Monday, February 20, 2012

What is Doping?

This is the first post on a series on doping and cycling. I'm hoping to explain doping and cycling in a way that non-cyclists and non-scientists can understand.

So, what is doping? The short common answer is that it is the use of performance-enhancing drugs to make you a better athlete. This definition is quite broad. It could include caffeine and recovery drinks. Under this definition, better equipment could be considered doping if you dop the "drug" part. Obviously using caffeine or using a really nice bike is not doping. So this is a BAD definition of doping. We need something more specific.

Enter the WADA
The organization that organizes the rules for what is considered doping and not doping is the WADA. (World Anti-Doping Agency) They are the governing body for cycling. If a cyclist gets in trouble for doping, it's because of the rules set up by the WADA. In 2003, the WADA published a set of rules and regulations on doping to govern the world of sports, including cycling. They have really long lists for what is completely prohibited, prohibited in competition and prohibited in particular sports.

Doping, according to the WADA, is "the occurrence of one or more of the anti-doping rule violations set forth." So if you break one of the rules set up by the WADA, then you are doping.

That's Dumb, Why? 
The natural question to ask would be, why have these rules? Who cares if someone uses this method or that drug to help them bike faster? The answer is that it can kill you so this makes it unfair to other opponents. The reason being, if you dope and are able to get an extra edge then in order to keep up with you, your opponents also have to start doping. This wouldn't be a problem if it didn't mean that in order to compete then athletes would be putting their lives at stake. We don't want to do that. Making a sport unnecessarily dangerous is wrong. Rules should create limits that keep athletes away from unnecessary risks, doping being one of them.

In sum, doping is simply breaking the rules set up by the WADA.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Young Men are like Cain

In Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel is recounted. The two brothers offered up sacrifices to God. God accepted Abel's but rejects Cain's. Cain became angry that God didn't accept his and jealous that Abel's was accepted. God warned Cain, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (ESV)

Cain was in a tight spot. He failed to please God and was angry that he didn't. Specifically he was angry that his brother did well. As a result, Cain murdered his brother.

Many young men are in Cain's position. We are just starting out in life, taking the first steps outside of college and working on our own. A bunch of us have offered poor offerings to God while in college. We've given him our video games, sports, movies, foolish relationships and worst of all sin as ways of glorifying Him. God has no regard for these things.

Now, we're at point where we can get mad at God for not accepting our works. As a result we can reject the church, shirk our holy responsibilities and walk deeper into sin. The deeper a young man walks in sin, the closer he gets to murdering his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In the least, he greatly hurts them.

God warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door. Likewise, sin is crouching at our door. Our lives are unacceptable to God. Sin wants us to take its path.

The question before young men today is whether we will rule over sin or will we be like Cain?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lance Armstrong and Doping

You may have noticed that Lance Armstrong has entered BACK into triathlon. He recently placed 2nd at 70.3 IRONMAN Panama. He is also going to be racing in some other 70.3 Ironmans through the year. The guy can't stay away from competition.

More importantly you may have noticed at the federal government ended its investigation on Armstrong's cycling team that won seven Tour De Frances in seven years.. The decision came as a surprise to many in the cycling community. It was also conveniently announced the Friday before the Super Bowl. 

Armstrong himself was relived that the investigation is over. The investigation was made up of the Food and Drug Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service. There was talk that it was possible Armstrong was going to be charged at some point with mail fraud, drug distribution, money laundering and/or witness tampering. 

Note, it is not illegal to dope in the United States. It is illegal to do the things stated above and often cyclists will do the above in order to hide their illegal activities. (It is breaking WADA rules to dope.) 

Now the WADA is asking the federal government to turn over their findings so the U.S. anti-doping agency to continue it's own investigation. 

Many things about cycling are confusing. Doping is one of those confusing parts. It's very sad with what has happened to cycling in the last five years with now two Tour De France winners stripped of the yellow jersey. It's important to see why doping is so rampant in cycling as opposed to say basketball or hockey. 

Over the next week or so, I'll be writing a series of posts that will help explain this sad and painful part of cycling. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Do You Do When You Are Sick

This past week I have been deathly ill with a cold. I have been drinking lots of water and tea. Also, I have been reading and watching movies. I finished "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "Same Kind of Different Me." Both are worth reading. I also watched many movies and tv shows. Below are some reviews.

Ryan Gosling plays the part of a stunt performer who transports bad guys for five minutes at a time. A friend of my mine described this movie being just like "Rebel Without a Cause" except more depressing. I agree. It's an interesting movie if you like movies where the main actor never talks, stares a lot and beats people up really bad. Did I mention he's also a great driver?

The Guard 
I picked this movie because it was shot in Ireland, one of my favorite countries. The movie is based in Country Galway, where I spent a couple of days. It was fun seeing shots of places I've been. For those who haven't been to Ireland, you will find this movie worthwhile. Brendan Gleason does a great job acting so smart you can't decide if he's dumb or intelligent. Also, Gleason was a teacher before he became an actor so that's another reason to watch it, though not a good one.

