Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The Fingerprints of God

Lost in the revolving news cycles of the last few weeks was a finding that has rocked the scientific world.

But first, some background:

The theory of evolution calls for leaps and mutations to overcome massive unexplained gaps that almost scream for an intelligent Designer guiding and helping the process.

Just think about the time issue.

If the age of the Earth is about 4.6 billion years, and we have evidence of abundant and complex life 3.5 billion years ago, then that means that there were only about 170 million years for the Earth to cool from its initial formation and for all of evolution to have taken place. That simply isn't enough time – by anyone's calculations – for all of evolution to have taken place. 

In fact, noted astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle has written that if you would compute the time required to get all 200,000 amino acids for one human cell to come together by chance, it would be about 293.5 times the estimated age of the Earth. It would be like having the working dynamics of an iPod, iPhone, iPad and Smart Watch all instantly created – by chance – through a single explosion in a computer warehouse. 

It’s almost crazy to think about.

So if evolution is true, there is the need for some kind of outside, guiding, enhancing force to speed it along in the time frame of the age of the Earth.

But that’s not all.

You also need something to have instigated the jump from simplicity to complexity.

Think about something like the human eye.

According to evolutionary theory, it would have started with a simple, light-sensitive spot and then evolved to what we see with today. The problem is that when we finally got to the point where we were able to study life at the molecular level, we found it wasn’t simple. We found it was irreducibly complex.

Which means something, or Someone, had to create those first complex systems; in other words, that first, light-sensitive spot.

And it is precisely that very non-evolutionary mutation that has been discovered.

In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife, researchers say they have pinpointed the single mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms. “Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born.”

As one biochemist at the University of Oregon exclaimed: “It was a shock. If you asked anyone on our team if they thought one mutation was going to be responsible for this, they would have said it doesn’t seem possible.”

Why?

Everything in evolutionary theory – at least naturalistic evolutionary theory – would have called for something much more… by chance. “We were expecting many genes to be involved, working together in certain ways, because [the jump to multi-cellularity] seems like a really difficult thing to do.”

Yes, it is.

But all it took was one mutation.

Or as some might propose, one intervention.

The Bible says that we were created by a Creator, that the entire creative process was miraculously and supernaturally generated and guided by God. It doesn’t say how, mind you, except in a literary, poetic way – using phrases like “the dust of the earth” and “the breath of life.” This, of course, is far from trying to put forward a biology text.

So we’re told THAT God did it, but not how.

Evolution is one of the leading theories in science for the “how.” Which, to my thinking, is fine. If God used evolution, so be it. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an original Adam and Eve that God breathed an actual soul into at the end of the process to mark the beginning of the human race as we know it today. As mentioned, if you know much about evolution, if it’s true, it would take an outside force, an outside Intelligence, of some kind to explain it.

Like,

…miraculous mutations?

James Emery White


Sources

Sarah Kaplan, “Startling new finding: 600 million years ago, a biological mishap changed everything,” The Washington Post, January 11, 2016, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. You can also find out more about the 2016 Church and Culture Conference. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Called to Preach

Ask anyone who wants to be a pastor why they want to be a pastor, and the answer is almost always the same:

“I feel called to preach.”

Ask anyone who is a pastor what it is they enjoy most about being a pastor, and the answer is almost always the same:

“Preaching.”

Ask anyone who is a pastor what their top gifting is, and the answer is – again – almost always the same:

“Preaching.”

So why is it that so many people who want to preach, are preaching, or consider themselves gifted in preaching, aren’t very good at it?

I know, that’s impolite to say. To some, it’s touching the third rail. But we all know it’s true. Many people who want to preach, can’t. Many who are, shouldn’t. And many who consider themselves gifted, aren’t.

Many years ago I was invited by a large seminary to teach a course on preaching. Though I was much better suited to teach theology, or apologetics, or matters related to the interplay of faith and culture, I accepted. Particularly because the bent was going to be on “evangelistic” preaching, which I care deeply about.

By the end of that course, I vowed never to teach that subject again. Why? It was, without a doubt, the most frustrating teaching experience of my life. What I learned was that some in the class were gifted for preaching/teaching, and some were not. But all were convinced they were. 

Those who were gifted were a joy to mentor. They intuitively understood the coaching, had an innate sense of how to package material, were natural in their ability to tell a story, and insightful in their applications.

Those who were not gifted were like molding hardened clay. 

Hear my heart: one group was not “better” than another, less called to ministry than another, less committed to Jesus than another, or more special than another. It was simply a matter of knowing the kind of ministry the Holy Spirit had gifted them to pursue. 

For some of them it was preaching.

For some of them, it clearly was not.

So how can we get a clearer sense of God’s leading and gifting in this highly sensitive area?

Here are some thoughts:

1.  Have someone other than your spouse tell you that you are a gifted communicator. Lots of someones.

2.  Be able to point to disproportionate fruit that comes as a result of your preaching/teaching. In other words, the Holy Spirit obviously anointed it.

3.  Do a very careful, very honest gut-check as to how much of your “call” is tied up with wanting or needing the ego/insecurity strokes of a captive audience.

4.  Do not overlook the foundational principle that when the Holy Spirit calls, He equips. If He has not clearly equipped you for the task of preaching/teaching, then you should question the “calling.” In other words, don’t confuse the desire to do something with the calling to do something. 

5.  Don’t assume that the only way to answer the call to preach or teach is through a senior pastor position, or even through a large group. Your gift might be better suited for a small group, a classroom, a seminar, one-on-one mentoring, student ministry, children’s ministry, adult education… the list is quite long. 

