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Showing posts from February, 2011

Jesus, Lover of my Soul

An old friend and spiritual mentor of mine left a comment on my last "Religious Conversation" Post. It provoked so much thought that I wanted to share it with everybody, because I know quite a few of my religious friends are reading this, and I know quite a few of you who would make a similar statement. Here it is:

There is an element in this conversation that is being overlooked (at least, I presume). There is an aesthetic beauty and, more, an affection, which Steven appears to have for God. This is not illogical; in fact, all human beings exhibit it for something. It may be subjective, and it is not conclusive, but it is completely logical. And I can't imagine an argument that would refute it.It is something like a man saying, "I love my wife. I appreciate her many virtues and charms; I believe her to be the woman most worthy of my affection and lifelong commitment." If I say this and someone were to say to me, "But EVERY man says that of his bride! Would…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 8

Hi Stephan. I promise promise promise you that we will get into the historical accuracy of the Bible. I've been so excited to talk about it, actually, that I started piecing together a response. But I won't give it to you now, because that would be jumping the gun. You're only asking for clarification, after all, of the two questions from my last post. I don't want to enter into new territory before we've even surveyed our immediate surroundings, you know?
So here I go:
I don't mean to sound like a broken record, Stephan, but I beg you to recognize this: when you say things like, 
faith & the existence of God was real in an almost tangible way what I was experiencing was consistent with the God & gospel message of the Bible  I've been 'pulled back' and again more fully experienced this relationship with God, which always comes as a result of God changing my heart to cause me to again desire to seek him, and again turn away from the sin that I had…

10 favorite albums of 2010 - #1: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Big surprise, right? Those of you who know me - you could have probably guessed I would pick Arcade Fire's spectacular album, The Suburbs.

Arcade Fire is the most moving, interesting, and important group making music today. There, I said it. That's a pretty big claim, but after experiencing their third solid gold album, I'm convinced. They can be so somber. Gut-wrenchingly gloomy. And then, so damned uplifting and hopeful. They make me want to take their music seriously. But then, if Arcade Fire wanted me to listen to the their music while giving myself a hot tar bath, I'd probably do it.

But seriously. From the opening track:

     So can you understand
     why I want a daughter while I'm still young?
     I wanna hold her hand
     and show her some beauty
     before this damage is done.

     But if it's too much to ask, if it's too much to ask,
     then send me a son.

Arcade Fire makes some grand statements in this album. Listen to it. And listen to the words. L…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 7

OK, well I'll first respond to your first 2 questions, which I think will require some clarification from you before I move on...since I found myself unable to really answer what you asked...

What evidence would it take for me to doubt the veracity of the Bible?
This question is difficult, because it is at the core of my faith – sola scriptura: I know that I can be clouded by emotion & prone to drifting, and this is why my “anchor” is in the Bible, because it is the unchanging word of God I can always depend on & go back to. When I made the decision to follow Christ personally, and make it not just something my parents did, it was because faith & the existence of God was real in an almost tangible way, similar (in some ways) to how I can know that gravity exists: by experiencing it. I found that what I was experiencing was consistent with the God & gospel message of the Bible. Further, I found the historical confirmation & reliability of what was recorded in the …

10 favorite albums of 2010 - #2: The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

I didn't realize how much I loved this album until I really listened to it. I remember the night well. Laying in bed, I stuck my in my earbuds and started up Are the Roaring Night. By the middle of the first song, I had goosebumps all over my body, and I found myself grinning uncontrollably. This song is really awesome, I thought. The next track had the same effect. And the next.

This is an album that sweeps you up and carries you along in its beautiful, dark melodies. And those are really the best two words to describe this album's sound: beautiful and dark. If you love the theatricality and emotion of, say, The Hazards of Love, you should definitely check out The Besnard Lakes. And don't neglect their previous album, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse.

So, if you are looking for a transcendent experience, put on some headphones, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and experience The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night.

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 6

Hi all. I'm posting this one earlier than usual because my sister is coming later today to visit for the rest of the weekend! She's been back from China since early January, but I still haven't seen her. Goodness gracious...

More people are following this conversation than are commenting. I know this because I am receiving private comments on Facebook, through text messages, phone conversations, and personal remarks.

Please do not be afraid to comment on the blog. As far as I'm concerned, here is where the conversation is primarily taking place. I won't deride you for asking a stupid question or attack your personality for questioning my reasoning, and I know Stephan won't either.


Hey, Stephan. I was waiting to say anything in regards to your "mini-response" since there were some things in my last post that covered some of the questions you were asking, and I wanted you to diges…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 5

Upon reading the first part of this message, I recognize that I won't be able to put forth the thought & self-examination necessary to continue & thoroughly consider your challenge until at least this weekend - hope you can understand (I just don't want to do so in haste)!

One thing in response to the first part: do you believe that truth can ever be self-authenticating? I believe this is what happened to me: 

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthian…


10 favorite albums of 2010 - #3: Broken Bells

The first time my very enthusiastic friend had me listen to this album, I thought, meh, it's pretty good, I guess. He played it all the time, and pretty soon I was anticipating my favorite tracks on the album. Soon after, every track was my favorite track on the album and I didn't listen to any other album but Broken Bells.