Five Minutes of Heaven
I should have just watched just movies about Ireland during my sickness. This is a fabulous movie. The story is about how a Catholic and Protestant reconcile over a murder during the Troubles. It is a bit slow at parts and confusing if you're not familiar with the conflict in Northern Ireland. James Nesbitt does an excellent job of a playing a man who carries the guilt of his brother's murder and Liam Neeson does an okay job of playing the murderer of Nesbtt's brother. I really liked how the movie ended. That sealed it for me. Also, I thought he was going to kill him.

Sherlock Holmes (BBC TV Show) 
I watched the first two episodes of this TV show while up at Taylor visiting a friend. I watched the last episode while being sick. As a result, I'm dying to watch the second season. It's a great show. My Mom didn't like it because of how the series "modernizes Sherlock, and I agree that he's not as good as he was in the books. Literary accuracy aside, this is a great show.

Break Bad (Season 1) 
I watched the first season of Breaking Bad because my brother suggested it. I found the show to be entertaining though a bit much at points. It's a bit too slow for my liking. Also, Iwas more interested in how they made meth rather then the plot. Not that I'm going into business or anything, but honestly the chemistry was more interesting.

Those are some of the movies and TV shows I watched during my sickness. Now that I'm almost better, I am now returning back to normal and so won't be watching anything any time soon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Criticisms of "Is Philosophy UnBiblical?"

In this post I will give three criticisms of my argument that philosophy is not unBiblical. 

First, isn't this a debate over terms and nothing more? What if you defined philosophy as "a system of thought or involving such inquiry" (David Hume's definition)? Under this definition there seems to be a contradiction between "philosophy" which is promotes specific systems of thought and/or inquiry into these systems.

It must be clarified that this argument is making two points, first it says you're arguing about simple definitions, so what! Second, you can define philosophy in a way that makes philosophy unBiblical.

My response to the first part is that definitions are important. Words have meaning. If you improperly define those meanings then you're going to run into trouble. For instance, let's talk about the definition of faith. If you improperly define faith then you might accidentally be setting up a definition that goes against scripture. You want to avoid doing that so it is important to define your terms.

My response to the second part is that by agreeing with this objection I don't have to change my argument. Under this definition, Christianity itself is included under philosophy since it promotes a certain system of thought or worldview. So even under this definition we can't get away from doing philosophy.

A second objection is that there are Christians who stayed away from philosophy like...Okay I can't think of anyone right now.

My response is that if there are such major theologians who have been able to pull off a feat, I'd love to talk to them. Yet, even if their are theologians who've completely removed themselves from "philosophy" it doesn't mean you can just stop studying thinkers like Augustine, Edwards or Thomas.

Lastly, how do we know that your ESV Bible note is right?

My response, that's a philosophical question. Specifically, it is an epistemic question.

Bottom line: by involving yourself in the debate as to whether philosophy is a Biblical enterprise, you have automatically involved yourself in the enterprise of philosophy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is Philosophy UnBiblical?

For my birthday, my parents got me the new ESV study Bible. It's pretty cool. I think it weighs more then I do, which isn't very hard to do. Anyway, I was reading it, and I came across Colossians 2:8.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
I intentionally came across this verse because someone recently asked me if Colossians 2:8 shows that Christians ought not to study "philosophy." I kind of have to say no since I have a degree in philosophy, and I am a Christian.

There are three arguments for why one ought not to interpret Colossians 2:8 to say that Christians shouldn't study "philosophy."

The First, What is Philosophy?
The moment you begin to think about this important question, what is philosophy, you automatically are taking part in the activity of philosophy. So if you think Christians shouldn't do philosophy, you're  screwed right away because in order to even think about what you're against you have to join what you're against.

To answer the question, in it's broadest definition, philosophy is critically looking at our beliefs and assumptions about the ourselves, God and the world around us. (If we do exist, if there is a God and if there is a world around us.) This definition isn't precise, but I hope that it is broad enough to include what has been known as "Western philosophy." Oh, and it's broad enough to include 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The Second, Christianity and Philosophy are Intertwined 
Second, the heathen activity of philosophy is intertwined with the Christian religion. Augustine used Plato, Thomas used Aristotle, Calvin used the stoics, Edwards used Locke, Piper used the Epicureans and so on and so forth. (Okay so saying Piper used the Epicureans is a bit of a stretch...) Even if you believe that philosophy is dangerous and Christians shouldn't study it, you still have to study it in order to understand your own history and theology.

The Third, Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 10:5
My final argument is based off my first. Given the definition of philosophy I have outlined above, Paul was not warning the Colossians to stay away from critically examining their beliefs. Rather, he was saying stay away from systems of belief that are of "empty deceit" and are according to "human tradition" and not according to Christ. Essentially, don't define your life by systems which are not according to Christ. My ESV study Bible was helpful because it has a note which explains this word "philosophy" that Paul uses. Of course this is not the Bible, but it help us understand the context that Paul is writing in. The note says:

The term "philosophy” was used much more broadly in the ancient world than it is today. Josephus, for instance, could call the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees “philosophies.” Even a magician could be called a philosopher. Paul is not making a blanket condemnation of the traditional Greek philosophical schools (e.g., Platonism, Stoicism, Aristotelianism, etc.). His remarks are focused on the particular factional teaching being disseminated at Colossae.