6.  If your gift is preaching and teaching, it didn’t arrive fully matured upon arrival. As Paul instructed Timothy, gifts need to be developed. Being called, even gifted, to preach only means you have a lot of work ahead of you to develop that gift optimally.

Having said all of this, if you are called to the ministry of communication, then pursue it with all your energies. The world needs you. But if not – and be ruthless in your self-examination on this one – then the world needs you even more where you are gifted.

James Emery White


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

The Secular Christian

Imagine a country where literally no Christians believed that God had a hand in creating the Earth.

No, it’s not an imaginary tale of a parallel universe, but the results of an actual survey taken of young adults in Iceland. Exactly zero percent of respondents said they believe that God created the Earth.

Yes, Icelanders have been part of the Western slide into secularism. A mere 20 years ago, nearly 90 percent of all Icelanders were religious believers. Today, less than 50 percent are.

Now here’s what’s fascinating:

Despite the trend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is still the country's declared state church. In an interview with the Washington Post, Solveig Anna Boasdottir, a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, notes that scientific progress has changed religious attitudes in the country. But she said that about 40 percent of the country's younger generation still consider themselves Christian – but none of them believe that God created the Earth. "Theories of science are broadly accepted among both young and old. That does not necessarily affect people’s faith in God," she said.

Result? A science-based sense of belief.

This is a key insight into our day. A growing number of people who espouse Christianity do so only through the lens of a settled secularism and the presuppositions of naturalistic science. In other words, they use secular values and dispositions as the filters through which they embrace their faith. Whatever comes out on the other side – approved and accepted by those filters – is what they embrace as “Christianity.”

Rather than revelation standing over and above knowledge, perceived human knowledge stands over and above revelation. So Christianity becomes whatever secularism will accept, whatever naturalistic science that excludes any sense of God-involvement will allow. 

So yes, these Icelanders and their kindred spirits around the world would say, “I am a Christian. But of course I do not believe in a Creator God.” This despite the clearest declaration of the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created….” No, it doesn’t say how, but it does say that.

But never mind. Forget the thoughtful blends of science and faith that uphold the Scriptures, such as the idea of intelligent design, the implied Instigator behind the Big Bang, or even theistic evolution. Those are not ideas to be entertained in a secular worldview. God must be excluded from creation altogether. In other words, we are to believe about God what a secular worldview and a naturalistic approach to science gives us permission to believe about God.

Which, as it turns out, is not belief in the God of the Bible at all.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Rick Noack, “In this country, literally no young Christians believe that God created the Earth,” The Washington Post, January 23, 2016, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. You can also find out more about the 2016 Church and Culture Conference. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Recycling and Porn

A recent survey asked a straightforward question: which is worse, to watch porn or to fail to recycle? The results are in: “Half of teenagers and nearly three-quarters of young adults come across pornography at least monthly, and both groups on average consider viewing pornographic images less immoral than failing to recycle.”

This is one of those “stunning but not surprising” findings that reflect the current mindset of our culture. And it’s a very important mindset to understand.

For quite some time, the dominant ethic has been, “As long as it makes you happy, and doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s okay.” The idea is that personal choice, in light of the pursuit of happiness, and the autonomy that comes with it, reigns supreme. Its only check is when it might infringe on another person’s personal choice and autonomy. The argument seems to be that porn is a personal choice for sexual gratification and, therefore, doesn’t hurt anyone. 

Of course, asking people whether porn is bad at this point is a bit like asking whether to shut the door after the cow has left the barn. We live in a world where the choice to embrace porn has, quite simply, been made. Seventy percent of all 18 to 34-year-olds are regular viewers. The average age to begin viewing? Eleven. It’s so ubiquitous it’s been called the “wallpaper” of our lives. In 2014, one porn site alone had more than 15.35 billion visits. No, that was not a typo. That’s “billion” with a “b.” To put that into perspective, at the end of 2015, the entire population of the world was just over 7 billion.

And suffice it to be said, it does enormous harm. Not simply with its ties to such things as human trafficking, but also to the person who partakes. In her book Pornified, Pamela Paul argues that it is far from an innocuous choice; it has changed our marriages and families as well as our children’s understanding of sex and sexuality. 

Her portraits are disturbing:

Rob, who insists that his girlfriend look and behave, in bed and out, like a porn star; Charlie, who spends hours cruising porn sites and setting up meetings with women and couples he befriends in chat rooms, while telling his wife that he’s just working late on the computer; Jonah, a fan of violent hardcore porn, who introduces tamer porn to his fiancée in an effort to revive their troubled sex life; Abby, who discovers her husband’s hidden box of CDs of child porn images downloaded from the internet; preteen girls who start their own pornography websites; teenage boys, mimicking porn, who videotape themselves having sex with an apparently unconscious girl.

Yet the prevailing ethic of our day is that anything that would critique or limit someone’s choice for personal pleasure, and the autonomy that comes with it, is bad. Anything that would enable or affirm someone’s choice for personal pleasure, and the autonomy that comes with it, is good.

And we find our sense of morality not by actually being moral, but through pseudo-virtues like recycling, which, while commendable, belong in the same meritorious camp as “clicktivism.”

It seems we need to learn how to separate more than just our trash.

James Emery White

 

Sources

David Roach, “Study: monthly porn exposure the norm for teens,” Baptist Press, January 20, 2016, read online.

Holly Finn, “Online Pornography’s Effects, and a New Way to Fight Them,” The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2013, read online.

Niamh Horan, “Porn now the wallpaper of our lives,” Independent.ie, October 18, 2015, read online.

Pamela Paul, Pornified.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. You can also find out more about the 2016 Church and Culture Conference. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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