Sunday, July 20, 2008

Biologists Wanted!

I have been enjoying an exchange with someone on another blog, who has essentially told me that only biologists are qualified to share an opinion on evolution/Intelligent Design, and that, for the most part, all biologists believe in evolution. He claims that the names of those on the Discovery Institute's lists, etc., are not biologists (which is not true!), but are in other scientific fields and, therefore, not qualified to speak about evolution.

I have a friend who is a professor of Chemistry at a very prestigious university, and he is a huge advocate of Intelligent Design. I recently asked him, via e-mail, about these allegations and this is part of his response. What he shares is very much in line with Ben Stein's recent movie, Expelled, and I suppose one could claim that he is a paranoid creationist, but I think you will come to an intelligent conclusion about what he proposes:
Actually I expect there to be very few professional biologists who believe ID. Many biology insitiutes and departments are called "evolutionary biology". Most biologists make their living by means of evolution. Their professional reputations, their jobs and, particularly, their research funding depend on them showing complete faith in orthodox neo-Darwinian evolution. Any who deviate are quickly ruined professionally. Find the website of Richard Sternberg and read what happened to him. He is a staunch evolutionist but was editor of a journal that published an ID article. They hounded him unmercifully in the Smithsonian Institution calling him a 'Crypto-Priest" and saying he took money to publish and did not follow proper refereeing policy - all untrue! In the present climate of opinion no ID or creationist will be appointed to a secular biology School and very few biologists can be expected to publicly support ID.
Is it out of the question that biologists have a vested interest in advocating evolution? Such a claim is leveled towards those on the other side of the aisle, but for some reason, evolutionary biologists are supposed to stand above any such questioning.

This guy is no dummy. He may be on to something.

I Believe in Lice

I never thought that lice actually existed. Or, at worse, that it was a plight that only befell prison inmates.

Well, I want to assure you that the lice population is alive and well, and doing just fine, thank you.

I spent the last week at Camp Lawroweld - our summer camp in Maine - as the Camp pastor for junior camp. The week was wonderful up until Friday (well, I actually re-injured my knee pretty badly playing basketball on Tuesday), when we discovered that about 90% of the campers, and about 75% of the staff, had lice. I was one of the lucky ones who allegedly had it, but, quite mysteriously, Camille didn't (I joked with a few people that she had me sleeping on the couch during the week).

We all ended up with Mayonnaise in our hair, which is supposed to smother the little creatures, and sending all of the kids home a day and a half early, so the problem could be thwarted and the camp sanitized before the next group came in today. It was kind of a downer to end the week, but such is life. I was planning on leaving early Sabbath morning, anyway, so I could preach at my churches, so I didn't miss much.

And so the questions come in: if God Intelligently Designed this universe, as Genesis seems to indicate, did He create the louse? Just kidding. The question is not much of a mystery (perhaps He did create the louse, or a variation of it, but the little critters - post-sin - forgot their mission).

Friday, July 11, 2008


I was intending to post something else tonight, and I even started jotting down something else on another subject, but time has not permitted me to complete that yet. Instead, I will share a very insightful quote from an all-too-appropriate source. Little did the author know just how prophetic his statement would be (in many contexts):

"History repeats itself; and only he who knows the course of error in the past can be on his guard against its insidious approaches in the future" (E. J. Waggoner, Fathers of the Catholic Church, p. IV).

Waggoner wrote this in 1888 and he was referencing the history of the Catholic church. But his words could very well be applied to his own plight, later on that same year (and the church's subsequent treatment of him). History has not been kind to Waggoner, mostly because we have forgotten him altogether, and haven't learned from the past.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Calling All Film Makers

A few months back, I pointed out that David Asscherick, et al., was getting "Nooma" on us and producing a series of videos that dealt with theological issues of particular substance (perhaps a little more substantive than Rob Bell). Recently, I have felt inspired to take on my own film pursuits and produce my own series of "illustrated sermons" on film.

The problem is, I have no expertise, whatsoever, in this field, and I realize that it can cost a lot of money. But I think the money thing may actually be the easier part.

Thus, I am petitioning anyone who has any experience in this field, or knows someone who does. I have contacted a few people to get an idea as to what would go into such a production and, although it has been a little eye-opening, I believe that if God wants such a production to take place, He will provide the resources, time, and money.

So, if you know anything at all about anything, please contact me via this blog, or e-mail me at shawnbrace at gmail dot com.

On another much unrelated note (but not wanting to take up a whole independent post): at Camp Meeting last week in Maine, we took the Earliteens to Funtown Splashtown USA - a small waterpark that was fairly crowded. As we enjoyed the hot weather, I walked around the park for quite a while, searching for a drinking fountain. I was flabbergasted to see a vending machine every ten feet, but not one drinking fountain. When I asked an employee where there was a drinking fountain, she looked at me as if I had five heads.

The fact of the matter is, they do not have a drinking fountain in Splashtown USA.

Shouldn't this be illegal? Isn't there some type of building regulation that would require a public facility to have a drinking fountain? What happens if I come into the park and I do not have $2 to buy an Aquifina? Or what happens if I have $2, but not $4, and one bottle of water doesn't hydrate me enough?

Just as my Irving post a few months back brought about a tremendous change, I hope that, when I return to Splashtown next Camp Meeting, they will have drinking fountains at every corner.

Of course, I am kind of disgusted by public drinking fountains to begin with, but that's besides the point.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We Used to Be Non-Combatants

I was in a Seventh-day Adventist church this past weekend, and was intrigued to see a big display standing immediately inside the front door, greeting everyone who walks into church. The display showed six young men who were members of that church, all part of the military and serving our country in Iraq.