Hence, under the definition of philosophy I gave above, it doesn't seem that Paul is talking about the same philosophy as defined above.

I thought about adding objections to this post, but that would be a bit long. So for next time, objections to this argument will be discussed.

In conclusion, hopefully you better see that philosophy and Christianity are not contradictory.  Philosophy is the handmaid to theology. One can't properly function without the other.

Update: objections are up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chivalry was Never Alive

A blog I keep an eye on and occasionally read is Hermeneutics. A guest blogger, Ruthie Dean, just posted on how women are fueling the "man problem." In a nutshell, the man problem is that there are very few men who are ready and willing to marry women. There are too many boys who are not being responsible. Dean's point was women are encouraging boys in their behavior in hopes of getting married. I thought this was a great post and a great point. I'm glad someone is saying this.

Dean has her own blog, and on her Hermeneutics post, she linked to a post that Michael Dean wrote on regarding chivalry. (I assume last name menas they are married?) His point: chivalry isn't dead. Men need to "man up." Being a man includes reading your Bible, getting a mentor, growing facial hair and pursuing a woman.

People who personally know me, know I'm very interested in this issue of manhood and gender relations. I don't want to come across as judgmental, but this topic needs to be dealt with in a serious and thoughtful manner. If we don't take captive our thoughts on this subject then we are in some very serious danger. Hence, I am critiquing Mr. Dean's post. I don't want to take away from the discussion but the way he frames the discussion, I believe, has some serious errors. These errors will send us down the wrong road. This post is an attempt to try to better frame the discussion regarding manhood and chivalry.

Michael's Definition of a Man is unBiblical
Manhood is not defined by behavior. Another way to say it, behavior is not where we find the definition of manhood. If we just point to behaviors as being the conditions for what makes a man, we're not getting to the heart of the issue. We're looking at shadows, not the thing in itself.

Dean says, do, do, do and do. Anyone can do what he suggests. It doesn't take a man to pursue a woman, grow facial hair, get a mentor or read your Bible. Furthermore, it doesn't take a Christian to do any of these things. Non-Christians can read the Bible just as well as Christians, sometimes better. Lastly,  some men grow beards, get married, hopefully read their Bibles and have a mentor. These are good things. Just don't make it a part of the definition of a man.

Chivalry was Never Alive
I define chivalry has being respectful toward women. If we think chivalry was alive at some time in history then we are not considering how serious the fall of man was. Let's start with the beginning of the world. Was Adam chivalrous when he followed Eve into sin? Was Jacob chivalrous when he stole his brother's birthright? Was Judah chivalrous when he committed adultery with Tamar? Was David chivalrous when he committed adultery with Basheba AND had her husband murdered? And we're only talking about the ancient world here. Let's skip the gospels and New Testament for the sake of time. Here's just a short list since then: Henry the VIII, Charlemagne, Pope Alexander VI, Charles I and Benjamin Franklin (I don't need to go into the detail on his exploits...). These are just a few people in western history who did not act with chivalry.

One could object by pointing to people like Joseph, Jesus, Paul and George Washington. They had chivalry. They were respectful to women. My response is that these men are the exception to the rule. The world is full of bad boys. There are very few good men. Men have always been rare.

The Problem with a System of Chivalry
Sin is deeply entrenched in us. Even paradigm examples of men are problematic. A good example is David in the Old Testament. The problem with thinking that chivalry isn't dead or is dead but was once alive is that it assumes we're are capable of being good people. This is unBiblical. No man is good. All have fallen short of the glory of God.

One may object that chivalry as a system doesn't have to do with the heart, but with how one behaves. In a sense, it has to do with manners. My response is that if that's what chivalry is all about then I don't want it. I don't want to just have good manners, have good behavior. I want something deeper then that. I want to have chivalry as a virtue. But just keep it at that. Don't make it into a system for life!

What is Manhood? 
Manhood is defined by the human Jesus Christ. That means a man is perfectly balanced between being respectful and telling the truth. It means a man are perfectly balanced between being merciful and just. It means a man is perfectly loving.

Ladies, there is only one man. He is Jesus of Nazareth. Flee to him. Do not look to earthly men for safety. Do not entrust yourselves to us. It is in only Christ you can find healing, safety and peace. The rest of us boys will, and have, failed you. It doesn't mean you don't get married, but you can't put your trust in men, you must put your trust in the Lord.

Chivalry as a System
My personal opinion of chivalry as a way of life is that it is philosophically poorly based. It assumes that man is good. It assumes that behavior defines personhood. None of these assumptions I agree with nor do I want to do anything with them. This is different then seeing chivalry as a virtue, as a part of one's character. But it is the opposite way. Instead of behavior defining chivalry. It is the disposition of one's heart that defines it. Dean may have been trying to promote chivalry as a virtue rather then a system. I could easily be wrong in my critique. Regardless, it is important to remember that we can't let good things like the virtue of chivalry to become an all-encompassing system for how we ought to live our lives. The more I think about this, Dean is probably not promoting that. Sorry Dean...

