is able to resurrect a long lost picture of true love – one filled with the profound essences of magic, spirituality, and selflessness.  I’ve been listening to his song “Fireflies” a lot lately… a deeply spiritual and moving song for me for reasons I can’t yet explain.

Listen to the song “Fireflies” here (Thanks Grooveshark!):

Sep 9

The Glory of the Average Person

This is something that’s been bothering me for some time, and I finally decided to write about it any pass it along to bother someone else…

I love books, movies, and video games about important people – people who are talented, famous, brave, and selfless – people who make a big difference in the world around them for good.  Whether I’m reading Ursula LeGuin, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or the Bible, or playing Fable, Final Fantasy, or Star Wars (Knights of the Old Republic), I’m somehow taking part in a story where the main character rises to greatness to save their world and make a difference for good.

Here’s my problem: Looking at how my life is going, I don’t think I’ll ever live up to any person in those stories I like.  It doesn’t look like I’m ever going to be a talented, gifted, or famous person. I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to do something incredibly important or really good (in a big way) in the world.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 12

The Problem of Natural Evil

Within the last 6 years, two devastating natural disasters have shaken the consciences of our generation.  On December 26th 2004, an underwater earthquake with a magnitude measuring between 9.0 and 9.3 on the Richter scale occurred a hundred miles off the coast of northern Sumatra, a province of Indonesia.  The resulting tsunami, later named “The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,” devastated the coastline communities of nearly all nearby land masses with tidal waves up to a hundred feet high.  The death toll was enormous: nearly a quarter of a million people perished, and based on the many photos taken in the aftermath, many of its victims were small children, whose bodies were found scattered up and down the coasts where the tsunamis hit.[1]

Six years later in January of 2010, another devastating earthquake hit a small town 16 miles away from the heavily populated city of Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti.  The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, and the death toll according to the Haitian government was 230,000 with 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 left homeless.

No more than a month later, an even more severe earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit off the coast of the Maule region of Chili, devastating coastal towns thought the region. Although the death toll was not as high as the Asian tsunami or the Haitian earthquakes, local news services at the time reported that more than 1.5 million people had been displaced.

This was not the first time such visceral evil and suffering had jarred the minds and hearts of people in this decade.  From an American perspective, the beginning of this century was marred by a horrifying display of terrorism as the infamous events of 9/11 flashed before our eyes on television and computer screens across the world.  People all over the country, unaccustomed to violence so immanent in their lives, sought to find answers and consolation.  How could this kind of evil have happened to our country?  Some people turned to religion to answer questions.  Church attendance grew for a time.

However, the Tsunami of 2004 awoke in men and women of this generation the realization of a different kind of evil – one that could not be blamed on men, but on whimsical natural forces of the earth.  No longer could the senseless violence and the deaths of thousands be blamed on moral agents as we had been culturally accustomed to thinking about evil over the last 3 years, but was instead the fault of an “act of God.”  A discomfort with religion and its attempts to explain such suffering began to emerge.  Both the atheist and the theist could see a common enemy behind the 9/11 attacks, but with the horrors of a natural disaster now in the forefront, the national and international religious communities began to struggle with answers for questions they were not used to addressing.

In some cases, Christians and religious leaders could not digest the events of the Tsunami or other instances of natural evil without readjusting their views of the goodness or power of God.[2] Outspoken atheists seemed to find real proof that the claim of the Christian God being all-powerful and loving was illogical.[3] Outspoken Christians unconcerned with correlating these events with God’s character were quick to see them instead as being a righteous judgment against people who deserved it.  Others saw it as an act of God that was in some way beneficial to the human race or more specifically to enlightened Christians.  As it turned out, there were a lot of bad explanations for the reasons behind these terrible disasters, but there was an absence of any good ones.  Why would God allow such devastation?  Many more thoughtful and rational religious thinkers agreed: there was no answer.[4] Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 2

Thoughts on suffering

When it comes to difficulties and tragedy in life, a question has always been on my mind:  why does God not reveal apparently important things to us, especially things regarding terrible experiences that have the potential to emotionally ruin us?  Why does God remain silent as to its meaning or ultimate purpose in our lives—people whom he has a loving relationship with? Didn’t he himself suffer on Earth with clear purpose?  Shouldn’t we likewise be knowledgeable of the reasons behind our portion?

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May 4

Living it

It’s been a long time since I’ve written something here, and I’m discouraged about it.  I remember praying the other day about not being able to read and write more about spiritual things, and I suddenly had this thought come into my mind:  Yes, I had been studying and writing a lot about morality, selflessness, and a dependence on God.  However, I am reminded daily that I do not live in the world of peaceful quiet spiritual reflection but in a stormy one full of dirty diapers, screaming children, sleepless nights, and an exhausted and frustrated wife.  All I have time to do these days is eat, sleep, and spend time with my kids until I can’t move from the couch.  Oh – and go to work and try to do something useful.

There is a time and a place for deep thinking and quiet reflection.  However, I think the power of the spiritual life lies in the difficulties of reality.  Impatient men learn patience, people distant from God draw near to him because of their need.  It is here somewhere that we are fashioned into the nature and character of God and we bring a little light into the world in the process.  We are shaped not so often by our thinking, but by the events in our lives.  Most of my spiritual reflection has been based on reactions to difficult events in my life.  Now it seems the opposite is true.  I have thought a lot about patience, selflessness, and the character of God.  Now its time to live those beliefs and bring light to the world again.  My wife and children need it.