There used to be a time in our denominational history when we strongly emphasized non-combatancy. Now we celebrate these young people who bear arms in the lobbies of our churches.

Don't get me wrong. I would like to offer my spiritual and emotional support to these individuals however I can, but my conscience does not allow me to pretend that I agree with a Christian's decision to carry a weapon, and be in a position to actively take someone else's life.

The truth is, it seems to me that more and more Seventh-day Adventist young people are choosing to serve in the military these days - and not just as non-combatants. Last week, when I was in Maine for Camp Meeting, one boy (and he seems like a boy to me, seeing as I've known him since he was about eight and I cannot imagine him as anything but that age) told me that he was thinking about joining the military, and he asked me what I thought of the idea. I asked him if he wanted my honest opinion, and when he told me that he did, I said to him, "I don't agree with a Christian doing that." I was then informed that the young man standing next to him was in the military.

I can tell you story after story of young men who I have had this exchange with. Another boy who I have watched grow up told me he was thinking about doing the same thing, and when I asked him why, he said, "Because there's nothing else going on in my life." Sounds like a good reason to join a group that may force you to take someone else's life.

Of course, we need to be clear on both what the Bible says, and what our response as a church is. Officially, the Seventh-day Adventist church maintains this stance on combatancy:
This partnership with God through Jesus Christ who came into this world not to destroy men’s lives but to save them causes Seventh-day Adventists to advocate a noncombatant position, following their divine Master in not taking human life, but rendering all possible service to save it. As they accept the obligation of citizenship as well as its benefits, their loyalty to government requires them willingly to serve the state in any noncombatant capacity, civil or military, in war or peace, in uniform or out of it, which will contribute to saving life, asking only that they may serve in those capacities which do not violate their conscientious conviction.
What this statement plainly maintains is that we should choose to follow Christ's example of saving life, rather than taking it. Christ never used physical force to execute His will, instead essentially saying that those who "live by the sword shall die by the sword" (see Matt 26:52).

But we, as Seventh-day Adventists, have lost sight of this important truth. And now, sadly, we find ourselves in a position to potentially have Seventh-day Adventists killing other Seventh-day Adventists (which has certainly happened in places such as Rwanda). Nevermind Seventh-day Adventists, though: what about Christians killing other Christians? Or even more troubling: what about Christians killing non-Christians, forever robbing them of the opportunity to hear about the saving message of Christ?

Of course, the main objection to non-combatancy is that we, as Christians - and more specifically, Seventh-day Adventists - want to enjoy the freedoms that a powerful military affords us, but do not want to participate in the effort to maintain those freedoms. We are being cowardly, some might say, since we expect others to do the dirty work for us (much like an Orthodox Jew would ask a Gentile to turn the light on for him on Sabbath, since he is not allowed to do it himself). But all I know is that Jesus enjoyed those same freedoms within the relative safety of His time, yet He never chose to forcefully participate in any type of policing or military action.

Truthfully, there is no doubt that God has allowed secular powers to "execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4), but nowhere does the New Testament condone the idea of Christians bearing arms and enforcing law by violence.

Of course, some would also pause and point out the fact that we also believe in the Old Testament - something that we as Seventh-day Adventists take particular pride in. It seems as though one cannot turn a page in the Old Testament without reading about some type of military campaign that God's people were taking part in.

But while this definitely happened, we must recognize that God was actively and objectively directing such campaigns - which no one country can claim today (and, in fact, two opposing countries could actually both claim God's leading, despite their violence towards one another) - and that, more importantly, such campaigns were far from His ideal. In fact, in beautiful words, written through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4). Non-violence and peace has always been God's ideal - even in the Old Testament. Why should we not make every effort to achieve this before Christ's Second Advent?

I have been studying with a gentleman who is 87-years old. He served our country in World War II in the Pacific. In fact, he was on the USS San Jacinto - the same aircraft carrier that the senior George Bush was on. About 80% of our conversations together revolve around his military service, which he is extremely proud of. He thinks that the greatest privilege is to serve God and country.

During our last study together, he brought up the inevitable question of military service. As a person who desperately wants to know truth, and what from his past life was not in accordance with the biblical witness, he wants to know if, in fact, the Bible advocates non-combatancy and whether Seventh-day Adventists still maintain this.

Unfortunately, I think our position on this has become very ambiguous.

Here, There, and Everywhere

I haven't posted a whole lot lately because I've been traveling quite a bit. Since June 20, until the last week or so in August, I will be home a total of about ten days. After zipping down to Massachusetts for the evening two weeks ago, I spent the next two weeks at Camp Meeting in Maine, before heading out to Michigan for the last four days, for my cousin's wedding. I will be home this next week, until Saturday night, or so, and then head back to Maine for six days. I'll then be home for about five days, and then head out to Oregon and California for a week. I'll be back home for two days, and then head to Nova Scotia, Canada, for about a week. Then I'll come back to New England, spend three or four days in Maine, at our the conference Pastor's retreat.

I'm not sure, but I think I will come home after that for the rest of the summer!

When I come home after Prayer Meeting tonight, I will probably write a post (or two), since Camille is in Maine.

I hope that everyone is doing well. It is brutally humid here in central New Hampshire. I need to get to the coolness (and lake) of Camp Lawroweld soon! Of course, Murphy's Law tells me that when I arrive there on Sunday, the weather will turn mysteriously cold and rainy.