I would love to hear people's thoughts on this issue. It is a hard and important topic that we must work through carefully and thoughtfully. This is just a blog post. You could write a couple books on this topic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letters to Philosophers, Thomas Aquinas

Dear Thomas Aquinas,

Thank you for Summa Theologica. Thank you for being a really loud ox. Thank you for not being the head of that abbey in spite of your brothers' odd love. You're awesome. That being said, I was really disappointed you didn't finish Summa. I mean come on here, sure you saw an incredible vision that helped you realize your work is worth poop, but come on, a two year old could of told you that. Really disappointed that you didn't finish it. What am I supposed to do now? Start using the Summas a toilet paper? (note to modern readers: straw was used to gather up horse dung in those days.)

Okay, so we need to talk about Aristotle. Yeah I know all truth is God's truth. Yes Aristotle was really smart, and he has some really good ideas. Of course reason is really important and under your definition it is compatible and interlinked with faith. But really, did you have to go as far as quoting him as "the philosopher?" That's really extreme. I mean, even Calvinists don't quote John Calvin without questioning what he says, sometimes. They certainly don't call him "the theologian." Yes, I know he was the thing back then. I know he attempted to improve Plato and so you tried to improve Augustine. But really, the philosopher?

So we do need to talk about those five ways, but before I get to there, I'm not too happy you don't like Anselm's ontological argument, cuze that is one sweet proof. Even you said it was pretty cool. But anyway, your waves were cool too. Causation is crazy stuff, if it exists. Did you talk about that at all, if causation exists? There was a barbarian from Scotland who said something about causation being a figment of our imagination. He and I have the same first name. We like taking out big bad people who appear unstoppable. (aka Goliath and Descartes!)

So let's talk about happiness. That was awesome, by the way. Your virtue theory totally rocks my world, and I know you got a lot of from Aristotle. I didn't say I didn't like him or anything. So yeah, happiness pretty sweet there. What's up with the whole thing about transubstantiation and mariology? Yeah I understand that one cannot understand Mary without Christ, and you didn't even talk about Mariology as a separate topic in your summary. Yet I don't know about the whole transubstantiation thing. You said it comes just down to faith and not experience on that one, did you happen to study the bread and wine before you took it once? Tough one to swallow there.

Sorry about getting into that non-philosophical issue. I ought to explain to you, as I did to our good friend Augustine that we now live in a day where they make a distinction between philosophy and theology. Didn't think that was conceivable? I know it's not. People just try to act like their is a distinction.

Allrighty, hope you're enjoying your beatific vision!

In His Name,
David Pulliam

p.s. You're an numbskull for thinking that you were simply writing a "summary" of theology as an "introduction" to students. What were you trying to do, kill all the undergrads?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

WIll you Vote for the Unwinnable, the Pagan or the Serial Adulterer?

Note: I am making a couple assumptions in this post about my readers:

  1. You're a protestant Christian
  2. You're a Republican 

So who are you going to vote for in the Republican primary? Using the most recent primary, we start with the least number voted for to the highest. Let's talk about Ron Paul.

Ron Paul
I categorize Ron Paul as unwinnable. Sorry to all of you Tea Partiers and Ron Paul rebels. Paul is not winnable. The Democrats will slam him as a racist, mock him for his fiscal policy and ignore his foreign policy. Very few people interpret the constitution as Paul does.

Rick Santorum
I like Rick, except for the fact that my spell check wants me to spell his name as "sanitarium." He seems like a nice guy, he's got "fire in the belly," but who is he again? So what he won Iowa. He doesn't have the ability to slither through politics like a snake, and he'll get eaten alive by the press. Hence, he's also unwinnable.

Mitt Romney
The big question, do you vote for a pagan?

Some people will say that Mormonism is a sect of Christianity though by definition it is not a part of Christianity. In one sense it is like saying Islam is a sect of Christianity. (Which, by the way, some people did see Islam as being a part of Christianity in it's early days. Read this book to see.) The key qualification for a religious group to be a part of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the core. I know this is a vague and broad definition but even on this broad definition Mormonism is excluded. Mormons do not hold Jesus Christ to be a central figure. Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong on this.

That said, can you vote for a pagan? Your philosophy of voting determines your answer. Do you vote for someone based on his policies and track record or do you include other stuff in your decision. This includes one's cultural background and religion. Where you land on this spectrum will help determine whether you can vote for Romney or not.

Even if you do consider one's religious background in your decision, there is another question that must be answer. Ought you not vote for someone who comes from a differing religious background? Your answer depends on how strictly do you hold to the principle of voting for someone who is like you. If you hold to it strictly, you are going to vote only for someone of your own denomination. If you are loose then you can vote for someone who is of a differing background, like Romney. Voters are somewhere along this sub-spectrum. On one end you have people who vote strictly for those who are like them. On the other end you have people who vote loosely for people who could or could not be like them.

Newt Gingrich
Last and least in terms of his public moral record, Newt Gingrich. Okay, so isn't this the guy who took a vacation to the Greek Islands WHILE running and his campaign staff quit on him? How is he still running? More importantly, Gingrich divorced two women and is on his third marriage. Also, he committed adultery while leading the impeachment against Bill Clinton for Clinton's adulterous affair.