Jul 9

The End Justifies the Means

This is going to be one of those topics I don’t like writing about because it’s going to upset nearly everyone who reads this blog (if there is anyone left).  But the purpose of this weblog is to inspire people who are interested in finding truth, and what I am about to say is an important part of finding it.

About four years ago, I attended a bad church.  The pastor of this church had a problem – he constantly lied (about anything and everything) and plagiarized.  When my friend confronted him on this problem, he responded with a lot of self-centered dribble, but one comment he made stuck out in my memory:  he simply asked my friend how many people he had personally led to the Lord.  What was he implying?  That his tactics, although unorthodox, lead people to Christ.  This excuses his sermon plagiarizing. This somehow excuses his constant lying.  In other words, the end justifies the means.  I couldn’t believe I was hearing this from a Christian pastor.  My rosy-colored view of the Christian “church” began to slowly fall apart from that point on.  But this wasn’t the first time I saw this. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 11

Father, forgive them.

I’m taking a quick break from my weekly paper writing.  I was recently asked by my pastor, who didn’t know better :),  to give a short meditation to speak in church on Jesus’ first statement while on the cross.  I thought I’d post it, because in seeing Jesus’ reaction, I was immediately reminded of my failure to be anything like him when I was going though very painful times in my life, specifically my ugly church experiences where I made many enemies.  It has been an inspiration for me to read and think about this moment in Jesus’ life, and is a story about a person’s heart that we should all strive for, whether Christian or not.

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34

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Dec 9


My wife and her best friend have been reading the books that the movie Twilight was based on, and it made me think about the kind of entertainment we are drawn to.  My wife and I are both passionate about different things – she about passionate romance and meaningful relationships, and me about bravery and fighting for good causes.  I find it interesting that we are both drawn to certain media (video games, movies, books) that feature these themes.

While my wife reads Twilight, I am currently playing Fallout 3, a video game that is full of fighting and moral choices, a dreamworld for me.  I am also reading Cherryh (science fiction) which involves a war between humans and aliens on other planets – way cool.

I thought a long time ago about being drawn to these things.  Why is this?  In my wife’s case- how is it possible anymore to have a passionate romance with very young children who constantly need your attention?  In my case, how can I get out a gun and go fight the bad guys and be brave when I have a family and a wife that takes top priority?

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Oct 24

Finding Spiritual Truth (A response to Craig at MOF)

I messed up my comment badly at a post over at Mind On Fire – so I had to repost here so it will be legible.  Go over there and check out what the post is about and the discussion there first to get some context…

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Sep 20

Dangers to finding truth

I was just doing my daily reading this morning, and I came across some interesting quotes that really got me thinking:

“Get truth and don’t ever sell it.” ~ Proverbs 23:23

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: …the feeling that everyone is wrong except for those in your own little group…” ~ Galatians 5:19-21.

These are two passages point out dangers that the person who is searching for truth will inevitably encounter. Since truth is what this website is all about, and the people who come here to read stuff care about it, I thought it would be a good idea to write about these dangers.

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Sep 16

Where Jesus Grew Up: A Study of Lower Galilee

Hey all!  I thought I would start the new semester off by publishing a paper I wrote about the history, culture, and geography of the Lower Galilee region of Israel, the place where Jesus lived for about 30 years before he began his public ministry.  I left out the footnotes, but included a cited works section at the end if you are interested.  If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, I can sum it up for you:

The region is quite conservative.  Many scholars- atheist, agnostic, and Christian alike seem to agree that the area Jesus grew up in was populated by people who were resistant to outside religion or spirituality.  This culture was in many ways linked to its secluded location up in the mountains off the main roadways.  Although they could see out over the valley of Armageddon where the main roadways were, they were not influenced by the foreign influences that traveled along them.  The body of research work I surveyed seems to agree – Whatever cultural influences that affected Jesus growing up, its certain that little to none were of a foreign nature.  He grew up in a very traditional Jewish world, one that remembered very clearly the stories of Elisha and Elijia, and the many Judges.  For a resident of Nazereth need only look out over the valley to see the very location of where a majority of the stories took place – where God acted on behalf of his people.


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Sep 15

Emerging PA

I just found a new blog that I’ve added to my blogroll.  It’s one by a fellow grad student who loves writing about the Christian life from a philosophic / theological point of view…  Awesome stuff.  I’m still reading posts from it myself.  If you have a chance – please go take a look.

Aug 1

TruthandPurpose is 2 years old!

I just realized the other day that this website has hit its 2 year mark!  It dawned on me that I’ve been writing on this site longer than my son’s been alive (he is now 16 months old!)

I haven’t been doing any posting for a long time, but I have a lot to write about.  I’m in the raw learning stage right now and have not had time to digest and distill it into something engaging enough to write about.

I have actually toyed around with ditching the site altogether because I have become so busy.  But I think that would hurt me.  I really enjoy the interaction with others on philosophical or biblical topics.  My immediate family and circle of friends do not really enjoy this kind of discussion on a regular basis, so I am left to discuss and think on my own and with others like me thoughout the blogsphere.

So, I’ve renewed my hosting and kept my domain name for another year.  Hopefully I will have more time to write again soon…