I have faith that other listeners will feel the same way. First, I love James Mercer and his beautiful, dark lyrics. Sooooo good.

This album takes all of Mercer's greatness and all of Danger Mouse's greatness and meshes the two together, but not in a way that you can listen to a song and say, "Oh, these things exhibit Mercer; those other things exhibit Danger Mouse" or "This track is so Mercer, but that track is definitely Danger Mouse." Think of it like Jesus Christ. He was both fully God and fully man, not a mixture or a pieced together god-manotaur, but fully both. This album, see, is fully Mercer and fully Danger Mouse

Listen …

10 favorite albums of 2010 - #4: Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus

This album is a trip. Don't expect to be humming along to most of these tracks. Do expect plenty of jazz-influenced, experimental, out of control good times.

I don't have too much to say about this one. Look out for guest vocalist Thom Yorke. "Do the Astral Plane" is a favorite, featuring some wicked scatting.

AIDS in Africa

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen: A

Everybody should, at some point in their lives, pick up a book about AIDS and learn about the virus that is devastating an entire continent.

And if you've never read a book about AIDS, 28 is a great place to start. You might not think that this would be a very comprehensive look at the situation, but Nolen did a great job of picking stories that highlight unique, important facets of the AIDS pandemic.

The introduction provides a nice, concise exposition - how AIDS got started, how the world first reacted to its discovery, why she picked 28, and more.

Then, Nolen picks out 28 individuals who share their heartbreaking stories. Not all of them are infected with HIV, but all of them, in same way "have" AIDS, and by that, I mean that AIDS has dramatically and irreversibly affected their lives.

Nolen's writing style is simple, emotional, and always with appropriate tone. She's compassionate without being preachy, and she is…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 4

This is a really long one. Please bear with me. Also, for any Christian friends reading this, please take my challenges to Stephan and apply them to yourself. Specifically, I ask a number of questions in this post that I challenge Stephan to answer before coming up with a retort. I would be interested to see how others would answer these questions as well.

And now, a funny graph:

Forgive the delay in our transactions, Stephan. Thanksgiving season, you know?

Let's get right to business.

You start by saying 
I believe the Bible because it is true.I hear this phrase often by Christians, although it was never a tactic I employed against the godless when I was among the elect. I especially heard it used in this context: "The Bible isn't true because I believe it; I believe it because it is true." This has always seemed redundant. One will always believe "X is true" as long as one is willing to say &quo…

10 favorite albums of 2010 - #5: The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe

This album is astonishing.

First, let me tell you that it's a concept album. The storyline revolves around a time-traveling android from the future fighting for the freedom of citizens under the heal of a secret society bent on destroying love.

Not only that, the album encompasses almost every kind of musical genre. There are two concert overtures in the album, which are followed by a myriad of pop, funk, hip-hop, dance-rock, R&B.

Not every track is perfect, but the album as a whole is definitely a work of art. Give it a spin. you won't regret it. Also, check out the music video for one of the more popular tracks off the album, "Tightrope."

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 3

I would like to use this introductory text tonight to mention something that I feel is important.

You might get the impression from the way these letters are written that our letters are, at best, urgent-sounding, and at worst, rudely cold. You see, these aren't the entire messages. I've been leaving out personal bits that come at the beginning or end of the messages. Stephan and I are actually very friendly to each other at the beginning of all of these messages, and then we get down to business. Anyway, I wanted to say that so you don't read any unfriendly tones either of our letters. And now, the comic:

I completely agree - most Christians go about defending their text the wrong way (though I believe it is good to clarify discrepancies, especially this particular list leaves much to be desired - including many "discrepancies" that are simply bogus - though some are legitimate issue…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 2

Keeping with the tradition of posting a religion-related comic before the serious conversation:

Okay, so here we go with letter* #2:

Hi Stephan! Good to hear from you, man!

I'm glad you responded to that post, actually. I post those in hopes that my Christian friends will respond. You're one of my Christian friends that can talk about these things without being unreasonable and/or put off.

First you say, 

Such a list saddens me, because many of those items can be easily explained through actually studying the context (textually & culturally), as well as distinguishing "paradox" from "contradiction".

I know exactly what you mean. I'm familiar with many of these explanations. For me, the important thing isn't that there are alleged contradictions in the Bible per se or that there are alleged workarounds; the important point for me is this: many Christians t…

Religious Conversation With An Old Friend - Part 1

I'm a nice guy, and I'm nice to all of my friends, even when we're talking about things with which I disagree.
Like religion:
I have several friends who are good sports about it, and I have other friends, who are either (A) uncomfortable with the idea of talking about it (for whatever reason) or (B) too ill-humored to talk about it without getting pissy or mistaking my disagreement for personal attacks.

My friend Stephan* is not one of these friends. I met him during my time in Yellowstone National Park. We enjoyed many talks about Christianity, some while hiking through America's most beautiful wilderness. When we met, I was just beginning to think of myself as an atheist. Stephan belonged to a Campus Crusade for Christ group that was working at the park for the summer. 

A few months ago, I posted a link to a visual representation of contradictions in the Bible. This did not go unnoticed by my old friend, who initiated a discussion around it. I have been very glad to be t…