Gingrich's actions are immoral on multiple levels. First, divorcing and marrying, twice. Second, committing adultery. Third, being a hypocrite by going after another adulterer while not himself resigning. So, do you vote for Gingrich? Your answer will depend on how important you think one's personal life is. I personally don't think one can be ethically sound and vote for Gingrich if you believed Clinton ought to have stepped down after his adulterous affair, and/or you hold marriage to be sacred.

My Concluding Thoughts 
I must say, it is a tough call. I personally can't vote for Gingrich. It is possible that I could vote for Romney, and I could vote for Santorum. Though, I need to be convinced he can handle the press. Sorry Paul, maybe another year.

I believe a Christian does have room to vote for a non-Christian in an American election. I don't think there is a Biblical requirement to vote for a Christian. I say that with hesitancy. I would love to hear people's thoughts on this one. It would be interesting to hear an argument for why Christians ought to vote only for Christians.

This is a tough spot for Christians to be in. With that said, think carefully for you will have to give an account for your vote on judgment day. May God have mercy on us all!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind" - a Review

Mark Noll has come out in his latest book, "Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind" with a more optimistic picture of evangelical scholarship. He suggests a theological approach to guide evangelical scholarship in the future and provides three examples: history, science and Biblical studies.

The point of the Book 
Noll is attempting to outline a way evangelicals can do scholarship. His thesis is that evangelicals can do scholarship by using the Bible as its foundation, and the creeds are guides or ways of interpreting scripture. Specifically, we ought to use Jesus Christ as our lens in scholarship.

My Thoughts 
Noll presents an interesting thesis. I agree, and I hope all Christians do, with his general point, that Jesus Christ ought to frame our scholarship. I found the chapter on history to be good and helpful. Every Christian historian should read that chapter. The two chapters on science and Biblical studies I leave for others to discuss.

I am coming away from the book wondering whether Noll is saying something new or not. The basic idea of using Jesus in one's methodology isn't new. It is really a "well duh" point, or at least it should be. That's not to say Noll isn't make an interesting point. He gets interesting when he goes into detail on how the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed and Chalcedon Creed are definitive statements for the Christian tradition. Noll pushes hard for evangelicals to begin to draw on these creeds for their understanding of Jesus. I found that to be by far the most important point of Noll's book. In the least, the most unique and radical point he made.

Noll's point on the creeds is important because he is bringing into the discussion the place of the creeds. The creeds are unique because they were written early in church history and by some very intelligent guys. Furthermore, they made definitive statements on what orthodox Christians believe about Jesus Christ. Lastly, they can serve uniting summaries on what the scriptures says about Christ that many different denominations in Christianity can look to. And Noll is pointing to them as being guides to how we ought to do scholarship. Very interesting.

Those are my general thoughts on the book. I guess the bottom line is that Noll has written an interesting book that needs to be in discussion among evangelicals. He provides fodder for good thinking on evangelicals and scholarship. So, read it and be prepared to think.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Church and College Students - Part II

Yesterday I wrote on how college students can be involved in church. In this post I want to discuss how churches can help college students.

I touched on the dilemma churches face in my previous post.  I noted that it is hard for churches to help those who are constantly moving around. I said,
It takes time to get to know people, meet their needs and invest in their lives. When after a couple months of hard work, all that work seems to go to waste when you move." 
This is often the case with college students. It becomes worse when students don't consistently attend church and/or are just not involved in the life of the church.

How can the church help college students? 
Part of the answer to this question is that it is the student's responsibility to show up to church and be involved.  The church is not obligated to call students, make sure they're awake and tie their shoes on Sunday morning. Students ought not expect that from the church. The church ought to be focused on the spiritual life of the college student, not tying their shoes.

There are many things that the church can do to help college students. The practical advice I give below is oriented toward individuals helping out, but there are ways a church can reach out systematically. I will say that it is vital that individual members intentionally reach out to college students. No program is as good as a member walking up to a sleepy-eyed college student, with two cups of coffee in hand, and asking him how he is doing.

1. Say Hello 
There have been so many times when I've come to church and felt very awkward. I hardly knew anyone. There weren't many guys my age, but a couple people came up to me and just said hello. This meant the world to me.

As the semester went on, these people began to know my name, what classes I was taking and how my life was doing. They intentionally got to know me. That completely changed church for me. It motivated me to get out of bed in the morning and keep coming to church.

2. Invite them over to Lunch 
Even if they say no, it means a lot. There have been so many times that families have asked me over for lunch after church, and I've had to say no because of school. I walked away from church knowing that people cared about me and wanted to keep my belly full of good food. It meant the world to me even though I had to say no.

As a side note, it might be good to ask a week in advance, perhaps email them, text them, call them, facebook them or tweet them.

3. Include them in the "circle" 
Churches can be deadly places. They are full of circles of people talking about life. Please let that sleep deprived college student in, even if he/she smells awful. It'll make them feel much better.

4. Don't glare at them for having Coffee in the Sanctuary 
This has never really happened to me. I think Pastor York looked at me strangely once when I had my coffee thermos with me. He didn't glare though.

Different people have different standards for worship. Some people thinks it's okay to bring a picnic and munch on a sandwich during the sermon. Other people think it's dishonoring to God. Whichever side you're on, please understand that the college student has his thermos there so he won't fall asleep.

