Why we are here:

Our signature Bible passage, the prologue to John's Gospel, tells us that Jesus (the Logos) is God and Creator and that He came in the flesh (sarx) to redeem His fallen, sin-cursed creation—and especially those He chose to believe in Him.

Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dead Leaves

It’s nearing the end of January, so I suppose you are wondering why you’re seeing a bunch of dead leaves in this usually seasonally topical blog. The simple reason is that I use this photo as my Windows wallpaper on my computer and it keeps reminding me of its presence and (to me at least) attractiveness, every day.

You can learn a lot by looking at dead leaves. For instance, you can tell what kind of forest community (what kind of trees are growing together) the leaves are a part of. In this case, it’s primarily a community of oaks, beeches and birches. From that information, you should be able to tell something about the forest’s climate and geology, as well as the chemistry of its soil. A veteran Bergen County hiker might be able even to identify the woods where the photo was snapped.

Beyond the ecology, it’s the structure of the leaves themselves that draws me in. Dead as they are, they maintain their intricately engineered structure after the abscission process has nudged them from their parent trees. Fortified with cellulose and lignin, the outer form, especially of the oaks, may endure for months or even years before offering up its structure to dehydration, oxidation and fungal decay, the biosphere’s slow but efficient recycling machine.

A few months earlier, our fallen leaves had been vibrant solar-powered food factories, sucking up Carbon Dioxide and puffing out Oxygen in the process of producing carbo-hydrates, proteins, fats and an amazing cornucopia of other complex organic compounds ranging from pigments to toxic alkaloids. The cell layers of each leaf are engineered for controlled light absorption and gas exchange, while the organelles within each cell are working their magic in biochemical pathways that boggle the minds of biology students and should, when considered without naturalistic bias, cause nightmares for evolutionists. One glance at even a simplified depiction of the Calvin Cycle (oh, that’s what that funny diagram is) should tip any objective mind toward Intelligent Design and away from mindless evolution. (By the way, that biochemical pathway is named after Melvin, not John, as much of a fan of the latter I may be.)

Another glance at our forest floor detritus has me contemplating subjects more profound, such as the condition of the organized church and our individual Christian lives, about externals versus internals and such. I know that’s a stretch, but that’s how the SAITUAHFTC Principle* works (or should work) in this blog.

There is no doubt that the old denominational churches, as well as so-called non-denominational churches, are in big trouble. They have strayed from biblical orthodoxy in countless ways, ordaining women and homosexuals, centering on entertainment, showmanship and seeker-friendly worship—and often straying from the very foundations of the Gospel. Even the conservative churches, while maintaining strict adherence to reformation doctrine, seem sometimes to be spiritually dead, their outward structure hiding inward dryness and decay. The charismatic groups, while claiming to be “filled with the Spirit,” often exhibit bizarre emotionalism, mostly devoid of doctrinal content, stretching the limits of biblical “decent and orderly” behavior in their worship.

So what’s new? The problem with the churches is that they are filled with a bunch of weird, miscreant oddballs called—sinners, saved by grace. And such has it been from the start. The first century churches were a handful for their leaders, always straying into either legalism or permissiveness of gross immorality, protognosticism and other false philosophies. Most of the New Testament epistles were written, at least in part, as correctives of such misbehavior and errant thought. And only two of the letters sent by Apostle John to local congregations included no condemnation from Jesus. The church at Sardis, in particular, was a really “dead leaf” bunch. And the Lord threatened to push the Laodicean leaf off the tree (spew them out of His mouth).

Then there is the rest of church history—one heresy after another having to be fought over and corrected; the construction of a monstrous, legalistic hierarchical organizational structure, gross immorality in leadership, even selling tickets out of Purgatory—so bad that God had to bring the Reformation to bring His Church back to its roots.

One of the tenets of the Reformation is “semper reformanda”—always reforming. That doesn’t mean always changing, as seems to be the habit of the modern church, but rather, constantly re-examining, detecting and correcting our constant tendency to drift from the truth.

But thank God that the dead leaf analogy that started this harangue is only partially and temporarily consistent with truth! Yes, dead leaf churches and congregations have always had to be pushed off the tree—for the survival of the tree. Dead leaves are not only useless, they can—through the accumulation of snow in winter—cause damage to the branches and the entire tree. It is the massive tree—roots, trunk and branches—His Church—that He promised would survive through thick and thin, until He returns.

In another sense, we, as individual believers, are His leaves. Are we clinging to our Branch? No! The Branch is clinging to us—with His almighty strength! He will never let us go! But we too must constantly be practicing semper reformanda, detecting signs of dryness, returning to His Word for nourishment and strength, as we endure the vagaries of life in the forest of His fallen creation. The mere thought of becoming mere skeletons of cellulose and lignin should literally put the fear of God in us.

Yes, dead leaves can get us thinking!

*SAITUAHFTC: Start anywhere in the universe and head for the Cross.
Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Webby Declaration

The pictured Barn Spider has long ago headed back to the barn for the winter, but I’ve dragged him out photographically because he is such a great example of practically everything. Sooner or later, we’ll probably use him to illustrate several aspects of the intelligent design of his anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. But this time, we will wander far from the biological barn and into the theological woodshed.

As Sir Walter (Scott, that is) said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Our spider’s web seems a bit tangled, primarily because this nosy photographer got too intimate with a macro lens. But right now, I’ll get nosy with a subject of theological controversy brought about by the publication of a document called
The Manhattan Declaration. (Click on the link and then on the “The Declaration” tab to read the entire document.)

The document is signed by a long list of conservative religious leaders and more than three hundred thousand others who are rightly troubled with the state of American society. It says, essentially, to paraphrase
Howard Beale, “We’re as mad as heaven and we’re not going to take this anymore!” And we’re willing to go to jail as a last resort, if civil disobedience is the only possible response.

The three principles being defended in the Declaration are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

So where is the web? Where are the tangles? Anyone with even a semblance of a biblical worldview or even a basic human sense of moral values should agree with the Declaration’s premise that we shouldn’t kill babies or old people or people with disabilities; that the “traditional” view of marriage is the only sane one; and that the U. S. Constitution should ensure our right to free speech and public expression of religious views.

The problem, in the view of several conservative Christian theologians, lies with the following statement:
“It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.”

Proclaim the Gospel? Which gospel? The three groups represented proclaim three different and antithetical gospels!

One of the representative sects of Christendom proclaims a gospel that is, when closely examined, a monstrosity of legalism, ritualism, idolatry and ultimately, blasphemy. It presents a savior who doesn’t really save. Another group practices a religion based almost entirely on its ritualistic liturgy but is mostly unintelligible to outsiders.

Only evangelical Christianity, and then only in its pure Reformation variety, proclaims the true biblical plan of salvation: salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone—thus giving all glory to God alone. In short, it has a Savior who really saves His people from their sins (Matt 1:21).

So the authors of the Declaration dare not proclaim “the Gospel” within their document. They are stuck in the tangles of a theological spider web. While their intensions are good from a moralistic viewpoint, their unwarranted ecumenism thwarts their ability to fight the real battle being waged in this fallen world—the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of fallen humanity. Or at least, their ecumenical entanglement has them somewhat unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14).

Moral and societal woes are ultimately spiritual problems. We can take potshots at them and gain some superficial, temporary victories, but only God’s sovereign grace, capturing and transforming sinful human hearts, will win the war.

I’ll leave the links to The Manhattan Declaration here for the time being because it has much to offer. But ultimately it, like our pictured arachnid, might have to go back to the barn. I am still praying about its ultimate disposition.

As one of my favorite theologians says, “The Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.”

Soli Deo Gloria