5. Advice to Pastors: Take them out to Coffee Once 
I don't give this last piece of advice lightly. I know Pastors are extremely busy and must give themselves to their congregations. But boy I have benefited so much from having a meal/coffee with Pastor Johnston, Pastor York, Pastor Faris and Pastor Hart over the years. These times of fellowship meant so much to me. It might not be possible for all pastors to do. Time is limited, but I benefited from the times I had with those men. Their are conversations that I still think about today. This might not be possible for all pastors, but it's definitely worth a try.

And it's not just pastors who can do this. College students love coffee and food. It'll open them up, and perhaps encourage them to come back to church.

In conclusion, I want to thank all the congregations I have worshipped at these past couple years. Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church, and  McKinnon Reformed Presbyterian Church have bene extremely helpful to my spiritual life these past five years. I hope that churches can do the same these churches have done for me. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

College Students and the Church, Practical Advice

This past year I attended three different churches. From about January to May, I attended Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo while in school at Taylor University. From about May to September I was at my home church, 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Finally, I was at McKinnon Reformed Presbyterian Church in Melbourne, Australia, from about October to December.

In the last couple years, I have heard from various RP pastors the idea that church members ought to move close to church so they can be involved in the life of the church. (A legitimate and important exhortation.) Being a young person, I move around a lot and so it's hard to follow this advice. In the last five/six years, I haven't stayed in the same living situations for more then about 9 months. This is characteristic of most young adults.

Where Does that Put us Young People in the Church?
Churches normally don't do well with people who move around a lot. It takes time to get to know people, meet their needs and invest in their lives. When after a couple months of hard work, all that work seems to go to waste when you move.

To answer the question, young people, like myself, have a major role to play in the church, even if we aren't there for more then a couple months. We are called to be an example to the rest of the congregation in speech, life, love, faith and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12) The role of the young person is to be an example to the congregation, even if he/she is only there for a couple weeks or months.

Below, I outline some practical suggestions I have discovered over the last five years that have helped me. (And no I don't think I've done a good job of following my own suggestions.)

1. Be at church on Time and EVERY Week 
This one can be very hard when you live about 40 minutes away from school, and you were up late studying in the library. (interpretation: on facebook in the library) Regardless, do what it takes to get there on time. If you can't show, make sure someone in the congregation knows you're not. Believe it or not, people notice.

2. Talk to People 
It's really awkward at first, especially if you're the only person there your own age, but it's vital that you go up to people and talk to them. Ask them questions and act like they're a human being even though they may be a half century older then you or are the equivalent of creepy little aliens since they're an endangered species on college campuses. I.E. Little kids.

One a side note, It was really hard for me to remember people's names at church because I saw normally saw them once a week. In between that time, I saw and talked to hundreds of people. Members easily get squeezed out of the young person's memory. Hence, write people's names down. (I never did that...)

3. Pay Attention to the Church Schedule and ATTEMPT to Attend 
I know time is valuable, but even if you don't plan on attending all church events, the least you can do is go to the pot luck dinner. You'll get free food, good food, and people will begin to realize that you're not there to feel holy, but want to be involved in the church. (I failed miserably at this one.)

Even if you don't go to any events, it'll give you feeling for where the church is at and how you can pray for them.

4. Smile and Praise God 
You're at church in the body of Christ. Rejoice and be glad even if you haven't slept for a couple days. (I frowned a lot... I get an excuse since I was a serious philosophy student.)

Note: it may be beneficial to write out our theology of church on Sunday. Basically answer the question, why do you go to church?

5. Don't fall Asleep during the Sermon! 
Guilty as charged. Even if the sermon is the most boring lecture you've heard in your entire life, don't you dare fall asleep. Do whatever it takes: pinch yourself, bring a drink or take notes. I personally took notes, even when I didn't care or disagreed with the pastor. (Sorry Pastor York, Pastor Johnston, Pastor Faris, Pastor Hart. It hasn't happened to often.)

6. Be An Encouragement 
Churches go through hard times. Having a young person who regularly attends can be huge. Just attending can be a great encouragement. It could also mean taking on a more formal role or simply talking to people.

In conclusion, remember that you are an example to the church so it's vital you play a part, even if for a little while.

In the next couple days I'll write something on how the church can help young people. Many of these thoughts are just starting to come up. So thoughts and suggestions will be great.

note: Part II is now up! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Jesus Against Religion?

The youtube hit sensation, Jefferson Bethke's, "Why I hate Religion but Love Jesus" is an interesting poem. It certainly is moving and thought-provoking. It's hip and beautiful. I enjoyed it. It convicted me. I think Bethke says some extremely important things regarding our King. If more evangelical Christians wrote this type of poetry we will be better off. Yet I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn't seem that Bethke is furthering the kingdom of Christ. I came away thinking Bethke is limiting Christ's kingdom.

Bethke hates religion. He's clear about that. He loves Jesus. He's clear about that. Bethke is placing Jesus in opposition to religion. He uses Jesus' many debates against the Pharisees and others as his Biblical basis. What is what is wrong with this poem?

Jesus, the God-man, was a religious man. He followed the Old Testament laws perfectly. This is why he is a perfect sacrifice for us sinners, He fulfilled the law. Bethke takes Old Testament Judaism and frames it in the context of modern Christianity. Using this picture, he bashes and tears modern Christianity down using Jesus' words.

Instead of making religion under the realm of our Lord's throne, Bethke rejects it. He fails to realize that Jesus never threw away religion. He fulfilled it perfectly. The law (religion) was fulfilled by Him so we don't have to try. That's the beauty of Jesus. Now all can come to the Father in purity and holiness, including religion! No tax collector. No prostitute and no pharisee is rejected. Even on the cross he said "forgive them for they know not what they do." Ethke doesn't forgive them. He hates them.

If only Ethke had focused just on Jesus on this poem. If only he had let Jesus take his hate and turn it into love then this poem could not only preach the Gospel to those who don't find the Gospel in the visible church, but also to those who are in the visible church but are lost. We must never ever forget that Jesus' love conquers all and everything comes under his sovereign throne. That's the beauty of Christ's kingdom, and religion is not exempt. I hope Bethke keeps writing but, more importantly  I hope he realizes that Jesus' love reaches beyond what we are able to imagine because He is King and Lord over all!

Kevin DeYoung has written a detailed review of the poem. I haven't read it carefully so can't comment on what DeYoung says.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Pre-review of Mark Noll's Latest Book

I'm taking a break from writing letters to philosophers today. If you have suggestions for who I might write to, please leave a comment. I'm trying to go in a chronological order and focus on those I've been told by those above who are important.

Mark Noll and "Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind"
Currently I'm reading Mark Noll's most recent book, "Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind." I believe those who were disenchanted with/by "Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" will be enchanted with this read. I haven't finished it, but so far the book is true to cover's description.

Noll tries to lay the beginnings of a path for evangelical scholarship based on the Bible and guided by the creeds. The first couple chapters are theoretical, and I haven't gotten into the chapters where he claims to lay out some practical guidelines. Noll has made a sign that evangelicalism has the potential for a strong intellectual backbone, but those who call themselves "evangelical" need to consciously work their scholarship through the lens of Christ. (Noll's thesis.) Hopefully, it doesn't remain just a sign.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Letters to Philosophers, Augustine

Dear Augustine,

Before I really talk to you, I must explain to those who are snooping around on the internet with nothing better to do why I'm writing you. It doesn't seem you ought to be on a list of letters to philosophers. Some would say you are more of what they now call theologians. I know, aren't theologians supposed to be philosophers too? Well they split the degrees so you can be a theologian and not a philosopher. You've probably guessed that theology has gone downhill, good guess.

Well, on to talking to you about your writing. First I want to say, City of God is awesome, it's like an encyclopedia of totally awesome thoughts. Second, Confessions appears to be out of this world. Did you read the Bible a lot before writing it? It seems like you did.

We need to talk about this whole Plato thing. Thanks to you, a lot of platonic thought has entered into Christian theology. I'm not saying it's all bad, but boy, this physical world does have value, perhaps even equal with the non-physical. I know that God as a being is non-physical, but what about Jesus, man. He's got a physical body, and we're supposed to be like him. I think that says something about the importance of the body. That Plato stuff, shouldn't have sniffed it so strongly, it made you a bit high, metaphorically speaking. If you did burn books to get a better understanding of those dudes, that explains why we're missing a lot of Greek literature.

So why is Hippo, Hippo? Did you guys have hippopotamuses there? Your just war theory is a bit odd. I don't think you've been involved in a war before. Okay, yes you had the Muslims knocking loudly at your door when you died, but you came up with your just war theory, I assume, before all that happened. Come on man, war is terrible stuff. You seem like a utilitarian when you say violence is justified if it brings peace. Oh wait, utilitarianism isn't evil. You don't even know what that is, Jeremy Bentham ring a bell? I didn't expect so. I won't explain it, it takes erasing your concept of justice, I think.

To conclude, you're a really humble guy. You didn't even want to become bishop of Hippo, not that I would either. I mean come on, Who'd want to be in charge of the spiritual welfare of a some place called Hippo, sounds fat. Anyway, they made you a doctor. I know, I know, no one asked you, just like when they elected you bishop. The church is just really mean about those things.

David Pulliam

p.s. I meant the visible church...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Open Letters to Philosophers, Aristotle

Dear Aristotle,

I'm sorry Plato didn't let you be the head dude of his academy. I know that really stinks, but hey you got to tutor Alexander who sent you cool stuff form the east, and you started your own academy. Though, I hate to admit it, Plato's Academy is much cooler then yours. It was the form of which yours is based on.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I think it's awesome how you influenced Thomas Aquinas. Without him, and you, we wouldn't be a very clear religion. I don't mean to say that we are wholly clear, but I think it's clear what I'm trying to get across. Thanks for all those arguments for the existence of God. I'm sorry to say Kant hated them and now a bunch of guys think you're arguments are worthless. I think they have some merit. Stinks you couldn't argue from your arguments to Jesus being God though. Those are one of those "mysterious" things we Christians have. Bummer you lived a couple hundred years before him. Does that mean you're in hell? Let me know because I've been wondering about that people like you and Plato. By the way, there is a dude who wears cool glasses who claims people like you might be transferred from hell to heaven. He says it's because love wins, but that might mean all the guys who wanted to kill you at the end of your life would be in heaven too. Hopefully they wouldn't try to kill you there. Anyway that's just a small unimportant side note about where you might be right now.  

Man, I know you wanted to improve on Plato's forms, but sticking them in particular physical objects is really not as cool as saying they are out there somewhere, and we have to ascend to them by crawling out of a hole in the ground. Other then that, thanks for giving us science and dude your theory of causation rocks. I don't care what Hume says, the way you explain causation causes my world to rock!

One thing I really appreciate about you is your virtue. Not your personal virtues, but the virtue theory you put forward. If it wasn't for your virtue ethics man, I don't think I would still be in philosophy.  Eudaimonia is so important for our well-being man. You hit it on the spot there!

By the way, your political theory is very smooth, and it works better then Plato's, a bit more moderate you know. Please come back and help us out with this family thing. Yeah you said family is the core of society, but a lot of people don't think so anymore They think they can just divorce and society won't reap the consequences or anything. It's a big bummer. There are a bunch of loonies who think that we can just do whatever we want, and it won't effect anyone else, quite dumb. They call it the private sphere of life and distinguish it from the public sphere. Don't try wrapping your head around that distinction, it just doesn't make real sense.

You should know, we're still collecting specimens and analyzing stuff. Science has "progressed" quite a bit though it has lost its teleological foundation. I know, how can it progress then, that's what I've been wondering.

David Pulliam

p.s. It's okay you lived the last year of your life at your Mom's house. A lot of guys are doing that now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Open Letters to Philosophers, Plato

Dear Plato,

Thank you for using Socrates in your dialogues. Thank you for being a totally awesome writer. The Republic rocks my socks. Without you, western philosophy would not be what it is. Having you in the picture makes it awesome.

Your concept of the forms was pretty cool, but it really stunk that you caused a dichotomy between the physical and spiritual. Western Christianity has struggled since because you. We are really glad that you helped out Augustine a lot so don't take it too hard that we think the physical and spiritual are of equal value.

Interesting answer to the problem of universals. You showed those sophists their spot. Your allegory of the caves rocks my world. I'm not going to say it was perfect, but yeah pretty cool. I even made a drawing of it in high school because it was so cool. (Not really, my teachers forced me to. You would be in tears if you found out the state of our education today.)

Your view of politics is pretty cool, but some really awful people took that idea and distorted it. We're still reeling from it 70 years later. Something else we're reeling from is this stupid problem given by some guy named Gettier. He hasn't written much about it though but a lot of other people have. It really is a stinker of a problem. Could you help us out? It screws up your definition of knowledge, basically saying your definition is insufficient, otherwise known as a bad definition. Could you please help us out?

By the way, justice is still being argued about. Some people just don't like the idea and so don't use the word anymore. Don't ask me how they can logically come to the conclusion that justice doesn't exist.

 We are just as just as your society. Sorry to disappoint you there. We also do a good job of listening to the mob. We even have a government kind of like yours in the Republic but not quite. It mixes your concept with the Athenian model. Please don't hold it against us. I know democracy killed the most awesome teacher in Europe. Money and power play a role in our government and a lot of non-philosophical guys run the country. Not many philosophers have been president. (A president is similar to a philosopher king, but he has a couple "checks" on his power, thank goodness. I thought you believing philosopher-kings could have unchecked power was the same as letting the mob rule. We've tried to "moderate" things. Your pupil Aristotle had some good things to say you know.)

I'm sorry your got a bit bummed at the end of your life.

In closing, I want to let you know Whitehead thinks that the rest of us are just a footnote to your writings. I know you didn't have footnotes in Athens. Google "footnotes" and you'll figure it out. Just don't spend too much time on google because it'll make you think shallowly, like those poets you hate.

David Pulliam

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Short Blankets + Tall People = Misery

It's cold, and your blanket is too small. It's a terrible situation. Short people rarely deal with this problem. It's a curse on us taller people. It happens when you arrive at a "friend's" place and stay the night on their coach. At the last minute you ask for a blanket and they toss you something that you don't even look at until you lay down.

As you pull the warm snuggly blanket up to your chin, you feel the ghostly awful chill of the room air pinching your feet. It's a terrible feeling, usually easily resolved by getting another or larger blanket, but your host has already gone to bed. What do you do? There are a number of ways to deal with this dilemma that do not include rudely awakening your tired host.

First, try stretching the blanket. Ripping it will defeat the purpose of stretching it so don't put too much effort into this strategy.

Second, curl up in a small ball. This will work if the blanket is wide enough, but often it is not. In those cases, try not to move so at least the blanket can drape over your body.

Third, Periodically during the night simply switch from having the blanket snuggled up to your chin to covering your frozen toes. Attempt this last strategy when the former two have failed. It assumes you'll be awake for the whole night anyway so while you're awake you might as well as limit the pain as best you can.

In conclusion, having a blanket too small for your body is more then an inconvenience to your sleep. If you do not have a proper blanket, it is best you get a new one even if that means being rude to your host.

Thanks Pastor James Faris for his sermon on Isaiah 28. Verse 23 was the inspiration for this post. "The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you."